How, the scientist-pilot wondered, knowing what they knew of the universe, how could they affect it? Studying the map, they had realised they found themselves in its very heart.
The sentience of the universe was undeniable. This had long since been proved. The question had shifted to the Intent of that sentience. This too had now been conclusively resolved. Decidedly not a benign intent.
The scope and magnitude of the universe, or at least the part currently perceivable, made doing something about this problem, well, problematic. But, now, with her ship's revolutionary mapping technology, the maps were finally starting to be not only complete, but make sense.
So far, only she has seen the completed maps, only she now saw proof of what some have speculated. Right there she decided, these maps were for her awareness only, for now at least, until...
Study study study. She poured over her creations, modelling them in every way she could, analysing and determining the way the system of the entity worked. Life, she knew, whenever it had been found in its seeming infinite variety, always held true to certain commonalities. And the old saw of: "in its image," now seemed sadly prescient, or implied more. But theology was not her concern.
She was looking for a fulcrum point, a choke point, a key spot, how that might be used. Hearts could be affected by blockages, clots. But those, on this scale, would be impossible to arrange. What else? Weakness, tears, ruptures. Yes, that was it, a cascade, that's what she needed. All that would be necessary, one trigger point, just one acceleration ahead of schedule. Her mapping had revealed how seemingly natural phenomena were in fact utilised, and to certain extents, coordinated and affected to purpose.
Supernovas, these her research had shown, here, were not spread as evenly as random distribution would dictate. Not even close. In the "heart" universe, (there were many universes now, the limits kept expanding) supernovas were extremely rare, and when they did occur, substantially muted. Anti-climactic events compared to elsewhere. This had been her first clue.
Much potential for the regular spectacular supernovas existed, but always, the energies necessary seem to be "bled" off and dissipated, leading to these tamed supernovas. Now that she knew for sure about the entity, about its intent, now these otherwise astronomic anomalies fit into pattern. It was all too obvious.
Her project, an extraordinary effort of cooperation across many universes. Mapping was essential to all. Her vessel by far the largest know deliberately constructed physical mass ever. Larger than most suns. The scale of the craft only made possible by the scale of the contributors. Billions of galaxies had contributed. Each part of the whole assigned for construction by the supercomputers, working in conjoined collaboration. Each massive part separately jumped to the void space where construction took place. Assembly brilliantly designed to be simple and easy. Each part anchoring to the previous. Construction proceeded on multiple points simultaneously. The entire project taking mere decades.
The eventual result, a craft capable of the inordinate amounts of power needed to probe and traverse such vast distances. At her command, the power of trillions of nuclear power generators. She had been the anomaly, from all the universes participating. A ridiculous genius that could see what the computers could not. She now saw even more. She saw her path going forward...
Using her newly formed maps of precision, she targeted her jump, its exact blossom point, the precise incredible momentum, that without the vast engines, would take galaxies to reign in. Not one for delay, she knew already the inevitability of the sequence, had known the moment she perceived that first complete map.
Pulling one of the few manual features on the craft, she sounded abandon ship. Catastrophic failure imminent. The populations of the crew always had known this to be a possibility, small, but significant. Sad, but an accepted reality. The planet sized "escape pods" all successfully jettisoned themselves.
She, the captain, as long-standing ancient protocol still adhered to dictated, the last to leave. Her task in this situation, the set the jump course, to make sure the inevitable cataclysmic explosions would occur far away, where they would do the least amount of damage.
Smiling grimly, but not without pleasure, she set the coordinates. Yes, the damage would be minimal, they would not be able to find fault with her jump target. But she knew, the havoc would be minimal and critical. She was able to see the consequences, consequences even the supercomputers could not. Her gifts, always for her a mixed blessing. Now she was grateful. None would be able to see what she could see. Afterwards, they would realise the enormity of this freak accident. That would be the only way they would be able to relate to it. The ability to foresee the chain of events to follow, an ability only she possessed.
"The failure of imagination, especially when exceeding the possibilities of what is believed possible, always results in severe limitations of perception."
They knew she was different, they knew she had gifts, but how much exactly, this they had never known. She had never allowed them to. That was about to change.
