ScifiShort fiction

Going Freight : a short story by: GF Willmetts

It was all a matter of balance, so the TransCom literature read. I wish I’d remembered that before I got to the teleportation station with a rush appointment to Australia. Oh, I remembered some things. If you wanted to do a teleportation exchange, then you needed to have someone at the destination with similar weight or mass to exchange space with. Two-way traffic helped with this but, as there was no queue as such, it was more a matter of waiting for the computers to assess the weights and pick you out. Even so, it was possible to choose particular classes so you could go a little faster. From what I heard, they had employees of various weight ready to go. You didn’t have to pay until just before you teleported but you’d have been stupid to pay for first class unless you had the money to pay for it. I was tempted by business class but didn’t want to pay over the odds. I might be wealthy from my products but I wasn’t going to blow it on a teleport trip. Taking a team with me would have been even more time delaying getting the right masses together although freight would allow this. I felt the odds were better for a single mass, myself. I’d seen it done before, of course, but had never felt the need to go until now.

The initial preparation is simple enough. No meals in the past two hours. A visit to the loo to remove any waste you might want rid of. Anything to get a decent running weight. It felt more like a jockey getting ready for a race than a teleport. You also won’t find any auto-food or auto-drink dispensers. Weight had to be kept very direct. Even when you asked to come forward for a double check, they needed to make sure of your weight to the last microgram. No doubt minor differences at that level made up for by themselves. As my files could be transferred digitally, I didn’t even need a briefcase. I dumped my coat in a locker. I doubt if I’d need the raincoat like I needed here for Australia. Anything else I needed I could get at the other end.

The wait here would be tiny compared to a long haul flight and no jet lag. I walked into the first class lounge and chose a seat by the window and briefly looked at who else was waiting. None of my competitors for this deal which was probably a good sign.

Didn’t mean they didn’t know me. After all, I was the face of my own company. On adverts all over the place. My super-duper cleaner is so powerful that it can take the colour from your carpet. It can even take the smile from talking sweets and the hair ash off the floor. I used examples from all other products showing how clean I could make things. Their pockets empty, my wallet full as they say. It made me rich. When you can do that to several million punters in each country you get awe and enthusiasm from rivals and a weekly number of buy-out offers. Those I didn’t have to take seriously as I was a limited company and no shareholders. That’s probably why they were beginning to hate me, especially as I was getting to the stage where I could buy them out. So why wasn’t I going business class? Would I want to mix with those losers? First class was just as equal for the wealthy and TransCom made no distinction on anything but mass.

So now for the small lottery of waiting for someone with the same weight in Australia and then the Trans-port. With over a hundred travellers a day on first class, the odds should be in my favour or so I thought. After a couple hours, I was beginning to think I ought to start a real lottery for people to bet on how long people waited. I made a mental note to check with one of my business managers to see how quickly that could be done or why hasn’t someone tried to do it before…legally or illegally. Still, this waiting was getting a drag.

I clicked up the computer link, noting if I took take freight if it was faster as a combination of people could make a better balance. The computer ran up the usual spill that the risk was different. A number of people swap trans with the computer picking out the best combination. It could be faster but it wasn’t always perfect. A few milligrams different and you could risk having something of your anatomy being shaved off. Even so, in that cattle market, it could also be a better match and stop all the waiting around. Time was money. Money was time. Either way, I could be moved up the queue. I chose the option to spot a match. My weight with a combination of others. No wonder it was called freight. You’d be squeezed onto a single spot no bigger than a table. The computer popped up an eighty per cent chance of a match. Better than my chances here, so I clicked agreement and switched lounges. It wasn’t cost that was becoming important but finding the right weight. Maybe I should find out was the optimum weight was and either add or take off a few pounds or stick the weight in my pocket.

The freight lounge lacked windows but people didn’t expect to stay here that long. If it was faster, I might go this way again. I picked up a number as my weight was registered. The computer screen whirled and came up with a combination of people. It had found a match and four people joined me. Two rather obese and two thin. Three thin in other words. Four men and one women although I doubt if your sex made much of a difference. It was going to be a tight squeeze but there was a chart showing how best to get the right position. No doubt done so the obese might be the ones to lose that little weight if anything went wrong.

We were also behind another five about to go. Oh goody, I could watch the trans first hand in the queue before going. TransCom was a bit stingy with showing footage. Probably not to put people off although you would think that it would be used to reassure people on how safe it was. One group and then I would be off.

My group also consisted of a couple heavyweights but not that keen to put on so much weight myself. This was probably the better choice for them as how many of their weight would go first class. Mind you, there had to be enough of them to make movement easier unless their weights didn’t tally. Would they lose that much weight by farting? Maybe they spotted ahead of me that it was cheaper this way.

