The West Industrial District, the Last Safe City... Years after the Moscow Incident...
Heavy footprints fell on the rain-soaked ground, as the puddles that decorated the gravel-lain road splashed and spread. The street lights overhead stood as tall spires, their white lights cast down onto the trail below, as three figures moved quickly down the street. It was dark, perhaps darker than it had ever been before, as only the lights of the lamps above and the occasional flicker in the windows on stories above the ground level shone down upon the street. Silver tarps occasionally covered the heads of the three figures below, thick pieces of cloth that tried to protect the crates of supplies underneath them. Holes in these cloths were plentiful, as the rain that accumulated on the top of the tarps funnelled down into these holes.
Few other people wandered the streets, especially at this time of night during this time of season. Most turned their heads curiously to watch the three figures run, but very few bothered to question what they were doing. The West Industrial wasn't a particularly friendly place, full of rough hands. Bandits. Criminals. Common labourers. Crime was common in this area of the City, and the sense of animosity was always creeping along the spines of those who visited. Even the presence of the Force of the City was nearly absent, for patrols into this region commonly lead to confrontation.
The figures made their way to an abandoned warehouse, condemned by the City after an accident that left the air in its proximity laced with dangerous amounts of particulates. Still, the most desperate of the West Industrial resided there for the seemingly free shelter. A small fringe community developed almost the instant it was condemned, made up of societal outcasts and individuals discriminated against for their strange features.
As soon as the three figures stopped outside of the perimeter, they hid themselves in the thick foliage. Lights dominated the many windows of the brick-lain facility, covered in a thick layer of black soot that painted the walls and the floors of the structure and its earth. One quickly removed a filter, as he twisted it around the face mask that he wore. The two others followed the actions immediately, as the first threw a large fabric bag between the three of the group.
"Open it." He demanded, as the second reached to undo the zipper of the bag immediately after.
"So, what's the plan?" The third, and distinguishably youngest asked. His question didn't need to be addressed with words, as the shape of a sidearm was removed by the second, and shown to the whole group.
The first followed afterwards, his hands reaching down as he pulled out a very similar designed weapon from it. The two eyes shifted to the third, as the second asked harshly: "The hell are you waiting for? Grab one!"
The third stayed still for a moment, before he sheepishly reached into the bag and removed the third sidearm of the set. The second one instantly turned to face the facility. "Their stench is thick on the air," he growled, "gonna to feel a lot more breathable without it!"
"Indeed." The first replied coldly, "Luckily there isn't going to be an FOTC patrol tonight. This could be our only chance to take out this spot."
"What about the Guardians?" The third one asked quietly, as the two eyes instantly turned toward him.
"They aren't gonna show, kid!" The second laughed, "They ain't allowed inside the City unless the Consensus allows for it! Besides, we're doin' them a favour!"
"This is our one chance to make a statement." The first responded, "At least until there is definite need for the Guardians to be involved. Our order will step out of the Darkness after this, and embrace the light."
"What are we doing?" The third asked, "I mean, how are we getting inside?"
"Whichever way. Just remember where to point, and where to shoot."
"Are we going to let a few run?"
"Of course not!" The second interjected.
"Of course." The first argued.
The second dare not to speak against the first, as the authoritative figure rose from a kneel and lifted his sidearm. The first reached down into the bag once more, before he removed a series of armbands. The armbands bore a strange emblem, of an opened human hand—the palm of creation. "We should not forget these." The first said.
The second quickly attached his armband, followed by the first who drew it up almost as quickly. But the third looked down at it, as if considering the purpose of the armband before he cautiously placed it over his left arm. The three figures then walked at different paced toward the abandoned factory, as the gravel crunched under their feet as the water displaced unevenly across the surface. The second approached the front door, as he kicked the wooden doors open. The paneling of the door cracked, as it fell inward as dust upset and took off into the air.
