“Are you ready, Doc?” With the doctor’s nervous
nod for a response, Captain Terry Nowak made the first hyperspatial jump
of the journey. There was a barely perceptible sensation
, but it was enough to make Dr. Jonah Trez cringe
. In literally no time
, the space vessel Scooter
traversed thousands of light-years through normal space
. If their start and finish points in space could have been observed during the Jump, it would have appeared that there were two Scooters existing at a single moment
. Captain Nowak checked the ship’s coordinates
with the onboard computer to make sure that their position was correct
for the next Jump
. The checking of coordinates was simply a precaution
, as Captain Nowak had spent hours in seemingly complicitous cooperation
with the ship computer calculating every aspect of the hyperspatial jump. Even so, he had to make some adjustments to the calculations.
“Well, we’re right where we’re supposed to be, Doc. The Jump wasn’t so bad, was it?” Captain Nowak had been well aware of the discomfort felt by Dr. Trez because of the Jump.
Despite Dr. Trez’s thirty-five years of life experience, this was the first hyperspatial jump that he had ever made. Still a little shaken from the experience, Dr. Trez cleared his throat, found his voice and answered, “Oh, it wasn’t too bad… I suppose.”
“Well, we’ve got twelve more of them coming up, so you’d better get used to them.” Captain Nowak looked back down at the keypad in front of him and punched a few keys on the ship computer. He called out to Dr. Trez, “We’re ready for our second Jump.”
Dr. Trez, upon hearing this, became visibly alarmed. His face turning scarlet, Dr. Trez sputtered, “Don’t you have to spend some time on the calculations, Captain? I mean, you spent so much time before the first Jump, so wouldn’t you at least put as much time in calculations for the second one?” Dr. Trez stopped talking to catch his breath, as all he said had come out in one long exhalation.
Captain Nowak chuckled softly to himself as he calmed the fretting doctor. “Don’t worry about that, Doc. When I spent all that time in preparation for our journey, I wasn’t only doing calculations for the first Jump; I was planning out our entire journey. That’s why it took me so long before the first Jump. The rest of the trip shouldn’t take longer than a couple of days. I just have to recheck our position after each Jump to make sure we stay on course.”
Dr. Trez felt slightly comforted by Captain Nowak’s explanatory speech. “Thanks, Captain. I guess I’m overreacting to things. I’m sorry about this.” Captain Nowak made a dismissive motion as Dr. Trez talked. Dr. Trez thanked the captain once again, and sat down for a few moments to ease his rising blood pressure. Feeling the exhaustion of the day’s events, Dr. Trez said to his traveling companion, “All this worrying has really tired me out. I think I’m going to turn in now. Good night, Captain.”
Captain Nowak nodded, and without looking up, returned the salutation. “Good night, Doc.”
“We’re one Jump away now, Doc. We’ll make the final Jump after lunch, okay?” Captain Nowak had already left the captain’s chair and began making his way towards the galley. Dr. Trez shrugged and followed the hungry man.
They sat down at a small circular table in the galley. Captain Nowak pulled two rectangular plates with lids on them from a hidden compartment under the table. They simultaneously pulled the tabs on the sides of their respective plates and waited as steam started to roll out of the vents on top of the lids. A small red flag shot out of each lid to signal that their food was ready. The whole process took a full five seconds. The two travelers pulled the lids off their plates and began eating.
“Eating this ‘meat’ made from soy really makes me wish I was at home again, Captain. I mean, the taste isn’t terrible. It’s just that I’ve still got some uneaten pizza in my kitchen and I just know that it’ll spoil by the time I get back.” Dr. Trez sighed discontentedly and continued to eat, embittered by the thought of his pizza going to waste. He managed to comfort himself a little as he thought he could give the remains of his pizza as a friendly souvenir to Captain Nowak.
“It amazes me every time I see it, Captain,” Dr. Trez muttered as he called up the image seen earlier on the main viewing panel in the control room onto the screen in the galley. The sight that had generated so much awe in Trez was the close-up view of the center of the Galaxy. The viewing screen filtered the light coming in from the billions of stars that could be seen near the center of the Galaxy. The stars there were moving at extremely high speeds, and because of the Scooter’s close proximity to the center of the Galaxy, the Galaxy appeared to be alive. “Simply exquisite,” Trez said, again in reverence.
