The blue display from within the confines of the Outrageous Fortune beat against the interior of the cockpit, scrolling with valuable information and statistics about the trip being made. For the time, the screen seemed rather tranquil with the information which was being provided by it. The blue seemed to have an easing effect on Avgust as he leaned back into the comfortable seat provided to him. The foam material seemed to fit him perfectly, despite his heavy being and bulky armour.
His Ghost floated above his right shoulder, the curious device reading over the information of the screen as well. Avgust simply called the shape: Svarog, the Slavic God of the Blacksmith. He remember the first thing he saw when he stared back into this world after being revived: the cool shape of his Ghost's eye. The welcoming voice which brought him back into this world. A forged weapon of the light, at the hands of its blacksmith. The sensation of finding a purpose that was once denied him by death. But was there one?
It was odd, wasn't it? Out of the billion slaughtered, the billion claimed by the darkness—he should be the answer to restoring the light. Avgust didn't know whether or not to feel important, for he out of all was chosen to live and experience again... or to feel humble, knowing that his life was designed so that the few that remained may continue to live and experience. The cold snow in the palm of his hand, and the broken horizon spoke to him of a guaranteed duty.
A role to fulfil?
A person to be?
That for all the talent that was lost and could once again be reclaimed, the whisper of the light chose one that was capable of cynicism, but yet was capable of perseverance. It would seem to Avgust that the one who saw greater potential, a greater outcome would be chosen to represent the Guardians. But for whatever greatness came from the strong in mind, or the strong in body—perseverance was the determining quality of life or death. To Avgust perseverance had its uses, and to a degree it was necessary for the City's future.
He had a dream to preserve, he had to stand by not only his understanding of its importance—but the cynicism that what would follow was only difficulty. Avgust knew very well that Saint-14, arguably the greatest Titan to ever grace the City, believed contrary to this. "Good will follow, if good is allowed." were the paramount words spoken by Saint-14 before the beginning of the Battle of the Twilight Gap.
Guardians cheered for this, but Avgust didn't. For whatever reason, the Vanguard only believed that good would follow, if good would have to persevere and accept cynicism. He believed thoroughly that for Guardians to accept allowing good to follow, they would need to understand they had a chance of being destroyed. As difficult as it was for him to admit this, even to himself, it was an observation that couldn't be withheld.
It was different from understanding that there is defeat, and that there is an acceptance of it. Understandably, the Guardians would struggle to fight if they accepted defeat. But defeat to what degree? Defeat to the degree that their sacrifice should go to something greater? Or that hope was failed, and that the City will have to succumb to the darkness at some point?
A rather fine line, the difference between a personal death and a cataclysm. Or a blur.
Only those who refused to persevere would allow the darkness to see the City in cataclysm. For those who were resurrected, they would need to persevere to extend this dream—and at their final battle: allow themselves to move into the legend they should forge. Perhaps Avgust's philosophy and belief were flawed: that perseverance only comes from acceptance of end. But perhaps, they spoke more than they intended to mean.
At the end of the day, the Guardians were the preserving force for the countless others who could not stand in defence for themselves. Perhaps Saint-14 meant these as the good, the good who should follow the preservers into a place where they could be adequately protected. The Guardians duty was to be cynical about themselves, not of the good in the world.
The light only becomes stronger, as it willingly accepts the heat. It should stand by the heat, cautious of what hazards it should bring unto it. But it should remain, standing against the darkness which seeks to extinguish it completely. Replace the heat with the cold.
"Avgust?" Svarog asked, turning its shape towards the Vanguard with its inquisitive glance.
Avgust snapped back to reality, turning his head briefly back to the shape before replying: "Yes?"
"We are approaching Siberia, I'd give our arrival another five minutes. Heinrich wished to talk to you, by the way."
"Open the channel, and prepare our descent."
"I don't have hands, Avgust." The Ghost replied, as the Vanguard found his hand around the controls of the Outrageous Fortune. Soon enough, static aired over his communication system.
"Snow set in pretty bad." Heinrich said, "We'll be losing visual range after five metres."
«Simvolicheskiy.» Avgust replied, "Was it this bad when you were here originally?"
"Fallen weren't able to establish visual contact with me through the snow the last time. It was thinner then."
"I'm more worried about us not seeing Fallen."
"I'm sure we will not be seeing them much either."
"How did you find them the last time?" Avgust asked.
Heinrich's communications clicked twice, before his voice finally came across: "Sorry, I didn't hear that."
"How did you find them?" Avgust asked again.
"Used a stealth module, got a bit closer that way. Noticed where they were posted seems to follow along the mountainside. A lot of it is just scrap they welded together."
Avgust drummed his fingers on the control as he used the display to witness the thick white blanket of clouds below the three jumpships. A small hike up a mountainside towards a scrap encampment, guarded by a few Walkers. Little to no visibility would help them from being spotted easily, but similarly the Fallen would be detected less—and they were better at hiding.
But destroy the Walkers and the Skiffs, the House of Iron would be without transport and thus hardly an enemy. Avgust wondered whether the jumpships could just dive, blast the armoured units and depart.
"Svarog?" Avgust asked, "How likely would it be that we can push through the snow and strike at the armour on the ground?"
