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Chapter 564: Target: Three Planets

    Chapter 564: Target: Three Planets

    Gabriel's insights were different from the pirates. What did it mean for a ship to cloak itself? It meant equipment - expensive equipment. They would need at least an s-ranked power gem. Those were still more expensive even than Tears of Neptune.

    To be able to carry so many mecha suits, you'd need something the size of a battleship. Capital ships and others weren't out of the question, but were a rare sight in the Starfields. The planetary debris would keep them from finding smooth passage.

    A fire insignia... to Gabriel's knowledge, there was no clan or group of any importance with a flame insignia.

    "And what do you think, Redbeard," Gabriel asked.

    Redbeard used to be the second most feared pirate in the Shattered Starfields. However, once the Pontiff's Citadel took control of the Moonfiend pirates, they began to swallow up all the smaller competition. Now Redbeard's crew were part of the Pontiff's forces. All three of the Starfield's primary planets had come under their control.

    The Pontiff's Citadel was an Adepts' organization, but it wasn't like Gobi Entertainment. It didn't have the resources to build its own army. Out here, though, no one bothered them in their work. It gave the Pontiff plausible deniability.

    But where they couldn't built their own military force, the Pontiff's Citadel did have enough resources and influence to make a pirate armada. They didn't have larger ships, but it was enough to create a good supply train. If needed, they could turn right around and become a guerilla resistance. Out here, the darker side of the religious order was on full display.

    That's why they installed the Morning Star here, to oversee their work. They didn't count on her being so independent and headstrong. She was removed because of it.

    Now that the three primary planets were under Citadel control, the Moonfiend Pirates were stronger than ever. The Pontiff was concerned with outside threats, so he sent Gabriel here to conduct their business personally and deal with any problems. After all, the men and women they were dealing with didn't subsist on loyalty. If they wanted to keep the pirates under control, they would need to keep their interest with riches and power.

    Redbeard answered. "This sort of thing happens every now and again. Out here it's not unusual for clans to take each other out. What's different this time is the bastard's reach. He's got everyone looking over their shoulder, and pirates don't like looking over their shoulders. They'll group up to find him and cut out the threat. We don't need to rush in and involve ourselves. If their gear's anything to go by, they don't look like normal pirates, either. Maybe they're getting support from your enemies. I think we should sit back and stick to the plan. We'll make changes if they need to be made. They wouldn't dare think of coming at us directly."

    Gabriel narrowed his eyes, pondering the words before nodding in satisfaction.

    Redbeard looked your typical brutish pirate from the outside. Truthfully, though, he was quite clever. Su Xiaosu had given him so much trouble because she overpowered him. When it came to outthinking, though, he was hard to beat. Now he had command of the Moonfiend Pirate forces. Smart as he was, of course he knew the benefits of siding with the Citadel. Gabriel didn't doubt his loyalty.

    "And if they do the unthinkable, and come here?" Gabriel pressed.

    This brought a glint to the pirate's eye. "Then let them come and see what greets them. The Moonfiend Pirates aren't the strongest in the Starfields for no reason."

    Gabriel smirked. "Bearing vigilance against sinful men is ceaseless work. You must prepare."

    Redbeard chuckled. "Relax, master Gabriel. I wouldn't dare be careless with the safety of my brothers. Right, and when are we getting that railgun you promised, eh?! These planets are the best in the system, and the only ones that support life. We have to keep them protected!"

    Gabriel's tone grew irritated. "You think those things are like picking out cabbage? Pick out whatever you like, however many you like? There are a hundred and twenty already installed here, and you need more? It's already enough to withstand a frontal assault from an interstellar fleet."

    Redbeard chortled. "Can you have too many big guns? Look..."

    "Enough." Gabriel cut him off with a wave of his hand. "Ten more are on their way. There should be here in a few days. Install them on the main planet. They're the last of them, do you understand? I have no more excuses to give the Pontiff. Also, make sure you pay close mind to those people I brought. There mustn't be any mistakes, do you understand?"

    "Yes sir, I've got it under control!"

