While the Anonassi were developing their new weapons, the Chosen were not idle.
The creation of the Crystal Dome, an ingenious device which concentrates the portals into a single location, allowed better protection of Harbour City than ever before! And, of course, the chance for Anonassi to assault our world directly…
But every step bolstered the Human resolve which keeps the Chosen fighting for Aether!
And it brought a new way to train recruits…
It was beautiful.
The crystal sculptures stood in concentric circles, graceful and white with flowing lines that made them look like clouds, or maybe ice that had been shaped by the sea. They gleamed in the fading summer sun, reflecting light up toward the numerous closed-circuit cameras that recorded every inch of the Dome.
The Crystal Dome, the newest attraction in the Jewel District of Harbour City, had been a brain child of Hitoshi Nakamura, but all of the clans had taken a hand in its construction. D’Aoust had conceived of the mechanism by which the crystals worked, and Rostov had supplied the cameras and the surveillance system. Garcia provided the materials through means that were best left as unexamined as possible, and Chike had confirmed that the radiation that passed through the crystals was negligible, at least for the human visitors who came in the day.
At night, though, when the power was turned on, that radiation spiked, and so did the activity.
The Dome relied upon its crystal sculptures to help focus the Anonassi portals into one place where they would consistently open, and where the Chosen could deal with whatever came crawling out of them. Before, he portals had opened wherever and whenever their monstrous enemy selected. Now, when the power was on and the Dome was humming, 80% of all portals from the Lost Lands would open here.
Naturally, that meant there could be no tourists after dark, and that the security guards wore a little more in the way of armament and firepower than the average.
Miguel Garcia walked through the Dome with a sense of satisfaction, bolstered in no small part by the weight of the pistols in his shoulder holster and at his hip. He was one of the security guards for the place, shooing tourists out at closing time, and he looked forward to the moment when all of the non-combatants were gone and he and his squad were ready to face the first night of focused portals.
Miles Parker, one of his comrades, grinned at him as he passed on one of the interior paths, following the spiraling trail that wound through the crystal sculptures to the fountain at the center. When the sun went down and the power was turned on, the water in that fountain would be turned off, and then a gigantic focusing mirror would be extended on robotic arms, ready to receive the reflections from the crystals amplifiers.
He hoped that the Anonassi came calling tonight. It had been weeks since he’d been to the Lost Lands, and he was itching for a fight. He and Miles had been discussing their recent inactivity just that morning over breakfast, and both of them were eager for the game to begin.
The last tourist was escorted out of the Dome, and then Hilda Marin closed and locked the gate. Miles high-fived her, and then the three of them headed back toward the fountain.
Hitoshi Nakamura’s calm voice spoke over the loudspeakers. “Power shift in three…two… one…”
There was a loud rumble, and then a buzzing sound as electricity began to pour through the bases of the sculptures, activating the complex web of reflection and redirection that they formed. Near Miguel, one of the crystals hummed, and he saw a dark spot on the milky surface closest to the rest of town.
Miles raised an eyebrow. “That was fast.”
Hilda nodded. “Let’s go!”
They trotted to the central fountain, passing other sculptures that began to hum as the dark spot was reflected onto them. It was an Anonassi portal, captured in their web and being funneled to the center of the Dome. The rest of the team should have assembled there by now.
Hilda was a sprinter, so she reached the fountain first. Their team mates, Sarah Wilson and Rowena D’Aoust, were waiting for them, their weapons in their hands. A soft squeak rose in the air, and then the water in the fountain turned off. The base of the center feature, the one with the pumps and the water distribution points, slid aside, and then the robotic arm extended, its highly-polished mirror lifted high to catch the reflected portal just as it arrived.
The portal was larger now than when he had first seen it on the exterior statue, but he didn’t know whether that was a function of the amplifiers or of the Anonassi that was creating it. A feeling of static passed over his arms, and his skin twitched with it. This was what he had been waiting for.
Wilson ordered, “Hold your fire until the portal is completely open.”
They did as they were told, watching as the dark splotch became a spreading stain on the surface of the mirror. In the center, there were shadows moving, taking form and then retreating again. He had the feeling that the monster on the other side of the portal was watching him.
Abruptly, the portal opened, and the Anonassi’s roar echoed off of the other sculptures. Wilson shouted, “Fire!”
They opened up on the thing in the opening. It was taller than a man and nearly as broad, and unlike many of its fellows, it had a human face. It roared in its ugly language again, then reached out a long, clawed hand to try to grasp D’Aoust.
Miles shot its hand, and it released her, and then she was screaming back in its own language, firing with her semi-automatic rifle and cutting the offending thing in half. Riddled with bullets, it reeled back into the Lost Lands, and the portal closed like a gate slamming shut.
Nakamura’s voice returned to the loudspeakers. “First test has been successful. Powering down.”
They had caught and contained their first portal. The war was about to change.