When the shuttle first lifted off, the apprehensive enlistees collectively breathed a sigh of relief and thought to themselves, It's just like the taking off and descending in a flying car.
But in no time, the enlistees knew that they had been too naive!
As the shuttle rapidly shot up into the sky, Kevin Lin's face became paler by the minute.
An immense rumbling could be heard from the outside as the view from the windows grew tinged with red. The cabin they were in trembled violently as though the shuttle had encountered a malfunction. A compelling resonance could be felt by their insides, and it gradually got stronger, making everyone feel extremely uncomfortable. Some cried out in pain, cursing and swearing. Others did not howl that violently, but they were definitely in no better shape than the former.
At this moment, all these young enlistees were feeling the out-of-body experience that had been mentioned by the officer prior to take off. The feeling of internal organs being smashed up made one feel as if he were dying, and no amount of useless struggling could alleviate the battering the brain suffered. Everyone who experienced this felt despair as if their lives were ending right here.
Nearby, in the other cabin where the scientists and engineers of the specialized group were, everything was smooth, and the scene inside was like a world apart.
The cabin's soundproofing was great, but they could guess what was happening on the other side. This was something every one of them had experienced, and some looked toward the other side, their eyes brimming with past memories. They were a little glad and felt lucky that they did not need to experience that dreadful process again.
A scientist sighed. "Poor things!" No one knew whether he was feeling sorry for the young enlistees who were suffering a physical and mental battering or lamenting his own past experience.
"Kevin Lin is even more pitiful," said a mining engineer.
Among this batch heading toward planet Baiji, only Kevin Lin had to suffer a second round of torture.
A 100-plus-year-old engineer said, "Speaking of which, this is young Fang's first experience. I wonder how is he now."
These bunch of people had all received help from Fang Zhao, especially those older scientists and engineers. Their expressions were full of worry, and they hoped that Fang Zhao would not be mentally scarred from this.
What was happening in the enlistees' cabin was just a simulation. It simulated the early days when humanity had started their space exploration and the suffering brought about due to technology not being advanced enough.
This was not aimed at Fang Zhao or anybody else. It was an unwritten rule in the military service system. The first reason was to let newbies experience a little of what their former generations had gone through and allow them to understand the pain and suffering of the pioneers that had contributed so much to humanity. This was a mark of respect to those pioneers.
The second reason was to temper the mentalities of these youths who had just reached adulthood. First, toss them all around and shake them up. Regardless of how wild they behave back home, they better be well behaved and retract their claws, or they will be in for a world of pain!
This was the first hurdle that military service enlistees faced. An unavoidable and life-changing hurdle.
Even if some enlistees had some form of understanding through online information or perhaps their friends' and relatives' recountings, when they experienced it for themselves, the feeling of pain and suffering was beyond words.
Luckily, this experience would only last half a minute. After 30 seconds were up, the cabin would slowly settle down.
Just half a minute, only 30 seconds, but within that extremely painful situation, every single second was pure torture!
The young military enlistees enduring these 30 seconds felt as if they had died and been reborn. When the cabin finally became calm, these enlistees' brains were so fuzzy they could not even determine the date.
This sort of situation reflected the difference in constitutions. Those with a stronger constitution appeared way better than those with a weaker one. Some enlistees had already fainted. The stronger ones might not have fainted, but blood was dripping from their nostrils and mouth, and their eyes were bloodshot as they sat stiffly.
A month of military training would not result in wholesale changes among the enlistees, but their constitutions would undoubtedly get a little stronger. If the enlistees had not undergone the training, the number of them collapsing would have been even greater.
The paramedic team calmly strode into the cabin and applied medical treatment to the enlistees. Through the monitoring equipment on the chairs, they could view the status of the enlistees and thus knew that there were no life-threatening situations. The paramedics were used to this scene that happened every April and October.
Kevin Lin was ashen faced, as if he had just witnessed a life-changing ordeal, but at least he was in a better shape than those with weaker constitutions.
Fang Zhao handed a bottle of water over. "Drink some?"
Kevin Lin's head was still spinning from shock when he heard Fang Zhao. "Thanks." Accepting the bottle from Fang Zhao, he rapidly gulped down a few mouthfuls and then suddenly froze. Turning his head violently toward Fang Zhao, he started scanning Fang Zhao from head to toe, as if this person was an alien.
Fang Zhao's face was not flushed or pale, no different from how he was normally was. He was totally unlike somebody who had just gone through a horrible ordeal.
Kevin Lin stuttered, "You... were sitting there the whole time?"
Fang Zhao nodded. "Mhm."
Kevin Lin's jaw dropped as a lot of doubt appeared in his heart. Finally, he asked, "How are you feeling now?"
Fang Zhao pondered seriously and replied, "A novel experience."
Kevin Lin: "..." He had never heard anyone describe this painful experience as something refreshing.
