Several days later. The sun sat high, baking the yellow sands below. The familiar, scalding heat of the wastelands was in full sway.
Less than half a year had passed since the Southern Capital was established. The time had been marred by twists and turns, but none of it had reached the gates of the city. Its population now numbered over two million strong and order reigned.
In the North-West of the city was a canyon thoroughfare where the city and the wastelands met. One end of the valley seamlessly went from ancient ruins to new urban development, while the other spilled out into dilapidated emptiness.
The wasteland side of the canyon was peppered with several dozen watch stations strung together into a forward outpost. Its main purpose was to guard against mutant attacks and natural disasters. Outposts like this were located at every entrance and exit, which helped maintain the stability of the city.
Today Cloudhaw brought Gabriel, Barb and a few others to the barren outskirts. The two city planners directed their workers to install a large pylon at the mouth of the canyon while a number of soldiers watched in curiosity. They didn’t know what brought Leader Cloudhawk all the way out here during their patrol.
“Hey Eminence Cloudhawk, we’re all set.” 
“Tell Gabby to open ‘er up and give it a try.”
Gabriel reached out to the pylon with his mind and activated it. Steam gathered around it and belched from the top like some kind of furnace. Suddenly a beam of dazzling light shot up into the sky, thirty meters or more. At its zenith it spread out in all directions to form a bowl-shaped shell that hung over the area.
The nearby soldiers watched with their mouths agape. That was… dramatic. What was it?
“And there you have it. The energy shield has been activated successfully.”
“Looks like it’ll protect about five thousand square meters, more or less.”
“Hey Eminence, you did it! We have our own defense pylon!”
Barb’s excitement and adoration were clear on her face. Cloudhawk had found a way to make water from air and soil from sand. Now he’d built their own defensive tower – another invention that would definitely serve future generations.
Cloudhawk didn’t seem all that pleased. “Let’s see how much it can protect against.”
Barb turned and delivered the other. “Attack the shield!”
Several dozen Awakened started to launch attacks. They started weak and gradually increased in strength with each wave. With every volley the shield’s light dimmed until, after about a hundred blasts, it finally collapsed. Like a soap bubble, the shell popped and disappeared.
Ooh’s and ahh’s arose from the soldiers. They were impressed that it took this many Awakened so long to break through.
Barb collected the relevant data and handed it to Cloudhawk, who looked over the summary. “About two attacks from a Master Demonhunter. Not enough.”
“Eminence, what’s there to be unsatisfied with? Master Demonhunters don’t grow like weeds. How many do you think are going to be attacking our city? If you ask me, this shield is plenty strong. Not only will it protect us from the wind and sand, but anyone who is looking for trouble will have a hard time busting through!”
Cloudhawk didn’t share Barb’s optimism. This was a design he’d stolen from the divine matrix, based on the pylons they used on their airships. He’d made some adjustments to turn it into a stand-alone defensive structure that could protect a wider area. To the greatly weakened Elysian realm this was a wonderful invention.
On the surface it seemed a shield capable of protecting against two or three attacks from a Master Demonhunter was something to celebrate. In a war zone, however, it wouldn’t last the opening salvo. A concentrated shot from the enemy forces was strong enough to match ten Master Demonhunters!
Sure you could say the defense pylon was strong, but it wasn’t nearly strong enough to protect humans from the danger they faced. At least for now it would protect them from mutant creatures and natural disasters, though.
There were differences between this sort of pylon and Cloudhawk’s Miracle Towers.
Miracle Towers continuously produced water thanks to Awakened transforming bad into good. In other words, mental energy was needed to make it work. Defense pylons, on the other hand, needed mental energy to activate. But once they were operational they relied on intrinsic energy.
Mental power was a pilot light. The best thing about these pylons were that they didn’t need to be tended to constantly. Wasteland Awakened or Elysian demonhunters – they were a precious and limited resource.
Cloudhawk’s pylons effectively covered an area of four to five thousand meters. Quite a few would be needed to protect a whole city. If they needed a demonhunter for every one they would quickly run out of people to do the job.
“It’s already amazing that you can build something like this.” Barb walked over to him. “Pylons like this could be easily deployed and moved during a war. That would definitely work in our favor.”
She was right. But they had to learn to crawl before they could fly.
For now this copied divine technology was enough to protect areas like this, choke points and entrances. It would keep them safe from the day to day troubles at least and reduce casualties. Every step was an improvement that helped keep the Southern Capital safe and stable.
“Alright, let’s try the weapons.” Cloudhawk turned his eyes to Hellflower. “All set?”
She gave him the all-clear.
The ruins began to rumble as from the wastes a giant object lumbered into view. It looked like an enormous wasteland chariot with the most striking feature attached to the top; a large and imposing pipe. It looked like a cannon barrel, only more complex.
Barb’s eyes went wide. “This is...”
Hellflower introduced it before Cloudhawk had a chance. “We’ve modified Elysian airship attack pylons to make these energy cannons. Between myself and Cloudhawk we learned that their construction isn’t terribly complicated. We combined it with our own eboncrys weapons and supplemented by a demonhunter, it’s no less destructive than any ship-borne weapon.”
So they were going to test this artillery?
Cloudhawk didn’t offer any further explanation. He merely waved his hand and gave the order. “Start the test!”
Hellflower relayed the command. The tank stopped and adjusted it’s cannon toward a small mountain in the distance.
The hair on the back of their necks stood on end as energy gathered. It spread out in all directions as the weapon was released, causing nearby ruins to crumble. A staggeringly bright light belched from the converted pylon and slammed into the distant terrain. Every structure on it was reduced to fine rubble.
That was… terrifying! Even a Master Demonhunter would be shot to pieces by a direct shot!
“That’s the power of Green Alliance heavy artillery. It uses eboncrys as a fuel source to empower a cannon based off their Spear of God ships. A weapon of mass destruction manned by any awakened or demonhunter.” Hellflower explained further. “It’s quick, powerful, can be installed on ships and isn’t complicated to make. The next step is to equip our armada with as many as he can throw together. Of course we can also place them around our cities as anti-aircraft weapons.”
There was little difference between these heavy weapons and the Spear of God ships. Elysian Spears were powerful and rare attack units. Thankfully they were not widespread, not because they were hard to make but because the gods limited what technology they gave to humans.
Cloudhawk undermined that by stealing the plans, and Hellflower had made it better.
They were on the cusp of a widespread modernization of everything from ships to tanks. When they were done, the Green Alliance would be more powerful than ever. This new had a range of tens of thousands of meters – meaning it could blast apart a target tens of kilometers away.
In other words the Green Alliance didn’t have to reach high enough altitude to attack that floating Temple. With a weapon like this they just needed to point and shoot. Cloudhawk was quite pleased with the result.
Between these new cannons and the defense towers, what did they have to worry about? That’s what many thought, but Cloudhawk was not satisfied with the situation yet. Focusing on the four Supremes was short-sighted. What he needed to prepare for was the war that would come after.
Hellflower interrupted his thoughts. “Wolfblade wants to see you. He says he has something important to report. It’s about the four Elysian realms.”
1. ‘Eminence has been Barb’s go-to for addressing Cloudhawk since the good-old days.