Small Worlds Part 250

Sorry for the sporadic updates this week. It’s been a bit crazy. I should be back to my schedule starting next week. Thank you all for your patience!

Ryan stepped up to the podium, trying to control his heartbeat. It was harder than it seemed. Sure, he’d faced down gods and monsters, he’d been in fights for his life, but this was different – he was about to give a speech to the entire world.

He hoped his nerves weren’t as apparent as the felt.

“Esteemed members of the United Nations, my name is Ryan Smith. I am sorry for interrupting this meeting, but I come with a warning that cannot be ignored. I am here to tell you, with no exaggeration, the end of the world is upon us.” He held up his hand for quiet. “I know this is hard to believe. I know that so many times, people have claimed the world is ending. That there is some impending cataclysm – one born of certain readings of one religious text or another, or one that comes from the calendar of some ancient civilization, or even warnings based on hard scientific data that we are inevitably moving towards a future catastrophe.

“This is not like that. We are facing something new and unprecedented – a literal threat to the planet. You know by now that gods are real, that monsters are real. Things modern science couldn’t account for, wasn’t predicted, walk the world. I’m one of them. I’m also thirty years old and from Saint Louis, Missouri. I’m not some strange thing from antiquity – I was born in 1989.

“I say that so you know I’m here to speak with you not as someone who believes he is above you, but as one of you. I have friends and family here. And if we don’t act quickly, the world will end. We have seven days.”

Another round of uproar. It was nearly impossible to make out any individual words, but the general disbelief of the assembly was so apparent it was nearly a physical force. Ryan took a deep breath and snapped his fingers, neutralizing sound waves. The zone of silence spread out over the assembled crowd like a physical force. He let it dissipate.

A burst of silence proved far more effective than shouting for attention would be. “Astronomers have already noticed the recent solar expansion. It’s the reason we’re having such unseasonably high temperatures, higher than could be accounted for by even our most pessimistic models. I know you all must have been briefed on this by now. Let me be clear here – in seven days, the sun is going to explode in a supernova if human civilization still exists on Earth. There is no preventing it. There is no denying it. This stellar expansion will continue to increase exponentially as two hundred billion years of denied entropy catch up with our Sun. Even though our Sun doesn’t have the mass to undergo a normal supernova, the immense energy released by this rapid change will wipe us from the cosmos.”

Jaqueline was getting used to Austria. Enough of the population spoke English that she and Kurt could get by, and their German was improving at an impressive rate. It wasn’t ideal, but…”But that was the choice you made when you let him into our home,” Kurt said. Jaqueline took a deep breath, trying to calm the surge of anger. She didn’t know what was worse – the fact that the argument was so ongoing, or the fact that Kurt was right.

“What do you want me to do, Kurt?” she asked. “I mean at this point, what can I do? I made a judgement call. I had to make it quickly. They were trying to kill him. We’ve been over this. Back and forth. Now, though, I can’t undo it.”

Kurt pursed his lips and shook his head. “What if you were wrong? What if he’s-”

“Wait,” Jaqueline said, pointing towards the television. Kurt turned to look and let out a strangled noise when he saw Ryan’s face. Then he saw the United Nations logo behind him. Kurt was the one to turn up the volume.

”- the immense energy released by this rapid change will wipe us from the cosmos,” Ryan said, “But it can be stopped. It can be stopped without the worst-case scenario happening. But only if humanity isn’t here anymore.” Ryan had to raise his voice to speak over the tumult. “I don’t mean an end to humanity! I don’t want anyone to die. We just can’t stay on Earth anymore.

“My allies and I, over the course of the next week, are going to start creating traversable wormholes. They will be carried by the Archangel Uriel to another world, a new home for humanity. We’ve checked this world – its breathable for us, the water is drinkable, and the local flora and fauna have compatible enough biochemistry that we can plant our own crops in the soil, and survive off what’s there. We haven’t found any diseases that will be a risk to you. The world is smaller than Earth – it will have four-fifths the gravity we’re used to – but has a greater land to ocean ratio. We’ll actually have more land available than we do on Earth. The days are a bit longer, the years significantly shorter, but it will be safe.

“I don’t think it will be easy. I know it won’t be easy. We’re going to need to relocate over a billion people every day to save everyone. But it is doable. Once we’re there, we’ll be using our power to start creating shelter for everyone. We’ll need every skilled laborer we can find to help pitch in, and it will be a construction project greater than anything undertaken in human history – rebuilding as much as our civilization as possible from scratch. But it must be done, and one thing humans have proven time and time again – if something must be done, we will find the will to accomplish it.”

Jaqueline looked at Kurt, who had turned white and was gripping the back of the chair. “He’s insane,” Kurt whispered.

“Kurt…I believe him. We have to go.”

“How can you…do you realize how insane this sounds?”

“As insane as gods running around Manhattan? As insane as angels fighting skeletons in Ohio? As insane as anything that’s been going on lately? Kurt, insane means something completely different now. I think denying the impossible is the only insane choice left.”

