Age Of Cosmic Exploration - Chapter 34
Chapter 34: Smoke and Mirrors
Translator: LonelytreeEFT Editor: Lucas
Sitting in the hovercraft, Yao Yuan was feeling incredibly down; there was even a shred of fear
How could he have forgotten to contact the Hope? And it was not only he alone; the whole fifty
plus member crew had forgotten as well!
This was where the fear sprung from. It was tolerable if only a small handful of people had
forgotten this important detail, because humans weren't robots with photographic memory.
But to have all fifty plus of them lapse on this information...
That was scary!
It seemed implausible, but Yao Yuan concluded that they were all somehow lulled into this
forgetfulness. How else was one going to explain this weird phenomenon?! Then again, Yao
Yuan thought to himself that perhaps it was trauma from their brush-in with the skeletal
flower that had pushed the need to contact the Hope out of their minds.
Yao Yuan kept going back and forth between the two arguments. He deeply believed that there
was a malicious force at hand that had dulled their memory, but he couldn't find any actual
evidence of such a threat. And perhaps that was the biggest threat of all...
As the chinese idiom goes: it is easy to dodge the spear in the open but hard to avoid a stab in
the dark. It was always the hidden attack that would prove to be the most fatal. And Yao Yuan
just couldn't shake the feeling of being observed.
(Calm yourself down, Yao Yuan. It's no use crying over spilled milk. You need to clear your mind
and slowly go through the clues again.)
Heeding his own advice, Yao Yuan took a deep breath. The pure oxygen siphoned into his
helmet had a strangely calming effect as he started revising everything that had happened.
First, about one month ago, the Hope spotted this terrestrial planet. It was also the only planet
the Hope could reach with its limited supplies and technology.
Then, the Hope charted its way towards this planet. In that period, the ship was ravaged by a
mysterious virus, killing one hundred and two of the total five hundred plus patients.
This virus left as suddenly as it came. After the initial wave of sickness, there were no diagnoses
of similar cases again. Treated as one of the cosmos' many mysteries, the incident of Virus X
had since been relegated into the central mainframe's historical storage.
After that, the Hope successfully entered the planet's orbit. To gather initial surveillance, a few
automated probes were released onto the planet. The data gathered wasn't complete enough to
warrant a landing of the Hope, so Yao Yuan dispatched an expeditionary team which comprised
of Ying, Ebon, Liu Bai, and Zhang Heng as well as some soldiers and scientists.
The lackluster performance of the probes was to be expected because they were inferior to
actual galactic probes like the ones used on Mars.
The reason for this was simple: their creators were, to put it simply, slim pickings after the
governments had done their rounds. They were not specialists; there were only a few handfuls
of them that had contact with space technology before this. Naturally, their proficiency would
grow with practice and time, but for this first planet, their creations were understandably less
For this reason, Yao Yuan had convinced himself and the Hope that an expedition group was
necessary... Personally, he felt that the ship needed hope from a successful operation, but now
he started to have doubts.
The Hope's storage of energy would allow for four additional space-warps. Their cache of
supplies and the sixth floor biomes could provide enough sustenance to ensure at least ten
years of survival for the twelve million people in space, a period that could be drawn out with
The point was that the Hope wasn't in dire need of landing. It would actually be more beneficial
to use the extra time to conduct a more thorough analysis of the planet. He shouldn't have been
so rash in his decision to dispatch the expeditionary unit and to order the landing. But weirdly
enough, when these momentous decisions were made, even with Yao Yuan expecting it, there
were no voices of objection from the Hope's citizens. It was as if the whole of the Hope was of
one mind, and that mind was Yao Yuan's...
(Could this be the source of the problem?!)
Yao Yuan sat up straighter in his chair. He was suddenly reminded of an operation he was given
years ago. It required him to assassinate an international spy. Due to the mission's covert
nature, only Yao Yuan and the female leader of the Hidden Dragon squad were involved. The
two of them were hot on their target's trail, but at a pivotal point, they were diverted off track.
