The ship’s orderly looked at the shiny epaulet on Louie’s clothing and immediately stopped what they were doing, their gaze full of the utmost admiration and envy.
To a fanatical degree.
Louie was already used to this type of gaze.
A twenty-one-year-old lieutenant general, the youngest in the academy’s history and promoted two ranks at once, as well as the first to be suitable for ‘The Degree of Intergalactic Exile’ since the establishment of the academy.
This series of news was like a whirlwind that tore through the entire planet in as short as one day.
Louie did not even bother repeating ‘do not address me this way’ to the others. She had been in the military for so many years, but this was the first time she faced her own meritorious accomplishments and felt shame.
And even anger.
Louie did not know the reason behind these inexplicable feelings, either.
She herself believed that she was sick, and she even put in an urgent request to see a doctor.
“Results of the spiritual consciousness test are available.”
The doctor passed the virtual report to Louie.
With Star Link, everything was, indeed, done digitally, but physics evolved at a far, far slower pace than the spiritual consciousness.
Feeling that it was strange to do nothing while communicating, everyone naturally created visualizations for the virtual data, pretending that it was tangible.
Louie raised her eyebrows. She realized that she was surprised once again.
She calmed herself and tried to straighten herself out, “Was it the test that…”
The words ‘malfunctioned’ got caught in her throat. In the minute before they left her mouth, she recalled that ‘the authority of a specialist is unquestionable,’ and swallowed the words.
“These are the results of your physical and genetic testing.”
When the doctor heard the doubtful tone in Louie’s voice, his expression was a bit sour. Fortunately, Louie did not finish the rest of her sentence. Otherwise, how was he supposed to deal with this kind of rookie mistake?
Louie took the results carefully. Star Link even simulated the tactile feel of paper, as well as the scent of fresh ink.
Her gaze jumped past the complicated lines of data to the final evaluation, where there were two words listed in bright red, bold font:
Louie immediately refuted the results in her mind.
But, facing a professional diagnosis, she knew that no one would believe her.
“Right, the genetic test indicates that you are over the age of twenty. When you were on assignment, you were passed over for marriage proceedings. Now that you’re back, you should go to the Relations Department to be tested for a genetically suitable match.”
The Almian ‘Marriage Degree’ ruled that twenty was the legal age of marriage.
On this planet, everything revolved around ‘military affairs.’ The concept of marriage suitability had likewise gone in the direction of extracting high-quality genes.
Every twenty year old, without exception, must submit a fresh sample to the Gene Institute, then wait for the Gene Institute to match them with their ‘other half,’ a match of highest genetic compatibility determined by complicated biological analyzes.
The other half may be male or female. The sex was unimportant.
Modern technology had long enabled them to cultivate excellent progeny with in vitro fertilization and artificial uteruses—the higher the genetic compatibility, the better the embryos will be.
But now it was unnecessary.
She did not even have time to go home before she was dragged to fill out a chaotic pile of volunteer forms, then was directed to submit a sample…
She was quite the news bombshell, after all. Those involved in the Propaganda Department, of course, latched onto her.
And as she was under assignment, she had no way to refuse.
Under normal circumstances, there would be more propaganda activities to take part in, but the Decree of Intergalactic Exile stipulated that she must leave the planet within one day. Those propaganda officers, their eyes only filled with their work, had no choice but to let her go.
As Louie watched the hatch slowly open on the spaceship before her, she suddenly wanted to snicker.
She pulled the corners of her mouth up, recalling the standard appearance for a ‘snicker’ detailed in textbooks. The lips hook upward, scornful and contemptuous. The eyes should be cold, even indignant.
The snicker seemed to meld with the sound of the door opening as it sounded once, then disappeared.
She immediately restrained herself, returning to normal as if nothing had happened.
Louie ascended to the spaceship. She turned her head, looking at the soldiers that were still paying their respects to the gray epaulets. Suddenly remembering that when she returned yesterday there had been two of them, she couldn’t help but snag one of those people from below to ask, “Where’s Jiang Wei?”
“Sergeant Jiang is preparing for his transfer to the Federal garrison in the Northwest Galaxy. Do you need him for something, ma’am?”
“No. It’s fine.”
Louie’s eyelid twitched.
The garrison in the Northwest Galaxy. Star Link was only present in its most basic form there, and in most cases, only green rookies ranking last at the military academy would be the ones stationed there. Even if the ones sent there were capable, it would just be a matter of getting achievements in the distant galaxy to facilitate a future promotion.
Additionally, such a move would promote the fresh graduates to the rank of sergeant—truly a case of ascending to the heavens on someone else’s coattails.
It was unknown if it was worth it or not, but, without fail, everyone involved would receive their due ‘reward’.
Why did no one understand?
Rather, if it had been when she was not ‘ill’, would she have not understood it either?