There was a shocked gasp of air, followed by a violent coughing as the figures marched into the facility. "W-what are you doing?!" A voice of the first Awoken gagged between strained coughs. But a single shot answered the question, as the pale-skinned humanoid fell to the ground.
"Outta my way!" The second figure growled, as a few other Awoken stood up. They lifted up their hands to cover themselves, as the sound of children screaming soon echoed throughout the large interior.
The first stepped past the second, as the third remained behind the second. The first looked at the crowd, as parents hid their children behind them, as others cowered behind cover. The Awoken spoke with anxious and fearful voices, as the first spoke softly: "And here you are. When we kick up the dirt, you cower behind stones. Much like the vermin who try to flee their extermination."
"You don't need to do this!" One of the Awoken spoke, as he tried to step forward slowly, "We are all the same under the Traveler! Brothers and sisters!"
"Wrong." The first replied flatly, as he raised his sidearm. The one Awoken that dared to speak fell as soon as the sound of the gunshot was heard by the group. Fearful cries rose, as a small child pulled free of the grasp its mother had on it as it ran forward.
A third gunshot, and the child fell dead. The third of the figures jumped in surprise, as the Awoken cried out again. The first spoke again, "We were the chosen of the Traveler. As soon as the Darkness arrived, you lot were spawned. You are not members of the light like us, you are creatures of the Darkness: as treacherous as the Fallen themselves."
The staccato of gunfire sounded, as the crowd yelled louder. Many of the Awoken tried to flee, hide or fight. But the constant stream of bullets fell from two sidearms, as the twitching bodies of the civilians did as well. The third shook his head, dearly confused as the screams died with their makers. The second turned around as he found the third, completely petrified as he grabbed him by the collar in a fury as he thrust him forward. "Get out there!"
As the velocity of the shove ended, the third stumbled to a stop. He gazed upon the massacre, as he saw many dead and many fatally injured. A few still managed to crawl across the dirt covered floor, as they cried. Betrayed. Hurt. Confused. Dying. Dead. The second stepped forward, as he pointed an accusing finger at the third: "You think you can back out on us!"
"Can we stop?" The third whimpered, as the second stepped closer and pointed his sidearm at the third.
"No! You aren't backing out of this! You are doing your duty as a citizen of earth!"
"He is right." The first said, as he looked at an Awoken try to crawl away. She was obviously injured, as she dragged herself lamely across the concrete ground. Blood trailed as she dragged herself along, coughing violently as she inhaled the particulates that occupied the atmosphere. "You signed up to do exactly this. It is your calling now, one that you cannot leave."
The first stepped up to the Awoken, as he rested his boot on the bullet that found its way into her side. She screamed loudly as he twisted his heel, as he waved the third over to where he stood: on the defeated body. The second shoved the third forward: "Go on! Do it, or you will soon become just like her!"
The third stumbled forward, as he tried his best to hold back his cries. He didn't dare lift his shaking hand that held the sidearm, as he looked into the desperate eyes of the Awoken that laid under the boot of the first. The first stared directly into the eyes of the third, as he spoke: "You can do it."
The third found very little strength, as he lifted his shaking sidearm as he concentrated it the best he could toward the head of the Awoken. She cried, as she coughed with difficulty: "P-please don't!"
The third bit his tongue, as he lifted his left arm to concentrate his sidearm as he closed his eyes and breathed difficultly. He didn't quite have the nerve to fire, as the second lifted his sidearm to the back of the head of the third. Surprised, the third's finger slipped as he pulled the trigger haphazardly. The single shot echoed throughout the interior, as the sound of the crying Awoken ended. The second lowered his sidearm, as he struck the third against the back with a hand with an opened palm.
"What have I done?!" The third asked, as he dropped his sidearm, "What have I done?!"
"She got what she deserved!" The second said, "You've done just what you need to do!"
The first looked over the dead body of the Awoken, and he carefully stepped off of it. He retrieved the sidearm that the third dropped, as he lifted it up to rejoin it with the one who held it before. "You've liberated this small land. A piece of the puzzle, that will be put together to once again make our City pure." He said.
