280 – The Situation Just Keeps Escalating More and More
Editor: Thor’s Stone
It was a great hunting opportunity since our prey was relatively high-quality, but the movements of our opponents changed after I downed the fourth ship.
“Are these guys planning to run away?”
“Looks like it.”
Three of the remaining ships were heading straight for us while five were attempting to head away from the battlefield. The escape routes to the adjacent star systems have been sealed up via the blockade, but they can’t bar the way indefinitely. If they hid in a remote sector where people rarely come and go through and waited it out until the blockade gets lifted, they would earn a chance to make a clean get-away.
“What are we going to do, Hiro-sama?”
“Unfortunately, our hands are tied. We can choose to ignore the incoming enemies to shoot down some of the escaping ships, but it would be a problem if the three ships up ahead actually have something like anti-ship reactive torpedoes that they could use to light up our behind.”
As expected, even Krishna wouldn’t come off unscathed if it took a hit from an anti-ship reactive torpedo, especially without an energy shield up.
“That’s certainly a problem.”
“If we called for reinforcements…… No, they probably wouldn’t make it in time.”
While listening to Mimi and Elma’s conversation, I pretended to aim for one of the enemy ships and slipped past when they least expected it.
『The heck was that……!?』
I also slipped past the anti-ship torpedoes the enemy ships fired at us from three different directions. Mm, these guys are pretty good. They had great cooperative maneuvers. They look pretty used to group battles. Their style actually resembles military-use tactics.
“Maybe there are people related to the Military among the members of the Red Flag’s elite combat unit.”
“Eh? But that’s……”
“They might be retired Military veterans who turned to piracy or deserters.”
Is this why Commander Serena wanted things to be kept hush hush? Well, it doesn’t matter anyway. In any case, I only had to focus on bringing down the enemies before me.
I turned the flight assist off while evading the enemy attacks, made the ship perform a tricky twist maneuver, and slid out of the way. I pounded the pirate ship that went to chase after us with the shot cannons, turned the flight assist back on, and ignited the afterburners. I kept performing tricky and unexpected maneuvers to throw the enemy’s aim as I endeavored to pick them off.
Mimi and Elma groaned due to the Gs, but I had to be extra careful since the enemies knew how to coordinate with each other well, and their attacks with anti-ship torpedoes left very few openings I could exploit. The ship I hammered with the shot cannons seems to have become incapacitated. Maybe I got lucky and hit its cockpit?
The remaining two ships that suddenly lost their companion in the blink of an eye seemed to have become upset, but I’m not one to let up once I’ve grabbed the advantage. Since we were engaging in a close-range dogfight, I put the shot cannons to good use.
The destructive power of the shot cannons at this range was considerable. It easily penetrated energy shields and mercilessly destroyed the enemy’s armor plating and hull. But move away even a little and they would turn into weak pea shooters that are easily blocked by energy shields. Thus, they can only be used to intercept seeker missiles except when engaging enemies from extremely close range. They worked well enough on space monsters that didn’t have energy shields though.
“That’s two down. And there goes the third one. …The other five got away as expected huh.”
The moment the three decoys got defeated, the other five ships fled away coupled with a roaring sound. Did they activate their FTL Drives? There’s a method to track them via their wake signatures, but now’s not the time for that.
“Mimi, make sure to mark their FTL Drive wake signatures. I’ll report it to Commander Serena later. If she thinks it’s necessary, she can send a pursuit team on her end.”
“Aye, aye, sir!”
The wake of FTL Drives could be tracked. In SOL, we were able to scan a ship’s wake signature and track it over a fairly wide area. I’m sure they had some similar tech in this world as well.
“What’s the current combat situation?”
“It seems the fighting power of the pirates has mostly been dealt with.”
“Those crazy guys who charged in without a plan huh. Did they get almost wiped out by artillery fire?”
“That seems to be the case. Ah, there’s a transmission from Restalias.”
“Patch it through.”
After I gave my go-ahead, Mimi nodded and opened the comm line. Immediately afterward, an image of Commander Serena got projected on Krishna’s main cockpit monitor. Lt. Robbitson was right behind her.
『It looks like you were able to intercept a surprise attack.』
“I have to put in work equivalent to my pay after all. I managed to capture some enemies. There’s only one ship though. The others ended up getting destroyed by flashy explosions.”
『Can you leave them to us as well?』
“Sure. Just as long as you give us adequate compensation for our trouble that is.”
I then made a circle with my thumb and index finger. Commander Serena smiled bitterly in response.
『Understood. Can you also send us the combat data later?』
“That’s within the scope of the contract, so no problem.”
The combat data and logs during this operation were to be provided to the Military as stipulated in the contract, so I didn’t have any trouble agreeing.
“Honestly though, the way these guys fought really resembled military tactics.”
『……Is that so? Well then, I’ll send a recovery team over later.』
“Roger that. We’ll mark the coordinates and send them to you.”
