Travelers | Teen Ink


September 24, 2021
By Ivyyyy, Beijing, Other
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Ivyyyy, Beijing, Other
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Favorite Quote:
I MUST NOT FEAR. Fear is the mind-killer. Fear is the little-death that brings total obliteration. I will face my fear. I will permit it to pass over me and through me, and when it has gone past I will turn the inner eye to see its path. Where the fear has gone there will be nothing. Only I will remain.

Author's note:

Sci-fi fan! Hope you will enjoy this!

Ten years after the incident, she has already become a history professor. When students ask her about this legendary interception, she will ask them to sit down, smile, and talk about it in her own version: “I was the operator on that ship when it happened, so I am the only person who knows the real story. Here’s what happened ten years ago……”


When a remote message from the Capital reaches its newly promoted captain, the fastest Galaxy Starship “Phoebe” is gliding past the remnants of a supernova in an undeveloped galaxy. The major had just received his promotion after his astounding mission in the manufacture city on Venus where he and his team succeeded in stopping the overheated nuclear core from evolving into a massive nuclear explosion on time. Yet, he is still only a major.

According to the marked coordinates, the message is sent from the General—the highest director of the Empire Army and the founder of the Chengdao traffic net. Unlike his usual long speech, the message is antagonistically brief and accurate: “The Empire blesses you. Major Luxius, please come to my office in twenty minutes through the portal.”

In his state of tabula rasa, Luxius runs down to the transportation room where operators have already prepared the portal for him. When he was still training in Achilles Battle School, he expected the portal to be a small door, or at least an exit, so he was startled when he saw the pool of shadow that he was about to travel in. Five years later, he has already got used to the portal after hundreds of teleportation trainings. Even the count-down of “ten, nine, eight” seems familiar. At the sound of “one”, he steps into the shadow quickly and leaves his ship thirty million lightyears behind.

They have travelled for such a long time together. In fact, she is his first ship, faithfully working for him for three long years.

Two Doradus operators are helping him steady himself in a bright room when everything comes back to his mind. Luxius notices their prominent blue gill-shape organs and knows he has arrived.

He turns around and finds the glinting surface behind him as usual—he has walked out of a mirror. As the MAST (Mirror-Assisted Shadow Transportation) Traffic Law prescribes, “using shadow and mirror as the exits of a two-way transportation is now widely applied around the universe.” (Apparently, the old trainings of memorization is still active in his memory.)

A crew appears in front of him and dips his head at him.

“The Empire blesses you,” Luxius chants the blessing quickly while trying to straighten his uniform.

The crew shows his ID card to him, “The Empire blesses you, too. Welcome to the Capital, Major Luxius. The General has sent me to show you to his office, so if you please come with me.”

Apprehended, Luxius follows the crew out of the transportation room, and finally, he sees the Capital.

If seen from outer space, the Capital is a spherical space city enveloped by force-field on the outside. It was initially built in the 28th century as a temporary airport for exhausted spacecrafts to rest and restock temporarily, but then it was reconstructed in 2890 A.D. to become the Capital after spatial expeditions became pervasive. The basic weight-bearing structures stretch out from the center energy core in a radiation shape, each having its own gravitational field. Buildings, streets, vegetation and entertainment areas, and roads unfold around the weight-bearing structures, already overcome gravitational constraints, ceaselessly winding and stretching into the inside of the sphere, forming the inner construction of a sophisticate beehive. And from the center of the beehive, just outside the spherical energy core, miles of industrial bases lay, sending out and taking in transportation machines that carry workers and merchandises. Those are still the economic backbone of the planet, despite all the technological and cultural advances.

It suddenly dawns on Luxius that he is walking in the glassy hall of the Bilskirnir spaceport in the Capital. The largest Empire spaceport is positioned at the equator of the planet, specially designed as the entrance for enormous spaceships that usually come back from long-term, deep-space missions during this current tide of “Age of Discovery II.” Outside the gleaming glass that made up all the surfaces of the spaceport, processions of Galaxy Starship, Comet Battleship, and Nebula Reconnoiter Aircrafts launch and dock while space shuttles flicker around them like fireflies. Luxius suddenly remembers his own ship, Phoebe, the handsome, silvery battleship that prides him. Right now, it must be floating around in the space, probably on the orbital of a planet in that galaxy.

