He thought he was ready for was approached. As Jose and the rest of his platoon patrolled through the dusty streets of Kabul, he reminded himself that they were there to help those in need, even though he knew it wasn’t true. “Setting up a government that will sell us cheap oil is more important, I guess,” He thought to himself.
“Rodriguez! Where the hell is Rodriguez?!” Shouted Lieutenant John Matthews from the front of the platoon. At forty-eight years old, he had grown to be indifferent to the beliefs throughout the battalion that he was overly strict and micromanaging.
“Present, sir!” Jose stated. He had no idea what the Lieutenant needed from him specifically, and he really just wanted to go home, with 5 weeks left on his tour which stationed him in Afghanistan.
“We’ve got intel that a high-profile target is holed up in this safehouse.” Matthews explained, “You’re leading the entry team into the front door of the building.”
“Yes, sir!” I answered. I jogged over to my point of entry and set charges on the door. “Ready, 3,2,1…execute!” As I detonated the charge, the door blew off its hinges and I led the breach into the small apartment building. Multiple military-age males were blown back from the explosion, and many more were scrambling around the small apartment. Within seconds, the other insurgents regained their bearings and began firing back at the platoon, with Jose at the lead. As the rangers eventually began to neutralize each target, one soldier spotted the target and began to apprehend him. As the rooms began to fall silent of gunfire, Jose jogged over to help with the defiant suspect as stepped over a wire.
“GET DOWN!” Shouted one corporal as an explosion rang out.
Just a moment later, it was nothing but darkness.
He woke up in a hospital with blurry vision at first. As a doctor opened the door to his light-painted room, he could hear the electrocardiogram increasing in pace.
“You can relax,” he said. “You’re going to be alright, but we still have some things to explain. Can you speak?
Jose nodded and stated “Yes, I can,”
“Good, Good. Ok so again, you’re going to be okay.” He explained. “You were in an accident… an explosion. Upon examining your body, we found over 50 pieces of shrapnel embedded within your body. We managed to get most of it out, but some still remains. They are located near your lungs, and in your skull. We could not remove the remaining shards because of their position in your body. If we removed the shrapnel in your skull, you would most likely die of a hemorrhage in the brain, and at the very least, you would have irreversible mental and physical impairment. However, even with fragments intruding your cerebral cortex and your frontal lobe, keeping you like this will not threaten your life. However, you may occasionally experience short-term memory loss and hallucinations. This is unavoidable.”
Jose slowly looked up at him and asked “Is everyone else okay? What happened to the others?”
His face became grim and he said “I’m sorry sir, but no. You were the only one we could save.”
He could hear the echocardiogram increase in pace again, significantly, and he couldn’t hold it in. Jose burst into tears, unable to deal with the fact that his error had caused those deaths. There were 7 other soldiers in that apartment complex, and now, all of them were dead.
“I’m very sorry for your loss” The doctor whispered, “but there is someone here who needs to see you”
Jose looked up in confusion. “Who?” he inquired as the doctor left the room. Within seconds, a man who he recognized immediately entered the room.
“Lieutenant Matthews!” he exclaimed.
“At ease soldier. There is something I, along with my colleagues, need to discuss with you. “Not with your resume in the military… but with your education.” As he spoke, two other men in black suits walked in.
“Who are you?” Jose inquired with a hostile tone.
“That isn’t important,” said the taller of the two men, “what is important however, is you. So, let me get this straight, you left high school with a 4.0 GPA, you go to MIT, and you leave with a PhD in astrophysics, but you joined the army?”
Jose stared at him, expressionless.
“We’re here representing the National Aeronautics and Space Administration, and we need your help.”
“This world is coming to an end Mr. Rodriguez, whether we want it or not, and we over at NASA aren’t planning on waiting for it to happen. There’s no timetable for this type of event.”
“You haven’t answered my question,” Jose replied.
“Humanity is ready to expand, Mr. Rodriguez, and we found a new planet capable of sustaining life. But we don’t have anyone on staff who we trust with this type of mission, and with your background not just with astrophysics, but also in the army, we think you’re the man to lead this mission.”
“How far is this new planet from earth?” Jose asked.
“Far. You’ll be going through a wormhole to travel there faster. The mission should only take about two months, and we’ll brief you later on the things you need to do once you get to the planet.”
“A wormhole?” Asked Lieutenant Matthews.
