Age of Cosmic Exploration – Chapter 30

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Search and rescue

 

“Aligning the Hope to suitable planetary track. Preparing to enter the planet’s ozone layer. Initiating third ship inspection…

 

“Inspection completed. Every installation accounted for. Initiating third data analysis…

 

“Data analytics completed. All operations normal. Beginning the Hope’s descent in thirty seconds. Counting down: thirty, twenty-nine, twenty-eight…”

 

Under the Hope’s central mainframe’s guidance, the ginormous spaceship began its decline onto the desert planet. The descent was slow with the support of the anti-gravitational system. This was to prevent the creation of high friction between the ship and the ozone layer, thus lowering the risk of the Hope crashing into an alien planet.

 

Residing in central command, Yao Yuan was busy taking in updates that were pouring in and issuing his corresponding orders. Naturally, these orders were discussed with and approved by technicians and scientists in order to bring the best performance of out of the Hope. Essentially, Yao Yuan was only there to read out the required orders at the right times.

 

“Initiate the first and second nuclear energy generators. Idle the third.”

 

“Captain’s order…”

 

As Yao Yuan sped through his list of orders, the Hope glided closer and closer to the planet’s surface. The view of solid land attracted the twelve million people on the Hope to their nearest cabin window. It had been quite some time since the people aboard the Hope had seen solid ground. As the sea of burnished sand rose up to greet them, the general air of excitement hid an undertow of consternation.

 

The second shuttle had landed on the planet about three hours ago. According to the data they received, an increase in electrical voltage could verily counteract the weakening of the anti-gravitational system. This meant that it was entirely possible for the Hope to land on the planet.

 

The issues of landing the Hope had been subsequently churned out in an emergency meeting among the ship’s scientific community. A small margin still rejected the need for landing because they maintained that there were too many unknowns regarding the planet. It could be incredibly dangerous. Nevertheless, almost ninety percent of the scientists voted otherwise. In their eyes, being a space fortress, the Hope was their best defense against the planet’s threats. Furthermore, should the need arise, they could abscond from the planet using the anti-gravitational system because they had worked out the kinks that prevented it from working before. Their priorities should be to rescue the stranded members and dispatch an environmental survey unit. It was instrumental to know whether the planet housed valuable mineral supplies since minerals like uranium were pivotal to the Hope’s survival.

 

All things considered, the scientific community had agreed upon the need to land. Yao Yuan had announced the ship’s plan to land since then and they were now finally touching down on the planet.

 

“Thirty minutes are required to prepare for lift off?” Yao Yuan requested for confirmation as he went over the information that was handed to him by the ship’s engineers. This data was compiled after the engineers had done the necessary evaluation on the Hope’s energy circuits and reservoir.

 

Because of its size, the accumulation of energy that was needed for levitation would always be a thorn in the Hope’s side. There wasn’t a field big enough on the planet for the Hope to gather sufficient speed for lift off. Even with the use of rockets, the propulsion force wasn’t strong enough to support the Hope in vertical ascent. The only viable method was through the use of the anti-gravitational system. That was why Yao Yuan had been hesitant about landing the Hope for quite some time. If disaster were to befall the anti-gravitational system, the twelve million citizens of the Hope would be condemned to life sentences on this planet.

 

Even though they had figured out the solution, to create a spike in the ship’s voltage output still required quite a bit of time since it involved a series of voltage converters.

 

The engineers’ evaluation reports confirmed that more than thirty minutes were needed for the Hope to charge the voltage needed to override the resistance from the planet. For some reason, Yao Yuan felt an overbearing need to memorize this number of thirty minutes to heart. After that, he shifted to another report.

 

This other report was by a group of geologists. It was regarding the planet’s surface compression. From the data given by the two shuttles, they managed to conclude that the landing locations for the previous two shuttles were unsuitable for landing the Hope. The sand layers were comparatively loose around those two locales, so they might not be able to support the Hope’s weight.

 

They had, however, identified a spot suitable for landing. It was one hundred and seventy kilometers away from the two shuttles. The geologists banked on this spot’s higher altitude to signify that it had a firm underlying layer of rock.

 

Another item on the report was a proposal to send out an underground probing party once the Hope landed. This would help ascertain the location’s geological structure more clearly, thus preventing unnecessary geological disaster. It would also help in analyzing the planet’s geological features and isolating mineral veins as well as water sources. In conclusion, a firmer understanding of the planet’s formation would be gained… After all, such an anomalous desert planet didn’t appear out of thin air. There were many mysteries in space, but as creatures of logic, humans believe that everything can be explained through logic, and this desert planet should be of no difference!

