Saturday, 26 July 2014

The Sun Over Palamos

‘You sure about him Dr. Leroy?’ Professor Julian Salvatore, a young man in his mid twenties, asked the middle aged man standing next to him.
‘He might be mad, but he’s a genius. More so than anyone of us can even imagine’ Dr. Nicholas Leroy replied without turning to Salvatore.
They were both standing in an observation room, looking through a one way glass to a white room which contained a table and a chair of that same stark whiteness. The chair was pulled up to the table and on it sat Henry Backard, the mad genius.
He was looking at the one way glass. He would only have been able to see his reflection but to Professor Salvatore, it felt like he was looking through it to them. It was almost like he could see behind the glass. It was impossible but yet Salvatore felt uneasy.
And rightly so, Henry Backard was a madman who had killed dozens of peoples with his inventions. The last one had been a microwave pulse emitter that killed anyone in a one mile radius by slowly cooking them alive from the inside. After that Backard was locked away in the institute for the criminally insane, in a bare windowless room with a single light. And there he was now sitting in another room, gazing at the one way glass almost as if he could see through it.
Backard was smiling.
Palamos was the only planet in its solar system. It was a fairly large planet with bountiful resources. Therefore the dominant species of the planet never had the need for anything. All that they ever wanted was right underneath their feet. They were advanced in science this species, but they had not yet unraveled the secrets of interstellar travel. But what they lacked there they made up for in other fields. Sickness was almost absent upon the planet. Their problems were few and easily solvable.
But now they faced a problem, a problem of epic proportions that vexed them and even threatened their existence.
Their sun was dying.
The hydrogen that fueled the nuclear fusion within the star was running dry and the stars corona was expanding slowly turning the star into a red giant. With that would come the extinction of everyone and everything on the planet.
Every scientist on the planet came together to find a solution to this massive problem, many ideas were discussed and thrown away. They only needed to find a solution and all the resources to implement it would be laid at their feet. Their leader was unanimously chosen as Dr. Leroy, with Professor Salvatore his right hand man. Both were very brilliant scientists.
After much time without attaining anything feasible, Backard was brought in. He was a man way ahead of his times. His ideas were revolutionary, awe inspiring. If it were not for his psychosis, he would have been a great and famous scientist. Everyone thought that since the fate of the planet was at stake, the madman would help, for if the world ended, he would die as well. Even if propelled by the idea of self preservation he may be able to solve their dilemma.
And solve it he did. Backard proposed that all one needed to make the sun remain in its stable state was to provide it with more hydrogen. He intended to do that by creating a space warp that would connect 2 points in space via another dimension. All the hydrogen one would ever need could be found in nebula clusters throughout the galaxy. If one were to open a space warp to there the gas could easily be collected and supplied to the sun.
The theory and the mathematics involved in this where so complex that none save Backard knew how to do it. He was commissioned to build a prototype and conduct a test on Palamos.
Backard stood in front of his machine with a small switch in his hand. All the other scientists were gathered behind him. A small statue had already been placed inside the machine.
Everyone waited expectantly for the experiment to begin. Backard pressed the switch and released it almost immediately. There was no noise, nothing.
‘It is complete’ Backard said.
Everyone turned to look at the big TV placed on one side of the machine. It showed the image of a table that was placed halfway around the globe. It was empty previous to the experiment. But now on top of it stood the small statue they had placed into the space warp machine.
A giant round of applause greeted this. Backard stood there unsmiling, thinking.
Professor Salvatore was the only one in the group that noticed that the statue had appeared on the desk nearly half a second before the switch was pressed.
They encountered another obstacle soon enough. The fuel or hydrogen had to be supplied directly to the inside of the sun. They had no idea how to do it but this time as well Backard came to the rescue.
He developed a stasis field, a kind of force field that allowed his machine to work inside the sun and not get damaged. He even designed the delivery system that would take the hydrogen gas from the warp field and push it out to the interior of the sun.
He provided the blueprints for it all and the other scientists though unable to understand the workings of Backards creation could nevertheless duplicate it from the blueprints. Backard did the whole mathematics that was necessary for the working of the machine and submitted it to Dr. Leroy before the machine finished construction.
‘Dr. Leroy, I don’t understand this, there are no spatial co ordinates within the mathematics that is to be programmed into the warp machine. Without the spatial co ordinates how does he intend to open a warp field in a nebula?’ Salvatore asked. In his right hand he held the sheaves of paper that contained the mathematics given by Backard that were to be programmed into the system that runs the warp drive.
“I know, I asked that to him myself. But he intends to use gravity-temporal co ordinates to find it as it would be the most accurate because of the high gravity present inside the sun and in the nebula cloud’ replied Dr. Leroy
‘What are those?’
‘I have no idea; he was not patient enough to explain it to me in a way I would understand. What he has done is way beyond what I understand or hope to understand. I told you he was a genius beyond comparison. But what he said would explain the absence of the spatial co ordinates. ’
‘There was some other co ordinate style equations in it, but most involved time and some did have gravity constants. There are also some variables I don’t understand at all.. Hm..’
‘What is it Salvatore?’
‘Nothing. Nothing.’ Salvatore said as he got up and left the office of Dr. Leroy.
The stasis field generator required a lot of energy. It was driven by a small nuclear reactor until the warp field kicked in. Once the warp field was active, energy could be derived out of the hydrogen extracted from the nebulae. So it wasn’t a problem either.
Finally the machine was built and the stasis generator coupled to it.
It was lowered into the sun where it sank beneath their view to the fiery interior of the sun.
Then it was a waiting game. They waited for signs. And in 2 months they got the confirmation of their success when they observed that the suns corona had shrunk in diameter and was shrinking back to its normal size.
The project was a success. And after pumping the necessary amount of hydrogen to the sun, the machine would stop on its own. But that would still take some more time. At least it was working. At least they were saved.
And so they thought until one day, 4 months after the deployment of the machine, Professor Salvatore was asked to join Dr. Leroy in his office.

