Chapter 553: Poseidon’s Palace

    Chapter 553: Poseidon's Palace

    The Poseidon Group was the first to discover the planet. By then they were already a famous family, with a third for the secrets of the universe.

    When their discovery was relayed to the West they demanded it become property of the government. Against everyone's expectations the Poseidon Group refused. Instead they chose to flex their muscle, stating that if they took the planet their family would no longer be affiliated with the Western Alliance. Their headquarters and assets would be moved to the North. It would make them an enemy for life.

    If any other family had dared to threaten them this way the Western government would have laughed in their faces. They wouldn't shy away from more underhanded measures if they became necessary. However, the Poseidon Group was powerful and had their fingers in everything. Their influence resonated through all levels of government. If they did leave, it would have collapsed Western economy.

    On the other hand, giving up a planet clearly rich in resources would undermine their credibility among their own people. The damage to their prestige would be disastrous. This, too, would reflect very poorly in their economy.

    Parliament wasn't sure how to respond. They were prepared to deal with such a suddenly and openly hostile former ally. While they debated, the Poseidon Group used their connections in government to propose several stipulations. Included were assurances that half of the planet's mined resources would be sold back to the West at a reasonable price. In addition, the Poseidon Group would design and manufacture a Bastion ship to offer in trade.

    The money and resources needed to create these cosmic fortresses was astronomical. In all the years previous the Western Alliance had managed three with great effort. These humongous machines were the symbol of human power!

    The West noted this contribution and stopped any further efforts in retrieving the planet. It was formally transferred to the Group's control. They, in turn, agreed to pay taxes and swore not to create any weapon of war stronger than a stellar cruiser.

    For the Poseidon Group to have enough resources to build their own Bastion ship was a problem. If they applied themselves toward unbridled development, they would become a threat to the control of the Western government. With so much wealth they would need an army to protect it, hence the West's insistence on a stipulation to control their military. They were allowed as much firepower as the North had had in their Seventh Fleet.

    The Poseidon Group lost a great deal of capital in that deal, but earned their own planet. They stayed a part of the West, and their reputation continued to grow until it was a shining gem among humanity. A single family that could bargain with a government, that was crazy!

    Over the next fifteen years the Poseidon Group toiled to create the most modern Bastion ship the West had ever seen. They called it a Poseidon-Class Bastion, and to this day it patrols the West's borders.

    The gift was a benefit for the Poseidon family in several ways. Most notable was the fact that much of the ship's crew were members of the Poseidon family. In order to protect their sizeable investment - and with the blessing of the West - a large portion of the Bastion's military personnel had to be from the family.

    Another way to put it was to say a good portion of that ship was still under Poseidon control. Building a ship took resources, but keeping it running was just as pricey! Taking into consideration the family's government connections, it wasn't too much of a stretch to get their numbers up to one third the total personnel. The commander didn't have any connection to Poseidon - at least on the surface. Whether or not he had any sort of relationship with the universe's most powerful family was impossible to say.

    The Group's business headquarters was on Europa, but the true heart of the family was on Cobalt. The planet did not have to adhere to any higher government, so whatever the Group did was completely hidden from inquiring eyes. The West sent a representative once every year to make a cursory examination, and that was it.

    Indeed, the Poseidon Group had spread across all of human space. They were a fact of life in every industry. In the West their influence was only getting stronger. Sharp-eyed specialists were often quoted as saying, 'The future of the West is Poseidon."

    But they were smart, and worked to keep themselves away from government backlash. They avoided becoming a target by reigning in their ambition. Their military was only half of what was agreed to and were only used as protection for merchant vessels. Every business had to deal on some level with the family, but they never got themselves involved in military. They kept themselves sharply separate from the other Adept groups, and restricted their financial endeavors largely to the West. This restraint earned them a fair amount of goodwill. By keeping everything strictly business, the Poseidon Group continued to win allies instead of enemies.

    They were quick to open their coffers for humanitarian aid as well. To use their own words; 'For the People.' The Poseidon Group often liked to call themselves a charitable organization.

    Satellite images affirmed that the surface of Cobalt was very calm. There were signs of manufacture and development on every island, but it was kept small. Only three of the islands were just large enough for a ship to land on.

    This was largely symbolic, most people suspected. The planet's primary feature was its vast kilometers of ocean. But was that true?

    The Poseidon Group called the ocean Achanis. Its surface was perfectly still, like a mirror. But underneath it was an entirely different world.

    On the seabed, twenty thousand meters below the surface, the pressure was strong enough to kill most living things. However, a dim blue light existed in the darkness.

    Enormous fields of light hung over more than twenty square kilometers of sea bed. Strange as that was, one didn't see the brilliance until they got closer.

    It was an underwater palace!

    Simply for it to exist beneath the crushing pressure was a testament to their deep pockets. It was hard to imagine the kind of technology and resources they would need to pull this off, but that's just what they did.

    Stranger than the shield was the building it protected. It was not a modern structure, but instead prescribed exactly to the myths of the Grecian sea of Poseidon. It was like peering into the past.

    Naturally, it was called Corinth.

    Only the heart of the Poseidon family were permitted to enter. In fact, the only ones to know Corinth existed at all were part of the family bloodline. That was how they built it, with the power of their ancient lineage. Their dramatic adherence to this ancient tradition was an inspiration.

    Poseidon's bloodline was the seat of the family's power. All of the riches they accrued later was the work of careful management.

    Hua Li stood quietly in a circular room. It was an enormous room in every sense of the word. Its ceiling stretched up thirty meters, supported by scores of pillars that stretched to the far walls. The Monarch stood before a beam of blue light that shot up from the floor at its center and seemed to penetrate the roof.

    The beam of light was fifty meters in diameter. A soothing, soft blue nimbus radiated from its center. The room was filled with the rippling power of water.

    "Have you at last come to take the Baptism? Have you had your fill of fun?" A deep voice demanded.

    Hua Li turned toward the source of the voice; a tall, middle-aged man walking towards him.

    They looked practically alike. The only difference was a hardness that underlined the older man's expression.

    "Father." Hua Li bowed respectfully. This was his father, the Poseidon of the last generation, Hua Xu.

    The patriarch was clad in a flowing golden cape, draped over the traditional Grecian garb of the gods. Upon his head twinkled an ornate golden crown. He was a living remnant of that ancient religion.

    Slow steps took him across the expansive room until he stopped a few feet from his son. His deep voice returned. "Have you made your decision? All you must do is submit to the Baptism of the Blood and birth an heir."

    "Yes, I have made my decision. Only, must it be Mo Xiao? I don't wish to hurt her." A bitterness crept in to Hua Li's face.

    His father's imperial gaze remained fixed upon him. "If you truly wish no harm to come to her, then she is who you must chose. It is her destiny to be your bride. To be the mother of the next Poseidon. This has been her choice. You may let her down, but you do not have the right to deprive her of that honor. You knew this day would come."

    Hua Li's fists clenched. Waves of erratic energy flowed off of him.

    "If you wish to pursue all that you desire, this is something you must undergo." There was a faint note of compassion in Hua Xu's voice.

    Hua Li took a deep, calming breath. The conflicted look in his eye gradually faded. He offered a resolute nod. "Alright."
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