As Fang Zhao did not seem to be pretending, Kevin Lin muttered, "Your constitution is that strong?" However, when he thought about Fang Zhao carrying all those aged technicians on his back so easily, Kevin Lin felt relieved. It seemed like Fang Zhao's physical condition was decent.
Kevin Lin once again lamented his wise decision. Luckily, he had made plans beforehand not to document the process of "flying to the heavens" as a live broadcast. Otherwise, he would have lost face! Even without watching the cabin's surveillance video, he knew what he looked like. Even before taking off, he had been scared sh*tless beyond words.
In the shuttle's control module, two officers in charge of sending enlistees were standing in front of a screen. They had watched the situation in the enlistees' cabin through the monitoring system.
A lieutanant colonel was satisfied. "This batch isn't too bad." He was the one who had told the enlistees to "enjoy the out-of-body experience while flying to the heavens."
Among these batch of enlistees, although there were some whose bodies had been unable to bear the 30 seconds and some who were not mentally strong enough and had fainted, the majority had still been able to endure it and could be considered decent. Of course, the instructor at Yanzhou's military district would credit that as a result of his own "teaching methods."
Beside him was a colonel who remained quite expressionless. "Not bad." He was staring with raised eyebrows at Fang Zhao on the screen. Pointing at the screen, he said, "Is this fellow really one of the five stars in Project Starlight?"
"There's no doubt. It is him. I thought he was just a lucky celebrity, but I never expected that he would have some ability."
They all knew that Fang Zhao's prior month of military training had been with the scientists and engineers. The intensity of that training could not compare with the other enlistees. It was reasonable to say that the results of his one month's training were definitely not enough to improve his constitution compared to the training of the other enlistees. But now, to be able to endure those 30 seconds of torture, his physical condition was way better than the rest.
"Actually, it is understandable. After all, the results of his physical examination were excellent."
"That's true. I just hope that he performs well later on and doesn't disgrace Yanzhou."
The two officers did not spend too long discussing this matter. They were only responsible for sending this batch from Yanzhou to the space station. After the assignment was complete, they could return back to Earth straightaway.
As for Fang Zhao's future performances, they did have high demands. Among the five stars of Project Starlight, Fang Zhao was the most disadvantaged. Although he might have attracted a wave of middle-aged and senior audiences, who knew what further developments there would be?
Generally speaking, getting the more rational middle-aged and senior audiences to part with their money was more difficult than coaxing easily excitable youngsters to donate.
So what if you had a large audience? If the donations were not sufficient, military expenditure could not be raised. Wasn't that still incomparable to others?
However, for their expectations, as long as Fang Zhao was not left too far behind by the other four, that would be good enough. After all, comparing Fang Zhao's age, status, and his lack of ability to coax fans, it was best not have high expectations.
In the enlistees' cabin.
Those pale-faced enlistees had received treatment from the paramedic team and were now feeling better.
A youngster asked, "Are we out yet?"
Someone in the cabin weakly said, "We can see Earth from the windows."
These people had seen the planet so many times, whether it was from interspace travel or other modes of transportation, it no longer had the novelty factor. Even people seeing this sight for the first time only found it a fresh experience momentarily; they would not be in the mood for long. Nowadays, this sight was very common.
They were starting to miss home, and not just their own homes or their homeland. The planet they had grown up on, regardless of whether it was their own continent or a foreign one, would always be their home planet. The soil they had stepped on was truly theirs. Any time they wished to go home, home was but a flight ticket away.
But starting now, they were going to be far away from the planet that everyone was so family with. There was a feeling of suspense. After all, these enlistees were still young, and this was the first time they would be so far away from home. When thinking about the arduous life awaiting them in the next year, anyone would feel a sense of sentimentalism, and the entire cabin became silent and slightly stifling.
During this period of silence, Fang Zhao walked over to the window and gazed out.
Kevin Lin had been about to say something when he noticed Fang Zhao looking out of the window with a sense of gentleness, as if he was watching a unique treasure.
Fang Zhao stood there, staring out the transparent window, feeling strongly attached yet shocked.
This azure blue planet was just an insignificant speck in the boundless cosmos, yet it carried so many sentiments and memories.
With his own two eyes, Fang Zhao gazed intently at the clear image separated by just a thin window. The planet he had been born on, had grown up, and had fought, struggled, and resisted on. The planet occupied his field of vision, seemingly close enough for him to reach out and touch it.
This was the planet 500 years after his death, familiar yet strange.
It had recovered, although slightly different from the Old Era, but at least it now had a healthy color.
The sudden outburst of complex emotions made Fang Zhao misty-eyed
Below him was the azure blue planet; above him were the endless heavens.
Countless notes started bouncing around in his mind, like dazzling fireworks exploding in the night sky, seemingly like countless stars twinkling in the boundless universe.