Chapter 297: Up Close and Personal With The Zebra Virus [Part 2]
Cillin received a call from Guan Feng not long after he left the planet.
At first, Guan Feng thought that Cillin was returning to Black Viper to research the virus with Neo and the rest of the scientists. But when he heard that Cillin was heading to the eleventh star region, he immediately went ballistic.
“Stay where you are!!”
The RAS meeting room was completely silent. The RAS president had been in the middle of a passionate speech when Guan Feng shocked him so much that he forgot what to say next. When he regained faculty of himself, his facial muscles twitched, and his complexion looked as blackened as coals.
Guan Feng pretended he didn’t see anyone’s expression and walked outside, still shouting like a volcanic eruption. His usual composure and placidness were completely missing.
“What’s going on with Guan Feng?” Someone asked.
“I’m guessing that one of his students got into trouble.” One of Guan Feng's critics replied while taking a sip of tea. It was better to cool down at a heated moment, or one might slip up like that hypocrite just now during an important meeting like this.
The reason Cillin didn’t hide his intention was because he knew that it wasn’t possible in the long term. There was no avoiding interaction with the empire’s special departments if he wished to enter the eleventh star region, and that meant Guan Feng would’ve known one way or another. He might as well tell him now rather than wait until then.
Cillin closed the communicator and continued towards the eleventh star region after enduring all of Guan Feng’s shouts.
Just as he expected, the entire eleventh star region—especially the severely affected areas—was put under serious lockdown. The planet Gleason Dodge told him to check was among them.
Any spaceplane who wished to enter the eleventh star region normally had to undergo an inspection, but as the leader of Black Viper Cillin had a special permit that allowed him to enter or exit the star region as he pleased. However, that was only the case for the minorly infected or infection-free zones. For the majorly infected zones, no one—not even the upper nobles—was allowed to leave until further notice, and anyone who tried would be dealt with with extreme prejudice. It was an order from the highest level. Moreover, it was just a front that “Wings”, the official empire’s special department that was keeping guard at the majorly infected zones. The real operations were carried out by another force that the nobles had no power over at all.
Cillin received a long-ranged warning long before he got to the protected zones. When Cillin showed his special permit, he wasn’t granted immediate entry per normal procedures. He was invited to show his face in a nearby space fortress instead.
Cillin complied and submitted himself to a full scan once he was inside the space fortress. Obviously, no virus carrier was allowed to set foot outside the protected zones. Even his spaceplane had to go through multiple sterilization procedures before it was allowed to enter the hanger area.
When Cillin got off the spaceplane, he was greeted by two familiar faces.
“Tu Ba, Gu Xin?”
They were the test candidates he worked with while he was accepting his test on that planet. He only knew that they were assigned to a different department under Black Viper, and that they were under Kristi Lang’s jurisdiction, not his.
The moment he saw Gu Xin and Tu Ba, he knew that this so-called empire’s special department was really Black Viper, or more specifically the test candidates who overcame Black Viper’s test.
“You guys are the so-called special department?” Cillin greeted Tu Ba and Gu Xin with a smile.
“That is correct.” Gu Xin was pretty happy to see Cillin again.
“I didn’t think I would be able to work for the military again.” Tu Ba was currently wearing a military uniform, but it was very different from the uniform worn by the two main armies of the empire. For example, it was clearly designed with real combat in mind.
“Hey Wheeze, what’s wrong? Why do you look so spiritless? Who bullied you?” Gu Xin poked Wheeze in the ear and got a scratch for his troubles.
“Who would dare do such a thing?” Cillin’s lips curled.
“You would!” Wheeze shouted while pointing at his face. “Cillin you are a bad idiot bastard lying piece of feces!”
Cillin: “...” Where on earth did it learn these stuff?
Gu Xin chuckled as Wheeze scratched Cillin’s sleeves with a grudgeful look on its face.
“Anyway, what are you doing here? This is a majorly infected zone, you know.” Tu Ba asked.
Gu Xin withdrew his smile and turned serious. They had all seen the symptoms caused by the viruses, and they knew that no one, no matter how tough they were was immune to it.
“I came to look for a clue about the virus.”
“Clue? Did Black Viper send you over?”
“No, I came here of my own volition.” Gu Xin and Tu Ba knew about Kristi Lang, but they had no idea that Cillin was one of the three new leaders of Black Viper. Cillin didn’t tell them the truth either, he simply said that his area of responsibility was academics just like Neo.
