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Fiction: Unmoored

I liked watching the planes fly.

They just seemed so magical, like they were suspended by wires nobody could see, even though I knew the magic was called “physics.” At first I imagined them held up by the wires, then held down by the wires, like their natural expression was to be set free, to fly away somewhere unknown.

They weren’t magic. They were machines, fueled by chemistry and economics.

I fixed it. I figured out a way to correct quantum entanglement and superposition. Apply a magnetic field at the right position and the right frequency, and you could reliably determine the position of an electron at any given moment.

It was an accident. But it opened up quantum computing, as a first outcome, and then a mere two and a half years later, we created a balance of a milligram of lead. One moment it was in our offices at 306 Apple, and thirty minutes later room 201 was staring, unbelieving, at a block of grey metal that had been three city blocks away.

A year later, we’d sent an amoeba, and stared with wonder and not a small amount of fear as it swam uncaring, under a microscope. My team and I had created not only a reliable way to know the universe in a way Heisenberg had dreamed of and denied, but we’d created a workable transportation device. Alan, the youngest member of the team, was always making whining noises that he imagined invoked the old Star Trek TV shows, even though we shushed him to try to respect the moment.

At first it was prohibitively expensive, because nobody trusted the technology – it was like magic, you know? First something is here, then it’s there, and all it took was synchronized quanta. They didn’t understand that the quanta defined everything, that the synchronization was the key that unlocked the door.

The question was asked: What was the door? Oh, it was nearly everything, as it turned out. If you could predict the quantum reaction, you could manipulate it. A cardinal was shocked as we sent a pound of lead into the system, and out came a pound of gold. For us it was almost a joke, because at the quantum level we merely adjusted and filtered, tweaked and nudged.

With the quantum computers unlocked, we could fix DNA. A child with a genetic defect came to us; we knew it was the AC4E receptors that would kill her before she saw her first birthday. But we’d sent nemotodes through, and even a kitten, and I will remember the kitten’s stare for the rest of my life as it tasted sweetness for its species for the first time in a thousand generations.

The child was a risk, but the child was dead without extreme measures. We programmed the computers, and sent the child through a replica of the first transporter, from 306 Apple to 201. Alexa drank water without vomiting for the first time that day… and would never suffer from her genetic anomaly again.

The key to human health had been found, and all it took was the desire to communicate over distances.

It unlocked planetary travel: we sent an unmanned lander with synchronized quanta to Titan, and four days later heavily suited humans walked on the surface of a moon nobody would have imagined traveling to in their lifetimes: one hour they were on Earth, the next, walking on a crust of methane on an impossibly hostile world. And seven days later, they were back home, stunned at the import of what they’d done, but safe and sound.

And the planes disappeared from the sky.

The wires that held them up still existed, but were unused, unneeded. And I found that they were more than mass transit, more than here to there, more than noise, more than movement: they were what had kept me alive.

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