Commander Xia brought Luo Yuan and his team quickly towards the last transport plane, along with Mu Wenwen.
The transport plane was a very wide one, especially on the inside. Apart from the container where the giant lizard resided, it had a refrigerator and only a few other goods. Needless to say, the whole plane seemed rather empty.
The plane was not the least bit cosy, as it was never meant for public charter. They did not even have any basic chairs, let alone velvety soft carpets or luxurious interior décor. The guests had nowhere to sit but on the floor. Fortunately, the inner walls had metal rails, which they could at least hold on to.
After Commander Xia and a few soldiers brought them into the plane, they did not budge, and decided to stay put. This was due to the fact that Luo Yuan and the rest were not common survivors, but ones with immense destructive power, who must be kept under vigilant surveillance. However, such intentions were not stated outright in a blunt manner, as the soldiers were mostly mere acquaintances.
Their eyes were darting around the plane, with an initial feeling of novelty, which soon wore off. The interior was encrusted with exposed metal; filling the air with a pungent, rusty smell. The interior workmanship was no better; rough and shabby, with some parts welded carelessly, resembling a poor excuse of a twisted earthworm. Likewise, the iron flooring was not the least bit smoothened, with remnants of metallic pricks and debris on it.
The transport plane gave them a glaring impression that it was built in a hurry.
However, this was expected, as artisans during wartime did not have the luxury of time to meticulously work through the details, and unlike more tranquil working conditions, quantity triumphed over quality
Time was ticking slowly and soon enough, more than 10 minutes had passed.
The engine roared from afar, and one by one, the transport planes breezed through the long runway and made its way into the air. Soon, it was their turn to adjourn.
Their bodies swayed slightly as the planes took off. Huang Jiahui, who was beside Luo Yuan, suddenly clung onto his arm tightly and nervously. The rest were no better. They held onto the railing as tightly as they could and their bodies were tense; rigid with nervousness.
In fact, Luo Yuan was worried too, but he didn’t let it show.
As an evolved human with innate connections to the earth, he could feel a sense of insecurity as he was lifted off the ground. Furthermore, the earth was still a world dominated by mutated beasts, who could ever guarantee that the sky was safe? It was a risky adventure for him indeed.
When Commander Xia saw that everyone was laden with unrest, he assured, “Many will have similar reactions during their first flight. Rest assured, we have taken such flights several times now. Generally, most mutated birds aren’t active during the night. Even if they were, most of them would not be able to fly up to 10,000 meters high. Therefore, flying at night would usually be safest time for us all.”
They heaved a sigh of relief upon hearing the commander’s reassuring words.
At that very moment, their body sank with the inertia, as the heavy transport plane started to disembark from the runway and gradually heightened into the air.
“Commander, considering that you have been flying a few times now, haven’t you faced any dangers before?” Huo Dong asked bravely, at ease upon sensing Commander Xia’s relatively friendly demeanour.
The commander hesitated before he spoke slowly, “I wouldn’t say it’s 100% safe. After all, the current condition is no longer the same as before. Even though there aren’t any flying mutated beasts in the air, it’s still dangerous to fly in the sky. We had our transport planes fly back and forth, and out of five times, two planes had crashed.”
When they heard what Commander Xia said, their tranquil state of mind turned turbulent once more.
“Could the transport plane’s quality be responsible for those incidents?” asked Huo Dong, feeling tense.
“It could be, but the main reason is still the discharge of electricity at high altitudes, which seriously tampers with our electromagnetic waves. You’ll find out later.” Commander Xia said, with a slightly serious face, “Many newspapers are currently speculating that it could be the one causing mutation and global warming. Such phenomenons were increasingly occurring, at greater strengths. A year ago, the electricity discharge was almost undetectable and did not affect the various instruments in the plane at all. However, as it was now more apparent, and if it was not for the anti-electromagnetic interference equipments in the planes, it would cease to function entirely.”
“This issue has not been made known to the public yet, to prevent panic in the society. So, please keep it between us.”
