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0 Comments | Apr 17, 2020


320757-brain“Cut the links!” Bethel says without hesitation, his voice far calmer than the situation would seem to merit. “Cut them all now.” But as Ryker the technician raises his hands to the keyboard to comply, Bethel raises a hand. “All but Sydney,” he says. “That was Stewart’s original destination. Leave that link open. Cut all the rest.” Ryker hesitates, as though unsure of Bethel’s resolve. The large time clock on the wall reads plus twelve minutes and thirty-seven seconds since transmission. “Do it, for Christ’s sake!” Bethel repeats, finally allowing a touch of urgency to enter his voice. Seconds later, six of the seven bars on the computer screen change from green to flashing red. A message appears on the screen:


“Are you sure? This operation cannot be undone.”


Ryker inhales sharply then lets his finger fall onto the return key. The six red lines flash once, twice, then go solid bold red. He turns in his chair to face Bethel. “That’s it,” he says quietly. “We’re out.” There is a look of genuine shock on the young technician’s face. “What now?” he says.


2 Hours Earlier

Devon Stewart darts from his car through the dense downpour and under the portico in front of the MindState building. He shakes the water from his jacket collar and slicks back his hair. He wears jeans and an open-collar dress shirt and carries beneath his left arm a thin portfolio containing business papers and a laptop computer. It is just past seven and early evening thundershowers in south Florida are a routine occurrence, but, unlike at Miami International Airport, where this sudden squall will ground flights for the next two hours, he has been assured that the weather will in no way affect the journey on which he is about to embark. Stewart trusts that this promise proves to be accurate. He has a critical business meeting in Sydney, Australia in less than two hours time.

Inside, in the lobby, he steps to the slick stainless steel counter and with a smile and subtle nod of greeting extends a hand toward the receptionist, a hand containing a thin metallic card with a computer chip embedded in its center. There is no writing on the card or other markings of any kind. The receptionist smiles and nods in reply, accepts the card, and inserts it into a reader. Stewart’s image and itinerary appear instantly on the screen before her. She taps the screen with two practiced gestures, then turns back to face him.

“Welcome to MindState, Mister Stewart. We are right on schedule. Your attendant will be with you in just a moment. In the meantime, if I can borrow your papers, passport, laptop, and any other documents you want transferred, I’ll get them all uploaded and ready. One less thing to worry about later.” Stewart hands her the portfolio. “Have a seat,” she says, “and Mister Bethel will be with you shortly.” This will be only the second time that Stewart has met Christopher Bethel. The first had been the previous week during the briefing where the MindState process had been described in all its fantastic detail.

5 Days Earlier

“Mister Stewart, good morning! A genuine pleasure to finally meet you.” Bethel, dressed in a near-skin-tight suit that looks like a cross between a chef’s jacket and an Italian designer suit, exudes confidence and professionalism as the men sit alone in a large conference room. There is a display screen at the front of the room, currently showing the MindState logo, rotating in high-resolution three-D. Before Stewart there lies a thin folder containing the promotional literature describing MindState’s various service offerings. But he won’t need to read the colorful pages. That’s what Bethel is here for.

“Mister Stewart, I don’t want to take up too much of your time, as I know you’re a busy guy. Also I expect you may have heard at least some of the details about MindState from the associate who recommended you to us. Nevertheless, as this is your first trip, I’ll just take a few minutes and go through the highlights of the experience so you know what to expect. Then if you have any questions, either now or before you leave on Monday, I’ll answer those as well.

Two weeks earlier, Devon Stewart’s company, a large electric power provider serving the southeastern portion of the United States, had completed all but the final terms of a very large business deal with a technology company in eastern Australia. Devon had been assigned the task of flying to Sydney to complete the transaction and returning home with a signed contract. The deal was valued at nearly one hundred fifty million dollars over its five-year term. And while the opportunity to negotiate and finalize such an immense deal was a great career move for Devon, the prospect of thirty hours of flying in each direction had proven somewhat less than enthralling—five days of traveling for what would amount to a single two-hour meeting. He’d mentioned that annoying detail to a department colleague over lunch the following day.

