48 Hours a Day

Chapter 309 - Desert Survival Training

Chapter 309 Desert Survival Training

Breakfast was bacon pieces and cinnamon bun paired with a drink of Tang. There was also pea soup and tuna salad, standard Apollo-era space meals.

These were mainly dehydrated and semi-moist foods, some of which required heating and some in their natural state (mostly nuts). There was no problem with them nutritionally, but tasted barely passable.

The space food of later generations was greatly improved, having benefited from the advancement of food preservation technology. In Zhang Heng’s era, NASA would provide astronauts with an option of more than 180 types of food and beverages. You could even have chocolate ice cream on the International Space Station (of course, a very extravagant thing even for now), which helped a lot in keeping the astronauts’ morale high throughout their months-long stay and lonely tours above our planet.

For now, however, Zhang Heng and the other two candidates wouldn’t get to enjoy this privilege. The storage hold in the service module contained enough food for three astronauts for eleven days. If all went well with the mission, excluding the moon landing and returning to earth, the remaining food should last them six to seven days, just enough for the astronauts as they awaited the arrival of the NASA rescue team.

However, considering possible communications equipment damage and other unforeseen emergencies, Zhang Heng and crew weren’t allowed to stay where they ‘landed’ as they waited for help to come.

So, after breakfast, the three performed simple some navigation, divided the food and water among themselves, and continued the training session. They packed the supplies into backpacks and moved to the next target location – also the toughest part of the survival course.

The target location was 80 kilometers away. Even if they walked without taking a break, it would take them at least 20 hours. What more, summer was coming, and the desert temperatures far exceeded 40 degrees Celsius in the day.

Under the scorching sun, the body would lose water very quickly, and if not replenished in time, it could easily become dehydrated. Fortunately, even though forced to traverse the hellish landscape, Jia Lai, the more overweight one of the group, didn’t lag behind. For Zhang Heng, a man who had experienced worse situations than this, it was all another day’s worth of work. He was the most physically fit among the three, and with Level 2 wilderness survival skills, the current situation was not much of a challenge for him.

The truth was, the NASA provided emergency backpacks and supplies in the service module had saved the trainees a lot of trouble. After all, NASA wasn’t training them to be survival experts. Under normal circumstances, astronauts were only trained to follow the manual’s emergency procedures, make good use of the resources at hand, conserve strength as much as possible, and finally, complete the task within the specified time.

The most the astronauts had to go through was a more than a strenuous stretch of workouts, pretty much like basic military service.

However, after walking in the desert for an extended period, moods began to fluctuate.

Not only did the dry and arid environment test the body to its very limits, but also inflated everyone’s emotions in the worst way possible, especially when the three of them were hiding something. On the surface, they were all facing the same situation – all aiming for the final spot. But the fact was, even if Zhang Heng did nothing, he could have simply survived on his own, relying on his outstanding performance to become the final candidate for Apollo 11.

In contrast, Bruno and Jia Lai were more passive, especially so for Jia Lai. Thanks to the strategy he adopted at the beginning of the game, he ranked at the bottom of the three. He would really have to use this final training session to get rid of his two opponents.

Jia Lai, however, didn’t know what Zhang Heng was thinking – whether Zhang Heng planned to ace survival training and get on Apollo 11 on his own merits, or risk it and eliminate his threats which were Jia Lai and Bruno.

After all, only one week was left until the end of the quarantine period, and there was no way one’s safety could be guaranteed for sure.

The main problem was that Jia Lai didn’t know what kind of person Zhang Heng was. In the past month, Jia Lai didn’t just pretend to be weak to lower the guard of those around him, but also so that he could covertly observe everyone.

The time and energy he spent on each person were different. For example, Jia Lai didn’t bother studying the brawny man and the high-school student, while Zhang Heng was one of the few he paid most attention to.

Until today, though, he still severely lacked understanding about Zhang Heng. Zhang Heng, the lone wolf, was the most mysterious player among all the others, and Jia Lai couldn’t tell what he did for a living in the real world or what his past was. In fact, Jia Lai wasn’t even sure how old Zhang Heng was, not to mention that he had a poker of a face to read.

This was the most difficult part for Jia Lai. Since he had no idea what kind of person his opponent was, it was challenging to devise a strategy. When there were still three spots available on the Apollo 11 mission, Jia Lai maintained an amicable relationship with Zhang Heng. Now, he had no other choice but to effectively get rid of his competitor.

Upon the edgeless desert, three lonely figures moved slowly across the sand dunes. Bruno pulled at his collar. Having drank countless times from his water canteen, he still couldn’t shake off the anxiety building in his heart. He looked up at Zhang Heng, who was walking in front and noticed that up until now, he had been striding at the same pace all along, seemingly oblivious to the environment.

On top of that, Jia Lai, who was walking behind him, had been very quiet. This made Bruno very uncomfortable, and he was feeling the pressure. Since breakfast, there had been this ominous feeling in the air, as if something awful was bound to take place. But then, nothing happened throughout the entire journey, and the unsettling feeling was now more suffocating than the scorching weather.

At noon, they came across a rock face where they could hide from the cold of the night, and decided to rest up there for a while to make lunch. Per how he’d been trained, Zhang Heng gathered stones from the ground and formed an arrow with them, pointing the rescue team in the direction they were traveling in.

It wasn’t after a thirty-minute break that they got on the road again.

At dusk, Jia Lai and Bruno’s breathing had grown heavy, their clothes now soaked in sweat. The parts of their skin that had been exposed to the sun were red and raw. Despite the many protective measures, a lot of sand still managed to get into their clothing, and like an abrasive, it constantly rubbed against their skin as they walked, making every step a painful and uncomfortable challenge.

The ten-hour long journey drained them of whatever strength they had. Zhang Heng, the team’s leader, decided to take a break when he noticed that the other two couldn’t go any further. So, he found a suitable place to set up for the night.

He collected some dry leaves and branches, then set up a bonfire to heat up the food. At least, the three exhausted men would be able to enjoy a warm dinner.

All these caused Jia Lai to be uncertain. So far, Zhang Heng had done everything by the book, abided by the training regime, and accorded every request of the captain. Was he really planning to win the last spot with only his scores?