Age of Cosmic Exploration
Translators: EndlessFantasy Translation , Lonelytree, _Dark_Angel_
Editors: EndlessFantasy Translation , Lucas
Chapter 10: The Rescue!
While Alan was frantically collecting the papers scattered all over his table, a blond-haired lass barged in behind him and yelled, "Quick, dad! Those people will reach our block soon!"
Without lifting his head, he replied, "Coming, Jas, I'm coming. By the way, Jas, have you seen that paper that I wrote on the collision between a high-density object and the sun? It has all those statistics and data on it. I remember distinctly putting it here somewhere…"
This girl, whom we now know as Jas, ignored her dad's sounds of protest and forcefully dragged him out of the room. The situation was dire; she couldn't care less about some paper or statistics! The pair tumbled their way through the house and out onto the lawn. She had been pulling him onwards like luggage while he was lugging a suitcase. But, once out, they charged through the driveway and jumped into the car. As his daughter started the engine, he started to mumble, "Gone… It's all gone now…"
Jas had not seen her father so distressed before and she was frankly quite afraid herself, but she knew that she had to take charge for both of them. As she drove down the road, she turned to console her dad. "No, dad. Not everything's gone… We're still alive, aren't we?"
"Alive? No, we aren't alive! We're basically the walking dead! Because… well… the world's ending…" As those words left his mouth, all his spirit seemed to have left as well. He sat dazed, staring blankly at the sun. The sun that had given the world warmth, the sun that had given the world life, and in eight months' time, the sun that will also give the world its end…
Despite being only in his early fifties, Alan was already a world-renowned astrophysicist. By this time in his life, he had already achieved many great things that many people would have spent their whole lives chasing but still wouldn't have gotten.
His wife, God bless her soul, departed from the world quite some time ago, but she left him with a beautiful, sensible daughter. Overall, he felt blessed. His life was wonderful, or as he liked to put it to himself, life was like his daughter's cooking; it wasn't by any means spectacular, and it certainly couldn't rival that of the five-star chefs, but it was about the taste of home, the taste of love, and those were Alan's favorites…
Unfortunately, that blessing went up in smoke quite drastically and it could all be traced back to the year 2027 which was when news of the discovery of an alien spacecraft by the US government appeared. Alan thought it was some kind of April's Fool joke, so he was delightfully surprised when he found out about the very real space-warp experiment. It could be the discovery of his lifetime and thus he tried many ways to insinuate his way into this project. However, his asset that usually worked in his favor, his age, turned out to be his downfall. The position that he wanted was already given to his more experienced rival, an astrophysicist that enjoyed the same amount of success and fame as he did but was favored because of his seniority. Of course, his rival's Nobel Prize also tipped the scales against his favor.
This incident had Alan fuming for almost a year, but seeing that there was no other option, he decided to assemble his own team to conduct his own analysis using information that he would gather by pulling strings and favors. However, before his plan could even go into its first phase, the world had taken a turn for the worse.
First was the disappearance of major players around the world and then were the whistleblowers who leaked information like the fact that the disappeared personnel had actually escaped earth using warp technology. The reason cited for their desertion was a neutron star fragment that was plummeting towards the solar system, or more precisely, its center.
Neutron star? Fragment? Those two didn't link. And how could it have suddenly appeared? It was charging towards the sun? If there was such a thing, there would have been massive reports before then because a galactic entity doesn't just appear out of thin air.
Therefore, it would be safe to say that Alan was incredulous, but as more evidence and data surfaced, he started to have doubts. The one piece of evidence that truly convinced him though was a satellite picture of the fragment. Being an expert in this field, he could discern real news from fake news, and the hurling death star was very real. As his university and his team of researchers collated data and findings, their result was devastating… None, not a single soul would be saved. If we were still within the solar system, humanity, no, the world would be wiped out!
After he got the result, the world started to descend into madness and anarchy. Despair had a chokehold on the world and people started to look for catharsis, or in this case, scapegoats. Eventually, the army got involved, but in the end, the army abandoned their responsibilities to the public; they became bullies with guns.
Under those circumstances, Alan and his daughter made the decision to leave the city and move to a more rural area.
However, the countryside didn’t contain much solace. People with similar ideas migrated there en masse, and following them were the terrorists. The ugly cycle of mayhem, murder, rape, and sin perpetuated and continued.
