Age of Cosmic Exploration

Author: Zhttty

Translators: EndlessFantasy Translation , Lonelytree, _Dark_Angel_

Editors: EndlessFantasy Translation , Lucas


Chapter 96: Homo Evolutis Faction

Initially, the Hope was working to upgrade two shuttles, but one of them was buried alongside the underground base when the earthquake hit the meteorite. Therefore, in total, the Hope only had one upgraded space shuttle and another un-upgraded one.
The upgraded shuttle could now fire small-sized and medium-sized missiles and was armed with automatic cannons that could do quick work of large spaceships. Furthermore, its energy circuit was upgraded to include an energy storage system that could help it maintain a 60 percent longer flight time. The energy circuit was upgraded using the superconductor materials provided by the alien plant.
Without overhauling its internal combustion engines, its speed and mobility had remained unchanged, but even at that stage, it was already a product that stood at the forefront of humans’ technological advancement. However, all these projects were additive in the sense that they didn’t involve the shuttles’ internal engines, which were still beyond man’s comprehension.
In other words, toying with attachments was the extent of the upgrades that the Hope could perform on this shuttle. The Hope’s scientific acumen had to be stronger before more core upgrades could be done.
And that was why it was heading towards the spaceship junkyard!
The upgraded shuttle’s test pilots were unanimously selected to be Ying and Lee. Both of them were Homo Evolutis, Ying being a seeker and Lee a preceptor. As safety precautions, the team of test pilots originally included two diviners, Zhang Heng and Chou Yue, but since Zhang Heng was still in rehabilitation, he was exempted.
Chou Yue, on the other hand, was still in basic training. With a prima donna attitude that befitted her surname [1], Chou Yue’s training regime had been dragged on to a stage where everyone was positive it was never going to end. In one of her running practices, she constantly requested for rest because the temperature was too hot. Finally losing his temper, her commanding officer chided her, asking how the temperature could be too hot when the Hope had its temperature regulated at 20 degrees Celsius. To which she famously replied, "Running makes your body temperature rise, right? And since the external temperature is, as you said, regulated, this means total in total, my temperature has had a net gain. And with that, I repeat, it’s too hot to run."
Because she was a preteen girl and a diviner that was only slightly less powerful than Zhang Heng, no one dared defy her. The fact that she was also an important member of the underground base rescue unit didn’t help the situation either.
In any case, she was not cut out to be a military woman.
So Yao Yuan had no choice but to volunteer to join the team of test pilots. Even though his diviner’s power wasn’t as powerful as Zhang Heng's or Chou Yue’s, his presence should at least be of some use.
It took almost the whole Black Star Unit to persuade him otherwise and let both Ying and Lee handle the test flight.
The first flight test took 6 hours, and thankfully it went without a hitch. Tests on the shuttle’s mobility, weapons, energy consumption, and storage were well within the Academy’s predicted spectrum. The only exception was the cannon’s firing range, which turned out to be longer than expected.
There were six test flights in total, and other than some minor complications, the shuttle was deemed ready to venture into the junkyard.
"Then it’s the matter of deciding who will be going,"
Addressing the Black Star members before him, Yao Yuan continued, "The exploratory party will consist of 11 to 12 people, and 80 percent of it will involve Homo Evolutis. The shuttle will carry the party into the junkyard, while the Hope will station itself 300 to 500 kilometers away from it.
"There will be four steps to the exploratory mission. First the shuttle will stop at the junkyard’s outer layer to collect various metallic samples for the Academy to conduct analysis on them. Hopefully, this will be able to give us more details on the spaceship fleet’s technological level. This first step will be incredibly dangerous, and the team will have to be on constant lookout for signs of danger. We can’t tell for certain if the spaceships’ defense mechanism has been shut down. Be vigilant for lasers, or high-speed missiles, or even both. In other words, this first step is also to bait out possible attacks…"
"It’s incredibly dangerous," Yao Yuan repeated for emphasis.
The seriousness of the topic didn’t match the feast stretched out before them, but since Lee and Ying had completed their last flight test around dinner time, Yao Yuan decided to invite all of his Black Star comrades to gather for dinner while sharing with them the plans for the exploratory mission.