Professor Salvatore was sitting in Dr. Leroy’s office. Dr. Leroy was there as well and so was General Portman.
‘Salvatore’ began the general. ‘I called you here because of some latest developments. We have a problem on our hands.’
Salvatore glanced at Dr. Leroy. He looked nervous, even a bit scared.
‘What kind of problem?’ Salvatore asked the General.
‘Certain events have been occurring across the globe, disturbing events. We have managed to keep most of it out of the news so far. But it’s getting out of hand.’
‘What sort of events General?’
This time it was Dr. Leroy who replied.
‘I was informed 2 weeks ago about some unnatural event. The Hiraduk temple has suddenly started to show signs of structural damages and today an entire portion of it collapsed. At Nondan islands 15 species went extinct over night, no cause known. Civilian casualties have been reported, people dropping dead out of the blue with no cause at all. The polar ice caps are melting 10 percent faster and slowly accelerating.’
Salvatore was shocked.’ What? How can this be? I mean how is this happening? Do we have any idea?’
The General spoke. ‘We have an assumption. The events started occurring around the same time we turned the machine on inside the sun. We believe they are linked.’
‘The machine……’ Salvatore feared as much. ‘Have you asked Backard?’
‘No we are going to do that now. We want you to accompany us Salvatore.’ Dr. Leroy said gazing at Salvatore with a calm face. But his eyes betrayed his fear.
All three of them were inside Backards room at the institute for the criminally insane. Backard now lived in considerable luxury than before. After his work on the machine, he now had a TV, a soft bed, a window and access to selected books. But there were still bars on his window and the door to the room was locked from the outside with a guard on duty 24*7.
Backard was sitting in a chair looking at them with a faint smile on his lips.
‘Henry.’ the General nodded to Backard. ‘Comfortable?’
‘Very much General’
‘Good. Henry, we came here because certain events have been occurring…’
‘I know’ Backard interrupted with a grin on his face’
The general was taken aback. ‘You know?’
‘Of course, it’s going as expected. I wondered when you idiots would start to notice and show up.’ he gave a small laugh.’ The world is going to burn…’
Suddenly Dr. Leroy was on him raising him up by his shirt collars and shouting into his face. Salvatore had never seen the doctor so mad before.’ I trusted you! What did you do you bastard! What?’
Backard laughed uncontrollably as the General pried him free of Dr. Leroy’s grip.
‘You should see the looks on your faces. Classic! It was so unbelievably easy to do! And you idiots never even suspected. Can’t blame you, your brains are way too prehistoric.’
‘What did you do Backard?’ the General asked his tone icy.
‘You really want to know idiots. You really want to?’ he stopped laughing and stood up straight with his face split by a wide grin. ‘I didn’t create a space warp you idiots, I created a time warp! Yes, a time warp! A time warp to 5000 years ago. You think our sun is going back to normal because of some hydrogen from some distant nebula? No you idiots, the sun is calming down by using hydrogen from itself, itself when it was 5000 yrs younger. It’s like a parasite, feeding on its own youth to keep itself stable and as our sun becomes stable, the sun from 5000 yrs ago will become unstable and destroy the planet. The change will radiate out to here and destroy us as well. It doesn’t matter that the sun is becoming stable, cause we are all gonna die!!’
He started laughing uncontrollably again. Salvatore, Leroy and the General were too shocked by what they had heard to utter a sound. The realization that they were doomed closed in on them. They were dumbstruck and the only voice in the room was that of the mad man laughing.
‘But… but why?’ Salvatore, the first one to recover, asked meekly.
Backard was sitting on the floor now. He stopped laughing just long enough to answer Salvatore.
‘You wanna know why? I’ll tell you why. Because I have thought and thought and thought and I can’t find an explanation for life. It is a useless probability state that came into existence. It has no meaning, it wasn’t supposed to exist. Somehow the die rolled against the house and brought life. And I’m now taking care of it.’
‘Who are you to say that life has no meaning? Maybe it doesn’t have meaning for you, but it does for us.’ It was the General.
‘I am qualified enough to say that. I have already proved that you are idiots. You poor things don’t know what right or what’s wrong. You are so dumb to understand it all. Poor, poor idiots.’ Backard shook his head exasperatedly. ‘I really pity you.’
‘If you intended for the destruction of the planet why the hell did you help us in the first place?’ asked Salvatore.
‘Because this is my magnum opus.’ His eyes were suddenly alight with joy. ‘I knew that I could create a time warp given the resources. The theory was half formed in my head. And you idiots gave me the perfect chance. And I have done it. My magnum opus will bring about the destruction of this world’
‘Wait’ it was Dr. Leroy. He had been silent till now, deep in thought and now he spoke. ‘Time avoids paradoxes. So if the entire race was wiped out 5000 yrs ago, then that would mean that the machine was never built in the first place. So time will set everything right in the end.’
‘Ha! You are idiots! You think I haven’t prepared for such an eventuality. The stasis field not only protects the machine from the environment outside, but also from the change. It is an isolated system and the change will not affect it!’
He started laughing again. Fell down on the floor clutching his stomach and rolling around with his mad cackle echoing through the room.
Professor Salvatore, Dr. Leroy and General Portman were all outside with the light of the setting sun shining on their pale scared faces.
‘Is there nothing we can do? Can’t we shut down the machine?’ General Portman asked softly.
‘No’ replied Dr. Leroy. ‘It was entirely automated since no signals would be able to pierce the stasis field. It will only shut down at the very end, after it has completed the whole transfer.’
‘What about the stasis field. He said the change won’t affect anything inside the stasis field. Is there any way to envelope the planet inside a stasis field?’
‘No, the energy required for such a large stasis field would be too much. There are very few natural resources we can utilize to power it and even then we would have to over exploit it and cause its depletion. The depletion of a large source of energy will cause the planet to die’
‘So we are truly doomed then’
They all looked towards the setting sun as it sank further down into the horizon. The one that gave them life was slowly taking it away as well.

