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Book 5, Chapter 38 - The Goshawks

 The first thing newcomers did when entering the city was receive a job assignment. People like Rhino and Ape would waste their potential as laborers, so enlisting them in the special forces was the best decision. Such an appointment elevated their status in the city and provided them with unique resources and training to improve their strength.

The two men went to the barracks, wherein they saw nearly two hundred wasteland mutants milling about. Each and every one of them was monstrous in size, with average height around two hundred and fifty centimeters. From the perspective of 'normal' people, this could only be described as one ugly group. Each freak was peculiar.

Most came from wasteland cities and outposts and had been the strongest those settlements had to offer. A few were sweepers who broke away from their clans. None were inferior to the long-dead mercenary captains of Tartarus Company, who Cloudhawk had met so many years ago.

About ten of them were comparable to Rhino, and roughly three were equal to Ape. Just being in the same room filled Rhino with a sense of danger.

A lineup like this was rare and spectacular in the wastelands. The resources needed to simply keep them in fighting shape was enough to make most Governors' heads explode. Just think of the drugs needed to beef them up, and the food needed to keep them strong!

"Form up!" Rhino turned his head toward the shout. He, along with all the other mutants milling about, stopped what he was doing and rose to his feet. Like machines, they gathered into orderly lines, stiff as statues. It took them less than a breath to snap to attention, and not a single one was out of step.

"We've got a couple greenhorns for you today!" The one who was talking was a one-armed man who'd had his severed limb replaced with a mechanical one. Judging from his clothing, he was an Elysian of notable status, but was otherwise nondescript.

The one-armed officer turned to Rhino. "I am Roc, commander of the Goshawks. Starting today, you are my charges, and this man here is your instructor Rio." Roc gestured at the Elysian soldier by his side.

"During your service, we will teach you the best martial techniques. You, who have only ever relied on brute strength, will learn what real might is. Our instructors will also teach you how to follow orders, turning you from a savage horde into a force of true wasteland elites. But there's no such thing as a free lunch. If you want a spot in this town, then you're going to have to bust ass to protect it!"

Rhino was finally certain that he'd come to the right place. Nowhere else in the wastelands had the clout or resources to gather a group of high-grade fighters like this, much less train them. Wastelanders were proud, overbearing, and savage - Rhino among them. Forcing them to submit to a commanding officer was no easy feat.

Seeing this group hop to attention on command, silent and attentive, was nothing short of incredible. These instructors had to be something extraordinary, because the only way to make wastelanders fall in line like this was through strength. Overwhelming strength was the only method to make them surrender.

Ape was among the strongest in the new group, at least as far as Rhino could tell. The others recognized it too, and they immediately installed him as a squad leader, with Rhino and the other greenhorns filling out the rest of the squad. Once they were settled in, they were told the Goshawk's rules, which were simple: The strongest became squad leader. Anyone who was displeased with Ape's leadership just had to beat him and take his spot. It was simply a matter of training harder. Beyond that, the only requirement was to follow orders!

It didn't matter that their lives out in the wastes before were lawless ones. Now that they were in Greenland City, they had to tuck their tails between their legs and do what they were told. If they didn't, they had no place here. They would lose their opportunity to grow stronger.

The Goshawks were few in number, but each and every one of them, from the instructors to the normal members, was a one-in-a-hundred fighter.

Now that he was a member, Rhino was trained in all manner of things. They worked on his strength, speed, endurance and more. He was taught how to handle all sorts of weapons, as well as trained in martial arts styles only taught in Skycloud.

As for those who violated the Goshawk's simple rules? Obviously, the only proper response was swift and severe punishment. The worst offenders would be immediately and unceremoniously thrown out of Greenland. Strict though the regime was, not a single mutant complained.

The Goshawks had a special squad whose job it was to oversee discipline. It was comprised entirely of the Polaris family elite... and one particularly ornery drunk. While he didn't look like much and was often absent, absolutely no one underestimated him.

Every handful of days, the drunk led them through a series of martial exercises. On the surface he looked lame and half-starved, but when he demonstrated his martial arts everyone was amazed. He was stronger than they could have ever imagined.

He could cleave hills in half with one swipe from his sword! He could redirect rivers with a halfhearted swing!

At last, Rhino fully understood why so many were willing to be here and do what they were told. If they could grasp even one percent of the power they were now faced with, they would become stronger than they could ever have achieved on their own.

