Chapter 570: Another Encounter with Beauty
Both the Coffee Master and the Bartender nodded in understanding.
Lan Jue turned his attention to the Driver. “We will lead the First and Second Brigade in an attack on the Moonfiend Palace. We need to get it under our control as fast as possible.”
The Driver nodded, but turned to speak to Xiaosu. “How much opposition can we expect in the Palace?”
“It looks like a fortress from the outside, and it is,” Xiaosu said. “A lot of its defensive measures are buried underground. They will also have around a thousand mecha pilots as guards. There is also a small railgun hidden in the buttresses that can fire a projectile over ten thousand meters. It’s a third as strong as the main guns they use for planetary defense.”
The Driver looked at her with eyes wide as saucers. “You’re shitting me! Installing a railgun like that in your own fortress, are you crazy? Fire that thing once and the radiated energy will fry everyone.”
Xiaosu seemed a little embarrassed. “We have plenty of radiation shielding, I’m confident it works. I installed it in the event of invasion. So in short, that means we aren’t walking through the front door. That’s asking for trouble.”
These sorts of guns were standard for planetary defenses systems, as well as Bastions. Like any other weapon, they came in various calibers.
Lan Jue remembered when they rolled out the latest version of their railgun. It was part of their Arachnid-class Bastion’s warfare suite. One blast from that would obliterate anyone and anything. Even Jue Di couldn’t survive a direct shot.
Naturally your average defense system wouldn’t have a gun that powerful. But even a standard-caliber railgun could rip through a battleship’s shields. Three blows was all it took for those guns to turn their ships into slag. One could imagine what it’d do to a person.
Used on a planet’s surface, a railgun blast had the same force as a neutron bomb, without all the nasty radiation. Any human caught in the explosion would be evaporated. All that at just a third of what the technology could do! If they turned it on a mecha division, the soldiers would be routed in moments. Assuming, of course, they stood all together.
Railguns used in planetary defense were strictly forbidden for use on planet surfaces. With how much strain they produced, too many blasts could rip a planet into pieces. As such, railguns were all installed facing outward so they couldn’t ever be turned on their own.
Su Xiaosu’s gall was evident with this revelation. She didn’t put a full railgun in her palace, but at a third of its potential there was nothing on the planet’s surface that could match it.
“Leave the palace’s railgun to me,” Lan Jue said. “I’ll deal with it.”
Lan Jue’s involvement was insurance. He was the third strongest member of Star Division, outside of the Paragon and the Pharmacist. The Photographer didn’t count.
Xiaosu went on to underline their plan. “The first wave we send in has to be the strongest. These are the areas we need to control…”
She quickly went over the strategy, indicating the important areas on the digital map she provided. Copies were downloaded onto everyone’s communicators so they could follow along.
There was an air of apprehension this time that wasn’t there for their earlier missions. This one was different from a simple sweep and clear excursion. Star Division needed to bring its A-game.
Of course, Su Xiaosu and Lan Jue were being conservative. Many of the pilots were strong enough in their own right, and in teams they were even more formidable. After all, a ninth level Adept in a tricked-out mecha could do real damage. However, everyone agreed to keep to small groups to ensure safety. As much as possible, they wanted everyone to come back in one piece.
Safety first. With the right instruction and guidance, they had nothing to fear.
The war meeting went on until late into the night. Again and again they went over the information and the plan until every detail was discussed. This was going to be a defining experience for the Division, more so than any mission that had come before. There was no room for negligence. If one part of the plan didn’t go smoothly, the whole thing was in danger of collapse.
When the first light of day began to paint the city, the meeting concluded. Leaders went their separate ways for some rest.
Third and Fourth Brigade went out into the city and bought new sets of clothes. Thus concealed, they spread out through Crescent City to prepare. Then it came down to First and Second Brigade.
Even as a pirate planet, there was a fairly good infrastructure of public transportation between cities. Even scheduled transport ships were a common site, where in all the rest of the Starfields they would be unthinkable. They were only used on-planet, though – it was too dangerous to have the slow craft out in space, where any number of pirates would be eager to take a chomp out of it.
