THE DARK FOREST 20
But the Snow Project never got fully off the ground.
The two Internationals were not interested in the project. What the public wanted was a strategy for global salvation, not a plan that would merely inform them of the enemy’s arrival so they could escape. Besides, they knew that this wasn’t the Wallfacer’s idea. It was just a plan implemented by the UN and SFJC that exploited his authority. A full launch of the Snow Project would bring the entire space economy to a standstill and lead to a general economic recession on Earth and in the fleet. In addition, contrary to the UN’s prediction, as the droplets drew nearer, Escapism turned even more repugnant in the eyes of the public, so the two Internationals were unwilling to pay such a high price for an unpopular plan. As a result, both the construction of a fleet to gather the oil film material on Neptune and the manufacture of sufficient stellar hydrogen bombs to supplement the fewer than one thousand from the Great Ravine that were still usable made very slow progress.
But Luo Ji poured himself entirely into the project. At first, the UN and the SFJC had only wanted to exploit his prestige to mobilize the resources needed, but Luo Ji immersed himself in every detail of the project, spending sleepless nights shoulder-to-shoulder with the scientists and engineers of the Technical Committee and proposing many of his own ideas. For example, he suggested that a small interstellar ion engine be installed onto each bomb to allow them a certain degree of mobility in orbit, enabling timely adjustments to the density of the stellar cloud in different regions. More importantly, the hydrogen bombs could act as attack weapons. He called them “space mines,” and argued that even though stellar hydrogen bombs had proven incapable of destroying droplets, they might in the long run be useful against Trisolaran ships, because they had no evidence that the ships were also constructed out of strong-interaction material. He personally determined the orbit for every bomb’s deployment. From a modern technological perspective, his ideas may have been full of a twenty-first-century ignorance and naiveté, but his prestige and Wallfacer status meant that most of his suggestions were adopted.
Luo Ji treated the Snow Project as a means of escape. He knew that he wanted to escape reality, and the best way to do that at present was to involve himself deeply in the project. But the more he devoted himself to it, the more disappointed in him the world became. Everyone knew he had only attached himself to the largely insignificant project so that he could see his wife and child as soon as possible. The world waited for a
plan for salvation that never materialized. Luo Ji declared over and over in the media that without the capability to use stellar power to send out a spell, he was powerless to do anything.
The Snow Project ground to a halt after a year and a half, at which time only 1.5 million tons of oil film had been collected from Neptune. Even adding the 600,000 tons collected for the Fog Umbrella, the figure was still far from what the project required. Ultimately, 3,614 stellar hydrogen bombs packed in oil film were deployed in an orbit two AU from the sun. This wasn’t even a fifth of the intended number. When detonated, they would form a large number of independent dust clouds orbiting the sun, rather than a continuous dust cloud belt, greatly reducing their effectiveness as a warning.
It was an age in which hope came as quickly as disappointment, and after anxiously waiting for a year and a half, the public lost faith and patience in Luo Ji the Wallfacer.
At the general meeting of the International Astronomical Union, a body that last attracted worldwide attention in 2006 when it revoked Pluto’s eligibility as a planet, a large number of astronomers and astrophysicists were of the opinion that the explosion of 187J3X1 was a chance occurrence. Being an astronomer, Luo Ji may have discovered certain signs that the star would explode. The theory was full of holes, but more and more people came to believe it, accelerating Luo Ji’s decline in prestige. In the eyes of the public, his image gradually transitioned from messiah to commoner, and then to fraud. He still enjoyed the Wallfacer status granted by the UN, and the Wallfacer Act was still in effect, but he no longer had real power.
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