Devil's Advocate

by

S. J. Hinton

 

“Have faith, Brother Silas. Her Holiness the Pope gave me strict instructions.”

Brother Silas frowned. The expression made a caricature of his wrinkled face and made him look even more like a monkey. She made a mental note to speak to Silas about maintaining a blissful expression at all times.

“I’m not questioning the Will of God,” he said. “I simply express my own concerns about this technology, Your Eminence.”

Cardinal Deacon Richeau nodded her bald head in sympathy. “That I understand. We must pray for the strength to see our mission through.”

#

“The biggest challenge was getting around the Heisenberg Uncertainty Principle,” said Henson. “Are you familiar with it? No? Well, it states that by observing a very small particle, you’ll affect it in some way. Because of that, you can never know both the location and speed of any single particle. Obviously you’d have to know both, so it seemed impossible.”

“Indeed,” replied Richeau. Her dark eyes glittered in a too pale face. “And how was that done?”

“Something called Quantum Entanglement,” said Henson. He smiled as he warmed to his task. This was the first time the Cardinal had done anything other than listen with a polite smile pasted on her face, and he intended to force a wedge into that crack. “It refers to a relationship between small particles, so that when one does something it will have a predictable effect on its entangled mate.

“Since we can’t observe a particular particle without bumping it, we have to observe another particle entangled with the first, then draw conclusions from that observation. We actually have to have three entangled particles for this to work: We infer some of the data about particle A by observation of particle B, which bumps B. The rest of the data is passed on to particle C.”

The Cardinal’s assistant cleared his throat and the woman made some small motion to placate him. “And this allows you to teleport an object across space?”

Henson shook his head. “That’s just a part of it. This allows us to scan and record data on all of the trillion trillion atoms making up the human body. If a single molecule were to be replicated at the destination out of place, there’s no telling what kind of defects could result.”

The Cardinal smiled and moved on to the next portion of the tour, Brother Silas trailing behind.

#

Doctor Reeves sipped the coffee his secretary had brought him and grimaced. After several hours boiling away in the urn, the thick liquid was the consistency of motor oil and tasted of aluminum.

“This is going to wreck the project,” wailed Carson for the third time. “I told you we shouldn’t have let that woman visit.”

“That woman,” replied Reeves. “Is a Cardinal Deacon of the Revised Catholic Church. She is probably the most powerful Church representative on this continent, and she requested through official channels to be allowed to tour. That request was presented along with a letter holding a Papal Seal.”

Carson threw up his hands as if in resignation. “And why do you think she’s here?”

“To observe and decide whether anything we’re doing here might be detrimental to the interests of the Catholic Church.”

“We’re scientists!”

“I know,” replied Reeves. “Do you recall when the Church rejected the use of genetically modified beef four years ago? The Pope decided that it was a violation of God’s Divine Will. She claimed that God would provide, if it was His will the masses not starve, and that any solution coming from the mind of men interfered with that will.” He shook his head. “That started riots all over the world. If she’d been better prepared, she could have used the argument that genetic engineering of the grain tampered with God’s design or something like that. Like when she closed down cloning experiments five years ago. She won’t make the same mistake again. She wants to consolidate her power by controlling anything the Church can, and that includes scientific research.”

“So we sit and wait.”

“We do just that, and let our boy Henson be tour guide,” said Reeves. “If anybody can be charming, non-offensive, and gain the trust of anyone, it’d be Chuck Henson.”

#

Just as Reeves was expressing his confidence in Henson, the latter snapped his mouth shut with an audible click of teeth and wished he’d watched his words more carefully.

“I’m sorry I’m not more adept in scientific matters, Mister Henson. Would you mind repeating that last part once again so that I can be sure I understood what you were saying?” The words were nothing if not polite, but the glitter in Richeau’s eyes sharpened. Henson was aware Marianne Mirisha Yokosuka Richeau had graduated from Oxford with honors, and she was well read in both physics and engineering.

“I—I said that--” He swallowed, attempting to even his breathing. “The particles are replicated.”

“Uh hmm. And that would imply what happened to the original particle?”

“In the original tests,” he said. “The photon was reconstructed from data at the target site, while the original photon ceased to exist.” He frowned. “That implies that since the reconstructed particle is identical to the original, and since a particle can’t be in two places at the same time, that the first particle disappeared. Conservation of Energy.”

“So, to simplify: The particle is destroyed--converted to energy--at point A, then is replicated perfectly at point B.”

“Yes. Exactly.”

“So the original is destroyed.”

“Yes.” Henson heard the uncertainty in his own voice.

“And the remaining particle is a replica.”

Again: “Yes.”

“Ah,” breathed Richeau. After a brief pause: “So when a human steps into the teleporter, he is destroyed at point A while his data is transmitted to point B, where an exact replica of him is constructed.”

Cold sweat broke out on Henson’s brow. “That’s not quite what happens. He would be reconstructed--”

“So you tell me.” Those eyes turned to his. “What happens to the soul?”

“I’m sorry?”

