"Thank you!", Kenneth exclaimed without a hint of modesty, "I've had it running for some time, and it should start getting really good about now..."
"I hope it doesn't choke up like the last one...
"No, I've got all the bases covered, I expanded and enhanced nearly every aspect...
"Well, anyway, we'll see what happens at any moment!
No one could deny the progress that had occurred since the first New Age scientists had labeled such research as heretic and unscientific. (Some even proposed classifying the first few centuries of the New Age as the First Age, or Older Age -- but most historians agreed that those terms would clash with the names of some Pre-scientific ages for which some people held special interest.) But a lot else had also changed since that time, and with such 'trivial' matters as wars and human segregation resolved hundreds of centuries ago, humans had had ample time to form new priorities. And unraveling the secrets of the universe were at the top of the list.
With the invent of light speed travel, geographic domination had ceased to be important, and thus wars had became unnecessary, as most of our near universe was made accessible; with hundreds of colonizable worlds of which only a fraction could be settled, due to the lack of population. This transition period, detrimental to the progress of humanity, also had a very strong effect on the overall psychological state of the world. The same people who had apparently been plagued with mass claustrophobia, due to the decreasing amount of available land on Earth, caused by the rapid* increase in population, were hit with a sudden air of agoraphobia, the first noticeable effect of which was to make people friendlier towards one another. Those who had once been divided on terms of race, creed, and color, were bonded together by the infinitesimal importance of such traits when compared to the vastness of the outside universe, now made accessible to them.
It had been much simpler before, land was limited, space was science fiction, people were comfortable in the safety of their perceived universe -- which consisted of the world, and an unreachable infinity which lay beyond. Sure, people died in wars, some lead better lives at the expense of others, and everything was a give-and-take situation, as the now-extinct 'science' of economics had put, 'due to the scarcity of resources.' Well, now resources, for all intents and purposes were infinite in comparison to the population, and competition gave way to cooperation: Cooperation in an effort to defend against a new, unseen, unknown but seemingly infinite-large enemy that lied ahead -- the universe.
But these were all ancient history, for the New Age had begun with the advent of Science, and had soared with the mentioned 'invention' of light speed travel, and since then had passed the better part of 45 centuries. And this was the time that Kenneth was born into. And the place, Oceania, a small helium rich planet off Alpha-centauri, as could also be gleamed from his full name, Kenneth S. Oceania, with the S standing for Science, as given to him by his parents in a 'silly' supernatural bid with the elements to make him follow in their footsteps. And although he had a fine appreciation of music and the arts, especially of the Classics, the bid had paid off and he had not only followed, but far surpassed their footsteps, on route to ground previously untrampled.
(*) Rapid, is expressed as it was perceived by the people of the time; in terms of increases of a few hundred million a year.
Kenneth was clearly excited about his latest experiment. With his closest friend looking on with inquiring eyes, he prayed for it to work this time. It was nearly ready. He had tried it exactly eight times since he had begun working on it, about two and a half years ago, and had failed in each. The trials were not complete failures, however, for they provided the data and experience that lead him to better his machine, and the neural nets of the controller. If he could only achieve what he planned, he would change history, and lead mankind into a new age. If...
"What will happen if it does work?
"I don't exactly know -- I have a few theories, but, well, its impossible to tell ... Maybe nothing
"I could be wrong -- Space could be infinite, and if so, nothing will happen ... It will just go on forever -
"But what if it isn't, what if you're right?
"Then -- it will break into a new world, a new universe, ... I, I don't know ... My God, look ... It didn't abort -- that's where I lost it last time -- GOD! It's working!"
Ken's machine, the product of two and half years of constant rebuilding and expansion and the pinnacle of a lifetime of research and dreams, had passed the previous breakdown point -- Ken's latest improvements were working.
The machine, which looked rather odd when compared to his other equipment, actually formed the north wall of Ken's lab, with its outer face bare to the Oceania air that lay outside. It was large, especially considering the amount of miniaturization that had taken place in technology over the years, but every bit had a purpose, and the largest area composed the energy utilization chamber. The whole machine was run by a system of neural nets incorporating the latest artificial intelligence -- this was necessary for the whole experiment rested on a critical moment, the moment of release. This moment would come based on a decision that only the computer could make, for only the computer could sense the time-space fluctuations. And all this, the equipment, the research, the experiment; all for the sake of a single electron. A single electron accelerated into a controlled quantum leap faster than the speed of time, and projected to an end of the universe. An electron which, at that speed, should reach it, and go on ...
Unless he was wrong.
Everything went dark.
"Damn it! Damn it! Son of a bitch!"
"What happened ... what went wrong?"
"I'll tell you what went wrong", answered Kenneth, annoyed as hell," as soon as I restart the machine..."
He turned it off, and on again.
"There -- you see that, that bit, that atom,", his words smelled of contempt, pure contempt, "that stupid electron over there -- that, out of the millions ... the billions there -- that caused it!
"My God! How?
"The idiot caused a General System Crash, tried to write something, a bit, outside the program memory area, the son of a bitch ruined the whole thing ...
"Look, its almost ironic, his name, it was Kenneth!
Spike and Ken stared at each other for an instant and then burst out laughing, as Ken restarted the program...