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22.8% Age of Cosmic Exploration / Chapter 109: Music Box

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Chapter 109: Music Box

Translator: Lonelytree Editor: Lucas

The retrieval of the alien object was successful. There was no accident.

Nevertheless, the object was handled with extreme care.

First, the extra metallic debris that was stuck to the object was peeled off and set off to the side. Then, a layer of plastic cover was wrapped around the object to prevent it from being exposed to outside air since there was no telling what reaction it might have with airborne microbes and viruses.

After that, it was deposited into a small, glass chest which was then tightly sealed. Lastly, it was taken into the shuttle and secured among the shelves. Care was taken to ensure it wouldn’t fall off the edge or knock into other stuff.

"Collect the peeled metallic pieces using the mechanical arms and then we’ll return to the Hope," Yao Yuan ordered, in a low and weak voice. Keeping multiple superhuman abilities open had put an insurmountable amount of pressure on Yao Yuan’s well-being, but he still tried his best to focus as he steered the shuttle back to the Hope.

Heavy with everyone’s prayers, the trio on the shuttle returned safely to the Hope. Even before the shuttle door opened, they could see that a spacesuit-wearing crowd had gathered around the hangar awaiting their return.

As the trio stepped gingerly off the cabin, the crowd separated into 2. The larger party rushed instantly into the shuttle to box and transport the collected metallic planks, while a small run-off of the larger group went to secure the glass chest. So much attention and care was given to the chest that one would think they were handling a newborn baby.

On the other hand, without removing their spacesuits, Yao Yuan, Zhang Heng, and Ying followed the smaller of the two parties to a miniature, vacuum isolation chamber. After that, they had to walk through a microbial disinfectant bath. Only then could they remove their spacesuits.

"Good God, this is annoying! Do we have to do this every time we return from space?" grumbled a tired Zhang Heng.

Yao Yuan nodded lightly. "Yes, it is troublesome, but unfortunately necessary. These steps have to be taken until the Academy comes up with a powerful antibiotic… but I don’t think we will live to see that happen."

Ying stood beside Yao Yuan without a word. As Yao Yuan finished, he took advantage of the break in conversation to add, "If there’s nothing more, I shall go take my rest."

Yao Yuan nodded at Ying before turning to Zhang Heng. "You should go rest as well. Even though the pressure from using a passive skill is less demanding than an active one, I’m sure you’re tired as well. Go take a good rest, because things are going to get hectic for the next few days."

Zhang Heng yawned as Ying took his wordless retreat. "Okay then, Captain. Now that you’ve mentioned it, I do feel drained. Weird, it doesn’t feel that way when you’re actively using the power." Zhang Heng bade Yao Yuan goodbye before turning to follow Ying.

Yao Yuan was left behind with the group of people that they had followed. To be frank, Yao Yuan wished to trade places with Zhang Heng or Ying because he was definitely more tired than either of them. However, since he was not only the leader of this expedition but also of this ship, he didn’t have that luxury.

"How’s the surveillance on the junkyard?" Yao Yuan asked as someone handed him a folder.

That someone was Barbie. Dressed to the nines in a revealing, lace dress, she replied professionally, "The 24 hour surveillance on the junkyard didn’t reveal any development worth noting. And this here is a proposal written by a group of scientists."

"Huh, a report by Bo Li?" Yao Yuan asked no one in particular when he saw the name on the cover. Then he started to read in earnest.

The more he read, the deeper his frown. According to the proposal, the Hope was way too close to the junkyard. It was only 1,000 kilometers away from the junkyard’s outer perimeter, and more worryingly, only 1,000 and several hundred kilometers away from the bigger spaceship pieces within it. The Gaussian weaponry invented by Bo Li’s team could easily penetrate the Hope’s walls at this distance, so one could imagine the damage that could be wrought if they were assaulted by laser or plasma weaponry.

The safest distance provided in the proposal was… more than 10,000 kilometers away.

