Book 8, Chapter 25 - The Greatest Conflict

Three days later.

Gehenna.

Haborym and several other demon Elders held court in a vast plain upon the Gehennan continent. Behind them was a sprawling army, arrayed in neat rows.

This fighting force was a motley collection with a core of roughly ten thousand demons. Dark and ferocious figures with burning red eyes, the demons were surrounded by many different powers. A dark, oppressive sense followed in their wake.

By virtue of these demons alone they could conquer ninety-nine percent of the universe. After all, any of these beings wielded power to level mountains. At full strength they could permanently alter landscapes. Cast the army into the conflict with the great societies and their prey would still fall like wheat before the scythe.

And the demons were just part of the whole.

Many from Gehenna’s other races were galvanized, over a hundred and ninety thousand strong and growing. They were the choice of their people, leaders and legendary fighters. In addition they were all equipped with the best technology Gehenna could provide: Devastating Tylon war machines, spirit-wounding weapons from the Vulpites and Zarayzi bio-weapons.

Aside from the Tylons, most soldiers were selected for their exceptional mental powers. All of them were frightening in their ability to fight and destroy. Put into terms an ordinary human could understand, it was like an army of ten thousand Master Demonhunters, all armed to the teeth.

Ten thousand Master Demonhunters! How could one even fathom? With a force like that nothing seemed impossible. Although perhaps not as formidable as the demonic hordes, they were still a mighty fighting force.

“Our army is almost assembled.”

Haborym drew his eyes over the milling black figures. He was filled with excitement, and also apprehension. A fervor filled him for the start of a grand war, but underlying it was the pressure of what they stood to lose. 

He saw the conflicted emotions reflected in the eyes of the other Elders.

They all had learned their lessons by watching Crokel’s mistake. The new Demon King would tolerate no second-guessing or insubordination. Some perhaps still harbored doubt, deep in their hearts. They might not want to participate in this war, but there was no backing out. If their species was to survive they had to burn the bridges and break the boats. Either they would come to a spectacular death or usher in the beginning of a new era. There was space for nothing else in between.

“The Demon King will lead us to victory! To triumph!”

Roars echoed Haborym’s sentiment. It was a tidal wave of sound loud enough to cause the ground to shudder, calling an end to one thousand years of passivity. As it washed over them, over the peoples of Gehenna, new war had come.

**

Ark Base. The vast, sprawling lands surrounding it.

Grand airships floated in the air above a million high-grade combat droids. The expansive, dead expanse was covered in steel bodies glittering beneath a harsh sun. All had been stashed away and preserved by Father for over a thousand years. Airships and war machines were not all, however. They wielded nuclear bombs and other weapons of mass destruction.

When out in full force they seemed capable of giving even Gehenna’s army a good fight. In a knock down, drag out war between the two it would be hard to bet on a winner. Unlike the demonic hordes, Father’s army stood in perfect silence.

They were all extensions of the AI’s will. If they were silent, Father was silent. For a thousand years this consciousness guided humanity’s ancient remnants away from desolation. Now, the problem they faced was outside of its plans and calculations.

Father was still weighing whether the aid it offered earth’s new denizens was worth the risk. As a machine, Father put its trust in data and statistics. With such little information available about Sumeru there was no way to make a proper determination about this plan. Father was incapable of making an educated hypothesis about the outcome.

However, it did not take much for Father’s myriad algorithms to assess Cloudhawk’s chances as unfavorable. Even negligible. Probability models identified the most likely outcome being a trap set by the God King. It was waiting for the young Demon King to waltz into unfavorable territory with the bulk of his strength.

Yet, in the final moments Father’s assessment went contrary to what the data might suggest. Yes, it was a wager. If successful the payoff would be a new beginning for ancient humans. It would be countless civilizations, throwing off their shackles.

And if they lost? Father had the worst-case scenario already planned. With Ark Base and its interstellar capabilities, Father would gather its charges and abscond. A thousand years or more traveling through the nothingness of space would keep them hidden, until Father discovered a new place where humans could continue to live in seclusion.

Protecting this last spark of ancient humanity was Father’s core directive. It was written into its code, built into its architecture, as indelible as though it were DNA. Humans couldn’t suddenly decide to photosynthesize like plants and Father was the same. No matter what, it could not betray its prime directive.

Father’s ultimate decision to aid Cloudhawk came after the human dominated Gehenna. It represented the first time in history – and perhaps the only chance ever – for Sumeru to be defeated. Chances were slim, but it was better than nothing.

Peering off into the most distant reaches of the future, before Father’s algorithms and calculations fell apart, it was evident that humanity’s best chance to thrive would be determined now. Cloudhawk’s actions and the actions of everyone who sided with him would write the future of earth’s original inhabitants.

**

Earth.

The southern wastes.

The Green Alliance had long-since prepared for this. Selene gathered every elite soldier they had and formed an army with the three thousand demons Cloudhawk provided. Every member of the Green Alliance who reached the rank of veteran demonhunter or better was forced into service. The only exemptions were the young and a few key administrative personnel.

Special times called for special measures.

Selene knew now wasn’t the time to be softhearted. With the help of Autumn and leaders from the Elysian realms, she gathered every viable soldier for the task ahead. Over several days, three divisions were formed to answer the Demon King’s call.

The first was their main force, composed of Gehenna’s best. Second was soldiers from the Green Alliance. Finally, Ark Base made up the third. All together represented the best of the resistance, humanity’s final cards in this desperate gamble.

Now, with the armies assembled and their target in sight, the greatest conflict in history was at hand.

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