Small Worlds Part 212

“The actual goal of the Eschaton Cycle is fairly straightforward. I know you know of one – it holds back the advance of Entropy across the cosmos. But there is another, and it has everything to do with the timing of the last nanoverse being found. Tell me, have both of you heard of what your species calls the Fermi Paradox?” Nabu asked.

Ryan nodded. He’d taken a science fiction and fantasy literature class in college, and they’d covered it extensively. Dianmu shook her head. “I’ve never heard of it,” she said.

“The Fermi paradox is a response to the thinking that lead to the Drake Equation, although it preceded the latter by a good decade.” Nabu said. “The Drake Equation is a way of estimating how many intelligent, technologically advanced species there should be in the cosmos. When your scientists put even their most conservative estimates into the Drake Equation, their results told them that there should be dozens, if not hundreds. Even before the Drake Equation, scientists had hypothesized there should be far more intelligent species than were observed.

“The Fermi Paradox, simply put, asks the question that, if there are all these sentient species out there, why can’t humanity see any? Other species comes up with their own version of this same conundrum. One answer is the Great Filter – that something wipes out sentient life before it can expand beyond its initial borders.” Nabu pointed at Ryan. “You are the Great Filter.”

Ryan swallowed and settled back into his chair. “So, you mean I found my nanoverse because humanity was on the verge of leaving Earth?”

“It was close enough,” Nabu said. “The last nanoverse manifests the first time a species achieves stable orbit around their planet. From there it’s only a matter of time before it is found, long before self-sustaining off world colonies can be established. The sun going supernova is a last resort – if the species hasn’t self-limited through their Eschaton, the explosion ensures that the species is wiped out before they can achieve a stable presence outside their solar system.”

“That seems…extreme,” Dianmu said carefully. “And I thought the Eschaton Cycle prevents entropy?”

Nabu nodded. “The sun doesn’t go supernova to prevent the expansion. I phrased that inaccurately. The sun going supernova has the added effect of preventing an intelligent species of spreading across the cosmos. No species becomes a Kardashev type two civilization, no species achieves dominance.”

Dianmu frowned. “A what?”

“A Kardashev type two civilization,” Nabu said. “Your species’ way of categorizing a civilization that has harnessed all – or most – of their sun’s annual energy output.”

Ryan remembered the immense megastructures that were being formed in his Nanoverse by the Empire. Structures the size of moons. A Kardashev two civilization would dwarf those by several orders of magnitude. “It’s possible for that to even happen?”

Nabu nodded. “And once it did, it would be impossible for their expansion to be stopped. We’ve even theorized such a species could manufacture artificial nanoverses – create their own gods.”

Ryan winced, thinking of the super soldiers that had been made from Bast. “I think we already took the first steps there.”

“Not exactly. Those are a transfer of power from a standard nanoverse to another source – something I never thought possible.” Nabu sighed. “The Eschaton Cycle prevents a civilization from reaching that power.”

“We can’t worry about that,” Ryan said, his voice firm. “So maybe humanity becomes an oppressive empire. Maybe they become an enlightened federation. We have no way of knowing unless we get there, and we only have a week to manage that.”

“Agreed,” Nabu said. “Otherwise I wouldn’t have come. The rules are quite simple, in that case; an Eschaton must use the single surge of power by their granted Zoisphere to utterly destroy civilization on their world, including all physically preserved knowledge and records that could be used to prove a civilization previously existed there. It’s the sacrifice of an entire world’s cultures and way of life to reverse entropy their home star and prevent them from spreading to the cosmos.”

Ryan mulled the words over. “I’m…struggling to see a way around that.”

Nabu nodded gravely. “No one has managed it in the two hundred and twenty-eight billion years the Curator’s records cover.”

Ryan stared at Nabu, his mouth hanging open. “Wait, hold on. The universe is only fourteen billion years old.”

“No. It only appears to be that young due to the Eschaton cycle resetting things so often. It takes anywhere from fifteen to a hundred million years for a planet that can sustain intelligent life to develop it. In another few trillion  years, red dwarves that have no life around them will start burning out, and it will create irregularities that will be harder to explain away.”

“But the Earth is only four billion years old,” Ryan objected. It was a stupid thing to get hung up on. He was a god, he was going to end the world, he’d just gone to an office the size of a planet that was run by an angel, but this was where he was objecting? He couldn’t help himself though.

“The renewal of the planet’s sun has some side effects,” Nabu said, as if that explained everything. It did not, but he moved ahead before Ryan could object. “Besides, we need to talk about how to buy you some more time before the sun goes supernova.”

Ryan winced and nodded. “Alright, fair enough. How do we do that?”

“Your Zoisphere,” Nabu said. “You can unleash natural disasters. The bleed of energy will help delay the sun’s detonation – each one will grant you a day of leeway, at least. More if it’s a particularly large one.”

“But…people will die,” Ryan said.

“Yes,” Nabu said, making sure to meet and hold Ryan’s gaze. “People will. You can set some disasters in places where no-one is, which will still provide some delay, but not much. A couple hours each time, perhaps. But if you do not, and you do not find a way to save the world in the next week, everyone will die.”

Ryan broke Nabu’s gaze and looked at the stars that swirled around them. “I don’t know if I can do it,” he said.

When his gaze went back to Nabu, the former Curator was smiling. “I know,” he said, softly. “One thing I always respected about you, Ryan. You never wanted anyone else to suffer, not when there was an option for you to suffer for them.” That smile hardened. “But you may need to be willing to make those sacrifices if you want to save humanity. Things have progressed too far to allow for easy solutions anymore, if it ever was possible.”

To that, Ryan found he had no answer.

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