London to Hong Kong

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Belle sat and gawped at the previous week’s news headline written across a damp, dog-eared newspaper.

‘Twenty Percent of Travellers Still in Limbo’

“You off anywhere nice?” asked Winston, making the turn into Lemton Central’s Terminal 4 car park.

“Who knows?” She shrugged, waving the paper. “Where do you think the missing people go?”

“Depends how it goes wrong, I suppose. Are you travelling by the portal today?” he asked, pulling up to the departure’s drop-off point.

“Yes, but I’ve never tried it before,” she replied.

“Well, I’m sure you’ll be fine, so long as you follow all the rules about what to wear. I heard that underwear doesn’t suit portal travel well,” he said, already taking her case out of the car-boot.

Belle considered briefly whether he was joking, or being a creep.

“Have you travelled by the portal, then?” she asked.

“No madam, it’s just what I’ve heard,” Winston replied, placing her case outside of the tinted-glass doors.

“I see,” said Belle, handing him the taxi fare. “Don’t you worry that, if they perfect the art of quantum jumping on a common trade level, you’ll be out of work?”

Winston squinted slightly at her and then shook his head.

“I’m sure you’ll be fine.”

Belle turned towards the darkened doors. She’d expected the inside to resemble an airport departure lounge, but she was wrong. There were no long queues of people at a central check-in desk, no large boards with travel information and no conveyor belts of luggage to be seen. It was just an empty room with three sets of double doors at the far end.

Wheeling her carry-on across the white polished floor, she felt a sense of foreboding. Initially she’d been excited when her boss had told her that she would be utilising the new quantum travel program to reach a meeting, but after considering the recent press-reports, it didn’t seem that the engineers had quite perfected the programme yet. She doubted that its twenty percent failure rate was anything to do with underwear.

However, it was a long flight from London to Hong Kong, and travelling by a quantum jump portal would mean that Belle could be back for the 4pm briefing in the London office.
She reached the three doors and read the signage above each one.

‘Toilet’, ‘luggage’, ‘Scanning’.

Belle didn’t need the toilet, so she proceeded through the middle door, marked ‘Luggage’. Inside was a man dressed in a regular airport-uniform in shades of green and grey. He smiled as she approached.

“Good Morning Miss. Where are you headed today?”

“I am flying on behalf of my company to a meeting in Hong Kong,” she replied.

“Okay, Miss. If I can have your finger, I will have all the information in my files.”

Belle held out her hand and the man, whose tag declared he was called Adam, used a mini, handheld camera to take a photo of her index finger. Plugging the camera into the side of his paperless-desk and putting on a pair of tinted glasses, he nodded.

“Miss Belle Hardy, aged twenty-nine years,” he stated, taking the glasses off. “Now, before I process your luggage. Does it contain any banana products?”

“No,” replied Belle. She considered it was an odd question.

“Can’t Bananas teleport?”

“We’re not quite sure; it seems to depend on the ripeness. But it’s risky,” he shrugged.

Belle didn’t quite know what to say. She didn’t fully understand the ins and outs of transporting one set of molecules to another location still intact. She couldn’t fathom what would be different between a banana and a bar of soap.

Adam stepped forward and lifted her case into a glass box. As he closed the lid, a puff of pink smoke erupted. Adam lifted the lid again and pulled out a small silver pellet.

“This is your luggage. Take it with you to scanning.” He smiled, “Have a nice trip.”

Belle took her luggage, marvelling at how tiny it was in her palm. It was vacuum-packing to the extreme. She hoped they would make it grow again at the other end, IF she got there intact.

Cautiously, Belle proceeded through the last set of doors. In the centre of the room, surrounded by three more portal workers, there was what appeared to be a larger version of the glass box used to shrink the luggage.

“Good Morning, Miss Hardy. Now, if I could just ask you a few questions. Are you wearing any underwear?” enquired a man who looked like a clone of Adam.

“Excuse me?” asked Belle. Had Winston been serious?

“Worn underwear doesn’t teleport very well madam. You should remove it. There’s a cubicle over there. But before you change, do you know anything about your bone density?” he asked.

The other two men, also clones of Adam, leaned silently against the central box, clutching clipboards.

“No, I’m afraid not,” she said, edging towards the changing cubicle.

It wasn’t long before she was without underwear and wearing a tight-fitting, green body sock. She held on to her luggage capsule nervously, wondering if the glass box would vacuum-pack her as it had done to her luggage. Nobody had really clarified whether teleportation hurt.

“Miss Hardy, you should be at your destination within the next fifteen minutes. But, before you step into the portal, please remember not to hold onto the portal at any point during your journey. Just remain in the centre,” said one of the other portal workers. His name tag revealed his name was ‘Mike’.

He gestured for Belle to walk forward.

As soon as she stood on the ‘X’ etched into the glass floor, the door locked behind her.
It was pitch-black and, almost instantly, Belle felt reality begin to shake.

Then she remembered…

There was banana extract in her moisturiser.

About the Author: 
I do not pretend to know vast amounts about Quantum Physics. However, I like to experiment when I'm writing and the Quantum challenge appealed to me. I've been writing fiction for only a short time and, I'm always thirsty for new inspiration.