The beauty of Devi surprised me most.
I’d spent five years learning to harness fearsome energies and manipulate the quantum superpositions of quarks. During that time I hadn’t given any thought to what the machine implementing my equations would look like. I hadn’t expected to be overcome by an aesthetics beyond even my math.
The lab where I’d perfected my techniques wasn’t even utilitarian. It was more of a kludge born of urgent necessity than a design choice. My office walls were just thin, hasty protection erected against the lunar vacuum. To build the reaction chamber we went deep into a lava tube, and then burrowed deeper still. The walls around the chamber were eight brutal spheres of concrete, each lined with lead. During a run, the gaps between the walls were filled with oganesson gas and strong electric fields to protect those of us cowering on Earth far below. The circuitry in the center of the chamber never survived a trial, of course, so we made it as rudimentary as possible while still managing to pop sub-nucleonic particles together for a brief, impossible moment. That picosecond of defiance of the fundamental laws of physics had dire consequences.
When we gathered on our last working ship, the fruit of my somber work lay before us in the elegant form of Devi. I’d wanted to name the device Oppenheimer, after the last physicist to put our science to such dark ends, but the General had other thoughts. She named my life’s work Devi instead.
Devi was both beautiful and terrible, like a statue of a goddess both loved and feared by her supplicants. Only the curving form before us wasn’t a mere depiction of a higher power seen dimly in a mirror after days of chanting and fasting. Within the elegant arcs reminiscent of a torso and the angular, almost haughty, tip resembling a face, there dwelled the dormant powers of the goddess herself.
I shuddered with both arousal and revulsion.
The General spoke before the launch. Her words were brief and cliched, a reminder that we were heroes, that we had to do this terrible thing after the massacre of the Centauri Colony and the loss of every battle. She told us once again that we had to seek total victory or face total defeat. As the General finished her speech, I meditated upon my wife and children, their very atoms lost to me, and seized upon my furious sorrow to turn the key that activated my precious circuitry within Devi’s belly.
As our goddess flew across empty space to do her horrible work, I thought of Robert Oppenheimer and his strange fascination with the vedas. When I’d read the ancient history, he’d seemed melodramatic to me, what with him claiming to have become death, the destroyer of worlds, just because he’d learned to split an atom and slaughter innocents. Yet I felt a kinship with him as my divine creation flew from our ship in a last, desperate act of war.
Our Devi plunged deep into our foe’s world. My progeny inside her was swift and brutal, a million times greater than anything I could manage in my lab on the distant moon. I wept then. I wept for my family, for Robert Oppenheimer, for a species we couldn’t understand and couldn’t stop any other way.
Most of all, I wept for myself. For I had become death, the destroyer of worlds.