Chapter 769: Clever Beasts

    Chapter 769: Clever Beasts

    Lan Jue paused. "Why is it bad that there are so many survivors?"

    Lan Qing explained in his typical emotionless voice. "Did you think about why there were so many survivors? These creatures are on the top of the food chain, there have any number of ways to extract human genes. No, there's another reason - to delay us. Once the fight starts I'm sure they'll find a way to make us watch as they kill any human left. What will we do then? We don't have a choice, we have to save them. We'll have to save many people, from many planets, with an army barely large enough to do the job we came here for. How long do you think this rescue will take?"

    Lan Jue's face darkened as he understood what his brother was saying. He'd been focused on whether or not the planets were evolving because it was integral to their plan, but now he saw how tricky things really were. They had been right to assume the alien home worlds had begun the evolution process, but no one knew how long it would take. If they got bogged down in a massive rescue mission the worst case scenario was too dire to contemplate.

    "They're too damn clever." Lan Jue shook his head. "But we can't just leave them there. We're talking about hundreds of thousands of people! Can't we find a way to have it both ways?"

    A spark flashed in Lan Qing's eye. "I've been thinking about it. I'm going to summon Admiral Kang and Hua Li, then we'll talk about it. There's a lot we'll need to change from the original plan."

    Lan Jue's heart sank. Their situation was getting worse by the hour. If they focus their efforts on saving people they didn't have enough soldiers to clear the planets of aliens, much less go hunting for the alien home worlds.

    After a little while Kang Hui, Hua Li, the Wine Master and the Keeper arrived. They gathered together to discuss the plan. Lan Jue began by sharing what he'd learned, going over everything in detail. The others listened with increasingly deepening scowls.

    Lan Qing first swept his attention over to the Keeper. "Your Majesty, have you discovered anything about the infected?" He was likely here for just that reason.

    The Keeper, his face dark and imposing, replied. "We've only just begun to see what we can learn, their condition is complicated. Simply put they suffer from a sort of disease - a terrible affliction that attacks the victim's genetics and bodily functions. On the surface the symptoms looks relatively benign; it improved their strengths, extends their life, and releases potential by stimulating their genetic code to an incredible degree. However, at the core of it this disease poisons the victim's mind. It interrupts and modulates brain-wave patterns, making them homogenous with all the other infected. We believe this is how the aliens control them."

    "So you're saying," Lan Jue cut in, "the aliens are capturing humans, then unlocking their potency in order to use them as their own tools? As a way to better understand our technology?"

    The Keeper shook his head. "That was my hypothesis at first, but evidence disproves the theory. This affliction causes human DNA to activate and become more readily definable. This would allow them to see the advantages of our genetic makeup in order to assist their own evolution."

    "Isn't this what you told us when you came back from the planets? They want to obtain genetic information from our people, which corresponds with my findings."

    Lan Jue nodded. "Is there a way we can turn them back? Reduce the number of afflicted?"

    The Keeper frowned. "It's difficult. We've never seen anything like this before, and understanding it well enough to develop a cure will take time and effort. This goes beyond any modern medicine we possess. With today's technology it will take one or two years before we can research a cure."

    Lan Jue shrugged. "Perhaps there's another method? Some scientific process or..."

    But the Keeper cut him off with the shake off his head. "There is nothing suitable to be used in this case. This disease directly attacks the genetic code. We can't simply start destroying the aberrant bonds. At best we return them to a persistent vegetative state which there is no cure for. So far as we've been able to tell there is only one option. There may be someone with sufficient willpower and strength to fight off the poison with their own immune system. If we can find anyone who is able to do this we can extract their cells and use them to develop and antidote. However, it is important to realize that the chances of finding someone with resistant genes is very small."

    The aliens and their poisons were strong. Indeed it would not be easy to find someone with the innate ability to resist them.

    Lan Jue's eyes flashed. "What if an Adept is infected? Our bodies are stronger than a typical human, would we be able to develop antibodies that could be useful?"

    The Keeper balked. "In theory, yes, but the dangers are great. They would likely be enormously powerful, a fact I'm sure the aliens themselves had considered. It may be why they haven't tried it."

    Lan Qing interrupted them. "This problem will have to be put aside for the time being. We must leave it to you to figure out, Arcane Magnate. Right now we need to focus on how to adjust the plan with the information we have at hand."

    Even Lan Qing couldn't help but feel the pang of helplessness gnawing at his chest. Although his brother's mission had been a success, the information he'd brought back was not what they wanted to hear. Allied forces were now faced with an impossible situation. They were duty-bound to save those people, but it would invariably slow their operation to a crawl. They would be leaving the alien planets to complete their evolutionary process unmolested.

    Since no one knew how long it would take for their transformation to complete, the situation was like standing before a ticking time bomb. When it goes off, it truly would mean the end.

    Their plans were certainly going to have to change.

    Kang Hui scowled as he thought. "Admiral Lan, as much as I agree that these unfortunate victims need to be saved, we must consider the facts. We simply don't have the numbers to do it, and a single misstep could spell our undoing. We may not be the last of humanity's strength, but this may very well be our last opportunity. You have to choose, which is more important?"

    Lan Qing nodded in understanding. Everyone wanted to save whoever they could, but it the effort would break them. It not only interrupted their carefully laid plans, but also risks losing them the war.

    Lan Jue chimed in. "We can more or less confirm that the aliens are evolving, or at least preparing to. That means we won't have to worry about the planets themselves getting involved in a fight. While we can't be sure about Europa, it's certain there are many survivors left on the others planets, and even more if we consider the infected. How can we live with ourselves if we leave them to their fate? But even then I believe what Admiral Kang says to be true. If it boils down to having to make a single decision, then attacking the alien menace is the only one to consider. They threatening all of us, all across human space."

    Lan Jue's heart was in a knot even as he spoke the words. Of course he hoped he could save everyone, but did their situation allow it?

    Lan Qing replied. "If we could have it both ways that would be the best, even if it brought considerable risk. But it would all rely on having enough strength to do the job. Let's put our heads together and see if we can't figure something out."

    Hua Li finally lent his voice to the conversation. "Doing both might be impossible. Admiral, I suggest you make preparations for a full attack. At the very least we'll be ready to take any opportunity that presents itself, and at best we can make swift changes if a better solution is found. If we can't find a way to save those people, it won't detract from our ability to strike when the time is right."

    His suggestion was the most sensible, even Kang Hui was conflicted with the dilemma they faced. The death of so many of his countrymen had left him with a deep and painful impression. He desperately wished for some way to save the Westerners from a similar fate.

    Lan Qing nodded. At present Hu Li's suggestion was the most suitable. At least for now, it was the best they could do.

    "Very well, we stick to the original goals and make changes to the plan as necessary." Lan Qing said, his voice hard and low.

    Lan Jue sat there in silence. He already knew the plan very well, right now his sole focus was finding a way to save those people.

    How many souls were left on those seven planets? They had families, spouses, children... now their homes were occupied by evil creatures that were tearing their lives apart. The thought went through Lan Jue's mind again and again. He could feel their pain, see their hopeless expressions. His character demanded that he take any chance to save them, even if it were one in a million.

    But they had another responsibility to the whole human race that was just as important, so a situation that attacked both problems was necessary. In fact saving these people had to rest on the premise of destroying the alien threat. Otherwise, what purpose would saving them serve? If the alien home worlds were allowed to evolve, it would only delay the inevitable.
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