Tickets were available to move people where they wished, but prices were stifling. They did it to keep the population under control. Pirates did not need to pay for transport. There were more than five hundred soldiers who made up First and Second Brigade. It took over twenty trips and the better part of a day to get everyone into Luna.
In stark contrast to Crescent City, Luna’s streets were absent the metal shacks. Here the homes were indistinguishable from places on an Alliance homeworld. But as they walked the streets, Lan Jue and Xiaosu saw no less than three brawls. This spoke to a crime rate much higher than the city’s upscale look let on.
The former Moonfiend Empress hid beneath a hoodie, with a mask concealing her face. She was taking every effort to keep her identity concealed.
“Security doesn’t seem to have changed,” Xiaosu said to Lan Jue in a low voice.
The Monarch grinned. “In a moment that’ll be the least of their worries. Lady Empress, we’re about to walk back into your palace. How do you feel?”
“You’re teasing me,” Xiaosu grumbled. “How should I feel? My only desire is to see the thing I made destroyed by my own hand. It’s better to let it die than live enslaved to a tyrant. As part os the Pontiff’s Citadel, we heard constantly of Satan’s evils. Today we know how hypocritical al that is. The Pontiff is much more frightening than Satan could ever be. Their poison is hidden behind a smile. Darkness in a shell of light.”
Lan Jue nodded. “Don’t think about it too much. I hope putting this clan to bed will wound the Citadel deeply. If not for the fact these aliens could show at any moment, I would have spread news of their actions to every Alliance. Now isn’t the time for in-fighting.”
Xiaou shook her head in response. “It wouldn’t matter. I know them, they always have a plan. Those poor people, their ‘experiments’, have already been moved. They’re too slippery to get caught.”
They drew near to the Moonfiend Palace. The Empress’ former abode was a proud, lofty fortress in the center of the city. The area around the palace was bare of any other buildings to hide their approach.
Xiaosu spoke furtively to Lan Jue. “When the fortresses defenses are activated the whole structure rises a hundred meters into the air. The area there with no buildings are defense rings, with mechas stationed in each in addition to counter-insurgency weapons. The railgun’s on the highest tower.”
She went on to explain the rest of the palace’s layout in detail.
“I also designed an escape tunnel. They may have found it, but if it hasn’t been destroyed that would be perfect. It’ll lead us right to the heart of the palace.”
“Good,” Lan Jue said with a nod. “Do you need me to go with you?”
She shook her head. “No, I’ll go alone. Stay close and wait for me to get back.”
That said, she slipped into a nearby ally and vanished.
Lan Jue didn’t stand around. He walked down the street until he found a coffee shop and ordered a cup. It was expensive, but that couldn’t be helped. All the materials had to be brought in from out of the system.
Even the coffee’s scent was bland. Lan Jue feared that if the Coffee Master were here, he’d throw a fit. Call it undrinkable. Lan Jue just wanted to blend in, so he choked it down and suppressed the scowls.
It was still afternoon so there were only a few people peppered around. The occasional customer would pop in, but everything remained pleasantly quiet. Lan Jue preferred this sort of environment.
Then, his eyes narrowed. A figure caught his attention from down the street.
Indeed it was, the attractive woman he and Xiaosu had seen from earlier. A sharp whistle turned his eye to a group of pirates who’d seen her as well. They were moving in to block her path. He didn’t need to read minds to know they had bad intentions.
Lan Jue watched with knit brows. The girl seemed unconcerned, ambivalent, confident in her safety. But this was the pirate world. Some of these men didn’t care about anyone’s rules. When you ran into a group like that, trouble was sure to follow.
Three pirates spread open their arms to bar the girl from walking any further. She turned and tried to walk around them, but the men wouldn’t be denied. They swung around faster than her, not giving ground. All the while they smirked and said foul things.
Ever since the Empress lost control, this sort of thing was happening more frequently. No one was going to stop it.
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