It was thanks to a coincidence that they managed to complete their mission. It was only after
the target was eliminated that Yao Yuan knew that the spy was incredibly well-versed with
psychology and hypnosis. Through the use of colors, words, conversations, and even interior
design, he could subtly implant suggestions in people's minds, swaying them into making
He had learned from the spy something called self-serving bias. Even when man was found to
be in the wrong, he would be reluctant to admit mistakes and would instead twist the reality in
such a way that the mistakes were found to be logical and intended. Yao Yuan had discovered
that this psychological bias could be enhanced through suggestions. It was like what was
happening to him then; instead of admitting that he had made some impetuous decisions, he
kept telling himself that the moves were necessary because the people on board needed to
witness immediate action and hope...
In other words, could it be that he, alongside the twelve million on the Hope, were under the
influence of hypnosis?!
’’Connect me to the Hope,’’ ordered Yao Yuan as he sprang up from his seat.
Call it a coincidence, but at that moment, the panel that indicated a communication from the
Hope beeped. Yao Yuan quickly grabbed the communicator and asked, ’’What's happening, Ol'
Wong? Why the sudden need for communication?’’
In an uncharacteristically frantic voice, Guang Zhen explained, ’’Ol' Cap'n, we've stumbled into
In an unceasing stream of information, Guang Zhen relayed to Yao Yuan every worrying report
that he had received. The Hope's service team had found some type of green organisms
attached to the ship's underbelly. They were rapidly draining the Hope of its reservoir of
energy. Furthermore, the geological surveillance unit had reported stumbling across similar
green organisms. They said that these green organisms appeared to be only attracted to the
drills' metallic parts. They also added that when the organisms finished draining the stored
energy, they would start digesting the metal itself. Through some unknown process, the
digested material would be converted into sand... In other words, when the organisms finish
sucking the Hope's energy dry, they would start feasting on the Hope itself!
The thought of that prospect had Yao Yuan shivering with dread. The Hope was literally the
hope of twelve million people! If they were stranded on this planet... there would only be death!
And not death of old age but death by the hands of those creatures! After losing the Hope's
protection, it would be a matter of minutes before the twelve million people were completely
The thought of that harrowing scenario spurred Yao Yuan into asking, ’’How about those
monsters? Other than the green organisms, have there been sightings or attacks from those
’’That is indeed the weirdest thing. I've not received any such reports from the Hope's patrols
nor from the geological surveillance unit,’’ answered Guang Zhen.
These green organisms, probably the planet's flora, consumed electricity and metal to produce
The planet's fauna, on the other hand, had a highly corrosive bodily fluid and an unfettered
desire for water...
Yao Yuan swore that there was a link tying these two facts together... A link that could perfectly
explain why the planet was completely covered with sand, why the whole of the Hope was so
hasty in their decision to land on this planet, and why the alien creatures hadn't attacked the
Hope and the geological encampment... The insight was deliciously close, but every time Yao
Yuan felt close to understanding it, it floated away...
In the meantime, on the other end of the communicator, it sounded like Guang Zhen was
getting briefed on another report. After about ten seconds, Guang Zhen added rapidly, ’’This is
bad, Ol' Cap'n. That was the latest report from the geological unit. After the green organisms
finished their work on our drills, they fell off and disappeared underground. Soon after that, the
camp was attacked by alien monsters. The accompanying army has constructed an emergency
garrison, but they won't hold out much longer. The reports of deaths and injuries are
increasing. What am I to do now? Should I send out reinforcements?’’
With that information, Yao Yuan could see everything falling into place; he could see the big
picture now. Calmly, he called into the communicator, ’’Hold the reinforcements. Tell the
geological unit to pour all the water they have into the ground. After that, have everyone wear
their space helmets and retreat. Make sure no one carries any water with or on them. Do not let
them open their helmets until after they have reached the Hope. Remind them to move fast!’’
Yao Yuan paused before adding, ’’Ol' Wong, are you familiar with the concept of the hive mind?’’
At the other end of the transmission, Guang Zhen was busy relaying Yao Yuan's orders. Being
asked such a question apropos to nothing, he answered somewhat confusedly, ’’You mean like
with bees and ants?’’
’’No... never mind then. Remember to tell the Hope's biologists to stand at the ready. After an
autopsy on this alien carcass, everything will be clear, and the mystery of this planet will be
And if I'm not mistaken, these green organisms...’’
Instead of examples from natural world, the author used human example like workers' union.
The meaning is the same: referring to group consciousness.