There were few people in the stairwell or perhaps it was just that the people in a hurry were less than usual. Going up and down the stairs was physically exhausting. An Zhe took a deep breath and struggled. When the solar wind directly hit the earth, the atmosphere would be blown away at a terrible speed and dissipate into the universe. Although only a few days had passed, the oxygen content in the air provided by the vents was obviously not enough. The military broadcasts reminded people every day to avoid going out and unnecessary physical exertion.
An Zhe came to the first floor corridor and the atmosphere here was even more solemn. An Zhe remembered the patrolling judge telling him to go back early and he hurriedly returned to the Trial Court. The doctor was tapping on his laptop in the corridor and saw him. “You’re finally back. Where di you go?”
An Zhe replied, “I went out for a walk.”
He sat next to the doctor. Dr Ji was a very gentle person and in the past few days, they had developed a good relationship.
“Don’t run around,” the doctor told him. “At least, not today.”
An Zhe inquired, “What happened?”
The doctor looked away from the computer screen toward him. Dr Ji’s face was slightly tired and his lips were pale. There seemed to be an endless deep emotion in his blue eyes that weren’t positive. He pushed a bottle of water in front of An Zhe. “Are you thirsty?”
An Zhe shook his head. He was fine. Although mushrooms were existences that needed water, today his spore had returned to his body and he felt very stable. The demand for water didn’t seem so urgent.
“Every aspect is in short supply. Forget food and water, even the oxygen isn’t enough.” He heard the doctor whisper. “By today at the latest, the military will transfer people. If you came back late, you would’ve missed the transfer and could only stay here.”
An Zhe had some doubts.
“Where will the transfer be to?” He had thought the Lighthouse was the last refuge.
The doctor fixed his eyes on the empty wall in front of him. “The Garden of Eden.”
“There is a crops growing centre, a stable food supply and a large amount of pure water reserves. All the base’s resources are there.” The doctor explained.
Having said that, he smiled. “The name ‘Garden of Eden’ is aptly named. Now it really is the last Eden.”
“There had been voices of opposition when the Garden of Eden was originally built. Crop growing, drinking water supply, growing children… they protested that concentrating so many resources necessary for human survival in one place would bring great risks, even if it was extremely beneficial to Eden.” The doctor lowered his voice. “However, facts always proved that the base’s ability is limited. In the fact of a huge disaster, all human resources can only be concentrated in the Garden of Eden. We must sacrifice everything to protect it. If the Garden of Eden doesn’t exist then humanity will no longer exist.”
An Zhe understood what the doctor meant. The Garden of Eden was a place for mothers and children. He looked at the doctor and asked, “Is everybody going?”
The doctor glanced at him but it was difficult to describe the meaning of that look. It was like the life teacher at the Garden of Eden looking at a wayward and ignorant student. In addition, there was a touch of sadness. Thus, An Zhe knew the answer and didn’t speak.
The morning was spent in silence until Seraing came back. However, he was in a hurry. He was busy with work.
“I’m going to stay here until this evening.” He glanced at An Zhe. “The emergency response department doesn’t recognize you so you should follow me.”
The doctor said, “Just give him to me. I won’t leave him behind.”
Seraing thought for a moment. “Okay.”
Outside, the huge wind never stopped. This was a force from the universe and it shook the entire human city. The hurricanes that the solar storm created were bigger than all disasters recorded in history. An Zhe stuck a finger to the wall and could feel a slight tremor, like a dying animal’s last gasp. In fact, An Zhe already felt it was a miracle that human creations could persist in such a huge storm for so long.
At one in the afternoon, someone knocked on the door. It was a team of fully armed soldiers headed by three civilian officers with badges representing the ‘emergency response department’ on their chests. The officer in the lead nodded slightly. “Doctor, please come with us.”
We’re sorry for MTLers or people who like using reading mode, but our translations keep getting stolen by aggregators so we’re going to bring back the copy protection. If you need to MTL please retype the gibberish parts.
The doctor asked, “Is the transfer starting?”
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“According to the transfer plan, you can bring an assistant.” The officer told An Zhe, “Please show us your ID card so we can verify your identity.”
“My assistant is gone.” The doctor draped an arm around An Zhe’s shoulder and smiled. “It seems like you don’t have your ID card.”
An Zhe told him, “I only have the colonel’s ID card.”
