The Situation

A colony of 100 teleporters (between the ages of 20-40) have been hidden away living like monks for 1000's of years to prevent their detection.

With the death of their old leader, a young new leader takes control and wishes to push the colony out into society and break the shackles of the boring monotonous mountain lifestyle.

The new leader has some very clear initial goals. In order of importance, he wants to:

  1. Retain the absolute secrecy of the colony. No one must know that the colony exists or that they are teleporters
  2. Do everything ethically responsibly1 and sustainably (this operation should be able to keep running even if he needs to step away for a few weeks)
  3. Have each of the 100 teleporters make at least \$100,000/yr (or collectively have the colony make >\$10,000,000/yr)
  4. The colony members must all be free during key times of the week, so time-sensitive jobs are only good if the time can be planned in advance.

As the teleporters have been living in the mountains their whole lives, they don't have many skills to offer society. While the new leader considered having them work office jobs, after several brutal interviews he's decided the only answer is their teleportation.

The Teleportation

Each teleporter has a finite number of base teleports a day before they become too tired to continue teleporting. This base number is found by having each member teleport a 10lb box 100 miles repeatedly. The colony members' base teleports range between 100-300 teleports/day. A teleport of distance $d$ miles carrying an object weighing $w$ pounds would use $d/100 \cdot w/1$ base teleports of the 100-300 (if $w \lt 1$, $w$ gets rounded up to 1).

ie. A trip from San Diego to New York (~2700mi) carrying 5lbs would burn $2700/100 \cdot 5/1 = 135$ base teleports and would likely leave them too tired to teleport much more for the rest of the day.

In practice this means a teleporter can make tens of thousands of teleports a day from the couch to the kitchen to grab a cookie, but could probably only make 2-3 teleports a day with a new car between neighboring cities.

Things to Note

  • The technology level (currently) is that of modern (real-world) Earth.

  • While the colony is removed from society, they have been keeping tabs from afar. A group of elites does scheduled reconnaissance--picking up newspapers and going to libraries to use the internet, so the colony has knowledge of the outside world.

The Question

What is the best way for these teleporters to make this amount of money ethically and sustainably while also keeping the secret about their teleporation?

1. I've chosen "ethically responsibly" over "legally" given the audience here on World Building :) By this, I essentially mean avoid outright stealing or killing for the money. Clearly the books will have to be cooked and lies will have to be told to hide the teleportation. I'll be adding to this footnote to patch any other ethical loopholes found.

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    $\begingroup$ Comments are not for extended discussion; this conversation has been moved to chat. $\endgroup$ – Tim B May 7 '18 at 18:20
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    $\begingroup$ what are the condition of teleportation, do they have ot be in physical contact with the object? how much do they need to know about where they are going? $\endgroup$ – John May 7 '18 at 20:13
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    $\begingroup$ w /1 is effectively the same as simply w, no? $\endgroup$ – htmlcoderexe May 8 '18 at 9:21
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    $\begingroup$ See "The Merchant Princes" series by Stross. $\endgroup$ – Kevin McKenzie May 8 '18 at 20:13
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    $\begingroup$ Also, can they control their momentum at the target location? If not, if they teleport 2700mi east or west do they arrive plouging into the ground or flying into the air? Ditto for north/south, do they arrive with an extra few km/hour angular momentum. If they can control their arrival momentum are there limits such, like can they teleport into or out of a car going 60mph without their bones being crushed by colliding with something going 60mph faster/slower than them. $\endgroup$ – Murphy May 9 '18 at 12:32

38 Answers 38


Think Small

Instead of moving items very large distances; why not move them small distances; it's not like you get paid per mile. You could almost entirely remove the equipment cost and drastically increase the speed of repairs for things like large trucks, ships, and even in-place mechanical repairs on large machinery systems.

Instead of needing an expensive over head crane to remove the engine from say an 18-wheeler; one of your teleporters can teleport it 20 ft to the side onto a waiting stand. This changes a multi hour task of rigging; checking; and adjusting into something that takes an instant. Moving 100,000 lbs 10 feet would use approximately 1.9 base teleports; your mechanic would not even have a bead of sweat when they are done.

Or while working on a machine there is a part that would normally require hours of unbolting other pieces to reach. Instead a teleporter can touch the part (I assume they have to be touching it to teleport it) and poof it onto their workbench. Reverse the procedure to install it. This case is very ideal since you are moving small parts (<10lb) tiny fractions of a mile (5ft is about 1/1000 of a mile).

Mechanics shops for cars in the us can charge around 80 dollars per hour for labor; but if you work on specialty items such as large marine diesel engines the rate can go into the $100's/hour. You would be making the same money as normal shop from mark-up on parts and labor rates; but you could do more jobs in the same amount of time and without needing to maintain large expensive equipment; although you still would want to have the equipment in the shop (maybe buy it second hand and broken) just for appearances.

Sure your colonists will need to learn many new skills; but they will have a major competitive advantage that no-one could compete with. The best parts are:

  • No Ethical/Legal/etc. issues
  • 100% legitimate business, you don't even need to cook the books!
  • Low chance of getting caught (all teleports happen behind closed doors)
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    $\begingroup$ In most garages, they give estimates based on looking up the time that a book that says how long it will take to do the job. So replacing an engine might be a ten hour job in the book. If you can do it in five, you still get paid for ten hours. That's one way experienced mechanics can make extra money while inexperienced mechanics may nominally get paid the same rate but they take longer than book to finish the job and thus make less per week. So even if the nominal rate is only \$80 an hour and the mechanic gets half that, that still may support a \$100,000 a year job with efficiency. $\endgroup$ – Brythan May 4 '18 at 19:32
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    $\begingroup$ Man, auto repair would go so much faster if you could teleport the pieces apart. Bolt rusted or stripped? Teleport. Gasket cemented in? Teleport. Can't find all the snaps holding the trim on? Teleport. $\endgroup$ – LastStar007 May 7 '18 at 15:31
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    $\begingroup$ @LastStar007 you still need to lift the car higher than the jackstand $\endgroup$ – ratchet freak May 7 '18 at 15:59
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    $\begingroup$ @Pekka웃 The idea is the colony owns, runs and staffs the business. It would only be fellow colonists that work there. One of the key points here is that you don't need to risk accidentally teleporting in sight of someone, you are inside a building and can see the location you are teleporting to. Other businesses in the same industry may be jealous of your throughput; but fluff it with some story about highly dedicated and skilled monks being better than a standard worker. $\endgroup$ – TheJahh May 9 '18 at 13:54
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    $\begingroup$ @CandiedOrange "Soon you'll have an equal opportunity employment lawsuit on your hands." If you arent hiring anyone new, why would you have an employment lawsuit on your hands? You aren't being unfair... $\endgroup$ – JS Lavertu May 9 '18 at 16:18

First of all they should only teleport things, not people. People talk. Otherwise, they're in the shipping business.

They should use their teleportation ability to mimic real world transportation so as to avoid any suspicion. For example If they are supposed to teleport something from A to B that it would take a month to get to B then they should still make sure the things they're are teleporting still only arrive at B in a month.

So how does that make them better than say a cargo ship that takes a month to get to B?

A) They could still shave off a few days, say a week in this case, to beat out the competition. "No one can beat our fast and safe service! Your items will arrive where they're supposed to be days ahead of schedule and in perfect condition!"

B) They could charge a little less than other shipping services too. So they're faster, safer AND cheaper? How can you beat that?!

C) They could charge a little more for their unique "Overnight" service. "If it has to be there tomorrow it will be!"

D) They could also form a very exclusive partnership with the largest company in the world (Amazon?, Walmart?) and work specifically for them. "No one knows how they do what they do in that warehouse, but man their track record cant be beat!" "Yeah, as good as they are I don't care how they do their thing!"

They'd have to cook up their "books" to make it look like they're spending the way ordinary shipping businesses do, but even that is only slightly shady since they are doing what they say they're doing.

It's a lightly grey area business at worst. Bottom line, they're in the shipping business and they're the best at it.

EDIT: I thought I'd throw this in here since it's getting so much attention in the comments below - Concerning tracking device:

That's easily countered with double and triple checking the items to make sure they are NOT tracked with a tracking device. "What tracking device? We weren't aware. We're sorry you don't trust our shipping service. If you have any safety concerns please feel free to refer to our customer service department. However I would like to stress that your item(s) did arrive at their correct destination, ahead of schedule and in perfect condition. Thank you for your business." Plus, the more plausible answer than teleportation is that your tracking device malfunctioned.


