Malachi stood at the edge of the observation rail and looked down into the reactor as is began to light up for the first time. He’d imagined this moment at least a thousand times over the last 28 months alone, not to mention the countless times he’d fantasized alone in his room at night, or staring out the window when he should have been paying attention in class.
His pulse quickened and he felt a warm rush of adrenaline as blue light flooded the chamber three stories below him. He realized instantly just how bright it was about to become, and quickly pulled his protective glasses down over his eyes. He turned to remind the others, but they were already wearing their eyewear.
As he gazed down into the array of lasers, he was reminded of the Sri Yantra of the Hindu religion. To Malachi, it appeared to shimmer in the chamber like a living manifestation of the Brahman. This thought seemed quite poetic to him, and he took out his iPad and jotted it down. Then he took a snapshot. “It’s a shame,” he thought to himself, “that I’ll never be able to publish these on my blog.”
When he looked down again the lasers had lit nearly to the height of the observation deck. The intensity of the blue-white light was reaching a kind of crescendo in his optic nerve, and he felt like his eye was literally vibrating internally, despite the space-age NASA eyewear. His heart was beating louder now, as the final lasers at the top of the reactor lit.
“Test firing successful, Dr. Baruah. Congratulations! Shall we shut down and run a diagnostic?”
“Thank you, Rose! Congratulations to you, too!”
They smiled at each other, which looked somewhat disturbing to Malachi through the reflective glasses and the intense blue light bouncing off of them. Major Rogers, the only actual military on the premises, seemed to pull a bottle of champagne from nowhere.
“Yes, I suppose we should shut down the…” Malachi began, but before he could complete his sentence….
“WE HAVE DATA COMING THROUGH!” Dr. Adams screamed from the door of the control room.
All eight people on the observation deck immediately ran into the control room to look at the data screens.
“It started as a trickle just a few seconds after we booted up, but the data is coming in a continuous stream now. It has to be us, doesn’t it!? We did it, didn’t we!?” Dr. Adams looked to all of the others for confirmation as he asked, but it was clear the questions were intended for Malachi.
“Let’s not get too excited, Ted,” Malachi replied. “Let’s just shut her down as planned, and analyze what we picked up.”
“Right. Right. Okay. Okay,” replied Dr. Adams, reaching for the keyboard to activate the shutdown sequence.
“It won’t shut down!” Dr. Adams said excitedly.
Malachi walked over to another workstation, and tried to activate the shutdown sequence from his login, but the system would not respond. “Don’t worry,” he said, actually a bit worried himself, “I can shut it down manually.”
“Dr. Baruah! You better have a look at these numbers before you go!” Dr. Adams sounded quite alarmed.
As Malachi approached the terminal, he could see that the data stream was operating at 99.1% capacity precisely, and holding at exactly that level unwaveringly. “Fascinating! I guess it must be working, then.”
He spun on his heel, and headed to the door, saying over his shoulder, “I’ll go take care of it manually…” but as he approached, the door swung closed, and the security lights came on.
He picked up his phone and paged Major Rogers, who informed him that the same thing had happened everywhere in the facility. Malachi turned toward the screens again, and could see the data stream still at full capacity. He walked over to the storage monitor, and could see that already 918.22 Terabytes of data had streamed on to the drives. At this rate, they would be full in…he calculated in his head…23 seconds, 22, 21, 20, 19….
They were all yelling at him now.
“NO SYSTEMS RESPONDING!”
“I’M LOCKED OUT”
He was just standing there, helpless, watching photons stream through the reactor core, and counting in his head. 18, 17, 16…