This story won Second Prize in the Pod and Planet 2015/YC117 contest in the 8000 Suns category. While it is a bit speculative, it is very much based on existing canon (specifically Templar One) and the science it explicitly states (even if current physicists don’t agree), so I believe that even thought a bit stretched it still meets the canon test. It is set at the dawn of the capsuleer era – before we knew about the Other or the Drifters, before the return of Jamyl Sarum, before the Seyllin Incident.
Decoherence in quantum systems … is the irreversible process by which a pure state becomes a mixed state. Usually decoherence arises from an interaction between the quantum state and some environment. There is a school of thought that takes this as an explanation for how the classical world in which we live (and which has no large-scale oddities like entanglement) arises from the underlying quantum world.
Sigga VIII – Sisters of Eve Bureau Station
“There is a high risk of death on this venture, Rappel.”
“I am already dead, Sister. Plus, I’m a capsuleer, which gives me a good chance even if my clone doesn’t hold out.”
“We believe that even in your current state, you have at least five years before that happens. But it is entirely possible that the radiation will interfere with your transference.”
“Well, as you know, my mutation tends to re-surface in my clones as well. They say it’s something to do with the transference base copy and my original clone grades. Not that these docs seem to really understand it all that well. It doesn’t matter – what matters is that now I can do things I’d otherwise fear to do.”
The Sister nodded slowly. “It is one reason that you were selected. And why you’ll be going alone.” She held out a datapad, which he accepted.
He glanced down at his orders. The Sisters had named the ship he would be flying Canary, both to disguise his Gallente roots and to call to mind the old Minmatar saying about that bird being killed with mine gasses and such. Despite its morbid overtones, Rappel somehow found it both appropriate and amusing.
“The interceptor you will find in your hangar,” she continued, “is outfitted with a number of unique sensor arrays that will record everything in and around your ship, along with being rebuilt to have significant speed at the expense of weapon systems. We have reason to believe that others are also attempting to reach the gate again, and we need to ensure we stay ahead of learning anything that could be a danger to the cluster or a path through. That said, our observations lead us to believe that your chances of survival if you complete the mission and reach the singularity are very slim.”
He nodded. “I won’t let the Sanctuary down, Sister.”
“I’m sure you won’t.”
X-7OMU IV – Sisters of Eve Academy Station
“He’s an awful expensive asset to be throwing away like that.”
“Not throwing away, Reverend Mother. His mind transfers are inerently flawed and his clone reproduction is as well; he won’t last like most capsuleers would. Also, he’s one of the first few off the line …”
“Thus my point.”
“But there will be many others. And by the time the capsuleers become ubiquitous, we must know the answers – or they will find them and use them against us. Besides, with the waypoints he will be able to get in range in record time.”
The Reverend Mother leaned forward and put her elbows on the desk, steepling her fingers as she looked at the younger woman. “He will remain resolute?”
“He thinks he is dying already. He has nothing to lose.”
New Eden System
Rappel floated calmly in the hydrostatic fluid of his pod, comfortably cushioned from the shock of the jump through the final stargate. He reoriented his camera drones to take in the scene. Happily, the Blood Raiders who often circled the gate looking for fresh pilgrims to ambush were nowhere to be found this time.
Rappel aligned the ship toward the distant shine of the EVE Gate, Point Genesis. For most capsuleers, this is as close as they would ever get. But for The Sanctuary, many lives and many ships had been sacrificed to allow him, now, to get far closer.
Even with those who had gone before having provided navigational aids, it would still take many months to warp-jump all the way there. There was much to do in preparation – study, observation, ship reprogramming and modification. The time would be well-filled.
He aligned to the first waypoint and warped.
Halfway between New Eden and Point Genesis
Rappel’s health had slowly continued to deteriorate over his time in the cramped little ship. The Sisters had arranged for an exit method from his pod, but it was at best a makeshift one. He needed to be especially careful with the fluid management system to avoid losing too much of it during fluid changes; there was no more other than what was already on board.
