Tang Long lay in bed, possibly dreaming some pleasant dreams, the corner of his mouth slightly upturned. At this moment, the automatic door opened, a droid instructor walking in, carrying a bucket of ice water that had ice cubes floating on top. It walked besides the bed and poured the contents of the bucket onto Tang Long’s head.
While the water fell, the instructor simultaneously roared, “You bastard, Tang Long! You are late by ten seconds! Run one hundred laps as punishment!”
It originally thought Tang Long would immediately hop to his feet, but Tang Long just scratched his ears and smacked his lips like nothing had happened. He then turned to his side and continued sleeping soundly.
Now, due to its anger, the impact of the instructor’s snow-white metal teeth grinding together could be heard. The instructor tossed the bucket to the side, and took something from its waist and placed it over Tang Long’s waist. Following a weak hissing noise, that thing inexplicably lit up the area with an electric light.
Tang Long suddenly opened his eyes, his eyes nearly popping out of their sockets. And from his mouth, gasping like a fish, came a miserable scream, “Ahhhhhh!” By this point, he had curled himself into a ball, his cropped hair erect, looking even more like a porcupine, while a pained expression appeared on his face.
The droid instructor sheathed the stun baton, ferociously yelling, “Not on alert! If I were an enemy, you would have already been killed by me a hundred times! You have to learn that soldiers must be ready at any moment! No matter where!”
Tang Long, the current gone from his body, grimaced and rubbed his waist where he had been shocked. Although he clearly heard the instructor’s words, he had no opportunity to answer now, because he was mentally using all the dirty words he knew to curse the instructor’s ancestors to the thirty-sixth generation, not caring that droids did not have ancestors.
Of course, while mentally cursing, he also did not take the instructor’s words to heart, since in this current generation of war, no one would run to their enemies’ bedroom and attack. That only occurred thousands of years ago.
The instructor, seeing Tang Long still lying on the bed in a stupor and not getting up, did not say a word, simply grabbing Tang Long by the lapels and forcefully pulling him up. It set him on the floor facing the door. Then it kicked Tang Long harshly, booting him out. Tang Long flew out of the room, screaming miserably, similar to the previous day. He landed on the floor of the hall just like yesterday, of course. If Tang Long had left a mark on the floor the previous day, he would have known for sure that he was currently lying in the same exact spot. A droid’s accuracy was spoken of for a reason.
Having already suffered once, Tang Long quickly got up and stood to attention. Tang Long kept the two events, coercion by pistol and electric whip, close to heart. However, Tang Long had no recollection of returning to bed and sleeping. It seemed that while Tang Long was practicing the at attention posture yesterday, he had first lost consciousness before fainting.
Looking at the five skeletal instructors in front of him, Tang Long again felt chills run across his body. Having never seen such a spectacle before, when facing such skeletons, Tang Long would always feel afraid. Although they were droids, roving skeletons were even scarier. However, right now, Tang Long only felt like sleeping, and without thinking, closed his eyes. First, he would not have to look at the chilling instructors; second, to take a break.
The droids, as expected, immediately noticed Tang Long sleeping while standing. Additionally, the at attention posture was highly unsatisfactory. One of the instructors swiftly took out an electric whip, savagely lashing it at Tang Long.
“Mommy!” Suddenly a wretched shout rang out, Tang Long falling to the ground unmoving. The droid instructors were slightly perplexed, all of them looking at the droid wielding the leather whip.
This droid instructor waved its hand, the others only seeing that its mechanical green eyes suddenly turned red, which emitted a red beam. The red light covered Tang Long and scanned up from head to toe.
The other droids copied its actions, also sending out red beams. After a short while, they shut off the red beams, their eyes returning to green. The droid holding the electric whip put it behind its back, and emotionlessly said, “Since you greatly wish to sleep, then go sleep in the water until you’ve had enough.”
After it said these words, a view of the the sky suddenly appeared on the white wall. After which, blue water gushed forth from the floor. The speed was especially rapid, as only a few seconds passed before the water submerged Tang Long.
“Cough!” Tang Long, pretending to have fainted, could fake no more. He quickly crawled up and coughed out the seawater he accidentally inhaled. Why was this deemed seawater? Because the taste was acerbic, bitter, and salty. If not seawater, what could it be?
