Gehenna Incident, The

The artificial detonation of an entire cluster

The Gehenna incident
Image from Anders Sandberg
The ruins of Admntop on Grudat, a few years after being reached by the first blast from the Gehenna cluster in 8030. Although the initial blasts did not directly wipe out surface life on Grudat, they destroyed the ozone layer and nearly doubled the total energy input. The inhabitants retreated to underground habitats as the surface was seared, eventually abandoning it altogether.

Extremely ambitious megascale engineering project attempted by the archailect Verifex in 7981 AT in the M50 cluster in Monoceros, 3030 ly from Sol

Using self-replicating magmatter conversion units, Verifex tried to fuse several stars into a superstructure of unknown function. But it appears that e failed (or as some faithful claim, it was the plan all along) and the stars exploded as artificial supernovae. Verifex apparently escaped, and is rumoured to remain in the remnants of the cluster; it is these days usually called Lucifer and the cluster the Gehenna cluster.

Exactly what happened in the cluster remains unknown, but it seems that the cores of many stars suddenly imploded (possibly due to runaway baryon catalysis from Q-balls or magmatter). They exploded into bright supernovae, vaporising anything unshielded inside the cluster. Stellar companions and core fragments were accelerated to immense speeds outwards. The atmospheres of the other stars were blown away by the radiation pressure, fuelling the nebula. All gas in the vicinity was ionised into flaring colours for a thousand years; this beautiful nebula is visble wherever the light it has emitted has reached.

The Orion federation outpost Mulhouse, 4 ly from the edge of M50 was the first casualty, with no survivors. At 20 ly almost all the habitats and craft in the Unikorn III system were damaged beyond repair. All that could be done was to flee and carry the message to Enremdeaorion and the rest of the Galaxy.

The next world to be affected by the incident was Kolmo, a sparsely populated system undergoing terraforming. Being connected to the Lirantiq nexus with a wormhole and just 24 lightyears distant from M50 it made an ideal observation post. The novae killed off all unshielded life in the system and blasted the partially terraformed Kolmo III into an uninhabitable hothouse. The Emple-Dokcetics immediately began to prepare for the coming onslaught. They had already learned much from the Gorca Pleroma and observations of Verifex, and now turned to the task of shielding not just ships but whole planets or systems from the novae. The situation marshaled all the skill and creativity of their culture, making them literally work as one on achieving a efficient shielding method.

In 8019 the Edwoot system was hit, giving the Emple-Dokcetics a chance to test their new shielding technology. The shields proved effective, saving the biospheres and infrastructure despite a few occasional failures. Shielding technology was quickly implemented in other Emple-Dokcetic systems, and a massive effort to sell it to other independent systems began. The first system to accept was the baseline colony Xiaoyan. When it was hit in 8026 it survived the onslaught perfectly, becoming the classic sales pitch for Emple-Dokcetic salesbeings across the galaxy. The nearby system Grudat (ex-sophic antipoles) that didn't buy the system was devastated, the documentation forming the other half of the sales pitch.

Perhaps the most important system which was badly affected was Tabridgen, a major wormhole relay point for the Orion Federation.

Verifex Nebula
Image from Steve Bowers
Verifex Nebula as seen from Adara Treaty region

The Gehenna cluster is a magnificent sight in the sky of nearby worlds. It shines with an eerie golden-red light, on many worlds outshining their moons and turning the night into a golden twilight (which often has interesting ecological consequences). The expanding gaseous veils form a pattern that has been described as a sunburst or an expanding fire (some observers have pointed out that it looks much like a map of the Emple-Dokcetic empire would look). Closer to the cluster (within a few tens of light-years) the light acts as a second sun and covers much of the sky; here life is impossible without constant shielding.

The eventual effects of the incident remains to be seen. It has been suggested that the Gehenna nebula will continue to expand for several hundred light-years before it is slowed by the interstellar medium. It will then form a bubble with a dense gas wall, which will likely lead to a new burst of star formation. Something similar is believed to have caused Gould's Belt in the sol vicinity some tens of millions of years ago. Some speculations suggest that Lucifer is actually trying to influence star formation across the entire arm, setting up a chain of detonations, star formations and new detonations in order to reshape a large part of the galaxy or even turn it into a starburst galaxy. This would take hundreds of millions of years, but might be possible for a patient and obsessed mainbrain. Others regard this as mere megalomaniac speculations and suggest more short-term goals or sheer incompetence.

The whereabouts of Verifex (or Lucifer as it is now usually called) are unknown. Emple-Dokcetic observers believe it may still exist within the Gehenna cluster, although it is hard to tell. When it was active it employed drones woven of magmatter, not unlike gaudy jewellery a few meters across but massing billions of tons and wielding tremendous power. Any sighting of such a drone might be a hint that it is around.
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Development Notes
Text by Anders Sandberg, some additions by Steve Bowers
some additions by Steve Bowers, Todd Drashner and Adam Getchell
Initially published on 31 October 2001.