Editor: Thor’s Stone
“Now then, let’s start with the basics everyone. First, let’s review what we know about pirates.”
I put up the data I prepared about standard pirate ships in the holo-display.
“Most pirate raid groups are composed of three to five ships. There’s power in numbers, and they need at least that much manpower to ensure they can hunt down their prey. Most of their armaments are composed of Class I or Class II optical weaponry, seeker missile pods and multi-turret cannons. These weapons don’t possess that much firepower to speak of individually, but they forcibly cram as much of these weapons as they can on their ship’s hardpoints so their overall firepower actually can’t be underestimated in the end. Their usual M.O. is to surround civilian ships with superior numbers and exhaust their shields by peppering them with weapons fire.”
The soldiers nodded at my explanation. The things I’m talking about are basically common knowledge after all, and most folks who’ve encountered or heard about pirates know about this stuff.
“Next, they often use heavily modified civilian ships, which are generally seized from their past victims. As you would expect, the overall performance and specs of civilian ships aren’t much to speak of. However, they put a large emphasis on adding more thrusters while totally ignoring the shield output and armor strength. Why? It’s because they need to finish their work quickly and then bail out at the fastest speed. If they take too long, it’ll heighten the chances of the military or mercenaries sniffing them out. That’s why it’s necessary to quickly surround their victims, pepper them with as much firepower as they can muster in order to immobilize them, then finish the job. Basically, they work on the premise of their targets not having the capability to fight back.”
The soldiers looked convinced with my lecture so far. Most of them probably have experience engaging with pirates. Yes, pirate ships are quite fragile, and it’s extremely easy to fully saturate their shielding and melt their armor if you bombard them with military-grade weaponry.
“So due to these factors, pirates are exceedingly wary of military presence. They generally won’t work in sectors where the military is active, and once they catch a military ship approaching their current hunting ground, they won’t hesitate to abandon it. Those guys are afraid of dying pointless deaths after all. In fact, if even a shadow of your military vessels get spotted in a given sector where pirates are active, they’ll immediately drop whatever else they’re doing, turn tail and flee swiftly. ”
“Yes, that’s right. We don’t usually encounter ones who actually fight back. They would do so only in certain circumstances, like us raiding their main bases.”
“Yeah. They’re extremely sensitive to military presence and they have eyes and ears within the various colonies, so I’m sure they’ve already gotten wind of the formation of this independent anti-pirate mobile fleet of yours. It’s only natural to be on alert once a number of unfamiliar military ships enter port after all.”
“It can’t be helped you know. They usually worm their way in with normal civilians and traders and would send info back to their respective groups. It’s especially the case with this large colony. It would be really difficult to sniff out all the moles they planted. Well, that’s not part of my job scope though. I’m only in charge of teaching you all how to hunt down pirates who are already prowling around in their ships.”
“Yes, of course…… I’ll think of something on our end.”
“Good luck. Let’s continue with the lecture then.”
I then put up a map of the Termaine star system on the screen.
“This is a map of the area where Major Serena led a force to exterminate a large pirate base a while back, and here’s the distribution of the pirate incidents encountered by civilian ships before that base was destroyed. Next is the distribution of confirmed pirate kills by mercenaries. Finally, these are the incidents of civilian ships and mercenaries reported missing within that area.”
I’ve marked each distinct segment on the star map and put in lines to indicate the estimated routes between all of them. There was a larger concentration of encounters as well as kills the closer it got to the pirate base.
“And this is the data after the base got destroyed for comparison.”
When I operated the terminal I had on hand, the marks on the map displayed on the screen changed drastically.
“It changed a lot, right? Now let’s add the points where the imperial fleet has been active within the system recently.”
The gathered soldiers all raised their voices in surprise. The kill and encounter marks were evidently located well away from the sectors the military was active in. This proves that the pirates were well aware of the military’s movements and were actively keeping track of them.
“I don’t know about other mercenaries, but I personally collect this type of data in order to more accurately figure out where the spots pirates would be most active in order to hunt them down. It would be more accurate if we had data regarding the mining spots claimed by private mining vessels, but… well, this would be more than enough for us to be able to hunt them anyway. Have you all managed to follow me so far?”
“Yes. How interesting. We’re recording the lecture, so feel free to proceed.”
“Alright. Now then, how can we use this basic knowledge in order to effectively hunt down pirates? Let me say something before we proceed though. And this might be a bit of a shock, but……”
I turned my gaze to Major Serena. She nodded and permitted me to speak freely.
