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Age Of Cosmic Exploration - Chapter 26

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Chapter 26: THE ENCOUNTER!

Translator: LonelytreeEFT Editor: Lucas

It was now six hours after the crash-landing...

Yao Yuan was still seated at the conference room stage, waiting for news from the expedition

party and results from the scientific community. Until now, he had been busy parrying requests

from the Hope's several academic committees, some of which he allowed, like the one who

requested access to the ship's central mainframe.

The person who issued that curious request was the man standing before him now, the head

pathologist, Mitsuda Saburo.

Saburo gave Yao Yuan a deep bow as he approached the stage to report his findings. ’’Major, my

team has ascertained that the planet's atmosphere doesn't contain harmful microbes or

viruses. I am, however, regretful to inform major that we are still unable to identify the

mysterious gas that makes up eleven percent of its atmosphere. What we were able to find out

though is that the gas is indeed non-poisonous, which leads us to happily conclude that this

planet's air is breathable by man and it will not bring about any adverse effects.’’

Frowning, Yao Yuan inquired, ’’How is it possible that you could come to that conclusion? Didn't

your team report that the assignment was impossible because you lack an actual air sample for

analysis?’’

’’That much is true; we are indeed devoid of an actual sample,’’ Saburo answered, ’’but with the

help of the central mainframe's impressive computing capability, the photos that were beamed

over were restored to their original resolution. Looking at those pictures was no difference

from looking through a microscope. After comparing those air particles to that of Earth's, we

came to a safe conclusion that there are no harmless viruses nor pathogens in the planet's air.

Also interesting to note is that the air's incredibly dry... we could barely find one water

molecule!’’

Yao Yuan silently contemplated the lead pathologist's report. Thinking his report was being

challenged, Saburo stared earnestly back at Yao Yuan. Saburo's focused gaze reminded Yao

Yuan of his encounter with Ning Bo Tao and his ability to read projections of malice. It was his

desperation to save his comrades that had moved him into that superhuman state. It was

entirely unconscious, but now he couldn't help but wonder whether he could tap into that

power consciously...

(Could the key be imminent danger? Like how I felt my senses tingling right before the shuttle

malfunctioned?)

Yao Yuan pulled himself up and walked around the stage in circles a few times to walk off the

thoughts that started to crowd his mind. Others in the room mistook this action as Yao Yuan

mulling over whether it was safe to call off the time restraint since the survival of the

expedition party was no longer limited by their oxygen supply when in fact Yao Yuan was

considering whether it was possible to simulate situations of imminent danger to induce the

superhuman experience.

After a few more minutes of ambling back and forth, Yao Yuan planted himself back unto his

seat with a loud sigh. It was his understanding that fear of imminent danger was ingrained in

man's physiological response. Unless through means of self-hypnosis or infliction of mental

manipulation like paranoia, it would be impossible for man to conjure a feeling of imminent

danger at will...

’’Okay, thank you for your effort, Professor Saburo. You and your team have done a splendid job.

I'll relay your findings to the expedition party. They will be glad to know that there's no danger

of running out of air. Please go and enjoy a well-deserved rest. Again, I would like to express

my gratitude for you and your team's incredible effort.’’

Yao Yuan stood up once more to shake Saburo's hand before proceeding to thank each

individual member of his team personally.

Saburo could feel a heavy load lifted from his shoulders, and so did the rest of his crew. Their

efforts had paid off handsomely, but more importantly, their labor had saved people's lives...

Saburo was particularly relieved because he had found repayment and satisfaction at the end of

his perseverance.

(Shiro, Hanako, mom, and dad, I promise you I will not disappoint you, because I know you guys

are watching over me...)

After the group of pathologists and biologists retreated from the room, Yao Yuan slumped back

down on his seat. He had requested for updates every ten minutes, so he was well prepared to

intercept delegates from the Hope's various academic bodies. What he wasn't prepared for was

to have the conference room swamped with one hundred plus members of the different physics

committees.

