Alan blinked then stared at the ceiling. It seemed well lit although in a soft manner, not glaring. Was he supposed to do something? Or was he supposed to lie there until somebody came for him? He didn't recall that anybody had said one way or another. Those who had already done this would be in the know but him? Maybe it was best to wait until somebody told him what to do.
"Hello, Mr. Lindsey."
A face moved into Alan's field of vision. It was directly over his head. He thought that this person was leaning over the table.
"How are you doing?"
The face smiled at him. He realised it was female. It was a young woman. Twenty something? She did look young but it was sometimes hard to tell. She must be an attendant.
"I'm fine, thank you." Alan turned his head to the left a bit and looked at the room. It seemed modern and clean, functional and yet with a certain style. He turned to the right and saw that yes, the woman was standing beside the table slightly leaning over him in order to look directly into his eyes.
"Would you like to try and get up?" She smiled at him. "Some people feel a little disoriented but this quickly passes. I am convinced this has more to do with the sudden change of place as opposed to anything physical. Blink and you miss it." Her smile widened as though she were about to laugh.
"I think I'm okay." Alan began to sit up and turn himself at the same time. He swung his legs to the right and used his right arm to push himself up. The woman reached out as if to assist him but didn't actually touch him when she saw that he was going to be okay. She took a step back. Alan sat for a moment with his head tilted down looking at the floor. He turned his head back and forth a bit to the right and left testing whether or not he felt dizzy. He looked up at the woman. "Yes, I seem to be okay."
"Good," she said. "There's no rush. We don't have another transport scheduled for an hour."
"How many do you do each day?"
"It varies. Sometimes none at all and other days, dozens. A few exceptional times we've done a couple of hundred but that is quite unusual."
Alan nodded trying to process the information. Even though teleportation had been commonplace for more than a decade, he had never done it before. Certainly that would be odd to the younger generation. In fact, it might very well be odd that Alan had never been off the planet. In this modern day and age of easy space travel, he was still pretty much of a homeworlder leaving all that far flung gallivanting to the kids. Why go off-world when the world had everything he needed? Geesh, did he sound like an old fogey or what? If he had been alone, he probably would have chuckled out loud. Instead he used his hands to push himself off the table and he stood up.
"Nothing to it, Mr. Lindsey." The woman smiled warmly at him. She seemed genuinely concerned about his well-being. Then again those in the service industries were either trained or came by their empathetic demeanour naturally.
"By the way, I'm Katie." The woman had stuck out her hand.
Alan shook her hand. She had a strong grip, nothing half-hearted. Alan smiled slightly and said, "Katie, nice to meet you. Call me Alan."
"Alan it is." Katie gestured to the far end of the room. "Why don't you step over to the window? Many people like to get a look of where they just came from. I admit that it still boggles my mind how all this is done."
Alan looked at her questioningly. "How many times have you made the jump, Katie?"
Katie looked thoughtful for a moment obviously trying to mentally calculate something. "I believe I have now crossed the two thousand mark."
Alan looked at her surprised. "You've teleported over two thousand times?"
Katie grinned. "Yes. I guess you get used it."
"Used to it indeed. You are what I would classify as an old timer."
Katie laughed. "Oh believe me, there are many people who have far more times than me. But yes, in comparison with the average person, that is quite a bit."
The two of them walked to the end of the room and stood at the bay window. The view was across the lunarscape over the outskirts of New New Delhi. It all looked peaceful and pretty with the various lights of the buildings and travel routes shining in the darkness. Alan looked up and there looming large in the sky was the Earth.
"There it is," said Katie. "A mere three hundred and eight-four thousand kilometres traversed in the blink of an eye."
Alan smiled. "The blink of an eye?"
"Okay." Katie chuckled. "I'm waxing more poetic than scientific. All told, your trip took less than thirty seconds: the time necessary to scan your molecules, disassemble them, transfer the data here, and then reassemble those molecules."
Alan listened but had a slightly perplexed look. He was trying to understand what Katie was explaining to him. "So I'm not the same person I was on Earth."
"You are exactly the same person."
"But how can that be? You just said my molecules were disassembled. That means I'm not the same person I was on Earth."
"Ah, I see what you're getting at." Katie smiled now understanding what Alan didn't understand. "You have to appreciate, Alan that you, Alan Lindsey, exist independently from the molecules which make up your body."
Alan furrowed his brow. Katie noticed his expression and said, "Let me explain. A table is a table. It, the concept, exists independent of the material it is made of."
"Tables don't think."
"True," said Katie nodding. "But this just exemplifies how something can exist apart from its physical object."
"Okay, a man… " Alan gestured toward Katie. "Or a woman is an idea which exists part from an actual man or a woman." Alan turned back to the window and points to Earth. "But in this case, is the man standing before you the same man that was back on Earth a moment ago?"
"Did you know, Alan, that you are not the same person you were when you were a baby?"
Alan chuckled. "Of course not. I'm all grown up. Supposedly."
"No I mean more than that. The physical you is not the same as the physical you of a baby. In fact, you the man are not the same as you were ten years ago."
Alan looked at Katie quizzically. “I don’t understand. What are you talking about?”
Katie gestured towards Alan. "You, the man standing before me is not the same physical human being of yesterday. Your body has replaced cells so technically the you of today is not the you of yesterday."
"I've heard of this but was under the impression the process isn't necessary a complete replacement."
