17.57% Age of Cosmic Exploration / Chapter 84: 24 Hours (9)

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Chapter 84: 24 Hours (9)

Translator: Lonelytree Editor: Lucas

Compared to the technicians in the underground base, the personnel assigned to radioactive ores mining duties were much more fortunate. This was especially true when one realized how better off this group of people were compared to the rest. For one, because the mining area wasn’t attached to the underground base, it wasn’t checked multiple times for structural safety. In other words, many mines collapsed during the initial earthquake. They couldn’t withstand the level 9 quake.

However, because most of the mining operation had been automated, all the workers were above ground maintaining upkeep of the machinery when the earthquake hit. They retreated back to The Hope with a miraculous 0 percent fatality rate.

When this group of people heard about Yao Yuan’s inquiries, they gathered with the relevant experts to conduct discussions. With the aid of The Hope’s supercomputer, man’s crowning technological marvel of the 21st century, their discussions were further hashed out with simulations.

Within 30 minutes, Yao Yuan received the necessary response. The rock layers around the base were too compromised for drilling was the general consensus. Disturbance to the earth crust might exacerbate its structural weakening and cause the base to collapse.

Instead, the experts offered an alternative in small scale drilling. Even though cracks already appeared, the ground layers were still compact enough to support a contained drilling operation. As long as the operation did not extend beyond the stipulated 10 to 12 hours, the ground should hold.

The engineering team added that if the operation was assigned with their best tools and workers, they were confident an air-insulated chute could be built within the 10 hour limit.

"To conclude, it is entirely possible to transfer spacesuits to the third level citizens but the risk undertaken will be incredibly high because the operation alone would take about 10 hours?"

With great risks come great rewards. From his years of leading the Black Star unit, Yao Yuan knew the best result didn’t come easily. His conscience had been blunted over the years as he sent his men into dangerous situations because it would contribute positively to the overall mission success. Yao Yuan was a great believer of utilitarianism. He believed sometimes fatal concessions had to be made along the way to greatness [1]…

Now, he had found himself again at such a crossroad. To risk losing more people to save the third level technicians, or to give them up to preserve what he already had…

Both choices had its own merits, and each had several thousand human lives hanging in the balance. Even by his standards, there was no obvious choice. But, Yao Yuan knew this was to be his responsibility alone… it was the responsibility that he assumed when he picked up the mantle of leadership!

"…Get the drilling team ready within the next 30 minutes. Make sure they are packed with sufficient food and water because this is going to be a long battle. We will be working in 2 shifts, each for 5 hour. There will be no break in between, so I want everyone to be prepared mentally and physically. We have to finish this operation under 10 hours!" Without waiting for a response, Yao Yuan cut off communication and sighed deeply.

(I’ve chosen. No matter the outcome, I’ve tried my best. Just like all the decisions that I’ve made before this… I will bear all the consequences that shall come!)

Under Yao Yuan’s order, The Hope quickly went into motion. Members of this drilling team were treated with the best food and luxury items. But staring down possible doom had dampened many an appetite and in the end, the team left with cafeteria with an absurd amount of food still piling on their plates.

At the same time, the remaining citizens were still lining up to go into The Hope. With only a few decontamination rooms available, waiting for tens of thousands of people to go through was going to take some time.

Witnessing this, Yao Yuan called for Guang Zhen, "Ol’ Wong, I want you to be in charge to maintain the order. Give the drilling team members clearance priority, but make sure the rest stay in their lines. I trust you’ll be a good acting captain… Because I’m going to need to take a short nap, wake me up after 5 hours… Also, help me retrieve Jay and Zhang Heng from their post. Give them a hot meal and a new change of spacesuit. Tell them they have 5 hours to rest their eyes."

After that, without giving thought to where he was, Yao Yuan lay down on the floor and started to snore. Everyone else present was dumbfounded by their captain’s behavior but the acting captain quickly took over. Guang Zhen ordered a few soldiers to guard Yao Yuan’s sleeping body as they waited patiently for their turn to get on The Hope.

Then Guang Zhen ordered others to reach out to Zhang Heng and Jay who was still in the underground base. With everything done, Guang Zhen stared at the people around him and thought…

(You’ve picked one long and hard battle, Ol’ Cap’n…)

Despite the many worries complicating his mind, Yao Yuan entered deep REM sleep quickly because he had spent many of his military years training to do so. He knew he needed a completely refreshed state of mind to face what would come next.

As if his brain came with an internal clock, Yao Yuan woke up automatically after 5 hours. When he came to, he saw he had already been stripped out of his spacesuit, laid out on a white bed and strung up on a glucose drip.

As per his usual habits, Yao Yuan spent his first waking moment surveying his surroundings. After making sure everything was safe, he spent less than a minute extricating the drip needle and getting dressed.

When he was ready, Yao Yuan stepped out of the room to run into a pair of Black Star close guards who was standing by. Without hesitation, Yao Yuan asked, "Pass me a communicator. How long have I been asleep?"

Removing his own set of communicator, one of the guards replied, "Sir, you’ve been asleep for exactly 5 hours."

Nodding, Yao Yuan put on the communicator, "This is your captain. I need an update."

"… Yes, captain. This is The Hope’s main communication center. I will pass you over to the rescue operation headquarters now."

(Rescue operation headquarters?)

Yao Yuan was stunned by the unfamiliar term but he remained silent, guessing correctly that it was Guang Zhen’s idea. Within that few seconds, he had come to seeing its purpose because things are easier accomplished in numbers.

Soon after, a voice came through his ear piece.

"Captain, everything on The Hope is going well so far. All the energy circuits, both updated and not, are in full capacity. We could lift off and space warp this moment if needs be…

Drilling in the underground base is at its second shift. They are 80 percent through the flooring, and modification for air insulation is being done as we speak. They will need another hour before everything’s complete…

About 60 percent of the machinery and supplies used and stored in the base has been retrieved back to The Hope. A team of 1200 soldiers was assigned on this salvaging detail…

According to the latest headcount, there are 42 confirmed deaths, 2 of them members of The Academy and 346 still remain in ICU, 9 of them members of The Academy…

We are still unclear about our astronomical location but surveillance has shown the asteroids within this solar system to be incredibly unstable influenced by the star’s dramatic changes. Using data on the star’s radioactive wavelengths, The Academy predicted the star’s next big change will happen in the next 6 to 8 hours. The effect it will bring is unknown but possibly catastrophic. The Academy advises we leave this star system before then…"

Yao Yuan took some time to digest the slew of information, before finally saying, "Contact the following persons to be ready to follow me down the base.

Zhang Heng, Jay, Xi Kong, and…

Ren Tao!"

It had been 12 hours and 10 minutes since the quake…

It would be another 11 hours to the collision with the shattered planet…

Lonelytree Lonelytree

[1] I added extra emphasis to the aspect of risk management which was absent in the original. It flows better with the overall story.

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