This is Tomorrowlands Universe material, which is listed at http://www.tomorrowlands.org/story/stories.html.
(c) 2003, Tad "Baxil" Ramspott
It's a sad truism that the dustbins of history are littered with great ideas because the good ones are easier to implement. Last December, we were handed an incredible gift. We stood at a crossroads. Everywhere we looked, great ideas presented themselves. The future was suddenly limitless, and all that remained was how we would define ourselves. But as we watch this miracle collide with human nature, all our great ideas are disappearing one by one. To be fair, an immense number of good things have come out of The Changes. But to glimpse greatness, then have it ripped away and discarded, leaves rather a bitter aftertaste. For me, nowhere is this more obvious than in the world's brief fling with teleportation. For a brief, shining moment, it handed us the future on a silver platter. For a brief, shining moment, magic became science fiction, became grounded in reality here on Earth. For a brief, shining moment, it even took center stage in shaping the terms of debate for a world. Dennis Redwing's meeting owed much to his leadership, to be sure, and to the vast amount of networking that he'd built up in the intervening years, but it would have been flatly impossible without teleportation. Throughout history, advances in transportation have revolutionized society. From the horse to the railroad, from the railroad to the automobile, from the automobile to the airplane, every step has been a quantum leap in terms of what's been possible and what our society has looked like. I don't need to tell you what teleportation could have done for us; your imagination will suffice for that. And we were right there, on the verge of it. But then, earlier this year, it all started to collapse. Ironically, and sadly, magic itself holds much of the blame for this. The Changes coalesced when Redwing walked through the background of that news broadcast, and ever since then, all of the magic that we've gotten back has been by reminding the public of what's possible. But in the same way, that double-edged sword can turn around and bite us in the back. * * * Teleportation died when Denny Brogi got rushed to the hospital. I wouldn't blame you for not recognizing his name. As news stories go, that one was rather a footnote. Denny Brogi was never a household name in the same way that Tom Valdine(1) or Matthew Gold(2) are. But his story ended up having far deeper implications. Brogi was a high school senior in a suburb of Seattle, a kid by all accounts disenchanted with mundane life who was studying magic as a way out. One day in late January while he was cutting class, the world he tried to escape caught up with him. In a very isolated area of his high school, he got involved in (or started) an altercation. What happened next depends on whose story you listen to, but one thing is clear: He tried to teleport to his hand a sword he kept at home as one of his magical tools. When teachers arrived, his attacker was unconscious against the wall (although apparently unharmed), and Brogi's sword was embedded through his arm -- cleanly displacing flesh, muscle, and bone. As magical mishaps go, Brogi's accident could have been far worse. But, socially, it was the breach in the dam. As far as anyone could determine, it was the first reported teleportation accident. It may have even been an accident of an entirely separate nature -- toxicology results never were any better than inconsistent, and there's lingering suspicion that evidence may have been magically tampered with in order to cover up the true details of Brogi's actions. But, regardless, what little attention the story did get raised the question of whether there were problems with teleportation -- and, of course, when one goes looking for problems, they're everywhere to be found. Consider Jeff Sullivan. He was in a car with some friends in Seattle the day after the accident, and their discussion turned to teleportation. Sullivan emphatically asserted to his friends that there was nothing unsafe about magical teleportation, and volunteered to demonstrate. Investigators have concluded that he failed to take into account the motion of the car, and appeared on the nearby sidewalk still travelling at a speed of approximately 30 mph, careening into a nearby building and eventually being rushed to the hospital with a concussion and several broken bones. The Seattle Times smelled a story, and quickly printed an in-depth investigative piece on teleportation. We'll never know for certain, but that's probably what gave Matt Gutierrez his idea. Once they pieced together his identity through missing-person reports and dental records, the police searched his apartment. Right next to the farewell letter he left his recent ex-fiancee was a copy of the Seattle Times, folded open to the teleportation article. But that groundwork took long days; and by the time the media figured out that it was merely an elaborately staged suicide, the notion of teleportation flaws had taken on a life of its own. There were the "ping timeouts," as mages called them -- borrowing terminology from some computer programmer geek humor -- in which mysterious and unpredictable time lapses appeared between a mage's departure and their arrival somewhere else. More ominously, there were the suggestions -- never verified -- of disappearances along the way. And, of course, more teleportation accidents -- albeit of the Sullivan variety rather than the Gutierrez variety. The media coverage generated fears, and the fears became self-fulfilling. All things considered, it amounted to an enormous, and quite scary, mess. * * * Like many magical trends, this one would have died back down if mages had been given some time for emotions to cool -- but meanwhile, the world had sat up and taken notice. After The Changes, a handful of far-sighted venture capitalists caught