"We were not meant to save the Earth; we were meant to leave it."
Catonsville High School, February 6th, 12:56 PM, 2014
I sat at my desk, thoroughly bored with my class. This was unprecedented, I had actually finished every assignment that my teacher Mr. Wiseman had given me, from building a greenhouse to creating 3D models in the school's computers. Though I did like Mr. Wiseman, his classes felt… too easy. This was supposed to be advanced tech applications?
While the neanderthals who didn't care about this class monkeyed around with the soldering guns or played flash games on the computers, I sat there with my hands in my pockets, thinking of something to do. Failing at that, I looked over to the end of my row, seeing a guy with oily brown hair, pale skin, and a lot of freckles. He was wearing a German flecktarn jacket, which I thought was interesting. He had also completed all his projects, and was now fiddling with his watch.
Out of curiosity, I decided to try talking to him. No one else in the class ever bothered to try and talk to him, and I didn't know why. I had watched him work on several projects, and he seemed particularly skilled. If his work was anything to go by, I might have been able to have an intelligent conversation with him.
"Hi." I greeted, standing above him.
"Um… hi." He replied softly, looking nervously at me. "Uh, do you need something?"
"Not really, just looking to make small talk." I answered casually, talking a seat next to him. "I saw that greenhouse you built a few weeks ago. I like how you used acrylic sheeting instead of the provided canvas. Did you bring that in yourself?."
"I d-did, actually." He stuttered, seemingly trying his absolute best to make eye contact with me. "I fi...figured I'd build it right. The c-canvas doesn't let in nearly enough su...sunlight."
"I knew that was the reason." I replied, letting a smile cross my face. "What's your name?"
"My name… my name is Dan." He said slowly, looking at me inquisitively. "What's y-yours?"
"My name is Sean, nice to meet you." I announced, offering him a handshake. He slowly, but surely accepted it.
"Y-your the guy who mod...modeled that Smith & Wesson .500 in SolidWorks, right?" He inquired, triggering my proud side.
"Sure did. I'm surprised you know about that." I confirmed, crossing my arms. "If the school caught me modeling weapons again, they'd suspend me, so you know, do me a favor and keep that to yourself."
"I like guns, so I wo-wouldn't worry about it." He reassured, his facial features softening. "Personally, I-I'm into that railgun s-system being developed by General Atomics and BAE Systems."
He had somehow instantly ventured into one of the topics I adored. Experimental weapon systems.
"Oh really? Tell me, what do you think of the concept of rail guns in space?" I remarked, taking a seat next to him and leaning my arm against the desk.
I could tell that piqued his interest, as he sat up straighter. I was finally going to get an intelligent conversation.
We sat there and talked about military technology for the next hour and a half, and we didn't let up. By the time the class was over, we had covered many various topics, including ballistic physics in zero gravity, kinetic bombardment, and directed energy weapons including lasers.
"You and I… we should hang out." I remarked, grinning like an idiot. "You live in Catonsville?"
"Yeah." He replied with a neutral expression, but with a lot more ease to his voice. "Walking distance."
"Me too. How about we continue this conversation at my house?" I offered, leaning on my desk.
"Oh… no, that's fine." He shook his head, looking uncomfortable again. "I'm sure you have friends more interesting than me."
"None of my other friends really have the same interests as you." I reassured, knowing that my "friends" were about as sharp as a sphere. "Come on, I'll even show you my Dad's M1 Garand."
"Sure." He agreed as we both smiled, finally connecting with one another.
And thus began our long friendship.
Catonsville, July 4th, 8:30 PM, 2014
Me, Dan, his 15-year old sister Lydia and one of her friends had spent the whole day together, walking around Catonsville as people celebrated the Fourth of July. It was the most fun I've have in years, even though we didn't really do much in the grand scheme of things. I brought cookies over to his house, where his mom was having a small party with a few of her own friends.
We started off the day idling around his house, before the four of us got bored and wandered off into the neighborhood. It was fun just walking around, listening to the sounds of people celebrating the birthday of our country. Everything had fallen perfectly into place that day, the sky was clear, there was a gentle breeze, and it was a pleasant 64 degrees Fahrenheit.
After doing that for a while, we headed over to my house to hang out with my parents. My home was built in the 1930's during the Depression. It was moderately sized, but just perfect for me and my parents. I had only lived here for three years, but they were honestly the best years of my life so far. Our house was adorned with American flags everywhere we looked, and the tall trees were filled with leaves, creating beautiful sun shafts that moved all over the porch.