Whether it was an assignment to a fringe galaxy or this Decree of Intergalactic Exile, both were essentially punishments.
Louie stood by the ship’s entrance, looking on coldly as the hatch closed automatically.
It was a small, single-person vessel, with enough rations and fuel for ten years, sufficient for long-term missions.
But for the Decree, it was merely a one-way ticket.
The Decree of Intergalactic Exile had a long history.
It was said, before the Great Interstellar Era, when each planet’s civilization was distinct and without knowledge of others, Almia had this ancient tradition.
Every civilization in the universe had its own ways of surviving.
Earthens liked to expand, absorbing resources to support their growing population, Acarids lived in groups and wandered the universe, and Almians, a civilization that was impersonal and strict down to its roots, used a special method to ensure that each and every planetary resident had a ‘suitable’ allocation of its resources.
Resources are finite.
Some planets chose to expend resources wantonly—like Earth, for example—then expand once there was a shortage, thus spawning the Great Interstellar Era; some would be destroyed by their own extravagance.
And Almia, despite being able to engage in space battles, chose to strictly control its own population.
When the population was small, the number of newborns would be precisely estimated down to the single digits. Everyone obeyed orders, with military and civilians as one integrated unit. No concept other than superior and subordinate existed, so the idea of forced breeding likewise did not exist.
——The term ‘parent’ was only discovered after the beginning of the Great Interstellar Era, through courses from other civilizations.
But if there were too many people, no suicide order would be issued.
The selected ones would simply be given a spaceship with limited fuel and a certain quantity of food, then ordered to carry out an ‘interstellar exploration mission’ reminiscent of the exploratory space probes sent out by the early Earthens.
No return. No two-way route. No purpose. Just waiting for the food to run out, for the fuel to be exhausted. Only the collected data was permitted to be sent back to the Mother Planet. The air would slowly but surely get used up, leaving only suffocation and death.
Almia granted these ‘chosen ones’, sent off to never return, with the highest of honors afforded to anyone besides the commander.
But after the Great War, Almia’s population had been decimated. It even had to rely on the population of other planets to keep Almia up and running. Naturally, this decree aimed at controlling overpopulation had become absolutely meaningless.
“The ship will now enter into automatic navigation mode. Destination: Planet No. 13…”
Sophus’ digital voice sounded in the ship’s control room, drawing Louie out of her own thoughts.
Right, she had heard the commander mention that after the establishment of the academy, the methods used for intergalactic exile had been slightly adjusted.
Its full name should be ‘Decree of Intergalactic Exile—Order of Lifetime Assignment (New Edition)’.
She ordered Sophus to pull up the downloaded Decree for her to study carefully.
——Before, this Decree was like a blank piece of paper; almost no one on the planet paid the old law’s new edition any heed. It was dragged out by the Propaganda Department like some sort of stage prop, and there was no time to understand it properly.
Aside from the differences in specific political terms between the Almian on one side and the translation into the Federation’s tongue on the other, there did not seem to be any significant differences?
But Louie soon found an additional clause within the dense text.
“The lifetime assignment will be set at a particular destination planet…Also…regard it as your new service base…all actions will be under the direction of the local commanding officer?”
Louie was a little surprised.
On second thought, there did not seem to be anything wrong with that.
Just what era was she in? It had been ages since the times where planets were ruled by warlords and such. The military academy having a few external branches or outposts was…understandable?
But this was not something an Almian was capable of doing. As soon as such a thought reared its head, Louie immediately dismissed it.
No, no, no. Her thoughts were going more and more off course.
Sick beyond remedy.
Just then, the ship’s control room let out a shrill alarm, a red light flashing——
“Alert! Alert! The ship cannot locate the destination ‘Planet No. 13’ within the Federation’s Star Map, edition 89! Please reenter the the coordinates, or pilot the ship manually!”
Louie was dumbfounded.
The destination had already been entered. How could there be a malfunction?
No. 13? Planet?
Is that the planet’s name?
With the push for self realization, almost all planets with numbers within their names had changed them, had they not? Since when were there still planets assigned numerical names?
Before she had a chance to react, Sophus suddenly stated:
“Automatically accessed the ship’s internal ‘Hidden Star Map of the Universe (Incomplete)’! Destination successfully located! The ship will readjust its course in ten seconds!”
A hidden…star map?
Louie’s heart clenched. She immediately called out to Sophus to have it project the two star maps.
A moment later, millions upon millions of twinkling stars appeared in midair, radiating outward from where Louie stood.
“Scan. Analyze discrepancies.”
A few seconds later, amongst those millions of stars, a red planet was singled out.
Coordinates that had never appeared within the regular-issue star map.
That specially selected planet began to revolve slowly within the inky-black night, leaving behind a red, trailing afterimage in its wake.
This raised Louie’s interest to its maximum level.