The Aphotica.

30 Jun

Never had so large a space barque been sent off from Archaea before.

With over 3,000 staff and crew, the Aphotica carried advanced specialists in astronomy, astrophysics, galactics, and particle physics. What was its mission? Not even Captain Cuill dared give voice to the fantastic dream propelling all these individuals beyond the stars and the comet cloud, into the deep void between the galaxies.

The man who saw himself as guardian of the unspoken aim of this space voyage was Dr. Geant, supervisor of the giant particle accelerator that took up most of the ship’s hold. This stubborn, self-directed nanophysicist continuously presented the skipper of the research ship with new problems and difficulties.

Cuill, short and light in a crimson uniform, foresaw a quarrel coming when the lanky scientist rushed into his command cabin uninvited. It was early one diurnal cycle. Anger was evident in the intruder’s burning coffee eyes as he approached the Captain’s ferrometal desk.

“This acceleration in the Aphotista’s velocity makes it impossible for me to turn up the voltage entering the particle tubing,” loudly protested Geant. “Why do you have to speed up the ship? Are we entering a race of some sort?”

The commander patiently stared at him with placid eyes of azure.

“What can I say? For several weeks, Samed and his associates of the radio survey have begged me to provide them a better reception zone, nearer the galaxy center. All that I have done is only an attempt to accommodate and satisfy these colleagues of yours.”

Dr. Geant stared at the man in charge of the vessel they were in. Realizing that there was nothing he could say to change the other’s mind, he stalked out of the cabin, glad that he had not gone over a certain undefined boundary.

Better to talk directly with the primary enemy himself, realized the particle physicist.

The main center of interest for Samed was cosmic background radiation that could be caught and measured by the enormous antenna system of the Aphotica. His focus was on mapping out the energy profile of the early universe and the course of its history. This charting of the galaxies is a direct competitor to my own enterprise, said Geant to himself as he hurried toward the office of his foe. This was located on the lowest level of the space barque, the seventh. After announcing himself to an assistant of Samed, the furious nanophysicist barged into the monitoring chamber where his rival sat at a giant console.

The fat, circular face of the rotund little man blanched as his milky eyes recognized who it was he was looking at.

“Great!” he burst out. “To what do I owe the honor of this visit by you?”

The invader of the radiation program territory let his furor subside enough so that he could speak with some semblance of balance and reason.

“I need more electric power for my accelerator tubes,” said Geant without preface or fanfare of any kind. “That becomes impossible if your people keep diverting current into space mapping on such a vast scale. Someone has to give, and I guarantee you it will not be me.”

He glared with angry emotion at his round competitor for electromagnetic energy.

“I believe that we are onto something of enormous importance. It cannot be described yet, but this breakthrough promises to turn our conceptual framework inside-out.”

“What are you hinting at?” impatiently demanded Geant. “Unless you specify what is so new, there can be no excuse for this stealing of what is rightfully mine.”

“Stealing? Are you making an accusation against me? Every increase in our energy ration has been approved and authorized by Captain Cuill. Nothing has happened without his permission, nothing.”

The ire of the particle researcher boiled over, making him say what he did not intend to.

“Look at the name of our barque. It indicates that our purpose is to study aphotic substances, the realm of the shadowy dark hidden by the materiality of our universe. That is my specialty and occupation. This sky survey with radio waves is actually only the secondary function of our accelerator…”

Geant stopped, falling silent.

Enough, he told himself. Say no more. Reveal nothing.

Geant abruptly turned about and retreated out of the monitoring center.

Both rivals realized why Captain Cuill summoned them to meet with him in the consultation room in his cabin. The Aphotica was nearing the point at which communication with their home planet, Archaea, would become impossible. Their distance would soon place them out of radio range. As the ship hurled on, it was to travel in silence out of necessity.

The two scientists sat on opposite sides of the long boxwood table, as far apart as practical. From the far end, the Captain revealed the purpose of this coming together, looking directly at neither one of the men sitting there.

“We are at the point where a final report has to be sent back. Time is short and a common viewpoint must be hammered together. I expect to transmit definitive conclusions before too long by light signal. This important task I assign to the two of you. Differences must be overcome in the near future, or this requirement cannot be satisfied. Am I clear about what is now necessary? This concerns the purpose of our expensive research voyage at such a great distance from home.

“Before the end of this month, I expect to see a finished report. Now, I shall leave you two to discuss how that goal is to be reached.”

With that said, the Captain rose and left the room.

The two astrophysicists stared wordlessly at each other. Samed was the first to open his mouth.

