"'In the Beginning, the Gods initiated the Great Explosion, from whence sprang all the worlds of the Universe.' How many times have theologians repeated these sacred words? How often have they put forward the Bible as evidence of the existence of other worlds, beyond our own Neutronia, even while our esteemed scientists held up their centuries of proven research to the contrary? Since time immemorium, religion and science have been debating the nature of our world, and the Universe. The religious community has always maintained that the Universe is ever-expanding in all directions, with billions upon billions of worlds, many of which must support intelligent life. They have insisted that to honor the Gods, we must constantly push forward our technological development, so that one day we could travel beyond our small globe to meet the inhabitants of all the other countless worlds of the Universe. They have put forth the notion that the Great Explosion would go on only so long before reversing, and the Universe would then begin closing in on itself, until in the end there was nothing left but the cold of dead space.

"On the other hand, the scientific community has always believed that the Universe always was and always will be, and that it neither expands, nor will it ever contract. They also contended that we alone in the Universe possess intelligence. No other world could support life, let alone intelligence. Indeed, not only would it be impossible, and therefore a complete waste of time, money, and other resources, to research the (im)possibility of space travel, but it would also be immoral. They assured us that we should be content with the world we have, which has always been more than good enough.

"As I look out across the crowd today, filled with faces of dozens of races from as many worlds, one thought keeps coming to mind: Thank Gods I was raised in a religious home."

At this, there was a burst of laughter and applause. The speaker, of course, was the President of Neutronia, the first world, apparently, to develop interstellar travel. He was speaking on Covale-1, the first space station to be crewed by all the races of the Universal Union. Five years ago, Neutronian theologians had finally found a way to travel between worlds in a short time. Since then, they had been exploring space, and had now discovered nearly fifty worlds which were populated by intelligent life. The U.U. had formed quickly, and with no troubles. Just as on Neutronia, none of the worlds had ever known or conceived of war. In fact, the greatest disputes anyone in the Union had ever heard of were those between the Neutronian religious and scientific communities. And those had always been entirely peaceful and mutually respectful.

Of course as great as the Union was, there were still many billions, even trillions of worlds to explore. It had recently been discovered that in fact the Universe was slowly expanding, and that within a number of millennia, the process would reach its climax and reverse. Oh, even after that, there would be hundreds of millennia before the End. Still, it would take many generations before all of space had been explored. The adventure was just beginning.

Ten thousand years passed. Exploration had gone very quickly. Of course, it had been exponential. Any new race discovered joined the Union, and they were a new race to join the search for others. Now the Universe was fully two-thirds charted. It was expected that it would only be 500 years before the entire Universe had been explored.

And the climax of the Explosion approached. For ten millennia, countless worlds and races had worked hand in hand to learn all they could about the Universe, and not just in exploration. The scientists and theologians were working together, and the lines between them were blurred. But now, a new discovery as to the nature of the Universe had been made. And as to the Gods themselves. They lived in an entirely different world, outside of space. In fact, to the Gods, all the Universe would seem but a few cubic miles. Each world would seem but a microatomic particle. And the world of the Gods was cold, so very cold. The Universe to them would be deathly hot, in more ways than one. And all history to them would seem but a few minutes at most. Despite all these oddities, it was reasoned that they must be much the same as us, in the ways they thought and felt and lived.

It was also reasoned that since our time was so much faster than theirs, we must by now have developed well beyond them technologically. It was thought that they must have initiated the Great Explosion anticipating all of this, so that we could eventually contact them with our knowledge, and share it with them. This way, minutes after they initiated the Explosion, we would have lived countless millennia, and they would have instant access to knowledge that would otherwise take them their own millennia to achieve.

And we were only too happy to oblige. However, we couldn't possibly do this ourselves. So we had to build a vast starship the size of many star systems, with computers that could think and speak and act on their slow level. This project took centuries to achieve. Long before the ship was completed, the exploration of the Universe was complete.

Soon we had learned all we could, advanced as far as possible. The billion- plus races of the Universe were living together in peace and prosperity. Life was as good as could be, and all wanted to share this glory with the Creators. There was little left to do, and almost all work was concentrated on the construction of the ship.

Finally, it was finished. It was the size of a thousand star systems. And even then, to the Gods it would be barely visible to the naked eye. It was launched on its mission, to travel beyond space, into the cold, vast world of the Gods. It contained all the knowledge acquired by a billion races over a million years. Our Universe was fast collapsing. There were nearly 90 thousand years left to us, but by the time the ship imparted our knowledge to the Gods, our Universe would have long been dead. And it would all be minutes to them. A barely conceivable idea to many of us. But we were eternally blissful and content.

"Hey, I'm picking up a massive buildup of atoms just inside the edge of the mushroom cloud," said a monitoring technician.

"Define 'massive'."

"Well, it forms a blip nearly a millimeter in size."

"Ooh, look out, Tokyo, Godzilla's comin'!"

"Ha. No, but think about it. Think how many atoms that'd take."

"I know, I know. Well, what do you suppose it is?"

"Can't tell, really. Hardly matters, I guess, considering."


And after a countdown, they each simultaneously pressed their own button. Suddenly, an immense wall of lead and concrete surrounded the even now shrinking cloud. The radiation would be contained in an area the size of a city; not a single particle could possibly escape. Scientists checked their Geiger counters. Radiation immediately outside the enclosure was normal. The whole event was witnessed around the country, on a hundred million televisions.

The President gave his speech, telling the masses of the great achievement they had just witnessed... In the future, nuclear explosions could be contained, should war ever break out, and neither this country, nor her enemies, would have to worry about total global annihilation, ever again.

And humanity cheered for a giant leap forward for technology...