The transmission was cut afterward. Hm. She seemed a little upset when I mentioned the way the pirates fought was similar to military tactics. Maybe the Red Flags really did have something to do with the Military.
“Hiro, didn’t you say it was better not to stick our necks in something like this?”
“Yeah, I guess. But I just couldn’t resist the urge to poke around y’see.”
I was curious about those unfamiliar starships, but only one of them didn’t explode into a wreck. Anyway, the other five wrecked ships were part of our loot, so I suppose we’d better salvage what we can and show them to the sisters later.
“Nn, these sure are some rare ships.”
Tina exclaimed as she looked up the relatively intact wreckage of one of those red pirate ships that Krishna brought back. Even though she said they were rare, she was acting like she was actually familiar with them.
“I haven’t seen a ship model like this anywhere else. You’re familiar with them?”
“Yep. This is a ship model manufactured by a ship-making company based in the Virginia Star System Coalition. I think they’re called Rutera Company or somethin’.”
“Virginia Star System Coalition.”
“It’s a close ally of the Vereverem Federation. They don’t share a border with the Empire and are located on the opposite side of the Federation-controlled sectors, so we usually don’t have much contact with them.”
“It’s an ally of the Federation, so they aren’t exactly chummy with the Empire. It’s not like we don’t have any info at all about them though.”
While explaining, Tina proceeded to operate her tablet terminal in order to make the work bots and drones start analyzing the ship wreckage.
“There are more similar shipwrecks out there, right? Can you gather em all up for me, Boss? Maybe we can restore a working ship by cobbling parts together.”
“Hee? Is there any point in doing that though?”
“The manufacturer of this baby is located far away from the Empire, and there’s almost no diplomatic relations between our nations, so this model is particularly hard to come across. We might achieve a small breakthrough in ship design knowhow if we gather enough data after restoring it.”
“Um, Sis is saying that it’s possible Space Dwerg might buy the restored starship for a high price……”
“That sounds pretty good. Sure, let’s have a go at it.”
Are we not worried about copyrights, err, I mean patent rights, you ask? Of course, there’s a certain risk, but I’m sure a big company like Space Dwerg will be able to exploit a loophole or two.
“But this does feel really suspicious huh……”
“Well…… it’s a combat starship from a hostile foreign power that’s possibly being flown by people who are somehow related to the military after all…… Um, this is a proper combat starship, right?”
“Yep. I forgot its official model number, but this should be a pretty decent combat starship model. It’s in a completely different league compared to those retrofitted civilian models used by most pirates.”
Tina nodded in response to Mimi. Beside her, Whisker was displaying a subtle expression.
“Um, by saying they’re related to the military…… are you referring to the Imperial Military?”
“There’s no concrete evidence though. Just treat it as a random guess for now and don’t mind too much.”
“I’ll do that…… If not, it feels like it’s gonna be real troublesome. Um, will it be really okay for us to restore this thing?”
“Unless there are some special circumstances involved, the loot from defeated pirate ships belongs to the mercenaries who shot them down, and dealing with the loot is completely up to the mercenaries. Anyway, that side will probably contact us if there’s any problem, so don’t worry about it.”
“Is it really gonna be okay……?”
Whisker was still apprehensive. Well, wouldn’t it be more convenient for Commander Serena if Space Dwerg got involved and buried the truth of the matter for her? Space Dwerg is gonna end up reverse-engineering the ship anyway, so I imagine they’d keep a really tight lid and wouldn’t be able to openly talk about the existence of the original ship they took ‘inspiration’ from.
This model felt like a small high-speed combat ship with good balance. Space Dwerg seems to be developing a similar small high-speed combat craft as well, so this thing would be a pretty good point of reference.
“Once you’ve analyzed its weapons, functions, and overall specs, make sure to tell me about them, okay?”
“Don’t worry, Boss. We’ve got this.”
“Please leave it to us.”
The two sisters replied while giving me a confident thumbs-up at the same time. Yeah, they really looked like sisters whenever they acted like this.
“By the way, you ended up pulling out early, Boss. Is the battle already over?”
“Our turn is, anyway. By this time, the interior of the pirate base should have become a battlefield filled with laser blasts and explosions already.”
“Oh, so they’re movin’ in to take it over huh. It would save a lot of trouble if they’d just blown up the entire thing though.”
“I think the higher-ups are currently in a situation where they can’t exactly afford to do that.”
The Red Flag pirate organization. If members of the Imperial Military really were involved with them in some way, and if they even had ties with a hostile country, the Vereverem Federation, as well, then this could really be a big heap of trouble for the Empire. It was a two-out. Maybe things would escalate even further too. If that’s the case, then things really are gonna get serious.
“Well, it sucks for the soldiers, but let’s just relax and chill out for now.”
“We might get sent out again pretty soon you know.”
I responded to Elma with a shrug and headed back to Krishna. Anyway, we have to recover all of the wrecks first.