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[Nights] Ch 20. Uninvited Guest

None of these people were in their right mind when they entered the training camp back then, rebellious to the point of occipital bones poking out of their heads. Apart from anything else, none of them were cowards.

Firm on believing that Don would never shudder out of fear, Chu Si brushed it off with a wave of his hand. “What could’ve happened at the East Tower?”

“You know,” Don answered, “Fort Barney was shut down before cryocapsules were even manufactured.”

Chu Si nodded. Of course he knew—as an officer back then, he was the one who signed the manufacturing order of today’s widely-used cryocapsules.

“But guess what,” Don continued, “there was an equipment room in the second basement level of the East Tower. We found freezing cabins in there that were highly similar to cryocapsules, but they weren’t single-occupancy ones.”

As he spoke, he couldn’t help but grit his teeth and complain, gesturing with his palms open, “It was a big bunkhouse this long! We had no choice but to all jump right in when the planet was exploding. Turns out, there was an alarm in the freezing bunkhouse set by someone, and it just woke us up like that two months ago.”

“Right,” Le Pen added, “it should’ve been a male, electronic voice. It kept on repeating something like ‘freezing device has been set to cease operation in two minutes’.” She rolled her eyes and continued recollecting, “After repeating that seven or eight times, it started counting down from 30 seconds, and then the freezing cabin’s door was automatically. Having just woken up, we were a bit confused and didn’t know what was happening. We stared at each other and could only discuss what we were supposed to do next. But—”

The lady fished out her communicator from her military trousers, scrolled through as she bit her tongue, and put the screen in front of Chu Si’s face. “Look, Officer, every single day afterward, we received several automated messages on our communicators.”

The screen was too close and Chu Si had to bend back a little to see the top row of the message:

Data transmission disconnected. Self-destruction process terminated.

Beginning data transmission.

End of command search. Unable to find source of S001 command.

Auto-search for command.

Chu Si raised a brow. “A ghost caller?”

“Right?! What the hell!” Le Pen scrolled up with her finger and this kind of message filled the entire screen, stretching endlessly down. “Every day, our communicators would be automatically connected to this unidentifiable source. And besides the S001 command search, what the hell is that self-destruction thing?! God knows if they’re trying to destroy some data or us altogether! That’s why the transmission was force-disconnected by us every time.”

“Have you searched for the source?” Chu Si asked.

Le Pen stuffed the communicator back into her pocket and patted it. “How could we not?” she sneered. “Don endlessly traced that signal with one of the two only usable consoles on the first floor of the East Tower. That month, we rotated between carpet-searching for people outside and carefully tracing the source, but we couldn’t find any intrusion entryways.”

“Couldn’t find anyone else, and couldn’t find any intrusion entryways…” Chu Si thought it over and said, “That only leaves us with one possibility.”

“That it’s a local, internal signal from Fort Barney, one of high discretion.” Don snapped and pointed at Chu Si, “Officer, you were thinking about this, weren’t you? Same thought process as ours! But knowing that was still useless.”

The East Tower of Fort Barney was practically destroyed in that incident. Though it looked decent from the outside, all the equipment inside was completely messed up. It was a miracle that Don could find two barely-working consoles.

There was no way these two little consoles could send out this type of high-discretion signal.

There was a high chance that the signal came from the Central Fort. There were two master control rooms, which were equivalent to the left and right hemispheres of Fort Barney’s brain. As long as they found a way to enter a master control room, everything would become clear.

“What?” Chu Si asked. “You weren’t granted permission to enter when you received the command to clean up?”

“We were,” Don said, “but it was only limited to the East Tower, and we couldn’t enter the Central Fort, West, South, or North Towers.” He clicked his tongue a few times. “That’s why this task made no sense at all. Why the hell were they so stingy about the permissions? Would opening another door kill them?”

“In the beginning,” Le Pen said, “we even mistook it for a regular local signal and thought it would be limited to a certain range.” She stroked her forehead and ruefully unfolded her palm. “So we moved out of there. Good thing Joel carried a mini modular printer with him. We took down all the removable energy panels and pieces from the East Tower and assembled a few modular houses in the forest out of that. But then… ha!”

They did stop receiving messages the first day of moving out.

But the next day, that thing came back to haunt them again. This time, another message came before those four original ones: Re-tracking of location complete. In-atlas coordinates: 2856,1920. It even went as low as attaching a frontal shot of their house.