Tang Long did not stand for long before the seawater flooded over his head, causing him to flail about. At this moment, an unknown object stabbed his butt, and at the same time a voice came from up top. “You were late by thirty seconds! Quickly swim twenty kilometers as punishment! Go!”
After these words drifted down, his butt hurt again.
“So painful!” Tang Long now had no desire to sleep. He did not know where those instructors ran off to, as in the virtual but vast sea there existed only him. Because his butt was prodded again, he rapidly stroked both arms and started swimming.
After ten minutes of swimming, Tang Long couldn’t hold back his insults anymore. “Damn! This is the kind of military training that only took place in the distant past! What era is it now?! How did the instructors decide on this shit as training anyway! If I didn’t know how to swim, wouldn’t I be dead?”
Speaking to here, he suddenly remembered those inhuman instructors were monitoring him and could not help but be frightened. He thought he would receive some kind of added punishment or training, but no punishment was meted out.
He believed the instructors were no longer there, loosed a breath of air, and floated on the surface of the water to rest. However, his butt was forcefully stabbed, the aloof and unfeeling voice again yelling, “Swim! Don’t be lazy!”
“Dammit! So those dogshit instructors were still here!” Tang Long started swimming panicked, but he subconsciously blurted out his thoughts. By the time he realized what he had said, it was already too late. It was a pity that there was still no punishment this time.
The clever Tang Long could not help but start to guess, Could it be that those instructors only give orders but do not care whether they are cursed at? Hmm … It is very possible since they are droids. As long as procedure is followed, without violation of the orders, I can curse at them however I want without any reaction. Since they never before had recruits cursing at the officers, they definitely don’t have this setting. Hee hee hee, I can cuss them out as much as I want.
Although he had this conjecture, Tang Long wanted to be safe, and so endured his butt being stabbed to try his guess a few times. Sure enough, when he didn’t say a word and stopped, he was jabbed. But when he was cursing the instructors’ ancestors and swimming at the same time, his butt wasn’t stabbed at all.
A long time later, Tang Long suddenly felt the water receding until all of it disappeared without a trace. At this point, he saw the five instructors still standing in the same positions, hands behind their backs. If not for their dripping wet clothes, there would have been no other signs that they were in the water for a long time.
“Shit! These guys are actually waterproof.” Right as Tang Long snidely remarked this, he instantly suffered a lash from the electric whip. Scared, he quickly began to scrap his recent guess. However, the instructor’s words gave him a surge of hope. “No strange faces allowed! A soldier must look like a soldier! ATTENTION!”
When he heard this, Tang Long immediately performed a test. “Fuck! Do you think you’re the queen? Always lashing people with whips!” These words completely contrasted with his expression, as Tang Long had a wholly serious expression when saying these words. He was also standing at attention.
Pitiably, Tang Long was still whipped. “Remember! When you answer an officer, you must first say: ‘Yes, sir!’ or ‘No, sir!’ When you want to ask a question, you must first say: ‘Permission to speak, sir!’ When you make a mistake, you must first say: ‘Sorry, sir!’ This is military courtesy!”
Hearing the instructor didn’t hit him for his words, this let Tang Long have the courage to continue his experiment. “Yes, sir! Your grandmother! That hurt!”
While Tang Long trembled with fear, waiting for an answer, the instructor’s whip didn’t lash out. The droid instead nodded, satisfied, and said, “Very good. Just like that. The punishment of swimming ten kilometers has been completed. The shooting drill begins now!”
Finished speaking, it turned and strode towards the line of the other four droids.
After Tang Long heard this, he could not help but laugh heartily. Despite that, he still maintained the stern and stony expression on his face. Hee hee. I cussed like that and it had no reaction. Good days are ahead!
What Tang Long did not know was that this whim of his would one day give him the monikers of “cold-hearted rogue,” “cruel wretch,” and other notorious names. At the same time, this habit he developed caused him to suffer quite a few lessons.
He also did not know the method of transfer, but his fatigue and sleepiness had already faded away.
At this moment, the droid closest to the door turned and walked to the wall, entering a room. The droid consistently maintained a soldier’s pace at all times.
Tang Long felt very strange, looked over, and without thinking asked, “Permission to speak, sir! What is that guy doing in there? What is that room?”