"What have I done?" The third asked again, as he turned his head away from the body of the Awoken he killed. The whimpering voice was beginning to reshape itself, and despite its denial—it was beginning to realise and come to accept what its master had just done.
"Brought the light. Now we step from the darkness."
Suddenly a sound of sirens faded in, as flashing blue lights beat their way into the white lit facility. The three figures backed away from the collapsed doors, as they carefully stepped over the dead bodies of the Awoken they slaughtered. The second waved the first and third behind him, as he raised his sidearm and pointed it toward the door. The second muttered angrily, "How the hell do they know?! I thought you said they weren't in this district tonight!"
"Someone must have called the FOTC." The first responded, "No matter. We have done what we needed to do."
"What have we done?" The third whispered to himself.
The sound of boots hitting gravel was made, as the angry voices of the FOTC were heard. Rain started to patter against the windows of the soot covered factory, as the black grime was washed off the yellow-tinted windows. The first grabbed the third by the collar, as he pulled him toward a storm-drain that marked the centre of the facility. A dead body of a killed Awoken laid on top of the drain, as the first placed his boot on the back of the man and rolled him off.
"We have our way out." The first said, as he reached down to lift up on the storm drain. The metal plate was heavy, but the first managed to remove the circular object from off the drain way. He motioned for the third to drop down, but the young one tensed up. The second growled, as he shoved the third down the drain way—as the first screamed in horror, before his scream ended in a sickening splash.
"Come on!" The second said, as he turned back to the first, "I've got us covered! Move!"
"Brother, it would be best if you were to stay behind." The first said.
"The hell do you—"
The yelling of the FOTC got louder, as the second raised his sidearm to fire at the first officer to run through the doors. The three rounds that he fired connected with the officer's chest, as he screamed in pain. The auto rifle the officer held fired wildly, as he swung the weapon toward the two figures still standing. As a bullet sailed toward him, the first pulled the second in front of him as the polymer round broke through his chest. The second screamed as he nearly fell on top of the first, but the first pushed him the other way as soon as he did.
The first leaned down, as more individual shouting of the FOTC grew closer and closer. He looked at the second, as he pulled the sidearm from his possession. The first spoke softly, "I am sorry my friend. But we can't have everyone retreat back to the darkness. You are our step out of it. Your sacrifice, is necessary."
And with that, the first dropped down into the drain way as a splash soon echoed afterward. The second coughed up blood, as the audible clicks of heels hitting concrete echoed louder and louder throughout the chamber. The second crawled toward the drain way, but a boot stomped on his hand as he screamed in pain. Arms seized his broken body, as they held the strong man's arms and secured them with zip-ties, before one in the crowd hit him in the back of the head with their rifle. The second fainted, as the officers pulled the man up to his knees to drag him out of the facility: a trail of crimson blood being drawn along the path they took him down.
Three officers remained, as one turned his electric torch down the drain way. The bright beam of light cut through the darkness, as he tried to spot whatever or whoever had went down into the depths below. The two others looked around at the massacre, as they lowered their weapons and heads to the floor. They muttered softly as they examined the pile of dead bodies, strewn about in distressed positions as one officer stopped right in front of a child who laid on the chest of what was likely his father.
"Traveler..." The officer whispered, before he spoke louder: "Who the hell could have done this?"
"Terrorists, by the looks of it." Another officer said, as he reached down to collect the casing of a bullet. "But what could have driven the attack?"
"Racism." The third officer concluded, "They are all Awoken. The perpetrator was Human. It couldn't have been anything else, especially in West Industrial."
"Was he alone?" The first officer asked.
"No." The second officer said, "Too many bullet casings on the floor for a single sidearm. And I'm not seeing any dropped magazines."
"Drain way was opened." The third officer stated, "He tried crawling off into it. They have to be down there!"
"Too late to chase them." The first officer replied, "Could be off in the Marsh by now."
