Those that wandered the universe consisted not only of the giant space rabbits, but also space pirates.
The space piracy problem had been plaguing the Federation for hundreds of years. Ever since AI had been popularized throughout the universe, the problem had been solved to some degree. But, in the more remote areas, “Butterfly’s” hold on some star systems were not strong enough, thus the problem persisted till today. After all, the vast universe was unlike land, neither humans nor AI could control everything.
Two years ago, the Navi System had gradually closed its borders, but it also made the public security around the area much better. For some time, the space pirates seemed to have gone extinct.
Nobody would have expected to bump into space pirates here. What’s more…Zhong Yan looked out at the spaceships floating outside from the porthole. The group of space pirates they had encountered this time did not seem to be small.
“Sir Zhong!” When the chief of security saw Zhong Yan, it was as if he had found his savior. He quickly said to him, “There are too many people on the opponent’s side, and their ships are heavily equipped. Our firepower is not comparable to them at all, but Bayer insists that we resist them. We…”
Zhong Yan answered decisively, “Give up the resistance, do not allow any casualties on our end.”
Bayer was quick to cut in. “Sir Zhong! How could we give up?! It’s their job to keep us safe!”
Everyone ignored him. The chief of security had received his order and immediately turned to convey the message. Zhong Yan fixed his clothes and turned towards his accompanying staff who were all pale from fear. “Bring me the stock list for the ship. You, destroy all the data related to the Supreme Council in the systems. Go.”
This time, they were pretending to be mere caravan travelers. The signal in such a remote part of the universe was not very good, and the Navi System had already blocked out the outside world for a very long time. Since this troop of space pirates were outside of the Navi System, then they must not have landed anywhere for the past year and a half or so. They might not be able to recognize them, so they could try to go with the flow.
He pointed to a few more of his men and ordered them off. Everyone had been huddling together in fear, and compared to Bayer who could only bark at the security team for them to face the enemy, Zhong Yan’s calm demeanor almost gave them a temporary glimmer of peace. Everyone responded in acknowledgment of his orders and went to do their work.
Bayer tried several times to put in a suggestion, but he never would have expected that Zhong Yan who would usually treat him with respect would actually turn a deaf ear to him today. He was so furious that his face was turning red. He howled, “How could you allow them to send a distress signal to the Navi System?! We should be asking the Capital for help! If word gets out, we might as well just be dead!”
Zhong Yan turned coldly to him. “It would be too late to wait for help to come from the capital. The closest large-scale military force available to us is the Navi Military Command. You may fight honorably with the space pirates, but do not drag those who wish to live down with you.”
This was the first time Zhong Yan had ever shot back at him in such a way to his face, and it was both shocking and anger-inducing for Bayer. Different shades of red passed through his face; in his eyes, this youngster was nothing more than a mere puppet, and he was only there in Stalvern’s place after his retirement. To think that this puppet would actually dare to crawl over him like this!
Since they had completely abandoned any idea of resistance, there was practically no conflict on both sides, and a small team soon boarded the ship.
The one in the lead was a dirty and rugged man wearing a bandana. As soon as he entered through the security doors, he immediately pointed his gun towards a few of the security guards. “Take out all your weapons and throw them aside!”
The security team looked at Zhong Yan, and they received his calm response. “Toss them away.”
“Oh, are you their leader? You’ve got tact, not bad.” The one leading the group turned his eyes to Zhong Yan and felt a sense of doubt rise up. “Hey, you look familiar now that I look at you…”
One of his underlings standing behind him observed Zhong Yan. “He looks pretty, must be some celebrity!”
Zhong Yan responded, “I know that you are only seeking wealth, you can take this batch of goods we have on board, but please let us leave safely.”
Their leader retorted, “Then we’ll have to see if your goods are worthy enough to pay for that. Search it!”
In just a short while, the dozen or so boxes full of goods they brought as props were taken over. Even the staff throughout the entire ship was pushed over and gathered. The leader looked on in dissatisfaction. “Just this? What sort of company is this? Why are you so poor?”
Zhong Yan remained unperturbed. “Most of it was sold off in Lebor Star. This is all we have left.”
The leader’s gaze shifted through the group of staff, and suddenly sneered. “Oh, that’s fine, you have two ladies here who look pretty good. Hand over these two ladies and the goods, and you can go.”
The two female staff were so scared that they were trembling, blood draining from their faces. Zhong Yan frowned. “Not possible.”
At the same time, Bayer had quickly cut in. “Yes!”
The space pirate looked between the two of them, and asked, “So is this a yes or a no? Which one of you is in charge?”
“I am.” Zhong Yan presented himself. “You can take the ship and the goods, but it’s not possible for me to hand you any of my men.”
“You can save everyone by sacrificing two women!” Bayer was furious. “Are you trying to get us all killed?!”
Zhong Yan mocked him, “So you suddenly feel like living now?”
The leader looked at them with impatience and raised the gun in his hand. “So you’re not agreeing, huh?!”
Zhong Yan quickly weighed the pros and cons of revealing his identity at this moment, but in the end still decided to ensure the safety of his people and to discuss with them after he managed to get everyone out.
“I’ll replace them,” he said.
The pirate leader had been prepared to tell him that they wanted women; what was a man like him trying to cut in for! But as he observed Zhong Yan’s face, he started to swallow down his words. His underlings at the back whispered to him, “Boss, this guy looks much better than those women! It’s not a bad deal!”
“Alright!” The leader waved them away. “The rest of you can get in the escape shuttle.”
