Bewildering Stories

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Whatever Remains

by Lou Antonelli

“What has your investigation of the transportation chamber shown?”

The director of the space service’s Criminal Investigation Division drummed his fingers impatiently.

The detective popped up a hologram showing the chamber where the travelers were put in stasis and then transmitted.

“Although the aliens aver there is no malfunction — and indeed, there doesn’t appear to be any — the problem may lie with its operation.”

The director spoke up as the investigator equalized the image. “Every person who has traveled using this process has ultimately become some kind of criminal or psychopath following their return,” he said. “You can imagine how distressing this has become.”

“I understand sir, and I believe I may know where the problem lies. The transportation device, as you know, only copies the material body of the subject, and shoots that information through a wormhole to be reconstructed at the other end.” The director nodded.

“We had our own monitoring equipment set up inside the chamber to scan for a full range of phenomena during a transmission, with the aliens’ permission, of course. What we found was that after the body was dissipated, and before the chamber was unsealed, there would be a very small but detectable energy field within the chamber which dispersed when the force field was turned off.”

“Did you ask the aliens if they knew or noticed this?”

“We did, and they said they had noticed it, also, but considered the weak energy field, which didn’t correspond to any physical process, to be a unimportant anomaly of our species.”

“Do you think this energy field is somehow affecting the people who have undergone this, uhh, transmission process?”

“No sir, it seems this energy is something emanating from the subjects themselves. Note that the aliens’ device only transmits the material body of the subject, held in stasis, like an old-fashioned fax machine. The energy we have detected does not correspond to any physical process.”

The director knitted his brows. “Well then, what is this energy?”

The detective cleared his throat. “Well, as Sherlock Holmes once said, when you removed all possibilities, whatever remains, no matter how improbable, must be the truth. And with humans, the only part of us which traditionally is not considered to be have any physical origin, the only completely immaterial part of our existence, is the soul.”

The director looked at him long and hard, and then spoke up.

“My God, it makes perfect sense, the behavior of these people....”

“Yes, sir, they’ve begun to act as if they have no conscience. They’ve been committing acts of cold-blooded cruelty and criminality. Of course, the aliens would not have noticed or thought of this. They are an ancient reptilian race. I suppose they have evolved into a very logical and ethical civilization — but it took them millions of years.”

“We humans don’t have quite that capacity,” the detective continued. “Without our souls, we become like animals. And is appears the transportation device is only copying the body and allowing the soul to dissipate.”

“I guess someday we’d come to a juncture where technology and theology meet,” said the director. “I’ll recommend for the time being that our participation in the project be halted.”

“I think that would be the wisest decision, sir, at least and until we determine through cooperation with the aliens whether there is a way to transmit this energy field.”

The detective closed up his holographic projection. “In the meantime, I think I’ll visit St. Mary’s chapel.”

He turned to leave, and then turned back to the director. “You know, in the past I’ve prayed for the souls of people. I wonder... can you pray for people with no souls?”

“I think we need to pray for wisdom on how to heal this mistake,” said the director. “I’ll come with you and we can pray together.”

Copyright © 2003 by Lou Antonelli

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