Chapter 307 Area 51’s Einstein
Spanning a total area of more than 500,000 square kilometers, The Great Basin Desert is North America’s largest desert. It occupies Nevada, more than half of Utah, a small part of Idaho, Oregon, California, and Wyoming.
Speaking of the desert, the first name that crosses the mind has to be Las Vegas.
In 1888, the place was a tiny town. It wasn’t until 1905 that a large number of gold miners flooded into the area when gold was discovered. However, like the other gold-rush towns, the gold mines became empty after a brief period of excitement. Las Vegas soon returned to its previous rural state. Its actual rise was during the Great Depression, where the state legislature passed a bill to legalize gambling. It turned the sleepy desert town into a dazzling city filled with hotels, nightclubs, and casinos. Unfortunately, Zhang Heng and the other two players were not here to tour Las Vegas, landing instead at the Area 51 Air Force Base. Constructed more than a decade ago, it was located on a lake bed in Nevada, only 130 kilometers from bustling Las Vegas. In the decades since its establishment, the United States had always infamously denied its existence. At the same time, to prevent curious eyes from prying into the covert test site, the Air Force bought another 9,000 acres of land around it and slapped it with a no-fly zone.
Area 51 was initially used to develop Lockheed’s U-2 high-altitude reconnaissance spy plane. After its completion, other top-secret projects also kick-started from this base, and it wasn’t until 2013 that the United States officially recognized the existence of Area 51.
This also shrouded Area 51 with a layer of mystery. Many believed that the so-called ‘Green Man,’ a frozen corpse of an alien, was stored among the base’ confines. Every newly elected president would come to visit this place after their inauguration. There was a growing community of extraterrestrial and UFO enthusiasts, swearing that they had caught sight of a short, gray creature with a large head moving nearby.
However, Zhang Heng and the other two players obviously didn’t have such luck to catch a glimpse of UFOs and extraterrestrials. The person who greeted them was no green alien, but an ordinary-looking man in charge of the air force base. After exchanging handshakes with the team, he informed them that the simulation environment had been set up, and training could be carried out at any time.
It was rare for the commander to show his humane side. When he saw that it was already sunset, he decided that he would move the training forward to tomorrow morning. So, after dinner, the three were given the opportunity to move around freely. However, they were only allowed to move around very few designated areas, and no matter where they went, there was always someone watching. The person in charge of hospitality apologized for the uncomfortable restrictions, reiterating that nothing was deliberately done to go against them. They were simply following the most basic security protocol.
Zhang Heng and the team nodded, indicating that they understood the situation. But seeing how tight security was, it would be almost impossible for them to do anything secretly while on the base. At least they would be safe until tomorrow morning. It was a rather pleasant outcome, where it might also be the last peaceful night they would get to enjoy. After dinner, Jia Lai looked at Zhang Heng and nodded politely.
“See you tomorrow.”
When Jia Lai was done, he was in no mood to do any walking under the supervision of security personnel. So, he returned to his room. When Bruno saw him leaving, he too got up quickly and followed him until they reached his place. In the end, though, he watched as Jia Lai slammed the door in his face, almost hitting his nose.
Bruno felt awkward. Jia Lai had made it clear that he didn’t trust him, having no intention to discuss tomorrow’s plans with him. He felt like a tool, being used for someone’s own gain. His judgment was sadly accurate. Bruno was interested to know Jia Lai’s plan in advance, just to see if there were any parts of it he could take advantage of. It would be better if he killed Zhang Heng and Jia Lai at the same time. Now that the door was closed before him, Bruno had no choice but to return to his room.
So, Zhang Heng was the only one left in the cafeteria. He quietly finished his last spoonful of baked beans. The sky outside the window had darkened a lot, and with dry, gusty winds kicking up the yellow sands, the crimson sun soon fell below the horizon of the dunes. Even in the presence of an existential threat, at the impending life or death battle, it was hard to ignore such a magnificent sight. “Such magnificent desolation, isn’t it?” a strange voice came from behind.
“Sorry?” Zhang Heng turned around and saw a middle-aged man dressed as an engineer. He seemed to be an Area 51 researcher. Seeing that he had caught Zhang Heng by surprise, he smiled. Instead of continuing the previous topic, he asked, “You are an astronaut from NASA, aren’t you? I heard that you are going to the moon.”
“My name is David.”
Zhang Heng introduced himself, then put down the knife and fork he was holding as he extended a hand.
“We are the crew of Apollo 11. Well, technically, only candidates…”
The middle-aged man shook hands with Zhang Heng, who immediately raised his eyebrows. Zhang Heng had never seen how Einstein looked when he was young, but when the middle aged-man mentioned his name, Zhang Heng realized that they actually bore some resemblance.
The middle-aged man released his hand and smiled.
“Just kidding, you know the nature of our work. We signed a non-disclosure agreement before we came here. We can’t reveal our real names. Let’s talk about you instead, Mr. David. Are you satisfied with the place?”
“You seem to be doing very well.” “You too. As recently as sixty years ago, no one thought that humans could fly the skies in a big iron bird. Ten years ago, no one believed that humans could leave earth and go to outer space. Even today, many still don’t think that humans have the ability to set foot on another celestial object…” Einstein paused. “…but all this happened, with the help of mathematical formulas, great engineering advancements, and repeated experiments. Humans have completed those seemingly impossible things, time, and again. Isn’t this a modern miracle? No disrespect to the one who led the Jews to their promised land, but I have to say, technology is the greatest power in this world.”
It was a typical remark of an engineering student. In a way, though, it was difficult to argue with him.
“I’m sorry to have interrupted your meal. When I heard that NASA’s astronauts are here, I had to come and meet you folk,” said the middle-aged man as he shrugged. “No one comes to this place usually. Anyway, it was nice meeting you, Mr. David.” “I’m also glad to have made your acquaintance, Mr. Einstein.”
“Okay, I shall not interrupt your siesta. I wish for you to succeed in your training and get on Apollo 11. I will listen to the broadcast when they talk about you landing on the moon.”
The middle-aged man ended the brief conversation. With mug in hand, he turned and walked out. It was now completely dark outside.
However, as Einstein was almost at the exit, he stopped again. Turning around, he said, “Oh yeah, I almost forgot. I have a small gift for you. Consider it as a token of our first meeting. I left it in your room. I hope you like it.”