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Chapter 106 - The Next Phase

 "Green Alliance and Ark Base have come to a trade agreement. From now on all matters concerning Ark Base will go through Hellflower. We have to get ready so that we can upgrade our equipment as soon as possible."

Cloudhawk relayed the news after returning to Southern Capital. Stony Plain's Greenland base would be the site of this new market and a permanent link between it and Greenland would be opened. Hellflower would arrange for a group to be responsible for shuttling goods back and forth.

Human weapons were several eons behind what the gods used, but were still far superior to common wasteland weapons. They were at least a threat to the sturdy armor of the gods. Under lockdown form Last Judgment, at least humanity now had the power to fight back.

It wasn't long before Hellflower's first report came in: They could expect the first shipment of equipment to arrive in three days.

Moving large quantities of goods took time. Three days was plenty fast to get everything to the front lines. Although it wasn't enough to take the fight to the gods, this initial shipment would at least strengthen their defenses.

Southern Capital was in a defensive posture anyway. The stronger their guard, the longer they could hold out.

"Shit, easier than I thought it would be," Dawn said with a laugh. "That's why you're the boss. That pervert tramp's got nothing on you."

Selene sighed in relief when she heard the news.

Cloudhawk answered. "In the end it's about strength."

Hellflower had been in contact with Ark Base several times but had never been able to make much headway. The only explanation was that Hellflower's position wasn't strong enough. If she also had the ability to slip past Ark Base's defenses unseen, their negotiations would have gone much differently.

Dawn rejoined. "We should celebrate the trade agreement. It'll be good for public sentiment... but we'll plan that another time. Let's go get a drink!"

"Drinking is all you know how to do," Selene grumbled. She was irritated by her willingness to take up the old drunk's mantle. There was a lot to do but Dawn was ready to knock a few back any time of day. "No time for nonsense."

Dawn answered by sticking her tongue out at her moody companion.

Meanwhile Cloudhawk struggled with feelings of guilt about the two women. Especially Selene. They were always around one another, but never alone.

He was going to mention it when an eddy of sand blew through the chamber. It whipped into a small dervish then formed into the image of Abaddon.

"What is it?"

"An urgent matter."

Something happened? Dawn and Selene exchanged a look. Now was a precarious time, they couldn't afford any slip-ups. Cloudhawk wordlessly followed Abaddon to where Legion waited.

They found the demon Elder in his laboratory, working on something. When Cloudhawk entered he greeted Greenland's leader. "We've learned the gods' attack strategy."

"Huh? Really? Show it to me!" Cloudhawk felt his mind reeling. This was crucial information!

"At present all of our defenses are built on Source as their foundation. Belial's inventions extract power from it to be used by our equipment and provide protection."

"So what's the problem," Cloudhawk asked.

"Theoretically our boundaries are shored up by Source. Any attack that surpasses the power Source provides will overcome our defenses. If the gods want to punch through they will need the equivalent of a star destroyer's payload."

Galactic armaments came in two grades; planetary assault ordnance, and star destroyers.

Planetary Assault Ordnance - PAOs - were used to target specific sites on a planet's surface. These were able to obliterate cities or permanently alter a region's landscape. Star destroyers, on the other hand, did exactly what their names implied. They wielded domineering power, completely unavoidable. One shot was enough to annihilate a whole world, although the energy demands of such a weapon were astronomical. It was unlikely that this vanguard force from Sumeru had come with anything that powerful.

At any rate, it seemed that the gods were trying to capture Cloudhawk alive. Erasing earth from the cosmos was not their aim, so for the time being it wasn't something humans needed to fear. PAOs, meanwhile, weren't strong enough to break Southern Capital's protections. At least on paper, they looked like they were safe.

Legion continued. "However my King must understand that Source isn't without vulnerabilities."

"What sort of vulnerabilities? If we know what they are, can't we work around them?"

"Source strengthens our boundaries because there is a constant flow between the energy and the shields. Energy will increase as needed and instantly replenish any area that begins to fail. Therefore, the success rate of a direct attack is negligible." Legion paused for a moment before continuing. "But herein lies the problem: Source as an element is unique and cannot protect against spatial power. Further, it does not provide a barrier against mental or spiritual energy."

Simply put, Legion was saying that their defenses did not protect them from enemies teleporting into the city. If their enemies had the power or tools to move through space, they could simply blink into the heart of Greenland. What's more, mental energy could slip through their protections. Spiritual bodies like the kind they'd seen before were able to slip through unimpeded.

So, was the Abyssal God preparing to teleport in?

Cloudhawk knew the Marshall had spatial powers, but he didn't know how those powers manifested. He had no way of knowing. That being said, he could speculate. The Abyssal God was definitely strong but likely couldn't teleport. If it could it would have done so already.

But if teleportation wasn't it, then what?

Legion seemed to know what Cloudhawk was struggling with. He pressed a button set into the armor of his gauntlet and an image was projected onto a nearby wall. It was a scene from when Cloudhawk led his group into Skycloud not long ago. The focus was not the gods, though. It was the smoke monster they used against the realm's citizens.

"This thing?"

The monster had left an impression on Cloudhawk. And for good reason, all the casualties of the gods' arrival were because of it. Even Cloudhawk had no idea what the damn thing was.

"I fought it once. I figure it's actually many small quantum life forms that work together."

"Well done. Beasts like this were also employed during the Great War. I have memories of it. Such beasts did not evolve naturally, instead being created in godly laboratories. They are called 'Chaos Beasts.' As you noted they are minuscule creatures tethered together. They can teleport over short distances and have another unique ability."

"Which is?"

"They can transform biological and spiritual material."

Cloudhawk didn't quite understand at first, but it came to him quickly. He saw what happened to those who were touched by the smoke. They turned to stone immediately. Then, when the stone broke apart their spirits burst out and detonated.

Life came in all kinds of forms. From a biological standpoint there were carbon-based, silica-based, iron-based organisms and more. In terms of creation there were natural life forms and those made by other intelligent creatures.

The definition of 'biological' could be deceptively broad. The so-called 'spirit' referred to the will and mental energies of a thing locked into a physical form. All living things possessed a soul, and every intelligent civilization - at some point in their history - had attempted to discover its secrets.

The soul was closely tied to biological life and the creation of will. It was a type of energy, exactly the energy gods had been harvesting from lesser species. Through some inexplicable and complex means that spirit energy was condensed into Source. Typically the spirit couldn't manifest in the physical world, but somehow the gods had found a way.

Chaos Beasts were infinitesimally small creatures whose main ability was to transform more complex living things into atomic particles like themselves. It was a living weapon the gods unleashed on the Elysian realms. Those who chose not to evacuate became victims.

Legion went on. "The Boundary is built on Source and so can resist entry from matter and most kinds of energy. But it cannot stop things in quantum states. Chaos beasts now number in the millions - enough to threaten Southern Capital."

That was the crisis. Now it was clear what the gods had been preparing for. Taking the Elysian realms and killing its inhabitants was the first stage. Southern Capital wasn't prepared for what was coming next. Faced with such a terrible danger, Cloudhawk felt the pressure like a cold grip on his heart.