Is someone there? Oh! Hello there! Good gracious, I didn't hear you come in. Please, please, come in, make yourself comfortable. You'll have to forgive me if I don't introduce myself. It's not that I mean to be rude, you see, it's just that my science-sorcerous power requires me to keep my names secret. Otherwise, I wouldn't have any power at all! Instead, you may address me by my nomenclature: I am the Farthest Wizard From Space.
Welcome to my... well, both my home AND my vessel. We are in a young pre-main sequence star of less than two solar masses. It emits jets of plasma gas that, with the assistance of some engines of my own humble design, propel us at superluminal speeds. Thanks to it, I've been able to not only reach the very EDGE of the known universe, but to continue moving along WITH it as space expands!
I rarely get visitors this far out, as you can imagine. Its a delight to entertain again! Would you like something to drink? I'll make us a fine pot of tea, you just wait.
Hm? Why would I be out here? Oh, did I not mention I was a historian? I am! I came out here to DISCOVER the past. As I chase our ever-expanding border, I can look back into our universe and observe ALL of creation. Every radio wave, every light beam, every broadcast, it all comes from deep in there and eventually makes its way out here. From this moving point, I can watch history unfold and mysteries reveal themselves!
Oh yes, naturally, there may be easier ways. Quicker ways. But there's a price to be paid for 'easier' and 'quicker'. Why, if you'll indulge me, I'll tell you a story about how some people ( who were much too smart for their own good, I'm afraid ) tried to find an easy, quick solution; by doing so, they doomed countless lives to AGES of suffering.
I've captured your interest, haven't I? I thought so. Here, have a cup of tea. Sip it slowly, its still hot. Take a seat, and let me tell you a tale from long ago...
In a super-science laboratory, seven long-tenured professors of astro-philosophy watch the mysteries of all beginnings and all endings on a view-screen made of pure anti-rationalism. They are thin and tall, and their humanoid bodies are draped in black university robes. Upon each of their bald heads sits a metal cap, dome-shaped and decorated with spiral computer filaments. They all have the faces of great grey owls, complete with stubborn judgemental expressions.
The view-screen flickers through static and catches a channel from deep within the un-time before existence...
A massive, mighty pair of hands comes from above a place without direction. They are possessed of monstrous will, forcing their way into a place without form. They find substance where there is none. They take great handfuls of empty nothingness without definition. They sift through it until they discover some micro-matter of IMAGINATION hidden within.
Closing into tight terrible fists, they SQUEEZE these tiny particles. Condensing and purifying the potential buried in them. Crushing and squeezing and holding. Tighter and tighter and TIGHTER, until... an EXPLOSION of TIME and SPACE bursts free! A gasping spiralling cosmos BIRTHS itself! And it can no longer be contained, not even by the primal forces that created it.
In the un-time beyond this infant universe, in the nothingness that it left behind, a new pair of formidable hands with an equally formidable purpose takes great handfuls of emptiness. And then another pair does the same. And another.
...the view-screen flickers again, jumping between broadcasts until it stops at the rapidly collapsing end-point of all reality...
An old universe stumbles through its last few moments. Entropy has inevitably overcome all the VASTNESS and POSSIBILITY in its receding bones. Well-worn time unravels. Weak dull stars flicker out. Space and distance shrink down upon themselves.
At the edges of this fading macrocosm, a SHAPE takes hold. IT comes from nowhere. IT comes from EVERYWHERE. IT climbs up from outside the borders, outside sane formulation and representation, clutching the collapsing universe by its ragged peripheries. IT closes around the dwindling remains, like a mother holding its own young.
The titanic shape pulls the small spent universe down toward itself. With unknowable purpose, it settles the universe within its center and folds up around it. This box that is not a box floats down beside an infinite number of equally titanic not-boxes.
Somewhere, another hoary cosmos slides into the last stages of existence. Around the edges, another colossal shape moves to it, another un-material un-box at the ready.
...the view-screen flickers a couple times and finally goes blank.
With his presentation finished, one owl-faced academic places his fingertips upon his metal cap. Micro-circuitry enhances the natural psychic abilities of his brain, and with only a thought, he powers down the anti-rationalism machine and shuts off the view-screen.
"Well, Professor Pulsatrix? What exactly was the point of all that?" demands one particularly long-whiskered astro-philosopher.
"The point?" asks the wide-eyed presenter in amusement. "Why Professor Xenoglaux, we just witnessed where REALITY begins and ends! The most incredible truths of our universe! Wasn't that ALONE worth a few hours of your time?"
