Chapter 333 Arcadia
Aldrich mulled over what the entity had said. It was either shepherd humanity to outer space or suffer the wrath of the titans. Both options were bad, to say the least.
The nearest habitable planet was light years away. Despite the diverse spectrum of fantastical powers that the Alter Organs granted, the physics constant remained that nobody could surpass the speed of light. And nobody could warp themselves away to those kinds of distances.
Not to mention the fact that without ether in earth's atmosphere, all Alters would run out of energy to fuel their powers and advanced technology. Humanity had gotten so reliant on ether that it was impossible to tear them away from it. Some mutants might even just flat out die without an ether supported environment.
And Aldrich did not have the influence to steer all of humanity under his helm to begin with. Even now, the U.S. stood against him, and that was just one nation out of many. A powerful nation, granted, but still nothing compared to the entire world.
The alternative was to face the Titans. Also an impossibility.
Supermind's conversation with Aldrich rang in his head.
The heir to Vanguard' power. That was the key to this. If Aldrich could make that power his, he was confident he could take on the Titans.
But even that lead to a dead end.
If the Titans were defeated again, then the entity would die, and then there would be no planet earth anyway.
The end result was, as the entity said, just the same: extinction.
There was no scenario in which Aldrich saw a way to make a right decision at the moment. Every single route lead to a bad end.
He needed time.
Time to think. Time to gather strength.
"I get it now. Those mass variant attacks were a warning, weren't they?" said Aldrich. "Telling me of things that could come."
"That is so, Kindred. But not entirely. Humanity has been expanding more and more beyond their cities, so this one simply saw fit to remind them that they do not own this world; they are simply allowed to exist on it for now."
"You must understand that I can't simply wave my hands and have humanity all bend their wills to me," said Aldrich.
"This one understands, Kindred," said the entity, staring at Aldrich with its expressionless spiral of a face. "This one understands well the chaos and division that the scourge of man so easily devastates itself with."
"Then I need time."
"This one grants time to you liberally. So long as humanity does not strike with aggression against this one's children, you shall have time, Kindred."
"How much time are we talking here?"
"As much as you require, Kindred. We are both timeless beings. There is no need to rush."
"I see. I'm beginning to see why you called me here. This is a ceasefire, isn't it?"
"That is so. This one shall not bear the might of its children against humanity unless this one is provoked. But bear in mind, this one does not control the vast breadth of the sea of life growing upon it.
Most live by their own wills and instincts. This one has no control over right to hunt.
But over the Geists and Locuses, heralds of this one meant to cull the scourge of man, this one shall hold back.
That should grant you ample time to amass might to bend the chaos of man to your will, Kindred."
In essence, normal variants would still live their day to day lives which occasionally involved rampaging through a city here and there. But Geists and Locuses that were targeted special forces against humanity would stay dormant.
A good deal. But the issue was upholding it.
Especially on mankind's side.
Aldrich knew that if humanity could, they would try to take back land from the Wastelands that variants took from them.
To reclaim what they believed was rightfully theirs.
The past few U.S. presidents heavily campaigned on this to the point where not doing so was considered political suicide. And this was a fairly popular opinion across the entire world.
It fostered unity among peoples that there was a unified enemy, some manifest destiny goal to conquer.
In actuality, that was mostly just a talking point.
The Wastelands, especially the Deep zones, were too hostile to make ground against with powerful, unknown variants and geo-storms.
But if humanity saw variant activity as a whole declining, it could embolden them to make a mistake.
Aldrich needed to have the influence to stop that from happening. The good thing was, this ceasefire gave him time to grow stronger and stronger.
"And what if I take over more of your children? What if I need to to get the strength necessary to convince humanity?" asked Aldrich.
"That is acceptable. Life and death cannot exist without the other.
If you choose to hunt my children upon the surface, then that is your natural right, Kindred, just as it is in my childrens' natural right to hunger and feast upon man when they stray too far from their cities.