 

Truth be told, Yao Yuan had pretty much no clue on how to read the scientific reports handed to him, because he had had no scientific training. Nevertheless, he had a quality the scientists had found to be incredibly worth respecting and that was his willingness to listen. Just like how his men paid attention to him on the battlefield because he was the expert in combat and warfare, he felt it was his duty to extend the same amount of deference to the scientists in their fields of expertise.

 

As Yao Yuan scrutinized the reports, he had a sneaking feeling that hiding within the pages was a disaster waiting to happen, but try as he might, he couldn’t locate it. After all, landing something that was the Hope’s size in a desert terrain did warrant an immediate geological survey. Despite his nagging feeling of dread, it was entirely logical. And thus, after much deliberation, he approved the proposal but not before issuing an accompanying injunction where the probing team had to be accompanied by three hundred armed soldiers…

 

This proposal of desert drilling had attached with it a list of needed logistics. The amount of equipment and supplies asked was negligible because the Hope had quite a big hoard of those from its days on earth. What had Yao Yuan worried was the list of staff it required.

 

The list requested for three hundred plus engineers as well as one thousand and five hundred mining workers. This would be the first time a group of this size would be leaving the Hope in one go, and if something were to happen…

 

Fearful of their safety, Yao Yuan scribbled over the three hundred and wrote five hundred instead. With a sigh, he slumped back down in his seat, waiting silently for the Hope to touch the ground. His train of thought rounded back again to his sense of guilt.

 

“Ying, Liu Bai, Ebon, Zhang Heng, wait for me. This was my fault, my miscalculation; I swear I will get you men back safely!” Yao Yuan promised himself.

 

After ten minutes, the Hope passed the fifty thousand meters threshold. There was a gentle shake that was felt all over the Hope as the ship made contact with the sandy ground. Under the Hope’s weighty pressure, the sand showed initial signs of giving away before it finally and fortunately stopped. Everyone breathed a sigh of relief alongside the soft but safe landing. There was an overall sense of hope and joy because according to preliminary reports, this could very well be man’s next home planet!

 

The mystery that shrouded the desertscape before them inspired an equal amount of fear and excitement among the citizens of the Hope. The people requested to step out of the spaceship. They wanted to breathe in the air of this new planet for themselves. Naturally, these were all denied because Yao Yuan had no intention of letting non-related personnel leave the safety of the Hope before they made sure the planet was secure enough to do so.

 

After about half an hour of preparation, the rescue party was ready. With the exception of Guang Zhen, who was ordered to hang back as acting captain, every remaining member of the Black Star Unit was scripted into this party. Led by Yao Yuan, the party also included a hundred elite agents and five hovercrafts… These hovercrafts were too fragile to be given the modifications necessary to allow them to keep their anti-gravitational function, but even without the modifications, they were still speedy means of transport as they could still glide quickly over the sandy surface using their conventional floatation systems.

 

Before departure, Yao Yuan approached Guang Zhen. “Ol’ Wong, you’re the most grounded among us all. So while I’m sorry you have to sit this one out, but you have to stay behind to look after the Hope. If there’s any trouble, don’t hesitate to contact me, but I’m sure you can handle it yourself because I have full faith in you.”

 

Guang Zhen responded somewhat sullenly. “But why do you need to go? You’re the captain, the captain that these twelve million people trust. You’re the face of security for them, so why can’t you stay and I lead the team instead?”

 

“Ol’ Wong, you might not believe me… but I have a feeling that if you lead the team, you all will face incredible danger. It’s not that I don’t believe in your capability, but I’ve told you about this feeling haven’t I? It is unreal, but it works best when heeded… It just feels right to have you garrison the Hope. Alright, that’s everything I have the time to say. Ol’ Wong, just wait here for our return with the complete Black Star Unit. They are still out there… I can feel it,” said Yao Yuan.

 

Sighing, Guang Zhen conceded. “It’s that damn feeling again, isn’t it? Go ahead then, and don’t worry, I’ll keep watch over the ship while you’re gone.”

 

The pair of old friends bumped fists before Yao Yuan turned to join the rest of the rescue party who were already waiting by the hovercrafts. As Yao Yuan neared the party, he intoned, “Let’s move out! We’re going to go get our lost heroes!”

 

At the same time, a sizeable party was gathering at the other side of the Hope. Adhering to Yao Yuan’s order, it had five hundred soldiers, more than a handful of technicians and engineers, as well as one thousand five hundred civilians who volunteered to follow as general workers…

 

 

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