Thursday, November 5, 2009

The Quantum Mechanic: Chapter Five

The Quantum Mechanic
A Superhero Story of Ethic Contortions

Chapter 4 - Chapter 5: Singularity - Chapter 6

"The Singularity is about power - the acquisition of new modalities so that we can solve all of those annoying problems like sickness, stupidity, and death. The problem is that
power doesn't make us happy."
- Roger Williams

"Do not adjust your sets. This is not a test. This is a warning."

The man on the screen speaks slowly and plainly from behind a Halloween mask.

"My name is not important. What I have to say is very important. I represent the Anti-Singularity Society. We are a large organization composed of many independent cells. At this moment, hundreds of our operatives are coordinated in each of the fifty states, attending thermonuclear devices which all respond to this transmitter." He waves a stick with a button on it. "Do not attempt to stop us. If any one of our devices goes offline, its failure to broadcast will be met with detonation on the part of all other devices. We are large and well-connected. Our plan cannot be derailed at this stage.

"Our demand is a simple one. We do not wish to cause any harm to the United States of America, or her citizenry. However, we shall do so without hesitation if the Quantum Mechanic does not appear here by the end of - "


"Excellent! You prove yourself a gentleman."

"That's more than I can say for you. You could have simply asked. As of three weeks ago, I can perceive the entire continental United States at all levels of resolution. There is no hiding from me - not on American soil, anyhow."

"Then you know what we're up to."

"Absolutely." The Quantum Mechanic's tone is disarmingly cheerful. "It's a very nice plan you've got. I couldn't have come up with a better one, myself. Well, not without - you know."

"Oh, I do. That mighty brain of yours is what I want to talk to right now. In fact, I want you to talk with all of us, for a very long time. We need to negotiate. Things are moving too fast right now."

"Hmph. Says you."

"Says I, and says us. You're not fuckin' listening. You need to start. That's what this is for."

"So you threaten other people with violence?"

"That's the only thing you seem to respond to, these days. As much as it pains me, I must threaten the security of my own homeland just to catch the attention of our unwelcome overseer."

"You strike me as an honest man, if not a scrupulous one. What do you want?"

"We want you to slow the Hell down. We can't deal with these changes as fast as you're able to make them. We want your help, we really do, with science and manufacturing and agriculture and disaster relief. But your ideas about privacy, law enforcement, morality, all of that stuff - it's alienating to us. It's too different, and too fast. So that's it: change the world more slowly, and we'll be happy. How slow, exactly, is a matter for negotiation."

"And if I say no?"

"Well," the masked man waggles his hot button in the air once more. "That would be most unfortunate."

"And if I stop that, what's next?"

"You can't, for reasons I just explained. You know how our system is set up. You can't be everywhere at once."

"How long do I have to decide?"

"That's negotiable. Is five minutes OK? We don't like keeping our people busy like this."

"I understand. Five minutes works for me. I just need to think a little, that's all - you've given me a hefty decision, I hope you can appreciate that."

"Certainly. And you have my apologies. We just don't know how else to make you listen to us."

"I understand."

"Then you have my thanks. I am glad this has not gotten violent yet. Let's keep it that way."

"We have that goal in common. What happens if I stop you again?"

"Ugh. I told you, you can't. Look at our system. You can't disarm every part of it all at once."

"Why not?"

"Because you can't be in fifty places at once."

"Oh. You only said I can't be everywhere at once, before."

"Is there a difference?"

A moment passes. The Quantum Mechanic speaks firmly.


Eerie silence hangs for a moment. Some eighty-five million people are glued to their televisions. In the background, a radio squawks. And another. Another. Another. A cacophony of staticky voices erupts in the bare room.

"Everywhere at once? No way. Fifty places at once? That, I can handle." Somewhere in Montana, Alvina Orange whoops for joy and kisses her husband.

"You - you can't - you just - "

"I can. I did. You lose."

"No! No, no, no, no, no! The American people will not stand for this!"

"Eighty-five million Americans watching their televisions are wishing for your immediate demise. I will not give them the satisfaction. But you should watch your back, Johnathan Groves." The Halloween mask disappears in an orange flash. "The American people know who you are now. I have placed a list of your accomplices, complete with names and addresses, with the appropriate authorities. So, I've stopped you. Now what?"

"Dammit, listen to me! We can't handle this! You're too much for us right now!"

"Progress is always too much for some people. But then it catches on among an enlightened few, and the herd is dragged, kicking and screaming, in their wake. I am a more civilized mechanism for this. I am the bloodless revolution. That is my place here. You? You're about to be arrested for treason."

"Treason?! I - "

"Quiet, Mister Groves. I know who you work for. That party shall be dealt with shortly. But you, you have abused the trust of the people you've sworn to protect. You've constructed no thermonuclear devices, you've only taken them. You've used the Emergency Broadcast System to put on a show. And, stupidity of stupidities, you've staged your devices on federal property. This is conspiracy at the very highest levels of government, as should be obvious to any thinking person. This tells me exactly why I am needed: because of people like you."

As if on cue, sirens sound in the distance.

"You know, funny as it is, I owe you a debt of gratitude." The Quantum Mechanic is back to its disarming cheerfulness. "I didn't know I could do that whole 'fifty places at once' thing yesterday. You pushed me into new territory. It feels almost like a cramp. But now I know that I can do it, and for that, you have my thanks." Groves is weeping. His life is over. "Your life is not over, Mister Groves. You will be untouchable in prison. I'll be sure to let you know how all your friends are doing, as well. And after you've served your time, you will emerge a free man into a new world you won't understand. And I will be there to help you. Until then," crackle. Poof.

The cops bust in. Regularly scheduled programming resumes.

"Doug, baby, you did it!" Alvina squeezes her husband with glee. "So now what? What's next?"

"I've got a bunch of ideas. Here," a list appears in his hand, "Let's go over them. I want your input."


Cathy S said...

The "Anti-Singularity Society"? What a contrast to the previous chapter! Where did you get the idea? [Considering the Transhumanist sentiment of Prof. Orange [and appearance as well!], it's probably not that mysterious after all...]

D said...

I got the idea of the Singularity from Roger Williams, who in his turn got it from Vernor Vinge (I believe). Just as a gravitational singularity destroys our ability to accurately model reality with our current understanding, a technological singularity destroys our ability to accurately model the future of progress with our current understanding.

I got the idea for the ASS specifically from Kingdom Come, when Superman argues with a dictator about feeding a nation. Men with guns show up, and Supes is eventually cowed into retreat because he refuses to kill but can't actually be everywhere. I liked that idea of evil standing directly in the way of good and telling it what to do, so I tried to jack it up a notch and give it another spin (subatomic particles, tee-hee!). (Side note: I don't think Superman is actually good for having such restraint - that hand-washing pussy needs to man up and accept that people might not agree with him all the time, and some fuckers just need to be done away with if they can't be stopped).