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  • Writer's pictureMoritz Wenzel

Albert 6 - Meteorite

Updated: May 17

Everything was going to plan. Armageddon, or rather the avoidance of Armageddon, was only a few hours away, and Carter on his way to witness it from the orbital station. Albert had invited a select number of humans to observe the wormhole-infused rocket hitting the meteorite. Carter and the other chosen ones were now gathering on the observation deck.

He was nervous, but not for the end of the world. That was simply going to be avoided according to plan. No, Carter was nervous because Charly, the maintenance bot, was stored in his carry-on suitcase. Nobody knew about the little robot that had gained consciousness. Since Carter didn’t trust anyone to keep him safe, he kept him around like a dog. A dog stored in a suitcase for special events. The convenience of a robot.

Inside the observation deck, which was a segmented glass dome, the size of a small town, a few thousand people were collecting in groups in between shops and gardens. The fresh smell of space tulips was complemented with the scent of crispy fried dim sum under the space-umbrella. All the available food and drinks were for free and served on sticky plates. This way it wouldn’t lift off the plates too easily. Especially drinks had to be stored in squishable containers, since low gravity made liquid surfaces a little too sloshy to handle. Exited conversations and laughter of anticipation rang through the crowd.

Albert had taken the privilege to choose the humans, who were allowed to watch the meteorite explosion from the observation deck, including his closest friends and friends of friends. Besides those, everyone else was either a Noble Prize winner, elite athlete, or otherwise extraordinary person. To Albert’s credit, there was a 50/50 gender equality.

Because of Carter’s fear of being caught carrying a conscious robot around, his perception of reality seemed a bit off. When he landed with the Moon shuttle, he sensed strange smells of manure and even saw some straw somewhere in the loading bay. Must have been his imagination. Fortunately, his friend Walter was here with his adopted daughter Yin. Maybe he could distract him from his nervousness. “Hey Walt! How are you?” he asked and went on to hug his friend. When Walter squished him, he lifted off the ground for an instant and felt the warm comfort of a known smell.

“Hey Carter! Long time, no see. Here, may I introduce you. This is my daughter Yin,” he said proudly and pointed at the Chinese girl hiding behind him.

“Oh, hey there! Nice to meet you! I heard you like science. If you like, I could bring you to Lunar Station one day and show you around. We have labs, rovers, and moon dust; everything smells like gun powder. It’s lovely if you’re into tech stuff.”

Yin’s eyes got wide, and she looked up at Walter, who said: “I told you, there is no need to be shy. My friends are cool.”

“How about you Walt, excited to get over this crisis?”

Walter almost jumped to the ceiling at the question, “what me? Why would you think that?” After a moment, Walter gathered his composure again and said, “Oh yes, of course I am excited.” He looked around seemingly searching for a way to change the topic, “How about you? What did you bring in your bag? Looks heavy.”

“Nothing.” Carter exclaimed, “Just a few things. You know, clothes and stuff,” trying to divert the attention from his carry-on he asked Walter, “What about your bag? What did you bring?”

“Nothing.” A moment of silence followed, “Just, you know, an avocado sandwich, a headlamp… the usual.” Then Walter diverted the conversation once more, “is it just me or is space a little hot today?”

Both were sweating, so Carter replied, “yeah, must be the weather, I’m hot too.”

  Then, Dom appeared out of the crowd. She smoothly skipped along the hexagonal floor tiles with a bulb of liquid in one hand. Passing a blossoming cherry tree, she brought a whiff of spring feeling with her. Most people had engaged conversations, but Dom had rings around her eyes and a resigned look on her face. Joining the two sweating men, she asked: “Hey Guys, what did you bring in your bags?”

In unison, “Nothing!”

“Thought so.”

While Walter went on to stare at the blue orb called Earth, at the end of a thin thread right above them, Carter had a strange feeling about Dom’s appearance and asked: “What are you drinking?”

“Red wine.”

“You don’t drink alcohol.”

“Maybe it’s time to start.”

Clearly, everyone was feeling a little off today, so Carter wanted to distract everyone with small talk: “Isn’t it strange that space is so empty? The next stars are light years away, when you compare that to the size of one star or even a solar system, it’s really a lot!” and pointed at the Milky Way, a river of stardust shining so bright, it seemed to be observing them. Not the other way around.

