Transportation Problem

If it was any consolation, the first official use of Transporters was an awfully humorous way to find out that we had souls—or at least, it probably would have been humorous under other circumstances.

Science fiction got the first part quite right. If you take people, and put them into some sort of cryogenic, metabolism-slowing deep sleep, and you’ve got spaceships which can go at a reasonable percentage of light, you can reach Pluto in a (relatively) short time, like twenty or thirty years. It helps if you can send machines ahead of you (if your tech will allow it, you can transport machines faster than even frozen people, because the right machines probably hold up to higher acceleration better than even a very, very cold set of human internal organs, and you don’t have to take quite so much care to make sure that nobody dies along the way.)

It wasn’t exactly Home Sweet Home, but it was habitable, and we settled down. Life was hard, as we’d expected, but we relished the challenge. After all, this was what we’d signed up to do—to conquer a new world, meet its difficulties, pave the way for our descendats to live more Earthlike lives, only with less population pressure, and with a different perspective on all the old skyways.

And we raised up four generations of difficult but honest toil. We honored those who had perished on the journey over (cryogenics are still inexact); we honored those who fell to the challenges of strange atmosphere and strange weather and difficult gravity.

It was thought there might be other colony ships; of course, communication with Earth was slow.

Imagine our surprise when, some 40 years in, we heard that there would, indeed be colonists coming our way!

…but they would not arrive via spaceship.

It was rather a lot of people who perished during the passage over. And it was awfully slow. And technology had improved. So much of what we did was anticipated (or even suggested by) science fiction and futurist ideas (not that every idea was correct; Pluto was, for example, barren of life, and not full of colorful monsters, nor even livestock, which is why we’d had to bring our own. It wasn’t like the movies.) It oughtn’t have been a surprise that humans had come up with Transporters.

(Oh, sure, they were “Simultaneous Transport Devices”. But they were basically teleportation. So they took every atom of your body, disassembled it, and re-assembled it somewhere else? Sounded like ‘transporters’ or ‘teleporters’ or ‘Jaunts’ to us.)

Philosophers argued semantics about it, but it didn’t matter that much. We were hardy settlers, not overthinkers. Okay, something that takes you apart piece by piece is also a ‘disintegration ray’, according to some people. It ‘kills’ one you and puts another one back together. Could be all kinds of problems. All we knew was, it was in development, and instead of working on another rocket, somebody with the resources was testing this nearly-instant travel technology, and eventually, we’d have people coming through, if everything worked out. We dutifully created the receiving platforms as instructed, updating every once in a while as messages made their (slow) way to us, and then we didn’t give it much thought. It would happen if and when it happened; we were busy enough as is.

You might have called us insular. Everyone knew everyone else’s names, and genealogies, as well. (You don’t know what it’s like to study your genetic history until your planet consists of fewer than a hundred families and you’re trying hard to avoid dating a first cousin.) Then again, you might have called us hunter-gatherers; the terraforming machines, being reasonable but not actually intelligent, had scattered the food-reclamation machines throughout the planet, along with stores of tinned goods, and while we’d first started out with our food animals in pens, there really wasn’t far for them to go, not unless they could figure out how to leave our dome, which would have been impossible, as well as fatal (for them). So we found ourselves wandering a lot. We didn’t even use the same houses all the time. If you left a house long enough, eventually, one of the leftover machines would clean the whole thing for you. So why not move to another house? Our city was built for ten times as many people as we were, since we were expected to be fruitful and multiply.

They beamed in.

They weren’t happy to see us, if it’s any consolation. They were downright miserable. Wherever they’d hoped to end up in life, this wasn’t it.

They weren’t surprised at all when we killed them and ate them. They knew they were different from us; maybe they could have become like us, but we’re the only us worth knowing.

They didn’t have souls. Nobody does, but us. Can you even kill nightmares, hallucinations, whatever beings-other-than-ourselves are? Probably not. They’ll probably come back, like bees raiding a hive, alien and bringing nothing but poisoned honey.

Jeff Mach


My name is Jeff Mach (“Dark Lord” is optional) and I build communities and create things. Every year, I put on Evil Expo, the Greatest Place in the World to be a Villain. I also write a lot of fantasy and science fiction.. You can get most of my books right here. Go ahead, pre-order I HATE Your Prophecy“. It may make you into a bad person, but I can live with that.


on, but I can live with that.

Jeff Mach Written by:

Jeff Mach is an author, playwright, event creator, and certified Villain. You can always pick up his bestselling first novel, "There and NEVER, EVER BACK AGAIN"—or, indeed, his increasingly large selection of other peculiar books. If you'd like to talk more to Jeff, or if you're simply a Monstrous Creature yourself, stop by @darklordjournal on Twitter, or The Dark Lord Journal on Facebook.