Professor Xenoglaux makes a grumpy hrumphing noise. "I've already seen it."
"We've ALL seen it," says the short Professor Glaucidium. "The entire Galactic University has seen it, heaping praises on our department. The harnessing of anti-rationalism to create a view-screen beyond the bounds of physics is the GREATEST achievement of our astro-philosophy!"
"Its also our LAST achievement," says the barrel-chested Professor Lophostrix. "With that technology, we learned, debated, and catalogued every astro-secret of space and time... and BECAUSE of that, our JOBS are now on the line!"
The nervous Professor Uroglaux jumped in, "Yes! Yes! I've heard rumours that the Dean of the Galactic University is SERIOUSLY considering shutting down the ENTIRE astro-philosophy department! Our tenure is but one budgetary meeting away from being rescinded! You promised us a solution, Professor Pulsatrix. You said you had something that would save the department."
"I do, my fellow academics, I do!" assures Professor Pulsatrix with a grand smile. "I propose we open an whole NEW field of astro-philosophy! A grand new direction in thought and research that'll not only unlock incredible knowledge, but will ensure our funding AND our positions for decades."
"Damn your beak, there ISN'T any more fields of astro-philosophy!" booms Professor Lophostrix, banging his fist on a table. "We've studied everything in the universe!"
"In THIS universe, yes," says Professor Pulsatrix.
There is a potent pregnant silence as the implication settles.
Professor Xenoglaux looks at the blank view-screen, then back at Professor Pulsatrix. Slowly stroking his beard-feathers, he hesitantly asks, "Are... you suggesting we study some OTHER universe?"
Professor Pulsatrix beams. "Yes! Absolutely! Think of it... different realms, with different laws of physics, different flows of time, different lines of thought! What are their secrets? What are their stories? Can any of you deny the gnawing curiosity in your gullet that wonders about the possibilities?"
"And what're we supposed do?" demands Professor Uroglaux in a ruffle, "Just pluck a whole other UNIVERSE and place it on a petri dish?"
"In a manner, yes! Ha ha ha! Absolutely!" says Professor Pulsatrix. "You saw them. Multiple worlds, multiple dimensions, at their ends and collapsing in on themselves. But before they die, they're saved! A limitless number of universes, all reduced to small manageable samples. All neatly organized. Stored. Archived." He places his fingertips on his metal cap and psychically commands the anti-rationalism machine to engage. The view-screen activates and the boundless grid of boxes reappears. "I have developed secret thought-calculations that SHOULD will allow us to capture a select few of these diminutive universes. It involves some dangerous schizo-mathematics, I believe the risk is well worth the rewards!"
"Hm. How do we choose one?" asks Professor Glaucidium.
"What we're about to do has never been attempted," admits Professor Pulsatrix. "There's no guarantee it'll work at all. I suggest we all attempt to capture one each. That'll give us seven chances to snag a viable specimen."
Seems incredible, doesn't it? I suppose it is, from a certain perspective. But history isn't made by timid men. And these weren't timid men. Arrogant, certainly, but not timid.
How's your cup? Come come, drink up, there's plenty more. Both the tea and the tale.
Where was I? Ah, yes, their grand experiment. Well, there was some discussion about the specifics, as tends to happen when you get these types into a room together... but they all agreed in the end. This was the answer they were looking for. They couldn't pass such an incredible opportunity.
Professor Pulsatrix shares his secret thought-calculations with his associates, telepathically uploading the idea-file to each of their individual metal caps. They spend an hour afterwards reviewing it as peers, debating more efficient formulations, and practicing some appropriate speeches they plan make when their work gets published.
"I believe we are ready," says Professor Pulsatrix, clapping his hands with giddy anticipation. "Professor Uroglaux, please adjust the rationalism/anti-rationalism mixture in the view-screen device based on our computations."
Professor Uroglaux hesitantly places his fingertips on his own metal cap and mentally commands the machine. "I... I am adjusting the mixture balance now, Professor Pulsatrix."
"Be careful, Professor Uroglaux! Even the smallest error in the ratiocinativity may cause irreparable damage to the machine. And we certainly wouldn't get approval to fund another!"
"Yes, yes, I'll exercise caution. Thank you, Professor Xenoglaux."
"This experiment will use an incredible about of power," warns Professor Glaucidium, "so much so that it may cause blackouts throughout the rest of the Galactic University. If so, the Dean will certainly come down to investigate."
Professor Pulsatrix laughs. "I hope he does! By then, we'll have captured a minuscular COSMOS! He can be the first of our peers to congratulate us!"
