The Greatest Escape

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“You want to access the blank body of Rachel Auerbach.” The guard looks down at him, her eyebrows raised.

“And simulation, too. Here’s her ID.” He stands on his tiptoes to hand over the card, pilfered from the box of important stuff while his parents were out.

“You have to be an adult to access the vaults.”

Grown-ups are always saying this. You have to be an adult to pilot space shuttles. You have to be an adult to splice your genome. Ugh.

Hand me over. I’ll handle this.

He reaches up to give his ear shell to the guard, who puts it on and immediately begins to apologize. After a dozen sorrys, the guard says “Yes, ma’am” and hands the shell back, motioning him to follow.

“Wow, Rachel! That was awesome!”

Don’t mention it. I have plenty of experience dealing with low-level employees.

As they ride in the 3D elevator, Ethan thinks about how his great-great-grandmother knows how to do everything from compiling quantum code to making anonymous purchases on the blockchain, though some of the stuff wasn’t even around while she was alive. Dad said she was an inventor who made lots of money and froze herself until she could be revived. They printed her a new body with an atomic duplicate of her brain, but it—she?—didn’t wake up. Only later did scientists discover that the quantum interactions in the brain are essential to its function, which is why Rachel’s on a quantum simulator now.

The elevator opens into a massive hallway of cylinders, all alike. Ethan takes his scanner out of his backpack and sets it on the one the guard is pointing at, and a face shows up on the projection.

Yep, that’s me.

He sits down, typing the commands on his quantum computer to begin the entanglement, his fingers shaking. This is only the easy part, he tells himself. He and Rachel had worked on this for weeks in secret, programming all the operations and testing under a variety of conditions.

After a few minutes, his computer beeps: everything good. Ethan unplugs the module and nods at the guard, who takes him via elevator into another huge room filled ceiling-to-floor with quantum computers.

They stop at the simulator Rachel’s hosted on. This is it. No pressure at all, he chuckles weakly—one mistake and he would kill his great-great-grandmother forever.

Don’t be afraid, Ethan. We’ve done our work well. I’ll see you soon. Remember to terminate me if I don’t say the password.

Rachel didn’t want a degraded version of herself hanging around, which he understands and fervently hopes won’t happen. He takes a deep breath and plugs in the module.

“What exactly is it you’re doing, kid?” The guard asks.

There’s probably no harm in telling her. “I’m entangling the qubits on the module with Rachel’s brain.” At her blank look, he added, “You know, so the quantum bits become correlated. Like, if one electron is spin up or down, the other one is too. Then I measure all the qubits to see if they’re in one of the two states. There are only two possibilities: yes or no. Based on those results, I’ll apply operations to the blank, which I entangled with my module back there.”

“And what does that do?”

Anyone who’s learned basic quantum would have figured it out by now. “Quantum teleportation.”

Rachel had contacted him out of the blue one day, asking for help. He thought it was strange she wanted to leave a place where you can literally do anything, but she said that was precisely the problem. “She wants to be in the real world. Quantum states can’t be copied due to the no-cloning theorem, but teleportation lets me move her mind from the simulator to the blank.”

The light blinked green then, and he unplugged the module. His great-great-grandmother is now sitting in his hands. Weird.

He wraps Rachel in lots of antistatic foam and tucks her into his backpack, next to the sandwich he was too nervous to eat on the way here. They ride back to the hallway of cylinders. Soon, Rachel will—

“Ethan?” Low pitched, very serious.

Dad is standing in front of the blank, looking furious. Of course. He figured out the charges on his account and Ethan’s field trip lie. Ethan opens his mouth, but no sounds come out.

“Is this your great-great-grandmother’s doing?” Dad sticks his hands in his pockets and takes a deep breath. “Ethan, give me her channel.”

Obviously, Rachel asked Ethan to help her instead of Dad because he’s the lamest person ever, inexplicably descended from the coolest person ever. “She can’t talk to you right now, because I’m teleporting her onto her blank.”

Dad lets loose a long string of curse words. “Ethan...”

Ethan pulls out the module. “She’s on here, and I have to finish.”

Dad buries his face in his hands. “Go ahead,” he says in a small voice.

Ethan plugs the module in his computer and runs the last command. They stand there, waiting for what seems to be an eternity. When it finally terminates, he asks the guard to warm up Rachel. Tons of liquid nitrogen fog spews out of the cylinder, and then it tilts and an old woman slides out.

Between two of Ethan’s drumming heartbeats, Rachel opens her eyes, brown and sharp.

“Schrödinger,” she says, her lips quirking upwards.

“It worked!” He hugs her, getting wet with antifreeze goo but he doesn’t care.

Dad clears his throat behind them. “Rachel, I can’t believe—”

She shuts him up with only a look. “Let’s talk later. Right now, I want to get to know my great-great-grandson.”

Ethan jumps up and down. Rachel’s missed out on so many things in the real future! She’s going to flip when he shows her how easily she can modify her body, and the space colonies, and all the other things. But first, they are going to split the peanut butter sandwich.

About the Author: 
Hal Y. Zhang ( has seen some good, bad, and ugly qubits in her time.