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Chapter 691: Death of a Spider

    Chapter 691: Death of a Spider

    "Commander, what have you found?" Kang Hui said.

    "We haven't seen any aliens yet," Lan Jue replied. "But we've steered clear of your exfiltration route. We'll be proceeding with the reconnaissance from a different path. Admiral, we ask that you share the data from Arachnid and Heron when they get clear of combat."

    Under normal conditions Kang Hui would never even consider sharing combat information with a foreign national. All of it was confidential and classified as a state secret. Everything that was learned was paid for by the blood of Northern soldiers. However, after everything that had transpired Kang Hui didn't refuse their appeal. He told Lan Jue the data was already available.

    The data transfer was quick. On Zeus-1's screens appeared the Bastion that had once tried to destroy Lan Jue. Star Division's commander - along with the Wine Master and Clockmaker - absorbed everything they saw.

    Arachnid's mechanical arms were a stunning revelation to them, and they watched in awe as the Bastion cut through the alien forces as though it were invincible. Tortoise-aliens were slashed down like they were made of bean curd.

    A ship worthy of the North's reputation! Only humanity's most technologically advanced Alliance could create such an awesome monstrosity.

    But their admiration quickly turned to dread.

    They watched Arachnid charge the planet and crash into its surface with baited breath. Arachnid's deadly arms and mass had to make that alien world reel. But it didn't, instead they watched in stunned silence as the mighty ship was ignored like a gnat. Their faces fell.

    Kang Hui didn't edit anything from the video, all that had transpired was given to them. Even Arachnid's internal systems data was provided like the size and attack power of the mechanical arms.

    Each one of Arachnid's arms was equivalent in power to Heron's main cannons. They were considered inferior only because the ship needed to get in close to use them. Still, it succeeded where all other cannon fire had failed and actually struck the alien! The result? No more than ripples on a pond. Arachnid's great slashing arms left no damage, much to everyone's disbelief. From the outside no shields were evident around the planet, but Arachnid's failed attack raised the question; how strong was this planet's defense?

    Could a cannon blast from Tyrannosaurus even break its shields?

    Lan Jue's mind raced as he watched the recording. Arachnid's attempt reminded him of something. "The planet never risked taking a shot from the main guns. It either evaded them or used deception to protect itself. But even if it did how much damage would it do?"

    The Wine Master spoke, his voice low. "If Arachnid's inability to crack its shield is any indication, even a cannon blast seems like it would have little effect. The planet it encountered looks smaller than the one we fought as well. We can assume their close-combat abilities - their natural abilities - are very formidable."

    Lan Jue nodded. "Father said he sensed a power even stronger than his coming from a planet. What does that say when he's the strongest human alive? The limit of human capabilities, in fact. He's also told me that it's impossible to grow power beyond the Infinite because universal law prohibits it. But if that's true for us, it should also be true for the aliens... it must have found some way to hide itself from the universe's restrictions. The Violet Prince referred to the King and Queen, the strongest of the aliens. We know the planets are alive, so it's safe to assume the planets are what he was talking about? The Prince himself is equivalent to a Paragon who's reached the Infinite. He was holding back in our fight so the universe wouldn't recognize his power."

    "So you're saying these planets are somehow tricking the universe into ignoring them?" The Wine Master asked.

    "Or something like that, at least that's my guess," Lan Jue replied. "It's the only explanation that makes sense and it answers many questions. These planets are large as Bastions but change readily when needed. If they were simply weapons they couldn't react so fast. But if they were akin to a physical body then you could say it's like instinct."

    "If this is a possibility we should try to confirm it during this mission," the Wine Master offered.

    "Look." The Clockmaker cut them off and pointed to the screen.

    Arachnid was struggling against the tentacles that had emerged from the planet's surface. Thick as mountains they wrapped tight around the ship and rendered its weapons useless. There was no escape, and every tentacle it cut down was replaced by several more.

    The fighter ships were trying to flee once it was clear Arachnid was doomed, but the planet's central vortex denied them the chance. None of the smaller ships had enough power to resist the vacuum, and they were all swallowed up. Twinkling purple lights followed, those being the vital crystals left behind by slain aliens.

    Lan Jue narrowed his eyes. Apparently these crystals were just as cherished by the planets as they were to humans.

    The screen briefly went white as a mammoth explosion burst from Arachnid's location. The screen went dark, then all that was left was white noise.

    Self-destruction! Once it was clear escape was impossible, Holmen made the valiant choice and chose to detonate the ship against the planet's surface.

    There was no data to confirm it, but a Bastion's self-destruction had to be apocalyptic in its devastation. It had to have done some damage to that planet. What's more, it denied the life force of the hundred-thousand plus soldiers aboard the ship.

    First Fleet's Ying Tianlong led his troops to a fiery death. Arachnid's Holmen chose self-destruction over a pointless death. Together they were a potent demonstration of the North's strength of character. They'd died defending the honor of their homeland, the first victims in the war against alien invasion.

    Lan Jue took a deep, shuddering breath. His eyes were red. Arachnid had once tried to kill him, but none of that mattered in the face of their sacrifice.

    The screens flickered and the snowy picture was replaced by summary data. It was everything learned by Tyrannosaurus from the recording. It included a preliminary analysis of the planet's defenses, but since Arachnid couldn't overcome them it was simply a projection. Things were not optimistic. Even Arachnid's main cannon wouldn't have done much of anything, they posited, though without more data it was hard to be sure.

    This was the strength of their enemy... even those tentacles were well protected.

    Lan Jue guessed the planet already knew Arachnid was more than a match for its alien forces. It waited for the Bastion to get close enough to deal with the ship itself. But perhaps it didn't anticipate self-destruction - part of their mission would have to be uncovering the aftermath.

    Next was the recording of Heron's tribulations. More surprises were forthcoming, like the planet's ability to launch itself forward like the much smaller shuttle aliens. It was so fast even the North's swiftest Bastion couldn't escape! A terrifying revelation!

    All of this told them one thing: The alien planets had no weakness. Close-combat, long-ranged attacks, defense, intelligence, speed... each one stronger than the last. Humanity had more than ten Bastions, but from what they saw even if they gathered them all together it may not get them the advantage. None of them were as agile, nor could they teleport like the planets could. Putting all of humanity's proverbial eggs in one basket was reckless. Moreover, the limit of these aliens' powers was still a mystery - whether or not human could even fight back with any effectiveness. Not to mention there were planets to protect and gathering their Bastions left those planets exposed.

    They still needed to know more.

    The atmosphere aboard Zeus-1 was melancholy, its crew was dispirited by the result of their expedition. For all their efforts humanity seemed doomed to extinction!

    "It's evident to everyone these creatures are especially well defended against human technology." It was the Pharmacist, who'd rarely opened her mouth, who made the observation.

    Lan Jue turned his head to look at her. "What you mean to say is non-biological attacks can't break its defenses?"
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