But to lead attacks of great scale or to target the dearest of my children - the Titans - this one cannot allow."
Aldrich looked over to the sphere of light at the center of the dark cavern. Though the light flickered weakly, it still seemed to grow ever so slowly. "Time benefits you as well. It strengthens you too."
"It is not strengthening. Strengthening implies a usage for war. That is not so. It is healing. Healing that this world sorely deserves."
"Healing that involves force to purge what you consider a disease."
"But healing nonetheless."
"I suppose it's all a matter of perspective in the end."
"That is so. There is one more condition that this one wishes to impose."
"Contain the power you call from beyond this world."
Aldrich raised a brow. "You yourself are power from beyond it, though."
"That is so. This one does not know where from the Outer this one came from, but that matters not any longer. Now, this one is this world.
But it is because we share origins that this one grants you leeway. You may use your own powers, Kindred, but nothing beyond that.
This one fears that the misuse of power from beyond may lead to more unwanted pests."
'You already have one,' was Aldrich's thought. The Stranger was a demon that had, like a parasite, latched himself upon this planet. But Aldrich kept that thought to himself for now.
He wasn't about to let the entity know about the Stranger right now. There was a chance that the entity could even help against the Stranger considering its words, but Aldrich could not trust it to that degree.
"I can accept those conditions. The realm I get my powers from is fine, but all others are not. Is that how things will be?" said Aldrich.
"That is so."
"Then we have a ceasefire," said Aldrich.
"There is no more to speak of." The entity turned around, and Aldrich's figure started to blur, fading. "This one must now lie dormant.
But it shall trust that you, as a Kindred, will see to it that our desires are fulfilled.
Elsewise both of us shall face our ruins."
Aldrich nodded, staying silent, in thought. In a few moments, his vision whitened, and he was back in front of the Boss Geist.
"We have done it, master!" said Valera in glee, prancing about the huge skull of the geist. "We have raised it! With this, Haven will never know hunger!"
Aldrich briefly glanced around to realize that practically no time had passed. That entire conversation filled with earth shaking revelations had transpired in the course of a simple second, if even that.
"Insane. You really can control anything," said Mollusk as he hopped off Refraction's golden mirror platform and landed beside Aldrich. "Oh right, and I'm going to return this."
He took off the spirit cloak and handed it back. The cloak floated to Aldrich's back where it wailed in content.
"Thanks," said Aldrich quietly.
'Master...is something amiss?' asked Valera via telepathy.
'I'll talk to you about it once we debrief in Haven,' said Aldrich. 'For now, let's prep to get a move on.'
Even in the Deep Wastelands where satellite surveillance was less than reliable, an energy surge on the caliber that the Boss Geist released with its land-melting bullet hell was not going to go unnoticed.
"We're going to fly on your back," Aldrich said to the Boss Geist. There was no easy way to hide the Boss Geist. It was far too big to store in his and Chrysa's Boundary.
'That is acceptable,' the Boss Geist said mentally.
"Everyone hop on," said Aldrich as he leaped up, landing on the geist's back. "And since you've entered my service, I've decided to give you a new name.
'Arcadia...' the geist mulled over in its mind, clamping its pincers gently together.
"Arcadia, huh?" Refraction landed by Aldrich, his trigger turning off and returning him back to his usual goofier self. "That's basically the Greek myth version of paradise, isn't it? A garden of Eden sort of deal.
Thanatos for death. Arcadia for life. Who would have thought those two would go together?"
"With me, the boundary between life and death is far thinner than usual," said Aldrich.
"Your naming sense has improved, master." Valera nodded proudly, probably because Aldrich had not simply named the geist 'Tree'.
"I do try and learn from feedback. Especially from my commander." Aldrich gave Valera an acknowledging nod, and she turned away shyly. That was when her eyes widened.
Aldrich followed her stare.
The forest of giant trees was starting to move.