“It was said that the violent supernova explosion hundreds of light-years away had caused a massive stir in the galaxy. Besides, it had also stimulated the solar activities to be increasingly active and frequent. It was likely that after the stir-up, the mutation would cease, but we don’t know how long this would will last. It may take up a few years to hundreds of years.” His face further darkened upon finishing his sentence.
Apart from Chen Jiayi and the other kids who were unperturbed, the faces of the other adults had turned sour.
Luo Yuan had heard about such a theory prior to the apocalypse, but he was not concerned nor did he feel the need to question it, as he knew that there was nothing he could do. He was well-aware that the storm in the galaxy would not only cause mutations, but also had the power to adversely affect the atmosphere.
He felt conflicted inside, as the earth seemed so fragile, like an egg without its shell.
Luo Yuan was relieved to know that the storm in the galaxy was too weak to annihilate life on earth instantly. However, the storm was gradually getting stronger and nobody knew when it would hit an unbearable stage for all life forms on earth. After all, human beings were akin to frogs in warm water, only that frogs were still capable of jumping out upon sensing a rise in temperature. But alas, human beings can only struggle in vain, watching helplessly as danger draws closer.
Luo Yuan suddenly felt his skin mildly tightening and his hair began to stand on its end.
There were shocked; everyone could feel the static electricity. Their faces slightly paled in fear.
“Commander, look at the time! Why did it strike so quickly this round?” A soldier glanced at his watch doubtfully.
“It seems like it has only been 20 minutes!” Commander Xia checked the time in shock, “I’ll check the cockpit!”
Luo Yuan’s heart skipped a beat while seeing the commander scurrying towards the staircase. He took only a minute and returned with a solemn expression. This reduced everyone to a bundle of nerves.
“What’s the situation now?” Luo Yuan asked.
“We are currently flying at an altitude of 7,000 meters. Previously, static electricity only occurred with an altitude of 10,000 meters. It looks like its range had widened over the last few days. As the plane is about to cruise at lower levels, we should be alright. Just stay calm!” said the commander, forcing a slip of a smile.
“Do we have any parachutes in here?” Lin Xiaoji asked abruptly.
The Commander shook his head and kept silent. He was clearly not as calm as he appeared to be.
After Lin Xiaoji got his answer, he laid on the floor, crestfallen.
The strength of the static electricity was inconsistent, causing the light in the cabin to flicker in unison. Occasionally, it triggered sparks in the air, which then disappeared quickly, emitting a crackling sound. A weak odor of ozone-gas then filled the air.
The situation in the transport plane cabin appeared to be rather tense, as everyone was worried sick and their breathing had become heavier too.
All their hair was standing stiff on its ends as a result of the static electricity, but nobody was in the mood to laugh. “Don’t worry, we’ll be alright.” said Luo Yuan in dire attempts to comfort them, upon sensing their uneasiness.
Instead of only comforting the others, what he really was doing was indeed comforting himself too. He hated not being able to control his fate, and to surrender his life to luck. If he were to be on earth, he would at least be able to struggle out of this, instead of being incapable of doing anything but to rely on Lady Luck.
As the clock was ticking, their heart was palpitating according to the brightness of the light.
Then, the light blinked a few times, exploded with a few sparks, and turned off as though signifying something. The very next moment, a series of bangs were heard and all the lights immediately extinguished, and emanated a burnt smell. The cabin was engulfed in darkness with only a few weak lights flickering in the air.
The ladies were so frightened; they were screaming and their faces were white as sheet.
“Could you check if everything in the cockpit is alright?” Luo Yuan said to Commander Xia.
“I’ll go now!” the commander stood up quickly while fumbling for his torch.
“Wait a second; I want to check it out too.” Luo Yuan shouted.
“Ok!” Commander Xia nodded without any hesitation. This act was apparently against their discipline but he no longer had a care in the world now.
They briskly walked upstairs, and opened the door of the cockpit. The light had malfunctioned there too; only leaving the instruments radiating with light, as they were still working perfectly.
Commander Xia immediately asked, “What’s happening?”
