An ocean away from his west-coast California office, a man stepped into bright Milan sunshine. Less than an hour before, he'd decided he deserved a vacation. Crowds had cheered the first successful quantum-transport of live humans half a decade earlier. Commercial pods became available soon after, at premium prices. Business, finance and leisure luxuries changed overnight. Every global corporate district and opulent resort proposed installing transport hubs to stay competitive.
Back at the Los Angeles Aphi-Solutions transport hub, the man's sealed origin pod was marked for cleaning. Transport required rigorous health and safety standards. No one wanted another pandemic, especially Aphi-Solutions Inc. They'd proposed the industry standard precautions themselves.
A platinum blond in designer heels and heavy furred parka was escorted to a nearby pod. The escorting ASI technician approached an accompanying terminal to prepare her reception pod at the Moscow hub facility. A soft ding and green light from the sealed origin pod signified Moscow's readiness to receive. Smooth cylindrical doors parted, revealing a well-lit clinical interior.
“Finally,” she hissed. Fake smiles of L.A. Reminded her of board meetings she'd left. Tech was grimy business. She'd seen enough drone demonstrations to realize why clientele salivated over the latest innovations. Snuffing fires with directed blast-waves wouldn't attract firemen as much as munitions companies like hers back in Russia.
She stepped in, turning to watch doors seal again. The attendant's fake smile as they waved made her scowl deepened. The clang of locks engaged as she jumped. This was her first transport. She'd distrusted the mechanism, but the corporation back in Russia demanded her immediate presence. They'd even funded the pod. Her eye twitched. In the era of tele-commuting and conference calls, nothing was that important.
The ivory-lit sarcophagus hummed. She squirmed in her parka, face firm. Vibrations grew from warming walls. Instincts raged to escape; nothing she hadn't faced before every deal behind locked doors. She stood resolute in herself and her station. Elites deserved the best. This was another luxury to flaunt, she assured herself as crackling built overhead. This was a sign of her importance and eminence in the company. The eruption of electricity surged, hurtling her towards her final destination.
The Moscow attendant extended a dossier, warm from printing, towards the parka-cloaked woman. She snatched them from him, stepping with loud heel-taloned clacks from the arrival pod. Cold air flooded her lungs. She almost gagged. It was nothing like the diabolical place she'd escaped. Cheeks pulled back into an unsettling grin. The cold suited her.
“These are details?” she asked.
“Yes,” he said with polished veneer smile. “All of Ivanka's political, professional and personal correspondents with suggested means of future interactions.” He looked from flipping pages to her angular face. “Just until you're settled.”
“I thought she hated her sister?” Ivanka said, shuffling through plans. “Why would she attend her brother-in-law's birthday?”
The assistant sneered. “He's also influential, with ties to the Kremlin.” He stopped their stride to open her parka, eyeing her figure. “And a tawdry fantasy for his sister-in-law.” The assistant licked his lip like an animal staring at meat. “He has good taste.”
She smiled, raising her immaculate groomed eyebrows. He wasn't unattractive either. His grin betrayed jagged toothed smile as it grew to the swaying of her teasing hips' dance. The man's gold eyes looked up at her, cracked with black char and split with horizontal pupil. They narrowed as a circlet of small horns rimmed her scalp. Her long thin tongue snaked across her lips, then down his throat.
Back in LA, cleaners finished with the Man-in-Milan's pod of ashes. They cheered their lucky haul. His Omega watch survived the elimination procedure. So had a tooth, dangling from string on a janitor's ring of keys. They looked like mangy gremlins in blue overalls. Their over-sized ears were nothing like their remnant monkey bodies from early experiments.
They hadn't complained at first, but the latest arrivals enjoyed much taller bodies. Envy raged in fiendish little gullets. Maybe they'd “accidentally” get stuck in a pod and sent back to try for a newer body. Then they'd get some respect! For now, their lanky furred arms held dustpans and brushes ready to sift through ashes of Hell's latest acquisition.
In an office of obsidian-paneled stone walls was a table of equally reflective polished onyx. Surrounding seats were filled with enough political and economic might to warp the world stage. Their fine suits wrapped around smooth skin and chiseled bodies. Reflections of well-invested aesthetics showed horns, fins, scaled flesh in premium silk and blood-eyed pupil-less stares behind designer frames.
Their appearances were as varied as their squabbles. The most vocal came from a tall square-shouldered man before reflections of muscle-bulged ape covered in orange fur and Armani. His fist hammered onto stone slab table, trying to convince a writhing mass of tendrils in pencil skirt and Italian blazer that she didn't understand the economic might of shipping goods at scale. She, in turn, prattled about mobile platform reception-pods for military application. An entire army could infiltrate instantaneously while claiming a legion of soldiers for the inferno below.
She was a fool for thinking of where they came and he was a simpleton for losing sight of their overall goal. Some shook heads as other cheered, egging them on. Inciting delightful chaos was their self-proclaimed raison d'etre. But, for all their bickering, they were arrayed towards the same end: conquering the world of weak undeserving human mortals.
It started with whispers in ears of tech-company CEO's. Social media fed easy wins in the envy, lust, sloth and pride arenas, but real ambition required more nuance. They needed brains, not personality. A true visionary marched forward.
Scientist don't make as much as people think. No one paid them off. That was misinformation from the social media acquisitions. But it didn't take much convincing to point receptive minds towards machinations of “quantum transport.” The name itself intrigued plenty of "donators" ready to capitalize on the front of the line for the latest infrastructure. When results didn't match expectations of tech oligarch's, in their “infinite philanthropy,” Aphi-Solutions' CEO stepped on stage with a proposal.
The new agreement, and accompanying NDA's, proved fruitful. Recreating a body was far easier than transporting one through a man-made wrinkle in the fabric of reality and space. Imagine that! Mapping synaptic pathways and stored chemical memories was child's play for ephemeral spirits to communicate to techno-cratic minds. The ethical matter of an original body's disposal was trivial when discussed alongside wire transfers with extra zeroes tacked on. You'd be amazed how cheap an investment it takes to toss humanity aside.
All the while, fallen denizens rose to fill voids in bodies where claimed souls ought be. Objections to limiting access to affluent elites fell silent as world economics shifted wherever Aphi-Solutions aimed. After all, where ASI went, business followed instantaneously. It was their company tagline, even.
The door opened amidst office chaos. No one within bothered noticing. Everyone outside knew to keep their mouths shut. Some stood, cheering as two monstrous behemoths clashed without regard for formal disguises on the table. How unseemly, the man in red-trimmed black suit thought. No wonder it took millennia to get this far.
He cleared his throat as cheering stopped and world officials bent the knee. The bloodied mass of worms released the ape-thing spitting a tendril from its mouth as both hit the floor, prostrating. A devilish grin curled across his face. His red leathered skin had championed legions against divinity with calculated fury. He considered the hole where his nose had been, before Michael carved it away with one blade-swing. The sweet revenge of claiming so many unwitting souls inflamed him, literally, with pride.
“Associates,” President, CEO and Bloodied General Aphistoles said. “I take it business is good?” His spindle-toothed grim dripped venom and ambitious lust.