Novel Name : Mercenary Black Mamba

Mercenary Black Mamba - Chapter 652

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Professor Samuel skipped over explaining the “unidentified object” and proceeded to explain the handling of accidents and report flow. Hae Young felt offended. She was a geologist. She was well aware of the value of discovered fossils and minerals.
The oldest rock ever found was a gneiss named Louis in Scotland. It was estimated to have formed 2.8 billion years ago. The stratum from the Archeozoic Era had its radioactive isotopes measured at 3.6 billion years ago. He was dismissing the mystery harbored about 3.6 billion years ago and regarded it as an unidentified object.
The Cambrian Era was known for its fossils. The Precambrian only left bland bedrock devoid of fossils. There was more than what met the eyes. The microbes were even found on asteroids. The Precambrian fossils were never found, not nonexistent. The thesis she was preparing was on the existence of Precambrian life forms.
The true primal beauty revealed itself in earthquake-bent mountain ranges, raging volcanoes, and the deepest of abysses. A geologist read the mystery narrated by primal rocks. It was the same anticipation one would feel while watching a young woman undress. Professor Samuel’s demand denied her that feeling.
“Am I a treasure hunter?”
Hae Young was confused that her esteemed academic advisor abruptly turned into a commercial excavator. She felt angry, but she still relied on him for her degree. She also owed him some things. She needed to listen to him.
“Professor, is the grayish-white sediment crossing the center of the stratum feldspar or quartz?”
“You will know when you get there. You will be surprised.”
Samuel ignored Kerry’s question.
“What shall we do when a leopard shows up?”
Kerry shot a question again.
“The area is located on the outer perimeter of the Ituri jungle. It has already been secured. Dangerous beasts and venomous insects are few and far between. Each scientist will be accompanied by two top-tier bodyguards. Hae Young, do you have a question?”
Professor Samuel brought his attention to Hae Young, who was rather sulking.
Hae Young chose to keep silent. She had dozens of questions, but if she knew that they were not going to be answered, why even ask? She chose to spare her questions for when they got there.
“Good. Pack up your equipment! Let’s go!”
Samuel brought his 10 minions to the field where the sun beat down on the ground mercilessly. Shadow agents followed them, equipped with helmets that also served as hoods. Their uniforms were black.
Hae Young whistled. The strata’s height varied from 150 meters to 300 meters and angled from 50 degrees to 70 degrees. The vast scenery filled her sight. The satellite imagery and photos on the slides she saw in the conference room were no match to the real thing.
The striped gneiss was granulite that displayed pinkish stains and grayish white laters of minerals here and there. That meant it went through a temperature higher than one thousand degrees Celsius and a pressure higher than 10 kilobars. At first glance, she knew it was from the Precambrian Era.
The particles glinted in the grayish-white mineral deposit had a zigzagged pattern across the center of the stratum. It looked as if some majestic green monster’s pure divine blood ran from its innards and then it coughed out. Hae Young smelled the transient scent of the sea, which was fishy and comforting at the same time. Her soul smelled it, not her faculty of smell. She took a bit and put it in her mouth.
“Oh!” she exclaimed.
The professor said that she would be surprised. He was right. The strong salty taste was accompanied by bitterness and sourness. It was sodium chloride with immense impurities. The thick grayish-white mineral deposit was not quartz or limestone or marble. Until now, no other salt deposit had been revealed as conspicuously as this. The claim that the Great Rift Valley was an ancient land that was never submerged in seawater proved to be false at this precise moment.
“Could it be oil?”
She thought, maybe the hidden goal of the exploration was oil, untold by Professor Samuel.
“Isn’t it marvelous? I feel like I’m gonna pass out!”
Kerry, tasked with the G point, let out a yell with a pink salt crystal in one hand. Kerry was from the geology department of the University of Washington. She first met Kerry when the team was formed, but after falling out with Robert, she only had Kerry to talk to.
“I am in awe too.”
