“As I sit here, realizing the dreams of humanity are within reach, I’m humbly taken aback by just how small we are. Excitement courses through me, for we are like the explorers of old sailing for an unknown horizon, fueled only by the hope of a new world.”
June 10, 2091
Bernard Hubert put down his journal and gazed at the Moon. Mining ships with precious cargo zoomed away from the pale lunar aura, sailing across the firmament,
back to Earth.
“To think we would settle for this.” Bernard sighed while looking over the vast space engulfing his existence. His rocket, soon to be launched, carrying the hopes of humanity and a frontier only just beginning to be explored.
After the war, the main facility had to be moved. Unfortunately, massive land regions had succumbed to depopulation from the rising heat, while the preferred stronghold of Florida had been lost to the rising sea.
Now a volcanic crater cradled his soon-to-be launched rocket. The construction mandates set forth by the World Council being utterly insane, he took immense
pleasure in his team for accomplishing the impossible. The pad had been completed in just two months, the concrete still setting.
A neat pile of organized notes and papers sat on his desk. Bernard sifted through, searching for a particular letter, one his great grandfather, Edwin, had received from the legendary astronomer, Carl Sagan. Finding it, he gently lifted the crinkled and yellowed paper.
My Dear Edwin,
Consider again that dot. That’s here. That’s home. That’s us. On it, everyone you love, everyone you know, everyone you ever heard of, every human being who ever was, lived out their lives. The aggregate of our joy and suffering, thousands of confident religions, ideologies, and economic doctrines, every hunter and forager, every hero and coward, every creator and destroyer of civilization, every king and peasant, every young couple in love, every mother and father, hopeful child, inventor and explorer, every teacher of morals, every corrupt politician, every “superstar,” every “supreme leader,” every saint and sinner in the history of our species lived there — on a mote of dust suspended in a sunbeam.
Never forget, no matter how great we become we will always be small. Yet despite being infinitesimal, we can always find our purpose. I am immensely impressed with your contributions to the fields of astrophysics and cosmology.
Bernard repeated, “The history of our species lived there—on a mote of dust suspended in a sunbeam.” Then, with a pen in hand and a smile on his face, he added two words:
After a gentle knock, a service woman poked her head in. “It’s time, sir.”
Bernard gently placed the letter in an empty box, piled the remaining papers atop and then closed the lid. He cracked his knuckles, stood, stretched, and turned off the light.
He considered the strength of his legacy. Henry Hubert, his father, was the most revered MIT professor to ever walk those halls; his great grandfather, Edwin, author of the seminal Fantastical Stories of Stardust & Rock was a thought leader in cosmology
and friend to Carl Sagan. That lineage led him here, to this mission, all the work done — and yet to come.
Well, that and the fateful events of six years ago...
He delved back in his mind to Switzerland. It was 2085. The final fragments of glacial ice reflected dawn’s light, giving the vast mountain ridges an aura. Past that, an enormous range of peaks, each cascading larger than the one before, consumed every inch of viewable space. A winding road cut through the ridges, sharing its secrets with every passing vehicle.
Deep in the range, hidden from view, laid a place unlike any other, CERN. It was home to thousands of gifted scientists, all working to achieve a better, more sustainable life away from this solitary dot.
Bernard remembered it well. It began when he and his scientific comrade, Darren Parsons, were working for Outer Limits, the leading aerospace company. By the early 2050’s OL had put a colony in space, mined the ocean floor, and resurrected fifty-seven extinct species. Meanwhile, CERN, attempting to restore an ionosphere irradiated by World War III, implored the World Council to mandate Bernard and Darren’s participation.
To avoid the lengthy governmental procedure, Outer Limits CEO Angelika On offered to “loan” her top two employees. The fierce Scandinavian had another reason: OL wanted CERN’s resources for a secret project operating from Novem- ber 2085 to April 2086.
“Angelika, we’ve been here five months, FIVE MONTHS. What you’re asking us to build, in secret, mind you, it’s...” Already exasperated, Bernard fought to keep
his composure. “It’s just not enough time. Darren’s not going to like that... not at all. Leaving sooner when he only has days as it is. You know he’s working on PF designs.”
