Sitting at the family dinner table, Silewei took in his wife, son, daughter-in-law, and granddaughter that sat around him. He felt absolutely content enveloped within their merry chatters.
It was the ninth day after the Hope's second space-warp. The reparation process for the Hope's anti-gravitational system was well under way. According to the designated schedule, they would be fixing the shuttle later that night. At the same time, a rudimentary lab would be set up within it so that it could be used to plan and create the new energy circuit.
Simultaneously, the Workshop was working day and night trying to retrieve the information on Ivan's computer. The computer wasn't as damaged as they previously thought, and the Workshop had been making headway with their data retrieval programs. According to their prediction, the complete set of data could be restored in a few hours' time.
And the Hope had four days worth of energy left…
However, practically speaking, the Hope's energy could only last for one more day, because missions like deploying the shuttle and forging the materials consumed massive amounts of energy. As the physics academic committee leader, Silewei was one of the select few who knew about the Hope's dire situation.
Silewei sat quietly, carving the steak on his plate. It was one of the few luxuries he occasionally allowed himself, but today he didn't have the appetite to enjoy it. He had spent his one month's worth of luxury items to assemble the feast before him. There were steaks, red wines, cigars, caviar, lobster, and even fresh fruits and vegetables harvested from the biomes.
Putting down his fork, he turned to look at his family, who were happily enjoying their meals. He smiled when his young granddaughter winked at him while sipping on her juice box.
His wife softly nudged him, asking with a hint of concern in her voice, "Why the splurge, honey? These must have cost quite a bit."
Obviously curious as well, his son, daughter-in-law, and their ten-year-old daughter all turned to look expectantly at him.
Silewei took a sip of the red wine and smiled. "it's nothing important. I thought of having a little family feast to celebrate a work-related breakthrough. Furthermore, the Hope is going to roll out its currency system soon, so as the resident professor, I'm sure I will be given my fair share of salary. So don't worry."
There was an audible collective sigh of relief before his family moved on to lighter topics.
Silewei knew why they were concerned and he wished to spare them the worry.
Before setting foot on the Hope, even though it wasn't as horrible as what Alan and his family experienced, they too had suffered during the riots. They were essentially confined within their own home. Wary of venturing out in search of food, they had spent a long stretch of time in bouts of starvation. It was a difficult times for his family, but it must have been harrowing for his ten-year-old granddaughter.
After they were saved by the Hope, they had to worry about mistreatment by a predominantly Chinese government or that it would have an authoritarian regime. To their pleasant surprise, they were given a spacious residence in the Academy, with their own private washroom, bedrooms, and kitchen. Other than that, Silewei was given a monthly quota for luxury items. Even when compared to other scientists, the Hope treated them incredibly well.
"Did I mention I ran into Mrs. Thompson today? She was asking a quartermaster for baby powder… The poor woman lost her husband when they're both so young, and she has to single handedly raise a daughter now. However, I feel the government has handled her situation well; they didn't cut her from her husband's military welfare, as a matter of fact, I believe they might have increased it. I heard her asking for her monthly quota of five high-quality milk powder cans. That's almost as many as we get," Silewei's daughter-in-law said jokingly.
"It is going to be hard for her as a single mom. Actually, our family doesn't even need seven cans of milk powder. Only little Wae takes them and she can barely finish four tins in one month… Why don't we give the extra to Mrs. Thompson?" asked Silewei's wife.
"No! They are my stuff! You can't take them away from me! Mommy, I'll drink three cups of milk instead of one every day starting today!" harrumphed little Wae.
Then, the little girl sulkily buried herself in her mother's arms. It took much goading and a surrender of her grandpa's share of lobster for the girl start smiling again. With his cherished granddaughter snuggling in his lap chewing part of his dinner, Silewei could feel his worry fluttering away.
(It is moments like these… Simple moments of domestic joy… These are things that are worth defending and worth dying for!)
Then, Silewei had a flashback to the morning when the fateful meeting was held.
"I can't stress the importance of this experiment enough! It is basically tied to the survival of twelve million people. However, to be clear, it is also incredibly dangerous. There is a high chance that the people who undertake this experiment will not survive… This experiment will be taking place on the shuttle thousands of meters away from the Hope, so if there is a mishap, there will be nothing that can be done!"
Gathered in the room were twenty plus scientists. Like Alan, Silewei, and Aleson, they were all leaders of different academic committees.
The person who spoke was Aleson. Famous for his short temper and eccentricity, he was a pariah even within the scientific community. With a feverish gleam in his eyes, he growled, "I don't care who else is coming, but I will be joining this experiment!"
The other scientists looked strangely at him. An Asian scientist asked, "Professor Aleson… Are you sure? You have a family on the Hope. People who are single like us can go; we have nothing to lose, but you have to think…"
"It is because my family is on the Hope that I must go! One, I dare say that no one is more knowledgeable than me on the subject of energy circuit, for that's my specialization! Since we're going to need the best possible chance, you can't spare the best in this field!
"Secondly… It is because my family is on the Hope that I have to go… To be frank, I don't see what is so impressive about this steel box in space, there's no blue sky and no brown earth. Simple things like these are views that my grandkids will never see… But it is undeniable that they are happy! And hope is the thing that is keeping their happiness alive! No one can tell what will happen next in space… We could warp into a black hole and die, but we could also find a brand new home planet. But to ensure these possibilities are open, one needs hope!
"And it is with this burning hope in our hearts that my family was about to survive through the riots and finally find solace on this ship! Hope has transformed our possibility of survival into reality!
"And I would gladly lay down my life for this hope!"
Aleson took down his glasses and tiredly rubbed his eyes, then he continued, "There are still four spots to be filled" one biologist, one chemist, one physicist, and one lab assistant. Everyone, like what I've said, we need the best people to give ourselves the best possible fighting chance. That's everything I have to say, and I will meet the rest of the team by the shuttle tomorrow afternoon."
Silewei's attention blinked back to the present. He kissed his granddaughter on her head and whispered, "Little Wae's birthday is coming up in two months… Granddaddy promises to bring you the best present."
"Really? Thank you, granddaddy!" Wae excitedly hopped off Silewei's lap. Tugging at his sleeves, she kept asking him to give her hints about the present.
Silewei merely smiled, but his wife noticed that that smile hid a determination that was previously absent.
(Yes, it is hopes like these that are worth dying for!)
Silewei rose up early the next morning. When he reached the shuttle hangar, Aleson was already standing there, surrounded by ten plus scientists…