He had already grasped that he first had to say “sir,” and then was free to use casual language to ask what he was thinking. Naturally, he also had to keep his expression unchanging, and could not let his expression get out of control.
Although these instructors were intelligent droids, their databases contained no explanations of these dirty words, and also did not inform them that they were to mete out punishment if lower-ranked soldiers cursed them to their face. They stayed in this remote location without human interaction. All their knowledge came from online. The training camp, of course, only permitted access to official and military website, not allowing civilian websites. As a result, they had no way of learning any slang.
So after listening to Tang Long’s question, they did not sense any discourtesy. He first informed the officer then asked the question. They did not understand “that guy” was derogatory, only knowing it referred to the droid that left. Because of this reason, they also thought it fully conformed to a soldier’s responsibilities, so they quickly answered Tang Long’s question. “That room is the arsenal. Instructor V3165 B4-3C41 went to retrieve the weapons for the drill.”
Tang Long now knew the instructor’s name, a surprisingly hard to remember serial number, and they were all the same. Without paying attention, he would immediately forget who was whom. As a result, Tang Long did not even try to remember, and also did not wish to know the other instructors’ serial numbers. The door had attracted all of his interest.
Soon, a small mountain of weapons appeared. It was as if the droid had gone shopping at a supermarket, pushing along a cart. Arriving in front of Tang Long, it randomly picked out a pistol and handed it over. At this moment, the scene changed into an open-air range.
“This is a laspistol. One energy pack can be fired one hundred times in a row. This is the safety, this is the trigger, this is the front sight …” The droid gave a detailed explanation of the parts and how to use the pistol.
“Permission to speak, sir! I know how to use it. In the past, I was a master of the electric gun.” Tang Long joyfully fiddled with the pistol. He played third-person shooters the most on his computer, so he was highly confident about the structure and accuracy of guns.
“Very good. Shoot all one hundred of the flies buzzing in the air. If you do not succeed, you will have nothing to eat today,” the instructor emotionlessly said. It put down a laser sight, a holographic helmet, and a large box of energy packs. Then it stood to the side, unspeaking, looking at Tang Long.
“Flies?! One hundred?” Tang Long exclaimed, unable to close his mouth. He looked at the location hundreds of meters away, not even able to see the numbers on the target. He had to hit those randomly moving, minuscule flies?
Wherever existed people, there would also be evidence of flies, mosquitoes, cockroaches, mice, etc. This was especially true on apeman planets, where there were even more. The vitality and reproduction rate of these nuisances were too great, as not even the current science and technology could completely eliminate them. Thus, their survival until the present age was nothing strange.
“Permission to speak, sir! I can’t do it. Please show me, sir.” When Tang Long thought of going hungry, his stomach immediately rumbled. A whole day without food? Thus Tang Long left out the slang and even added honorifics.
The droid understood the respectful meaning of such language, and so lightly nodded and walked forward to teach him a lesson. “Remember, don’t be proud. Pride makes for sloppiness, and you cannot be careless on the battlefield. A slight mistake can immediately determine your fate. If you are the commander, it would also determine the fate of your subordinates!”
Tang Long realized the instructor was reprimanding his previous arrogance. He did not expect that even a droid could use this method. But he also knew the instructor was right, and quickly accepted the words, humbled.
“Yes. Put on the Starfighter Corps’s holographic helmet. It allows for the magnification of distant objects, as well as helping adjust for the velocity of the target. Also install the laser sight onto the pistol. This will help you aim the firearm.” The instructor spoke while at the same time aiming a gun, instructing Tang Long on how to use the helmet and install the laser sight. However, it was a droid and certainly did not need the support of the auxiliary tools to achieve the same results.
If not for the fact that humanity was afraid they could not control droids, droids would have been the best troops on the battlefield. Of course, war would then become a bloodless, expensive and costly supergame. This game would cause humanity to lose their sense of danger and understanding of war, which would also definitely bring around even greater, even worse danger.
If droids one day all of a sudden woke from their slumber, this danger was sufficiently terrifying. With a sense of self, what would happen if they were to find out that humanity had been treating them as slaves to do humanity’s bidding? Though this question had already been answered about one thousand years ago, and was also why humans continued fighting bloody battles.
