The fifth story from Sean McBride’s published short story collection, A View of the Edge of the World. This episode is produced by Ed Robinson and read by Frederick Snyder.
First of all, sorry for the late post.
This story was my effort to enter into the Science Fiction Genre and it digs down into my inner geekdom. I love the idea of space and I love everything that goes along with it and this was an effort to explore that medium. Now, whereas most of the material in the story is real and factually accurate, some of it is just plain wrong (there is no technology available to reach another star system in our lifetime, let alone developing and executing one in less than twenty years) , However the “Twilight Zone” aspect of the story is prevalent and forefront which is what I was going for and what I love. I hope you all enjoy this one as much as I enjoyed writing it!
“When you look up into the sky, what do you see?” Hercule Lambert asked the panel as he gestured to the screen displaying the famous Eagle nebula. “I see opportunity. I see beauty. I see mystery. Ladies and Gentlemen, many of you may have heard of the comet fragments which hit earth recently. They show a consistency which we have never seen from space, forming three layers of remarkable material.” Hercule pressed the button on the clicker clutched in his hand and the image on the screen changed to a crushed ball of metal.
“This, my fellow sentient beings, is the first incontrovertible fact that we are not alone in this universe…or at least…in this multi-verse. What you see on the screen is ball of aluminum alloy. For those of you who don’t know, aluminum allow is not a natural substance. It has to be created in a lab by an intelligent creature who understands basic chemistry.”
Hercule paused for a moment trying to rein in his excitement as the crowd began to murmur. He slowly let a smile cross his face knowing he’d captured his audience and continued on.
“Shocking isn’t it? Now I know many of you may be thinking I’m pulling your leg, or that the alloy must have been jettisoned from some satellite we already had floating out in space. Well I can tell you for a certainty, it does not belong to theUnited States and I can also assure you it doesn’t hail from any other country on Earth, but we’ll get to that in a moment,” He clicked the button once again and the image changed to a twisted cage of metal with bubbles emerging sporadically throughout. “What you are now seeing is our mystery comet with the top layer of aluminum alloy peeled back to reveal a most unusual skeleton. It looks like this skeleton was crushed as well as the aluminum which served as this comets skin. This skeleton is made of a new material scientists are just now trying to get instituted into space shuttle production. It’s an amorphous steel which is ostensibly a bulk metallic glass. Think of it as a space age pyrite. It has amazing magnetic, radiation and thermal durability. This material is just in its infancy; the theorem originally published in 2004, but never fully developed.
“While you ruminate on the possibilities of what that means, turn your attention to the pustules on this remarkable material.” Hercule clicked again and a close up of the bubbled metal appeared on the screen.
“These pustles are filled with a familiar byproduct of the Earth’s unique atmosphere. Hydrogen Dioxide. Or in lay-mans terms…water. At this point we don’t know how water has formed in these pustules, there is speculation that it’s merely condensation from its vast journey, and there is also a hypothesis that it was created that way to further its thermal qualities. In either case the research for that particular answer is still ongoing.”
The room explodes into questions and conversations which echo through the room as reporters press for information. Hercule mentally pats himself on the back knowing he inspired this conundrum, but before he can truly enjoy it a man from the back shouts out.
“You said you had proof this didn’t come from another country! How can you prove that?” Panic weaved delicately in his voice.
Hercule smiles and raises his hands indicating the audience to quiet down. “If another Cold War is what you’re worried about, there is nothing to fear. I could never be more certain; this meteor did not come from another country.” He looks about the room, letting the forcefulness and power of his statement sink in. “You see, once we uncovered this pustule laden glass steel we decided to take an extra precaution. We asked ourselves, where could this have come from? Deciding that the possibilities were too endless, we set the sphere into a vacuum chamber for extra precaution. It was during this process which we found the most interesting component of the comet.” Hercule pauses for dramatic effect with his hands crossed in front of his belt, smiling at the collective who are eager waiting his response.
When he is satisfied with the drama created he turns toward the screen, lifts the arm with the clicker and theatrically switches to the next image. Inwardly Hercule knew it would be anticlimactic, but he couldn’t hold in his glee. He was about to uncover the means to understanding the universe, the means to unravel the fabric of space-time.
“What is it?” A confused journalist responds.
“This little ball you see is a container. The contents are a most remarkable revelation.” He takes two steps forward, covering the light from the projector and fully faces his captive audience. “We calculated the trajectory of the comet and found it came from just outside of M 51, otherwise known as The Whirlpool Galaxy. Using these calculations we focused the Chandra X-Ray Observatory to the area and found yet another astonishing revelation. Chandra was able to take pictures of a phenomenon only hypothesized…a Naked Singularity. These enigmas are basically a black hole with no event horizon, just an exposed singularity.
“A black hole is created when a massive star uses all its radioactive gasses and collapses on itself. This creates an incredible gravitational field, called an event horizon, surrounding a pinpoint of matter with infinite density, called a singularity. A Naked Singularity is that pinpoint of incredible density, but without the event horizon.
“What makes these monsters of the universe so terrifying is if you approach a black hole the intense gravitational pull will slowly pull your molecules apart like taffy, stretching them beyond their molecular bond capacities. Then once you reach the Singularity the density of matter would crush your molecules in through a passage way no larger than a pinhole. One prevailing theory is a Black Hole is a portal, thus the Singularity is the doorway. If that description is to esoteric, imagine every molecule in your body being pulled apart then reapplied at the speed of light, and oh by the way, they wont necessarily be put back in the same molecular structure it started in. Have you ever seen “The Fly?”
Hercule smiles at his own cleverness as the journalists gasp and wretch.
“But you still haven’t explained why it can’t be from another country!” A pugnacious journalist offers.
“We are truly living in amazing times my friends.” Hercule presses the clicker again and the picture changes to a large laboratory. “This is CERN, the foremost particle physics center in the world, where less than one month ago they got their Large Hadron Accelerator started. The result was far greater than anyone could have predicted and completely disavows the Big Bang Theory. They created what is known as Dark Matter. Dark Matter is previously thought of as matter which releases no radiation and can only be detected by its gravitational pull, but I want you to think of Dark Matter as the parameters of our universe, or to simplify things, Dark matter is a water balloon and the Universe as the water contained within the balloon. Dark Matter expands to accommodate any form of galactic expansion and creates an environment where particles can create actual matter. Dark Matter is a galactic Petri dish. CERN, with the help of their Large Hadron Collider has created a new universe.”
Hercule stepped back to let the information sink in. “Imagine cell division on Methamphetamines. That’s what Dark Matter is capable of. It has endless growth and is a perfect bubble. The universe, in all its diversity of life, is created inside this bubble and when it needs to get bigger the Dark Matter accommodates it and expands to an appropriate size. The universe doesn’t expand at any static rate, that’s why we had so many problems understanding its expansion; it expands at whatever pace it needs to go.”
“What’s the point Lambert?” cried one anxious journalist.
“The point is that inside of that circular container, beneath the contorted amorphous steel, and inside this little golden ball which is a miniature version of CERN’s collider, was globule of Dark Matter. There is no other place on Earth, except for CERN, that has access to this incredible substance. This, ladies and gentlemen, is a calling card from our intergalactic neighbors!”
One Week Later…
Colonel Harp Connors, CERN director Farrokh Dahr and NASA director Clark Traffers looked at each other in rapt excitement at the physicist’s remarks. The four men walked the gangplank overseeingAmesResearchCenter’s new project headed by Hercule. It was the most ambitious and thus dangerous project anyone had ever undertaken and Hercule, with his small stature and squeaky voice, was nothing but confidence.
“Gentlemen. As you well know, the leading theory of the meteorite which struck earth approximately three weeks ago is that it is a message to us from an Alien intelligence.” Hercule failed to mention the fact that it was his theory; He didn’t want his arrogance get in the way from further grants or the possibility of using Lyndon B. Johnson Space Center to bring his idea’s to fruition.
Hercule left his statement hang in the air, letting the information sink in and stew in the three men. He needed to impress them with the progress of his project and with his ability to produce. He especially needed Dhar’s approval, to utilize the Large Hadron Collider and CERN’s superior research facilities. Without CERN his project couldn’t lift off the ground, but then NASA’s support and further grants from the government couldn’t hurt.
“We all know the theory Lambert. What did ya bring us here for? The Government doesn’t have endless pockets you know.” Colonel Conner’s southern twang tended to make people look past his intelligent eyes. Hercule made a mental note not to disgruntle the man in the future.
“Yes, um, well, anyway,” Hercule stammered and looked to Farrokh who nodded his head in approval, giving Hercule the steam he needed.
“Well, as you gentlemen know, our planet is unique in our perceivable Universe. The chances of life growing on a planet relies on a number of variables, a theorem we call the Goldilocks principle. The composition of elements, distance from a star, rotation of the planet, lifespan of the star and plain luck are all components that make up life and must be formed ‘Just Right’ to make life occur.” He flexed both index and middle fingers emphasizing the quotes. “Now, with that being said, do any of you gentlemen have any idea how we could have received a message from a hypothetical life source?”
