Many Worlds Chapter 43
After finding Douglas, Jules also spotted Isaac and Robert. There wasn’t much time to have a formal reunion, and it wasn’t like it had been very long since they had seen each other, just one night. There were also more important things on their minds now. The fighting was still going on, and they only took a few moments to gather themselves before returning to participating. Though the combat was much of the same things happening again, Jules couldn’t say it was anything like “routine”. He doubted he could get used to the violence, the fear, and the deaths. Although not nearly as many of those who were fighting against the waves of monsters died, there were still some. It filled Jules with a feeling of revulsion. Those were real deaths. People weren’t coming back from that. He even felt similarly about the adventurers who died, even though they would be back, eventually.
Jules wanted to leave, and he could have left at any time. However, that wouldn’t have stopped what was happening from being true. Jules knew he couldn’t care about everything terrible that happened to people, not on Earth or on Uesmeth, but when it was happening in front of him, he couldn’t not care. If he left, it would just be worse. Jules knew his friends felt the same.
Then, something changed. The atmosphere was different. At first, Jules couldn’t figure out what it was, especially with all the shaking of the ground making everything even more chaotic. Then, he noticed it. A small, but very real part of the ground trembling coincided with sounds, a sound of stomping. Not that Jules would have necessarily recognized that sound if he hadn’t seen what had caused it. It was a gigantic mantis. At least, it shared enough similarities that Jules would call it a mantis. Presumably, an entomologist could tell him why it wasn’t really a mantis, if they had time to look it over. However, there wasn’t. Jules just saw a giant insect. It had scythe-claws, like a mantis, and legs supporting a relatively narrow torso, which was the same general idea as a mantis. It also had a triangular head, on which were two bulbous eyes and mandibles that looked close enough to the real thing. Jules could tell there were probably some differences which made it technically different, but from his perspective, it was just a giant, ten meter tall mantis.
It wasn’t long before the majority of fire was aimed at this behemoth. However, even with some of the heavier weapons in the emplacements, it didn’t seem to be getting particularly damaged. Jules could see that the situation would quickly get worse, as it stepped over and on buildings, advancing toward the battle lines. Douglas immediately fired at it, but even the strange black fire he had control of only seemed to scorch its surface, and he shook his head. “I might be able to do something, if I were fresh, but I’m not… and it’s only might.”
Jules looked at it. What kind of weakness would it have? As he thought this, he found his mind flooded with various facts about it. Right. He had forgotten that he could do that. The data… wasn’t particularly helpful. It just confirmed that its armor couldn’t be pierced by anything that they had available in less than permanent fortifications. One completely unhelpful note was that it could not swim, but there wasn’t any large body of water anywhere nearby, even if it couldn’t just walk out of a lake or ocean, and even if they could have lured it to such in the first place. Jules found himself sorting through the available information, hoping to find something as it approached closer. Interestingly enough, he obtained more information the closer it got. He looked it over, and learned many more things that weren’t currently helpful. Though, he supposed knowing the exact length of its legs could be helpful in some other circumstances.
It quickly became obvious that nothing would be able to stop it quickly, so a retreat was called. This was an unplanned one, earlier than it should have been, but nothing could be done. As he retreated, Jules subconsciously continued fighting the smaller monsters that were still coming, but only half understood that they were trying to move away. Fortunately, Isaac pulled him along. Jules didn’t even notice, as he was still contemplating the information. He only realized when new energy barriers popped up between him and the monsters. “Hmm… I can’t think of anything useful.” Jules shook his head. “Outside, it’s almost impenetrable, and even inside… it’s resistant to concussive pressure, so we can’t even put a bomb in it or something like that.”
Robert got an interested look. “What’s it made of?”
“Some kind of super-dense material similar to chitin.”
Robert tilted his head. “On the inside?”
“What? Oh, no. That’s the shell. The inside is a strange…” Jules moved his hands around, trying to think of a way to describe it, “fleshy… stuff.”
Robert nodded. “Ok, it’s… fleshy, but blast resistant. How fleshy? Could we eat it?”
Jules looked at him as if he was crazy, which maybe he was. “Eat it? Don’t be stupid, it’s poisonous and disgusting.”
Robert also looked like he was trying to explain something he couldn’t. His hands came up and attempted to do something, but just ended up waving around without making any specific gesture. “I get that, but like… could we. Or like, a dog or bear or something, could it chew it? Also, does it have a lot of iron and umm…” Robert went off on a list of various compounds, and Jules answered them as he could. It did have a surprisingly large amount of metals, apparently, but many things on the list Robert mentioned Jules had never heard of, and didn’t seem to be part of the makeup inside the mantis. Jules wasn’t sure exactly how he was aware of this information, but he thought it should be relatively accurate… though Jules wasn’t sure exactly how accurate. Especially not right now, because his head was starting to hurt. Robert finished his question, and Jules his answers. Then, Robert nodded. “Well…” he reached into his bag, and pulled out a tiny vial, with what looked like a small amount of dirt at the bottom. “This might do it.”
Jules and the others just looked at him. “Dirt?
Robert sighed. “No it’s-”
At that point, a loud sound rang out. Everyone turned to look and saw that the mantis had struck the energy barrier with its claws. The barrier momentarily flickered, then returned to normal. There were sighs of relief all around… until the mantis leaped over the twenty meter high barrier, flapping the “wings” on its back, and then crashed down on the near side of the barrier.