    Gabriel stood. "Then I'm off to cultivate. Pay attention to your duties, do them well. Gather as much data as you can on these pirates with the flame insignia."

    "Aye."

    Redbeard watched Gabriel go, and couldn't keep the slightest scowl from creeping onto his lips. Pale-faced little **... he doesn't understand a thing. This is pirate territory.

    ζ

    Majesty. War Room.

    "Are we really going after the three planets?" The Gourmet's face bore concern. He looked at Lan Jue and Xiaosu waiting for confirmation.

    Lan Jue gave it with a nod. "All our training has been to prep them for this, but none of our enemies have been strong up to now. Those three planets have been our targets from the very beginning, but now the Star Division is tempered enough to do it."

    The Driver chimed in. "But this is completely different from other missions. This tri-planetary system makes coming at them from several angles impossible. They're like three watch towers. After consolidating the pirate clans, they have over thirty thousand people ready to fight. They're damn strong. Beating them won't be easy, we just don't have the people or ships to do it."

    Lan Jue retorted. "You're right, if we face them head-on we'll pay dearly for it. But we're the Star Division. From the day it was created we said we weren't a normal military organization. I will say that this mission will be a real test of what our troops can achieve."

    The Coffee Master added his voice. "I agree. I think my Third Brigade and Fourth Brigade should show 'em what we're made of."

    "Not just Third and Fourth," Su Xiaosu corrected. "We're all going in. They're strong, and we're weak. They have the numbers, so we need to minimize contact with the enemy as much as possible. We need to initiate on their turf, feet on the ground is where we're best. Then we need to put out scouts and wait for reports to plan our best move. The focus will be data on their defenses."

    Lan Jue nodded, showing his approval of her plan.

    The Monfiend Pirates were indeed a force to be reckoned with. Never in the history of the Starfields was there a more powerful pirate clan. They'd have wept to imagine commanding more than ten thousand mecha pilots and a hundred warships.

    But this also presented problems for them. In private, Xiaosu informed Lan Jue of dissatisfaction within the ranks, before she was taken. The Pontiff's Citadel ruled by an iron fist which smashed opposition and caught all three primary planets in its grasp. But their presence was knew, and the pirates were many. They hadn't had time to ensure their control was stable. In addition, the Pontiff's men all bore the same sin; pride.

    Under these circumstances one learns that the gargantuan beast that is the Moonfiend Pirates, isn't in fact so invincible. There were dozens of clans, big and small, that weren't part of any structure. They had no chain of command, or communication with others. They operated as independent cells. Assaulting the Starfields wasn't impossible, all you had to do was find the kink in the armor. Even the greatest beast has a soft spot, and that's where you strike.

    What the Driver said was true. This fight was different. It wasn't going to be like their training missions, this time they needed to fight with everything they had. Lan Jue had to pay special attention to this one.

    Victory would only come if the Star Division could prove their strength. That had to be their top priority.

    Su Xiaosu hadn't been gone from the Starfields for long before Lan Jue had busted her out. She still understood it better than anyone else. So long as her strategies were followed to the letter, there was always a chance of success.

    To further perforate the image of impenetrability, their planetary defense wasn't any better than the one they'd seen Red Widow use. There were parts the system didn't reach. There was a constant flow of ships of all kinds shuttling back and forth, with no electromagnetic barrier to stop them. It would be too restrictive. Allowing access one by one would waste a tremendous amount of time and energy.

    The three planets were suitable for life, and humans have exploited as much of them as they could.

    This gave Lan Jue sufficient opportunity.

    Majesty was too large to land on the surface. Even with the Blinding Stone its energy signal would be picked up the moment they entered the atmosphere. Zeus-1 would prove its worth here. It was small and fantastically equipped, and virtually silent. If they were cautious, they could sneak right in. It would take a few trips, but that's how they'd shuttle their people to the surface.

    The three planets served as sentinels in each others' defense. The main planet was larger than the others, but not by much. The other two were perhaps two-thirds its mass. That meant the tactics they used for the Red Widows didn't apply in this case. They had to get on all three planets at the same time.

    At least in terms of manpower, the Star Division was stretched pretty thin.
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