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The atmosphere in the office was a little awkward.
Bai Qing regretted telling the director that she was a high-school student. The development of this matter had completely derailed her expectations. In this case, she would not know how to explain her intention next. And she did not know if director Gao would chase her out of her office.
In the end, it was director Gao on the other side of the desk who spoke first. “Do you know how Lin Sisi and I met?”
“A children’s astronomy contest was held in the city some time ago. Only elementary school students were eligible for participation. Most schools chose their grade fives and sixes to participate, and among them, Lin Sisi was the youngest. Yes, she was the only third-grade participant at that time. Although I’ve no idea what your relationship with her is, I assure you that you have seen her photo before. She was so tiny that she never stood out in a crowd. That said, she was brilliant. I was one of the judges of that contest. I could see that most children spent a great time memorizing facts before they came to compete. Lin Sisi, however, was different. She was truly passionate about astronomy. I could see it in her eyes.”
“Did she get first place in the competition?”
“No, she came in second. She answered a wrong question during the final answering session, but it turned out that she was right afterward. The new research findings were announced shortly after the competition, and the system did not manage to update the answer in time. Although she didn’t get first, she impressed me the most. So I gave her my personal number and told her that she could come to Children’s Palace to look for me whenever she was available.”
“So, you’ve known her a long time? Did she tell you anything before the tragedy?” Bai Qing asked quickly.
Director Gao looked at Bai Qing, answering only after a moment’s silence. “It’s a pity. I went on a long business trip some time ago. I wasn’t here for about a month. In other words, she had not contacted me for about a month before the tragedy.”
“But the guard said that they were here at Children’s Palace last week?” implored Bai Qing.
“Is that right? I did give them a key. I allowed them access to a storeroom currently not in use. They do come here from time to time.”
“Can you take a look at the activity room?” Bai Qing asked without thinking, then realized that she had probably gone overboard with the requests.
Unexpectedly, director Gao agreed. “Sure. Anyway, I have nothing to do today.” She took out a bunch of keys from the drawer, and they headed to B1. The surroundings were pitch black at that time, and they were the only two walking in the corridor. Suddenly, Bai Qing felt a little nervous when she saw director Gao walking in front of her.
Zhang Heng warned that the aliens had been among society for some time now, and there was no way of knowing if an alien had replaced director Gao. Before she came down here, Bai Qing was so happy that she hit the jackpot. Now, she began to wonder why director Gao agreed to bring her to check out the storeroom.
However, she had to admit that she didn’t play her role well while talking to director Gao earlier. If she were in the director’s place, she would have kicked the imposter out of the office. To her surprise, director Gao stopped pursuing her real identity and even agreed to her request.
The excitement soon passed, and Bai Qing finally calmed down. She felt that something wasn’t right, though, unable to stop goosebumps from sprouting all over her skin as she looked at the director’s back. The latter did not speak. She walked to the wall and pressed the switch to turn on the corridor’s light before looking at Bai Qing again, “Why aren’t you walking? Didn’t you request to check out the activity room?”
“Yes, I’m sorry,” Bai Qing quickly apologized. Biting the bullet, she followed director Gao.
It was too late to turn back now. Terrified, all she could do was follow director Gao.
Fortunately, there was no ambush waiting for her. The place turned out to be an ordinary storeroom.
“We mainly stock the sundries here, as well as things left by the previous planetarium. Of course, we moved the high-value items to the newly built one. The rest of the things here were what they do not need, including some old models and popular science materials,” director Gao explained.
Bai Qing’s attention shifted temporarily to the storeroom that she was in. The first thing she saw was a small table and a few stools. On the table were the models of the nine planets (Pluto had been delisted in 2006, and there were only eight planets now. This was an old model). Also, there were a Galileo telescope and a sandbox with a crater model in it.
Bai Qing was overwhelmed. Although a student with excellent academic performance, she was not an astronomy enthusiast. Her strengths were exam-oriented, and she did not know where to start when she all those things in front of her. According to the previous agreement with Zhang Heng, she could snap a photo of the items here and send the pictures to him.
But her mobile phone was broken at this moment. Left with no other option, she could only continue to ask director Gao the questions that she had in mind.
“Is there anything special here?”
“Special? What do you mean?” director Gao asked rhetorically.
“I’m talking about things that other planetariums don’t usually own.” Bai Qing said.
“What do you think this is? A treasure-hunting game?” Director Gao shook her head. “The planetarium can be categorized as popular science, built to help young people to understand more about astronomy. There is nothing unique here. Besides, this is the old planetarium. The valuables have been moved to the new planetarium.”
“Uhm. Can you please think a little harder? This matter is very important to me,” Bai Qing asked anxiously.
“Why is it important?” asked director Gao calmly. “How am I supposed to help if you don’t tell me your intention?”
“Trust me. I don’t want you to get into unnecessary trouble.” Bai Qing smiled bitterly, “If you know what happened to Lin Sisi and my family, you would never want to get involved.”
“No. You refuse to tell me about it because deep down, you assume that I wouldn’t believe you,” said director Gao. “You know, you weren’t the first to ask me about the planetary observation team.”
“Has anyone else looked for you and asked you about this matter?” Bai Qing was shocked when he heard her reply, “Who are they?”
“It doesn’t matter. You don’t know him anyway,” director Gao looked into Bai Qing’s eyes, “When you try to make others believe you, have you ever thought about trying to trust that person first?”
“I’m sorry. This whole thing is insane.”
“The truth is sometimes crazier than a lie. As a former scientific researcher, no one knows this better than me.”
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