By Eliza Partika
In the far future, you are a high-caliber corporate executive from Los Angeles rushing off to an important business meeting in Beijing. In this reality, humans have developed a teleportation system that appears to instantly take you from one port to another. You’ve never tried it before, but are eager to.
The machine works like this: First an atomic scanner compiles all your biological processes in that one instant. Then, as gears shift, the machine proceeds to vaporize you cell by cell. Your body’s data is transmitted to a receiving terminal, where you — or a version of you — are 3D-printed back into existence.
You arrive at LAX, pass security and step into the terminal. It scans you. But something goes wrong. The machine stalls and does not proceed to the second step. Alarms blare, and you see on the CCTV feed in Beijing, a figure that looks eerily like you exit the airport. Across LAX, you see armed guards rush toward you….
“Citizen, answer me! Why have you, a historian, been sighted attempting to get through the teleport to Beijing?” a police investigator with a well-trimmed beard screams his mint breath into my face.
I am jolted awake by an electrical shock to my arm. Guards extract my identification chip and discard it in a trash chute to be burned with those of other prisoners. Through gritted teeth I try to explain that I am not one of the lower-class historians, but Luxor Nepos, a renowned tech for Alphabeta Corporation, traveling to Beijing to unveil new cognitive communication technology. He cuts me off. “You have broken a valuable piece of communal property as well as Class Law. You will be punished accordingly.”
I am taken to another room, where a woman waits to interrogate me. It’s my coworker, Bryant. Surely she will understand. “Bryant! I am so glad to see you! Just explain to them that something went wrong with the atomizer, and now someone dressed as me is heading to Beijing…”
She ignores me, instead addressing the men holding me captive. “I’m sorry citizens. I don’t know this man.” Bryant’s scheming eyes meet mine as she motions to the cell on her right. “Put him there. We’ll figure out what to do with him later.” Mounting dread fills me as I am forced into another cell, and the door is bolted.
My mind races, trying to figure out how I wound up in this mess. Could the teleport control man have accidentally copied my genetic makeup? Why have they labeled me a lower-class citizen when my ID clearly says otherwise? I dig through my pockets to where the emergency card is. It isn’t my ID. It’s the ID of a man by my name, Nepos, but with the occupation of Biographical Historian: Euramerica Specialist. I know the punishment for breaking Class Law; since they have incinerated my real ID, I will have no appeal but death.
“Hey, you.” I call over the guard at the cell across from me. “If I can prove to them that I am not this man,” I thrust the ID in his face. “By doing an equation, or by building them a new teleportation device, for instance; would you release me?”
“I can’t release you, I’m not authorized.” There is deep sympathy in the man’s eyes. “But I can get you out of here. Take this and wait for my signal.” He hands me a gold fountain pen, like the ones they used to write with in the old days, and saunters off, whistling a forgotten tune.