Age of Cosmic Exploration – Chapter 10

Night mode

The Rescue!


While Alan was frantically collecting the papers scattered all over his table, behind him a blond-haired lass barged in and yelled, “Quick, dad! Those people are reaching our block soon!”


Without lifting his head, he replied, “Coming, Jas, I’m coming. By the way Jas, have you seen that paper I wrote on the collision between a high density object and the sun? It has all those statistics and data on it. I remember distinctly putting it here somewhere…”


This girl, whom we now know as Jas, ignored her dad’s sounds of protest and forcefully dragged him out of the room. The situation was dire, she couldn’t care less about some paper or statistics! The pair tumbled their way through the house and out onto the lawn. She was pulling him onwards like a luggage while he was lugging a suitcase. But, once out, they charged through the garage and jumped into the car. As his daughter started the engine, he started to mumble, “Gone… It’s all gone now…”


Jas had not seen his father so distressed before and she was frankly quite afraid herself, but she knew she had to take charge for both of them then.  As she drove down the road, she turned to console her dad, “No, dad. Not everything’s gone… We’re still alive, aren’t we?”


“Alive? No, we aren’t alive! We’re basically the walking dead! Because… well… the world’s ending…” As those words left his mouth, all his spirit seemed to have left as well. He sat dazed, staring blankly at the sun. The sun that had given the world warmth, the sun that had given the world life and in eight months’ time, the sun that will also have given the world its end…


Despite being only in his early fifties, Alan was already by then a world-renowned astrophysicist. By that time in his life, he had already achieved many great things that many people would have spent their whole life chasing but still wouldn’t have gotten.


His wife, God bless her soul, had left the world quite some time ago, but had left him with a beautiful, sensible daughter. Overall, he had felt blessed. His life was wonderful, or as he liked to put it to himself, life was like his daughter’s cooking, it wasn’t by any means spectacular, and certainly can’t rival those of the five-star chefs, but it was about the taste of home, the taste of love and those were Alan’s favorites…


Unfortunately, that blessing went up in smoke quite drastically and it could all be traced back to the year 2027 when news of the discovery of an alien spacecraft by the US government appeared. Alan thought it was some kind of April’s Fool joke, so he was delightfully surprised when he found out about the very real space-warp experiment. It could be the discovery of his lifetime and thus had tried many ways to insinuate his way into this project. However, his asset that usually worked in his favor, his age, turned out to be his downfall. The position that he wanted was already given his more experienced rival, an astrophysicist that enjoyed the same amount of success and fame as he did but was favored because of his seniority. Of course, his rival’s Nobel Prize also tipped the scales against his favor.


This incident had Alan fuming for almost a year, but seeing that there was no other option, he decided to assemble his own team to conduct his own analysis using information that he would gather by pulling strings and favors. However before his plan could even go into its first phase, the world had taken a turn for the worse.


First was the disappearance of major players around the world and then were the whistleblowers who leaked information like the fact that the disappeared personnel had actually escaped earth using warp technology. The reason cited for their desertion was a neutron star fragment that was plummeting towards the solar system, or more precisely, its center.


Neutron star? Fragment? Those two don’t link. And how could it have suddenly appeared, and is charging towards the sun? If there is such a thing, there would have been massive reporting before then because a galactic entity doesn’t just appear out of thin air.


Therefore, it would be safe to say Alan was incredulous, but as more evidence and data surfaced, he started to have doubts. The one evidence that truly convinced him though was a satellite picture taken of the fragment. Being an expert in this field, he could discern real news from fake news, and the hurtling death star was very real. As his university and his team of researchers collated data and findings, their result was devastating… None, not a single soul would be saved, if we’re still within the solar system, humanity, no, the world would be wiped out!


After he got the result, the world started to descend into madness and anarchy. Despair had a chokehold on the world and people started to look for catharsis or in this case, scapegoats. Eventually, the army got involved but by the end, the army had twisted beyond their responsibilities to the public, they were just bullies with guns.


Under those circumstances, Alan and his daughter made the decision to leave the city and move to a more rural area.


However, the countryside wasn’t much of a solace. People with similar idea migrated there en masse, and following them were the terrorists, and the ugly cycle of mayhem, murder, rape, and sin perpetuated and continued.


