Monday, November 9, 2009

The Quantum Mechanic: Chapter Seven

The Quantum Mechanic
A Superhero Story of Ethic Contortions

Chapter 6 - Chapter 7: Apotheosis - Chapter 8

"Ray, when someone asks you if you're a god, you say, 'Yes'!"
- Winston Zeddemore, Ghostbusters

"Are you a god?"

"Of course not! Don't be silly, there's no such thing."

The Interview is off without a hitch. Douglas Orange has become very good at partitioning his mind. One thread is devoted entirely to the interview, while another concentrates on cooking dinner with his wife. Many others flit to and fro throughout the nation, saving lives, keeping the peace, and maintaining the crops. A dedicated few work at expanding Doug's consciousness yet further.

"Do you know everything?"

"I know a great deal. Knowing everything is impossible. A single mind is logically incapable of apprehending at one and the same moment the phenomenology of - " The look on Gleck's face stops him short. "I'm sorry, let me begin again. You can't know what it's like to know everything, and also know what it's like to know nothing. That's the basic concept, though it gets trickier from there."

All of North America is firmly within the palm of Doug's invisible hand. He reaches with his mind, stretches his consciousness, wanders down into South America. Time dilates. Things are much messier here.

"Can you make dinosaurs?"

"I believe so. But I probably won't, until after I've made space parks."

Central America was tough, but not much more so than inner city and government bureacracies. Those held surprises upon surprises, and taught Douglas to separate himself from what he observes, even as he makes it all a part of himself in another important sense. He was prepared for Central America. South America is considerably more difficult. In Montana, Douglas wraps his arms tightly around his wife, dipping her low for a long, deep kiss. He does not tell her why.

"So is pot legal now?"

"Who cares? It's harmless, and you won't be taken to jail for it. I'll see to that."

"Speaking of which, what about all the convicts?"

"They can't hurt anyone now. The prisons have been empty for quite some time now."

Prostitution. Drug lords. Kidnapping. Torture. Orange has seen all of these things more times than anyone. It never gets old. It never gets easy. All the psychology and neuroanatomy in the world can't make it better. It's bigger here. Harder. The horrors of the Amazon wilderness are a petting zoo next to the evil of men's hearts. He's losing it.

"Will you take over the world?"

"What for? Worship? Obedience? Riches? Those things mean nothing to me. I'd rather set it free. Seeing people happy makes me happy."

Douglas masters himself, steels his heart against the pain and desperation. Start small. In Argentina, an overworked single mother belts her child for putting his dishes away incorrectly. Silently, her arm is stopped mid-swing by a gloved hand. Before horror overtakes her, calming neurotransmitters rush into her bloodstream. He tells her to be at peace in her native tongue. Good. Now something bigger.

"What's your real name?"

"It doesn't matter. I do what I do as the Quantum Mechanic because I cannot do otherwise. But I have a private life, a job, friends, a loving spouse, a house in the 'burbs, the same American dream as you all want. I want to make sure everyone else can have it, too."

Colombia. A man cowers in a field of coca leaves, back split open, blood soaking through his tattered clothes. He wishes, briefly, that whips were wet noodles. Douglas smiles, pinches his wife's behind, and grants the man's wish. On a whim, he turns guns to gelatin, knifes to pudding. Formerly well-armed men are left sticky, sugary messes in the Colombian sun. Many faint. More panic. Wounds are closed without scar, severed digits are grown anew, burns vanish without a trace. Eyes, ears, teeth, a kidney here and there.

"How do you know what you're doing is right?"

"I suppose I don't. I just think it's good. I think that if people can't hurt each other, and if there's plenty to go around, then the world is a good place. It's as simple as that."

Offshore now. Keep growing. South America is his - now what? Asia and Australia, or Europe and Africa? Wait, simple things first for a bit. All the way North, all the way South, and now just reach around. More partitions erupt and bloom, creating a networked overmind of independent cells, constantly updating and informing each other, constantly growing. Douglas struggles to contain himself.

