Age of Cosmic Exploration

Author: Zhttty

Translators: EndlessFantasy Translation , Lonelytree, _Dark_Angel_

Editors: EndlessFantasy Translation , Lucas


Chapter 120: Sacrificial Lambs

After the meeting, Yao Yuan had second thoughts regarding further exploration into the junkyard. His doubts came not only from the things discussed during the meeting but also the long conversation he had with Ren Tao after the meeting.
Yao Yuan was on his way back to the reports that awaited his signature and approval in the captain’s room when the normally happy-go-lucky Ren Tao forcefully accosted him by the entrance to the war-room. "You have something to tell me?" Yao Yuan asked, rather impatiently.
Ren Tao nodded firmly. "I do, but this is only meant for the ears of… the exploration party, Black Star members, and definitely not these government officials. Oh! Right, Chou Yue, you’re not supposed to hear this either."
Before Chou Yue could even flare up, Yao Yuan had already ordered all the non-related personnel to leave the room. Out of her wits, Chou Yue resorted to stealthily pinching Ren Tao on his waist before reluctantly following the rest out. Only Guang Zhen and a few other Black Star members remained.
Rubbing the sore spot, Ren Tao laid his cards on the table. "I didn’t mention any of this during the meeting because I don’t want to cause unnecessary panic, but… Yao Yuan, I have to ask you to stop exploring the junkyard, especially plans that involve the main battleship."
"Hmm." Yao Yuan did a double-take. "So you’ve figured out my next course of action."
"It’s not that hard, actually." Ren Tao ventured cautiously. "You’ve asked for 500 prototype 1 combat suits and 500 Gaussian gun prototype 2s in the next 2 months. It’s not hard to see where you’re going with this."
"Really? Do tell." Yao Yuan feigned innocence.
"You want to build an army for space war, right? The Hope’s current military, while trained, have no experience in zero-gravity combat and doesn’t have the necessary equipment to do so. This sounds harsh, but for your future plan, our military at its current state is practically useless." Ren Tao continued, "Therefore, you need to fix that fast because I believe your plan is to conquer this junkyard one warship husk at a time. Since the robots are programmed to limit the use of their most powerful weapon inside the warships, you intend to lead this army of, I’m guessing, 300 to 400 people to storm the warships and overpower the robots using sheer numbers and combined firepower. Am I wrong?"
Yao Yuan stood in quiet contemplation and retrieved a pack of cigarettes from within his coat and flicked one over to Ren Tao. "You’re right, not missing even a detail. With your intellect, surely you understand how valuable this junkyard is to the Hope. An innocuous music box alone has managed to improve our technological level by so unbelievably much, could you even imagine how much progress the whole junkyard could provide? The most conservative prediction puts it at several centuries worth of development and research. How can you possibly ask me to give that up?!"
Ren Tao returned the cigarette kindly back to Yao Yuan. "Thanks, but I don’t smoke… What you said is all true, but one first has to be alive to enjoy all of that! By the way, have you seen the Terminator series?"
Yao Yuan furled his brows. "As a matter of fact, I have."
"Then you should know what the basis of an AI’s existence is. The entity that makes us human, or a kind of conscious existence, is our brain. What is the equivalent for AIs? Is it its hard-drive, CPU, or something else? We wouldn’t know because our own creation hasn’t achieved Singularity. That knowledge is literally beyond our intellect!" Solemnity entered Ren Tao’s voice as he continued, "There is another possibility behind the chip’s self-destructive set-up, and that is to prevent the malignant AI from hacking into the individual robots. In other words, even though the central mainframe is destroyed, the AI remains unharmed because, like Skynet, it is a virtual existence. It doesn’t need the mainframe to exist because its existence is anchored in the virtual world, and that world is not only maintained solely by the central mainframe but also separately by individual network servers."
"So what?" Yao Yuan took a deep drag of his cigarette and asked rather impassively, his previous impatience gone.
"Are you serious? So, we have a big problem!" Ren Tao argued. "How can you be certain there aren’t such network servers remaining in the bigger warship husks? If the smallest warship husk could manage to preserve its power, what are the chances that the bigger ones won’t have their servers still intact?"