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    $\begingroup$ And then someone puts a GPS tracking device in their package (not uncommon if you're afraid of your package getting lost) and **** hits the fan. $\endgroup$ – David Mulder May 4 '18 at 15:34
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    $\begingroup$ Metal box beats GPS tracker :) $\endgroup$ – Sobrique May 4 '18 at 15:59
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    $\begingroup$ In real world "takes a month to ship" means that the snipping rate is a dirt cheap option - there is always a faster (but more expensive) way. Given obvious cover-up restrictions (you can't just teleport to someone porch for pickup or delivery), $100,000 a year per person looks like a difficult number to reach. $\endgroup$ – Alexander May 4 '18 at 16:44
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    $\begingroup$ @DavidMulder The tracker obviously malfunctioned for ‹technical reason›. $\endgroup$ – Konrad Rudolph May 4 '18 at 18:51
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    $\begingroup$ One thing they can do is overbook. Let's say they run an overnight courier service from one city to another. They have a legitimate plane or truck that honestly carries cargo. But they only use it for a fraction of the cargo they can actually move by teleporting. So the plane is loaded at City A and flies to City B. And when the cargo arrives at City B, it gets distributed along with all the other cargo that was waiting there. Everyone sees you flying a plane, no one realizes that more cargo was moved than could be put in the plane. But you charge everyone air rates. $\endgroup$ – Keith Morrison May 5 '18 at 3:59

Cocaine /end thread. They could do it ethically by bypassing the cartels entirely. Farm to glass table, if you will. The growers in S. America make more money and nobody gets killed.

Asteroid Mining With a good telescope and a stolen/borrowed space suit, they could pop into space, grab a chunk of iridium and be home in time for lunch. They would make way more than 10 million.

Tuna Fishing A fresh Tuna is worth thousands. These guys can deliver them still-wriggling. Without the stress of being caught, their tuna might taste the best, too.

EMT's They could respond to medical emergencies instantaneously. Anyone who gets injured could be in the ER in the time it takes to forward a phone call. This would save an awful lot of lives. In health care, there's this thing called 'The Golden Hour', where, if they can get you in front of the doctor in less than an hour, your chances of survival are astronomically higher.

Teleporters could get all their patients to the ER inside that golden hour, saving lots of lives and making boatloads of cash while they are at it. An ambulance ride costs around 10,000, and teleporting is better, so they could charge more.

Ohh... you said secretly. That makes it harder...

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    $\begingroup$ As to cocaine, op is looking for "ethically responsible", and this probably doesn't qualify. $\endgroup$ – AndyD273 May 4 '18 at 14:35
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    $\begingroup$ I thought of asteroid mining, but that doesn't work with the OP's 100 mile/10# base limits. Tuna fishing is outrageously cool, though! $\endgroup$ – JBH May 4 '18 at 15:01
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    $\begingroup$ +1 for the tuna fishing, that's an awesome idea! Can you expand on it a little? I don't know too much about that industry. How easy would it be to fish without being seen? Who buys fresh tuna without asking questions and how much does it usually go for? How feasible is it to hit that $10,000,000 mark? $\endgroup$ – scohe001 May 4 '18 at 15:08
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    $\begingroup$ Good fresh tuna in tokyo for sushi and for ramen houses is worth ungodly sums of money, and no, no-one asks questions about how/where, otherwise the fisherman will never deal with them again. $\endgroup$ – GerardFalla May 4 '18 at 16:42
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    $\begingroup$ I like your idea for tuna fishing, but Cocaine trafficking violates my morale code, asteroid mining is rough since the moon is ~238,900 mi away, so my best teleporters might just be able to make it up there but would have no way back and EMT's are hard without breaking the secrecy. If you edit this answer to focus on the fishing and maybe add a little on the Japanese market for said fish like @GerardFalla mentioned I think this would be a much stronger answer! $\endgroup$ – scohe001 May 4 '18 at 17:22

Secure Data/Info Transfer

A backpack full of hard drives moved instantly from point to point. 100 TB from NY to LA in 30 minutes.

Like a courier service combined with a logistics company on steroids. Two professionals come to your office, pick up the items and take them to their armored car, where one blinks back to a local office, then gives the drive/data to the long haul traveler, who takes 5-10 across the country to the other local office, where another milk run transporter blinks from the office to another armored car parked outside of the recipient's office.

The drivers are following a milk run route pattern, while the transporters are following a hub and spoke network. The hub and spoke system would probably be faster than the armored cars, so there would be time to consolidate loads for the long haul trips.

If the average transporter needs to generate \$400 in revenue per day and can carry 20,000 mile/lbs, the minimum cost is 2 cents per mile/lb. Doubling that to account for some overhead, 4 cents per mile/lb means that moving a 10 TB drive 1000 miles in say, 2 hours, costs \$40.

AWS charges \$87/TB of one way transfer, and that's about the cheapest you will find, plus the cost to move the data in and maintain infrastructure. Transferring 10 TB at 1 Gbps will take over 24 hours. Increased speed and security make this a premium service, so 1 hour rush service could charge \$1.00 per mile/lb (slightly more expensive than AWS, but 25x faster), while 2-3 hour standard service could charge \$0.50, and 'no-rush' same day could charge \$0.20 (still faster than AWS, and 1/4th the cost). It would dominate bulk data transfer and long distance corporate courier services, and with that rush service, a single transporter could earn \$20,000/day in revenue, or \$4,000/day at the 'no rush' rate.


Exploring the economics of teleportation

Teleportation as described in this question boils down to the ability to instantly move a mass a distance. The unit can be lb-miles, and a teleporter can move 10,000-30,000 lb-miles per day. Freight haulers even use the term ton-mile when referring to cost to move freight, so in those terms this is 5-15 ton-miles. This isn't a huge volume of freight, a tractor trailer can move up to a 40,000 lb load up to 600 miles in a day, or 24,000,000 lb-miles. 100 total teleporters also puts a hard cap on the size of the enterprise.

There are all kinds of logistics and delivery companies, but teleporters have a few advantages:

  • the travel is instant, and
  • other constraints like walls, borders, traffic, and gravity don't limit the travel.

Speed is useful for outrunning the competition, and for specific scenarios where speed or freshness are key. Fresh tuna was given as an example given by James. Data transfer, hot shot delivery, a courier service, and more all take advantage of the speed to compete with traditional businesses.

Avoiding the constraints of gravity make asteroid or diamond mining possible, but there are other limitations. If the monk has to go to outer space to grab an asteroid and carry it home then they will need PPE, reducing their effectiveness. Mining has a lot of additional costs beyond moving material out of the earth. Avoiding border crossings makes smuggling viable, including moving state or corporate secrets.

Being able to teleport through walls also allows entry to anywhere. If stealing and spying are out of bounds, there is the possibility to teleport into a doorless vault or void in a mountain, allowing extremely secure storage. If there are degrees of permitted surveillance, a private investigator that could bypass security and access files, place surveillance equipment, take photos, etc.

Instant transportation of relatively low mass objects has three possible target markets:

  • As a service provided to a handful of organizations, like providing secure transport of documents for governments or corporations with long, stable contracts and not too many customer interactions.
  • Targeting a specific niche. Asteroid mining, owning a deep mine, or smuggling across a specific border all allow a fixed working location with very little outside interaction.
  • Service provided to the public, like Fedex. Strict security and controls would be needed to maintain secrecy, and a good cover story would be needed. A cover business could be built that might end up being more lucrative than the initial business as well.
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    $\begingroup$ +1 for the math on the prices, incorporating the teleportation mechanics and comparing to a real world competitor! My only problem is the secrecy--with that many moving parts, and digital data on top of it all, I feel like discovery is a stronger possibility here than in other answers. That being said though, this is a strong answer! And the extra revenue may make the risk worth it :) $\endgroup$ – scohe001 May 4 '18 at 17:39
  • $\begingroup$ There's a balance between impressive results and secrecy. Faster is more valuable, but more astonishing. Black suits, strict protocols, and armored car creates an air of professionalism to awe and dazzle, while the back of the armored car is just a windowless room to use to blink. Slowing down the transfer allows more economy of scale, letting the orders pile up a bit before the long transports, and may look more realistic. $\endgroup$ – user15741 May 4 '18 at 19:17
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    $\begingroup$ AWS is closer to "the most expensive you will find". For example, Hetzner (popular German hoster) costs 1 EUR/TB. $\endgroup$ – CodesInChaos May 4 '18 at 21:51
  • $\begingroup$ +1 For the answer being feasible. The shipping one IMO is a low-hanging fruit, but with the teleport exhaustion mechanic you can't transport all that much raw material that quickly. You need to move something with very high value-to-mass ratio (gee, that sounds familiar) and you've done that. $\endgroup$ – LastStar007 May 7 '18 at 15:23
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    $\begingroup$ The problem here is that you have high latency and high cost. Usually, people want low latency high cost (e.g. real-time replication/backup) or low-cost high latency upload overnight, snail mail). Where are you going to find this 13PB petabyte a day worth of high latency, high-value data to transport, keeping in mind that you'll have a very hard time getting certified given the secrecy requirements. $\endgroup$ – NPSF3000 May 10 '18 at 18:33

Moving things into low earth orbit might be an option. You could make your ten million dollars with only a single delivery to the ISS.

The space shuttle cost \$1.5 Billion per launch. Billion.
NASA is working on a rocket that only costs \$500 Million per launch.
Falcon 9 launch costs an average of \$57 million, which works out to less than \$2,500 per pound to orbit.

If they can move something the size of a car, even if they can only do it once a day, you're talking huge profits.

If you have the option to tell one person

Have the leader befriend Elon Musk, get him to sign an NDA, then offer to ferry some small things up, like fuel. He launches a rocket with a deep space probe with just enough fuel to get into LEO. Then you take up enough fuel to finish the mission.

It takes a lot of fuel to launch the amount of fuel you'll need to get to Mars and beyond. The cost savings for Space X would be really big.

