Although they all had their nutritional dose and some compressed food, the people of Outpost 23 treated Fan Lin, Fang Zhao, and Kevin Lin well. They brought out some of their stockpiled food from their hunts to receive their guests.
The outpost was not as big as the base, and conditions were limited. Each room in the outpost was 10 square meters, and there were two people to a room.
At night, Kevin Lin laid down in his bed, tired out from an entire day. He had covered a lot of ground today. When looking down at the experimental plots from the flying transport, they did not look very big. Only when walking around inside had he known how exhausting it was. Walking up and down and dealing with all sorts of questions from Fan Lin had been tiring indeed.
The outpost's rooms had a sort of cold metallic feel, just like a prison cell. Bases everywhere had similar conditions, but at least the rooms in the base were slightly larger and had more furnishings.
Kevin Lin thought to himself, At least we are returning to base the next day. Enduring a night is not so hard.
"Writing in your diary again, Fang Zhao?" Kevin Lin asked as he noticed Fang Zhao jotting down stuff in that familiar notebook. He had gotten the hang of Fang Zhao's habits. Every day, Fang Zhao wrote down some stuff in that notebook. Fang Zhao had said they were song scores, but as Kevin Lin did not understand them, he just treated it as Fang Zhao writing in his diary.
"Mmhm. You head to sleep first; I still have some stuff to write down." Fang Zhao was writing down the inspiration he had gotten today from the scenery of this planet's mountains and forests en route to the base and the inspiration he had gotten when hammering the ground.
These were just enough for a small portion, not an entire song, but as time passed, maybe on a certain day or at a certain juncture, he might create a completed song.
Before Fang Zhao had enlisted for his military service, he had been called over by Old Xue Jing for a chat. This year, the old artist would embark on another global lecture tour, but as Fang Zhao was undergoing military service, he wouldn't be able to participate this time around.
Xue Jing had advised Fang Zhao not to waste the bits and scraps of inspiration he got during his military service. Although Fang Zhao was only 20-plus, he was considered rather young in the New Era. In composition circles, he was also considered relatively young, but there people in other continents that were even younger and had done their own concerts. Xue Jing hoped that Fang Zhao would not take it easy.
"To gain more recognition in the industry, you still have to go through some traditional methods and raise your artistic value. For example, according to old customs, do a concert. You can disagree with these old customs and feel that they are too rigid, but only those standing at the apex have the right to challenge these customs. For now, it's best to follow these old customs."
Xue Jing had then advised Fang Zhao that it was best if Fang Zhao could organize his own concert within the next 10 years. This sort of concert could not be comparable to all those other commercial concerts, and he would need to provide his own quality works. Thus, Xue Jing hoped that even if Fang Zhao was undergoing his military service, he would not forget his own profession. Inspiration was a strange phenomenon. When one let inspiration slip by, it would be difficult to get another chance to grab it again.
Fang Zhao took Xue Jing's advice to heart. Even if Xue Jing had not said so, Fang Zhao would have kept his old habits and recorded down any inspiration he got in his daily life. The conditions were tough during the Period of Destruction, but now that he had such great opportunities, he needed to grasp every single bit that passed by.
Fang Zhao also wished to organize a concert, but he would need to painstakingly search for so-called art techniques, and he could only follow where his own inspiration took him.
Kevin Lin had no way of knowing what Fang Zhao was thinking, but he was already tired. "All right, you continue writing, I'll sleep first. Wake me up tomorrow. Fan Lin says we have to get up early to watch the seeds germinate. If we miss it, we will have to wait another year and would have come for nothing."
"All right. Head to sleep first." Fang Zhao turned off the lights to the room and then picked up a piece of food, threw it into the water tank, and tapped the glass lightly.
The light produced by the "rabbit" inside the tank was like a flashlight; it lit up the small room.
Fang Zhao had specially gotten this "rabbit" from Fan Lin. This little creature might seem sluggish, but it was actually full of vitality. If he threw a piece of food in, it would glow for a few minutes. The more food thrown in, the longer it glowed. Fan Lin had said the duration it glowed for was dependent on it's mood. The more food thrown in when it was in a good mood, the longer it would glow for, but if it was in a bad mood, it would not glow no matter how much food was thrown in.
Fang Zhao took a shirt and wrapped it around one side of the tank to prevent the light from shining on Kevin Lin. Watching the "rabbit" in the tank slowly chomp on its food, he arranged his thoughts and continued writing the uncompleted tune. After that, he ammended the front portion.
By the time Fang Zhao closed his notebook, Kevin Lin was already snoring.
It seemed like the "rabbit" within the water tank was in quite a good mood. Fang Zhao did not know whether it was because he had been fed a lot or because it found its new environment exciting, as it had not extinguished at all.
Fang Zhao gently knocked against the tank wall, and the light slowly faded till it was all black.
Early the next morning, Fang Zhao received Fan Lin's call.
"Get up and head to the experimental plot. Don't laze in bed! Remember to bring the camera and make sure there is sufficient battery!" Fan Lin urged.
Kevin Lin was slightly dazed when he was woken up by Fang Zhao, as if he did not know where he was. After a while, he got up and followed behind Fang Zhao while yawning as they walked toward the experimental plot.
Kevin yawned again as he spoke. "It's still dark. What are we going to do so early in the morning? Squat and wait for it to germinate?"