After we all talked for a while and the sun began to go down, the four of us began our walk over to the high school, where every Fourth of July they held a full-fledged fireworks show. We walked alongside hundreds of other people carrying coolers and blankets, all going to see the show with full vigor and energy.
"When's it supposed to start again?" Lydia asked, throwing her hoodie over her shoulder as we threw down a blanket and took a seat.
"In another couple m-minutes, I think." Dan replied, as we all looked around at the crowd that had gathered. There must have been thousands of people gathered around on the fields waiting for the display.
After talking idly for about two more minutes, the display began.
A rainbow of colors in different shapes and sizes danced in front of us for half an hour, keeping our gaze firmly glued to the sky. The sound of it was deafening, reminding me of all those movies that showed paratroopers dropping into Normandy during World War Two. When it had ended and people began to leave, I looked over at my friends and smiled.
That was one of the greatest days of my life.
Massachusetts, May 19th, 8:11 AM, 2019
Dan and I walked out of our dorm room, heading to my car. It was an old thing, a beat up 1995 Toyota RAV4. It may have been as old as I was, but it got the job done. We decided today was the perfect time to celebrate, and we were going to do it the same way we always did; by going out and stuffing ourselves with food.
MIT had just forwarded our joint work on quantum mechanics to the National Science Foundation, which was a really big deal for us. If they accepted our dissertation, we could end up in the big leagues. Just getting the Board alone to look at our work was an accomplishment, but to then have it forwarded to the NSF? It was almost guaranteed we'd get to hear something interesting soon.
"So, what do you think is going to happen?" I asked, looking over at Dan for a second before looking back to the road.
"I don't kn… know." He replied, attempting to once again check his equations. "Maybe we can get into one of those think-tanks."
"Come on, who needs those jokers?" I argued, turning my head slightly in his direction while keeping my eyes on the road outside. "Our work on quantum field theory alone puts everything else I've seen out there to shame, cut and fucking dry."
"Sean, we can't solve the problem of displace… displacement on our own." He argued, looking harder at the papers in front of him before turning to me. "And even if we d-did somehow do it ourselves, we'd still need some kind of outside funding to make any use of our discoveries."
"Yeah, If only I could manipulate gravity to move a few million dollars to our bank accounts." I replied sarcastically as we pulled up to Andy's Diner.
After we were given a table and sat ourselves down, Dan immediately began working on his paper again. He ordered his usual meal, scrapple and home fries. In contrast, I ordered scrambled eggs with bacon and toast.
"Hm… what was Bell's Theorem again?" Dan asked, tapping his lower lip with his pen.
"Erm…No physical theory of local hidden variables can ever reproduce all of the predictions of quantum mechanics." I quoted word for word with my eyes closed, taking a sip of my soda. "Why?"
"I was just curious abou-" He started to say before he was cut off. A man was approaching us. He was middle-aged with wrinkles under his eyes, gunmetal grey hair, and wearing a tailored coat over a wrinkled shirt.
"Hey, are you two Sean and Dan?" He asked, hands firmly placed in his pockets.
"Spot on." I answered, as Dan nodded with confusion clearly seen on his face.
"The name's Markus Ember." He greeted, offering a handshake. "I'm from the NSF."
"Oh, so you're here about our dissertation?" I guessed, accepting the handshake as Dan simply stared at him.
"Uh huh." He confirmed, taking a seat next to us. "I'm also here to offer you two a job."
"Really?" Dan exclaimed in surprise, sitting forward.
"My colleagues and I all agree that your work with quantum mechanics is the most amazing stuff we have ever seen." Markus said, leaning forward and looking us both in the eyes. "We are prepared to give you both six-figure paychecks, unlimited funding, and all the resources you could possibly need."
Dan and I looked at each other in bewilderment before looking back at Markus.
"What would you have us working on?" I asked, knowing that Dan and I were both interested in his offer. He smiled, folding his hands together.
"Something beyond your wildest imaginations." He said, handing us both business cards.
Area 51, October 5th, 11:46 AM, 2023
"Ah hah! It works!" I yelled, pumping my fist in the air with a positive feeling in my chest.
The Spatial Distortion Device was fully functioning, much to the excitement of me and my team. The baseball field-sized device in question had actually been under development since the early 80's, but only now did we have the true technology and scientific calculations needed to make it function. The SDD was based off of the Einstein-Rosen Bridge Theory, which meant if we could narrow down a destination… we could create a small wormhole and travel anywhere… to another planet or another dimension. We had achieved what Carl Sagan could only dream of.
