Translator: Lonelytree Editor: Lucas
Yao Yuan awoke to Barbie’s voice. He looked at his watch and it showed 2.30 pm. After a simple bathroom ritual, he left for a 4th floor conference room to join the discussion on the Hope’s external cabin.
After several months of construction, the first external cabin was finally ready. Its size was 1/10 of the Hope’s 6th floor biomes. The space would be perfect for a cattle farm, which could increase the Hope’s daily milk production by 2 to 3 times.
However, due to the wide range of products processed by the Hope, its Department of Agriculture had birthed many sub-committees. There were committees for vegetable products, wheat products, meat products, animal by-products, and luxury products like coffee, cocoa, as well as tobacco, and every single one of them was vying for this valuable space.
The discussion was thus sidetracked by intra-departmental politics and sarcastic barbs. This was Yao Yuan’s first taste of western policy-making, where each committee had their own say to the matter. For example, representatives from the staple food committee proclaimed that the Hope’s food storage was still below the safety line, so they would face food shortage if there was calamity.
The committee for luxury products, on the other hand, invited an economist to give a speech on the negative impacts a decrease in luxury products would have on the Hope’s overall economy… The discussion dragged on with each committee plying for the spot until Yao Yuan dictatorially decided to use the external cabin to farm animal by-products like milk and eggs. Yao Yuan sighed inwardly, knowing that chaos was going to repeat when the next cabin was ready.
The discussion concluded at around 4.30 PM. As Yao Yuan exited the room, he murmured, "Goodness, Barbie, don’t you westerners have a sense of organizational discipline? But… then again, I’ve witnessed the presence of such discipline working as a company headhunter."
Barbie covered her mouth and giggled. "The difference between the two is obvious. There is oftentimes no worker protection when you work for a company. The higher-ups could willy-nilly let a general worker or even a manager go. One could complain, but that would normally be to no avail. The best you can do is accept the severance deal and quickly look for your next meal ticket.
"A governmental posting is wildly difference. A president can’t just let his or her cabinet ministers go without proper justification. This is especially true for a democratic society because the public backlash would be devastating. The president would have little chance of getting re-elected."
Barbie stopped and turned to look at the animal by-products committee members who were just leaving. They had smiles all over their faces. After they were a distance away, Barbie continued, "For some reason, when you first drafted the government officers, you purposely avoided putting Chinese officials at leadership posts. Many of them had the relevant experience, but you didn’t even give them a committee leader post. Therefore, most of the leaders in the agriculture department are westerners. Furthermore, they are familiar with your temperament, so it’s only natural that everyone gave it their all to stake a claim for their own group."
"My temperament? And what would that be?" Yao Yuan asked curiously.
"You are what we call a ‘fake dictator,’ and that’s a compliment." Barbie giggled. "Even though you’ve proclaimed a dictatorial governing style, there have been policies like the creation of House of Representatives and policies that strive for cultural assimilation. Furthermore, other than important positions, like department leaders, all the other government postings require intra-departmental recommendations, and those are decidedly democratic. All of this combined makes you a ‘fake dictator.’"
Yao Yuan rubbed his nose self-consciously, but he didn’t directly rebut Barbie. Instead, he said, "That’s because I have not shown my dictator side yet. Furthermore, the word ‘dictator’ has many nuances in its meaning… Actually, never mind that. Plus, aren’t you going to ask why I purposely put those Chinese officers at the lowest level? The reasoning’s mighty complicated, but here, I’ll try to explain it with a joke.
"Once upon a time, an infamous drug lord was captured by Interpol. He was temporarily detained after his trial at the international court while he awaited his transport to his country of origin. In that period, he befriended his fellow cellmate, who was a turncoat emissary. During one of their conversations, the drug lord asked, ‘Right, we’ve been talking for so long, but I still don’t know why are you in here, and what country did you work for again?’
"After a long and pregnant silence, the emissary replied, ‘I’m a Chinese government officer…’
"The drug lord paused and then nodded in commiseration, ‘Okay, I get it…’"
Barbie turned to Yao Yuan with a confused face. She frowned, waiting for the punch-line before finally conceding. "Wait, that’s it? Unlike the drug lord, I don’t think I get it."
