Gemini

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“There are only two possibilities: Yes or No.”

Gil Chesterton snorts amiably into the microphone on his communications console. “Yes and No are the actual possibilities, Mission Commander. That is, while I may only choose one course of events, action or non-action, the set of possibilities has two members: Yes and No. Right?”

“Captain, I prefer you more when you act the dashing space rake, rather than a philosophizing noodge.”

“Roger that.”

Gil sighs and snaps off the comlink. He taps his fingers thoughtfully on the dash of the shuttle—a smaller, sleeker one than his usual tug—not that it mattered much out here. Commander Healy is right, of course. Leave the detail work to his wonks back on the ground in Alabama. He is on this mission mainly because—what is the cliché?—because no one else was brave or perhaps stupid enough to do it. He hadn’t made his bones as a pilot playing it safe, after all. Sliding along the edge of space-time packed to the brim with a variety of scanners and probes these past weeks, however, had required him to be more of the focused, exacting sort he’d hated since college. There was little wiggle room for his usual operatics on this assignment. Until now. He clicks the mic on again.

“Yes.”

“Yes?”

“Yes, Commander, I’m going in.” And with that, he kicks the thrusters up on the shuttle and brings it about.

Within a few seconds his nose cone topples over the event horizon, followed by the cockpit, but at some millennia later.

The door slides shut behind Gilbert with a bang. He finds himself face-to-face with the Campus Deputy Title IX Coordinator, a piggy man with a salesman’s face. Gilbert feels queasy.

“Let’s make this simple. Did you do it?”

“Do what, Deputy Coordinator?”

“Listen, there are only two possibilities: Yes or No. So, let me ask again: Did you assault that girl?”

“God no. What girl?”

“This one.” He waves a typed statement. The paper makes it seem more official albeit old-fashioned. “She said you assaulted her at a party in the astrophysics lab on the evening of May 23rd?”

“I was at that party, sure. Talked to one girl I knew. My lab partner from my quantum physics seminar. She said she had been accepted to a summer internship at Redstone. I said, ‘Congrats. Lemme take you to diner sometime to celebrate.’ She said ‘No. I’m busy. I said, ‘Okay. Another time, then.’ Hugged her. Left.”

“Sounds like you’re confessing to unwanted sexual assault following her rejection of your advances.”

“What? No!” Gilbert stares at the lug standing before him and wonders where he went wrong.

“She says you’re the dangerous sort.”

“Me? Dangerous?” Up to this revelation, an argument had been building in Gilbert’s throat. Now he knows it’s futile.

“Yes or no.” the Deputy Coordinator taps a pen on the affidavit, where two empty checkboxes loom, “Did you assault her?”

Gilbert considers pleading guilty, and hoping for leniency and discretion—he doesn’t think he can bear to be kicked out of the astrophysics department. Or he can refuse, and face a messy hearing. And maybe prevail. But likely not. Fighting likely meant being ostracized out of the program, even if not found guilty and kicked out.

Gilbert blinks. The Deputy Coordinator plops behind his desk to await Gilbert’s decision. A slight breeze hits Gilbert from a previously unnoticed window panel.

“No” strikes Gilbert’s heart best. To defend his honor, even in vain. But say “Yes,” and maybe they let you stay. He wants to be a scientist. Dammit. He breathes heavily. The panel, slightly ajar, offers little air.

Seeing this, the Deputy Coordinator smiles and rises, asking if a decision had been reached. Gilbert nods, crosses the tiny room in two strides, and throws the sash open wide.

Technician Chesterton leaps up from his console, and jabs a finger at his computer screen where he has been monitoring an Einstein-Rosen bridge forming in the space once occupied by Beta Geminorum. He’s been staring at it since 2073. Finally something is happening.

“Commander! Look! A ship!” Gilbert transfers his feed to the giant monitor looming over Mission Control. Sure enough, somewhere a long way from Huntsville, Alabama, a shuttle was exiting the wormhole.

“Is that one of ours?”

“Looks like it.”

“Chesterton, hail that ship.”

“Me sir?” he asks but quickly patches the comlink without waiting for an answer. He’s happy for the change in pace.

“Unidentified vessel exiting the Pollux Nebula, this is Commander Biff Healy, NASA Mission Headquarters-Redstone. Identify yourself.”

“Captain Gil Chesterton. NASA Freight Division-Enceladus. On loan to Mission HQ-Redstone.”

“On loan to us?”

“Sort of. I was delivering solar panels to the colony in Propus C. Had an opportunity. Someone had to take a peek at this new wormhole for y’all.”

“Us? We don’t have a colony in that system.”

“Y’all do on the flipside. My end of the Rosen bridge, that is. My Commander Healy.”

“Your Commander Healy?”

“Yea, we had one of you on the other side. Healy-Alpha, let’s say for confusion.”

“And you’re Chesterton?”

“Yea, Captain Gil Chesterton.”

“We’ve got one of you here, too, Captain. A technician.”

“Really? Lemme see Chesterton-Beta.”

Gilbert’s heart drops into his shoe. He stands, addressing the screen. “Hi, Gilbert.” He stammers across the divide, “It’s Gilbert.”

“It’s just Gil in my dimension, Beta.” Gil looks him over with a grin. “Chrissakes, what happened? Technician? Hawaiian shirt?”

“That’s what I —we—wanted. Didn’t you take astrophysics at Georgia Tech?”

“For a bit. Ages ago. Got thrown out. Went to flight school.”

“What happened?”

“Whaddaya mean?” Captain Chesterton snaps off the comlink, considering the implications of his nebbish counterpart. At length he snorts and flips the mic back on. “Okay, I get it. Can’t you guess what happened, Gilly-boy? I won. Sort of.”

Chesterton-Beta looks down at his shoes and nods; he’d made a bad choice long-ago.

“I get it, Captain. You’re the me who told them ‘No.’”

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