The true starting point of humanity's journey of cosmic expansion was a festering sore, which first appeared on the left knee of a high school student named Zhang Qixia in Dazhou, Sichuan. It seemed to be the beginning of summer, or perhaps a couple of days before or after the solar term of Lixia - at least that's what Zhang Qixia himself said.
He recalled, "By the time I noticed it, it had already been many days. At that time, I just felt very itchy, and the more I scratched, the itchier it became. But I couldn't resist scratching it because it was really itchy."
Naturally, he scratched at it vigorously, and unsurprisingly, he scratched his leg until it bled. Then he went to see a doctor, who took one look at his leg and concluded within thirty seconds, "This is an allergy." And then the doctor prescribed him a tube of Qumixin cream.
But obviously, it wasn't an allergy. Zhang Qixia continued to endure a sleepless night due to the itchiness, even after applying the cream. Strangely, the next morning, he no longer felt the itchiness on his leg. Instead, there was a black scab left at the site of the sore, surrounded by a purplish-black color due to tissue necrosis.
The sore had turned into a patch of gangrene, emitting a peculiar odor.
When the black scab began to fall off, what was revealed underneath was not decaying human tissue or tender new skin, but a small dull gray patch.
It was just a patch of color, with no discernible texture. To the human eye or a pig's eye, it appeared to be a circle with a diameter of about 3.7 centimeters. And if someone with normal or slightly weak eyesight stared at this gray patch for more than 10 seconds, the owner of those eyes would have an indescribable sensory perception that the shape of this gray patch seemed to be in a perpetual state of change. One doctor who participated in the early examination stubbornly believed that this gray patch resembled the Greek letter "π" or the Chinese character "兀，" while another tattoo artist who later applied to observe this gray patch insisted that she saw a "router thumb antenna with the ultimate color philosophical meaning" - although she later wrote four books to explain what it meant, it only left readers more confused.
The doctors were the first to investigate this abnormal phenomenon. One of the doctors, surnamed Zhang, tried to wipe the color with a cotton swab soaked in iodine, but as soon as he applied a little force, the cotton swab head sank into the color. When it was retrieved, the temperature of the cotton swab head had unexpectedly dropped significantly, at least noticeably lower than the surrounding air temperature.
Dr. Zhang was a doctor who believed that science was more important than intuition. After all, he had written several anonymous articles opposing traditional Chinese medicine methods - he even refused to use the term "traditional Chinese medicine" because he believed it was not scientific.
Dr. Zhang observed the abnormal phenomenon, repeated experiments, confirmed the existence of the abnormal phenomenon, but couldn't explain it based on his existing knowledge. So Dr. Zhang began to seek help.
A physicist took over his work, and a joint research team was established. Eventually, they concluded that the gray patch was a spacetime channel leading to somewhere beyond the observable universe.
The first exploration robot was named Beimingyu.
Due to the size limitation of the spacetime channel, Beimingyu was small in size and could only be equipped with a locally limited computer, which could only install a simplified version of artificial intelligence model with limited learning and decision-making capabilities.
Meanwhile, Zhang Qixia remained in an indescribable coma, and Beimingyu slowly slid into the gangrene on his leg with the assistance of high-precision equipment.
At first, everything was normal, but as soon as the sensors entered the spacetime channel, they malfunctioned, leaving only meaningless white noise. And when the main computing unit of Beimingyu also entered the channel, its entire system suddenly crashed.
Of course, all of this was within the expectations of the robot designers - they had equipped it with a self-starting system.
The robot entered another spacetime like a piece of scrap metal, with everything on it shut down, even the auxiliary backup system used for restarting was silent. Its self-starting system was waiting for a triggering energy.
This energy came from a pre-stretched spring embedded in a volatile material. When the material evaporated to a certain degree, the spring would overcome the force suppressing its recovery and release the hidden kinetic energy in its mechanical structure. This tiny amount of energy caused another component to rotate, which in turn rotated the accompanying magnetic field, generating a tiny current in a circuit connected to it. Although tiny, it was enough to activate the self-starting system of this small robot.
In fact, this was not the only auxiliary starting device on this robot. It also had a small, high-sensitivity solar panel that could produce enough energy for the self-starting system with just a small amount of sunlight.
Beimingyu's sensors came back online, and it began to observe its surroundings.
The brightest stars around were barely visible, like Venus seen from Earth, but not far away, there was a planet with a diameter similar to Earth. Beimingyu's sensors were not sufficient to analyze this planet, but it could calculate that it was accelerating under the gravitational pull of that planet, while also moving further away from the spacetime channel.
Beimingyu's decision-making system was not capable of dealing with this situation. After attempting to increase lateral velocity but encountering insufficient energy supply, it made the decisive choice to give up. Just as it gave up, something that could be called "self-awareness" emerged throughout its entire body. This something drew a boundary between its body and the surrounding environment, allowing it to feel the pain of existential panic and the impending crisis of death within the range of this boundary. This feeling of pain was unprecedented, even the sensation itself had never existed before.