Hae Young nodded. The pink hue was due to iron and minerals in seawater. This proved that this salt deposit was formed in an ocean. Here was the proof that the Great Rift Valley was submerged in seawater for hundreds of millions of years. Any geologist would be in awe.
“Are we in Alice in Wonderland?”
“Alice was a girl.”
Kerry flinched at Hae Young’s nonchalant remark. She might be aware of the true nature of the project.
“Let’s dig. Professor Samuel may lose it at last if we tarry.”
Kerry glanced at the soldiers waiting at the bottom of the fault.
Hae Young laughed. The soldiers on guard wore all-black: combat suits, masks, helmets, and goggles. They looked just like cyborgs in animated TV shows. The four Cyborgs didn’t move at all, without removing their helmets in the scorching hot weather, for hours. Anyone could see that they were keeping an eye on the scientists.
“I don’t want to be caught up in that, either.”
Hae Young wielded her hand drill and pickaxe. A desert and a jungle might have the same temperature, but what was tangibly felt was vastly different. There was some wind in the desert but trees blocked the flow of air in the jungle. The muggy climate combined with the lack of wind meant that the felt temperature was exponentially high. Hae Young became covered in sweat, dirt, and salt.
There were three gunshots. It was a signal for the end of their day. Hae Young straightened her back from her day of work. Once 10 minutes pass from six o’clock, the Cyborgs fired the shots for the scientists to wrap it up. It was for their safety. Hae Young stared at her bag containing ore samples.
She sighed. She worked five hours just to complete three points, which were less than a percent of the F region allocated to her. Her legs that climbed steep hills were shaking and her field of view had a yellow tint. Her day was far from over.
Once she returned to the lab, she needed to turn the ore samples into thin slices whose width was two-hundredths of a millimeter. The exhausting toiling, boring repetition, lack of sleep, and bad food, was this the living condition of 19th-century Black slaves? Hae Young was completely exhausted but still followed a Shadow Cyborg who held the ore bag.
Professor Samuel wasn’t slacking, either. He had his eyes glued to a polarization microscope with a pile of ore slides provided by his 10 students. He needed to pick relevant slides to send to the chemistry team.
Most slides ended up being discarded. Less than 10 percent of the slides were relayed to Professor Mac’s chemistry team. The X-ray microanalyzer first examined the constituents, then the slides were sent to the second analysis team.
The second analysis consisted of radioactivation analysis, mass analysis, and isotopic analysis. The polarization microscope, X-ray fluorescent spectrometer, neutron activation analyzer, inductive coupling plasma spectrometer, etc., the cutting-edge high-tech equipment were all employed. This couldn’t be a simple geological probing. The equipment involved was too tremendous.
On the third day of the exploration, Hae Young continued to climb the hills and collected rock samples. The Ituri jungle had localized heat waves and high humidity. The sun kept blasting down. When she wielded her pickaxe a few times, her clothes began to get soaked in sweat which soon evaporated to leave the salt. She would have appreciated some wind, but the heavy atmosphere didn’t move at all.
“My skin feels so sticky!”
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Hae Young threw away her drill and unzipped her Goretex windbreaker, which served to deter venomous insects, and she then unbuttoned her blouse too. Her white breasts were revealed. She gave up on her brassiere on the second day. She fanned herself with her wide-brimmed hat. A shriek of a whistle was heard.
“Damn Cyborg! His eyesight is phenomenal.”
Hae Young glared at the Shadow agent who was 200 meters below the slope. Then she buttoned her blouse hastily. The security team prohibited anyone from revealing any area of skin during outdoor activities. Hae Young didn’t want to get bitten by venomous insects, either.
“Hae Young, you are quite hardy. I want to give back all the scholarships I’ve received for the past three years and go home.”
Kerry threw the sample bag on the ground and sat on it. The movement made gravel roll down the slope. A sharp whistle was heard. Kerry stood abruptly, startled. A deflector, a carnivorous crustacean similar to an ant lion, was capable of making a person limp for the rest of their life with one single bite.
