Chapter 315: Lord and Lady
The star map he’d been given from the Moonfiend Empress was in Lan Jue’s hands. Although the entire ordeal had been a trap, the map was real enough. It’d been a little while since their last visit, but the map should still be current enough for their purposes.
The Crimson Flag wasn’t among the strongest of the Starfields’ pirate clans, and compared to the Moonfiend pirates they barely registered. However, they did have the Northern Alliance as silent benefactors. They fit right in on the borders of the Northern Alliance’s stretch of the Starfields.
Their base of operations was a small planet, roughly a tenth the size of Skyfire. It resided in a relatively stable part of the asteroid belt, so it was relatively safe from impact.
According to intelligence from the An Lun army, the Crimson Flag had a moderate roster. As far as was known, they had three mecha combat camps that were all excellently equipped. They may have appeared as lawless cretins, but underneath were hardened, armed killers.
They also possessed two battleships, and somewhere between ten and fifteen patrollers – more than almost any other pirate clan. Each of those were equipped with enviable power gems that made them more than a match for any similarly classed ship they may encounter.
Zeus-1 was cutting through the blackness, already approaching the Northern Alliance side. They would be arriving at their target in two days. The Crimson Star, was the name of the planet they’d come to dominate.
“Engage stealth cloak,” Lan Jue commanded.
The shimmering blue color of Zeus-1 deepened until it matched the expansive darkness of the universe around them. This obviously wasn’t proper stealth, but a special cloaking capability of the coating Zeus-1 was covered in. Following, Lan Jue had the Accountant start their radar interference to conceal them from scanners. Within the scope of these functions, the ship was all but invisible.
Lan Jue sat up on the captain’s chair. His eyes were hard and cold. He’d made several incursions to wipe out pirates during his time as a soldier for hire – but he never got his hands on the Crimson Flag.
“We’re approaching radar range.” The Accountant coaxed Zeus-1 in to orbit around the Crimson Star. Any closer, and they’d be spotted.
“Prepare main battery,” Lan Jue growled. “Accountant, give me a layout of enemy positions.”
The young man looked at Lan Jue wide-eyed. The drillmaster looked him right in the eye. “I have faith.”
“Alright.” The Accountant nodded his head resolutely. Suddenly, his hands were dancing on the keyboard lightning fast.
Zeus-1 was indeed the most excellent craft he’d had the opportunity to pilot. Everything – from the combat systems to the life support and everything in between – was state of the art. The ship’s radar scanned the planet white the Accountant kept his eyes glued to the screen. A rapid sequence of frames flicked before him in quick succession as he and the ship put their minds to uncovering the enemy’s position.
“Found them.” He pointed to something on the screen. “Their airfield is here.”
“Status of main weapons?”
Mika’s voice answered. “Primed and ready.”
Lan Jue slapped the armrest of his chair. “Fire!”
“Fire!” Mika confirmed the command. Their cloak dissipated, as congealing orbs of energy appeared before the ship’s main barrels. A few moments later the space around them lit up with resplendent blue light, as a series of lethal energy beams peppered with starlight burst forth.
The students unconsciously gripped their armrests as they witnessed the battle commence.
It wasn’t long ago that many of these kids were taking their first interstellar trip, their first ride in a fighting vessel. Now they were engaged in open combat. But could Zeus-1 find its target from this distance? Would it cause sufficient damage for an opening salvo?
They had their answer right away.
A shield protected the airfield. It flashed white as Zeus-1’s battery make contact. It was sufficient to block the surprise attack from causing damage. However, as the students watched from the main screen in the ship’s cockpit, the beam began to twist and rotate. The action condensed the energy, and increased its penetrating capabilities.
A drastic explosion arose, the sound of crashing metal and roaring flames audible even from their location.
Then, the Crimson Star reacted. Dots of light appeared on the surface, and that’s when the Accountant spoke up. “It’s a planetary defense system… shit, are we sure this is a pirate colony and not a Northern army base?”
Neither his mouth nor his hands ever stopped moving. In the midst of his curses the Accountant immediately re-engaged their stealth routines, and pulled the ship out of stable orbit. It pitched in to a combat roll.
