Translator: Lonelytree, _Dark_Angel_ Editor: Lucas
The final selected five were French superconductor expert, Aleson; German physicist, Silewei; Chinese biologist, Yuan Pin; Italian chemist, Hannah; and the lab assistant, Bo Li. Bo Li was picked because her ability as a Whisperer might prove useful in unexpected ways.
The five, were indeed as Aleson predicted: the best the Hope could offer in their respective fields. It was truly an all-in bet. If they were to fail, Yao Yuan grimly said it would be easier to commit suicide than wait passively for death to come.
As the team of five boarded the shuttle with a newly concocted chemical potion, the Black Star Unit with the accompaniment of Jay stood silently by the hangar wall waiting for it to lift off.
"Let’s go. Instead of standing here and worrying, the time will be better spent planning our next move."
Yao Yuan was the first to go back into the Hope. The rest of the group glanced at one another and fell in behind Yao Yuan. Their hearts were heavy with Yao Yuan’s parting words… our next move.
But if the experiment were to fail, there would be no next move…
The team of five sat obediently in their seats, the atmosphere too solemn for any words to be exchanged. Suddenly, to everyone’s horror, Aleson removed his helmet and stripped out of his spacesuit. Ignoring everybody’s questioning gaze, he retrieved from his case an MP5 player and started playing it. Silence in the shuttle was soon replaced by the harmonious melody of a classical orchestra.
"Professor Aleson, what are you… the spacesuit…" Hannah gasped.
Aleson smiled. "What difference would it make? If the experiment fails, the result is still death. If we’re saved due to the suit’s protection, it’s just going to elongate the pain towards death. Instead of stubbornly hanging on to life, I’d prefer to be put out of my misery instantly."
That silenced all future argument. After that, Bo Li was the next to remove her spacesuit, followed by Yuan Pin and Silewei. Hannah hesitated before finally, with a long sigh, removing hers.
The team continued to sit quietly, listening to the classical music, each immersed in their thoughts. A few minutes later, the shuttle’s broadcast started a countdown. The team strapped in their seat belts, preparing to lift off. As the countdown dropped to zero, the shuttle was shot out into space. In almost an instant, they were thousands of meters away from the Hope.
Communication between the shuttle and the Hope was lost due to the interference of electrical charges in the surrounding nebula. The Hope’s scanning technology wasn’t advanced enough to pierce through the nebula’s heavy static cloud. With the exception of a bluish glow that was visible to the naked eye, the Hope couldn’t see anything beyond itself.
Fidgeting with the communicator, Bo Li shook her head. "It is as everyone predicted: all forms of communications have been cut off. The multi-frequency communicator is still usable though, but without a hacker among us, it is practically useless."
Aleson chuckled in reply. "That’s fine too. We’re conducting an experiment, not a concert, so the Hope doesn’t need a live feed. They only need the results, and it is our responsibility to hand them one…" Sitting up, he placed his MP5 player on a nearby table and started assembling the necessary equipment.
Then, Hannah asked, "Professor Aleson, if you don’t mind me asking, is this score… the famed Final Second?"
Surprised, Aleson turned to meet Hannah’s curious gaze. His surprise melted into a smile. "Indeed you are correct.
"I remember the year was 2012 and the Mayan end-of-the-world prophecy was at its feverish height. Lots of doomsday cults started surfacing, and one of them did something that earned international infamy. In one of United States’ rural towns, a cult started a satanic ritual. Instead of appealing to God, in their twisted logic, they decided to sell their souls to the demons in the hopes that hell would preserve them from the Rapture. So they started going around killing babies and children as sacrifices to the Devil…
"One day, they captured a school. A thousand plus students were trapped within. Dousing the perimeters and themselves with petrol, the school was lit on fire…
"When the police and firemen arrived at the scene, the school was already a sea of fire. The flames deterred all forms of rescue efforts. But with children’s cries issuing from the flaming building, many firemen still risked their lives rushing headfirst into it. Process was slow. but one by one, the children were being saved…
"With only a few children left in the school, the building started collapsing. If the firemen continued their rescue efforts, chances were they would not make it out alive…
"At that pivotal moment, the leader of the fire brigade turned to the news reporter beside him and uttered into the camera a statement that I still remember to this day…"
Aleson smiled genially and continued, "‘The reason why we’re is because it’s our duty to be here… But that duty’s threshold stops before courting certain deaths, and many would agree, saying that we’ve tried our best… To that I say, is it not our duty as fellow humans to save each other’s lives? So please, let us try our best until the very final second!’
"With this brave leader taking the helm, another twenty eight firemen went back into the barely standing school. And they managed to escort the remaining eleven children out into safety. But at the final moment… the school unfortunately caved in, taking the twenty nine brave souls with it."
"Then Aleson lifted his head from his worktable and with tears rolling in his eyes said, "One of the eleven children that were rescued last was my grandson. He suffered from second-degree burns, but he thankfully survived. He is now a twenty-year-old university graduate.
"That is why this music score holds a special place in my heart. It is composed and performed by a world-famous orchestra in remembrance of the lives that were lost in that fire. It is, as Hannah said, called, the Final Second…"
Putting down his voltage testers and other tools of his trade, he declared, "It is our duty as scientists to stand here and find a new source of energy to save the Hope, but many say that as long as we lay down a clear set of directions, we needn’t be risking our lives. There are many less important interns that could be taking our places here…
"To that I say we shouldn’t be putting individual values on human lives, because each is equally important. While it is true that the Hope still needs our expertise and experience, and we are indeed categorically more important in that sense… is it not also true that we are the best guardians of hope for the remaining 120000 people? Everyone on the ship, my family included, relies on hope to keep their dreams and happiness alive, so is it not our duty as fellow human beings to keep that hope burning bright?
Aleson, who had been uncharacteristically mild and affable since he stepped on the shuttle, smiled kindly and said,
"I would like to invite everyone present to try our best until the very final second!"
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