The rescue and the plan (bottom)
The scientists were asked to leave the room. In the company of their own colleagues, criticisms about how Yao Yuan handled the situation started to fly.
The fact was that Yao Yuan had no clue how to manage the twelve-million-sized community on the Hope.
One of the reasons was because their escape from Earth was too sudden, so he didn’t have time to secure more people that were good at human resource management. Furthermore, he was a man of action and thus wasn’t familiar with the nuances of social administration.
Organization within the Academy was also much more complicated than Yao Yuan had expected. He wanted the scientific community to be divided into major committees according to their subjects and each would be led by a committee leader. However, depending on their size and functionality, many of these major committees birthed smaller subgroups, so issues of leadership became increasingly convoluted. For example, Yao Yuan had initially handpicked Alan as the committee leader of the astrophysics committee, but later the committee itself had fractured into smaller subgroups, and most of them wanted Alan as their leader. The conflicting loyalties led to many inter and intra committee rivalries.
At the moment though, scientists from differing disciplines had put down their differences to gather at the conference room. They were waiting for their leaders to return from their meeting with Yao Yuan.
When they were told of the current situation, the faces of everyone present darkened. They now knew how serious the situation was. If they lost the Hope, the consequences would be unimaginable…
Suddenly, one female scientist broke the silence by offering, “Everyone, there’s no use sulking. Why don’t we try to drop our preconceived scientific notions and think outside of the box for once? Maybe it’ll lead somewhere.”
With a deep Italian accent, she added, “I’ll be the one to start then… In my opinion, there are too many details that are unknown about these plants. So instead of analyzing them one by one, why don’t we look at them as a whole? For example, the Major mentioned the possibility of them having a hive mind. And it is because of subconscious suggestions from this hive mind that we were lulled into ordering an immediate mining unit without waiting for, now looking back, much needed preparation and analysis.
“However, this might not be the whole truth. Is it not possible that they weren’t intending to lure us into a trap but instead were reminding us that the collection of energy and minerals had been completed and that it is time for harvest?”
The female scientist’s supposition sent many of her colleagues into deep contemplation. Among them was a twenty-plus intern. After the female scientist finished speaking, his mind went into a dreamlike place where it was quiet, safe, and peaceful. Caught within this state, he could make out someone whispering into his ears, and almost against his will, he repeated out loud, “Yes, that is entirely true. That would explain why they didn’t directly consume us when we humans also have metallic substances in our bodies… Somehow, these plants could tell that we are sentient beings.
“That is the biggest difference between us and the creatures on this planet. The animals here are vicious but simplistic; we on the other hand, are complex. We have the ability to think and to have a civilization…”
Suddenly, the intern screamed. The room stared at him as he continued with a dumbstruck look in his eyes, “They’re the product of civilization! When the alien civilization created these plants, they must have infused them with some kind of limitation, just like how we have three laws of robotics! Because they are too powerful in nature, their creators must have added restrictions to prevent them from harming beings with sentience and civility. They are able to detect these qualities by attuning to other organisms’ brainwave frequencies. If the frequency reaches a certain level, they would be able to tell that said creatures are civilized… That’s why they won’t harm us directly! They assume we are their creators!”
This hypothesis introduced a sliver of hope to the people within the conference room. The more they thought about it, the more they felt like it could very much be true.
A heavily bearded scientist suddenly asked, “Is it possible that these plants themselves are controlled through the power of the mind? To put it in another way, could we use some sort of machine to control these plants by amplifying the brain power of its wearer?”
That possibility had the scientists talking. Speculations and hypotheses were thrown all over the room. In some cases, the discussion was so intense that it led to serious arguments. After ten minutes of such controlled chaos, the female scientist clapped her hands a few times to reign in everyone’s attention, then she said, “Folks, let’s not get ahead of ourselves. Let us first review what we have hypothesized so far.
“First, this plant species does have a hive mind, a feature that was probably put in place when it was created. It is used to control the functionality of this plant in case it grows out of control. Also, it acts as a system for easier reporting and surveillance…
“When The Hope space-warped within the vicinity of this planet, the plant’s hive mind detected our presence. Using some mysterious method, probably through the attunement of brainwave frequency as the young fellow has said, it could tell that we are a sentient civilization. Then they probably sent out some kind of brain signal to alert us that they are way over their harvestable period.
“Perhaps because our brains weren’t wired in such a way to be receptive of these signals, we were hypnotized by them instead. That led to an expedient landing. Now, since we don’t have the technology to mind control these plants, they are siphoning the energy from the Hope because that is what they were engineered to do. Here, I have to disagree with the statement that it is because we are mentally dull that we are unable to control these plants. It is my opinion that it is rather because we haven’t been able to tap into their frequency that we fail to do so. Like a radio, we have to tap into their frequency to gain a channel for communication and perhaps mind control.”
The scientist took a pause before adding, “That is what we have figured out so far. It could have connected to the young couple because the man somehow tuned into this frequency. Humans have been shown to be able to do almost miraculous activities in extreme situations, so it is not without precedent.”
“Then is it possible to get the man to tell the plants below the Hope to leave?” asked a man standing beside the female scientist. Without waiting for an answer though, he shook his head defeatedly.
Another scientist butted in. “That is absolutely impossible. As it has been said, the man probably entered this state unconsciously, so what are the chances that he could manually do it again? Even if he could replicate the experience, as you’ve seen on the video, the area of plants he could control was only one hundred meters wide; that is very small when compared the actual size of the Hope. Unless we can get a few million people to be able to do what he did, the plants that he evacuated will just return after he moves away from the spot.”
