Her very first thought was that he wasn’t worth Zhou Qianlin’s affection. Although Tan Lingyun was herself a women, she recognized how attractive the girl was. More than that, she was also smart, and had a good character. After the ARC classes she was tougher, too. In essence, she was the pillar upon which the ARC class had stood. More than once Tan Lingyun had told those young men on the brink of collapse to look Qianlin’s way. That was enough to have them dig deeper.
But she couldn’t for the life of her understand why a girl like Zhou Qianlin would like a man like Lan Jue. As far as she was concerned, the man had no redeeming qualities. He taught a pointless subject, was exceedingly weak – except for passable looks, there was nothing special about him. Did the girl not understand that she needed to find a strong man? Looking the way she did, there must be many suitable men interested in her!
But to each their own, she supposed, and it didn’t seem like Director Wu cared. What could she do about it? Act like she didn’t see it. Out of sight, out of mind. So she closed her eyes, and went to sleep.
Lan Jue slept as well, though his was hard won. His dreams were fragmented, choppy, anxiety-ridden visions.
After some indeterminate amount of time, most of the sleeping travelers were rudely jostled away as the airship shuddered violently.
What was going on?
Space flight was very different from atmospheric travel. Space was almost complete emptiness, and that meant smooth travels. Of course, any problems were serious and deadly matters out in this endless vacuum.
Qianlin and Lan Jue woke up as well with the others. They exchanged a look before settling properly in their seats. Zhou Qianlin sat up quickly, but it took Lan Jue some considerable amount of effort to find an acceptable position. All the while he could feel… something.
The cabin was filled with a pleasant ding as the announcement system came online.
“Hello ladies and gentlemen. We seem to have encountered some cosmic turbulence. We’d like to ask all passengers to return to their seats at this time, and to ensure their safety belts are securely fastened. We repeat, we’ve encountered some cosmic turbulence. Passengers should return to their seats and fasten their safety belts now. Thank you.”
Cosmic Turbulence? The phrase caused Lan Jue’s features to sour. While many average flyers may not know precisely what cosmic turbulence was, Lan Jue was very familiar with it. He’d encountered it before.
Cosmic turbulence was a special sort of interstellar phenomenon, where bands of plasma sweep through the void between galaxies. They also often followed the passage of large moving bodies, like comets. Flights like theirs shouldn’t encounter cosmic turbulence, because their flight paths were specifically calculated to avoid it. But now that they had, there was considerable risk to consider. These bands of turbulence covered enormously large swaths of space – avoiding it would be very difficult.
Lan Jue stopped worrying over propriety, and leaned over Qianlin to look out her window. He was practically squeezing the poor girl back against her seat.
His eyes were met by the blackness of space, but in the far distance was a faint twinkling light. In its center was a little black dot.
It was too vague to be seen clearly. Lan Jue’s heart rate quickened.
Zhou Qianlins voice invaded his thoughts: Is everything alright?
Lan Jue: I don’t know. If it’s space debris causing some turbulence than it isn’t a big issue. If it’s an comet, though, we’re in trouble. The impact force from something like that would obliterate this ship, even with its shields.
Bang! Once again the ship rocked violently. A milky white light shimmered just outside Qianlin’s window – they’d engaged the ships shields.
Shields were costly when it came to energy. Often they were left off unless absolutely necessary. If they were on, it meant the danger was real.
Tan Lingyun had pressed herself closer a well, though she couldn’t see anything.
“Get out of the way!” She snarled and yanked him back, forcing Lan Jue to fall in to his seat. She wanted a look, but she also wanted to keep the creep away from Qianlin. She leaned over him to get a peak outside. Little did she know, the pose gave Lan Jue quite an unexpected eyeful of her full chest.
Lan Jue’s eyes nearly popped from his skull, and he whipped his head away quick enough to give himself whiplash. See no evil!He screamed in his head. See no evil!
Qianlin didn’t notice. She was nervously peering at the darkness outside.
“There’s an object in the plasma wave.” Tan Lingyun was a master in this regard, and began to recite her analysis. Her face grew more and more troubled.
Bang–! The sound of impact rattled through the cabin, and the whole ship pitched sideways a few degrees. Cries rippled through the passengers, their alarmed expressions stark in the blazing light of the shields.
“No good. If this keeps up we’re in real trouble.” From the last strike, Lan Jue knew they could only hold out for so long. If impacts like that continued, they’d be smashed to bits.
