The center of Fallowmoor was a large open space. It was the production area where citizens grew crops and bred animals. By itself it was large enough to constitute a mid-sized wasteland city. The fields provided enough sustenance for the city to live comfortably, without the need for outside assistance.
Three or four years ago the land was rich and fertile. All manner of things were grown here. Now, the crops were withered and rotting with no one to pick them. Where once there had been scores of people busily gathering the harvest, now there fifteen thousand Green Alliance troops standing in their stead.
They were the very best the wastelands could muster. They were a force that had been in existence since the Dark Atom was top dog.
Under Wolfblade’s direction, a line of maneater mutants stood at the fore. They were wrapped in specialty armor from head to toe, like walking tin cans. Only their bloodshot eyes were visible. In their hands were massive weapons weighing five hundred kilos. They stood like imposing statues, arranged to meet their attackers.
Behind them were scores of soldiers with eboncrys rifles in hand.
These weapons were produced from years of cooperative research between Greenland and the Dark Atom. Finally they were ready to see combat. Much easier to produce compared to eboncrys cannons or missiles, they were fairly prevalent among the soldiers. There were about a thousand dispersed among this unit. It made them a devastating force to reckon with.
The rest were genetically modified soldiers, the sort Hellflower had been making back in Blackwater Base. Over the course of a decade her process had been perfected and this new generation of super soldiers were far superior.
Their genetic material was deliberately adjusted for greater strength. They were like iron beasts, with the power to lift things several hundred kilos heavier than they were. Their skin was hard as steel, healed at an accelerated rate, were inhumanly accurate and felt nothing. They were like living robots. On a battlefield they were any enemy’s nightmare.
Wolfblade and Abaddon were in the midst of the troops. Also present were Dawn, Aquaria, Phain, Janus and Atlas.
This arrangement was responsible for countering Arcturus’ main invasion force. As one might expect, Aquaria and Phain were conflicted. As members of the Temple they would have never dreamed this would be where they ended up, standing with wastelanders against their own people.
Phain's wounds had yet to heal. He slowly drew his weapon which glowed with a faint internal light. He looked at the steel, at the twisted face reflected back at him. He’d been handsome once, but Arcturus’ attempt on his life had left him scarred and hideous.
Recovery would be a long and arduous road, if he ever got the chance. The scars of it marked him inside and out.
Phain was a strong and committed warrior, he didn’t care about how he looked on the outside so much. What concerned him was the struggle in his heart. He didn’t know which side to take. The sword in his hand was from Skycloud, but would he be forced to stab it into Elysian flesh today?
Aquaria had no sword, but a powerful relic tome from the Temple. Her heart was just as mired in confusion, but she was calmer than the Grand Prior. “If we lose the Temple is lost forever. If we are defeated, our honor and reputation will be forever tarnished. We must do this, for the Temple.”
Phain nodded in agreement. She was right, history was written by the victors.
“Who knew you were so wise,” Dawn quipped. She was encased in the Dawnbreaker armor, all but her head. “But as far as I see, even if we win what hope does Skycloud and the Temple have? You might as well join the Green Alliance. My mother, my teacher, I don’t want to have to fight you down the line.”
Green Alliance’s standard troops were well equipped. The long green cloaks, marks of their pride, flapped in the breeze. They all stood as still as a forest, awaiting the chance to prove their worth.
Cloudhawk stood upon a balcony, overlooking the scene. It was touching, hard to describe. Beside him were only Selene and the drunk. Vulkan was lounging around, picking his toes as though they weren’t teetering on the precipice of extinction.
Selene was as serene and obtuse as ever. Her sword was on her back, her long black hair flowing through the wind. She was like an image of a goddess given flesh.
The drunk looked down at the soldiers gathered below. He muttered in his typical, casual tone. “One hell of a surprise that the wastelands could put a group like this together. One person means nothing. A group might not change fate, but at least they can leave their mark. What you’ve managed to pull off is already more than anyone could have imagined.”
“Yeah? But it’s not enough. We can’t afford to lose everything here.”
Cloudhawk’s face was dark and serious. He felt a pressure and responsibility heavier than he’d ever known. Failure was irreversible, either it would be the wastes or it would be Skycloud – not both.
The warriors of the Green Alliance trusted him, supported him, fought for him. They were willing to put down their lives because they believed Cloudhawk could change the world. It was a heavy responsibility.
If he lost it would all go away… tens of thousands who sacrificed their lives would have done so for nothing. The wastelands would go back to the barren, bloody place it used to be.
