5:15 p.m. Reminder for September 25, 2161: Do you want to send the video message?
Cinia stared at the “yes” and “no” buttons on her computer screen. The decisive moment had arrived. The office was silent except for the cool air blowing through the vents and the hum of the fluorescent lights. All that remained was her and this decision whether to say “yes” to the reminder on her screen.
Her stomach twisted as she looked out of the window. She could see the glow of the spatial anomaly burning like a second sun in the sky. Where did it lead? What would they find on the other end? All she had to do was press “yes” and the answers would descend on humanity, washing them in the light of discovery from another universe.
If that’s what it was. The calculations were inconclusive. Decades of research into string theory had yielded nothing but mysteries and questions until, finally, her experiment succeeded in locating a small area of space over the Artic with readings inconsistent with the rest of the solar system. The anomaly was unlike anything the Space Authority had seen in this solar system. Her research and experiment with the Space Authority’s developing technology probed the anomaly, yielding energy and elements never seen before. This anomaly came to them, and was an excellent opportunity to see more of the universe – or perhaps, an entirely new universe.
It ripped open two days ago, casting light from another realm on their world. The earth shook as signals poured through the widening crack in the sky with a message embedded.
Is anybody listening?
Cinia prepared an audio response, but her superiors blocked it. It was too dangerous. They had no idea if the forces were friendly or hazardous. It could hurt them. Yet, the answers they sought would never come if they didn’t respond. If this was going to happen then she’d have to do it herself. She quickly found a way around the block to transmit the message through a low-priority system. She thought it was funny that they thought they could keep a woman who found holes in space from finding a hole in their network security. She couldn’t shut off the alerts that would blast out to her superiors once she pressed the button, so she had to do it now, while nobody was here to stop her and they couldn’t get through five o’clock traffic to block the message before it went through the anomaly. She stared at her screen, her finger hovering over the button.
“Don’t do it.”
Cinia looked up to see Kalon, her ex-fiancé, standing in the doorway to her office.
“What are you doing here?” she asked sharply.
“Why are you here?” Kalon’s form wavered in her doorway. “Why can’t you leave it alone? Our experiment has already caused catastrophic damage to the planet.”
“What are you talking about?” Cinia said. “The geomagnetic shifts were brief, and there’s no evidence that the anomaly caused them. They could have been natural. The poles have been shifting for years. Our experiment had nothing to do with it.”
“Are you sure about that?”
Cinia turned to see Rayla, her lab assistant and best friend, standing in the back of the lab.
“As sure as I am that the answers we get from this message will revolutionize life and the world as we know it.”
“The anomaly has no answers,” Kalon said. “It wouldn’t be here if it weren’t for our experiment. We probed space until we poked a hole in it, and then we ripped it open in the name of ‘scientific discovery.’”
“It’s my life's work,” Cinia pointed at Kalon, who pixelated as her finger poked toward him. “This is why you’re my ex-fiancé. You don’t support me. You went along while things were new and exciting in hopes of making a name for yourself in the scientific community. We hit one bump in the road, and you betrayed me.”
“You’re still wearing the ring.”
“Fine, take it back.” Cinia pulled the diamond off her finger and threw it at him. It flew through him, thumping on the carpet in the hallway. “I should have done that a week ago when you got the experiment shut down. You betrayed me, Kalon. How could you do that?”
“I didn’t betray you, I’m trying to save you,” Kalon said. “Don’t you see? That anomaly isn’t natural. We tore open a hole in space.”
“We should be closing it, not probing it open,” Rayla said. “The geomagnetic shift when the rift opened the day before yesterday wasn’t natural, and it wasn’t minor. Have you watched the news? GPS systems failed, and our infrastructure fell apart. Airplanes crashed and ships were lost at sea. It was a disaster. Thousands of people died, and millions were hurt!”
“There’s no proof that was caused by our experiment,” Cinia said.
“There’s no proof that it isn’t,” Rayla pixelated in the soft after-hours lighting of the lab. “That’s why the director blocked your reply and ordered you to shut it down. We didn’t betray you. You betrayed yourself.”
