“You have to admit, it really doesn’t sound all that credible if you sum it all up like that, now does it?”
Auke looked at Dieuwke in despair, did even his wife doubt him now, even now, after all these months?
Dieuwke, seeing the expression on Auke’s face, the pain in his eyes, ran her right hand through Auke’s now lush beard and smiled at her husband.
“That’s not how I meant it, sweety. You know I believe the message is real, the destruction is real, and the alien portal-tech is real. You’ve built it my dear, you couldn’t have built it if the message hadn’t been real. But for people who don’t know you Auke? The people that listen to the influencers and their fancy videos. They are hearing other stories too Auke, credible stories. And that beard Auke, why didn’t you shave it? You now I’ve told you a hundred times.”
Auke’s expression changed from one of pain and despair to one of anger.
“There hasn’t been any more data from Erotes-Seven since the message five months ago, two weeks after the first message. Everybody saw the excavation, the artifact. Everyone saw the Skûtsje disappear into the proto-type. What else do they need to believe? The portal is ready, all it needs now is power. Why would they want to delay?”
“It’s those influencers, Auke. Not the ones claiming deep-fake, but the ones claiming you build an incinerator and the ones that are saying its a message from aliens that want us to kill ourselves so they can take our planet without a fight. You know what they say holds value in congress.”
“In congress?”, Auke shouted out in disbelief, “Congress approved funding my portal. 80,000 QRL for a maritime portal big enough for three Oasis-class cruise ships to pass through at the same time. The’ve build a fleet of ship large enough to cary 60% of the world population. More than 100,000 reduced-quarter-size cruise ships. And now they are delaying diverting 42 giga-watt of power to the portal because of some influencers? They are delaying the construction of the second and third portal as well, and we need those extra portals. With one portal getting just one billion people to safety will take us 40 days! Are those idiots hoping to get reelected while our solar system is about to disappear within the next four months? There won’t be any congress left to get reelected into, within weeks to months. We’ll need at least a month to get nine billion people through the portal. Are they insane?”
Diewke looked at Auke with surprise.
“Wait? Are you saying that even if they approved the power diversion now, it might not be in time to save everyone that wants to go? Erotes-Seven is almost 50,000 Astronomical-Units away, twelve years from reaching the one lightyear mark. It’s signal disappeared five months ago. That should give us still more than four months, right?”
Auke put his hand to his mouth, and looked at Dieuwke intensely. A moment of silence fell, that felt like half an hour to Dieuwke who was looking at Auke in anticipation. Then Auke shook his head and started talking.
“No dear, you are thinking one dimensional. I’ve not been able to decode the exact source of the vacuum decay. There is an angle between the line from us towards Erotes-Seven and the line between us and the point of origin of the Higgs Buble.
Because we don’t know the angle, but we do know the coordinates both of the alien quantum-relay stations and of the save haven’s the message provided us with, we know we now have between three weeks and a little ‘under’ four months left. Do you understand?”
Dieuwke looked visibly shaken. How could she have misunderstood the urgency and the timeframe for all these months. But then Auke had been too busy over the last few months to ever sit down with her and talk things through.
“Do you think Congress knows that?”
Auke looked at Dieuwke in surprise. Then after two seconds of thought responded resolutely:
“They're better. I didn’t spend three intense days talking to the boneheads about all the details. Yes, they understand. Al least, they did before those influencers started messing with their minds.”
“I know we don’t have three days dear, but I fear now there might be some gaps in my understanding. This is the longest talk you and I have had in five months time, and I feel it is overdue. Can you walk me through a digest of what you told Congress about the Higgs Bomb?”
Auke felt a bit agitated about his wife’s question. He really didn’t have time for this. He needed to find a way to get Congress to switch the power on, get the people on those ships. And to get work on the other two portals resumed. Earth needed evacuation now! Talking to his wife felt like a distraction.
Dieuwke saw Auke’s facial expression. An expression she has grown to know so well over the last few months.
“Darling, I know it is you against them right now, but don’t you realize it’s not working this way? Look in the mirror, dear. Before all of this you were always cleanly shaven wearing tailored suits, even though you were just a quantum communication scientist. You weren’t the man of position, a man of political influene, that you are today. Now you are a project leader on an 140,000 QRL government project, and you are talking to congress over video sessions with that 6 month old haircut wearing an old t-shirt, and not having shaven or trimmed your beard for the full five months since you decoded the message that Erotes-Seven relayed just before it’s quantum communication link went silent. I think it’s time you talk to me now, baby. See if I can provide you with a different perspective on things?”
Auke put his hand to his chin and stroked his beard. He knew she was right. About his recent appearance at least. His wife might not have been of any use in the science or engineering part of things, Dieuwke was a peoples person and his current problem, if anything, was a people's problem. Internet influencers? Congres men and women concerned with reelection next year for seats that would be swallowed by the Higgs bubbles within months? Ad revenues driven influencers and politics? None of that made any sense to Auke.
“I guess walking you through it wouldn’t hurt. I grow so restless under stress, Dieuwke, you know I do.”
“I know dear, start at the beginning, the message, what exactly did it say, who was it from?”
“As far as we’ve been able to assertain, it was a cascade of automated messages, triggered by a disastrous universe destroying event: Vacuum decay. And as the message states, it most likely wasn’t an accidental event, but some kind of a bomb. Intergalactic warfare. An attack from a nearby galaxy: Centaurus A. We don’t know if the civilization that set up the warning system still even exists. We know whoever created the quantum relay system was an interstellar civilisation that is or was at war with a civilisation in the Centaurus A galaxy. What did the message say? The core message communicated the detection of vacuum decay with a list of temporary save-havens for relocation.”
