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Dark Energy

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As humans head out to the stars, they must beware of wolves.

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Primer: Most people know the universe is expanding, but some may be surprised to find out that the rate of expansion is accelerating, and appears to have been doing so for billions of years. This acceleration of expansion is a real thing and perhaps the greatest mystery in astrophysics today. Physicists do not yet know what is causing this, so they have created the term “Dark Energy” to give a name to this unknown thing that will eventually leave our galaxy stranded by itself.

Dec 28, 2021, 10:22 pm, Earth

Dr. Agnes Smith sighed and lowered her enormous body onto the peeling imitation leather of her desk chair, which squeaked and groaned under the enormous load. Agnes’ greasy, mostly-white hair lay stretched across a broad lump of fat at the top of her back as she bent forward to peer into a microscope. At the other end of the eyepiece was a disheveled clump of wires, circuits, and pulsating cylinders pointed inward to a central, microscopic point.

Keeping her eye fixed on the tiny scene, Agnes reached over to a computer keyboard, felt around for the ‘Enter’ key and pressed it. Immediately an almost imperceptible point of blue light appeared in the field of view. Agnes gasped. She turned briefly to study the monitor and fumbled with the mouse to make sure the data recorders were working. Satisfied, she turned back to the microscope and called out, “KALEB! DANIEL! BILLY! Get into the kitchen! NOW!!”

“OK Nanna!” the porcine boys replied, jolted into awareness. They jumped up from their game and rushed to the kitchen. There on the table, surrounded by remnants of dinner, was another mass of wires and electronics resembling the one on Agnes' desk at the other end of their rambler. However, this apparatus emitted a bright blue light from a laser pointed into the middle of the device.

Back in the study, Agnes swallowed hard and clenched her lumpy fists to stop shaking. The blue light from the laser in the kitchen was still there to be seen in the microscope dot in her view. The wormhole was stable. To verify what she was seeing, she spoke into small microphone connecter to her PC. If the tiny wormhole was truly stable, the boys would be able to hear her voice encoding through a laser signal from her end. Her hesitant words came out carefully, “Boys. Can … you … hear me?”

“Yes Nanna! Yes we can! Can you hear us???” The excited reply received through the computer came back immediately and with perfect clarity.

Agnes leaped from her chair, forgetting about her elephantine proportions, and stampeded into the kitchen, exclaiming, “We did it! Oh sweet heaven above, we did it!” Tears streaming, she grabbed each of the beaming boys and squeezed them gleefully into her doughy figure. In return, they giggled and snuggled into her warm embrace. Agnes let them go, wiped her eyes, and looked very seriously into their innocent faces. “Boys,” she said, “you are the first people to ever send anything through a stable wormhole. Just now, we sent tiny little photons, but soon we will be sending real matter- objects, people, spaceships! We have opened the door to the stars, and you are going to be the first explorers.”

“Purleck, you asked for me?”

“Director Brimleth, thank you for coming. I found these signals from the Lurbesh 221 cluster.”

“Hmm. Wormhole radio packets from class 2 Swine. Why are you wasting my time with this?”

“We picked up the Swine infection less than 7 clicks ago. Not surprisingly, their wormhole communications attracted attention from a star-core plasma entity.”

“OK, so they’ve been destroyed.”

“No sir, that is why I called you.”

April 9, 2081, 6:54 am, Proxima Centauri 2

In a crowded command center, General Kaleb Smith stood at digital table and rested on his short fleshy arms. He looked at interstellar plots that showed what should be impossible – streams of extremely high-energy radiation impinging simultaneously on eleven of Earth’s thirty eight stellar colonies. The alert panel on the display was streaming with red-tinted high priority messages for help.

Two astrophysicists approached, haggling over the interpretation of the recent data. Reaching the table, they began to gesture over the plots. Dr. Leeda, short with braided black hair, could barely contain herself. “This CAN’T be natural! Albert, I know these have the signature of strong stellar winds, but they are all clearly sourced from Wolf-Rayet 11. For these beams to strike these star systems at precisely the same moment … the odds are astronomical!”

Dr. Albert Turnbough, tall and red-headed, retorted, “Dr. Leeda! I find it much more unlikely that any intelligence could manage the energies of such a powerful star, and even less likely that it could respond to future events. What you are proposing is beyond preposterous! It is insanity!"

