Most people know me through my work on Vampire: The Masquerade or White Wolf/Onyx Path RPG books in general. Not many know that I also do a lot of work in fiction and on other RPGs, covering a range of topics. This “A Taste Of” series features samples of my work from areas most people might not know about, along with places you can buy the book to read more!
Mark Truman of Magpie Games (and now, involved with the amazing Firefly RPG) asked me to write for two anthologies, both for games he Kickstarted that ended up acquiring anthology stretch goals. The second was for We Are Dust, a collection of stories about the end of the world. We agreed that I could do some “junk science” sci-fi stuff, and I found a great conspiracy theory about endless power derived from quantum particles. The rest became “Quantum Crisis.” If you like blockbuster movie-style crisis stories, you’ll like this.
Dr. Abasi, full of dreams of finding a cheap form of power for the destitute of his beloved Nairobi, was convinced that he had just destroyed the universe.
He spoke in measured, even tones, his English tinted with the accent of his South African teachers, as he tried to project a calm and confidence he did not feel. “In order to understand what you are agreeing to, you must understand how the quantum scoop works. In the interests of time, I’ll skip over the rigorous scientific detail and jump right to the parts that are relevant. If we survive all of this, you can check my notes later.” There was a nervous chuckle from the few people sitting in the auditorium seats, and Abasi allowed himself a brief smile before pointing at the screen behind him, where small dots were appearing and disappearing at random.
“Many of you know about the discovery of subatomic particles simply appearing or disappearing. Ambient energy below the atomic level spontaneously becomes matter and, more importantly, matter suddenly turns into energy. This is energy being created and destroyed, a violation of everything we’ve understood since the laws of thermodynamics were formed.”
He advanced through a few slides and continued. “The quantum scoop was designed as a way to collect this spontaneous energy. Each is just a subatomic spark, a mere sliver of energy, but if enough is collected, it could be used to power just about anything. Energy would, quite literally, be created from thin air.”
Dr. Rosalinda Schafer, a highly-skilled engineer from England, raised her hand but started speaking in cool, clipped tones before Abasi could recognize her. “None of this addresses why the prototype was damaged, or what the problem is.”
Abasi cleared his throat and adjusted his glasses a little. “Yes, well. As for the former, we believe that terrorists of an Al-Shabab cell managed to infiltrate the conference and destroy key elements of the device.”
Captain James Collins, an American security consultant for the conference, raised his voice, not even bothering to ask permission to speak. “Al-Shabab is a faction of Al-Queda, correct?”
Abasi nodded. “Yes. They are based in Somalia, and my country has had some… political problems with Somalia the past.”
“I hope you’re not suggesting that we’re expected to capture a dangerous terrorist?” Dr. Schafer asked.
“No, of course not,” Abasi answered, and motioned to the soldier who previously spoke. “I understand that Capt. Collins will be assisting in that particular capacity.”
Dr. Schafer spoke again. “Then why are we here, Dr. Abasi?”
Abasi advanced to the end of his presentation, a new slide he added an hour ago. It was a picture of a small room, with a jagged rip in the middle, the edges limned in a brilliant blue energy. Beyond the rip there appeared to be a sterile plain – gray, lifeless dust settled on everything. “The sabotage removed the device’s capability to stop mining for quantum energy once it had reached capacity. The energy in the device’s immediate area grew too quickly. It appears to have created a… rift, you could call it.”
Dr. Javier Desousa, another quantum theorist from Ecuador that he had corresponded with during his initial research, stood up and walked over to the screen, examining the image. After a moment of looking at it, he turned to Abasi. “I do not see the device in this photograph.”
“No. Unfortunately, it seems that the device was… absorbed by the rift. As were a number of the saboteurs….”
“Terrorists,” Capt. Collins corrected.
”… were absorbed along with it.”