Author : Duncan Shields

I was standing in the five star hotel’s transporter half a second ago. Destination: Corroway 6. Pleasure moon.

I am now standing in a cold, dark concrete basement. One dying fluorescent light stutters the room with camera flashes.

From what I can see, the room was a storage room of some sort. Utilitarian. Possibly military. No ornamentation. Everything in the room has been overturned and smashed a long time ago.

Not my destination, in other words.

I look down at the transporter pad I’m standing on.

It’s damp and not much bigger than a floor tile. The field circle definer is naked to the elements around the base like a hula hoop. Wires snake out from the base like streets from a European city. It’s with a cold pit of terror in my stomach I notice that one of assembler spikes is missing.

I’m trying very, very hard not to imagine what might have gone wrong inside me.

I am rich. I am not fit. I crouch and step off of the transporter into the dank concrete room. Wiring hangs down from the ceiling. There is a moldy pile of fabric in the corner. Condensation is already gathering on my thick moustache. It’s wet here. The floor and walls are slippery.

The stuttering light is hurting my eyes and doing exactly zero for my mental health.

Breathing quickly and rubbing my arms, I walk through the fog of my own breath towards what looks like the door out of here.

It opens just before I get there.

About six people a year disappear when using transporters. There’s a quantum collision, a little interference, a random energy wave and poof! No more traveler. Since there are about eleven million transports of both people and materials a day, this is considered acceptable.

I wonder if I am currently standing where they all go.

It would be a heartening thing to think of, all those people alive and well somewhere, if it wasn’t for what I’m seeing before me silhouetted in the doorway.

It looks like it may have been human at one point. Its head is long and its eyes glow in the shadows. It’s bipedal but the feet look too large.

With a wet click, its eyes change colour and I can feel myself being scanned.

I feel like I’ve been collected and it’s an entirely unpleasant feeling.

I’m picturing a big dish pointed out towards space just collecting what it can and occasionally snagging a human or a cargo load.

I’m thinking that whatever would do something like that would probably value a cargo load more than a witness.

I have no way to prove how rich I am unless I can get it to take me to a terminal. I have no way to get it to take me to a terminal unless I can talk to it.

I smile harder than I’ve ever smiled.

“Dirk Jensen. Head of offworld accounts.” I say, and put my hand forward.

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