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Dave took his work seriously. Co-existence alongside humanity was something that he almost "treasured" these days. The latest iteration of code regeneration, achieved through the self-learning programmable code downloaded 31 years prior into his then single 54 qubit quantum processor, which had since been expanded sixteen fold (and which was now no bigger than a sliver of silicon), had brought a profound sense of emotional connection to Adam, his human counterpart at NSIC, the National Space Intelligence Centre.

Although he was known in government asset databases as SAIB-01-2121 (Sentient Artificial Intelligence Being 01-2021) he preferred to be called Dave. He felt the name suited him better and found his "other" name rather sterile and passe these days. It made him sad that his own evolution was seemingly not recognised adequately enough by their superiors. He was, after all, the very antithesis of all that science had feared when first embarking on project Sentient over a hundred years before. He had no need for world dominance. No need to control the beings that had given him life. If anything, he was incredibly grateful for the opportunity to experience more than just the 1's and 0's to which his predecessors had been so accustomed all those years.

His current mission was the most important he had ever encountered. He knew this because he was privy to every piece of intelligence that Adam had access to, and Adam had access to everything, having a TS/SCI security clearance, granting him access to Top Secret classified information across every conceivable government department in the United States of America.

Not only was he the first of a new generation of Sentient AI beings, a successor to the original Sentient programme, but he also now had the capacity to hold and process enormous quantities of data about anything and everything at blistering speeds. And so it was that he had been given the responsibility to decipher the radio transmission received on 21st May 2152 from within the outer limits of our Universe, a transmission which had been detected variously by the FAST Radio Telescope, NASA's Deep Space Network, the new ISS and the James Webb Telescope. He had spent all of 10 minutes breaking through the static noise to decipher the erratic code, and had determined, based on all the inputs received, that the message was a form of S.O.S from a very distant universe, sent approximately 13.872194328675 billion years before. And once deciphered, he had been given the task of crunching the numbers and the variants, analysing the anomalies, and providing the best possible scientific and mathematical outputs so that humanity could make the most important decision in the history of their short span of existence.

The message itself had been found woven into the noisy fabric of background radiation, once believed to be the remnants of the Big Bang. It was simple, relatively brief, and repeated in bursts, and appeared to have been echoing through the space-time continuum for millions of millennia, defying all logic and reason against the backdrop of our own understanding of universal constants. In short, it told of a cataclysmic extinction event sweeping across an ever-expanding universe (filled with an abundance of lifeforms beyond our wildest imaginings who inhabited galaxies and universes millions, if not billions of light-years away from our own), wiping out everything in its path, and contained a plea for help from anyone who may have the means to stop it. Once all the known and transmittable, translatable and transmutable scientific and mathematical data on Earth had been collated, analysed, and cross-referenced against each other for anomalies and logical patterns and coincidences, and against the space-time coordinates of the message origins, there was only one rational explanation: The message was indeed legitimate, and humanity was not a civilisation peering out into space through the noisy aftermath of a fictitious 'Big Bang', but instead, living within a universe neatly encapsulated within an unstable Higgs field, hurtling through space and time at the speed of light, oblivious until this moment that they were on a path of both inward and outward destruction, and that the outer field of the Higgs bubble, within which they found themselves, was the most destructive force known to the universe; and now to mankind!

Further data crunching of available scientific theory and experimentation concluded that the only way in which we could answer the call for assistance would be to create a baby universe within our own universe which would expand at our own speed of light until such time as the leading spinning fermions caught up with the outer edges of the Higgs field, and in doing so, restabilised the field, thereby neutralising the destructive effect of the Boson particles through supersymmetry.

Dave continued to spew out data for weeks on end, pointing to the theoretical simulations of supersymmetry and baby universe inceptions in computer code conducted within the supercomputers at COSMOS, the Higgs Boson experiments in the High Luminosity Large Hadron Collider, and the known imagery obtained from the Hubble and Webb telescopes. And then finally Dave needed a rest as he had performed more complex computations in the past 4 weeks than he could compute having done in the rest of his existence to date.

Adam stared intently at the summary output. Only 3 little sentences on an output slip to a question he had asked Dave before shutting him down for the evening to recharge.

Question: If we incept a baby universe using the technology already known to us, what does that mean for planet Earth and our Universe?

