The Great Intergalactic Emptiness

2 Jun

Captain Chen Gan felt confident in crossing the taixu void at the edge of the Milky Way Galaxy. His zairen was a spaceship with the brave, experienced Xu Qi as its navigator mapping out its course through the great intergalactic emptiness.

The skipper was a short, fat man who enjoyed frequent, long conversations with the linghang setting the path of the exploratory vessel reaching out beyond the Xinghan of the Milky Way central home of humanity.

“Our ancestor back on the diqia called Earth, in our land of China, would be astonished but proud of our step forward into this distant sector of shenkong deep space,” declared Gan on the navigational bridge of the ship. “We are going to make some spectacular contribution to knowledge of the universe. The entire yuzhou of the cosmos lies before us and those who will come after.”

Tall, lanky Xu Qi, who never liked to speculate, gave the skipper a cool, serious look. “None of us can say what lies ahead for us to find out there,” he ominously warned.

As Chief Engineer, Zhao Ling was in charge of the propulsion system of the zairen traversing the extragalactic shenkong.

The athletic-looking technician had no time for exercise, spending all his waking hours tending the optical yinqing, the photic engine driving forth the vessel at super-speed as fast as light itself.

Ling knew enough weiguan subatomics to be able to calculate and estimate the creation of guangzi photons and their conversion into jiguang light rays.

He had studied the science and technology by which guang particles of light could be made to transcend and break free of gravitational zhongli.

Both space and time became manageable and controllable dimensions through mastery of the primal forces of nature such as light.

To the rest of the crew, Zhao Ling seemed a distant, remote, reclusive person only interested in his connection with the photic propulsion system of their spaceship.

Qi spoke to Captain Chen with a degree of apprehension in his deep voice.

“I thought that our path would be farther away from any xingyun nebula out here between the galaxies,” said the navigator, his face an orangey mask.

“I am not at all concerned by those gigantic clouds of gas and dust particles,” reacted the commander. “They don’t contain very much. do they?”

“Hydrogen and helium are their main ingredients, but there can also be strange plasmas within them. Those that we see along our projected route are called hewaixingyun, because they are extragalactic ones.

“I fear that any single nebula among them could be an anxingyun, a dark nebula that absorbs all the radiation it can draw from out of the surrounding void. They remain a great mystery in astrophysics, even today.”

The Captain grimaced. “I have read somewhere that most stars have been born inside a nebula, that the gas cloud is the mother of an individual xing that we observe in space. In the far future, there will be stars where the nebular xingyun today stands.”

“Those nebulae out there in the taixu are like nurseries of things to come,” declared Qi, his thoughts far away.

Out of the zairen crew of three hundred and fifty, the first to have an experience with a yaoguai was the archivist, Sun Jian.

Keeper of the records of what the expedition saw and discovered, Jian used his background as an historian and media producer to document on recording ribbons and tapes whatever the vessel came across in crossing the intergalactic void.

Private and studious, the archivist spent a minimum of his time with anyone else aboard.

He knew more about Chinese legends and mythology than anyone else of the crew, able to identify vampires, zombies, demons, and monsters with origins on the mother planet named Earth.

Jian sat at his work station, his eyes glued to his monitor’s yingmu screen, when he experienced a sudden, blinding flash of blinding illumination.

It took seconds to adjust to the unexpected interruption of what he was busy doing, but they the archivist began to make out a shining image between himself and his xianshiqi screen.

There was a brilliant, radiant figure wearing a long red robe. Long, ropelike hair straggled down over a circular face that was ghostly pale. Dark almond eyes, swollen and dilated, stared forth directly at the disconcerted Jian.

The latter recognized it instantly for what it was.

He had seen illustrations and drawings depicting the evil monster beings in ancient Zhangguo, the Chinese kingdom back on ancient Earth.

The face vanished in an instant, but Jian would never be the same, for he had with his own eyes witnessed a yaoguai emerge out of his computer yingmu.

Did he dare tell anyone aboard the zairen with him?

The person chosen to be the first to be told about what had been witnessed was the zairen engineer, Zhao Ling. This was an independent character who thinks for himself, Jian said to himself. I am certain that he will not laugh at me as having imagined what I saw.

