Page 8: ‘It’s just a prosthetic.’

Matthias unbuttoned the cuff of his right sleeve.
‘What are you doing?
Matthias continued to roll the sleeve back, up to his elbow. ‘I’m getting her out.’
‘You can’t pull her out.. that’s not just light in there, they’re scattered nanites, you arm will be shredded!’
‘Let me worry about the nanites.’

Matthias thrust his naked arm into the dense blue light. A white flash emanated from the surface of his skin, scattering out like a thousand small bolts of lightning through the surrounding void. Something tugged at his skin, the false surface about his artificial musculature shimmered and disintegrated into a minute dust of skin and flesh. Beneath this, his true form emerged – a dense layer of malleable silicon encasing skeletal rods of carbon fibre with small motors at the joints. Insulated cables were tightly bound about this skeletal framework, and along the frame itself, small flickers of light emanated from a dense network of circuitry and tiny processors.
Chris retreated behind him, taking a few small steps, eyes fixed on the sight before him.

The blue light dissipated in an instant, leaving Matthias free to help the woman from the booth. She stepped out, unscathed and blinking, raising a hand to her forehead. ‘Uh..’
Drawing sight of the crowd, she regained focus. ‘Wha.. what happened?’
The crowd was focused on her saviour. She looked to the man holding her, noticed Matthias’ arm and yelped, pulling away.
‘It’s okay,’ Matthias assured her, and then the crowd, as she took shelter beside Chris. ‘It’s just a prosthetic.’
Between the murmuring crowd, now a gathering of frightened eyes and gaping mouths, a few began to clap.

Later, in the I.T. department, Chris drew a crowd behind his desk. James stood behind and to the left, arms crossed, beside him stood another two coworkers, and behind these three, a taller man, in a darker suit.
Before them on Chris’ monitor, the security footage of the incident replayed at half speed.
‘Theoretically his arm should be gone,’ James commented as on-screen, Matthias thrust his arm into the teleporter field.
‘Theoretically it should be impossible, right?’ confirmed Chris. ‘Isn’t there some kind of.. atomic barrier? Not to mention the nanites..’
‘He shouldn’t be able to touch it, let alone shove his arm through it.’
‘You should have seen the arm,’ Chris swiveled his chair to face them, brandishing his own forearm as an example. ‘It was some kind of clear plastic rubber, hundred of circuits, processors, wiring throughout, perfectly articulated movement, this was like something out of the army. I’d like to know where he bought it.’
‘Do we know who this guy is?’ another asked.
‘Matthias Drake.. some accountant,’ Chris shrugged.
‘I wouldn’t mind studying it,’ a voice came from the rear. The others fell silent in deference as the speaker, the taller man in the suit, marked by dark, heavy eyelids and a forest of eyebrows stepped closer, peering at the screen, stroking a haphazard beard. ‘I wonder if we could coax him into R&D.’ The others waited on his pronouncement. ‘Of course, if we found anything, it would have to remain in the lab, I couldn’t share it..’
There were general murmurs of agreement and acceptance.
‘That’s if he agrees, right?’ stated James.
‘Well, I can tell you, when management sees this, they’re sure to be looking for incentives..’

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Page 7

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.

‘So what?’

‘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.

‘Right then.’

Page 6

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.

‘I know.’

‘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.’