Chapter 155: The Space Monster Cometh
“All ships, drop out of subspace! We can’t do a battle here!” I called out immediately as another roar shook through the ship. “And identify whatever is causing that!”
As the ships vanished one by one from subspace, an image appeared in the bridge of the Ariadne. The creature shown on it was at least ten miles long, easily bigger than the ship, with a serpentine body. Its face looked like an old chinese dragon, with long whiskers trailing off for hundreds of meters. On its underbelly were four small, thin legs, each with a set of nasty looking claws. Its entire body was white, except for the black eyes that glared at us.
“Creature unknown! But its mana signature is enormous. At least level five hundred!” The scanning technician spoke after the information was gathered, causing me to grimace. We had never even seen anything above level three hundred before, so I wasn’t sure how well this would go.
Soon, we too dropped out of subspace to appear alongside the rest of the fleet’s ships. A moment later, a rip could be seen in the space in front of us, the giant dragon-like monster pushing its way through. “All ships, prepare to engage.” This thing, from what we could tell so far, was faster than us. If we tried to run, even splitting up and going different directions in subspace, there would be heavy casualties.
“Understood, envoy! All flights, launch! Alpha formation.” The head of the Executioner Flight called out, before all one hundred and ten ships launched from the Qu’Lopti carriers. They began spreading out, forming an eleven by ten wall of smaller ships. “Open fire, photon rounds!”
At his command, all of the Qu’Lopti ships began pelting the dragon-like creature with streams of white bullets. Meanwhile, I looked to Ackbar at his console, and nodded my head. “Charge the main cannon.” Next, I closed my eyes and focused. I used my Xeno-Shifter ability to attune myself primarily to the Plasma Affinity, and stretched my mana out.Better safe than sorry.
Thanks to five years of casual training, combined with the growth of my mana control from passive cultivation, I was able to extend my mana senses out a bit beyond the boundaries of the ship. As such, atop the Ariadne, I formed a body out of plasma, making the skin out of magnetism. This new body resembled my void elf form, except its body glowed with a bright blue light. Using one of the abilities formed from my Mana Manipulation, ‘Puppet Body’, I could possess this form and use it as if it were my own, so long as it stayed within the range of my primary body’s mana sense.
My new body, like a living sun, watched the battle from a much clearer perspective. At the same time, its body began sprouting wings along its back, mana gradually pouring into it from the surroundings. Although my affinities had been focused on plasma, I still had roughly 50% of my other main elements.
As the dragon was being pelted by the photon bullets, it let out another roar which shook the entire fleet. Though, with my senses spread out like they were, I could tell that it was not a true roar. At least, there was no actual sound involved. Instead, the monster released what was likely a breath weapon of mana that impacted the ship, causing it to vibrate and emit the roaring noise. If my clone on top of the Ariadne was made of solid elements, then it likely would have been crushed by that roar.
Apparently seeing that its roar was ineffective, its mouth began glowing brightly, strands of light circling around and into its open mouth. Immediately, figuring that this would be a big blast, I shouted to the bridge. “Evasive maneuvers!”
“Understood!” Thankfully the clone atop the Ariadne had magnetic skin, letting it latch onto the ship even as it began moving to the side. The hundred plus Qu’Lopti ships also seemed to notice the incoming attacking, and scattered from their formation just before a thick beam of light emerged from the mouth of the dragon. The width of the beam was enough that, if it had hit, it would have swallowed the Ariadne whole.
There was an explosion as the beam struck against the back of the ship, unable to fully maneuver out of the way in time. “We’ve lost the engines! Hull breaches throughout the rear of the ship! Sealing the affected corridors!” One of the voices in the bridge called out, but I was focusing too much on my clone on top of the ship to identify exactly who it was.
“Is the main cannon charged yet?” I did my best to ask in a calm voice, while I watched the Qu’Lopti ships zig-zagging towards the dragon. Now that the first plan failed, they seemed to intend on getting into a dogfight with the monster.
“Main cannon is charged and ready to fire!” This time, I knew it was Ackbar speaking.
“Fire in ten seconds.” I gave the command, and then relayed to the fleet. “Main cannon firing, get out of the way.” As I said that, the Qu’Lopti ships curved their paths to avoid the blast from the main cannon. Now that I think about it, this is one of the first times I’ve ever had this ship fire its main cannon. The last time was several upgrades ago, so it can’t quite be considered the same.
Still, against this enemy, it was uncertain how effective it would be. As the cannon fired, and a thick, multicolored beam shot out from the front of the ship, the dragon turned and charged straight for us. It charged through the beam of energy with relative ease, moving straight towards the Ariadne.
Not yet… I grimaced, unable to have the Ariadne evade as its engines had already been crippled. “Protect the flagship with your lives!” One of the Qu’Lopti called out, and just as the beam from the main cannon ended, ten large humanoid machines tackled the side of the dragon. Their backs lit up and they gradually shoved it to the side, making it avoid the ship by a small margin.
