Several floors above, in a quiet office lined with empty workstations, a balding man named Chris caressed a day’s worth of stubble. Placing his hands behind his head, he leaned back in his chair emitting a shallow groan. Coming back to the desk, he leaned forwards, propping a chin on his hand and blinked at the screen. Rubbing at his eyes, he withdrew and raised a steaming mug of coffee to his lips. Eyes widening, he spat back into the cup, cursing, and replaced it on the desk, sloshing coffee onto his plaid shirt and beige pants.
With a cry he clawed for a box of tissues nearby and padded at his pants as a damp patch formed on his thigh.
‘Jesus.. this better not stain,’ he muttered. Chuckling carried from a desk at the centre of the room as James, an electronics technician, paused from soldering a robotics component.
‘Don’t you laugh,’ Chris grimaced, ‘I’ve seen you spill a few.’
‘Yeah, but I’ve never managed it sitting still,’ James laughed.
Chris returned to rubbing at his thigh as an indicator began flashing in the corner of his monitor. When it caught his attention, he gave a casual jab to the screen. When a window opened and he observed it’s contents, he ceased rubbing, the tissue slipping from his fingers as he swiped and gestured through a dozen dialogs.
‘James, we’ve got a problem..’
‘What is it?’
‘There’s a phase malfunction,’ Chris swallowed. ‘Teleporter in the cafeteria.’
‘So what?’ James shrugged. ‘Let maintenance handle it.’
‘Maintenance is off, remember?’
Pausing in his work, James peered over. ‘Well it’s just a phase malfunction, right? Happens all the time. Take it offline, stick an out of order sign on it, or something.’
Chris brought up a security feed, featuring a clear view of the woman trapped inside.
‘No, James, it’s not a routine case. There’s a woman here..’
‘Well I have to get this finished by three or Martin is going to take my head. You took the course, right? There’s a handbook on the intranet. Punch in a couple of codes, problem solved.’
‘That was three years ago! Look, surely you can give it five minutes to go down..’
James had already resumed his focus on soldering.
‘Fine,’ Chris sighed, ‘I’ll try R&D.’
Whispers had grown to alarm as the crowd swelled about the teleporter. A red light pulsed above, amplifying the anxiety of those susceptible.
‘Does anybody know how to get her out of there?’ a suit-clad manager demanded.
‘Where’s maintenance?’ cried a voice from the crowd.
‘Someone call Security,’ a tired voice pleaded.
Matthias stood pensive at the front of the crowd, silent eyes watching the woman inside.
‘Jesus,’ Stacey breathed, emerging to stand beside him.
‘You think someone’s coming?’
‘I’m sure they know about it,’ he replied, indicating the flashing red light.
‘Yes,’ Chris answered, rubbing sweat from his brow. ‘There’s someone stuck in mid-phase distribution in the cafeteria.. I don’t have anyone.. I’m in I.T.! …. Can you just send someone down? It’s a five minute job. …I’m an IT Technician! I don’t know the first thing… Yes. Fine..’
Chris slammed a button on his keybord. ‘Fuck!’
‘I can’t do it,’ reminded James. A segment of the component he was working on shifted as he soldered, resembling the pain reflex of a hand.
‘Thankyou James, you’re being very helpful. Will you take responsibilty when she gets dropped?’
James paused. ‘They can’t reinstantiate?’
‘She,’ reiterated Chris.
‘She. She can’t reinstantiate? There’s a buffer, right? From the teleporter she beamed in from. See if you can take an imprint from the buffer and rebuild her from that.’
Chris swiped through screens. ‘She came from somewhere public.. The local copy is corrupted.’
‘If she’s an employee, there’s always a backup… it just might be a year old.. depending.’
There was a chiming from the desk and Chris slapped the keyboard. He paused, listening to his voice chattering through an earpiece. ‘No, we can’t do anything. I’m aware of the situation. Yes, I’ll.. do what I can.’ He hit the keyboard again and sighed.
‘What is it?’ James queried.
“They’re calling someone down from Security.’