A loud noise forces Luxius to raise his head: it comes from the loud speaker that broadcasts the frequent thunderstorm on the nearest planet. Farther than the twinkling ceiling—engraved with the slogan “the Empire blesses you”—is the vast, boundless universe with a Milky Way laying out like Bifrost. Standing on solid ground, he feels as if the universe is an ocean that swells every day, and he is merely standing on a tiny island glancing at the limpid shoal but neglecting the profound deep ocean. Nevertheless, he knows he will go back into the unfamiliar ocean again courageously for more voyages among the raging waves while missing the shore.

“Hey, watch your way!” a blue-uniform trainee complains as Luxius knocks into him accidentally. Then, seeing Luxius’s major badge he quickly closes his mouth and walks on although armed by sharp scales. It is then Luxius realizes that half of the crowd in the hall is trainees ready to take trainings on space shuttles, and the other half is made up of bustling workers, especially exhausted engineers and mechanics, so it’s actually rare to see an officer here. When he asks the crew about this realization, the crew points out that there are special entrances which bring officers and soldiers directly from the ship to the medical inspection department for prior examinations.

“Microorganisms and space radiations are more common than you think, sir,” the crew explains.

Another ten minutes bring Luxius to the General’s office. Picturing the General in his head when he opens the door, he sees the image of an old man with sparse, greyish hair. However, the man in the chair is tall and strong with hair still dark and shiny.

“Sir?” he asks uncertainly. Seeing the man suddenly brings Luxius back to the time when he was still training; he feels as if he is talking to one of his robust trainers.

“Please, come in,” the man smiles at his hesitance. “What you are seeing right now is only the anti-aging surgery. It is very famous in the Capital now.”

Luxius has heard of such surgeries before, but it’s still a strange scene to see a man who looks only in his mid-thirties glowing with the splendor of a wise elder.

The door is closed for him by another young man who observes him curiously. Bewildered, Luxius greets the General and the young man with the slogan again, “The Empire blesses you.”

And they follow him to chant the reply: “The Empire blesses you, too.”

“Lieutenant Hodrin from Astrobiology Department, and Major Luxius from Conductor Department,” the General introduces them to each other. Luxius has heard of Hodrin before: he is described as a resolute and diligent genius by most of his previous captains. Apparently, Hodrin is raised as one of those intelligent scientists working for the Empire Academy of Sciences.

“I apologize to both of you for this unexpected recall, and especially to Major Luxius for he has to abandon his current work,” the General says. “I know you two are surprised about this meeting, but we have decided you are the most suitable for this urgent mission.” He taps on a screen, and a 3-D image pops out. Luxius notices this is a diagram of a planet that looks extremely like Earth, but it’s obviously healthier and less developed than the half-abandoned place.

“This is a planet renamed as ‘Gaio’ that has perfect inhabiting conditions for humans. It is one of the planets discovered along with HD 85512b and Gliese 581g in our primary search for livable planets.”

Indeed, Luxius can see large areas of water and curvy land covering the surface, and there is a thick layer of atmosphere wrapped around the entire planet. He is surprised that this planet has not been converted into a resort planet for upper-level people.

“However, one of our supercomputers has detected a signal that indicates Gaio will alter its orbit due to a strong force, and the result may end up in the destruction of a planet with 300,000,000,000 population.”

Luxius knows which planet the General is talking about even without the of mention of its name, and Hodrin certainly does as well from the fact that he is trembling all over. The General is talking about Hermesia, the business center of the Empire where 35% of the total economic income comes from.

“Yet, astrophysicists assume the planet has just started its new voyage, so if we destroy it on time and execute a proper clean-up, its debris will not harm other planets severely.

“We have already sent a Battleship with crews near Gaio, but we need you to go there and direct the overall process,” the General swipes the screen, and the planet is replaced by a nuclear missile. “This is the missile we are going to use to demolish this planet, and we need you to deploy your intellect and experience to direct it as even missing a millimeter may lead to historical mistakes.”

Both soldiers nod, looking nervous.

“No need to worry, the ship will still be controlled by me, so you only need to grasp the proper timing,” the General smiles. “And remember, ‘the Empire blesses you’, so it will protect all living creatures with its indiscriminate love and gentle care.”

Luxius and Hodrin repeat the slogan, and they are dismissed by the General with a hearty farewell. They follow the crew back to the transportation room. On his way, Luxius observes the Bilskirnir spaceport carefully, trying to take in everything so that he can remember this massive artificial building when he wants to feel something like home out in space; the familiar sensation of being surrounded by a crowd can always remind him that there are countless people around the universe together with him when he navigates his ship through peaceful solitude. High beyond his head, the imposing spectacle of blinding lightning and funeral dark clouds is still presented on the nearest planet. The inhabitants up there must be experiencing a rough night.

