In the year 2054 colonization of Mars, which was thought by many to be but a waste of countless millions of dollars and human lives, proved its worth many times over. It was Oracle, the new high-tech observatory established on the surface of the red planet that first noticed an unusual phenomenon never before seen by Human eyes – a small shimmering circle of approximately 3 km in width located at the farthest reach of Jupiter’s orbit. Swallowing signals yet without a hazardous gravitational pull, this phenomenon was soon proved to be a wormhole, and a surprisingly stable one. In fact, it was the first one discovered by human scientists so close to Earth.
Within several months, it’s diameter increased to 15 km, debris and asteroids were confirmed moving in and out of it, with several large stones even held by its now more powerful pull at its borders, creating something reminiscent of a stone-engraved gateway.
First probe launched from Mars entered the wormhole in the year 2060, and retuned in a week, bearing pictures of an alien solar system, with two stars and a dozen of planets orbiting them. What was more important three of the planets were supposedly fit for colonization, at least based on information brought back by the probe. Multiple drones and unmanned vessels followed, each one bringing back more and more inspiring news and data.
A joined space expedition launched in the year 2071 travelled to the new system and successfully landed on the planet closer to the wormhole, and named it Eden Prime, as it was so reminiscent of biblical gardens from which the humans were banned in Christian lore. Breathable air, calm and temperate climate, absence of deadly bacteria, viruses or radiation – Eden Prime was like Earth, but before humanity turned it into a shadow of its former beauty, sacrificing it soul and blood on altars of industry.
In the next seven years human ships landed on Eden Prime several times and returned bearing even more wonderful news of riches of the planet and its hospitality – full-fledge colonization was possible, and a new home world for humans was found.
It became apparent that the humanity’s fleets were not ready to properly colonize the new system apart from Eden Prime – the distance between the planets was too great and hibernation modules on existing craft were incapable of simultaneously carrying proper quantity of colonists and technical personnel. Thus, a new initiative was brought forward: to create a colossal space ship, a metaphorical arc capable of bringing life from the Solar System to Eden Prime and from there – to other planets of the system. This dream of a single ship representing the whole humanity unfortunately shattered as major corporations failed to agree on the conditions of investments and governments refused to put money into a multi-national project. Following countless hours of negotiations and dozens of treaties, it was decided that two expeditions would be launched simultaneously.
And thus, two vessels were created for the joint expedition, both rivals and allies in the same time. The first of them to be created, the Voidfarer, was the child of American and European engineers. Designed to be a fully self-sustaining platform the ship was capable of transporting dozens of thousands of colonists in hibernation, as well as countless materials and equipment. Its engines had enough power and capacity to cover twice the distance between Earth and Eden Prime.
Niulangxing, the colossus brought to life by an alliance of Asian corporations, was a ship built with a different approach. Unlike the Voidfarer it housed considerably more production, manufacturing and industrial modules, as well as vast cloning and in-vitro growth facilities. While Voidfarer could keep the crew and passengers alive and well and ensure total safety of its cargo during flight and subsequent landing, Niulangxing was in fact capable of producing entire fleets of lesser civilian aircraft and vehicles, equipment and biodomes by sacrificing some of its transportation and engine capacity.
Both ships shared the same goal and simultaneously different agendas. Even the noble idea of making a new home for humanity could not overcome corporate greed nurtured by the vessels’ creators and shareholders – new worlds held untold riches, and the first to claim them was to emerge from the colonization effort on the top of the food chain.
Nevertheless, at least for general public, cooperation between the teams continued normally, crews trained together and made voyages to Eden and back on board of recon and science ships. First scientific complexes were established on Eden Prime, and immediately occupied first pages of all Solar System newspapers with pictures of the planet’s lush forests and sunny plains, as well as with promising results from scans of neighboring planets.
Three years of preparation were slowly coming to an end. The day was set, and marked on all calendars of the Solar System as a holiday. The Jump, the name that was universally accepted, was craven for by humanity with the same happy expectations as Christmas is awaited by a child eager to unpack presents from Santa.
On April 25, 2071, at 9-am straight humans gathered at the TV screens in every house and city, ready to watch the jump from homes or cheering and laughing at broadways and squares before the giant projectors. High above them, in the vacuum of space preliminary checks were finished and both vessels were given green light to crank up the engines and commence pre-flight procedures.
Colonists and astronauts alike sent video greetings and messages to their loved ones, and gave final pre-departure interviews. Captains of Voidfarer and Niulangxing shook hands on board of UNS Faith, a UN diplomatic vessel, before parting to their respective ships.
Lesser vessels of all types and kinds scurried back and forth through the portal, bringing journalists to the Eden System and returning for more – the price of such trips skyrocketed that day, but news companies were ready to pay any price to have employees on ground to see the ships cross the gateway from inside the humanity’s new home world.
At 1-pm the giant ships started slowly moving towards the wormhole, building up speed and momentum, each of them accelerating and trying to be the first to enter humanity’s new Eden. At 2-pm the nose of Niulangxing touched the portal, with many humans becoming either very rich or considerably poorer in a second – betting on what ship enters the portal was the latest craze on Earth.
As the colossal ships flew deeper into the wormhole side by side, with dozens of small vessels swarming around them in joyful chaos, the wormhole’s borders blinked, and the portal started shrinking. At first, the portal shrank for a tenth of its width, tearing apart the lesser ships farthest from the wormhole’s heart. Several seconds after, it shrank again, down to two thirds of its diameter, shearing the fore body of largest of ships supporting the European expedition and dooming everyone aboard.
There was no chance for the colonization ships to get through in time, as the final blink brought the wormhole down to quarter of its size, cutting the Voidfarer who was entering last in half and tearing holes into engines and support modules of Niulangxing.
Before closing, the portal opened back to its original width as if to demonstrate its raw power in glow of its borders, showing to the horrified humans gathered to celebrate the Jump the downfall of their tremendous effort. As cries and wails broke out from the crowds paralyzed in fear, the wormhole sucked in the remainders of vessels and closed, leaving neither reminders of the tragedy that happened moments ago, nor any survivors. Only three small asteroids seemingly untouched by the pull of collapsing wormhole remained at the Jupiter’s orbit, slowly dancing in a triangle around the planet, as if held together by a giant magnet.
From that moment, the Jump was known only as the Collapse, the day when humanity’s greatest hope was destroyed by the same forces that gave it in the first place.
However, while for the humans of the Solar System the Jump was an end to their hopes and dreams, for survivors of this tragedy, as well as for many other players in the universe it was an opportunity to either start from scratch, or to forge their fates. The Forge of Destiny.