48 Hours a Day
Chapter 302 - True Ally
“Is it necessary for the fire drills to be so damn realistic?” asked a confused Jia Lai.
All too soon, they saw thick smoke from behind Livingston. Immediately, the captain’s face changed, puzzled how a training routine could start a real fire. He rushed to the lunar module but discovered that the fire had already consumed the service module whole. Five seconds later, he exited the simulator and contacted fire and rescue. This was never supposed to happen, not to the point where a trainee burned in the cabin, at least. It took five minutes for the fire and rescue team to arrive at the training center.
Livingston told everything he knew to the captain. Despite his legitimate sounding story, the captain still found it hard to trust him. However, it wasn’t his job to investigate the case, and he would have to leave the matter for the investigation team to deal with. Whatever Livingston told him didn’t make any sense. Why would the student set the service module on fire? Why the iron hatch to the module was unable to be opened during the critical moment? No matter how he looked at it, the captain couldn’t see any foul play involved.
Hence, he didn’t pursue the matter further. Livingston underwent a similar procedure as Zhang Heng after he survived the plane crash. The medical team first gave him a thorough check-up. If his health checked out, they would send him off to the investigation team. As of now, the entire NASA was in a crazed frenzy after having to deal with all the ‘accidents.’ Never did they have to deal with such a predicament since the first day they established, and now, the entire program lay in limbo. Nervousness and panic lingered in the air. Those stubborn old politicians against the space program were nothing compared to whoever that caused these ‘mishaps.’
On the other hand, Jia Lai was overjoyed seeing Livingston’s fallout with the student. He was initially worried that they would hatch a brutal plan to eliminate him but he never expected them to turn against each other in the end. Their newly formed partnership was now dissolved. Hence, the rescue team quickly confirmed the death of a young man in his teens. Now, only four people were left in the race to get on Apollo 11. Livingston was currently under NASA investigation. They clearly suspected that he had something to do with the death of the schoolkid. Although Zhen Xiong’s scores were ahead of him, NASA might just remove her from the project due to her gender.
In other words, there was a high chance Livingston would get to complete the main quest. Meanwhile, Jia Lai did nothing to conceal the look of happiness on his face. Now that a teammate had just burned to death, he was supposed to be sad, or at least attempt a solemn face. However, the happy surprise flooded him with excitement, and he was unable to contain it. The smile on his face caught the captain’s attention, who then glared in disdain.
Zhang Heng knew that Jia Lai’s behavior left a bad impression on the captain. Social skills were one of the hidden tests in the astronaut selection program, and after all, nobody wanted to squeeze into a cramped space with an unpopular figure. Considering Jia Lia’s current situation and test results, he was apparently happy with the outcome. Compared to Jia Lai, Zhen Xiong managed to hold back her emotions well enough. Although pleased that her chances to board Apollo 11 had increased significantly, she showed none of her joy through her expressions. She even attempted to put on a sullen face when the student’s body was wheeled out for an autopsy. As a bystander, Zhang Heng was shocked by the outcome. Judging by how the situation unfolded, it was clear that the student’s killer was his ally, Livingston. Even he had to admit that Livingston just committed the perfect crime. It was, however, perilous to murder a fellow astronaut at a time like this. Livingston had an advantage, though. Zhang Heng knew the investigators would be unable to extract any substantial evidence from Livingston. He knew how calm and meticulous he always was, and after the death of the schoolkid, Livingston wasn’t about to place himself in a tight spot where he had to deal with two opponents alone. These circumstances made Zhang Heng believe that someone must have been helping him all
There was a high chance that Zhen Xiong was his secret ally. Zhang Heng observed that the two somehow didn’t interact much with each other. During the fire drill, Livingston had never targeted Zhen Xiong and Jia Lai. He had always been aiming for the schoolkid. Apart from tricking him into breaking into the storeroom, he also needed to guarantee that they would both end up on the same team. Zhen Xiong had made it possible for him to pair up with his target. From the surface, it looked as if Zhen Xiong teamed with Jia Lai so they could be safe from Livingston and the schoolkid. Since Zhang Heng made it clear that he wanted nothing to do with their fight, her suggestion would automatically put Livingston and the schoolkid on the same team.
In other words, Livingston’s covert ally had to be Zhen Xiong and not Jia Lai. This explained why Livingston targeted the schoolkid. Between the two, he must have evaluated that Zhen Xiong was the harder one to deal with. Since he appeared to be able to see the bigger picture, he would definitely partner up with his greatest threat to ensure his interests were secure. Partnering up with Zhen Xiong to eliminate the two weaker players also seemed a less risky option.
Jia Lai was destined to fail, somehow still dreaming that he would be chosen for Apollo 11. Following the schoolkid’s death, his sad ending was soon set in stone, and eventually, the three players selected to fly the mission were Zhang Heng, Livingston, and Zhen Xiong.
Zhang Heng felt that the outcome was an acceptable one. In terms of results, Livingston ranked third among the other players, besides being an engineer who worked for a research facility before. In some basic subjects, he was actually better than Zhang Heng. As for Zhen Xiong, she scored nothing remarkable for her physical and theory tests. Also, NASA was gender-biased toward males. That said, she performed considerably well in the space disorientation simulation. Her results should be good enough for her to qualify as an assistant on Apollo 11.
However, one question still boggled Zhang Heng’s mind. Who attacked him before Anthony’s death? He had suspected Zhen Xiong and Livingston, but with their less than stellar flying skills and spacecraft simulator results, it was unwise to make him their first target. Zhang Heng felt he was missing something, something crucial.
After the last class ended, Zhang Heng returned to his room. He stopped in his tracks when he saw light coming out of the open door. Sensing something wrong, he crept up slowly as the sound of water running from the faucet could be heard from the bathroom. Pulling out the butter knife in his pocket, he gingerly pushed the door open. A man with a towel wrapped around his waist was standing in front of the mirror, humming and shaving his beard.
Suddenly, goosebumps sprouted all over Zhang Heng’s body. “No need to be so nervous. I’m just here to greet my commander. Are you going to kill your fellow astronaut before completing the main quest?” asked Bruno with a smile while raising both hands.
To be honest, Bruno never looked better. Only around 20 hours ago, he was caught red-handed consuming LSD. Now, he seemed calm; the anger and panic that was in him were all but gone.