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Chapter 681: Failure

    Chapter 681: Failure

    "Ten, nine, eight, seven..."

    "... three, two, one. Fire!"

    Kang Hui's right hand slammed down onto the red button.

    Vrrrrrummmmm-

    Tyrannosaurus shook violently when suddenly a searing red beam fired from it. It coalesced into an orb at the head of the canon, then shot out as an angry red column - like a spear piercing the blackness of space.

    Even before the beam was close, asteroids in its path sizzled and fractured. In only a few seconds the space rocks were disintegrated and cleared a path while the shot was kilometers in the distance.

    In Kang Hui's office, everyone's eyes were glued to the screens. They held their breath and waited to see what would happen. However much damage this shot caused would spell out the future of this fight. If it hurt the aliens enough they could breathe a little easier.

    The shot moved at nearly the speed of light. The alien planet didn't react in any way to Tyrannosaurus' change or the blast from its main gun. It simply continued its slow, inexorable advance.

    What happened next stunned everyone into a dumbfounded silence.

    Direct hit. The red beam struck right in the center of the planet's black hole. However, they watched in disbelief as the shot reappeared behind the hostile world, and off into the empty expanse of space.

    "Redirection!" Kang Hui reacted fastest. He immediately recognized the planet had changed. It wasn't an orb, it was a ring. It wasn't exactly like what the Seventh Fleet had faced, but nonetheless they'd caused no damage!

    Tyrannosaurus went about recalibrating as the beam continued.

    Tyrannosaurus could only maintain continuous fire for a short time. What they discovered shook them to the core. It was as though the planet knew everything they were doing. It had positioned itself just right to allow the Bastion's attack to pass straight through.

    The red beam was a javelin, and the planet had been a ring for it to harmlessly pass through.

    How could this happen? No one - not the Paragons, not the intelligence officers, not the Admiral - no one could have imagined this would happen. And yet the evidence was right in front of their terrified faces.

    It was almost inconceivable, but the planet's hole was large and Tyrannosaurus' blast was finite. Even as Tyrannosaurus moved to try and reposition the beam, the alien planet moved with it in perfect harmony.

    A few seconds later the main gun's energy was exhausted. The red beam petered away into nothing, having never struck its target.

    "Admiral, the planet's in range of the Capital ships!" One of the flight officers shouted the news.

    Kang Hui didn't let his surprise impede on his role as commander. "First and Third fleets prepare their Capital ships to fire. Tell them to aim for the edge of the planet and avoid that hole. Lock on before firing cannons. Fleets Six, Eleven and Thirteen hold on my orders."

    In an intergalactic battle you mustn't show your whole hand all at once. Kang Hui was wise enough to save a few tricks up his sleeve until the right moments.

    However, just as the planet was pulling within range of the ships it stopped. The Capital ships preparing to fire scrambled to react. Meanwhile the black hole at the planet's center began to change. It adopted a deep purple hue and started to rotate like an enormous whirlpool.

    A thin curtain of asteroids still whipped about in space between the planet and the human fleets. Unlike Tyrannosaurus' attack, the rest of the ships couldn't get passed the asteroids to hit the target behind.

    "What is it doing?" Kang Hui glowered at the scene, as curious as he was frightened.

    Lan Jue's mind raced. There was something, a bolt of inspiration just out of reach.

    What could the planet do? It was large, strong, and oppressive; it could swallow energy, devour life, teleport...

    It could expand and create a vortex...

    Suddenly a light clicked on in Lan Jue's mind. He sputtered. "I got it. The thing is strong enough to draw the asteroids around and through it. I think it's going to use these asteroids as weapons. Admiral, tell your ships to watch for the asteroids and prepare to deal with them."

    Kang Hui paused and stared at the Eastern commander. Was he serious? A planet that sucked up asteroids to use as weapons?