Rhino eagerly threw himself into the training. Day after day, he worked as hard as his body would let him, and each night he felt a little stronger. Over time, he settled into a rhythm. Just as he was starting to think that would be his life for the foreseeable future, one day the instructors gathered the Goshawks in a field.

By now, the Goshawks had a standing roster of one hundred and twenty elite fighters, each one unique. Some were specialized for speed, while others were sturdy and unyieldingly tough. Some were strong enough to punch through gates, and some had amazing regenerative powers. The Goshawks were a group of many talents, equipped to face any enemy.

They were a little over a hundred strong, but they could take on entire armies of wastelanders! Rhino was convinced that there was no stronger wastelander-only unit anywhere in the world.

This thought filled him with a happiness he hadn't known before. It was pride, pride in himself and the team he was a part of. Perhaps this was that 'honor' thing their instructors were always yammering.

"You've all been in Greenland for a little while now." Roc appeared before the mutants. "Today, you will all be given your own weapons. Consider them a reward from the Governor, a mark of your status as a Goshawk. Here is the first batch."

A dozen Talon soldiers rolled a box before the crowd. When they opened it up all the mutants looked at one another wonderingly. Inside was a pile of large rods. They all varied in heft and length and had names etched into them. They were specially made for each Goshawk fighter.

"When I call your name, come forward and claim your weapon!"

Uncertain glances were shared among the mutants. These were just sticks. What was so special about them? Was this how the Governor showed his appreciation for their strength and hard work? With all this junk? It was an insult! They should have just been given guns!

Most of them were mutants, often born with sturdier bodies than normal, and they had undergone grueling training for some time. It made them tougher and stronger. A few of them could even be called novice martial artists, and they were capable of punching through iron plates! What use did they have for a staff?

"Greenland's Governor, Cloudhawk, has personally made these for you. Don't be fooled by how they look. These are anything but ordinary weapons. Try them for yourselves."

Roc picked one out of the pile.

"You, come forward!"

Rhino did as instructed. The stick Roc had pulled out was his. For the first batch, only one in three of their crew would be receiving new weapons, and he was one. They were chosen for being particularly disciplined and hard working.

His rod looked like a wolf's fang. It was two meters long , and thick as a man's arm at its widest point. Rhino walked over to a sturdy metal target and, as per Roc's instructions, wrapped his hand around the glass-like beat inlaid in the handle.

Almost immediately, Rhino felt something moving through him. It was like some type of power that flowed out from his mind.

He raised the rod high... and what followed shocked everyone who watched. An incredible and mystical energy started to gather along the length of the weapon. Rhino felt it pulsing through him and he released a roar of triumph!

"Aaaaaggghhh!" He slammed the weapon down onto the metal practice dummy. It struck with unspeakable force, blasting the dummy into shrapnel like it'd been made of glass.

"Did that really come from me?" Rhino looked down at the pieces of twisted metal peppering the ground. The expression on his face was one of disbelief. He wasn't sure if it was real or if he was dreaming.

Yes... yes! This was power! This is what he'd been searching for!

His mutant companions gaped with open mouths. After living in Greenland for some time, they'd all seen demonhunters perform their mystical acts. It was unthinkable that this power gifted to mankind by the gods could be mastered by the heathen wastelanders.

Every mutant who got a rod from the first batch started to strut around like they owned the place. Their less fortunate companions were sick with envy.

Roc interrupted their boasting. "This is the first batch created by the Governor. Each of you will have a chance to earn a weapon of your own. How soon you get it depends entirely on you."

Excited growls rumbled through the mutants, and morale instantly skyrocketed. What the hell sort of person was their mysterious Governor? In the blink of an eye, Cloudhawk became even more amazing and mysterious to these powerful fighters.

He was responsible for building this incredible place. He was surrounded with strong, capable, talented men sworn to his service. He was able to steal the power of the gods and place it in their hands. Was this not enough to earn genuine admiration and submission?

To be able to serve a lord such as him, their futures were bright indeed.

1. This is always a struggle and it drives me nuts. The damn thing is always described as a rod or cudgel, but it's given arbitrary lengths. This one is six chi long. A chi is an ancient unit of length corresponding to 33 centimeters. So this thing is two meters long. It's fucking huge. Now Rhino and most of the mutants here at two and a half to three meters tall so it fits them, but they sure as hell can't be used as described, i.e. mostly one-handed like maces.

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