“So screw the flying,” the colleague had immediately responded. “Just do MindState. It’s approved by accounting now. Costs about the same as business class, but no jet lag, no wasted time. It’s pretty awesome, I gotta tell you. I’ve gone three times with them. Any flight longer than two hours, you’ll never go back to airplanes.”

Devon had heard about MindState through the grapevine, but it was a relatively new service and he’d never taken the time to learn the details. Hence today’s visit.

“So, first of all, how does it actually work?” Bethel begins. The display changes to a split-screen photo. On the left a man appears to be asleep in a high-tech recliner. A thin silver dome covers the upper half of his head. On the right, another man stands smiling in full suit and tie, briefcase hanging from one hand. In the background are palm trees and what looks like a hotel.

“With MindState you are transported to your destination of choice, but without ever actually leaving home. The process is nearly instantaneous and the distance doesn’t matter in the slightest.” This assertion elicits a furrowed brow from Devon.

“Think of it as being about halfway between flying conventionally and those teleportation devices you used to see on science fiction TV shows. MindState currently has arrival and departure ports in forty-seven cities around the world, with more coming on line every day. Miami is one of six in the U.S. Conveniently for you, Sydney is one of two in Australia.”

“But it’s not flying and it’s not … teleportation,” Devon says.

“Probably the easiest way to think about it would be cloning, though that’s not really accurate either, as you’ll see in a moment. The first thing we do is obtain a DNA sample—cheek swab is fine, takes maybe five seconds. The second part—where the magic really happens—is that we do a full scan of your brain, or potentially just a portion of it—I’ll come back to that in a minute. Those two ingredients are all we need to replicate you in the destination of your choosing. Each receiving port has a selection of preexisting stock body frames. We simply use your DNA info to create the requisite facial and other surface features—a new skin, if you like. We then upload your brain scan info, and voila—it’s you.”

“So there’s another me running around in Sydney while I’m here in Miami.”

“To put it simply, yes. Except that while you are conducting business or vacationing in Sydney, the genuine you is lounging comfortably here in Miami in an induced sleep, fed with a glucose drip tube.”

“Then when my trip is over …”

“Well, there’s a bit more magic that happens before the trip is over, because when you return and wake up here in Miami, everything in your mind will be precisely as if you’d flown to Sydney and back, transacted your business, done your souvenir shopping, the works. Only things missing from the experience will be the jet lag and the time wasted flying there and back. That little sleight of hand is accomplished using our proprietary live data link. Your sleeping brain here in Miami is connected at all times to your Proxy brain—that’s the term we use for your traveling self—so that everything you do, say, or experience on your trip is being uploaded to your real brain as it’s happening. That way nothing is lost and you wake up here with complete memory of your trip.”

“And it’s a completely convincing ‘me’ that’s there in Sydney?”

“Not just convincing, Mister Stewart. It is, in every respect that matters, actually you. It’s your mind, your thoughts, your actions. From the perspective of everyone you interact with while you’re there, it truly is you. Whether any of your associates know that you’re a Proxy depends entirely on whether or not you choose to tell them. The fact that it’s a Proxy body matters not in the slightest. Indeed, the fact that it’s a Proxy has several important benefits that you can’t get by flying conventionally.”

Bethel pauses, advances to the next slide on the display screen. It’s a bullet list containing seven specific items.

“I’ll tackle these in no particular order, though each benefit is pretty compelling in its own right. First, since we’re reconstructing your physical self at the destination, even though we base that self on your DNA, we have the flexibility to tweak it a bit. Say you want to shed a few pounds for that vacation trip or you want your hairline a little less receded. Those can all be accommodated simply by indicating the changes you’d like on your registration form. In addition, because it’s a brand new body, any physical issues you might have here don’t follow you there. Your bum knee, high blood pressure, whatever—all that stays home so you can fully enjoy yourself while traveling.”

“That sounds pretty awesome,” Devon replies, smiling, “but if you can do that for a traveler, why wouldn’t you sell that capability as a way for anyone who wants to … you know … upgrade their body right here at home?”