Tang Long quickly put on the rumored Starfighter Corps helmet, and after pressing the start button, following the movement and attention of his vision, magnified the distant image. Eventually, Tang Long could clearly see the fuzzy, gross body of a fly. He did not know how this infantry training barracks actually got ahold of the helmet. It was a dedicated helmet for a starfighter pilot! Only starfighter pilot training camps had them.
In fact, Tang Long’s first pick was the Starfighter Corps, but unfortunately, it was the branch with the harshest recruitment requirements. Not only did they require a very high reaction time, they also demanded an exceedingly strong body and willpower. In addition, they expected recruits to possess vast knowledge about space. Those recruits who successfully applied weren’t guaranteed to be pilots though. Even if they graduated, if their scores weren’t top of the class, they could only serve as support personnel, cooling their heels. It could be said that, out of all the armed forces, the best branch was the Starfighter Corps. A pilot’s rank was no lower than second lieutenant.
And out of all the armed forces, outside of Tang Long picking the infantry branch, the ones with the lowest requirements were the flight attendant corps and the maintenance division. But the flight attendant corps should not be looked down on, as the members had a high possibility of becoming starship captains. However, this branch was useless for Tang Long, as the first requirement was a good memory, then good scores, and finally the confirmed abilities of leadership and adaptability. And the maintenance division needed people who definitively liked and understood engineering.
Other than step-by-step promotion, only staff officers could directly promote junior officers to the command of a starship. Additionally, if one wanted to become part of the military staff, they could only sign up for the staff officer training. This branch had lower requirements than the pilots, as they did not demand a strong physique, and even frail scholars could apply. However, the requirements for intelligence, flexibility, and leadership were greatly raised as a result.
As for the Space Marines, they were split into two branches. One corps used brute force and close combat fighting—Assault Marines. A second corps was trained in everything—Special Forces. The former only had to have good physique, while the latter’s requirements were exceedingly difficult. Training required five years, and their deeds would never be published. They were Marines who belonged to the darkness. Thus they normally did not recruit, and all their members were specially picked veterans.
At this time, the instructor’s words just happened to come over. “Determine which target you want to shoot at and the distance between you and the target. Then adjust the diameter of the laser beam. Right now you should adjust the diameter to one millimeter. Next, use the helmet and the sight to aim at the target. This helmet has the tracking ability, so it can lock onto the target.”
Following the instructor’s commands, Tang Long soon saw the fly on the visor of the helmet, half as large as a fist, get its stomach blown apart by a laser beam. Tang Long did not wait for the instructor’s commands, busily aiming at a different fly, and pulled the trigger. But it was not as easy as he thought, as the fly still danced in the air on the visor. The lasers got nowhere near its body, completely missing.
“Did you think you could hit it just because you can see it? It’s useless if you have no hand-eye coordination! Take off the helmet! First fire at stationary targets! Only after you get a sense of vertical movement can you wear the helmet and shoot at the flies. Remember, if you don’t shoot one hundred flies, you won’t get food today. Also, tomorrow’s count will be two hundred. Same thing if you can’t hit that many! No food! These flies are all virtual, so the computer will help you keep track of the number. Faking is of no use,” the instructor impassively said. It then stood to one side, not moving an inch.
“Yes, sir! Fuck! Do you think I can’t accomplish this? Humph! I will definitely eat today!” Tang Long immediately took off the helmet, aimed at the target 50 meters in front of him, and started firing. The first few shots missed the bullseye, but after getting used to it, he could aim the laser sight, which was a very effective way to adjust for distance. With the laser sight’s help, it wasn’t too long before every shot hit dead center. It seemed he had not played shooters for nothing.
When he was able to hit the center of the 100 meter target, Tang Long put on his helmet and adjusted it such that the fly was a big as his thumb. Tang Long thought he would definitely hit it this time, but he still shot just air. His hand-eye coordination still could not keep up with the random, flitting route of the fly.
Tang Long had used an entire box of energy packs, and the new box the instructor had given him was already half gone. Several thousand laser beams did not hit even a single fly. Currently, Tang Long’s hands and legs were weak, his index finger numb, and his stomach even hungrier. Now he understood that although the space helmet was useful, his hands were not the equivalent of a starfighter’s lascannon. How could he keep up?