the notion of magic as big business, and started funding an equally small handful of firms with ideas about how to bring magic to the public. Several were experimenting with teleportation. In the wake of the string of accidents and panics above, the most prominent of these -- Logos Dei -- unceremoniously dumped its teleportation research and announced that it was focusing on other aspects of magic. A second, Raven's Head Technologies, boldly insisted that it would continue with its work -- but got embroiled in the flap over safety statistics, and ended up getting its funding pulled. Other, smaller, firms followed suit in one of these two camps. If any companies have actually carried on in that field, it has been outside public notice, and certainly no results have come of their efforts yet. In other troubled industries, the government has at times stepped in when it wanted that industry's work to continue -- for example, the Savings & Loans bailouts of the previous decade. And with a more magic-friendly government, even if all of the above had occurred, there still might have been a way to salvage the entire thing. But I don't even need to mention Matt's Act(3) to point out that this was hardly going to be the case. So the life-changing idea of teleportation was stillborn at the legal level. It died very quickly at the institutional level. And for lack of competent defenders, it was bludgeoned to death at the individual level. You'll excuse me if I'm still bitter over Redwing's galling "teleportation is completely safe; however, we urge mages to use it with caution" doublespeak. Despite this, some will argue that it's premature to call teleportation dead -- that no amount of worry can stop every individual mage from from practicing it. That it can survive in an underground until it's ready to become broadly relevant again. I wish this were the case, but I see no reason for optimism. It's true that many mages are still practicing teleportation; however, there has been no coherent movement to explore the safety issues. The collective efforts of scattered, individual researchers can do no good if those researchers mysteriously disappear one by one. To be made safe, teleportation must be relevant enough to study; but to be made relevant, teleportation must be safe enough to study. I see little way out of this Catch-22. So get the dustbins ready ... great idea coming through. -- Vick Tannigan, who runs Satyr's Tincture Herbal Supply in Jamaica Plain, is a Boston Underground magical issues writer. He can be reached c/o this periodical or at the store, (617) 555-0229.
FOOTNOTES for non-TTU readers:
(1) Tom Valdine, a mage, was arrested in early 1997 after he turned
himself in for violating the Air Travel Protection Act, which had an
amendment inserted and passed to outlaw any use of magic for any purpose
on commercial air flights or in airports -- and was one of the first
pieces of magic-restricting legislation in the U.S. Valdine had saved the
life of a fellow passenger through magical healing after they suffered a
heart attack in midair and defibrillation failed. As a mage-rights
activist, he saw this as an ideal test case to attack the ATPA with, and
agitated for his own prosecution, ultimately mounting a defense solely on
common-sense and constitutional issues.
After being smeared on the stand (among other things, the prosecution all but asserted that he caused the heart attack in order to gain sympathy and challenge the law on more favorable grounds), Valdine was found guilty on a technicality and given the 5-year mandatory minimum sentence. The Justice Department -- aided by a sudden swing of popular attention away from the case to the Gold murders -- began a long-term campaign to silence him and obstruct appeals in order to brush the issue away into a corner. Valdine remains in jail; many mages see him as a martyr, and "Free Valdine" movements have gathered tepid but widespread grassroots support among theris and on college campuses.
(2) The Rev. Matthew Gold was a North Carolina preacher from a
virulently anti-theri fundamentalist denomination. He was notorious, if
not widely respected, for being the most vocal proponent of the theory
that theris' appearance was the beginning of the End Times. He was very
vocal in saying "we are at war" with therianthropes. He was too sharp to
ever be caught actively suggesting killing them, but he talked approvingly
of their deaths to a national audience.
On August 22, 1997 -- the day after the Valdine verdict was announced -- his country estate near Rockledge, N.C., became a bloodbath. All seven people on the premises were killed in cold-blooded shooting or execution-style murders: two private security guards, a gardener, Gold himself, his chauffeur, his wife, and his three-month-old son. The brutality of the killings, and the senseless death of the baby especially, shocked humans and theris alike -- and is the origin of the extreme-reactionary epithet "baby-killers" to refer to therianthropes. Fur samples and other evidence of theri involvement were immediately found, although many found it too convenient and questioned whether they were a plant to throw blame on the obvious suspects. Ultimately, no suspects were ever named or apprehended, and the case remains one of TTU's most infamous -- and unsolved -- murders.
(3) Matt's Act was a measure pushed through Congress in March 1997 imposing even tighter restrictions on teleportation than had been previously placed on magic in general -- nearly outlawing it anywhere for any practical purpose. The name was an acronym for Making America's Teleportation and Transportation Safer, but also a blatant reference to Matt Gutierrez's death. Never mind that by then all evidence strongly suggested that said death, in which Gutierrez essentially appeared inside-out in the middle of a street and met an explosive and messy end, was a suicide.
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