Fang Zhao ate till he was full. Under the astonished gazes of those around him, he finished plate after plate.
The people surrounding him, including Kevin Lin, had no appetite. Some of them threw up after one bite. There was too much remaining on the plates, and Fang Zhao helped those around him clear theirs.
"You... don't have to force yourself," someone beside him advised.
"I'm not," Fang Zhao replied.
Fang Zhao himself knew how much he could eat. Earlier on, he had asked for advice on military service matters and so knew that he would be using up a lot of energy even on normal days. All along, he'd eaten more than others, so letting himself eat freely on the first day was to remind others that "I consume more food," so in the future, even if he ate more after a hard day's work, other people would not be overly shocked.
As for why he could eat so much today...
He had no choice; he was hungry. On the spacecraft to Baiji, others had been in hibernation, but Fang Zhao had played many symphonies in his head till he'd lost track. Using one's brain's also consumed energy.
The other newcomers in this batch viewed him in a respectful light. He is worthy of being an idol. He can eat so much of these half-cooked and unclean bugs, what an extraordinary person.
As for the previous batch that had arrived in October, they were all dumbstruck. How could it be that this little celebrity could eat so much more than them who had already been on this base for half a year?
After Kevin Lin had ended the long distance communications with headquarters, he contemplated in the lounge for a bit before returning to the dining hall. Fang Zhao had already finished eating and was sitting there chatting with some of the base's military service personnel.
Kevin Lin's face twitched as he scanned the pile of empty plates in front of Fang Zhao.
Kevin Lin called Fang Zhao to the side. "Fang Zhao, let's discuss the live broadcast later. From today onward, we will not censor anything during the live broadcasts in the base. Instructions from the top. There will be less margin for error, so during live broadcasts, we need to be even more cautious."
Fang Zhao understood and nodded his head.
"Later on, we will be visiting the base's kitchen. There will be even more unappealing sights. Although it seems like you are adapting just fine, we still have to be prudent and remember that your words and actions at all times will be captured by the camera and transmitted to more people. Sometimes, even if you are afraid, you still have to act calm and not make a big fuss. Actions like that might turn off viewers."
Kevin Lin told Fang Zhao a lot. There were many past incidents on live broadcasts of variety programs where celebrities had not portrayed themselves well. Kevin Lin remembered a male celebrity who had portrayed himself to be brave. In the end, when he had appeared on a variety show, he had been frightened by a snake and screamed. The image that his managing company had so painstakingly crafted for him had been demolished in an instant. Since then, Kevin Lin had rarely seen that celebrity on-screen anymore.
Fang Zhao and Kevin Lin were led to the kitchen. The moment the doors opened, a noxious odor assaulted their nostrils. Kevin Lin nearly fainted from the smell.
Before coming over, they had watched a recording of the kitchen and had an approximate understanding of the situation inside. If they were to enter without knowing anything beforehand, even base command would feel uneasy. If this really scared them, it would be a problem. How were they going to appeal to the masses and gain support then?
Without even getting to see the kitchen yet, Fang Zhao stood outside, differentiating the different smells as he thought back to the recording of the kitchen.
The kitchen's supervisor handed over masks that he had prepared earlier. "You guys will definitely not get used to the smell on your first time here. This is a mask that can filter out some odors and make it more bearable."
Kevin Lin hurriedly put on the mask. Afterward, he felt he could breathe normally. He glanced at Fang Zhao beside him who did not seem to have much reaction. Is this fellow's sense of smell impaired?
Fang Zhao did not feel that this stench necessitated wearing a mask, but on the surface, he did not want to seem too special, so he accepted the mask from the supervisor and put it on.
"Are you ready?" Kevin Lin looked towards Fang Zhao. Getting a nod from Fang Zhao, he proceeded to adjust the camera and switched on live-broadcasting mode.
Kevin Lin's expression changed as he faced the camera. "Greetings, everyone, we have already finished dinner and are about to enter the base's kitchen, which is what many of our online viewers requested to know more about in the comments. However, entering for the first time, we haven't gotten used to the smell, so we are using masks..."
The internet was so well developed, and many online users had high IQs. They knew that the food displayed on the tables in the dining hall had not necessarily been what these people in the military had for meals. Thus, they wished to see the dining hall's kitchen and head inside to understand the kind of food served at the base. This was the assignment all five channels had received.