“Kerry, what are we looking for? It’s not gold. We are not going back to the normal transformative process of minerals either.”
Hae Young made a complaint.
“It’s just the third day. We shouldn’t give up now.”
“I almost died twice already.”
The chemical squad continued to spray the area with defoliant and pesticides, but it was impossible to completely deter vipers and venomous insects. A green mamba dropped from a tall tree was beheaded by a Shadow agent. Wasps were kept at bay by a high-frequency emitter, but she was already feeling neurotic about the vermin. The camp confiscated their perfume and lotion and handed out mosquito nets and portable pesticides. She didn’t like the measures but had to concede that they were logical.
“That’s really nothing. I almost became a gator’s lunch yesterday. It jumped me from the ground and I couldn’t think of anything at the moment. My head just went all white.”
Hae Young’s eyes widened.
“I have some respect for the Shadow guy now. He made its head explode with one shot.”
“I am more afraid of the mosquitoes and flies than the gators.”
“Yeah. Having a maggot grow in your body is a horrible feeling. Be patient. Soon the analysis will be completed.”
“Did we find anything?”
Kerry gave a brief answer with a proud expression.
“Lithium? The element of the third period?”
Hae Young’s eyes widened.
“Yeah, that lithium.”
“Why? The planet already has more than enough hydrogen bombs to shatter itself.”
“The United States may seem chaotic, but it still foresees the next five decades. Now, it is only used in alloys and antidepressants, but soon it will be valued in the energy sector. The academy must be looking for highly pure lithium.”
“Valued in the energy sector?”
“It is used in fusion reactors. We are just henchmen. The VIPs are elsewhere.”
Kerry indicated the chemistry team’s laboratory, faintly visible far away on the foot of the mountain.
“The salt we dug out is sent to the chemistry team for analysis. They work in rooms with air conditioning and fans. There is some confidential work that I don’t know We are just working outside like some slaves,” Kerry added.
Hae Young felt a sort of solidarity. She also was indebted to the state after receiving government scholarships.
“We just need to keep drilling and hammering.”
“For the next three months! Your arms and shoulders will grow bigger and muscular, Hae Young.”
Kerry giggled.
Hae Young signed deeply. She didn’t care if America made antidepressants or hydrogen bombs with lithium. This was not scientific fieldwork but some manual labor. This was at least ten thousand parsecs away from academic research. Three months in this hell? What was she doing here when the treasure was just an arm’s reach away?
“Kerry, why are we digging when the strong Shadow Cyborgs are everywhere?”
“Because they don’t know which is which. Professor emphasized this point. Geological acumen is needed to identify objects. Cyborgs know nothing.”
Kerry spat out and climbed into a hammock set in the shade. With the sun waning, some wind was felt. The pests’ relentless attack was reduced too. Some hard labor was done by the Cyborgs, but she was already feeling exhausted ordering them around. She couldn’t rest, either. She couldn’t sit unless she risked getting bitten by god-knows-what and dying the same day.
Three gigantic fans were on, but the inside of the tent was muggier than the outside. Samuel took off his magnifying goggles and rubbed his dry eyes. He glared at the broken air conditioner and stepped out of the lab.
“When is the Agrippina shield going to be completed?”
Samuel clucked his tongue. The air conditioner’s outdoor fan was broken. Probably chewed up by a gator, its steel plates were found crushed and punctured. Despite the three barbed-wire fences surrounding the camp, some unknown monsters continued to infiltrate the grounds. This was driving everyone crazy.
“Let’s have some coffee, Samuel.”
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Professor Mac walked out of the chemistry team’s lab chamber. His eyes behind the thick glasses were bloodshot too, but his expression was content.
“I think you ended up finding something good?”
“Don’t be in such a hurry.”
Mac entered the lab. Holding a coffee made by a researcher, Mac pointed at the void evaporator.
“We are extracting lithium carbonate with some added sodium carbonate. We need time for the salt concentration to go up in the water. It will take 30 hours for us to get results.”
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