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If the alien planets were in the process of evolution than their goal was delaying the humans. Once their evolution was complete, nothing could stand in their way.
Time was the enemy of humanity.
Should they rush in, then? No one was sure how many of the alien forces had survived and pushed deeper into the center of the solar system. Aside from the progenitors, their only serious loss was Monarch’s avatar, which Lan Jue and Qianlin had killed on Heaven’s Light. The majority of their strength remained intact, and who knew what they were doing in the darkness around Europa.
Whatever ships and personnel they had in this hodge-podge group of soldiers was all that was left of mankind’s defense, they couldn’t be allowed to lose. If they did then all of their efforts up to this point had been for naught. It would mean the potential destruction of their species.
With risks so high Lan Qing had to keep his responses measured. What he needed was more precise data before they could plan their next step.
A series of discussions ensued between him, Hua Li, and Kang Hui. The talks were aimed at hammering out the next phase of their plan.
Right now the armada was busy shuttling people from the planets and gathering them on Angel. From there they would be able to protect them more efficiently. While they worked to evacuate the survivors, they were also waiting for backup and resources from elsewhere.
The first shipment of food and drink came two days later, and helped ease the anxious situation the allied forces had found themselves in. Without food and water the survivors were at risk of rioting, but now that they had sufficient stores all was well. It was still too early for them to ponder on everything they’d lost. What they wanted more than anything was to leave this place and flee the danger that haunted them.
Lan Jue’s decision was contrary to their wishes. For the allied forces, and in order to ensure the best chances at victory, none of these Westerners could be allowed to leave Angel until the fighting was through. They simply couldn’t spare the ships to get them to safety.
The Western government had been destroyed by the sudden alien attack and no help was forthcoming. There were grumblings from the survivors who clearly didn’t like the decision, however they had been saved by these outsiders and had to accept reality. The root of their hope for the future was that these soldiers didn’t fail.
There was power in numbers, and as resources began to pour in the survivors set about caring for themselves. Thankfully Angel, though ravaged, had much that could be recovered. They set about restoring their homes.
Lan Qing ordered a simple census and found that the survivors were talents in their respective fields. That was to say that the alien only chose the more outstanding humans to keep for their mutation process - the weak, the infirm, the young were reduced to energy for consumption. Their reasons were clear - to look into their DNA and see what made them special.
There was a silver lining to the cruel efficiency of the alien selection process. After a brief period of chaos these elite citizens banded together and started to organize their own recovery. With the military’s support they began to rebuild.
Scant though materials were, Angel still had a fair amount left once its vital energy had been recovered. The aliens were only interested in vital energy, so things like ore were of no practical use to them. The building blocks required to salvage the planet remained, though of course the process would be long and slow.
It was the best Lan Qing could hope for. At least the survivors had something to keep them busy instead of harassing the soldiers.
The second shipment arrived on the afternoon of the fourth day. It was also the day two of his most important agents appeared in his office. When he saw Lan Jue and Qianlin, his face relaxed from its typical stony expression.
“What did you need to see us for in such a hurry?” They’d received the summons to see Lan Qing the moment they stepped out from isolation.
Lan Qing pursed his lips. “I need you. We still don’t know anything more about the alien home worlds. We’ve sent out many scout teams but haven’t heard anything back, we suspect they’ve all been destroyed. We even sent a small contingent of five Paragons out to learn what they could, but they were met by five Paragon-level aliens. They only just managed to escape.”
Lan Jue furrowed his brow. “They’re still trying to cut off intelligence. This is a problem.” Without more information about their target they couldn’t formulate a plan. They didn’t even know if the planets were still there. They could just fly the whole armada into the center of the solar system and see what they could find, but that posed considerable risk.
Lan Qing was trying to turn the situation around, but if they lost this war Middle Heaven was the Eastern Alliance’s last hope. As admiral Lan Qing couldn’t ignore that fact. As a result his tactics were moderate, and heavily relied on Lan Jue.
The admiral explained. “I need you to go yourself, you have more scouting experience than anyone. Between you and Lin Guoguo, you have the highest chance of success. What we need you to confirm is that those planets are still here. If they are we can continue.”
As he’d mentioned, Lan Qing had asked a group of Paragons to go scouting during Lan Jue’s sequester. Lin Guoguo had gone with them, but they were nonetheless discovered. The alien blockade was dense, and the closer they got to Europa the harder it became to push on. A net of umbrella-type aliens stood vigil, in search of human scouts and backed up by the alien generals. So far no intelligence sorties had completed their mission.
Lan Qing was knew his brother very well. Lin Guoguo would perform differently with her boss present, and Lan Jue knew the aliens’ particularities very well. It seemed like his younger brother was the all-around best choice for the mission.
“Alright, I’ll be ready to head out soon. Has there been any change to the battle plan?” Lan Jue asked. He knew the dilemma they faced by the time he returned to Middle Heaven. How they broke the enemy lines would be critical.
Hesitation flickered in the admiral’s eyes. “The core plan hasn’t changed. However the aliens are more cunning than we thought. We may seem to have the upper hand, but they continue to determine the pace of the war. We’re being led by the nose. I have a sneaking suspicion that they haven’t used their full strength against us yet. They have suffered losses, but their strongest are still out there somewhere. This fight is still under their control, and I’m sure once we penetrate into the middle of the planetary system we’ll be under heavy assault. If I were them, I would have taken my cue from the fight around Angel. I’d stop any attempts at frontal assault and resort to guerilla warfare - picking off our numbers and forcing us to waste time until the home planets have finished evolving.
Lan Jue offered his thoughts. “I’ve been pondering it myself. They certainly didn’t leave these mutants here out of the kindness of their hearts. They knew we’d have to deal with them, it’s part of our nature to help our own despite the trouble it’d cause. They probably hoped the survivors would riot and force us to change focus, dissuade us from our offensive.”
Lan Qing nodded. “Just so. Luckily Qianlin’s abilities saved us that headache. Otherwise we would have really been in trouble. But things aren’t all bad - at least I’m fairly certain the planets are near Europa and have started their evolution process. If they weren’t their current strategy wouldn’t make sense, they would have more than enough strength to wipe us out. Yet for now they haven’t made any move to fight back, which means one of two things. First, the planets aren’t here. Second, they’re evolving. It goes without saying that the second eventuality is far more likely, but we need to confirm it first and find a way to get close.”
After a moment of silence, a sagacious light glimmered behind Lan Qing’s eyes. When he spoke again his voice was even and low. “According to recent estimations there are two things that are integral to our future success. The first is to coax the enemy into a direct confrontation. If we can manage that I’m sure we can weaken their forces even further. We have an advantage with our bastions, but it isn’t absolute. In fact the alien forces are most likely to destroy them during an all-out offensive, but it’s also where our opportunities are greatest.”
“The second is to interrupt the alien home world evolution process. Right now that seems very difficult due to the sheer number of monsters protecting them. We also know they’re intelligent and cunning - I’m sure there’s some defensive plan they have in place we’re not aware of yet. Depending on what that is we may not cause them much damage even if we charge in with our full armada. In fact I’m fairly sure our earlier victory was achieved because our enemy allowed it.”
“Ah?!” Lan Jue was stunned by what he’d heard. “They lost on purpose? Why?”
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