The trio took a moment to swap stories with each other. Gu Xin and Tu Ba’s expression grew severe when they learned that Neo had been infected by the Zebra Virus. Neo was an incredibly annoying person, but even they had to admit that his genius was the real thing. If it wasn’t for Neo and his base, it was very likely they would’ve died very early into the test.
Gu Xin and Tu Ba knew that there was no point in persuading after Cillin had made up his mind about something. So, they informed him about the latest situation instead.
“What do you guys know about this planet?” Cillin brought up a star chart and pointed at the planet Gleason Dodge mentioned.
“This one? Give me a sec.” Tu Ba brought up the planet’s data before answering, “It’s one of the majorly infected planets.”
“How much longer does it have?” Cillin asked.
What he meant was how much longer did the planet have before it hit the time limit the higher-ups had set. At the rate at which the virus was spreading, the planet would be destroyed if an effective medicine couldn’t be created in time. It was because the longer the situation dragged out, the higher the chances that the mutated viruses might survive the bombardment and infect another star region.
Tu Ba and Gu Xin fell silent for a moment before replying, “There has been a couple of new medicines, so the higher-ups told us to wait up on the ultimatum for now. However, no one knows when that order will come. It could be a long time, or it could be the next minute.”
So, he would have to keep the worst case scenario in mind.
“Got it. If the order does come down remember to notify me. I’ll evacuate the planet immediately,” Cillin said while adjusting the frequencies of his communicator.
“Alright, be careful. This is the latest protective suit we have. This is what we wear during an operation.” Tu Ba gave Cillin several sets of the same protective suit because one definitely wasn’t enough. Redundancy was a life saving measure in the case of the unexpected.
Cillin accepted the protective suits and asked, “Do you have enough suits for your own use?”
“Oh, definitely. Every once in a while, the latest protective suits would be delivered to the fortress. In fact, we’ve gone through three versions before you showed up.” Tu Ba assured. “If a new version shows up while you’re down on the surface, I’ll send a robot to deliver them to you.”
They weren’t the only ones who were guarding this place. Technically it would be safer to have an all mechanical squad guarding the borders, but that would reveal to the world that Black Viper and the empire were really one and the same and open up a new can of worms.
“You’re welcome. We haven’t even thanked you properly for your help back then.”
Cillin had brought his own protective suit, but obviously the latest suits he got from Tu Ba and Gu Xin were more secure.
After Cillin left, Gu Xin and Tu Ba sat on a handrail and started smoking. The air around them was solemn and gloomy.
A while later, Gu Xin asked, “Do you think Cillin will become infected, Tu Ba?”
Tu Ba didn’t answer him. Instead, he exhaled heavily until his face was completely covered by smoke.
“Man, this smoke is thick,” He said.
Their conversation ended there, and they went back to smoking in silence.
Meanwhile, Cillin was flying a smaller spaceplane towards the planet.
Right now, the situation on the planet was chaos because the civilians weren’t the only ones who were infected. Much of the ground army were infected just as badly, and the rest were dormant virus carriers at the very minimum. No one was coming over to keep order, and no spaceplane was allowed to fly out of the planet. Every spaceplane was dead as if their souls were stolen away by someone. It was the robots’ work.
The planetary governors had long since made their escape. More accurately, they had moved to a location the empire had created for the exact purpose of treating the Zebra Virus. Maybe they were dead, maybe they were enduring experimental medicines just to buy a bit more time for themselves. Whatever they were doing right now, it didn’t change the fact that they had abandoned their citizens.
From space, it looked like fiery dots were flashing all over the planet. They were the flames of war, and the entire planet was riddled in holes because of it. Even if an effective medicine were to appear right now, it would take a long time for this planet to recover. And even if it did recover, much of its citizens would try to migrate to another planet or even another star region altogether. To these people, they were trapped in the equivalent of a hellscape, and the panic deeply imprinted into their minds wouldn’t disappear even if everything was over.
Cillin used the on-board scanners to analyze some energy reactions before entering the planet. He confirmed that the planet did suffer a stronger-than-usual external radiation quite recently, but logically speaking it shouldn’t be strong enough to deal any large-scale damage, much less create a virus of this scale. After scanning the entire planet, he circled exactly one area where the foreign energy hadn’t completely dissipated.
The planet’s satellite network was completely shut down, and the area he chose to land happened to be nighttime right now. Not one noticed him making a landing at a sparsely populated location.
After Cillin put on his protective suit, Cillin grabbed his testing tools and walked out of the spaceplane. Wheeze actually went out ahead of him, crying, “The virus is everywhere! Cillin, check your protective suit again and make sure that the virus isn’t passing through it!”