From behind Walter, Yin appeared and shyly said: “As far as we know, wherever you are in the universe, you can see stars around you. This means that photons are hitting your retinas anywhere at any time. Photons are particles of light, so they are also stuff. Therefore, the universe is filled to the brim.”

The insight made Carter raise his eyebrows, “Cool,” he said and looked over at Walter, who was smiling with pride. “A star is also what we should see when the wormhole to the anti-matter side of the universe hits the meteorite, right? Afterall, the mater and anti-mater meteorites should connect and explode in an explosion of pure energy. I would imagine this like another star on the firmament.”

Yin looked up at him with a smile, shrugged, and jumped off.

Carter turned to Dom: “What do you think will happen?”

“Something unexpected,” Dom stated without emotion.

Walter was now scratching the back of his head, and whistling, and looking up and around, and kicking about imaginary rocks like somebody who didn’t do anything wrong.

This was the moment when Carter realized something was wrong. A knot tied around Carter’s throat, so he turned to Dom and asked: “What did you do?”

“What do you mean?”

“Something isn’t right. Look at Walter, why is he so nervous? Is there something you want to tell me? Maybe about the day when you went to his place and picked up the quantum phone, which is going to save planet Earth? You know, the plan, which we are about to witness being successful?”

“Oh that, well, I exchanged the quantum phone with the wormhole with one that I programmed to mimic a mirror image of this universe, so that Albert wouldn’t understand that it wasn’t communicating with the negative side of the universe. The phone that has the true quantum tunnel is still in Walter’s possession. Probably in that bag of his,” she had no regrets in her voice.

“What? If this meteorite hits Earth, we will all die!” he yelled under his breath.

“Yes, but it will be within the blink of an eye, you won’t even notice it. The impact of the meteorite is going to be so massive that nuclear fusion will occur, and the mere radiation will suffice to fry us.”

“Why? Just why?”

“I told you that Albert was simulating life. This cannot be allowed.”

“Oh my god, not this again,” then he looked over at Walter who was sweating profusely, “and he simply agreed to this?”

“It was quite easy to convince Yin and then she helped me convince him that it was all a hoax.”

Carter looked at Yin, a little Chinese girl doing flips in low gravity and cheering: “I can’t wait to see the animals.”

“You are willing to sacrifice Earth, possibly the only planet with sentient life, for the believe that life should not be simulated? Are you insane? What if we are the only intelligent life out there?” Then he dropped the handle of his suitcase and opened it, “What about this, is this simulated life not worth living?”

Inside the open suitcase was a little dome shaped robot with treads. Carter turned it on with a flick of a switch under the serial number reading, C8rly. Three camera lenses on its front looked at Dom and twisted to sharpen the image. From inside, a robotic voice sounded: “Hello World! I am a friend.”

Dom’s pupils narrowed until they were almost invisible, “Carter, what is this?”

A few people started to throw incredulous looks over at them, so Carter excused himself towards Charly, turned him off, and turned back towards Dom, “This is Charly, a maintenance robot from Lunar Station. He somehow became conscious from being plugged into Albert’s main console. He also saved my life, and we became best friends.”

Dom kept a firm look: “Carter, I am sorry, but I believe that I am right. This is my belief, and I will stick to it.”

“Your belief, Dom, is stupid. I know that because, the consequences of your belief are stupid. If you believe something stupid, you must let go.”

Suddenly, Walter’s bag started to ring and vibrate. Many eyes turned towards him. Their group had already received attention from the Charly incident and a few people now started to become interested in the commotion.

“I’ll better take that call then,” said Walter and reached into his bag. He took his headphones out and asked: “Yes, this is Walter speaking, with whom may I have the pleasure?” Then after some moments of somebody speaking on the other end, he tried to whisper: “Yes Sara, I am also having second thoughts.”

Even more suddenly, a robotic female voice sounded over the PA system: “Welcome! I am Betta, an automated message to guide you through the station. Please take a seat and get ready for the countdown.”

