Chapter 73: SOL Jump

    Chapter 73: SOL Jump

    The East Lake Bastion didn't look entirely unlike a Big Mac, floating silently through the expansive blackness of the universe. Military vessels frequently came and went from it's docking port.

    Space bastions had become a staple of the modern military, going so far as to be a fair indication of an organization's strength.

    The Northern Alliance possessed the most, numbering twelve, with the Western and Eastern bastions numbering only five each. Both the Eastern and Western alliances perpetually sought to increase their number, in order to compete with the North.

    The East Lake outpost vessel was the weakest of the Alliance, and was primarily responsible for policing the wormhole to the Shattered Starfields. It facilitated long-term patrol of the area through offering reinforcements and soldier quarters. However, it only quartered two battalions, and thus wasn't the most powerful bastion the East possessed. It's primary function was to stem the tide of piracy from the Shattered Starfields.

    The constitution of the starfield was complicated, to the point where larger vessels couldn't safely navigate through it. With the added threat of pirates familiar with the territory, few dared venture through the wormhole in the first place. The three alliances had once attempted to eliminate the pirate threat in a joint effort, but had only managed to strike at their outlying forces. Their main force wasn't even touched. But the existence of piracy in the Shattered Starfields also had a political component, making the pirates useful in their own way.

    "Three minutes until SOL jump point. Prepping for jump." Lin Guoguo's enticing voice echoed through the bridge.

    The universe outside of the ship's hull had already begun to change from dark to light. In addition to the indigo keystone's protective coating, survey scramblers installed in Zeus-1 also protected it from radar, making it entirely invisible to anything but the naked eye.

    "Current velocity is twenty times SOS1, preparing for light speed," Ke'er said.

    Xiuxiu was next. "Main engine spooled. Shields jump ready."

    "Weapon systems ready," Mika added.

    "One hundred and sixty seconds to jump point. Sub-light a hundred seconds following."

    Lan Jue sat at his chair, looking over the bridge. His hands gripped two metal spheres which had risen from the seat's armrests. The lethargic expression that usually covered his face was gone, replaced with a look of concentration.

    It was a tense moment, hence his concentration. In this age of space exploration, it was entirely impossible for any single person to stand against the armed forces. The main barrage of one of these bastions was capable of obliterating a planet.

    Of course it was not their aim to be disintegrated. Even the smallest mistake could spell disaster. All of the military warships possessed SOL capabilities, so if they were discovered it became a race to the wormhole.

    Zeus-1's bulk already made sub-light travel a veritable miracle. SOL required more than just the ship's own capabilities.

    "Commencing jump in; ten, nine, eight, seven..."

    "...six, five, four..."

    "... three, two, one. Jump!"

    The pale light surrounding Zeus-1 suddenly became unbearable to behold, a blazing cocoon. All five engines blazed at full power, making the ship look like a giant, flaming bird. The burst of light grew brighter still as Zeus-1 reached full velocity.

    The sudden burst of speed caused the entirety of the ship to shake violently. The outer shields had gone from pale red to a deep crimson as they protected the ship from being torn apart.

    "Energy levels normal, acceleration normal."

    Zeus-1 arced a graceful line across the back of the East Lake Military Bastion.

    But reaching full power, the ship was no longer hidden from the outpost's scanners. An alarm sounded, harshly shrieking through space.

    "Warning: unidentified aircraft. You have entered East Lake Bastion airspace. Stop immediately, or we will be forced to fire upon you." The electronic warning was clear, but Lan Jue and the four women proceeded as though they hadn't heard.

    Three patrolling ships from nearby had already reacted to the threat. They'd positioned themselves to cut off Zeus-1's trajectory.

    "Thirty seconds until sub-light. Distance calculated, judged safe," Ke'er assured.

    "Eastern Alliance White Tiger-class battle cruiser readying main weapons." Xiuxiu was checking her instruments.

    The words caused the atmosphere of the bridge to grow tense.

    "Ten seconds until weapon fires, and twenty-three seconds until the first White Tiger intercepts our vessel. We can maneuver, but we can't evade their weapon's lock."

    Lan Jue's face was as solemn as before, but there remained a distinct sense of calm.

    "First Whit Tiger has fired a salvo," Ke'er said, her voice having risen in apprehension.

    From the port window a small white beam of light could be spied.

    Any unknown vessel that refused a check was treated like a pirate by the patrolling military. It accountant for the speed of the battle cruiser's response.

    "Impact in twenty seconds!"

    "Fifteen seconds to impact!"

    "Ten seconds!"

    "Firing auxiliary boosters!" Lan Jue's voice rang through the bridge. In the same instant his eyes changed to an ominous azure blue. And in the next moment, his entire body followed suit.

    His body vanished in a sea of lightning, the thunderous blast only contained by the protective shield that had been dropped to defend the passengers from outside harm. It served to contain the frightening fluctuations of power.

    The top of Zeus-1 suddenly revealed an odd electric glow. From within the center of the main engine, a smaller jet protruded - fitted with a diamond-cut violet power gem. Suddenly, a dazzling blue streamer erupted from it's depths, swallowing the main engine's burn into itself.

    Zeus-1 shook violently, and in that instant it was as though everything simply stopped. The main engine's flames became a luminous crystal blue, followed then by the other four.

    The reddened shields surrounding the ship grew darker until they were an unsettling shade of maroon. The illusion of stillness dissolved, and the ship launched forward. They were instantly moving at sub-light speeds, but it wouldn't be long before they pushed it even farther.

    A beam of white light roared behind them, tearing through nothing but the vast nothing of the universe. The White Tiger battle cruisers looked on as Zeus-1 became an incorporeal blue light, and vanished. They had no option but to turn back to their outpost, stunned and defeated.

    "Woo, go boss!" Ke'er, Guoguo and Mika cheered almost on top of each other. Even the significantly more modest Xiuxiu sat there with a grin on her face.

    Ke'er sighed. "It's great having the boss around. No need for weapons, makes things easier on them. Ten seconds to the wormhole."

    "Battle cruisers have abandoned pursuit," Lin Guoguo added.

    The tearing bolts of power racing across Lan Jue's body slowly began to recede, and in response the ship began to slow back to sub-light. A grin curled the corners of his mouth.

    "Jump complete."

    1. Speed of sound
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