“Someone answer me! Why did the anti-gravitational system stop working?” thundered Yao Yuan before the rest of conference room. This was the first time Yao Yuan had been so forward with his anger outside of being with a Black Star member. Normally he would reserve a certain degree of deference before the Hope’s scientific community.
Before the operation, he had considered all the risks it entailed and enacted contingency plans warding against the possibility of a corrosive atmosphere. He also carefully considered the loading limit of the shuttle and even dangerous encounters with aliens. However, he failed to foresee his plan being trounced by a malfunctioning future-tech system. He found it difficult to forgive himself for such a gross oversight!
Yao Yuan knew the risk involved when he ordered the dispatch of the expedition party, so he had mentally prepared himself for reports of casualties similar to how he had accepted it when a few of his comrades fell in their initial search of the spaceship. The philosophy was that sometimes sacrifices needed to be made in order to achieve victory. This was heavily reflected in the Black Star Unit’s motto: for glory or for death!
However, there was no glory in death caused by neglect and carelessness. It was due to his lapse as the commanding officer that his men would have to pay with their lives! This was no sacrifice, this was a waste!
Standing at the podium, Yao Yuan enunciated his directive with force and clarity. “All the necessary data has been transmitted. People, I know that what I’m asking is difficult to fulfill, but we are running out of time. Down there we have eight scientists, twenty plus elite agents, and four lieutenants whose lives depend on the shuttle’s supply of oxygen which will run out in eight to ten hours. I can’t stress this enough: these are human lives waiting to be saved and we are running out of time.”
The room Yao Yuan was addressing was full to the brim with astronomers, physicists, biologists, meteorologists, and basically all people of sciences that were related to space travel. They stood ready to heed Yao Yuan’s orders. The same could be said about the team of technicians that had packed another conference room. Through the use of a video feed, they too were waiting on Yao Yuan’s commands.
“I’ll keep things simple: there are only three questions that I need answered. One, how could the faulty mechanism pass through initial inspection? Two, what is the reason for its malfunction, and is there a way to fix it? Three, outside of repairing the anti-gravitational system, are there other ways available to rescue the expedition party?”
After he said so, Yao Yuan planted himself on the stage, explaining, “I’ll be waiting here for updates. Go do whatever needs to be done to answer these three questions, especially the last one. People, down there are our kin and they need our help. These thirty-two lives are too precious to be lost, and they’re counting on you to save them!”
Time on the Hope slowly trickled away. The twelve million people on board all knew about the fate of the expedition party. They were still alive but only for another eight to ten hours before their oxygen ran out. Within that time frame, the Hope had to figure out a way to reach and rescue them, or they might never return again…
It was now one hour and twenty minutes since the crash-landing…
In the biology lab…
“…no, no, no. These are just pictures; if magnified under the microscope, what you’re getting are pixelated images. Damn it!” growled Saburo, punctuating his frustration with a punch on the metal desk. His disgruntlement was shared by his assistants as well as other biologists in the room.
It was their assignment to confirm whether any dangerous pathogens existed in the planet’s air. It was a hard task because they literally had no idea what they were looking for; no one knew what alien microbes or viruses looked like. Were they bioseston1 or tripton2… and if they were tripton, should they consider the possibility of them being non-carbon based existences, such as a type of silicon-based organism? The cosmos was so gigantic that there could be lifeforms with various biochemical make-ups, and they needn’t all necessarily be carbon-based.
Mankind, along with most of the organisms on earth, is structured with a carbon-based biochemistry. That’s why we rely on digestion and absorption of carbohydrates, which are chemically organic compounds of oxygen, hydrogen, and carbon, for the energy to survive.
However, it is not only carbon that can carry biological information. Like carbon, silicon can create molecules that are sufficiently large to sustain life. This is why silicon-based lifeforms are common features in science fictions, but who can affirmatively say that such organisms can’t be found in space? The silicon-based biochemical make-up doesn’t need water or oxygen to function, so even though the planet’s arid atmosphere is not conducive for the breeding of carbon-based viruses, who can be certain it doesn’t contain silicon-based microbes?
This was the predicament facing Saburo and his team of biologists, pathologists, and epidemic prevention experts. Their knowledge of alien microbiology was too limited to form any worthwhile analyses. Furthermore, what they were given were air sample analysis results and a few pictures of the air particles; they had no access to an actual sample. How could they come up with any significant findings without conducting a full field analysis?
Behind Saburo, a fair Caucasian sighed. “Let’s just own up to the major. With what we have now, it’s simply impossible to proffer a conclusive result.”
A dark-skinned pathologist added, “That’s true. We’re scientists, not psychics. How could we tell whether there are pathogens in the air based on a few pictures? This is a fool’s task. Let’s just go and explain our situation to the major, sir.”
This sentiment was picked up by a few other people in the room. They were in agreement that the assignment was simply too demanding… Yao Yuan’s show of unfettered fury today had shocked the scientific community, so they hedged their bet on being honest with their complications early rather than bear the brunt of his fury after much dallying and still coming up empty-handed by the end.
