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Book 5, Chapter 33 - Rapid Changes

 By the time Cloudhawk returned to Greenland City, several days had passed.

Strong undercurrents were raging throughout the southern wilds, but on the surface things looked calm. Frost's forces and the Khan's agents were slowly spreading out, inching closer to inevitable conflict. At this point, however, both maintained constraint. No one wanted to make the first move.

In the middle was Greenland, who staunchly refused to take a side.

Whether Frost's men or the Khans, each sized up the other. It was like they were crawling over thin ice and the slightest provocation could cause the ground to open up beneath them. The oppressive conflict on the horizon was enough to keep them busy, so for the time being there was no sense in goading a neutral power. After all, Greenland's strength was not insignificant. Besides the old drunk and Autumn, the Polaris family's several hundred Elysian-trained soldiers were a force to reckoned with.

"Hello, Governor!"

"Welcome back, boss!"

"Governor Cloudhawk! Good to see you."

As he made his way through the streets various citizens hailed him. They recognized and appreciated Cloudhawk's power and what he'd done for the city. It was hard to deny that Greenland City had come into an incredible golden age once Cloudhawk took the reins. The benefits everyone enjoyed were as plain as the nose on their faces.

Cloudhawk surveyed his city, at the newly constructed residential towers that had cropped up through the city like mushrooms. Lane upon lane, neighborhood after neighborhood, all very orderly and expansive.

By now one in four Greenland citizens was living in one of the new buildings. Scores more were in the process of being completed.

Soon every citizen of Greenland would be able to leave their rundown, dirty, bug-infested shacks behind. Everyone would have the right to live somewhere new and clean, somewhere safe with food and electricity. At last - after so many long years - wastelanders would have an opportunity to establish a family and build their own society. In this place where materials were becoming abundant, the cruelty of a dog-eat-dog world was giving way to order.

Beneath Cloudhawk's feet was a stone walkway, simple and easy to construct. It had become typical for the routes through the city. Those grass-strewn lanes were cleared, along with the rat holes and insect-ridden piles of detritus.

As he surveyed it all Cloudhawk watched a group of guards pass by leading a robotic dog. Above him he heard the roar of a plane's propeller and saw a squad of eight planes swoop by a few dozen meters overhead. Those were aerial sentries that not only patrolled the area but could also be dispatched where they were needed through radio contact.

One of the things they put the most effort into was public security. Out in the wastes, protection of one's settlement was always one of the most difficult problems to solve.

It was in the nature of wastelanders to be fierce and unruly, but those sorts would find it difficult to cause them any heartache. Cloudhawk had imposed strict rules to combat just such a thing. Anyone who dared to cause trouble in the city was severely punished. Paired with the healthy fear the people felt for the city's Elysian martial artists, trouble was a quickly diminishing occurrence. The city's atmosphere was improving day by day.

Cloudhawk continued his tour, eventually coming upon a market. To maintain the city's security and environment they'd established several designated trading areas. These markets and bazaars where were people could trade their game or goods for other materials they needed.

Lately the market had seen an influx of various sorts of machinery. It was a tangible representation of Greenland's closer ties with Sandspire.

Food and water were always the scarcest resources in the wasteland. Once Greenland started providing them with whatever they needed, Sandspire was more than willing to pay in technology or other goods. Part of this trade included ancient communication equipment, tele-mechanisms and aerial vehicles.

Sandspire's history spanned decades. It was rife with conflict and chaos, but there had been steady progress. It was at least stable enough for its industrial capabilities to flourish, as well as talented engineers and scientists to spur it forward. These were commodities no other city in the wastes could muster, at least not any time soon.

Some examples were robots and ancient computers. Back in their time these were tremendously useful bits of tech, so complicated that no other city had the talent to piece them back together. Sandspire stood alone as the only area with the smarts and resources.

But those were just the finished products. Hellflower was far more interested in their scientific minds. So, as part of their agreement, she picked out her favorites and relocated them to Greenland where they worked in her labs.

This led to a curious incident. Hellflower, in her attempts to squeeze more out of Sandspire and with Cloudhawk's permission, affixed a price to the various soldiers they'd captured during the attack on Greenland City. Any one of them was available for purchase by Sandspire.

When news of this proposal reached the industrial settlement they immediately agreed. After all, these were citizens of Sandspire that were conscripted to try and take Greenland when Cloudhawk's reign had just begun. Since the city was sorely in need of soldiers and was rife with technology, they accepted their ransom.

