The truth was confirmed. Gods had entered their solar system, their counterinsurgency was about to begin. How were the humans supposed to prepare for this?
Cloudhawk sat in his fortress, surrounded by dozens of high-ranking Elysians and wastelanders. They were all grappling with that question.
“We should take the fight to them!” Phoenix shot to her feet and made the suggestion. Her combative nature was never in question.
“We have to fight them eventually, there is no avoiding it. We should take this opportunity while they’re still on unsteady footing. Send out best up there and hit them hard. Let them see our strength and determination.”
Siegebreaker, now commander of Praelius’ armies, responded. “Master Phoenix makes a good point. According to what we know the group on the moon is not their main force, only their fastest. It’s a good chance for us to take the upper hand. A quick victory would improve our people’s waning morale.”
“Greet them with an iron fist? What do the rest of you think?”
“I think that would be disastrous,” Governor Pelagius replied. “The civilization of our enemies is far more advanced than ours. With their ingrained unity and discipline they will have acted with great speed. There is no such thing as ‘unsteady footing’ with the gods. If our attackers can even reach their base, they will be met with cannons and an established defense force.”
“I agree, for what my opinion is worth.” The agreement came from Highmorn’s Master Demonhunter Anan. He had recovered from his wounds. Though weak, he still firmly voiced his opinion. “We don’t have the equipment or preparation for a battle on the moon’s surface. We should focus on strengthening our position here before the battle begins. Our enemies are far deadlier than us, we need our defenses to be able to rise up to the challenge.”
Phoenix was not pleased with the opposition. “Defense, defense, always defense. How are we supposed to win if we just sit behind walls? Do you think we have the resources and troop numbers to wait out a siege?”
“Our troops and resources are exactly why we can’t waste them on a suicide mission. Our limited means are too precious. Instead of thinking about ludicrous ways to win the war, we should be focusing on how to survive as long as possible.”
Both sides devolved into shouting over one another.
Meanwhile Cloudhawk was lost in thought. It was a fair point that boldness was a risk, considering how unequal their civilizations were. Focusing on protection seemed wise, but was it as easy as the Highmorn delegation claimed? The gods wielded tremendous power and influence throughout the galaxy. Expecting humanity’s paltry resistance to stand much of a chance seemed foolish.
Legion turned to Cloudhawk. “What does my King think about our situation?”
“They’re right, we can’t afford the risk. We have to prioritize preserving our strength. We are neither equipped nor capable of taking the fight out there. Best we can do is bide our time.” He saw it clearly. Humanity’s best chance was convincing the demons to join their cause. Cloudhawk would continue to try and establish a relationship, but in the meantime they couldn’t act rashly. “On the other hand sitting around with our head in our shell is only waiting for death. We have to at least test their strength. I’ll go myself.”
Selene was shocked by the proposal. “To the moon?”
“Unacceptable.” Southern Capital’s Governor Dawn refused outright. “You’re too important to gamble your life on a scouting mission. The gods are intelligent and must have something prepared. I wouldn’t be surprised if they were expecting you to show up.”
“No one’s better at getting out of a sticky situation than I am,” Cloudhawk assured her. “I’m the only one who can do this job.”
Although the council was stacked with powerful people, only a handful were able to even make it to the moon. Among them Cloudhawk was the best equipped. His spatial powers allowed him to come and go as he pleased. A quick trip to the moon’s surface was all they needed, then if something went wrong he could blink back home without issue.
Running wasn’t his only skill, either. He was strong, well-defended and good at keeping himself hidden. As a spy his abilities were second to none. Even compared to the gods he was impressively strong.
That was it. The decision was made, despite Dawn’s reasonable fears.
A person’s decisions were always bound by the reality they observed. As logical as one’s choices seemed to the individual, they were never as accurate as they appeared. Gods especially were beyond human understanding. According to everything they knew it was impossible for them to get a full read on their enemy’s strength. By contrast, the gods knew all about Cloudhawk. It would be stupid to imagine they weren’t prepared for him to do something. Sure, Cloudhawk’s spatial abilities were enigmatic and invincible – against humans. Was this also true for gods?