“Don’t think it hasn’t occurred to us, Mister Stewart. The one downside—so far—to our Proxy technology is that it’s short-term only. These Proxies are strictly temporary. They last about a month currently, though the actual duration varies by how much they’re stressed during the trip. If you fly to Sydney and then try to run a marathon or go mountain climbing, that’ll affect your longevity. Of course, one of the many functions provided by the data link I described earlier is that we are keeping constant watch over the state of your Proxy while you’re traveling. If it starts to look like there will be any issues, we give you an early heads-up.”

“And then what?”

“Well, most of our travelers are doing trips that come nowhere near a full month. In the rare occasions where someone does, you simply go back to the port where you arrived and spend an hour or so receiving a refreshed body. Just reset the clock as it were.”

“Which no doubt incurs an upcharge,” Stewart replies.

“Yes indeed it does,” Bethel says. “As it happens, there are numerous options associated with our service that affect the final price you pay. However, the standard fee—the one you’ve been quoted—covers the original Proxy with thirty-day guarantee, all accommodations here in Miami while you’re away, digital transmission and storage of your brain scan and DNA sample, and full scan and transmission of your passport, laptop, and paperwork. When you arrive in Sydney, you will be offered a choice of clothing, and provided with identical copies of all your paperwork and a fully mirrored laptop. Miss Temple, who you met in the lobby, has by now already sent your laptop scan and paperwork to Sydney where they are doubtless putting all of that together for you as we speak.”

“What happens on the immigration and legal stuff? I’m still an American in Australia, even if I’m only a copy.”

“Yes, while technology marches on here at MindState, sadly government regulations do not. We will scan your passport into U.S. Immigration here before you leave, and there will be a totally legal copy of it waiting for you with everything else in Sydney. Their immigration official will then scan it before you leave the MindState center there.”

“So what are the downsides of this approach to traveling? No free lunches, right?”

“Well, the temporary nature of the Proxies is the biggest thing at this point, though our scientists are working diligently on extending that. The only other one of any significance is that nothing physical can be transported in either direction, of course, so if you buy any souvenirs, you’ll need to have them shipped back, which we can handle for you when you report back to our facility in Sydney. Any modifications to your laptop files or additional paperwork resulting from your trip will also be rescanned and sent back here so that they’re waiting for you when you return.”

“I’ve gotta tell you, Mister Bethel, it all sounds pretty crazy frankly.”

“Yeah, we get that reaction a lot from first timers. But you’ll be surprised—delighted we hope—at how uneventful it all feels. I mentioned a moment ago that there are various ways of bringing your cost down if that’s a concern. I talked before about the brain scan. Your current price includes the full scan, absolutely everything that’s in your head at the moment of departure. It won’t surprise you to learn that that is a terrific amount of information. While it varies from person to person, the average is about one hundred fifty terabytes. Takes about ten minutes to transmit all of that to the destination. However, you can cut a bit off your transmission and storage cost by simply deciding to cut back on how much we transmit and store.”

“Why on earth would I not want … everything?” Devon asks.

“A lot of people in your situation—business travelers—find they have no meaningful need for all of their childhood memories and so forth for a business meeting. You can simply specify that the scan only encompass from, say, age twenty onward. Odds are pretty good your business negotiations won’t require that you remember your interactions with your third grade teacher or the name of your dog growing up. Oddly enough—and this was frankly an unexpected side effect—in addition to cost saving, a few folks have come back telling us that not having all that old stuff in their heads made their thinking on the road faster and clearer.”

Bethel turns back to face the screen.

“So, other interesting benefits of our approach to travel. Unlike flying, there is no physical risk with MindState. If your plane crashes with conventional travel, well, that’s it, isn’t it? With us, if anything happens to damage your Proxy while you’re traveling, it’s no big deal. Your insurance policy covers any damage, your real-time data link ensures that your brain here in Miami is up to date, and you wake up fit as a fiddle. Also, because the real you is sitting back here in Miami, there’s no risk of kidnapping for our clients who travel to risky places. Every Proxy is clearly marked with a unique encoding emblem on the left forearm, so any potential kidnapper knows right away there’s simply no point. Who’s going to pay ransom for a body that’s going to be gone in thirty days, right?”