“Fucking bastard! Die, flies! Keep flying! I don’t believe I can’t kill you!” Tang Long, both hungry and tired, rashly aimed at a fly he had sighted for a while, followed the image’s movement, his hand instinctively tracking it. Tang Long felt he had aimed accurately, and pulled the trigger. The fly on the image was crushed. It hit!
Excited, Tang Long jumped and cheered, but was immediately lashed by a whip. Simultaneously, an unfeeling voice spoke, “There are still ninety-nine.”
“Understood, sir! Damn! That’s really odd. No movement but I was still whipped! I have only arrived for two days but I’ve been booted twice and suffered hundreds of lashings. Soon or later I’ll die from your games!” Though Tang Long swore like a sailor, he still aimed and shot, again hitting the target, surprisingly.
Tang Long suddenly understood he had diligently use his hands. That way, as long as he could see, the pistol in his hands would automatically aim accurately. After an indefinite period of time passed, Tang Long finally completed the mission of hitting one hundred flies. After hearing the instructor say okay, he actually sat down, preferring to take a few lashings in order to rest, before standing again.
“All right, dismissed. However you wasted too much time. Lunch and dinner have passed. It is now lights out, and the mess hall has stopped serving. It will only start serving tomorrow morning. Also, in the morning the mess is only open for a certain amount of time. After that it immediately closes. Here’s hoping you won’t be late again.” Finished speaking, the instructor who had been standing by Tang Long’s side followed the rest of the droids and disappeared into their respective rooms.
The only one in the entire hall was the dazed Tang Long, a huge pile of unknown weapons next to him.
After a good while, a feeble voice rang out, “Stupid flies! This base is not big enough for the two of use! Sob … my breakfast, lunch, and dinner …”
Tang Long leaned against the heap of weapons without strength and wondered aloud, “What if I ate those metal guys …” Suddenly, Tang Long looked at the weapons with a gleam in his eyes.
After the droids disappeared, the hall had quickly darkened, the ceiling covered with twinkling stars just like a planet’s night sky. Supposedly, in this pitch-black environment, Tang Long should have felt frightened, but piteously, he had only eaten a single meal the entirety of yesterday and today. Any feeling of fear was utterly replaced by his hunger. Even if Tang Long ran into the snake he most feared, he would still pick it up and bite into it.
Tang Long grabbed an object that emitted light out of the pile of weapons, though even through the weak light he did not know what he was looking for. “Shit. Why are all these weapons pistols and rifles?”
Tang Long pawed through all the weapons, and suddenly discovered a round, short-barreled, large weapon.
“A blaster cannon?!” Tang Long looked at the words painted on the side of the weapon, happily yelling, “So cool! It really is!”
Saying this, he picked it up, walked over to the wall, and started feeling along the wall. “Yup, this is my room. I remember I walked along the side for around five steps to reach the mess hall…. Yeah, right here.”
Tang Long placed the light-emitting device in the corner he had identified, then jogged a few steps away, carrying the blaster cannon. He set up, aimed, and fired. The firing method was depicted on the side of the blaster cannon so Tang Long knew how to use it. A line of red light shot out, venting a violent trail of air along with a loud noise. Tang Long was abruptly blown back and knocked over, rolling a few times before crashing into a wall.
Tang Long did not care that he was blown away and his entire body hurt. His eyes glowing, he threw down the weapon, frantically scampering towards the large hole in the wall caused by the explosion. He had blasted the right place. The cafeteria was right behind that wall.
With Tang Long as hungry as a tiger, he threw himself into the cafeteria, the motion-activated lights switching on. However, not a second passed by before they went off again. Tang Long did not care in the least, because in the split second the lights were on, he saw that the closest table to the entrance had a lunch box on it. With his memory and the delicious smell leading him along, Tang Long rushed to the correct place with great precision in the darkness.
Tang Long did not wonder why there was still food left behind after hours in a place that automatically cleaned and bussed the tables. He also did not care what he ate, and especially did not use any utensils. He instead used his hands to scoop the food up and shove it into his mouth. Afterwards, he chewed ferociously and swallowed, wolfing down the food. Only once he started to bite down on the metal plate, and realized he could not bite through it, did he stop.