"True. Cells in various parts of the body divide at different rates so it isn't quite like there is a new you every thirty days or every year. Fat cells are replaced every 10 years but the cells of the inner lining of the small intestine are replaced every week. The lining of the stomach changes every 5 days and your red blood cells change every 120 days. Of course the neurons of our brains do not divide so this is more complicated. They may die off but under certain circumstances other brain cells will become neurons. The point of all this is that Alan Lindsey exists independent of his body."
"That seems a little strange," said Alan.
"I guess. But it goes a long way of explaining what happened to you during teleportation. I've done it over two thousand times so by your reasoning, you are definitely no longer talking to the Katie who was born twenty-five years ago on Earth. Whether it's me or you, neither one of us is the same person we were at birth."
"Teleportation changes the underlying supporting structures of our being but our essence, our spirit, the personality of the person is transferred to a new location. After all what are we but a thought process? I know there was been work in the field of neural intelligence where a human brain has been actually transferred to a computer system. Yes we think of artificial brains but what is it when you take a brain but give it a supporting structure not made out of flesh and blood but of artificial mechanisms?"
Alan idly looked out the window rubbing his chin thoughtfully with one hand. "This is a lot to consider, Katie. Maybe if you had talked to me several years ago, you might have eased my mind about trying this. I confess to have been a little leery about teleporting because… well, just because it seemed dangerous."
Katie smiled. "While I can't say that any system is one hundred percent perfect, I will say that the rate of incidents is so low, it is negligible. No, I would say it's nonexistent." Katie chuckled. "Would I have done it as much as I have? Heck I'm more likely to be hurt getting out of bed in the morning."
Alan nodded. Many people had made similar statements supplying statistics to back up their claims and while it all seemed well and good, it didn't necessarily go very far in assuaging the apprehension of someone like Alan might have in undertaking something new. Sure the incident of mishap while teleporting was less than getting out of bed but Alan was familiar with getting out of bed and that familiarity gave him a certain sense of ease. Teleporting? Oh boy, now how does the idea of dissembling your molecules in one place then reassembling them in another place go over as a perfectly reasonable thing to do? I'd like to keep my feet on the ground, thank you very much.
"Any plans?" Katie continued to be friendly and chipper.
Alan looked out the window turning his head trying to everything there was to be seen. "I apparently have 12 hours before the flight so I thought I would do a tour of the base."
"The agency back on Earth were very accommodating and have, I believe, taken care of everything. I am supposed to meet my guide at crossroad 45B, wherever that is, at14:15 keeping in mind that I am completely free to do whatever I want as long as I report to flight bay 6 by 22:00."
Katie nodded. "I can certainly help you out with some directions." She pointed out the window. "If you look over there, you see flight bay 6. The portal is currently closed. And…" Katie now turned and pointed towards the sky somewhat to the left of Earth. "It is over in this direction your ship will do its bridge entering the wormhole for Alpha Centauri."
Alan looked at her quizzically. "You know?"
"I was speaking with counterpart back on Earth and he mentioned you were doing the grand tour to visit your son and daughter-in-law at their new posting."
Alan shook his head with a slightly disbelieving look. "They couldn't accept something close to home. No, they have to go halfway across the galaxy. It's been two months since my grandson arrived and this will be the first chance I've had to see him. Geesh, the things a grandfather has to do these days to see his own flesh and blood."
Katie could see that Alan's indignation was really an act. Even though he was trying to keep a straight face, the corners of his mouth kept curling up in a half smile. Katie thought he might very well be quite proud of himself. Not only had he done teleportation for the first time in his life, he was also going to make his first step off the planet a big one by going 4 light-years to another system. "I trust this first trip might give you the taste to do a little exploring closer to home. We do have an entire solar system right here which deserves some exploring."
Alan nodded. "Well, maybe this old timer is something of a fuddy duddy, but maybe the saying is wrong."
"Oh, that you can't teach an old dog new tricks. " Alan shrugged. "Maybe I just need to get my feet wet." Alan turned to look at Earth hanging in the sky. "I just have to admit that the old place is pretty comfortable. Sort of like an old pair of slippers?"
Katie chuckled. "I guess. But just mix the two together and you can have the best of both worlds: something new and different and still… the old familiar pair of slippers." Katie checked the time on the wall. I see that you have 10 minutes to get over to crossroad 45B so why don't you let me give you some instructions and get you on your way. Your bag has been teleported up separately so with your permission, I'll see to it that it gets delivered to flight bay 6."
"By the way…"
Alan looked at Katie. "Yes?"
"If your tour finishes up earlier and you'd like to take a break, the flight bay has a very nice lounge area with some recliner chairs. You can sit back, relax, or even nod off if you'd like."
"Katie, you've been most helpful." Alan stuck out his hand to the young woman.
Katie shook Alan's hand. "My pleasure, Alan. I trust you have a great visit with your family." Katie stepped towards a door. "If you'll follow me, I'll get you pointed in the right direction. crossroad 45B is very easy to find."
"Okay." Alan started to follow Katie. The adventure had started and so far things had been pleasant. He had to admit that despite the teleportation, he felt the same. Was he the same? Okay, maybe not the same molecules but still the same… How did Katie put it? … the same essence? Then again, he hadn't even thought about the fact the current Alan, the Alan which had teleported wasn't necessarily the same as the Alan of ten years ago. How odd. Our essence exists regardless of the underlying supporting molecules. Maybe we did have spirits of some sort which existed beyond the realm of molecules but just haven't yet figured out where they are.