“I know what should be the theme of what we send back. Aphotic material and energy are what give structure to our universe. From the reception of cosmic background radiation, the estimation is that only 40% of the universe is ordinary, visible matter. Over 20% is the dark, invisible aphotic substance. And over 70% is aphotic energy. That is what the energies from the cosmic past teach us about the composition of this universe of ours.

“When we analyze the giant halo that surrounds all the known galaxies, we determine its content to be aphotic. The original structures of our universe’s galaxies and clusters of galaxies consisted of this same material and energy that never transmits its own light or any electromagnetic radiation of any variety. This invisible aphotis was the base and the origin of all that exists anywhere.”

Samed, suddenly ending, gazed across at his enemy, curious to see and evaluate his reaction to what had been said.

Geant decided to speak as if the other were not present, as if addressing only himself.

“There has been spectacular success with the particle accelerator in creating symmetrical particles, whether hedrons, leptons, or bosons. Counterpart shadows of the known types have been produced here in intergalactic space. But having the accelerator so far out in empty space has provided us the opportunity to hunt for and gauge the particles that enable the basic physical processes to occur. For instance, photon exchange ha been applied to light, and then to electromagnetics. For as many particles as possible, these antiparticles are being sought and found using the accelerator.

But the immediate targets of all our work are the photino and the gravitino, counterparts to the photon and the graviton. Who can deny that these and other similar sparticles are now within reach as the duration of the voyage extends longer and longer? As we travel farther and farther?”

All at once, Samed bolted to his feet, pushing back his chair. “The work of the accelerator is wasteful. Everyone knows that there are hundreds of possible aphotic antiparticles. Only my survey can determine what kind of primal plasma existed in the few seconds after the Big Bang. Your road is a diversion. Aphotics must be found out there in space, not artificially constructed.”

Geant now shot up. He frowned at his scientific rival.

“What a chance we have to take a step forward!” he shouted loudly. “That is the purpose of the accelerator aboard this barque. Your survey is only a secondary add-on.”

“That is a lie. The door to aphotic particles is in the primal radiation that still exists out there. Every day, we fly closer to the rich treasure still hidden from us.”

“Absurd!” yelled Geant, rushing to the door and swiftly making an exit.

He, like Samed, intensified his schedule of work immediately.

Each scientists wrote a personal, argumentative report.

Both of them waited until the last possible moment, then delivered the finished copy to the Captain of the Aphotica.

Within hours, Cuill sent to the two competitors messages to come to his cabin.

Samed was the first to arrive and was told to wait in the consultation room. He did as the Captain ordered him to, realizing that his enemy would soon join him there.

When Geant arrived, he intentionally ignored the presence of the survey director. Each man sat at opposite ends of the lengthy table. Both had a sense of relief when their boss walked in and took a chair halfway between them.

“I have some bad news to report to you,” began Cuill, his eyes on the formica table top.

“Only two hours ago, a command was received from Space Control on Archaea. We must make a turn-around and then a return voyage home. There is to be no deeper penetration of interstellar space by this vessel because of a surprising development back there. Something has occurred that will forever change the character of astrophysics.

“I have not been given more than a general description, but one of our foremost particle laboratories has succeeded in leaving our shared, common universe and crossing over into another sector of creation, in fact, into another universe.”

Cuill looked at Samed, then Geant. Both of them gaped at him in astonishment. Neither was able to say a word at all.

“There shall be no reason to send off research reports at this time,” continued the Captain. “All our work is to be suspended until our return. In fact, all scientific research is to be re-organized and re-oriented now that what was previously thought impossible has been achieved. Space physics will never be the same as it has been. This is a revolutionary development that will need decades of time to be digested.”

The other two rose, Samed exiting first.

Geant stopped and looked back at Cuill. He seemed about to say something, but instead moved forward again and was gone.

The Captain spent several hours in the navigation bridge, overseeing what had to be done to return to Archaea.

None of the movements or calibrations was going to be easy.

Every maneuver of the barque had to be perfectly precise.

The purpose of the deep voyage had been overtaken by events elsewhere, the ship’s commander told himself.

No use feeling any regrets about how matters had turned out.

The Aphotica and its disappearance was a mysterious riddle, but popular opinion on Archaea created a legendary solution as to how and why the barque vanished, leaving no trace whatsoever.

Had its speed and location while turning about caused it to make an inter-universe jump?

Was it possible for such a large structure to enter another realm of being?

Why this vessel, at this particular moment in time?

For generations to come, people wondered whether the Aphotica and its scientists continued cosmological surveying and particle study elsewhere in the infinity of existence.

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