The opening to a story I’ve been poking at in between all the other things, for about a month now:
How To Recover A Relative Lost During Transmatter Shipping, in Five Easy Steps
by Carrie Cuinn
I didn’t find out what they’d been doing until Shikhar hadn’t come to work for two days. Dave and Juan decided to come clean and admit they’d lost him in the transmatter shipping array. Well, not in the array itself, that’s just a piece of machinery, but in the atmosphere, probably. We call the whole system of disassembling, transmitting, and reassembling inanimate matter for shipping purposes “the array” because that’s simpler, and Dave and Juan and Shikhar are just some low-wage shipping clerks that keep the deliverables moving on the weekend when the rest of the warehouse staff have gone home. Except Shikhar is my brother, and he’s a genius when he’s not being an idiot.I pulled the shipment up on my screen.
“It was his idea,” Dave said suddenly, after sitting quietly in his chair the whole time Juan told the story. I thought he meant that putting my brother (my little brother, by the way, an important fact to remember when I explain that our mother will never let me hear the end of it if he dies while under my employment, and, as far as she’s concerned, my care) through a process absolutely not meant for organic material, until I read the name of the items supposedly shipped.
“Shake Your Booty; Indian Spice Shaker?” I asked. “That’s offensive, even for you three.”
“It was his idea,” Dave repeated. “Shikhar sounds like ‘shaker’ and Chakraborty-”
“I get it,” I said, raising my hand. “I went through elementary school, too.” I scanned the rest of the packing slip for some sign of whether he could have survived the trip, but there was nothing but minor details. “Did he- did you actually set it for Dublin X27?”
“He wanted a beer,” Juan replied with a shrug. “I’d have gone to Belgium.”
“Belgium makes those Bochs, right?” Dave asked. Juan nodded, grinning.
“Oh yeah, did you have that apricot-”
“Belgium is a country,” I interrupted. “You can’t just go to Belgium. You’d have to go to Brussels, Old Antwerp, or Ghent-On-High. And shut up about the beer because it doesn’t matter where you sent Shikhar. It matters that you disabled the failsafes and let him climb into a machine that is absolutely, definitely, not for human use.”
Their smiles faded. Dave looked down at his feet, slowly rubbing one worn work boot against the other.
“Sorry,” he mumbled.
“Yeah, sorry,” Juan said.