    Lan Jue spoke urgently to him. "We saw them devour three whole planets and absorb what life they had. We know it can expand, much like what we see now. It's sucked up all those asteroids because it's going to spit them out - they don't have any life it needs. Admiral!" He was nearly shouting by the end.

    Kang Hui sucked in a breath. Whether he believed it or not, the dangers of being wrong were too great. He fired off a string of orders.

    "Everyone listen up! All ships draw in close to me and hold your fire. Assume tortoise formation, same as when we moved into the Starfields, a solid line. Capital ships and Tyrannosaurus form up as a spearhead. Everyone else get behind. Tyrannosaurus crew engage secondary weapons systems and put full energy into our shields!"

    Lan Jue gave the admiral an appreciative thumbs-up! He hadn't studied airship command but he knew that this was the best choice if a hail of asteroids did come their way. However, if he was wrong and the planet had something else planned, they'd just broken their defensive formation.

    "Admiral, why are we changing formation? What are you hiding?" A deep voice called to them through the communicator, indicated by a blinking yellow light. Only a handful of people had a direct like to Kang Hui, namely fleet commanders. This was the leader of the First Fleet, Admiral Ying Tianlong.

    First Fleet was the North's wild card. They had some of the best training and equipment the North could offer. It was the only fleet with ten Sovereign-class dreadnaughts. They boasted a laundry list of military exploits in the victory column, and more experience on the field than anyone.

    Admiral Ying Tianlong was himself a secret weapon. With his experience and capabilities he should have been Fleet Admiral like Kang Hui, but he was obstinate and prideful. He'd offended powerful men, and that meant he'd remain Admiral until he retired. He would be promoted only then, in a show of respect for his exploits.

    "Commander Ying, we are in the middle of a war, follow your orders." Kang Hui was referring to an elder, but in this dire time he wasn't afraid to pull rank. 1

    Ying Tianlong was silent. He was a soldier, and a soldier followed orders. Still the ships seemed hesitant to move into formation as Kang Hui commanded. They were much slower than before. Fleets Eleven and Thirteen were fasted, since they were under the Fleet Admiral's direct command. They'd begun to move immediately after receiving the word. Their Capital ships took up the foremost position and drew in close to Tyrannosaurus' flanks. They were followed by fleets Three and Six, while the celebrated First Fleet was last in the formation.

    ζ

    "That moron, does he know how to command troops? The enemy is closing in on us and he called tortoise formation? Is he planning to ram us right into them?"

    "See, these are the Admiral's orders. Look..." The Captain of First Fleet's flagship tried to reign in his commander. Refusing a superior officer's orders in times of war was a capital offense. They would all be court-marshalled.

    Ying Tianlong looked to be in his forties, but the streaks of white at his temples said differently. He still stood tall and straight, however, with the bearing of a much younger man.

    He took a couple ragged breaths, then waved his hand dismissively. Rules were rules.

    An urgent shout from his radar officer caught the admiral's attention.

    "Something's up. The alien planet seems to be getting smaller and there are a bunch of small bogies coming out from the center vortex. They're fast, and they're headed our way. They'll collide with the asteroid belt in twenty seconds.

    "What?" Ying Tianlong swung around in surprise and strode to the radar screen in several long steps. After a moment's glance his face changed. The radar screen was thick with more red dots than he could count, headed right for them.

    His pupils contracted and a cold sweat broke out over his body. "Then enemy's attacking! Fleet, fall in behind. Capital ships up from, shields up, weapons hot. Protect me!"

    First Fleet was too slow - there wasn't time to shield themselves behind Tyrannosaurus. But Ying Tianlon was an experienced commander. It wasn't ideal, but he chose the next best option. Now wasn't the time for regrets, he could worry over that if they survived.

    1. Proper reference to elders is very important in Chinese society. Displays of respect in general are very important, hence the idea of 'giving face.' However, why this would be important in the Northern Alliance (which I equate closer to the US) I don't know. Do we have any soldiers in the audience who experienced a disconnect between age and seniority? Let u know
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