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Jan. 28, 2036, 8:19 p.m.
14 Years, 308 Days Ago
Paul stood next to Jordan in a chamber that was hardly big enough to contain the equipment they needed. The applied physics team was nice enough to provide materials and do some basic setup, but after some brief excuses, they headed out, leaving Paul and Jordan to do the rest of the work. They didn’t think the experiment would work. If it did work, there was, of course, the small possibility that they’d create a black hole in the middle of Pittsburgh.
They were being overdramatic.
With the help of computers, Paul ran simulations thousands of times. Yes, one of those times formed a Black Hole, but that one in thousands chance was contingent on the vacuum they were forming actually connecting to some other random vacuum. So as long as they didn’t expand the tube into the atmosphere, that could never happen.
A metal shell in the back of the room looked a lot like an egg, and it served two purposes: First, it would contain the spacial vacuum Paul and Jordan sought to create. Second, it would show them if their vacuum field needed a container.
It shouldn’t. Nobody would have had to build little stainless steel chambers everywhere. That was the big news this experiment promised. A self-contained vacuum would be a big scientific advancement in and of itself, but it was just the first truly big step toward Paul’s goal.
The egg, there really wasn’t any other thing to call it, contained various instruments. The test was to see if they could create a field in natural space without, well, breaking the fabric of space.
Most thought that the egg itself would just become a vacuum. This would mean the experiment was a failure. It would mean the school would have wasted thousands on a project that hadn’t made any new advancements. It might even mean Paul and Jordan would lose their scholarships a little more than a year before graduation.
Two feathers rested at the top of the egg’s interior, where the vacuum shouldn’t reach. They were held up by clamps that Jordan could release with the press of a button. In a vacuum a feather would fall as quickly as a brick. If the feathers fell quickly, that meant the egg had become a vacuum, and they’d failed.
Of course, if the feathers just slowly drifted all the way down, that would also mean they failed.
“Do you want to activate it?” Jordan asked.
Paul smiled. “No, you can do it.”
Jordan shrugged. “I was … I was sort of actually hoping you’d do it.”
Paul chuckled. “That way, it would be my fault if we destroyed the Milky Way.”
Jordan gave a wry smile. “I mean, if we really mess this up, at least we know no one will remember us. We’ll have destroyed all life in the galaxy.”
Paul cocked his eyebrows as a thought hit him. “Doesn’t the Bible say the world will end in fire or something.”
Jordan’s head jerked back. “That’s 2 Peter.”
“Sure,” Paul said. He didn’t know the verse. He just knew he read it.
“I keep forgetting you’ve read it,” Jordan said.
“I didn’t memorize it, but, ‘destroyed by fire’ is a pretty memorable phrase,” Paul said. He hadn’t so much as looked at the Bible Nobody had given him for years. “So if the world is supposed to end in fire, we should be fine.”
Jordan smiled. “That … That’s actually true.”
That worked? Paul was actually just trying to be sarcastic and maybe send a not-too-painful jab in Christianity’s direction, but it actually seemed to make Jordan feel better.
“In that case, I’ll do it!” Jordan positioned his hand over the control station that activated the equipment. “Start the recording.”
Paul walked over to the room, where a control panel sat where most would put a light switch. The room was open to most of the scientific courses of study, and it was equipped with cameras that could record to the cloud, documenting the experiments. Paul pressed the familiar red-circle button and returned to Jordan’s side.
“Self-contained spacial vacuum attempt experiment: First Trial.” Jordan spoke in a booming orator voice, trying to be sure the cameras picked up the audio. He activated the system.
Paul immediately smiled. The air in the room dipped to freezing, swung up to an incredible heat and normalized. Water dropped from the egg as if it had suddenly dropped from the sky. It was exactly how it felt whenever Nobody traveled.
Also, the world didn’t end, so that was nice.
Paul crowded in closer to Jordan to look at the monitor that connected to the camera inside the egg. Everything seemed to be working still, and that was another plus. But they still didn’t know if the experiment was successful or not.
Jordan looked at Paul and smiled again. “This time I think you should do it.”
“Um, the world is probably safe from us at this point,” Paul replied.
Jordan nodded. “Uh-hu, but now I think you should do it because it’s sort of your project.”
Paul chuckled. “Ok.” He reached out, holding in a breath as his finger rested above the button that would open the clamps holding the feathers in the egg.
He pressed the button. They watched the screen. The finger-like clamps holding the feathers opened at the same time. The feathers slowly flittered downward.
“Yes!” They both shouted. Paul wanted to jump around, but that only meant the upper portion of the egg did not have a vacuum. If the feathers never dropped, it would be because they never made a vacuum in the first place.
“Come on!” Jordan said.
The feathers swung around each other.
“Come ooooooon!” Paul said.
The feathers swung in the air, drifting downward. They’d only traveled a few centimeters, but they seemed to be taunting Paul.
Then, one feather shot down as if it had turned to stone. The second feather drifted up. As it fell back down, the pace shifted. One moment, it was a feather, drifting down. The next moment, it could have been a brick.
“Yes!” This time, Paul and Jordan leapt into each others arms laughing. “We did it!”
They laughed and celebrated another few moments. They then talked over each other, checking the readings and looking at the data. How big was the vacuum field? How long did it last?
A thought occurred to Paul. “Shut it down!”
“What? What’s wrong!” Jordan asked.
Paul slammed his palm onto the emergency shutdown button. Jordan stared at him as if he’d gone mad.
“Look,” Paul explained. “We don’t know the effect a sustained field will have. We have the data we need, but let’s not try our luck by leaving that field open too long.”
“Right,” Jordan said. “Good point. Let’s not tempt fate.”