We had solved the issue of the wormholes instantly collapsing on themselves by creating what was comparable to a faraday cage and a centrifuge. The stabilizer spun extremely fast, emitting a strong gravitational field to counter the spatial distortions created by the wormhole. The implications of this device were limitless. Once we finished the calculations that would compensate for the Maxwell equations… we were set. To where, we had no idea, but a good scientist always makes sure to come up with an educated hypothesis when the unknown is involved.
For the last two months we had been trying to solve the power distribution issue that had been causing our coolant systems to overload. Dan had finally solved the issue by cooling the core using a brand new argon dispersement system he designed himself. I had to give the guy credit, he was even smarter than he was as a teenager.
"I told you it was possible!" I rejoiced, giving my friend Dan a huge hug. This obviously made him uncomfortable, but he still smiled in light of what we had accomplished.
"Yeah… we did." He said, folding his arms and staring at the device with a smile. "I will admit, if it wasn't for you developing that stabilizer, we never would have gotten this far."
"Thanks man." I had with another smile, leaning next to him and putting my hand on his opposite shoulder. We both stared at the device as everyone else in our twelve person team rejoiced in their own ways. Dr. Hauffman said that we would have to have an official party in the near future to properly celebrate this accomplishment.
With any luck, this could propel humanity to the future.
Area 51, October 11th, 3:22 PM, 2023
"Happy birthday to me, happy birthday to me…" I remarked bitterly, staring blankly at the finger of scotch I poured into my glass. Tears rolled from my eye sockets once more as I got lost in my own thoughts. Not even the best scotch in the United States could improve my mood right now.
I felt like a puppet on strings by this point. I had just learned that my father had passed away on my birthday of all times. He died in his sleep next to my mother two days ago, and only now did the "higher-ups" decide to tell me. What was worse is that the bastards wouldn't even give me leave to go to the funeral. All they would give me was the day off.
I kicked one of my chairs out of pure frustration, sending it flying into a wall. I slammed my back into the wall and let myself slide down, landing me on the floor. I let out a loud sob as I brought my knees to my chest and wrapped my arms around them.
I heard a knocking sound on my door, causing me to look up for a second.
"I told you people to fuck off and leave me alone!" I shouted through tears, before pulling my head back down.
"It's not the… the director, it's me." I heard a familiar voice proclaim, as I took in a deep breath in an attempt to calm myself down slightly.
"Come in." I said weakly, as the door slid open and Dan came inside.
"I just heard what happened." Dan said, picking up the chair I had kicked and sitting in it.
"I'll also assume you heard they won't give me leave to go to the funeral." I remarked bitterly, wiping the tears from my face. "Bastards."
Dan didn't know what to say, and I could tell he was trying hard to think of something. Dan was a good friend, but he was as emotionally dead as they come. Despite this drawback, Dan still acted like a kid a lot of the time. He looked at many things he was unfamiliar with through a narrow scope, and that could be quite the disadvantage at times.
I never regretted convincing him to not join the military, I don't think he would have done well being under the command of someone else. I'm pretty sure his mother and sister were happy with his decision as well.
"I know this is hard for you, but..." He began slowly, stopping in the middle of his sentence to try and find the right thing to say. He never did think of anything to finish off that statement.
"Don't worry yourself over it." I said, picking myself off of the floor and grabbing the other chair. "I'll deal with this my own way."
"How?" He asked, leaning forward on his elbows.
"By getting piss drunk, that's how." I declared, taking the glass of scotch I had poured and downing it all in one gulp. It burned slightly on the way down my throat, but it was too sore already to feel most of it.
"I didn't know you drank." He replied with surprise in his voice.
"I do now." I said with a small smile, grabbing another glass and putting on the table next to him. "And you are going to join me."
"Sean, I told you… told you I don't drink." He declined, pushing the glass away.
"Come on, it's the least you can do for me on my birthday." I urged, pouring a finger into his glass. "Especially with everything that's happened lately…"
He stared between me and the glass for ten seconds before he finally made his decision.
"Fine, just this once." He finally agreed, picking up the glass and raising it to me. "To your father."
"To my father." I mimicked, taking note of his thoughtfulness as we both downed the scotch at the same time. After downing it, Dan got a sour look on his face then began to cough.
"Heh… you'll get used to it." I chuckled, pouring him another finger. "Come on, we got to finish this bottle before I wise up and realize my mistake."
Area 51, October 13th, 4:22, 2023
Dan and I were working of the emitters inside the SDD. They needed to be re-calibrated every time we tested the device, and that involved going inside the projection zone. We had pulled the power and shut down the generators, making sure there was no way for the device to get any main power. Dr. Apollo assured us that there was no way the device could activate. He was kind of weird, I didn't trust him.