"Since the first step is the most dangerous, I will be leading it myself alongside Zhang Heng and Ying. We will return immediately if Zhang Heng predicts danger," added Yao Yuan.
Here, Guang Zhen interrupted, "Ol’ Capt’n, can’t we use the remote-controlled mining airship like how the Academy suggested? Those are controllable within a 1,000 kilometer range, and if the purpose of this first step is to collect materials, the airships are perfect. Plus, it’s the safest option."
Yao Yuan shook his head. After taking a bite out of the spring roll on his plate, he elaborated. "The problem is we do not know how advanced this civilization is. We could release 50 of these airships to venture into the junkyard on our behalf when the Hope is within range, but due to possible radioactive wave interference over long distances, there is a high chance that not only will we lose these airships, they will trigger the spaceships’ sleeping defense mechanism as well.
"However! That is the best case scenario. Alan and Bo Li have revealed to me a possibly worse fate. Our intrusion may be handled in the manner I’ve just described, but that prediction is baseless because at the end of the day, we can’t really predict the exact response of a technologically superior race."
Yao Yuan was greeted with pairs of puzzled eyes and hence he continued to explain, "I know it sounds complicated, and I was equally lost when they first approached me with this possibility, but I soon broke out in cold sweat when I understood their perspective. Let me use fishing as an analogy; perhaps that will make it clearer. It is common knowledge between veteran anglers that fish are prone to testing your bait. If you reel in your rod at the first sign of your bobber moving, chances are the fish will escape.
"The experienced angler thus could differentiate between a fake bite and an actual one."
Finishing the rest of his spring roll, Yao Yuan continued, "Similarly, whenever anything approaches us in space, we first analyze it before deciding to fight or flight. If it is a natural entity, like a space rock or asteroid, we avoid it if we can and destroy it if we can’t.
"But what if it is something manmade, like a spherical, metal ball? If a round, metal ball is flying towards us right this moment, what would be our first reaction?"
A thoughtful silence pervaded the room before Ying said firmly, "We would destroy it!"
Yao Yuan nodded, putting weight behind Ying’s solution. "I agree, but here lies the problem. We are completely unfamiliar with this metal object, and even if it was giving out constant electrical signals, we would destroy it for safety’s sake… But what if it was some sort of peace treaty from another colony? We would have unwittingly initiated a space war!
"You see, we are the inexperienced angler in the analogy. We would jump right into preemptive action for the sake of safety… But remember, the civilization that formed this junkyard is much more advanced than us. Let’s say their scanning technology is advanced enough to be able to easily analyze and dissect electrical signals, and maybe even our communicative structure and meaning. They could come to the fast conclusion that our mining airships present no threat.
"What would you do if you were this other civilization?"
This time it was Guang Zhen who answered. "Capture it to examine it further and to siphon out more information."
"Indeed." Yao Yuan nodded. "Different civilizations approach the similar problem with widely different solutions depending on its technological era. Guang Zhen is most likely correct that the opponent would capture our airships to conduct more analysis on them. Of course, since the place is already a junkyard, I’ll admit that the chance of this happening is low. Then again, there are still fairly big pieces floating about the area, so one really can’t tell. In any case, a wrong step here could lead the Hope to total annihilation.
"And this is not a risk that I’m willing to take. So this plan of using the mining airships will not work. We have to rely on the shuttle, which has communication functionality and weapons to complete this first step.
"So, that concludes the first part of the mission. If all goes well, the second step will be forming a Homo Evolutis team to venture deeper into the junkyard. This team will also be 10 to 12 people in size and similarly, I’ll be leading it…
"To find members for this second team, I’ve decided to organize a specialized unit called Homo Evolutis Faction, specially designed to train and unlock the potentials of all known and latent Homo Evolutis. Its tasks will be to teach this unique class of people the ways to wield their powers and the accompanying pitfalls.
"This Homo Evolutis Faction’s importance can’t be understated because… it might be humans’ only unit powerful enough to diffuse the threats posed by a more advanced civilization!"