Getting into the mirror is similar with getting into a shadow, though the mirror solid texture makes you become more nervous since you can’t help to imagine the scene of knocking into a hard piece of glass. When both step out of a shadow in the corner, they have already arrived on ship “Casca.” Luxius knows he has travelled for at least thousands of lightyears in less than a second. He must be millions of lightyears away from his own ship.

Casca is a black ship with the mark of an asteroid that signals the Empire military. It has a more powerful engine than Luxius’s own ship Phoebe as it is a higher-level Battleship, and it is physically wider to load excess plasma weapons.

The bridge is darker, wiping good mood entirely away from both of them. Displayed by the giant window of the bridge, the sight of the universe is magnificent. Gaio lies in front of them serenely, so vivid as if it is a high-resolution 3-D image. Indeed, indigo oceans cluster around green lands on most of the surface while ice and snow cover the two poles. It looks so much like the pristine form of humans’ old home—Earth. What a pity it is to blow it up!

While Luxius is admiring the marvelous planet, Hodrin has already begun examining the computers.

“Give me a thermography-scan on the planet,” he orders them, and the computers start to function, which requires the collaboration with detectors and cameras. Hodrin examines the result of the scan carefully. He points at the screen continuously with his fingers for more details, and the image is enlarged or reduced.

He stares at the graph for so long that Luxius begins to check the small arsenal on the ship. There are missiles and laser weapons that he has never seen in his entire life; those must be the latest weapons developed by the weaponry department. He wheels around to look at what Hodrin is doing and finds the young man still twisting the 3-D image around.

Luxius should have guessed something is wrong when a crease appears between Hodrin’s thick eyebrows, but he is too concentrated on studying the laser bullets.

“Major Luxius,” Hodrin calls him with a low voice. “The result is……I can’t believe it!” He covers his cheeks with his hands.

Luxius comes over to look at the scan, and his jaw drops: there are red spots on the screen!

“What are those?” he asks anxiously.

“Thermal imaging,” Holdrin swallows. “Major, there are living creatures on this planet!” His voices trembles.

“There must be some kind of a mistake. We must contact the General,” Luxius decides.

The General’s image shows up immediately.

“Sir, we have a problem,” Luxius reports, and he quickly describes the result of the scan. Hodrin says nothing as he is using different computers to scan the DNA of the creatures and the geographic composition of the planet ambidextrously.

The General remains speechless for a moment, and then orders in an uncompromising way, “Gentlemen, there’s probably a malfunction in the scanners, so you can ignore it. There is no need to question our supercomputers. Just fire the missile.” Without waiting for a response, he hangs up. And that’s when both scans are completed.

“So, you mean the DNA structure from that individual is the same with that of a human?” Luxius stares at Hodrin tentatively. He has not learned profoundly in biology, but he can still understand the comparison MSA results. The multiple sequence alignments of the graphs on the left and right are identical, all colored in red.

Hodrin nods, “Exactly. And the geographical test shows Gaio has a similarity of 99.999% to Earth. Its condition is so similar to Earth’s that we don’t even have to put on any protection gears to walk on the surface. Look at the fracture here: these two plates used to be one single plate, but they moved apart. So did these two. Therefore, I’m guessing the plates have moved from the shape of Earth’s plates.” He gestures on the graph, pointing out the possible ruptures.

“So, it’s like Earth has a twin?” Luxius asks.

“I don’t know yet. There seems to be an internal connection between the two planets that I can’t verify from here,” Hodrin points at a tunnel at the core of Gaio. “I assume Gaio and Earth are transmitting something between them.”

“But what about its moving trajectory?” Luxius asks; a bad feeling creeps up in his mind, but he still doesn’t want to say it out loud.

A speechless smile appears on Hodrin’s face. “Can you believe it? It is still orbiting in its old orbital.”

Luxius feels sweat piercing his scalp.

“So that tunnel is why we are going to destroy the planet, not the change of orbit? Why did the General lie to us?” Luxius exclaims, and Hodrin shrugs. “Where there is no imagination, there is no horror,” Luxius sighs.

“I think we need an on-the-spot investigation to acquire more information,” the lieutenant scratches his head. Even though he is inferior to Luxius, he is the one making decisions. “Do you think we can organize a MAST transportation?”

When they arrive at the transportation room, the General’s voice rings out through the speaker, “What are you doing? You are only instructed to fire the missile!”

Luxius answers, “Sorry sir, but we need to find out what’s going on down there if there are indeed creatures on that planet.”

“Major Luxius, I can’t guarantee anything if you travel to the surface. This mission is critical to the Empire, so it will be implemented, yet I don’t want to lose two perfect soldiers,” the General growls like a furious lion.