“But how would you know here that something like that had happened to me there? I’m assuming that you aren’t monitoring everything I’m doing there. Privacy, you know.”

“Oh, absolutely, Mister Stewart. Privacy is key to everything we do. All of your experiential data is encrypted before transmission and then streamed directly into your brain here, so that we have no access to it at all. The only thing we do know at all times is your Proxy’s whereabouts, just as a safety measure. There’s a tiny locator chip embedded in your Proxy that provides a continuous set of geographical coordinates. But here’s the cool part. Because we value not only your privacy but also your personal control throughout the trip, each Proxy contains several internal switch functions that we’ll show you before you leave. They involve applying pressure to various fingertips in certain sequences to alert us to something w should know about or take action on from our end.”

Bethel advances the display page. It contains a long bullet list of items.

“You don’t have to memorize all of these. We’ll give you a wallet card with the rest of your things in Sydney. The most important one, though, is the first. That’s the safety alert. You would use it, for example, in the kidnapping situation we talked about. Three quick squeezes to the left pinkie tip, followed by three more to the opposite pinkie. That tells us to break the data link and do a full scram—a wipe down—of all brain data in your Proxy.”

“Oh and while we’re on this page, here’s another nifty function that some people find useful. You can temporarily break the data link from your end by holding pressure on your right thumb tip for five seconds. This is for people who want to do something while traveling that they’d just as soon not have a memory of when they get home. It breaks the stream of data being sent to your brain here in Miami until you restart it with the same thumb pressure. I don’t think I need to go into the sorts of situations where you might not want a permanent memory or you’d like to create a measure of plausible deniability. Oh, and one more thing. As I said earlier, your safety and privacy are our primary concerns, so if you temporarily break the data link, this in no way inhibits our ability to track your location and take other emergency actions if necessary.”

Bethel scrolls backward to the benefits page again.

“So why do I need to be asleep here while my Proxy is doing business in Sydney?”

“Two reasons. First, the datalink requires that you’re hardwired into our system on this end. While you’re asleep in the chair, you’ll have several tiny electrodes attached to your scalp. These facilitate the data transfer. The process only works wirelessly at the far end, meaning you can go anywhere you like in Sydney, as long as you don’t find someplace so remote that you’re out of transmission range.”

“The other reason is far more important. It’s simple psychology really,” Bethel says. “It’s important—critical actually—that your brain be receiving only one set of inputs at a time. If you were awake and running around Miami while your Proxy was doing the same in Sydney, your brain would undergo what we call a data crash, or, if you want to get technical, a synchronicity conflict. You’d be trying to simultaneously process, store, and reconcile two totally conflicting sets of experiences. That’s the sort of thing that very quickly leads to schizophrenia. Therefore, only one set of experiences at a time.”

Devon rises from his chair and steps to the window of the conference room. He looks out for a long moment, then turns back to face Bethel.

“Have you guys run into any legal issues with this service? I mean, it’s still pretty new and I’m guessing some of the possible difficulties haven’t been tested in court yet. Does my proxy’s signature count as a legally binding signature on a contract? If my Proxy committed a crime in Sydney, what exactly does that mean for me—the real me?”

“The answer to the signature question is absolutely. To date no one has contested the legality of a Proxy’s signature on any document. The answer to your other question is ‘it’s complicated.’ Remember, when you’re done transacting your business over there, you’re instantly back here. In the event you managed to actually get yourself incarcerated for something, then you have to start thinking about the thirty-day longevity of the Proxy. While it’s never been tested yet—thank goodness—our advice to anyone who manages to get themselves arrested for something—legitimately or not—is to treat it like the kidnapping situation we discussed. Just hit the panic button—sorry, invoke the scram sequence—the pinkie one—and we’ll shut you down from here. After that, we let the two state departments work it out. Like I said, best that we haven’t run into that situation yet. So no DUI’s, right?!”


