This Won’t Hurt a Bit
After some tense moments of focused concentration, Dr. Hendrick looked up from the scope. He was clearly concerned, more than usual.
“This one looks bad,” said the doctor.
“How bad? Is it serious?” asked Bill.
“Well, I think we can stop it, but we’ll have to act fast. Metabolic activity indicates that it’s about to metastasize.”
Humanity’s course had been on a more or less exponential upward trajectory for the past two million years or so, notwithstanding a few bumps along the way. Most of the Milky Way had been colonized, or at least visited, by the humans or their machines.
Fossilized ancient artifacts had been discovered on some of these worlds, dated to some 215 million years ago. All of these had suddenly ceased to be produced, it seemed, at precisely the same moment. Many hypotheses had been proposed for this synchronized extinction, but there were gaps in each of them. None of the myriad human civilizations had ever come to any conclusive consensus about this mystery.
Now, the humans were engaged in the most ambitious work of stellar engineering ever attempted. The administrative challenges of coordinating the efforts of a few hundred different species of humans scattered across more than a thousand star systems over the course of millennia made the theoretical and technical aspects of the project seem trivial by comparison.
By focusing the energies of some thousands of stars near the galaxy’s core, it would be possible to create a sufficient negative energy density to open a stable wormhole, allowing humans finally to leave the confines of their home galaxy. The future of mankind was the Universe.
“Well, doc, you’re the expert,” said Bill.
Dr. Hendrick nodded. “This won’t hurt a bit,” he said. The doctor issued the command. “That’ll just take a moment. Just relax…”
The humans continued to work through the next several millennia, blissfully unaware of the beams of ultra-high energy gamma rays that had been once again sent to sterilize the galaxy.