As soon as Kevin Lin heard Fang Zhao's decision, he objected. "No way! Didn't you just get back? You were lucky enough to come back alive; let's just stay put. I'm sure the soldiers from the main base will be here soon."
"I agree, Fang Zhao. Let's just stay here. Don't go out," Fan Lin seconded.
Walker looked at Fang Zhao and said, "If you head up to ground level, you might be mistaken for the enemy."
On the battlefield, even if you were a friendly, you might be shot by mistake. If Fang Zhao headed out in his current state, he could easily be mistaken for a terrorist and killed in combat.
Naturally Fang Zhao was aware of these risks, but he still decided to leave.
Fang Zhao left the bunker again. All Kevin Lin could do was glare at him. Kevin Lin then turned to Fan Lin's lab technicians and asked, "Which one of you is the better marksman?"
The lab technicians all shook their heads.
"Then I better carry this. I have done shooting practice before, after all." Kevin Lin had never seen combat, but at least he had practiced on a firing range.
After glancing at a resting Walker, Kevin Lin couldn't help putting on his reporter's hat again. He started interviewing the wounded soldier.
At an unknown location on the first floor of the sentry post.
The sirens kept sounding following a series of explosions.
A silhouette emerged. It was a terrorist who had been part of the attack on the outpost.
The terrorist was in a good mood and was wearing a cocky and crazed smile. Unlike his two incompetent comrades who had been killed by snipers as soon as they had entered the sentry post, he had managed to infiltrate the complex and locate the storage room where the food, medicine, and other supplies were stored. Judging from their expiration dates, the inventory had just arrived. They were still in very good condition. Daily necessities like that were extremely hard to come by on a foreign planet. He had just blown up a few of the interconnected storage rooms. He felt like a bona fide hero, admiring his handiwork.
He still wasn't satisfied. Noticing locations that were left unscathed, he set another fire.
The security system started malfunctioning after the attack. It could only sound the alarm but not extinguish the fire. The repeated bursts of fire alarm sirens were unnerving, but to this terrorist, they sounded like celebratory bells extolling his achievement.
It was such a shame they couldn't go blow up the main base.
If the Baiji ore hadn't been discovered, if the military presence on the planet hadn't been reinforced, and if its defenses hadn't been beefed up, they probably would have blown the Baiji base to pieces. That would have made for huge news.
But once he thought of the fact that the outpost they had bombed was where that minor celebrity was broadcasting live from, the terrorist was ecstatic again.
They had only realized that Fang Zhao was around when they had arrived and scouted the experimental plot. The attack on Baiji had been in the works for some time. They were aware of everything that was happening on Baiji. They watched the live broadcasts every day. Naturally, they recognized Fang Zhao's face.
If he could track down that minor celebrity and broadcast his beheading live, then he would be the top story of the day. This was big news. Everyone would know who he was.
After gloating, he would commit suicide.
Sounds like a plan. Then... it's decided.
He licked his dry lips and tasted blood. The more he thought about his plan, the more excited he became. He was going to track down the minor celebrity stashed away by the sentries.
Where in the world had the sentries hidden the celebrity?
As he was pondering the matter, the flash of an arm showed up in his pupils and grew bigger rapidly. Before he knew it, his whole body plunged backward and landed on a wall. The subtle sound of his bones cracking could be heard, as if they had been crushed.
The lone wail was quickly drowned out by the ongoing sirens.
His two arms flopped to the ground and his gun dropped to the ground. His comms unit was removed and stomped to pieces. Someone grabbed his collar and dragged him forward away from the storage units, a bit like he was a garbage bag.
"You're from Tomorrow's Empire?" a cold voice asked.
The terrorist lifted his head toward the voice for the first time since his whole body had been picked up. The first thing he saw was the dark barrel of a gun.
The temperature was hot because of the bombing and the fire he had started. He felt a warm breeze mixed with the smell of burnt toast. If someone stuck around long enough, they would be covered in sweat, but staring at the dark barrel and the cold glimmer of the gun, all he did was shiver.
The terrorist took a gulp. He had noticed his captor wasn't wearing the sentry uniform. He didn't know off-hand who his captor was, but now he took in the face behind the gun and froze. "Fang Zhao? You're Fang Zhao?"
Ecstasy replaced fear. He even ignored the metallic sensation of the gun barrel pressed against his face.
He had just been about to track down that minor celebrity. Lo and behold, the celebrity had showed up in front of him. It was divine intervention.
But he never would have guessed the minor celebrity had a few moves of his own. Several thoughts flashed through his head. A light bulb lit up when he recalled Fang Zhao's question. He had a brilliant idea.
"That's right. I'm a member of Tomorrow's Empire. I would do anything for the Empire."
"The Empire?" Fang Zhao asked.
"That's right. We want to build an empire of our own. A brand new world. Why do the descendants of the martyrs that founded the New Era have a monopoly on the best resources while we are discriminated against?" the man said in a righteous tone.