He worked out regularly, such as it was in the small ship, and managed to stave off the majority of the entropy and atrophy that threatened to destroy his body.
When he was in his pod, he studied. There was much that the Sisters knew about the Gate of course, but far more that they did not. The details of the radiation. The likelihood of being able to restart the gate – and how much was actually still left there. What the Jove knew.
Rumors persisted of cloaked items, remnants of the gate itself, even a Jove colony standing guard. Rappel made his way through the data for the hundredth time, adding bits and pieces of his own observations as he slowly approached his destination.
The alert caught him by surprise, breaking him out of his reverie. A vaguely familiar, but somewhat distorted male voice came over the comm channel when he opened it.
Rappel, you need to turn back. Warn them not to come closer.
“Who is this?”
There was no answer.
Tachyon bursts emitted by the EVE Gate interfere with quantum entanglement. It is a most unusual phenomenon. Your data archives show records of these emissions originating from the gate’s unique singularity; we are equally puzzled by them. This happens nowhere else in the cluster. We suspect they interfere with wave function collapse.
-Grious, Templar One, Chapter 20
In Warp to Checkpoint Omega, 65 million Km from Point Genesis
Rappel, please respond. Point Genesis is not safe. Turn back now.
The cautionary, personal ones were the most common. But the closer he got to Checkpoint Omega, the more frequent – and differentiated – they became.
It’s amazing. Beautiful. There’s a live opening – I’m going through.
Rappel sighed. The most annoying part of it was that any response he sent had no response.
Aaaaaaaaaggghhh you … aggghhhnngg
That was the one he hated most. Seriously, who would activate comms while in what sounded like horrendous pain?
Europa 1, come in. Europa 1, be aware of incoming colonists, prepare for tracking and reporting.
That one didn’t even quite sound like any accent he had ever heard. The form of speech was very archaic. Who talked like that?
Oh god … we’re too late. Self destruct activated. Everyone get out now!
That was the woman’s voice, haunting but fast becoming familiar.
Hurry, there is enough here that we can stabilize it. But we have to act fast. Call for more help, we can get this thing operational!
The first time hearing her voice, he had called the Sisters. They were sending additional ships, but after repeated attempts to connect with that voice, all of them had come to the conclusion that it might well be a false alert. Still, in their diligent way, the Sisters were still sending more people just in case.
Who is this?
One of a thousand variations on this one. One time he even swore it was his own voice talking. And yet no one ever seemed to answer.
From here, it would all be microwarp drive flight. There were no more waypoints.
Point Genesis dominated the view of the camera drones, washing out almost everything in the massive glare.
Communication channels were becoming choppy and difficult in reaching the Sisters.
“Canary, please respond.”
“Stable. But the shields are taking a beating from the radiation. I’m not sure how long they will hold.”
“Speed and heading?”
“You can’t tell?”
“The radiation is interfering with transmission of the flight data.”
“Full speed right at it, just over 5000 meters per second.” The Sisters had done a nice job of modifying the ship for pure straight-line speed.
“Anything else to report?”
“I’ve nearly completed reprogramming the assistance drones to carry out command functions if need be. I’m not sure how well I’ll hold up once I get there.”
“Understood. Just make sure that you jettison the recorder beacon so that we have a chance to recover any data. We anticipate we will lose transmission with you in a matter of days. What about those other transmissions you mentioned?”
“They’re almost constant now. I’m having Aura filter them for the most part. It’s hard to separate one set of conversations from the other. Not that they’re really conversations, though – still just one-way.”
There was a thoughtful pause at the other end. “You’re still recording all of it?”
A tachyon … is a hypothetical particle that always moves faster than light … Most physicists think that faster-than-light particles cannot exist because they are not consistent with the known laws of physics. If such particles did exist, they could be used to build a tachyonic antitelephone and send signals faster than light, which (according to special relativity) would lead to violations of causality.
En Route to Point Genesis
It was becoming clear to Rappel that the EVE Gate, if you could call it that, was not remotely what he had expected. The enormous overload of light made it impossible to see any structure, if indeed there was now or ever such a thing.
