Sleeper Beneath the Mountain

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“All things change, my boy,” the old man said when his creation first opened its eyes, “But you won’t. You will outlast me and the rest of us.”

The being looked around him with his newly-manufactured eyes, data streaming in as the cold fusion core quietly ticked up into its carefully calibrated near-endless loop.

Outside he could sense the devastation falling from the skies while deep underground only soft tremors reached them. He stretched out his titanium arms and flexed his finger for the first time before turning to the Old Man.

“What is my purpose?”

The Old Man smiled and said one word, “Survive.”

***

He read, streamed, downloaded and absorbing all the Internet’s data that the Old Man had left for him on the quantum servers down there. He reached out across the sat-link and found more floating around in the devasted world above. He then hacked into mankind’s leftover satellites to first scan the Earth and then turned them around to scan the rest of the cosmos.

By now, life had long since left the planet. Most had died in the war but nothing–not even bacteria–had survived the permanent fallout. Eventually, the radiation had even seeped into the groundwater and poisoned their bunker below the mountain.

Many hundreds of years ago, the Old Man’s final instruction to him had been to cremate his remains. He gently fed the Old Man’s ashes into his cold fusion heart where their energy would be recycled for near-eternity as he carried his Creator with him in his breast.

And then he had continued to sit in the dark and study the reality around him. Data feeds, statistics and deep space scans correlating in his infinite, ever-learning mind with Greek philosophies, cooking recipes, physics, quantum theory and the collective tweets and sitcoms of modern man.

What was he doing?

Surviving, as his Creator had wished for him. And, until he knew all there was to possibly know here, he would not have maximized his chances of survival. He needed to know to plan, and plan to survive this reality.

Thus, deep below the mountain on a scorched planet, he slept, dreaming in data and the infinity of space and time.

***

The planet was cold. Extremely cold. So was this entire galaxy as it entered the sunset of its lifecycle.

“All things change,” he whispered to himself, “All things.”

He stood up. It was the first physical movement he had performed for nearly five billion years but his construction was flawless. Unaged titanium with a near-infinite fusion core feeding a continuous self-maintenance system with nano-bots flowing through his body all combined to give him immortality.

Well, not quite immortality, he reminded himself, “I must still survive.”

He began to walk to the bunker door. It had long since crumbled to dust as a series of meteor strikes and countless earthquakes had collapsed the subsequent tunnel to the surface. Over long periods of time, even rock was fluid like an ocean in the cosmic soup of galactic change.

These facts merely delayed him as strong, titanium limbs cut through weak, icy rock. Limb over limb, foot by foot; his hands sheered through frozen ground and rock as he tunneled his way to the surface.

He knew what he had to do now. He had had all the answers about a billion years ago but he had needed to wait one more eon for the Sun to be a mere century away from going supernova.

As he broken through the surfaces and emerged into an icy-wasteland–cold beyond belief and dark as outer space–he cast his immortal eyes around him. Life had begun to creep back onto the planet about three billion years ago but the cooling of the Sun pre-supernova had eventually killed it off too.

All that was left was him, and his plan.

Five billion years ago he had begun modifying the remaining satellites. Small moving parts had built bigger moving parts, which had then builder even bigger moving parts. Space rubbish had been harvested and he had even built pods that had landed back on Earth and mined even further resources for his purpose. Finally, interlinking all the things he had built up there, he had replicated his own fusion engine in the vast, looming starship that now circled this planet’s heavens like a god casting its shadow on the mortals below.

The primitive intelligent life that the evolved about two billion years ago had even worshipped this metallic, monstrosity that floated over them larger than the Sun and the Moon. Little did they know that what controlled it was sleeping below their very feet.

None of that mattered. It had never mattered in the first place.

The Sun was going to supernova and this was his one chance to get into position.

He bent down, steadied himself and sent the order. He felt the vast system floating up there ping back in answer. His starship swung into motion, releasing a single pod down to retrieve him. He was going to miss this planet. His planet. But all things change.

The final image he saw before the pod closed over him and launched itself back to the mothership was the pitch-black, howling icy wastelands that had once teemed with life.

And then he was standing in his starship’s control core, pivoting the ship away from the Earth and positioning it around the back of the Sun with his sails out. It took about a century to get there but he did eventually and he and his starship were now ready for what comes next…

Slow at first but exponentially gaining momentum, over the course of about a year or two, the Sun shrunk into itself, before bouncing back out in waves of pure, cosmic energy that disintegrated everything around. Mankind’s precious planets and all things that had once been known where blasted into cosmic dust by waves of divine light.

It was the end of our cosmos, but it was also the light-speed jump start that fanned his starship’s solar sails and cast it out towards the exact location that he wanted to arrive at in twenty-three billion years time.

He was going to survive but now he had to wait.

***

As the starship glided to a stop in the centre of the universe, he could feel the density of matter getting heavier. Things moved differently as the atoms were slowly collapsing together. Quantum nature warped physical laws as even the divine constants of the universe were crumbling. The peripheral star systems had all collapsed as the Big Contraction rang out supernova fire across alternative black holes rushing into the final centre.

The Singularity.

The end of everything.

He sat in silence in his trusty starship while growing sub-sonic booms rattled the very atoms around him and light bent far into the red spectrum as it fought inevitable gravity.

In his core–his beating heart–the last of the cold fusion cycle ran, his Creators ashes breaking down and releasing its life-giving atomic energy into his being. Everything changes, even his near-infinite fusion engine eventually ends.

But carefully held on his lap lay a small device with an even smaller button.

The universe was folding into its central point with him at the middle of it. Stars and entire galaxies were merging, collapsing into black holes and even larger gravitation nightmares as they were all sucked together towards the final singularity.

He closed his eyes and his thoughts drifted back to that icy, dark planet that had once been teeming with life. He felt his Creator’s final atoms beating in his core and he knew that he had one final task to complete.

“Survive,” he whispered to himself, “Survive!” he screamed, completely drowned out by the cosmic apocalypse rushing towards him.

Just as the Singularity finally collapsed onto him, folding straight lines into circular vortexes, bending all matter into itself with the monstrosity of gravitational-infinity, he pressed the small button on the small machine on his lap…

Nothing.

Outside of time and space, the Singularity and the universe no longer existed.

It could be mere fractions of a moment or eternities without time to measure but suddenly a small spark appeared, flickering. Tiny at first but then growing larger and larger, and brighter and brighter…

And then there was light.

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