“It’s a passage through space and time,” explained Jose. “It’s like a shortcut through space, and as of 2024, scientists have had some success at creating their own. The problem is, they’re risky. Even with better tech, they can still collapse randomly.”
“Damn, we’ve been doing this for five years and I haven’t heard about it?” Inquired Matthews.
“Once you’re discharged, meet us at this facility in Houston.” Ordered one of the agents as he placed a card on Jose’s nightstand.
Once everyone left, Jose picked up the card and looked at it. He wondered if a job like this would really be the best move, but what would be the alternative? The guy wasn’t wrong. Maybe not taking something like this would be wasted potential. Deep down, he knew he couldn’t pass on this chance.
As soon as he left the hospital, he set on a flight back to the United States, heading to Houston. As he walked through customs and made his way toward baggage claim, the two mysterious men in suits were there again.
“I didn’t know someone would be waiting for me. How’d you even know what flight I was on?” Jose asked.
“We’re here for someone else too.”
“Didn’t answer my question, but whatever.”
One of the men waved toward a woman who looked like she was in her early thirties, which would be older than Jose, who was twenty-nine.
“Ms. Avery, this is Jose Rodriguez. He’ll be going with you on the mission.”
“You can call me Sarah,” she told Jose as they shook hands.
As they walked to their transportation, Jose and Sarah exchanged a light background of each other, as the air was crisp and dry within the Houston airport parking lot. While Jose was at MIT, she was at Stanford rationalizing theories about the relativity of time and space. Her theory was, although later it was disproven, that once you reach a certain distance from your original starting point the concept of time becomes relative and moves at different speeds. The trip was about three hours, by the outskirts of Houston. As they stepped out of the car, they gazed up at the bright white, eight-story building. One would have passed it off as an office building at first glance, not a technological marvel of a facility with a rocket launch site nearby.
“We’re not going to be wasting any time,” stated the lead agent. “You’re being briefed and you’re going into the rocket in 8 hours.”
As they walked in, a tall and thin male greeted them, giving his name as Emit Hardy.
“I’ll be joining you two on the trip as well,” Emit explained. “I got here two days ago.”
“Nice to meet you,” stated Jose and Sarah.
“Okay everyone! We’re set to launch!” Bellowed the agent from the center of the main lobby. “We’ve got our three-man crew here, and they’re already to go. Their mission is to plant a geographical analyzer within the land of the new planet, known as Earth-2. This machine will provide an analysis of the land and whether or not it will be sustainable for human life. By our estimates, it seems like it is, but we haven’t had the opportunity to send anyone there yet, until now.”
The team put on their spacesuits and entered the tight spaceship. “Remember,” The agent ordered, “the wormhole will stay open, but you don’t have long to stay on the planet. And if it closed, then return to the planet and await further instructions.”
“Understood,” Answered Jose.
The rocket rumbled as they took off. Within hours, Earth looked like a tiny dot as they crossed through the circular, blue framed wormhole. Within seconds, they were in awe.
“My god… it looks so… different,” whispered Sarah.
Jose couldn’t believe it either. A new planet with no artificial lights, no pollution, but so much green. It was incredible.
As they dropped down, Jose couldn’t help but notice how fresh the air felt, how beautiful this vast rainforest that seemed to go on forever felt. No end in sight, just paradise.
“Okay, lets get this done. The longer that wormhole stays open, the higher chance it collapses on us,” stated Emit.
He placed the analyzer in the ground and it immediately began a scan over the entire planet, eventually coming to the conclusion that this planet has a capability for sustaining human life.
“Have you realized what we’ve just done?” asked Sarah quietly. “We’ve given humanity another chance. We’re extending the age of humans by thousands, if not millions of years. This is really incredible.”
“We’ll celebrate when we’re back on Earth,” answered Emit. “Let’s get out of here,”
They quickly packed up the analyzer and put their suits back on. As soon as they had arrived, the team was back in space, heading back through the wormhole.
“We made it! Exclaimed emit as they passed through the shortcut.
“No, we didn’t,” answered Jose in a worried tone.
The crew wasn’t near earth. There was nothing. Jose could only look in terror as it flooded not just their window into space, but also everything. Their current location was now the least of their worries. The crew watched in horror as their true menace became apparent. They were dealing with that which nothing can survive, nothing can prevail. The original intergalactic terror.
A black hole.