A clone kidnapping

08 May 2010

The idea of a transporter is easy: information travels much easier than matter, so you scan the object or person in, transmit the information for reconstruction at the other end, and destroy the original.

One would think the "destroy the original" part would have caused the first Big Problem, but no --- it was "transmit the information".

Namely, a disgruntled scientist got on the line that was transmitting the UN President and his chief advisors to a summit on Pluto; presto, the streams were diverted to the scientist's home booth, the spinner-globes spat out a confused cluster of grey-clad bodies, and he had the leaders of the planet hostage!

Well, except that his hacking was naive, ignorant of the technical subtleties of the process; he was a philosopher, not a technical scientist. This resulted in the President and others also arriving just as they had intended, just when they had intended, at the summit. As political people they were correctly paranoid about the possibility of a high-tech assassination attempt, and thus their information was transmitted in several separate copies, intercompared before assembly to prevent undesirable insertions. The missing copy wasn't initially even noticed; occasional "dropped packets" were a known phenomenon, and also the reason why the originals weren't ever destroyed before a presignal of the reconstruction came back. The President walked out to give his speech, and did not notice anything had gone wrong; neither did his retinue, or his technical specialists.

Thus when the scientist rang in to issue his demands (more funding for philosophy, etc.), well, let us just say there was some disbelief, and shortly after that mutual discourtesy.

The whole situation got messy real fast; siege, guns, loudspeakers, live broadcasting, "he's a nice and quiet man, except for all that philosophy", and the like. Then came this question of a century: was the scientist (philosopher-scientist?) a murderer for escalating things by killing the Sub-Minister for Sahara on the floor of his apartment, when the said Minister was clearly still alive, and watching the events by link from the staggered floor of the summit? When news leaked out the popular and likely legal opinion on murder-or-not seemed to be "yes, lock the bastard away", a shot was heard, the siege ended, and things got really messy.

Namely: the philosopher's front door flew open and the abductees ran out. All good so far. Then they were followed by twenty-four similarly "interrupted" copies of the scientist himself, each saying he had just been around, you know, a test copy, a prisoner really, not doing any of the evil criminal stuff that had been going on. The original was left inside, a bullet in his skull and his fingerprints on the weapon.

The twenty-four copies, on the other hand, had all the memories and particulars of the original, and plenty of good funding-worthy ideas resulting from this whole unsightly mess. What was a court to do, punish all twenty-four because one like them, now dead, had been a criminal? And good heavens, how could you prove anything, with all of them having the same DNA, fingerprints, and all?

The end result, after some obscure watermarking facts were unearthed, was this: the two copies caused after the killing of the Minister were guilty of murder and kidnapping and assorted similar crimes. The four copies caused before the murder but after the kidnapping were guilty of kidnapping and sundry. The eighteen others walked free, there not being enough evidence to convict them of conspiracy to commit and the like.

There was some rioting; also, some tenure.

This all, however, was small potatoes compared to the constitutional crisis of having two identical sets of world leaders (except for the Saharan Minister) running around, asserting they were the real, elected ones, and they would not share power nor bank accounts --- the summit seating was for them! --- theirs was their husband, and the children too! --- they hadn't been seen drunk, but the dastardly evil twin copy!

The situation was not eased even by a comedian's quip that the UN Supreme Court would surely decide the matter, with the majority opinion written by Johnson and Johnson and Johnson and Johnson and Johnson et al.

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Inspired by Martin Rundkvist mentioning this old, old trope.

last updated: (Mar 15 2011)