Contrary to before, Yao Yuan felt submerged in a pool of tranquility.
He was still completely conscious of the fact that nothing had changed. He was still aware that man was dealing with technology that was at least one thousand years ahead of their time!
Things could have so easily been catastrophic because his operation had forced man into survival within a space in which man’s knowledge had no handle over. After all, their understanding of the cosmos at this time was only elementary, or even juvenile and erroneous. The margin for disaster was disproportionately high and so was its corresponding sense of anxiety.
To borrow an analogy, imagine an action movie scene where the hero is trapped inside a room where the water level is slowly rising and the hero’s only way out is to wait for his teammate to come to his rescue1. Just imagine the hero’s feelings of consternation as the room fills up and his fear regarding when and if help will ever come!
Everyone on the Noah Two was in that water-logged room, but their fear could have been even more intense! At least while the water was rising, there was a moment to make peace with one’s eventual drowning, but in space, there was no telling what might be waiting to strike next! And often times, the most fear-inducing thing was the unknown…
Since the plan had started in that shop basement, Yao Yuan had been telling himself to not be afraid. This was something he had repeated time and time again many years ago to her. He would never be afraid again because he was determined to be brave on her behalf…
However, when they were actually in space, as the captain of the Noah Two, having the lives of twelve million people on his shoulders had barely given him any chance to breath. Ever since they had secured the Noah Two, Yao Yuan had been thrown into a continuous rotation of responsibilities such as conferences with scientists, strategy meetings with military officials, supply allotment discussions, and maintenance to managerial obligations, not to mention maneuvering the barbed situation that was interpersonal relationships. He did all of this while maintaining four hours of daily sleep…
Each of these responsibilities carried a heavy load. Combining all of it, the pressure would have been emotionally and psychologically staggering. If it were somebody other than Yao Yuan, the individual would have been crushed!
Yao Yuan, despite all odds, endured because twelve million wasn’t just a number; it represented his mates, his promises, and his dreams, but most importantly, it represented the last hope for humanity…
From the other Black Stars’ perspectives, Yao Yuan was a calm, collected, trustworthy, fair, and acute superior as well as a friend. With him on the battlefield, every challenge would eventually be overcome… However, what they failed to realize was that at the end of the day, Yao Yuan was a man, a man with his own insecurities and fears, but because he was the face of leadership for twelve million attendees, he had to maintain a persona! A persona that exuded confidence and steadfastness, a sigil for hope and survival!
Therefore, Yao Yuan had to conceal his mounting dread and anxiety to keep them away from the public front. For the sake of humanity, these insecurities would forever remain in his personal collection for his eyes only…
That was until he found himself floating within that starry landscape made up of seventy-three fluorescent light sources. While he was unable to measure his distance from them, he knew subconsciously that if he were to reach out, they would be within reach…
That proximity though was a gap that, try as he might, Yao Yuan couldn’t cross. There wasn’t a physical connection, but the emotional link was strong. Yao Yuan could vicariously feel the emotions that the others were experiencing and he found that the ones most reflected in him were the feelings of loneliness, anxiety, and abandonment.
As the link became more pronounced though, these negative sensations were slowly eroded. While initially each of the stars shone in their own pockets of darkness, they gradually refracted and reflected off of each other until they were finally shining in a dazzling crescendo. Even without verbal communication, a shared experience was formed and the loneliness was washed away by a torrent of serenity. Yao Yuan felt protected and peaceful like a child in his mother’s arms and he was lulled into a deep, restful slumber.
When Yao Yuan awoke, he found himself surrounded by people in hazmat suits, some of them writing on their clipboards. Unhurriedly, Yao Yuan surveyed his surroundings. He was in a small, enclosed room with sparse furnishing which he identified as one of the Noah Two’s isolation chambers.
He also realized that all over his body were needles connected to various graphs as well as a drip. He could see that beyond the closed door was a sterilization pathway, but that was as far as he could see. He was unsure whether there were guards beyond it, but he could somehow tell that four black-star guards were on duty there. And from the lack of commotion, it would seem Ol’ Wong had the Noah Two under control.
Yao Yuan slowly arose unto a seated position. His sudden movements shocked the attending agents so much that they jumped back several steps. Yao Yuan regarded them silently. Unloosing his sore body, he asked, “How long has it been since I fainted?”
The initial shock of these hazmat-wearing personnel was quickly crested over by excitement. They frantically talked over each other through the suits’ communication channel, and it was only after a few seconds of such frantic exchange that they cooled down and the leading young man reported,
“Major has been unconscious for twenty four hours. Within that timeframe, the authority has been busy applying Major’s order for quarantine. So far, three hundred and ninety-two people, including you, Major, have been quarantined, but…” The man hesitated.