At first the voice at the other end was cool and soothing. “While I certainly understand your concerns, I DON’T CARE, BERNARD! Circumstances have changed. Get him back here today. I’ll see you Monday.”
“Yes, ma’am...” His tone communicated his disgust for a decision he was not— not—going to argue with.
The call’s abrupt finale left him unbalanced. Abandoning the delicious chocolate pastry, a long standing afternoon treat for the science guru, he departed the cafeteria.
Despite his soured mood, moving through the curved hallways, he couldn’t help but admire the canvases lining the walls, each honoring his fellow scientists’ journey to Mars, and marking it as their new home.
“We were there once, will be there again, and soon...”
The corridor leading to his office displayed a sleek array of future tech. There were gadgets of all kinds, working and non-working, functional prototypes as well as theoretical models, all of which any good scientist should own, but the public would consider incomprehensible.
A man with unruly silver hair and a colorful plaid button-down tucked neatly into his jeans sat in his chair. Unaware of Bernard’s dour state, visible excitement coursed through him.
“Hubert, great. I want to show you my modified calculations for the singularity capture.”
“Ah, D, yes, let’s have a look. Did you stabilize the quark stream during stage 4?” There was a slight lording to his tone.
“Oh, yes. The new math solves it. I bet William couldn’t even do this.”
“Much as I find it endearing how academic rivalries never die, I doubt that. William is the better mathematician, you know.”
“Right. Just like Iron Man was better than Captain America? Yes, Stark could hold the Gauntlet, but, be honest, that hardly makes him superior to the good ole stars and stripes.”
Momentarily enjoying a snarky analogy worthy of their shared love of early 21st century comics, Bernard rolled his eyes. Unfortunately, there were more somber things to discuss.
“D, Angie called. She wants you back, as in today, now—like the Borg Queen calling her ships back to the nest.” He finished with a halfhearted wink.
He expected Darren to be displeased, but the man looked ill. He was shaking, as if being slowly consumed by a mix of anger and regret.
“She can’t do that, Bernard, not now...”
CERN was where black holes were contained, antimatter researched, the fringes of knowledge pushed everyday. Bernard understood his friend’s frustration. No matter how cool or future tech the Outer Limits facility was, it was not, and never could be, CERN.
They talked, and talked more, until Darren was calm enough to agree to a change in plan.
Just before dusk, the low sun’s beams cast dramatic shadows down causeways carved by ancient glaciers. Bernard zoomed along in his electric sports car, the crown jewel of ingenuity in 2086, a gleaming, turquoise Newton 200.
Having left the main collider facility, he was headed to the airstrip when a burst of light blanketed the world. Before he could react, a shockwave tossed the Newton 200 off the road, slamming it against a rock embankment. His head cracked against the doorframe. The light dissipated, leaving only darkness.
Bernard woke to sirens and a stench of melted stone. It was night. The sky barely illuminated by a smoke-obscured moon, he couldn’t see clearly. Trying to remember the warning signs of a concussion, he fumbled for his glasses, but everything he touched was broken glass. Blood dripped down his arm and onto his fingertips.
The crunch of boots on the radiating dirt felt imaginary. “Over here! Found him!” Following the grinding of metal against asphalt, three men, paramedics, having wrenched the car door free, came into view.
“If he’s bleeding internally, we shouldn’t move him. We’re out of stabilizing packs and there’s nowhere to bring him anyway. The hospital’s gone. Nearest medical center is Geneva, and we can only assume there’s hundreds, if not thousands of wounded.”
The dizzying burst of a flashlight beam made him vomit. Somehow, Bernard managed to reach out and grasp a leg. “What... happened...?”
“Sir, not sure. Best guess so far is an antimatter containment failure... a big one.” “...damage?” The paramedic choked. “Damage? Sir... CERN’s gone. You’re lucky...
this is about as close to campus as you can get and still...”
His brain splitting, Bernard croaked, “Gone? Where’s... Darren? Dr. Parsons? Other... survivors?”
Their dark looks gave him the answer before he heard it. “Sir, there weren’t any. The campus was vaporized. All that’s left is a hole.”