After terminating the self-destruction process, they immediately tore down the house only built for a day and moved into a forest further away from Fort Barney. Still, they were unable to avoid the messages, which came back after pausing for a day.

Like this, they moved all the way from the center of the forest to the edge.

“Because of the live shots we received, this forest was almost filled with eyes to us… Oh, the bug-eye we mentioned earlier was our nickname for it. We tried searching through once, but it was too much effort for too little in return.”

He stomped and set his foot on the floor. “So far, this place is the longest we’ve been staying at. Not sure if it’s because we’re close to the edge, but that thing has been quiet for three days already. But we still need to be cautious and have someone keeping watch no matter how tired we are, just in case we can’t stop the self-destruction process in time when a message hits.”

“But we’re still being too passive,” Chu Si said in a frown.

“Extremely passive!” Don exclaimed. “Even though Fort Barney has been shut down for a very long time, back then it was built with the coolest top-notch technology and a very strong defense system. At that time, we tried thinking of more elegant solutions, but what the hell did it do! At last, after discussing here and there, we could only—”

In the gentlest tone, he described the results of their discussion to Chu Si, expressed in a single, colloquial sentence— “Bomb the f*ck out of it!”

“Yeah!” Le Pen blinked at him, “So we did some manual work.” She snapped at a man in a buzz-cut beside. “Liu! Pull out the treasures you made!”

Entering the camp when it was very lively back then, Liu was rather quiet and would smile shyly whenever he was teased, a dimple appearing on one side of his face. Seemingly the most gentle and honest person, he was the best at creating all kinds of highly destructive weapons.

They once toyed with those pocket bombs of Liu’s creation and ended up bombing the apartment building they lived in together.

Since that was still vivid in Chu Si’s mind, he immediately knew what “treasures” they were referring to.

Just as expected, Liu stood up, walked to his room, and came back with an armful of pearl-sized pocket bombs, almost like he was carrying his own daughter.

“…You just sleep on top of these every night?” Chu Si couldn’t help but laugh, “Aren’t you afraid of being blown into the sky?”

“Not every night,” Liu answered in a smile. “Just finished making these three hours ago, fresh out of the oven. We’re planning on going to Fort Barney tomor—”

Before he could finish, several communicators rang in a ding, including Chu Si’s.

All of their faces suddenly turned pale. Don zoomed straight into the investigation room before even checking his communicator. “F*ck, that b*tch is back to make their moves on us! Bring all your communicators here and stop the self-destruction process first!”

Chu Si took out his communicator and glanced at it. As expected, there was a message showing their location along with a live shot, exactly as Le Pen and the others described.

He followed behind Le Pen into the investigation room, and Joel also rushed in with his and Kim’s communicators.

Don’s fingers pounding on the console were almost blurry, and the codes on the screen were flying at superspeed.

“You guys even tore the East Tower’s console here?” Chu Si said.

“Making the most out of it! Right here right here, give me your communicators!”

He pounded on the last key, collected everyone’s communicators, and placed each one before the console’s sensor.

When Chu Si got his communicator back, he saw a new message jumping in—Data transmission disconnected. Self-destruction process terminated.

One of his problems is that he actually can’t let himself sit around.

Threatened like this, he wouldn’t be himself if he could wait to be threatened a second time around.

Chu Si threw the communicator back into his pocket, reached out his hand to Liu without facing him, and nodded. “Give me a few of those treasures of yours.”

“Officer,” Liu said, “you need it right now? You… you don’t need to rest for the night first?”

“Yeah, it’s okay, you guys can do your own thing. I’ll stroll around for a bit outside.” Chu Si took a few pocket bombs that Liu handed over and counted them. “Six? That’s probably too few. Give me three more.”

…These are all f*cking high-destruction bombs, Liu thought, not candy!

Don and Le Pen, as the infamous troublemaking duo in the training camp back then, immediately glanced at each other when they heard Chu Si saying this.

“Hehehe, Big Liu, give us a few as well!” they leaned over mischievously. “The messages are threatening us up front now. Why are we waiting until tomorrow? Let’s move the operation earlier!”

“You guys…” Liu was torn between crying and laughing, simply stuffing all the pocket bombs into their arms. “Alright alright alright, we’ll stop dragging it on then. Let’s all go together!”

The baby-faced Joel hesitated for a moment. “That butt-stung Mr. Braids and his daughter…”

Little Mop quickly took a pocket bomb from Chu Si’s hands, glanced up at him, and stood solemnly beside.

