BILL, THE QUANTUM MECHANIC
EPISODE 1-- Entrances.
The door slid open. Two men dressed in jumpsuits, white shirts,
and nearly identical ties walked through. The door closed behind
them. A plasticized name tag on each man's lapel carried their
picture, name and identity number. They were talking to each
"So where did you find this one?" said the first one, whose name
"We picked this one out of the DP department at some newspaper,"
replied the other, a younger man named Stites. "He was a
programmer. Seems he was working with some hooky little report
writer and they'd given him the wrong set of manuals. He kept
trying things because the book said it worked that way. Anyhow,
one night he got fed up with the whole thing and tried to get
into the object module of the language's interpreter to fix it."
"So?" said Gerrard. That doesn't mean he's our kind of
"When we caught him he was already comatose. We found him
slumped over his terminal with an oak staff and some mistletoe.
He had figured that he could conjure up a new release of the
language by concentrating on the reference manual. I don't know
where he picked up what he was doing, but the damndest thing was
that he was at least partially successful. Our boys managed to
snatch a copy of the object deck before we closed up the mess.
What made us really start jumping is that this kid's mumbo jumbo
had actually invoked the OS-VR reader and bypassed all the ZACF
protection. We had ourselves in a mess. Temporal anomalies
were popping up all over the place--the worst of which had our
boy right at ground-zero. We had an uncontrolled FOX-7 statis
field that was running outside of all VU initiators. We finally
had to just shut the whole system down and IPL.
"That was the one last week?" Gerrard asked incredulously.
"The very one. I'm filing comp-time claims from the boys in
tech-support: three million real man-hours--not including the
funerals, vacations, and maternity leaves that we had to spool
until the guys can find time to experience. It was costly," said
"I shouldn't go on vacation," said Gerrard. So how did it all
"We've got everything backed down to ten real minutes before he
got into the OS- VR reader. That gives us plenty of room. We're
also holding the tapes from the previous cycle's backup in case
we missed something. As for Bill, we just yanked him and took
him back for de-briefing."
"Our little reality hacker. I took the liberty of pulling him
out of stasis and having personnel start their evaluation."
Gerrard looked pensive for a moment. The facts filtered through
his mind, and then his eyes showed a decision. "You did the
right thing, Stites," he said. "We can't let people mess with
"I figured if he did it once, even a deep reality reconfig
wouldn't stop him from doing it again," replied Stites. "It's
dharma. We might as well hire him as anything else."
"What's this guy's name again?" asked Gerrard.
"Bill something or other," replied Stites. "The techs got
careless and wiped him out before we could find out his full
name. Even his billfold got wiped."
"Bill, hmmmm." said Gerrard. "I don't think we have anyone in
reality engineering named Bill."
"Not as far as I know."
"Good I'll have to watch for him. By the way, have you turned in
By this time the two men had moved out of earshot. To follow
would have aroused suspicion. Casual observers should remain so.
"Damn these things!" Bill hissed as the stasis field melted
around him. Pigeon feathers were floating in the air all about
him . They were sticky with bits of volatized bird entrails.
The bird comprising this avian aerosol had been flying through
the park when the stasis field appeared. It had enveloped all of
the bird except for the head, which now lay at the limb of
ionization left by the field. The head was still functioning;
its eyes moved to regard the slightly miffed reality engineer.
Bill unclipped the Handheterm from his belt and pressed the pf
key marked "UNDO." The air around him ionized in a shower of
little twinkles. Bill looked noticeably impatient with the
system response time. He punched the 'Enter' key several times.
He uttered a single-syllable epithet that was cutoff sharply with
the return of the stasis field. There was a crackle of static
discharge, and the field imploded, leaving a smiling odor of
If anyone had been keeping track of the pigeon, they would have
seen in the next instant that the bird had somehow
re-materialized and was going about its business as if nothing
had happened. For indeed nothing had. In fact the hypothetical
bird watcher would have never seen the rest of this uncommon
happening: the stasis field, the good-hearted reality engineer
with the Handheterm, nor the resurrection of the pigeon. It just
never would have happened in his reality.
He would have been treated, however, to a grand entrance that
would have been identical to the grand exit (that never happened)
immediately preceding the return of the pigeon--identical, except
that the stasis field appeared exactly 10 absolute meters away
from the first non-occurrence.
Oh yes, and there was one other difference: there was a look of
expectation on the face of the reality engineer as he looked for
the pigeon. The bird was where it should be, looking at him with
a knowing eye. The reality engineer looked relieved and made an
apologetic shrug at the pigeon. The pigeon responded by pecking
the ground in a manner which might have been construed as
It then flew away.
"Ungrateful little snot." said Bill, the reality engineer.
Bill went over to a tree and removed his rucksack. He sat down
with his pack beside him and gazed into the decorative waterfall
that was bubbling into the wading pool a few yards away. He
reached into the pack up to his shoulder and dug around until he
found what he was looking for. In a shower of sparks and a
growing electrical hum that seemed to make the whole park
vibrate, he removed his arm slowly. He produced a goodly sized
lunch box. He brushed bits of lint off the box that adhered from
static electricity. He looked about quizzically.
It was not until a butterfly flew about a meter away from the
lunch box, and caused a giant arc to issue forth from the box
that Bill realized that he had forgotten something. Gingerly, he
placed the lunch box on top of the rucksack, and opened a flap on
its side. He pulled forth what appeared to be a large jumper
cable--a black snaking wire of a diameter approaching that of a
Transatlantic cable with an oversized alligator clip. Holding the
cable with his knees, Bill breathed into his hands ostensibly to
increase their conductivity with moisture. He then braced
himself, and with a grimace, touched the alligator clip to his
There was a brilliant flash and a clap of thunder. The tree was
split lengthwise and lay splintered behind him. Bill grounded the
lunchbox with similar effect and the returned the cable to the
flap in the rucksack. He then opened the lunchbox and produced a
toasted bagel with chopped liver, cheddar cheese and alfalfa
sprouts. This sandwich he ate with gusto, pausing only to refill
his cup from the thermos he took from the box's lid. The drink
was a piping hot clear semi-liquid resembling coffee, but had the
consistency of maple syrup.
It was his lunch hour.
Editors Note: This was the first issue of Bill, the Quantum
Mechanic, a comic book.