“Good morning, Dr. Weston,” the office AI said.

“Good morning Alex.  What do we have in store for us today?”

“My scanners have detected twelve quantum signatures within the confines of this building.  Two are too far away for field capture, and eight are degraded to the point where their usefulness is questionable.”

This is what he loved most about his work.  Each morning he dove right in without preamble or preparation, as Alex did much of the heavy lifting.  There was no wasted motion or useless chatter from the AI, and the morning’s unpleasant miasma evaporated from his psyche as so much fog before the morning sun.  Mikal extracted the data scroll from his pocket, and removed his coat and hung it on the rack by his door.  Walking to his desk, he snapped open the scroll and placed it on the smooth and uncluttered surface.  Now connected to Alex, the scroll displayed a stream of data on the two signatures.

“This signal you have designated ‘beta’ is exceptionally strong,” Mikal said, tapping the scroll.

“True, sir, and not likely to add much to your current subject of inquiry, but it is still the best option to begin with for today.  I calculate a ninety percent probability that ‘alpha’ will remain nearby for the next four hours.”

“That gives us plenty of time to give ‘beta’ the once-over.”  Mikal gathered his data scroll and strode toward the entry to the second room of his office suite–the research station and the already glowing Tank, a clear polycarbonate cube enclosing a volume of some thirty cubic meters in the center of the room.  Against the back panel of the Tank was a small bench, and beside that were three small hooks, each holding a disposable jumpsuit.  A column of water a meter in diameter and two meters tall stood suspended in a containment field above a metal floor grate.

“Field emitters are charged, and all power leads are stable, sir.”

“All right Alex.  Let’s take a look.”

“Very well.  Activating the field now, sir.”

This part, though routine by now, was always nerve-wracking for Mikal.  Each attempt to capture a signal resulted in either success or failure, both during and after the event.  While the successes were few and inadequate, some of the failures were distasteful–even depressing at times.  Mikal heard a muffled pop as sub-atomic particles in the mass of water instantly realigned themselves, relinquishing their will to the trapped quantum signature that–with the help of the localized field–imposed new structure on old matter.  Any form of matter was acceptable, but Mikal preferred water.  A microsecond after the field performed its magic, the suspension field snapped off, and the remaining water cascaded through the grate to the holding tank, leaving a rather large naked man seated and shivering on the floor.

The man coughed and sputtered, then looked down on his naked body, shrugged, and stood with confident ease.  “What the hell just happened?”

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