#79 – Radar And Food
“I am not sure what they do either. They are well-fed, and their only duty is body training,” Mingyi said, throwing his hands in the air. “I really don’t get what the military is thinking. A lot of the researchers only get two meals per day, since the genetically modified crops are still in research. The shortage of food is a serious problem, and yet they ensure that these soldiers’ meals are well-balanced and nutritious.”
“Perhaps they have their own plans.”
Jing woke up while they were talking, Chang waved for her to come over. “Have some breakfast here, you should get some nutrition as you lost too much blood in the previous days.”
Jing jumped off the bed and walked over to the coffee table bare footed. She quietly drank the white sticky juice and chewed a few leaves from the plate. Finished eating, she sat beside Chang without uttering a single word.
In fact, Jing had not spoken since she found out Pangzi went missing. But she didn’t ask where Pangzi had left, and Chang never found a good chance to tell the prepared explanation.
The atmosphere in the room becaming almost depressing once Jing woke up.
Chang glanced at Jing’s face, while the latter remained silent. He reached out for the glass that Jing just drank from and finished the rest of the mixture. He stood up and changed his tone when addressing Mingyi.
“Let’s go, man. Show me the training room.”
Mingyi also stood up from the couch.
“Take me with you!” Jing’s words broke the awkward silence as her almost hoarse voice asked Chang to bring her along.
“You want to come with me?” Chang asked, hunkering down beside her.
“I want to go with you,” Jing said, making her intention more clear by nodding.
“Alright.” Chang picked her thin body up like he always did. The corridor was bright compared to the red fog outside the windows. The institute was sealed and there were gas filters installed at the ceiling, making the building free of red fog.
On their way, they passed numerous windows and doors. The illumination in labs projected shadows on their body, though they quickly slipped away from them as they continued to walk. Soon, the three of them arrived at a rather big gym. The guards didn’t give them any trouble as Mingyi was a familiar face that had visited this place multiple times.
When they entered the gym, Chang realized that it was larger than it’d looked from the outside. But surprisingly, it was as ordinary as any gym he would have seen before the apocalypse. The training place provided all sorts of training equipment which were modified specially for those soldiers. Chang lifted one of the dumbbells and immediately realized that there was extra weight on it. Other than that, the gym was nothing like Chang imagined. He’d thought it would be futuristic and fascinating, but it was almost too unexceptional. Never would he have thought the super soldiers trained in here.
Their arrival didn’t garner too much attention, the soldiers just kept on training.
“Jing, what is their danger index in your mind?” Chang whispered to Jing habitually, and Jing was about to answe like she did every time, but she closed her mouth alertly this time.
As if he discerned something unusual, Chang turned his head and looked at Mingyi’s concerned face. It looked good-natured, but curiosity filled the man’s eyes.
Chang paused as he recalled he had exhorted Mingyi again and again to take good care of Jing; now that he gazed at Mingyi’s smiley face, he perceived a sense of delicacy of Mingyi’s mind. Apparently, Mingyi hadn’t forgetten Chang’s extra unsettlement for having to leave Jing, and he seemed to develop a genuine interest in their secret.
Fortunately, Chang and Jing always whispered in each other’s ears, so it would have been impossible for Mingyi to hear the content of their words. But the feeling of being monitored was unpleasant none the less.
“What were you guys talking about?” Mingyi questioned after the absurdly long pause between Jing and Chang, his ingenious smile concealing his purpose. “Are you guys speaking something that even a comrade like me shouldn’t hear?”
“Nothing that you should be concerned about, she just likes to tell me her girly secrets,” Chang answered, curving his mouth to make a smile. He was already on guard against Mingyi.
Although Mingyi’s impression was always positive, Chang could never put trust in him. Nor anyone else in this institute. This moment of realization was brutal; Chang understood that he could no longer just casually ask Jing for the danger index when living in this place. It was unsafe, and they might have been watched from the moment they stepped in.
For the first time, Chang became aware of the fact that EMs were extremely rare among humans. The research institute didn’t seem to be conscious about the presence of psychic EMs. Both Qing Shui and Zhuo were in the cognitive category… But Jing was completely different from them.
In some sense, Jing would not be an ideal subject for scientific research but instead very powerful in military planning. Chang could even imagine how the military would turn her into a living radar; the help she could provide to the military was immeasurable.
Thinking of the possible consequences, Chang was soaked in cold sweat.
He avoided talking to Jing but started chatting with Mingyi, who soon left for his duty of animal training. Chang began to train with his mouth shut tight while Jing quietly gazed into the red fog outside the window.