There was something else very, very wrong, but he could not put his finger on it.
At one point, he swore he saw a ship exactly like this one flying the other direction … but that was impossible; there was no one else out here.
Another time he thought the camera drones showed the silhouettes in the distance of seven massive ships of a design he didn’t recognize, gradually accelerating out of his view behind the stark light of the singularity.
Looking down at his radiation badge, he saw it slowly beginning to change color.
“Canary calling, come in.”
Only static returned.
Rappel checked the comm feed. It was alive with constant chatter. For a moment he amplified the signal he was getting. A handful of statements surfaced through the cacophony of voices.
Turn back! There is still time!
What a proud moment for all of humanity.
We have made it through; aligning to our new home.
The prophets have spoken truly.
I can’t make it! Mayday! Mayday! Mayday!
We are prepared, whatever is there.
He reduced the signal again. He was alone with the ghosts.
The Canary hurtled onward toward the brilliant center of the object that now blotted out all else in the sight of the camera drones.
The Significance is holding position dangerously close to the EVE Gate, whose quantum turbulence remains markedly elevated. Tachyon emissions from this massive defect remain steady; traces of several dozen universes pass through the ship every second.
–Templar One, Chapter 1
Rappel wasn’t honestly sure where, or who, he was any more. How long he had been here.
He had needed to leave the pod days earlier, its hydrostatic equilibrium destroyed by the radiation and the effects of being this close to Point Genesis. He was instead strapped into a bridge chair, too weak to stand. The assistance drones had tried to keep him hydrated, but the food had run out, and the anti-radiation treatments were gone.
He ran a radiation-blackened hand across the top of his head, knocking loose the last locks of hair, along with a piece of his scalp, and let the changes wash over him.
It was bright. It was dark.
He was himself. She was herself. He did not exist, and never had.
He was safe from the radiation, watching the undulating patterns of the singularity without fear. Dead of radiation exposure, all of his skin sloughed off, lying in a pool of congealing blood on the floor. Being murdered by his own assistance drones.
He had to warn himself not to come here. Those communications … “Point Genesis is not safe. Turn back!” he croaked out from between cracked lips. “Turn back, there is still time!” He couldn’t warn himself. He never thought to warn himself. He didn’t know he could warn himself.
He was Rappel. He was Jove. He was the pilot of Dano Gheinok’s Conformist flagship.
But most of all, through the agony and the haze, he was dying.
“Fire the beacon.”
The assistance drone activated the controls. Beneath the ship, a probe launched, rapidly accelerating to warp speed on its way back to Checkpoint Omega.
An observer, had there been one (and sometimes there was), would have seen the tiny interceptor flicker as it merged with the center of the singularity, appearing to be an Abaddon, an Eidolon, an ancient colony ship, and finally wink out of existence, swallowed by a dark, foreboding energy at the core of the searing brightness.
The many-worlds interpretation is an interpretation of quantum mechanics that asserts the objective reality of the universal wavefunction and denies the actuality of wavefunction collapse. Many-worlds implies that all possible alternate histories and futures are real, each representing an actual “world” (or “universe”). In lay terms, the hypothesis states there is a very large—perhaps infinite —number of universes, and everything that could possibly have happened in our past, but did not, has occurred in the past of some other universe or universes.
X-7OMU IV – Sisters of Eve Academy Station
“We’ve retrieved the recording beacon, Reverend Mother.”
“Results are still being analyzed but … it appears that the communications were in fact legitimate tachyon-carried signals. We’re not sure how. But we are starting to discover whole threads of communications from many people, not just Canary.”
The Sister hesitated, clearly not comfortable with what she was about to say. “Well … it appears that they were sent by people across millenia. There are hundreds we can’t understand, in languages no one has ever heard.” She paused. “And there are other somewhat ominous readings that defy explanation. So far.”
The Reverend Mother absorbed this for a few moments before speaking. “Get me those answers. And move the next team up.”