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Cruel Probabilities: A Cold and Uncaring Universe

Posted: 2017-06-21 12:14pm
by Eternal_Freedom
This is a one-off short story I wrote at work today while very bored. It was inspired by BBC Radio 2's 500 word short story contest, and I had an idea kicking around, so I wrote it up, purely for my own enjoyment. Hopefully this will kick-start my creative mind for my ongoing fanfic.

Anyways, here it is:

Cruel Probabilities: A Cold and Uncaring Universe

The universe is a vast place. Endless expanses of nothingness filled haphazardly with small oases of heat and light that many species called galaxies. Within the galaxies were yet more vast gulfs of empty space, punctuated occasionally by stars, huge self-sustaining fusion explosions spreading light and heat to the tiny rocks that hurried around in their orbits.

The universe is a vast place. It is filled with unimaginable wonders; vast clouds of gas and dust lit up by starlight in wondrous colourful patterns called nebulae; the collected swathes of stars forming huge arms of galaxies and bands of beauty across the sky. And on some of those small planets life emerged.

On one world in particular life had emerged and grown and diversified in a bewildering dance lasting a billion years. The dominant species spread out all across the world and then, after a long delay and vicious warfare, united and spread out to the other worlds surrounding their star.

But there was a problem. The universe, being a vast place, is not just filled with unimaginable wonders, but indescribable horrors and cruelty as well. This particular species had come to the conclusion that there was no comfort or caring presence amongst the stars, just cold probabilities and the occasional apocalypse.

One such apocalypse had come to this species. Their star, their sole source of heat and warmth for their various worlds, was dying. The fusion reaction was weakening, day by day and year by year. In a century at most the reaction would end and with no outward force to counter its gravity the star would collapse. The consequences of that, no-one knew for certain.

What was clear was that the species could no longer stay in the star system that birthed them. But the universe and its laws conspired against them; nothing could travel faster than light, and even light would take years or decades to reach a new habitable world. It was also tragically apparent that not everyone could be saved; not even a fraction of a fraction of the one hundred billion sentient beings could possibly escape the coming darkness.

A plan was created; a vast colony ship was designed and built. Ten million of the best and brightest among the population would be placed in hibernation, to sleep away the millennia-long voyage. Everything needed for the new colony was carried; seeds, tools, half a billion frozen embryos for artificial gestation upon arrival and a vast network of computers, holding the sum total of the species knowledge. This was overseen by a powerful Artificial Intelligence to control and pilot the ship.

The database also contained messages from the billions left behind.

The ship was completed, the supplies loaded, the colonists placed into their long slumber. The day came for the ship to launch, accelerating away from its construction yard around one of the outer planets and building up speed for the five thousand year period of coasting through the void between the stars.

A hundred years after the ship left, all contact with the home system was lost. The last reports received by the AI told of a final, apocalyptic war as factions fought for the resources to build a second colony ship, and who would be sent aboard it.

A thousand years after the ship left, the on-board telescopes registered the death of the home star in a sudden flash of radiation. The AI noted this in the record of the species’ history and continued its voyage.

Five years before the ship expected to arrive at its destination, the AI began preparing for the long deceleration into orbit of the target world. One year before arrival, the ship turned on its axis and the huge engines, dormant for so long, flared into life and began bleeding off the ships colossal velocity.

Once again the universe showed its uncaring nature. It was not malice or cruelty, simply indifference and probability. The engines had been silent for millennia and despite the best efforts of the finest engineers the home system had ever produced, something went wrong. Something very small, a single valve failing.

The AI recognised the problem and tried to correct it as best it could. The engines continued to fire and the ship continued to slow. But it was not enough.

The colony ship entered the target world's atmosphere at a relative speed comparable to large meteors. It impacted the ground with stupendous force, enough to vaporise it in the blink of an eye and blast a crater hundreds of kilometres across from the earth. Seismic shockwaves spread throughout the planet, letting every living thing feel the final death spasm of this once proud species.

The impact had devastating consequences for the target world. The impact, the seismic shock and the vast amount of soil and rock thrown into the atmosphere combined to destroy almost every species then living on the surface. It was a mass extinction that touched every corner of the world. Only tiny traces of the colony ship survived; a thin layer of metal from its obliterated hull that eventually fell back to the surface.

As brutal as the extinction was, some species survived as they always do. Eventually, the dust clouds parted and the star shone again on the surface. Slowly, gradually, life began to recover.

Sixty five million years later, a new dominant species calling itself Homo Sapiens would find traces of the colony ships hull, the crater wrought by its impact and fossils of the countless species rendered extinct by the event.

They spent decades wondering about what happened before eventually settling on the theory of a large asteroid impact. The idea that it had been a spaceship or the remnants of another civilisation was dismissed as farcical, fictional nonsense.

Re: Cruel Probabilities: A Cold and Uncaring Universe

Posted: 2017-06-21 05:54pm
by Tandrax218
NIce story man :)

I really liked the twist at the end, :D

Re: Cruel Probabilities: A Cold and Uncaring Universe

Posted: 2017-06-21 06:07pm
by Eternal_Freedom
Thanks, I'm thinking I might turn this into a series of short stories built around the Cruel Probabilities idea and title. Short stories like this seem to work well for me.

Re: Cruel Probabilities: A Cold and Uncaring Universe

Posted: 2017-06-22 05:02am
by Tandrax218
That would be a most interesting read.

Re: Cruel Probabilities: A Cold and Uncaring Universe

Posted: 2017-06-23 10:54am
by stardust
That was well done. I wasn't expecting the twist at the end either.