5 Days Later

“Mister Stewart, excellent to see you again!” Bethel says as he approaches, extending an enthusiastic hand in Devon’s direction.

“You as well,” Devon replies, offering a smile that is as not-tentative as he can manage. He’s by now heard everything there is to hear about the technology that will, within the next hour, have him conducting business halfway around the world while sleeping in a chair here in Miami. He is, though, still having considerable difficulty wrapping his head around that idea even as Bethel waves a key card at a wall-mounted security reader and leads him through a heavy steel door. If the MindState lobby is modeled on a Ritz Carlton hotel lobby, the area behind the steel door is pure tech—a corridor of smoked glass and polished aluminum framing, straight and long enough to have a discernible vanishing point perhaps fifty yards distant. And the plush carpet in the lobby has given way to polished black granite. Devon has been advised to come today wearing something comfortable since his clothing here in Miami will have nothing at all to do with how he will look while in Sydney. Bethel stops in front of a door that looks exactly like all of the other doors, except that this one has the number thirty-seven printed on it in what might be Art Deco font. Another wave of Bethel’s key card and the pair make their way inside following which the door closes behind Devon with a whisper. Inside a technician sits at a desk wearing a uniform identical to Bethel’s. Before him are arrayed half a dozen computer screens.

“Mister Stewart, this is Andrew Ryker,” Bethel says. “He will be in charge of the technical side of your trip today.” Ryker extends a hand and Devon accepts it. His eyes quickly scan the room, and it suddenly occurs to Devon that he is reminded of a dentist’s office. The first room, where they now stand, is small and as clinical looking as the corridor outside. There are no decorations on the aluminum walls save for a large raised MindState logo. Through a wide opening at the far end of the room, is another similar sized room, this one equipped with a heavily reclined chair in its center, one that, again, is strikingly similar, at least in appearance, to the one at Devon’s dentist. But actually, that’s not quite right, is it? There is one big difference: the large silver hemispherical device mounted at the top of the chair, now tilted back on a hinge of some sort.

“Let me guess,” Devon says, mustering a wry smile. “My head goes under that.” He gestures toward the hemisphere with his chin.

“It does indeed,” Bethel offers. “But only after we attach a few electrodes to your scalp and get you comfortable in the chair. Not to worry though. You’ll soon be asleep and dreaming of koalas and Vegemite. Go ahead and have a seat, settle in, and Mister Ryker will get your sedative going.”

As Devon settles into the large chair and leans back, Bethel glances at a large clock on the wall. “It’s seven forty-five now on Tuesday and Sydney is fifteen hours ahead of us, meaning it’s ten forty-five on Wednesday morning there. We’ll be maybe another half hour prepping here, plus another half hour of scanning and data transmission time. You should wake up in Sydney just before noon local time. You’ll be at most another forty-five minutes at that end getting clothes and collecting your laptop and papers. Our car service should have you at your meeting by, traffic permitting, two o’clock or so.”

“Meeting’s not ‘til three, so that sounds like a schedule I can work with,” Devon replies. As he speaks, Ryker approaches on his left side and gently lifts Devon’s arm. A quick antiseptic swab, the momentary prick of a needle, and he is back at the control station.

“The sedative will begin to work in three minutes or so,” Bethel says. “Any last questions I can answer in the meantime?”

“Tell me, Mister Bethel,” Devon says, “have you undertaken one of these … trips yourself?”

“I have indeed, Mister Stewart. In fact, it is a requirement of the job. Mister Ryker and I have each gone twice. For me it was one day in Paris and another in Shanghai. Mister Ryker spent a few hours in Los Angeles and another in … where was it again?” He turn momentarily in Ryker’s direction.

“London … made a weekend of it,” Ryker offers before turning back to the screens.

“Yes, London, that’s it,” Bethel says. “Always wanted to go to London. Haven’t managed it yet.” He turns back to note that Devon’s eyelids have very nearly closed and his breathing has taken on a distinctly heavy tone. “Minute forty-five,” he says quietly to himself. “Quicker than most.” He steps to the control center and does a quick scan of the screens. “Let’s give him another couple of minutes before we establish the glucose feed and initiate the scan.”

