19.03% Age of Cosmic Exploration / Chapter 91: A Speedy Warp

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Chapter 91: A Speedy Warp

Translator: Lonelytree Editor: Lucas

Since it was the captain’s order, there was no refutation.

Barely a moment had passed before the team separated into two to set up the explosives. Using the tomogram as a guide, the explosives were set at the rock layer’s weakest points.

The location and quantity would normally be carefully calculated, but due to the lack of time, they had to depend on Yao Yuan's and Wa Luo’s instincts and experience. There were only two possible outcomes: either the rescue would be a success… or they would all perish.

"…Is this decision correct? No sane person would bet on such a small margin of success; is this truly worth it…?"

Yao Yuan asked himself repeatedly, but there was no clear answer. Finally, his tired mind pushed the question out of his head to focus solely on the setting the explosives.

"…No, this can’t be put here. It’ll damage the geological foundation too much," a mysterious voice warned Yao Yuan as he prepared to bury a set of explosives.

Without hesitation, Yao Yuan removed the half-buried explosive. Turning to look at Wa Luo and Zhang Heng at the other end of the room, he exhaled in relief.

It was undeniable that the mission was too demanding for the even the best explosives expert. To have a calculation down to such precision within 30 minutes where the multitudes of explosion would create a natural slope was, in a word, inhuman.

Thankfully, Yao Yuan had on their side…

The Diviners!

The Diviner’s power of foresight came in handy in predicting the rocks’ falling patterns following the explosion. Success of the mission hinged heavily on this unique group of Homo Evolutis!

"…You can’t put the bombs there, it’s too dangerous," Zhang Heng uttered weakly.

Stopping in mid action, Wa Luo mumbled, with a hint of impatience, "You’ve stopped me from employing my bombs at multiple locations. Aren’t you afraid that the total force won’t be strong enough to knock the floor out?"

Zhang Heng turned his focus to the floor and replied, in between labored breaths, "Don’t worry, it’s definitely more than enough. The base currently is barely standing on its own. A whisper of the wind could knock it down. If you go overboard with the explosives, it will instead bring the whole base down."

Weighing the explosives in his hands, Wa Luo shrugged. "Fine, you’re the Diviner, so we’ll follow your instinct…"

Zhang Heng nodded before slumping to the ground. He could barely hang on to his thread of consciousness, and his every waking moment was an uphill battle against exhaustion… The long explanation he gave drained him of his last store of strength!

"Don’t fall asleep."

A woman’s voice came through his communicator. Zhang Heng unconsciously turned towards the source of the voice and saw two female black-star guards standing behind him. One of them was the one who spoke to him.

Zhang Heng was so out of it that he couldn’t even see the lady’s face clearly. He smiled with much effort. "Why are the two of you still here?"

"The captain wanted us to stay to protect you. The rest of the Black Star Unit can fend for themselves, but you can’t… We will be responsible for carrying you back to the Hope during the final evacuation," replied the same woman.

"Okay." By then, Zhang Heng was barely holding on to reality, and out of the depths of his mind came his reply. "That’s cool. When you bring me back to the apartment, remember to keep the windows closed. The gang on third floor likes to sing karaoke in the middle of the night, and trust me, they aren’t actual singers…"

"Do not fall asleep!" the woman replied, with sternness in her voice. "You’ll be the next Jay if you fall asleep. We’ll get you hooked to the medicine when we reach the Hope, so please do not fall asleep until then."

"…But I’m so tired…" Suddenly, as if shocked, Zhang Heng turned towards Wa Luo’s direction and yelled, "Not there! Find another location!"

Wa Luo sighed and once more removed the explosive.

Still hanging on to the two female guards, Zhang Heng seemed to freshen up a little. He added flirtatiously, "Right, I’m no longer living in the apartment. In fact, there are no longer parents, no more school, no more Earth… But… I have to say, you have a lovely voice. How about this, I’ll trade you a LV handbag for a peck on the cheek."

