A to B
“I always thought the crew of the Enterprise would have to be committed nihilists ever to set foot in a transporter”. The slim young redhead in the standard ‘A to B inc.’ uniform laughed, although I'd wager she’s heard that one plenty of times by now.
“I’d agree if transect technology worked that way. You know, when I began working here, I didn’t understand why they look for people with degrees in philosophy. Operating the machines is not exactly difficult. We’re here mainly because it’s less frightening for customers if they see that a pretty girl in a sharp uniform pushes the button rather than having software do it, and the ones who are nervous about how it works get somebody to talk them through it beforehand.”
Even I’d had a philosophy class back in my first year of college that touched on the question of teleportation. It’s pretty entry level stuff. Is the copy on the other end really you? Is there a soul or are we simply a specific configuration of atoms, and so on. The stuff of trite science fiction plots.
“You’re never taken apart or put back together, in any sense. The chamber is though. A transect occurs when absolutely identical conditions are created in two chambers. The air inside, the lining of the chamber, all of it absolutely the same down to the subatomic level. That never occurs in nature and consumes a lot of energy to maintain, but we only need to do it for a split second. The universe confuses the two locations. Basically, superposition on a much larger scale than can otherwise occur due to the astronomical improbability of so many atoms assuming identical configuration and spins by chance. All we do is collapse that indeterminate state, such that you’re in the other chamber.”
I laughed. But then gave it more thought. A great deal in physics is absurd to the point that it’s comical, and just becomes more absurd the closer we look. For all I knew she was lying through her teeth just to calm me down, but that seemed legally untenable. I’d never run into anybody knowledgeable about transect technology who disputed her explanation.
It did put me at ease, though. They’ve done a bang up job picking girls for this. More than a few picturesque men, too. I’m sure my wife enjoyed that when she went through and would probably tease me about it once I got there. Always swore I’d never get in a transect chamber even if my life depended on it, but when she was chosen for the colony administrator job I couldn’t talk her out of going. Where she goes, I follow.
Come to think of it, the waiting room also seems calculated to calm. Brightly colored, a variety of complimentary confections placed next to the plush sofas, replenished on the hour. I don’t need to be babied like this, I understand full well the fear is irrational. It’s just, understanding that doesn’t make it vanish. Not entirely.
The inside of the transect chamber turned out to be lined with mirrors. The redhead explained that it helps claustrophobics deal with being in a confined space for the minute or so necessary to spin up the transect lensing array prior to firing it.
I wish they hadn’t. I’m just the opposite, I love enclosed spaces because I can see every part of it, so I know nothing’s hiding in there with me. The mirrors defeat that, creating an endless 3D grid-like expanse of my reflections, repeating forever in every direction.
I felt a pulsing vibration, then stillness. Just as I thought to yell through the lid that it was taking too long, somebody began to open it. Could that really be the whole process? I’d worked myself up for nothing.
Relief washed over me, until a pair of men wearing A to B uniforms seized me by the arms and pulled me from the chamber. I shouted every vulgarity at them and threatened to sue but soon found myself restrained to a cold metal wall alongside hundreds of other frightened looking men, women and kids.
The deafening sound of machinery filled my ears. Looked to be the inside of some vast industrial facility. Too dark to see any distance, but I could make out multiple stories of rusted metal walkways cris-crossing above us with uniformed A to B employees walking to and fro. Below that, row after row of conveyor belts.
Many immense vats of some sort suspended from chains deposited dollops of sticky black resin on one end of each conveyor belt. Then the belt would move forward by an increment to make room for the next oily discharge.
The mound of quivering black goo then passed through a series of assembly line machines, each of which performed some small step, gradually sculpting it into the shape of a person complete with hair, teeth and every other little detail.
One of them approached. Like looking in a mirror. They even got the scar on my neck right. A uniformed goon stripped me and handed my clothing to the facsimile. It got dressed, winked at me, then climbed into the transect chamber.