What Remains

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 The morning gloom had begun to lift as the two figures reached the double doors of the abandoned squash complex, its rundown appearance betrayed by the new security camera that blinked vigilantly as they entered. Pavel and Beth walked through the disused changing area and into the main corridor that was flanked on either side by courts. At the far end light spilled out from the last two courts. A silhouetted figure appeared. “This must be the journalist who you tell me so much about,” the voice echoed down the corridor. Pavel blushed.
“Professor Vallone, let me introduce Beth Ward, editor of our salubrious college magazine.”
“A pleasure, my dear. I hope you find this little experiment of ours diverting,” said the Professor, but made little attempt to hide his apathy towards Beth’s presence. An alert sounded in the court to his right.
“Pavel, the access protocols have begun. Soon we will have full processing power. Let’s run the diagnostics again – oh, and I’ll take that.” He reached for the briefcase which Pavel had carried uncomfortably from his dorm. “Shall we?” said the Professor as he led them into the court.

A monolithic body cast stood empty in the centre of the court encircled by crescent shaped scanners which were in turn surrounded by control systems. Above the doorway was a large, flat screen which showed a room similar in almost every way to the one in which they stood, except in reverse. A mirror image, Beth thought, but quickly realised that the image actually showed the court across the corridor. “One minute forty five seconds,” the Professor announced.
 “Systems operating within tolerances,” declared Pavel, reading from a panel against the wall. “Professor, this is your last chance to reconsider.”
“We may never get this opportunity again, Pavel. It has taken a decade to get this time on the network. This is the processing power we need. We are so close!” the Professor replied from the cast as he strapped himself in.

The lights dimmed as the datacubes that formed the University’s ‘brain’ entwined with the processors of the squash courts. The Professor looked up at Beth. “You’ll want to watch the screen,” he said, and closed his eyes. On cue Pavel punched a command into his control panel. The scanners began to rotate around the Professor faster and faster obscuring him from view, every atom simultaneously being identified and mapped. Pavel turned to look at the screen above the doorway. Beth could see the same blur of activity and watched awestruck as a figure could be seen materialising in the other court.
“That’s….unbelievable,” she murmured.
“That’s the easy part,” said Pavel, “We’re simply organic building blocks. It’s an exact copy…..” Before he finished his sentence there was a flash as the state of every atom was transferred to the court across the corridor. Pavel took a step towards the screen as the machines fell silent and he could see the beaming face of the Professor wave back at him.
 “....Now that’s the hard part, the stasis transfer, information - it’s all we really are..."
Beth couldn't contain herself. "What about the Professor that’s in here?” she stared horrified at the now vacant body in front of her.
“It's simply a framework of atoms now. The process scrambles any connections. The Professor has gone Beth, he’s across the hall. It's incredible isn't it?” Awestruck, Beth looked up at the screen. 

As Beth watched the Professor on the screen Pavel’s gaze stayed on the lifeless form in the middle of their court. Something was wrong. There it was again - a flinch, then the head jerked from side to side. Beth turned and screamed as the now familiar but somehow vacant and silent Professor began to flail manically in the straps. Pavel leapt across the court through the tangle of cables, scrabbling to release the straps holding the body in place. The body collapsed to the floor as the straps fell away, a loud wheezing punctuating each breath. Pavel stepped back in terror. Confused eyes searched for Pavel’s face, arms reached for him, the contorted mouth opened to speak… But before it had the chance a gunshot rang out through the court. Breathless the Professor stood in the entrance way the gun still shaking in his hand.

Silence.
Pavel spoke first while Beth gently sobbed. "It didn't work...."
"It did work! Pavel, look here I am, flesh and blood, we made a perfect copy!" an elated Vallone exclaimed as he entered the court again.
"But look what you....we…did." 
"We did nothing but advance civilisation! No crime has been committed here," came the Professor’s irritated response. 
"But it was functioning, it was trying to communicate," Pavel pleaded.
"Nonsense, we had transferred everything. There was nothing left, simply residual electrical activity. Pavel, look what we have achieved! Quantum teleportation on a huge scale! Think what this means we can change the world!"
Pavel sigh deeply. "It was more than that Professor. You knew something might happen. Why else would you have me bring the gun?”
“It was for our security, Pavel. The models showed that our process takes all that there is.”
“No, Professor, that can’t be true. It looked at me. Come on Beth, let me take you home."
They made to leave but the click of a gun stopped them both in their tracks.
The Professor shook his head. "You witnessed history today. With great advances the costs can also be great. I'm sorry. I can't let you leave."
The sound of two gunshots reverberated down the empty halls. 

A day later the Professor adjusted the baseball cap on his head and lowered himself into a window seat as the train pulled out of the station. A newspaper lay on the seat opposite him. He picked it up to see Pavel's grainy picture on the cover under the headline 'Professor murdered in College love triangle'. Vallone grinned ruefully to himself, then settled down for the long journey ahead.
 

About the Author: 
I'm a Physics Teacher in Belfast, Northern Ireland

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