“I’ll lay it to you guys straight then. It’s impractical to use ships as large or larger than cruisers to hunt for pirates. If you want to hunt down pirates with maximum efficiency, there’s a fundamental need to make changes to your entire fleet.”
The soldiers became speechless at my words. Well, I expected as much. This is basically a fleet organized with cruisers at its core after all. To be specific, it’s composed of two corvettes, three destroyers, five cruisers, and one battleship. It’s clear that the cruisers were intended to be this fleet’s mainstays.
“Generally, the areas the pirates are most active in are largely within asteroid fields. If you check the map I showed earlier, you’ll find that most encounters did happen with asteroid fields in the area. Do you guys think you can send in large cruisers inside those dense asteroid clusters and still fight effectively?”
The soldiers quieted down. It’s virtually impossible. I also tried it using the simulator. The shields got constantly rammed into asteroid clusters and quickly got saturated. In the worst case, the ship got cornered by the pirates instead and ultimately shot down. It was impossible, to begin with.
“I did manage to scrape by using destroyers in the simulator, but I still highly recommend using corvettes. It’s not my place to be lecturing you guys about the fleet formation, honestly speaking, but I still want you all to consider what I told you.”
“Yes, of course. Much obliged. Thank you for the warning. However, wouldn’t it be fine to suppress the pirates with our ship’s superior firepower in the event that they do manage to run inside asteroid fields?”
I already anticipated Major Serena’s question, so I had an answer ready for her.
“That’s indeed possible. You can actually defeat the pirates that way. But I’m sure you’ll be flooded by complaints from the civilian mining firms. They depend on those resource-rich asteroid fields for their livelihood after all. I’m sure they’ll have a lot to complain about even when the pirate threat is suppressed if the source of their income gets blasted to kingdom come by the military.”
While Major Serena mulled over my words, I turned my attention back to the soldiers and made a suggestion.
“Though I recommended you change your fleet’s composition, I’m sure a lot of you will be having trouble adjusting to that change. In the case of us mercenaries, we can change ships and weapons easily without much issue. But it’s not the case in the military. I’m sure most of you will feel troubled if you were suddenly told to change ships, right?”
The soldiers nodded silently in answer. For most sailors, a ship is like a second home, as well as a beloved companion. They won’t be able to abandon their ships that easily.
“And so, this is what I suggest. Are you willing to do everything in your power in order to hunt down pirates and protect the safety of the empire, Major Serena?”
“Y-Yes, of course, I am. If it’s something in my power, then……”
“That’s what I wanted to hear.”
A broad grin formed on my face as I relayed my suggestion to the gathered crowd. Major Serena and the soldier’s eyes opened wide in surprise after hearing it.
It’s been a few days since my lecture.
After finishing their preparations, the independent anti-pirate mobile fleet sortied for their first pirate hunting operation in the Alein system.
“Confirming results. We have currently managed to successfully shoot down thirty-two ships.”
“Hahaha, the fish sure are biting the bait often.”
“Yes, you’re right……”
Major Serena displayed a subtle expression as she stood beside me.
I was laughing in a good mood at the bridge of the battleship Restalias; the flagship of the independent anti-pirate mobile fleet. The expression of Major Serena, who was supervising the entire operation, was more subdued. But I’m sure she’s inwardly happy since the fleet was able to fulfill its main mission as intended.
“Man, as expected of military warships. The range and firepower are nothing to sneeze at.”
“Um…… Doesn’t this method seem a little too underhanded……?”
“Major Serena can smile happily while piling up achievements, the soldiers can smile happily while earning distinguished service for the country, and I’ll be able to smile happily once I get my bonus. Everybody’s happy, right?”
“Well, yes, but……”
Major Serena gazed at me with a complicated expression on her face. I turned toward the holo-display, where the figure of a medium-sized transport ship was shown. The cargo loaded on it was a large batch of rare metals, expensive goods and cutting edge medicine and medical equipment produced in the Alein system. It’s a very tempting target for most pirates.
The medium-sized ship on the holo-display seems to have had some engine trouble and was now unable to move, and the rescue signal was also very weak due to some sort of malfunction. By the way, this was an area frequented by pirates. Perhaps the crew dropped the signal output on purpose in order to not attract pirates.
Yup, I bet that’s it. I’m sure that’s the case… is what those pirates should be thinking.
“The strategy you proposed is working quite well.”
I’m sure you guys already guessed it, but that ship is a decoy. Of course, there’s no way for that type of civilian ship to be part of the military. It was one of the ships owned by our great imperial noble miss, Major Serena.
