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Chapter 27 - Urgency

 Safe within the heart of Greenland, Hellflower skipped the nonsense and explained what they knew.

"Our probes have discovered a few things. A significant power spike was recorded in the mid- to far-reaches of our solar system. We suspect whatever it is will arrive soon. Most likely hypothesis is this is Sumeru's main force."

Hellflower adjusted her goggles and pressed a few buttons on her wrist. A map of the solar system was holographically projected in the room, with an area marked in red.

"This area is called the Kuiper Belt. It's full of dwarf planets and comets and flows like a river, caught in a gravity well. What we saw in our readings disturbed a large area of the Kuiper Belt. The readings are subtle, but clearly abnormal."

"Gehenna's detection equipment is designed to recognize spatial-wave disturbances. As far as I am aware, the gods use a hyper-space transporter to travel across the universe. They're able to compress a billion light years of space into an area they can traverse in just a couple days. Entering and exiting hyperspace causes local disturbance - which is consistent with the data we've just witnessed."

The southern wilds had benefited from their alliance with Ark Base, not least of which through advanced technology. Gehenna also provided a great deal of help in this way. The range of this detection equipment was limited, but enough to cover their solar system.

So Sumeru's army had finally arrived. This time their numbers would be anything but trivial. If they made it to Earth, it would surely be a repeat of the Great War a thousand years ago. Cloudhawk could lead his forces in battle, but the chances of defeat were unnervingly high. Either way, one thing he could be certain of was the cruel losses they would suffer regardless of the outcome.

Gehenna's fighters were few and precious. Meanwhile the gods were spread across the cosmos, potentially limitless in number. The more civilizations they dominated the more their numbers swelled. If they tried to fight a war of attrition the humans would lose and be eradicated.

Their planet, even their star would be extinguished by the vengeful gods. Humanity and its solar system were useless. A contaminated failure.

Legion didn't appear troubled by the news. "The more that Sumeru sent to us, the less are defending their own home. This is not something to fret over. On the contrary, our chances have improved."

Gods had the technology to travel across the stars, but there was no creature in this universe who could match Cloudhawk's spatial abilities. Traveling so far must have cost them dearly in resources. But for Cloudhawk, once he knew Sumeru's location he could step effortlessly across the infinite void of space. IT was his greatest advantage, the ability to strike at the heart of the gods without warning whereas the gods needed time.

By arriving in their solar system, Cloudhawk's earlier visions were proven true. Sumeru was undefended. Their wild gambit could succeed.

Hellflower went on. "Our data suggests that the spatial disturbance will reach a peak after two days. That is when the enemy will have fully crossed over. From there, with their ordinary engines it should take another day or so for the gods to cross the solar system and reach Earth."

"So you're saying we have about three days."

"Perhaps more accurately, this planet only has three days left. If the gods reach us, then the land we exist upon will suffer terrible consequences."

Cloudhawk scowled. Three days? Things had just become urgent.

If the gods reached earth before their portal to Sumeru was complete, their whole plan could go up in smoke. It would be too late. Humans would have to grit their teeth and commit to a head-on conflict.

"Legion, make sure the soldiers form Gehenna and Ark Base are ready when their orders come. They have to be prepared to fight at a moment's notice. Selene, make sure everyone who is not participating in this war makes it to Emerald Star."

Cloudhawk delivered his orders then retired to his subspace. The cube's interior was massive now, enough to house thousands. If everyone huddled together he could fit tens of thousands. Since Cloudhawk couldn't build a direct link to Sumeru in their home, this is where the job would be done.

He considered the subspace cube like a fording vessel. Humanity's forces would invade Sumeru from this place, jumping across the impossibly large universe directly to their target. In this way their attack was also their defense.

Cloudhawk could close off the subspace cube at a moment's notice. People outside couldn't get in, and those inside had no way out. If the gods chased them through the link they would be throwing themselves into a prison.

At present, pieces of Source had been piled high while Belial worked. The Elder had several lesser demon artisans under his tutelage, telling them where to arrange the Source to prepare for the portal's opening.

Work was only just getting started, a fact which allowed fear and irritation to creep into Cloudhawk' heart. He shared the information with those in the cube then added, "What you're doing in here is critically important. Can you get it done in three days real time?"

"Be at ease, your Majesty," Belial reassured. "All preparations have been made. Three days in the real world is thirty days here, perhaps not as long as I'd like but we will make it work."

His words were a comfort, but everything hinged on this place. Cloudhawk didn't want 'possibly', he needed certainty, the quicker the better. So he made a decision. "I'll stay here to help. Let's try to get this done in two days."

The Demon King himself staying to help? This came as a surprise to the demons, all except Belial. After all, his King was a talented artisan. The Castigation Fire he wielded was a tool of an ancient artisan Elder as well. With Cloudhawk's help, it would be much easier to break down and extract Source.

Cloudhawk wasn't just trying to open a portal. He was also trying in essence to hide the sub-space cube. He needed it as a fall-back. If they got caught up in a war on Sumeru and someone sneaked into the channel behind them, they had to be ignorant of their mistake until it was too late.