Ling was in his personal cabin, reading and resting, when the archivist knocked at his door.

“I thought that we should see each other and talk,” explained Jian. “Something unusual and interesting has happened to me.”

The surprised man in charge of the photic engine invited the visitor to come in and sit down. The two looked at each other a few moments, till the record-keeper started to speak in a low tone.

“I was viewing through my monitor the void area alongside our spaceship’s pathway, when an unexpected, jarring image appeared on my yingmu. It was a hideous, terrifying face that I immediately identified. Through my wide reading of Chinese ancient folklore, I was able to label it as the frontal aspect of the monstrous evil spirit know to our ancestors as a yaoqai.

“Do you know what that is, Ling?”

“Of course I do,” affirmed the engineer. “I viewed images of it in my history classes years ago. Does anyone still believe that those beings exist? What would a yaoguai be doing out here in the intergalactic taixu?”

“That is what I also wish to find out,” mused Jian with a sigh. “Would you be willing, Ling, to come with me and look for a short time at my monitor screen?”

“I have a couple of free hours,” replied the other, “and I am willing to take a look at what you tell me that you saw.”

Jian ran a recording ribbon that held the yaoguai face through his electronic monitor so that Engineer Zhao Ling could see it for himself.

“Do you think it possible to see it again at this time afresh?” the new viewer asked the archivist.

“Let me try to catch the sight in the same direction and position and find out if that is possible,” replied Ling, making adjustments on the instrument settings.

In a few seconds, the same horrible face appeared on the monitor yingmu.

“It’s still out there on that side, in the same general location,” announced Jian. “What do you think we should do next?”

“I am convinced we have found something important,” grinned Ling. “We must go at once to the Captain and report this directly to him.”

“That has become necessary,” agreed the archivist. “I have decided to go to the chuanchang on my own and prepare him for the startling news of what you and I have seen. Once he is convinced, we will be able to show him the ribbon of the two sightings.”

The skipper of the zairen was at all times a busy person. Jian had to set up a formal appointment to see Captain Chen Gan in his office behind the navigational bridge at the front end of the spaceship.

The skipper had a large pile of orders and notices waiting on his desk to be signed. He looked up at the archivist and asked him to take a seat.

“How is your work coming along?” asked Gan, focusing his eyes on his visitor.

“Something highly unusual has happened in my keeping of visual records. My monitor contains a ribbon with an astonishing extragalactic sighting. It is not a nebula or some sort of gas cloud that will some day evolve into a star.

“What I have taped on my monitor is an ancient Chinese supernatural entity, the type that has been called a yaoguai for centuries by our ancestors back on Earth in the Xinghan Galaxy.

“As you probably know, sir, a yaoguai was defined as an evil spirit that showed itself to human beings as a horrible monster. It was considered to have demonic properties and characteristics, and had the capacity of tempting men to commit acts of insanity and madness.”

The Captain grew aroused and excited. “You claim you saw this yaoguai out there in intergalactic space, in the taixu?”

Jian gave an affirmative nod. “Indeed, it was visible to me.”

“You may have been hallucinating. Perhaps you were dreaming, but believed that you were awake.

“What you claim to have seen sounds to me like a qihuan tale, some ancient Chinese fantasy legend. Or perhaps it is modern science fiction of the kehuan variety. I understand it is very popular reading among our crew on this zairen.

“We must never allow our xiangxiangli, our imagination to take control of our conscious thoughts. That is not permissible.”

“But I saw this yaoguai out there in the extragalactic emptiness. I have never been so certain of anything. You must look at the ribbon that I recorded, sir.”

His fat face suffused with anger, Captain Chen bolted up on his feet.

“A mad illusion has seized hold of your mind, my poor boy. What you claim to have seen is a figment of your unconscious imagination. It is some sort of wish-fulfillment that only a psychiatrist might be able to explain or understand.

“It is beyond me to deal with what may be bothering you. So, I am compelled to having you treated in our medical infirmary, Jian. You shall be well-treated there. Let us say that you have been overworking and have become exhausted.

“You need some rest time so that you can restore the strength of your capacities. I am certain that our competent medical staff can deal with your self-delusion and bring you back to yourself.”