This time, even the female scientist was greeted with a dead-end. There appeared to be no way out anymore.
To everyone’s surprise, the young intern who had previously spoken started talking again.
He felt himself acting as the vessel of the voice whispering in his ears, because the words were not his but the voice’s.
“Dear professors and instructors, it is my belief that the word ‘absolute’ shouldn’t exist in science…”
He had the attention of the room now, but instead of wilting under it, he seemed to be gaining traction as he continued,
“It is our common belief that every single planet has its own unique ecosystem and interspecies relationships. It is wrong to use one framework to understand them all. For example, a deadly virus on Planet A could be a source of vitamin for organisms on Planet B…
“We talked about lasers and acid baths because we were too trapped in our own tunnel vision. Who could affirmatively say that things that are typically harmless to Earth’s plants will be harmless to these alien plants as well? Think about it; we have not come across this creator civilization before and they have not gained contact with us humans either. So when they created this species of plant, how could they have immunized it against Earth’s common plant viruses without knowing what Earth is?
“We have planted all sorts of plants in the sixth floor biomes, so doesn’t this mean that we have access to many different types of Earth’s plant viruses as well? We should extract them to conduct more experiments, because who knows, without us realizing it, we might have had the trump card in our hands all this time!”
At the same time, Yao Yuan was going through the video again as he questioned Jay and Xiao Chen.
When he found out that the purpose of his summon was for some simple questioning, Jay had sighed in relief. Nevertheless, he wasn’t of much help regarding the questions that he was posed. He himself was quite out of it during the whole process, so he could only provide vague answers. Similarly, Xiao Chen, who just happened to be at the wrong place at the wrong time, also couldn’t contribute much to the conversation. And so, after some further questioning, she was led out of the room while only Jay, the main person of interest, remained.
Contrary to what Yao Yuan had hoped, things hadn’t gotten clearer. While he was frowning over the lack of development, Yao Yuan had a fit of inspiration and asked, “Jay, are you one of the 102 people who survived Virus X?”
Jay nodded cautiously, adding, “That’s true. I have been known to have a healthy disposition, so that’s probably how I survived the ordeal.”
Jay started to sweat because Yao Yuan used an inordinate amount of time to process his answer. Adding to Jay’s consternation, Yao Yuan then lifted Jay’s data file off the table and proceeded to flip through it slowly. Finally, he asked a question that made Jay feel like the floor underneath his feet was falling away.
“Mister Jay Wales, this whole file of yours is a lie. You are a liar. For example, you lied about your level of education, am I right?”
Jay knew that he was found out and thus immediately launched into his explanation. “Major, please let me explain. This is all a simple misunderstanding…”
With a flick of his wrist, Yao Yuan closed the file and shut down Jay’s weak defense. “Okay, I’m willing to call it a misunderstanding, but first, you have to tell me, in specific details, what happened in this video! Why did those plants appear?”
On the verge of tears, Jay replied, “Major, I already told you, I really don’t know what was happening then…”
“Guards! Toss this man out of the Hope this instant!” ordered Yao Yuan as he made to leave.
When a soldier came into the room, words came tumbling out of Jay’s mouth in quick succession. “At that moment, I just felt everything go silent! Then, call it old habits die hard, but right then, I felt a lie forming at the tip of my tongue. Without giving it much thought, I yelled that lie and those plants appeared. That’s all, Major, I promise!”
“I’m not sure how much a liar’s promise would be worth, but…” Yao Yuan sat back down and waved the soldier away.
Then he started thinking.
(Could that be this man’s superhuman power? The ability to lie… to trick even this plant species’ hive mind?)
Then the monitor in the room lit up. On it appeared the excited faces of a few scientists.
The leading scientist said, “Major! Good news and bad news! The good news is that we found a way to kill these plants. Using a plant virus that is common to Earth’s vegetation, it could kill these plants in an instant. Ironically, because these plants have an increased absorption rate, they are very susceptible to viruses that targets a plant’s xylem and phloem. While it would take months for this virus to take its toll on Earth’s plants, it can wilt this alien plant in a matter of seconds!
“However, Major, because development is so fast, the effect of the virus is very much localized. It wasn’t even given time to spread before the affected plants wilted and died.”
The conflicted expressions of the scientists on the screen expressed perfectly the ludicrousness of the situation. Previously, their problem was that the plants were too indestructible, but now that they had found its weakness, the problem became that they were too fragile…
The leading scientist continued, “And so, one of our interns suggested such an idea…
“To inject the virus right into the heart of these plants, the central storage area so to speak, the spot where all the collected materials congregate and where the largest energy crystal would be. With that, perhaps the Hope could escape from the clutches of these plants and lift off into space!
“However, the key problem is that we are unable to locate this so called heart. There was a proposal to initiate all three nuclear generators as bait to lure it out, but these plants are already so well-fed that even that might not be enticing enough for its heart to appear. Major, that’s our latest update. We’ve tried the best we can.”
Yao Yuan thanked the scientists for their effort and turned to stare conspiratorially at Jay.
“Mister Wales, I believe everything is indeed a huge misunderstanding…. In fact, if you could help the Hope with this one simple favor, I’ll personally make sure that it remains a misunderstanding,” said Yao Yuan with an overtly kind smile.