Carelle stared at her own reflection and sighed. There were three things she hated about gates: the nausea, the time displacement, and the need to stare at your own reflection in the mirror.
"We could take a freighter?” Jans said.
“We need to get there quickly. We should have been there yesterday.”
“I know,” Jans sighed, “it’s just… your knuckles are turning white.”
Carelle unclenched her fists and flexed her fingers, working out the stiffness. She looked back up at the mirror where her sullen face glared back at her.
The room chimed.
“Let’s get this over with,” Carelle said, turning away from the mirror.
The gate was, to Carelle’s mind, an obscenely mundane-looking piece of technology. Little more than an eight-foot cube of metal framework bristling with sensors, it looked more like a prototype than the finished package.
The premise was simple enough — though Carelle had absolutely no idea how the damn thing worked. The gate took an instantaneous snapshot of you, right down to the quantum wave functions, and stored it as data. And as soon as that data was verified, it vaporized you.
Of course, there was still plenty of time for something to go wrong as all your data raced through space at the speed of light, but duplicates were strictly forbidden, and when your destination is eight light-years away, your former self can’t sit around waiting for confirmation that you’ve arrived in one piece.
“Step into the gate, madam,” said the operator without looking up.
Carelle stepped into the cube and tried to ignore the hum as the machine warmed up. The sensors around the frame began to glow an electric blue, the brightness increasing as the hum built to a crescendo.
Her stomach lurched. The gravity in Sirius Station was a homely 0.9 gees — close enough to Earth for comfort, but different enough to bring on a bout of nausea coming through the gates.
Carelle took a moment to steady herself and then walked over to the mirror and stared at her own reflection. She’d undergo a thorough examination later, but the mirror was a surprisingly effective indicator of any neurological problems. Stare into your own soul, she thought, and see what they broke.
A harsh tone caught her attention as the operator started frantically jabbing at his screen. Bad sign. Carelle had traveled here at the speed of light, so news of any problems at the other end would arrive just after her, even though they happened eight years ago.
The operator looked up, wide-eyed.
“What?” Carelle croaked.
The operator tried to swallow. “You… you didn’t complete.”
“What? Of course, I completed. I’m here.”
“No,” the operator said, slowly reaching for the gun at his waist, “at the other end. You… escaped.”
Carelle’s eyes drifted down to the operator’s hand. All she could think to say was, “Wait!”
“Duplicates are forbidden,” he said, shakily raising the gun.
Oh, Carelle, she thought. What did you do?
No one can betray you like yourself