Ryker rises from his seat and steps to a supply locker. He opens the door and rummages inside, extracting several small bits of equipment. He glances toward the chair and then turns back to focus on snapping together several of the cranial probes that will allow the connecting of Devon’s brain waves to the scanning system. After a couple of minutes he looks in Bethel’s direction.

“How do we look?” Ryker says.

Bethel looks intently at a couple of the screens, types something briefly on the keyboard, then glances one final time at the screen before acknowledging with a nod that Ryker can press ahead with the procedure.

“Let’s send Mister Stewart on his way, shall we?” he says.

Ryker collects the scalp probes and steps toward Devon, now well and truly asleep in the chair. He first secures Devon’s wrists and ankles to the chair to preclude him moving about in his sleep and falling out unexpectedly. He then lifts a small electric razor from the table adjacent the chair and skillfully shaves a dozen tiny bare spots, each about a quarter inch in diameter, in various locations on Devon’s scalp. He attaches an adhesive-tipped probe to each bare spot and the other end of each wire to a connection at the base of the silver hemispheric dome. He looks back toward Bethel at the control console.

“We reading okay?” he asks.

Bethel looks at the central control screen for a quick moment before flashing Ryker a thumbs-up.

Ryker carefully lowers the dome over Devon’s head, which it covers all the way to the level of the tip of his nose. He then lifts another antiseptic swab from the table, does a quick cleaning of a spot on Devon’s left forearm before inserting a large IV drip line. Securing it with surgical tape, he connects the other end of the line to a bag hanging from a metal arm above the table. This is the glucose and sodium chloride infusion that will sustain Devon throughout his three-day journey. One of Ryker’s several duties during Devon’s trip will be to replace the bag every twelve hours. He checks the wrist and ankle braces one final time, glances quickly at the tiny lights that flash periodically in a row across the front of the dome, then steps to where Bethel is typing on the keyboard.

Bethel rises from the chair. “Mister Ryker, I will leave it to you to run the scan and get everything transmitted to Sydney. I’m going to run to the cafeteria and grab a sandwich and I’ll be back to check on our friend here in fifteen or so. Can I bring you anything?”

Ryker raises a silent hand by way of negative response and settles into the control chair, where he immediately begins typing the commands that will initiate Devon’s brain scan. Bethel offers a quick affirming pat on Ryker’s shoulder and turns for the door.

Devon has opted for the unabbreviated brain scan, and so eighteen minutes later, with Bethel not yet returned from the cafeteria, Ryker has completed the scan and begun transmitting the file to the Sydney receiving center. The final file size—at one hundred seventy-three terabytes—is somewhat larger than the average quoted by Bethel in the earlier presentation, but it is by no means exceptional. Nor is a larger-than-average brain scan file an indication of anything exceptional about Devon himself. File size is less about intellect and more about the magnitude of experiential data accumulated by an individual over a lifetime. As a general matter, older travelers have larger files, as do those who have traveled a great deal or who have, through other means, amassed a larger-than-average amount of life experience.

With a press of the transmit icon on Ryker’s system user interface, Devon’s brain scan and DNA information are sent via high-speed datalink to Sydney, a process that requires all of ninety-seven seconds. With that action completed, responsibility for the remainder of Devon’s journey falls to the technicians in Australia. All that remains for Ryker—barring a problem of some sort—is monitoring the health and wellbeing of Devon’s body here in Miami and arranging for his recovery in three days’ time. He is typing log entries into the computer when, moments later, Bethel reenters the room carrying a white paper bag and cardboard cup holder bearing two large coffees.

“Figured it couldn’t hurt,” Bethel says, extracting one of the cups and setting it on the table adjacent the computer console. “We’ve got three more travelers to process before the night is over. He takes a seat and opens the bag, the smell of grilled hamburger filling the control room.