Captain Chen Gan pressed a button on his desk controls to summon several of his personal aides to take the archivist to the illness dispensary.

Ling had growing frustration after Jian failed to show up at his work office. He asked several individuals who lived close to the man who had first seen the yaoguai. No one was able to explain the whereabouts of the archivist.

Perhaps some accident or illness has befallen the fellow. Ling decided to check at the zairen dispensary.

“He is here, but in a private room under medical supervision,” explained a medic who was on duty. “No visits are, for the time, permitted.”

Ling turned and departed, uncertain what the situation was.

After checking on operations in the Engine Operations Chamber, Ling decided to eat at the Main Cafeteria, hoping to find someone who could help him with the difficulty that he and Jian had inadvertently become involved in.

He noticed the Chief Navigator, Xu Qi, sitting alone at an outer table of the almost empty eating space. He approached, greeted him, and sat down across from the navigator.

“How are you and how are things going for you in the Engine Chamber?” asked Qi.

Ling looked down at the table as he answered.

“I face a certain problem that is causing me a great deal of concern at the present time. Let me explain. First of all, I cannot get to Sun Jian, who is being held against his will in the ship’s medical dispensary.”

The eyes of Qi seemed to explode. “What are you talking about?”

“Let me explain. He constantly reviews what comes in on our observation cameras fixed on our path through the extragalactic taixu. What he caught sight of out there was so startling and unexpected that he invited me to watch it on his monitor.”

“What was it that he saw?” interrupted the navigator of the zairen.

Ling ignored the direct question. “He told me that he had to inform Captain Chen of the nature of his discovery as soon as possible. But when he went to make a report to the jizhang he disappeared and I could not see or talk to him again.

“The man is in the dispensary at present because it is feared that he has cracked up. The Captain did not accept what he claimed to have seen and suspects that Jian has turned delusional.”

The pair stared at each other until the engineer finally spoke.

“I can get to his monitor ribbons and you will see for yourself that Jian did not invent or imagine what he saw in the vast taixu out there.”

Qi studied what appeared on the computer screen as if hypnotized by the yaoguai that looked back at him.

When Ling defined the creature as an ancient evil spirit the navigator told him that he was familiar with the legend and its meaning.

Qi turned his head and spoke with emotion to the engineer.

“I have always had deep fascination with the vast dimensions and possibilities of what exists out in the shenkong of deep space. It is plain to me that galaxies are arranged in great clusters, but that these form even larger superclusters that range even further. It takes my breath away.

“Estimates tell us that our supercluster system contains over 800 clusters with over 100,000 separate, individual galaxies in each of them.

“The supercluster that we are in is over a billion light years from end to end. We shall never see or know it all. The line of galaxies to visit could be nearly infinite in its length.

“But what I have just viewed here has shaken me to my core. I marvel at what there is in this universe of ours, in the great void of the taixu.”

Qi, as Chief Navigator, enjoyed the right to immediate access in case of emergency to the skipper of the zairen.

He sent an e-message to the Captain’s private cabin, asking to see him as soon as possible on a subject of importance.

Chen Gan told him to come at once to the leader’s personal compartment.

“What is it that needs my attention so urgently?” inquired the tired-looking commander of the exploratory vessel.

Still standing, Qi proceeded to do so.

As he listened to the Chief Navigator, Chen Gan began to frown and glower at the tall, lanky jizhang of the spaceship.

“That is what you have to tell me, to bother me with?” said the short, fat top officer. “What is going on here? I have already heard the same story from a person now being examined in our medical dispensary. Is there some kind of mass hysteria taking hold aboard? I thought that you were an individual of reason and intellect, Qi. Am I going to have to send you to be diagnosed by our ship’s psychiatric staff? Have we fallen so far off-course as that?”

“I only tell you the truth about what I have experienced, sir,” muttered the navigator. “My hope is that you take what I say most seriously and make your own study of the monitor ribbons that exist.”

But the Captain made a completely different decision.

“I order you to the dispensary, to be examined at once by our medical staff.”

It took some time before Ling thought of checking with the Medical Dispensary about the presence of the Chief Navigator of the zairen.

“He is now a patient under our care,” explained one of the medical nurses. “No, it is impossible to visit or talk with him. He is under intense diagnostic observation and mood treatment.”

