Mind Your P’s and Q’s

Welcome to story time here on Planet Pailly!  Today’s story was inspired by a recent conversation I had with a new friend, a conversation which I described in a previous blog post.

Mind Your P’s and Q’s

The whole class was staring at the teleportation chamber, cringing at the wisp of smoke rising from the chamber floor.  Cadet Keefer had just killed a gerbil.  Again.

Keefer’s face blanched as she realized what had happened. Suddenly she was mashing the reset button.  Reset!  Reset!  Reset!  But the whole teleportation system had locked up.  The controls were frozen on their last settings, with all the emergency lights on.

Professor Montgomery was coming over.  “What happened?”

“I… I can’t…” Keefer said, still frantically trying to get the teleporter to reverse.  The machine had disassembled that poor gerbil atom by atom, so Keefer just had to make the stupid contraption put the gerbil back together again.  Right?

“It must’ve been the Heisenberg unit,” Keefer said, or at least that was her best guess.  On the very first day of teleportation training, Professor Montgomery had said 90% of the teleportation accidents he’d seen were caused by Heisenberg commutation units.  They were finicky pieces of hardware.  You had to keep a close eye on them.  The quantum teleportation system needed to track the exact momentum and position of each and every atom in your body (or in this case, in that gerbil’s body), and that was impossible if the Heisenberg unit failed.

On the control board, the momentum and position were represented by the letters p and q.  And sure enough, right there in the middle of the status board, an error message read:

pq ≠ qp

“Looks like you’re right,” Professor Montgomery said, tapping his finger on that message.  “What have I told you about the Heisenberg unit?”

Keefer’s face was turning bright red with embarrassment. “Mind your p’s and q’s,” she recited.

“That’s right,” Montgomery said.  “You can take the test again in a month.  Until then, I don’t want you touching the teleporters.  I don’t want you anywhere near them.  Stick to the simulators until you know you can do it right.  Understood, cadet?”

“Understood, sir!”

4 thoughts on “Mind Your P’s and Q’s

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