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Chapter 728: Disaster for Humanity

    Chapter 728: Disaster for Humanity

    Admiral Brown's hand, risen high over his head, shook ever so slightly. As Terminator rattled and pitched around him, he knew their end had come. He'd always known this was a real possibility, but now that he was faced with it the anguish that filled him was almost petrifying.

    Bang! He slapped his hand down on the red button in the center of his desk.

    The alarms changed pitch. Its ear-piercing siren resounded through every corner. Outside, the swarm of fighter drones fought to find any gap through which to escape. The Bastions mighty shields collapsed, allowing the alien tentacles to land their blows on the ship's exterior.  The terrible screech of fractured metal, the rumbling blast of explosions, all of it mingled into a calamitous crescendo of destruction that shook the universe.

    A red light began to arise from the depths of Terminator.

    Outside the Alien planets paused in their assault. The purple-violet atmospheres around them thickened visibly. Their tentacles no longer struck the Bastion and instead stuck to its mangled surface.

    The fighter drones were left to their own devices. Seeing their opportunity, pilots broke from open space.

    The alien worlds began to expand and drew closer. The whirlpools of strange power they bore closed. Hugging tight to Terminator, all four spherical bodies shot upward like cannonballs.

    Red light painted Terminator's surface, growing darker by the moment. A frightening sensation radiated from deep within. But just then the enemy stopped, released their tentacles and left Terminator at the mercy of inertia to hurdle up and away.

    The whirlpools reemerged, only this time they spat energy instead of consuming it. This caused them to rocket away from one another in opposite directions.

    Terminator soared into the distance, until eventually it seemed to freeze in time. Everything seemed to stop as humanity's mightiest weapon became so dark as to be almost invisible. Then the red intensified, becoming an angry orange that burned from the center of the Bastion, followed by an explosion that threatened to consume the solar system in its ferocity.

    Nearly all of the fighter jets that had tried to flee were swallowed up in the blast. There was no roar of fire or burst of air. No sounds - only a sea of burning light.

    The alien planets gathered together well outside of the blast radius and sped into the distance.

    A Bastions' self-destruction was inconceivably powerful. Especially Terminator, with its compressed stores of energy, exploded with the force of a dying star - several tens of times stronger than the death of Arachnid.

    Four notable Northern planets were in the sector Terminator had been assigned to protect. The North had the most planets and the highest population, and Terminator had been dispatched to keep some part of it safe. Northern officials had been sure that even if an alien planet showed up, Terminator was strong enough to at least keep it tied up long enough for reinforcements to arrive. Besides, Terminator's main cannon was strong enough to completely destroy an average-sized planet.

    Now, from the surface of those four planets, the sky was covered in a burning white glare. Aftershock's from the blast caused their atmospheres to warp uncomfortably. It continued this way for more than ten minutes, but eventually the burning remains of Terminator darkened. The roar of the explosions followed and shook the worlds of man for a long time after.

    ζ

    Skyfire, Skyfire Avenue.

    "What?!" The Wine Master shot to his feet so fast the table shook. He face was livid. After becoming a Reflection of Heaven and Earth he had been in a fine mood. Then Lan Jue vanished and that put a damper on his honeymoon. However Luo Xianni had reassured him by saying Jue Di had gone to bring him back.

    Now, as he stared in shock and alarm at the scarlet message scrolling across the screens, no one knew how to react.

    The alien planets had teleported and laid siege to Terminator. After destroying the Bastion they'd taken the four planets in the sector and cut off any means of surveillance.

    If the planets were in human space it likely meant Lan Jue and the others were ok. But it also meant the real war for human survival was underway.

    Before they had been content to bare their teeth, but now they had struck a crippling blow in allied territory. All told, a billion Northern citizens were lost - the hold-outs and those too ill to leave for Luo and other internal planets.

    With how fast the planets could consume a planet, these people...

    The Wine Master shut his eyes in the face of the terrible truth. His forlorn voice echoed across the whole of Skyfire Avenue.

    "All councilors, we are convening an emergency meeting. Come to the Gothic Winery immediately."

    ζ

    Panic swept through human space as the news of the tragedy got out. By the end of a single day everyone knew war had come. Special sessions of government were called in all the alliances, and every available warship was called to service. The loss of four planets and a billion citizens was the single worst disaster mankind had ever faced. Although they couldn't know their fate for certain, the history of aggression shown by the aliens assured tragedy.

    Humanity's reckoning had come.

    Meanwhile, Lan Jue was steering Zeus-1 back toward home.

    The Shattered Starfields were vast. Even though Lan Jue was anxious to get home and learn of the planets' destination, he couldn't simply will himself out of the hodge-podge of asteroids and shattered planets. He steered his ship as fast as he dared while pulling up maps of human occupied territory on his secondary screens.

    It was the latest maps with updated data after evacuations. It clearly showed where humanity was pulling back, to keep their people close in the event of alien attack.

    He poured over the data, searching for the most likely place for the aliens to appear. He knew it was pointless, but perhaps he would have some insight to offer when he got back to Skyfire.

    Mankind knew shockingly little about the aliens compared to their foes. They even knew about Bastion positions and capabilities. They had displayed expert control and strategy against Heron and Arachnid. Although Lan Jue had not seen the planets' fighting abilities with his own eyes, he did not believe humanity could match up. After all, the alien worlds handily defeated three Bastions and humanity only had ten - ten ships that required staggering resources and were spread out to protect billions of people.

    In a straight-up fight mankind had a chance. Btu the aliens were determined not to make it a straight-up fight. They'd proven that time and again.

    They'd displayed great cunning and intellect, dolling out bitter losses to humanity while protecting themselves from typical human war strategy. It wasn't an exaggeration to say that up to now, humanity was on the losing side.

    If he had to guess, they relied on the Violet Prince and Princess to infiltrate human lands and learn about their prey. Considering the powerful psychic abilities of these creatures, and their Nirvana-equivalent strength, learning the secrets of humanity would not be difficult.

    Meanwhile humans had no means of learning about their enemy. Lan Jue and Star Division had been the only ones successful in learning anything at all.

    The key was in discovering precisely what the enemy's goal was. Did they pillage the worlds of man simply for their DNA and vital energy, or for some other reason? Perhaps a combination? It was integral that they found out.

    "What are you thinking about? Rushing isn't going to help anything. Safety first, fly carefully."

    The familiar voice rose from behind him. Lan Jue turned his head to see the Pharmacist at his back, she'd sneaked up at some point while he'd been lost in thought. As a Paragon her powers surpassed his sensitive perception.

    He could tell her from her expression that the Pharmacist had calmed. The sadness that had clouded her mind had passed. Behind her eyes now was a burning resolve, something Lan Jue recognized as the will to fight. She'd come out from the depths of her pain strong and ready.

    "How are you feeling?" Lan Jue asked with a smile. "Relax, the ship's fine. We've been here so often the ship's AI can handle navigation. We won't run into any problems."

    The Pharmacist nodded. "Good. I've come upon something I think will help you."

    Lan Jue turned his full focus to her. "Something from your husband?"

    There was the faintest hint of sadness, which she concealed with a nod of her head.

    Lan Jue didn't press her further and chose only to listen. He knew whatever she had to say would be difficult for her. The fear her love might not return still persisted.

    "He told me much through the sword and rune," she began. "I settled my heart and focused on it while I meditated. Things aren't exactly as we'd expected, but through my husband's efforts I might have learned something important."
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