Lee took a deep breath. His hands were shaking. "Let's go to Chin's. I want to show him this weapon and see if he can tell us anything about it. Want me to drive?"
"I'd rather not stop for a while," Melissa answered. "Besides, I don't mind. Suky's been doing most of the driving lately. You'll just have to tell me which way to go."
"Go left under the freeway when you get to it."
"Do you think we should call Chin first?"
"He won't mind. He's been wanting to get together and talk about some new stuff for the Comp-The anyway."
"But what if they're there? If they knew where to find you then maybe they'll go to Chin's too."
"Good idea," Lee said. He took out his phone and rang Chin. Melissa eyed the rear view nervously as they came to the stop light at the access road. But there were no men in star suits. The light turned green and the Jalapeno sportlet swept quickly through the intersection and under the freeway.
"Take the next ramp after this one," Lee said.
"Was he there?"
"Yeah, he was. He's definitely ready to talk Comp-The. I'll tell him about the rest when we get there. Shit, what am I going to do? I can't go home now."
"No. I'm really sorry, Lee. I don't know what's going on, either."
"It's okay. I still think we need to call the police, though."
Melissa considered it. "Maybe," she said. "Let's at least see what Chin has to say first."
"So," Melissa said, "what's he all hot and bothered about?"
"He's been studying teletransportation," Lee answered. "There's been a lot of controversy about it and Chin thinks it might turn out to be the perfect topic for the Comp-The."
"What is it?"
"It's a way to transport people or objects instantaneously, the same way you'd transport data. More or less instantaneously. It is just transporting data, as far as I'm concerned."
"They can do that?"
"It's coming out in the next few years. Camhurst has been involved in it, actually. They have it pretty much ironed out, but what they're looking at now is how to market it so people aren't scared of it."
"Why would they be scared?" Melissa asked.
"Well, what happens is that you get in this box and it basically dismantles your body atom by atom and creates a code that represents you. Then it sends the code to wherever you want to go and the receiving box at that site reconstructs your body based on that code."
"Oh, like Star Trek."
"So people are afraid their code will get lost or screwed up or something?"
"That's one possibility, but no one thinks it will be much of a concern. The chances of that happening are near zero compared to the chances of a car wreck or a plane crash."
"Then what's the problem?"
"The problem is that they're not actually transporting you. They're transporting a code that represents you and then recreating a new you. See what I mean?"
"Your body is destroyed in the process. The new body that's created at the destination site is entirely composed of different atoms."
"But it's exactly the same?"
"Yeah. It's the same, but the concern is that people will feel like it's not really them. It's just a copy of them. In a way it's like if you step into this box, you die and someone creates a replica of you."
"What's the difference?" Melissa said. "It's exactly the same."
"But is it you?" Lee answered. "Look at it this way. The way it works now, they have to destroy your body to create the code. What if they didn't? What if they could create the code just by scanning you in some way? You follow me?"
"They create the code, then let's say they kill you. They shoot you and dump your body in a hole, then they send the code to the destination site and there you have it. A new you. But the old you is still rotting in the ground. Would you consider that transportation?"
"No, I guess not. But that's not what happens."
"But how is it any different? Essentially it's the same. Your body is destroyed and a copy is created. The fact that there are no tangible remains of your original body is beside the point."
"Don't all the atoms in your body replace themselves every so often anyway?"
"That's how they're probably going to market it. They're going to spin it like a sub-cellular makeover. Accelerated rejuvenation is what they're calling it at this point. Of course it makes absolutely no sense. There's no rejuvenation involved with the replacement of atoms, otherwise we'd all be getting younger all the time."
"Why don't we?"
"Cells make mistakes when they replicate. Those mistakes are preserved at that level even though the atoms are new."
"Shit," Melissa said. "Well, anyway, even if there's no rejuvenation, isn't it the same thing? If your atoms are always getting replaced and this is just doing it all at once, what's the difference?"
Lee sighed. "It's hard to define. Some people think there is a difference. I think of it in terms of the soul. What happens to your soul when your body is destroyed all at once in the teletransporter? Where does it go? Does it come back into the new body?"
Melissa shook her head. "Lee, you don't believe in all of that."
"I don't know. Not any more, I guess. You could think of it the way some of the film purists used to think of film as opposed to digital. They called it the erotics of film. The copy was touched by the original, the next copy was touched by the copy that was touched by the original, and so on. There was sort of an organic chain. Same way with replacement of atoms in the body through the natural process."
"It sounds like that's slicing it pretty thin."
"The point is, maybe the concept isn't literal like the so-called immortal soul, but at least it's a concept that stands for some kind of stable identity. I mean, you know once they have this code they can create any number of copies. They could send the data to a hundred different planets and make a hundred different Melissas if you wanted them to. So which one would be you, then? Which one's experiences would you be having?"
"Will they do that, do you think?"
"No way. What would that do to the message that they're providing transportation? It shows that they're not providing transportation. They're providing destruction and replication."
"I wonder what it would feel like to be in a hundred places at once?" Melissa said.
"You're missing the point, Mel."
"No, I get it. I get it. I'm just saying I wonder what it would be like if it was possible."
"I don't know. Actually there is one guy who says that if they created two copies in different places at the same time, you would have the experience of being in two places, but only for an instant until the atomic structures began to diverge because of environmental factors. He's considered kind of a nut, though. He never explains how the brain would process the experience in any meaningful way."
"Interesting," Melissa said.
"Chin can tell you more about it if you want."
"That's okay. I think I have enough to keep me awake for at least a few weeks."
Lee laughed. "Yeah. All I know is that I'm staying away from those boxes. I'd rather get frozen and make the trip the old-fashioned way."
"Oh, I know!" Melissa said with mock seriousness. "And when was the last time you popped over to another planet again, Lee?"
"Shut up. Go ahead and take this exit."