A Showdown on Mars
Even though they had only come in fourth, they could still hear Zhang Shan cheering enthusiastically for them. Their hearts felt warm.
.... wait a moment, they were not fourth. They completed the mission, while Team Achilles failed.
The three generals had seen a great many things in their tenure, but they never expected such a change to arise. Even though their expressions remained the same, their moods were greatly affected. Especially Drachmach's. He had always been proud of two things: Achilles' skills and the Moon's unity.
But they had an internal strife even before they left the Solar System.
Everybody was called to assemble. The Moon team looked awful. They had lost in such a ridiculous way. They were so close to putting victory in their pockets, but now it was all gone.
Achilles' handsome face did not show a single emotion.
In the end, Lear came in at 94 points, beating Achilles by just one point.
Su Yan announced the results expressionlessly. Lear had won the vote on the Moon.
Losing on Earth was nothing, but now they had this. Lear had silently but surely turned the tables around.
"On top of that, Atos is immediately disqualified for sabotaging his team," Su Yan said coolly.
If it was just a mistake, they'd have deducted a few points at most. But Atos' outburst at the end was clearly a deliberate act. There wasn't even a need for explanation. Just disqualification.
In that instant, Atos felt as if he had been sent to a frozen hell, and it was then that he woke up.
Everyone had made it. Only he was disqualified.
Milo looked at him helplessly and sympathetically. They've been friends for so long, but nobody could go up to him at this moment.
Achilles had actually been defending him all this time. He'd even stood up for him, but there was a limit to his patience. Atos had lost his grip on himself and spiraled into despair.
Atos wasn't like that in the past.
Milo glanced cooly at Taros, who had been close to Atos. Taros appeared calm and didn't even look at Atos once.
In times like these, as a true friend, he should console Atos no matter what.
Nobody said a word, and nobody showed him concern. Atos felt as if his energy had been completely drained and fell to the ground.
Su Yan frowned. How did someone so useless come from the Moon? With a wave, he commanded soldiers to carry Atos away. The Moon's glory was completely lost in front of the two generals, Meng Ao and Lie Wuqing.
"Now, Wang Zheng and Lear have a vote each. Lear, you can choose one person to advance directly."
Lear walked up, smiling. "Edison."
The whole arena fell silent. Edison???
How was that right? Not Luo Fei? Edison was considered the cushion among all those who were left. Bringing him to Aslan? Had he gone mad?
Even Edison himself was shocked. How could it be him?
Lear smiled. "This was not a fair training for Edison. He is the strongest amongst us in terms of electronic warfare and mechanics. I believe a complete team needs someone of his caliber."
The whole room was now filled with whispers. Lear did not choose Luo Fei, who was his own man, but instead chose Edison from Caragal. And it seemed that he knew and trusted Edison well.
Compared to Lear, Achilles was a complete mess.
Luo Fei patted the stunned Edison. "I'm envious, jealous, and green! Congratulations! Dinner's on you, eh?"
Despite what he just said, the fatty was full of sincere smiles. He was not envious at all.
Some people may sound dignified but carry ill intentions. In that moment, everybody's view of Lear changed.
All of a sudden, Taros stood out. "Lear is a deserving leader. I have failed to find a sense of belonging on Achilles' team. As team leader, there shouldn't be a division based on nationality. I support Lear."
In a time like this, Taros changed sides, giving Achilles a fatal stab in his back.
He had isolated the Moon team while pushing Lear to new heights.
Lear maintained a sincere smile. "I am still lacking in many areas, but I am willing to work hard with everybody. I believe that as long as we remain united as one, we will definitely achieve great results at Aslan!"
Zhang Shan pouted. "How nicely put! My ass! Why do I keep feeling that something is amiss?"
But regardless of how he felt, Lear had managed to turn things around. His glory was unparalleled.
The Moon people were unable to react or snap back. They had made a complete and utter mess on their main battleground.
In that instant, Achilles understood what had happened. Lear had been feigning weakness all this while, right from their exchange on Earth. He was aware of that for the first few months, but as time passed, he naturally forgot about Lear.
And now, he had a heavy price to pay.
Lear, Lear. The toughest rival from the Solar System. His ability to endure so much in silence had reached a whole new peak.
Milo saw through the schemes as well. Just what sort of a person was Taros? All of this only went to show that things had been pre-arranged. How scheming! How did he put up with everything till now?
Watching the smiley fatty Luo Fei, she sensed that everything that happened on Earth was pre-arranged, too. It was just that Lear had miscalculated and didn't expect Wang Zheng to enter the picture and snatch that victory from him. Otherwise, he'd have been the leader by now.
What a cruel, terrifying man!
It was too bad that not many were able to see what really happened.
