Age of Cosmic Exploration – Chapter 133

Pain

 

“Fire! Bow! Salute!”

Following the firing of blank ammunition, about 200 coffins were released into space. Among the crowd, some were openly weeping while others bowed their heads in grief. The soldiers present remained in a solemn salute.

Of the 301 space troopers that left, only 33 returned!

And, just like how Yao Yuan predicted, every single one of them returned a hero!

According to the Academy’s aftermath analysis, even though the battleship fragment near the Hope exploded, the robots would tear through the Hope from within.

Thankfully, Yao Yuan managed to defeat the AI in the nick of time. With their overseer fallen, the robots lost their activity. In reality, they were still fully functional, patiently awaiting another set of orders.

Today was the 7th day after the infiltration. According to Chinese customs, this special date was also known as Tou Qi [1].

It was why all the surviving troopers, the Hope’s military, the families of the deceased, reporters, members from House of Representatives, and 2,000 selected civilians were gathered at the ship’s hangar for the Hope’s third celestial burial.

“Ceremony over!”

All of the soldiers went at ease, but none of them moved nor chatted. They stood firmly, staring at the host of coffins that slowly drifted out of view. A mixture of pride and sadness mingled in their eyes… Hardened by war, the remaining troopers stood transfixed and emotionless. Only when they were in the company of their families would they let their guard down and show emotion.

This time Yao Yuan didn’t slumber for 13 days like before. On the night of the 6th, as if someone was pulling him awake, he woke up to participate in the special burial.

All through the ceremony, other than the host, none of the leading figures moved to the podium. The burial was conducted with extreme solemnity. At the end, other than the families, the rest dispersed in respectful silence.

“Giving a speech to praise them would be an insult to their sacrifice!”

On the way back, Yao Yuan told Barbie.

No one knew the scope of their sacrifice if they weren’t part of the troop. They fought, they struggled, and eventually they died, apart from and for their families on the Hope, whose fate was an unknown… Having a gaudy celebration would only sully the memory of their heroic deeds!

“Following the protocol, the records of their names, deeds, and combat videos will be saved into the central mainframe’s history folder. Also, don’t leave out that nameless hero. They’ll be given the Hope’s greatest honor, the hero badge. Actually, let me correct myself. Make sure to use the name ‘Arnold Vett’ instead of ‘the nameless hero.’ We must make sure humanity’s future citizens know that they are alive because of these selfless people!”

Barbie jotted everything down efficiently. Suddenly, Yao Yuan started coughing. The fit was so intense that some blood escaped into the air. Barbie quickly passed him a handkerchief and asked worriedly, “What’s wrong, Captain? Are you OK?”

Yao Yuan shook his head as he wiped the corner of his mouth with the handkerchief. “Don’t worry. I injured my lungs during combat, but I’m sure it’ll be fine after a good rest… Then again, who has the time? The paperwork is already piling up in the captain’s room.”

Barbie looked at Yao Yuan concernedly but kept her thoughts to herself.

The week after the infiltration was spent in mourning. The robots had killed 1471 people. Because of the power outage, the number of babies who died from low temperature and lack of oxygen was 362.

Combined with the casualty from the space troopers, the entirety of the Hope lost about 2,000 people!

That was an astronomical number that would cause great effect for any non-warring city on Earth, much less one in space!

For the Hope, the 2,000 loss was an unmitigated catastrophe! The Hope only had 120,000 people to begin with, so losing that many able-bodied adults in one go was, to say the least, worrying. The ratio of loss scope-wise was akin to the Earth being swallowed by a giant tsunami!

After Yao Yuan came back from the funeral, he threw himself into the business of the citizens’ death gratuity. Even though he had aid from Hall of Communications, there were still plenty of things that needed him to personally oversee.

Other than civil business, there were other things to take care of as well… “What do you mean none of the robots can be used? Are you kidding me? You’re telling me all these robots’ resources can’t be recycled?! Do you know how many lives have been lost to gather them!?” Yao Yuan fired with a voice no less than a roar.

Sitting before him was Bo Li. The girl was barely there, tired as she was from a whole sleepless week going through upwards of 10,000 robots.