The third officer kicked a pillar that marked the left side of the interior of the factory, before he turned around. He looked over to the collapsed body of the FOTC officer that was shot by the second terrorist, as he watched one fellow officer check the now dead body of their comrade. He sighed, as the first officer spoke: "When this breaks, it's going to be bad. Relations are bad already, this is going to push it over the edge."
"I want to know how they got their hands on weapons." The second officer said, "And if there are any more of them."
"If there are..."
"There are going to be more attacks." The third concluded, "We need to tell the Consensus, we can't risk this getting out of control!"
The first stepped again toward the pile of dead Awoken bodies, as he covered his face with his glove. He then turned slowly, as he addressed his two comrades: "Then we have no time to waste."
The Tower, the Last Safe City... Six hours later...
The black clouds dispersed quickly following the night, as they spread across the eastern block of the City. The clouds then brought on a grey appearance, as the rain lessened and was brought to a light sprinkle. The precious drops of water pattered weakly across the window, the shutters of the window covering it completely. The room was dark, with the exception of a low-lit lamp that decorated the black oak wood desk. An assortment of papers and documents littered the desk, as arms folded themselves on top of the documents. A head rested on the arms carefully, as the figure sat in his chair, leaned into the desk. It had been a long night, but the figure was tired enough not to remove himself from his desk to rest on his bed and had opted to sleep on top of his paperwork instead.
A star-shaped object materialised out of thin air in a blue flash, as it gently floated toward the figure. It was his Ghost, his most important companion. They had been through hell and back together, ever since the Ghost brought him back from the dead. More than once. Its blue eye concentrated on the figure, as it shook its 'head' before it lowered itself at ear-level. "Avgust?" The Ghost asked, "Time to wake up."
The Titan lifted his head slowly as he inhaled sharply, as his icy eyes concentrated on the Ghost. Avgust stretched his arms out, before his eyes cast themselves down at the paperwork at his desk. "How long was I asleep?"
"Three hours, twelve minutes and forty-seven seconds." The Ghost said, "Could you really not be bothered to move to the bed?"
"I was comfortable where I was at." Avgust replied sarcastically, "Besides, I would rather have my work in front of me the moment I open my eyes."
"But at least you would have been kind to your neck."
"Could do with a bit of pain now and then, Svarog."
The Ghost cast its eye again on Avgust, as it shifted the many shapes that made it up to appear as if it was frowning. The Titan rolled his eyes, before he pushed himself away from the desk and slowly stood up. Svarog rotated around its Guardian, as it looked toward the shutters that blocked the window. The shutters were quickly drawn, as if by the Ghost's command as it floated toward the window. The blue eye of the curious device fell in the familiar orb shape of the Traveler.
"Do you ever think we will live long enough to see it speak again?" Svarog asked, as it turned back to watch its Guardian.
Avgust shrugged, as he pulled the nanite-weaved under-suit over his shoulders, before fitting his arms through the body glove. Pulling up the central zipper, the Titan padded down magnetic locks that held the two sides in place. He spoke softly, "I don't know, Svarog. I just hope we do."
The body glove fit tightly, but nevertheless was quite nimble and flexible. Avgust demonstrated this as he pulled up the main chestplate of his armour, as he strapped it on carefully. The magnetic locks held the heavy piece in place, as he took the belted armour segments that went around his waist and secured them in the back, before attaching the belts over his shoulders.
"What do you think it will be like?" The Ghost then asked.
"I don't know." Avgust replied, "Relieving?"
Avgust then secured the metal plating that protected the Titan's back, before he quickly went to work attaching the armour plating that protected his legs. Svarog floated over, as it projected a blue beam of light that seemed to activate the suit's main power. The servo's joints made no sound as they lit up, making it quite easy for Avgust to finish suiting up.
"Like the weight of the world being relaxed?"
"Wouldn't but it that way, we would still have a job to do."
"I know," the Ghost said, "but it would be much better, wouldn't it?"