“The soul,” repeated Richaeu. “The seat of God’s gift to a human being. It’s not a particle, or a quantity to be measured. I’m sure you’re perfectly correct in your statement that an item teleported is an exact replica of the original. But I’m concerned about what happens to that part of humanity that can’t be replicated.”

#

“They’re in the lounge,” said Henson. He had dark circles underneath his eyes and seemed on the verge of tears. “I’m sorry, Larry.”

“For what?”

“For blowing it,” replied Henson. “For telling the Cardinal that we replicated objects at the terminus of the teleport.”

“Chuck,” said Reeves. “Don’t kill yourself over this. The Cardinal is a well-educated woman capable of reading all the literature on the project, and I don’t doubt she already has. She knew what her objections were before she came here. All she did was manipulate you into telling the truth the way she wanted it told.”

There was silence for a moment before Carson asked: “So what now?”

Reeves smiled. “The government wanted this project to proceed. We’ve made a lot of headway, but we’re not quite ready for teleporting a human yet. My guess is that the Church and the State are going to slug it out.”

#

“--Causae Majoris, Cardinal Richeau. This is a matter of the greatest moment. I can keep my own counsel about this.”

“Of course, Holy Mother. I meant no disrespect.” Richeau bowed her bald head before the invisible camera positioned above the video screen.

“And in spite of your reassurances that these men of science only want the greatest good for humankind, they suffer from man’s folly. They cannot know the wishes of God.” The old woman smiled benignly into the monitor. “That is my purview, and mine alone.”

“Again, Holy Mother, I bow to your wisdom in all matters. Praise be to God.”

“Oh, don’t sulk secretly in your heart, my child. Your scientists will be allowed to continue their work, the government will still have its pet project, and the needs of Mother Church will be met first and foremost.”

“I understand, Holy Mother.”

“You know our wishes in this?”

Richeau nodded, eyes averted. “Yes, Your Holiness. The project here will be allowed to continue until teleportation of a living creature is achieved. I will tell them the Church has approved of this only as long as we are kept informed of all progress.”

“Allow them to believe this is because the Church approves of the development of their device for use against the Heathen Forces of the East. We cannot allow the flag of Islam to have dominion over the souls of the faithful.”

Richeau flitted her eyes briefly to the screen. “As is the will of Your Holiness.”

The Pope sketched a brief gesture at the screen. “Bless you and those under your protection, my child.”

“And you, also,” intoned Richeau, but the screen was blank. She turned, composing herself, and faced the curious eyes of Brother Silas. To his unspoken question, she said: “And now I go to deceive those good men, for the good of humankind.”

#

On the flight back to Seattle, Cardinal Deacon Marianne Mirisha Yokosuka Richeau sipped a glass of wine and ate a bit of cheese while contemplating her latest handiwork. She wasn’t proud of it, but it was for the ultimate good and the Grace of God, after all.

The teleportation project would be allowed to continue, because it was in the interests of the Church and its followers that such a powerful potential tool against its enemies be developed. Doctor Reeves and his team would keep New Vatican informed of their progress through weekly reports. His best estimate was that successful testing with a human volunteer would occur by the end of the year.

What these men didn’t know was that their device would never see use by Western Forces. Operatives within the Eastern Block were waiting for delivery of plans for the teleportation device, and New Vatican had made arrangements for that in exchange for certain concessions in border disputes in Eastern Europe and in Bethlehem.

Of course, once the device was in the hands of Eastern Block military leaders, it would be used to transport troops and equipment across the continent for purposes of invasion. This ability would also lead to the defeat of Allied Forces in Europe and the Middle East.

“But--begging forgiveness, Your Eminence--wouldn’t that be against our wishes? Surely such a defeat would lead to the weakening of the Church.” Silas wasn’t cleared by New Vatican for such information, but Richeau had need of a confidant.

“Don’t you see that it doesn’t matter?” she said. “God’s Kingdom is in Heaven, and our works on Earth only prepare us for that ascension. Yes, there would be widespread defeat of Western forces throughout the world, and Islam would then hold sway. That would happen, anyway, even with Western use of the transport device. But by preparing for such a defeat, we can bargain for the Church to survive.”

“To what possible purpose?”

She smiled. “You are confounded by your mortal flesh, Silas. In thinking of the spiritual, don’t you think the Church has a plan?” She sipped the wine. “We have established to our satisfaction that use of the device produces a replica of the subject, and in no way can transport either the original vessel or the soul. If the troops sent via the transporter have lost their immortal souls, then they have lost.” She settled into the leather of the padded seat and closed her eyes. “No matter the outcome of the battles or the war, they have lost.”

END

 
 
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Stan is an award-winning author (Best Horror of 2002 and Top International Horror Writer 2002 nominee), and is the author of over forty short stories. He currently is an Editor for Scifantastic and a member of Critters. His work may be seen in such publications as Alien Skin, Bewildering Stories, Bloodlust UK, Black Petals, and Dark Angel Rising, just to name a few.
 
 
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