"Dan, give me the calculator." I said with exhaustion prevalent in my voice. These calibrations were a bitch to properly input, and I had to make sure they were perfect. Any miscalculations could cause the wormholes to effectively "eat" the emitters, sending them god knows where.
"Sure thing." He agreed, handing the TI calculator to me. He didn't say anything about my deteriorating physique, but from his face I could tell he looked worried.
Unbeknownst to us, one of the generators somehow started back up again. Dr. Collins was supposed to be watching for any fluctuations, but he had fallen asleep in his chair.
"So, how's the family?" I asked, trying to break the ice with Dan who had just finished fixing the last emitter.
"Eh, they're alright." He replied slowly, standing back up. "I just heard my sister got accepted into Harvard, I'm hoping-"
He was suddenly cut off as the platform we were on began to descend, and the stabilizers rose from the floor. Dan and I were trapped inside the SDD, and the boot sequence was starting.
"Collins, what the fuck are you doing!?" I yelled, causing him to fall out of his chair in surprise. He looked over at us with a horrified expression on his face.
"I didn't do anything! The generators somehow started back up!" He shouted, fumbling with his keys to unlock the emergency shutdown control. "God... damn it!"
The stabilizers began to spin faster, and I could feel my skin tingling. The electrons in the air became faintly visible as the temperature inside the field dropped like a rock.
"Collins?" Dan said weakly, as we both began to shiver.
"I'm trying, I'm fucking trying!" He shouted, opening the panel and mashing the emergency shutdown button. "It's not working! It's not responding!"
The power levels continued to rise as spatial distortions became visible around the emitters, a tell-tale sign that a wormhole was about to form.
"Collins, we're about to get ripped to shreds in here if you don't do something!" I yelled, beginning to panic. The zone between the stabilizers and the wormhole was growing smaller and smaller by the second.
"There's nothing I can do! I can't shut it down!" Collins shouted, tears beginning to form in the corners of his eyes. "I'm sorry, I'm so sorry…"
My heart dropped as I looked up at Collins with an odd sense of pity filling the void.
"So, that's it then." I said with a defeatist tone, standing straighter. "Collins… can you do me a favor?
"Anything!" He immediately agreed, as electricity jumped between the stabilizer rings.
"Find my mother. Tell her I love her, and that I'm… sorry, for what I said to her." I asked as the smell of ozone filled the air.
"I will, I promise." He said, tears pouring out of his eyes.
I turned around to face Dan, who had a similar look on his face.
"Well buddy, I guess this is it." I remarked, giving him a hug. "Thanks for being such a good friend."
"You… you're welcome." He replied softly, as we got sucked into the wormhole. I could feel myself black out as we crossed the threshold, towards what I could only assume was out deaths.
Unknown, unknown, unknown, unknown
I felt like one of those pieces of giant taffy that candy makers used to knead on those old fashioned hooks. I had no other thought in my head as I reeled back and emptied my stomach on the cold, metal surface I now laid upon. My throat burned like fire, and my head didn't feel much better.
My vision was blurred, everything hurt so much that I couldn't focus on any single thing around me. I tried to get up, but my legs felt like jelly.
My mind began racing as I waited for my body to re-adjust itself. What the hell happened? What caused the device to start back up? How did we survive?
The word "we" stuck to my mind as I remembered that Dan had gone through with me.
"Dan… can you hear me? Are you there?" I asked out loud, trying to open my eyes only to be greeted with a painful stinging sensation in my spinal cord.
"Yeah… I'm here." He replied softly, obviously in just as much pain. He then vomited just as I did. A clunking sound resonated as he hit the "ground" in exhaustion. "Are we… where are we?"
"I don't know." I groaned, rolling onto my left side.
The air smelled of metal, as opposed to the stony, concrete smell the facility at Area 51 had. We were not in the base, I could piece that much together.
My eyes began to work again, even if I could only see about three feet in front of my face. The floors were made of sheet metal, very well polished sheet metal. I managed to stand up, balancing myself against a wall made of similar material. Dan began to stand on his own as well, clutching his stomach.
"I don't like this…" He remarked, looking around with his own limited vision.
"Neither do I…" I agreed, gaining more and more vision as my body adjusted to the significant trauma it had just gone through. We were in some kind of metal hallway, it was filled with what looked like crates, but it was still hard to make out. The area was bathed in a mixture of red and white lights.
"It looks like some kind of alley as far as I can tell." I guessed, looking up and down the area. That's then I noticed a figure walking our way. "Hide quick, something is coming!"
