“How can you know where we are?” I asked, mostly out of protest against Captain’s grating confidence. I knew already that I wasn’t going to get a straight answer. However... I had just fallen through a floating portal into some kind of run-down teleportation nexus. Would I even know what a straight answer looked like anymore?
“I’VE BEEN HERE BEFORE,” Captain replied with casual conviction, and started walking again. I rubbed my temples as I followed. What had I been expecting? Captain always had an answer, however absurd it might seem. “I’VE BEEN EVERYWHERE, MISTER SNIPPY. EVERYWHERE AND NOWHERE... AT THE SAME TIME.”
“Really. How’s that work?”
“IT IS QUITE SIMPLE. WHEN A GATE ASKS YOU FOR YOUR DESTINATION, YOU HOLD DOWN SHIFT, PRESS CONTROL-A AND RIGHT CLICK.” Captain said, nodding authoritatively as if that explained everything.
“So, which gate did we just come from?” I asked to try and get my bearings, so much as that was possible in this situation.
“I TIED A RIBBON TO IT!” Sure enough, as we approached the nearest gate, I saw a fluttering ribbon. I was surprised by Captain’s pragmatism, until I looked more closely at the other gates. Bits of colorful cloth hung from each.
“What color was the ribbon?” I ventured, doubting the answer would be useful.
“DOES IT REALLY MATTER?” zee asked philosophically.
“I can see, just standing here, at least twelve gates with ribbons tied to them!”
“WELL, GREAT MINDS THINK ALIKE!”
“Whatever. Could I also go anywhere using one of these… gates?” I briefly tried to imagine what it would be like to see the myriad cool places in the universe, possibly by using Captain’s “select all the destinations” technique.
“I WOULDN'T RECOMMEND IT! YOU MAY END UP IN A BILL GATES, WITH MORE UNWANTED UPDATES THAN YOUR BRAIN CAN HANDLE!
ALSO, AN INDECISIVE DOOR CAN TAKE YOU TO AN ODD PLACE WHERE ALL SOLIDS ARE LIQUIDS AND ALL LIQUIDS ARE SOLIDS. HOW WOULD YOU EAT YOUR SOUPS THEN?
PLUS… ONE MUST BE EVER-VIGILANT AGAINST THE DANGERS OF DUPLICATION! DR. GROMOV WOULD KNOW ALL ABOUT THAT, THE POOR CHAP. ONE SHOULD ALWAYS LOVE THEMSELVES BEFORE SPLITTING IN TWAIN.”
I stared at the passing clouds, contemplating how the sky might look in an inverted world.
“NO, I ESPECIALLY WOULDN'T ADVISE IT TO YOU RIGHT NOW… UNLESS YOU WANT TO DIE HORRIBLY AN INFINITE AMOUNT OF TIMES. THE SYSTEM ALREADY SEES YOU AS A VAGABOND, AN UNFRIENDLY BOOB OF QUESTIONABLE STATUS, A CLUSTER OF VIRUSES TIGHTLY PACKED INTO A QUIVERING FLESHY…”
Captain went on enthusiastically. It didn’t bother me much. It was one thing zee was sort of right about. I was, after all, a copy of myself, wearing unlicensed copies of my clothes. It was exactly the kind of violation the G-Directorate had always hated.