The sensation of interstellar travel could be described as ‘rubbery’, at best. I felt my flesh and bones stretch and return to their original shape in the short time it took to warp.
“Are you okay?” Chengxiao’s voice sounded through my ship’s transmission, a little shaken herself.
“I’m fine,” I answer her. Somewhat funny in the guts but that’s all.
The two of us brought our spacecrafts to bear as we looked around our immediate surroundings.
We were nearby a bright planet, illuminated by a green sun.
“Wow,” I couldn’t help but exclaim in wonder.
The planet was white all around, with specks of blue littered on it. However, it also had a sort of prismatic lustre to it, as if the entire surface was covered in rays of multicoloured aurora.
This would be Thohiri, huh? It’s hard to believe that a planet as beautiful as this could pose so much danger to Yeoreum. I guess looks really are deceiving, huh.
We wasted no further time and steered our ships in its direction. According to Xiao’s coordinates… Here they are, lucky that I asked for her to send them to me before.
A waypoint appeared on my HUD, in what I assume to be a pretty high latitude north on the planet. It should take us two or three minutes until planetary entry.
Yeonjung: You’re planning on becoming an Artistice, Dawon unnie?
Yeonjung: I hope you don’t leak any of your composed songs in this game, for your and our sakes 😂
Dawon: Don’t worry, Yeonjung. I’m thinking of trying an entirely new genre this time.
Dawon: I wonder what kind of recording technology will they have here?
Luda: As with anything, I bet that you’ll have to rack up quite a bit of Prestige before you can get to the really good stuff.
Chengxiao: The entertainment industry in Hyperspace Frontier… I wonder how it’s like.
Eunseo: Probably a big headache for the marketing team, I’m sure 😆 So many alien species to cater to and so many broadcasting channels to appease!
Xuanyi: You never know 👀 as far as I see, the people here have a lot in common with us.
You: I’m sure they’ll love you and your fantastic voice, Dawon. Become the star of the universe you were meant to be ✨
Oh yeah, that reminds me…
“By the way, Xiao.” I spoke through the transmission channel. “Your login bonus item… The ‘Hijack Plug’, was it? You say it works on both working and dead robots?”
“As long as the core functions are in good condition, it’ll work on any machine.” She responded.
“And you can use it over and over again?”
“If the tethers aren’t damaged and I give it enough power, yes.”
“I have some low-grade power cells if you need them.”
“I don’t think they have the voltage to efficiently charge the plug. Maybe if you give it time, but not when you need the power urgently.”
“Ah, alright then.”
“Thanks for the offer anyway.”
It seems like the higher level the tech is, the more difficult it is to maintain them. I’m lucky that the PBS I got was easy to power and use.
Thick fog obscured the vision in my cockpit as soon as we pierced through Thohiri’s atmosphere.
“Run the active targeting system in your ship’s weapons, KC. They use heat-seeking sensors so the fog won’t work on them.” Chengxiao communicated.
Fortunately, the transmission system still worked fine.
I did as she said, and the system immediately detected hostile targets a few hundred metres below our position.
My ship’s systems also switched the cockpit vision to a polarized light view, making it easier for me to see through the fog.
Through the grey stormy haze, I saw a far-reaching landscape of frost and crystal ice.
The rays of the green sun didn’t fully permeate through the thick atmosphere, but the little that did reflected off the clear glacier ice in an array of colours.
Was it responsible for how colourful Thohiri looked from outer space? I wasn’t sure.
Scattered along the wide expanse were several dozen feral beasts, lurking around as if in search of prey.
They looked like a cross between an oversized beaver and an arctic wolf, and had what seemed like dark blue spikes all around their body of light grey fur.
Their behaviour was aggressive, and I could tell that many of them were on the hunt for food.
Suddenly, a high-pitched scream that sounded like a hiss spread across the entire region, catching me off guard.
The herd of around fifty of those beasts immediately turned and ran in a single direction.
“Was that a call from one of their tribe?”
I have a bad feeling about this.
