January 15th 2014
There’s something equally admirable and insane about the scientific mind. It is that need to question and revisit that has undoubtedly led to some of Humanity’s greatest achievements, but also led to such spectacular disasters.
By all accounts, Russell Valem was a wunderkind. Passing his Equivalency at 12 years old, Valem attended a handful of universities in Rhetor and completed a triple doctorate by the age of 24. Shortly thereafter, he received the illustrious Kilian Quaesitor Grant for his dissertation entitled “Theoretical Applications of Antimatter Propulsion.”
The young Dr. Valem believed that Humanity had become complacent in their development ever since Nick Croshaw discovered the first jump point almost seven hundred years earlier.
“Simply because he had found a means for us to cross space, didn’t mean that we had conquered the vast and terrifying distances of the universe,” Dr. Valem said at the Science and Technology Summit in 2873. “Jump points are an illusion of control. There is so much more out there for us to discover. Maybe an entire civilization could be closer to Earth than Croshaw system, but we won’t know because everyone’s out there looking for jump points.”
Dr. Valem’s passion was engines, specifically building an engine capable of travelling at speeds equal to or faster than the speed of light. With that, the universe “would be truly open for exploration. Gone would be the chokepoints of jump points.”
Tirelessly collecting any and all data from scientists who had attempted similar endeavors over the centuries, Dr. Valem spent years sifting through the theories, formulas and schematics, convinced that somewhere in the vast troves of data lay the secret to unlocking “absolute freedom.” He even began to study controversial experiments in fringe technology performed during the height of the Messer Era.
In late 2882, Dr. Valem resurfaced to organize a scientific symposium for some of the most celebrated scientific minds of the age. The finale of the event was advertised as an “announcement that will change the direction of Human expansion,” an appropriate level of theatricality that had become synonymous with his presentations in the past. The scientist who emerged seemed different than the focused, passionate thinker who abandoned the spotlight almost a decade earlier. This new man was wild, argumentative and even more headstrong.
Dr. Valem revealed that through a list of private investors including several Xi’An entrepreneurs and Banu traders, he had developed a prototype engine named CHARIOT that was capable of reaching speeds near or exceeding the speed of light.
Paranoid to the extreme that other scientists would steal his tech, he had eschewed any field testing, opting for extensive simulation and laboratory tests instead, but claiming that his science was sound. He was going to give the universe the opportunity to see the engine at work live, in its first field testing shortly after the New Earth Year.
The scientific community and NewsOrgs turned out in force on the 14th of January in 2884 to see Dr. Russell Valem’s first display of the CHARIOT engine. He chose to stage his demonstration above Angeli in the Croshaw system as “a testament to the brilliance of Nick Croshaw as well as a condemnation of the shackles that his discovery bound onto Humanity.”
Using a spacecraft of his own design, Dr. Valem prepared to fire the CHARIOT. He gave a final message to the crowd of onlookers.
“I leap forward to unveil the universe.”
Dr. Valem then activated the CHARIOT.
The explosion nearly ruptured the observation station’s hull, causing dozens of injuries to the scientists and journalists aboard. By the time everyone came to, there were only fragments of Dr. Valem’s ship that hadn’t been completely incinerated.
Celebrated satirist Lasse Hatwell, who was just starting his career as a journalist for the Terra Gazette, summed up the display with what would become his signature style of humor:
“While the scientific community and Spectrum representatives had probably turned up expecting a failure, there was a small part in all of us that was hoping for something monumental,” he wrote of the day’s events. “On the bright side, Dr. Valem’s engine and ship exploded faster than any ship I had seen before.”