A brilliant idea
“Warning! Total systems failure!”
The situation was deteriorating rapidly. Jason looked around at what was left of the bridge from the confines of the captain’s chair. Flames and acrid black smoke began to quickly fill the room causing his eyes to sting and tear, making it difficult to see clearly. Vince’s lifeless body lay slumped over his instrument panel, still strapped to his chair. The fire had already burnt away his flesh and the smell of charred meat combined with the smell of burning electronics filled Jason’s nostrils.
Jason knew there was no way out of this hopeless situation. The gravitational pull of the black hole was far too powerful for the Equinox’s thrusters to overcome. They were already at maximum output and in danger of failing. Engaging the faster than light drive within such a strong gravity field would be disastrous so that was out of the question. The ship’s outer hull was already beginning to disintegrate from the extreme gravitational force acting on it.
A sudden explosion violently jolted the ship resulting in red warning lights flashing on the captain’s instrument panel. The port thruster had just failed and the Equinox began to speed up rapidly, falling deeper into the black hole.
Jason had never before experienced fear as he did at this very moment, born out of the realisation that death was inevitable. His skin began to sizzle from the heat and the sensation of falling made him dizzy, yet he remained conscious while his skin burst into flames. The searing heat was unbearable now sending his mind reeling.
Somewhere in the depths of his mind he could hear a female voice calling his name.
“Is this the end?” he wondered.
Somehow he had imagined death quite differently. Jason was not a religious person at all. He didn’t believe in an afterlife and definitely not in angels or a bright light at the end of a long tunnel. He believed that life just ended when the body ceased to function and there was no more. There would be no day of reckoning where he would be judged for breaking all the sacred rules. He was surprised that his thought processes continued to function at the verge of death, and with such clarity too.
Thoughts about religion and the afterlife quickly gave way to a sudden realisation which filled him with excitement.
“Now why haven’t I thought about this sooner?” he scolded himself, momentarily forgetting about his situation.
He heard the voice again. This time it was louder.
“Wake up Jason!”
His eyes opened and Princess Jasmine’s concerned face slowly came into focus. He felt a wave of relief wash over him. He was alive! The near death experience had been nothing more than a horrible nightmare, but this time he remembered every little detail of it.
Managing a weak smile, he reached out and touched her face. She smiled back, visibly relieved that he was ok.
“You’re a real sight for sore eyes, Jasmine,” he whispered to her.
She hugged him tightly and he allowed himself the luxury of her warm embrace.
“Not only do I remember the dream, I also have a brilliant idea,” he said surprising her with his sudden excitement. He pulled away from her embrace and held her by her shoulders and looked into her eyes.
“As I was burning up in my dream, I realised that all matter, be it gold or carbon, is made up of the same universal building blocks and therefore can be manipulated!”
“Burning up?” she asked, with a slightly confused expression.
“Don’t worry my dear wife, I’m not going crazy,” he assured her. “I’ll tell you about the dream later. The idea that I’ve just envisioned is going to be the greatest thing since sliced bread!”
Her questioning and confused expression made him realise that she wouldn’t have been familiar with that old Earth expression, so he quickly proceeded to enlighten her before explaining the significance of his brilliant idea.
“Ok, let me try to explain this in a simple way. Everything around you is made up of atoms, the building blocks of matter, and every atom is made up of protons, neutrons and electrons, the building blocks of the atom.”
He paused and studied her face to see if she understood what he had explained so far. He wasn’t sure if she did but he had to share his brilliant idea with her anyway. He had to tell someone. The implications of his realisation were huge and far reaching.
“The only difference between a gold atom and the atoms making up carbon is the number of protons, neutron and electrons and the way in which they are arranged, but all atoms are ultimately made up of the same protons, neutrons and electrons.”
“I’m sorry, Jason, but I don’t fully understand what you’re saying,” she replied with a blank expression.
“I’m sure it’s something really important, and I really do wish I could understand.”
“It’s ok,” he smiled back. “I just wanted you to be the first person I shared this with,” he replied giving her a hug.
“Ok, now I’ve got to see Vince.”
“But it’s still so early,” she reminded him. “Dawn is still a long way away, and Vince will be asleep.”
Jason couldn’t help himself. He was already working out the equations in his head while picturing graphs and atomic numbers. With a distant look and a silly grin on his face he jumped out of his warm bed and rushed into the bathroom.
Life as they knew it was about to change once again, forever! This new idea of his was even bigger than his faster than light drive concept. With the ability to manipulate matter, the possibilities were endless. He could truly become a master of the universe.
“A master of the universe,” he thought to himself and smiled even more. “Hmmmm.”
Quick as a flash he was done in the bathroom and all dressed up. He gave his wife a kiss and hurriedly left their room heading to Vince.
“Who is it?” came the sleepy response to his pounding on Vince’s heavy wooden door.
“It’s me Vince! Open up! Quick!”
“What’s the matter Jason?” asked his old friend rubbing the sleep out of his eyes. The tall, well built Vince looked like a savage from the deep dark Amazon rainforest with his long sleep tangled confused mass of hair, standing there in the doorway half blind without his spectacles.
Vince and Jason hardly ever saw each other over the last few years. Their close friendship had come to an abrupt end after Jason had mercilessly slaughtered King Roland and his army when they had first arrived on Carac, so finding Jason at his door with a wild eyed look on his face at this unholy hour was the last thing Vince had expected when he went to bed the previous evening.
“Where are my manners? Come in Jason. Make yourself comfortable while I make us some coffee and you can tell me the reason for this rare honour.”
“Ah, always the gentleman, Vince,” replied Jason with a smile. “Thank you.”
Vince gestured to the comfortable sofa in his living room and proceeded to brew some aromatic coffee in the kitchen.
Before long, Jason was explaining the reason for his visit between sips of hot, sweet, coffee talking fast from the excitement and tripping over his words.
Vince was quick to grasp the significance of Jason’s idea. He excitedly brought out paper and pencils and started writing down equations.
“Jason. As much as we haven’t seen eye to eye on many things in the recent past, I have to say this.”
Jason looked up at Vince trying to read his expression.
“You’re a bloody genius!”
“But of course,” replied Jason, smiling.
“And ever so modest too,” retorted Vince sarcastically.
It felt awesome having a conversation with his old friend again after such a long time. It brought back memories of Earth and their long journey to Carac. Earth was a lifetime ago, but he suddenly felt nostalgic and homesick.
“Jason, I know it’s really early but we need to continue this at the lab on the Equinox,” said Vince putting down his pencil. “But first, I have to shower.”
Jason grinned at his old friend.
“Yes, definitely yes!” replied Jason. “I’m ready when you are.”
A short shuttle flight later, Vince and Jason were aboard the Equinox. The labs on the ship were better suited to the task at hand than the labs at the university or Vince’s living room for that matter.
“Do you miss home?” Jason asked, while Vince busied himself at a computer terminal punching in numbers.
“I do, but I’ve made peace with the idea that we’ll never be able to go back there,” he replied to his friend without looking up.
“Never say never, old friend,” responded Jason with a glint in his eye.
Vince wasn’t sure if he should be concerned or excited at Jason’s response, so he simply remained silent.