“No,” Colonel Conners said with stony composure, “but you do, so why don’t ya stop bein’ coy and get to the damn point.” Hercule sneered in disappointment deciding to forego the games.
“Yes. I’m sorry for wasting your time Colonel. Despite what many people believe, we don’t live in a Universe, but a Multi-Verse. Imagine a deck of playing cards stacked on one another. Each card is another Universe and each is contained within each other, they never commingle; unless there is an event which makes them.” He looks at the men and ignores Conner’s consternation. He wants to make sure they understand, but is afraid to ask.
“A Star collapses on itself creating such duress that it rips the fabric of space-time connecting the two Universes with a portal, otherwise known as a Black Hole. Think of this phenomena as a needle pushing through two of our playing cards, connecting them.”
“Are you saying that this meteorite was not only sent by an Alien Intelligence, but from another Universe?” Traffer’s choked on the thought and Hercule could tell he was onboard. The American’s could now be the first into the next Universe. Imagine the funds a president would deliver under such a guarantee.
“Yes.” Hercule said raising his chin a bit. “The exit point of this galactic tunnel would be through what is now called a Naked Singularity. This is created much the same way as a Black Hole, except without the gravitational force of the Event Horizon. Just a Singularity exposed. Using the card analogy, where the pin pushes through the cards is creates an indenture, but on the other side it creates a volcano. The gravity of the Black Hole forces mass through the indenture and then though the singularity into the other universe. My theory is, in the space between Universes you exit your Universe through a Black Hole and enter another through the Naked Singularity. The key is just finding a way to keep matter protected and in one piece as it passes through.”
“You mean string theory.” Farrokh managed looking concerned. “This could be the experiment to prove string theory?”
“Precisely. We have tested the sphere and found that it creates a large magnetic field, forming a gravitational field of such magnitude as to bypass the intense pressure of the Singularity. The sphere survives, but the transport doesn’t. But what’s more important, gentlemen, is that this meteorite came from a Naked Singularity near the galaxy M 51. It came from another Universe, traveling through a Black Hole on their end and exiting the Naked Singularity in our Universe.”
The determination in Hercule’s face and the weight of his words left even Colonel Conner’s speechless.
“CERN just created a globule of Dark Matter, the DNA of the universe, in their Large Hadron Collider. Obviously this alien life is as intelligent as us, because they were able to build a particle accelerator as well; as evidenced by the Dark Matter they sent us.
“My point gentlemen, is that they showed us their advancement. Let’s show them ours.”
“Twenty months ago I had a conversation with three men that forever changed my life and the ideas of physics. I have since become somewhat of a celebrity in the scientific community as the man who proved string theory. I now stand on the cusp of a much greater journey. The culmination of my forty-four years.” Hercule squinted slightly trying to cut glare of the camera lights. It had been five years since his discovery of the meteorite which contained the Dark Matter. In that span of time one voyage, the “Expedition I” had taken place.
Expedition I was a reconnaissance mission to take information from the Black Hole which Hercule believed to be the entrance to the alternate Universe. They took measurements of the gravity pull, size of the Black Hole and time it would take to get there. They also included a globule of Dark Matter from CERN’s laboratories and sent it in a sphere, similarly designed to CERN’s particle accelerator walls. It entered the Black Hole and it was lost on all tracking systems. The voyage was considered a success.
“As some of you may know, just as Expedition I entered the Black Hole another meteorite came crashing down towards earth. This again came from the Naked Singularity by galaxy M 51. This again was another calling card from our neighbors from the next universe. The Sphere was much larger, but with cracks interspersed through it. The contained material seems to be lost to the vastness of space. This as tragic as it may seem, gives our human race much hope. A civilization as advanced as theirs can still make mistakes.” Flashes of cameras briefly blinded Hercule and he raised his hand blocking the bright flashes. He smiles, reveling in satisfaction, before beginning again.
“The sphere held some interesting compounds. The most provocative was carbon, the building block of our existence. Our intergalactic neighbors are trying to speak to us in the inter-universal language of science. Our interpretation of their message is that they, as life forms, are composed of carbon just as we are. We may be dealing with an alternate universe full of humans. They may actually be having this same press conference as we are. The possibilities are endless. Could you imagine another world filled with human beings on a third planet from some foreign sun, built of carbon and able to send advanced space expeditions to another universe.” The gentle murmuring in the crowd grew to a cacophony of animated conversation as the people in the audience argued amongst themselves if what Hercule said could possibly be true.