Yao Yuan urged, “But what? Has something bad happened? Continue with your report.”
After giving it some consideration, the man resumed, “Because the news of a virus came too suddenly and because of the need to organize a quarantine task force, we were seriously understaffed. Therefore, Lieutenant Wong had to issue martial law. Diagnostic outposts have been erected within the more populated areas, meaning the lowest three levels and the residential campgrounds, for the past two days. The increased security and precautions have people worried.”
Hearing that, Yao Yuan felt like a load had been taken off. The situation was much better than he anticipated. It was, in his mind, probably the best possible outcome.
The issuing of martial law and general apprehension were acceptable; those could be rectified if given some effort and time. What he was afraid of was a riot because they weren’t on earth, they were inside a spaceship, a highly pressurized and volatile enclosure. If there were riots, and especially army instigated riots, things would have easily spiraled out of control. No one would be able to contain the destruction. Therefore, everything was indeed better than expected!
“And how is my body’s condition? Has there been a diagnosis on the contagion?” asked Yao Yuan.
Flipping through his clipboard, the man answered, “Of the three hundred and ninety-two people who were quarantined, forty-three were fatal. The rest are still in coma. Major is the first one to have awakened. And so, with Major’s permission, we would like to conduct more tests on your body, but regarding the contagion… that’s the weird part. We are unable to locate one. From tests conducted on all the patients, none of them had or carried any unknown virus. The reports all state that they are in fit physical condition. There is no explanation as to why they are in a feverish coma. All of the medicine that was issued appeared to have no noticeable effect. I’m sorry to report this, but Major, we were unable to identify any pathogen.”
After that, the man gave Yao Yuan a deep bow. This familiar posture made Yao Yuan’s grimace turn into a frown, but the frown lasted only a moment; before anyone had noticed it, it was gone.
“Your report was incredibly detailed. Are you the director for the pathology committee?” Yao Yuan asked casually.
The man deferentially replied, “I’m Mitsuda Saburo, and I am indeed the lead pathologist. But this ordeal has been ignominious; I have failed to identify the pathogen and to issue the necessary treatment. After this operation is over, I’ll voluntarily hand in my resignation because I’ve failed as the director of this committee.”
A lot of things passed through Yao Yuan’s mind right then. Although he had issued the order to select Asians to form the majority of Noah Two’s civilian base, to be fair, he had not limited it to only Chinese. They had also included the Japanese and Koreans. The fact that the three countries these nationals were from were also the most advanced Asian countries was a lucky happenstance and an easy excuse for him to skim over survivors from countries like India and Indonesia, whose citizens couldn’t provide an equal level of sophistication and refinement.
Other than important committees like the committee of astrophysics, physics, chemistry, and biology, whose directors were handpicked by Yao Yuan, the leaders for the rest of the committees were nominated and selected by each respective group. Yao Yuan already had so many responsibilities in his hands that he didn’t have the time to delve into such politics. In any case, the directors of these committees had to have track records that would be convincing enough to satisfy the rest of their colleagues. That was why Yao Yuan didn’t expect this Japanese man before him to actually be the lead pathologist. He didn’t foresee that the arrogant Caucasian pathologists would be willing to swallow their pride to appoint a Japanese leader. To be able to force them to do just that, this Japanese pathologist must have been mighty impressive at his work.
“That is unnecessary. You can remain as the director since none of the other pathologists could find the contagion either. It’s not fair to let you alone shoulder the responsibility.” Mid speech, Yao Yuan moved into a more comfortable position. “Okay, now your team can start with the body tests, and remember to conduct a biochemical analysis as well. Also, could you contact Lieutenant Wong? Tell him, I need to speak with him.”
While one of the team members left to grab Guang Zhen, the rest carried on with their tests. After a few minutes, Guang Zhen’s voice came through the room’s intercom. “Ol’ Cap’n… I mean, Major Yao Yuan. Wong Guang Zhen standing at duty!”
While he kept his body still for the pathologists to do their job, Yao Yuan replied, “Lieutenant Wong, until I’m released from quarantine, you will continue as acting captain. And I have three orders: first, terminate the martial law as it’s no longer necessary; second, connect me to central communications for I wish to address the whole of Noah Two after the tests in here are completed; third, order all navigation departments to chart the way toward that planet but move at a speed with the lowest possible energy consumption…”
“That’s all, over.”
- The original analogy was a man trapped inside a room thrown into a lava pit. The anxiety coming from the unknowable moment the walls will be melted by lava. I did the change because I don’t think any known material on earth that could be constructed into a room could be thrown into lava and survive more than 1 minute. Swapping it retains the original meaning, but personally I think this is more logical.