“I agree with you completely, Doc.” In all his twenty-eight years as a pilot of a space vessel, Captain Nowak had never seen such a sight as they were watching now while they munched on their space flight delicacies. He had been all over the Galaxy, but the center was a place that no one had ever been to. Only recently had there been an interest in the center of the Galaxy. In the 2,000 years of history of humankind since the discovery of hyperspatial travel and of hundreds of habitable planets, humans had yet to find another intelligent life form in their Galaxy. The possibility of discovering other intelligent life in the Galaxy was unreasonable until the discovery of hyperspatial travel. Hyperspace existed in dimensions beyond the four known to human beings (the three spatial dimensions and time). In hyperspace, the four known dimensions before hyperspace were non-factors. There, seemingly infinite distances could be traveled; but the farther the distances, the greater the probability of being thrown off course. The same results could occur from traveling relatively short distances. These “laws” of hyperspace, as well as lesser reasons, were why Captain Nowak was making a multitude of Jumps. This maximized the efficiency and accuracy of the Jumps. Recent observations of the center of the Galaxy had driven scientists to expand the horizons of accuracy in hyperspace so humans could travel closer to the center to make observations. That was the mission of Captain Nowak and Doctor Trez. They were to use their experience and expertise to make useful observations of middle of the large active spiral that is the Milky Way. “Who would’ve thought that we’d be the first humans in history to travel there? It certainly is a great feeling,” Captain Nowak said as he gazed at the real-time image on the screen.
Doctor Trez nodded in agreement to the feeling of responsibility and elation from their mission. The shine in his eyes was impossible to hide. The prospect of being the first human beings to see with their own eyes one of the greatest wonders of the Galaxy, only theorized about a short six years ago, was intoxicating. The sheer beauty of the center of the Galaxy itself, though, was beyond words. “It’s like it’s a living organism, isn’t it?”
“Yes, I’ve thought so each time we’ve made a jump and gotten closer to it. Do you think, Doc, that it is alive? I mean, the entire Galaxy. Do you think that the entire Galaxy is alive? It could be, couldn’t it? It would be alive beyond our understanding of being alive. It’s like a cosmic amoeba.”
Captain Nowak said this with such a passion that the doctor was slightly shaken from his idolization of the image on the screen. “It is very possible in the metaphorical sense, that the Galaxy could be interpreted as alive, but it is extremely unlikely. Though the thought has crossed my mind many times in the course of my studies. Though your theory is still brilliant.”
Captain Nowak, thinking this as a backhanded compliment and realizing that he had stepped out of his usual gruff character, cleared his throat and said, “It’s just an idea. Well, I’m done eating and I see that you’ve finished also. Let’s get back to the control room for the final Jump.”
They returned to the control room and the two of them sat down in their respective chairs. The image on the main screen was an exact replica of what they were watching in the kitchen. Well, actually, the view they were watching in the kitchen was an exact replica of the image they were now seeing. Captain Nowak flashed his fingers across his keypad and made the final arrangements.
All of a sudden, the view on the screen changed. There was no acceleration, so the stars did not speed up and stretch, as it would appear on the older hyperspatial ships. Scooter went directly to hyperspace without speeding up to the speed of light. In an instant, the two travelers were there. They were right outside the center of the Galaxy. They were pointing outward, though, and what they saw were the trailing tentacles of the spiraling Galaxy extending away from the center.
“Now how’d that happen?” The tone of Captain Nowak’s voice was not of alarm, but of simple curiosity. That helped Dr. Trez from becoming too worried and Dr. Trez remained silent. Captain Nowak, after a few moments working with the computer, said, “I think I’ve isolated the problem. Apparently the center of the Galaxy has a curvature in space-time that I wasn't able to account for. It somehow twisted us around in the middle of our hyperspace flight and also made us reappear in normal space-time farther from the center than I had expected. It’s not an incredible deviation, but enough to keep us almost a day away from approaching the center as close as we had hoped for. I don’t know exactly how it happened, but the observations we make in the next week should be sufficient to help us in the understanding of what happened and why. Let me just turn the ship around and we’ll have our view of the center of the Galaxy.” Captain Nowak maneuvered the ship slowly amidst the intense gravitational attractions of the multitude of stars until the center of the Galaxy came fully into view.
“Incredible. I was expecting a black hole, but not this... certainly not this.” Dr. Trez had to choke this out after he regained his breath. In front of them on the viewing screen was a perfect sphere of bluish luminance. Unless there was a black hole hidden inside the sphere, the black-hole-at-the-center-of-the-Galaxy theory, the most popular at the time, was utterly inaccurate. “But what is it?”
“I haven’t a clue, Doc. I was hoping that you would know.”
Dr. Trez was working with the onboard computer furiously analyzing the blue ball in front of them in every possible way. “I can’t figure it out and neither can the computer. In fact, the computer reads nothing.”
“There’s no radiation, no mass, nothing! It’s unbelievable. How can we make observations on something that is unobservable? Can you get us closer?” Frustration furrowed Dr. Trez’s brow as he made some last ditch efforts at getting some readings.