Coordinates set, self-destruction sequences initiated, purposely set for the controlled structured sequence designed to spread, and thus limit, the incredible destruction that was to follow. Incredible from the minuscule perspective of the sub-microbes of the intelligent species of these strata of the universe. Tolerated by the universal entity, because they were useful, and no possible threat. She smiled again.
All set, she keyed the final key, simultaneously releasing her personal ship. She watched the local universe that was the craft streak away, the most incredible possible sight, for no other masses that size were self-propelled.
She jumped, to the safety of universes far far away. She had the data for the maps. There would be some differences. On the cosmic scale, the equivalent of a missing comma in a library, but what a comma it would be.
The craft's abandonment, and death destination, now the focus of every possible astronomic observation platform. She too observed.
The first signs that something more was happening appeared to be a far off shimmer, a shake. Tremors of energies spiralled through the various universes, spread into galaxies. Noticeable moments occurred. Huge in relation to the orbital paths of galaxies and universes, unnoticeable on planetary scales.
Those not watching never knew the sentient entity known as the Cosmos was having a heart attack. They would have thought this utterly preposterous, but, this is exactly what she had initiated. Her precise spot chosen to initiate the destruction sequence, one that would trigger a freak supernova. Nothing of that sun gave any appearance whatsoever that it was capable of this, or at risk. But she knew, she was the only one that knew, the status of that particular sun was an artificial one. The very mechanism of diffusing the energies had provided her the opportunity.
It was like minimising the possibility of a fuel tank exploding, because the mass of the fuel compacting on itself past a certain point would cause a combustible reaction, by creating a deliberate leak, venting the excess, keeping the pressures just so. This was not a problem if the means to ignite that released fuel did not exist. But, all it took was one spark, one monumental project to create a cosmically minuscule, but not insignificant, spark. An impossible spark, now possible.
The cosmos shook, quavered, convulsed, spasmed. That one spark had set off the one supernova that could not happen. Its strategic location setting off a cascade of exponentially expounding supernovae. But, only one galaxy would be obliterated. A most most vital and essential galaxy. Yes, trillions would die, but what is one galaxy in the trillions of the cosmos?
The event would come to be known as: "The Awakening." But not before all sentients experienced the most unimaginable terror and pain any and all had ever experienced. The cosmos, in their extremity, was not capable of destroying the microbes, not without destroying itself with a certainty. In the extremes of agony and death, even an entity of the cosmos' proportions clung to hope. Hope that the cataclysm would pass, would heal itself.
In this expression of rage and spite, the cosmos revealed it true nature. The fear of death, so long conquered, now brought forth all that mall-intent, that suppression of any possible competition or threat, no matter how ludicrous, the fears, the insecurities. Death throes revealed that the cosmos was sadly not much more psychologically than an immature arrogant self-important teenager. Petty and vain, fearful and unimaginative.
This lack of imagination the key to its undoing, never conceiving the possibility of microbes developing an intelligence of note, never mind one to rival and surpass its own. Ever it has been for arrogance to gauge intelligence by threat alone.
This all the universes could now feel and experience, as the cosmos expressed itself with unrestrained abandon. Thick clots of energy could be perceived with the naked eye as the cosmos concentrated as it had never done before. Its desperation for survival attempting everything it could think of to stave off the inevitable. But the moment came all too soon. In cosmic terms, an instant.
The jump path of the great vessel had carried with it the explosion of that first sun, moving faster than the speed of light, its carefully chosen destruct path spreading and compounding those ferocious energies, allowing the destruction to flower, in what for the cosmos, was near instantaneous doom. On her home planet, this would be a few days.
When it was all over, and the Cosmos was one again as it had always appeared to be, sentients everywhere, looked around with new awareness. "What had happened?" Their minds knew not, but they did know there was a difference. Before they had been infused with a mental fog. That was now gone. Not necessarily smarter, but certainly able to use what they had more effectively. They were now free to choose their own paths, their own destinies, free to choose what they believed in, what they would follow.
She smiled again, they would be free to choose the new replacement. Her time had come.
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*All pictures are of actual astronomic phenomena.