Author : Duncan Shields
I was standing in the five star hotelâ€™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 Iâ€™m standing on.
Itâ€™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. Itâ€™s with a cold pit of terror in my stomach I notice that one of assembler spikes is missing.
Iâ€™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. Itâ€™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. Thereâ€™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 wasnâ€™t for what Iâ€™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. Itâ€™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 Iâ€™ve been collected and itâ€™s an entirely unpleasant feeling.
Iâ€™m picturing a big dish pointed out towards space just collecting what it can and occasionally snagging a human or a cargo load.
Iâ€™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.