The physics committee was an umbrella term for all the various committees dealing with the

subject of physics. Some examples include the astrophysics and apex physics crews. The fact

that all the members of the physics committees with their respective leaders would congregate

at the conference room was no small deal. Yao Yuan quickly stood up to greet them because this

could only mean that they came bearing news regarding the shuttle's anti-gravitational

system.

After a rudimentary consultation, Yao Yuan asked, while frowning, ’’You mean to say that a shift

in the electrical resistance of the gravitational system was the reason for the shuttle's

malfunction? Even if that's true, it is of no use to them because for one, they have no

knowledgeable technician, and for another, they have no tools to conduct the necessary

modifications. Furthermore, I will not risk landing the Hope on that planet on the basis of a

hypothetical theory.’’

Silewei, the acting resident professor of the physics unit, offered, ’’If that's the case, we could

perform the necessary modifications on another shuttle to test the theory. If the modified

shuttle shows that it is indeed the electrical resistance that interfered with the anti-gravitation

system, then we could safely land the Hope because this spaceship can support a high enough

voltage discharge to override any disturbance of resistance.’’

Yao Yuan gave the suggestion some thoughts before agreeing with it. ’’Okay! The physics

committees are allowed free access to all the resources you might need to proceed with the

modification. But I want it done fast because even though we have ascertained the relative

safety of this planet's open air, there's still the eleven percent that's unidentified. We need to

reach the scouting party as soon as possible.’’

The committees quickly launched into work as per Yao Yuan's orders. A shuttle had its antigravity

manipulator removed to be fitted with the suggested modifications.

However, things didn't end up going as smoothly as expected because even though the Hope

had twelve million people, none of them had experience with spacecraft construction, much

less someone with ample experience capable of tinkering with gravity-manipulating

technology.

That was why it had taken the relevant personnel more than ten hours to complete the

modification. What was worse was that the modification was only a rudimentary one; the

dangers that it could entail were a worrying unknown...

Operated by a few volunteer soldiers, the second shuttle slowly ejected from the Hope. As it

drifted towards the yellow-colored planet, it had the attention of everyone on board the ship. It

was possibly more intense than when they had watched the departure of the first shuttle, for

even though it was equally dangerous, this second shuttle carried with it the hope of them

landing on the planet... The hope for their future...

As the second shuttle worked its way through the ozone layer, somewhere on the planet was the

stranded expedition party. At this moment, all thirty-two of them, still in their spacesuits, were

fast asleep.

It had been twenty hours or, according to this planet's time, one day and two nights since they

had landed. Without any food and water intake since they arrived, it was less of a sleep for most

of the party but rather a blackout. According to Liu Bai's analysis, if they were to spend yet

another twelve hours in such a barren environment, they would be facing serious dehydration,

and twelve more hours on top of that would only lead to death!

Making things worse was the fact that the shuttle's store of energy was completely depleted.

This was because the anti-gravitational system and the communicator consumed exceptional

amounts of power. Other than the fuel reserved for igniting the rockets, the shuttle's reservoir

of energy was hitting rock bottom. The anti-gravitational system, the inner heating system,

and the communicator had all powered down. Other than the sonar that relayed their location

to the Hope, every single electrical appliance in the shuttle was non-operational.

It was safe to say that things were not looking well...

All of a sudden, Ying's, Zhang Heng's, Ebon's, and Liu Bai's eyes shot open and they sat up from

their sleeping postures. It was a mystery to them as to why they had suddenly awakened. They

were physically spent, but somehow their mental states were heavily agitated right then.

’’Tut, tut...’’

A series of light taps pierced through the pregnant silence. The sound was so light that it was

barely discernable, but the four were able to tell that it definitely came from beyond the

shuttle's entrance.

The four exchanged glances and each could feel chills traveling down their spines. No one had

the courage to articulate what was on their minds; even the normally loud and brash Ebon was

struck silent. After some time, Ying said, ’’Rouse the rest of the crew. We have to go out and see

what made that sound.’’

