Crow pushed off the balcony and hovered in the air, allowing Aldrich to inspect the sky. The wind raged around him in angry howls, carrying a torrential downpour of rain that nearly even managed to drown out the sound of high caliber gunfire and artillery shells exploding in the distance.
The roar of occasional lightning pierced through all this noise, cracking down in heavenly judgement against buildings, especially those near the city center.
"That's no natural lightning. The kind that strikes down at random," noted Aldrich. "It's being used with purpose, almost like their form of artillery. I'll need a closer to look to figure out what's really going on, though."
'Stitching [Farseer Eyes],' stated Volantis, and a single blue, crystalline shaped eye formed on Aldrich's helmet forehead. Through this, Aldrich could see far into the distance and identify life forms that shone bright blue through the cover of the dark storm clouds.
That was when Aldrich came to understand how exactly this storm was being managed. There were large jellyfish type creatures positioned in a huge lattice like matrix across the storm, and each of them linked together to generate storm clouds and electrical charge.
These jellyfish were also responsible for casting an electrical interference net via these storm clouds.
Aldrich saw an artillery shell fly through the storm cloud, piercing several jellyfish and shredding apart their soft bodies.
In an instant, the jellyfish reformed.
The jellyfish were highly regenerative so long as all of them remained tethered to each other, feeding off of each other in a positive feedback loop that massively enhanced their natural abilities of electrical charge generation, manipulation, and healing.
This made them essentially invincible unless a large number of them were destroyed all at once.
Or unless they were killed with an ability that rendered their regeneration useless.
Like the rotting effect of the [Death Bolt] spell. Yet at the same time, there were so many of them. Casting [Death Bolt] on all of them one by one was about as effective as trying to scoop the ocean out with a bucket.
"Thank you, Volantis," said Aldrich.
'Our synchronization is not yet complete, but we are linked enough that I may sense your intent and aid it. I may also provide you with sensory awareness all around you, regardless of where your line of sight is faced.'
"I'll trust you to cover me, then. For now, I'm going up." Aldrich spoke to Spybird. "Brace yourself. I can slow down and try to make sure you don't fall off and die, but you'll need to put in effort too."
"Understood," said Spybird. He dug his fingers into Crow's back, and hydraulic clicks indicated that Spybird's fingers were locked in with a steady grip.
With that, Aldrich willed Crow up, and Crow loosed a piercing, rumbling war cry before flapping his wings down with immense force, instantly shooting him up like a dark comet. His acceleration was exceptional, and in terms of sheer speed, Crow could easily reach the realm of a fighter jet, though for now, Aldrich held back on the top speed to keep Spybird conscious against G-forces.
As Aldrich approached the air, aerial variants comprising of flying fish and floating sea serpents reacted, firing off spines and bolts of energy respectively.
Aldrich activated his [Death Essence Barrier]. This was a passive shield of energy unique to Liches that constantly formed around him.
It was essentially an upgraded version of the Necromancer's [Corpse Barrier], and in the lore, it was said that Necromancers formed the [Corpse Barrier] as a cheap imitation knockoff of the [Death Essence Barrier].
Where the [Corpse Barrier] rotted over time, was weak to fire, bludgeoning damage, and other undead weaknesses, the [Death Essence Barrier] was a shield of pure energy. A mana barrier formed from the essence of death, and in Elden World, mana barriers were highly resistant to elemental or energy type damage.
Dozens of energy bolts from sea serpents just fizzled out against Aldrich's shield while the spines were too weak to pierce through, pattering off like toothpicks.
Aldrich did not pay these flying weaklings much attention. He only wanted to get above the storm clouds for Spybird to establish a connection.
"Fly through them all," said Aldrich.
Crow growled as he folded his wings to his sides and thinned down to a streamlined, missile like form meant for pure speed. He shot through the flying variants like a living battering ram, completely shredding apart anything in his path by slamming into them with his steely feather covered body.
It was roadkill to the maximum extent, sending severed body parts and chunks of fish flesh raining down.