At the same time, the eleventh, larger mech stood off to the side, its arms spread out. “Chains of sorrow, drag thee into the abyss.” Green circles of light appeared around the mech, metal attachments descending from the circles to connect with the large machine. As the circles expanded, they revealed five large missile launchers. “Feel the wrath of the heavens and regret in your next life!”
The missile launches lit up with a yellow light, before each one launched ten rockets in a spray pattern. All of the various rockets curved and aimed themselves towards the dragon, striking along its body as it turned to face us again. From every rocket came a large explosion as it impacted the scaled hide of the dragon. However, when the blasts ended, no matter if it was the main cannon of the Ariadne, or the missile barrage from the Executioner, they only seemed to leave superficial wounds.
My clone was still building up more and more energy, its body glowing brighter with each passing second. By now, though, I was more worried about whether or not the attack I was preparing would even be effective against this space dragon. I’d have to hope we all lasted long enough to find out, because it did not seem to be dying any time soon.
At that point, Ackbar’s voice could again be heard on the bridge. “Everyone, this creature’s flexibility does not seem to match its form. Its body is more stiff than normal serpents, judging by its previous movements, so it can’t make the same fast turns. Assuming that it does not have any other hidden abilities, you should be able to attack it if you land on its skin, near the neck.”
“Got it! We’re going in.” Ten voices answered together, and I could see the light trails from the ten Judgement mechs as they flew towards the dragon. Again, it let out one of its roars, and two of the ten were thrown back away from it. The remaining eight all took up positions around the neck of the dragon, and unsheathed their energy swords to hack away at it.
Almost there… I clenched my fists, feeling that my clone was reaching its maximum capacity. Now the problem was using the attack, as we had no way to get closer to the dragon. I could fire it at a distance, but it would lose some of the effectiveness that way. Unfortunately, I was unlikely to get much of a say in this matter.
My clone atop the ship stretched out one of its arms, siphoning all of the mana it had gathered into that one arm, while reshaping the aura of it to extend based on the energy fed into it. As such, the arm turned into a long line of light that stretched far beyond my ability to control. I struggled to hold it together long enough for a single swing, bringing the equivalent of a giant plasma blade down on the dragon’s neck.
Granted, my accuracy at this distance was shoddy at best, but I at least managed to avoid hitting one of the eight mechs standing on its neck. And the thin wound left by the attack was enough for one of them to wedge their sword into. That seemed to hurt the dragon, as it began writhing in pain and firing off its beam breath in random directions.
Next, the Judgement mechs all pulled back while the Executioner charged forward. “Final Beheading!” Its pilot cried out over the comm channel, and a giant axe with a blade of light appeared in its hands, which struck down at that small wound on its neck. The blade sank in deep, making a single clean cut that went over a hundred meters through. Although the head was not fully severed, the attack apparently cut through the spine, because from that point the monster had gone limp.
“Scan for life.” I ordered the crew of the Ariadne, while my clone atop the ship faded gradually, its energy used up. “And give me a damage report.”
“Yes, Captain.” I waited a few moments before the reports came in. “Mana signatures fading from the monster. It appears to be dead.”
Soon, another voice chimed in, a bunny girl sitting at one of the stations to the far right. “Damage report is in. Engines are completely destroyed. That beam wiped them out. Ten crew members lost in the attack, and another twenty from the resulting decompression before the corridors could be sealed. Total of thirty-two casualties, and we are stranded until we get the engines repaired.”
I turned to look at Celeste, who was as always standing near my captain’s chair. “How long will it take to replace the engines?”
She did some quick calculations, and grimaced. “Five weeks, give or take. But I don’t have enough metal in my grove, so I’ll have to get that from you. For the engines, I’ll need titanium, orichalcum, mithril, and iron.”
I nodded my head, sighing slightly. Turning towards the scanning officer, I made my next order. “Scan the nearby space. Are we close to any systems?”
After a brief moment, I had my answer. “No, sir. The nearest system is roughly two parsecs out.”
Well, so much for that idea. “Alright…” I then directed my attention to the communication channel. “Judgement flights, we’re stuck here for the next month. Start disassembling that monster, for now. Such good materials were delivered to us, we can’t let them go to waste. I’ll be out to collect them myself in a little while.”
I wasn’t sure if Yang would be comfortable using her Nature Crafting again so soon after the incident at the Qu’Lopti homeworld. Much like myself when I first touched the Time Affinity, she likely had a great mental shock when she warped her Nature Crafting to turn it against living creatures. Nonetheless, the materials from the dragon were too good to pass up. At the very least, I needed to get a look at its scales before a day was up. I had managed to improve the hardness of my scale form a bit over the years, but this would let me make another breakthrough.
As for other matters, I scheduled a ceremony for the crew to attend, to commemorate the thirty-two people that died in the attack. As this was a space battle, they were not in their clones, so they were well and truly dead. Otherwise, the enemy would only need to take out the medbay to kill everyone.