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Age Of Cosmic Exploration - Chapter 41

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Chapter 41: A Hail Mary Bet!

Translator: LonelytreeEFT Editor: Lucas

At around 4:45 PM, the rescue mission was completed. The operation tallied a loss of three

hovercrafts, a total of two hundred soldiers, as well as one hundred plus scientists, technicians,

and engineers. These were valuable human assets. Therefore, it was without a doubt a big loss

for the Hope.

At the same time, finishing touches were being done on the Hope's last functioning shuttle. It

was being prepared to fly. However, that was not all that was behind the hustle and bustle on

the Hope. The spaceship's three nuclear energy generators had also kicked into high gear.

At this point, the Hope only had enough energy to initiate two more space warps. In other

words, around one third of its energy had already been drained.

Three space-suit-wearing men stood in the alcove of the hangar that housed this last shuttle.

They were Yao Yuan, Zhang Heng, and Jay. The weak flames of the cigars dangling from each of

their hands illuminated the bare faces of these harried men. Their appearance would not have

been noticed if not for Zhang Heng's constant coughing from trying to keep the cigar smoke

down.

Frowning, Yao Yuan advised, ’’Just give it a break, Zhang Heng. If you can't get used to smoking

cigars, stick to cigarettes. This is, after all, Jay's request. You don't have to go along with it if

you don't want to.’’

With a trembling hand that could barely hold on to the cigar, Zhang Heng surly replied, ’’I knew

that. In fact, what I wouldn't give for a bag of powder[1] right now. However, I have never tried a

cigar before in my life, so I thought I'd give it a go because, god knows, this opportunity might

not come again.’’

With a sigh that reflected their shared frustration and desperation, Yao Yuan went over to give

him a brotherly hug, and that communicated all that needed to be communicated.

Beside them, Jay said, with a hint of acid in his voice, ’’Yup, that's sad. Unlike me, you are a

lieutenant after all; why they would order you to accompany a criminal such as myself on this

one-way journey is beyond me. And to think I have avoided judgment by escaping into space,

how naïve I was... But how about you, Major, sir? You are the owner of this ship, its dictator so to

speak, so why have you deigned to join us on this fruitless journey?’’

’’I just want to complete the mission I've given myself.’’ Without looking at either Zhang Heng

or Jay, Yao Yuan glanced at the floor and said rather monotonously, ’’Everyone has to bear way

too many burden in life, but only cowards and weaklings run away from them. Because these

burdens are also one's responsibilities and sometimes even duties, they are not things that one

can simply discard...’’

Jay retorted sardonically, ’’That is indeed so noble of you, our mighty savior... It makes

criminals like me so shame-faced that I am so inclined to commit suicide to redeem myself.’’

’’How is keeping a promise one made a long time ago noble..?’’ asked Yao Yuan with a rare

kindness in his eyes. Then he took a long drag of the cigar but ended up choking himself and

hacking up a storm.

After his coughs petered out, Yao Yuan turned to look at Jay and Zhang Heng. With a sincere

tone, he said, ’’Don't think so highly of me. The amount of blood I've had on my hands will

easily detach me from the concept of the word 'noble.' Everything I do is merely to fulfill a

promise because that is a responsibility that I have made...

’’So, don't see this as being forced upon you... Jay, is it not the great American cinema that says

'with great power comes great responsibility?' Because let's be honest, we have all been gifted

with great powers following a recent event. An old friend of mine called this new generation of

human beings the homo evolutis. Of course, that having any scientific validity is another issue

completely, but it is undeniable that Zhang Heng, you have been granted the gift of divination.

You can foretell the arrival of danger. And Jay, your gift of psychological manipulation has been

enhanced, because let's honest, that is how you have managed to go undiscovered for so long. I

myself have the ability to see the projection of malice and I have heightened reflexes. Also, I

realized I have also been given the power of impeccable navigation, so that is why I will be the

pilot for this last shuttle...

’’Zhang Heng, you will be our alarm, so I want you to inform me whenever you sense danger

approaching. Jay, on the other hand... I'll be frank: you will be the bait. You need to convince the

heart of these plants to approach us. Those are essentially the only details of this mission. If we

survive, then Jay, not only will your previous criminal record be completely wiped, you will be

welcomed back into the Hope as its hero. I'll award you the rank of unit captain and you'll be

given a residence at the Barracks.

