11:22:00 AM

It was a day decorated by the gods themselves. The sun sported a deep red blush. The sky dazzled around it in an impeccable gradient, with strokes of cirrus painted on. The wind, applauded by the rustling leaves, whistled the finest tunes and the petrichor from the previous night still pervaded the air. A poet and their pen would have relished the impression. Sadly, Shay was neither. Her eyes did wander to the heavens every once in a while, but the object of the glances was hardly a piece of natural art: Amid the picturesque background floated, as if by magic, the Cube.

“Ahem...”, coughed one of the nameless faces surrounding her for the third time, trying its best (and failing rather miserably) to keep her attention. Once again Shay was jolted out of her trance, and once again her attention refocused onto her interviewer. Shay wasn't particularly fond of daydreaming. In fact, she was rather averse to it. She considered herself to be a woman of action, and she was hardly alone with this impression. And yet, the almost motherly pride that every glance of the Cube brought to her was too tempting, even for her. Of course, the fact that she had little respect for interviews such as these didn't help either. Her eyes lazily shifted back to the scrawny, uninteresting figure in front of her and the unmistakable air of corporate pompousness that the sight carried with it made her cringe. Her gaze finally settled upon the bionic arm holding the expecting microphone, it being perhaps the only thing in this whole affair that piqued her interest in the slightest. “Would you mind giving our subscribers a watered down version of how it actually works?...” The same old question echoed yet again. Shay sighed internally as her lips automatically recited a well rehearsed answer for the umpteenth time.

The ill-named contraption in question was a remarkable ring of rather unremarkable proportions. A trespassing hippy (assuming they managed to dodge the infinite stream of bullets greeting them) would have mistaken it for a piece of Third Renaissance “art”, perhaps deriving a deep existential meaning of the hollow shape. Perhaps not. But the unassuming appearance hardly betrayed the fact that the thingamajig represented the epitome of human ingenuity. It had taken an immeasurable amount of human genius distilled over a millennium to birth that curious structure. The mismatching name, of course, was rumoured to be an artefact of some ancient Newtonian equations that predicted a cube instead of a ring. Little did they know that the engineers came up with it on one of the nights when their blood had more alcohol than glucose. Many a sly smile had been exchanged over this cute little in-joke.
It had all begun about a millennium before the birth of Shay Snow, with a most outrageous proposal by a little known Mexican physicist. The world had laughed, or at least sniggered, when Miguel Alcubierre had first suggested the possibility of faster-than-light travel without violating General Relativity. Although the mathematics presented was viable, the metric tensor so obtained was quickly discarded by the traditionalists as a mere mathematical artefact with no physical interpretation. With the prevalent technology handicapping any experimental verification for centuries, the idea quickly receded into the background, preserved only as a curiosity in university textbooks on geometric topology.

Fast-forward about a thousand years, and you find the Earth way past her final breaths. After all, a finite ball of dirt could cater to only so many at once. It wasn't a question of efficiency either. Humans excelled in that department. The most uninhabitable corners of the globe had been terraformed to serve their needs: The Antarctic was bedizened in lush green and the finest loam covered the entire Sahara. And yet, in the grand scheme of things, terraformation was but an ephemeral solution; one final hooray before the end. The sole long-term solution, of course, was obvious. New Earths were needed.

Obvious as it was, it took a while for the realisation to percolate into the general human outlook. Fortunately, finding candidate planets for terraformation was not that difficult. Getting to them in a viable amount of time, however, was an entirely different story. And so the most brilliant minds of multiple generations set out to find a solution and find a solution they did, in some ancient books on geometric topology: the Alcubierre Warp Drive was born. A large scale implementation, however, was still far away. Unsurprisingly, the energy requirements were huge at any significant scale. And yet again, the human ingenuity was tested to its limit. And yet again, the humans won. Seven centuries worth of tweaking the shape of the warp bubble brought down required energy from a few solar masses to a few kilograms. Shay herself had a relatively minor (although vital) role in this. However, it was under her leadership that the centuries of work culminated in the form of the Cube. It was, dare she say it, her secret guilt. But it was all for the greater good and that was good enough for her.

Hearing her name called out from the podium broke her out of her reverie. The countdown was about to begin. She stole a glance at the Cube one more time and then shifted her gaze to the terrapods, buzzing and ready for launch. An uncountable number of cameras followed. “T minus 16...” it began.

Light years away, from the other side of the event horizon of one of the countless insignificant black holes, a Watcher peered, observing its favourite universe. A slight artefact in the radiation emitted from the singularity betrayed the sorrow that engulfed it. The cancer had metastasised.

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