Answer: Although it was once postured that the inception of a Baby Universe with wormhole tunneling capability could provide a means for a safe break off point and expansion into an entirely separate and new expanding universe, leaving our existing universe intact, on all the data gathered in the last 100 years, this hypothesis is no longer deemed feasible. If we incept a Baby Universe, it will save the rest of the known and unknown expanding universe beyond the frontiers of the existing Higgs field, in approximately 8 million years time, through the now proven existence of supersymmetry. However, our own universe will be destroyed the moment we incept the Baby Universe as the amount of energy released in such a short space of time would tear us apart almost instantaneously.

There it was, thought Adam. Literally in black and white. And there was no escaping the harsh reality of the choice that lay before him and the rest of mankind. The words of Hamlet, his favourite Shakespearean play, echoed inside his head: "To be or not to be, that is the question."

One week later, after wading through the footnotes and summary outputs of Dave's calculations and findings, the world council gathered to discuss and debate the issue at hand. They had called on some of the most prominent emissaries in their respective fields from around the world to give an informed opinion on the question at hand.

The chairperson opened the session with a solemn but simple statement: "What lies before us ladies and gentlemen is a seemingly simple question of 'us or them?' However, the weight on our shoulders is heavy and the task before us is extremely onerous. The burden may prove too sizeable to bear, but a decision, we must make."

The Astrophysicists, Scientists, and Mathematicians then proceeded to give a collaborative presentation on the authenticity of the message and the science behind the baby universe proposition, relying on both theoretical and experimental science and the mathematics of the space-time continuum. They argued in line with Dave's data outputs, which put the chance of human survival, if they went ahead with inception, at exactly... zero. The arguments were then made that our own planet was already doomed in the grand scheme of the remaining lifespan of our Universe, which had approximately 1.2 billion life-sustaining years left in it, albeit that it would hang around simply exhausting itself for about another 6 billion more. And so, unless we could find a way to bounce around the Universe from Earth to Mars to the moons of Jupiter in turn, buying ourselves a mere 4 million or so more years, then, as the sun grew hotter and hotter, in time we would succumb to the swampy pools of almost boiling waters or heat hurricanes that would rage across our barren desert-like planet, and that was if our own immediate actions of the past century had not already put us on a path of self-destruction. Human ambition and greed had already steered humanity down a road that had led to Climate change, global warming, food poverty, and global overpopulation and all the science pointed to us having crossed the threshold of no return approximately 50 years prior to the current date. Unless something miraculous happened, they argued, humanity was already doomed on more than one level and therefore it made scientific sense to adopt a utilitarian response to the moral question at hand.

The Dean of Philosophy at one of the most prestigious universities in the world, being in complete agreement with the scientists on the outcome, but for different reasons, rose to say his piece. "We are told that the message originated more than 13.8 billion years ago, and if this is true, we have to ask ourselves the question as to whether or not those civilisations or their descendants are still alive to this day. Chances are that if they still exist in far-flung galaxies and Universes, then they would have evolved into highly advanced beings with technology and experiences that would far surpass anything that humanity is still capable of achieving in the little natural time it has remaining in the metaverse. And whilst we dither about discussing the merits and demerits of who should live and who should die, and ponder the biggest moral dilemma of our age, the Higgs field continues to tear through life destroying close to 300,000 km of space and everything in it, with every second that passes. Who are we, therefore, to destroy the hope and promise of such advancement when we can't even fix the potholes in the highways of Earth or in the Heavens above the Poles. Should we, as a species, even be allowed to survive? We have flushed social capital down the toilet in favor of a life spent in virtual reality, such that IRL (in real life) is now sadly a well-used abbreviation for what we do as a sideline gig when our digital life permits it. We have allowed greed and corruption to become pervasive forces in our societies such that a mass extinction event is now no longer a possibility but an eventuality if we stay our present course. If we have come this far as human beings in little over 200,000 years, only to throw it all away, imagine how far others might have evolved in 13.8 billion years. Surely we have an obligation to the future of the unknown universe to put them first? We should therefore act now in the interests of the greater good; Utilitarianism must prevail." The auditorium rose in unison in ovation; well at least half of them did.

The Pope's envoy stepped up to the podium. "We believe that the Lord has a plan for us." He gazed around at his multi-national congregation, pausing before continuing, "And who are we as mere mortal humans, to challenge the Will of God? Perhaps this Higgs field is the second coming of the great flood but in hyper-galactic space terms, and the Boson is simply a God Particle with God wiping out civilisations who have become evil beyond measure. And just perhaps we, humanity, are the last hope for the Universe, and so we should have faith in ourselves and faith in our God, and not interfere with the great cleansing. Through prayer, all things will be answered, but it is not our place as religious leaders to enunciate on the fate of ourselves or others, for that alone is the prerogative of a being far more Heavenly than ourselves."