To get around people discovering your secret

This is how you get around people trying to figure out how you get things move from A to B so quickly and accidentally discover your secret: you announce to the world that you have invented The Teleporter. The box uses quantum entanglement to break the laws of physics and sends object at distance faster than the speed of light!

It'll immediately get dismissed as a hoax, and any evidence that you are actually teleporting things will be taken as trickery. Now you can do whatever else you want to do in plain sight, and no-one will ever consider that you're actually teleporting stuff.

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    $\begingroup$ I'm not sure someone is willing to give their very expensive satellite to an unknown company that just says "you won't know how, but we are bringing it to space". But maybe the reverse is better: go to space and get some space junk. Scrap it and sell expensive components of satellite to companies that are in the business. $\endgroup$ – Legisey May 4 '18 at 14:36
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    $\begingroup$ Space salvage won't work if you can only teleport objects at rest / can teleport, but they remain their speed. Otherwise, excellent idea though you'll need to come up with a good cover up. Low Earth Orbit is at arm's reach compared to, say, London to New York. $\endgroup$ – John Dvorak May 4 '18 at 15:11
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    $\begingroup$ As god of this world, I declare momentum works like the teleporters want it to because magic. I'm worried about going too much into the momentum portion of the teleportation without feeling like I'm taking straight from Steven Gould's Jumper series. $\endgroup$ – scohe001 May 4 '18 at 15:53
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    $\begingroup$ @scohe001 If momentum is free, then space launches are cheap. Instead of teleporting an object 100 km, give it some vertical velocity, repeat several times, then a lot of horizontal velocity (still free) once you reach the desired periapsis. $\endgroup$ – John Dvorak May 4 '18 at 16:18
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    $\begingroup$ Space isn't far away; space is fast away. Unless they can grant an insane amount of KE for free, teleporting to orbital distance from Earth results in a light show as the object burns up on the way back down. And if they can grant arbitrary momentum, well, teleporting is burying the lede -- they have a perpetual motion machine! $\endgroup$ – Yakk May 4 '18 at 17:36
  • They cannot explain how they're doing it, whatever it is. As Rekesoft pointed out, that prohibits any contracts where due diligence would want to look into their business operations.
  • They cannot teleport outsiders. The model explained by Legisey would leave too many people wondering.
  • They cannot teleport into or out of areas under surveillance, even if that was ethical and legal. They might get into problems if they cross borders without the right stamps in their passports.

How about a "job" where the ability to teleport away from danger (or inconvenience) saves huge operational expenses, yet where only the end result is delivered to the customer?

Operate a very deep mine.

The mine will have conventional lifts and trains, and those are used to transport the ore, but people are not required to take that trip.

All the people working underground are in on the secret. They can teleport from a staging area directly to the mine face, and return easily for rest breaks, or to bring down a tool or spare part that they suddenly need.

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    $\begingroup$ That's not very efficient. You need one monk for each person going down, a regular lift can move dozens at a time. The equipment is there already, why not use it instead of teleporters? As for tools and things, mines have most of the tools and equipment they'll need in central locations underground, so it takes just a few minutes to get most things. Anything underground that they can't replace is usually extremely large, like engines, machine parts, etc, and these will usually need to be repaired in a shop. The shop will either be above ground or in a specialized location underground. $\endgroup$ – Dan Clarke May 4 '18 at 18:32
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    $\begingroup$ @DanClarke, the example which I mentioned has the workers travel one hour either way, and work in conditions where a lunch break on the surface would be really welcome. The monks should be considerably more efficient per person than ordinary miners. $\endgroup$ – o.m. May 4 '18 at 19:57
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    $\begingroup$ Still that one hour trip carries several dozen miners at a time, and they're not paid that well. Hiring teleporters may speed up the process but the cost won't make it effective for the mine operators. If the teleporters lower their price they won't make enough money to make it worthwhile for them. Then you have to consider the whole secrecy thing, and it doesn't work. Sorry. $\endgroup$ – Dan Clarke May 4 '18 at 20:11
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    $\begingroup$ @DanClarke, according to some quick googling, the average miner makes $70k per year in the US. They'd only have to be 50% more efficient to meet the requirements of the OP. Note that I'm proposing to employ only monks underground, solving the secrecy problem. $\endgroup$ – o.m. May 4 '18 at 20:25
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    $\begingroup$ The deepest mines are mostly in South Africa. In the United States one mine is 2.6km deep, and in Canada there is a 2.5km mine. The Canadian and US mines use better equipment so miners can get underground in a reasonable amount of time, my brother who has worked on the Canadian mine shaft as a welder said it takes about 29 minutes to get down. Now if you want to only employ monks, you will have to build a new mine or purchase one of the existing ones. Dealing with environmental concerns, different levels of government, possible Indian claims, you're looking at years of paperwork. $\endgroup$ – Dan Clarke May 4 '18 at 20:46

Medicine - You have a tumor that no doctor can remove, yet through word of mouth you heard about this monks that developed a secret ritual that removes tumors, people that want through it swear it works & as a medical procedure no one will bat an eye when you sedate the patient at the start of the surgery so he's asleep when he's tumor is magically teleported outside his body, and given the cost of insurance pay to every surgery the colony can make millions if properly managed... living like monks might actaully help their cover on this one.

Manufacturing - if they are capable of teleporting individual atoms you got a Molecular_assembler at hands, a single sheet of Graphene should be easy to create if you can take graphite (like the one find in a pencil tip) and split it to 1 atom thick layers and should pay quite nicely being a material that has a lot of potential yet one that current manufacturing techniques are expensive (I did a quick search and the cheapest I could find sold a 20X10 CM 25 micrometer thick 2 gram sheet for ~25$)... that being said corporate espionage is a real risk that your teleporters will have to watch for if they go this route.

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    $\begingroup$ If a tumor magically disappears then this will show up on CAT scans and doctors will start asking questions. $\endgroup$ – Paul Johnson May 8 '18 at 16:02
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    $\begingroup$ Also, the first time there's a complication, the lawyers are going to blow your cover. $\endgroup$ – dwizum May 8 '18 at 19:43
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    $\begingroup$ @PaulJohnson The CAT scanner won't be running during the surgery. The tumor will be gone the next time they look--but that's what was expected to happen, nothing notable. The big problem with this one is the lawyers. $\endgroup$ – Loren Pechtel May 14 '18 at 4:39
  • $\begingroup$ @LorenPechtel I don't think so. Scan 1: big inoperable tumor. Scan 2: tumor all gone. Any doctor is going to want to know what happened. $\endgroup$ – Paul Johnson May 14 '18 at 16:00
  • $\begingroup$ @PaulJohnson Of course they are going to want to know. That doesn't mean they're compelled to give an answer. $\endgroup$ – Loren Pechtel May 15 '18 at 3:21

Hotshot transporting.

For the uninitiated: "Hotshots" are unscheduled, emergency courier deliveries, typically industry related. Say an oil rig drilling in the foothills in Alberta breaks a hydraulic pump and needs a replacement right away. They call a hotshot company to pick up the replacement at a supplier and deliver it to the rig, whatever the time of day or night.

Because of the nature of the business, many hotshots are small businesses, perhaps only a single person with a pickup. Their cargo tends to be small, and they're on call 24/7. Even a larger company offering hotshot services may contract out the actual work to independent drivers.

This is ideal for your teleporters. All they have to do is have someone show up at the supplier with a small truck, grab the item, go to a hideout they run, and teleport the cargo to another place of theirs with an identical vehicle closer to the delivery site, which they then use to make the delivery. They putter around for a while before showing up with the delivery, slightly faster than someone theoretically could driving the whole way, but not too much faster. Say they were transporting a part from Edmonton to Calgary. A normal drive is about 3 hours, but they show up in two hours fifteen minutes. That kind of time is possible, but you'd have to be speeding to pull it off, not have any traffic or other delays, so on and so forth.

So how do you make the money? First, you get a rep for fast delivery, which bring you business. Second, you save a fortune on fuel and maintenance: your trucks aren't driving nearly as much or as far. Third, you're more efficient. In the above example, if you were delivering a part from Edmonton to Calgary, at least half the trip is waste because you're traveling empty. If you can teleport the cargo, then after the driver teleports his cargo from Edmonton to Calgary, the vehicle is still there in Edmonton to handle other business; it's not tied up for at least 6 hours going to Calgary and back.

Even your teleporter can get in on it. In the time they spend killing to pretend to be driving, they can also be doing other short jobs.

Now, someone doing an in-depth audit would note that the mileage shown on the vehicles doesn't and gas expenditures add up, but if you're careful and pay taxes and follow normal rules, the odds of someone actually looking would be minimal, especially if your claimed deductions are truthful (you really only claim the fuel you burned).

And due to the nature of the service, odds are no one would notice anything strange.

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    $\begingroup$ Hotshot pay is good, but cargo tends to be heavy. A 12" fishing bit weighs about 250 lbs, so max travel distance is ~100 miles. A kelly bar or any drill stem or collar section or DHT is going to be even heavier. So, you've got a max of one relatively short trip per day. You could do offshore rigs, higher profit and a few fixed distances, competing with helicopters, but you need a good explanation as to how you show up on the rig. $\endgroup$ – user15741 May 4 '18 at 19:00
  • $\begingroup$ You could have a network of teleporters who can route items like IP packets routed across the Internet. Also a big part of this would be reliability: everyone else sometimes breaks down, gets caught in traffic etc. Your service always delivers. $\endgroup$ – Paul Johnson May 8 '18 at 16:06

Smuggling is the best option.

