|A burst of radiation...and then it was gone.|
“The implosion bomb works on a very simple principle, ladies and gentlemen.” Doctor Stephen Morley was addressing a top-secret symposium of the planet’s most imposing sub-nuclear scientists.
The grizzled African-American father of two peered over half-glasses, his notes neatly arrayed on the podium. He hardly needed them, but they provided reassurance.
He had full confidence in the findings, and well he should. The thing was a reality now, in a twenty-five year project that made the Manhattan Project look like a fart in a windstorm.
He put the first slide up on screen. It was an asteroid, hanging dim and mottled in the inky blackness of space. On the far side of the sun from Earth, its detection, or rather the lack of its presence, would not be remarked by unfriendly powers for many years. He’d done the math himself, and the secret location was highly-classified. Space was free territory. Other powers could easily investigate, if only they knew where to look. Stephen had given countless briefings over the years, including the present and three past presidents.
“As you know, the atom is mostly empty space. So, it turns out, are the sub-nuclear particles with which we have all become familiar. Or at least thought we had.”
The room was dead silent as he went on.
“Modern scanning techniques go far beyond molecules, atoms, and particles. Now, ladies and gentleman, we have glimpsed the very matrix, the space-time continuum itself. It promises great revelations for the future, and yet this technology must still be proven. Research must still be paid for. The work must go on.”
He waited. Eyes gleamed back at him in the darkness, lit only by the slide on the screen.
“What if we took all that empty space and made it go somewhere else?”
He put up the next slide. At first, it looked like a washout, all white glare with smudges of pale grey and finally charcoal in the corners. The next slide came up when he clicked. This one showed a spectrum of radiation, a very strong impulse, with major frequencies shown with graphic scales of the signal strength beside each one. The figures didn’t make sense at first. The numeric values were astronomical, although the scales had been designed with such a possibility in mind.
The swell of talk began to envelop the room as the brains behind those glazing eyes and open mouths took in what he was saying and it all began to sink in…
“Now you see it—and now you don’t.”
The talk turned to an uproar as a field of stars appeared, the exact same stars as in the previous image. The picture was clearly taken from the same vantage point, probably a satellite or small spaceship. The significance of the photo’s time and date imprint became collectively known and then everyone was out of their seats and shouting questions and even some abuse in his direction.
Quickly the lights came up, a safety precaution as they were all out of their seats by this point.
“That’s right, ladies and gentleman.” He stood at the rostrum grinning down at his colleagues, all six hundred of them here tonight. “That’s right.”
Hiding in plain sight, the symposium’s main venue was the ballroom of the Anaheim Hilton hotel. Security arrangements were unobtrusive but intense.
The uproar dropped down a bit, almost reluctantly, or so it seemed at first, but then it spontaneously built to a crescendo. The applause of his peers and the shouts of his supporters and admirers quickly drowned out the inevitable moaners and groaners, asking questions about ethics and what all this was costing and just exactly how it all came about. All the really fun science was happening right here in the good old U.S. of A.
It was a triumph of science and engineering, and they all knew it.
“Matter, and space, time and energy, ladies and gentlemen. It’s all rolled into one now.”
He clicked on the icon for the slide show to roll automatically. Dramatic music swelled as the lights dimmed, interspersed with coughing and shuffling noises as people looked around and found their seats again.
“What’s really interesting is that we theorize that all of the laws of conservation of momentum ceased to apply at the moment of implosion. There is no debris to follow along a trajectory, ladies and gentlemen. It has ceased to exist.”
The room got very quiet.
“So there are still many gaps in our theory. Science brings us constant surprises.”
Pictures of the asteroid, close-ups of the space-ship, one which they had never seen before, drew gasp after gasp from the assembled watchers. The room was dead silent again, as the implosion event played across the screen, from multiple angles, varying distances, and at different time-markers, beginning at Point Zero.
Finally there came a picture of the device itself, which was not much bigger than a deluxe backyard barbecue. It even bore a passing resemblance on its tall trolley wheels and with a keypad slung on each side of the device for arming and programming. The next pictures showed a power panel, mounted on the left side. The right panel held a keyboard and a small screen, and a pair of old fashioned key switches.
A collective rumble went up. It was a psychological moment in this type of briefing.
The doctor concluded his briefing, holding up a hand to still applause. He wasn’t quite done yet.
His peroration was short and to the point, a quote from J. Robert Oppenheimer, spoken after the Trinity test at Alamagordo in 1945.
“And now, ladies and gentlemen, we have become Death, the destroyer or worlds.”
The uproar broke out again, but he shouted them down.
“And it’s true, isn’t it ladies and gentlemen? We have become destroyers of worlds.”
Which was more shocking, the pictures onscreen or the image of a serious scientist yelling his damned fool head off at what had become a mob of frightened humanity, no one could say, but the people eventually quieted. Reluctantly, they listened and watched with spellbound attention as Stephen concluded with some minor points.
There was no way to keep such a thing a secret, of course. The question was how and when to announce it to a tired world, one which had seen enough power politics and gunboat diplomacy, long before the implosion bomb came along.
That would be the next item on the symposium’s agenda. Inwardly he could see the relationships already sorting themselves out, into cliquish little study groups, each and every person wondering what the hell to say. How could they ever cover their own asses in the pitiless lens of history…the unpalatable answer of course, what that they hadn’t known about it.
They would have plenty to say about it. He knew most of them, some of them very well.
The real work was just beginning.
“All I do is invent them, ladies and gentlemen. Your job is to figure out what to do with it. And may God have mercy on our souls.”
It wasn’t exactly the Bhagavad-Gita, but it would have to do.
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