General Smith pounded on the table, “Take your personal differences offline!” He pointed a fat, sweaty index finger at the table. We have people dying on eleven systems and I need a PLAN.” The two doctors blinked and turned their attention fully on the general, who addressed Dr. Leeda, “I gather that you think this is some sort of attack? What is your evidence?”

“General, eleven systems were Third-Wave Colonies, all initially settled at the same time. They all have widely varying distances from Wolf-Rayet 11, so the star would have had to emit focused jets of radiation hundreds of years ago at precise intervals to strike these planets simultaneously. I can’t think of a natural phenomenon to explain that.”

Dr. Turnbough rolled his eyes.

General Smith continued, “What about the other three systems from the Third Wave? Why weren’t they hit? And why First and Second Wave colonies?”

“I don’t know General, it doesn’t make any sense that these planets would be ... attacked … but others not.”

Kaleb looked deeply into Dr. Leeda’s eyes and asked, “So, you think this is an E.T. with a ray-gun as big as a star?”

“Yes, General. That is exactly what I think.”

General Smith began to rub his forehead, “Well, this is a hell of a first contact. … Can we defend against this attack? Can we help the forward systems?”

Dr. Leeda paused and looked stone-faced at the display in front of her. Without turning her face she replied, “Yes and no. It’s too late to help those under attack. … The radiation environment is too lethal. Any rescue ships we send would be dead in orbit.” She sighed, blinked slowly, and focused her eyes on the general. “However, there are developments in our ability to manipulate dark matter that could provide an effective defense … but probably only for Earth and the Alpha Colonies.”

General Smith thought for a minute, then flicked over a nearby control to raise the comm. “This is General Smith of Colony Defense. Call an emergency meeting of the council. Subject: Immediate relocation to safer, well-defended colonies. … and while you are at it, contact my brothers and put us on a private line.”

“Sir, the Swine were lucky. String activity in the quadrant hid much of their infection. As expected, they reacted to the entity’s attack by erecting dark matter defenses.”

“Yes, of course. What happened when the plasma entity detected the dark matter barriers? I bet it wasn’t happy! Ha! Ha!”

“Indeed sir. Naturally, a relativistic particle attack is the only option, and difficult to mount, even for a deep-core entity. By the time the dark matter barriers dispersed, a quarter of the entity's stellar reserves were gone and it was piping mad! I found it very amusing- I made a recording.”

“Ha! We’ll show it at the retreat, we’re sure to get some laughs. … But Purleck, you have yet to show me anything worth my precious attention.”


May 11, 2193, 2:54 pm, Tau Ceti 4

General Daniel Smith laboriously moved his chubby frame into the darkened conference room. His joints ached and his skin bore the bruises and pasty feeling of one recently awoken from stasis. The briefings from the last 24 hours were swimming through his mind, as one would expect after sleeping more than 100 years. After a period of extended peace, the colonies appeared to be under renewed attack, thus he was revived to assist.

There were about two dozen other people in the room- dignitaries and decision-makers from the colonies. At the head of the table stood Dr. Chandra Leeda, the great grandson of the famous Dr. Leeda. Daniel noticed a striking resemblance to the latter, but this man did not seem to carry the same aura of confidence as his great grandmother as he stood there shuffling and stacking papers.

When all were seated and attentive, Dr. Leeda began, “As you all know, the cosmic ray intensity from Wolf-Rayet 11 has increased two orders of magnitude in the last week. The dark matter defenses are evaporating under this new attack and radiation is beginning to penetrate. The intensity is leveling off, but even then we have only a few weeks before radiation starts killing people and maybe five weeks before defenses are completely compromised. As yet, we don’t have any solid ideas for how to defend against this new attack. What we really need is time.”

“What an interesting request!” A strange voice from the back of the room startled Daniel and everyone else. A tall hooded woman nobody seemed to have noticed before stood up from her seat. She moved toward the group with a poise and gentleness that generated a sense of calm. Upon arriving at the table, she removed her hood to reveal a slender face set with silver eyes. Daniel felt himself compelled to stare at her other-world beauty.