If they don't want to deal with hard drugs, they can stick to smuggling other things. Illegal cigarettes are a big business in Canada and the US, being known as the best people to move packages without getting caught by police would net a few dozen teleporters more than enough money to meet their quota.

Getting black market goods into countries that either ban them entirely or have hefty tariffs is another one. Alcohol going into various Muslim states, medicine into poorer countries, toilet paper and basic necessities into Venezuela, guns and equipment to dissident groups in any number of dictatorships, one or two drops a day by each monk would earn tens of millions of dollars at the end of the year.

No one would know how they do it, just that they leave a list and down payment for the goods at a certain place and within a week it's delivered to another drop off point. This also allows them to set up their own schedule. If they need to set a certain day free, they just claim their main route has some extra border patrols, so it will take a little longer. Minor delays won't matter much as their service is far more secure and guaranteed.


Having six months to set things up would be good. They'll need to find a few people to act as go betweens until they get a good feeling for dealing with potentially violent people. This will cut into their profits, but getting some people who are in debt or desperate for help, will help keep things secret and ensure if anyone dies from a bad deal it probably won't be a monk.

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    $\begingroup$ +1 for the humanitarian stuff like medicine and toilet paper. Less so for cigarettes or contraband (although that leads to interesting ethical discussions between the characters, which makes a better story) $\endgroup$ – Shawn V. Wilson May 5 '18 at 17:03
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    $\begingroup$ You might also want to consider smuggling USB keys into North Korea. $\endgroup$ – Andrea Lazzarotto May 6 '18 at 16:01
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    $\begingroup$ @AndreaLazzarotto, yep. That goes under 'guns and equipment to dissident groups'. $\endgroup$ – Dan Clarke May 6 '18 at 19:58
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    $\begingroup$ This kind of smuggling is a high-risk operation which might well provide them with the starting capital which they could use to purchase an already normally operating business, where teleporting could add 100k per person to the bottom line from eliminating normal breakage and such, but the volumes are so high that this isn't noticeable. This kind of a business would also provide cover for the colony's purchasing needs. $\endgroup$ – Mikael Gueck May 6 '18 at 20:23
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    $\begingroup$ baby formula to china $\endgroup$ – Aequitas May 7 '18 at 2:26

Outsourcing electronics repairs

Some lines of trade are huge in certain countries, but smaller in others. This is due to differences in the price of labor.

For example, in India, electronics repair shops are very common in cities. I lived there for years, and I have experienced this first hand. You can get a skilled and experienced technician to replace an obscure part of your smartphone, fixing the most amazing things, even if you don't have the most mainstream device. And (s)he may do it for just a few dollars (literally). Labor, even skilled labor, is significantly cheaper in India compared to other places.

Conversely, in my native country of Norway, labor and skilled labor are extremely expensive. This means that the cost of repairing a phone is typically so high that most people just buy a new phone. Prices of consumer electronics vary little between countries, but the cost of labor varies greatly. Therefore, in Norway, you only have businesses that do simple things like replacing broken screens or batteries for the most popular devices, at a hefty fee. This is not even comparable to the businesses in India that can fix nearly anything for a small fraction of the value of the device.

You set up an electronics repair shop in downtown Oslo or Tokyo, where labor is expensive. Customers come in with their broken devices. Their devices are teleported down to India or China, where you have a large repair facility with local skilled technicians.

The technicians may believe the electronics are being transported by air or they may not know where they are coming from.

The customers only make contact with the counter clerks, and believe the electronics are repaired locally. The monks can double as workers in the shops, as they can't be teleporting all the time anyway.

Of course, you need to take normal precautions with customer data, such as backing up and securely wiping each device before sending it off, etc. Such things can be solved with similar routines as one would have with local technicians, and some trusted people to oversee the repair facility to prevent theft, etc.


  1. Smartphones are valuable but lightweight, meaning they can be teleported long distances. I haven't done the maths, but if the distance between profitable city-pairs is too great, you can use relays in between.

  2. You'll be way cheaper than your competitors, and offer way more diverse service, both in number of brands and types of devices serviced and in type of repairs offered.

  3. You can offer same-day service, fixing complicated problems in a very short time.

  4. To stay ethical you could offer your technicians a higher salary than the local norm, while still keeping a good profit margin.

  5. Since most replacement parts are manufactured in Asia anyway, you have easy access to them. If your repair centre is near a large technology hub in India or China, you can get parts for nearly any device you want in a matter of hours.

  6. Your diversity and speed of service can blow your competitors out of the water. You may even have to limit it somewhat just to avoid raising suspicion.

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    $\begingroup$ I think this is the only truely practical answer given so far. $\endgroup$ – leftaroundabout May 9 '18 at 14:06
  • $\begingroup$ This method is limited by the amount people are willing to pay for the repair, which is likely to be significantly less than the resale value of the device. Using the same supply route you can get a better return by setting yourself up as an electronics recycler in a prosperous city, sending the salvageable items to India for repair at your own cost, and then reselling the repaired items. In many Asian countries there are often large, unregulated markets for these kinds of sales, too. $\endgroup$ – Logan Pickup May 11 '18 at 8:08
  • $\begingroup$ @LoganPickup A part of this is that it requires skilled labor to assess the damage, repair prospects and value of each device. $\endgroup$ – Fiksdal May 12 '18 at 10:31
  • $\begingroup$ Only problem I can see with this approach are time zone differences - afternoon in Oslo is certainly not afternoon in India. Also, it might arise suspicion from the local populace of the "cheap skilled workers": "Why are they getting paid that well for repairing stuff at odd hours? There's bound to be something fishy going on..." $\endgroup$ – hoffmale May 14 '18 at 5:26
  • $\begingroup$ @hoffmale The time difference between Oslo and India is 3.5 hours. It's quite normal in India to work in the afternoon and evening. $\endgroup$ – Fiksdal May 31 '18 at 5:57

Response time, not transport.

Instead of taking advantage of being able to transport objects, take advantage of the teleporters' speed.

Provide some sort of 'quick response' service claiming to have branches in multiple different countries. While you do in fact have branches in multiple countries, what people don't realise is that the John in your British branch is actually the Jesus in your Spanish branch, and also the Janvier in your French branch.

By use of teleportation, you can call in backup from other branches almost instantaneously and simply claim to have far more employees than you actually do have. If you pick something where the incidents handled will be mostly unrelated (e.g. fire fighting, tech support, plumbing, electricals) and you simply state "oh yes, we have someone already in the area handling another call" then nobody will question your fast response time.


High Speed Data Transfer Clients think you're sending large packets of data via cable, but you're really just loading up a teleporter with a knapsack full of external hard drives. At a certain packet size, bicycle couriers are faster than internet for transfer within [many] cities. If this is true for bicycles within a city, it must also be true for your teleporters across the world.

They would not be limited by the 100 miles either: you just need a network of stations 100 miles apart where teleporters can hand their bag off to someone else and take a breather while the other guy goes another 100 miles. You would essentially have no competitors for the service provided, and you could protect the secrecy of the operation by claiming to use a proprietary technology that you can't share information about for fear of copycats.

This is a better cover than the physical delivery idea because there really isn't any currently conceivable technology that allows for instant transportation of physical goods - you'd have to add an artificial delay to keep people from freaking out, so in the end you're just Feddex with lower overhead. This plausibility also makes you less likely to be the target of GPS snooping. Even if someone does try GPS snooping, this is more easily avoided with hard drives because you're not dealing with sealed containers - you can check out a hard drive, but people will be pissed if you opened up their cardboard box.

Source: https://what-if.xkcd.com/31/

EDIT: Examples of industries that would likely be potential customers for this service.

  • $\begingroup$ But delivering hard drives is a physical delivery! And if your plan is to secretly copy the data to hard drives, teleport the drives, then secretly copy the data from them, I doubt it's going to be faster enough to warrant a hugely profitable bussiness. Read/write speed of hard drives is the next bottleneck after the network speed in data transfer. $\endgroup$ – Frax May 6 '18 at 9:18
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    $\begingroup$ @Frax Ah see in my mind, the customer gives you the drive and you transport it. I assume pretty much everyone believes teleportation is impossible, so most people will think you are transferring the data via some sort of quantum-yada-yada something or other - you can even tell them as much. The only time you have to copy is when you transfer the data off the drive they gave you onto something else at the final destination, so they aren't suspicious about how their exact drive ended up on the other side of the country. That is indeed a bottleneck, but it's shorter than internet connection. $\endgroup$ – Pink Sweetener May 6 '18 at 14:27
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    $\begingroup$ The idea of someone "giving you a hard drive" might sound silly but for large packets of sensitive data this is actually done. Within urban areas, cycle messengers are used - for longer distances, mail. As Randall Monroe points out, for certain packet sizes Feddex has a higher bandwidth than the internet: what-if.xkcd.com/31 $\endgroup$ – Pink Sweetener May 6 '18 at 14:29
  • $\begingroup$ I'm aware that big data physical transfer is still better the network for big data. My point is, if you say "give me hard drive and I'm going to magically transfer the data to other hard drives, faster than over the Internet" it's going to raise suspicions. As a data sender I'd likely fall back to using FedEx or other proven delivery providers, and pack my drives in multiple layers of cardboard to make sure no one tinkers with them. But maybe others are less paranoid. $\endgroup$ – Frax May 6 '18 at 14:53
  • $\begingroup$ Good idea, but not practical. People who need speed use fibre. People who need volume don't care about speed. People who have enough resources to even consider this would not trust such a small operation. $\endgroup$ – NPSF3000 May 7 '18 at 0:48

You want to branch out because no single business can generate 10 mio. without drawing some attention to itself, where someone wants to figure out how you are doing it - competition, journalists, fans or the tax people.

