Chapter 345: Narrow Escapes
Lan Jue rushed over to the control systems with big strides, and took over control from one of the crew. Behind him, Tan Lingyun shot her hands out. The motion cast two beams of verdant energy that separated the other personnel from Lan Jue and Qianlin.
One of the crew sitting by defense system controls looked nervously at the Captain. The ship’s commanding officer lifted a hand in a silent order to remain still. Under ordinary circumstances, a breach would likely fail beneath the bridge’s state-of-the-art internal defense mechanisms. It was enough to easily overpower any Adept seventh rank and below. But these were not normal circumstances – they were staring death in the face. In fact, the likelihood they’d survive – according to the Captain – was no better than eighty percent. Everyone was in a panic. If this man really did have battleship piloting experience, maybe he could pull out a miracle.
But miracles were known for being rare! These plasma tendrils with their massive comets were the nightmare of every airship pilot. An armada could obliterate it with a densely packed bombardment. They were in a transport ship.
The moment he realized what they were encountering, the Captain’s heart had sunk to the floor. They were doomed.
Lan Jue settled in the the seat. His hands shot out, and his fingers danced nimbly across the keyboard like bolts of lightning. He shouted over his shoulder. “Shrink the shields to just over the ship. Reduce shield output to thirty percent.”
“What?!” The crewman at the shield controls stared open-mouthed at Lan Jue. Their shields were outmatched as it is, and he wanted them reduced?
“Do as he says!” The Captain shouted from his chair. Now that he’d let the man take over, there was no going back. He was also a career pilot, and he knew what Lan Jue was intending; decrees surface area, and reduce energy consumption. Right now, the smaller they were the better.
The airship rolled sideways, narrowly avoiding a massive chunk of space rock. This unfortunately put them right in the path of three smaller stones. The ship shuddered and groaned as it was pelted by the dense and speedy debris.
Lan Jue’s features were serious and solemn. Meanwhile, he spoke to Qianlin through the Spirit Caller gem: Put your hands on my shoulders. Then, I want you to focus your energies all around us. Block us from everyone’s sight.
Qianlin swept behind Lan Jue without hesitation, and placed her hands on his shoulders. A white, peaceful aura instantly sprang to life around her. A moment later, that protective force spread outward and penetrated through Lan Jue.
Tan Lingyun’s eyes lit up. She knew Zhou Qianlin’s Discipline was supportive, so perhaps she was helping improve Lan Jue’s reaction speed.
The rippling, milky light continued to spread in all directions. Those behind couldn’t clearly see what Lan Jue was doing any longer. Lightning flashed in his eyes as his power surged. He could feel waves of his own power flowing from Zhou Qianlin and in to him. The amplification wasn’t as dramatic as when they joined, but he was easily comparable to a ninth rank eighth level Adept.
It was stupendous that an amplification Discipline could lift someone up to this level. He could sense behind her, much to his surprise, Qianlin converting his own thunderbolt powers to that supportive energy.
He made a mental note that they would have to experiment more with the changes in their powers. Understanding each other’s abilities intimately would be immensely beneficial to them both. Assuming they weren’t evaporated by a titanic, gas-spewing space rock.
Lan Jue lifted his hand from the keyboard and placed it on a metal sphere set within the control station. This device was a power converter – it injected an Adept’s power in to the ship, to help it perform better.
Almost all larger airships had such devices installed. A single Adept couldn’t control a battleship, or inject it with enough energy to run it. However, by using a power converter connected to amplification power gems, the issue could be overcome. In normal flight, this gave it a fine tune up.
Higher level Adepts were, of course, more effective in this situation. For truly powerful Adepts, sometimes their own energy alone was enough to power a ship – it’s just that no one’s done it.
The instant Lan Jue’s hand touched the sphere, his energy burst from him in to the ship. In the space of an instant, he was in complete control. With Qianlin’s help, he was now as strong as a ninth rank eighth level Adept!
It was like he became the ship. He could sense everything, feel all of it’s adjustments and settings. With a thought he could change anything to his specifications.
Meanwhile, Lan Jue’s right hand tapped furiously on the control panel, urging the ship as fast as it could go.
