Chapter 817: Breaking the Lines

    Chapter 817: Breaking the Lines

    Lan Qing was an outstanding commander. However, even with his lauded intelligence he simply couldn't see a way to make an omelette without the need to break a few eggs. There was no better option, and victory would come with a gamble no matter the circumstances.

    Lan Jue opened his mouth to reply but was silenced when his brother lifted a hand. "Admiral Kang Hui's determinations are reasonable. But that can't be our path." His tone was adamant. "We spent a lot of time and energy to save our Western brethren. We did not take them away, and instead promised we would keep them safe. If we go back on that promise now I can promise you it isn't just the military that will suffer. The soldiers, and even I, will see victory as an impossible task. Yes, Angel was a trap - but we recognize its dangers and we can refuse to be cowed by them. We must protect this place."

    Kang Hui sighed, trying to maintain control of his excitable mood. "Protect? How do you propose we do that? Even at full strength, with all of our soldiers, our chances of victory are slim. If we separate our forces how can we hope to defeat the aliens?"

    Lan Qing's response was measured. "I've ordered all the railguns we could spare from the three bastions to Angel's surface. Most of them have already been installed on the surface. If we tried to salvage all seven planets then you would be right, protecting them would be a fool's errand. But we are responsible for only one, and I'm confident we can keep these people safe. After all, if the aliens want to stop us they'll need to focus their main force against the armada. If they are busy with us at the front, Angel will have far fewer concerns if the decide to split their own forces."

    Kang Hui frowned. "It's the best we can do for the moment, but I'm not confident that railguns alone will protect them from the aliens. If that was the case these planets wouldn't have fallen so readily in the first place." Each of these worlds had to have had their own defensive installations prior to the aliens' arrival. Clearly they proved insufficient.

    Planetary defenses were a force to be reckoned with, but their disadvantage lay in their inflexibility. These creatures were particularly fast and used their advantage to overcome the deterrents.

    Railguns were powerful and could be used at extreme range. However they were stationary, and cumbersome. Adding more didn't ameliorate the problem. Any admiral knew this.

    For railguns to have the best effect they needed to have an interstellar fleet tie up the enemy. If the enemy was kept at bay the railgun could pick them off from a distance. But that needed soldiers.

    Kang Hui knew this, as did Lan Qing. When the Northern admiral heard Lan Qing's plans he relaxed. Though Middle Heaven's commander spoke with force and high authority, in the end they shared the same determination. There was nothing for it but to accept fate.

    Lan Qing continued. "Planetary defenses alone aren't enough to repel an enemy attack, but we have other assets we can leave behind to shore them up. We know that our Adepts are most effective in the fight against these monsters, their abilities are natural checks to their strength. We have seen that Star Division is particularly adept at doling out punishment, especially with the help of the Paragons. No less effective than an interstellar fleet, perhaps more. So I have decided to leave Skyfire Avenue's mecha division behind to protect the planet and defend its installations."

    Kang Hui's eyes went wide with surprise. Even Hua Li couldn't believe what he was hearing. "No, how would that work? It's too dangerous - you're leaving those soldiers right in the line of fire. Once they're annihilated the cost to all of humanity's collective adepts would be catastrophic!"

    Lan Qing looked at Hua Li in surprise. He hadn't expected such vocal opposition from him. Hua Li seemed strange to him, somehow.

    "Admiral," Poseidon's leader continued, "I'm telling you the facts. Star Division is capable but their chances are slim to none against a large alien force. Besides we need these Paragons on the frontlines, otherwise how are we going to counter their generals? Unless you leave the Paragons here you leave Angel open to a sneak attack from the enemy. You see the contradiction."

    Lan Qing smirked and looked at Lan Jue. "You tell him."

