Human Calendar Ninth year…
Three years had passed since mankind populated the new planet. In other words, one year after the neutron star fragment was discovered. At the same time, it had been five months since the Observer departed.
The Observer first circled around the new planet for acceleration and then used the gravitational energy of the planet to reach a speed of almost 500,000 meters per second. This alone took a month to prepare. Therefore, the actual time the Observer had spent in space was only four months. Four months of travelling at a constant speed of 500,000 meters per second meant that it had covered five thousand million meters, or thirty plus astronomic units!
Then the Observer started to decelerate. Three high-power particle propulsion systems fired up from the front for almost a week. Finally, the Observer had reached its destination, about ten million kilometers away from the neutron star fragment’s forward trajectory.
"So how is it, Professor? Can the Observer survive being so close to the fragment?" Ying addressed the group of scientists who hovered around a bunch of equipment.
The leading scientist was Alan. With his status at the most influential astrophysicist on the Hope, he could very well bow out of this dangerous mission, but his scientific curiosity couldn’t be stopped. After all, this was an once-in-a-lifetime chance to observe the impossibility of neutron star up close. Therefore, he forced his way into the Observer.
At that moment, confusion colored his face. After studying the figures on screen, he turned to speak with Ying. "This is weird, simply too weird. Logically speaking, since the fragment is about one-thousandth of the sun’s mass density, with our current location, such close proximity to the fragment, the Observer should have felt its gravitational pull, but why…"
"Why what?" Ying and the soldiers behind him asked.
Alan shook his head. "The Observer is not under the influence of any gravitational pull. Simply put, we are like idling in the wide cosmos, not near any celestial entity. However, both the latest electromagnetic radar and the traditional telescopic surveillance system show the presence of the fragment. This is too weird…"
A flash of excitement temporarily entered Ying’s expression, but he quickly reverted to his usual serious self. He thought about it and said, "Professor, then do you think what the Chancellor said was the truth? The neutron star fragment is nothing but an illusion, a mind-trick played on us by a more powerful civilization?"
Alan hesitated. He discussed it with the group of scientists and Bo Li, who was given special permission to tag along, and replied, "Previously I thought the possibility of that was pretty low, but now I have my doubts. After all, gravity is a constant force. Since the Observer is not exposed to any gravitational influence, then perhaps there is truly nothing there…"
By then, the Observer was incredibly far away from their solar system’s sun. Previously, the Observer crossed a haphazard asteroid field. According to Alan, the field consisted of astronomical scraps that were pulled by the sun’s gravity when it was forming. However, they failed to form a planet, so now they floated around the solar system’s outer fringe.
Simultaneously, the Observer was ten million kilometers away from the fragment. The distance made it extremely difficult to spot the neutron star fragment via naked eye. Furthermore, the fragment didn’t glow and was far enough away from the sun to not get warmed by its rays. These made observation incredibly difficult.
Everyone turned their eyes towards Ying. He was the captain of the Observer and the commander of the Observer Operation. Even though the data had confirmed that there was no source of gravity and thus they could already return home, technically speaking, the operation was still uncompleted.
Ying ruminated for a while bef
ore turning towards Zhang Heng. "Zhang Heng, what do you think? Do you sense any danger?"
Zhang Heng hesitated. He suddenly closed his eyes and focused. A long time later, he said, "This is a weird feeling, one I have not experienced before."
The people’s interest was piqued. Zhang Heng was mankind’s most powerful Diviner. His power hadn’t let them down before, but what did he mean by a weird feeling? ‘Is there any danger’ was a yes or no question, so why ‘there is a weird feeling?’
Zhang Heng explained after formulating his thought, "What I mean is that while I’m on the Observer, I feel safe, no signs of danger at all, but there…" Zhang Heng pointed at the direction of the supposed neutron star fragment and continued, "There is a huge danger warning down from that way, an inexplicable danger, like a ticking atomic bomb, one that could engulf us whole at any minute."
The room was silent. They had a hard time understanding the actual situation. First there was no gravitational pull when they neared the neutron star fragment, and now there was Zhang Heng’s danger warning. Could it be that the fragment was actually an alien warship troop in hiding?
Ying suddenly said, "We’ll take the Observer close to the fragment. The moment we picked up any trace of gravitational force, we’ll stop or reverse. Zhang Heng, be on the ready; tell us if you sense any changes."
Since it was the captain’s order, everyone moved to oblige. Furthermore, the crew themselves were curious. There were many questions that needed to be answered. Was there really a neutron star fragment? Under what kind of circumstances did it exist? How come there was no gravitational reading? What was this mysterious source of danger?
The Observer inched closer to the fragment cautiously at 50 kilometers per second. It covered only 180,000 kilometers per hour, and for a total distance of ten million kilometers, it was nothing.
Just like that, everyone stayed on high alert as the distance slowly closed…
Twenty four hours later, the Observer was only six million kilometers away from the fragment, almost half of the initial distance. However, from the Observer’s surveillance devices, there were still no traces of a gravitational pull. It was like there was truly nothing before them.
It was a mixture of emotions for the scientists. They simultaneously wished for the neutron star fragment to be there and to not be there. It was, of course, a cause for celebration for the military men and women. The threat to the new planet seemed more and more likely to be a hoax.
Ying gave his order for the Observer to stop at six million kilometers from the fragment for everyone to rest and sleep. Surveillance was done in rotation. As Ying put it, a fresh body and mind is most important for one to stay alert.
The crew was instead tired after a twenty-four-hour-long state of heightened mental exhaustion. Three days of rest later, the crew was ready to resume the operation. Ying had the speed accelerated and they went ever closer to the neutron star fragment.
Five million kilometers, four million kilometers, three million kilometers…
There was still no gravitational reading on the devices, so more and more started to believe the neutron star fragment was just a deception. When the Observer was only 100,000 meters away, a shot of high-power energy beam was fired at the neutron star fragment’s supposed location. A magnificent and unbelievable sight appeared before everyone’s eyes.
When it hit the neutron star fragment, the energy beam spot curved and billowed out in the shape of a floweret. A 5,000 kilometer oval light orb appeared out of thin air, refracting and reflecting the light.
The photosphere was spinning and transforming at incredibly high speeds, causing a kaleidoscope-esque mirage. Every single transformation had its own unique, artistic appeal; it was like the Observer was given a postmodern light show. The Observer’s energy beam was twisted into this surprising and eerie art.
"The light has refracted and it’s escaping the neutron star fragment’s gravitational scope in a parabolic state. God, the neutron star fragment is real… This is unbelievable, its gravitational force is constrained within its 5,000 kilometer radius. What kind of tremendous force could possibly do something like this? To so accurately inhibit the fragment’s enormous gravitational force within a 5,000 kilometer radius?" Alan exclaimed in surprise. The shock was evident in all the other scientists’ faces.
The neutron star fragment was real!