The two ladies looked at one another and stayed quiet. It wasn't until Zhang Heng started to nod off that one of said hurriedly said, "Alright, fine. If you promise to not fall asleep, I’ll kiss you on the cheek."

"Okay, I have your word now! I must say… This pack of pills is hella powerful, but I’ll come get you when I’m slightly more awake. Pretty lady, if you look as pretty as your voice, I guarantee you I’ll give you the world. Do you know what my father is…?"

Zhang Heng continued to mumble in his feverish state. Suddenly, the two guards lifted him up from behind and started to run. Leaning into their support, Zhang Heng complained somewhat petulantly, "Slow down, you’re making my head hurt."

Without paying him any heed, the two jogged all the way to the first floor without stopping or slowing down. At the first floor field, Wa Luo and Yao Yuan caught up to the ungainly trio. Without exchanging a word, they sprinted out of the underground base and only stopped when they were a fair distance away.

It was true that sex was one of the highest components in the hierarchy of basic human drives. Hanging on to the girl’s promise of a kiss, Zhang Heng latched onto his shred of consciousness. In a way, he had had plenty of experience dealing with this twilight sensation of drifting in and out of existence. It was not entirely unlike his pill-popping days.

Before Zhang Heng could further embarrass himself, a violent tremor shook the floor. Carried forward by the force, Zhang Heng was sent flying before hitting sharply against the floor. As a screen of darkness fell before his mind, he could hear…

"Do not sleep! Please do not fall asleep!"

"Zhang Heng, can you hear me? Tell me what number I’m showing!"

"…Major, it’s too dangerous to administer analeptic. It might react too wildly with his Homo Evolutis power, and he’s currently too weak to handle that…"

"…Quick! His heart stopped! Bring me the defibrillators!"

"…That was too dangerous, but thankfully he survived. We managed to pull him back right before he over-exerted himself. If we were 1 or 2 minutes late, he’d end up like Jay…"

"…No idea, Major. The machine shows that he is still asleep. Yes, we are certain that he is not brain-dead. His bodily functions are all fine…"

"Zhang Heng, here is your promised kiss…"

"…Thank you for saving my brother that was trapped in the third level. I have nothing else to repay you but this kiss…"

Zhang Heng opened his eyes to be greeted by a warm glow. It took him quite some time to realize that he was lying atop a sickbed. Not far away from him was a female nurse who was reading. Spotting her, Zhang Heng said, "Could you pass me a glass of water? Thanks."

He was shocked by his own voice, which had gone uncharacteristically hoarse. Nevertheless, he was not the sole shocked party in the room. After staring blankly at one another for quite some time, the nurse exclaimed, with a surprised cheer, "Lieutenant Zhang Heng, I’m glad to see that you’re awake. I would advise against drinking water since you’ve been abed for such a long time. Wait here, I’ll go get the doctor."

Before long, a group of five or six doctors and nurses rushed into the room. The leading doctor was a dignified 50 year-old practitioner. A few iris checks and multiple cognitive tests later, the doctor breathed a sigh of relief. "Lieutenant Zhang Heng, I’ve informed the Major of your awakening. I believe he’ll be here soon. Please do take the time to rest some more, you’re still too weak…"

Zhang Heng hurriedly asked, "Doctor, how long have I been asleep?"

"…One and a half months."

"Yes, the doctor wasn’t lying. You’ve been asleep for one and a half months, or more specifically, one month and 18 days…"

Yao Yuan said as he wheeled Zhang Heng to the fifth floor Barracks.

"The explosives mission in the underground base was a success. Thanks to your power, everything went according to plan and about 2,800 lives were saved…" continued Yao Yuan.

"2800?" Zhang Heng asked curiously. "Weren’t there 3,000 plus people trapped down there?"

"…A few hundred people was crushed by the falling debris," sighed Yao Yuan. "But thankfully, against all odds, most survived. And it was all thanks to you."

