Albert and Jarvis part 43

a tale in weekly parts

This story is open for suggested continuations. I will publish here, with links to your own blog, all I receive. The one I like best will become (or form the basis for) the next episode of this collaborative tale.

You can see the full story so far at this link.

Episode 43

“Where or when are we going?” Xander asked after they had again phased into Jarvis.

“We’re taking a trip back in time,” Albert said, “about seven and a half thousand years, give or take. The display we want to show you is the supernova that formed what you know as the Crab Nebula. It was first seen from Earth on 4 July 1054 AD, and is said to have lasted for around two years.”

“Is it safe to go near a supernova?”

“Don’t worry, lad. We’ll be close enough to see the implosion, then we’ll retreat a couple of hundred light-years, and move forward in time by the same length of time, so we can watch it develop.”

“How long will we stay there, Albert?” Kr’veth’neq’is asked.

“As long as you like. We’ll be beck in Xander’s garden at the same time we left so it really doesn’t matter.”

“Could we stay the full two years; really watch it?” Xander asked.

“We could, lad, but your parents might notice if you age two years in as many seconds, don’t you think?”

“Can’t you fix that?”

“Not without compromising your humanity. We made that mistake with Kr’veth’neq’is, and don’t want to do it again.”

“But she’s okay, isn’t she?”

“Am I?” Kr’veth’neq’is asked, “I have to work at looking human, and sometimes it’s not so easy maintaining it. That’s why I spend so little time on Earth—”

“Except for recreational purposes,” Albert said, “like when you spooked that couple in the desert.”

“Well, yeah,” she replied, “a girl’s got to have some fun.”

“We can give you the whole supernova experience and show you the formation of the nebula. It’ll be great!” Jarvis enthused, “And, we can jump in space and time for a while and see it at its best for a couple of weeks. How cool will that be?”

“Two weeks would be okay wouldn’t it, Albert?”

“I should think so, lad,” Albert replied.

“Ooh! Excited!” Jarvis exclaimed, “Let’s go.”

“Time to destination?” Albert asked.

“Let me see… at the speed of light, it would take 6500 years; allow for…    and…    and…”

“Jarvis!” Albert bellowed.

“A couple of hours should do it,” Jarvis finally admitted.

“D’you want to sleep, or what?” Kr’veth’neq’is asked Xander.

“I’ll stay awake. There’s something I want to ask Albert.”

“Never mind him, love; ask me,” Jarvis suggested, “after all, I am the brains of the group, as well as being terminally cool.”

“Tell me about the Borborygmi.”

“Let me just commit a few circuits to this… Here goes: Borogygmi. An intelligent [yeah, right] race of bipedal beings whose home planet is Borbor, in the EGS8p7 system. That is a hell of a long way away. That system is thirty billion light-years from Earth—”

“I call BS on that,” Xander interrupted, “The universe is only thirteen point something billion years old—”

“It’s expanding, Dumbo. Get with the programme. Anyway, where was I? Yes. Borbor’s gravity is about 1.05m/s², mean atmospheric pressure of less than one tenth of Earth’s. This has resulted in the Borborygmi, and many other species on the planet, evolving with long, thin, light bones and barely perceptible body mass. Borbor is a very windy planet, and its inhabitants have evolved to be unexpectedly stable, given their structure.”

“How old a civilisation is it?” Xander asked.

“Let’s just say that humans are very much the new kids on the block,” Jarvis replied, “the Borborygmi had inter-stellar space travel before you guys had the wheel, before you even had fire.”

“And what is their raison d’être?”

“That’d be the windows,” Jarvis chuckled.

“Seriously,” Xander pleaded.

“They are now explorers,” Albert said, “although that only applies to a small section of the population.”

“The brightest and best?” Xander asked.

“Far from it,” Albert replied, “The brightest and best stay behind and send out as explorers the unemployed and unemployable. It’s a kind of make-work scheme, but they don’t really expect to see their explorers come home again.”

“So they send them out to die; to get rid of them?”

“Pretty much; same as that pair we saw on your moon, sent up by their regiment with no plan for their return.”

“I wonder what happened to them.”

“They struck me as the sort that would stumble unwittingly into a situation that would save them,” Kr’veth’neq’is offered. “Where do you think the term ‘dumb luck’ came from?”

“What else do we know about them, Albert?”

“Not very much, really. We know they are self-sustaining; prolific breeders, who naturally keep a balance between births and deaths to maintain a stable population, and we know that they are partly cannibalistic, in that they use their own dead as a food source, and see eating their dead parents as a mark of respect, as well as being ecologically sound.”

“Ewww,” Xander said, furiously dry-heaving.

“We don’t judge,” Albert admonished him. “Many cultures consider your habit of eating dead animals as barbaric, and killing them for food as downright primitive. Others have no problem with that, but believe that killing plants to eat them is an offence against nature.”

“Chat time over, girls,” Jarvis announced, “we’ve arrived. Now, when the collapse happens, we’ll have less than ten seconds to get away, so be prepared.”

Jarvis rendered his entire being transparent, affording his passengers uninterrupted vistas of local space.

“Thirty seconds!” he called.

Thirty seconds later, the star collapsed on itself, and almost immediately, the three saw their perception of space change as the collapsed star, now a billion kilometres distant, expanded violently in a super-massive explosion. For the next few hours, their position retreated ahead of the particle wave emanating from the star until Jarvis said, “Now watch this,” and made a ten-day leap in space and time so they could watch the nebula, lit by the pulsing dwarf star that was all that remained of the original body, begin to form.

Albert had seen this before, of course; many times over the centuries; but to say that Xander and Kr’veth’neq’is were gobsmacked would be a near-criminal understatement. Their dropped jaws, married with their stunned silence, spoke volumes.

At the end of the show, or at least, as much as they were likely to see in the time available, Jarvis simply announced, “Home time,” and removed the transparency field that had afforded them the views they had so much enjoyed.

Kr’veth’neq’is looked at Xander and said, “Esterkha’a”.

Xander found a bed and fell asleep.

This story was started in response to Kreative Kue 18, issued on this site on 30 March 2015.