A squat man in an ill-fitting shirt stepped from the crowd and headed for the teleportation booths.
‘What are you doing?’ an officious voice demanded. The man hesitated, turning to the crowd.
‘I can handle it,’ he raised his palms in earnest defence. ‘I work on these things as a hobby.’
‘A woman’s life is at stake!’
‘Do you see anyone coming?’
He proceeded to the booth, scratching his leg as he studied sealed panels around and above the keypad.
‘Does anyone have any tools?’ he called.
‘He’s going to get her killed,’ murmured Stacey.
‘I know,’ said Matthias.
A mammoth black man began to step through the crowd, easily a head taller than the majority of the onlookers, excusing himself as he parted the crowd with barrel arms.
‘Excuse me, sir,’ he called, stepping out at the front, ‘I need you to step away from the teleporter.’
The hobbyist hesitated and stepped back from the booth, as he saw the size of the man. ‘I’m just trying to help.’
‘I’m not going to ask twice.’
The security guard crossed his arms as the man took a final look at the teleporter before walking away, head down, scratching his head.
‘What are you going to do about it?’ someone called.
‘My name is Paul Bowman, I’m from Security. I need everybody to clear the area.’ Amid protests, he held his arms out as if to push them back. ‘Please! Return to your lunch, they’re sending somebody down. Disperse! This isn’t helping anybody.’
As the crowd begin to reverberate, Matthias took a quiet breath.
‘I guess we should go,’ Stacey started beside him.
Matthias stepped forwards and approached the teleporter, eyes focused on his destination. The guard stepped into his path.
‘Excuse me sir, I need you to..’
Matthias stopped, staring into his eyes. ‘I can save this woman.’
‘Maintenance is sending somebody..’
‘If you don’t give me access to this teleporter, that woman has about five minutes to live.’
‘And I suppose you’re an expert?’
‘I am. She has five minutes. Regardless of the person inside, that teleporter will reset itself and lose her data in the process. There’s no guarantee of getting her back. Do you really want a dead woman on your conscience? On your personnel record?’
‘Look, I can’t allow you to..’
‘I’m not asking for your permission.’
Matthias stepped around him but Paul caught him by the shoulder. Matthias turned and locked one hand below the man’s elbow, and another about his wrist.
‘Release me or I’ll snap your forearm,’ Matthias informed him. ‘Either way, she’s getting out of there.’
Paul hesitated, but raised his other hand in compliance. Matthias released him and backed away, before returning to proceed for the teleporter.
Tugging a steel plate from the wall as if it were weightless, he sat this to one side. A dozen buttons and a small display lay behind it, protruding from the internal casing. Further components were guarded behind a wall of plastic and silicon. The display read: “Error 505: Unstable transmission. Atomic integrity check failed.”
Studying their labels, he pressed a series of buttons. The display changed: “Unable to release. Integrity check failed.’
A few more buttons.
“Cannot instantiate. Original status unavailable. Primary buffer invalid. Secondary buffer invalid.”
Chris almost toppled his chair as he ran from his desk to a teleporter booth at the wall adjacent to his desk. James paused in his work, raising an eyebrow.
‘Some jerk is screwing with the maintenance panel,’ Chris fumed, punching code into the side of the machine.
‘The feed says he’s from accounting!’
Chris stepped into the booth and reappeared in the cafeteria, in the booth to Matthias’ left. Stepping out, he approached Matthias’ side.
‘Sir, I need you to step away from that machine.’
‘Are you qualified to fix this?’
‘No..’ Chris began.
‘I’m almost done here,’ Matthias confided. ‘Just give me a moment.’
‘Sir,’ Chris took Matthias’ arm and attempted to pull him away, finding the feat impossible.
‘Do you have codes to override the locks?’ Matthias prompted, unperturbed. ‘The software won’t release her.’
‘It’s not supposed to, we don’t know the status of the original. If you release her she might not be all there, or she could be an illegal copy. That’s jail time..’
‘Do you have the codes or not?’
‘No!’ Chris grimaced.