19.87% Age of Cosmic Exploration / Chapter 95: Trial and Test Flight

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Chapter 95: Trial and Test Flight

Translator: Lonelytree Editor: Lucas

When Yao Yuan returned from Zhang Heng’s welcome back party, he realized that Barbie had left him reports on the day’s trial in his room. It was a report that detailed the first day proceedings of the Hope's first trial on ‘Crimes against Humanity’.

It was a given that the case was going to have an extended trial, but Yao Yuan could already predict the result… It was unlikely that the death penalty would be served. The reason why the House of Representatives requested the trial be had in the civil court was that they didn’t want the Hope to have a bloody precedent for such cases. It reflected the citizens’ fear of the government being tyrannical, and Yao Yuan understood that fully.

Even though multiple instances had shown that having a democratic process may not be 100 percent conducive for survival, the people of the Hope preferred the separation of power between the military and the political sides. The Hope relied on a firm and tight leadership to see the light of another day when it came across dire situations, but in the grand scheme of things, how often would they came across such situations? Therefore, most of the time, they preferred the Hope be run by a consensus of the majority, because then everyone would have a say in the discussion. As long as there was no ridiculous legislative amendments, Yao Yuan also felt that this was the perfect mode of governing for the Hope.

Because of that, the citizens had a fairly conventional approach to the punishment that should be meted out against the defendants on trial, and the representatives they elected shared the same view.

Yao Yuan sighed in relief after skimming the report. Even though the result of the trial hadn’t been concluded, he was sure the defendant would at most face 20 years of incarceration. In fact, he believed that the defendant would be acquitted of "Crimes against Humanity" and be charged for assault and battery or destruction of public property instead, since with the "Crimes against Humanity" charge being dropped, the court would be able to skirt around the death penalty.

To be perfectly honest, even though the trial had grabbed hold of the entire ship’s attention, it was a minor distraction for Yao Yuan. He was more concerned with the junkyard the Hope was heading towards.

"Thankfully, Zhang Heng has woken up. His presence will help the upcoming exploration immensely. The problem now is… Jay."

Yao Yuan sighed inwardly, but he wasted no time to linger on the subject. After his night rituals, he undressed and climbed into his bed. 10 seconds later, his breath stabilized as he fell into a deep slumber.

Early next morning, Zhang Heng, escorted by several nurses and a doctor, arrived at the rehabilitation center. He was there at his doctor’s behest. The injuries he suffered had been predominantly mental, but since the brain and the body were inextricably linked, they had manifested themselves as physical complications. Thankfully, they weren’t serious, and his doctor believed that Zhang Heng would make a full recovery after 15 visits to the rehabilitation center.

To his surprise, Zhang Heng met one of his old friends at the center. It was Ebon, the Black Star Unit’s own heavy gunner.

It was not shocking to find Ebon there, since he spent two hours at the center daily ever since he was fitted with a mechanical leg designed by a group of Japanese and American electrical engineers. The mechanical leg returned to him the simple mobility he had lost from the amputation on Planet Sahara, but he was no longer as agile as he once was.

As a soldier and a member of the Black Star Unit, that was a weakness that he would not allow himself. A leg that might trip him over during missions, that was unacceptable!

Therefore, Ebon had been trying his best to familiarize himself with his new leg. He still had some ways to go before he would reach his original agility, but he was already speedier than normal recruits. In fact, if Ebon didn’t lift up his trousers, no one would suspect he had a mechanical prosthetic.

"Come on, Zhang Heng, man up! Stop hanging on to the nurses like you’re their baby. If I can do this on my own, surely you can too," teased Ebon, in his signature booming voice when he saw Zhang Heng come into the room. He slapped the machine beside him, indicating to Zhang Heng that he should try walking there himself.

Hearing that, Zhang Heng reluctantly released himself from the nurses’ hold, but as soon as he did so, he felt the floor giving away under him, and one second later, he found himself kissing it. Thankfully, the soft, corkwood flooring softened most of the fall. Ebon waved away the nurses that came forward to help as he walked over to Zhang Heng. Extending his hand, Ebon said, "Get off the floor, it’s not the time to sleep. The boss is afraid you’ll be like this, so he has ordered me to keep an eye on you. You’re not going to slack in my presence. Come, let’s get to work."

