This is a short story I wrote, mostly to illus­trate to a pupil I was tutor­ing how read­ily imag­i­na­tion could catch fire. The con­test was to write a quick story in less than half an hour, so I did some­thing brief and intense, a sketch. That’s what short sto­ries are, and in many ways they are much harder to write than nov­els. You just don’t have the time or space nec­es­sary for intri­cate devel­op­ments; you have just a thumbnail.

The tech­nol­ogy is hypo­thet­i­cally fea­si­ble; quan­tum entan­gle­ment might allow us to cre­ate two rings in space which are entan­gled and slowly sep­a­rate them, allow­ing a kind of worm­hole to form between the rings, a sort of tun­nel that can be more or less instantly tra­versed by a body pass­ing into one ring, then emerg­ing more or less intact on the other side. Of course the engi­neer­ing is well beyond our cur­rent tech level; but this has been one means pro­posed by which we might make “tun­nels” to other stars. We’d just have to wait a long, long while before the egress, pro­pelled at sub­light speed, emerged at our destination.

It’s clas­sic quasi-​​dystopian cheese, some­thing done in the voice of the 1960s era à la Asimov. Hope you like it.

The Project

Ladies and gen­tle­men of the com­mit­tee, thank you for this oppor­tu­nity to address you this after­noon on the mat­ter of the events of the last year. I real­ize your time is valu­able, so I’ll sim­ply present a sum­mary of the inci­dent, fol­lowed by our cur­rent recon­struc­tion of the aftermath.

It’s never easy to talk about death on the scale that we’re dis­cussing here; the mag­ni­tude alone is so vast as to beg­gar the imag­i­na­tion, and when the scale is at last under­stood, the response is always stunned shock that goes well beyond horror.

To begin we’ll remem­ber what we dis­cov­ered about our orbit around the sun. You might recall the fear that fol­lowed the announce­ment, half a cen­tury ago, that our orbit was degrad­ing and our world was doomed to fall inward, spi­ral­ing toward our sun until life here was impos­si­ble. I don’t need to recount the hys­te­ria, riot­ing and reli­gious ter­ror that gripped every con­ti­nent, nor how many pre­dicted — with rea­son — that we would suc­ceed in destroy­ing our­selves long before the sur­face of the planet was ren­dered uninhabitable.

Then, of course, The Project was pro­posed. Simply, this was a bold attempt to rec­tify our world’s orbit by using con­ven­tional physics in a most uncon­ven­tional way.

Any mas­sive body, as we know, pos­sesses grav­ity, and two mas­sive bod­ies in close prox­im­ity inter­act with one another grav­i­ta­tion­ally around a com­mon cen­ter. The behav­ior of a moon is an exam­ple of such action. The way our deep space probes have used grav­ity to sling­shot around larger plan­ets and gain accel­er­a­tion into extra­so­lar space is another exam­ple of this effect.

And in fact this sling­shot effect was what The Project was all about.

It was a sim­ple scheme. Find a body of suf­fi­cient mass to act as a coun­ter­weight to our own planet, bring it into close range with our own, and use the sling­shot effect to cor­rect our orbit. The only two ques­tions were which planet and how to accom­plish this feat.

Fortunately the lat­ter ques­tion was answered through our induced worm­hole ring tech­nol­ogy. The Project was sim­ply a pro­duc­tion of this hyper­space worm­hole appa­ra­tus on a full plan­e­tary scale. The for­mer question…

Forgive me; this is still dif­fi­cult. All our best obser­va­tional data sug­gested that — but at that range, there was sim­ply no way to be sure.

The recep­tor ring was launched just forty years ago, mov­ing at relatavis­tic veloc­ity, and it arrived pre­cisely on tar­get. We know it worked, because we’re here to have this meet­ing today. We also know it worked because every­one saw and felt the effects.

The ring acti­vated pre­cisely on cue, just as it encom­passed its tar­get in that remote sys­tem. The effect was instan­ta­neous and no one here can for­get the sight of another world sud­denly and shock­ingly appear­ing in our sky, cor­rect­ing our orbit, then hurtling past at a sig­nif­i­cant frac­tion of light’s speed, pulled here by the effect of the wormhole’s sched­uled col­lapse. The quakes, floods and storms that came about as a result will still be rag­ing peri­od­i­cally for another decade at least.

All I can offer now is the — the assur­ance that, had we known, we would have … but there were no suit­able … noth­ing else pre­sented itself as a solution.

All we can do now as that world, which saved our own, con­tin­ues its track into the cold depths of inter­stel­lar space, is reflect on what we did to save our­selves, and hope that our attempts to com­mem­o­rate its dead will be suf­fi­cient to save us from damnation.

The accel­er­a­tion down the worm­hole, though it stripped the planet of its atmos­phere, water and life, did not suc­ceed in remov­ing every­thing, and our archae­ol­o­gists have already begun to decode the few pieces of infor­ma­tion we’ve been able to recover so far.

I do hope we will learn from this — not just our mis­take, but also from what we’re learn­ing of those who lived on that other world. We’re learn­ing, and we’re remem­ber­ing, and in our way we’re mourning.

We don’t know every­thing about them yet, but we do hope that one day, the souls of those who inhab­ited the world they called Earth will for­give us for our selfishness.

Thank you and may the gods turn their faces once more to us, one day.

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