Age of Cosmic Exploration
Translators: EndlessFantasy Translation , Lonelytree, _Dark_Angel_
Editors: EndlessFantasy Translation , Lucas
Chapter 113: Blank Space
All 12 members of the unit dealt with the incoming mission in their own unique ways. Ying and Ebon were happily preparing their guns and ammos, pumped for a new mission; Zhang Heng was worried sick, barely managing a bite of his dinner; Chou Yue spent the whole night talking with Ren Tao; Yao Yuan threw himself into administrative work until 10 PM and had a dreamless sleep until 8:30 AM the next morning.
Before 9 AM, all 12 of them gathered at the shuttle hangar, the location where their equipment and spacesuits stood at the ready. As the clock struck 9, they would collectively walk into the shuttle to begin Operation Leap.
"Do you feel any danger now?" Ren Tao suddenly whispered to Chou Yue.
Chou Yue fired back sullenly. "What? You refused to talk to me yesterday night but now suddenly you’re willing to do so?"
Ren Tao smiled brightly. "That’s because we’re boarding. Now is the time you should be able to tell whether there is any danger."
Chou Yue was adamant to not give Ren Tao any time of her day, but in the end, she ceded. "There’s nothing now, but why didn’t you approach Zhang Heng with the question? I’m just a half-baked Diviner, so there’s no point in asking me!"
Ren Tao stopped to seriously consider her question before finally admitting, "That’s because you’re closer to me, so it’s much more convenient."
At the same time, Yao Yuan incidentally was asking Zhang Heng that very question, a question to which Zhang Heng firmly replied, "No, there’s no sign of danger."
"Great, everyone, please put on your spacesuits and get ready. We will enter the shuttle and start the mission at 8:55!"
Under Yao Yuan’s command, everyone started to get into their spacesuits. With the attending officials helping, the prep-work was quickly done. After Yao Yuan led everyone into the shuttle, everyone ventured to their assigned station, waiting for the countdown to start.
As the countdown dropped to 0, the shuttle accelerated on the rails before gliding out of the Hope. With Yao Yuan at the helm, they sped towards their destination at maximum speed. None spoke during the journey, Ying and Ebon calmly went over their load, Zhang Heng and Chou Yue sat to a side quietly while Ren Tao was his usual spaced-out self… 10 minutes later, the shuttle decelerated as it inched closer to the junkyard’s outer perimeter. They were at a speed of several hundred meters per second but were still decelerating.
"Alright, we’re officially in the junkyard area. The shuttle can’t move fast beyond this point because there are too many floating pieces around us. We will reach the point where the airships lost control in another 20 kilometers. Zhang Heng and Chou Yue, tell me the instant you feel danger," Yao Yuan announced, while keeping his eyes on the navigation.
The duo nodded in reply. As the shuttle crawled to the break-off point, the sense of worry in the shuttle started to mount. Even Yao Yuan, who had been in plenty of battlefields and life-or-death situations, started having clammy hands.
And then the lights in the shuttle started flickering before going off completely. Other than the headlights fitted into the spacesuit, it was a world of darkness inside the shuttle.
Not only that, even the lights from the control panel had disappeared. In that moment, it felt like all 12 of them had been dropped into space, because it was as empty and dark inside as it was outside!
"Zhang Heng! Chou Yue! Do you feel any danger?" Yao Yuan yelled hurriedly as he tried to bring the shuttle back under control.
He waited for several seconds, but there was still no reply. A chill grabbed his heart, fearing that the twp of them were dead. He turned back in a hurry and was relieved to see 11 weak globs of light in the dark. He looked closer and spotted Zhang Heng and Chou Yue’s faces, and their mouths were moving rapidly as if in speech.
"What’s happening? Is it because you’ve felt danger? Why aren’t you speaking?" Yao Yuan turned back to the control panel in a hurry, but he still heard no forthcoming reply.
(… Of course! The internal communicator must have lost its power!) The reality of the situation finally dawned on Yao Yuan and he breathed a sigh of relief.
In preparation for moments like these, other than the modification done on the shuttle, extra efforts had been made to improve the spacesuits’ autonomy. Naturally, there had been updates to help it defend against signal interference, but beyond that, the autonomy of the spacesuit had also been increased in the sense that it would remain operational for as long as 12 hours from the moment the main electrical supply was lost. This was thanks to an isolated battery that was added to the combat suit prototypes .
If they had to rely completely on external power supply to maintain the spacesuits’ life support, it was certain they would die in a matter of seconds if the shuttle’s power supply was cut off. Thankfully, they came prepared for this scenario.
(Looks like this is the reason behind the airships’ loss of control. Electricity will be lost if you venture into the 300 kilometers danger zone. No wonder we can’t hear each other’s voices, the communication system must be down. It should be the same with the shuttle’s life support system as well.) Yao Yuan released his grasp on the control stick to unlatch the wolf-eye flashlight from his utility belt. The glare on the flashlight was so strong that it could cause temporary blindness if directed at one’s eyes, so Yao Yuan was careful to aim it at the ceiling before switching it on.
Almost instantly, the room lit up in the reflection of the light. Ying, Ebon, and Liu Bai stood intensely with their weapons out; Ren Tao stood in front of Chou Yue, shielding her; while Zhang Heng had his Gaussian gun in one hand and his rifle in another as he scanned his surroundings.
With the arrival of light, all 12 of them turned to one another trying to speak but failed to do so, so they gave up before finally all turning to Yao Yuan.
Yao Yuan set his flashlight down on the floor, allowing it to continue shining at the ceiling. Straightening up, he signed some commands at Lee and then at Ying.
Lee immediately took out his own wolf-eye flashlight as he walked to the control panel. Pointing it out the window that sat above the control panel, he switched it on. The glare of the light was admittedly strong, but it still wasn’t strong enough to pierce the darkness of space. Only the outlines of the metallic pieces crowding around them were revealed by the light. After all, the warship husk was 300 kilometers away!
Then Ying joined him. Activating his power, he looked out the window. After some time, he pointed at a location some distance away. Yao Yuan quickly signed for Ying and Lee to take a break.
(Now that we have a general direction of our destination, we need to find out whether this shuttle is still controllable…) Yao Yuan thought to himself. Jiggling the control stick, the shuttle slowly turned under his control. After turning about 180 degrees, the weak clump of lights, which was the Hope, appeared before their eyes.
(Phew, it looks like even though the electricity has been shut down, stripping the shuttle of its automated functionalities, it still can be manually operated. No wonder both Zhang Heng and Chou Yue didn’t sense any danger… there is a simple workaround to all this.) Yao Yuan turned the shuttle back around, down the direction where Ying was previously pointing.
By then, all of them knew the communicator had broken down, so they returned quietly to their stations. Only Chou Yue stood frozen at her spot. She was badly shaken by the whole incident. The sudden darkness was a tremendous shock to her. Tears that she was unable to wipe dried on her face. Feeling beside herself, she clung onto Ren Tao’s arm.
Ren Tao, on the other hand, still wore his oblivious look… but this time, there was cogitation behind those seemingly vacant eyes.
In any case, the shuttle continued to move forward. There was nothing but an abyss around them. There was no visible change in scenery or even conversation to signify that time was even moving… so much so that it felt like they were traversing a blank space… After an incalculable period of time had passed, a dark outline gradually materialized before them.
When the flashlight finally caught parts of outline in its rays, the lights within the shuttle suddenly came back on! And just like that, it was as if the time spent in the dark hadn’t even happened…