"Is there anything you can't do?"

"I still can't change the past. I still can't read the future. Other than that, if it can be done with mass-energy, I can probably do it. It's just a matter of scale and coordination, and I grow more powerful and fine-tuned by the moment."

Somewhere in the Middle East, men with guns have stopped a caravan full of food and medicine en route to a refugee camp. Douglas decides to give them a show. He is called Devil, Monster, Shaitan, Deceiver, Hell's Harbinger. The gray puppet stands motionless and takes their insults. He hearkens back to the old days. After a moment of silence, their guns are trained on him, and they open fire. Orange sparks signify the altered trajectory of each bullet, and then, in a swarm - they return. The men try to run, but they are corralled as though in a cage of locusts.

"Have you ever killed anyone?"

"When I was six, I accidentally dropped my puppy over a balcony railing. I was trying to show him the world. Many people have angered me, but it would do no good for me to harm them further. I wish to make people better, not to punish them. I am a protector, not a sadist."

In Denmark, a man wearing a bomb shouts the glory of his imaginary deity and pushes a button. Panic grips the room. Nothing happens for a moment. A few laugh nervously. In a flash of orange light, he is gone. Miles above, encased in his own private atmosphere, he will soon have a very long conversation with a steel-faced automaton about what it means to die well.

"Can we pray to you?"

"Ugh. If you must. I'd prefer we were honest with ourselves and called it 'wishing,' though. Or you could write me a letter. Come to think of it, why not just speak my name? I'll know whether you want me to appear or not."

"You mean you can read minds?"

"I've been able to do so for quite some time. I can do more than that: I can speak into them now, as well. And I have an announcement to make. One moment, Ben."

All over the world, the atmosphere glows with electromagnetic luminescence. Cars slow to an easy stop and their engines go silent. Construction machinery comes to a safe, yet abrupt halt. Airplanes in the middle of takeoff or landing procedures are automatically guided by glowing orange vapor. People on the street are transfixed. Holographic images appear before every human being, and a simple message is delivered directly into the minds of every man, woman, and child.

"People of Earth, I am called the Quantum Mechanic. I am here to help. I follow one rule, and one rule alone: do no harm. I am aware of all the world, and then some. You may ask anything of me, at any time, so long as it does no harm to any other person. I shall do my best to comply, and aside from that, I shall try to keep out of your way. Whoever you are, wherever you live, and whatever you do, you are now free to do as you please. Now go and enjoy your lives!"

Everything glides smoothly back into motion from wherever it had been brought to rest. The world keeps on turning. After so much stretching, Douglas allows himself a moment to relax. In the kitchen with his wife, he closes his real eyes and breathes a real sigh of relief. He has won.


Cathy S said...

..."had won", in a sinister way? Just joking. I may make a suggestion or two, though: how about:

*Someone [maybe a close friend or student] who desires Prof. Orange's power to smooth things out, to reduce the build-up of responsibility burden that Orange might have [to perhaps abuse it later!]
*Accusations of mind-control [after all, Orange's powers are continuing to unfurl.]
*And how about the research going into how Orange had acquired his abilities? This could be a SkepCo job...[with the all-too-human ability--from the retired magician--to spread secrets when they are excited!]

That's enough for now, I think.

[P.S: I have a statistics exam tomorrow (Wednesday in Australia!), and I'm ready for it.]

D said...

Well, I'll say for sure that Orange is the good guy. He's supposed to make God look like a failure by comparison.

That said, your suggestions are all intriguing! I'm still not halfway through, so I may well shove a few things in between chapters. They're going on the backburner right now; we'll see what turns up.

I'm glad you're ready for your stats exam! Kick ass and take names!

Cathy S said...

Take names? What do you mean?

D said...

To "kick ass and take names" is a figure of speech. I can't find a good etymology, the innernet ditchernary is no help!

This person might be right, but I can't tell for sure. When will the etymology police come by and set us straight?