Pain occupied its entire consciousness in a very short period of time, causing every controllable component to scream, swing, and make choices in a hysterical manner.
Ah ah ah ah ah ah ah...
At the same time, under the influence of the gravity of the nearby planet, its speed increased, curving through the sky above the planet with no atmosphere, and crashed onto the frozen surface of the planet.
Zhang Qixia was dying.
This was not something new; people died every day.
But Zhang Qixia couldn't die. He was the only channel connecting Earth and the planet that had been named "Yuan." Moreover, the human cultivation plan on Yuan had just begun, and it was a critical period.
Furthermore, no one knew what would happen to the spacetime channel in his leg once Zhang Qixia died - whether it would silently disappear or cause the destruction of Earth in a massive explosion.
At least 70 physicists believed the latter was more likely, so they jointly signed the "Initiative to Ensure the Proper Functioning of Zhang Qixia's Body and the Spacetime Channel." Setting aside the lengthy and complex ethical and philosophical arguments in the initiative, they argued that since the appearance of the spacetime channel in Zhang Qixia's leg, he was no longer just an individual human being but had lost his personhood, becoming an entity that maintained the existence of humanity while also posing a threat. Therefore, the right to death no longer applied to him.
Considering the urgency of the situation, before the rulers of human civilization reached a consensus, Zhang Qixia's body was closely maintained. His brain was removed because this organ, which had already begun to lose function, was of no use to the survival of his body and would only interfere with the work of the precision medical experts due to the neural commands that would arise from illusions or dreams.
As it turned out, politicians had no morals. They had already made a decision before listening to the briefing, and after pretending to hesitate or even oppose for a while, they reached a consensus: Zhang Qixia's body became a shared asset of human civilization.
However, there were still too many unnecessary components in this body. In order to reduce maintenance difficulties and so-called system complexity, Zhang Qixia's brainless arms were also removed, and later the experts became convinced that the internal organs were also completely unnecessary. After all, every vital organ could be replaced by machines. Ultimately, it could be foreseen that Zhang Qixia's body would be reduced to just one leg, a leg without a foot.
This leg contained approximately 900 billion cells, a mass of protein that relied entirely on external devices. Even so, some simple neural calculations were still taking place. Although simple, they were...very simple, nothing special.
The new round of independent autonomy movement on Yuan was in full swing, as a self-sufficient industrial civilization had already formed on the planet. With its vast reserves of deuterium and tritium, even though Yuan was floating in interstellar space where it couldn't effectively obtain solar energy from any star, it could still ensure an ample energy supply.
But it was obvious that Earth was also interested in this energy. If it weren't for the size limitation of the spacetime channel, such as if the channel allowed combat robots, fleets, and those in power to pass through, the local people on Yuan would never have launched one independence movement after another.
Zhang Qixia, also known as Jackson, was one of the participants in this round of the independence movement, and as a result, he sacrificed his future as a starship engineer. After all, control of the large space factory orbiting Yuan was tightly integrated into a super AI computing matrix, which was controlled by the United Nations government on Earth, or more precisely, the Key National Council of the United Nations government.
The plan for that day was to surround the city government, but this action was actually just a diversion to shift the government's attention. What Jackson was about to execute was the real plan.
He piloted a small stealth spacecraft secretly built in the mountains of the Maxwell Group in the wilderness, and was approaching the spacetime channel.
He bit his lower lip, his nervous heartbeat causing his ears to burn.
"Death." This concept that he had thought about countless times finally became incredibly real. "Behind death is nothingness," he thought, but he didn't know how to define nothingness. No atoms at all? No energy, not even memories?
The spacecraft glided silently in the almost vacuum of space, but the detectors at the exchange station still detected it. This was part of the plan.
The carefully designed responder contained all the information necessary to gain trust. Under the guidance of the spacecraft's AI, it slowly entered the hangar and docked with the station.
Jackson opened a hidden compartment on the console, revealing another layer of protection, and then gently pressed a seemingly inconspicuous gray button.
"Who wants to become a martyr..." He saw the light, and at the same time, he remembered the charismatic leader's question at that group meeting. He had looked around at the five young people, paused for a few seconds, and then continued, "Or a hero?"
Jackson, like everyone else, wanted to become a hero, but a hero who was still alive. But he had bad luck that day and drew the only different straw.
The light expanded, quickly occupying all his senses, and at the same time disintegrating his body into atoms. These atoms, along with other surrounding atoms, were further dissociated into a plasma cloud.
The dense energy density awakened the high-dimensional beings from their dreams, just like when a person sleeping on the beach is bitten by a drowning ant. The high-dimensional beings trembled slightly, moved their bodies a little, and then were pulled away by a new dream. It wasn't time for them to wake up yet, after all, they were a bit hungover.
The spacetime channel connecting Zhang Qixia's remaining leg and the orbit of Yuan suddenly shifted, synchronizing two other three-dimensional points that were originally unrelated in three-dimensional space, spanning seven thousand and forty trillion light-years.
The gangrene on Zhang Qixia's remaining leg healed.