"You wouldn't get to see anything if we waited till daylight. I'm not kidding." Fan Lin did not pay much attention to Kevin Lin. He was directing a few scientists that were running around both inside and outside, who were busy measuring something.
All the soldiers at the outpost were also up, even if they were not on duty.
"How is my hairstyle today?"
"You, wipe away your eye wax!"
"Sh*t, I forgot to shave! Should I head back to shave first? Forget it, what would I do if I missed it?"
"I'm so nervous. I just shaved my head a few days ago; I wonder if my family can recognize me."
The people at the outpost had all woken up early just to show their faces in the live broadcast. They had been unable to appear in the previous day's live broadcast. Today, Fan Lin had said they would be given a chance to appear in the background.
However, the outpost's team leader, Yan Biao, had decided not to appear on-screen. Given the restrictions of his rank and official position, to be safe, he could only stand outside the filming area.
Fang Zhao glanced at the few outpost members. Their tough-as-nails manner was full of vigor. Even those that seemed smaller or skinny hid an extremely explosive strength. These were the troops garrisoned on bases on foreign planets. They were different from soldiers at the military districts of every continent who had never experienced battles.
Fan Lin took a look at the underground readings, then looked at the weather before telling Kevin Lin, "We can start the live broadcast... Wait a minute! I nearly forgot about the masks."
Two scientists carried a box over and distributed the masks inside to everyone.
Outpost members standing behind: "..." Can we be recognized if we wear a mask?
"Do we have to put it on?" an outpost member asked.
"You can choose not to wear it, but I'm not responsible if anything happens to you," Fan Lin replied.
Everyone in the outpost was at a momentary loss, but they still put on the masks.
At the side, Yan Biao, who could not appear on-screen, had been feeling a little gloomy, but now he felt slightly better.
Fang Zhao put on the mask and breathed in some of the filtered air. His eyes were also separated from the external air by a transparent shield.
"This offers too much protection. We aren't even in the mines, just filtering the air would do. Do we really need to cover our eyes?" Kevin Lin grumbled.
"It burns the eyes," Fan Lin replied. "Furthermore, the mask prevents allergies. Everyone's constitution is different. You might be affected even if others aren't. This is just an added precaution. Given your small physique... Tsk." Fan Lin's tone was only missing the word "loser."
Kevin Lin was unconvinced. "What about me? You aren't much better than me with your old body!" He could not compare with Fang Zhao, sure, but he couldn't compare with Fan Lin, who was approaching old age?
Fan Lin did not say anything and only laughed. After that, he lifted up his shirt, revealing his chiseled eight-pack abs.
Kevin Lin: "..." He went numb.
"I also do farm work." Fan Lin's manner was like educating the younger generation. "Young man, train yourself more. Do not waste the gene's your ancestors passed down to you."
There were all descendants of people from the Founding Era. It was reasonable to say that there were none with especially weak physiques, but even the best genes were unable to withstand generation by generation of wastage. Kevin Lin's type was the result of those that seldom trained physically and were reliant on machinery. Summarized in a sentence, they were just lazy.
Kevin Lin showed that he did not wish to continue talking to Fan Lin. He turned on the live broadcast and communicated with the audience.
Some streaks of daylight had started to appear. Even if lighting was not used, the surroundings of the experimental plot could be seen.
Online audiences were puzzled. "What sort of battle array is this? Why do they need to wear masks to watch seeds germinate?"
"Wasn't it said they would be watching seeds germinate? This looks more like they are preparing for a gas attack."
Kevin Lin explained to audiences the reason they were wearing masks that Fan Lin had told him earlier. Glancing at Fan Lin, he realized that Fan Lin was not coming over to take over, so Kevin Lin cheerfully continued talking to the audiences online.
One minute passed.
Ten minutes passed.
Kevin Lin could not go on talking.
Online audiences had started to get impatient. Some said they were going to play a game first, others said they would visit the washroom.
Kevin Lin looked to Fan Lin, trying to get an explanation. Hadn't he said that they would be germinating shortly? Fifteen minutes had already passed, but nothing had happened. Are you teasing us? We are wasting live broadcast time!
On the contrary, Fan Lin was not anxious. Keeping his eye on readings displayed on a circular device in his hand, he calmly said, "Almost there."
Fan Lin's tone had just dropped when Fang Zhao raised his eyes to look at the experimental plot and said, "It's here!"
"What's here? What did Fang Zhao hear again..."
Cracking sounds suddenly rang out, as if a blunt tool was being used to split open a wall.
Boom Crack! Boom Crack! Boom Crack! Boom Crack!
Loud sounds echoed out from every experimental plot in succession.
A split appeared in the ground that had been hammered flat.
White arrow shapes emerged from the cracks. It was as if time was running at extra speed. It was as if the sprouts were self-aware, forming two leaves in the blink of an eye and inching their way toward the rays of lights from the horizon.
The originally bald ground, in a few breaths, had transformed and was now covered by a layer of young and tender sprouts.
Fang Zhao watched the entire scene of the the plants splitting the earth and sprouting without blinking. It was as if he had watched musical notes being illuminated one after another. It had gone from dull to dazzling, spinning and connecting to form an electric arc and reaching into every nook and cranny of his body.
Many times, one might endure a dull and ordinary beginning, but all one needed was a little patience, to wait for the moment where it impetuously explodes and blossoms. Such was the power of life.