“Come on.” Xiao echoed my worries.
We turned around our ships and followed the travel of the packs of beasts, which seemed to merge into a single legion as they ran.
Around two or three kilometres away, we finally saw what the herd’s target was.
Running in the snow with what looked like powered boots, was a girl clad in fur that loosely draped over her white and grey spacesuit.
As she jumped over the icebergs and ridges in the snow, she fired shots with her blaster at the beasts leading the charge towards her.
Zooming on the individual with my ship’s vision, I could see a petite face with a calm and focused expression, outmaneuvering the six or so monsters chasing after her in a careful manner.
After a short discussion with Chengxiao, our ships split to both sides as we advanced to catch up to Yeoreum’s position.
Taking the position on the right, I flashed one of my ship’s lights to catch her attention.
Jumping over another crevice, she turned to look in my direction. An expression of surprise appeared on her face.
At the same time, the repeated blows of heavy gunfire resounded behind us.
Both of us stared in the direction of that sound.
I saw many of the beasts taking fire from several guns and cannons, both ballistic and optical, which were on Xiao’s blue ship on the opposite side of the herd.
I flew ahead of Yeoreum’s position as the assault of bullets from Harmonious 09 continued.
Soon after, unable to bear with the rain of hell coming down upon them, several of the beasts groaned and fell onto the snowy ground, breathing their last.
In response to Xiao’s attacks, the herd began to split into packs and spread far apart of each other.
No longer in a dense crowd, her guns could no longer work as effectively. Additionally, the still healthy members of the tribe started dodging and moving in unpredictable patterns, confusing the automatic targeting function of her ship’s systems.
These guys are intelligent!
However, this was the exact moment we were waiting for.
“Activating autopilot… Low-altitude cruise mode!”
My ship reduced its speed and started lowering itself close to the ground.
The terrain was still relatively flat, and any sign of elevation was well beyond our field of vision.
I left the bridge and ran to the left hatch of my ship, which exited onto the wing it also conveniently used as a ramp.
I secured myself to Wandering 14 with a safety belt and crawled out of the still flying ship.
Standing on the left wing, close to the door, I motioned to Yeoreum that I was ready.
“We’ve got trouble, KC!”
All of a sudden, I heard Chengxiao’s voice through the transmission from the bridge.
“These guys can fire ice barbs from their spikes!” There was panic in her voice, “The ice… It’s alive! It’s crawling into my ship and blocking my guns!”
I sent a vocal command to my ship to keep the transmission channel open.
“Got it, Xiao! Just give me a few seconds!” I reply.
“I will, but I’m not sure if they’ll do the same!”
I turned to look behind Yeoreum’s position in fear.
Sure enough, barbs of ice began flying in our direction, fired by the pursuing beasts from their spikes.
It’s still out of the range of my ship, but I know they’ll soon catch up and start messing with my own tech as well.
“Come on, Yeoreum! Take my hand!”
I held my left arm out close to the ground as the distance closed between my ship and her.
Sparing no attention to words, she nodded and began to run even faster. I could see the strain she put on her powered boots for the extra output of speed.
Without warning, my ship pulled up and to the left, shaking the interior terribly and almost making me lose my balance.
I saw a pile of rubble and ice pass by my ship on the right side. The autopilot must have evaded it at the last second, causing the shaking.
Yeoreum, however, did not evade it in time.
“What!?” I shouted.
Immediately after, I heard a burst of sound and a flash of light coming from the pile of rubble that I just passed.
To be exact, Yeoreum chose not to dodge that obstacle in her way.
I saw her figure against the white of the skies as she launched herself from on top of the pile, kicking with her boots to propel herself in my direction.
However, the force from the boots weren’t strong enough to push her all the way here.
What is she planning? I thought.
As if answering my question, she pulled a massive rifle, glowing a bright blue in the barrel, out of her inventory.
Aiming on the ground right in front of the pursuing pack of beasts, she pulled the trigger.