‘And that’s when you got the idea?’ the reporter asked to the man sitting opposite to him in the bar.
The man looked haggard. He hadn’t had a bath or a shave in weeks. His hair was all frizzy and his eyes bloodshot. And he stank of the all-pervading smell of depression.
‘Ya, that’s when.’ The man said as he tossed his seventh shot of vodka and motioned to the bartender for another.
‘Then what happened?’ the reporter asked.
‘From then on it was quite simple. I thought about it for some time and then went with it to General Portman and Dr. Leroy. They thought it would work as well. By then we were ready to try anything.’
The next shot arrived and the man took the glass in his hand. He looked at it for some time. The reporter waited patiently.
‘See my idea was simple. We couldn’t use any of the present sources of energy as the energy required to make a stasis field around our planet would deplete the resource and cause the planets death. But what we forgot was that we still had the blueprints for Backards machine. All we needed to do was built it and channel it to take energy from a good energy source from the past and use that energy to set up the stasis field.’
He gulped down the shot and again motioned for another.
‘There were some problems. Even though we knew how to make Backards machine, we never understood any of his theories or mathematics. One thing we did get from doing a small experiment. When we turned on the machine it would create a time warp between our present time and one 5000 yrs ago but with the same spatial coordinates. That means, that if I were to turn on the machine in this bar, it would create a link between this bar and whatever stood here 5000 yrs ago. We had no idea how to introduce spatial co ordinates into Backards equations and we didn’t have time. The planet was deteriorating. You know by the time I quit, we were slowly starting to understand Backards theories and once we figure them out, we will be immune to almost everything the universe can throw at us. But then we didn’t know shit and those were desperate times, we had to do something.’
He tossed the next drink almost as soon as the bartender kept it on the table.
‘You know what we did? We decided to use the geothermal energy of Palamos from 5000 yrs ago. We used it to create the stasis field. They put me in charge of the entire operation then. But it was Dr. Leroy who tabulated that the field need only be active long enough as the machine was active inside the sun, by then he said that the change would have swept over us. The machine still had a year to run. We had the field running in under 2 weeks after I proposed the idea. We kept it running for 2 months after the machine switched off just in case. But we shouldn’t have worried, Dr. Leroy was right. We were safe.’
He leaned back in his chair and closed his eyes. The reporter kept quiet. He knew professor Salvatore had something else to say as well. After a while the professor did speak.
‘Do you know what the price for our safety was? We killed our ancestors both from the inside and the outside. Their sun and their planet, we destroyed it both so new could survive. One may argue that they would have died anyway from the sun’s instability, that the killing of the planet was a merciful act by us. And I tell those people to get lost. You know how many people lived in Palamos 5000 yrs ago? I do, I looked it up, 25 million people. We killed them all in one stroke, the greatest genocide in Palamos’s history. The history textbook needs to be rewritten but the government doesn’t want that. They still teach the old history in schools, the things that never happened.’
He opened his eyes and leaned forward
to put his arms back on the table. He looked at his open hands for a little while.
‘You know how hard it is to sleep at night knowing that, to know that your stroke of brilliance killed 20 million people?’

3 months after the interview with the reporter Professor Salvatore committed suicide by hanging himself. He left no note. Any people he would have wanted to say anything to were already dead.

- Rohith

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