“We’re unlucky this time, as we’ve ran into a strong electromagnetic storm. Fortunately, the destruction wasn’t critical. The backup electricity still works fine, only undergoing some complications with the electrical circuit outside.” The co-pilot said with a shudder, “But the weather conditions are not any good. The storm from the universe is somewhat intensive – causing instability to the ionospheric layer above, which may affect us anytime. We are preparing to fly another 500 meters lower.”
Luo Yuan looked at one of the meters on dashboard with a number showing 5000m, clearly indicating the altitude. Through the thick glass, he looked towards the sky in the distance. With his extraordinarily sharp eyes, he could see that imperceptible flashes of light haphazardly lit up the pitch-black sky, some colliding to form a thick electric arc.
At times, a bright gleaming light would flash across the sky, causing it to glow periodically. It was, however, difficult to imagine what the view would be like at a higher altitude.
“Can’t we possibly fly lower?” Luo Yuan asked.
As the two pilots did not recognize his voice, they turned around and looked at Luo Yuan with utmost surprise. Without commenting, they emphasized, “No, that would be more dangerous. The loud noise of the transport plane would provoke the mutated birds, causing them to attack.”
“How far is it to the nearest runway for landing?” Luo Yuan asked again.
“It’s about 1,200 km or approximately 3 hours.”
The malfunctioned air-conditioning unit had lowered the temperature in the transport plane very quickly.
In less than half an hour, the temperature had almost hit 0 degree Celsius. Everyone was already gasping, with visible clouds of vapor in their breaths
Due of the initially warm temperature, they did not have much clothes on their backs. They were still able to endure the cold nonetheless, thanks to their relatively good physical attributes, but not much can be said about the three kids.
They were freezing cold to a point where their lips had turned to purple, but they continued staying silent.
Huang Jiahui felt a pang in her heart and hugged Chen Jiayi. As she felt herself shivering, she requested, “Luo Yuan, get them some food!”
Luo Yuan nodded, walked towards the spot where they placed their parcels to pick up about half a catty of snake heart. He then brandished his Zhanmadao to cut it up swiftly in the air, and pieces as thin as a cicada’s wings fell onto a piece of the snakeskin. Then, he rolled up the snakeskin and returned to their side.
“Everyone, please have some to keep yourself warm.” said Luo Yuan, when he placed the snakeskin down.
They were already used to consuming raw food. Thus, they picked up a piece and put it directly into their mouths. Mu Wenwen, who had been silent this entire time too, picked up a piece naturally.
“This belongs to that giant snake, right? I can’t believe how all of you can bring yourself to stomach a raw piece of meat.” said Commander Xia, while sinking his teeth hard onto its strong muscle, failing to tear it apart with his incisors.
“Then, how else can we possibly eat it?” asked Huo Dong, swallowing it whole, without so much as chewing it at all.
“Eat it after grinding it into smaller pieces, of course! There’s no way to bite into it in this form at all.” Commander Xia was still unable to disintegrate it after several chews and munches. Knowing his efforts were in vain, he had no choice but to follow suit and swallow it whole.
“Such luxury is not possible given the circumstances. We’re already grateful to even have food to eat.” Luo Yuan also picked up a piece, put it into his mouth, and said with a smile.
“Yes, you are probably right!” Commander Xia ate a few pieces, before stopping midway, as it caused redness to his face.
Despite having half a catty of heart being rationed to so many people, there were still about seven to eight pieces left. Luo Yuan finished the leftovers and ended up eating more than everyone else did. However, everyone’s face was red and flushed, except for Luo Yuan’s, which was not in any way affected.
His heart was already saturated with the bioactive-rich nourishment; further consumption no longer yielded any reaction. In fact, he was growing increasingly ravenous, as his energy was inadvertently being absorbed by the substance.
Zhao Yali had a look of discomfort in her eyes, and swayed from side to side as if experiencing intoxication. Suddenly, she fell to the side slowly. Wang Xiaguang who was beside her, noticed her unusual behaviour and tried to helped her. She touched her forehead lightly, but withdrew immediately and said in astonishment, “She’s evolving soon.”