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17.99% Age of Cosmic Exploration / Chapter 86: 24 Hours (10)

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Chapter 86: 24 Hours (10)

Translator: Lonelytree Editor: Lucas

When Yao Yuan’s group arrived at the base they met a salvage unit that was returning to The Hope.

They were tasked with reclaiming parts and apparatus from the anti-gravitational, life preservation as well as other machinery unit. Even though these parts could be reproduced but that would require another set of investment so to prevent wastage, all that could be saved were saved.

Throughout this evacuation operation, the short-distance bus became an unlikely asset. Initially intended for transportation of children, it had become the operation’s most valuable mode of transportation. This was because it had a big capacity, an easy control, and a set of specially-designed tires that could grip the ground tightly. Furthermore, due to their lesson on Planet Sahara, it was also fitted with powerful engine that normally would be used for monster trucks!

Recognizing its potential especially in reforming supply lines, The Barracks claimed it as its main mode of transportation. Therefore, throughout the operation, the military had been jotting down its weaknesses in the hopes that improvement could be made in the future.

At this moment, a few such short-distances buses passed by Yao Yuan’s group. They were loaded with materials salvaged from the underground base. The military escorts saluted and answered Yao Yuan’s several simple questions before resuming their mission in a hurry.

After that brief intermission, Yao Yuan led his team deeper into the base. When they reached the base’s second level, Yao Yuan repeated to Xi Kong her mission, which was to transfer information from the second level to the third level.

The details of Xi Kong’s mission though had undergone plenty of transformations as Yao Yuan learned more about her power. For example, Yao Yuan’s initial plan was to send a detailed instruction on how to build a simple communicator to the industrial level. But after finding out Xi Kong’s method of communication was to form emotional connections via singing, that plan fell apart. How could one enunciate detailed instructions with only melodies? Yao Yuan also realized an inherent weakness that he had overlooked in his initial plan… Even if he could somehow outline the instructions for the third level people, without a single member of The Academy, the instructions would remain indecipherable.

Therefore, Xi Kong’s original mission was canceled. Instead, it was changed to offering a source of comfort for the people down there. It was Yao Yuan’s hope that her power would calm the people within especially when the digging got close enough to rock the third level.

It had been 13 hours since the initial quake. Yao Yuan predicted the crystal reactor’s acid bath had been changed at least once, or worse, he feared they might have already used both sets of the available chemical potions. Compounding the situation was the fact that it had been at least 10 hours since they had had outside communication. It was anyone’s guess what the situation down there was. As the major, Yao Yuan had to prepare for the worst.

When Yao Yuan arrived at the second level field, the leader of the drilling unit accompanied by a few Black Star members hurriedly gathered around Yao Yuan. They quickly gave Yao Yuan a brief on the overall situation, focusing specifically on the digging progress.

"…Major, we’re almost done with the drilling but there is a problem…" the leader said directly.

Handing Yao Yuan a chart of the digging site, he continued, "Drilling until now has been successful, all has been going according to plan. But now at the cusp of breaking into the third level, we’ve stumbled across a big problem…"

Studying the chart, Yao Yuan offered, "You mean one of the cracks has widened?"

The leader nodded solemnly, "Major, you are correct. A crack has widened between the rock layer in the middle of the second and third level. I’m afraid if we are to continue with the operation, vibrations from the drilling might widen the crack even further…"

Yao Yuan appraised the chart silently and called Zhang Heng over. He relayed the situation to Zhang Heng before adding, "There is no time for us to come up with another plan. We have to finish digging this tunnel. This is our only hope for rescuing those people… So Zhang Heng, I’m banking all my faith on you because you will probably need to keep your power activated for more than several hours…"

"Major… Captain, I have nothing else going for me but this power, so don’t you worry. I would die before I would let you down! I will not disappoint you… because I know I am nothing without this power." Zhang Heng saluted with a weak smile.

Yao Yuan patted Zhang Heng consolingly on his shoulder before moving away. As he crossed Zhang Heng’s side, Zhang Heng could hear an uttered whisper.

"No, Zhang Heng, you still have us. As partners, The Black Star will always have your back."

"Continue drilling!"

He then assigned two close guards to Zhang Heng. As long as there were people to support him, Zhang Heng Yao Yuan believed would be fine.

He stopped before Xi Kong, and said seriously, "Nian Xi Kong… Can I call you Kong?" to which the girl nodded shyly, "Kong, as you can see, the base itself is not entirely secure but know that there are about 3000 lives below us waiting for rescue. It is understandable that they would be afraid because they are running out of water, food and possibly even air. It is our responsibility to lend them a voice of hope…

Danger in space affects all of us but Kong, since you’re not part of the military, I’m going to present you with a choice… You’ve heard the leader of the drill team yourself. Continuation of the operation might collapse the whole base due to the weakening of the geological structure.

So, here’s the choice. You can return to The Hope now or you can stay to help the 3000 plus people… I want you to deliberate over your final decision because understand that your life hangs in the balance."

Xi Kong lifted her head lightly to sneak a glance at Yao Yuan. After that, she nodded firmly, "I… want to stay to help you."

Yao Yuan sighed in relief, "Then would you please kindly start singing? The one that makes you enter that quiet space. Try to aim your voice at the sparks of light below us because otherwise it might prove to be a bit distracting for the people working up here… because your voice is too beautiful. So please disconnect your communicator and only direct your voice at the people down there, could you try that?

Also, would you sing songs that are hopeful or calming, and after that, songs about seeking communication… Hmm… that might be a bit too specific, perhaps sing about songs related to friendship or family, something that could hint at communication."

Xi Kong nodded hesitantly. After that, she cut off her communicator. She tried talking to Yao Yuan but he could only see her lips move.

Yao Yuan enunciated his words slowly, trying to tell her that she could start singing now using the shapes of his mouth.

Xi Kong didn’t launch into her song immediately, instead she closed her eyes to calm herself down. As she became increasingly still within, the stillness was reflected outwards. Eventually, the realm of reality fell away, leaving her buoying as an orb of light.

After that, more orbs appeared around her, the biggest among them was burning like a miniature star. Xi Kong involuntarily drifted closer to it, attracted by its warmth.

Soon after, beyond this constellation of orbs, little sparks of light emerged. A cluster of them huddled in a group not far away from her, but their glow was comparatively faint in contrast to the orbs around her. It was as if they would be wiped out by the slightest wind.

"Please don’t be afraid, listen to my song. There are many people up there fighting tooth and nail for your survival, and most of all, there is him… He’s here, he who promised he would die beside you, so…

Please do not be afraid, he will not turn his back on you!"

Amidst the steely silence, Xi Kong felt her spirit returning to that accident many years ago, the year where she came into that fateful contact with a blundering truck. She was only 10 then but she had spent 3 years in coma, singing to herself in consciousness and in spirit to ward off the deep anxiety and fear…

"Come join me in my song…"

It had been 14 hours since the quake when the drill bit finally broke through the third level.

It would require another 4 to 6 hours to construct the air-insulated chute necessary to let down resources like spacesuits, communicator, and chemical acids…

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