The five ahead of stepped onto the plate and an opaque tube dropped down. Then there was a wait. You would think teleportation would be an instant. After all, unlike the media disintegration teleports, this was supposed to just a flip of matter between two spots. Practically simultaneous.

‘Something’s wrong’, the woman beside me muttered.

You would think if there was, there would be massive alarms but wouldn’t that cause panic as well. I might have chosen the same way myself. A couple people came out of somewhere and guided us off to a different lounge area ignoring the questions of what happened.

I turned to the woman. ‘You seem to know what’s going on. What’s happened?’

‘Aren’t you the one selling the new super-duper cleaner?’

‘Yes, but…’

‘They’ll need to use one inside that tube. Someone got the weights wrong.’

‘That’s harmless enough, isn’t it? A slice off someone’s clothes? A quick circumcision? It isn’t like people are going to arrive pulped, is it?’

‘Shit! Don’t you pay more attention to the news than your own ads? Always thinking of the lower part of the anatomy. It tends to mean brain damage.’

Those two words had everyone turn around.

‘It doesn’t matter which form of Trans you pay for, if its slightly out, then you lose a bit. As the brain is at the top of the head and not your ass, it tends to suffer the most damage.’

‘So what do you think happened?’

‘The reason they moved us away is so they could send a medical team in…at both ends and see how the travellers are and not alarm anyone else. Work out who or how many have been…damaged. Doesn’t mean it happens all the time or I wouldn’t be travelling this way.’ The woman paused as one of the reps walked past. ‘But they’ll be obliged to check people and then equipment to see what happened. If you can afford to travel first or business, the odds are lower that this will happen. They won’t be using this trans-disk again today.’

‘So why isn’t it picked up on the news?’ someone else asked.

‘Because it doesn’t happen very often. We were just lucky it wasn’t us. For all we know, someone probably pissed from the excitement and only caused a slight imbalance.’

‘You’re very well informed, Miss. Did you use to work for the company?’

‘My father owns it.’

That put everyone open-mouthed.

‘Look, they did a risk assessment. Trans is a lot safer than air flight. An aircraft goes down and you lose a couple hundred people. With Trans, at most ten. Usually, it’s about two or three. It’s good odds if it only happens a couple times a year. The insurers pay up and everyone keeps quiet.’

‘You sound like an insurance broker.’

‘My daddy always said it pays to have a second career.’

‘So what happens now?’ one of the others asked.

‘They’ll offer you a discount to go first or business rate. You get a bargain trip and told to be discrete about what you saw.’

‘People are still willing to go?’

The woman paused. ‘Maybe but as this is the first you’ve heard of the problem shows how good they are in keeping quiet about the odd problem. Depends on how well those who were transferred arrived.’

‘But they have the same problem?’

‘Probably. Look, I’m prepared to go. The chances of happening again right now are somewhat reduced. You can’t have that much bad luck on the same day. Chances are it was a minor fluctuation.’

‘Like someone farting?’ I offered.

The woman smiled. The tube contains all the air so that wouldn’t cause a problem. Some probably had a pee walking over to the disk. If not here than in Oz.’

I looked at the faces of the other three, we were all evaluating the odds. All it would take is one person on either side to piss with excitement and it would happen again. Would piss come under the same category as farting? It could happen on any class. Well, maybe not business class because they tend to use experienced trippers, but even so…

‘I’m going to have a think about it,’ one said.

‘I’m not keen on the odds,’ said another. ‘Even good odds.’

I shrugged. The appointment didn’t seem to important now. My stomach dictated though.

‘Maybe my luck will be better tomorrow.’ I could still get there in time by plane, just miss one of the appointments.

As I left, the one thought remained. I think I’ll send my twin next time or maybe I ought to invite the Ozzie over here instead.’

But why would the inventor’s daughter still want to go on. Then it clicked. The few of us slimmer ones going would mean a better chance of getting the right weight on a different class. I ran back to the first class lounge. Nope! Not there and then the business lounge and could only watch as the tube went down on her.

I still didn’t like the odds but made a note to see if I could hire her when she got back. Anyone that smart with the odds to better her chances of going had to have business savvy. Working with me, we could really clean up.


(c) GF Willmetts 2016

(c) TransCom – your movement is our business

All rights reserved


Geoff Willmetts has been editor at SFCrowsnest for some 21 plus years now, showing a versatility and knowledge in not only Science Fiction, but also the sciences and arts, all of which has been displayed here through editorials, reviews, articles and stories. With the latter, he has been running a short story series under the title of ‘Psi-Kicks’ If you want to contribute to SFCrowsnest, read the guidelines and show him what you can do. If it isn’t usable, he spends as much time telling you what the problems is as he would with material he accepts. This is largely how he got called an Uncle, as in Dutch Uncle. He’s not actually Dutch but hails from the west country in the UK.

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