“They sent us a message in the data!” Cinia tapped her computer and held it up, showing the translation matrix of the data that came through the satellites on her desktop behind the reminder message in the center of the screen. “All we have to do is say yes, and the answers will come to us! The answers are right there, just waiting for a reply.”
“A reply you were ordered not to send,” Kalon said.
Cinia snorted, putting her computer back on her desk. “It’s my experiment.”
“It was the company’s experiment, and they shut it down,” Rayla said.
“It was built off my doctoral thesis,” Cinia said.
“Cinia, please,” Kalon said. “Listen to us. “Don’t do this. We’ve done enough damage. It’s time to let it go and start over.”
“We’ll help you,” Rayla said. “Let’s work together to close the anomaly. After that, there is plenty to research in this solar system, and the Space Authority is extending the range of the probes and working on an Albicurre drive. Let’s work together to make things right.”
Kalon reached a hand for Cinia. “Give us a chance. Please, Cinia, wake up. Get out of your head and join us in the land of the living.”
Cinia stared at Kalon’s hand wavering in the space in front of her. She swallowed.
“You aren’t real. You left me, along with everybody else.” Cinia pressed the “yes” button on her screen.
A flash in the windows illuminated the room. Cinia walked to the window, where the light from the anomaly grew, sparkling in the pale blue sky. She smiled as the sparkles rained down over the Earth.
Her computer chimed with a message. She ran to it, tapping the screen to play the message. She paled as her own face stared back at her.
“Cinia, if you hear this, then please listen. You were right about string theory. It does exist, and the anomaly near Earth is a cross point in realities.
“Unfortunately, our experiment has destabilized the elements in this solar system, and cross-contamination has twisted the time dimension. The expansion of the universe has stopped, and now everything is collapsing back to the point of origin.
“We must stop this. Get to your ship, and set a course for the settlement at Alpha Centauri. There’s another string crossing near Proxima Centauri b. That string is stable, and we should be able to continue our communication and experiment with the pure energy of that solar system. I will look to seeing you soon.”
Cinia collapsed in her chair as the sky outside grew dark. What ship? Their light-speed drives were still in the developmental stages. The only ships in the solar system ferried their Artificial Intelligence Androids to research missions through the solar system. She couldn’t go to Alpha Centauri!
She tapped her computer, analyzing the data. The air sucked out of her lungs when the time stamp on the transmission through the anomaly appeared.
September 25, 2561.
How did she get a message from 400 years in the future from herself? Obviously, her experiment in string theory didn’t just affect space. It also affected time.
She jumped as something hit the window of the lab. Cinia slammed her computer shut and ran to the exit. A person in the street pushed by her, dashing out of the way of a car speeding toward the building and crashing into their lobby. Rocks crashed to the ground from the sky. The anomaly still shimmered overhead, but something dark was emerging from it. Something round, and breaking up in the atmosphere. Cinia found a covered spot in the overhang from the building and opened her computer, folding it to tablet mode so she could hold it with one hand and poke out her commands with the other.
A rock crashed near her foot. Her computer beeped. She stared from the computer to the smoking rock at her foot, her breath coming in short gasps. She dropped her computer, which landed face up, showing an image of Earth emerging from the anomaly.
Not our Earth.
Cinia knelt on the ground, picking up the rock. The fragment of an Earth from another universe burned her hand.
“I told you not to press that button,” Kalon’s voice said. She looked around, but all she saw were shadows of rushing bodies and sparks from crashed power lines and cars. Three fires burned up the road as the roar of a descending airplane crossed overhead, surrounding her in a rush of air and the smell of fuel.
“What happened?” Cinia asked.
“You betrayed humanity,” Rayla said as the ground shook and cracked under Cinia’s feet. “Why did you sentence us to die? Was proving your theory worth causing the apocalypse?”
Cinia stared into the dark sky, outlining the descending planet with purple and green auroras. A tear dripped from her right eye, rolling down her cheek and sizzling as it hit the hot ground.
“Click, click, boom,” Cinia said. “The world had nothing left for me, so I destroyed it.”
She turned her eyes upward as the planet in the sky fully emerged, blocking the light from the anomaly and shrouding her in darkness.