Even though Gaussian bullets would only take 10 seconds to traverse a distance of 10,000 kilometers, the great distance would drop its accuracy to almost 0. Granted the Hope’s massive body wouldn’t be able to evade the bullets easily, that wouldn’t matter when the bullets couldn’t even connect in the first place.

The proposal elaborated that high precision triangulation was needed for long-distance combat in space, and unless this ruined civilization had access to advanced technology like a photon computer, they would be safe a distance away. Furthermore, even if they had a photon computer, it would have been ruined or pillaged in the midst of its downfall. The proposal decided on a 10,000 kilometers distance on the grounds that a homing system on stray missiles wouldn’t be efficient enough to strike its target accurately that far away.

"10,000 kilometers, is it?" echoed Yao Yuan as he mulled over the findings of the proposal.

The upgraded shuttle could travel at a maximum speed of 10 kilometers per second in zero-gravity. It would take about 15 minutes to cross 10,000 kilometers, but taking into account acceleration and deceleration, that would increase to about 20 minutes.

"Alright, I’ll approve of this proposal. Send this to the engine room, tell them to move the Hope 10,000 kilometers away from the junkyard. Is there anything else?" Yao Yuan queried.

Barbie shook her head before adding, "There is nothing else at the moment, but I do need to remind Captain that you have a meeting scheduled at 3 PM. It will be about the external cabin."

"OK, noted," Yao Yuan said as he glanced at his watch. Nodding, he added, "Then I shall take a rest before then. Please wake me up at about 2.30 PM. However if there’s any update on the junkyard, the metallic planks, and the small alien object, do wake me up immediately."

"Okay," Barbie replied as she wrote into her datebook. Finished, she looked up and smiled. "Then I shall wish you a good rest, captain. Sweet dreams."

Yao Yuan chuckled lightly. He then lugged his tired body to one of the nearby electromobiles to get back to his chamber. He started snoring the moment his body hit the bed.

At the same time, a series of biochemical tests were being done on the spaceship’s metallic planks and the small, mysterious object. This testing, which was overseen by Mitsuhara Saburo, was carried out to ensure that these alien objects didn’t contain harmful microbes. The result was negative, but nevertheless, to be safe, Saburo decided to conduct a life experiment using a ZH lab rat.

The rat showed no visible difference to its activity after 1 hour of close enclosure with pieces of the spaceship metals. The pathologist finally concluded that there was no harmful microbe on the two alien objects.

"… Isn’t this to be expected? These two things have survived in space for god knows how many years. Even if there were microbes in the beginning, they would have been long dead by now after such a long exposure to a lack of light and air," whispered one of the interns, taking a jab at the pathologists’ extra cautiousness.

To his shock and consternation, a pathologist heard him. Without raising a fuss, the pathologist merely whispered back, "And how do you know what form these alien microbes would take? The fact that the cosmos could create life is already in itself an enigmatic miracle. None of us know where the limit of evolution lies. Even the smallest crack on Earth could contain never-before-seen organisms, much less in space. Maybe there is a type of organism that could survive solely on solar radiation. We can’t afford to be too careful, young man. The lives of 10,000 plus people and not to mention the whole human civilization depends on us. We must be as thorough as we can be."

The young intern nodded obediently in silent shame. After the pathologist walked away, his mouth turned up in derision, but he wisely kept his thoughts to himself as he sauntered over to the experiment tables.

"We’ve confirmed that there is no harmful microbe or bacteria on the alien objects. The life experiment confirms this observation," Saburo announced to the rest of the group.

The group was made up of scientists from diverse fields, ranging from psychics, kinetics, and energy to biometrics. They greeted Saburo’s news with applause. Suddenly, a sing-songy melody cut through the thunderous claps.

Everyone froze to follow the melody. Their eyes finally fell upon a glinting, metallic sphere. The sphere was the size of a child’s balled up fist. It was lying in the middle of its shed shell and it was the source of the melody.

And a soft, melodious tune, not unlike a child’s humming, filled the lab…

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