“Give it to them,” the doctor ordered.
An Zhe obediently took out Lu Feng’s ID card. The officer took it and swiped it on a portable machine before obviously becoming stunned.
“Lu Feng went to the Dungeon Base and there is no news yet.” The doctor raised an eyebrow and spoke slowly. “If his family’s child can’t get asylum… I don’t think it is right.”
The officer went to the side and called a number. Then he returned here and said, “An exception will be made and he will be transferred as your assistant.”
“Thank you,” the doctor said.
“You see.” They walked down the hallway and the doctor scolded An Zhe. “You were running around all morning. If you came back late—”
An Zhe pursed his lips as he saw the situation in the corridor.
Dozens of researchers in white coats were lined up with soldiers guarding them. One woman was agitated. “My assistant has to follow me. I don’t accept such a transfer plan.”
The officer told her, “You don’t have an assistant quota in the transfer plan, Dr Chen.”
“My research is inseparable from my assistant. I can’t do those tasks alone, not to mention that he isn’t inferior to me and can independently lead large projects.” The woman called Dr Chen exclaimed. “I have to trouble you to ask your superiors.”
“If you decide that you can’t continue your research because you have lost an assistant, you might have to stay here.” The officer’s voice was cold and heartless.
There was a brief pause and she remained silent.
An Zhe followed Dr Ji in the other direction. There seemed to be an argument upstairs and the sound of heavy objects falling to the ground could be heard.
An exit was opened on the first floor of the United Front Building. An Zhe boarded the military’s heavy armoured vehicle and briefly glanced at the scene outside. The sun was so dazzling that it almost burned his retinas and the dry and hot air rushed into his lungs. The original flat ground was full of deep ditches like it had been clawed by a giant monster.
Surrounded by people’s breathing, the armoured vehicle filled with 30 people. He listened to the people next to him discussing the transfer. The Lighthouse only had a total of 500 places which was one-tenth of all staff.
Someone asked, “What about our equipment and materials?”
“After we leave, the Lighthouse will be completely powered off. The laboratories will be graded according to the importance and important samples will be transferred to the Garden of Eden.”
There was a bang and the door closed. The armoured vehicle started and the compartment was dark and silent. The doctor grabbed his hand.
An Zhe suddenly felt that this scene was extremely familiar. A month ago, during the overwhelming insect tide, he also boarded the military vehicle in the same manner and came to District 6 for Judgment Day. It had been Poet who grabbed his hand in the dark compartment back then and now it was the doctor. At that time, the standard for people entering District 6 was to not be infected. Now the standard for entering Eden was if they could make enough contributions to the base in the future.
No matter if it was the outer city or the main city, a trial took place all the time.
The journey was short and coincidentally, he and the doctor were arranged at the end of the sixth floor where he once taught children to read poetry. In Eden, he had his first formal lunch in many days, a bowl of potato soup. It might not be as delicious as the one cooked by himself but after eating compressed biscuits and nutrition granules for a few days, this was already rare good food.
The doctor seemed to have a lot of worries. At night, An Zhe went out to grab water for him.
There were people in the tearoom. The lady who clashed with the officer during the day was weeping against the wall and there was another researcher next to her, patting her on the shoulder. “Perhaps the Lighthouse can hold on.”
“It ‘s impossible.” Her voice was hoarse. “The oxygen content of the planet’s air is less than half the original. After the air filtration system is activated, fresh oxygen will only be given priority to the Garden of Eden. Residential areas, the military bases and even the Twin Towers will only receive the secondary supply and won’t be able to survive.”
Then she looked up, saw An Zhe and whispered, “Who is this? Is he one of ours?”
The researcher next to her answered, “It is said he is the assistant of Dr Ji from the testing centre.”
She muttered, “Dr Ji can bring his assistant… because his work is better than ours.”
“This is the way it is. Don’t be sad for him. If we can get through this disaster then we can train new assistants.”
Her nose was red and her eyes full of tears. Once she heard this, she laughed bitterly before reaching out to cover her face, trembling.
“Do you think…” She paused. “I’m… do you think it is just because of my assistant that I’m sad?”
“The inhabitants of the main city were glad they weren’t the ones abandoned when the outer city was blown up.” She spoke in an intermittent voice. “However, they were still abandoned. We stand here today at the expense of everyone else in the Lighthouse… maybe tomorrow we will be disqualified. The sea will submerge and the areas exposed to the water will be less and less. The time is coming. We… why are we insisting on holding on? For the sake of humanity as a whole?”