Zhong Yan watched as all the staff and security guards entered the shuttle. Silently, he was pulled away by the pirates into their shuttle.
This style of ship was considerably old at this point in time, and it could be seen that it had gone through several transformations to achieve this current solid and mean appearance.
The leader seemed to have ordered one of his men to do something, and he pushed Zhong Yan into a simple cell before locking it, leaving a single person behind to watch over him.
Not long after he left, the pirate who was left behind asked, “Hey pretty boy, are you an actor? I keep getting the feeling I’ve seen you in a movie or something.”
Zhong Yan responded calmly to him, “You’re mistaken, it was the political news.”
Unfortunately, the space pirate had no reaction at all to what he had just said. After being away from land so long and floating away in space, the only thing in their lives now was sex, money, and violence. It was quite rare for them to receive any signals from the universe, and they did not care much about the news from the Federation either. Every so often, they would drift to a place with signal, but they would only rush to keep up with entertainment, porn videos, and whatnot; they would not pay attention to anything else.
“Haha, it doesn’t matter what role you played. If you have some fun with me, I’ll put in a good word for you later. What do you say?”
“I’ve nothing to say.”
The pirate tried to tease him, but then he saw the aggravating look on the man’s face. It made him feel as if he himself was a show monkey jumping up and down, and it made him angry. He barked, “You bastard, what’re you acting all high and mighty about! For you to be able to handle a merchant troop at such a young age, it really makes me wonder how many old men you’ve slept with for your position!”
Zhong Yan had a face that looked much younger than his actual age, but since he was popular enough to be a common household name, everyone knew who he was, and he would rarely be mistaken for a young man in his early twenties; he never expected to be misunderstood here.
While the space pirate continued to hurl abuse at him, he started to unlock the gates to the cell. Zhong Yan took a step back and said, “I would advise you against that. Have you ever given any thought as to how a person of my age can lead such a caravan? I come from the capital, and the Navi Military Command has already been informed of my hostage status. They are on the way here as we speak. The only bargaining chip you have now is to use me as a hostage.”
“What?” His words had wiped the space pirate’s previous thoughts clean off. “The Navi Military Command? You’re just messing with me, aren’t you?”
“It’s true. If you go and report this to your superior now, you may be able to get some credit out of it.”
The space pirate relocked the door with haste and ran off in a panic. Zhong Yan let out a sigh of relief, and a soft, bitter chuckle left his lips as he allowed his back to slide down the wall.
What he said was fake. It had been an hour since they sent the emergency call signal, and he had no idea whatsoever on whether the Navi Military Command would actually pay any heed to their distress signal. Even if they did send someone over out of a few considerations…he was still not useful enough to be used as a bargaining chip for the Navi Military Command.
“Did you say that…Navi’s military forces are on the way?”
The wide but messy hall was filled with people, and it was unclear whether the entire crew was gathered here or not. The man sitting at the uppermost seat was a middle-aged man with dark hair. A horizontal scar ran across his face which made him look very fierce. At this moment, he was interrogating Zhong Yan who was standing in the middle of the hall below.
“That’s right,” Zhong Yan responded. Even though he knew it was not likely, he still gave it his all to persuade them. “If you let me go now…”
Before he could even finish, the pirate crew’s leader cut him off. “If you put it that way, it’s not completely impossible.”
Zhong Yan waited quietly for him to lay down his conditions, but he did not expect the other party to say, “Let me say…You’re a very lucky one, we happen to have a signal right now, so let’s play a game. Initiate a conversation with any person in your contact list right now, and tell them that you were kidnapped by space pirates. Ask them if they’re willing to save you.”
The space pirates around him began to sneer; clearly, this was not their first rodeo.
The head honcho gave him a nasty smile. “If your friend agrees to it, we will provide you with a small escape shuttle. But if they’re unwilling…we’ll put your personal terminal in the escape shuttle, and when the Navi Military boys arrive, we’ll just say we’ve already released you. As for your person…well, you’ll just have to stay—without the terminal, they won’t be able to find you either, don’t you think so?”
The roaring sound of cheers erupted through the hall. It had been a long time since they had any entertainment on this ship, so this was exciting for them. Zhong Yan knew that he had to do it.
He turned on his terminal, and sure enough, there was a weak signal.
Within the excited crowd, another person had also turned on his terminal and pulled a single person out of his blacklist.
Zhong Yan did not know what he was thinking, but he knew this was definitely not the best choice he could have made—or you could say, this was a choice that was sure to fail—but he stubbornly insisted on contacting that person.
To his surprise, the call was picked up in less than a second.
“Um…A…it—it’s me. I’m not sure if you’ve received the distress signal, it was sent out about two hours prior,” Zhong Yan spoke.
The head of the pirates pointed his gun at him as a warning for him not to say anything unnecessary, and to stick with his lines. The hall had turned so quiet that you could hear a pin drop, and all the space pirates were watching this rare scene with cruel excitement.
“I’ve been kidnapped by them.” Hearing no response from the other side, Zhong Yan’s heart sunk; but he still remained firm and asked the question, “Are you willing to come and save me?”
After a few seconds of silence, the deep voice of a man reverberated across the hall from the speakers of Zhong Yan’s terminal. “No. Is something wrong with your head? Why are you calling me at this hour?”
The crowd was roaring in a big riot, and everyone had their weapons raised. Very soon, an area was vacated, and a tall man that had huddled between them since who knows when stood right in the middle.