The Last Answer
The Last Answer- By Kawlin Rolfe
Halloran looked at the engine as it chugged along at a calming rhythm. This was sure to be the solution to the energy problems that have plagued cultures for centuries. She knew it was a guaranteed innovation.
Her colleagues had long since begun their celebration party, and for what it was worth she thought they had all earned it. Halloran however did not feel need to join, at least not yet. The visual of their engine -running off of captured solar radiation- was a party enough for her.
It was an answer to all of the questions that people had been asking for their entire existence.
The access hatch to the engine room opened with a faint wisp of air. Halloran turned to see Watson approach with two glasses of champagne. It truly was a special occasion, champagne was brewed in remote labs, the recipe still a guarded secret.
“I suppose this won’t be so rare now that we have Odyssey operational.” Watson handed Halloran the glass, which she accepted without protest. “The bubbly that is, soon there will be labs that can run off of these babies.”
Halloran smiled and sipped her sparkly drink. Watson was quite right; thanks to their engine, labs could be constructed on a larger scale. Soon it would be simple to construct bio-labs, and possibilities were not limited to grapes or fizzy drinks.
“There’s one thing I was thinking about. What if-“
Halloran sipped her wine then finally turned her gaze from Odyssey “we haven’t actually solved anything though? I mean, there has to be a limit doesn’t there?”
Watson chuckled at this remark.
“I knew you -yes you -out of everyone would be skeptical even still. Sure, there’s a limit to the amount that can actually be captured, but what does it matter? I mean we’ll have discovered another form of energy utilization by then and Odyssey will be long since obsolete.”
Halloran wasn’t comfortable with this answer. Watson was right to say that it didn’t matter, for them, but in her opinion they had already created the best utilization of energy. Earth was currently experiencing intense sunlight periods 3542 hours a year. The remainder of the year they would receive brief radiation from star flares.
She believed that even though they were able to capture as much as they could, this meant there might be a billion years before only satellite settlements remained for the human race. This was far beyond her time, but it still caused a chill to creep through her body.
“What if, I mean, what if this is the last possible alternative? I mean, what if we’ve done it, there’s no other means of utilization for us?” Halloran drained what was left of her glass.
“Why don’t we run a model? We’ll calculate the end of this energy?” Watson also drained his glass. “Then you can rest your mind, and we can print the news that humans will have to invent their saving grace on that day.”
Halloran smirked and agreed to Watson’s proposal.
The two worked tirelessly to create the perfect framework to base their estimate. The more they worked the clearer- and more disturbing- their answer would become. Soon they were running several scenarios per second to analyze their statement:
How will the human race create exergy?
Soon they were communicating with databases that hadn’t been accessed for centuries, programmed in languages that had been extinct for almost as long. They found that they had to re-create code that had been common place in an ancient era of humanity. Adding the new code to their current analysis lead to a more definite understanding of the answer they sought.
It was simple enough, and yet every answer they came up with pointed towards their current invention. Which was preposterous, it was known that one cannot create exergy.
They ran probability and referential algorithms to compile a database that soon presented more questions than they were equipped to handle. It soon became clear that they had already reached the pinnacle of human invention.
ENIK1984 was orbiting around the moon Tycho when it received a reference request from EENIGMA2012. David Valis noted the request and logged it into his work review. He then called up a communications screen for EENIGMA2012. Standard protocol was to confirm contact when an information request was made.
“ENGMA this is code ENK I have confirmed your request. Clarification of request protocol is being submitted. Overview of data importance is required.” David paused and then pressed the vocal transmission signal again. “How’s Jupiter look this time of day?”
Day was a long since lost term, but it still resonated in the human race. Earth, their origin landscape, had once experienced a concept that was referred to as a day, which was now something that existed through tireless habit.
The screen confirmed his clarification request and began receiving the reply.
“ENK our station is currently experiencing radiant flashes. Solar shields are up. Current analysis of ENK positioning shows eminent destruction. Our thoughts go to you and we hope your final moments are peaceful.”