"Perhaps." Avgust said, as he collected his helmet off his desk. The Titan looked at the helmet, as he ran his hand over the curve that denoted its visor. He then rested it under his arm, as he looked down at the set of metal-cased documents.
Avgust quietly reached down to collect them, before Svarog spoke out suddenly: "Avgust, something bad just happened! Really bad!"
The Titan snapped to attention immediately, as he drew his hand away from the documents he just reached for. His mind projected a few dozen scenarios, almost as of he was preparing himself for what was to come. "What is it?" Avgust calmly said.
"The communication isn't telling me, but the Mentorship is pressing for your attendance to a meeting!" Svarog said, as he paused briefly before adding: "Immediately!"
"How could this have happened?" A calm voice asked, as attention shifted instantly to the shape of a Titan in white armour, with a large red shoulder pauldron. He kept his arms held behind his back, as the monitor played visual feed of the aftermath of a large scale massacre in a factory.
"A few armed perpetrators found their way to this condemned factory in West Industrial. It housed homeless Awoken, desperate people who couldn't earn any glimmer." A man responded, dressed in a blue uniform with several white badges decorating his arms and chest.
"How come the FOTC weren't able to respond in time?" The Titan asked again.
"Commander Zavala, I don't even know why there wasn't a patrol in West Industrial to begin with." The man replied, "There was a squad that was supposed to report into that district an hour before the incident."
"So you are telling me your men cannot manage to stick to a patrol route?" Zavala asked, as his eyes narrowed.
"Zavala." A woman asked, dressed in pinkish robes that designated the shape and role of a Warlock. "The FOTC isn't a patrol of Titans, they are officers of law."
"These Awoken hid in a factory condemned years ago, hazardous particulates occupied its air." Ikora started, "How were they to know?"
Zavala sighed, as he adjusted his feet before he looked back up to the officer and spoke: "Do we have any connections to who could have done this?"
"We believe it is an organised group, terrorist in nature. We have determined the cause of the attack was likely racist in nature, given the identity of our captured perpetrator." The man replied, "Nothing other than that—"
The sound of the mechanic doors opened, as air escaped and hissed. All attention shifted to the one who stepped through the door, as Zavala nodded his head quickly in greeting as the figure stepped into the darkened chamber. "Glad you could join us, Lieutenant."
Avgust nodded his head, before he stomped his foot and preformed a quick salute for his superior. "Commander Zavala. I have been requested?"
"Indeed." Zavala said, as he motioned to invite the Titan forward. Avgust approached the central chamber carefully, as he stepped past a few officers of the FOTC, along with a still-helmeted Guardian, who had his arms folded as he leaned casually against the wall. Avgust's eyes fixated instantly on the monitor overhead, as he looked over the still-frame of a dead Awoken.
"Is that..?" Avgust said, as he paused to try to make out the cause of death. There was a single bullet wound that made itself known in the forehead of the Awoken, as he laid still on the floor with blood that flowed freely.
"It is." Zavala answered, "This incident occurred only six hours ago. Massive civilian casualties: 23 dead."
"Homeless Awoken, according to the FOTC." Ikora said, "All killed in a supposed terrorist attack, perhaps by racist radicals."
"How wasn't this prevented?" Avgust asked, as he turned his attention to the man who stood in the midst of both Zavala and Ikora.
His blue eyes locked with Avgust's icy brown, before he spoke: "This went completely under our radar. Wasn't until we got a call that we knew what was happening. Our patrol that night apparently didn't decide to go."
Avgust remained silent for some time as the man said this, as he glanced back up to the still-frame. The Titan closed his eyes and sighed, before he reopened them and replied: "Have they been questioned?"
"Detained." The man replied, "Until we sort things out, we have reason to believe they were compliant with the attack."
"Didn't you say there was a history of violence against officers in West Industrial?" Ikora asked, "Perhaps that is why they didn't do their duty?"
"No reason not to preform a patrol." Zavala said flatly, "If they had been there, casualties could have been avoided, if not prevented."
