Uncle Wei was on the floor of the Lucky Deng Casino when Little Feet scampered up to him. “Did you hear Uncle Wei? Did you hear? The Jade Rabbit has disappeared.” It was late in the shift and there were a number of big spending Cambodians at the high stakes dropball screens. Now was not time for one of Little Feet’s jokes. Uncle Wei snapped at him to get back to his station and make sure the Cambodians had enough real rice wine. As he passed the main bar, Mailing and Jin stopped him.
“Uncle, the Space Agency just said the Jade Rabbit is gone. It just disappeared.” Jin was almost crying as she leaned over the antique plastic bar toward Uncle Wei. “Why do we always have trouble with the moon now? Just when things are picking up again after all the taikonauts got sick on the last moon missions,” she indicated the crowd at the bar and on the floor. “Every time there is some problem on the moon, everyone gets scared. When they get scared, they don’t come out and drink.” Mailing nodded and continued absently stirring a drink that she had been making.
Just as Uncle Wei was going to say something, one of the guests of the casino came up to him as if he knew him. He was a short, thin Cambodian, dressed in the height of Phnom Penh fashion. “I have just seen on my screen that the Jade Rabbit has disappeared. What do you think it means?” He extended his arm and Uncle Wei could see on the semi-rigid sleeve of his outer garment a screen of photo-electric filaments woven into the material of the sleeve. The resolution of the image was impressive, Uncle Wei noted, better than any of the Chinese-made ones that he had seen. On the screen he could see a Beijing presenter talking while, behind him, was an enlarged image of the moon. Uncle Wei stared at it with a growing sense of unease. It looked wrong. The familiar dark pattern of the Jade Rabbit, which usually stood out so plainly during the full moon, was not there. Instead the moon looked naked- too white and shiny to be seen by just anyone. Wanting to catch what the presenter was saying, Uncle Wei touched his ear bud and suddenly he could hear the harsh northern tones of the presenter.
“Terrestrial analysis has proved inconclusive at this point; therefore, the Space Agency will redirect a moon satellite, currently surveying potential uncolonized Helium-3 fields on the far side to investigate.
“The director of the Space Agency has not issued a statement but the Science Council is meeting now along with the heads of the Academies to discuss what the next steps should be. Council Speaker Wu has urged calm and rational thought...”
Uncle Wei switched off his ear bud. He had heard enough. He knew the story about the Jade Rabbit and his return to earth. It was part of the stories that came from the brief Daoist Revival that swept across south China during the early years of the Great Schism. While the Daoist Revival did not last as a religious movement after the end of the conflict, the stories about the Jade Rabbit had made their way into everyday consciousness through a popular children’s serial.
Of the many stories that were told about the Jade Rabbit, one said that the time would come when the Jade Rabbit was almost finished with the elixir of eternal life he had been grinding on the moon since he had been sent there as a reward for his sacrifice by the Lord Buddha. When it came time for the final two ingredients, the Jade Rabbit would come to earth. He would then need the help of an old man and a young girl to find the last ingredients. With the completion of the elixir, the current eon on earth would end and a new people would emerge, fortified by the completed elixir of eternal life. The next eon would, therefore, be the time of the Celestial Kingdom on earth.
Uncle Wei had watched the serial as a child. He had also been told versions of the stories by his grandmother, whose father had been a follower of the Daoist Revival. After the age of seventeen or so; however, Uncle Wei had never taken the stories seriously. It had not been a conscious decision or the result of a great disillusioning; he had simply become interested in other things.
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Uncle Wei and the Jade RabbitScience Fiction
Uncle Wei was a well-known man, running the Lucky Deng Casino in Macau. He was having a normal day, perhaps even a good day when the Jade Rabbit disappeared from the moon and appeared on his screen, sending him on a mysterious quest in New Hong Kon...