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Chapter 105 - Closing the Deal

 Cloudhawk returned to Hellflower after only thirty minutes.

"So fast?" She thought he was going to have a much harder time of negotiating with the AI, but her expectations appeared wrong. "How did everything go?"

"Ark Base and the Green Alliance have come to an understanding. A market will be established in the wastes where Ark Base will provide weapons, equipment and other technologies. The Green Alliance will exchange them for resources the base needs. This should provide enough materials to support us through this war."

It was a good result, but not perfect. Cloudhawk's intention had been to turn Ark Base into a Green Alliance factory. The capabilities of this place were incredible, even more so if it were geared entirely for war.

Father, of course, would not allow it to go that far. Cloudhawk didn't push him. The city beneath Emerald Star was coming online soon, and once things were settled it would also be able to supply whatever Greenland's army needed.

A surprised grin stretched across Hellflower's face. He'd done well.

"You managed to convince it in only thirty minutes?"

"You know, it wasn't as complicated as it seemed." Cloudhawk was nonchalant with his reply. "Father had countless reasons to refuse me but no power to throw me out. It realized that if I wanted to cause problems, I could even give it's metallic brain a headache."

Cloudhawk was getting stronger by the day. Father had no effective means of keeping him out, making this human Ark Base's most troublesome visitor. Thus rendered helpless, Father had no choice but to compromise.

His threats weren't empty words, either. Father recognized this and changed its analysis with new information. Ultimately, the risks of cooperation were tolerable so long as it was limited to providing equipment. Manpower was intolerable.

"Excellent la." Tang Zhonghua got confirmation from Father and beamed with satisfaction. It was a great outcome for his people. Even as a supporter of the Green Alliance, he did not want to see original humans fighting on the front lines. Neither did he want his home to become just a factory under the yolk of Greenland's rule.

Trade was the perfect middle ground. Once the market was established, Ark Base could offload its sizable caches of surplus. As the war ramped up and demand increased, Ark Base stood to make tremendous gains. War drove productivity. It meant the opportunity for historic profit. This could be a period of transformation for ancient humans.

That night Tang Zhonghua brought Cloudhawk on a tour of their manufacturing plants.

"We are all that's left of ancient people la, but we weren't ready for sudden catastrophe. Most of what our ancestors learned is forgotten. Even in Ark Base there are mu areas that do not function as they used to."

"But as they said in old earth, 'every coin has two sides.' Father is a powerful engine of research. It has made strides in robotics, virtual reality, information technology and weapons development. In na areas we are no less impressive than our forebears."

As the president spoke, the massive doors of the warehouse rumbled open. Cloudhawk and Hellflower stared with wide eyes when the rows upon rows of metal racks revealed. There were hundreds of them and each one housed scores of gleaming metallic bodies. Robots. All were built to resemble humans except for dramatically curved spines that gave them a constant hunch. This was by design, as the robots moved by curling inward and rolling like wheels.

"These are Ark Base's war machines. They're quick, adaptable and capable of flight. Each one is equipped with sturdy energy shields and laser weapons. If they are damaged they activate a hydrogen nuclear battery and self-destruct among the enemy."

"Ark Base has the skills to produce even deadlier machines but have felt no need. We are safe here, la. Na batch has been sitting here for over a hundred years."

Cloudhawk had seen Ark Base's robots in action firsthand. The surface of Stony Planes was crawling with robotic facsimiles of ordinary critters. They were cogs in a complex and unique ecology. But their design was to gather energy, not fight.

These robots in storage. This was the secret army of Ark Base.

Mankind's enormous interstellar shelter was controlled by the omnipotent Father. Administrative duties were wholly under the control of an artificial intelligence. As a result society ran smoothly, resources were plentiful and civil unrest a rare anomaly. Just as Tang Zhonghua said, Ark Base and Earth City didn't need weapons.

Cloudhawk, however, needed as many as he could get his hands on. These robots, squirreled away for a hundred years, were just waiting for purpose. Furthermore, Ark Base had a number of factories ready to meet the demands of the Green Alliance.

Totally selfless support was too much to ask for, of course. There were reasons Tang Zhonghua was offering these incredible weapons.

Cloudhawk nodded. "How much for all of them?"

"All la? Not a small number." Tang Zhonghua was struck by Cloudhawk's appetite. "Better to ask the Green Alliance what they are willing to trade."

Cloudhawk looked to Hellflower for an answer. She pulled a transparent crystal from her pocket and handed it to the president.

"Have a look, Mr. President. This is Greenland's most recent discovery, a new universal resource never before seen. We call it 'Source.'"

"Universal resource?" Tang Zhonghua repeated, turning the crystal over in his hand.

"That's right. Source is a unique state of energy that can be converted into any other substance. It's not an exaggeration to say it's the most precious resource in the universe. Our Alliance will use this as currency in our trade negotiations."

Tang Zhonghua did not take their word on face value. Turning a robot by his side, he placed the Source crystal in its hand. The machine scanned it and then spat out its analysis in a feminine voice.

"Acceptable."

Everything in Ark Base was connected through an internet. Everything - even these robots - were an extension of Father. If Father agreed with these terms it meant the Source was a valuable resource. Even more valuable than eboncrys.

Cloudhawk's generous offers to Ark Base were also for a reason. Greenland had more Source than it could use. It was an excellent currency that could meet any demand Ark Base may have.

The market would be an excellent opportunity for mutual benefit.

Father spoke into Tang Zhonghua's earpiece. It explained the worth of Source and how it would provide well for the future of Ark Base. Father authorized the sale of however many robots Cloudhawk wanted, so long as he paid in Source.

Was this stuff really that precious? It must be if Father was so compliant. Tang Zhonghua was thrilled. "Ark Base has many advanced technologies to share. Come, I will show you ba."