Invasive Species and Supernovas
a tale of the twilight continuum Θ
Pele Mokoto sat back in the center of the room, trying to make sense of the impossible.
Her face was pale, her gaze haunted. She was looking into the Quanta-sphere’s holographic display. Her recliner shifted as her center of gravity moved and she reoriented the image in the center of the holodisplay. She realized this was more important than she first thought and opened two dozen displays adding hundreds of other computations and variables.
When she was done, she sat back and accelerated the flow of time in her simulation a million times. She activated the comm system with her intent and spoke to the open air. “Glen, I need you to come to QI as soon as you can. It’s urgent.”
Glendale Mokoto was coming up from the engineering section of the Hegemony’s finest scout ship, Hayward’s Reach, after recalibrating the C-divider engine matrix. The scout ship was making good time after the last set of gate jumps and would be ready for full speed operations using the CDE.
“I was going to stop and clean up, honey. Do you want to pipe it down into the shower?”
“I have compiled this data for the last two years, I can wait until you’re done. Go ahead. I will run some other near-local parallels.”
“Great, I will be right up, I promise.” Glen shot up the center of the gravity tube connecting all of the spaces on the ship. The tubes reconfigured themselves as he passed through them as his intent became to the ship’s quiet AI. Hayward’s Reach was a ship comprised of some of the most advanced sciences in the Hegemony.
He showered quickly and put on his standard uniform, stopping only long enough to change the colors, setting on a teal long tonic and cool earth toned slacks. He almost never wore shoes, anymore. It was formal night so they agreed to dress for the occasion wearing actual fabric rather than their standard holographic dress. When he made his way to the Quantaspheric Interface chamber, she was sitting in the dark, the only light in the room, glowed off of a light terminal on the chair in front of her.
“Okay, what is so important? Are you still using the Que-Eye stream to watch cross-time episodes of ‘I Love Lucy’?” The Que-Eye technology allowed the Reach to peer into the potential of nearby universe which share constants with our own and see alternative futures.
She looked up and thought about what she wanted to show and the room blazed with light. There was a blue giant in the middle of the room showing in a glorious high resolution hologram. As the image approached the star, Pele’s voice was tense and no-nonsense, “This is a blue super-giant along the path we are using to approach the core of the galaxy. I noted it because it only recently became visible as we cleared a dust band which blocked it from view a few years back.”
I remember that band of heavy intergalactic dust. It obscured an entire segment of the galaxy previous unseen by optical telescopes, we were excited as we were seeing something never seen by any of the sentients in our section of the galaxy. The Hegemony is vast, covering over one third of the Milky Way galaxy but there are still two thirds, only visited by probe ships and the mysterious Precursor Races.
She continued. “I picked this star because it was one of the most massive on record. It has two smaller partners, about ten times the size of our sun, one of which I thought was a brown dwarf or failed star when I first looked at its energy signature. But as we got closer and I focused more of the optical array on the stars, I noticed this was unlike anything in the Hegemony database. So after another year of study. I decided to send out a scientific package. It would travel close enough, fast enough my curiosity would be assuaged, and still be fast enough to catch up to us once we passed it. When the probe caught back up today. I thought I would find… I don’t know what I thought but I didn’t think it would be this.”
The display finally zoomed in on the blue giant and then changed direction toward its smaller partner. Instead of seeing a clean bright presence, the star’s light is dim as if seen through a dense haze or smoke.
As the probe moved closer, she had the image cleaned up and what I saw was unbelievable. A network of tendrils surrounding the star at the level of the corona of the sun. These bands had to be millions of miles long and hundreds of thousands of miles across. They were sweeping over the surface of the star, nearly obscuring it from vision. What remaining light was not absorbed by the dark material, was blocked by the cloud of particles.
“What is that?” I am no scientist, but living onboard the Reach for almost thirty years now, had given me the opportunity to learn more about science than I had every planned to, so I might have, once upon a time would have been able to be called Dr. Mokoto, if I wanted to. Such things are an idle vanity, and nothing more, on the Reach. We are the only two crew members, so we can call each other whatever we like.
Pele, on the other hand, was an honest to god scientist and used her time to learn sciences from at least fifteen alien scientific scholars and the best the Humani had to offer. All I could hope is she would give me an explanation that would not require half a dozen doctorates to understand.
“It is absorbing the energy of the star, converting it into some form of computronium. It’s eating the star.”
She didn’t say anything else after that. That didn’t seem so bad. I mean, it’s a space dwelling organism, its got to eat something. “Okay, so what is the emergency? You found something you believe is eating a star. I mean it is important, but we catalog two dozen important things a year, why is this different?”
