Friday, October 14, 2005

The Port-o-Clone V7000: a short story

Year: 2392

Tom looked forward to returning home. He'd been on Titan, Saturn's largest moon, for three long years. Now he was headed back to base, where after receiving a proper send-off from the rest of the crew, he'd step into the Port-o-Clone V3000 . . . and step out a moment later in Boston.

The Port-o-Clone V3000, manufactured by Zippy Corp., is a remarkable machine that has rendered traditional methods of space travel obsolete. A person or object placed into its sending chamber is quickly and painlessly disassembled, molecule by molecule, producing an atomic blueprint to be transmitted at the speed of light to a distant receiver. The receiver, in this case located in Boston, reassembles the person from its local stock of atoms, preserving all his memories, thoughts, feelings, and opinions.

"Beam me across the solar system, Scotty!"

Tom stepped out of the receiving chamber in Boston and was greeted by his wife, Sarah. He had enjoyed his last few weeks on Titan and was proud of his work on Stage Four of the terraforming project; but it was good to be home.

Tom and Sarah stared at each other. Compared to when Tom left three years ago, nearly every cell in Sarah's body was different. But there she was -- the same person. Of course, the same was true for Tom, but it had been just two minutes since all of his cells were replaced.

Year: 2477

The prototype of the Port-o-Clone V7000 was finally completed, and Brad was eager to test its new features after having worked on the design of its latest software module. Not only would the new model atomically disassemble and reassemble people like its predecessors did, but it could also build new people from scratch according to whatever specifications were fed into it. The human genome had been extensively mapped nearly half a millenium ago, but only now was it possible to accurately model the physical development of a person based on a given set of DNA instructions along with various inputs regarding his simulated developmental environment.

You want a 32-year-old, five-foot-nine gentleman of Arabic descent, fluent in French and well-trained in archery? The Port-o-Clone V7000 will generate one at the press of a button. It will, that is, if it works like it is supposed to. That's what Brad aimed to find out as he ran it through a series of tests.

The idea during the tests was not to actually create a slew of new persons. Forming a person in a receiving chamber without simultaneously un-forming him in a sending chamber technically fell under the Human Cloning Act of 2251, as amended, and was heavily regulated by the world government. Besides, what would Brad or Zippy Corp. do with a bunch of 32-year-old archers?

No, the plan was just to see if the prototype worked, and Brad would therefore be disassembling any persons he formed a fraction of a second after assembling them -- just long enough to get a molecular snapshot of the person to check against the blueprint and see whether everything came together correctly.

Brad first programmed the machine to produce a 50-year-old philosopher from Spain. After feeding the V7000 the necessary instructions, he pushed a button and . . . with a flicker, a human form appeared and disappeared so fast that Brad would have missed it if he'd blinked at the wrong time.

Brad checked the molecular scan and smiled. It worked. According to the data he was looking at, that flicker really was a Spanish philosopher, just like he ordered.


Next up was a 22-year-old female saxophonist with green eyes and a fondness for tapioca.

Flicker. Success.

A 38-year-old left-handed Hispanic woman with a genius IQ and a broad nose. A double-jointed novelist with typo "O" blood. A balding Jew with dimples. An albino.

Flicker, flicker, flicker, flicker; success, success, success, success.

Brad wrote up the results of his tests and prepared for the news conference Zippy Corp. would hold the next day.

* * * * *

"You have the right to remain silent. Anything you say can and will be used against you in a court of law. You have the right to an attorney. If you cannot afford an attorney . . ." Brad stopped listening to the officer as his thoughts wandered to reflect on the absurdity of the situation. Handcuffed and helpless, he was being charged with multiple counts of homicide. Once the results of his tests were publicized, the state district attorney wasted no time in going after both Brad and Zippy Corp.

On the first count, Brad was charged with murdering a 50-year-old philospher from Spain. . . .


Anonymous Chase said...

I knew things were heading downhill once they named their company Zippy Corp.

7:32 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

good story

1:46 AM  
Blogger yukoncpa said...

My girlfriend's kids loved this story. The youngest took it to show and tell. Will you please write more?

4:26 PM  
Anonymous Wong Online PoK√©r Hu said...

Short but good. I read some similar stories and all of those have touched something inside of me. Perhaos it is the urge to write something out of my thoughts or something that happened this day.

1:47 AM  

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