These souls he was trying to lift up would go back to living in darkness and squalor. Progress would disappear, returned to the carnage and chaos it used to be. If that happened how was he supposed to protect the ones he cared for; the people like Selene, Dawn, the drunk and others? Flee to another world, live as exiles? That was one way to do it. The Cloudhawk from a few years ago would have seriously considered it.
It was different now, however. He couldn’t just walk away.
Selene stared at Cloudhawk’s face as determination took hold. It was amazing to her how he’d changed from a naive wastelander to a real leader. Of course gain always came from loss – where one improved another faltered. To the wastes Cloudhawk was a great leader. In Skycloud he was seen very differently.
What would the future hold? How would things be different?
Selene couldn’t even hazard a guess. Or perhaps she could, but she didn’t like to think about the answer. Shutting her eyes she shook her head to try and clear away the unpleasant confusion. When she opened them again her bright eyes were calm as ever, twinkling like the stars.
Selene was who she was. No matter the future, the fight was now. Let the pieces fall where they may.
The old drunk’s warning was punctuated by an explosion, as part of Fallowmoor’s domed ceiling gave way. A massive warship drilled through the opening.
Half of the ship was lodged in the ceiling and was immediately set upon by wasteland fire. Scores of Elysian troops forced their way into the city and engaged the entrenched forces.
“Finally here?” A smile crept into the corner of Wolfblade’s mouth. “Advance!”
Green Alliance soldiers answered the call. Like a dark tidal wave they surged at the Elysians before they could get their footing. But Arcturus’ invasion force reacted quickly. They brandished bows and fired at the savages as they closed in.
Thousands of arrows were unleashed at once. The heads of the bolts glowed ominously, capable of seeking their own targets. Picking up speed, they pierced through the forward shield protecting the wastelander front line.
Yet as the shower of arrows fell, the wastelanders did not retreat. While the arrows were fast and sturdy enough to pierce several layers of iron, most embedded harmlessly in Alliance armor and failed to injure the warriors themselves. While wasteland armor was not a fraction as pleasant to look upon as Elysian gear, years of toil had made it sturdier.
The shield fell, guns jutted forward. Rows of eboncrys rifles roared to life and spat rays of green light at the invaders. Elysians unfortunate enough to get hit exploded into bloody chunks.
Eboncrys weapons were a sight to behold!
Seeing the death toll rise, someone in the center of the Elysian formation raised a war banner. It released a light in all directions which fell over the majority of their forces. Even eboncryss blasts were repelled.
The Elysian shield fended off the mighty barrage, like two wild buffalo meeting head to head.. Dawn, seeing this, could wait no longer. She raised her weapon and shouted a challenge.
But Wolfblade was there to stop her. “Do not rush. Hold.”
She spat back in anger. “Can’t you see what’s going on? If we don’t act now, then when?!”
Aquaria and Phain stepped forward to help keep her back. Aquaria looked out over the Elysians. “He’s right, now isn’t the time to attack. We must wait.”
No sooner had the words left her lips than a second shift smashed through Fallowmoor’s shell.
This vessel was different from the others. Templars, clerics, Empyrean soldiers and other elite poured from it like wasps from a threatened hive. Thora, brandishing the Arbiter’s Staff, released a flood of black lightning at a group of maneaters. Half a dozen were consumed by the dark power and slain on the spot.
This had to be the main attack force! The first wave was meant to be a distraction.
Fire rains, blades of wind dashed across the city, spears of stone rose from below. A storm of mystical power was brought to bear against the wastelanders. It was a terrifying and powerful display that immediately put Green Alliance fighters in a precarious position.
That was when Wolfblade chose to act. “Now!”
With a hideous cackle, Abaddon dissolved into a cloud of sand. After hesitating for but a moment, Aquaria and Phain resolved to fight. The choice was made – if they wanted to restore their reputation, they had to act!
Ordinary troops against ordinary troops. Peak fighters against peak fighters. For the time being, it was deadlock.
However Skycloud held an advantage. With perhaps a thousand demonhunters in their ranks, how long could the wastelanders withstand such a bombardment? It seemed almost a matter of time before the Green Alliance defenders broke.
Meanwhile, Cloudhawk was connected to Oddball through his psyche and shared the bird’s vision. Keen eyes picked out a contingent of mighty guards in the center of the enemy force. He didn’t need to question it, that was his target.
“I’ve found Arcturus. Time to go!”
Cloudhawk didn’t pause for a moment. His dimensional powers flared and the three vanished from their balcony. When they reappeared, they were standing right in front of Skycloud’s Governor.
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