With their ransom in hand Hellflower was appeased. She ordered the release of their prisoners. And that was the end of it, at least for a few days. However what happened next surprised not only Hellflower, but Cloudhawk as well.

The soldiers they sent to Sandspire were back a few days later.

Not only did they return, but they also brought their families crying for a chance to live in Greenland City. They were even willing to return to living in the prisons, because being a Greenland prisoner of war was better than being a soldier for any other wasteland city.

Every day was hard labor but at least they wouldn't starve. None of their duties included dangerous fighting, either. It was a far stretch from being force to live hand to mouth anywhere else.

But most importantly they could also see Greenland was getting better by the day. They could feel how much safer it was living here.

In their basic nature, all wastelanders were the same as anyone else. It wasn't like they were born with a desire to kill and sow chaos. Most of the time circumstances forced them into it. Who among them wouldn't jump at the chance of a paradise they didn't have to kill their way in to? Before now none of them would have thought such a place could even exist out here, but Cloudhawk and his men proved to them it was possible. More and more of them were convinced that Greenland City was the south's promised land.

These folks were all average people. None of them could see the trouble brewing on the horizon. What they believed was what they saw in front of their faces. In reality, it was probably a blessing.

Cloudhawk passed by a fenced area and the sight of it brought a smile to his lips. The sign hung on its doors red 'Greenland Institute'. The gates were flanked by a pair of guards.

"Governor, what brings you here?"

"I had a little free time so I decided to go for a stroll. My feet brought me here so I thought I'd drop in."

No resistance was offered, of course. Cloudhawk was their boss. With his hands folded behind his back Cloudhawk strode inside the school. Where once it'd been a primitive collection of tents, it was now a fully functional facility complete with dormitories, teaching buildings and training fields.

Greenland Institute now had over a thousand students enrolled.

When he entered Cloudhawk was greeted with the sight of over a hundred students of different ages, running drills with an Elysian soldier. They were all dripping with sweat from the effort. He noted that their trainers had systemized the training even further than before in order to capitalize on their students' full potential.

He kept going. Through a classroom window he heard a scientist instructing a group about the chemical structure of different items. That group was being grouped to be Seekers.

Cloudhawk felt thrilled as he watched the vibrant scenes pass him by. He didn't stop to interrupt anything, however, and made his way directly to the heart of the campus. That was where Claudia taught her future demonhunters.

Last time he checked, there were sixty children enrolled in the program. When he arrived they were all gathered for meditation training.

Claudia was standing to one side, watching their progress. When she saw Cloudhawk arrive her face turned in a slight scowl, but it passed quickly. She walked over to him. "Your instructions, Governor?"

Cloudhawk grinned. "You're the Headmistress, what am I supposed to instruct you in? How's everything going here? Smoothly I imagine."

Claudia's face eased. "Wastelander children can handle a lot more than their Elysian counterparts. I'm confident they will all grow to be respectable demonhunters. There are a couple with real talent, chief among them your little apprentice."

"Excellent, good news."

"Actually there's something I've been meaning to ask you."

"Yeah? What's that."

"Why did you want to open this school? You know as well as I do that most of the time training demonhunters takes a lot of time and resources. It will be years before you can use them toward any end. You put a lot into this but I don't see you getting anything in return."

"If I didn't chance upon an understanding of this power, I would still be a lowly scavenger." Cloudhawk offered an honest response. "All of the change in my life can happen to anyone else, I'm sure of it. Everyone has tremendous potential, I just wanted to make sure they have the best opportunities to draw it out. What I hope will happen through this school is that the world's prejudice against wastelanders might change."

"And you think you can do this alone."

"Yeah, I do. I mean, I'm small potatoes and I don't have the power to change the world on my own, but what I can do is plant a seed in this barren ground. Who can say what that seed will grow into after a few years? Maybe an entire forest? I can't use a forest for myself and frankly I don't care. So long as I can see the saplings, that's plenty reward."

After her question Claudia was quiet for a long time. She remembered the first time she met Cloudhawk. At the time she was like any other Elysian, who sneered at wastelanders and looked at them like animals. She took the order to kill Cloudhawk without question. He was a filthy beast like the rest of them, so putting him down didn't mean anything. How much her views had changed after spending so much time among them!

Humans were humans, wherever they came from. They were defined by what side of a wall they were born on.

Claudia wasn't familiar with Cloudhawk's unique perspectives and experiences, but she liked her time here in the Institute. She'd come to call it home.

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