    Lan Jue obliged. "It may seem like a contradiction, but we have a solution. We've already set up a large transference array on Angel's surface. There's another one here on Middle Heaven. So long as they don't get too far apart we can use them to move resources. That is, we can put Star Division wherever they're needed. After discussing it with Admiral Lan, we've decided this is the best course of action. The Paragons will be left on Angel to defend against a sneak attack, then will transfer to the front when they're needed."

    Kang Hui's eyes sparkled at the prospect. "Can this really be done? If so that's an effective way to break their lines." Kang Hui was also a wise commander, and recognized the worth of the strategy quickly. Indeed it was their best shot. Assuming several of the Paragons and Star Division remained behind, adding several fleets wouldn't help much. The armada was free to engage at full strength.

    Indeed there was no better option. However, it put a great deal of pressure on Star Division and the Paragons. They would more than likely be the crux of two major battles.

    Hua Li looked at Lan Jue with some concern. "A battle on two fronts... do you think that's too much for your people to handle?"

    "Does it matter?" Lan Jue replied. "If we survive I'll consider us blessed. There are no other choices, this is all we've got. I've already discussed it with the other Paragons and they've agreed."

    Kang Hui nodded. "It's the best way, even if it is difficult for our illustrious Paragons. Please keep yourselves safe. Without you we will not be able to achieve final victory."

    Lan Jue smiled at him in response. "Don't worry, I would like to keep breathing." No one laughed at him making light of the situation.

    As this final, definitive battle neared a great pressure had settled on everyone's heart. There was no leeway here; victory would be humanity's greatest achievement, whereas defeat would spell their doom. If they lost here, mankind's only course of action would be to flee, hiding in the deepest recesses of space and praying they can keep hidden from these new dark gods.

    No one wanted to ponder that eventuality, but it lurked unbidden in the back of their minds nonetheless. They had to do their best, for everyone's sake.

    Kang Hui, Hua Li and the others left once the plan was hatched. Only Lan Jue and Lan Qing remained.

    "A-Jue, have you thought enough about it? That plan is dangerous." His face betrayed hesitation once more.

    Lan Jue smirked. "Dangerous? I don't think so. In fact, I think if we handle it well we have a good chance at success. When the time comes it's not just me, you're going to need to work hard as well! I'm going to need you to provide me with the opportunity."

    Lan Qing heaved a sigh, and his eyes hardened. He reached out and rested his hands on his little brother's shoulders. "We don't have any other choice!"

    Lan Jue firmly nodded his head. "That's right. No other choice."


    When the allied armada began to move again, their stern engines were burning away from Angel, leaving the planet behind. Everyone was agitated.

    This operation had garnered the attention of everyone, everywhere. When the aliens appeared in the North they had brought with them a cloud of panic and despair. Now, Lan Qing and his armada was bearing the hopes of billions deep into enemy territory.

    Admiral Lan Qing had won victory over the aliens, and liberated their human victims. Under his leadership soldiers from each of the Alliances were chasing down a bruised foe. If they succeeded in wiping out the alien threat, mankind could rebuild. Humans multiplied quickly, and with today's technology it would not take long for them to recover their former strength. Ten years, the experts said. A decade would be enough to repair the damage these monsters had wrought.

    The governments of the East and North watched with bated breath.

    Twelve fleets and three bastions departed from Angel. Officially, the planet they were vacating had enough railguns to qualify it as a hedgehog. Enough, they hoped, to protect it against a large alien force. The common folk trusted in their power, though others with military backgrounds pondered how effective they'd really be.

    Even if they had misgivings no one would dare utter a word of doubt. The mission these allied forces were on would decide everyone's fate, some sacrifices might be necessary. After all, the West was all but destroyed, and the soldiers who were risking their lives came mostly from the North and East. Their higher military authorities had everyone's lives in their hands. Western brothers and sisters would have to secondary to the survival of the species.

    And so, strangely, there was no opposition to Lan Qing's tactical decisions - almost unheard of in modern history. No democratic representative attacked their choices on the front lines. They understood doing so would subject them to the ire of their constituents.
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