Photo journalism can employ maybe 10-20 of your people. You can very often (not always, that is suspicious!) be at the spot faster than others, and reach places hard to reach, both for political and geographical reasons. Those pictures and videos can be valuable, and on the ethical side you can help bring the truth out. Building up some cover stories should be doable.

Courier services are an obvious choice, but you want to focus on valuable documents only. They are light, need to be delivered in original for legal reasons, and you can deliver to countries where other people have problems getting visa on short notice. How exactly you do it can be a plausible business secret. This can employ 20-30 people before it gets noticed.

Deep sea treasure diving is another example where 10-20 of your monks can actually do the actual diving, but being able to teleport around underwater would make the searching just so much easier. Beware of pressure differences and health effects when teleporting up and down.

That's 40-70 people employed. You will need maybe 20 people for managing, accounting and such things, especially if you operate in multiple countries.

Put the rest into odd jobs. A few magicians (easy to make various tricks if you can actually teleport, don't even have to lie when people ask you how you do it...) a few headhunters or private detectives.

  • $\begingroup$ 10 mio is not much. Would be typical for a company that employs 20-40 people. An there are lots and lots of those. $\endgroup$ – Daniel May 8 '18 at 9:03
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    $\begingroup$ 10 mio. is enough to get the IRS (or their equivalent in another country) interested in your books. $\endgroup$ – Tom May 8 '18 at 11:15
  • $\begingroup$ Maybe, but they don´t look into your operation, they look at your books! $\endgroup$ – Daniel May 8 '18 at 11:18
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    $\begingroup$ I was going to give an answer of stage magicians and I think you should make it a bigger feature here. I realize this is a special example, but David Copperfield earned $30M in 2009 from entertainment alone (he also writes books and has other source of income). Teleportation could greatly improve the "make the thing disappear" trick. You'd have to invest a lost of time developing showmanship but the payoff could be big. Plus, nobody would question your motives for keeping your methods a secret. $\endgroup$ – Engineer Toast May 8 '18 at 15:59
  • $\begingroup$ @EngineerToast: +1, that would have been my answer too. And teleportation > running quickly through MGM grand kitchen: news.com.au/world/… $\endgroup$ – Fillet May 9 '18 at 8:02

Generate Energy

Assuming your teleporters "break" the laws of physics and can teleport items to higher energy states for free

Money making
You could use your teleporters to move mass to a high point and let it fall, collecting the released potential energy. Think a hydroelectric dam, but you can use your teleporters to infinitely re-use the same water. Using the teleporters, you could indefinitely turn huge turbines, creating huge amounts of electricity much easier than your competitors.

You could operate under the guise of generating energy a large number of ways. The ones that come to mind to me as being the most concealed are geothermal and nuclear. You could generate your electricity in a remote location to avoid suspicion.

Lacking power...
Actually, considering the weight limitation of your teleporters, this probably wouldn't generate enough power. Quick calculations give only about a sustained rate of 27kW per teleporter of maximum output. Given about 3 dollars per kilowatt-day, that's a solid 81 dollars a day per teleporer. To use this method, the teleporter would probably have to be stronger. With the given specs, and 90% efficient turbines, you could get about $25,000 a year per teleporter.

The math I used :

$5 \text{kg} \times 160000 \text{m} \times 9.8\text {m/s}^2 \times 300\text{/day} \times\frac{1}{86400}\text {day/s} = \approx 27\text{kW}$

For clarity: $5\text{kg} \approx 10\text{lbs}, 160000 \text{m} \approx 100 \text{miles}$

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    $\begingroup$ My calculations suggest a much more meager energy of output of one tenth of your result, and I used only the teleporters' bodies as power (you get 70+ kg per charge rather than 0.5). Did I misinterpret the OP's formula and lose a factor of 100 in the process? In any case, I do recommend that you use the teleporters as fuel rather than some external mass. $\endgroup$ – John Dvorak May 4 '18 at 18:33
  • $\begingroup$ Just to note: one pound is 0.45 kilograms, not 4.5. $\endgroup$ – John Dvorak May 4 '18 at 18:35
  • $\begingroup$ I just used This base number is found by having each member teleport a 10lb box 100 miles repeatedly. The colony members' base teleports range between 100-300 teleports/day It seems OP was inconsistent, saying 10 lbs, 100 miles, 300 times a day, but then using the formula with w/1 instead of w/10 $\endgroup$ – kevin_ten11 May 4 '18 at 19:46
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    $\begingroup$ Teleport some deuterium into a container that's already full of deuterium... $\endgroup$ – StackOverthrow May 4 '18 at 21:23
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    $\begingroup$ @kevin_ten11: I put your math in the MathJax/LaTeX format. Hope this looks fine by you. It looks like a lot of \'s and $'s on the editing format but looks clear on the regular view. $\endgroup$ – FoxElemental May 9 '18 at 17:37

High-Value Secured Shipping

Get an initial investment to purchase a few armored cars; make sure the backs of the cars are windowless, and have Faraday cages as well to help thwart tracking. At various points across their "shipping area", buy plots of land in out-of-the-way places and build vaults that amount to bomb shelters; be sure to build Faraday cages into their construction to continue to thwart tracking devices. Post regular guards outside the vaults, but once the vaults are built, the door should be sealed from the inside (welded, and then ~1-2 feet of concrete poured behind it). Now you have secure storage facilities.

Adding in Ister's excellent suggestion, the cars would have a small "antechamber" with a normal guard -- just enough room for the guard to sit during the ride; beyond that would be a vault. You could also have bulletproof windows in this section, so the guard can be aware of the surroundings in the event of an attack.

As soon as the valuable goods are loaded into the vault and the vault doors are closed, a monk would teleport into the back, and back out to the nearest secure storage facility with the goods; optionally, a second monk would teleport in a dummy package. If the goods are particularly heavy and/or need to traverse exceptional distances, the monks can "bucket brigade" them from secure facility to secure facility (i.e. monk 1 teleports from armored car to facility 1, monk 2 at facility 1 takes it and teleports to facility 2, monk 3 at facility 2 teleports to facility 3, then monk 4 at facility 3 teleports onto the destination armored car.

Now the trick here is, the goods get stopped at the final secure facility for an appropriate amount of time, to simulate actual transit of a vehicle. Only when it's reasonable for a series of armored truck transfers to have made it to the destination city do you actually dispatch the delivery truck to the destination.

On the receiving end, the driver would be driving an utterly empty armored car. As the car pulls up to the destination, once the recipient has been sighted and ID confirmed, a signal is broadcast to the final monk, who teleports into the vault with the goods and back out, just before the vault is opened and the goods are tendered. The vault would be secured electronically, and once the monk is safely out, they'd transmit the unlock signal so the guard in the antechamber could open the vault (so it's not inadvertently opened before/while the monk is popping in and out).

With this method:

  1. Even if someone attempts to hijack the armored car as it leaves its origin point, since a monk has teleported out with the goods as soon as the car's doors are closed, the hijacker gets nothing because there's nothing in the car. Similarly, if they try to hijack the destination armored car, since the monk and goods aren't in it until the delivery point, they get nothing (in which case you advise the recipient of a delay due to an attack, but assure them that the goods are secure and will be en route shortly)
  2. If the shipper puts a tracker on the package, the tracker effectively blinks out of existence as it's loaded on the truck (shielding preventing it from transmitting anything) and since the secure facilities are shielded too, the tracker continues to fail. Once it's offloaded from the destination truck (basically as soon as the doors are opened) a tracker can communicate with the relevant satellites/cell towers/etc, but it looks like the package just "appeared" at its destination at the appropriate time.

Offer a 100% door-to-door guarantee, too: "From the moment our truck's doors are closed at the origin to the moment they are opened at the destination, if anything happens to your shipment we will reimburse you ten times the declared value of the shipment." This way if there happens to be an attack at the origin or destination, where the item is actually exposed, it's technically not covered under the guarantee. Beyond that, the shipment isn't anywhere accessible by even the most sophisticated of thieves or crime syndicates (assuming your monks don't get compromised of course) so no one will ever be able to cash in on this guarantee.

Extra layers of obfuscation and security

Have false "secure facilities", with warehouses/garages. Armored trucks go in, armored trucks come out. Anyone trying to follow the truck just sees it go in, then they don't know whether the package of interest has been transferred to another truck, or what's happened. To save money, these could actually be built on top of the actual secure facilities, with the (sealed) entrances contained within, as well as the appropriate ventilation systems to ensure fresh, safe air in the vault. This also allows you to post armed guards around the facility to protect the ventilation systems, while providing a ruse that the guards are just protecting your valuable shipments.

