Age of Cosmic Exploration
Translators: EndlessFantasy Translation , Lonelytree, _Dark_Angel_
Editors: EndlessFantasy Translation , Lucas
Chapter 76: 24 Hours (1)
When Jay and Yao Yuan arrived at the pathway leading to the third floor, they were distraught to realize that it had indeed collapsed. The collapse was so complete that there wasn’t space for a rat to squeeze through, much less a full grown man.
After an uncomfortable moment of disbelief and stunned silence, Yao Yuan met Jay’s eyes and said, "There’s no other way now. Get closer to the rocks and try to focus on the plant’s presence. You don’t need to use your power yet, just try to clear your mind. There are still two changes of potion available down there, so I believe we’re safe for the next 20 hours."
After a pause, Yao Yuan added, "Jay, you stay here. I need to go meet up with the rest to come up with a plan. But trust me. I’ll be back as soon as possible."
After hearing that, Jay panicked. "Wait, Yao Yuan! I can’t focus with all that’s going on around us. Plus, I have no idea how I obtained this power in the first place; how do you expect me to switch it on just like that?! It’s pointless for me to stay here, so how about I follow you up there and we’ll come back here together in 20 hours?"
Grabbing Jay by his shoulder, Yao Yuan sternly said, "No! You have to stay here. 20 hours is my rough estimate because the limit the experts gave me was 16 hours. The difference will depend on the concentration of the potion currently used in the reactor…. Also, Jay, Xiao Chen is down there. She applied for the post of translator for the technicians so she could avoid you!"
Jay was flabbergasted by the news and Yao Yuan took that opportunity to leave. After a long while, Jay lifted his hand at the direction Yao Yuan ran off to. As if finally noticing that Yao Yuan was no longer there, Jay slid passively down to the floor, mumbling, "What does he mean by trying to focus on the presence of the plant? Does he really think I’m Superman? Why does he trust me when I don’t even trust myself…
On the other hand, the team led by Ying had reached the entrance to the first floor. They breathed a sigh of relief after finishing a cursory survey. Even though there were a few pieces of falling debris and widening cracks, because it was the underground base’s main entrance, the place had escaped the quake practically unscathed. Most of the machines were functioning normally and the quarantine room was still in one piece. Thankfully, there was no air leakage.
Ying couldn’t help but be impressed by the Workshop’s craftsmanship. They must have spent days designing and building this entrance. This confirmed Ying’s initial evaluation of this entrance when they first moved into the base. Based on his sniper experience, he believed it would require at least a tactical missile to break down this door.
Then, Ying turned to address his team. "Everyone spread out to secure the perimeter. Zhang Heng, are you getting anything with your divining power… Zhang Heng?"
Ying turned to the direction he thought his teammate was standing and saw a blanched Zhang Heng. He quickly rushed to Zhang Heng’s side to keep him from falling. "Zhang Heng, what’s wrong? You’ve sensed danger, haven’t you?! Tell me!"
Zhang Heng swallowed nervously and replied in a wisp of a voice, "The door itself is fine… but the concrete foundation connecting it to the cave wall is loosening. I have no clue how much longer the entrance will stand, but it has been sending me waves of warning ever since we stepped into this area."
Ying took in a breath and nodded slightly at Zhang Heng without uttering a word in return. Then he sat firmly down on the floor, looking resolutely at the entrance door.
Ever since the Hope left the confines of Earth, many of its citizens had been working hard, brushing up on their knowledge about space. For example, they knew that instead of ballooning up and bursting in an explosion like how it was commonly portrayed in movies, man would die of asphyxiation if left in space without support.
That was the danger they would face if the door was to fall. If the foundation continued to loosen, the difference in air pressure inside and outside the base would create a powerful pressure vortex. A small crack in the foundation would lead to the entrance being completely ruined…. That would certainly spell doom for the 120,000 people within.
Speaking of the people within, when Ying’s team was rushing to the first floor entrance, they had witnessed chaotic outbreaks among the people. There weren’t any cases as serious as robberies or murders for now, but it would probably take hours before order could be restored. It would then take a few more hours to equip everyone with space gear before they could proceed to migrate back to the Hope…
Even though the Hope’s main energy circuit had already been upgraded, most of its remaining circuits were still in progress. If the Hope couldn’t power up its life preservation system, the 120,000 people would have to stay in their space-gear. That would not work long-term because the spacesuits had limited battery life, so they could only function for…
Ying had never felt so crowded with worries and insecurities before in his life. He then received a newfound respect for Yao Yuan who had to look after these issues every waking moment of his life.
"Zhang Heng, tell me immediately if you sense things changing… On the scale of 0 to 100, 100 being we’re completely toast, how we are faring at this moment?" Ying whispered.
Shutting his eyes, Zheng Heng then paced around the room before stopping before Ying. "It should be around 80… No, 70!"
"70? Let’s hope there’s still time!"
On the other end of the base, Guang Zhen’s team had changed into their full uniform after gathering all the remaining soldiers and functioning weapons. Starting from level 2, they began consoling the public while moving everyone up to the first floor. Simultaneously, Liu Bai’s medical unit was making the rounds and offering help to the wounded. A temporary camp was set up to conduct simple surgeries and to act as a collection spot for the medical workers and supplies.
"Haven’t I said not to conduct any invasive surgeries?! Prioritize stopping the bleeding before doing anything else!" yelled Liu Bai, when he saw a team of doctors cutting open a heavily wounded citizen to retrieve the objects that were lodged within.
The doctors were openly flustered before one of them spoke. "But Lieutenant Liu Bai, the patient’s vena cava has been pierced. If we don’t remove the object, it’ll lead to internal bloating and he’ll…"
"Just stop his bleeding first. You can continue the surgery back on the Hope!" Liu Bai stole a glance at the patient who appeared to be an engineer. Regardless, he continued forcefully, "First of all, we don’t have much blood here because the blood bank is on the Hope. Secondly, we are extremely under equipped. Last and most importantly, you still have time to conduct these surgeries because the overall situation is not so bad on this level, but I assure you things are much worse on the first floor. Please do not think that we’re in the middle of a hospital…
"Because this is a battlefield!"
Even though Liu Bai normally had a polite demeanor, if need be, he could gather a frightening and commanding presence. The doctors who were used to his smiling face were too afraid to even look him in the eye at the moment.
"I repeat, this is a battlefield! We’re no longer medical doctors but field doctors! It’s our responsibility to save as many lives as we can and realize that pooling our resources on one person is going leave another 10 to die. It’s cruel, yes, but reality’s cruel!"
After that, Liu Bai turned to finish stitching the wound of a woman who had gone unconscious. "There are only 120,000 people left on the Hope, so understand that our effort is utilitarian…. It might be amoral to let 100 people die so that another 1,000 can survive, but that is what we field doctors are supposed to do!"
"Take it from me. It’s easier to stomach that sting of guilt if you see it as hope for the greater good!"
"Yes, take it from me, the person who sacrificed his teammate’s life so that more could live. Trust me, you’ll eventually learn how to live with it…"
Liu Bai’s last sentence was so soft that none of the people around him heard it. In fact, it felt like that proclamation was meant for his ears alone. Hurrying on to his next patient, no one realized tears were mixed with the sweat that was pouring down his face…
By then, 30 minutes had passed since the big earthquake…