There was no guarantee that teleporting to the moon wouldn’t mean walking right into a trap. In fact, it was almost a given. Mount Sumeru sent this squad of gods here for a reason, and that reason was Cloudhawk. The God King wanted him captured alive.
Gods were strong enough that an up-close battle with humans was unnecessary. They were more than capable of firing on their planet from out in space with their mighty ships. A few salvos was all they needed to obliterate this world, and there was nothing they could do to stop it.
“If gathering information is the aim, there may be a better way.” Legion offered his suggestion. “The Cloud God still maintains his link with the enemy. My King can use him as a mental conduit to reenter the Divine Matrix. Within lies the opportunity to see what the gods are preparing from a safe distance. Minimal risk to our leader.”
Cloudhawk had almost forgotten about the Divine Matrix. The Cloud God had indeed held onto his link with the unified will of his species. Skycloud’s patron was locked out from the deepest secrets of his kin, but that seal was not air-tight.
The Divine Matrix was a massive information network and betrayer gods were like hackers. They could patch the breaches as often as they liked, but the Cloud God would always find a way in. What’s more, the locks were focused on the Cloud God himself. Cloudhawk, like a virus, could slip by undetected and steal information from under the gods’ noses.
“Alright, that’s the plan.”
Cloudhawk explained his scheme to the Cloud God. Their wills connected and Cloudhawk was conveyed through the gates and into the Divine Matrix for the second time. Once again he found himself amid a strange and magical city.
“Please follow my lead.”
As the Cloud God spoke through their shared link, he manifested himself in the spiritual world as a small mote of light. Cloudhawk followed the spark as it danced through the air until they reached a door. Behind it was what he was looking for.
Here? Cloudhawk forced his way through the door.
When he saw what was on the other side he froze in place. The area was… strange. Desolate, empty. Blackness closed in on all sides and the only object of note was a tawny globe. It was earth.
He could make out the hideous scar that was the ancient battlefield, as well as the terraformed area around Southern Capital. This was the world as it was now, and he was staring at it from the moon.
We did it? He tried to look around and was greeted with the expansive gray surface of the moon. Its peaceful surface was disturbed, kicking dust into the vacuum of space as a vortex appeared above. It was one end of a tunnel from which an enormous ship appeared.
The ship that was spat forth was bigger than the tunnel itself. It looked like a giant liquid metal ball, perfectly circular. The surface of it shimmered with an internal light like some sort of holy vision. Quite the thing to look upon.
The orb-like ship appeared above the surface of the moon, its glimmering surface perfectly smooth. There it hung, silently suspended and untouched by the forces of gravity like a still picture.
Behind it, the tunnel shrunk and disappeared.
For a few seconds more the ship did not move. Eventually a light radiated from within, releasing waves of energy that moved at the speed of light. They were sonar waves, scanning the entire solar system and Cloudhawk’s home planet.
The ship began to break apart, releasing several individual droplets. They zoomed off all across the surface of the moon. After making landfall, imposing figures in glorious armor emerged. Gods – and not the half-formed things he fought below the desert. Each one was a highly evolved warrior. The weakest of them could put the strongest human to shame.
Importantly, a god’s strength could continue to grow. They didn’t progress as quickly as humans did, but their lifespans were effectively limitless. Given enough time, these lowly soldiers would slowly perfect themselves into Supremes.
Theirs was truly a frightening species.
A cursory examination told Cloudhawk there were two or three thousand of them. By no means a small force, but not impossible to defeat either. The problem was their ships. Those strange droplets could have all kinds of strange weapons and cosmic creatures he didn’t know about.
He didn’t see any specifics, but he knew there was more to this strike force than he could see.
After the gods dispatched throughout the moon, he saw several more who were different from the others. These gods were not as strong as their King, of course, but they were definitely mightier than the Supremes of Cloudhawk’s world. Especially their leader.
Space appeared to collapse around this creature, even when standing still. It was like staring into a black hole. Such a potent and unique aura meant that this being – like him – had the ability to control space.
A god with spatial power. Much stronger than any he’d seen before. A leader among Supremes.
How many terrible beasts lived on Mount Sumeru? Cloudhawk’s only consolation was that the God King himself hadn’t come. IF it had, they would all be doomed.Previous Chapter Next Chapter