“My mother named me Hercule because of her love for Agatha Christie’s famous detective Hercule Poirot. I’d like to think I have inherited some of his deduction and reason and I hope to put all my knowledge forward as I become our first Inter-Universal Ambassador! I will be a primary scientist on Expedition II which will send a man through an extra-dimensional space to another universe.” When he finished his speech Hercule took a step back from the podium, smiled and waved at the cameras and the crowd. His boyish grin and flamboyant wave belied his forty-four years. He walked off stage and was greeted by security guards who ushered him out of the building as various people tried to get his autograph and ask him questions. The paparazzi snapped photos of him as he entered the black limousine. Finally the respect I deserve. He thought as he rode toLBJSpaceCenter.
“This is Puma two from Expedition II, all systems go. Ready to pass the point of no return,” Hercule sat strapped in the Universal Excursion Module and thought of the heroic journey he had in front of him. He could see the Black Hole swirling in darkness ahead of him and he felt a twinge of fear. He was sure of his calculations and his ability to solve physics mysteries, but he felt doubt scratching at the back of his mind like a cat trying to be let in.
“Puma two this is capcom, we roger. You are go.” Jack Denning answered from Huston. He had never lost a man on a mission and he didn’t want to start now. He looked about the room in appraisal of his hardworking staff, making sure Hercule’s trip was a success. He was interrupted from his ruminations by one of the team’s scientists.
“Jack they found some abnormalities in the most recent sphere!” Paul Stevens, one of the scientists studying the sphere, ran in the room out of breath and terrified.
“Thank you capcom. Main thrusters on.” Hercule transmitted.
“What’re you doing here Paul? We’re in the middle of a mission!” Jack slid his headphones down to his neck barely hearing Hercule’s transmission. His stomach dropped when he looked into Paul’s face.
“It wasn’t just carbon in the sphere. It was broken strands of DNA and RNA. Little broken strands of it. At first we were excited. We thought maybe the aliens sent us forms of their building blocks so we could understand them, but then we started to cross reference it to figure out what it was and what we could get from it. It was human DNA.” Paul stared up at the screen as videos of Expedition II speeding up towards the Black Hole.
“So Hercule was right after all. They’re are humans in an alternate universe trying to contact us.” He proudly looked back up to the screen and crossed his arms.
“No sir…” Paul was interrupted from Hercule’s transmission.
“I look out into the void of space and I see a bevy of stars, a universe of possibilities. We stand on the brink of a new life. A life where we are not alone in the cosmos. We can have new neighbors and extend our knowledge of this space we live in. I proudly go where no man has gone before, but with any luck many will follow. May God be with you all.” Hercule finished his aired speech and turned to speak to Jack one more time. “Jack I’m opening the Sphere now. I’ll set the timer to sixty seconds and let you know when I’m entering. Over.”
“No! Hercule wait!” Paul yelled at the screens.
“He can’t hear you Paul, you’d need to be on mic. What is it?” Jack stared at Paul in annoyance. This hardly seemed time to interrupt, especially since Hercule had passed the point of no return.
“It wasn’t just human DNA. When it was put into our formatting computers we found a genetic match for the sample. It was Hercule’s DNA.” Paul gulped and looked to the screen as the image started to flicker.
“Timer set, entering sphere.”
“I don’t understand…” Jack looked in confusion at Paul, who stared at the screen.
“Thirty seconds, closing sphere capsule door.”
“Paul, what does it mean? He’s entering a universe of people who’re exactly us?” Jack reached a hand out and touched Paul’s shoulder. Paul didn’t respond.
“um…capcom, door has a slight malfunction. It’s moving slightly slower than it should, please advise.”
Jack looked up to the flickering screen and saw the massiveness of the Black Hole. He looked to Paul and back at the screen and gently picked up the mic. “Roger Puma two. Try manual override.” He dropped his hand and let the mic go.
“Negative…pcom, sys…not…ponding. We…re at negative ten…ds, already in the…k Hole’s gravitati…ull. Please advise…ver.” Panic entered his voice.
“oh, my god…” Paul said softly beside Jack.
“Again try manual override, Puma two. Do you copy?” Jack lifted his headphones from his neck and put them back on his ears. He sat down in front of his monitor.
“Nothi..! Oh, go…ressure is…owering, sphere…ost close…ygen leaking!”
“Heart rate speeding up! Temperature cooling!” The biometric monitor yelled across the room.
“System’s failing! Oxygen leaking!” Cried the system’s analyst.
Jack put his hand over his mouth expecting the worst. The video feed had gone, blinking from a static view of the Black Hole to nothing. Then Hercule came back on.
“I…understand.” His voice came in gasps of breath. “I…as…wrong. It…isn’t…a…portal. It’s…a…time…machine!”