Keep dummy packages on the trucks. Put a duplicate label (from the actual deliverable) onto a dummy package, except with a small identifier that it's the dummy, and actually ship the dummy package via your armored car network. Won't would-be attackers be disappointed when they get a box of rocks! The duplicate labels can perhaps have a component printed in UV sensitive ink, so black lights in the trucks and secure facilities can help differentiate the actual packages and prevent mishaps where a dummy package ends up getting delivered instead of the real deal. Well, both labels would have a UV label, but you'd have a convention where maybe the dummy packages have a number printed in UV that ends in an odd digit, while the real packages have the same number but ending in an even digit.

Have a full armed security escort on the trucks and at the dummy facilities at all times; make it look like you're using this to protect the packages; plus, if someone does attack a truck (or facility) you can put up an honest show of defending it (even if you're not actually defending the secured goods). The security folks can be mundane people -- any private security firm or internal hires of "normal" people. They'll never be inside the backs of the trucks or the actual (or dummy) secured facilities, so they'll never see what's going on. In the unfortunate event of an attack, you're not risking the loss of a valuable monk (reducing the organization's teleport capabilities), but just the usual risks associated with armed/armored transport (you have insurance for your guards right?)

For maximum security, since ventilation is the only potential avenue of risk here, have massive pressurized air tanks buried adjacent to the vault (and sealed in concrete); if the air intake systems detect any contaminants (biological or chemical agents) they seal off the outside airflow and can keep a nominal supply of fresh air flowing into the vault for hours or even days via the tanks, and scrubbers can help recycle air within the vault (removing excess CO2) for even longer operational periods without outside air. Once the air is determined to be clean again, compressors can refill the storage tanks as needed. Periodically cycling air in the tanks is probably a good idea too, because stale air sucks :P

Cheers to Ister who suggested the inner vault and guard in the truck, to cover things up in the event of an attack (i.e. "we saw someone go in the back of the truck but now it's empty!" -- having a guard in there and not having the monk do the teleport until the vault is sealed avoids that).

  • $\begingroup$ UV-sensitive ink is weak, use encrypted RFID instead. $\endgroup$ – Alex R May 9 '18 at 18:06
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    $\begingroup$ I was going to suggest this particular solution. I did some rethinking though. It would be suspicious if a monk steps into the car and after a robbery attack he's no longer there. Yet we need to protect those monks as our most valuable assets. To increase security, have the truck compartment consisting of two parts, one (with normal window) for a guard to travel inside a sealed car (a "normal" person) and second, a so called car vault, where you actually put the shipment. The car vault should be large enough for a person. (continued in another comment) $\endgroup$ – Ister May 14 '18 at 8:45
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    $\begingroup$ (continuation - part 2) Now the client assisted by a guard steps into the car, puts the shipment into the vault of a car. The guard steps in, closes and seals the vault (from the outside of the vault but inside a car, it should be a seal/lock that can be opened only at the dummy secure vaults or in case of the final delivery van by the client at a specific location by using a provided code). Then client leaves the car and the guard closes the car doors and seals it from inside. This is the moment, when the liability starts. (continued in another comment) $\endgroup$ – Ister May 14 '18 at 8:47
  • $\begingroup$ (continuation - part 3) But between the time guard seals a vault and guard seals a car a monk teleports into the car vault, replaces the original package with a dummy one and teleports the real package out to the safe vault. A reverse procedure is done when reaching the destination. This way you have a full coverage and during whole liability period the package is actually safe at the secure vault. $\endgroup$ – Ister May 14 '18 at 8:48
  • $\begingroup$ @Ister brilliant addition to the procedure, thanks! $\endgroup$ – Doktor J May 14 '18 at 16:00

The biggest hindrance to the plan is their lack of knowledge about the world. If they couldn't handle a job interview, starting and running a business would be a real problem. They'd likely need to employ some form of intermediary.

I imagine it's not nearly as big a thing as they make it look in fiction, but imagine an Amish community wanting to start a major, I dunno, furniture making business. They can make the chairs and tables easy enough, but certain facets of the distribution and business arena are either out of their experience, or perhaps things they're not allowed to do. So they hire a middleman to handle the business end - pick up the merchandise, take the orders online, etc. As long as the person in question is ethical, and doesn't take advantage of the community, everybody makes money.

So the Porters make a deal with someone who serves as their intermediary. They need not know their secret, just that they use proprietary procedures that they will not share. Again, as long as the businessperson in question does not get inquisitive, or try to abuse the community, things could go well.

Taking that into account, many of the idea suggested here could work well. The important part is that front-facing person who serves as the spokesman.

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    $\begingroup$ I'm editing my question to clear up this misunderstanding, but they don't lack understanding of the world. They've been keeping tabs on things from afar and have a group (the elites of the colony) that go to libraries to browse the internet and bring back info, etc...the point of the interview was that a 6 figure salary is likely only attainable via white collar office job, which they don't have the qualifications for. TL;DR they know the world, they're just not highly educated enough to make 6 figures without their teleporation $\endgroup$ – scohe001 May 4 '18 at 16:07

The main issue is maintaining secrecy. Therefore, whatever they do, they need to acquire enough knowledge of the external world to safely pass routine communication and inspections in their chosen area.

The obvious job would be the courier service regarding which I only have a couple notes in addition or what others have written:

1) I disagree that they should go into bulk transportation - it would still probably pay more to deliver confidential documents or expensive items rather than go for bulk items.

2) Their main benefit is not speed because they can't deliver faster than it is physically possible using fastest normal means without endangering their secrecy. Their main selling point is security during transportation.

Apart from the courier service one of the more interesting things they could do would be precision teleportation, which doesn't care that much for distance, as much as for the ability to place the right thing inside another solid thing at the right place.

For example, think correct placement of remote explosives in mining operation, or similar. If they gain enough knowledge of geology and mining operations, they could literally save millions of dollars by teleporting stuff inside mountain without drilling hundreds of meters of rock.

For majority of operations though, they would have to educate themselves to a quite high level.


This may only work for a few of your people, but . . .

Have you considered a

Magic act?

Sometimes, the best secrets are hidden in plane sight. Create magic acts based upon people "appearing" to be teleporting. Other magicians will be amazed at your prowess with sleight of hand! You have video evidence that you were in New York seconds before appearing in Vegas! Then moments later you were in Hong Kong! Then the space station! Are you quadruplets?!? It's amazing!!!

If people catch on, you can even claim that you were raised by a cult living in the mountains where everyone can teleport. For good measure, your mountain village (possibly a fake, but resembling the real thing) with no roads leading in or out can be part of your act. You can even make it a high end tourist attraction if you gain enough of a following!

The proceeds may not be enough for your whole commune to live on, but it would probably be enough for a nice start.

Edit: Worth noting, teleporting doesn't just work on the huge "New York to Vegas" scale: it can also work on the "stage left to stage right" scale. Although I'm guessing that there'll be a popping sound any time someone teleports. We may need to figure out some way to play that into the act . . . add a puff of smoke or something.

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    $\begingroup$ I was surprised I had to scroll this low for the most obvious (at least for me) answer. $\endgroup$ – zovits May 9 '18 at 12:28
  • $\begingroup$ You could claim that this is a franchise (a bit like Blue Man Group, although in this case you probably do not want everybody to look the same), that would allow to run a few dozen shows simultaneously to make even more money. $\endgroup$ – Eike Pierstorff May 9 '18 at 16:02
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    $\begingroup$ @EikePierstorff I was thinking along those lines when I mentioned publicly announcing that you're a part of a mountain cult. The only question is whether you'll make more money by focusing on the uniqueness of your magic act and limiting tickets or by franchising it. Definitely worth some experimentation! $\endgroup$ – Drigan May 10 '18 at 15:02

Personal transportation

Look for jobs that require personal transportation.

For example, sales jobs often require personal meetings in multiple locations. Significant portions of their time is spent in travel from one place to another. But teleporters can skip most of the travel. They can therefore do more sales calls than people who have to do the travel themselves, but their pay rate will be based on a rate sufficient to support that travel.

They will have to do some work to avoid being caught out. They can purchase property near the locations and store cars there. So they only drive the first and last few miles rather than the whole distance. Get two or more jobs so that they won't seem to be nearly as advanced. They can interleave the jobs, doing sales calls for one while supposedly doing transport for another.

Eventually they make enough capital to buy their own business and can then take less care. Only they know how many sales calls they are actually doing.

They also don't need to carry anything with them. They can leave the stuff they need at the remote locations. That includes a car, briefcase, etc. Ship the actual product normally.

Bicycle delivery

It might be difficult to get the capital for buying extra locations with the sales job. So start with something smaller. Get jobs making deliveries on bicycles. Turn into empty alleys (or go to your apartment) and teleport closer. Don't hurry too much, so they don't get caught. But a teleporter can take all the far deliveries and do a better job.

They can be even less careful once there are funds enough to buy their own business. They can even mix teleporters with regular personnel so that people just assume that they see all the people moving. Arrange things so that the teleport deliveries are in a separate room so that they can just pop in and out.

