Age of Cosmic Exploration
Translators: EndlessFantasy Translation , Lonelytree, _Dark_Angel_
Editors: EndlessFantasy Translation , Lucas
Chapter 108: Set Sail!
"Alright, let us revise our information so far," standing at the podium, Yao Yuan said through the microphone.
"We’ve released five sets of airships with each set having three to five airships. The first three sets lost control when they were eight kilometers into the junkyard, while the remaining two lost control at 14 kilometers. With that data, we’ve constructed a simulation. Could we bring that up now?" Yao Yuan requested of the technician who stood at the control panel.
The technician nodded and pushed a few buttons on the panel. After that, a 3D model appeared on screen.
"As you can see, the locations where the airships lost control have been marked with red dots. Even though all five of them are at different depths and locations, they share a striking similarity…"
Suddenly, a cluster of green dots that were larger than the reds appeared on the simulation. Waving at them, Yao Yuan continued, "Yes, that similarity is this group of spaceship pieces. Based on further surveillance, this group of spaceship pieces consists the larger ones within the junkyard, and they still contain traces of energy. The pilotless airships lose control when they are within 300 kilometers of these pieces."
Pausing for effect, Yao Yuan measured the crowd before adding, "Sadly, with our current technology, we are unable to tell what exactly caused these airships to lose control. We still need more data and analysis before a conclusive answer can be found. Nevertheless, our next course of action is clear.
"First, upgrades will have to be done on the shuttle to replace all the auto-pilot systems with manual systems. Since it is highly likely that auto-piloted systems are the ones being tampered with by the spaceship pieces, we will have to rely on manual piloting to ensure overall safety. Only communication, life support, and anti-gravitational systems will remain automated. Speaking of which, to prevent signal interference, the old communicator fitted to the shuttle will also be upgraded to a new version. This is to ensure that constant communication is held between the shuttle and the Hope."
Yao Yuan coughed. "And that concludes the results from our airship experiment. Our preliminary scouting shows an absence of defense mechanism within the junkyard. Of course, it’s still too early to let our guard down. After all, the airships had barely entered the junkyard when control was lost. There might be traps further in. In any case, we will find out more when the shuttle sets sail at 10 AM tomorrow. Dismissed."
With that, the meeting for the first scouting operation was concluded. The result wasn’t particularly heartening, nor was it worrying. As Yao Yuan said, more would be revealed with the departure of the shuttle the day after.
That night, everyone who was involved was plagued by a miasma of apprehension.
The next morning at around 10 AM, the attendants of the first flights, Yao Yuan, Zhang Heng, and Ying stepped into the upgraded shuttle. Under the Hope’s watchful eyes, they left for the spaceship junkyard.
All three men wore the new aerospace combat suit prototype 1. The difference was immediately noticeable. The suits applied significantly less pressure on the wearer, making their footsteps lighter.
Since they were deprived of auto-pilot, Yao Yuan was manually piloting the shuttle towards the junkyard. With his hands on the control panel, he turned to both Zhang Heng and Ying. "Repeat to me our mission."
Zhang Heng replied instantly, "My main mission is to keep my power open to sense any kind of impending danger. If there is one, I will inform you immediately. Instead of cardinal direction, I will use clock position to relay the information. And if the danger is over or below us, I will say top or bottom."
Yao Yuan nodded in agreement. The choice of clock position was the result of their discussion from the day before. Since it was not an easy feat determining the cardinal directions in space, they had decided upon using clock position to make the transfer of information faster. The difference of one or two seconds in space could make all the difference. Secondly, the accuracy of the angle was also clearer using clock position direction than cardinal directions. After all, the face of a clock has smaller increments than the face of a compass.
In a way, the shuttle was the center of their compass. Yao Yuan and Zhang Heng’s directional system was set up with the forward direction of the shuttle as 12 o’ clock. For example, 12 to 6 o’ clock would be on their right, while 6 to 12 o’ clock would be on their left. Vertically, everything above the shuttle would be their top and everything beneath will be known as bottom.
Of course, this system was not without its flaw. Even though it was more precise than cardinal direction, it was still not accurate enough. However, until they were given a better compass, this was the best they had.
Ying spoke next. "My mission is to closely examine the metal pieces around the shuttle using my power when we’ve arrived at the junkyard. I am to look for valuable items like weaponry, machines, and robotic parts like computer chips."