Another slam on the table squelched the seed of disavowal. Saburo uttered, in a simmering growl, “No! This is thirty-two lives we are talking about… I will not have their blood on my hands because of our laziness! This is why I’ve studied to become a pathologist, to give people a chance at survival. I will not back down, not this time…”
He turned around and regarded his subordinates with almost enmity in his eyes, saying, “Help me contact the major. Tell him I wish to access the central mainframe and I need him to initiate its root program, the one that was said to be connected to the anti-gravitational system, multi-frequency communicator, and space-warp system, the one that’s operating all the future-tech systems…”
It was now one hour and fifty minutes since the crash-landing…
In the physics and anti-gravity analytics laboratory…
Ever since the physicists found out about the anti-gravity manipulators on the Hope, they had been conducting numerous experiments on them, trying to decipher their theoretical functionalities. Even though man could build these intricate machines, their theories, physical bases, and production mechanisms were still unknown. When it came to these machines, it wasn’t actually building but rather reconstructing them from schematics that were already there. Man’s understanding of these machines was so lacking that even a simple change in size could lead to a faulty product.
The gravity manipulator wasn’t a blocky engine like many expected, it had the appearance of an electrical circuit. It snaked around the carapaces of the shuttle, hovercraft, and spaceship and was barely noticeable if one didn’t go purposely looking for it.
The purpose of this special laboratory was to dissect the theories and applications behind this mechanism. If they could figure out how it operated, man’s understanding of physics would be improved by leaps and bounds!
At this time, about ten physicists and numerous lab assistants were busy analyzing the data transferred over by the shuttle. A set of gravity manipulators was placed in the center of the room to offer a practical understanding of the data.
It was a long but thin strand of complex mechanisms, barely fitting in between one’s fingers. It wrapped around the area cordoned off for gravitational experiments like an abstract, futuristic mural. Underneath its rubber wrapping was a series of conductors which would convert electricity into gravitational force… When viewed in the context of man’s technological progress, it was something akin to a miracle.
Hanging his head in defeat, a wizened senior physicist sighed. “This is impossible… we can’t possibly conclude why the system broke down if we are given such a short amount of time. To do that we require many more simulations and much more time… We will have to inform the major. It can’t be helped…”
As he made ready to leave the room, a female voice rang out beside him.
“It’s electrical resistance…”
The source was Bo Li, one of the women Zhang Heng had requested to save. Due to her background as a physics doctorate student, she was recommended a position in the lab by the employment committee. Since her time there, she milled about her work in a cocoon of silence, so no one had expected her to speak up then.
Since she had uttered those three words though, everyone had their attention trained on her, many of them with open shock at her audacity to speak out of her place. A few other assistants were even walking over to escort her out of the room.
The leading physicist, however, requested her to repeat herself. “What did you just say? Explain clearly. What is it about electrical resistance?”
Bo Li was unused to having so many people’s focus on her and she could feel the initial shock of some of her colleagues turning into anxiety and even envy. She felt like shrugging them off with her usual silence, but right then, she felt a sudden burst of inspiration flow through her, charging her through her speedy elaboration,
“Because the system uses electricity to simulate gravity, it will have electrical resistance. That resistance is usually monitored and countered by the automated system. However, if there’s a foreign interference that causes an unaccountable rise in the electrical resistance, for example, something like an alien force field, then the system would be dampened in its overall output. The resistance could be strong enough to neutralize the gravitational force discharge. The fact that the shuttle’s computer reported a functional system despite not creating an effective gravitational force to support levitation is in support of this analysis. I believe electrical resistance could be one of the reasons why it isn’t working…”
By the time Bo Li went through her analysis, the fit of inspiration had left her, reverting her back to her normal, inconsequential, quiet self.
The lead physicist frowned through Bo Li’s explication and a few minutes after she finished, he issued a series of quick commands. “Lower the voltage of the experimental manipulator by five hundred points, and then crank the numbers! Repeat the lowering by five hundred volts for each successive test! Quick, get to it! People, don’t just sit there; we don’t have the time to waste!”
While the rest of the room fell into action, the lead physicist approached Bo Li. “Are you a new trainee? Very nice work. What’s your name?”
“It’s Bo Li…” she replied detachedly, barely lifting her head to respond to her superior.
“Bo Li? I have not heard of the Bo surname before; is there even such a surname? No matter. Again, very nice job. If your analysis is correct, I will send a request to the Major to promote you to an official physicist… You know, you might have just saved the lives of the thirty-two people down there. And not only that, if your finding is legitimate, then it could help us land the Hope on that planet!”
His excitement was infectious as he powered on. “If it really was an issue with the voltage resistance, then the Hope, with its store of nuclear energy and the extra energy circuits added as a contingency plan before the space-warping incident, could bypass this problem. We could generate more than enough voltage to override the resistance!
Listen to me! You might not only be the savior for those thirty two people but the savior for us all!”
- Living constituents of seston. Seston being minute material moving in water. It includes both living organisms and nonliving matter.
- Suspended nonliving debris in a body of water.