As Aldrich quickly neared the stormclouds, the jellyfish within reacted. A webwork of glowing blue energy became visible in the clouds, shifting around energy and centralizing it around the jellyfish cluster nearest to Aldrich before it exploded out into a lightning bolt.
Aldrich shifted near to Crow's head and thrust out his arm. His [Death Essence Barrier] shone green, and the lightning strike crashed against it with a thunderous roar. The lightning fizzled out as it hit the energy resistant barrier, dealing minimal damage.
"Brace for impact!" shouted Aldrich.
Spybird tightened his grip and hunkered down. Crow smashed through the clouds, completely shredding apart several jellyfish. The air turned immediately heavy, dark, and full of static as Crow flew past the storm clouds, focusing only on moving straight up.
A few arcs of electricity shot out at Aldrich, but again, he absorbed them with his barrier.
Within a few seconds, Crow had pushed through to the other side of the clouds. Here, above the clouds, Aldrich could now clearly see the vast amount of jellyfish needed to make this storm.
There must have been over a thousand of them all lined up neatly, feeding energy through each other in a complicated organic network of circuits.
The jellyfish glowed blue in color, but once Aldrich flew above them, hundreds of them below turned an angry alert red. That was when they began to fire lightning bolts en masse at Aldrich.
Up here, all alone, Aldrich had become a prime and lone target against which they could all focus their firepower against.
"Higher!" said Aldrich. Even if his barrier was energy resistant, he could not just stand there and tank the full force of a bioelectric storm.
Crow soared higher, spinning and swerving and ducking to dodge countless streaks of lightning. A few did hit Crow, but he was durable enough that they did not deal significant damage, not to mention that Crow possessed a potent healing factor of his own.
Eventually, Aldrich was high up enough that the jellyfish stopped targeting Aldrich. This was high enough in the atmosphere where even the cloud cover below looked tiny. There was no rain here, nor were there strong winds.
It was strangely calm, a clear contrast to the raging rumble of lightning in the artificial storm below.
"Can you breathe?" said Aldrich to Spybird.
"Have augmented lungs. Will be good," said Spybird. He immediately unzipped his pack and booted up his laptop, hooking it up to the sleek rectangular signal generator. A blinking red light at the end of the generator turned blue. "Connection established. Am diving now-,"
Spybird took a glove off his left hand, and his stubby fingers snapped back at their knuckles, revealing wires laden inside his digits. They snaked out like they had minds of their own, funneling into the laptop as Spybird merged his consciousness with the tech.
The cylindrical goggles on Spybird's eyes clicked and clacked and glowed blue.
"Connected?" said Aldrich.
"Da. But…," Spybird's face set like stone. "You will not like news."
"Just tell me one thing," said Aldrich. "Are reinforcements coming? Or will I be dealing with this disaster myself?"
"Neo-York, Neo-San Francisco, Neo-Miami: all under attack. Bigger attack. All S class and A class heroes routed to them. Panopticon drones also busy with them. Haven, well, is not even on news. Too little a city for news to care about. All there is on net is disaster about bigger cities.
Official AA and Panopticon stance is that Haven and many other tier 3 cities are lost. All valuable citizens have been evacuated, but many still left behind. Some smaller news corps covered Haven until storm cut them out.
Latest details I see from one hour ago. All the corporate suits in Haven Center long gone in their jets, but everyone else from other, poorer districts have moved into the center where walls are bigger, there are sentry guns, and strong forcefield.
They man those defenses now, but they are holed up. Soon, will die."
Spybird shook his head. "Poor bastards. All their lives, they probably fantasize about living in City Center with all the big buildings and rich corporate Suits. But now, city center will be their coffin. Ironic, no?"
"And the two A rank heroes stationed here?" said Aldrich. He understood now that establishing a Net connection to see who was coming to help, to see what data the Panopticon and AA had about the attack, to see how much the media had covered to gain information - all of that was impossible.
Haven was utterly and thoroughly abandoned. There was no news or information about it. It was doomed.
"Hat Trick and Seismic. Hat Trick has fled," said Spybird. "Seismic was last seen fighting an hour ago, but since then, nobody knows."
"I see," said Aldrich… "Then looks like this city truly is our responsibility and ours only."