 Hearing a light knock on the door, Alan opened his eyes to the interior of a decrepit cabin. He quickly sat up before powerlessly crumbling down onto the wooden pallet he was lying on. Seeing that, a girl with a head of hair that was barely noticeable to be blonde under its heavy make-up of mud and dirt rushed before the man, and worriedly asked, “Dad, are you okay? What are you doing up? Quickly lie back down, you’re still running a high fever… Dad, I want to tell you something. I’ve found a potato farm, there were some rebels nearby so I didn’t dare get close, but I’ve decided to sneak in later tonight and scavenge some potatoes for us.”


Alan was ready to lie down but hearing that, quickly straightened up, “NO! I forbid you from going! Did you forget what we saw a few days ago? Those rebels aren’t human, those are animals. That poor girl was only twelve, and she was chopped and roasted before being eaten! So no, you will not be going anywhere tonight!”


Recalling that memory, Jas paled considerably, but then Alan started to hack his lungs up which steeled her determination. As she moved to take hold of Alan, she said softly, “Don’t worry, dad. I’ll be fine. I won’t actually go to the field. I’ll just hide myself in the drain that encircles the field. We know they have no supply of electricity left, so under the cover of the night, they won’t able to spot me. I’ll just dig some potatoes from the side and hurry back… Dad, we have not had food for almost three days, we can’t survive on water. I could probably hold out for a while more but you’re sick, dad. You have to eat something soon!”


Hearing her daughter’s determination to proceed with her thoughtless plan, he so wanted to dissuade her, his anxiousness made his coughs worse. And between coughs, he could barely get his words out before Jas added, “Dad, I’m a big girl now! You can’t tell me what not to do! I’ll sneak out and maybe you won’t even know it.”


Alan finally slowly regained his breath, but it was like the sickness had taken all the fight out of him. The usually eloquent university professor could barely form a cogent sentence before fatigue claimed him. As he fell out of consciousness, he managed, “then I’m going with you. Two pairs of eyes are better than one. I won’t let you do it alone…”


Watching his father’s sleeping profile that had gotten drastically gaunt over the past twenty days, bitter tears couldn’t help tumbling out of Jas’ eyes.


Later that night, Alan indeed put his words into action and forced himself upon Jas. Jas was afraid for her father who might wander out alone when he noticed she was gone, so she had no choice but to bring him along. Because of his condition, who knows where or who he might stumble into.


After a harsh journey and two hours later, the pair finally found themselves by the potato field. It was as Jas had said, without electricity and hence flashlights, the area was in complete darkness. With only the weak moonlight to shine the way, one could barely see the things that were 2 feet before oneself. Jas ordered his father to rest himself on an elevated bank, while she scrambled her way into the drain. Slowly, she waded her way through and eventually found her way up onto the periphery of the field.


Suddenly, sound of metal jangling started to go off. It turned out Jas had accidentally tripped on the wire that the rebel had circled around the field as a sort of a primitive alarm. Following the metallic jangles came the hooting of a gaggle of men. Jas was frozen in shock while Alan was barely in his senses by then.


“Looks like we have a fresh catch tonight, boys! And it’s a beauty too… Oh, honey, we’re going to savor you, don’t you worry about that, doll. Now, go get her!”


The one issuing the command was a fairly large man. When he saw Jas sprinting her way out of the field, he lifted his rifled and let loose a shot. Jas let out a painful yelp before she went down, excruciating pain radiating from her calf. The sound his daughter’s cry energized Alan and he picked his way to his daughter’s side within seconds and immediately cocooned her in his arms, using his body to shield his daughter from more shots.  


“Oh… Looks what we have here, boys. She brought along her sugar daddy… Honey, don’t worry. I promise you, we’ll treat you much better… And don’t worry about this old bag of bones, his dead body will keep the fire warm and going while we take care of you.”


When this group of rebels about ten in size appeared in Alan and Jas’ sight, Alan could identify any traces of humanity left in them. Their words, action and mannerism exuded devilry, these were devil’s hell-spawns!


“Daddy, I’m scared,” sobbed Jas into her father’s chest. She put on a brave face but she was only a girl of eighteen, whom barely a month ago, had boys chasing after her coattails. Life was beautiful then, but now… she found herself crying in her father’s arms, each of those tears breaking her desperate father’s heart.


Alan, a man of science and thus normally not of faith, prayed the hardest he had ever been then, “God… If you’re listening, please have mercy… Please just spare us, spare my daughter.”