As they walked through, the supervisor explained more. The base's kitchen was different from most general restaurants. Here there were stringent tests, and every container loaded with food was made from special materials.
Fang Zhao observed his surroundings along the way. It was still considered clean, probably because the base had specially tidied it up for the live broadcast. Even if they were depicting a poor and bleak picture, they still could not disgust the audiences. Traces of cleaning were not that obvious—the base's higher ups were still rather meticulous in their planning.
Although it was already after dinner, there were still people in the kitchen who were busy. They were not acting; this was normal.
"Those deployed outside will return later. Our base also provides a supper time slot to cater to those soldiers that are out for assignments and return later. This batch of kitchen staff who work in the afternoon still have to continue working at night," explained the kitchen supervisor, transmitting a message: Our job ain't easy. Overtime every day!
There were some large transparent vats nearby that were close to two stories tall. Some were empty, while others were still full.
The supervisor pointed at one of the empty vats as he explained, "That was what you had for dinner."
One of the vats in the middle still had many bugs. Inside, bugs as thick as an adult's arm were biting and gnawing on each other.
The supervisor continued, "These bugs are greedy, violent, and carnivorous. Generally, we don't keep them for too long. We will finish these tonight."
The camera moved closer to better film the bugs biting each other behind the transparent wall. One bug that was gnawing on its fellow bugs seemed to have noticed the camera nearing, and it violently opened its jaws and tried to bite the camera, smashing into the transparent wall with a loud "bang." Rows of razor sharp teeth could be seen in the close-up of its ferocious jaws.
The camera would not be scared by the sudden charge, but the same could not be said for the online audience.
"The f*ck! That was so scary I dropped my cigarette!"
"It's late at night over at our continent! I just screamed and woke my dormmates."
"Was... was that the thing they ate just now?"
"Ssss—watching it up close, I feel all squeamish. I've got goose bumps."
The camera backed off of the vat walls and the bugs inside immediately lost interest and continued chewing on each other.
The camera continued on and filmed the vat beside the previous one, filled to the brim with another sort of organism that had been delivered this afternoon. It was an organism that was abundant on this planet. This nonthreatening invertebrate lived in the ocean and liked to attached itself to reefs. Today, the team that had gone out to survey the ocean had brought these back.
These disk-shaped creatures the size of a palm had a dazzling shimmer on their edges. When stuck to the transparent vat wall, they seemed like numerous densely packed large round eyes.
In the other surrounding vats, the contents were not as aesthetically pleasing, and some audiences could not stand it.
"Aarghh—I have trypophobia! Change the channel! Hurry and change it!
"What are those things in the box in the back, so disgusting. I'm not watching any longer!"
"Imagine these things not being washed properly then cut up and served. A hygiene freak like me cannot stand it."
"What a troublesome scene! There are many minors among the online audience. Minors could be mentally scarred by all this!"
"Channel S5, are you not afraid of losing fans by broadcasting this?! As least censor it!"
However, there were also audiences that expressed that they could accept it.
"Ahh, those comments above me are surely young friends who have not yet undergone military service or who were lucky enough to be posted to a well-off planet. To be honest, for people like us who were posted to a planet with bad conditions, this isn't something we have never experienced before."
"It is said that the earlier days of military service were just like this. Since when was it ever comfortable like some people claim?"
"That's right! You can't say that you have done your military service if you have never eaten raw alien bugs!"
But no matter how much the online audiences argued, over at this side, filming went on as planned.
In the kitchen, there were workers currently handling the food. These were also mainly conscripts.
A robust and tall youngster came over when the supervisor indicated. He pulled down his mask and explained to Fang Zhao and the rest about how the foodstuff here was handled and treated. He also talked about response measures to take when encountering these bugs outside the base. His words were no-nonsense, clear, and concise, and he did not deliberately drag out his screen time. If he did so, would he ever get another chance to show his face again?
"Our leaders say that those out hunting or transporting food might not be attentive enough and not have enough energy to filter the organisms out. Our kitchen needs to spend some effort to sort out the smaller ones before processing. When the time comes, those food transporters bring them out and release them. That's because, in the document sent by the top, developments on foreign planets have to adopt a sustainable strategy. We are tested on this every month."
This youngster was dark skinned, but whether it was tanned or natural, no one knew. He looked especially simple and honest, and when he spoke, he seemed very sincere. The youngster pointed at an ecology balance chart displayed on the screen in the kitchen.
