When I was taught about Newtonian physics my science teacher told us all about objects in motion and cause and effect, planetary bodies, the whole nine yards. She had pointed out that according to Newton it was possible in theory given the state of the universe at it’s creation to tell where every atom would be at any point in the future. If you knew the location and speed of each particle in the universe all you had to do was churn the physics and you would know where they would all be in an hour, or a day, or a year, or a billion years.
I didn’t sleep at all that night. The idea that I was simply playing out a part in a play written at the moment of the big bang was the most terrifying thing I had ever contemplated. How did things like free will play in a system like that? I was a strange kid.
The next day when I brought my concerns to my teacher she was kind enough to explain Heisenberg Uncertainty. For instance Newton didn’t know that it is impossible to know with certainty both the location and velocity of a particle. It might seem strange, but the universe was indifferent to human’s sense of what was normal.
For most people the idea that there are fundamental parts of the universe that human beings can not know bothers them. Not me, I was happy that no one could predict my every movement based on how a couple of hydrogen atoms were arranged a couple billion years ago.
Newton was a smart guy, but he didn’t know everything. If someone like him could get things wrong, what was I missing?
It was with a mind full of such doubts that I set my plan into action. If everything worked as planned we were going to be escaping into the tail end of the largest storm this planet had every seen. But what was the alternative; live the rest of my life in this cage predicting tomorrow’s stock prices?
“Sleep tight freak.”
Guards sometimes grow to sympathize with the people they guard, not this guy. The door slammed shut, and I began to count. Ten steps and the guard was at the corner, ten more and he would be back to his office. In twenty minutes he would be back, or that’s how is normally worked, but not tonight.
At exactly 10:59, (or exactly 1371985143 seconds since January 1st 1970 as many unix servers measure time) the improperly created memory buffers on the sub par North Korean RAM chips were sent the result of the current accounting program which, because of a recent purchase of illegal ivory products resulted in a number just big enough to create a buffer overflow error. Usually this would result in one of the servers being reset, but because of a slight change in work schedules the current server tech was delayed 30 minutes.
The crashed server was the one running the software that controlled the fans on the base power center. There used to be others, but they were removed, a work order had been filed anonymously weeks ago. With the fans off it took approximately 5 minutes for the power supply to overheat and shutdown. Normally this would sound an alarm, but recent work on base phone systems, meant that this particular alarm was disconnected.
When the power supply died the battery backup power supply kicked on. Among other things this was to ensure that the electronic locking systems on the “visitor” cells would stay closed…too bad each of the batteries for Rain’s, Marla’s, and my cell had been power cycled several thousand times over the last week to ensure that they wouldn’t hold a charge.
Simultaneously a recent re-write to fix “memory leaks” in the software for the water treatment plants firmware had the unintended consequence of causing all other doors (except the ones needed for us to walk to the surface) to lock.
With a tiny “snick” the door sprung open, I hadn’t planned on the locking mechanism being spring activated. I actually jumped a little at the surprise. It had been a while since anything had come as a surprise to me. And just like that, I walked into the hallway free from control for the first time in almost a year.
“Q, is that you! Q!”
Rain and Marla walked around the corner, confused and unsure what to make of their sudden freedom. I knew they would follow the series of unlocked doors and empty corridors. She was paler, and the institutional scrubs that The Company had bought in bulk (at my insistence) made her tattoos look strangely normal, but it was the same girl I had fallen in love with months ago.
The embrace was strong and natural. The kiss that fallowed was just as sweet.
“Q, oh god what have they done to you.”
Rain ran her hands gently over my skull, her fingers stopping to circle the new holes and ports. Her shock was understandable, they had begun shaving my head to keep hair out of the interface, and the repeated surgeries had left my head a patchwork of scars, some still fresh. My temples bulged slightly where the optical interfaces connected, and the overall effect was admittedly pretty creepy. I guess when it happens a little bit at a time you don’t realize how strange you are getting.
“How the fuck did this happen! What the fuck is going on?” Marla had remained silent until now.
“I don’t have to time to explain right now, but we have about 15 minutes before the base wakes up and realizes we are gone, and we have about an hour once we get to the top to get our bikes, and get on the road before Ophelia gets here, Marla you can ride Jakes bicycle, they have it inventoried, and it is almost your size.”
It wasn’t much of a plan but it would work. The mention of Jakes name brought a pained look to Rain’s eyes, a look that hardened into something ugly. We ran up the stairs to the supply room where our gear and bicycles were left, gate unopened waiting for us. We began dressing and stuffing our stuff into our bags as fast as possible.
It was a shame that the soldier who I had come to know as Green Eyes had contracted quite a hangover the night before, making him several minutes late, meaning he was not in the mess hall when I expected, meaning he was not locked in with the rest of them, meaning he was now clear to raise his firearm and shout.
“Get the fuck on the ground, I don’t know how you got out but you are going back now!”
He looked far less intimating without his night vision and tactical body armor, but the voice was the same. His gaze was intent on me. I began to crouch down, hands raised, when out of the corner of my eye I saw movement.
Rain exploded, the U-lock from her bag held like a club in her hand. It might have been the effects of the alcohol, or the almost inhuman speed at which Rain moved or maybe we just got lucky, but when that reinforced steel shackle made contact with his skull in rang out with a deep clang that made my teeth vibrate.
Again and again she struck, taking revenge for her brother, for us, for the state of the world. It was an animal thing, something born of anguish, something that I would have been appalled by before. Something I understood much better now.
“You fucker! I told you I would kill you!” Again the deep gong of steel against skull.
Marla and I could only watch, unable and unwilling to bring ourselves to stop her. Rain stopped when she got tired, the man lying dead at her feet. She began to cry, not for what she had done, but because it meant nothing. What was one more death in a world like this?
I put my hand gently on her shoulder.