“I am Mayayla, I represent the Taulo, and I believe I have something that may be of great interest to us all.” With extreme grace and precision, Mayayla placed a small mirrored cube on the table. In moments the cube was obscured by a perfect hologram of a most curious structure that appear very large and intricate, a model of some great device of enormous power and sophistication. “You need time? I can give you all the time you want. In addition, I can give you power against the being that is attacking your colonies.”

Shaken out of his trance, Daniel blurted out, “It’s a BEING?? It’s not a civilization?”

“Oh no, not a civilization.” Said Mayayla, “your wormhole transmissions have necessarily caught the attention of a beautiful, if very unfriendly… creature that lives in the star you call Wolf-Rayet 11, or ‘THE Wolf’, as you have come to call it now.”

Staying focused, Daniel continued his questioning. He gestured toward the hologram, “You said that this is of interest to us ALL. What is your profit in this bargain?”

“Well asked, General. The creature, a plasma entity, is a rare thing and must be protected. It is also an obvious hazard to the native fauna of this galaxy. We desire to capture it, and to do so, it must be in a weakened state”

Daniel narrowed his eyes, “It seems to me you have the ability to do this yourself. Why do you need us?”

“You have a clear mind, General Smith. You were chosen well. I will only say that such a rare creature attracts … competition. If my race were to mount a capture alone, it would be easily detected by our competitors. To avoid a destructive engagement, you must begin the capture process and allow us to come in at the ripe time to finish it. In return we offer you technology as yet undreamed of by your species.”

The general frowned. “You want us to do your dirty work.”

Mayayla tilted her head and examined the General. Then she addressed the entire audience. “My friends, not only is my offer generous, it is the only chance you have. I hope you will choose wisely for your race.”

“Director, now we have arrived at the key piece of information. The Swine moved again.”

“Again??? How in The Quantum Realm did they manage

“Yes, puzzling! I had a hunch, and when I saw their new settlement my theory was confirmed… take a look for yourself.”

“Ohhhh… Look. At. That. Temporal controllers, and of Atlaton make if I am not mistaken.”

“Indeed they are. This is certainly a protocol breach. It’s possible someone was trying to capture the plasma entity, but this job was botched. To put temporal controllers in the hands of these carbon-based Swine is a textbook mistake. I’ve already initiated an investigation. Now I only need your permission to begin isolation procedures for the Swine.”

“You have my permission… And the plasma entity- can you save it?”

“Alas, no. It’s already been exposed to temporal rifts. For mercy, I will have it put down.”

“What a shame, what a terrible shame … Report to me when the isolation is complete.”

“Yes, I will do that, sir.”

Trifidon 31st, 49203 of the 9th era, 3:02 am, Extrema 11, Edge of the Milky Way

General Billy “B.A.” Smith slowly paced the bridge of his Ultra-Dreadnaught battle cruiser, his enormous proportions suspended by a lift suit. Normally loud and imperious, today he was pensive and directionless. This caused his lieutenants to shift about nervously. There was visible relief in them as a beep sounded, indicating an incoming communication from the planet below.

The comm officer announced the contents, “General, the last planet of the Wolf Alliance has agreed to our terms of unconditional surrender. At long last, all planets of the galaxy are under your control.” A great cheer erupted from the bridge, but this petered out as General Smith floated silently out the exit.

Billy wandered the corridors, avoiding the confused gazes of his crew until he happened upon the entrance to his personal planetarium, which he entered. “Show me!” he said to the curved walls, which immediately filled with tactical images of the galaxy. Since waking from temporal stasis two hundred thousand years earlier, he and his brothers had marched steadily across the light years, subduing millions of systems. This achievement was laid before him in one incredible image. All too easy, he thought to himself.

“Show me The Beyond.” He knew it was useless, uttering this command. The walls turned inky black with images of The Beyond from titanic million-kilometer telescopes, by far the largest light gatherers ever constructed. Not a single star was to be seen. Where are they, he asked himself. Thousands of generations separated the young humans of today from the time when even the most modest telescopes revealed galaxies without number. The memories of that time still percolated through myths and legends, but nobody believed them anymore. The same myths even recalled a “dark energy” that was pulling a universe apart, but if there ever was such a thing as a universe full of galaxies, it was beyond all detection now.

Billy shut off the display and he allowed his darkened, round form to settle on the floor, loneliness spreading through him like a cold wind.

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