A strobe of blue fired from the rifle almost her own size, hitting the ground and causing a shockwave that made several of the chasing monsters stagger.
Bracing her body, Yeoreum bore the entirety of the shot’s recoil and blasted herself right over where I was.
Making every second count, I leaped from the hatch and reached for her.
I caught her in my right arm and fell onto the wing, grabbing onto the edge with my left hand before both of us could fall off.
As we laid prone on the left wing of my ship, I heard the barbs of ice fired by the beasts starting to chip on the wing section close to us.
I activated my Hazard Shield, and the few of those ice spikes aimed at us bounced off the force field surrounding us.
“Are you alright, Yeoreum?” I asked the girl I held in my arm.
She turned to look at me.
There were frozen strands of ice in her hair and exhaustion on her face, but her expression was as bright as it was on stage.
“That was awesome! I didn’t know that would work!” She exclaimed in her adorable and characteristic voice, still lying on her back.
I could only laugh along, seeing how excited she was.
“What was that gun?” I asked her, “It looks so powerful!”
She proudly replied,
“That’s the Blue Surrender, the rare drop from my daily login bonus.”
We got up and quickly retreated back into my ship. The ice spikes weren’t corrosive or anything, but the force of their impact still whittled my shield down to less than half of its energy gauge.
“Looks like we’ve secured our maknae.” Xiao’s relieved voice sounded through the transmission on my bridge. “I’m pulling up now, meet me again in orbit.”
“Alright, I answer.”
I sent Yeoreum over to my crew quarters while I returned to the cockpit, resuming control of the Wandering 14.
After shaking off the quickest beasts, I flew my ship to the skies and ran diagnostics on the hull.
Very little damage, even on the left wing.
I hope Xiao’s ship fared just as well.
Chengxiao: We have Yeoreum safe and sound.
Luda: Yayy 🙏🙏
You: You should have seen how she used the Blue Surrender to blast herself onto my ship!
You: That was very quick thinking.
Xuanyi: I’m glad she’s safe.
Meiqi: At least the worst is over now.
I turned to look at Yeoreum,
“See, I told you they were worried.”
She had an adamant look on her face as she typed onto her chat window.
Yeoreum: It’s just a game, unnies, you worry too much… 😫
Yeonjung: All’s well that ends well, Yeoreumie 😉
Exy: Thanks for picking her up, KC.
Hmm? I didn’t see why Exy had to thank me for what I wanted to do anyway.
You: No way, I could only do this because of Xiao’s cover fire distracting those beasts.
Chengxiao: No problem, Exy unnie 💕
In a short time, I saw the fog clear away as we left the cold, foggy atmosphere of Thohiri.
Soon after, I met up again with Xiao’s ship at a nearby point in the planet’s orbit.
“Everything fine?” The pilot of Harmonious 09 asked us.
“Yeah, how about you?” I answered. “I hope the ship’s not banged up too much.”
“It’ll be fine.”
She assured us that the ice didn’t do anything more than block her guns, and it was easy to dispose of them once she had time to check her weapons.
I breathed a sigh of relief, happy that this is over.
“So,” Yeoreum began, “When are we going to get my ship?”
“Yeah, we’re going to discuss the plan for this now.” Xiao continued.
“Those things should be smart enough to wait around by its wreck, unless I’m mistaken.”
“Which means this is going to be a bit more difficult than I thought.”
…So we’re going into round two of this fight?
I shudder at the thought of meeting those beasts again. They must be clenching their jaws, looking for vengeance right now.
Leaning back on the pilot seat, I had to spend some time keeping my emotions in check. My adrenaline rush took its toll on me, after all.
“…Can we have at least a few minutes of break?”
I weakly made my request into the transmission.
The reply came from Xiao after a few seconds.
“…Sure. I think all of us could use the rest.”
She closed the transmission channel, and I shut my eyes while still seated at the cockpit.
Yeoreum continued to check her equipment for anything that needed repairing, over in my crew quarters.
All three of us silently prepared ourselves for the upcoming battle, each in our own way.