The view-screen crackles with new energy. It flexes and stretches past its corporeal dimensions, expanding upwards and upwards until it fills the super-science laboratory. The hypnotizing grid-like image completely surrounds the seven scholars.
"Rationalism/anti-rationalism mixture is at its most optimal levels," announces Professor Uroglaux.
"The viewscreen has transmogrified into a portal to the collapsing end-point of reality," declares Professor Lophostrix.
"Now is our moment, my fellow fellows! Let each of us focus on a separate universe! With a little luck, one of us WILL prevail!"
They all lay their hands upon their metal caps and mentally reach out to the screen/portal. The spiral filaments in their caps optimize and amplify their natural psychic abilities, allowing them to spin intellectual computations into strong pseudo-magnetic forces.
Each of the stretches out their thoughts. Concentrates on a boxed universe. WILLS it to them.
"I... I think... yes! Yes! I have one! I have one!" shouts Professor Lophostrix.
"Congratulations! I believe that... yes! I've got one as well!" cheers Professor Pulsatrix. "What luck! Two on the first try!"
"Three, my good man! Three!" calls out Professor Glaucidium.
"What? Really?" replies Professor Pulsatrix in surprise, attempting to maintain focus on his catch.
"Oh my! Oh my! ...I've netted one, too!" cries out Professor Uroglaux unexpectedly.
"Wait... wait..." Professor Pulsatrix tries to say, having trouble keeping a grip on his seized universe. There wasn't as much resistance as he was expecting. There wasn't much resistance at ALL.
The others start to shout. They've ALL succeeded! All seven!
"No! No!" howls Professor Pulsatrix with overwhelming terror. "Something's wrong! Something's VERY wrong! Cancel the experiment! Put them back! Put them all back!" It was like being doused in gasoline as someone tossed a match your way! The thing just LEAPT out at him, gliding up along his thoughts right AT HIM!
"What's happening? What's going on?"
"I can't keep a hold of it! Its trying to drown me!"
"Turn it off! Turn off the damn machine!"
"There's too much coming through! There's too much EVERYTHING coming through!"
The universes come CRASHING down upon the academics. Through the portal, at their thoughts. Funnelling down circular circuits right into their open minds.
Uroglaux loses control of the rationalism/anti-rationalism mixture. The balance eventually tips over asymmetrically and the machine instantly melts.
The portal becomes an unholy whirlpool of unchecked possibilities, spewing out absurdity and bewilderment and impracticality before finally belching and falling apart.
Seven full universes worth of reality suddenly EXIST inside their frail brains and flatten them.
Their screams get smeared along with their consciousnesses. The impossible immense weight CRUSHES and CRUNCHES and CRACKS. Their blood freezes in all the INFINITE space they all suddenly ARE and are IN. Their flesh BURNS away in the infinite stars they suddenly have. Their bones ROT and AGE in the infinite amount of centuries they all experience.
The seven foreign universes stay hooked to the vestige visions that netted them, but get trapped in an reality that does NOT welcome them. The invading universes try to expand out and away from the ebbing minds, but a full and defined existence pushes BACK against them. BACK into the scraps of those small mortals. BACK into the detritus of their last echoing thoughts. BACK into the surviving remnants of their computerized caps.
The seven metal caps absorb. Store. Archive. The spiral circuits, designed to optimize and amplify, condense ENERGIES into themselves to create BETTER containers. BETTER versions of themselves.
Eventually, the world settles. The laboratory becomes just a laboratory. All signs of the event dissipate, like dust in an autumn breeze.
An hour later, the Dean of the Galactic University comes bursting into the room. "What are you all DOING in here?" he bellows. "You've blown out every transformer and generator on the ENTIRE campus, you incompetent halfwits! Clear out your desks! I'm having the lot of you TERMINATED by the end of the week, so mark my words!"
The super-science laboratory is empty. The anti-rationalism machine, an invaluable piece of equipment, is a fused slag of plastics and steel. And seven odd pieces of headwear lay on the ground, glowing with cosmic power.
The Dean stares dumbfounded at the scene for a silent minute. Then he takes off his horn-rimmed spectacles and rubs his eyes with an exasperated sigh.
I beg your pardon?
Oh, no! No no no, this is not the end! In fact, we're only HALFWAY through. I'm only pausing to top up my drink. And looking at your cup, I see you've let your own tea get cold. Tsk tsk.
The end... oh, if only the tale was that simple. I've only told you how the seven crowns came to be born. If you would give an old man a moment to put on a fresh pot, I'll share with you how the seven crowns came to be WORN.