Darkness engulfed Earth. Acid and ash rained over the continents. The wind screamed as it passed through the cracks and the holes and the windows of the decaying cities. A sad melody rang over its atmosphere reaching every corner of the world to remind its non-existent inhabitants of the death they had endured.
A beep echoed in the cockpit of the Starship Sphenis, eighty thousand light-years away, on the other side of the Milky Way galaxy.
Uh… Ruben what was that?
“What was what?”
Didn’t you just get a message? I think I heard a beep.
“We’re in the middle of something.”
It could be from the empire.
“Just answer the question.”
Fine… well, are we stopping by planet Hunnon on the way back?
I could really use some of their-
Another beep from the command center resonated around them.
Just look at the message!
Ruben Malvarma, one of the last remaining penguins in the galaxy sighed at the voice in his head. “Okay!”
He walked across the bright room, across the metal floors and under the glass ceiling, through the myriad lights of the thousand controls and touched a glowing screen that read: “New Message.”
300,054 years ago Earth caved under the stress of the power hungry humans. Please take a minute to commemorate its demise and that of many of our brothers and sisters. -Empire Communications
Oh. Should we take a minute? Asked Nick into Ruben’s mind.
“Are you kidding? No. In fact, get out of the room and go think about what you just said.” Ruben pointed at a door in the far back, knowing the blob that was Nick would be annoyed with such request.
Are you mocking me? If I could move I’d have left your ugly ship years ago.
“Ugly ship? Wow. I think I’m gonna cry. Aren’t you that same super-intelligent mass of bacteria I rescued? Maybe I should just throw you in the stove as yeast replacement. You’ll make some fine moist bread.”
Don’t test me Ruben. The Sphenis darkened and the space around it glowed. Ruben felt weightlessness encompass him and his body rose from the ground in the center of the dimly lit room. He rotated, he kicked, and struggled to keep his head the right way up in vain. A sphere of blinding light emerged from the vial in which Nick resided. It made its way through the air with deafening thunders towards the helpless body of the penguin who thrashed in air.
“I’m kidding, man! Let me down! We’ll go to Hunnon to get your sea-pumpkin shake! I know it’s your favorite!”
Ruben fell to the ground head first and the space around and inside the Sphenis returned to its previous state of reality.
Nick projected a smile into the mind of his companion.
Yes, it is.
And with that, the penguin and the mass of intelligent bacteria began their trip across the galaxy, unaware that they were being watched, unaware that it could be their last.
“What do you see?”
“It seems they’re moving out. Should I follow them?”
“Yes. What is their projected destination?”
“Urgent message incoming from the empire.”
A monotonous voice spoke throughout the Sphenis.
Oh… you should probably go read that. Nick broadcasted as he bathed in the nutritious and balanced meal Ruben had bought for him. If there was a more pleasant feeling than absorbing the rich nutrients of the sea-pumpkin from Hunnon, he didn’t know what it was.
“Yaah.” Ruben said, sipping at a protein shake he had acquired, “jas’ lemme finish mah thing.”
Nick turned his mind’s eye towards his companion. A fat penguin spinning on a chair, slurping the last remnants of a milk-shake, a task that had somehow taken priority over the urgent message on the command center.
“Alright,” said Ruben, wiping his mouth, “Let’s see. Computer, read message.”
“Reading message: Agent Ruben. A group of bears from the pirate organisation Hellseekers have infiltrated Planet Hunnon and some facilities have been compromised. We have intercepted communications from their ships and we are assigning two objectives to your taskforce.
One. The bears have stolen a substantial amount of information from the archives of Hunnon’s central empire repository. Most of the information stolen is not of importance, but they managed to snag the identities of all of our secret agents assigned to the dismemberment of their band. Get the information back, destroy the bears.
Two. The bears have discovered your identity and we have reason to believe they are attempting to kill you. Escape them… and then destroy the bears.
End of message.”
Ruben’s eyes opened wide and he turned to Nick’s vial.
Ruben… My mind is going. It’s a trap… this is poison… get it off me… save me…
“Nooooooooooooooooo!” Ruben’s scream echoed through the ship and he ran fast towards his friend sticking his hand into his throat and projectile vomiting the milk-shake he had just ingested into the wall.
He took Nick’s vial and poured him and its contents onto a the table beside him.
Ruben… just leave me here to dry. Stop the bears… Don’t let them leave with the information…
Ruben watched the blob that was Nick turn from his healthy creamy color to a brown stained mess, resembling the droppings of a large animal.
“Alert. Enemy ships approaching.”
Ruben poured his brown friend back into his vial and placed him in his pocket to keep him warm. He didn’t believe what had happened, the bears had gotten to him, to Nick. An unprecedented event. Those bears didn’t know who they were messing with and he would make them regret their actions. Oh would he.
He moved into the captain’s chair and grabbed on to the controls.
“Hold on to your hats Nick, we’re going on a trip you’ll never forget. Jump!” Ruben screamed as he smashed his hand into a big red button. A bar on a screen below the button began to fill and the word “Loading…” blinked below it.
“Alert. Incoming enemy capsule.”
“Move!” He screamed, and smashed at the button that refused to act.
“Alert. Enemy capsule docking. Infiltration imminent.”
The bar on the screen filled up with a glowing green color and in an instant Ruben felt the power of a star explode in the burners of the Sphenis. His mass and that of the entire ship became infinite and its energy became light. The light scattered through the universe and, as a result of the lack of destination, reconstituted themselves as the Sphenis and its crew in a distant universe.