Cillin stepped out of the spaceplane after confirming one more time that his protective suit was functioning properly. Wheeze watched him closely and nervously for any reaction, worried that Cillin might report to it the unthinkable at any moment.
The location they landed on was unusually quiet and abandoned even for nighttime. The virus didn’t just infect humans, the animals and even the plants of the planet had succumbed to it as well. The fact that some of the plants had colored stripes on their stems and leaves was proof of that. It looked like the virus was completely indiscriminate, and nothing biological could escape its wrath.
Was this really just a virus?
The battles that were happening all over the planet had covered the sky in thick smoke. The stars were completely blocked, and the feeling of something terrible constantly hanging above his head made the night feel even heavier than normal.
Cillin’s footsteps were the only visible sound in the area. Some of the wilting leaves on the tree branches were still struggling to survive, but the branches holding them up were bent in a limp, flaccid manner. Some branches however were so stiff that not even a powerful gust of wind could shake them at all. It was almost as if they would break if too much force was applied to them.
Every hair on Wheeze’s body was standing on their end. This place made it feel very, very uncomfortable, and since it wasn’t wearing any protective suit it could feel the virus trying to invade its body. However, it had transformed its internal organs into mechanical parts, so the virus’ effort were completely futile.
This was the first time Cillin came so close to the Zebra virus. In the past, the reason he was immune to all the viruses and toxins he had come into contact with was because his unusual body had the ability to form the best counteragent possible automatically. But this time, his confidence was lacking to say the least. Could he really deal with the Zebra Virus like how he usually did in the past?
One of the reasons Cillin dared to enter this planet was because of the biochips inside his body, but this time he could feel them reacting to the Zebra Virus even though he was supposedly wearing a protective suit that isolated them completely. It was all he needed to know that this Zebra Virus was an enemy more powerful than anything he had ever faced before.
Right now, the biggest puzzle in Cillin’s head was: what on earth was the Zebra Virus?
He checked his scanner. Most of the Zebra Virus around them were high variant viruses, and some of them were middle variant viruses. So far, he hadn’t encountered any primary variant viruses.
“Cillin, let’s return to the spaceplane for now!” Wheeze almost scratched Cillin’s leg out of habit when it saw the protective suit and recalled that that would be a seriously bad idea.
Cillin nodded and went back to the spaceplane. He modified the entry hatch a little an installed the latest sterilization equipment, executing the sterilization procedure repeatedly until no trace of the virus was left in the air. Finally, he took off his suit inside a surge chamber and allowed himself to be blasted by sterilizing substances until he was completely clean.
Cillin had fired several autosamplers before he descended on the planet. They would collect data on the viruses around them and send the results to Cillin periodically. Right now, the autosamplers were all in position and beginning the data collection and analysis process.
Cillin turned on the main system to study the data he collected from the autosamplers. It allowed him to know how the virus was doing and calculate the ratio of primary variant viruses, middle variant viruses and high variant viruses on various locations of the planet.
Cillin fired many more autosamplers at the location he had landed because it was, in his analysis, a critical area.
Cillin frowned as he checked the data. Almost all the autosamplers returned the same results, and the number of primary variant viruses were few and far between. However, when he sorted the data samples by color and overlaid them over a map, the results suddenly became very obvious.
On the map, the areas infested by the middle variant viruses were huge, and the areas invested by the primary variant viruses were deeper in color. Looking at the map, the marked area with deepest color was just within walking distance of Cillin’s spaceplane.
He was at the right place for sure!
“Cillin, let’s send a robot to scout that area,” Wheeze said.
Cillin hesitated for a moment before contacting the nearest robot on the planet. After informing it on the essentials, he sent the robot towards the designated location.
Inside the spaceplane, Cillin and Wheeze connected to the robot’s sight watched closely for anything unusual.
Nothing had changed since Cillin’s first excursion on the planet, but when the robot got close to the marked area, the live feed suddenly cut off on its own.
The backup observer he sent to follow the robot also experienced problems for some reason, unable to provide a clear visual feed of its surroundings at all. When Cillin moved the observer away from the area, the image cleared up automatically.
The robot they sent to scout out the area was completely immobile. Forget moving, they couldn’t even sense a signal from it.
“What’s going on?” Wheeze asked in puzzlement. Although it hadn’t gotten close to that particular area during their excursion earlier, it hadn’t felt anything unusual at all.
After falling silent for a moment, Cillin walked into the sterilized surge chamber and put on his protective suit.
He would have to do this himself.