“Hey—” Joel exclaimed.

“Little Miss Fergus,” Chu Si said, “you shouldn’t play with this though.”

“You guys go then,” Joel thought it over and said, “I’ll stay in the base to look after them. It’s probably inconvenient for Mr. Braids to move right now.”

“Alright! Stop wasting time and go!” Don waved at them and went out first.

There was indeed a sizable distance between the base and Fort Barney. It took them nearly 40 minutes to reach Fort Barney even with their trained power walking.

“Luckily there’s no one else here,” Don said to Chu Si as he crawled out of the forest. “We can just bomb however we want!”

Down the hill from where they were standing, they could enter through the doors of the first floor of the East Tower, and through the doors, detouring around a semicircle lawn, they could reach the main door of the Central Fort open to the public.

“But these pocket bombs aren’t destructive enough,” Chu Si narrowed his eyes, following Don and Le Pen downhill. “It’ll be a little hard to completely bomb open the front doors.”

“No worries,” Le Pen said. “We didn’t expect to bomb the doors open in one shot. It’ll be okay as long as we loosen the doors’ edges. There’s mostly nothing but handy tools at the East Tower, so we can lever open the doors after bombing them. We’ve calculated from the toughness of that material that it would take around two days if we took turns levering it.”

“We’ve already survived two months,” Don sneered, “two days is nothing! Besides, this is the fastest way we could think of. Who told us to forget to bring light beam explosives before!”

“I kind of miss the days when we could casually set off light beam explosives,” roused by the thought of weapons, Liu couldn’t help but lament. “If we put four of them in front of the doors, we can even break through the gates of Hell.”

“Ah…” Le Pen chimed in, “if we could add A12 antimatter explosive to the mix, that would…”

“Babes,” Don rolled his eyes, “you can stop dreaming now!”

Chu Si paused for a moment. “No antimatter bombs around, but there does happen to be an antimatter fuel bunker. It’s just that…”

“No no no no Officer,” Don was nearly dizzy from shaking his head, “we just wanted to open the doors, not blow the entire Fort Barney into the sky.”

Before they knew, they had already passed through the East Tower’s wide-open doors. Apparently, last time these little devils ran away too quickly to even lock the doors.

“Just the thought of the energy yield of an antimatter fuel bunker could kill me.” Don was still lamenting about Chu Si’s terrifying ideas as they circled along the semicircle lawn, walking towards the doors of the Central Fort. “That’s too crazy. Don’t toy with that idea! I—”

“Hm, wait!” Don suddenly started questioning, breaking off his previous thought. “Why are there sounds at the front door? It’s like…”

“It’s like the sound of artillery barrels knocking against metal.” Hearing these sounds that he was highly sensitive to, Liu increased his pace.

As everyone walked along the largest arc of the lawn, they could just see the sides of Fort Barney’s front doors.

“Wait!” Chu Si hauled onto the few people who were about to keep walking ahead.

The very moment they stopped, an earth-shattering bomb by the front doors was suddenly detonated.

The thick smoke engulfed the flames, shooting straight into the horizons, becoming a huge mushroom cloud encasing the sky and earth in the sea of stars.

The second cloud;

The third cloud;

Convulsed onto the ground, Don lost consciousness for a moment before strenuously lifting his head up. “Oh… f*ck…?” He squeezed these words out, watching dazedly at those three mushroom clouds.

“Are they really trying to bomb Fort Barney into the sky?!” Le Pen coughed the dust out of her mouth as she looked blankly at Chu Si, “What happened? Which lunatic was this?”

…Chu Si suddenly had a bad premonition.

“Luckily this was just Fort Barney,” Don said as he laboriously stood up. “The anti-explosion function built within every wall helped us resist some of the force of impact. Without that, we would’ve all become ashes by now.”

Just as Chu Si stood up and was about to say something, he suddenly felt his head being patted on.

“Who?” He turned around in a frown.

“Who else could it be, my officer?”

Without a warning, Sa’e Yang’s lazy voice suddenly rang right above everyone’s heads.

Chu Si took a few steps aside, looked up towards the sound source, and saw Sa’e Yang straightening his body, standing tall above the wall. He had one hand in his pocket and the other holding onto a familiar-looking silver artillery barrel.

“My dear,” he chuckled and dragged on his tone, towering over Chu Si, “why are you hiding sneakily here with these fools?”

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