Hearing a light knock on the door, Alan opened his eyes to the interior of a decrepit cabin. He quickly sat up before powerlessly crumbling down onto the wooden pallet he was lying on. He saw a girl with a head of hair that was barely noticeable to be blonde under its layers of mud and dirt rush to him. She worriedly asked, "Dad, are you okay? What are you doing up? Quickly lie back down; you're still running a high fever… Dad, I want to tell you something. I've found a potato farm. There were some rebels nearby, so I didn't dare get close, but I've decided to sneak in later tonight and scavenge some potatoes for us."
Alan was ready to lie down, but after hearing that, he quickly straightened up. "NO! I forbid you from going! Did you forget what we saw a few days ago? Those rebels aren't human, they’re are animals. That poor girl was only twelve, and she was chopped and roasted before being eaten! So no, you will not be going anywhere tonight!"
Recalling that memory, Jas paled considerably, but then Alan started to hack his lungs up, which steeled her determination. As she moved to take hold of Alan, she softly said, "Don't worry, dad. I'll be fine. I won't actually go to the field. I'll just hide myself in the drain that encircles the field. We know they have no supply of electricity left, so under the cover of the night, they won't able to spot me. I'll just dig some potatoes from the side and hurry back… Dad, we haven’t had food in almost three days. We can't survive on water. I could probably hold out for a while more, but you're sick, dad. You have to eat something soon!"
Hearing her daughter's determination to proceed with her thoughtless plan, he so wanted to dissuade her, but his anxiousness made his coughs worse. And between coughs, he could barely get his words out before Jas added, "Dad, I'm a big girl now! You can't tell me what not to do! I'll sneak out and maybe you won't even know it."
Alan finally slowly regained his breath, but it was like the sickness had taken all the fight out of him. The usually eloquent university professor could barely form a cogent sentence before fatigue claimed him. As he fell out of consciousness, he managed to say, "Then I'm going with you. Two pairs of eyes are better than one. I won't let you do it alone…"
Watching her father's sleeping profile, which had gotten drastically gaunt over the past twenty days, bitter tears couldn't help tumbling out of Jas' eyes.
Later that night, Alan indeed put his words into action and forced himself upon Jas. Jas was afraid that her father would wander out alone when he noticed that she was gone, so she had no choice but to bring him along. Because of his condition, who knows where or who he might stumble into.
After a harsh journey and two hours later, the pair finally found themselves by the potato field. It was as Jas had said, without electricity and hence, flashlights. The area was in complete darkness. With only the weak moonlight to light the way, one could barely see the things that were two feet in front of them. Jas ordered her father to rest himself on an elevated bank while she scrambled her way into the drain. Slowly, she waded her way through and eventually found her way up onto the periphery of the field.
Suddenly, sounds of metal jangling started to go off. It turned out that Jas had accidentally tripped on the wire that the rebels had circled around the field as a sort of a primitive alarm. Following the metallic jangles came the hooting of a gaggle of men. Jas was frozen in shock while Alan was barely in his senses.
"Looks like we have a fresh catch tonight, boys! And it's a beauty too… Oh, honey, we're going to savor you, don't you worry about that, doll. Now, go get her!"
The one issuing the command was a fairly large man. When he saw Jas sprinting her way out of the field, he lifted his rifle and let loose a shot. Jas let out a painful yelp before she went down. Excruciating pain was radiating from her calf. The sound of his daughter's cry energized Alan. He picked his way to his daughter's side within seconds and immediately cocooned her in his arms, using his body to shield his daughter from more shots.
"Oh… Look what we have here, boys. She brought along her sugar daddy… Honey, don't worry. I promise you, we'll treat you much better… And don't worry about this old bag of bones; his dead body will keep the fire warm and going while we take care of you."
When this group of rebels about ten in size appeared in Alan and Jas' sight, Alan couldn’t identify any traces of humanity left in them. Their words, actions, and mannerisms exuded devilry. These were devil's hell-spawns!
"Daddy, I'm scared," sobbed Jas, into her father's chest. She put on a brave face, but she was only a girl of eighteen who had boys chasing after her coattails barely a month ago. Life was beautiful then, but now… she found herself crying in her father's arms. Each of these tears were breaking her desperate father's heart.