Captain Nowak checked the safety levels on the monitors and saw that they were all well below anything that could be considered slightly alarming. “I guess we can, but only on the thrusters. I’m not risking a Jump too close to that after what happened last time. But we can make it there soon enough.” Captain Nowak again cooperated with the computer as he gave the instructions to begin their flight to the very center of the Galaxy.
Meanwhile, Dr. Trez still worked at finding something out about the blue sphere. “The sphere has approximately five cubic kilometers of volume, but that’s a relatively rough figure. I can’t get the ship’s sensors to do the measurements for me. I had to do this one out by hand. Other than, that, I really haven’t anything else for you on the sphere.” Despite this, Dr. Trez still worked rapidly trying to calculate whatever he could about the sphere.
“We are within a kilometer of the anomalous 'thing' — I mean, the sphere. It’s so beautiful.” The sphere’s blue luminance was not uniform, as it had appeared a few hundred kilometers out. It was, rather, a shimmering kind of blue with intricate patterns. “What do we do now, Doc?”
“I’ve done all the observing and calculating I can, and I don’t think we’re in any clear danger if we enter the sphere. It doesn’t appear to be matter. It would seem to be nothing more than a visible border of some type. I won’t make the final decision, though, of whether we should go in. It has to be mutual.” Dr. Trez said all this with the cold sterility of a seasoned doctor.
Captain Nowak pondered this for a few minutes. “I don’t suppose there’s anything wrong with going in. It’s funny, though. While I was thinking about what to do, a little voice inside my head kept on telling me, Go in. Come on, just do it. That, I guess, would be my weak reasoning for going in. It seems like lunacy, I must admit, but the voice in my head sounded nothing like I’ve ever heard myself say before. It was such a commanding voice that I feel I have to listen. But I’m convinced, for that reason and others, that we should go in.” They looked at each other and smiled briefly.
With hidden excitement, they began their zealous entrance of the blue sphere. And when they crossed the blue luminescent wall, everything went black.
Captain Terry Nowak and Doctor Jonah Trez no longer existed by the typical definition of existence. They dreamt dreams and their dreams dreamt them. The impossible became possible in direct defiance of every law known in nature. Every thought became reality as reality dissolved into fantasy. Within the blue luminescence, thought, matter, space, and time became one. The two entities that once were Captain Nowak and Dr. Trez relived the happiest and saddest moments of all humankind, past and present. They found nirvana and pure depression. They killed and destroyed everything, only to bring it back into their existence with a mere good thought. They became nothing and everything. Then, they died.
“What happened?” they asked simultaneously to each other as they awoke groggily with shared feelings of having a hangover.
“Ouch... I don’t know, but my head is killing me,” Dr. Trez said while rubbing his temples.
“Yeah, me, too. I wonder what happened to us.” He checked the coordinates of their position on the computer. “Well, whatever happened, it was probably because of the blue sphere. We went straight through it. Now we’re on the other side from where we started. Any explanations, Doc?”
The doctor pondered this for some time, and found that he had no theories on what had happened. “I just don’t know, Captain. The way my head’s hurting, it’s like something in the sphere overloaded us mentally and caused us to lose consciousness. Other than that, I don’t know. What do you think we should do?”
“Well, Doc. I don’t know about you, but I’m kind of scared about what happened in there, cause I’ve got this sick feeling inside me that I could swear feels like I died in there. And I don’t like it one bit.” Captain Nowak shivered a little as something deep in his mind gnawed at him.
“I think I know what you’re feeling, Captain. I don’t like it either. I don’t think we should do it again. Do you?”
“No, thank you, Doc. I say we take what we’ve got and bring it back to the scientists back on Earth for them to decide what to do. I say we bid farewell to the center of the Galaxy.” Captain Nowak looked to Dr. Trez for confirmation.
Dr. Trez nodded in agreement after some more contemplation. “I still wonder, though. Despite my feelings of death or whatever it is when I try recalling what happened, I feel like I was something in there. I wasn’t just Doctor Jonah Trez in there. I have this feeling that we were godlike in there, Captain. Call it a hunch, but I feel that whatever is in there, we, as humanity, are not ready to handle these...” With a long pause, Dr. Trez found his words, "...these secrets of the gods."
“I know what you mean, Doc,” said Captain Nowak, as the bits of memory of what occurred came to his mind. “I have this gut feeling that you’re right about that, Doc. Humankind is not ready for this. And I’ll pose the question to you again. Do you want to go back in there?”
They stared at each other for a minute or so, deep in thought. “No, Captain. No, I don’t think I want that, and I don’t think you want it either.”
“No, Doc, I don’t. Let’s go home — the long way around...”