Blushing slightly, Zhang Heng added, "Please don’t put me on a pedestal. I know where I stand, and I’m not as important as you make it out to be. There are others who deserve greater credit, like Jay…" Zhang Heng’s voice petered to a silence and Yao Yuan wasn’t keen to pick up the conversation.

There had been a more detailed diagnosis on Jay. He was still in vegetative state… but not completely brain dead.

The functions of his main cerebral lobes had all but ceased, but his minor lobes and pituitary glands still showed occasional responses. Nevertheless, every few hours, Jay’s electrophysiological monitor recorded subtle activity, thus preventing brain atrophy, and that had puzzled the doctors the most…

Therefore, the diagnosis was "not completely brain dead." The monitor normally recorded zero activity, and Jay had remained in coma ever since he was transported onto the Hope.

When Zhang Heng was still at the hospital, he had paid his comrade a visit. Even though they hadn’t known each other for long, they had formed a deep bond ever since their adventure on Planet Sahara… When Zhang Heng was there, he stumbled into Xiao Chen, the girl that Jay had a crush on. She too had survived the underground base. After returning to the Hope, she applied for a move to a small residential area near the hospital so that she could come to give Jay his daily dry bath and body massage… The proud smile on her face when she went through her daily exercise was not unlike one a wife gives her husband.

In fact, the whole thing reminded Zhang Heng too much of Planet Sahara… but sadly, this time he returned alone.

After a long silence, Yao Yuan said, "In any case, you’ve returned once more as a hero…"

Zhang Heng laughed lightly. Scratching his head, he asked, "Right, I’ve heard others refer to you as Lieutenant Colonel. Is that true [1]?"

"Yup, I’ve given myself a promotion." Yao Yuan sometimes made a joke. "Even though many things happened on the meteorite base, it's undeniable that it brought immense wealth to the Hope. We can space warp more than 400 times, and we are stocked with enough supply to last almost 40 years in space! Plus, we will not have to worry about side effects during warp. This is all thanks to our stop at the meteorite base.

"Many have contributed to this success, and therefore promotions and rewards had to be meted out accordingly. So, I’ve become a Lieutenant Colonel and now we have a lot more second lieutenants and new recruits. You’re going to report as a military instructor when you recover."

Zhang Heng added bashfully, "Stop toying with me. I know where I stand. It’s more likely that they will be my instructors… By the way, in the period I’ve been asleep, how many times has the Hope warped? Did we stumble into any interesting galaxy or planet?"

Yao Yuan stopped the wheelchair suddenly and a weird expression crossed his face. He then directed Zhang Heng’s wheelchair down a different direction, saying, "We’ve warped 12 times since the meteorite base. The Hope stays for three days to observe the area we're in every time we warp. This is to map out the cosmos using familiar constellations so that we can revisit the area in the future when the technology’s available."

Zhang Heng nodded, but as the math added up in his head, he asked, "Wait, I’ve been asleep for one month and 18 days, right? Why have there only been 12 warps? Did we run into any trouble during the last warp?"

"No, there’s nothing like that. This area we’re in is a cosmic void. We’re staying here longer than usual because…"

They arrived at one of the corridors that had windows that opened into outer space. Leaning ahead, Zhang Heng was surprised to see…

"Your eyes aren’t lying. This area is indeed a void, because records show that there are indeed no planets, stars, or anything of the like. But there is, however, this…"

Yao Yuan too turned towards where Zhang Heng was looking and excitement lit up in his eyes!

"A landfill for alien spaceships…

"A tens of thousands meters wide space where aliens deposit their broken spaceship carcasses!"

[1] The Chinese military ranking system doesn’t have an actual equivalency in the English language. The translator has been mixed up by the author’s use of two words that are supposed to refer to two different rankings. They are supposed to be lieutenant and second lieutenant but have been treated as one and the same. The difference doesn’t alter the plot much; it's only important in minor ways. For example, in this chapter, Zhang Heng got promoted from second lieutenant to lieutenant while the translator has been treating Zhang Heng already as a lieutenant. I apologize for the mistake.

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