"You're a descendant of the founding fathers?" Fang Zhao pressed.
The man was about to answer in the affirmative, but he paused. "No, I'm not a descendant of the founding fathers. I'm a descendant of a Period of Destruction martyr."
The founding martyrs and the Period of Destruction martyrs were two distinct groups. The former referred to those who had made major contributions to mankind during the founding of the New Era, while the latter referred to heroes who had sacrificed themselves during the Period of Destruction. Any mention of Period of Destruction martyrs inspires a sense of awe and mixed emotions.
Fang Zhao frowned. "A descendant of a Period of Destruction martyr?"
The man was delighted by Fang Zhao's shift in tone. "That's correct," he blurted out.
In reality, he had no idea if any of his ancestors were martyrs. Regardless of the facts, it was his word against Fang Zhao's. This was his lifeline, or perhaps at some point he had brainwashed himself into believing that he was indeed the descendant of a martyr wholeheartedly, that everything he had done had been in the name of correcting injustices committed against his ancestors, that his work would bring him the utmost glory. It had all been for Tomorrow's Empire. Freedom fighters like him shared the spirit of the founding fathers who had battled for a new future.
Yes, that's right. All that killing had been for a better tomorrow. Bring on another Period of Destruction war!
"Let's set aside the issue of the martyrs' descendants who were forced to go down my path first. Do you remember the martyr Fang Zhao? You know, your namesake, the really famous one, the great man ranked only second to Wu Yan in the core area of the Yanzhou Cemetery for Martyrs? You're from Yanzhou. You must know about him, no? It's a shame that he died in the 99th year of the Period of Destruction and Wu Yan stole the limelight. Look at how much prestige the Wu family enjoys these days? What about Fang Zhao's descendants? They've long been shoved into the gutter."
Fang Zhao watched as the man blabbered on passionately and self-righteously, seemingly emboldened by the noble cause of exposing the indignities suffered by a giant of history. Little did he know that the man standing before him was the real Fang Zhao. Fang Zhao had seen pitiful performances like this during the Period of Destruction a countless number of times. He could tell his prisoner was lying.
His claim of being a descendant of a martyr was bullshit. All this talk of correcting injustices committed against martyrs was simply a pretty excuse to advance his own interests and satisfy his greed.
Taking a step back, even if this person was telling the truth, even if this extremist organization counted the descendants of martyrs among its members, just look at what they had done. Fang Zhao thought to himself: if his fallen comrades who hadn't lived to see the New Era knew their descendants had stooped this low, they'd be furious enough to crawl out from their plots in the martyrs' cemeteries. They wouldn't be able to rest in peace.
The terrorist kept observing Fang Zhao's facial expressions as he talked. He swelled with delight when he noticed a subtle change in Fang Zhao's gaze. If he could convert Fang Zhao, that would be a major accomplishment.
If he couldn't...
The man bent his limp fingers, his fingernails piercing the center of his palms. He couldn't raise his arms anymore, but he could move his fingers.
"Think about the luxurious lifestyle that the Wu family enjoys now, then think about poor martyr Fang Zhao, resting alone underground, unable to protect the livelihoods of his descendants. If he were still alive, he'd be upset too. He'd definitely approve of our..."
A bullet penetrated the man's head between his eyebrows, ejecting into the wall behind him.
Fang Zhao glanced at the slumped body and mumbled, "I disagree."
Fang Zhao didn't like extremist organizations like Tomorrow's Empire. The death of the parents of the original owner of his body had the fingerprints of an extremist organization all over it. Accidents like that were not unheard of, but many of them were covered up to prevent mass panic. The government had been heavy-handed in its recent antiterrorism campaign, dealing the extremists some major blows. Otherwise they wouldn't have been so desperate as to target Baiji. Not too long ago, Baiji had been an impoverished planet, which had made it a vulnerable target. If they had truly had the guts, why hadn't they targeted the planets at the top of the development order?
If they were genuinely so ambitious, if they actually harbored such lofty aspirations, why had been they so fixated on blowing up Baiji, endangering innocent civilians in the process? If they wanted to build their own empire, why not colonize a planet that hadn't been discovered by the global alliance and truly break new ground?
To expend all this energy to come up with evil plots instead of channeling it toward righteous causes, calling for the overthrow of the existing order, even recreating the beasts from the Period of Destruction—such bastards! They deserved to be crushed.
On the verge of his death back in the day, Fang Zhao had had his grievances all right. He had witnessed the emergence of all sorts of "royalty" on the different continents and read an online commentary that he was the one with the worst luck among the Period of Destruction leadership. He'd be lying if he said none of it had gotten to him.
But as he had admired the beautiful blue home planet from space, he had felt that all his sacrifices had been worth it. He had put all those injustices behind him.
Then Fang Zhao had wondered if, one day, some b*stard posing as his descendant would pop up and stir up trouble.
If the occasion actually arrived, he would deliver a bullet to the imposter's head, Fang Zhao had thought to himself.