Lan Jue shoved Tan Lingyun out of the way and sprang to his feet. A hand shot out toward Zhou Qianlin. “Come with me!”
She didn’t hesitate for a moment. She swept passed the Savage Goddess to Lan Jue’s side.
“Where the hell are you two going?” Tang Lingyun challenged in surprise. She rose to her feet as well and hurried after them. The rest of the passengers where stricken with panic, and didn’t notice the three of them run off.
Wu Junyi saw Lan Jue streak by, and sighed in relief as he watched him go. Surely this meant he had a solution, and the airship’s bridge was where he looked to be headed.
Everyone was locked in their seats, the marshals included. Lan Jue had no obstacles as he raced across the whole of the ship to the front cabin. The bridge was right in front of them.
“What do you think you’re doing?” Several marshals sitting in the front row shot to their feet and blocked further passage.
Lan Jue came to a halt. His voice was urgent. “I’m a pilot. I know what’s going on outside, and if you don’t let me in there that turbulence is going to tear us apart.”
“Hell no!” A grizzled older marshal spat. “This is a restricted area, authorized personnel only. Return to your seat immediately, or we’ll be forced to assist you.”
Lan Jue didn’t fault them, and in fact praised their dedication. The worst thing in a crisis was chaos, and these men were preventing that. There was no shirking their duties.
Their tasers were already in hand. Lan Jue just needed to take one more step forward, and they’d pounce.
Lan Jue couldn’t hesitate – lives were at risk. If their ship were to explode he’d survive, thanks to Thor. But he could only save one other! Even then, even knowing their coordinates, the likelihood that Thor could bring them to an inhabited planet before running out of juice was impossibly small.
This was it. He could no longer hide his strength. Something needed to be done.
Just then, he felt a hand clap down on his shoulder.
“Are you really a pilot?” The voice belonged to Tan Lingyun.
Lan Jue’s head snapped around, and he nodded his head emphatically.
Tan Lingyun’s voice was resolute. “Alright. I’ll believe you this once.” She pulled Lan Jue behind her as she spoke. As they exchange places, a vibrant green energy bloomed out around her. Four beams of emerald light fell over the marshals and froze them in place.
After the ARC classes, Tan Lingyun could feel that she was at the peak of eighth rank now. Ninth rank was separated by a thin wall, one she knew she would soon puncture. Although these marshals were also Adepts, they clearly were no match for her.
“Hurry!” Tan Lingyun shouted to Lan Jue. He shot her a thumbs up and then, pulling Qianlin after him,strode toward the bridge.
The bridge door flew open as they were about to reach it. A man bearing a laser pistol barred the way. “No one move, or I start shooting!”
He looked like the co-pilot, based on his clothing. He must had heard the ruckus outside and came to investigate.
He was no more effective than the marshals, and shared their fate. Another beam of light arose to stop him from moving. He’d actually managed to fire his gun, but the energy couldn’t pierce through Tan Lingyun’s Discipline.
Lan Jue and Qianlin raced passed.
This airship’s bridge had space for thirteen crew. There was, of course, the captain and co-pilot. Aside from them were shield operators, piloting personnel, engineers and others. Each of them were responsible for their section, and all together they managed the enormous ship. Right now, each one looked increasingly more nervous than the last. The entire bridge was surrounded by windows, so they saw everything coming their way.
Lan Jue looked out in to space, and sucked in a breath. What he saw was precisely what he hoped he wouldn’t.
Several massive comets where headed their way, with blazing tails that extended kilometers back in their wake.
“Who the hell are you people?” The captain was a man who looked to be in his sixties. His voice was harsh and threatening.
“I’m a battleship pilot,” Lan Jue said. “You aren’t prepared to handle this turbulence. Please let me take over.”
“Horse shit! And how are you going to prove your identity, huh?” He asked angrily.
Tan Lingyun had joined them, and stepped forward. Once again beams of vibrant green light exploded from her. “I’m an eighth rank talent, and I’m confirming his identity.”
Lan Jue begrudgingly praised Tan Lingyun, though he would never say anything. Despicable as she was, you could count on her in a pinch. She didn’t even know why herself, but she trusted him in this dire moment. That wasn’t something many people did.
BOOM! The entire ship shook, and rocked fiercely to the side. The captain staggered a few steps before catching himself. His eyes shot to the shield control array. The screen flashed a glaring red warning. Their energy stores were almost depleted.
“Captain, the incoming comets are far more densely packed. What is your order?”