"Look, our planet's ecosystem is currently very stable, and its development is considered healthy. A while back, our base received a complaint saying that we had damaged the ecology balance and our data was fake. The Ministry of Supervision even sent someone over to carry out an inspection. The hunting team, the delivery squad, and us in the kitchen, every division was thoroughly inspected, and there were no problems. Our data was all reliable. On that day, to facilitate the inspection, nobody ate and we nearly fainted from hunger."
The youngster closed his fingers on his two hands and waved vigorously at the camera. "If we get another complaint without evidence, I will cry for you guys! This is no joking matter. It concerns our military service evaluation!"
There were grades for military service. The entire year's comprehensive evaluation would ultimately be recorded in a file that would follow a person for the rest of their life.
As for the ecology balance chart and sustainable strategy, these had not been mentioned randomly by the youngster.
After the Founding Era, when humanity first discovered a hospitable planet and proposed an immigration or colonization plan, ecologists would mention one word: acclimatization.
They did not want to mercilessly eradicate every last one of the newly discovered planet's life forms, nor did they want to destroy the ecosystem. Hence, they could only employ acclimatization tactics.
They did not want to forcefully change the original ecology of the planet, but rather, by using acclimitization tactics, humans could slowly permeate into an ecosystem devoid of humans and slowly allow the ecosystem to adapt and let humans become part of it.
All of these base constructions on foreign planets had met with quite a lot of opposing views. The military wished to take the opportunity of these live broadcast program to tell the masses: We do not forcefully conquer. Rather, we have plans for gentle development.
"The soil on this plot of land has already undergone treatment, and our leaders have already said that crops can be grown here. There are scientists among the batch of people that came with you guys. They will be in charge of introducing a new variety of crops and monitoring the ecology balance. Our leaders mentioned that the process of introducing a new variety of crops is very important. We can't just grab a handful of seeds and sprinkle them and then expect abundant harvests and full stomachs. If this damages the planet's ecology and causes the ecosystem to change, we might possibly spend even more time trying to fix it. A place without a healthy ecosystem is not suitable for immigration or colonization."
He mentioned "our leaders said" many times. There were too many important names of leaders, and missing out any would not be good. If he got nervous and left out any important people and caused a grudge, there would be trouble. Thus, he simply did not mention any names.
Although this youngster looked honest and simple, he had a really strong spirit. Otherwise, he would not have managed to land this opportunity to show his face on the live broadcast.
As for people with a keen nose for politics, they could learn lots of things just from this broadcast. There were a number of social factors behind this political agenda.
For Fang Zhao, who used to be a leader himself, he could naturally catch the hidden agendas behind all these words. However, now that he was only a little celebrity, he would act ignorant on certain issues.
Having said what he had been instructed to say, as well as a fair share of bootlicking, the youngster grabbed from the box beside him a bug that had already been slaughtered. He proficiently removed its head and its poisonous side glands before slicing it up into portions and placing it on a conveyor belt. These would be sent into the stove ahead to be sterilized.
Fang Zhao and his group also went to the other areas in the kitchen and filmed the sterilizing equipment. Kevin Lin had expressed that this was an important part. Other basic machinery or equipment in the kitchen could be sloppily filmed, but the sterilizing equipment had to be filmed with care.
After the kitchen, equipment, and foodstuffs had all been filmed, all the kitchen staff had already gathered and were eating. Their dinner time was slightly later than the others, and when they were done with dinner, they still had to continue working overtime.
The tanned youngster who had been explaining held a plate of roasted bugs and raised it over to Fang Zhao and the others. "Want some more? These are fresh from the oven, still hot."
Kevin Lin looked at the pieces of bug meat that were not fully cooked and felt his gut flipping.
"It's all right, I had a lot back in the dining hall just now," Fang Zhao replied.
The other party laughed and lowered the plate, thinking that Fang Zhao was still not used to these. Trying to console the newcomers, he said, "These type of bugs with many segments and many legs live in the ground. You will see a lot of them at the constructions sites. At the start, we were all really scared of them, but as we ate and ate more, we were no longer scared. When I first got here, a senior told me that these things might look scary, but the more you eat, the less scary they become. You can try it. After all, you guys still have to survive another year here."
Survive another year here...
A full year...
Kevin Lin felt his heart aching.Trypophobia is a proposed phobia (intense, irrational fear, or anxiety) of irregular patterns or clusters of small holes or bumps