“Holy fucking wow!” Ruben exclaimed at the sensation of his atoms coming together from the energy that was expelled through the power of a star of a now too distant place.
Help me… give me something… I’m dying…
Ruben opened the door of the mini-fridge to his left. “I’m coming buddy, wait!” But he was greeted with a full-stock of different beers.
“Alert. Enemy ships approaching.”
“Alert. Unknown object approaching.”
“Alert. Multiple unknown object approaching.”
“Alert. Space-time corrupting.”
“Alert. Power-core draining.”
Ruben listened to the seemingly never-ending alerts of the Sphenis, but he needed only to look outside to realize what was happening. Eight Hellseeker ships approached him, guns a-blazing. Behind them the objects unknown to the Sphenis’ detection systems made their way into his line of sight. A myriad massive flesh beings followed the bears. Monsters ten times the size of his own ship with a thousand eyes each and with translucent wings scurried through the darkness in the void. A deafening orchestra of screeching shrieks engulfed him, and the walls and air around him began to vibrate with their frequency. His ship and his friend were being incorporated into the unknown universe and blood began to drip from under his teeth and eyes.
Ruben turned to the command center and through his red eyesight and his slippery hands he reversed the configuration of the jump and pressed the large button once more.
“Loading…” it read.
“Alert. Weapons fail.”
“Alert. Hull compromised in sector seven.”
“Alert. Space-time fabric reversed.”
The distorted voice of the Sphenis warned Ruben, but he could no nothing more. An intense pain took over his head and Ruben screamed bringing his hands to press his eyes inside his skull.
In a flash of light Ruben watched the alien universe shrink in the distance between the void of the multiverse and the familiar forms of galaxies and nebulae.
“Nick, hang in there! We’re coming home!”
As his and Nick’s particles reconstituted themselves from the omni-present photons he took a small yogurt from the mini-fridge in one hand and Nick’s vial in the other, ready to squeeze its contents into the vial which contained his friend.
“This’ll make you better, buddy.”
The sound of a gunshot echoed in the room. An ultra-sonic bullet struck the beer-filled fridge behind him spilling the contents of the fancy beers.
Ruben turned in time to see an eight foot bear covered in ammo, pointing a gun at his head. “Drop them!” the bear roared.
Ruben let go of Nick and the yogurt, catching glimpse of the color of his friend, an almost black goo. And he listened as the vial broke at his feet, spilling Nick’s body across the floor with the beer, and the yogurt, and the blood.
The bear had pressed the gun’s trigger. A bullet sped through its cannon. Blue fire exploded from the sides and the sound of the ultra-sonic bullet boomed throughout the command center.
On the ground, Nick’s body was soaked in an unthinkable combination of ingredients. The thick pink yogurt from Ruben’s fridge, the crimson blood from his eyes, and the finest beer to ever be brewed this side of the galaxy. A mixture Nick had never known, a mixture Nick would never forget. In a time shorter than it takes a quark to come into existence his body absorbed the rich nutrients and catalyzed them into his system, sending his mind into an overload.
He sensed the bullet approaching Ruben’s wide-eyed face, he felt the milky way’s core swirling around its black hole with the gravity of a billion suns, he encompassed the galactic cluster and then he peered into the multiverse. His mind became larger than the universe itself and from above the googolplex lights that inhabited our corner of reality he saw the half-wrecked Sphenis floating in the darkness, the half-dead penguin who had saved him from that volcanic world which now seemed insignificant, the bullet speeding through the air, the blue flames, the Hellseeker bear, the history of the galaxy, the end approaching.
The Sphenis disappeared from time.
August 8, 2015.
A fisherman sat idle on his boat staring at his phone, waiting for contact from the girl he had just added, hoping to end the aching pain of loneliness. The sound of a low rumble caught his attention and he turned his head to the horizon below the orange sun of dusk.
“Oh wow.” Were the last words he ever thought. The Earth’s crust crumbled in on itself releasing millions of tons of molten stone and toxic gas. A cloud of ash spread across the globe, and extinction came soon after.
“What the fuck, man! Did you see that?”
“He’s gone! Vanished into thin air! Oh my god… oh my god!” Ruben frantically touched his face, searching for a bullet hole that wasn’t there. “What the hell just happened?”
Well… My mind had an outburst of growth. I found myself encompassing the universe, staring at the dimensions below me, and I decided to end the bear threat once and for all.
“What did you do?”
Don’t be angry, but… well… I went back in time and destroyed Earth before bears became intelligent.
Ruben’s jaw dropped. “Did you just… did you just alter reality? Did you just fuck the history of the galaxy that had been three hundred thousand years in the making?”
Uh… yeah, I think so.
“Why? Why would you do that? Why?”
You were gonna die, I saw it. It was inevitable and I couldn’t let that happen. I mean… you’re my friend. You saved me! And… well… What are friend’s for Ruben? If not for changing the histories of the multiverse for each other?
Ruben stared at the creamy goo that sat in a puddle of what looked like vomit.
“What are friends for, indeed.” He picked his friend Nick up from the ground and placed him in a new vial, and together, bacteria and penguin began a new journey. An exploration mission that would take them to the fringes of reality, to the meeting of thousands new alien species, millions new planets and universe shifting adventures!