The Gatekeeper lie

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“It’s not every day that we get celebrities here,” the detective said, squinting and tapping his pad on the table. “You are the Jahid Souza, right? The Atlas’ pilot.”

Jahid nodded, half-annoyed, half-impressed. He wanted to leave, but hardly anyone remembered he was a crewmember on the first ship to jump to another star system. Well, it had been twenty-five years since then.

“What do you know,” the detective said, smiling. “Now,” he added, picking up his pad and tapping the screen, “can you tell me why you were harassing Cecilia Torres?”

“I wasn’t harassing her, I was talking to her. She’s my wife.”

“Mm… Not according to her. She said she had never seen you before last night, when you came to her home claiming to be her husband of many years.”

“It’s my home as well.”

“Earth’s civil records back her version.”

Your records.”

“Err… Yes, Mister Souza. Since Miss Torres has never traveled offworld, I saw no reason to search the colonies’ databases. Are you saying you married her in a long-distance ceremony?”

“I didn’t mean that,” Jahid said and dropped his head on the table. How could he explain, if he himself didn’t quite believe it?

“What did you mean, Mister Souza?”

Jahid raised his head and looked at the detective. “Ok, I’m going to tell you what I think happened, but I can’t really tell you why it did so. It just did.”

“Go on.”

“I met Ceci – that’s Cecilia – twenty years ago. It was random. I was on shore leave and decided to hit the beach. A kid laughed and I turned my head to look at her. And there, just walking past the girl, was Cecilia. I can’t quite explain what I felt, but… Six months later, we were married.”

“Again: Miss Torres denies this. And no records.”

“I know, I’m getting there,” Jahid said and looked around the featureless interrogation room. “You’ve heard of the Gatekeepers, right?”

“Of course. The entities behind star travel, that you and your crewmates first met on that famous trip on… October, 2123?”

Jahid nodded and gave a weak smile as the memories rushed back. The Atlas had suffered a massive system failure. They were adrift between Mars and Jupiter. Adrift and desperate. They wanted to get out of there. And then the being appeared, attracted by their desperation. An energy consciousness that touched their minds. It enveloped the ship with a blinding white light, and, for the briefest of moments, they felt like the universe had dissolved. They blinked and were back in space. A different space.

“It must have been quite a shock to find out you were in Alpha Centauri.”

“Something like that… You know the rest. We contacted the Gatekeeper again, came back, became famous for a while, and revolutionized space travel – now humanity had a way to spread to the stars.”

The detective nodded.

“After my fifteen nanoseconds of fame, I became the first pilot on the Gatekeeper route. I’m the person who has jumped the most in these past twenty-five years.”

“Mister Souza, I appreciate the retrospective, but I fail to see how that has anything to do with you showing up at Miss Torres’ home and berating her.”

“I’ve told you already. I arrived from my last trip and went home. To my wife.”

“Mister Souza, please…”

“I know. Cecilia and the records. This Earth’s Cecilia and records.”

The detective sighed. “What…?”

“We think the Gatekeepers connect one point in space to another through tunneling. But… That’s not what’s happening. They don’t just move us from one place to another, they transport us from one universe to another.”

“I don’t think I follow, Mister Souza.”

“You know how quantum mechanics says there might be an infinite number of universes that branch off from decision points?”

“Yes, I did graduate high school.”

“That’s what I’m saying – the Gatekeepers are moving us between them.”

“But wouldn’t we have noticed something as massive as that?”

“I guess a lot of these realities only differ in minor ways, little changes that get diluted in the grand scheme of things. Unless you jumped so much, you eventually found a universe in which that tiny change rippled out, became something major... Like with me and Ceci.”

“So you’re saying…”

“That, in this universe, I – I mean, my counterpart here – never met Ceci. She, I mean, this Cecilia told me so last night. Maybe that kid never laughed, I don’t know.”

The detective tapped his pad against the table again, but this time he was frowning.

“So there are two of you in this universe, is that it?”

“No… I don’t know. Maybe the Gatekeepers move us to universes from which our others have also jumped. Conservation of energy or something like that,” Jahid said and shrugged.

“This is… It’s a lot to think about, Mister Souza.”

“I know. Just let me go. I will be out of your hair and I promise I’ll leave Ceci alone. I just want to jump again.”

“I’ll have to talk to my boss,” the detective said, standing up. “Wait here, please. I’ll have someone bring you a coffee.”

The detective left the room and went to the captain’s office, who looked up from her work. “So?”

The detective gazed for a moment at the screen showing Jahid alone in the featureless interrogation room. He sighed.

“I think we need the psych department.”

About the Author: 
Fred Furtado is a biologist, journalist and science communicator in Rio de Janeiro. He writes speculative fiction, with a particular fascination for stories featuring superbeings/superpowers. Fred’s credits include short stories, roleplaying games, and the Superseeds column at RPG.net. Find out more at http://patchlord.com and on Twitter and Instagram at @patchlord.
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