Triumph and Defeat

by Lance C

Tags: Science Fiction,

Desc: Science Fiction Story: This was my first attempt at exploring the subject I used for my story, "One Quantum Leap for Mankind". I like the other story better, but this version was fun to write. It starts off the same way, but takes a very different turn.

This was my first attempt at exploring the subject I used for my story, “One Quantum Leap for Mankind”. I like the other story better, but this version was fun to write.

It starts off the same way, but takes a very different turn.

Thor sat back and looked at the circuit board on the bench in front of him. A light wisp of smoke from his last solder point slowly dissipated in the breeze from the ceiling fan. “It should work now,” he said.

Sitting at the counter across the room, Carley snorted. “That’s what you always say. That’s what you’ve said at least a hundred times. It never works. You two geniuses promised to take me to the Mango Tree for dinner tonight and it’s time to get dressed. Leave that damned thing until tomorrow morning and let’s go.”

“Just give us two minutes,” I said. “If it doesn’t work, we’re all yours.”

Carley rolled her eyes. “Yeah, right! ‘If it doesn’t work.’ Jack, you know damn well that what you’re trying to do is freaking impossible.” She looked down at the cat sitting in her lap. “Fluffy here has a better chance of catching a Bald Eagle ... OW!” Fluffy had noticed that Carley had stopped petting her in exactly the approved manner and had retaliated with a bite.

Thor laughed. “Serves you right for trying to be friends with that ugly little monster.” He slid the circuit board into its place in the rack and plugged in five cables connecting it to our revolutionary invention. Well, it would be revolutionary if we could get it to do anything.

Carley stood up, dumping the bad tempered cat onto the floor. She examined the tooth marks on her thumb. “Hurry up. I’m getting hungry.”

I hooked up the power as Thor jumped down from his stool. Thor was probably the smartest person I knew, but he was somewhat limited by his height. Thor was a dwarf, about 4 feet 8 inches tall. I’d built a couple of low platforms so he could work at my bench. I was a foot and a half taller than Thor and might have been a better electronics engineer, but his skill at higher math, especially his grasp of quantum mechanics, was far ahead of mine. Concepts that seemed obvious to him were completely beyond me.

Sitting next to the rack was a clear plastic box, eighteen inches square, coated on the inside with an electrically conductive film. A device the size of a small cell phone was epoxied to the top. Inside the box was a plastic figure of Thor, the god of thunder. It looked nothing like my friend. Thirty feet across the room was an identical box, empty. Thor checked the conductivity on both the boxes with a multimeter and gave me a thumbs-up.

I turned on three digital video cameras to record the (we hoped) success of our experiment. So far, we had deleted the recordings of 118 attempts.

I shook my head at Thor. “This is going to look fantastically stupid, you know. Using a doll for an historic event like this.”

“It’s not a doll, Jack,” laughed Thor. “It’s an action figure. I’ve told you that. Stop calling it a doll.” Thor’s Finnish accent was barely detectable.

“It’s not going to be an historic event, either,” said Carley. “Just another failure. Try not to set the silly thing on fire this time.”

“Whatever,” I said. “Your turn, Thor.”

Thor climbed back onto the platform and thumbed the spring-loaded toggle switch. His “action figure” vanished.

We all jumped. “Son of a bitch,” gasped Carley. “It worked!”

The figure of Thor was now in the other box, across the room. Fluffy, completely unimpressed, walked to the sliding glass door leading to the back yard and meowed. Carley ignored her.

I could barely speak. “Reverse the polarity and hit it again, Thor,” I croaked. Silently, Thor turned a knob on the control board and flicked the toggle switch again. The little plastic deity instantly reappeared in the box where it had started.

I’d thought of several comments that would be appropriate to the occasion, but they all seemed ‘way too trite. I kept my mouth shut.

Thor reached over to the nearer box, unlatched the side and pulled out the plastic figure. Then he did what any human male would do; he gave it a good whack against the hard surface of the bench. It didn’t break.

“That’s what we’d hoped for,” Thor said. “The math is tricky. Shutting off the Higgs fields, even for such a short time, might have damaged the subatomic structure.” He smacked the thing twice more. “Seems okay.” He tossed it to me.

I pulled on the doll’s arms and legs and twisted the hammer. As far as I could tell, it was unchanged and I slid it across the bench to Thor. I looked at Carley. “Lizard!”

Carley snatched a small Tupperware container off the counter behind her, opened the sliding glass door and headed into the warm late afternoon Florida sunshine filling the back yard. Fluffy followed her.