Bicycle delivery doesn't pay much, but it would pay more if people could skip the intermediate part. And it can help ramp things up if initial funds are limited.


One of the advantages of transportation jobs is that they are mostly unskilled. There is a little bit of training but mostly the job is to move between places. It won't pay much, but by skipping the time involved, it can pay more.

The sales job is similar. Sales is harder, but it still is not rocket science (unless of course you are selling rocket parts). Send out regular sales people to make the initial contact and use the teleporters to maintain things. They can just give the standard sales spiel and mark down what needs to be delivered.


One teleportation in and out of Ft Knox, and you're set for life.

Oh, you said ethically responsible... and only people...

They could teleport nasty dictators or terrorists into jail before they start killing people. A lot cheaper than having to take military action against them, and you'd be saving lives by stopping the hostile action before it started.

Needless to say, the major governments would want to keep this capability secret, so no problem with remaining under the radar.

InstantJustice.com... for one billion dollars, we'll teleport that dictator into the holding cell of your choice. You'll spend ten billion if you have to send the military in, and with our service, there will be no casualties or destruction.

Oh, and if you don't pay your bill, you'll be teleported into a holding cell of our choice.

  • $\begingroup$ and not people $\endgroup$ – Baldrickk May 8 '18 at 15:06
  • $\begingroup$ How do you maintain the secrecy here?? $\endgroup$ – Loren Pechtel May 14 '18 at 4:43

I'm afraid that you can't.

What's the very first thing you have to do to avoid scams and frauds (in the internet or in real life)? Look for a well-known, reputable business. Every legal enterprise you want to start up would need beforehand a registered headquarters, with a proper fiscal identification, owners and the like. If yours it's a secret organization, no one is going to trust you for any kind of legal activity - which left you with illegal ones.

Now, finding illegal but ethical activities depends totally on what you think is ethical. If you are in favor of legalization of drugs, drug trafficking may be the best solution. Some members of your organization can go to a drug cartel and make an offer for a secure, untraceable freight delivery service. I'm sorry, but it must be done with a cartel. If you want to bypass the cartel and deal directly with the poor coca or poppy farmers in Colombia or Afghanistan you'd have to talk to too many people, forsaking any secrecy, and then you'd be responsible for their unavoidable deaths at the hands of the furious cartel's hitmen - if you managed to convince them to work for you at all to start with.

  • 1
    $\begingroup$ My very first thought was "ethical is fuzzy." The path forward is illegal, because of due dilligence, it is the easiest and safest, ironically. The trick is simply convincing the leader that teleport opium across borders is somehow ethical. $\endgroup$ – OhkaBaka May 4 '18 at 17:29
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    $\begingroup$ The trick would be to start off as an ethically fuzzy organization and be reliable over time. This builds reputation: you can get HQ/owners/etc easy. Have you looked at how companies you work with every day are structured? It is insane. $\endgroup$ – Yakk May 4 '18 at 17:39

Secret agents.

The protagonist in Jumper has teleporting abilities. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Jumper_(novel) He catches a terrorist and ultimately turns him in after much pathos and bathos.

Your folks could cut to the chase. Catch the wanted and turn them in for the reward. They could be bounty hunters. https://rewardsforjustice.net/english/most-wanted/all-regions.html

The CIA would get curious how this was being done and would take measures to find out, so there would need to be a middleman who could not rat them out when he got waterboarded.

But maybe the teleporters can do better by working with the CIA. Once the CIA handlers knew about the teleporting powers of these folks they could put them to good use by giving coordinates, targets, materials and so on. The teleporters could whisk away persons of interest, rescue hostages, plant evidence in the apartments of people, retrieve intelligence from secure areas and so on. They could even be saboteurs - for example dropping off explosives in uranium enrichment facilities. Their secret would be safe - the CIA is good at keeping secrets and would be strongly motivated to do so - once other states and persons of interest learn what is possible they will take protective measures.

  • $\begingroup$ Even from the first book it should be obvious that this doesn't maintain the secrecy requirement. It's an even bigger issue in the two followup books. (Note: Skip the novelization of the movie!) $\endgroup$ – Loren Pechtel May 14 '18 at 4:45
  • $\begingroup$ You also missed the "ethically" part ;) $\endgroup$ – ypercubeᵀᴹ Jun 1 '18 at 20:39


I would create a rescue company. Advertise worldwide that you can rescue anyone, or anything, from anywhere. A few example:

  • My big oil tanker is sinking: take all the teleporters together, bring it close to the shore quickly.
  • My friend got kidnapped by some crazy fanatics in hostile country: a teleporter will go to his cell, blindfold him, and jump again to the next embassy.
  • Someone is stuck in the mountain before a storm: saved by a teleporter
  • My son got wrongly convicted of drug trafficking somewhere in Asia: go to the jail, escape with him.

Of course, you need to make sure of a few things:

  • The people rescued are always blindfolded before the teleportation occurs, so they don’t understand how it happened.
  • The price is very high for rescues, so you make a few big ones rather than many little ones: less chances of being caught.

Edit to clarify how rescued people are kept ignorant about teleporters

A lot of comments focused about this, however, I believe there is a lot of ways to make sure they never understand how they were rescued:

  • As suggested by Llewellyn, an untrained person will pass out when teleported
  • Or teleport is completely feelingless. So they blindfold the person, they teleport him to a kind of movie studio of they own, and simulate for him (still blindfolded) an escape by helicopter, with all the sound and movement they wish.
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    $\begingroup$ Yeah, sure... getting blindfolded just before you get whisked away from a dangerous situation isn't going to raise a single eyebrow... though, I suppose as a rescuee I'd be more than willing to turn a blind eye to your secret. I don't think you'd be able to keep me in the dark for too long. $\endgroup$ – John Dvorak May 4 '18 at 16:22
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    $\begingroup$ @JohnDvorak Actually, keeping the person in the dark for the right length of time is key. The teleporters need to leave the person blindfolded (and with their hearing blocked) for a reasonable period of time, long enough to create the plausibility of a more conventional rescue. $\endgroup$ – T.J.L. May 4 '18 at 17:00
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    $\begingroup$ @JohnDvorak You don't explain it. You just make it a condition of their escape. "Listen, I can get you out of here safely, but you need to put on this blindfold and this headset. I'll take them off when you're safe." $\endgroup$ – T.J.L. May 4 '18 at 17:09
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    $\begingroup$ Maybe you only rescue inanimate objects. $\endgroup$ – DJClayworth May 4 '18 at 18:17
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    $\begingroup$ @JohnDvorak It's a precaution because the captive mustn't be able to identify their rescuer for fear of jeopardising the rescuer's identity. $\endgroup$ – Pharap May 6 '18 at 0:13

Steal drugs (life saving ones) and sell them at a fraction of the normal price in poor countries. They are relatively lightweight and you only need teleportation for stealing them, not for the whole transport.

The general idea is to find some crime you are ok with. That's much easier than legal ventures.

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    $\begingroup$ How is this possibly ethical? Or even sustainable? $\endgroup$ – dwizum May 4 '18 at 19:53
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    $\begingroup$ Theft isn't ethical, no matter how much you try to frame it as a Robin Hood story. $\endgroup$ – Pharap May 6 '18 at 0:07
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    $\begingroup$ Do you expect the pharma companies to just absorb the billions in losses once your model takes off? Or raise the prices, making the problem you're trying to solve even worse? Or maybe they'll all go under, and now NO ONE has meds. As someone who's worked in healthcare finance, let me tell you - it gets really annoying when people try to distill medical expenses to this level of simplicity, especially when it's being done in the name of justifying (illegal and unethical) theft. $\endgroup$ – dwizum May 7 '18 at 12:39
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    $\begingroup$ Plus - the point of all this was to make money for the teleporters, so beyond the ethical problem of theft, you're proposing to SELL the drugs to the needy people who (apparently?) couldn't get them otherwise. You're clearly not doing this for altruistic reasons if you're trying to make a profit! As much as you may want to justify crime in the name of "saving a life" your ethics argument loses all hope when you throw in the fact that you're trying to personally profit in the meantime. $\endgroup$ – dwizum May 7 '18 at 12:41
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    $\begingroup$ I can't help you being bored, but I'm not sure this is out of place, since I'm pointing out a reason why your answer doesn't meet the question's qualifications. If you don't agree, that's fine. I'm not here to get into a chest-thumping contest about which one of us is more well-read on moral systems. $\endgroup$ – dwizum May 8 '18 at 12:46

I'm not sure what the name is for this kind of business, but once it has built an initial reputation, it would be able to charge a fortune, and no questions asked (or none that cannot routinely be answered/deflected).

There is a kind of business which some heavy duty security companies run (think Kroll, or other security-for-hire which work on a project or retainer basis). So you have a tanker, freight ship or aircraft that's hijacked, or you suspect industrial espionage or stealing of your intellectual property.

The company can claim to be using arcane knowledge, skills and disciplines passed down for generations. They can teleport into any vessel or aircraft, or into any competitor's offices and security zones - the only requirement in the OP is ethics, which comes down to accepting some contracts and declining others.

Since the business is in security and investigation, its operational arm would not be expected to explain how it achieves its results.