“That doesn’t make sense Auke, if the bomb destroys the universe, won’t it destroy Centaurus A as well? And ‘temporary’ save-havens? Are you saying this whole operation only buys us a small bit of time?”
“The destruction of the universe travels at light speed. Think of it as an ever growing sphere of nothing that is growing at the speed of light in all directions out from the detonation point. A Higgs buble. It devoured most of our galaxy already. It devoured Erotes-Seven five months ago. It will devour our solar system within a few months. The last bits of our galaxy in 25,000 years. The save-havens are on the outskirts of our galaxy. We will be safe there for over 24,000 years. Unless we find a way to stay ahead of the destruction, that will become the expiration date for humanity. If we don’t act, humanity has four months or less. The vacuum decay won’t reach Centaurus A for another ten million years or so.”
Dieuwke went silent for a moment. A frown on her face. She leaned in towards Auke, touching her lower lip.
“The message told us how to find them. They have been here. At least, The’ve seeded planets, planets with the potential for life, with artifacts. We found several of them. The one we excavated was in the Sahel, only 30 meters below the surface. It was the easiest to get at compared to the other ones we located. We are not quite sure how it works, or why, but just as with our own, my own, quantum communication links, it seems to be centered around quantum entanglement. The same principles that allowed us to communicate with Erotes-Seven without any time delay even though Erotes-Seven was 50,000 Astronomical-Units away, those principles allow us to relocate most of the human race, as well as many of Earth's species, to an other earth-like planet on the outskirts of what is left of our own galaxy.”
Dieuwke nodded and leaned back into her seat.
“We don’t understand how it works, yet you build the portal? It makes sense that would make some people nervous.”
The expression on Auke’s face started changing. Diewke reached out and touched Auke’s hand.
“Don’t get upset dear, I’m just trying to get a grasp of things. Both from your perspective and from that of the ones frustrating your work right now, dear. Please relax and tell me about how we got from the message and the artifact to the portal’s you build.”
Auke closed his eyes for a second and took a deep breath to regain his posture. Any mention of different perspectives made Auke uneasy. There was only one perspective as far as Auje was concerned, and that perspective was that vacuum decay was about to end life as we know it unless the portal was to get powered up, and that most of humanity would parish for sure unless work on the second and third portal would continue immediately.
“Yes, yes, the message contained instructions on building the portals as well. The engineers and I understand most of it, as the design isn’t all that different from quantum communication design combined with good old control feedback system design for calibration. The only part we don’t really understand is the portal itself. Our best theory so far is that most of what we build is simply communication with a much more advanced portal generator at the other side.”
“Don’t get agitated dear, but we need to talk about the influencers now. The disintegrator narrative? How do we know it’s false?”
Auke looked around in frustration and lifted himself a few centimeters from his seat before sitting back down. He put both his hands just above his knees, lowered his head and took a deep breath.
“Relax dear, it’s just me, sweety”
Auke readjusted himself in his seat once more.
“The salt”, Auke stated, then went silent, leaving Dieuwke quizzed.
“The salt?” Diewke asked.
“Yes, remember the proto-type demonstration?”
“Yes, you sailed a radio controlled Skûtsje through the prototype portal and it disappeared”
“The ship disappeared, yes, but something else came back through that debunks the disintegration hypothesis. Sea water. Alien sea water. Sea water, not unlike our own sea water but with subtle differences, both in the salinity of the water, and in its mineral content. Lower salinity and magnesium, higher potassium levels. You know the control-feedback circuits I just mentioned? They tune the portal to have the exact same water level at both ends. When we turn on the portal, a small amount of water will flow in both directions making the water from both seas mix just a little bit close to the portal. If the portal disintegrated the ship, it couldn’t for example increase the potassium levels in the water.”
“That makes sense, dear. Thank you. And I’m sorry again, but we need to discuss it: The alien invasion idea.”
Auke’s facial expression changes slowly, and a short phrase formed on his lips, soundless.
“Excuse me, Auke! A profanity is still a profanity if you don’t say it out loud, you know that dear.”
“I know, I know. It's just that these idi…, err, these ‘influencers’ really get on my nerves. An alien invasion? For heaven's sake. An alien invasion force that has tech like this at their disposal wouldn’t have to go through any deception to take this planet from us. They would just take it. A them and us would be like a boxing match between the heavy weight champion of the world and a mentaly retarded 8-year-old girl who missing one leg. We have the message and the triangulation, the artifact, and the mineral scores from the prototype. They all add up. It’s just too perfect a match for some elaborate invasion plan to get a few mosquitoes off a planet before invading it.”
“I get this makes you angry, dear. We’ll work on that. Let’s get you ready to speak with congress. I’ll draft up a short speech that we’ll talk about when you are back. If you can communicate this like you did with me, I’m sure congress will see the need to turn the power switch and continue work on the other two portals. If you can keep yourself from getting angry and emotional, dear.”
“When I get back? I’m not going anywhere today. They shut me down, remember?”
“When you get back from the barber and the tailor, dear. You are not killing the human race by giving another speech to congress looking like this!”
This story is part of my Nutridiluvian project. A growing collection of HIVE-first-published short stories inspired mostly by nutritional Twitter. This story is a combination of what first was a prologue to a now abandoned novel, with what started out as a short story about the power of influencers.
Here are the other stories in this series: