Deterrence Era, Year 62 November 28, 4:00 P.M. to 4:17 P.M.: Deterrence Center
The high-speed elevator continued to descend, and the increasing layers of earth above seemed to put all their weight on Cheng Xin’s heart.
Half a year ago, a joint session of the UN and the Solar System Fleet had elected Cheng Xin to succeed Luo Ji as the Swordholder and given her authority to control the gravitational wave deterrence system. She had received almost twice as many votes as the next candidate. She was now proceeding to the Deterrence Center in the Gobi Desert, where the deterrence authority handover ceremony was to take place.
The Deterrence Center was the deepest man-made structure ever, about forty-five kilometers beneath the surface. This location was already below the crust, past the Mohorovi?i? discontinuity, in the mantle of the Earth. The pressure and temperature here were both far higher than in the crust, and the stratum around her was made up mostly of solid, hard peridotite.
The elevator took almost twenty minutes to reach its terminus. Cheng Xin stepped out of the elevator and saw a black steel door. White text on the door gave the formal name for the Deterrence Center: Gravitational Wave Universal Broadcast System Control Station Zero. The insignias of the UN and the Solar System Fleet were embossed on the door.
This ultra-deep structure was quite complex. It possessed its own independent air circulation system and was not directly connected with the atmosphere above the surface—otherwise, the high air pressure generated by a depth of forty-five kilometers would cause great discomfort to the occupant. It was also equipped with a powerful cooling system to withstand the high temperature of the mantle, nearly five hundred degrees Celsius. All Cheng Xin could see, however, was emptiness. The lobby’s walls could all apparently act as electronic displays, but they showed nothing but whiteness, as though the building wasn’t in use yet. Half a century ago, when the Deterrence Center was designed, Luo Ji had been consulted, but he had only provided one piece of
As simple as a tomb.
The handover ceremony was a solemn occasion, but the bulk of it had been held on the surface forty-five kilometers above. There, all the leaders of Earth International and Fleet International, representing all of humanity, had gathered, and they watched as Cheng Xin entered the elevator. Only two people would oversee the final handover: the PDC chair and the chief of staff for the Solar System Fleet, representing the two institutions directly operating the deterrence system.
The PDC chair pointed at the empty lobby and explained to Cheng Xin that they would redecorate the
place based on her ideas. If she wanted, she could have a lawn, plants, a fountain, and so forth. She could also choose to have a holographic simulation of scenes from the surface.
“We don’t want you to live like him,” said the chief of staff. Perhaps because of his military uniform, Cheng Xin saw in him traces of men of the past, and his words warmed her slightly. But the heavy weight on her heart, as heavy as the forty-five kilometers of earth above her, did not lessen.
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