The leader of the group trained his rifle at Alan’s head and then a gunshot rang out. It was however not Alan’s head that was blown off but rather the leader’s own. Before anyone else could grasp the situation, another series of shots rang out. Of the ten something rebels, almost half of them fell dead on the spot. The rest overpowered, surrendered their weapons and laid down on the floor in repose, not daring to twitch even a muscle.


Then, a ray of light shone out from a distance away. Alan and Jas stared blankly at this ray like deer caught in headlights. Not long later, from behind the light appeared a small troop of men in army fatigue. Alan noticed that they appeared clean, not one spot of dirt on their uniform, but more importantly, mentally collected. They consisted of Caucasians, African Americans, as well as Asians, and their leader seemed to be a forbidding Asian man.


This man looked condescendingly at the subdued rebels before scrounging a notebook from within his uniform. On it was a picture of one Professor Alan Potter. After making some side-by-side comparison between it and Alan who was still on the ground, he gave a small bow.

“Nice to meet you, Professor Alan. I am second lieutenant Ying, you may refer to me by my post or directly by my name. In any case, it is an honor to meet you. I was ordered to locate and extend an invitation to you to join our government. We desperately need someone with your expertise and knowledge in astrophysics. If you were pleased to accept, I will escort you back to our base where you will receive the protection and treatment that are more suitable to your position. We will also provide you with the necessary equipment and sufficient space to conduct your research and experiments. We also hope you will be willing to head an academic group on astrophysics that we had established.”


Alan was dazed by the show of civility, even though it had barely been a month, it had been so long since he had heard words uttered with such propriety that he couldn’t form a response. It was until the man who introduced himself as second lieutenant Ying started to frown that he blabbered, “Yes, right, I accept! Yes, I’m Alan Potter, and this is my daughter, Jas! We do need your protection and help, and, do you guys have transportation, because my daughter got her leg shot, so she might not be able to travel far distances, and so she also needs immediate medical attention!”


Ying gave Alan a rare smile. As he supported Alan up, he simultaneously waved over one of the African American soldier, “Give this miss some rudimentary treatment before we depart,” turning to Alan he added, “Don’t worry, we’ll give her the full treatment when we get aboard the aircraft, and we will find you a doctor as well, because Professor, you seem to be a bit weak on your feet too. We will ensure that you and your daughter have the rest and medication you need.”


Alan gave this group of people one more look, he was handing his and his daughter’s lives to them after all. They all had the standard configuration and their uniform seemed to be the standard issue for US military… they do appear to be what they claim.


Right then, Alan could hear sounds of propellers and feel gust churning around them but in the darkness, he couldn’t ascertain what exactly has arrived, his best guess was a helicopter. And since this group of people could afford to deploy air-force like choppers, they would seem to be actual, disciplined, organized body of military…


Having that confirmation, Alan finally relaxed and as the adrenaline wore off, fainted.


What he failed to notice though was Ying calmly giving orders to the rest of his group to execute those rebels who were already begging for mercy.


“Ol’ Cap’n’s plan worked like a charm. In times like these, people, or at least those that were still sane wanted nothing more than order. If we were to project that, people would gladly come to us, works much better than kidnapping them directly unto our care…”


After Ying reflected upon that, he turned to address the rest of his troop that were already at attention, “The rescue mission was a success, get onto the hovercraft, we’re reporting back to base.”


“Sir, yes, sir!” the soldiers answered in unison.


Almost forty hours later, Alan gradually regained consciousness. What greeted him was a clean and sparkling white ceiling and an equally white and fluffy quilt that was covering his body. He also managed to take in the fact that he was put on a drip and Jas was lying on a similar bed a few distance away. She was awake, humming along to some music streaming through her ear buds, while reading a novel. It was as if the experience of the past month had been washed away along with all the grime, and Jas had reverted back to the girl that she was before all the terrible things started.


Alan didn’t have the heart to disturb his reading daughter. He merely rested his eyes, savoring this joy and contentment that he thought he had lost forever.


Because he had it taken away from him once, he knew how precious then this slice of joy actually was. It didn’t matter there were only eight more months left, it didn’t matter what this government wants him to do… he swore he would do everything within his might to safeguard this joy!


Author’s note: Yet another 4k update. Swt [the emoji], I’m really working myself to the bones here. It has been only a few days, and I’ve already written a few million words. So thank you again to all the supporters of this book.

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