Yao Yuan nodded his approval. He added, "Using both Perceptor and Seeker powers, it is my responsibility to pilot this shuttle. Combined with the Diviner’s power, I will make sure we get to the junkyard and back in one piece. The triumvirate of superhuman abilities will also help me evade all possible dangers in the shortest time possible."
After the trio went through their respective missions, a voice came through the communicator, "Captain, you are now 700 kilometers away from the junkyard. You will reach your destination in about 1 minute and 42 seconds. The experts suggest you slow down the shuttle’s speed to prevent direct collision with stray pieces."
"Okay, slowing down. 7 kilometers per second… 6.5 kilometers per second… 6 kilometers per second…"
With the push of a button, a liquid hydrogen and oxygen fire pulsed from the front of the shuttle, slowing it down. When they were at 50 kilometers from the junkyard, their speed was at around 300 meters per second. They were still slowing down as the shuttle inched closer to their destination.
Finally, the shuttle was primed to enter the junkyard. At that moment, not only were the three on the shuttle holding their breaths, everyone on the Hope held a collective breath. They beat with one heart. After all, this wasn’t a pilotless airship anymore; there was lots to lose.
The shuttle was piloted by their captain and also the Hope’s only All-Rounder. His passengers were no less important. Zhang Heng, the Hope’s best Diviner, and Ying, one of the few Seekers.
Any loss would be a huge loss!
"Entering the junkyard in 10 seconds, please make all necessary preparations!" the voice on the communicator said. The shuttle was charged with an air of anticipation.
"Zhang Heng!" Yao Yuan said, in a low voice.
Zhang Heng hesitated for two seconds before saying, "No signs of danger!"
"Ying!" Yao Yuan said.
Without any hesitation, Ying replied as he stared firmly ahead, "I’m already in seeker state… so far nothing worthwhile yet!"
"Okay… Let’s enter the junkyard!"
With a pull of the lever, the shuttle lurched into the junkyard. After pushing away some of the floating debris, they were officially in the junkyard!
"Hope, initiate an overall check on the shuttle’s functionalities!" Yao Yuan shouted into the communicator.
"…The shuttle is functioning fine. Communication signal stable, nothing wrong!"
"Alright, keep a close eye on the shuttle’s situation. We are moving five kilometers deeper into the junkyard. Issue an alert if we get too close to any bigger pieces."
Activating all his powers, Yao Yuan led the shuttle carefully and slowly forward in a bubble of silence.
After another five kilometers into the junkyard, the debris floating around them had significantly increased. They even started to spot the bigger pieces among them. However, Zhang Heng still received no sign of danger and Ying too hadn’t found anything useful.
"Attention, members of the shuttle, you are getting closer to a piece of energy-laden spaceship part. Please be careful, you are currently 308 kilometers from it. You have seven more kilometers before entering its danger zone!"
Yao Yuan nodded. "Understood, please keep us apprised of the situation!" Nevertheless, they kept moving forward.
Slowly but surely, the shuttle kept gliding closer to the large spaceship part to a point where Guang Zhen shouted through the communicator asking them to return.
Yao Yuan looked at their progress chart and it showed that they had ventured 11 kilometers into the junkyard. He persuaded himself to go back since this was only their first flight, so there was no need to take such enormous risk.
"Okay, the shuttle is preparing to return…" Yao Yuan answered as he moved to turn the shuttle around. He was going to use the shuttle’s perimeter engines to propel the shuttle around. After the shuttle turned about 10 degrees, Ying suddenly frowned.
"Wait! Yao Yuan, I saw something!"
Yao Yuan quickly directed the shuttle’s light beam to where Ying was pointing. The glint of a small, transparent object was picked up by the light!
Yao Yuan could feel his heart skip a beat. He had no idea what the thing was, but since it was so distinctively different from the metallic debris around it, it had to be useful. He yelled into the communicator, "Hope, I need a reading on the shuttle’s distance to the big spaceship part!"
"…The shuttle is currently 11 kilometers into the junkyard and two kilometers away from a sizeable spaceship part."
"Thank you." Yao Yuan turned to the other two in the shuttle. "The spot of reflection is not within the 300 kilometers radius from any spaceship part, so I’ve decided that we will go for it! Zhang Heng, keep your power open, and Ying, keep an eye on our surroundings and other possible objects of interest.
"We are going to get ourselves our first alien-made product!"