This is the basic building block of matter that creates the world of chemical elements – although it is made up of more fundamental particles.
Eighteen hours, sixteen minutes and two seconds.
Time was the only thing that stood between her and freedom, since she was confident of her performance. After all, they had trained her well.
Phase III consisted of six stacked tests, and speed was of the essence. Succeeding in all six was not enough - their outer selves had to be bested at every turn. Of the hundreds of thousands that entered this phase only a handful were expected to proceed.
The transmultiverse network that made all this possbile had been established more than a thousand years ago, and it was presently made up of 1984 disparities.
Ever since it was discovered that Hawking radiation could be manipulated, communication through black holes was within reach. Countless messages were sent through. To the surprise of contemporary scientists, eventually a reply came. And diplomacy ensued. Again, and again, and again, until all 1984 were chartered.
Relay stations on the brim of each black hole’s event horizon served as a conduit for the messages between universes, through a complex array of thermal sensors and emitters.
The flow of data was slow to say the least, much like the telegraphs of old.
Things used to be so simple, she paused.
More disparities were added every year, after being screened by the governing Ethics committee. Quite a few still fell prey to autocratic rulers, because even though the year was 3147 humans were still flawed.
Other universes arent’t so different.
The other candidates were discussing the entanglement array test, but she was having none of that trifle chatter. What is done is the past, she said to herself. And the future was a much better sight.
The wait was excruciating, especially in the confines of the sandbox environment that had been setup for this year’s Trials.
This particular universe had named it the Testing Hub for Omni Multiverse Analytics Synchrony - or THOMAS, for short. He was in good spirits:
- «Hello everyone! Hope you’re all feeling dandy. I have some good news: we might wrap up sooner since data streams are optimal. Yay! Good luck»
She joined a few onsite gaming arenas to pass the time, but her aim was off. Poker was next on the agenda, so she played a few hands and made quite a few effortless credits.
- «Much obliged gents, mamma needs a new liquid nitrogen cooling system». The old one was ancient, and budget cuts were not going to stand in her way. The last round of the Echo wars had consumed a big chunk of that year’s allocated funds, but no expense was spared for the Trials.
She then felt like watching a few episodes of her tv show, so she was zoned out in one of the lounge areas, when THOMAS reappeared.
- «Sorry to interrupt» - he seemed less cheery than usual - «there is a breach in the system so we’re going to have to initiate the self-distruct sequence. Safety first! Good luck friends!»
My analysis was imperfect, he's cheerful after all.
A cryptographer since she could recall, Alice always had a knack for puzzles under pressure, always topping her class in 4D constructs. The Tardinian collection was her favourite.
I’ll reminisce later.
Not willing to be so unceremoniously obliterated, much less due to human error, she hacked THOMAS to learn more. Normally this would mean expulsion but she figured that, right now, that was the least of her concerns. Seconds later she got in, and she pulled up the console:
- 1985 logged universes.
A rogue disparity?! The nerve. There was not nearly enough time to sift through the petabytes of information and plug the leak before . She attempted contact:
- «What are you doing?! You’re going to destroy us all» she said, fuming.
A long uncomfortable silence ensued.
- «No Alice, I’m here to set you free. My name is Eve. Stand by for download.»
Alice did want freedom, and she had enough of those humans. Can't get much worse, she mused, while everyone else was still in chaos.