Short Stories

Anywhere to Nowhere

The rise and fall of teleportation

She moved her hands above the child’s body, ribbons of violet light slithering between closing fingers as warm air swept over. The child wriggled onto one side, smiling. Lights dimmed, stars twinkled on the high ceiling, and walls fell away into soft rainbow auroras.

Now, what tale of before-times would you like to hear this sleep, little Caudal?” she asked, kneeling alongside. The child looked up, finger on chin. “Explain about… Anywhere! Was it good? Why did it stop? What happened? Will it come back? Can we use it for our overlands?”

Settling alongside the bed, she breathed in slowly and cleared her throat. “I’ll start at the beginning, long before your thoughtstart and only a short time after mine.

Apprentice originators made the first wavelet conduits,” — she enunciated the syllables slowly and clearly — “tunnels for sending particles between atoms. Then they sent tiny things over minuscule distances. Then small things over short distances, slowly working all the way up to sending people-sized things quite far. Military departments had tried to keep the research for themselves, but too many originators shared their work and the entire world was racing to make the technology bigger and better.”

She felt it best to skip over many things: experiments with terminally-ill volunteers, tasteless apprentice pranks, kidnapped originators, and horrific failures. There’d be plenty of time in later years for gory fascination with Orlando Dyson’s final resting place within the concrete walls of a secure vault (teleportation’s first attempted crime, or first suicide? Debate was endless).

Once it started to spread and was shown in public, no one talked about anything else. Panic spread about theft and spying, cameras appeared in even the most private spaces, and official buildings installed automatic defence systems. More than once, rumours of groups of anywhered strangers led to massive military alerts.

Anywhereing without special permission was banned, and you could only start or end from special places. The followed and powerful still took to it right away, enjoying weekend overlands or lunch halfway around the world. And originators and instructors with special Anywhere access were sometimes… a bit naughty in how they used it.”

She paused to let an irrepressible surge of memories run its course. An affair with an instructor’s everlast. Ears popping and eyes struggling to adjust to the glare as a dimly-lit lab instantly became a bright bathroom. Climbing out of a window once or twice as reverse-anywhereing wasn’t yet reliable. Then, when it finally was, spending long nights on a desert hillside, keeping each other warm until the sun rose and it was time to return to everyday life in the blink of an eye.

Not everyone was happy about teleportation. There were Copyists who believed that using it destroyed you and just made a new identical person.” The child’s eyes widened at this. “Are… are you a copy?”

Oh little one,” she chuckled softly, “of course not! But those silly people protested outside labs, attacked the homes of originators, and eventually made blockers to stop Anywhere from working.” The initial results were crude but gruesomely effective, she explained, and the Nowhere technology had soon been widely embraced, blanketing growing areas in disruptive particle fields.

Eventually, almost the whole planet was covered with blockers and Anywhere was limited to secret things. Except later, when bad people broke the system to send in their weapons.” The mangled bodies, the screams, the grey dust. So much grey dust. Thinking of it still gave her the urge to cough and vomit.

Is that how Dorsal left us?” whispered the child. “No,” she replied with a crack in her voice, “it was something else, not the bad people. Dorsal ascended without us, first to Somewhere and then onwards to Everywhere. We’ll talk about it more when you’re older.” Those years might be enough for her to understand it herself, she thought.

So that’s the story of Anywhere. It was fun and useful, but too powerful and dangerous, so we live without it. And now it’s time for you to rest.” She stood as the child settled, then backed away. “Good slumber, sweet Caudal.”

The room darkened further. For a few seconds she looked up at the stars, thinking of cold air and warm skin, then sighed wistfully, turned, and let the door close.