Chapter 71: Zeus-1

    Chapter 71: Zeus-1

    The public-use section of Planet Skyfire's Airship compound was separated in to several sectors. They included the normal docking area, long-distance vessels, and the VIP hangars.

    Only the VIP hangar had individualized docks and warehouses, but it was reflected in the price - one they had to pay monthly. Further, one had to hire their own security.

    Lan Jue and his beauties had parked the p12 beside the VIP hangar, one of the reason why the guards hadn't dared trouble them too much about the speeding.

    The standard color of the airship had been painted over in a brilliant sapphire blue, all but for the alloy door which retained it's original silver finish. Above the door was something almost like a sculpture; a deep blue bolt of lightning jutting out to point the way. It was registered to Zeus' Jewelry Shop specifically, for use in transporting particularly rare goods.

    Lan Jue sauntered in to the hangar in his khaki windbreaker, followed by his ladies in single file. He walked lazy by, stopping to lean against one of the metallic walls and stuff his hands in the pocket of his windbreaker. He pulled a cigar from some hidden breast pocket and stuffed it in his mouth, leaving it unlit.

    Several deep-blue robots of various kinds bustled around the hangar, engaged in various activities. No human workers were seen. Everything appeared to be done by machine.

    What occurred in these hangars was private, and he wished to keep it so. As a result no human employee possessed the qualifications he required. The interior of the hangar, thus, was a world of silver and blue with the occasional flash of a spark. The effort and result of a mechanized workforce.

    Three ships were anchored within, all of similar size. The exteriors all looked exactly the same - all a luminous sapphire blue - with no outward emblem, marking or number.

    The ships were seventy meters in length, and fifty meters port to starboard. The wings, slim and streamlined, swept back against the hull. Five engines sat dormant; two affixed to each wing, and one enormous one on the tail. It was, simply, a work of art.

    Xiuxiu made her way to one of the silver platforms and pressed a button. In response a screen and keyboard jutted forth. Long slender finger like flower stems flew over the keys. The sound of her steadily beating fingers fluttered through the hanger, and streams of data flew across the monitor screen like a waterfall.

    "Zeus-1 Power Systems online. Weapons systems online. Hull integrity: 100%. Flight status approved, and ready for boarding. Boss, ready when you are."

    Lan Jue looked over the powerful, sleek frame of the ship, making no effort to hide the pride in his eyes. He nodded his head, and softly his voice issued forth. "Let's do it!"

    Xiuxiu's fingers tapped at the keyboard, and the closest handful of robots lurched in to motion. They retreated from the area as a boarding ramp slowly extended. The robot workers stood diligently to one side in ranks, as the interior of the ship awoke.

    Zeus-1 became bathed in light. It's brilliant sapphire sheen was illuminated from head to tail. It looked for all the world like a great bird shaking itself from slumber.

    The others didn't wait for Lan Jue, who still leaned against the wall with the cigar in his mouth. Mika, Ke'er and Guoguo each made their way to the ship. Xiuxiu finished with the computer and joined Lan Jue as he made his way towards the ramp.

    The engines of Zeus-1 began to rev up, thrumming as air passed through the intake. The gusts from the jets sent air swirling through the hangar. Lan Jue's windbreaker flapped in response.

    Xiuxiu could see the side of her employer's face from where she stood. There was a melancholy in his eyes, and his hair was in a mess. However, he'd taken care not to appear too sloppy. The collar of his windbreaker was pulled up to conceal his neck, but it looked more like it was there to conceal something deeper.

    Xiuxiu pursed her lips, but said nothing. She strode to Lan Jue's side and boarded with him.

    The bridge stretched three hundred meters, and the world without was visible through the light-blue window set at the front. The four beauties each took up positions while Lan Jue sat in the roomy captain's chair behind them. Cigar still firmly set between his lips, Lan Jue dropped his head to stare at the armrests. Regret remained in the depths of those eyes.

    It had been a long while since he'd flown in Zeus-1. Ordinarily it was just the girls, and even then they were usually busy at the store.

    He felt strangely separate from the place now. He turned to view the seat at his side, empty.

    "Hera..." It was a name he said often, but one that never failed to bring a flash of sadness fluttering through his eyes.

    But in the next instant it wasn't Hera that flashes through his mind, but someone who looked just like her. That impish, dimpled grin hung in his memory.

    "Energy fluctuations normal, hangar bay open," Lin Guoguo said through her headset.

    "Runway clear, we've got the go ahead from the tower," Ke'er followed.

    "Power, defense, mechanical and weapons systems checks all green. Good to go," Xiuxiu reported.

    Mika nodded. "Zeus-1 ready and waiting. Light her up!"

    A rumble arose from the engines as they spooled up, and the cabin's lights brightened while the hull shook from motion.

    Lan Jue plucked the cigar from his mouth and placed it in his coat pocket. "Take us out. Destination, the Shattered Starfields."

    Zeus-1 slowly pulled from the hangar like a sapphire spectre. It turned left onto the runway.

    A pale blue light issued from the four roaring engines on the ship's wings. A moment later, the intense fires expanded forth and Zeus-1 issued a deep roar. They shot forward, the engines leaving swirls of steam and fire behind them.

    Three hundred meters later Zeus-1 rose from the ground like a great, blue, majestic bird. The main engine on the tail came to life, and a moment later they'd torn through the sound barrier. They vanished in to the sky.

    Somewhere on the other side of the strip an attendant gaped at the condensation trail where the ship had been. "Wow, that was fast! Whose ship was that?"

    "I think it belongs to the jewelry shop."

    "Good money in jewels."

    "Yeah, lucky bastard!"

    "They really were going too fast though. Did you catch the model?"

    "Nope, fuzzy. It really had some speed on it."
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