Alan, a man of science and thus normally not of faith, prayed the hardest he ever had, "God… If you're listening, please have mercy… Please just spare us, spare my daughter."
The leader of the group trained his rifle at Alan's head and then a gunshot rang out. It was, however, not Alan's head that was blown off but rather the leader's own. Before anyone else could grasp the situation, another series of shots rang out. Of the ten-something rebels, almost half of them fell dead on the spot. The rest, overpowered, surrendered their weapons and laid down on the ground in repose, not daring to twitch even a muscle.
Then, a ray of light shone out from a distance away. Alan and Jas stared blankly at this ray like deer caught in headlights. Not long later, from behind the light appeared a small troop of men in army fatigue. Alan noticed that they appeared clean as there wasn’t one spot of dirt on their uniforms, but more importantly, they were mentally collected. They consisted of Caucasians, African Americans, as well as Asians, and their leader seemed to be a forbidding Asian man.
This man looked condescendingly at the subdued rebels before scrounging a notebook from within his uniform. On it was a picture of Professor Alan Potter. After making some side-by-side comparisons between it and Alan, who was still on the ground, he gave a small bow.
"Nice to meet you, Professor Alan. I am second lieutenant Ying. You may refer to me by my post or directly by my name. In any case, it is an honor to meet you. I was ordered to locate you and extend an invitation to you to join our government. We desperately need someone with your expertise and knowledge in astrophysics. If you choose to accept, I will escort you back to our base where you will receive the protection and treatment that are more suitable to your position. We will also provide you with the necessary equipment and sufficient space to conduct your research and experiments. We also hope you will be willing to head an academic group on astrophysics that we have established."
Alan was dazed by the show of civility. Even though it had barely been a month, it had been so long since he had heard words uttered with such propriety that he couldn't form a response. It wasn’t until the man who introduced himself as second lieutenant Ying started to frown that he blabbered, "Yes, right, I accept! Yes, I'm Alan Potter, and this is my daughter, Jas! We do need your protection and help, and do you guys have transportation? My daughter was shot in the leg, so she might not be able to travel far distances, and she also needs immediate medical attention!"
Ying gave Alan a rare smile. As he helped Alan up, he simultaneously waved over one of the African American soldiers. "Give this miss some rudimentary treatment before we depart." Then, turning to Alan, he added, "Don't worry, we'll give her the full treatment when we get aboard the aircraft, and we will find you a doctor as well, because Professor, you seem to be a bit weak on your feet too. We will ensure that you and your daughter have the rest and medication you need."
Alan gave this group of people one more look. He was handing his and his daughter's lives to them after all. They all had the standard configuration and their uniforms seemed to be the standard issue for US military… they did appear to be what they claimed.
Right then, Alan heard the sound of propellers and felt gusts churning around them, but in the darkness, he couldn't ascertain what exactly had arrived. His best guess was that it was a helicopter. And since this group of people could afford to deploy vehicles like choppers, they seemed to be an actual, disciplined, organized body of military…
Having that confirmation, Alan finally relaxed and, as the adrenaline wore off, fainted.
What he failed to notice though was Ying calmly giving orders to the rest of his group to execute those rebels who were already begging for mercy.
"Ol' Cap'n's plan worked like a charm. In times like these, people, or at least those that are still sane, want nothing more than order. If we project that, people will gladly come to us. Works much better than kidnapping them directly into our care…"
After Ying reflected upon that, he turned to address the rest of his man, who were already at attention. "The rescue mission was a success. Get onto the hovercraft. We're reporting back to base."
"Sir, yes, sir!" the soldiers answered in unison.
Almost forty hours later, Alan gradually regained consciousness. What greeted him was a clean and sparkling white ceiling and an equally white and fluffy quilt that was covering his body. He also managed to take in the fact that he was put on a drip and Jas was lying on a similar bed a short distance away. She was awake and humming along to some music streaming through her ear buds while reading a novel. It was as if the experiences of the past month had been washed away along with all the grime and Jas had reverted back to the girl that she was before all the terrible things started.
Alan didn't have the heart to disturb his daughter. He merely rested his eyes, savoring this joy and contentment that he thought he had lost forever.
Because he had it taken away from him once, he knew how precious this slice of joy actually was. It didn't matter if there were only eight more months left, it didn't matter what this government wanted him to do… he swore that he would do everything within his might to safeguard this joy!