’’Is that really necessary? It was probably the wind sweeping the sand against the shuttle's

shell. It's not even light yet; let's just stay in here instead of wasting our time,’’ said Zhang

Heng with forced cheeriness.

Ebon ignored Zhang Heng and went ahead to wake everyone else up while Liu Bai whispered to

Zhang Heng, ’’That can't be done. As the vanguard unit, we have the responsibility to scout

ahead, and this includes... ascertaining the presence of alien organisms. I'm sure you've heard

of the main ship's rescue mission; if they've confirmed it was electrical resistance that

weakened the anti-gravitational system, the Hope will proceed to land here. There are thirtytwo

of us and twelve million of them... For the greater good, we must leave the comfort of this

room.’’

At this time, the twenty soldiers had roused themselves and started to sort out their weapons

while the remaining eight scientists were facing difficulties collecting themselves. These men

of science were not trained to endure such harsh conditions, so after twenty hours without

sustenance, they were already at the early stages of debility.

As Ebon led the way, he was followed by Ying, then Liu Bai, and then the rest of the soldiers, the

frontline squad moved towards the shuttle entrance. They were trailed by Zhang Heng, who

was visibly reluctant to move from his position. After positions had been taken, Ebon kicked

down the door, training his assault rifle at what laid beyond it.

And beyond the door was... nothing but a darkened desert. The weak light shining from within

the shuttle revealed nothing but sand and more sand.

Everyone was sharply relieved, but even so, Ebon remained extremely alert as he led the way

out of the shuttle door. Following him were the soldiers, Ying, and Liu Bai.

They came up with nothing after checking their surroundings for rogue prints in the sand.

’’Looks like Zhang Heng was right after all,’’ admitted Ebon with a chuckle.

After hearing that, the remaining soldiers gradually let down their guards. One of them was

Chen Wei, who was particularly close to Ebon. Chen Wei walked up to Ebon's side, chiding

laughingly, ’’You sirs are too strung up sometimes.’’

At that moment, Zhang Heng, who was just stepping out of the shuttle, yelled, ’’Watch out!’’

Before anyone could respond, a few brownish, metal-like needles shot up from underneath the

sand. They bored through the space suit and dug right into Chen Wei's body, lifting the

unfortunate soldier into the air. Within the short span of two seconds, Chen Wei's body was

mummified before everyone's shocked eyes...

His bodily fluids had been drained instantly!

Connected to those deadly needles was a seven-by-four-meter-sized monstrosity that was

shaking itself loose from the sand. The thing was paper thin, and with its coppery shell, it had

the appearance of a metallic object. It had no visible appendages or exterior organs like a mouth

or eyes other than the metal-like needles that grew out of its circumference.

The creature appeared to have become sluggish after its feast. It remained motionless after its

attack on Chen Wei with the exception of the central part of its flattened body, which started to

balloon up. It continued to expand for several seconds before deflating. As it deflated, about ten

creatures similar to it but much smaller in size scurried out of its underbelly.

These mini creatures leaped towards the party with surprising speed. In almost the blink of an

eye, a few of the creatures stuck onto the two foremost soldiers. Even though attempts were

made to swat them off, they adhered tightly to the spacesuits before lodging their needles into

the victims within.

Compared to Chen Wei, these two soldiers had the unfortunate pleasure of experiencing a slow

death. Amidst violent struggles and earsplitting screams, the two soldiers shriveled up while

the creatures attached to their bodies grew bloated at an alarming rate. While the carnage was

happening, the other creatures swiveled past the claimed victims, throwing themselves at other

fresh kills.

’’Fire! Fire!’’

Ying's call to arms shook everyone out of their stupefaction, then everyone started unloading

their guns. There was no time or thought for neither scoping nor targeting; bullets were being

sprayed aimlessly. It was a race for survival!

This was mankind's first encounter with an alien lifeform... and it certainly wasn't going to end

well!



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