The sky had reddened. It had worn thin, and behind the warm hue the people on Earth could see into the infinite cosmos. Somewhere in that vast expanse, lightning storms were never ending. They must have been distant, for no one could hear the thunder; their light did not illuminate the streets, and the bolts struck no ground. Further still, two galaxies could be seen merging.
There had been no solid reason for this change, this perceived re-working of the rules of reality. All the same, suspicion ran rampant. NaviQuest Globaltronics shouldered most of the casual blame. People conspired to construct some kind of explanation that the conglomerate had finally submerged itself too deep in the waters of exploration, having been known to dip its toes in them since its inception in 1976.
There was talk of leaked reports, murmurs of secret meetings abroad with Quantum Physicists who lived comfortably on the cusp of the scientific community. Accusations of bribes and severe, inhumane counter-measures being taken in order to keep the public blind were par for the course in the coming days. Even with circumstantial evidence and expedited efforts, nothing solid had been gleaned from the members of countless tribunals who met at all hours. This hardly mattered to the public.
A sense of dread hung over the men and women as they busied themselves with the ‘hows’ and the ‘whys’. Someone, or something, had lifted the pale blue veil that had hidden their eyes from the unspeakable infinity that had always been there had they cared to look. Those who had held out hope that God Almighty would be waiting for them above the clouds could not find Him. Their lives had been built with every leap of faith, and now they found themselves suspended — not by good-intentioned angels, but by a cold vacuum rich with stars that had no grand design in mind for those who basked in their light.
Scientific minds called for reason, for the God fearing men and women to see this development not as a belittling of all they held dear. Rather, they called for society to consider the benefits of this sudden “unmasking” of nature. It was not a breaking of the rules of reality, but the first of many clarifications of realty’s terms. Indeed, much of the tools and formulas that guided science were asked to be reconsidered. If not for how accurate the laws were to our reality, then for how they might reconcile the very different realities that might lay in wait outside of humanity’s grasp.
A common analogy during those days: “Man flourished when he sailed beyond the horizon not to find sea monsters, or the very edge of the world, but more land.”* The universe was now in a position where it could be as demystified to the common person as the oceans had been. The flagrant revelation of the world outside humanity’s own would spur the need to wander further. Not simply the need, but the want — the inherent desire to see what else might be possible.
After the hysteria began to fizzle, progress was allowed to find purchase back on Earth. NaviQuest Globaltronics, hoping to use the early allegations to their benefit, poured money into the privatization of interstellar travel. They had eclipsed the efforts made by all who had attempted such an undertaking, which had spanned decades before The Clearing (as it would come to be known).
Their efforts were not in vain. Thus emerged the science of Quaquatraversing. The classification came from the Geological term, Quaquaversal, which meant “to slope in all directions starting from a common center”. Hoping to make the venture seem less alienating to the common person, the marketing men at NaviQuest simply dubbed it “Omni Trekking”.
Whichever term one preferred hardly mattered. By any name the process had captured the imaginations of the common person. It promised the ability to travel in every direction, simultaneously and instantaneously. The first manned attempt would take place that October. The world waited with baited breath.
*Dr. Jacob Maumbstein, “Exceeding Expectations: Man’s Grasp, and Interstellar Travel”.