Zhang Heng was thus forced into a training routine by the two-meter-tall personal trainer. Before long, as he got into the rhythm, he managed to even find enjoyment in the pain, reminding him of his previous military training days. At noon, Zhang Heng was so wasted that he had to be dragged to the canteen by Ebon.

As both men wolfed down their lunches, Zhang Heng suddenly asked, "Ebon, do you remember the two close guards that escorted me back to the ship?"

"If I’m not mistaken, it was a man and a woman. The rest I’m not so sure. Why?" Ebon replied, after taking a thoughtful bite of his food.

Zhang Heng could feel heat rising on his face, but he replied as nonchalantly as he could. "It’s nothing important, I just want to thank them personally for saving my life."

"Nonsense," said Ebon as he smacked Zhang Heng heavily on his soldier. "According to your logic, then wouldn’t the whole ship-worth of people, including myself, need to line up to thank you personally because you’ve technically saved all of us? Nonsense, it was their mission to escort you back to the Hope. They would've faced punishment if they had failed to do so! You’re a soldier, don’t be so sentimental!"

Zhang Heng could only repeatedly nod his head and agree, because he would rather die than reveal his true intention to Ebon. Even though they would trust each other with their lives, certain sentiments were not meant to be shared amongst men.

Furthermore… (Ebon is a known blabbermouth. Telling him is similar to telling the whole ship. Where would I hide my face then?) Zhang Heng frowned deeply, and the food he kept shoveling into his mouth to keep up the appearance started to gain the consistency of bland paste… (Wait, I can remember hazily her thanking me for saving her brother that was trapped in the third floor. Perhaps that’s the way to go.) Zhang Heng knew that it was easier for him to go and look through the close guards’ database than doing it the roundabout way. After all, there were almost 2,000 survivors from the third level, and most of them were male, but there were only 200 Black Star close guards, and among them was less than 40 females.

There was, however, one obstacle that stood in the way. Zhang Heng had been part of the Black Star Unit for almost a year, so he was privy to the existence of a pair of prying eyes that lurked within the ranks of Black Star Unit… A member of the Black Star Unit himself, the pair of eyes reported directly to Yao Yuan. Even though its existence was common knowledge, no one knew of his actual identity, Zhang Heng suspected that not even Guang Zhen knew who this person was. Maybe the person was Guang Zhen himself, or Ying, or Ebon, or even someone who had passed away on Planet Sahara.

Therefore, even though Zhang Heng could use his rank as a lieutenant to go through the required database, he would be instantly found out by Yao Yuan… It was true that he would not be committing anything illegal, but for a security-sensitive body like the military, his transgression would be hard to explain.

(After all, I just want to thank her personally. It’s better not to involve anyone else…) With that awareness in mind, a plan slowly formed. No one would think twice if he went through the files of non-military personnel. Furthermore, with his position as the lieutenant, that could be easily done. He just needed to find an opportune time… With a plan at the ready, Zhang Heng rejoined Ebon to clean up the rest of the food.

While Zhang Heng was recovering at rehabilitation, the trial on "Crimes against Humanity" came to a close. It was as Yao Yuan expected, neither charges of "Crimes against Humanity" nor assault and battery stuck.

In the end, the defendant was sentenced to five years in prison for crimes against public security and the destruction of public property. As for the rest of his gang, some got acquitted and others got one or two years of jail time.

Reporters who got the trial’s firsthand news quickly returned to the newsroom where the trio of Xiao Niao, Qiu Qiu, and Dan Dan already sat waiting.

"Finally, it’s over. I’m going to miss it though because thanks to it, the sales for the papers has been great," said Qiu Qiu as he read the sales report with a cigarette dangling from his lips.

On the other side of the table, munching on snacks, Dan Dan sighed. "That’s true. Sadly, the sales number is most probably to going drop back down."

"No, no, no," teased Xiao Niao after he took a deep draught of his cigar. Holding a similar sales report, he added, "There will be more stories if we go out to find them. We’re in the news business, aren’t we? Sitting here is not going to help us get anything done. Plus, did you two forget about our new roles?"

His friends looked at one another before asking in unison, "What new roles? Millionaires?"

"No, we’re the government’s spokesperson, or rather, its official media outlet,"

Flicking the report in his hand, Xiao Niao added, "And as the media, we have to be in tune with the public’s psychology. Haven’t they been talking about the spaceship junkyard? So let’s write stories on that…

"Plus, aren’t they going to perform test flights on the shuttles that will later be used to explore the junkyard within the next few days?

"Report that!"

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