Worlds Most Secure Bank

Getting the start up funds might be hard, but all vault or safety deposit box access could be handled behind closed doors. Since the vault would only need small air vents and not a person sized entrance way, it would be perfectly secure from outsiders. The actual teleportation distance would be only a matter of feet and most loads would be light so the amount of stress on the teleporters would be small. Any GPS device hidden inside a safety deposit box would be moving a distance that, with the interference from the vault, could be seen as margin of error. Your only concern for discovery is someone breaking into the place and not finding any door, which would not be entirely conclusive. Actual employee requirement would be small and profits could be huge. This option could leave the monks with nice benefits like vacation days, regular working hours, and no need to be on call.

  • $\begingroup$ "Your only concern for discovery is someone breaking into the place and not finding any door" Why is there no door? $\endgroup$ – NPSF3000 May 7 '18 at 3:27
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    $\begingroup$ A bank run by teleporters would need no door for the vault since it would be much more secure to simply teleport in and out. If someone was to break in and be unable to find a vault door they might have some questions but nothing conclusive. $\endgroup$ – XRF May 7 '18 at 5:31
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    $\begingroup$ So, the only thing making your vault secure is a lack of a door... but that's the one thing you can never show anyone. How do you intend to prove that your vault is secure to get clients? Especially as it'll have no insurance or accreditation from any third party... $\endgroup$ – NPSF3000 May 7 '18 at 11:36
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    $\begingroup$ That would have worked well 100 years ago. Today banks mostly guard numbers, not gold - and you can "teleport" those over the internet. $\endgroup$ – Daniel May 8 '18 at 8:59
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    $\begingroup$ You are talking about deposit-boxes so more a secure storage than a bank ... the problem is, people will want to "visit" those boxes, so you´d need a dummy room where you teleport in the requested boxes just-in-time. Complicated system for something that is not causing too much trouble outside of Hollywood nowadays. Don´t know the economics, but that could work. $\endgroup$ – Daniel May 8 '18 at 13:37

Liposuction! Set yourself up as alternative health practitioners and give people 'ancient monk massages' which the hype says will enable them to sweat their fat away. In reality you are teleporting the fat into a bucket next door. The pummelling of the massage will cover the pain of the fat being ripped out of their body. Given what people will pay for dieting and health fads which don't actually work, you'll be raking it in if yours does. You can also sell them prayer wheels or rosary beads or whatever religious paraphenalia your monks use at the same time (at hugely marked up prices).

Of course, you'll have to set up somewhere where what they are doing isn't seen as a medical thing, so that you won't have to be inspected or have medical researchers wanting to test your methods.


Absolutely, positively overnight

You run an express delivery service in a way entirely achievable with normal means, but hard to do perfectly. You do it perfectly. Because when something goes awry, you use your teleport gang to fix it.

Take McMaster-Carr. They have warehouses strategically placed so they can reach most Americans overnight with cheap UPS ground service. Warehouses carry most things BLIP! all things.

A TelEx cargo Airbus 340 climbs out of Heathrow when BLAM! A wayward drone is ingested by the #3 engine, throwing shrapnel into #4 . With all the thrust on the left side, the heavily laden craft's rudder can't BLIP! empty craft's rudder can easily turn the plane back to an uneventful landing.

Your company just doesn't have the kind of misfortune everyone else in the business does.


Ethically responsible defined as "no stealing" and "no killing" for money leaves a lot of leeway.

For purposes of this answer, I am defining a few additional variables. Please correct me if I am wrong.

  • teleportation can be accomplished in any valid combination of mass, distance, and energy required.
  • the person must accompany the object being teleported and cannot tele-send or tele-receive to or from a target or person.
  • no additional abilities (such as clairvoyance, telepathy, telekinesis, astral projection, or psychometry) are involved or can be used.
  • physical touch and/or possession are both valid in order to teleport an object.
  • teleportation is a perfect exchange of mass at both destination and departure points, and must be a gaseous substance at the far end. (ie: the target area is perfectly swapped with the initially affected area, and they can't teleport into something solid or liquid. Plus, no thunderclap or other sound effects as a result of the teleport.)
  • the destination must be known ahead of time in some fashion.
  • velocity and vector cannot be changed via teleport.
  • cannot fine-tune discriminate the teleport to separate mingled or composite objects, or join disparate objects.


Startup is the largest hurdle to accomplish. A poor reclusive village of monks such as you described does not have a lot of resources available with which to build up financial backing and reputation, two critical aspects needed in order to conduct business.

They have two things going for them: One, a basic first world type education. They obviously know how to read at least one modern language, and they know how to use computers, the internet, and so forth. Two, they also have a solid third world education - the ability to obtain at least a sustenance-level living in a resource poor region and still survive and reproduce. Monks or not, they have to reproduce more children with their teleportation ability, or they will all die out within a few years, unless you are proposing an unusually long lifespan, or the ability to teach this trick to anyone.

As a group of monks, they might know a combat system, many reclusive monks do. This offers the first possibility for employment.

First Jobs

The initial goals are to build up resources and to build up reputation. As such a few possible jobs would logically be possible for them:

  • Shaolin, Ninjutsu, and other famed martial arts: Even in the modern world, Shaolin monks and ninjas have a mystique about them, a reputation which affects how everyone perceives them. If the monks have a combat system, they could build reputation in this fashion and possibly money via contests and public exhibitions, possibly also high end training for mercenary groups, bodyguards, and other protection specialists.

How do they use their power? As a martial artist, a teleportation power could be used in microshifts, resulting in the legendary afterimage effect as they dodge. If it is done swiftly enough, or for short enough distance, it might even pass observation by a high-speed camera, especially if the microshifts were only an inch or so. Make dodging bullets a real thing. Or super-jumping. This would also enable them to escape or avoid trips, holds, and locks in really bizarre ways in a pinch. Give a song and dance about cultivating 'chi' as an excuse why others can't pull off the same tricks.

  • Search and Rescue: This would have possibly legal complications, depending on the country they reside in as they would have to basically barge into the profession by actually just doing it, and worry about certifications, licenses and equipment later. They might need to save someone rich and or famous in order to smooth over the minor legal technicalities.

How do they use their power? Knock everyone out and then save them from whatever natural or man-made disaster they are targeting. Maybe use some herbal amnesia concoction as part of their treatment of the rescued at first.

  • Bounty hunting or mercenary work: This option is very high stakes, dangerous, and would swiftly turn into a situation where it could be tough to avoid a kill-or-be-killed situation. Depending on the target and how the laws work in a given country, even if you don't kill your target, turning the targets over to the ones who posted the bounty is the same as killing them.

How do they use their power? Catching up to marks, or extracting them from their safehouses, or possibly used to simply avoid guards, traps, and bullets.

Second Steps

After an initial base of funds and/or reputation has been built up, then they will be positioned to take the next step.

They are going to need to legitimize. As mentioned, they don't interview well, nor do they have any skills that stand out outside of their presumed basic education. Once they have funds, and have chosen a profession that they believe they can compete and prosper in, they will need to get educated, licensed, and certified for that work.

Assuming that they have finally built up enough resources in order to expand their operations, a few professions stand out:

  • No-questions-asked, high stakes, high speed, and/or diplomatic courier: This sort of courier service tends towards the, ah, "extra legal". They serve as secret channels used by governments, companies, and other (criminal) organizations for when a transaction or transport simply can't show up on the books, or be seen crossing borders. If their ethical definition is simply "we won't kill or steal", then they don't care what their clients are involved with or what their packages may contain. However, they might have to be prepared to deal with being tested with excessive force to see if they have the 'chops' needed to play with the 'big boys'. Simply dress your couriers in a full body suit of some kind to turn them into faceless legions of speed, and be prepared with lots of backup plans. The look-alike effect could also be used to advantage when faking speed via teleporting. This is possibly the most lucrative.

  • Import/Export/Shipping: This is tougher than it sounds due to auditing requirements (inspections, weigh stations, checkpoints, declarations, etc..) by most countries and organizations. Also, there are a lot of startup costs which would have to be made in order to look the same as any other company.

  • Waste Disposal: If they know of a good dead zone, they could completely dispose of things. After all, they could drop things into the planetary mantle if they could find an active volcanic shaft with a ledge that a human could survive a few seconds on. Or dump it into space when wearing a spacesuit. Either way, it's only a few miles distance one way or the other.

  • Blackmail and/or spying: Find the secrets without stealing or killing, then use it against those who have dirty secrets. While it may be viable as an income source depending on the nature of the various world societies, it could also be used as a startup method and/or 'clearing roadblocks' method. They could get into and out of places faster than anybody, bug rooms which have just been swept (if their timing is good), suddenly show up in order to listen in, bypass guards and other security, and so forth. This is also potentially very lucrative.

If any of the qualities I mentioned at the beginning are incorrect, then other possibilities become available.


While it may take the deft maneuvering only a seasoned monk could handle, one thing I haven't seen mentioned is Latency Arbitrage:


Do some small tasks to get a few monks, dressed and looking the same on a trading room floor of a large exchange. These monks are able to see the big moves of large institutions on the floor, they then teleport to their home office to make a penny or two on the dollar per trade. A couple monks doing this could start to produce the required income in a pretty short amount of time. Stayin undetected would be hard but not impossible, given the chaotic nature of the place. No one gets hurt, and MUCH more many flows through places like that in a given day, let alone a year.


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