“Look at this time projection.”
This can’t be right. I know I don’t have to ask her did she check her numbers, the data is right there. I hate using the part of my brain, my new brain for superfast calculations. It reminds me I’m no longer really human. But in this instance, I could not help myself.
“Project this on to the Que-Eye, and accelerate time stamp, five thousand years a second.” In fifty seconds, the star could no longer be seen visibly. In another fifty seconds, all but the lowest wavelengths of energy could be detected. Seconds later, the star collapses and explodes.
There is a signature I did not expect to find there. There is a quantum foam transition wave, which built up as the star was preparing to nova. All matter caught in the transition would be converted to quantum foam and leave the universe for an undisclosed but finite amount of time. During this time this matter is capable of leaving C-space and traveling faster than light.
Now I am more than a bit concerned.
The blue giant it is circling would be the first recipient of the material and it is thousands and thousands of times more massive. If it were to do the same thing, the explosion would be billions of times more devastating. This would spread fast. This galactic arm is dense with stars, just like these two.
“Now, this is what I called you for. Load Que-Eye parallel, local references to this star, nearby multiversal shards, separate and extrapolate for similar occurrences of Black Ooze infestation. Find most likely and nearest shard, present expansion rate based on these calculations.”
The Que-Eye interface is an alien technology. There are only four in the known galaxy, making Hayward’s Reach a treasure beyond imagining. The technology of the Que-Eye have been extrapolated by the Hegomony’s best Minds and are used in the predictive engines created by the Hegemony for interstellar warfare, and in some of the predictions used by galactic and planetary leaderships to make good policies on their planets. But the three alien devices which are still in the empire proper, lie on the edge of the Hegemony on isolated planets, predicting the future and reading the past of a galaxy. Ineffectively, with as much accuracy as an ancient seer of the Gods if you ask the wrong questions.
We discovered something about the QI core technology. Too many questions prevent it from being useful. The very quest for knowledge sought by hundreds of scientists on the QI worlds prevent them from getting anything useful. It was only when Pele and I were alone did we discover just how powerful and dangerous these things were.
But these devices do not just predict the future or present the past. They can show parallel universes just like ours where the future or the past is different than out own. Some of these futures are so close to our own, only tiny differences separate us. We can see a universe where Earth is not abandoned to the Great Enemy and Hayward’s Reach is never built. We can see a universe where antimatter bombs did not rip into the crust of the my home planet almost rendering it uninhabitable to the stragglers who remained behind to fight for Earth.
We used it to view the past history of the Earth, to view events which might give us insight into the minds of the humans, and now recently other races with equally significant histories, like the rulers of the Hegemony, the Corvans. We have tried other even older races, but those crafty Second Races can sometimes cloak history from the Que-Eye, their understanding of temporal mechanics giving them an edge in keeping secrets.
To be honest, the Que-Eye was sometimes used in a fashion similar to old Earth’s internet, and even occasionally to look at cats, too. Pele has a particular series of stories on a QI-distant Earth, where cats have magical abilities and secret save the world on a more than occasional basis. Most of the time, it is more of an entertainment device than a tool. But in the last decade, Pele had begun putting it to use in new and disturbing ways.
The Hegemony placed the Que-Eye on Hayward’s Reach because the Botoni, plants who are scientists, believe it to be sentient and seeking information. Since the Reach would be traveling farther and faster than any ship in the Hegemony, they believed the Que-Eye should be on the ship.
They were unable to explain it to anyone in a manner we could understand, saying only that their Root had spoken and the Root was never wrong. The Root was their world-computer comprised of a network of roots circling the planet in a band thousands of miles wide. Idiosyncratic, opinionated but to their credit, they are the most decorated scientists in the Hegemony and the Corvans agreed without truly understanding. The Mariovel, who for the most part remain inscrutable in almost all things, agreed to help and grew the Reach around the Que-Eye core which was around the size of Old Texas.
Pele was entranced as displays appeared around her, her brow furrowed in concentration. The room dimmed, and grew momentarily quiet. When the Que-Eye is running, there is a background sound, barely audible, but as the images build, the air thickens as if you are mired in the flow of time itself. Images from parallel universes flow into existence building around us, or in this case, a galaxy slowly being extinguished.