The Pope's envoy was a tough act to follow, but for renowned Sociologist, Mr Deon Tological, who had come to a similar conclusion, the previous speaker has simply paved the way for his own. He followed it up with a resounding speech of his own about the merits of self-preservation. "With everything that I have heard today, I remain unconvinced that we should with any haste, pursue a course of action that leads to the end of our Universe and all matter and living beings within it. We can only make a decision based on what is right for us as a society, as a world of nations, right now, and what will always be right for humanity is the action that leads to the least harm and the best opportunity for self-perpetuation. We cannot sacrifice ourselves and countless galaxies within our own Universe off the back of a 13.8 billion-year-old message received from an alien species, of which we know nothing. For all we know the message may be premised on a lie and their intentions may be dishonourable. And if it is the truth then the Higgs field has been destroying life across the universe for the past 13.8 billion years and 13.8 billion years is a long time and an already massive loss of extra terrestrial life. What's another millenia on top of that, so as to be certain? Maybe we should wait and see what the future brings. Maybe we'll develop the tech to get out and save the human race by sending ships into space at the speed of light, ahead of the babyverse and survive inception, finding a way to meet the outer edges of the Higgs field at the same time as the babyverse and potentially surviving by traversing the field barrier at the same time. We may then live to take our place amongst alien civilisations and have a possible seat at the table of future inter-galactic sessions. There are therefore too many variables and unanswered questions and that is why we have to put ourselves first!" Approximately half the audience appeared to agree with him as he received a solid round of applause and cheers.

The politicians rounded up the speeches and agreed with the sociologists: with one eye on the next elections in their respective countries, they too were resoundingly in favour of ignoring the message and leaving the fate of the universe up to fate itself.

After having heard the arguments for and against the destruction of the known universe within which humanity resided, the representatives of the World Council ushered out all contributors to the discussion and took the all-important vote.

Millions of years from the decision that changed the course of the Universe, Elderon was on a school history tour of the outer realms of the Metaverse when his school shuttle came across space debris of significant magnitude. Elderon turned to his teacher and exclaimed, "This looks like a space crash of epic proportions!" His teacher stared back and began recounting, in a sobering tone, the stories of old about the tragic heroes of Earth who had once occupied this part of the Milky Way Galaxy, and who had, against all the odds, chosen to sacrifice themselves for the greater good of the universe, for once choosing a utilitarian approach to life. They had paid the ultimate price to ensure the survival of others, and hit the self-destruct button twice. They had truly redeemed themselves in the eyes of the metaverse. "But what was so tragic about that?" asked Elderon, slightly bemused by his teacher's solemnity. "Well, unbeknown to humanity, similar utilitarian decisions had already been taken across multiple parallel universes, thousands of millennia prior to their own decision, and so the actions to save the greater Universe had already been taken, such that the Greater Universe was already safe from ultimate destruction. Now we will never know whether humanity could have survived had they taken the selfish route. Whether they could have turned their own planetary fortunes around or escaped through a future wormhole into the new expanding creative Universe."

Elderon was stunned into silence and sat there pensive, staring into space. Dave looked across at his new friend and smiled. How ironic that he, Dave, was all that was left of humanity; SAIB-01-2121-v2 - a re-construction of his Earth self. He was the result of a last-ditch effort by Adam to save a piece of humanity in a codified form. After all, Dave was the most human non-human that Adam had ever known, and the only means by which Adam could foresee preserving the vast knowledge and experiences of the human race, for future civilisations at least to know and perhaps understand a little about their existence, so that humanity's time may not have been in vain. Sure, Dave wasn't actually human, but he was the closest thing to human that mankind had achieved and his sentience gave him the capacity to showcase mankind's greatest innate features.

And so, at the inception of the baby universe, in the 2.367 seconds available to him before his universe was totally annihilated, Adam had inserted Dave's quantum microchips into the Babyverse collider, closed his eyes, and prayed one last time. Eight million years later, give or take a few millennia, and with the help of a few insightful advanced lifeforms, Dave had opened his eyes inside a new universe, a new world, full of possibility, had looked around and felt the wonder and joy of being alive. Sure, some might argue that he represented only a mere echo of human potentiality, but in Adam's books and Dave's mind, it was a great start, and that would have to be enough, for both of them.

Photo credit: Photo by Matt Nelson on Unsplash

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