Thor faced the nearest camera and held up his alter ego. “That was one short quantum teleport for Thor,” he announced in a Hollywood-game-show-host voice, “one giant freaking leap for applied physics!”

I laughed. “Not bad, but it was actually two short teleports. And I thought you didn’t like “short” jokes.”

Thor grinned. “I wasn’t joking, Jack. Let’s just hope the process doesn’t kill plants and animals.”

Carley picked that moment to come back. Inside her Tupperware bowl was one of the small, ubiquitous lizards that infest central Florida. She popped the top off the bowl and flipped the lizard into the quantum teleport box. She quickly closed and latched the side of the box before the lizard could escape.

I reset the system polarity and hit the toggle. Instantly, the lizard was scrambling frantically in the far box. The next couple of minutes were spent swapping polarity and bouncing the tiny reptile back and forth across the room. I counted fifty trips in each direction. Aside from being visibly upset, the lizard seemed perfectly healthy.

“So far, so good,” I said. “I wonder what it looks like from inside. The view is completely different from each box. No wonder the little bastard is going nuts.”

“Well,” said Thor, “there’s no sensation of movement, that’s for sure. We’ll have to teleport an accelerometer to be positive, of course. That’ll be one of the big questions when this is reviewed. In the meantime, we need a higher form of life than a half-ounce lizard. Where’s that cat?”

“You keep your goddamn hands off Fluffy,” snarled Carley. “Use a rat!”

Thor grinned. “Alright, don’t get excited. We’ll go to the pet store in the morning and buy a hamster. Maybe a nice parakeet.” He stepped off his platform. “Can we still make it in time for our reservation?”

I locked the key circuit board in my big gun safe and called the restaurant to move our reservation back half an hour. Forty minutes later, we were seated. The waiter took our drink orders and left us to study our menus.

“You’re going to have a tough time with the peer review process,” said Carley, shaking her head. “You can’t publish the details of the teleporter. You can demonstrate it, but if the actual mechanism gets out, everyone will rip it off. The Chinese will have a field day. How are you going to protect your patent?”

Thor leaned over the table and whispered, “We’re not.” He straightened up. “We’re going to do what any sensible person would do. We’ll license the device to three or four of the biggest multi-national corporations in the world and let them try to protect it. They have the resources, the money, the lawyers, the experience. If we tried to do it ourselves, we’d have every government you can name trying to kidnap us. The USA would be first in line. We’ll have to keep this quiet until we’re ready to announce it.”

The waiter brought our drinks and a bread basket. We ordered our entrees and he went away.

“Jack and I have the patent application ninety-nine percent complete,” Thor continued. “All we have to do is insert the six components we’ve changed and it’s ready to go.”

“What we’re going to do is simple,” I said. “Thor and I are well known for our work with exotic materials. If we tell the right people at our target corporations that we have something they’ll be interested in, I guarantee we’ll have an audience. We’ll overnight the patent application the day of the demonstration. Let the big boys worry about security and patent infringements.” I took a sip of my 25 year old Scotch. “Our biggest problem will be avoiding reporters and talk-show hosts who know nothing about science.”

Carley smiled. “You’re going to have to do interviews. This is a huge invention. I’m no scientist, but it’s sure to lead to all kinds of new discoveries. You two are certain to get a Nobel Prize. And what’s it going to do to the transportation industry? You said the range of the thing is limited, but I didn’t pay much attention. I didn’t think you could make it work. How limited is it?”

We talked all through the meal and desert. The more we talked, the more we realized just how serious our situation was. As it turned out, we’d underestimated the seriousness by quite a large factor.

We left the restaurant and walked to where we’d left my car. But my car wasn’t there. In its place was a shiny black GMC Yukon. Standing next to the SUV was a man who appeared to be about 50. He was wearing slacks and a tight polo shirt. He looked very fit.

The guy smiled and held up an ID wallet. “Good evening, Thor, Jack, Carley. I’m Hal Cooper with Homeland Security. Your car’s right over there,” he pointed to the street behind us, “but I need to tell you a few things before you can go home.”

I looked and, sure enough, my Land Cruiser was parked in the street. Two rather tough looking guys stood next to it. I examined “Hal’s’ ID. It seemed genuine, but I wasn’t an expert. I handed it to Thor.

“Here’s the deal,” said Hal. “We got wind of your project and we’ve been monitoring your progress. No one expected that you’d succeed, but you have. Congratulations. It’s an amazing piece of work. Problem is, your invention can’t be released. Not now and not for the foreseeable future.”

Thor tossed the ID to Hal. “Screw you! Nobody has the right to interfere with a scientific breakthrough like this! We’re going to publish and you can’t stop us!”

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