A small section darkened. Then a series of novas, and a period of nothing, the black section spreading as the galaxy continues to rotate. Then another series of darkening, novas, inactivity. Meanwhile the entire black region continues to spread. New stars try to form in the darkness, but disappear relatively quickly, their tiny nova’s eclipsed by the much wider band of novas taking place on the edge of darkness. Once the darkness reached the center of the galaxy, it spread rapidly, a deadly cancer extinguishing stars at an accelerated pace.
“Look there. See the building transition wave?” She slowed the image and showed an overlapping image. I could see a transition pattern building on top of the smaller waves pushing the darkness along.
“Are you thinking it may try to spread to another galaxy?”
She reoriented the view of the galaxy we were looking at. All this time, we had been looking at the galaxy from above it, spread out below us like a giant glowing spiral. She panned the view away from the galaxy and waited for the imaging system to catch up.
No, I don’t try to understand how Quantaspheric Interface worked. The core of the Que-Eye is the size of an island and is in the center of the ship. The information processed is linked to the Mind of our ship and then translated into information we can understand in the Que-Eye imaging area or to smaller terminals on the ship.
The panning complete, we stood in awe. We could see an entire swath of the galaxies of this universal neighbor extinguished. An entire void covered the view to the port side of the local galaxy. A projected path showed this creature was one of the first things born in their Universe, and expanded with the universe, keeping a permanent footprint in the space of their universe. The scale boggled the mind. Its footprint was seen in the background radiation of that universe.
This thing is continuing to expand and could conceivably consume all the stars and hydrogen in that universe, hastening the death of their universe billions of years sooner than our own. I try not to get too involved in the mathematical, probabilities we view using the Que-Eye. It’s easy to do when we are looking at harmless fantasies or probabilities. We treat them as stories, some bright, some dark, a form of cosmic voyeurism, an intergalactic cable with an infinite number of channels. Then you see something like this and realize the Que-Eye is not a toy.
It’s a tool. A tool for a race of gods who didn’t even leave instructions for how to use the remote. Pele is looking at the footage from our universe, I see the Que-Eye coordinates reset to home. “I am going to spend the next two years, and all the computing power we can spare to study this.”
“I am not going to ask you why, because I can see this is going to be a threat. If your work proves to be true, the Hegemony is going to have to do something about this.” I shook my head, a habit I still hadn’t gotten out of.
“I didn’t show you the worst part of it.”
“What could be worse than this?”
“This. Look at these Que-Eye coordinates. These are the realities closest to us in a particular direction of space and time.” I looked at her not comprehending what she is alluding to. The stare she gave me, placed an imaginary dunce cap on my head. She continued. “Universal constants match the closest to us in this particular direction meaning this series of universes along this axis is most like us.”
“And?” Still not getting what she was showing me.
A few more waves of her hand and then I began to see. There were a multitude of universes around us, the probability map showed us at the center of the wave of universe like ours. “When I looked at the universes closest to us, I thought they were blank areas in the Que-Eye feed; like empty spaces on a radio dial. I thought they were probabilities that simply didn’t happen. With what I learned from this probe, I began to review those settings again. They were not blank spaces. They were universes which have already been consumed by this creature. The beast leaves a signature substance, a unique form of neutronium; compressed neutrons, the result of its diet of dying stars. Do you see it now?”
Yes. This creature, this first sign was the harbinger of things to come. In our universe, this creature was not one of the First Races to develop sentience. One of the Precursor Races, in their infinite wisdom, found it and destroyed it, preventing its sweeping surge which took place across other universes from happening here.
But judging from the number of probabilities this creature shows up in, the multiverse must have a great preference for it. Pele walks over to me, waving to turn off the Que-Eye, taking me in her arms.
The first thing that came to my mind was the Great White Shark. It existed on Earth for 450 million years, its evolution complete, it remained relatively unchanged as nature deemed it, a perfect killing machine. It just adapted to fit the oceans it swam in.
Just like this thing.
We, Second and Third Races in the Hegemony, like to look at the Precursors as these perfect amazing beings who lived for billions of years, evolved beyond our comprehension, leaving behind tools, ninety-nine percent of that we find, we still can’t use. But I am beginning to think the one thing they needed, they lacked… a competent exterminator.
The deadliest invasive species in the galaxy, a creature larger than anything made by any race in the Hegemony, larger than the Mariovel, a legendary race of beings who are capable of making entire habitable planets. A creature powerful enough to consume a star and breed exponentially in the space of a few hundred thousand years, is happening two dozen light years behind my ship.
And not a Precursor in sight.
Insurrection: Invasive Species © Thaddeus Howze 2012. All Rights Reserved
I will need to study this story more than once, but it is frightening–something that can eat a star…our sun would be a snack…