Dan and I hid behind one of the crates, hoping that whatever was coming down the alley didn't notice us before. We watched as the creature stopped in the middle of the alley, opening up some sort of glowing device on its arm. It then took out what looked like a cigarette and lit it using said device.
The creature itself looked like some sort of avian, despite the lack of feathers. It had grayish, metallic skin and was wearing what looked like black and blue armor. It spoke some kind of odd language into the device, and had an odd "flange" effect to its speech.
Dan then bumped his foot into a cylinder of some sorts, causing a sharp bang noise. The creature flipped around to face us, drawing what looked like a gun. We both raised our arms in the air as the creature seemed to urge us out from behind the crate. We kept our arms raise at it tried communicating with us.
It didn't seem to want us dead, otherwise it probably would have shot us by now. I decided to try communicating with it.
"My friend and I don't understand what you are saying." I said, gesturing to try and get my point across. "English?"
To my surprise, it seemed to understand me. The creature gave me what I was guessing to be a confused look, then took two earbud-shaped devices out of a pouch on its armor. He then gestured for us to put them in our ears.
"-een a long time since I ran into somebody without their translators." The voice cleared up, turning into perfect English. "What the hell are you two doing wandering around down here without proper translation software? You'll end up getting yourselves killed."
"Um…" I stuttered, looking over at Dan, who looked just as shocked as I did. "We were kind of hoping you could tell us where here is."
The creature looked confused once again, obviously not understanding what we were trying to say.
"Are you two high or something?" The creature asked, taking out his arm device and flashing a light in my eyes. "Your pupils seem to be dilating properly…"
"Um, no sir." Dan replied, bringing the creature's attention to himself. "We're just lost… lost, can you please get us out of here?"
The creature leaned over and looked inquisitively at us once more, before straightening back up.
"Ah, I get it. You two must be new to the Citadel." It assumed, holstering its pistol. "I mean, look at you guys, no translation software, no omni-tools, and you're lost… It's obvious you two just got here."
"You would be correct, sir." I answered, trying to be as polite as possible. Besides, it's not like we were lying. We did just arrive here.
"Follow me, I'll help you two along." He said, motioning for us to follow him. We did as we were told, following him through a door on the other side of the alley and into what looked like some sort of long hallway.
"What's with those clothes?" The creature, which I was assuming from the voice was a he, asked us as we walked. "I've only seen ExoGeni employees wear those kinds of clothes."
"Um… we do work at ExoGeni." I lied, trying to end the conversation without making me or Dan sound too suspicious. We still had no idea in the slightest what was going on, and I didn't want to be caught with my pants down. "We were just transferred here."
"Well, I don't know why you would come down here without even the basic things needed to get around." He said, opening the door on the other end of the hallway to reveal a hub of some kind. "Well, from here you should be able to find your way around. If I were you two, I would wise up and buy some omni-tools."
He then gave us a piece of metal with the number 150 emitting from it.
"Seriously, get your bearings before someone a lot less nice runs into you guys." He warned, walking back the way we came.
"Ok, thanks for the help." Dan thanked meekly as we surveyed the area around us.
There were different creatures around us, some looked like hairless blue women with tentacles growing out of their heads, there were a few slender ones that had big, buggy eyes, and there were humans too! At least, they looked like humans. We still didn't talk to any of them, Dan and I weren't taking any chances until we had more data.
We needed to figure out where we were, what the date was, and anything else that could prove to be potentially important. Scientific minds don't operate well when there is a serious absence of usable information around them.
"Well, I guess we should take that… thing's advice and get some of these "omni-tools" that he kept talking about." I suggested, as we walked towards some sort of large window.
We thought we were just looking at an expansive city, but when we got the full picture, we saw that there were four more sections just like this one attached to some sort of ring. This place wasn't just a city, it was a massive space station.
"Oh my god." I remarked is astonishment, leaning on the edge of the railing.
"Wow." Dan exclaimed, folding his arms as the two of us stared out at the cityscape before us.
We both looked at each other with smiles on our faces.
Wherever we were, it seemed there was a lot for us to learn.
A/N: This will hopefully be the beginning of something new for me, I've decided to create a Mass Effect story that doesn't shoehorn something stupid into the plot to get OC's into the story, while still being set in a whole other universe/timeline. It will focus slightly more on the scientific aspects of the Mass Effect universe, adding a little bit more context to a lot of the things around them. I hope I can write this story on a regular basis, but I can't guarantee that'll happen. Stay tuned.
I'd love to read any reviews, I'm always up for suggestions or constructive criticism. Stay tuned!