Author : Bob Newbell

“We’re almost ready,” said Olav to his companion, Isak. “Are the others out of range?”

“Yes, all the ships are gone,” replied Isak. “It’s just us now.”

The two of them watched UY Scuti waver on their ship’s display like a reflection in water distorted by ripples. But UY Scuti was no reflection. It was a red supergiant star with five billion times the volume of Sol. The great artificial rings that surrounded the enormous sun were far too small to be visible. But they were there, spinning around the great star faster and faster, distorting the fabric of spacetime. If UY Scuti replaced Sol, the former’s photosphere would extend beyond the orbit of Jupiter. In a few moments, the star would be compressed to the dimensions of a proton.

“Think we’ll survive?” asked Isak.

“We both made backup copies of our minds,” responded Olav matter-of-factly.

“I know. But I mean…us.”

“There’s a good chance we won’t,” said Olav. “No one’s ever tried to punch a hole out of our D-brane and into another dimension.”

“Assuming our universe is a very large D-brane extended over three spatial dimensions,” remarked Isak. “If that’s the case and all material objects are just open strings bound to this D-brane and gravity is the result of closed strings exerting their force from ‘outside’ our universe…”

“We’ll know either way soon enough,” said Olav.

The ship’s computer started moving the vessel closer to the imploding star.

“I hope opening a hyperspace tunnel out of our brane-space doesn’t do any harm,” said Isak.

“The government approved this. Even if it did cause something catastrophic, in the long run the race would benefit from it,” said Olav.

“Well, that’s taking optimism a bit far,” replied Isak.

“But it’s true. Look at history. Back in 2758, when Eta Carinae went supernova, the gamma ray burst destroyed Earth’s ozone layer. Muon radiation killed almost everything and ultraviolet radiation killed what was left. But the humans in underground colonies on Earth’s Moon and Mars and inside hollowed-out asteroids survived. The survivors were a select population: Intelligent, highly motivated, physically and emotionally tough. It was from this adventurous stock that the human population was restored.”

Isak looked at his companion in disbelief. “It was the worst mass extinction event in history!”

“Oh, certainly it was a horrific nightmare. But without it, mankind would have remained confined to one solar system.”

“Next you’ll be telling me the Plague of Tau Ceti IV was a great leap forward.”

“It was. After the plague, legislation blocking experiments in transhumanism was relaxed and later repealed. The transhuman meta-race wouldn’t exist across the Milky Way if the Tau Ceti plague hadn’t happened. I know it seems grotesque that that’s how progress is made, but–”

Olav was interrupted by the sound of alarms. UY Scuti seemed to suddenly iris down like the image on an ancient television set that had been switched off. The ship lurched forward at high speed toward the narrow tunnel that was opening.

“I sincerely hope this doesn’t turn out to be one of your great moments in the history of progress,” said Isak as the small ship disappeared into higher dimensions.”

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