All this time, Lear smiled peacefully, accepting others' congratulations.
He was never attached to material things and never pitied himself.
He was able to remain cool-headed whether he won or lost.
Who could have thought that two people from Earth would have won two votes?
The competition had become confusing and hard to unravel.
Lie Wuqing smiled. "Seems like we can only tell their capabilities apart when we get to Mars! This is a really interesting batch. We've got all sorts of people. Meng Ao, your Earthlings especially, eh!"
"Lie Wuqing, just speak your mind, no need to scold people indirectly," Meng Ao said coolly.
The whole process did not escape the three veteran generals. That was in itself a capability. Without patience and a big picture view, they'd only be disqualified at the end of the day.
Their personal liking aside, Lear was indeed more suited as team leader. Such high levels of endurance and such long term planning were not things an ordinary person could achieve.
"Wang Zheng, something's amiss. That guy, Lear, he's on fire," Zhang Shan said worriedly.
And there was practically nobody who disliked him.
Wang Zheng smiled and shook his head. "He's really pretty good. It's just too bad..."
Zhang Shan was puzzled, but Wang Zheng stopped there.
To Zhang Shan and Meng Tian, the world was perhaps a simple place. However, for Wang Zheng, who'd been through down-trodden times, especially without parents by his side, he had to rely on himself for the most part. Growing up, Old Merchant proved to be a complex character, even bipolar, and sometimes just wanted the world to burn. He didn't doubt Taros' character much, but Luo Fei's actions on Earth were a tad too obvious. Now that Lear had used up all his aces, it was too bad he had only managed to get one vote and not the final victory.
Plus, seeing how things had unfolded, Wang Zheng hoped even less for someone like that to become team leader.
A scheming character like that may go far in politics, but it was of no use in helping the Solar System prevail in the IG match.
Moreover, Lear had made a fatal mistake!
Training on Mars. The final battle. The tie-breaking battle.
Having completed their tour of the Moon, the Solar System Federation's IG selection was now in its final stage. Some were happy and some were sad. But at the very least, the Moon people were made to keep their arrogance in check and even maintain a low profile. In fact, it was hard for them not to have a low profile. Lear had risen to become the champion.
After travelling via Stars Airways from the Moon to Mars, they arrived at Spencer, the docking station outside Mars.
This was a space station designed entirely in Martian style. Inside, the temperatures of the artificial sun were set way higher than other places.
All ships that came to Mars from the Milky Way had to stop by Spencer. If there was a need, passengers would usually choose to take Mars' Intergalactic Train to get to Mars' surface.
"I'll send you off from here. You guys can take the Intergalactic Train to Watts City. There'll be someone there to tell you what to do next."
Su Yan smiled. Arriving at Mars meant it was time to bid farewell. He gave a standard military salute, turned around, and left. Not a single bit wishy-washy. Even though he didn't say a thing, after having spent so much time together, he could feel just how powerful this group of youngsters was. Their attitudes and capabilities were clearly better than those who came before them. They could very well make miracles happen.
They were the strongest pillars of strength for the future of the Solar System.
The Intergalactic Trains they were going to take were near the docks. A train would take off every five minutes, and it was pretty fast. A "Spencer-Mars" two way supply line laid parallel to the Intergalactic Train, and a supply ship would zoom right by on the line every sixty seconds, transporting all sorts of commodities from the Milky Way to Mars, and transporting Mars' goods to Spencer and to the rest of the galaxy.
Compared to the extensive supply lines, the Intergalactic Trains were nothing. They were merely used to transport passengers.
Still, taking the Intergalactic Trains was the best way to see Mars.
The trains were different from shuttles and passenger ships. They were made up of individual space cabins, similar to ancient trains, except there weren't any train tracks. They relied on the signals in space to create a specialised high-speed space tunnel and could transport passengers in a high-energy, fast, and cost-effective manner, unlike passenger ships that had to go through complicated procedures for taking off and landing.
Of course, renting a mini passenger ship was still the best option if you wanted to get to a particular spot on Mars within the shortest possible time.
After arriving at Mars, Lie Xin naturally took the lead and guided the rest. They were finally on her turf. For the Martians, this too was a battle of life and death.
Wang Zheng followed, swiping the Skylink transport card, making his way into the Intergalactic Train station.
"Earth cards are usable on Mars?" Zhang Shan asked, stunned. He followed Wang Zheng's footsteps, turned on the Skylink's transport function, and paid the entrance fees. He had just swiped the screens and yelled, "My God! 100 federation dollars?"
He turned around and saw Lie Guang using the Skylink on the gantry beside his. The screen showed a price of ten federation dollars.
"That's exorbitant!" Zhang Shan was on the verge of complaining. Discrimination much?