Can of Worms


Author : C. J. Boudreau

“We’re ready, Arthur. I just finished loading the instructions to the transmission controller. The fuel will begin transfer at 9:00.”

Doctor Evan Thackeray was the foremost expert on thermonuclear reactor design. His colleague, Arthur Henry, was the second. There wasn’t any rivalry. They were both completely dedicated to building a practical thermonuclear power plant. It seemed they were on the threshold. It was the crowning test.

“The breakthrough in wormholes has made it possible to start and sustain a fusion reaction on a manageable scale. We will finally continuously produce more power than we use. The multiple wormholes delivering hydrogen into the same point in space at one time will start and sustain the reaction just as in the sun. We can fully control it.”

“The wormholes have opened new avenues. Maybe eventually allowing communication across interstellar space and even time.”

“Maybe, but they’re limited in how much they can expand the wormholes. It would take an almost infinite amount of energy to open one large enough to accept a pen. They’ve known for decades that submicroscopic wormholes opened and closed constantly on the quantum level. Capturing and directing them was the challenge. They have succeeded wonderfully. I haven’t had my coffee yet Arthur, and I have to visit the washroom.

We have more than an hour. I’ll meet you in the commissary. After we’ve had coffee

we’ll turn on the coolant and the containment field and go through the checklist. It will only take a few minutes.”

“It seems strange to be working on a reactor so small and simple. In a classroom.”

“It does, but with the fuel transmitted directly from the production facility, and without huge magnetic compression field coils, the space requirements are minimal. Let’s go.”

The blast was small, as thermonuclear explosions go. It still obliterated the entire campus. Even the track field was beyond reclamation. The reaction had continued for several microseconds before the fuel controller sensed a lack of feedback. The loss of life was tragic, but could have been much worse if the student body weren’t on spring break. It’s hoped that Dr. Thackeray at least had a chance to go. He certainly never knew what happened. The washroom was only a few feet away from the reactor. The entire building was vaporized and ionized. All the paper records were gone, but digital records up to the event, including videos from inside the classroom, were backed up off site in multiple locations. Other researchers were able to immediately determine the cause of the disaster. When Doctor Thackeray signed in that Monday morning, he signed in at seven o’clock. The computer recorded the time as eight o’clock. It was a mistake many of us made that Monday. The beginning of daylight saving time had been moved to that weekend because of the new National Gay Pride holiday, in an effort to lighten hangovers and to discourage absenteeism. Neither Thackeray nor Henry or their grad student assistants had checked the time. It was seven minutes to nine when they left for coffee and the washroom, believing it was seven minutes to eight. The hydrogen transmission started on time at nine o’clock.The coolant and containment field were never turned on.

A new team, now at a military facility, is carrying on the fusion reactor project, under government supervision, with improved safeguards and security. In another area of the work, a similar government monitored team at Cal Tech is using wormholes to experimentally communicate with the past. They hope to avert the tragedy.

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