Fan Lin asked Fang Zhao, "Word is that you can hear sounds that normal people can't. Can you hear the sound of plants? The sound of flowers blooming, for example?"
Kevin Lin secretly cursed. So this old geezer is here to toy with us. The sound of flowers blooming? What bloody sound? What's wrong with his ears?
"I'm not that sensitive," Fang Zhao responded. "My hearing is just slightly better than the average person. Locating the power ore was just pure luck."
Fan Lin chuckled. "Luck is a form of competence." He didn't press further, instead switching gears. "You've never ventured beyond the base except for the mines, right?"
"Right." Security was tight. The miners were bused out together every day. They couldn't come and go as they pleased.
Fan Lin got up and waved at Fang Zhao and Kevin Lin. "Let's go. Let me show you some of the experimental fields."
Kevin Lin glanced at Fang Zhao and responded with a smile only when he saw his roommate nod. "We just happen to be free. Let's expand our horizons under your wise guidance. Can I start a live broadcast?"
"Of course. Shoot as much as you want. You can shoot freely when we get to the experimental fields too. I'll do my best to cooperate," Fan Lin said as he led the way.
Kevin Lin arched his eyebrows. Is this old geezer looking for free advertising? As far as he knew, most farming projects on foreign planets were related to food or medicine. Projects that were still in the experimental phase were normally kept secret. The fact that Fan Lin was letting them cover his project meant a product launch was imminent, or at least in the pipeline.
The thought of a new food or medical product launching on his home planet got Kevin Lin excited. This was no grade A power ore or a new element, but at least it was news.
"Prof. Fan, you have an ongoing experimental project here?" Kevin Lin was so excited that he asked a stupid question. Why else would this senior academic travel all the way to Baiji if he didn't have a project going on? He doesn't specialize in power ores.
"Yup. One of the lab technicians who arrived with you is attached to my project. Come to think of it, the project has been ongoing on Baiji for more than 30 years," Fan Lin responded.
Thirty years was long enough for an experiment to reach fruition, to reap the necessary technical know-how and complete risk assessment. A market launch was around the corner if there weren't any safety concerns to address. Kevin Lin got even more excited.
"Is it a food project? Or medical?" Fang Zhao asked.
"Both. It's a fruit with high medicinal value."
It wouldn't make sense to spend so much money, time, and manpower on an experimental plant on a foreign planet if it didn't have high medicinal value.
"We started with an experimental plot, but in the meantime, the plots on the base have been improved, so we'll start planting the fruit at scale here. If we're successful, maybe you'll see the first batch on store shelves by the time you go home next year." Fan Lin was beaming, his smile widening as he spoke.
"That's great timing. We can advertise the fruit for you first."
Fan Lin wasn't shy about his intentions. "Haha, I approached you guys exactly because of your exposure."
Muzhou was the major food producer on their home planet, but many of their crops were not local species—more than half had been mixed with DNA from foreign plants, through cross-breeding or genetic engineering. There were also species that didn't thrive on their home planet and were cultivated on foreign planets.
The crops that Fan Lin was growing on Baiji were genetically mixed—half of their DNA was from the home planet and half was from Baiji. It did not grow well on the home planet, only on Baiji.
Fan Lin led Fang Zhao and Kevin Lin to his lab to pack. Fan Lin's team had already started packing.
"Teacher, we're ready. We can give them a heads up," one of the lab technicians told Fan Lin.
Fan Lin inspected the gathered equipment and nodded. "Good. Contact the flying transport and get ready to head to the experimental plot."
"Oh, I almost forgot this." Fan Lin walked to a corner. "I almost forgot to bring you."
Fang Zhao glanced over and saw Fan Lin pick up a small water tank. In it was a white blob that resembled a rabbit, except it didn't have eyes, a nose, or any other facial features.
"Oh, is that a 'choppy hair'? Is it one of the bigger ones?" Kevin Lin was intrigued. The "choppy hair" he referred to was a type of pet sea slug. It looked like a white rabbit curled up together, its two "ears" floating about. The most common type of pet "choppy hair" was only about a finger's length long. The one in Fan Lin's water tank was the size of a human palm. If your hands were small, you wouldn't be able to cover it with one hand.
Sea slugs weren't well known in the Old Era, but they were quite common in the New Era.