“Phew! Awesome! I never before tasted food this good.” Tang Long grabbed a bottle of water that was next to him, chugging and glugging it. Then he burped, breathed a breath in, and only now had the energy to think things over.
“Weird. With this great of a noise, the instructors should have heard it. Why aren’t they coming to punish me?” Tang Long muttered. By this point, he realized he was sitting in the middle of a dark cafeteria where he couldn’t see his hand in front of his face.
“Mommy!” Inexplicable fear immediately froze Tang Long in place. This feeling then made him flee towards the image of the gate, and after tripping three times, he finally bumped into the gate. He arrived in the hall, seeing the indistinct stars above him. He exhaled a sigh of relief.
However, the stars on the ceiling suddenly winked out, the entire hall turning dark. Terrified, Tang Long looked around his surroundings, sizing them up. “I can’t see anything. How come it’s so dark? It couldn’t be that I accidentally broke the power plant, right?”
This was a space base. There was no sun, so if the power went out in the base, it would definitely be pitch-black. Eyes certainly would not be able to adjust to it, because for eyes to adjust to the dark, there needed to be a source of light. As a result, Tang Long was completely blind.
The more Tang Long thought, the more inappropriate it became; the more he thought, the more frightened he became. When he was about to open his mouth and scream for the instructors, he remembered the appearance of those skeleton droids, and immediately felt chills run across his body. Goosebumps rose. It was fine if he didn’t think. If he thought of those skeletons, his hair immediately stood on end.
Scared, he hastily lay on the ground. What to do? What can I do? He thought this in his head, as he certainly did not have the courage to say a word. He feared something would hear the sound and find where he was. He also thought staying in one place was not safe, so he used his hands and knees to crawl to his feet.
Just as Tang Long was scaring himself, when he had almost frightened himself to death, he suddenly touched a metal object. When he felt it, he almost screamed in terror, but he quickly had a joyful expression, because that object was a laspistol.
He swiftly wielded it, and although he currently had goosebumps all over his body and his hair was standing on end, he was not as scared as before. “Ha ha ha ha!” Tang Long laughed loudly, while firing the pistol randomly in every direction.
Following the light of the laser, Tang Long saw the heap of weapons by his side. Overjoyed, he swiftly switched out his laspistol for a lasrifle, now wielding a rifle that shot in bursts. “Cool! Who’s gonna come now? Come on! See if I don’t shoot you into swiss cheese!” These words spoken, he fired dozens more beams.
After the energy pack was almost depleted, Tang Long hugged the rifle, lay on the pile of weapons, and rested. “Hehe. There’s nothing to be afraid of. With a gun, what do I have to be scared of?! Hey, gun, oh, gun, you are really my baby…. Yes … my … baby …” The words echoed and faded into the darkness, as Tang Long, exhausted in both body and spirit, finally could not stay awake, and fell asleep.
“Tang Long … Tang Long! Tang Long!!!” Hearing the yells, Tang Long unwillingly opened his eyes, and seeing the scene in front of him, his eyes immediately widened, staring. His heart also skipped a beat, because a dense, white skeleton was facing him, opening its mouth, revealing ghastly, snow-white teeth.
Tang Long did not even think, raising the rifle and sweeping bursts of fire across the skeleton. But after firing, Tang Long felt his jaw drop, realizing he was in deep trouble. He had shot a droid instructor.
That droid had taken multiple beams to its body, but it acted like nothing had happened. On the uniform, there were only a few small holes, still smoking and scorched, revealing the snow-white skeleton beneath.
The droid instructor completely brushed it off, instead pointing at Tang Long and nodding its head. “Very good. This time you were not late.”
Hearing this, Tang Long, pleasantly surprised, forgot his previous fear and quickly threw down the lasrifle. Standing to attention, he saluted. “Sir!”
The instructor also saluted, though the words it spoke made Tang Long feel like he was falling into the abyss. “But you intentionally tried to murder your senior officer. Your punishment is to carry twenty kilograms and perform frog jumps for ten kilometers. If you fail halfway, you will receive the death penalty!” After saying these emotionless words, the droid turned and walked off.
Tang Long could only blankly stare at the ground where heavy clothes emerged. Soon, a shrill cry rang out in the hall of 23rd Regiment.