Kurt just shook his head. Not in negation, just sheer disbelief. “It’s going to be chaos,” he said.

That, Jaqueline couldn’t argue.

“-one thing humans have proven time and time again – if something must be done, we will find the will to accomplish it.”

Dr. Blankenship stared at the TV screen, his eyes wide with shock. The caption under the broadcast read “Ryan Smith, Alleged “God,” Warns of coming Apocalypse, Speaks of Human relocation.”

It’s said you never forget a patient, but over his forty years as a psychologist, Dr. Blankenship had learned that was a lie. Some people just didn’t stick in your memory. It had been almost twenty years since he’d last treated the young man with persistent delusions he was being followed by a man in a suit, and Dr. Blankenship had forgotten about Ryan Smith. Until the news had started running. Until he’d seen the fight against the Hecatoncheires on television.

Then he’d remembered. And now that young man was speaking to the United Nations, spouting off a paranoid delusion.

At least, Dr. Blankenship should have been able to write that off as just paranoia. But he’d seen the man throw lightning from his fingertips, and it was hard not to take what he was saying seriously with that kind of evidence.

The fact that his wife, Maria, was hearing Ryan speak Portuguese at the same time the Doctor heard English was also pretty compelling.

“We will operate these wormholes for anyone. Everyone who wants to go through can go through. I understand some of you might be afraid to traverse them. I know I would be. As a show of good faith, my own sister is going to walk through the first one and return to show that it can be done. She’s the only family I have left – I wouldn’t risk her life unless I was certain it will be safe. However, if you choose not to go…we will not force you.” The words seemed strained there, like he had to force himself to speak them. “If enough people don’t go through, Earth will die, and those that remain will die with them, but there is only a week. I want to save as many people as I can – but there won’t be time to take anyone who doesn’t want to go.

“I beg you not to be in that group. I know it will be hard – I know it’s unthinkable – but it is the only way we can survive. There won’t be any kind of registry forced, there won’t be any census, we don’t care who you are or where you are from – you will be allowed to leave with us. However, there are certain skills that, if you have, we need to know about.”

Dr. Blankenship didn’t think psychology was going to be on that list. Taking a deep breath, he stood up. “Dear…” he said, choosing his words carefully, “I think it might be best if we start packing.”

Maria considered him for a long moment, then nodded slowly. “Not that we’re committing to going through,” she said. “Just…making sure we’re ready.”

“Exactly my thought,” Dr. Blankenship said, feeling immense relief. Of course they weren’t going through a portal to another world. Of course not. That would just be silly. But…making sure that they were ready? There’s nothing wrong with that.

“We won’t be able to bring any books, any art, any of the trappings of civilization. Clothes and food are the extent of what we can bring safely. Those of who you do have knowledge to start recreating those works, we’ll need you to start immediately – especially in scientific literature and engineering. Civics engineers, we’ll need you to plan the new cities we have to erect. Anyone with knowledge of agriculture will be critical to making sure we can be ready to feed people within a couple seasons. Anyone with knowledge of ancient aqueducts and pre-modern technology irrigation methods or waste removal methods will be needed as well.

“Essentially, if you have any knowledge that will be needed to rebuild civilization, we need to know if you feel comfortable disclosing. We will be starting from scratch, but we’ll be able to rebuild. More than just rebuild – we’ll be starting with everything we now have and now know, and can build something better. All of us, working together. The first truly global project.

“There will be those that try to stop us. Governments that fear losing their power over people. Corporations that see profit in opposing us. Well-meaning people who think this is the fevered ramblings of a madman, even as scientific evidence mounts to disprove that. And, of course, other gods. To those individuals, I have a single message – we will do anything to protect the people of this world as they move to their new home. We will not be stopped. Speak against us all you want – but the moment you try to prevent people from reaching safety, you will have made enemies of us. And believe me – we have faced far worse than you.”

“Coward,” Kali said, spitting the word. Evans gave her a confused look, and Kali gestured at the screen. “He’s so afraid of his duty, he’s going to cause infinitely more suffering this way. He could have ended the world painlessly, humanely. No one would have even realized it was coming. Now? There is going to be riots. Panic. Murder. Humanity is going to devolve into packs of brutes fighting for survival. So much suffering…and for nothing.”

“You don’t think it will work?” Evans said.

Kali shook her head. “He thinks to put himself above the cycles that govern the universe. All he’s going to accomplish is rendering the Earth a scorched hellscape bathed in solar flame. It’s monstrous, what he’s doing – all in the name of soothing his feelings.”

“Are we going, then?” he asked.

“Not yet. They’ll be ready for us there.”

“A schedule of wormholes is being made available online,” Ryan said on the television. “The first ones will open tonight at midnight. We will make sure to come to the one nearest to you. Please do not try to go outside your covered region – we’ve planned to allow for enough space and time for everyone that wants to go.”

Kali leaned forward. “Get that schedule,” she said. “Find out where they’re going to be having these portals. That is where we will find them isolated.”

Evans pulled out his phone to do exactly that.

The world is going to end, Kali reminded herself. And damn him for making me force his hand. 

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