Wednesday morning, eleven eighteen local time in Sydney, and Devon Stewart slowly awakens to find himself sitting in a chair identical to the one in which he fell asleep back in Miami only moments earlier. Each of the one hundred fifty-four identical rooms in MindState’s thirty-seven worldwide stations can act as either transmitting or receiving locations. The only discernible differences between the Devon Stewart now awkwardly lifting himself from his seat in Sydney and the one sleeping soundly in Miami is that the one in Sydney weighs fifteen pounds less than his genuine counterpart and he is wearing nothing but a generic pair of underwear.

“Welcome to Sydney,” an overly ebullient technician says, offering a supporting arm as Devon rises from his seat. “Watch your step please. It takes a moment to acclimate, especially for first-time travelers.” With Devon now sitting on the side of the chair and his bare feet planted on the floor, the technician offers him a paper cup containing a clear liquid. “It’s just water, but with a few electrolytes mixed in. It’ll help you adjust quicker. The new Proxies always arrive a bit dehydrated.”

The technician’s use of the word ‘Proxy’ doesn’t register at first in Devon’s still-cloudy mind. But then, moments later, as his mind and body come into focus, he begins to process what has just taken place, where he is, and—more importantly—who he is.

I am a synthetic copy of myself, sitting nine thousand miles away from my real self. Everything that I see, say, think, and do for the next three days here in Sydney will be transmitted into the mind of . . . me, sitting asleep back in Florida. For fuck’s sake . . .

It had all been explained to him in detail days earlier, but the realization that it has really taken place is still a mind-blowing thing. Devon downs the rest of the water and stands for the first time. He glances down at the floor and notices a distinctly thinner waistline. For the first time since his arrival three minutes earlier, Devon smiles.

“Take your time collecting yourself,” the technician says. “There’s a restroom through that door. There are toothbrushes, combs, razors, whatever you need. Beyond the restroom is a room with a full range of clothing, all sized to fit you. You’re free to choose whatever as you like, then pack whatever clothing and toiletries you’ll need for your visit in the luggage provided. There’s no hurry; your car will be out front in about half an hour. With traffic at this time of day you should make your meeting with nearly an hour to spare.”

Good thing, thinks Devon. That’ll give me time to make a quick call home and let Carrie know I made it okay.


Except that Carrie, Devon’s wife of nearly seven years, is already on the phone with Devon, or a Devon, at any rate. And this is not a call to confirm his safe arrival in Sydney. Rather it is to let her know that something has gone terribly wrong and for some reason he has been sent to Stockholm, Sweden, where it is currently 3:18 in the morning and everyone—both Devon and the Stockholm receiving technician, the only person on staff at this unholy hour—is confused.

But not nearly as confused as wife Carrie, who, immediately after hanging up from speaking with Devon in Stockholm, receives a pretty much identical call from Devon again, only this time from Tokyo, again wondering why he is here instead of in Sydney.


As part of the white-glove service model of MindState, travelers are provided with a service hotline phone number that is staffed twenty-four-seven. The agents working the service desk become concerned when they receive the call from Devon in Stockholm expressing frustration and confusion at his unexpected situation. Their concern rises a notch to confusion when the allegedly same traveler calls from Frankfurt moments later. By the time the fourth such call arrives at the twelve-minute mark—from Sao Paolo—they know that something seriously horrific has taken place and they have patched Chris Bethel in Miami onto the line. Following five frantic minutes of conversation, Bethel drops the line and turns to face Ryker, who is busily manipulating menus and commands on his computer screen.

It is a state of affairs unprecedented in MindState history, an admittedly brief period of just six years. The worst malfunction to have taken place to this point is the failed transmission of brain scan or DNA data to a receiving station, in which case the data are simply resent, typically without further incident. The engineers at MindState will be several days diagnosing exactly how it came to pass that Devon Stewart’s DNA and brain scan information were simultaneously transmitted to seven different receiving stations around the world. In the end it will be determined that a lightning strike during the height of the thunderstorm in Miami at the time of transmission brought on a brief but severe power surge that caused a reboot of the computer’s operating system, a reboot designed to be indiscernibly quick, which would normally be a good thing, except that in this case it was so quick as to have utterly escaped notice by Ryker, with immense consequences.