“That’s right. When you crushed the AI, the internal information processor for the robots was fried. These processors are like hearts for these robots. Without them, they can’t possibly function,” Bo Li said as she leaned forward lightly to take the cup of tea off the table and started sipping.

Yao Yuan sat back down. Frustrated, he said, “But… Damn it. So many robots with Gaussian guns and particle accelerators; we’re talking about 10,000 of them on this ship alone! There has to be more in the junkyard, and now they’re all useless. Damn it!”

Bo Li’s mouth curled up in a smile, but it was covered by the cup and quickly disappeared. “We can still salvage the parts. The Gaussian technology can be used to improve and perfect our Gaussian gun, while the particle accelerator could be used in the combat suit’s propellers to increase its flight time and power. Even the robots’ shells are usable… if we melt them down. They’re made from a metal that is much more advanced than our current metallurgy technology, so I suggest we melt them down into blocks to be kept for future use.”

Yao Yuan sighed. “Understood, we’ll follow what you suggest.”

Bo Li nodded slightly and set the cup down. Without another word, she made to leave the room. Suddenly, Yao Yuan called her name.

Bo Li turned around to hear Yao Yuan say, in a heartfelt manner, “I want you know that your hard work doesn’t go unnoticed, so… thank you.”

A minute frown crossed Bo Li’s brow. She stared at Yao Yuan seriously. After a long pause, she turned around and said, rather uncomfortably, “You… are welcome. It’s what I want to do. I love the Hope. I’ll keep doing what I’m doing even after you’re dead.”

“Is that so?” Yao Yuan smiled in spite of himself. He stood up and moved to pat Bo Li on her head. “Either way, I do mean it when I say I appreciate your hard work… Now, please go take a well-deserved sleep. It’s going to be a long battle ahead.”

Bo Li slapped his hand away and harrumphed. “I’ll sleep when I want to. For the record, I hate it when people touch my head, so this is the only time I’ll allow it. Never again!” And she stormed out.

Yao Yuan laughed, shaking his head. He returned to his table to greet the mountain of paperwork that awaited him. His heart was as heavy as the stack of files and reports that filled his table. Going through them, he couldn’t help but harbor a dream in his heart… Mankind, please get stronger!

On the 9th day from the infiltration, the best friend trio of Xiao Niao, Qiu Qiu, and Dan Dan met up at a park bench somewhere on the third level. Xiao Niao still had his arm in a cast because he had shattered his humerus. Doctors said he had to keep it in an arm sling for at least 4 months for it to fully recover. Then again, in the whole, Xiao Niao had to consider himself lucky because at least he was still alive… “Bro, you must have lost your mind when you rushed in to face the robot. You have to be more careful out there.” Qiu Qiu sighed, slapping his friend on his shoulder.

Xiao Niao smiled rather bashfully before saying, “The man died for me, then there was blood everywhere… I can’t really explain it. It’s a heat of the moment thing. Then again, didn’t your unit face something similar? I heard Dan Dan almost bit the dust!”

Dan Dan stared quietly at the passing crowd. The bag of snacks that usually could be found in his hand was missing. After a while he said, “I’m thinking… It’s not so bad being a soldier. At least that way we can protect them from the pain that’s written on their faces. Let us work hard to become good soldiers that can safeguard them against sadness. ”

There was a heavy solemnity among the passerbys, a reminder that for many, the pain in their hearts was still healing. Xiao Niao suddenly suggested, “How about the 3 of us form a special unit on our own? Needless to say, it’s unofficial, but since the 3 of us are Homo Evolutis and have been best pals for so long, we should be able to work seamlessly with one another!”

His friends agreed instantly. Then they started discussing the unit’s name.

“How about Kurosan Ren-sei [2]?”

 

Translator’s Thoughts

[1] Tou Qi (头七) is the seventh day after the date of death. It is said the soul of the deceased returned to its body on this day.

[2] San Ren-sei is a starting technique in Go that uses 3 pieces to set up the board. Kuro is the Japanese word for Black to stay in line with the Japanese influenced term. Kurosan Ren-sei refers to the trio unit that’s within the bigger Black Star Unit.

 

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