“For the benefit of the entire human race.”
She bowed her head and gasped violently. “This era is killing people but humans are killing themselves.”
“Still, you must accept it, Dr Chen.” The other researcher whispered. “As the winners, we aren’t qualified to mourn for them.”
“I know… I’m just a fellow human being like them and emotionally can’t accept it.” She finally wiped away her tears and smiled reluctantly. “Or do you want to say that we aren’t qualified to have emotions either?”
“…I don’t know.”
They stopped talking and An Zhe picked up the glass of water and walked out the tearoom. The moment he looked up, he saw Seraing’s figure flashing down the corridor, opening the door and entering the room that belonged to the doctor and An Zhe. He quickened his pace, wanting to say hello to Seraing.
The door wasn’t closed and a glimmer of light came out. An Zhe held the doorknob and was about to push the door when he heard Seraing asking, “Where is An Zhe?”
The doctor answered, “He transferred with me. Are you looking for him?”
“He has been following you? I just received a call from the emergency response department. The important sample from the D1344 laboratory that was preparing to be transferred has disappeared.”
“Disappeared?” The doctor wondered. “The sample related to Lu Feng? That weird thing, I wouldn’t be surprised if it died and evaporated into thin air.”
An Zhe’s heart beat quickly as his fingers trembled and he quickly turned to the other side of the corridor.
“No,” Seraing told him. “The reason the emergency response department came to me was that the instrument recorded some usage at 6 in the morning. The operator was the colonel. Where is An Zhe? I have to find him.”
“He went to get some water.”
“Thank you.” There was the sound of a door opening and Seraing went out.
An Zhe stood behind the wall around the corner and gripped the glass of water in his hand. He knew that he would be found one day but he hadn’t expected it to be so soon. The two researchers in the tearoom had seen him and soon, Seraing would come here to find him. He couldn’t be found.
An Zhe clearly recognized this and looked around the corridor to find an available vent. Then he realized that once he became a mushroom, his clothes and ID card would be left here as conclusive evidence.
His chest heaved a few times before he made a decision in a second. He turned and ran toward the utility room at the end of the auxiliary corridor. There was a small half-open door leading to the emergency stairwell that wouldn’t be found anytime soon. This stairwell had another exit on the 22nd floor. He and Lily had been here once. As long as An Zhe found the original terrace, he could leave the building or find another place to hide. It didn’t matter as long as he left the sixth floor as soon as possible.
An Zhe successfully found the small door and went in. He entered the dark stairwell and started to climb the stairs. This place seemed to be close to the building’s outer wall. The wind was loud and there were long echoes. The air was hot and it was full of a suffocating, damp heat.
He couldn’t hear anything in the darkness but the wind until he bumped into something small. An Zhe’s first reaction was that a heterogeneous monster had hidden here. Then his fingers touched smooth human hair and he heard a child’s soft gasp.
He hesitated before asking, “Lily?”
“An Zhe?” Lily also called out.
“You’re here!” Lily exclaimed. “I… I heard the Twin Towers was starting to move and I was going to find you. Sinan? Has Sinan moved?”
“I don’t know. They said that important samples would be transferred.”
The moment he said this, he suddenly remembered that heterogeneous species could infect without contact and the Lighthouse might not let Sinan enter the Garden of Eden. However, Lily seemed relieved. “Sinan must be important.”
She leaned against the stairs for a while before saying, “Did you come to find me as well?”
“No.” An Zhe told her, “I’m here to hide.”
“Does someone want to capture you?” Lily asked before saying, “It’s safe here.”
An Zhe knew that Lily was a child different from the other humans.
“I’ll be here for a few days.” He touched Lily’s hair. “Can you not tell anyone that I’m here?”
The next moment, the stairwell became as bright as daylight, bright white lights hitting him and Lily. Lily subconsciously screamed and leaned back against him. He reached out to protect the little girl and looked up.
Madam Lu in a long white dress stood in the bright light. Next to Madam Lu were two Eden workers with bright flashlights.
“Lily.” Madam Lu’s gentle voice was filled with a mild rebuke. She was clearly speaking to Lily but her eyes were on An Zhe. “Why are you still running away this time?”