Chapter 758: Live Fire Reconnaissance

    Chapter 758: Live Fire Reconnaissance

    When they saw the embattled planets, their hearts fell.

    It had become purple, as everyone had expected. But the sick color extended well past the planet itself and had begun to infect space around it. Aliens far as the eye could see surrounded it like a plague of locusts.

    If the number of beasts they'd faced no Monteux had been overwhelming, what they saw before them was mind-boggling. They filled space as numerous as asteroids in the Shattered Starfields - more than humans had ever imagines.

    "This is the aliens' main force?" The Driver asked. As the others began to wonder if he was scared, he added a sentence. "So many vital crystals!"

    "Is there any limit to your greed?" Lan Jue muttered. "Mika, pull us into orbit and keep your distance. Let's take a look around, head for the nearest satellite planet then we'll go from there. Xiuxiu, start recording."

    "Aye, aye!" The two women replied in unison.

    Most of the creatures they saw were of the sort they'd witnessed before, however they were a few that were new to Lan Jue. Beasts over a thousand meters long were a common sighting, three thousand meters or more were rarer.

    According to Lan Jue's estimations, the ones that were ten thousand meters long were equivalent to human Paragons. They likely possessed more energy than a typical Paragon did. The smaller they became the weaker they were. Of course, this didn't include those that could alter their appearance, like the Violet Prince and Princess.

    As they continued their distant trajectory, only one word could describe the scene: Shocking.

    It was staggering to behold. At least three times the number of enemies they'd faced in the North, and monsters stronger than they'd ever seen. When did they become so numerous? Ten times as many humans wouldn't be able to contend with an army this size. Some were smaller, meant to force the enemy to waste their fire on them, but even those came in such numbers as to be a real threat.

    "Can we get through?" Lan Jue turned to Lin Guoguo. Of course, he meant could they get into the thick of it without being discovered.

    She frowned. "No, there are too many in close proximity. I can't emulate that many signals at once. We'd be discovered right away."

    This was a problem. Lan Jue frowned at the horde before them. If he couldn't get in closer, how were they to complete their mission?"

    Lan Qing's words ticked the back of his mind. There were so many aliens they couldn't safely confirm the aliens' condition. This was as good as confirmation - it meant they were probably undergoing their evolution.

    Yet, they'd been wrong before. Being wrong this time could mean they lose everything. Had Jue Di and Jun'er not helped when they did, humanity was already have no means to fight back.

    Failure was not an option. They had to confirm the planets' condition or the next part of their plan could not be enacted.

    He muttered to the others. "Continue on. I don't think the creatures can have this much space quarantined. It doesn't matter how many there are."

    "Aye, aye!" Zeus-1 continued its forward journey.

    Indeed it appeared the aliens could keep everything locked down. As they got closer to the planets things became more difficult, but the space between was more navigable. But things were worse than they expected. Interspersed throughout space were many of the umbrella-shaped, jellyfish-like aliens they'd encountered before. In Lan Jue's experience they had the strongest psionic abilities, both very sensitive and wide-spread. They didn't have much in the way of fighting ability but they carried a small army with them wherever they went.

    The pulses from the umbrella aliens were as strange as they were complicated, too complicated for Lin Guoguo to mimic. In addition, they noticed that the signals from them seemed to change, whereas other aliens' calls were static.

    This was made even more troubling by the fact that they couldn't tell how many aliens were contained inside one. For all they knew, one umbrella-alien could be transporting enough aliens to wipe out their little boat.

    It took them a day to make a full circuit, observing every planet. The final analysis was the aliens were using overwhelming numbers and strategically placed umbrella-aliens to keep this section of space locked away. The seven outer planets were sentries, and Europa was safely nestled inside. Learning anything more was beginning to seem impossible.

    "What do you think? "The Wine Master asked Lan Jue. By now the bastions were already in position. Middle Heaven, Poseidon, and Tyrannosaurus were making final preparations. Yet they still had no useful information to present.

    In fact the only news they had was bad news. Even without the alien home worlds there seemed to be more normal aliens than the human forces could contend with. If the three planets did appear their deaths would be quick and decisive.

    Their mission was more important than ever.

    "Live-fire reconnaissance!" Lan Jue replied.

    "Live fire reconnaissance?" The Wine Master seemed unsure. "No, too dangerous," he replied."

    Lan Jue turned to him. "Hear me out. We wouldn't all go out and pick a fight. We separate into two teams; Zeus-1 provides support while the second team moves in and kicks the hornet's nest."

    "Explain," the Wine Master said.

    He did. "You, me, the Pharmacist, Qianlin. The four of us move into enemy territory and try to get a reaction, see how they respond from a small-scale attack. Without a way to protect ourselves being detected would be unavoidable. Meanwhile the others wait here on the ship and give us backup. Your job will be to transfer us out of harm's way when the time is right. There is a danger, especially since it's likely we'll encounter stronger aliens, but it's the only way to get a read on what's happening deeper in. We don't have to get to the center, we just need a clue."

    The Wine Master considered his proposal. "I suppose it's the best plan we've got, though I don't like the risk. What do you hope to find? You say we don't need to penetrate too deeply, but there's a lot of space between the outer planets and Europa. If the alien home worlds can cloak themselves as we suspect, it seems likely we'd discover anything useful."

    Lan Jue shook his head. "I don't just intend to break past the line. I intend to get around the back side of these planets. You've seen that the aliens are most numerous around the planets. If a progenitor has already taken control of the planet, why would it need that much support? There must be something going on that we don't know. We delve past their blockade and see what's on the other side. Then, we swing around the backside of a planet and take a look at what they might be hiding. If we can do that, our mission will have been a success."

    The Wine Master thought for another few moments. "If that's the case I think we can assure a reasonable degree of safety. I can teleport everyone back."

    Lan Jue smiled. "We might just be gauging reactions, but let's hit them with a solid punch. If we can teleport out, then we can teleport in."

    The Wine Master nodded. "It's unsure whether there are any survivors."

    When he said it everyone's face grew solemn. The West was truly lost. Most of their population had been gathered here 1, so how many could have fled? Whatever the number, it was far, far too few.

    As much as no one wanted to admit it, the Western Alliance was no more. Their planetary defenses couldn't hold out against so many enemies. Just think, their president was forced to flee. The chaos and devastation must have been staggering.

    One of humanity's three great Alliance had collapsed.

    The thought left a wound on every heart. They had witnessed the end of an entire nation. Which would be next? The North? The East? Once the aliens completed their evolution, their path of genocide would continue.

    "Let's get ready. We'll launch from the first planet, it's closest to our own forces. When our mission is complete we'll head back directly." Lan Jue gave the final order.

    Zeus-1 kept its course, heading back to where they they started.

    "Boss, let me come with you, even just as Thor's weapon." Xiuxiu requested.

    His response was low and serious. "Denied. Stay here on Zeus-1."

    His decisive tone left no room for Xiuxiu to disagree. She glanced at him, at Qianlin by his side, then turned her pained eyes away. She would not be the girl who stood by him in conflict.

    As Zeus-1 returned to the launching point Lan Jue woke his parents and told them the plan. The Driver and Mika would not be enough if the dispatch team needed help, so his father and mother would need to be on alert.

    No more data was needed on their way back, so they moved quicker. They returned to the first planet in half the time.

    Jue Di turned to his son. "Go. I will be watching over you with my Far Sight. The moment things get out of control I'll move in to help, but be careful. We still have no idea where the alien planets are."

    1. At Lan Jue's request, I might add.
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