“You’re crazy! What the hell are you doing gaining speed?!” One of the propulsion engineers shouted at him. He tried to force his way through Lingyun’s barriers, but failed.
“Shut up! I want to live more than anyone on this damn ship.” As he shouted, the crew watched in surprise as a helmet descended from over the master control board.
“Total manual control?” The Captain watched in wonderment. Although he couldn’t see precisely how Lan Jue was controlling the ship through Qianlin’s waves of power, he did recognize the helmet as it descended toward them. The only people who would dare put a ship like this in manual control were true specialists. The Captain, too, was capable of this, but was not very proficient.
With the helmet in place, Lan Jue could more quickly and efficient feel every aspect of the airship. He closed his eyes, and through his connection with the ship’s systems he was able to see out in all directions, and much farther than his eyes could manage.
The comet swarm was drawing closer, and growing more densely packed. Lan Jue dexterously dipped the ship between two errant meteorites. They slipped through the frozen boulders with only meters to spare, avoiding the clouds of rock and dust as they smashed together.
The moment the Captain had recognized that Lan Jue was controlling the ship manually, his estimation of the young invader went up significantly. He looked at a nearby monitor displaying their detection reading for a closer look at the situation outside. It was obviously superior to simple line of sight.
But when he saw how Lan Jue evaded the meteorites, he couldn’t help but resolutely nod his head. He himself would not have been able to accomplish that – surely this man’s credentials were true.
The white transport ship deftly darted between incoming comets and meteor fragments like a tiny fish in an unending purple sea. Although coming out completely unscathed was impossible, Lan Jue picked which rocks the ship could handle, and avoided the others. Sometimes he would collide with smaller ones purposefully, where they would otherwise be smashed against a moon-sized comet.
The ship’s energy systems were restored with Lan Jue’s power injection. The shields were fuller and ready for stronger impact. Soon they were at top speed, drilling through the heart of the comet swarm. However, this was anything but comfortable for the passengers. The faster they went, the more the ship shuddered as though it were going to shake itself apart. They were swept from side to side as Lan Jue threaded between certain death.
And it wasn’t just the travelers. Even some of the crew were beginning to look a little green. Tan Lingyun, on the other hand, stood with her feet planted as though they were nailed to the hull. No matter how violently the ship shook, she didn’t move an inch.
But that wasn’t the whole story. She stared out of the bridge’s window with a face made of stone, but the light of passing comets revealed her white-knuckle fists. She was an Adept, and like Lan Jue there was a small chance she could survive, but the reality of that was silly to hope for. She was an eighth ranked Adept, among the best of humanity, but that meant nothing in the vast expanse of the universe.
But this situation, and her heightened senses had helped her to see things a little more clearly. Lan Jue was complete garbage, as she asserted – at least he could fly an airship. She never would have guessed. At least now she knew why Zhou Qianlin liked him. He had at least one redeeming quality.
For everyone on the bridge, it felt like time slowed to a crawl. Every second was an eternity as they swept past rocks going tens of thousands of kilometers a second.
Bang! Another one. The ship listed sideways away from the impact, which was just enough to push it between another two massive comets. Thrusters on the ship’s stern sputtered to life, spouting blue flame. And then – stillness.
The black expanse of space stretched out before them. Gone were the comets and screaming meteors that blotted out the heavens, barreling onward behind them.
The beauties of the universe were endless, and nothing was more perfect than the site of those distant, fixed stars. The peaceful silence that overcame them was transformative.
“You did it… we’re alive!” A great cheer rose up on the bridge, as the crew unfastened their safety harnesses and began jumping for joy. Anyone facing the prospect of death is scared, but these men and women were trained to throw all of themselves in to a problem and not to break. But now that the danger was passed, and their safety was assured, they could celebrate. And why not? They knew the odds – one in a hundred survived an encounter like this.
Most everyone was sure they were doomed, and now that they were saved it was like rising from the ashes. They couldn’t control their jubilation. Some screamed and laughed, while others hid faces covered in tears. They stole their lives back from Death’s clutches! It was undoubtedly the most harrowing experience any of them had ever experienced. The sweat-soaked crew continue to cheer their survival.