"Damnit, Andy! How many times have I told you to not to play games on the lab equipment?"
Richard's fury was usually directed at the young, cocksure technician taking up space in his laboratory and today was no different. Not an unusual site, but Richard expected more from him on this red-letter day.
"A little respite is the least you owe me after what you've put me through the last few days." Andy peeked his head out from behind the monitor to defend himself. "You can't seriously think this quantum powered monstrosity of a machine should be used only for all work and no play." His gushing love for the new machine outshone his frustration with his mentor. "It's like we bottled up God, pressed him onto a chip and then put it away in the closet."
The esteemed Dr. Richard Bear was having none of it. "The only God talk I will have in this lab is prayers to the God of Silicon that our code compiles." He wasn't about to let the entire day get derailed. "If you are so enamoured, then save up and buy one for your apartment. We have work to do."
"You know I can't afford that. Besides, the only way this would fit in my apartment is if I replaced the bathroom."
"Then maybe you shouldn't have gone into academia." Richard sharply deflected. "You would be remiss to take this opportunity for granted."
"And you, my dear Doctor would be remiss to take me for granted." Andy rebutted. "It would be a shame if your indentured servant needed another medical leave of absence close to grant proposal writing season." The stress spoke through him granting him the powers of a stolen confidence.
"I would never dream of it." Richard needed a stapler to help prop up his phony smile. "Everything we do here is for people like you."
Any other day, Andy would have torn him apart for the 'people like you' line. Five long years and two hospital stays later, Andy had just about reached the breaking point. But knowing the importance of today's experiment, he thought it better to just let it go and let Richard bask in his faux philanthropic glow.
The bickering was nothing new in the lab. After all, the recipe to get a position in Dr. Bear's lab is equal parts wunderkind virtuosity and cut-throat ambition. Bottling up this much ego in a pressure cooker of a lab can only bring about the bleeding edge of technological innovation.
Or descend into double homicide.
Andy stepped away from the screen, back into the only semblance of reality he had ever known. Back into the decrepit laboratory which hid their experiments away from prying eyes; deep in the bowels of the university.
"Very good. Now if you have no objections, let's see how our baby is doing." Richard's bulbous, arthritic hands snatched the keyboard away from Andy. Speaking in tongues through the command line, Richard communed with the machine through the staccato song of keyboard clicks and clacks. Finally, reaching a crescendo in a waterfall of green symbols being printed to screen that might as well have been cuneiform.
The graying practitioner of digital divination admired the work of his protégé. Robust algorithms ready to digest an insurmountable amount of data and shit out a true simulation. Harnessing the awesome computing power of a quantum architecture to recreate the infinitude of random atomic collisions happening on a scale unbeknownst to all except gods.
Or as Richard had said in countless pitches, proposals and presentations. "We are not in the business of the façade of imitation. We are in the business of simulation." Until now, they had only replicated the fabula of matter that comprised an apple.
It was time to scale up.
It was time to create Eden.
Andy invoked the incantation./simulate_lab.exe into the absolute control of the command line and turned to his mentor for one last confirmation. With an apprehensive breath, the old shaman looked towards his young associate. His wavering nod sealed their fate.
A key press gave it life.
Industrial fans respired liquid nitrogen cooled air into the inner workings of the quantum behemoth, as it was so lovingly christened. Lights pulsated on and off across the control board in coordination with the indeterminate quantum states of qubits that made up its occult thoughts.
The behemoth was a parasite, living off the enormous amounts of energy it drew form the university. They were smart enough to be doing this under the dark cover of night, any other time and the host might have starved before bearing fruit.
Lo and behold.
Andy's weathered swivel chair perfectly cloned to the screen. He couldn't tell by looking at it, but he knew that the chair he was sitting on and the chair on screen were both of the same atomic makeup. Then came the loyal coffee machine that had seen both men through many late nights with its midnight black strange brew of bitter insomnia.
Written byMichael Wahba
This Story Won
- "Boundless Night" Third place.