Chapter 111: Ransom
Shawton sat in the meeting room with his palm pressed to his head and his eyebrows locked firmly with each other. He looked incredibly tired. The only one out of the six lieutenant commanders, Lalo, who was relatively well and safe sat beside him. Dias and Lu Suo were severely injured, and Asiya had been guarding by Dias’ side all this time. With Akayi and Wa Qing captured by the enemy, Lalo was the only one left in the group.
Both Shawton and Lalo had been keeping quiet ever since they entered the meeting room. They weren’t sure what to say. Should they say something like, put their hopes onto the A Squadron?
Shawton wiped his face with his hand. He hadn’t slept for a second in the past few days.
In the end, the Sixth Squad’s numbers were just too few. The former Sixth B Squadron commander was an extremely capable person, but he was also very much a loner. In reality, despite their weak numbers, the reason the Sixth B Squadron did not completely fall behind the other nine Vanguard B Squadrons was thanks to the former Sixth Squad’s commander, Seru. Seru was so individually gifted and all rounded that many tasks within the Sixth B Squadron were carried out by him personally. Since no one could work as efficiently as Seru, and Seru was a person who strove for efficiency excessively, it became a habit for many people within the Sixth B Squadron to rely on him.
When Seru was transferred to the A Squadron, and Shawton succeeded him as the commander, the Sixth B Squadron’s flaws were finally exposed little by little. Thankfully, they still had Dias, and Dias always had a great eye for people. During this period, Shawton quickly filled up the gaping hole Seru left within the squad after his promotion. Right up to the moment Cillin’s batch of new talents arrived, Shawton was full of confidence for both the present and future. However, recent events had caused Shawton to become hesitant. If a ‘Poison Fang’ was all it took to force them into such a disastrous state, then Shawton seriously did not know what he could do to fix the situation. Right now, he did not even have someone who could come up with ideas and share the burden with him.
The meeting room’s doorbell rang, and Shawton brought up a holographic screen. When he saw Cillin standing outside the door, he paused for a moment and let out a long sigh. Then he pressed a button and opened the door.
Shawton pointed at a chair and said, “Sit down.”
Cillin pulled a chair over and did as he say. After looking at lieutenant commander Lalo and the weary looking Shawton, he asked, “Can you tell me exactly what happened?”
Shawton removed his hand from his forehead and brought up a display screen, moving it in front of Cillin, “This is the footage of that time.” After that, Shawton fell silent and said no longer.
Cillin watched the footage from the appearance of the warships, to the clash between the two sides’ starships and fighters, and finally the exploring team’s emergency return under the fighters’ cover. The most obvious takeaway from the video was Poison Fang’s suicidal ramming. The crashed fighters were like fireworks that blossomed suddenly in the night sky, and it was both a helpless and tragic situation. Cillin could feel what the others were feeling at the time. No one would have had a good time going up against a bunch of lunatics. Their usual tactics and techniques were just plain ineffective against them.
The Poison Fang members were experienced, skilled, and bat shit insane. The footage itself was enough to make one disbelieve their own eyes. No wonder the military and Hunter regiments were reluctant to go up against Poison Fang. While Poison Fang could afford to go crazy, they could not.
To avoid repeating Heaven’s Birth mistake, the Sixth Squad’s fighters kept a good distance from each other so that it’d at least be easier to maneuver out of the way in case something unexpected like Heaven’s Birth tight formation being bombed to hell by Poison Fang’s seismic bombs happened. However, it appeared that Poison Fang was not planning to do something like that at all this time, and their men simply attacked at random and rammed suicidally into other fighters. It was an incredibly stifling attack.
Later, the lucky ones made it back to the starship, and the unlucky ones were forever left on the planet. There was also a group of people who was intercepted and captured by Poison Fang.
Dias, Eudy and a few others were the lucky ones, but even they had to pay a heavy price for their luck.
Shawton and Lalo had been observing Cillin’s expression ever since he began watching the footage. But to their surprise, Cillin’s expression didn’t change much from beginning to the end. There wasn’t even any killing intent at all…
When Shawton had sent the footage to Barthes, they could feel Songba Leruo’s and Barthes’ killing intent even through their recorded reply. However, the young man before him was so calm it was scary.
After watching the footage, Cillin turned his head and asked Shawton, “Why have they taken them prisoner?”
Those who were familiar with Poison Fang knew that the organization basically never took ‘prisoners’, and even if they did, it was purely for the purpose of torturing and executing them. But what was strange was that they hadn’t received any news that their people were tortured and executed up till now.
Shawton tapped the table with his finger habitually and pondered for a moment, seemingly considering how best to speak of this matter.
“Poison Fang was going to torture and execute them, but they learned about the energy ores and demanded a ransom. As for how this is going to play out, we are still waiting for their reply.”
They were Vanguard, one of the famed four great Hunter regiments of the universe. Setting military and politics aside, any other Hunter regiments would have shown them some respect at least. Since when was a squadron of the four great Hunter regiments ever forced into such a terrible state, much less extorted by their tormentors? Shawton felt deeply ashamed at himself for failing his sacrificed squadmates, Dias and others who were still on the sickbed, and the entire Vanguard itself.
Cillin understood his meaning. The fact that Poison Fang had learned about the energy ores did not necessarily mean that there was a traitor in their squadron. There were a lot of ways to induce someone who had never received any special training to reveal all sorts of secrets, let alone the fact that they were carried out by a bunch of well equipped lunatics. They would only have crueler methods that could induce the prisoners to reveal all they knew without realising it one bit.
“Where have they gone to?”
“We don’t know.” Shawton shook his head. After the disjointed battle, there were simply too many things to process, and the hostages were under Poison Fang’s control as well. Since Poison Fang forbad the Sixth Squad from following them, Shawton did not send out anyone to do such a thing. He knew that the second Poison Fang discovered that they were following them, there was no telling how many out of the thirty or so lives would remain.
“What is your plan, commander?” Cillin asked again.
“Barthes had been notified of the matter, and the A Squadron happened to have some reinforcements heading to the green planet to be stationed there. He told us to standby for now, and once the reinforcements had arrived he would send over some men to aid us.”
Everyone in the four great Hunter regiments would know that the difference between an A Squadron and a B Squadron was like the difference between heaven and earth. The B Squadrons were where the squad members were tested, and only a selected few would be able to enter an A Squadron. No B Squadron would want to call the A Squadrons for help, since it sent out a message that meant that their B Squadron was incompetent. They would look like a child who needed their parents’ help when they ran into a problem they could not solve. But for the Sixth B Squadron’s sake, Shawton still decided to inform Barthes about their situation. It did not stop Shawton from feeling pained and stifled however, even with Barthes’ consolation that Poison Fang was a special organization that no ordinary B Squadron could handle. The moment he saw the wreckages floating outside the starship, and the squad members still on the sick beds, Shawton could not help but feel a deep sense of exhaustion.
“Please inform me if you’ve received any information about the extortion, commander.”
Cillin stood up and got ready to leave. Suddenly, the emergency communicator beside Shawton rang, “Commander, an unmanned transport is headed towards our direction! We’ve also received an unknown signal!”