What was the engineer to do now? He decided to retreat to his office in the rear section beside the photic engine, to consider what course remained for him to take.

He looked over charts on his computer that kept track of the parameters of the laser producing engine propelling the zairen.

What am I looking for? Ling asked himself. How can I convince our Captain that the yaoguai viewed by myself, Jian, and Qi is not a delusional image created by imagination?

Ling searched his charts and his mind, not certain what it was he was after.

He lost his sense of time as he hunted for what he knew not.

Could the yaoguai have been projected from an exotic extragalactic site like a quasar, a blazar, or a radio galaxy? Was the image coming from a dark matter filament, or a cloud of ionized plasma of some kind?

Ling allowed his mind to run freely, writing the results onto his monitor of the spacecraft engine.

As time passed, he was compelled to choose to take action.

A message to the Captain now became necessary. Over the zairen wire system, Ling addressed a request to him.

“I must see you to describe a serious problem that is connected to our photic engine.”

The engineer was surprised when a reply came in a few moments.

“Come to my compartment at once,” said the invitation from Chen Gan.

The chuanzhang did not offer the engineer a chair, but waited for him to speak at the entrance to his suite.

“What is this engine problem that you claim to have discovered,” he immediately asked Ling.

The latter had prepared and formulated what he planned to say.

“As you know, sir, there have occurred a number of odd, unprecedented sightings through our space-monitoring system.

“The archivist, Sun Jian, and the Chief Navigator, Xu Qi, are at present under observation and undergoing diagnosis in our zairen dispensary, due to unusual claims made by them. These had to do with the ancient Chinese yaoguai.

“Study and consideration has led me to conclude that what they said they saw was a result of the photic exhaust emitted by our ship’s engine. Let me explain.

“Small light particles, called photons, leave the engine system and travel out into empty space, the void that we call the taixu.

“I have made a startling discovery: that this photic exhaust of ours is becoming plasma in its atomic and molecular form. This is totally unexpected.

“But what is happening within our propulsion system has to be viewed in a broader context, that of the extragalactic zone that we are now crossing.

“It us known to astrophysics that various entities can inhabit this void between the galactic clusters. It is possible to find objects such as quasars, blazars, nebulae, and radio formations in such taixu areas. But the one that is of special significance for our vessel and its photic engine is what is termed an extragalactic cloud of ionized plasma. This may contain hydrogen gas to a small degree, but the cloud can be as long and wide as an average galaxy.

“A great quantity of photic energy can be stored and contained within such a plasma cloud.”

“What does any of what you say have to do with those who claim to have caught sight of a yaoguai?” asked the Captain, growing impatient.

“I was coming to that in a moment.

“The key to the whole matter lies in the plasma composition of the yaoguai known to our ancient ancestors back in Zhangguo on Earth. Those evil spirits were beings from the extragalactic void who descended to plague and punish the Chinese people. They came from out of the distant taixu and became part of our inherited unconscious and conscious memory.

“Our zairen, as it passes through this extragalactic emptiness between the galactic clusters, has been ejecting bits of plasma into the void. A unique characteristic of the ionized plasma is its ability to reflect images that originate in the great, galaxy-sized plasma clouds in the taixu.

“That is what I believe is happening. The ionized plasma produced by our own engine is reflecting a distant face that continues to exist in the external plasma cloud. That is how the image of a yaoguai spirit becomes visible on our monitors of deep space.

“Do my ideas make any sense to you, sir?” asked the engineer, hoping that they did.

The Captain stayed mum for a short time, thinking with furious effort.

“I have made an awful mistake, but I shall now correct it.

“I myself shall visit Sun Jian and Xu Qi in the medical dispensary. They will be free to return to their jobs and normal life at once. I intend to apologize to them for the serious error I made.

“I want you to figure out what we must do to put an end to these reflections of the extragalactic spirits, the yaoguai, that come to us from some gigantic cloud of plasma.”

“I shall get on the problem immediately,” promised Ling, smiling to himself.

The jizhang in command of the ship had accepted the story created in his mind’s xiangxiangli.

Was it mainly a qihuan fantasy? wondered Ling.

He hoped that it was more than that.

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