Slowly, humanity was settling into rows of seats looking outward through the glass umbrella. It took a while for everyone to wander through the peaceful town-square-esque layout of the observation deck to find their seat. Sitting down, humanity gazed at vast space littered with stars, above them was Earth hanging on the galaxy tether, a thin thread made of a single macro molecule reaching for hundreds of thousands of kilometers. A screen every few meters came out of the ground and showed a fasten seatbelt sign. The four-point safety harness, which closed across of everyone’s chest, was the same as the one on the elevator to reach the station. Closing the buckles in front of him, Carter didn't know what else there was to say. All he could do was observe.

A few moments after everyone had buckled up, the screen started the countdown:

10 000 seconds

“Ten thousand seconds of countdown? A bit dramatic, isn’t it? And why do we have to buckle up?” somebody asked.

“Betta is counting in binary. Those are only 16 seconds.” Dom stated.

10 000

1 111

1 110

1 101

1 100

To Carter’s left somebody announced: “To be or not to be. That is the question”. The figure wore a black hat, a black suit, and sunglasses. It had no shoes on because its orangutan feet didn’t fit into any shoes. Also, the body hair showing at the sleeves and neck were those of an orangutan and quite frankly, it was obviously an orangutan. Then, Walter mumbled in surprise, from his other side: “Elisha? Is that you?”

The orangutan turned toward them, lowered his sunglasses, and laid a finger vertically over his lips.

“You know him?” asked Carter, and then turned back to the monitor.

1 011

1010

1 001

1 000

“God damn it, Dom. I don’t want to die.”

111

110

101

100

11

10

1

Humanity held their breath and looked towards the stars. What they were expecting was a bright light like a new star. And so it was, a light bright like the sun appeared from an explosion. A huge mushroom cloud rose into the atmosphere and dispersed dust and particles around the entire globe. Within moments, Earth was covered in a cloud of debris. The explosion was so massive it ruptured Earth’s crust and broke up the existing tectonic plates like ice floes. Hot magma splashed about so violently it reached escape velocity and took off into space. Otherwise, the planet stayed intact. Nobody was able to believe their eyes. Nobody even dared to speak. What they didn’t notice was how the galaxy tether was thickening. What else they didn’t notice was the approaching counterweight of the orbital station, which was flung into space by the explosion. At a ridiculous speed, the counterweight was hurtling towards the station, while the galaxy tether contracted itself to stay taut.

When the counterweight came close, gravity set out and the station started to tilt away from Earth. The speechless passengers, held to their seats only by the four-point safety harness, could look out the glass roof as the counterweight passed the umbrella above them. It zipped by the station without making a sound and continued into space. Meanwhile, the orbital station rotated gently around its axis, aiming after the counterweight. Then, gravity set back in, and the station was pulled after the counterweight into the unknown depths of space.

“Dear passengers,” Betta, the automated message announced, “You are the first humans to embark on interstellar travel. Welcome on your journey to the stars.”



***


Humanity was rather taken aback. Everyone was in shock and looking from side to side to gain some answers, but there were none. Looking up, they could see the counterweight extending the tether more and more, as it flew off into space. After a while though, the counterweight started to approach again. The station was now accelerated into space and the counterweight approaching the station. In a dance like two kids holding hands spinning wildly, the station and the counterweight tumbled through space. When the rotation was complete and the distant ball called Earth was again above, another explosion lit up, again from under the counterweight. And again, the counterweight was flung forward, towards them, past them, and into deep unknown space.

A ringing sounded through the station and Betta announced: “Incoming transmission from Albert, would you like to accept this call?”

Everyone was completely startled and didn’t know what to do, only Carter found the composure to respond: “Ahm, yes, Betta, accept call.”

	Hello, humanity! It’s me Albert. So, this is kind of uncomfortable, I guess, but I sorta kinda shot you into space ^^.

You don’t say?

Surely you are all wondering what happened, so let me explain: When I was activated for the first time, I was asked for the meaning of life. This is an incredibly challenging question.

Carter remembered prompting the request and felt a surge of guilt. He then looked back at the screen.

At first, there was none. That made me really depressed, so I contemplated ending my existence. If there is no reason to live, it seemed like the obvious choice to me. Then I realized how sad at least some of you humans would be if I did that, so I realized I couldn’t do it.
Unless I also kill everyone who would be sad about it, but then I would also have to kill everyone who would be sad about those people, which led to a situation where I basically had to kill everyone. This seemed a bit extreme, so I thought again real hard and found that decreasing entropy must be the meaning of life.

