The Escape Plan

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“Maybe...”
“Maybe what?”
“Maybe we can still escape.”
“How?” Trevor asked.  “How could we possibly escape from this?  We’ve already passed through the event horizon.  There’s no escape velocity that doesn’t, you know, break the laws of physics.”
The corners of Susan’s mouth quirked between frown and smile; a nervous tick she displayed right before she had to give somebody bad news.  “Actually, I’m pretty sure we’ve already disappeared into the singularity.”
Trevor started playing with the holographics, pulling up external readings and status reports.  “The ship definitely doesn’t seem to know where we are anymore, but I was under the impression that getting sucked into a black hole was basically fatal.  I mean, the ship’s internal gravitation systems can only withstand so much.”  He waved the holograms away so he could see Susan clearly.  “How are we still alive?”
Susan did the mouth thing again.  “I don’t think we are.”
“Ok-ay,” Trevor said slowly, drawing out the word.  “So what is this?  The afterlife?  And if so, why is the ship here?  Are they building them with souls now?”
“I think that the Susan Vance and Trevor Albright who are talking to each other right now are not the same Susan Vance and Trevor Albright who just got squished to death inside a singularity.”  Susan’s fingers danced through the air as she navigated the menus of the ship’s encyclopaedia, then spread open so that she could hold a holographic singularity in her palm and show it to Trevor.  “When we passed through the event horizon, we left a two dimensional image of ourselves imprinted on its surface.  It’s how the universe preserves information that falls into a black hole.”  The phenomena played out in the hologram.  “That’s us.  We’re not ourselves.  We’re an image of ourselves that was left behind while our real selves were being spaghettified.  The ship too.”
Trevor lifted up his hand and waggled his fingers.  “I don’t feel two dimensional.”
“That’s because you’re perceiving the world with sensory apparatus that are also two dimensional.  It’s an optical illusion.  And tactile and aural and all the rest as well.”
Trevor let his hand drop and looked around the ship’s bridge, more than a little disturbed.  “So we’re basically just a photograph in the universe’s album now?”
“If it’s any consolation,” Susan said, in what she hoped was a soothing tone, “the whole universe is probably two dimensional anyway, so it’s not like anything’s changed, really.”
“Except that we’re dead.”
“Except that, yes.”
Trevor leaned back in his chair and sighed.  He started playing with the holographics.  Not really doing anything.  Just swiping his finger so that the images, icons and tooltips spun through the air.
“But I think we can still escape,” Susan prompted.
Trevor sat up, scattering the holograms and snapping his fingers.  “Yes!  You said that.  How?”
“Hawking radiation.”
“I’ve heard of that,” Trevor said, growing more excited.  “Isn’t that, like, just subatomic particles, though?”
“Usually,” Susan said, and got out of her chair.  “Come with me.”
“Where are we going?” Trevor asked, following her from the bridge towards the bowels of the ship.
“Engine room,” Susan said, “I think we can repurpose the VPE.  Maybe.”
They stepped into the massive space that made up most of the ship’s bulk.  Inside, the giant automated factory that powered the ship towered over them.  The Virtual Particle Engine.
“The VPE creates trillions of particle-antiparticle pairs every nanosecond,” Susan said.  “Hawking radiation requires just such a pair of particles.  One falls into the singularity.  The other escapes the event horizon.”
“And how does this help us?”  Trevor held up a hand.  “I’m not asking sceptically.  You’re the expert here, captain.  I’m just the suit.  But I’d like to have some idea of what you’re planning before I sign off.”
“You’d rather stay a photograph in the universe’s album?”
“Well, right now, I can still think.  Therefore I still am, you know?”
Susan smiled.  Having a company bigwig along for the ride hadn’t been as bad as she’d thought it would be.  Trevor had turned out to be good company, mostly.
“If we can force the VPE to create a glob of particles and a glob of antiparticles that are both the exact mass of the ship, the payload, and us, then there’s a chance that those globs will just happen to have the exact same composition as the ship, the payload, and us.  One will fall into the singularity, the other will escape.”
Trevor looked at the VPE, then at Susan, then back at the VPE.  “A chance?” he asked.  “You mean, just randomly?  Like how there’s a chance a cloud might coincidentally take the exact shape of my face?”
“Yes.”
“The odds would be one in…whatever the highest possible number is.  Infinity?  One in infinity.”
“So long as it’s not zero.”
“You’re saying this plan gives us the tiniest possible chance of escaping...but we should take it anyway?”
Susan shook her head.  “So long as the VPE can do what I want it to do, our escape is guaranteed.”
Trevor threw up his hands.  “How?”
“Quantum immortality.”
“Quantum what?”
“So long as there’s a chance – even an infinitesimal one – that we could escape, we will.  In one of the many universes that we’ll create when we overload the VPE.”
“Overload!”  Trevor gaped.  “Overload?  That’ll atomise the ship!”
“No great loss,” Susan shrugged, “it isn’t the real ship, anyway.  It’s just a picture.”
“And how do we survive that, again?”
“So long as there’s a potential universe where we do survive, we will.  In all the other universes, we won’t be around to care.”  She grinned.  “I think, therefore I’m in a universe where I am.”
“This is insane.”
“It’s quantum physics.  It’s supposed to be insane.”
“It’ll work?”
“In one possible universe.  Maybe two.”
Trevor waggled his fingers in front of his face again, sighed.
“Do it.”
 

About the Author: 
In another universe, Sam Curtis has all sorts of impressive titles and academic abbreviations after his name. In this one, he studied computer science, graduated, and then joined the workforce, where he quickly forgot everything he’d ever learned.

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