As expected of the daughter of a marquis. She purchased a 5,000,000 Enel mid-sized civilian cargo ship just like that.
“Is it really okay for us to use such underhanded deception……?”
“Those guys are scum who unhesitatingly attack innocent businessmen and women, miners and ordinary tourists after all. They don’t have the slightest right to complain about our methods. In the first place, the enemies are pirates. They’re not part of an enemy nation’s military forces. You won’t be blamed no matter what sort of method you use against them.”
I can do anything and everything for that big, fat bonus.
The strategy I proposed to them was pretty simple. The independent anti-pirate mobile fleet would surely find it troublesome to hunt for pirates lurking within packed asteroid fields by using their cruisers as mains.
Therefore, it would be fine if we can just bait them towards us. We prepared a convincing decoy to act as bait and would shoot down unsuspecting pirates lured by it with precision shelling from the fleet at a safe and undetectable distance.
First, send in the corvettes and destroyers to scout out the area, clean up any rogue pirates they encounter and make sure that the area is clear of any pirate presence. Afterward, we would then hide the cruisers and the battleship within the asteroid field. Even with their large, hulking forms, cruisers and battleships can easily disguise themselves as normal asteroids once they dropped their generator outputs. Some asteroids were as large as your average battleship after all.
And lastly, we will deploy the bait at a certain distance from the fleet and make it release a faint SOS signal. Once the pirates are successfully lured, the superior firepower of the military cruisers and the main battleship would ensure they would never be able to get out intact.
Large military warships such as cruisers and battleships are able to retain a certain level of combat capability and basic functions even when their generator outputs are set to the minimum. That firepower can be used to swiftly finish off unsuspecting pirates without them noticing.
Once the capacitor charge decreases to a certain point, we would then turn off the decoy’s SOS signal, re-start the generators and restore power again. Once we finish re-charging, we will turn on the SOS signal once more and start the whole process over. And so, we can effectively hunt down pirates with the above method.
It would invite suspicion if we kept on doing it at the same spot, so after hunting a certain number, we would move to a different sector. Then, it’s just a matter of repeating the said method.
Twenty percent of the reward money earned from shooting down pirates during this operation will go to me as bonus pay. Currently, we’re at 32 ships. So that means five ships worth of bounties will go straight to my pocket. And all without expending any effort or capital on my part. I can just watch the pirates get shot down like flies as I lounged in safety and elegance while earning easy money. I just can’t stop laughing, man!
Oh, and by the way, the ones manning the decoy ship are all soldiers under Major Serena’s direct command. In the unlikely event that a pirate or two manages to escape bombardment and boards the ship, beefy onii-sans all decked up in cutting edge military power armor would be waiting to welcome them inside.
Eh? What if they decided to blow the decoy up and not board it? There’s no way they would. Apart from damaging the valuable cargo, a medium-sized civilian ship like the one we’re using can be turned into an effective fire support vessel if they managed to capture it. There’s likely no pirate who would decide to just destroy a nice-looking ship that’s only having trouble with its propulsion system.
In the end, we managed to turn a total of 57 pirates into cosmic dust. Twenty percent of the rewards will end up being mine. I guess it should be about 100,000 Enels at least.
“Man, we sure earned some good money.”
“You sure are happy……”
Major Serena directed a scornful gaze at me. She bought the decoy ship with her own money but it was decided not to be reimbursable as part of the operating expenses. So would it be possible to use a private ship for an official military operation? In the end, she managed to push it through with her noble privileges. Noble privileges sure are handy.
“If you make enough achievements, you may be able to successfully apply for a reimbursement y’know?”
“It would be nice if a miracle like that were to happen.”
Major Serena let out a sigh. It looks like a 5,000,000 Enel ship was also a bit too much for a noble daughter of a marquis house. Oh well. I don’t have any idea about her financial situation and have no intention of knowing in the first place.
“You can do regular pirate hunting operations using this method. If you somehow managed to get some info on their base, you can then plan for a major subjugation operation and build up even more achievements. After this, it’ll all just be a battle of wits between you and the pirates.”
“I suppose…… But there’s still more than half of the contract period remaining, so I’ll still have you accompany me, alright?”
“Aye, aye ma’am.”
I was hoping for my contract to be fulfilled once I managed to get results for pirate hunting, but it looks like that’s not the case.
I inwardly thought about what else she intended for me as I made a crisp salute toward Major Serena.