Ren Tao raised his voice to emphasize, "You’ve heard the arsenals these robots carry! They are killing machines specialized in space combat, with extremely fast flight speed and incredibly powerful Gaussian weaponry. If they wish the Hope any harm, this ship will be torn into pieces in a matter of minutes! Therefore, we need to leave this star system this instant, warp out of here as soon as possible! I believe our presence is still undiscovered because the battleship fleet has already been destroyed, but I’m sure our existence will be exposed when we venture into the battleship itself! If the malignant AI is awakened, I doubt even this 10,000 kilometer distance will save us from its wrath. It’ll be too late by then, so I beg of you, please don’t toy with the future of humanity!"
Ebon, who stood behind Yao Yuan, had been trying to keep his anger in check, but at this juncture, he finally lost it. Unleashing a loud roar, he lunged at Ren Tao, but thankfully, Yao Yuan had the presence of mind to first knock him out of the way. He shook his head at Ebon to calm him down before turning to face Ren Tao. "I’ve thought of everything you said, and indeed I’m aware we’re technically sheep waiting to be slaughtered if the AI means to do us harm, but… I can’t let this precious opportunity slip through our fingers!"
Provoked by Yao Yuan’s stubbornness, Ren Tao too lost his composure and yelled, "Is taking this shortcut so important to you? What is so wrong with allowing progress to move on its own accord, one gradual step after another step? I swear we only need 1 or 2 more generations to reach the fourth industrial revolution! It could be done with the alien products we currently have on board!"
"It’s sadly not fast enough…"
Yao Yuan did not respond in rage. Instead, he replied with a certain melancholy in his voice as he turned to look out the dark abyss that was space outside the ship’s window. "Ren Tao, you’re right about most things, but I’m curious whether you’ve noted one particular detail."
"What detail?" Ren Tao asked, still fuming.
"There was no dead body on the warship husk…"
"…I’ve noticed."
Yao Yuan nodded. "Logically speaking, a carcass will last literally forever in space unless it is met with human tampering or a space-related disaster. This is due to the cosmos’ vacuum environment and low temperature. So, how come there is not even one carcass on the warship?"
Yao Yuan paused and turned to address Ren Tao directly. "If we had the unfortunate fate of stumbling into this civilization in its golden age, we would be instantly crushed like an insignificant bug. There wouldn’t be any skirmishes, negotiations, or even struggles, and this is only because they were 1 industrial revolution ahead of us!
"However, such a powerful civilization has somehow fallen into our speculated fate. Even though their whole base has been shredded into pieces, there is not one trace of foreign influence. This could only represent 1 thing! Another more powerful civilization has in turn crushed them like a bug!
"One has to wonder… what does that make mankind? An existence that’s inferior to a bug… so, bacteria?"
His face reddening, Yao Yuan continued agitatedly, "The Hope has been incredibly lucky so far. We’ve managed to escape certain death on Planet Sahara, and not only that, managed to secure benefits in the form of the alien plant and development of the crystal reactors and supplies from all the space mining. But it is foolish to expect this streak of good luck to last. The Hope as a whole needs to be better prepared and equipped. For that, we need technology!
"Yes, the cosmos is a harsh place, and I’m sure it’ll have many nasty surprises lying in wait for us, but we shan’t quiver in cowardice, because mankind is the most innovative, resilient, and favorable of all intelligent lifeforms!"
Yao Yuan looked Ren Tao squarely in his eyes. "I know how much danger I’m undertaking with my upcoming plans. Like you said, it could lead to the downfall of humanity, but it is a step that I’m forced to and willing to take. We can’t always depend on luck, so this time, I’m taking matters into our own hands… Both you and Chou Yue have the freedom to opt out of the upcoming missions, but I’m not ashamed to say we truly need your powerful mind…"
Yao Yuan turned to head towards the captain’s room with the rest of his Black Star comrades falling into his footsteps. His parting words were, "My mind’s made up. Before the mission begins, I will give an order to the Hope’s officials that will allow them to abandon the troop and warp if the ship comes under any form of a threat.
"…Of course, as the one responsible for leading the troop, I will gladly make a last stand with the troop and proudly lay down my life alongside my friends and comrades!"