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Book 7, Chapter 93 - Rough Beginnings

 Late night.

The ethereal lights hanging in the sky made the humans uneasy. A curfew was imposed on all non-combat citizens and the evacuation was accelerated as much as possible. The enemy was here, a new state of intense preparations began.

From the beginning Cloudhawk felt the bitter premonition, hissing in the back of his mind. A feeling of impending danger.

He left the task of coordinating the troops with Legion. Meanwhile he and Hellflower approached the Source mountain where Belial was camped. They had questions for the Elder.

He was the chief artisan of his race, skills which made him a great asset to their Alliance. Lately Hellflower had spent a great deal of time by his side learning all she could. She was proficient in all manner of earthy science and technology and with the help of the Cloud God had learned a little about the gods. Working with Belial increased her understanding of how this extraterrestrial engineering worked.

"Is there some problem here?"

"Not for the moment, but we must be vigilant. The gods and their tactics should not be underestimated." Belial lifted his eyes toward the heavens. IT was night, but the undulating blanket of blue light was like staring into the morning sky. "I don't know what this is. What I can feel is a strange energy trying to erode our defenses."

"Trying to break through?"

Cloudhawk turned his eyes toward the crystal mountain. Its top was sheared flat, creating a plain upon which a hundred or so Seraphs worked. They manned off-looking towers of demonic make that extracted the power of Source. They used this to emit powerful energy which increased Greenland's defensive boundaries by a hundred times.

After joining their cause, Belial served two important roles. First was to help Cloudhawk in acquiring this 'Source of the Earth', which had been accumulating for the last thousand years. Second, he was responsible for developing new protections for their Alliance. Since he started, their guard had continued to grow more sturdy.

"Will the shields be affected?"

"Not for now. I've arranged it so that the energy is impenetrable, but all I've done is make sure the system remains in working order. I do not know what threat will come from outside the boundary."

"Can we rely on it? Will it deflect an assault from the gods?"

"Be at ease. If I did not have confidence in our defenses, I would not be here." Belial had faith in his abilities. "I can make sure it stands even if the gods blow a hole through this planet."

He seemed assured. As long as those shields stood humanity had a chance.

"Be that as it may, the gods have more tools at their disposal than we do. Their artisans are also more talented than I. Any judgment I make is based on knowledge from a thousand years ago - that is to say, one-sided and limited. Divine heritage cannot be compared to demons, so even the likes of Legion and I cannot know what to expect."

Belial swallowed a despondent sigh. If the former Demon King were here, perhaps they might stand a chance. His knowledge of the gods had been extensive, far greater than Legion or Belial. He knew all their tricks and likely tactics. But he was gone, and the new Demon King had not inherited everything. The result was this foul circumstance.

Cloudhawk turned to Hellflower. "How goes your communications with Ark Base."

"They're willing to give their support, but 'Father' is still standing in the way. This rigid artificial intelligence is proving difficult to manage." She sighed in exasperation.

She served the important role of liaison between the Green Alliance and Ark Base. She'd spent months pleading with them for any help they could muster. The people of Ark Base were original humans from a thousand years ago and had not been changed by the radiation of their home world. As such they were weak and couldn't provide any direct fighting power. However, they had a sizable population and the AI 'Father' commanded a huge network of mechanical beasts.

What they could provide was a large number of advanced weaponry and, more importantly, a means of production. The Alliance outpost on Stony Plains didn't have the assembly lines of Ark Base. IF they could work together, it would ramp up manufacturing by a significant amount.

Their full support would be a tremendous help and not just with production. Efficiency would improve. Alliance front-line fighters at least wouldn't have to worry about their gear.

So far, Hellflower's communications with the humans of Ark Base had been going well. Despite a thousand years of divergent evolution, both sets of humans were thinking, feeling entities. Old humans still had a strong attachment to their home world which inspired them to offer any help they could to the war effort, even offering to send a group back with her to serve as advisers to Cloudhawk.

But 'Father' would have none of it.

It was the intelligence that managed the Ark Base, with full control over its systems. For a thousand years it had protected the original refugees from earth, staying true to its prime directive - 'maintain humanity at all costs.' This mission was the underpinning of its entire system, not unlike the seal on a god's consciousness. Everything it did, it did in service of this directive.

Protective humanity was its sole purpose. If the people of Ark Base died, Father would have no more worth.

Father had begrudgingly allowed Cloudhawk's people into the base and only as a show of respect for their ancient savior, the Demon King. It even allowed use of some facilities, but allowing full integration between their two people could never be allowed. Not when it meant war with the gods.

Artificial Intelligence wasn't built with emotion. It was a system of absolute logic. Father made determinations based on empirical data and deep analysis of the facts. All probability models revealed the same: Gods were a highly advanced, galaxy-spanning civilization and humans. Against them, the chances of earth's denizens surviving outright conflict were negligible. Becoming involved exposed original humans to utter destruction.

To 'Father', the risk was intolerable.

"I haven't gotten Father to change his mind, but there has been some headway," Hellflower explained. "The original humans have pledged to do everything they can to supply cutting-edge weapons and research new ones. However, without Father's help their efforts will be hampered."

This was an irritating impasse. Cloudhawk could face a Supreme god without blinking - just roll up his sleeves and get to work. But against a single machine brain he was hamstrung. For now, the matter had to be put on hold.

Whatever. It wasn't like the odds weren't already stacked against the Green Alliance. The gods had arrived before they were ready - even before the Elysians and wastelanders had fully integrated. Emerald Star's underground city was a mess that would take time to sort out. Ark Base's dictator was being intractable. Soldiers from the Elysian lands had never fought shoulder to shoulder with the Alliance before...

From top to bottom, forward to back, nothing was ready for what they were about to face.

When would their enemies attack, and how? Mankind didn't have the combat experience of the gods. Even with Legion and the Cloud God to guide them, their preparations were limited. The one silver lining was that their home was well defended. Even the gods would have a hard time punching through.

It was one hell of a rough beginning.

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