Read by Richard.
Proofed & audio edited by Jana.
Story by Bertie.
When we had finished howling I said: “Alright, can we have lunch now?” and the Professor laughed and agreed: “It will be a good opportunity to explain the amazing thing that just happened.”
We left the lab and returned in the direction of the canteen. As we went, I looked over at my younger self, and noted that he had my way of walking, a sort of trot with the head turning from side to side and the tail curled over the back.
In the canteen, the Professor ordered grilled steak for himself, and raw steak cut up into cubes for us Astropups. I watched the younger me eat. He liked to roll his eyes up to the ceiling while he was chewing, just like I do.
I tucked into the steak in similar fashion. The food helped me settle down and overcome the sense of shock at meeting my younger self so unexpectedly.
“So,” said the Professor, “I expect you two are wondering how you came to meet each other. It’s like this. Ten years ago, I developed an earlier version of the teletransporter that you saw demonstrated today. First I succeeded in sending a chair from Cornwall to Perth in Australia, and then I transported a live rabbit called Pinky who lived in our lab.”
“What happened to Pinky?” I asked, because I like to know that animals are treated properly.
“He emigrated to Australia,” said the Professor. “The next stage of my dream was to test teletransportation through space. This would be an amazing experiment, though very expensive and difficult to arrange. Then one day I saw an advertisement online for space tourism. It was your ship, Astropup, that was offering to take people from earth for a trip of a lifetime in space. And that was when I persuaded some wealthy business people to pay for me to carry out the teletransportation experiment on board your ship.”
“That’s right,” said the young Astropup. “I remember it like it was yesterday. In fact, I’m pretty sure it was yesterday. You, Professor, joined us on our ship with your teletransportation thingy and showed us how you could send a wooden spoon to earth and bring it back again. Then you did the same thing with a rabbit called Flopsy. We were all amazed, and the Parrot said that your machine was so impressive that he could have invented it himself.”
As I listened to the younger me tell this story, my ears started to wag. I suddenly realised that I had indeed met the Professor ten years before. I remembered now that he had come on board our ship with his amazing machine - just like the younger me was saying. But what happened after that …. Rrrrrrrr I could not remember.
The younger me continued the story: “Then, Professor, you said, “Well guys, would any of you like to make history and be teletransported down to Earth and back again?” And I said, “Oh yes, pick me, please! please!”
“Why in the universe did you say that?” I asked.
And the foolish dog replied, “Because it sounded like fun.”
“You must have been very young and silly,” I told him. “When you get older, you will know better than to volunteer to take part in experiments. Science is dangerous - that’s what I’ve learned in my travels.”
“Well I’m sorry to say that the older you is right in this case,” said the Professor. “I was too confident in my technology. I transported young Astropup down to Earth, but when I tried to bring him back, I lost him.”
“What? You lost me?” woofed the younger me.
“That was most careless,” I added.
“Like I said, I was really sorry,” said the Professor throwing up his hands. “I really didn’t mean to lose you. It was early days and the transporter had a few glitches. All the time I was working frantically to fix the fault, the Parrot was squawking that he was going to sue my company for $500 million dollars because I had lost you. I have to say Astropup, you are an expensive dog.”
“Of course,” I said, “there’s only one like me. Well there’s two now, but I’m still very rare.”
“Fortunately for everyone concerned, I had a back up plan,” said the Professor. “Before I transported the young Astropup, I recorded a copy of the code for arranging his atoms. When he failed to rematerialize inside the transportation pod, I was able to use the recovery code to create an exact replica of him exactly as he was just before I teletransported him. So when I could not bring him back, I was able to input the recovery code into my machine and create a replacement Astropup. It looked like I was bringing you back, but what I was really doing was making a new you - just like you had been about an hour earlier. I didn’t explain this to the Parrot or Marlow, or even to you. I was rather anxious about the whole situation, and I didn’t see any reason to cause anyone any worry.”
“What!”I exclaimed. “You mean to say that I’m not me! I’m just a copy?”
“Well yes,” said the Professor. “But there is almost no difference. The only thing is that you did not remember being transported because I made the copy of you before that happened. Otherwise you were exactly the same as the Astropup that I met in the spaceship just before I put you in the machine and lost you. You had all the same memories of past experiences. After that, you carried on with your life and space adventures, just as the original you would have done, and now you’ve grown ten years older, and here you are, sitting, having lunch with me at the Space Academy.”
“And what about him?” I said, pointing a paw at the younger me.
“Good question,” growled the other me, “I’m completely confused now. Who am I?”
“Well you see,” said the Professor, “last week, I was rummaging through some old files on my computer, and I found the backup code for the young Astropup. And that’s what I did in today’s experiment. I entered the code into the machine and recreated you - just as you were ten years ago.”
The other Astropup shook his head, “No, no, no, that can’t be true. I wasn’t just born. I’ve been around for years. I remember it all!”
“I recreated you,” said the Professor, “with all your memories in tact. That’s why it seems to you that you have been alive for several years.”
“This is complicated,” I said. “I’ll have to ask the Parrot to explain it. No, on second thoughts, I won’t. Once he starts explaining, he never stops.”
Professor Perfect drove us back to the station. On the way, I asked the young Astropup what his plans were now he had been freshly created from a backup copy of me.
“I’m not sure,” he said. “Can I come and live with you? You’re sort of like my dad.”
“It might cause some confusion,” I said.
But the Professor, who was driving up front called out, “Don’t worry, young Astropup, you can live with my family. My daughter really wants a dog. We have a house with a big garden and an empty field. You’ll have everything a dog could wish for, and no need to go space travelling or teletransporting.”
When we reached the station I still had some questions left over. “Say,” I said, gazing, still in wonder, at my younger self, “Are we the same dog?”
The Professor scratched his chin. “I know why you might think that,” he said. “But no, you are two different dogs. Because you see, older Astropup, while you both remember the same earlier years, you now have ten years of experience that he does not have. How can you be the same?”
This was baffling enough to confuse even a smart animal, like a sheepdog. “Well, thanks for lunch. The steak was really great!”
It was time to catch my train. I found my seat and jumped up on it. A lady passenger tut-tutted, because some humans think that dogs should not be allowed to sit on seats, but mine had been paid for and reserved in my name. I pressed my nose against the window and saw Professor Perfect and the younger me standing on the platform. The Professor waved and the young Astropup wagged his tale. I sighed. “At least he’s going to have a really nice life living in a country house,” I thought. “Much better than squishing into a cramped space ship.”
And my train began to pull away.
And that is the story of one of the more confusing things that has ever happened to me in a lifetime of confusing adventures. Next time I return, I’ll go back to telling my stories in order - from the time we picked up another passenger on board our spaceship.
And that was Astropup and the Teletransporter. For now, from me Richard at STORYNORY.com, goodbye.