Ikora lowered her head as she sighed, "I still can't understand this."
Avgust kept his eyes locked on the man, who was presumably the Commander of the FOTC. As he shifted uncomfortably, as he turned his head back to Zavala. The Vanguard Commander spoke carefully: "This has been brought before the Consensus, I would hope."
"It has, but they refuse to take action before they can determine what exactly our threat is." The man said, "But this isn't going to sit well with the public. Areas like West Industrial are already on the brink of falling into civic disorder. If we don't do anything..."
"Then more incidents like this will happen." Avgust concluded, as he considered the consequences of the City falling into civil war. With enemies already at the gate, the last thing the City needed was a war inside the Walls. "Have we determined what our response will be?"
"That is the thing, Lieutenant." Zavala said, "Any action taken on part of the Vanguard inside the Walls without approval of the Consensus would be a direct violation of our codes."
"We can't just sit on the side, Commander." Avgust replied, "Order on the inside of the Walls is just as important as it is outside."
Zavala sighed, as he paced around the chamber taken completely by deep thought. He eventually came to a full stop, as he lifted his right hand and formed a tight fist around his chin. Ikora assumed this stance as well, as she hummed lightly: "I wonder..."
"Wonder what?" Zavala asked.
"Guardians can't operate inside the Walls until we have approval from the Consensus," Ikora said, "but our code says nothing about our Resurrected acting as officers of the FOTC. Just as long as they don't operate as Guardians of our Order, we can put our people on the ground."
"That is really pushing the limits of our code," Zavala replied sternly, "it borders on direct violation. But I can't stand idly by while civilians are at risk."
Zavala then sighed, as he folded his arms before he turned his head back to the monitor. The Vanguard Commander, despite his strong and stern appearance, very obviously seemed to Avgust to be quite disturbed. The Lieutenant knew the Commander very well, and could easily detect when he was troubled. Zavala was a man of order, but he was also a man who swore to protect everyone who couldn't protect themselves.
"Fine." Zavala said lowly, "I will allow for this. You will get the assistance you need, Commander Ardghal."
"That is all I needed to hear," Commander Ardghal replied, "I thank you. The City, thanks you."
The Commander of the FOTC turned on a heel and headed out the door. As he walked along, the members of the FOTC present at the meeting turned to accompany their Commander. All that who were left in the room was Avgust, Ikora, Zavala and the yet unnamed Hunter. The Vanguard Commander sighed, as he turned to look directly at both Avgust and the Hunter.
He spoke quietly, "Lieutenant, Fenrir. I am going to trust you with this. Identify and locate our enemies, and stop whatever else they plan to do."
"The civilian populace already isn't going to be happy with what just happened," the Hunter spoke, "what do we do if civilians decide to engage us?"
"Pacify them." Zavala said, "I urge you to not use your light, unless it is absolutely necessary. But as this is not a permissible operation under our agreements with the Consensus..."
"Our equipment is going to be heavily restricted." Avgust concluded, "No heavy weapons, no armour?"
"We don't want to upset the people," Ikora stated, "if Guardians are running around without proper clearance, they may assume the worst."
Fenrir remained silent, his arms still folded as he looked on behind a helmet that hid what he was, and what he was thinking. Avgust simply nodded his head, as he spoke: "We will get it done, Commander... Ikora."
"We trust that you can." Zavala replied, "Act fast, and strike clean. Remember what is at stake there."
"We will." Avgust replied.
"Then you are dismissed. I am sure the FOTC will be more than happy to provide you both with suiting uniforms. Meet with Commander Ardghal, and he will get you started."
Avgust nodded his head, before he preformed a sharp salute for the Commander. As he broke from the salute, Avgust's eyes turned back up to the dead body of the killed Awoken. It was odd to him why this would happen, and why anyone would do anything quite as horrible as this. Everything cruel that happened just brought to mind the horrors of the Fallen or the Hive, but this? This cruelty was almost beyond the Lieutenant. It almost seemed impossible.