A Short Story
“Hello, professor, you’re just in time. I was about to call you and let you know we are ready to proceed.”
“Excellent,” the physics professor replied, sitting down next to his assistant.
“As you can see, sir, the new reactants parameter values and injector settings are on the display to your left. On the center display you have the aggregate sensor data. On the right, you can see the containment field and force-field configurations.”
“Yes, I see, thank you.
“Remind me, where are we in the overall sequence?”
“Sir, this is the fifth and final run of the third sequence of the experiments.”
“Ah, yes, I remember now.
“Give me a moment to look over the setup.”
“I assure you, sir, the setup is the same as the previous four runs of this sequence. The only change is the new vacuum reaction-chamber.”
“I’m sure it is, but given we only have this one opportunity to do these experiments, I prefer to be certain.”
“Of course, professor,” the assistant said annoyed with the pointless delay. After all, the professor had not bothered to stop by and inspect the previous four runs. Why start now?
A few moments later the chief scientist was satisfied.
“Very well then, all looks to be in order. Let us begin.”
“Yes, of course, sir.
“Initiating run of final experiment in this sequence. Reactants injection, compression, and ignition in three, two, one …”
It began with an explosion unlike any other—nor would there ever be another like it. The source of the explosion was incomprehensibly small and dense. Likewise, the energy and power of the resulting detonation was incomprehensibly immense and intense.
But this was not a process for destruction. No, it was one of pure creation. Before the incredible massive energy release there was nothing, afterwards, everything. From the rapidly expanding super-heated plasma came all that there would ever be.
As the roiling cloud of energy expanded, it cooled.
One of the first things to condense out of the cooling energy plasma was space-time itself.
Within a relatively short interval of time, a few hundred million years, stars began to fill the new universe. After about a billion years, the first galaxies coalesced.
In time, the first stars died and from their remnants came new stars and planets.
It became quite common that rocky worlds formed around new-born stars. Over the course of billions of years more, life emerged on many of those worlds. In fact, life came to be quite abundant and commonplace in this universe.
Intelligent life arose on some of the rocky worlds. As it turned out, intelligent life was the exception and not the rule. Fewer still, among the worlds with intelligent life, were life forms that learned to span the space between stars. For those few that did, they invariably spread out from their home world and migrated to nearby solar systems.
However, that was the limit for all intelligent life in the universe. None ever learned—before their inevitable extinction—to traverse the vast gulf between galaxies.
The cooling plasma that became a universe continued its inexorable expansion—moving all galaxies further and further apart.
That did not stop most of the higher races from trying to contact other intelligent life in those neighboring clusters of stars. Almost all advanced species tried to reach out across the immense and ever-expanding void between galaxies by developing sophisticated and powerful communication devices.
And so it was with the Rheen.
The huge communication array the Rheen constructed was powered directly by their star. They estimated that their sun had a remaining lifespan of approximately five billion years. They also estimated that their plan for continuous operation of the communication device would cut that number by half.
For the Rheen this was an acceptable compromise. To them, it seemed they were alone in the universe. The Rheen knew nothing of other worlds, other stars, nor even of galaxies. The night sky of their home world was devoid of any light, save that of their two moons. There were no stars and certainly no galaxies. The concept of a galaxy never entered the imagination, let alone the understanding, of the Rheen.
In a universe now more than eight-hundred billion years old, all galaxies had long since ceased to exist. What other few stars that still remained were separated by such distances that their light would never be detectable by the Rheen.
Of course, the Rheen had no way of knowing this.
So, to satisfy their deep-seated thirst for knowledge and understanding, and to satisfy a deeper desire to know if the emptiness they observed all around them was all that there was, the Rheen activated their array and waited.
The powerful beams transmitted by the huge communication device distorted the very fabric of space-time.
Over the following eons, the array was intermittently deactivated as the Rheen made repairs and upgrades. Still, for the most part, the device operated continuously in an effort to reach any who might be listening.
Generation after generation of Rheen waited for a reply. But in time, as it had been for all highly evolved species in the universe, the Rheen civilization broke down. Not long after that, the Rheen were extinct—the last of the intelligent species. They had not known it, but the Rheen had always been alone. Born in a universe too old, they had been the last highly evolved life form.
The Rheen died out never having received a response to their efforts to contact another intelligent race. But their array lived on, transmitting what the Rheen had once thought of as a beacon in the night. They would have been proud of their engineering marvel. For two-billion years it maintained itself and continued to send out its powerful signals. Eventually though, it too died—destroyed by the death throes of the very star that powered it.
Long before the Rheen became extinct, the universe expansion had begun to slow. During the ensuing billions of years, the expansion slowed further still and eventually stopped.
Finally, with all its energy dissipated, the universe grew cold and dark, and in time, it too died.
“And that completes run five, professor.
“It was a nominal plasma discharge event lasting twelve-hundred micro-intervals.”
“Very good, we can proceed to the next sequence now,” the old scientist said.
“One moment, professor, there is something I want to show you. Let me find it …
“Here, here it is, sir, look at this.
“These anomalies in the data have occurred in all five runs of this sequence. These signals have shown up randomly and repeatedly during the lifetime of the plasma discharges. Some of these signals begin as early as about ten percent into the discharge interval and randomly show up as late as seventy-five percent into the interval.
“While most are barely detectable above the sensor noise floor, many of these signals are quite distinct—even if they are weak.
“And they look too coherent for random noise or detector artifacts.
“What do you think, professor?”
“That looks interesting indeed, and you may be on to something there, but they are not the primary focus of our current efforts.
“Take note of their occurrences in the data streams, and then get back to focusing on the experiments at hand.”
“I know, and I understand.
“Later we may want to seek support to investigate these anomalies further, but for now we have one mandate and only this opportunity to accomplish it.
“We must stay focused.”
“Yes, sir,” the assistant replied dejected.
“Come now, we must replace the spent vacuum reaction-chamber and setup for the next sequence of five runs.”
“I will take care of that, professor, and inform you when we are ready to begin again.”
“Now in this next sequence, I want to make some adjustments …”