The moment Jia Lai heard it, his face fell into a darkened heap. Who would have thought that such a cruel twist of fate would strike them so suddenly? They had worked so hard in eliminating the other four players, almost losing their lives, at one point. After barely making it out alive, they managed to shove their way into the top three places. Nobody expected that Armstrong and Collins would recover in time to rejoin the mission. Naturally, it came as great news for NASA who had been under increasing public scrutiny.
These two were a very different breed from Zhang Heng and the team. Neil Armstrong and Michael Collins were considered as some of NASA’s most experienced astronauts. They underwent years of intensive training and were the brightest and most qualified the United States had to offer. Before being assigned to take charge of Apollo 11, Armstrong flew Gemini 8 in 1965 to orbit the earth. As for Collins, he was an important part of Gemini 10, having performed a couple of spacewalks while on it. Their return gave NASA a much-needed adrenaline shot. To the three players, however, it was nothing but awful news.
In retrospect, the system never mentioned how many of them got to complete the quest. The person who had told them that about the details was actually the schoolkid, and since the information was based on NASA’s history, all the players accepted his statements without much question. At the beginning of this quest, the captain mentioned that no available NASA astronauts were fit enough to go to space at the moment. All they needed to do was to pay attention to the three astronauts who returned from the Apollo 10 mission. As it turned out, their speedy recovery had directly affected the progress of the quest. Despite the cruel twists of fate, the system had actually been rather generous towards them.
Just like the other astronauts infected with the mysterious ailment, the three crucial astronauts from Apollo 10 didn’t seem like they were about to recover anytime soon. This further confirmed that only three players were allowed to board Apollo 11. Because of that, Jia Lai decided that he wouldn’t kill Bruno, worried that they would lack the personnel needed to fly the mission. Unfortunately, fate pulled the cruelest joke it could on them, leaving some thinking that it would have made no difference even if it was revealed earlier. The difficulty of choosing three players out of seven had just increased to picking one out of three.
Earlier, Zhang Heng had been living in total oblivion of his competition. Of course, if he knew that only one would be allowed on Apollo 11, he would have definitely not chased down the first place in class. Not right now, at least. Bruno, on the other hand, had to be the saddest among the three. He never thought Jia Lai would be chosen to carry on instead of Zhen Xiong. At that time, he was so happy he could complete the quest that all his sorrows seemed to have disappeared altogether.
Woefully, the good tidings didn’t last long. After going through all that trouble of eliminating the rest, they would now have to fight each other to clinch the last and only spot on Apollo 11. Considering that his game items were all lost, Bruno had now ended up in the last spot even before the mission began. After hesitating a bit, though, he quickly drew ties with Jia Lai. Zhang Heng wasn’t the least bit surprised at the unholy alliance. He was unsure if Armstrong still remembered what had happened fourteen years ago, but even if he did not, he somehow knew he had what it took to be the last one standing. His results were the best among the three anyway, not to mention that he never once allowed emotions to get in his way. Professionalism had always been his first priority when he carried out a mission, and Zhang Heng was confident that Armstrong would eventually select him as a member of his crew. Whether it be Jia Lia or Bruno, they would still have to find a way to kick him out if they wanted a chance at completing the quest.
To achieve that, Bruno teamed up with Jia Lai. The best outcome for him would be Zhang Heng and Jia Lai dying while fighting each other. If Jia Lai won the fight, however, NASA would surely turn away from him when compared to Bruno’s caliber.
As for Jia Lai, he quickly got back on his feet after shaking off his anger and disappointment. A one in seven passing rate was the most stringent he’d ever encountered, not to mention it was his first time playing this ‘single-player with competitive mode’ round. This was was lower than the average passing rate. However, complaining about it now was useless. Compared to Bruno, he could see the bigger picture. He saw two paths he could take, either kill Zhang Heng and Bruno to become the only player left or kill Armstrong and Collins to free up two spots for Zhang Heng and Bruno.
Both options had their pros and cons. When it came to the success rate, of course, Armstrong and Collins were clearly the better options in helping him complete the main quest. However, Armstrong and Collins were also easier to kill since they wouldn’t expect to be targeted by anybody. Then, there was another major concern. Would the other astronauts return to NASA after Armstrong and Collins were killed? Would Zhang Heng and Bruno work with him to assassinate them? To Zhang Heng, killing Armstrong and Collins would bring him no benefit.
Whichever way it would go, Jia Lai didn’t have much time to think, having only ten days left before the launch of Apollo 11. The challenge he faced next was to survive the wilderness. Ultimately, he decided not to wait until the training was over or to keep guessing if the other astronauts would return to NASA. He would simply leave his fate in his own hands. In such times, the most reliable person would be himself.
Jia Lai believed the two other players shared the same idea as well, which was why he didn’t bother discussing how to eliminate Armstrong and Collins with Zhang Heng. He knew Zhang Heng would most likely not fall for his trap. During all the previous training sessions, he had deliberately made himself appear as weak as possible so the other players would let down their guard. This time, he had no intention to hold back anymore.
The three didn’t say a word to each other on the plane. On the other hand, the captain just wouldn’t stop going on about the various survival skills needed for the wild, wild, wilderness. So, a few hours later, they arrived at their landing spot in the scorching Nevada desert. A few employees were already waiting for them.