David stared at the screen.
He had known that he would die on this station, but he had hoped that his children, and the children of the station, would have been able to escape. It had never occurred to any of the officials on ENIK1984 that their time was short. Everything had pointed towards a century of time before evacuation was required.
Naturally there was a script that could be followed for this type of mass communication. David let the automated system take care of tending to the station. Messages from department heads began to fill his screen. He would tend to these later, in the moment it seemed like there was time to spare.
He looked at the screen, trying to decide how to close the transmission with EENIGMA2012. He supposed it was important to understand how their demise had come about. It would undoubtedly come up in future conversation.
“ENGMA I have supplied our final information transfer. What is the final time count on existence?”
He believed this was clear, succinct, and they would understand what was being asked. Humans had long since understood the importance of energy, and it’s relation to existence, the final answer to the continuation of this was to create exergy.
EENIGMA2012 commanders watched as the light for ENIK1984 went out on their satellite map. In the recent years stations had expired at an average rate of 5 for every 4800 hours. This ceremony was becoming a common occurrence for stations on the outer-rift.
Outlier stations had long since been expected to surpass the life span of the interim data pools. This had been the original reason for expanding, the farther from their origin point, the more energy they found available. It was the final step in optimizing human’s utilization of energy.
The command deck was full of space farers that had been born and raised in the outskirts of the galaxy. Little was actually known of Terra Nova on the station, most was left for the computers to understand.
The final statement from ENIK1984 had come through six days ago. It seemed that a final answer was close to realization. It showed that in the early ages of radiant energy the answer had already been discovered, its importance ignored. However, the answer itself was useless, as it was a known limit and limits provided only more pieces to create answers.
Rates of expansion were decreasing, but this related to the distances from a technologies origin point increasing. This curious phenomenon was explained through scalable technologies. It had long been known that satellite colonies would assist in the travel of human labs. It also contributed to the increased rate of exergy destruction.
Expansion, alas, came with a downside. It meant that exergy was never truly destroyed, however simply remained the same. This too presented a limit that had long since been forgotten.
The technicians aboard EENIGMA2012 were unsure how many scenarios needed to be compiled before an adequate result could be compiled. In fact they weren’t entirely certain they would actually be around to see a result displayed for that matter.
Atreides watched the super processor as it hummed. The only visual that came from the solid component was the flashing of a light. Each pulse emitted by the LED meant another scenario had been calculated.
Soon expansion would reach a point of immobility, something that was hard to determine or understand for the human race even now.
Atreides had managed three day shifts since ENK had sent its last message. They likely had enough battery power to sustain their facility; however standard protocol in the event of radiation depletion is to disable communication. A request for facility status was always the last broadcast sent out by the inner-rift settlements.
Suddenly, the display screen in front of Atreides lit up. Status Complete was flashing in bold.
He was afraid at what the verdict would be -perhaps it would say that they have long since met their point of no return. No more hope for creating energy to run their lives. A strange but calming thought in a way.
Atreides sighed and initiated the communication sequence. It would be a few minutes before the rest of the team was there to analyze the outcome with him. In the meantime he asked the processor to display the final results.
How will the human race create exergy?
A solar flare that was bright yet contained little radiant energy, burst through Jupiter’s orbiting systems. This was the backlash from Earth’s original star, an event that had become common in the solar system. The flares gradually slipped away, dissipating into the energy starved sections of the cosmos.
If an entity were to pass through this section of space, and managed to catch the proper trajectory, they could observe a flashing beacon that represented EENIGMA2012. The beacon has an irregular frequency, much like the solar flares that now ravaged this area.
The light would flash, then dissipate and go blank. Sometimes it would not return until many hours, or days had passed. The surrounding environment almost swallowing the station in complete darkness, with little light reflection occurring.
Then a connection, or communication was made, and the station would come back to life.