It was a day as plain as water with a surging undercurrent of disquiet.
When the sun disappeared behind the horizon, the lights in the institute flickered on one by one. Chang and Jing returned to their suite. He only drank a glass of the same sticky mixture sent from the military and brushed his teeth before lying on the bed with a troubled heart. Eyes closed, he didn’t want to speak to Qing Shui nor did he want to move. All he wanted was to have a quiet rest.
Jing was the same as two days ago, she laid down peacefully beside Chang.
But she differently from yesterday, she spoke up and her gentle words sounded loud in the silent space.
“Chang, as long as I am staying in here, I am in danger. Right?” she murmured.
“Well, I can’t deny that, but you have Mr. Li and me to accompany you. There is nothing you should be worried about,” Chang said, resisting to show his surprise for her sensitivity with great effort. He comforted her saying, “Don’t be afraid, as long as you refrain from telling anyone about your ability, nobody will know.”
“Chang, will I die in here?”
“What are you talking about? Of course not!” Chang almost jumped out of the bed as the triggering words slipped out from her lips. However, considering the environment she was living in, his promise lacked confidence. “I will die before you if that day comes.”
“But that makes me feel worse.” Jing fiddled with the new pendant on Chang’s necklace and mumbled, “Can you promise me something please?”
“If I died…” Her index finger pressed hard on an empty spot of the necklace. “Can you save me a spot here? I do want to be in your company forever.”
“Jing, this is not a good joke,” Chang growled, her request irritating him for some reason. Pangzi’s broken body kept flashing in his eyes and the last words were read repeatedly in his mind. He turned away from Jing, facing her with his back.
“Say no more, there is no spot secured for you, not on my necklace.”
The two laid on the bed with thoughts roaming in their head, the air cool between them.
“The training significantly improved your danger index, it increased by 0.2 today. This is more than 10 times faster than the improvement speed of those others in the gym. I don’t know how this could happen.” After the silence, Jing took the initiative to break the ice. “The danger index is 7 in average for the trainees in the gym, but there is one exception. It’s the one who was sitting in the corner for a long time.”
“I think that was because this is my first training day. The increase will slow down as I go more often. There is always a ceiling for physical strength,” Chang said, turning around. He then continued, “How is that person more exceptional than the others?”
“His pattern is unstable… It was strange how his index went up to 20 something then dropped back to 7 or 8 out of a sudden.”
“Could it be that the military has started the medical trial on these trainees?” Qing Shui asked, interrupting their conversation. His eyes, though, were still on the computer. “Extreme instability, the peak index is three times greater than the bottom – this exceeds what a human body can handle. That person must be dying.”
“You are saying even people nowadays, including those who have high danger index, are still vulnerable to the red fog concentrate?” Chang asked, shifting to face Qing Shui.
“I was just guessing. If they ever had this concentrate injected to someone, considering the failure from Russia, it might still fail at this time too. But we aren’t far from success. Let’s wait and see.” Qing Shui resumed his reading mode after making his statement.
Chang fell asleep soon after once more exhorting Jing not to display her ability in public.
The next day Chang got out of bed as the sun shed light into the room. Qing Shui was still reading as if he hadn’t slept since the day he started. It was again Mingyi who knocked on the door with food on the tray.
“We only have this much today,” Mingyi said apologetically, as he placed a glass of white mixture and a plate of leaves on the coffee table. He sighed.
“The food shortage is becoming more serious. I heard rumors of rebellion from some of the soldiers around me,” he added, deeply worried. “We are fortunate enough to be covered, but most of the soldiers only get a full meal every two or three days. The rest of the time they have to rely on plants grown around the institute. This results in people getting poisoned every day. There’s no other way, a riot is coming!”
“Is it this bad already?” Qing Shui asked, standing up from the chair like a launched rocket. “If the social structure collapses, we will be losing our last advantage. This is not only a natural apocalypse but also a social disaster, humanity is doomed without social structure.”
Qing Shui opened the door for the first time since he moved in.
“I’ll go check out the group which is conducting research on new crops, just wait here.”
The door shut, leaving a mixture of hope and worry.
10 minutes later, Qing Shui reentered, light-hearted. “They made it! I saw the sprouts in the incubator, Zhuo made this happen!”
“Was he also an EM?” Chang asked. The name was familiar to him.
“He is, and an excellent researcher! I doubt that his EM index is higher than mine but he disguised that by lying in the test.” Qing Shui almost admired Zhuo. “I really want to collaborate with him but his idea is too advanced for me to understand. In one sentence, he is an extraordinary person!”