48 Hours a Day

Chapter 305 - The Final Drills

Four days had passed since the last tragedy. Because the incidents involving the five astronaut candidates were so bizarre and complicated-four were eliminated, in which three of them were killed, the investigation team was stretched a little too thin. NASA had meant to keep the happenings under covers until they could come up with an answer to deal with them. But the very next day, it was already all over the media. And the more the news spread, the more nefarious the stories became. A group of people even named the series of accidents as ‘the moon landing curse’, claiming what NASA was doing triggered the anger of God, ultimately leading to all these disasters.

During the past few days, massive crowds had marched in protest outside the Kennedy Space Center and Congress.

NASA was forced to hold a press conference to explain the situation. The remaining three astronauts who attended the conference were bombarded with questions for forty-five minutes. The reporters present kept throwing out elaborate questions, some of which were trick questions with hidden traps.

However, the three candidates were prepared for this situation like this, and their answers were all airtight. Once the interview was over, Public Relations immediately led the three men to the lounge at the back of the building.

When the door was shut and all noise outside was isolated, they were finally alone. Only the three of them were in the room, and Bruno immediately served Zhang Heng and Jia Lai with a glass of water. He said in a somewhat subservient manner, “Brother, have a drink.”

Jia Lai laughed. “A fat guy like me prefers coke.”

“Then I’ll get one for you right away!” Bruno smacked his chest.

“There’s no need for that. We’re going to the moon soon. It’s better for us to lay low until then.” Jia Lai’s voice had a hint of concern. “Have you had LSD recently? We’ll need you to pilot the Lunar Module. You should be able to do that, right?”

“No problem. It’s won’t be a problem at all. I haven’t touched that stuff for a long time now, and I’ve never been soberer,” Bruno said.

In the end, Jia Lai’s so-called ‘opportunity’ and ‘choice’ did not exist at all. He had already decided earlier on to keep Bruno and kill Zhen Xiong… not because she lied to him but because she was more difficult to deal with than Bruno. So, Jia Lai had killed his opponent early in the game in the highest respect, leaving the not-very-threatening Bruno to be the final member of the moon landing trio.

They were less than ten days away from the launch of Apollo 11. Considering that there was still a one-week quarantine period before the launch, the team had two days to do whatever they liked. As for training, there were only the final survival drills left.

This was to ensure that in case the spacecraft landed in a hostile environment, the astronauts would be able to survive until rescue arrived. During the Gemini Project, the astronauts were required to go through rescue training and intensive five-day survival course in three harsh environments – the tropics, desert, and water. NASA even sent the team of astronauts to Iceland and the Amazon for secret training.

However, due to time constraints this time, the survival training courses had been pared down. In fact, water survival training was completed in the swimming pool, and training in the tropics was simply omitted. Desert survival, however, was carried out as planned, though pushed to the back of the schedule in case the team hadn’t completed the others. Moreover, only two days were allocated for that.

Compared to the previous training sessions, the three remaining candidates were not burdened by the need to outperform the other. That was because no matter what their results were, the astronauts for the mission had already been confirmed. So, in the eyes of Jia Lai and Bruno, training was no different from a vacation.

Just then, someone walked into the lounge. It was the captain, and he was accompanied by a person.

Jia Lai and Bruno did not pay much attention to the second person because they figured that he must be an employee in charge of the survival training. Zhang Heng, on the other hand, appeared startled.

The captain did not introduce his companion. Instead, he went straight to the point. “You have received forty-five days of training, and you have mastered the various skills required of an astronaut. Throughout this journey, you’ve experienced many things, and fortunately, you’ve all persisted till the end. I am proud of your hard work and your efforts, and now, relish the opportunity to put your mark on history!”

Jia Lai and Bruno shared a look, grinning with excitement seeping out of each other’s eyes. Being the final winners of the game finally sank in, and knowing they would successfully board Apollo 11 to set foot on the moon, the both couldn’t hide their delight. Especially considering everything that had happened before, and how Jia Lai went from being last on the least to be among the final three. Now that the dust had settled, he no longer needed to pretend and hide his innermost thoughts.

Among the three, only Zhang Heng remained unmoved. He looked at the man standing quietly next to the captain, and it evoked some memories.

Then, Jia Lai and Bruno heard the captain continue his announcement. “This afternoon, we will begin our final training. I hope that every one of you will take it seriously. These results will contribute significantly to determine who the final candidates are.”

“Wait a minute. Final candidates… What do you mean?” Jia Lai looked worried.

“We’re already the final candidates, aren’t we? The three final astronauts piloting Apollo 11-that’s the three of us, no?” Bruno’s eyes had become wide and wild. “You once told us a new infectious disease caused you to lose a significant number of astronauts, and the returning Apollo 10 crew have strangely been unable to recover. So, we should be the only three ones left, right?”

The captain kept a straight face as he answered, “Yes, that’s right. We’ve tragically lost many astronauts because of that mysterious infectious disease; to be precise, nearly all of them. That said, some of them managed to recover.” The captain looked to the man standing next to him. “Neil Alden Armstrong, former Apollo 10 commander, has passed the observation period a week ago and is now undergoing therapy to the road of recovery. He’s in good condition and is confirmed to be fit for Apollo 11.”

“Wait…” Bruno looked horrified as the shocking truth dawned on him. “That means only two spots left for us?”

“More accurately, there’s only one. We’re very fortunate that Captain Michael Collins, Service Module pilot, has been recovering well,” said the captain. “But don’t worry. Those who are not selected can join mission control and be part of the support team. You’ll still be able to participate in this great voyage.”