Translator: Lonelytree Editor: Lucas
The final three days passed in the blink of an eye. Before anyone knew, the Hope had arrived at its destination, a spot about 1,000 kilometers away from the junkyard's outermost perimeter. The time was 4 AM.
Four hours later, the 12-member exploratory unit, Guang Zhen, a group of scientists, soldiers, and technicians could be found gathered in the Hope’s command central. They were there to compare their notes and work on a plan. There, they also had access to footage from the Hope’s surveillance room.
"10 mining airships will be deployed in 10 seconds."
With the completion of a countdown, 10 pilotless airships gently flew towards the junkyard.
The group of airships had everyone’s attention. Through the security cameras that were attached to each of the airships, there were 10 screens in the room displaying each of the airships' point of view.
"They will reach the designated location in 20 minutes," Yao Yuan announced.
The airships moved sluggishly because their initial purpose was for close-ranged mining and gathering. Their singular purpose translated to a simplistic design, which simultaneously meant that they were disposable.
Their disposability made them the perfect candidates for this mission, as they were extremely replaceable. In comparison, the construction of an upgraded shuttle would take months and a boatload of supplies to complete. No sane person would use such a valuable commodity for this risky gamble.
As the 20 minutes drew to a close, everyone in the room held their breaths as they witnessed the airships moving dangerously close to the junkyard. Everyone had their eyes glued to the screens to see whether the airships would… pass safely or be destroyed.
The result was positive.
All 10 airships entered the junkyard safety. They continued deeper into the junkyard as they bounced smaller scraps out of the way.
Everyone broke out in cheer. Feelings of hope, worry, fear, and everything in between had everyone by the noose moments before the airships entered the junkyard. Now, relief was openly written on everyone’s cheerful countenance.
"Great, now we just need to order the airships to return…"
As the sentence was uttered, the screens that provided security feed via the airships went offline one by one… Within two seconds, all 10 screens were off!
Yao Yuan reacted instantly, yelling at the technicians that controlled the airships, "Switch to long-distanced camera. Rewind to the time when the feed went offline, we need to see what happened to the airships!"
Soon after, the footage that was taken from the Hope’s long distance camera appeared on the main monitor. There was no sign of the airships being attacked at the time their feed went offline. Even after the footage of the long-distanced camera was fast-forwarded to real time, the group of airships could be seen waddling safely deeper into the junkyard.
That had everyone in a grip of silence. They looked at one another with worried expressions until some of the scientists started dithering among themselves. Nevertheless, this development wasn’t exactly shocking because losing control of the airships was one of the predicted outcomes. After all, with such a difference in technology, it would not be hard for the alien civilization to obstruct signals or even take over the airships.
"Check for signal interference! Begin analysis, stat!"
The few experts quickly went to work. They checked for errors by examining the airships’ signal routing system. Hopefully, they could figure out the reason for loss of control there.
Sadly, there was nothing suspicious within the routing system. Although, to be fair, the experts couldn’t promise the validity of their result because it was highly possible that man’s technology wasn’t advanced enough to detect the hidden interfering signal.
That sunk the room into another bout of depressing silence before Yao Yuan ordered, "Send out another 10 airships. Remember to pay close attention to their control signal as they neared the problematic spot. I want to know what exactly went down. Get to work! I don’t want to hear any objections or hesitation, because this must be done for the sake of our future!"
Many shared Yao Yuan’s determination because they knew of the junkyard’s importance. Unless it was certain that approaching the junkyard would spell the Hope’s demise, they knew this mission had to be done, because the junkyard provided what the Hope needed the most at the time… technology! The junkyard could provide a boost to their technology that would bring them into the 4th or even 5th industrial revolution. It was an indispensable stepping stone!
Therefore, as long as the mission didn’t seriously harm the Hope, the mission had to be completed… no matter the sacrifice, including the sacrifice of Yao Yuan’s life, or even the whole 12 Homo Evolutis party!
As the second group of airships left the Hope, Yao Yuan whispered to both Zhang Heng and Chou Yue, "Zhang Heng, Chou Yue, I want both of you to train your power on this new fleet of airships as I do the same. I remember clearly that before the nebula’s sun collapse, I could feel it giving off weak waves of threat. It is my speculation that the Diviner’s power will not be nullified by drastic changes like a distance of 1,000 kilometers… This is up to the three of us now!"
Zhang Heng nodded obediently, while Chou Yue remained passive. She snuck a glance at Ren Tao and saw him still spaced out. Annoyed, she turned her gaze back to the screen.
Another 20 minutes passed as the new fleet swam past floating debris to enter the junkyard… "We are approaching the location where control for the previous fleet was lost…"
Before the technician could finish his sentence, the screens that provided security feed went offline, signaling that control was once again lost. Using the long distance camera, the fleet of airships, similar to the one before it, was shown to continue deeper into the junkyard.
"The problematic spot is about eight kilometers from the junkyard’s outermost perimeter!"
The scientists quickly concluded. Similarly, there was no sign of tampering in the signal routing system.
Yao Yuan turned to the Diviners. Zhang Heng shook his head immediately, while Chou Yue followed suit after a short hesitation. Yao Yuan sighed. "I too didn’t feel any warnings of danger, not even an ominous feeling… It was like the airships were destined to lose control; the whole thing felt natural."
Yao Yuan stopped and kept his further thoughts to himself. After a while, he turned to Ren Tao. "What do you think?"
Ren Tao rubbed his eyes open and said, "Release another group of airships, but this time only five per group. Is that feasible?"
Yao Yuan smiled and then nodded, "I too have the same thing in mind. Okay, send another five airships. We need to make sure whether control is lost at the same location every time, or if the 8 kilometers distance changes."
"Captain’s order. Release five airships. Counting down, 10, 9, 8…"
Another 20 minutes of waiting time followed. Exhaustion appeared on the faces of many a scientist and technician, but the exhaustion was more mental than physical. The continuous cycle of relief and anxiousness, hope and despair, had taken a toll on their psyche.
Nevertheless, they held on to witness this new group of five airships lose their control at the same location eight kilometers away from the junkyard’s outer perimeter.
After that, everyone in the room turned their head towards Yao Yuan, waiting for his next order. They were ready to release another group of airships, but his actual order surprised them all.
"Start the ship’s engine. Move circularly around the junkyard while maintaining the 1,000 kilometers distance we have now, to a spot 300 kilometers from our current location!"
After giving his order, he turned to Ren Tao and said conspiratorially, "You must have realized too the actual spot where the airships lost control is not really eight kilometers away from its outer perimeter."
Ren Tao nodded and replied insouciantly. "Indeed, that is if my speculation is not wrong…"
"It shouldn’t be," Yao Yuan affirmed. No one else could grasp what the two were saying. It was like they were conversing in their own language.
"After the Hope stops, release another set of airships. That will confirm our suspicions. And if we’re right, we can proceed with the upgraded shuttle after that," Yao Yuan mumbled as he saw the angle of the footage changing. He added, "And the objective of the first shuttle flight will be to retrieve the bigger pieces floating about the outer perimeter!"
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