Yao Yuan laughed heartily in response. "No matter, it’s okay if you don’t get it." He massaged his temples and continued, "If there’s nothing else, I will have a simple dinner and resume my sleep. The analysis on the alien object should be ready by tomorrow morning, right?"
Barbie replied, "Then, Captain, I’m afraid you might have to miss your sleep tonight. The preliminary result on the object is back… and it said that the scientists have identified the object’s purpose… or rather, the object has revealed its own purpose…"
"Pat, pat, pat."
Yao Yuan clapped his hands wordlessly. Just like what the scientists reported, the metallic sphere that sat on the table cracked open on its own to release a soft melody. An indistinctive voice could be heard intermingled within the melody, but it didn’t appear to be human-sounding. It was too sing-songy for normal conversation; it sounded more like someone or something was singing a Broadway musical.
"This is it? The thing that we’ve risked our lives for is a damn music box?" Yao Yuan turned around with a stern expression, questioning the scientists in the room with his finger still pointing at the music box.
The scientists too held frustrated expressions. They were also hoping for something valuable or practical, like computer hard disc, weaponry, engines, or surveillance probes. The fact that they had ended up with a mere music box didn’t sit well with them either.
However, one of the scientists replied instantly, "Captain, please continue listening. This is not just a music box. It is a recorder as well. At around 27 minutes, when the music stops for shuffle, you can hear some alien speech."
Reining in his annoyance, Yao Yuan pulled over a chair and sat down to listen.
Slowly, he started to appreciate the soft-flowing melody. It gave him a sense of freedom, freedom of floating carefree through endless space. However, the freedom also hid an undercurrent of sadness, especially when paired with the vocals of the female singer. Even though the vocals were begrudgingly high-pitched, like it came from the undeveloped voice box of a child, Yao Yuan had to admit that the singer had a soothing and graceful voice.
When the last tune ended, the sounds of clapping could be heard from the music box. It was then followed by a male sing-songy voice. In comparison, the vocal range of this second voice was much greater than the first one. Under normal circumstances, Yao Yuan would come to the conclusion that the male was a veteran Broadway star while the female was a young talent.
"More singing?" Yao Yuan asked, with more than a hint of annoyance.
However, what he heard next overturned that suspicion. After the male voice fell off, the female, childlike voice replied in a similar sing-songy manner. It sounded like they were singing to one another without musical accompaniment. However, the giggles and breaks in the female voice that sounded suspiciously like a child asking for praise proved that the recording was mostly likely a conversation between a grown alien male and a young alien female.
The conversation continued for quite some time until it ended with two resounding claps.
Yao Yuan stood up and said, "An alien language… Sadly, we can’t translate it, or else I’m sure we could extract valuable information, like their societal structure, from the conversation…"
The scientist laughed bitterly to himself. "Lieutenant Colonel, there’s still some more…"
"Huh, there’s more?"
Yao Yuan sat back down to continue listening. The recording on the music box was interspersed with clapping sounds, and following the claps would either be the alien female singing or she would be talking to herself. The male alien had a much stingier appearance. Just like that, Yao Yuan sat patiently listening for one and a half hours. Just before he lost his patience, another clap happened, but this time, it was followed by the sound of a small explosion.
That shocked Yao Yuan out of his reverie, and he started to pay close attention to what followed next.
After the explosion, the sound of the female alien came back on, but this time she sounded like she was crying. She was saying something haltingly, but it was muffled by her crying and the unfamiliarity of the alien language. The sounds of the explosion got increasingly louder as it got closer, and the same was with the girl’s crying. Nevertheless, she was repeating the same syllables like a broken record.
Finally, the girl shouted the syllables before it was drowned out by an ear-splitting explosion. The sphere instantly shrunk back to its original form, a fist-sized ball, signaling that it had finished playing the recording.
Yao Yuan sighed deeply. He asked hesitantly, "That last recording… that’s a sound bite from when the spaceship fleet was destroyed, right?"
The scientist beside him nodded reluctantly, then he added, "By comparing and contrasting every part of the recording, we managed to figure out the meaning of the syllables. She said that every time the male voice appeared, so that leads us to believe that the few syllables she kept repeating until the end was…
"Father, or more accurately… daddy."
Releasing a bonus chapter today because... why not.
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