It was an unacceptable gambit, a proposition that ensured nearly everyone who attempted it would perish swiftly and far from home. But some might survive, and that’s more than could be said about abstaining, so thy pressed ahead by the billions.
See you on the other side.
The circumstances hung heavy on the collective mood, and the weight of it drew their eyes downward and their thoughts inward. There is no comradery in genocide. And so, after administering the injection, the doctor left Marc alone; it was how they both preferred it.
At first, Marc felt nothing unusual. The process was exponential, and by the time he did feel something he would likely have little time to dwell before he out blacked out, petrified. Literal petrification, of a kind; the nanoscanners needed complete stillness to perform their work. The procedure itself was incredibly safe. He wouldn’t die here, in this government clinic. He’d die on an unnamed world beneath a foreign sun.
When Marc was just a child—there were of course no children any longer—the unchecked meddling of overcurious minds destabilized the sun. The destruction of Sol was imminent. But through unrelated and simultaneous meddling, the long sought breakthrough in nanotechnology arrived. You win some, you lose some. Everyone who wanted a free chance at survival was given an injection of atomic machinery that multiplied in the body—doubling, not unlike cells—until they filled all the empty space between biological molecules and nothing could move. Amazingly, most of the human body is empty space at the atomic level. In this stilled state, the machines took a precise inventory of every atom in the body, disassembled it, and compacted its contents into a dense block the size of a sugar cube. These were to be cheaply flung to the far reaches of the void and reassembled on distant, poorly understood planets, most of which would be uninhabitable.
But not all.
For geological eras, human bodies would form sporadically on distant worlds only to snap freeze, or combust and burn, or choke on chlorine gas, or burst open and ooze apart, or collapse as if crushed by an unseen press, or something else unthinkable and unpleasant. A thick dread swelled up in Marc and soon he was slipping into panic, but he was distracted by a growing tingling in his arm. It spilled into his chest and he sank in his bed, unbearably heavy, and it rushed up his neck and—
He blacked out.
For Marc, no time passed at all. The world advanced not one iota. But without his watching, 33 million years slipped by. And then, beneath a blue sky and a yellow sun, he appeared from a mysterious gray fog that dispersed with the breeze. He stood upon soft greenery and inhaled clean, breathable air. And with that breath, he laughed.