Mid-maneuver the students could see what the Accountant had – dozens of anti-airship volleys were converging on their position. They danced around one another to form a wide-reaching net of deadly energy. Thankfully, the Accountant’s reactions were swift and the ship narrowly avoided destruction. They raced to a safer distance.
“These idiots think they can hit me?” The Accountant was hyper-focused, almost like a different man. The formerly lecherous youth with a sour temper glared at the screen in front of him. Flashes of black and white twinkled in his eyes like lines of code. His fingers raced over the keys faster than the students could keep up.
Even with the gravitational stabilizers engaged, Zeus-1’s occupants pitched and jerks with each severe motion of the ship. Now, the students understood why Lan Jue had subjected them to that extreme g-force. Right now it was looking downright necessary. At the very least, their former experience afforded them a sense of calm, and their bodies were better equipped to handle the rigors.
“Drillmaster. Our main battery penetrated their shields and have destroyed one battleship. Heh, I bet that hurts!” The Accountant cackled gleefully as he made the report and dodged incoming fire.
“It’ll hurt a lot more before we’re through,” Lan Jue said with fire in his eyes. “Turn us around. Prepare to engage.”
It was time to nail this coffin closed.
The Crimson Flag would have to respond after such a devastating loss. They watched as several patrol ships took off and headed their way. They spread in to an intercepting formation as they drew near.
Lan Jue could not help but admit that these pirates were well trained. They scrambled an answering force in no time at all, under fire from an unknown enemy without provocation. Clearly they were always vigilant for this sort of situation. Out here, every pirate clan had to be ready, and mastered their own ways of doing it.
Lan Jue’s expressionless face remained pointed at the screen. He watched the boats approach, stoic. No matter how powerful this foe, he thought, they must pay for what they’ve done. Zeus-1 turned to face its pursuers, hidden in the inky blackness of space.
Eight pirate patrol ships were en route. The Accountant’s determinations were correct, and one of their battleships lay smoldering on the tarmac. The second had yet to lift off, either because they were underestimating Lan Jue or for some other purpose.
The leader of the Crimson Flag was a man named Feng Lin. He was an exceedingly portly fellow. At this moment, he was watching his screens with a malevolent twinkle in his eye.
The harsh notes of an alarm rang from all directions. The sudden attack had set off the planetary alarm and defense systems.
He was in the battleship, the one that had been spared destruction by the surprise attack. He was a man known for his brutality and blood lust, but also his caution. It was the arrogant pirates that became corpses, so he chose his flagship and headquarters to be one of the battleships and kept it under ground. He’d have kept both there, if they’d possessed the ability to make the underground hangar large enough.
He looked to be a man in his forties, with a face unfortunately plagued by scores of soybean-colored growths. They were about the size of his eyes, and twitched with the muscles of his face as he frowned.
Ever since they’d attained support from the Northern armies, he had grown complacent and confident in his strength. He was the uncontested lord of his domain. But in contrast to his fierce exterior, Feng Lin possessed a delicate heart, and feared death. His covered this ruling his pirates with an iron fist. As for the planetary defense system, it had cost him quite a lot of money for that peace of mind. After all, it was a system to ensure planetary dominance. It was a micro-version, to be sure, but nonetheless difficult to acquire since it was military grade.
It was a source of pride. Other than the three largest planets in the Starfields, no other clan could match his technical superiority.
Though he was a cruel man, he was prudent, and so did not get himself involved in a fight he couldn’t win. He only revealed his presence if the advantage was well in his favor. It was this quality that got the attention – and support – of the North. But to the other pirates of the Starfields, it was a shameful existence. The called him the Lady, for his feminine timidity.
This was why the second ship wasn’t in flight – Feng Lin’s cautiousness. However, it had been refitted to allow for long-rate engagement. That was its trump card, in the event he encountered an enemy he couldn’t best.
“Who the hell is this?!” he bellowed. Feng Lin watched the screen before him as the patrol boats spread out and searched for the culprit.
The enemy had been briefly revealed through radar, and from what he’d seen it was a smaller ship, like a patrol boat. But that didn’t make any sense – that blast had had the force of a battleship behind it!
“Bastard… when I get you, I’ll skin the flesh from your bones and use your tendons as guitar strings!” Feng Lin growled ferociously at the screen. However, he did not give the order to have his ship engage. Feng Lin’s nickname was not given lightly.