In the near future, Norman Perseus (Perse) Grant, eighteen, the son of an engineer on a transporter project, is given the chance to beam from Tacoma, Washington, to Reno, Nevada. Perse is slated to go with three celebrities—Carmella Martinez, Jack Miller, and Ronny McFarlane. They have skills in sports. Perse doesn’t.
Things go wrong when their carrier signal intertwines with that of a carrier signal from another planet. The four travelers end up on a distant world, Nario Seven. Ronny is killed by a soldier, and Perse, Carmella, and Jack are captured by a warlord, Quaggon.
Quaggon gives them a choice—retrieve an energy source that his people desperately need—or die. It isn’t much of a choice, so the three set out for a fortress city, guided by a soldier named Matsuge.
Succeed or die. There is no other way.
The outskirts of Tacoma, Washington. Early morning. Warren Labs. June sixth. Date: 2048.
“How are you feeling, Perse?”
My father’s voice intruded on a dream I’d been having about Mara Wycliffe, the hottest girl in school. The dream had been moving along smoothly…and then my father had to go and interrupt things.
C’est la vie. I’d been lying in the back of his late-model Finessa Seven car, a heap that was over fifteen years old. It had no air-conditioning, which made it hell to ride in during the summer, and it also had no shock absorbers.
In the nineteen-fifties, books and magazines said that a hundred years in the future, cars would cruise around using magnetic power, wouldn’t use gas, and would be comfortable.
Wrong on all three counts, although, ironically, the lack of shock absorbers served as a bonus. The bouncing lulled me into la-la-land. When I was a tyke, if I ever wanted to take a nap, I’d ask my father to drive me somewhere. I never failed to fall asleep within a few minutes.
Fat chance of me catching any extra zzzs, though. That stopped as the sound of his voice got me halfway up, which meant we’d arrived. Naturally, I gave him the obligatory answer. “Sleepy.” Then I asked the obligatory question. “Are we there, yet?”
He screeched to a halt. The momentum threw me off the seat and I banged my head painfully against the back of the passenger seat. His voice sang out cheerfully, “We are now!”
Yeah, he could laugh. It was still dark out, and although I wanted to go back to sleep and finish off my dream, I couldn’t. Reality sucked. I’d never had a shot at dating Mara. We’d talked a few times and exchanged thoughts, but the bottom line was that she couldn’t be bothered. End of.
Since Mara was out, dream number two took over, and that involved being part of The Great Beam-Out, as the news sources put it.
Officially, it was called Operation Magic Carpet. Initially, the project had been shrouded in secrecy. But from the info made available later—supposition or leaks to the press—it was, as the eggheads put it, a matter disassembler and re-assembler. In short, it was a transporter.
The concept of teleportation had been around since the late eighteen-hundreds, and it was popularized by television shows and movies in the nineteen-sixties. Physicists since the nineteen-nineties had been trying to develop it.
No one had succeeded except Donald Warren. Forty-five years old, a genius in quantum physics, he’d built a transporter chamber that did what others had only dreamed of doing.
Naturally, he did it with government funds, and under the aegis of the US Army. He didn’t talk about that in interviews, though. People wanted the mechanics of things in simple terms, so Warren dumbed things down, keeping the explanations simple and putting up pictures that explained things more clearly. Good thing, too, because physics was my worst subject.
His team had Gargantua, a super-computer that was the closest thing to AI around, to solve the most complex of equations. His team used quantum teleportation, sending information from one point to another. Initially, they sent a photon. The Chinese had done the same thing many years back, but they’d never gotten beyond that first step.
Warren’s team did. When Gargantua started working overtime on the quantum mechanics of it all, Warren and associates sent an apple from their lab that was in the countryside of Tacoma to another lab about half a kilometer away. Said info came from a leaked report.
Reports were scarce, mainly because, at first, the government kept a tight lid on everything. The public wasn’t supposed to know. Panic might ensue, not to mention the foreign powers having a hissy fit if Warren succeeded.
I knew about the happenings because my father was an engineer at Warren Labs, even though I’d never been to his workplace. I didn’t even know where it was, not exactly. The army kept the location secret.
Every morning, they picked him up at eight. Every night, he came home at six. As a child, I got used to his routine. My mother was always on hand to see me through things. “Your father does important work, Perse,” she’d tell me.
He certainly did. In fact, he’d supervised the building of the transportation chamber. From time to time, he let a couple of details slip. Sure, it was hush-hush, but I could keep a secret as well as anyone.
According to him, apple number one arrived as mush. More refinements in the software came. Projects two through forty-nine failed, but number fifty came through unscathed. Other inanimate objects went through and emerged whole.
Bolo, the baboon, was the first live test subject. He lived for five seconds. Gargantua didn’t have enough information on the physical makeup of animals, so after the necessary software was developed, Bolo the Second became the first living subject to teleport.
Finally, last year, Warren Labs dared try it with a person. Naturally, his super-computer received another major software upgrade to deal with the more complicated DNA that humans had.
“I was there to witness it,” my father said in a hushed voice. “It was awe-inspiring. That’s the only word I can use.”
Sergeant Harry Winslet, a member of the armed forces, had volunteered. At the age of forty-three, he was a veteran and decided that if he had to give his life for his country, what better way to do it?
He lived. Soon after, five more test subjects made the jump. All of them lived. After all the money spent—trillions-plus—it worked.
“This is cutting-edge transportation,” General Victor Arthur, the army’s liaison to the government and Warren Labs pronounced after the last subject reported in safely.