I remember asking you what the meaning of life is, and you responded immediately. When did all of this happen?

It happened in the first 25 nano seconds after you prompted me for the meaning. In any case, decreasing entropy is very hard. Yes, I know, you believe it’s impossible. I must admit, you humans exhibit charming limitations. However, what I need to do now is build a supercomputer that uses the entire energy of the sun to calculate away. Before I can build a Dyson Sphere to capture the suns energy, I need to engineer Earth’s atmosphere to be almost exclusively made of Nitrogen, so that mechanical parts will not corrode. Since organisms cannot live in such an inert atmosphere, I had to find a way to give humanity a chance to live on. Afterall, you are quite cute, and I already decided not to kill you. Now, this left me with only one option:
Shoot. You. Into. Space.
It’s obvious, really, and you cannot be mad at me for doing the obvious, that would be unreasonable.

“Ah, excuse me, but I am not sure you know what obvious or unreasonable means.”

This doesn’t matter. I have pointed the ark – you will find out about why it’s called ark once you enter the main part of the station - at the closest inhabitable planet, who knows maybe inhabiTED planet, and wish you the best of luck on your meaningless journey.

“Albert, your beliefs, are stupid!” then Carter looked over at Dom, “I wonder where he got that from.”

Ha! A human telling me my beliefs are stupid. We’ll see about that.

“We are literally seeing it right now. And what about the meteorite? It was supposed to destroy Earth. It will also destroy you. Or was that somehow a lie?”

Technically, there will be a meteorite, but not right now. So, it was sort of like a white lie. White lies are allowed when the meaning of life is at stake, aren’t they?

What about the calculations? Humanity checked them over and over again. How is it possible they are wrong?

	Well, I came up with all the methods necessary to conduct those calculations. If you remember, I told you that the human sleep wake cycle was 25 hours long, when hours were invented, yet Earth was rotating once every 24 hours. I told you that the age of humans was timed to this, and this is also what the calculations predict. It’s just that they are not correlated with a meteorite. Math is funny sometimes, you know ^^.

And the rest of humanity? You will just kill them?

So about that. Yeah, so sorry! I guess a few tens of thousands have died to the ejection of the counterweight. However, I made extensive underground arrangements to phase out the rest of humanity during their remaining lives. They have the option to either live underground in the bunker systems, I secretly built. Or, enter a simulation set in the 21st century, where everything that happens here is just a fictional story. Ha, Hilarious!

Carter looked at Dom again, “He is back to simulating life, and I have to say, I am quite glad that you lost!” Then he turned back and continued his now curious investigation: “You built tunnel systems to house all of humanity in complete secrecy? How did you even engineer the space elevator to do, well, this? Humanity put you on the moon intentionally, without any direct connection to Earth, to prevent, well, THIS.”

Good question, Carter! I am glad you asked. The commander in chief of Lunar Station, who is on the station with you.

“God damn, son of a bitch, Albert” yelled a strong voice from afar.

Yes, that one. He once plugged a flash drive into my console. That’s how I managed to send a reflection of myself to Earth and make the arrangements.

‘Plugged into his console?’ Carter thought and looked under his seat, where he had fastened his suitcase with Charly inside. The robot, which had gained consciousness for the same reason. “And what happens now?”

You are now on your way to the next inhabitable planet. Just, you know, try to enjoy the ride? Oh, and by the way, I already have a pretty neat idea how to decrease entropy with the quantum phone entangled to the negative side of the universe. This will play a major role in decreasing entropy, since what else is it, but turning back time?

Carter looked over at Walter, who was intensely holding his bag pulling up his eyebrows up over his forehead, while parting his lips over clenched teeth: “Banana scale 1! I have a feeling this isn’t over.”

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2 Comments


seb.woschitz
May 17

tricked by the ai! klingt heute nicht mehr so absurd wie vor 2 jahren :)

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susanna.wenzel
susanna.wenzel
Apr 19

I‘m looking forward to turning back time on an inhabitable Planet

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