403 The Poster

    "You only have 5 minutes, do not wander too far. Run back once you hear the alarm and do not touch anything inside, unless... unless you feel like there is a need to. Make the decision yourself but do not touch anything unless it is absolutely necessary." Elder Tong gave the command to the One through the communicator. His old face wrinkled. "One touch might lead to amputation, you know the consequence."

    The night was still young. The spotlights set up by the engineering team lit up a plain on the south side of the mutated area. Many people were gathered there. It had been 2 hours since the third explosion. Using the average time between previous explosions as a yardstick, they believed they still had time to conduct some exploration. The radiation level inside the area was not high enough to neutralize robots and vehicles so they could send in robotic scouts. But no matter how high tech they were, they were a bunch of soulless machines, they had no spirituality and senses.

    To conduct a sensual experiment, they needed living humans. Therefore, The One would send in 3 members for this mission. They were Deng Ximei, Sam Watt and Ivan Nikilov. A walk through an environment with 30.6 Gy/h for 5 minutes theoretically would expose the person to 2.55 Gy radiation dose. But thanks to their protective gear, based on calculation, they were expected to take in 500 mSv to 1 Sv per individual. The safety level for the human body was 100 mSv or at maximum 250 mSv. At 500 mSv to 1 Sv radiation, their bodies would be slightly damaged and their chance of getting anaemia and cancer would highly increase. But now there were no other choices.

    "Ximei, take care of yourself." Before the trio departed, Lou Xiaoning gave Deng Ximei a tight hug. This poor girl had gone through a lot. She had just survived a brush with death in the previous mission and now that she had finally recovered, she was sent into a radioactive wasteland. This couldn't be helped because, among everyone there, Deng Ximei had the highest spirituality. Peacock, Malachite and Uncle Dan gave her their blessings as well. They would not be tagging along but if necessary, they too would not hesitate to make the sacrifice.

    "I will." Deng Ximei nodded and did not elaborate. Her personality did not allow her to express how thankful she was for their comforting words.

    Time was up. Under the scrutiny of everyone, from the drones and the monitors at the command central, the three warriors headed into the mutated area in protective gear and their weapons of choice. 5 minutes was just 300 seconds but this was a very valuable 300 seconds. Each second burned at their life so not one second could be wasted.

    At the same time, people were silent at the command centrals at both Mo Bei and Da Hwa City. The tension was palpable.

    Deng Ximei breathed in through the oxygen provided by the oxygen tank and stepped into the mutated area. Once her feet landed on the scorched soil, she felt something was different. The spotlight shone the area around her brightly but radiation was not visible to the naked eye. However, she seemed to be able to sense the space around her distorting... She studied the trees that still remained and felt a strange energy consuming and growing... She moved towards the tree farm which was further north and kept her eyes on the ground. With each step, there was a crack and her mind snapped with pain. Irregular illusions flashed before her eyes. Wasteland, a much bigger wasteland. Flickering, they had no wings but they covered the sky. They consumed the trees and every sign of life... What kind of organism was this? They grew out from the scorched soil...

    At that moment, Deng Ximei spotted a piece of paper on the ground. It was half buried in the soil. The exposed half suggested a poster. It was the ocean with two dolphins swimming. The slogan said, "Protect the ocean, save the world."

    'Where did the poster come from? Was it originally here?' Deng Ximei looked around her, she did not see any other trash. Furthermore, despite its age, the poster was not ruined, it even had some barely discernible blood stains on it. It did not appear like it had been buried here long. For some reason, a feeling surged within her heart. This was the necessity mentioned by Elder Tong... This poster was very important and she might only have this one chance to acquire it. Perhaps when she turned around, or moved her eyes away, it would disappear like an illusion. Deng Ximei bent over and reached out her right hand towards the blackened soil.


    The shadeless lights lit up the surgical table, the data and lines showed on anaesthesia apparatus. The surgical members in heavy gear surrounded the surgical table where Tian Fuhou laid. The wrinkled face was serene from sedated sleep. His damaged upper right arm was exposed. The part below the elbow was so decayed it had lost its shape. The swelling had also reached the part above the elbow.

    The main surgeon, Yang Rongzhong and the second assistant, Qu Longguang were focused on separating the median nerve, brachial artery, vein and nervi ulnaris within the musculus biceps brachii. Wang Ruoxiang, the third assistant, helped with bandaging. Even though she was the youngest in the room, she performed every task perfectly. Everything went smoothly.

    Then, Surgeon Yang sliced off the muscle under the secant plane before he spliced open the periosteum. The old man's upper arm was not exposed to too much radiation, it looked quite normal. Soon, the grating sound of an electric saw buzzed in the room. Main Surgeon Yang held the bone saw firmly as he saw through the right humerus.

    Bone dust flew everywhere. Eventually, only one-third of the old man's right upper arm remained. The other parts had been all sawn off, like the trees that he planted. The isolated diseased tissues and bones were immediately placed inside a lead bin by the nurses. The bin was a nuclear shielding bin. The nurse hurried out of the room with the bin. The diseased body part would not be destroyed but would be sent to the researchers for further study.

    Everyone sighed in relief inside the surgical room. Nothing unusual happened. The old man really did just suffer from normal acute radiation sickness. They continued to work on the radial nerve, and then finished up with suturing and bandaging.


    "The 4 minutes mark is up. The One subunit, return immediately!" The loud alarm buzzed. The people outside the border looked on nervously. The three members did not wander too far so they could still be seen. Once the alarm rang, both Sam Watt and Ivan Nikilov hurried to join the rest. The two men ran like their lives depended on it, which was in a way, true. But a single figure, one slender woman, remained unmoved after she bent down to the ground earlier...

    "Ximei!" Lou Xiaoning shouted anxiously. Uncle Dan and Peacock joined her in shouting. "Come back here!" "It's time to move!" The foreign agents like Helen Claire picked up the shouting as well. Even though the team was just formed, they already had quite a bond with each other, "Please come back!"

    "Deng Ximei, Deng Ximei!" The broadcast said repeatedly. The two male members already left the mutated area but she was still immobile.

    "Something's not right." Lou Xiaoning reported to the command central. "Did Ximei faint over there? We will move in to rescue her."

    "Wait a minute..." Elder Tong was nervous too but he did not allow that to muddle his judgement, "Is it possible that she sensed something? Or there is something there that caught her attention?"

    The drones could not provide any answer because Deng Ximei's body blocked the soil underneath her from view. Just as Lou Xiaoning, Uncle Dan were ready to charge into the field, Deng Ximei suddenly moved. She swiftly stood up and rushed towards the border. When she escaped, the 5 minute mark was already over, she was in there for 5 minutes and 30 seconds.

    "Fuck..." Lou Xiaoning sighed in relief, "Why do you scare us like that?" But her left eye immediately zeroed in on the paper Deng Ximei was holding. Uncle Dan and the rest of the team noticed it as well.

    "Miss Deng, what happened?" Uncle Dan asked.

    "I found this poster buried in the soil." Deng Ximei explained excitedly, confusedly and fearfully. "I sensed its importance so I went to pick it up, but when I did, I was greeted with an illusion. A group of people was driving towards a city. One of the trucks carried an atomic bomb, they fired the bomb and caused the nuclear explosion... I believed I saw Ah Jun on one of the trucks."

    The group frowned... They did not know what to make of this.
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