Many organisms had gone extinct during the 100-year Period of Destruction, sea animals included, but lo and behold, this tiny organism that hadn't been on anyone's radar had proliferated in a major way during those 100 years. They had grown in size as well as numbers. Scientists who studied the Period of Destruction had hypothesized that the extinction of certain sea organisms had something to do with the rise of these small creatures.
They were a major force behind the curing of many major diseases left over from the Period of Destruction.
Sea slugs were the default lab animal for New Era scientists when it came to studying mutation and disease because they were abundant in number and could reproduce quickly. They were also a hot commodity. Many researchers bred pet sea slugs of all sizes, shapes, and colors on the side when they conducted their experiments.
Sea slugs were one of the most popular pets in the New Era. Kevin Lin had a few pet sea slugs at home. They were even better looking than the one before him.
New breeds that were quite big in size had also showed up on the market. They were no longer a rarity, but as far as choppy hairs were concerned, the blob before him was a bit large.
"Haha, this is not a purebred choppy hair." Fan Lin chuckled. "It has half Baiji DNA."
Fan Lin lifted his hand and tapped the water tank. "Don't fall asleep."
The sea slug's "ears" shivered, and its body started to glow.
"It's even brighter than a flashlight," Kevin Lin said.
"This is a purely natural energy-saving lamp," Fan Lin responded as he tossed a food capsule into the tank.
Fang Zhao watched the blob lying in the tank extend its body slowly, open its mouth, ingest the capsule, and curl up again.
"I get antsy watching it. It's so slow," Kevin Lin said. Compared to his pet sea slugs, this one was turtle-speed. But the advantage of the one before him was that it was a steady light source and was more practical.
"It's not very sensitive, because the little fella is resting. The water temperature is quite low, so it's not very active," Fan Lin said.
Kevin Lin was puzzled. "Why not warm it up?" The pet sea slugs he kept at home were a bundle of energy. He loved watching those beautiful sea creatures swimming in his large water tank.
Fan Lin pursed his lips. "It's a big eater."
This was a reason Kevin Lin couldn't argue against.
"We'll bring it so we have a light source in case the electricity supply at the experimental plot runs low."
When electric grids went down or were unable to power lighting equipment, or when someone was venturing into an area where electric lighting was impractical, these natural light sources that glowed but didn't heat up were a good alternative. As Fan Lin had put it, it was 100 percent natural, energy-saving, and easy to breed.
"Sounds like a great species. Why don't you guys breed some more? I'm sure they would sell well too," Kevin Lin said.
"I'm not an expert. From what the researchers who bred this one told me, they wanted to breed more too, but they ended up with only one in 30 years." Fan Lin turned to Fang Zhao and smiled. "It's even older than you are."
"It actually lived this long? I heard that pet sea slugs live for at most a few years, 10 years max. Their life expectancy was supposedly even shorter in the Old Era," Kevin Lin said. "Still, I'm a bit scared of animals with foreign planet DNA."
"You've watched too many sci-fi movies, haven't you?" Fan Lin gave Kevin Lin a sideways glance, paused, then handed the water tank to Fang Zhao instead. "Can you give me hand? Don't be scared. It's harmless."
Fang Zhao took the water tank and observed the "rabbit" as it seemed to go back to sleep.
Sea slugs had been able to multiply exponentially during the Period of Destruction. Even though they made for the most popular marine pets these days, you couldn't erase their track record of wanton killing in the ocean. Fang Zhao had once seen a group of sea slugs swallow a poisonous Portuguese man-of-war.
Whether the sea slug DNA descended from the Period of Destruction inside the blob before him was harmless—well, that depended on how it had been raised.
But for now, it was still harmless. The food it was fed by the lab technicians wasn't too substantial.
The experimental plot Fan Lin used was quite far from base, near Outpost No. 23. The research team set out for Outpost No. 23 with a military escort.
After everyone boarded and all the lab equipment was loaded, the flying transport took off for Outpost No. 23.
Kevin Lin wondered if Prof. Fan had been thinking of using them all along.
He wanted to discuss the upcoming live broadcast with Fang Zhao, but when he turned his head, he saw the composer teasing the blob in the water tank with feed.
Forget it. When it comes to the live broadcast, I have to count on myself, the professional journalist. I can't rely on Fang Zhao.