Author : Patricia Stewart
The patrol ship SS Rakki was approaching Moonbase Delta when the science officer announced, “Captain, I’m picking up an emergency distress signal from the Ultragravity Research Station orbiting Jupiter.”
“Are they requesting assistance?” asked the captain. “Surely they know that there are much closer ships patrolling the outer solar system.”
“Negative, sir. It’s a system wide broadcast. They are reporting a runaway cascade failure in their graviton stress–energy tensor experiment. They are warning everybody in the solar system that if they can’t contain the breach, it may initiate a graviton tsunami.”
“A graviton tsunami?”
“Yes, sir. Concentric ripples in the curvature of spacetime. Somewhat analogous to the waves created by dropping a stone into a pond. Only, much, much larger, and they spread outward at the speed of light.”
“If that occurs, Commander, what can we expect?”
“That depends, sir. For example…” Just then, overwhelming nausea caused the bridge crew to double over, a few collapsed into unconsciousness.
Fighting to regain his composure, the captain crawled back into his command chair. “Report,” he ordered.
“I suspect that was the graviton tsunami, sir,” replied the science officer. “Evidently, the breach occurred shortly after they transmitted their warning.”
“That was milder than I expected,” remarked the captain. “Shouldn’t there have been more damage?”
“As I was about to explain, Captain, the effect is proportional to mass. The mass of our ship is only eight million kilograms. The tsunami passed around us like an earth-based tidal wave would pass around a fish in mid-ocean. But the gravity well of a large mass would magnify the effect like a funnel shaped harbor. Ensign Baker, put Jupiter on the main viewer.”
When Jupiter appeared on the screen, it was more than a thousand times brighter than Sirius. The gravity wave had apparently initiated hydrogen fusion in its core. “Oh my God,” exclaimed the captain, “Put the Earth on the main viewer.” Seconds later, the night side of Earth was awash in the glow of the nuclear Jupiter, but no artificial lights dotted its surface. Fearing the worst, the captain turned to his communications officer, “Lieutenant Albright, see if you can raise Central Command. Tell them we are prepared to assist, and ask for instructions.” Turning back to his science officer “How bad do you think it is Commander? Do you think there are survivors down there?”
Commander Roberts had turned ashen gray, his eyes filled with hopelessness. “Perhaps, sir, but only for another fifteen minutes, or so.”
“Explain,” snapped the captain after the cryptic reply.
“The graviton wave is traveling at the speed of light, sir. Although we just saw Jupiter become a protostar, it actually happened more than forty minutes ago. We didn’t know about it until its light finally reached us.”
“Your point, Commander?”
“Eight point three minutes after the wave hit Earth, it will reach the sun, the largest gravity well in the solar system. I suspect, sir, that eight point three minutes after that, we’ll see the sun go nova.”
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