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Chapter 636: Good News and Bad News

    Chapter 636: Good News and Bad News

    Half an hour later the Parliamentary session had come to an end. Afterwards a proclamation was released, ordering the evacuation of all metropolitan worlds. Their resources would be reallocated to the war effort, and any troops were told to be on alert. Part of their responsibilities would be to assist moving goods and people closer to the center of Eastern space. Many would also remain to look after government interests against the other Alliances. As for how this enormous amount of people were to be moved, parliament said that would come when all the options had been examined.

    Lan Jue knew about the decision right away. He heard it from Lan Qing, when his brother summoned him to An Lun's leadership headquarters.

    "What do you think?" Lan Qing's stony expression cracked just enough for a smile to sprout.

    Lan Jue answered with a dramatic thumbs-up.

    "Didn't expect it, did you?" Lan Qing openly smirked now.

    Lan Jue nodded. In fact he'd already chalked it up to a lost cause. A decision that would hurt so many bottom lines must have been caustic for a room full of self-serving politicians. If it hadn't been Lan Qing to tell him, he'd say they were joking.

    Lan Jue had never been a fan of lawmakers, but he was proud to find they at least had a sense of comradery. Only when the home front was stable and happy could they face a foreign foe!

    "However, there is also some bad news." Lan Qing's expression fell, as did his voice.

    "What is it?" Lan Jue asked.

    "The West has sent scouting crews to the last stand of the North's Seventh Fleet. They claim there are signs an alien planet is nearby, even fought some of the creatures. Leaders continue to deny the veracity of your scouting reports and have turned down any further correspondence."

    Lan Jue scowled. "Why would they even think like this?"

    Lan Qing explained. "It certainly involves you. The West has chosen to make us enemies and resist our progress. A lot of that is fueled by influences from the Austin family, which I imagine is somewhat your doing. Relations have taken a sharp dive since the wedding between Richard and Qianlin was called off. Some of this distrust is a grab for profit, but a lot of it was incited by your actions."

    Lan Jue dropped his eyes helplessly. "There wasn't anything I could do. I was polite - at least I let Richard live. After the amount of times he got in my way I'd say that's fair. I admit I stayed my hand because of guilt, and pity. Qianlin never wanted to marry him, it had all been part of the Clairvoyant's plan. Now if the West left us alone and focused on their own issues it would benefit everyone. Anyway, that doesn't mean there's no way to combat their thinking."

    Lan Qing chuckled softly. "Yes, there are still ways. Whatever your thinking the brass has already planned out. Some things are inevitable."

    ζ

    Western Alliance, Europa.

    Set in the center of Europa's capital city was a famous landmark, an old hexagonal building that served as the seat of the Austin family's power. An insignia affixed to the top of the structure caught errant rays of sunlight. An oval with maple leaves, the Austin family crest. It sparkled so brilliantly you could spot it from miles away.

    Sylva Austin was this generation's leader for the Austin family. His office occupied the top floor of the striking family building, glass from wall to wall. He felt like he could see all of Europa from here.

    He busied himself with administrative affairs while sitting behind the enormous office desk. He was the President of the Western Alliance and the business of running an interstellar nation often kept his busy past dusk. He was also expected to be social, which left very little time for relaxation. All of it was in service of the Austin family. Politically, there was no more connected family than his.

    "Mr. President." A melodious voice interrupted him, chiming from a nearby speaker. The only one permitted to disturb the man was his trusted secretary, Judy.

    Sylva's brows furrowed. He knew Judy wouldn't trouble him unless it was important. "What's happened?" He asked.

    "Urgent news, sir," she replied. "I was asked to brief you face to face."

    "Come in." He knew she was already waiting just outside of the door.

    When the door opened a blond haired woman in a black business suit and black-rimmed glasses was revealed. Her high-heels clacked against the floor as she brusquely entered. "Mr. President," she said without ceremony, "We've received news from the East that they will be holding an international auction. The items on offer are vital crystals. However the West has yet to receive an official invitation. So far only Northern government officials and important families have been told to attend, and the Gobi Entertainment group from our alliance. All other organizations, even government representatives, have received nothing."

    A cold smirk split Sylva's face. "Their response to our stance. Pay no mind. When the aliens come we'll have plenty of vital crystals for ourselves. What's the sense in paying them for any? Besides, it must have cost them to get so many. None of this is outside of my predictions."

    "But they're auctioning more than one hundred pieces. This is more than anyone has gotten ever since we learned about the alien planets." Judy's voice bore a faint note of urgency. She was as professional a secretary as one could find, but the promise of a longer life appealed to everyone.

    "What did you say?" Sylva's voice came in a sharp his, disbelief widening his eyes. "The East brought back more than a hundred vital crystals? How could they kill so many aliens, much less bring them back?" The President's breathing increased. Obviously the East's actions were directed at the West. Everyone knew the benefit of the exuvium process, but crystals were needed to perform it. Eastern leadership was too smart to throw away so many crystals out of spite, so that could only mean they had more than they needed for research.

    Taking it a step farther, he could infer they must have found a great many aliens to come back with so many crystals. It had to be true, everything they were claiming. The East had found where the aliens were hiding.

    That simple fact was like a mortal wound for Sylva Austin. He had been the one most vocally against them. He'd convinced his colleagues the East was lying, and orchestrated their harsh response to the news. This auction was like a smack to the face. He could almost feel it burn.

    However, Sylva was an old hand when it came to dirty politics. Surprise overtook him for only a moment, and soon after he was a picture of calm deliberation. "Send a correspondence to the East, asking why we weren't provided an invitation. These vital crystals are a priceless resource for all of humanity, and are integral for the shared progress of ours species. As such, it is imperative all three alliances participate in uncovering their secrets. There is nowhere else they'll find more talented geneticists than in the West. We would be very open to participating in this auction."

    "Yes, sir!" Judy's eyes lit up as she answered. She was already formulating the communique in her head.

    Sylva rose from behind the massive desk and turned toward the window. He was quiet for a moment and let his eyes sweep out over the city's horizons. He loved to stand here and enjoy the view. It made him feel in control.

    "Send another to the North. Ask them for help in applying pressure to the East. If we work together we can get the most and give the least. Then send a note to the generals that we want a scouting mission scrambled and sent into the Shattered Starfields as soon as possible. We have to confirm the alien's location if we want to explain things to the public."

    From the outside it looked passive, but President Austin was doing the best he could under the circumstances. He hadn't suspected the East would use these crystals as a bargaining chip to undermine the West. How could he have known this might happen? Who would have guessed the East would suddenly become flush with vital crystals? Their actions were the sort taken by a group confident in their strength!

    Proliferation. That was the goal of any race. This international auction the East was holding was just that - proliferation. It was the purpose of life, and hope for any living thing. The Exuvium process was still a long way off, but proof of concept was already well known. Even powerful Adepts could benefit from it. Further research was needed to see how it would affect normal people.

    Most current reports claimed that the process could extend someone's life by a thousand percent. The average lifespan would catapult from a hundred years to a millenium.

    A life ten times as long! It wasn't a literal fountain of youth, but it sure was an improvement over their own bodies' limitations. Influence, money, beauty... none of it was more important than life. Without it, what did all the rest mean?

    So it was that the moment word of the exuvium process got out, it captured the imagination of every living creature. The only thing that stood between mankind and hundreds of years among the stars, were these vital crystals.
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