Compounding the unexpected and unprecedented situation, when the insanely complex computer code was created that make the MindState functions work, it had occurred to no one that such a duplicate transmission was remotely possible. As a consequence of that failure of imagination, it also occurred to none of the developers to build in logic that would preclude such a simultaneous transmission and subsequent fabrication of identical Proxies at multiple receiving locations. And finally, because the various actions required to create a traveler Proxy are so vastly complex, the system was designed to be fully automatic, with technicians becoming involved only at the point of assisting in the awakening and processing of the Proxy. At the moment of receipt and validation of the DNA and brain scan information, the suitable Proxy frame/body is retrieved from an underground storage area. It is then surfaced to match the original traveler using the supplied DNA information. The brain scan information is downloaded and validated for accuracy. Finally, the completed proxy is placed, via a series of beautifully choreographed robotic systems, into the seat whence it is then assisted in awakening by the receiving technician, dressed, and sent on its way. All of which is why the six technicians in Stockholm, Tokyo, Frankfurt, London, Sao Paolo, and Toronto each thought relatively little of the unexpected arrival of a traveler from Miami, unexpected inasmuch as last-minute trips took place with some frequency and the technicians had learned to not be too terribly surprised by the arrival of previously unannounced Proxies.

In summary, the only correct thing to have happened in the minutes following Devon’s transmission from Miami is that he was, in fact, successfully transmitted to Sydney per his original plans. Indeed, the Devon in Sydney has no reason to suspect anything is amiss, until, that is, he calls his business contact at the downtown office of the associate he is scheduled to meet in an hour’s time to let him know that he has arrived safely and on schedule in Sydney and that he will be at the scheduled meeting in about forty-five minutes.

“I’m sorry, but I’m a bit confused” the associate says. “We’ve already gone ahead and postponed the meeting.”

“Why on earth would you have done that,” Devon replies in confusion.

“Because, Mister Stewart, you yourself just rang us from Stockholm to say that there was a problem with your travel arrangements and you wouldn’t be able to make it today.”

After a moment of profuse apology and talk of rescheduling, Devon’s next call is to the MindState service line. He is quickly put through to Bethel in Miami. He does his best to maintain composure, no mean feat under the circumstances.

“Kindly explain, Mister Bethel, why—how—I would make a call from Stockholm to cancel my Sydney meeting when (a) I have never in my life been to Stockholm, and (b) I am here in Sydney precisely as planned.”

“Mister Stewart, as you’re doubtless aware by now, something quite strange has taken place and we are working diligently to get to the bottom of it. In the meantime, I’m afraid I need to ask you to remain there at the Sydney station until we’ve sorted it out. I’ll be back to you with all speed.” The line drops and Devon stands, phone in hand, dressed in the best fitting designer business suit he has ever worn in his life. The receiving technician sits at the control console, doing his level best to avoid eye contact.


“I’m seeing seven locations,” Ryker says, pointing to a list on the screen before him, “seven including Sydney. How in the name of Christ is that even possible?”

“Mister Ryker, at this moment I am unable to answer that question. But I can tell you this much. Mister Stewart here,” he gestures toward the adjoining room where Devon remains asleep, “will not survive the experience if he spends any amount of time at all receiving seven simultaneous data feeds from seven Proxies.” Bethel momentarily closes his eyes and rubs them hard with his palms.

“Cut the links,” he says. “We need to cut them all now.”

“But if we cut the links,” Ryker replies, “then we lose—“

“I KNOW what the fuck we LOSE,” Bethel shouts back. Ryker reaches for the keyboard.

“Wait,” Bethel says, his voice relatively normal again. “Cut them all except for Sydney. That one’s okay, right?”

Ryker glances at the screen. “Yes, Sydney appears to be fine, except that our Proxy there is very confused at the moment.

“Okay,” Bethel says, “Cut everything except Sydney. We’ll sort out tracking and everything else later. Let’s start by not killing our client, eh? Or turning him into a schizophrenic.”


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