The Lamentable Kismet of D’arcy Montag

By Nate Chang

The Collins College of Advanced Physics and Quantum Mechanics (Redmond, Washington, not far from where Microsoft had erected their first campus during the personal computing boom of the early nineties, and only five kilometers north-northwest of where the Novell Robotics Corporation had begun construction of the Prometheus Orbital Elevator in the summer of 2016,) machine shop was “burning the midnight oils,” as the phrase went, as a veritable parade of screaming echoes, warped colors, and cacophonous voices as a string of maudlin cats, gilded dogs, unruly letters, punkish numbers, ersatz kanji (both Japanese and Chinese,) and three highly articulate pizzas all vied for viewing space in the eyes of one D’arcy Montag, student of the College of Advanced Physics and Quantum Mechanics (though due to a peculiar genetic condition, she was not so much a student as a teacher disguised as a student, and if one were to dig further, her knowledge of mathematics, science, quantum physics, mechanics, robotics, cybernetics, viral engineering and coffee brewing went far beyond what any ordinary professor might have to offer a class, even at the most prestigious of universities,) who was referred to by her classmates as “Skitz,” as in “schizophrenic,” (but misspelled due to the increase in usage of social networking tools which encouraged poor grammar as they connected people, and an increasingly wider gap between the grammatically correct haves and have-nots,) in order to gain the favor of her conscious mind, if only for a moment, so that they might take the opportunity to whisper sweet nothings in her ear, such as the answers to multiple-choice exams yet to be taken, the possible merits of immolating various political figures, offers of sexual coupling, and endless quantum formulae which would make a mockery of the strongest intellects in the field, and had already, upon discussion with D’arcy, forced two such experts (a Mr. Richard Bloomquist of Collins College and a Miss Rachel Truberitz of nearby Bellevue University) to commit ritual suicide in a manner befitting disgraced theoretical physics professors (Bloomquist was reported by a local newspaper to have hung himself from an eye-washing station in a chemical laboratory, while Doctor Truberitz, for those in the know, was rumored to have hired a male prostitute and engaged in sexual intercourse, during which she began to cut herself with a shaving razor, and severed her femoral artery in a fit of bloody ecstasy, unfortunately bleeding out before she achieved climax,)  tried her best, insomuch as was possible, considering the noise of it all, to busy herself with the tasks required to effect a repair of her particle accelerator, which had been damaged earlier in the week when D’arcy, in a self-described “blackout time” or indeterminate length and composition (as no one else was around to witness the episode in question,) caused her to initiate her experiment in particle acceleration, atomic recombination, and molecular engineering without supervision, assistants or indeed any safety precautions of any kind, the result of which was both A) an experiment that, performed on single a cubic centimeter of neodinium with a mass of approximately .72 kilograms, was successfully recombined, its component parts realigned and added to, creating a new element of approximately the same size (with roughly .018 cubic centimeters lost to impurities in the neodinium) which sported a new mass of nearly 720,000 kilograms, and upon attaining this fantastic new mass, promptly crashed through the holding apparatus, ten centimeters of cement flooring, two sub-basements, one boiler, one janitor’s plastic mop bucket and the accompanying six cubic liters of dirty water, and eventually landed in the remains of a World War 2-era bunker that had remained hidden and secret under the college grounds ever since the Herakles Viral Research Program was cancelled by President Truman in late 1945, deemed unethical and unnecessary in light of the victory in Europe and the deployment of the atomic bomb in the Pacific theatre, the facility was mothballed, ostensibly for a reopening of the Herakles Program at a later date, but lack of funding, increasing pressure from human rights elements in the government’s black operations branch, and an increasing body of research collected from British and French experiments during the war pointed to the cost-prohibitive nature of the program, and it was eventually terminated, the bunkers containing the research buried under a landfill and eventually under the machine shop of Collins College of Advanced Physics and Quantum Mechanics, leaving the research undisturbed for the better part of eighty years until it was damaged in D’arcy’s unauthorized excursion into uncharted scientific waters, further results of which included roughly two hundred thousand dollars in damages, plus incidental losses of various tools, raw materials and one lab cat that was to be used for hearing loss experiments by the adjacent Collins College of Auditory Wellness, and had for many months been affectionately referred to as “Oscar the Audible Stimulus-Comprehending Cat,” but would thereafter be referred to, with mixed feelings of anger, regret and unadulterated rage, as “Oscar the Unlucky,” insomuch as the Auditory Wellness students cared to remember the untimely death of Oscar, rather than his life which, up until its end, had been rather fruitful, and had included two kittens, seventeen couplings with other cats, one successful fight for a particularly vivacious house tabby and, most recently and finally, one near-death experience with a Firestone tire, size B-16, mounted on the front driver’s side of a white Ford F-150, which happened to belong to the dean of the College of Auditory Wellness, hence Oscar’s upgrade from “stray” status to “Laboratory Subject” and “Mascot” status in the summer of 2012, where after Oscar took part in no less than sixty experiments involving hearing loss and possible genetic, cybernetic and intelli-viral methods of curing chronic auditory dysfunction (commonly referred to as “hearing loss”) in adults of all ages, most of which had reached satisfactory conclusions, granting Oscar a decidedly austere reputation among Auditory Wellness students, who took his positive responses as a good omen, of course, until the day of the explosion, after which, the reputation of D’arcy Montag and indeed the entire College of Advanced Physics and Quantum Mechanics was lowered considerably, both by students of the Auditory Wellness program and by fellow students of the CAPQM, who had lost a small fortune’s worth of investments in personal projects, including, but not limited to: one mechanical arm, slated to become a replacement for static prosthetics, one hydraulic-powered exoskeleton, ready to receive armor mountings, weapon hard points and perform a demonstration for a pre-greased panel of military officials and defense contractors, and one bag of Northern California Sensamea, with a street value of approximately two thousand dollars.

Nate Chang is a writer/artist who lives in Portland, OR with his wife and a cabinet full of model robots. His work has appeared in Soul’s Road: a Fiction Collection, and The Pitkin Review literary magazine.

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