’’Zhang Heng, as a member of the Black Star Unit, it is your duty to complete the mission that is

given to you. But if we succeed, no one will look down on you anymore, and I promise you that

incidents like your little run-in with Ying will never be repeated again.’’

It was hard to tell whether it was Jay that was the sweet-talker or was it Yao Yuan, because Jay

had to admit that he was very much swayed...

Suddenly, from the depths of his childhood memories, a sentence rang out as clear as day.

’’Mom and dad, I'll grow up to be a hero! You'll see!’’

Jay took some time to recover from the unexpected trip down memory lane and then he

somewhat nonchalantly said, ’’Either way, I have no way out, so I'll do as you say. I'm just afraid

that if this thing you called gift of psychological manipulation is a dud, we would truly have a

hot mess on our hands.’’

That surprisingly caused Yao Yuan to laugh. ’’If that's the case, at least we could die happy

knowing we have tried our best... We would have the courage to face our families and lovedones

that are waiting down there...’’

’’Down there? I'm not going down there, I'd rather go up there,’’ replied Jay, who obviously

didn't subscribe to the eastern religions' idea of reincarnation.

Yao Yuan did not reply but instead turned to face Zhang Heng. The young man was shaking all

over; even the cigar between his fingers was vibrating beyond control.

Yao Yuan moved to give him a healthy slap on the shoulder and say, ’’Stop being so afraid,

Zhang Heng! I handpicked you myself to join the Hope, didn't I? In spite of you looking like you

were a sleazebag, a drug addict, and a nobody, I saw the potential in you! Understand that your

past doesn't define you, and I believe that under that shady appearance hid a courageous,

trustworthy young man. In fact, I have seen glimpses of this man a few times before. He

appeared when we went searching for your father and again when you appealed for the safety

of those women! So channel that courage within your heart, because I know it's in there! It's

time to be that man!’’

That speech injected a healthy dose of confidence into Zhang Heng and miraculously his

shaking stopped. In fact, a warm, fuzzy feeling started spreading all over his body. He felt

prepared to face the world.

’’Alright, it's almost five. Time to go!’’ With that, Yao Yuan slammed down his helmet and

walked towards the entrance of the shuttle. With an energetic gait, both Jay and Zhang Heng

followed.

The exact plan had already been hashed out after an intense discussion between Yao Yuan,

representatives from the Academy, and the rest of the Black Star Unit. The mission was

appropriately named Operation Hail Mary!

The three generators in the Hope would be simultaneously activated to support the initiation of

its anti-gravitational system.

After calculating this planet's gravity, the Hope would take about half an hour to rise to the

height of five thousand feet, that is if the plants that adhered to the ship haven't completely

drained it dry by that point... The success of the mission hinged on the difference between the

Hope having its energy passively drained and it actively feeding its energy to the plants.

As the energy output increased, the number of plants was expected to increase as well. When

the Hope lifted off the ground, the plan was to pull the plants along with it and hopefully, with a

strong enough pull, the heart of the plant could be lifted up into the surface. And that would be

when the shuttle would strike.

’’The shuttle only has two minutes because after that, its electrical circuit will fry and the antigravitational

system will be rendered useless. Therefore, we have to insert the virus into the

heart of the plants and return to the Hope within these fateful two minutes, or else...’’

Yao Yuan sat in the pilot seat and took a deep breath. Then he told Jay, who sat beside him, ’’So

your mission is very important. You have to manipulate this heart to appear within two

minutes. I don't care how you do it; create as ludicrous a lie as you want, just make sure the

target appears in two, no, scrap that, one minute. And if you fail, then we will be unable to

return to the Hope, and even if we can, the Hope will be stranded on this planet forever...’’

’’Okay, stop!’’ Jay slapped his own face, hoping to snap into focus, then he yelled, ’’I can't stand

that much pressure! Even when I participated in college football, my coach didn't pressure me

so much...’’

’’Then change that pressure into motivation!’’ yelled Yao Yuan in return before pulling the

engine lever. Sparks flew across the hangar as the shuttle slid across the rails with an incredible

speed...

Like a burning arrow, the shuttle shot out of the Hope and into the dark!



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