“Sir, you said yourself the Empire ‘will protect all living creatures with its love and gentle care’! We can’t destroy the planet that has lives on it! It would be a disobedience of the essential principle of the Empire.” Luxius argues, the General’s gentle smile doesn’t look gentle anymore.

“I have ordered you to stay and launch the missile, but it seems I can’t persuade you anymore,” the General sighs, as if the lion has backed into desperation. “Then, I can only say ‘the Empire blesses you’.” He hangs up, and leaves the room in frozen silence.

“The computer has detected a pool of shadow for you to land, sir,” the operator informs them before she makes the count-down. “The Empire blesses you.”

The first thing Luxius does on that planet is glancing around to see whether there’s prowling danger while Hodrin switches on the detectors. They have arrived on a field. The sky is the usual tranquil blue with white clouds dyed on it. It looks just like a normal Earth weekend when families come out and take naps, but here, the only saboteur of the serenity is the beeping of detectors. It reminds Luxius of his childhood at the only protection zone on Hermesia, where he used to prefer to lie down and gaze at the sky every night. That was exactly when he decided he would spend his life among the stars.

Hodrin taps the screen curiously, and an image of a creature pops out. He nearly drops the detector on the ground when the image becomes clear. It is the face of a primate. “The closest creature to us is a male homo sapien,” he chuckles, shaking his head as if everything is a joke. “An undeveloped human,” he laughs out loud. “This is not happening, not happening.”

Ten seconds later, spots appear on the map. “These spots map the location of animals nearby,” he introduces. “Most of them are……homo sapiens.”

“What about the DNA tests?” Luxius asks him questioningly. But Hodrin hands the detector to him, “See for it yourself.”

Luxius tries to understand the test result. The DNA from each homo sapien is compared to the DNA database of Empire inhabitants, and all of them have found 100% matching equivalencies. “So, this is like a complete replica of Earth,” Luxius murmurs.

“Well, more like a linked multiverse,” Hodrin inspects the geographical scan. “There is some sort of energy-flow through the connection, and this energy seems to encourages the evolution of a planet and everything on it by maintaining the vitality for selective pressures and natural selection. This planet is drawing this energy from Earth, which used to flow in the other direction through the tunnel to Earth. That’s why humans on Earth have evolved quickly, and homo sapiens here have stayed as homo sapiens.” As he is showing the figure of the connection to Luxius, energy is being attracted from Earth and absorbed by the core of Gaio.

Luxius thinks about it seriously, “If Gaio is currently drawing this energy from Earth, it will develop quickly. And with its decreasing energy, Earth will not be able to maintain all the populations and technologies we are utilizing……”

“Yes, so Earth will die,” Hodrin finishes his words for him.

“Our purpose of blowing up Gaio is to save Earth,” Luxius laughs. “Ironic. Killing species on one planet to ‘bless’ the ones on another.” The slogan “the Empire blesses you” has depraved somehow: it no longer remains as a belief and support to the Empire.

“Contact the ship, Hodrin, so that we can unveil the Empire’s brutality,” he orders while he himself calls the General. The ringing oscillates with his heartbeat for a long time until Luxius finally concludes that the General will never pick up.

“The ship won’t answer me either,” Hodrin looks at Luxius. “They have cut down the contact signal.”

Far away, a huge, red moon arises on the horizon quietly. The silence has never been so deafening.

“You have the portable MAST portal on you, don’t you? Locate the ship, and let’s go back first before anything else,” Luxius takes out his and turns his portal on. Both bite their lips, not knowing what will happen if the ship, under the General’s control, has given them up.

The count-down starts. The longest ten seconds ever: longer than the cooling of the nuclear core on Venus, longer than the twenty-four years of his life, longer than the eternal darkness of the universe.

“Three, two, one…...” Luxius steps into the shadow immediately, filled with thoughts and emotions and thinking about how he will describe everything he has seen on Gaio to the crews and every citizen of the Empire. He opens his eyes enthusiastically, feeling his entire body burn up with excitement—

No crew is helping him steady himself.

He is still on the planet. So is Hodrin. Both look down at the shadow, and then up at the clear sky: a bright light suddenly penetrates the atmosphere as the nuclear missile, dragging a blue tail behind it, readies itself to collide into the ground.

Hodrin stares at him, a bitter smile lingering on his pale face, “It’s only a shadow.”

Luxius says with a steady voice, “At least we’ll be with the stars.”


“So what happened to them?” A student asks her.

The history teacher, or the formal operator, answers:

“They are space travelers forever.”

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