The Earth was ripped open to make way for a massive, thinking artwork. Layers of trees and loam, rock and gravel, even fossils, were torn up and pushed aside; drills bore down three kilometers and recirculating water pipes were installed to capture the heat product of Earth's mildly fusive core that would power the device. The workers were mostly volunteers, encamped in the scar they'd made, and enamoured by the designer of the project more than attracted to the project itself.
Remi Savidge arrived late in the afternoon by helicopter. The workers stopped and looked up into the biting downdraft that abraded their faces with rock dust from the quarry end of the site. He smiled back at them from behind the comfort of the plexi-glass window. He wore a shock of black hair swept to one side, a simple but tailored suit with a wide pink tie, and a large signet ring modeled ironically after the Pope's. His number two, which was what Remi called him, although his real name was Smith, a young but competent and quiet man, sat next to him, going over a mental checklist to make sure everything went on schedule. The helicopter landed.
"Showtime," said Remi, grinning.
He opened the door and leapt out with the grace and power of a fox pouncing on prey. Smith climbed down by first sitting on the floor of the cabin compartment and swing his legs down. Remi strode towards the nearest astonished worker and grabbed up his hand, shook it firmly, and patted him on the shoulder, said a few effusive words and moved on to repeat the process with the next nearest worker.
He worked his way around the immediate area around the helicopter until he came to a bulldozer. With a node he dismissed the operator and took the seat himself, scooped up a load of gravel and deposited it a waiting truck. He then turned off the machine, stood with arms and legs wide like an X within the yellow painted framework of the door, and motioned for the nearby workers to come closer.
"Don't worry," he said chuckling, "this isn't an inspection." And the crowd laughed obediently. "I just wanted to come here, personally, to thank you for helping me with this project. What you do here, will be remembered, for centuries, if not--"
"We love you Remi!" screamed a woman in the crowd.
"Why thank you!" he replied, and everyone beamed, their mutual love shared. Behind him, Smith discreetly stepped away to take a phone call.
"What is it?" he asked, with his fingers pressed to his other ear to drown out Remi's booming speech. "No. This isn't a good time...what do you mean?"
He listened intently, and although he listened intently to everything, the conversation really did merit the attention.
"All right. I'll cut this short and tell him. Thank you for bringing this to my attention."
He hung up and moved back to the bulldozer and Remi's side.
"--and our lives will change! Well, maybe not my life," Remi grinned even wider, and his efforts were rewarded by an outburst of applause," but definitely yours. What you do here, is not just for you and your children, not just society and civilization, but life itself."
He caught sight of Smith and nodded.
"I've got to go now," he said.
He waved to the crowd as they clapped and cheered, and he jumped down from the bulldozer and jogged dramatically back to the helicopter looking like an especially athletic Richard Nixon on his farewell from the White House. Back in the helicopter, as they were taking off again he became completely serious.
"What's wrong?" he asked.
"There's been an anomaly in the simulations," said Smith.
"Those simulations are inherently inaccurate," scoffed Remi.
"Exactly. We don't know what will happen when we turn it on."
"That's precisely the same argument people used about the Large Hadron Collider. Ooh, ooh, it's going to make a tiny black hole that will consume the Earth in minutes--"
"--Remi, this is serious--"
"--that didn't happen, did it? That's because we had a damn good idea what was going to happen--"
"--but we don't--"
"--oh yeah, we do. And besides," said Remi dismissively, "there's no chance we're going to create a black hole."
Smith narrowed his eyes at Remi.
"Do you even want to hear what the anomaly is? Before you get all defensive about the entire project?"
"Fine," said Remi folding his arms across his chest.
"You know, you designed the simulations as well. You shouldn't be complain--"
"Just--what is it? What's the anomaly?"
"It's very low probability, one out of trillions, but the optimizer itself disappears from...existence."
"What does that mean?"
"Well, the purpose of the optimizer is to find and choose the best possible parallel world to navigate to and collapse the other--"
"Yeah, I know this part," said Remi wryly.
"The simulation group thought that it might, I emphasize 'might', be that the optimizer, instead of navigating the whole universe, is just navigating itself to the best possible world. It physically disconnects. It violates the law of conservation of energy though."
Remi unfolded his arms and pressed his palms into the top of his knees.
"Actually no," said Remi. "If the optimizer moves to a different world, it still exists. The energy that makes it up, still exists, even if we no longer have access to it. I mean, the whole principal of parallel world computation rests on physics functioning that way. It's how we extract information from other worlds, and how the optimizer can even work in the first place," he began speaking faster and faster, "the prototypes all worked, do work, it's just the navigation that hasn't been tested. Hmm."
He looked out the window at the blue sky with scrapings of cirrus clouds.
"One in trillions?" he asked. Smith nodded.
"Given that there are an infinite number of parallel worlds, those are pretty high odds." He sat up completely straight. "Shut it down then."
"What?" asked Smith, his eyes uncharacteristically wide.
"At full operation, the optimizer will have a staff of over three thousand. I'm not willingly going to put those people in harm's way. The simulation suggests that the optimizer will simply disappear, pop over to another world, but what does that mean in reality? The simulation was not built to give us that level of description. This isn't exactly the phantom black holes of the LHC, but moving a whole universe means that all the information remains intact, but what does that mean for a fractional portion..." he trailed off and looked squinting in the distance, moving his lips silently.
"Remi?" asked Smith after a few minutes.
"What?!" blurted Remi. Smith was unfazed.
"You wanted to shut down the project? Completely?"
"Yes, that's what I told you to do."
"But we've poured billions into--"
"--doesn't matter. I have billions more, and more importantly, more ideas. Shut it down!" he declared gleefully, clapping his hands together. "Let no one suffer on my behalf."
Smith smiled warmly and nodded. "Yes sir."