Originally published on Poul Anderson Appreciation, 28 June 2012.
The 5th Jump
A new system coalescing. Sun not yet
compressed enough for thermonuclear reactions but energised by
contraction. Asteroids plentiful, heating planets to incandescence and
increasing their mass by falling onto them. In five million years, a
planet will be like Earth - unless it is Earth?
In an old globular cluster with little free
gas or dust. Stars, mostly ruby, others orange and golden, block out
blackness. There is a planet overrun by life where human beings would be
able to survive but only on the uppermost plateaus. Elsewhere, the
atmosphere is too concentrated.
Near the dust clouds of the galactic core, a black hole with an orbiting observatory. Chinook does not stay because the forces, energies and shape of space are too strange.
Inside the clouds near the galactic centre
in the far future. Radiation background moderate. In one direction
stellar density increases into "...a ruby globe..." (1) While Chinook
is here, a nearly massless force field ship transits in 37 seconds.
Joelle speculates that an intelligent being can send a recording of his
personality to be activated in an artificial body, then to be returned
as a pattern for transcription into the original. Thus, the ship in
transit need have carried only a molecular recording.
The T machine is twice as big as any previous, for transport across bigger distances.
Maybe a billion years futureward and 50,000
light years out in intergalactic space. The entire galaxy is visible.
Another big T machine.
The biggest T machine yet. Back in the
galaxy but between 70 and 100 billion years futureward. Only the dimmest
stars survive and they are dying while the galaxy disintegrates. The
universe is four or five times bigger and the Virgo cluster of galaxies
is no longer visible.
One planet has life because the Others have
transformed its moon into an artificial sun, a nuclear reactor with
almost total conversion of mass to energy, possibly by forced
inter-quark interaction in a hollow space protected by fields at the
centre of the moon.
The Chinook is enclosed by a vast
globe of moving colours containing the T machine, a white-hot sphere
with lesser shapes moving around it and a curved ellipsoid extruding a
delicate webwork like those seen at the neutron star and black hole
observatories. A point of light moves from the ellipsoid to the Chinook. Something stirs in crew member Caitlin Mulryan... Another craft comes from the T machine to the Chinook. Two of the Others enter in the forms of Aengus mac Og and Brigit. Caitlin is an avatar.
Delicately balanced forces artificially
maintain the place where they have met "...here at the end and the
beginning of a universe...." (2) So the "...white-hot sphere..." must be
a monobloc before its big bang?
A hyperdimensional ocean brings forth
universes. Our expanding, dying universe intersects another. Their union
will bring forth a new universe with different laws and constants of
physics that the Others aim to understand.
(1) Anderson, Poul, The Avatar, London, 1985, p. 347.
(2) ibid., p. 379.