"Next to none." Svarog replied, "No visibility for us, we might just be smacking right into the mountain with a chance like that. It would help if we knew where they were, but unless that is explicitly detailed—we might just be shooting rocks."
"I know where a few of the Walkers and Skiffs were." Heinrich replied, "However, your Ghost is right. No possibility of hitting those targets. They might have also been moved."
"Not worth the risk, then." Avgust muttered.
The Ghost hovered over the display, watching the projected map of the position the jumpships were taking over Siberia. Avgust's eyes turned down to the projection as well, the navigation marker for their drop zone drawing closer and closer. A few kilometres, and their journey would be at an end. Avgust drew his helmet from his lap, pulling it over his head as the internal systems begun to activate. His HUD lit up, and the information on it started to show.
"Approaching the site for descent," Orur spoke over the secured channel, "If this scan is right—fairly barren, and close to the Yana River."
"That's our zone." Heinrich responded, "Like I said: short hike from there to our objective."
"Prepared for descent." Avgust spoke over the channels, as he lowered the controls of the Outrageous Fortune down into the clouds. The whiteness that they once appeared as soon turned a sudden black, as the jumpship struggled to pass straight through the clouds. The Vanguard turned his eyes down towards the flashing display, showing the rapid temperature change that was taking place. It was dropping from one, three to five degrees a second. The engines flashed a suitable warning, stating that the temperatures outside were becoming more unbearable for its operation.
"Temperatures will be affecting the engine performance." Svarog stated, "It would probably be best if we excuse the jumpship to orbit after we touch down."
"Wise idea." Heinrich replied, "We want these engines to be starting again."
"We'll be needing to be using our own oxygen. The temperatures are too low for us to properly breath in." Orur warned, "Particularly cold', as Avgust had said."
"Not what I was thinking." Avgust replied. Heinrich soon asked: "You've been here before?"
Avgust wasn't able to find words, or a reason as to why he said what he did back at the Tower. It was a phantom thought: a thought that was definitely there, but not exactly there at the same time. It was this way when he was first revived, he didn't even know his own name. But slowly he began to adjust, began to allow something more pass into his line of thought. It was odd to know that he had existed before all of this, but that he knew little to nothing about it. A phantom thought.
"Not sure, just seems right." Avgust replied, as the turbulence begun to smooth out on the descent. But the second layer wasn't exactly something he would have expected: passing through the dark revealed a world consumed by only white. A snow storm, a blizzard. The Outrageous Fortune hadn't been battling with the clouds any longer, but it had been with the snow that it was now struggling through. The engines flashed a warning again as the altimeter began to flash—warning Avgust that the ship was about to make impact with the ground.
Drawing back on the joystick, the Outrageous Fortune pulled up narrowly as he switched on the VTOL-thrusters to keep the ship suspended. He looked at his altimeter, as the reading displayed 25 metres. Closer than he would have hoped for the descent, but still a pretty high fall. The engines flashed again, warning that engines could be reaching critical levels in temperature very soon. The Vanguard just sighed, turning on the oxygen for his suit as he pulled the Thunderlord off the rack behind him.
"Take me down, Svarog." Avgust spoke, as the Ghost obliged. A strange energy took the Titan, lowering him to the surface in a sudden flash as he felt his organs roll from the transfer. It wasn't comfortable taking the transmat, but it was the quickest and most reliable way to do so. As he touched the snow, he instantly sunk in as he found that down to his knee was covered by the white.
Looking back up to the Outrageous Fortune, the orange exhaust of the engines tilted up as the jumpship shot straight up into the sky. Avgust watched helplessly, as snow continued to stick to his armour and trap at the joints of it, the first released breath of his oxygen fuming into a crystal-like cloud. The wind beat against his armour, taking his mark secured around his waist like a flag as it fluttered back. He turned back and spotted the shaped of the helmeted Hunter and Warlock approach him, their weapons drawn.
It took until they were two metres away that they could be spotted clearly, ten metres if they were to be blurs. The Warlock's voice crackled over the channel, the wind too ferocious to be spoken over: "Looks like we have quite the hike then. Should have done this in summer."
"We'll get it done." Heinrich replied, looking up towards Avgust. "You can take point if you want, Avgust."
"That was what I intended to do." Avgust replied, activating the mighty Thunderlord as arc energy soon ran down the weapon, making it come to life as the static danced across the Titan's fingertips.
He looked back up towards their objective, staring through the white wall of snow towards where his objective could be. Taking his first step with relative difficulty; the Titan, Warlock and Hunter set off into the mountainside.
Against the snow, and against the Iron.
The snow continued to beat against the shapes of the Vanguards, the crystals of which stuck to their armour as they pressed through the snow. To any casual viewer, it would have been easy to mistake some of them as snow monsters as they trudged through the white along the mountainside. If their had been ice, it was likely buried by the snow—that or the boots of the Vanguards have become accustomed to the surface and thus received better grasping.
They continued on, following the navigation marker marked on their HUD—despite moving through the snow storm. Avgust felt the hand on the Warlock falling on his shoulder, and he understood why: they didn't want to lose an important visual on each other. It had felt like hours, moving through the white towards an objective that was likely not to be visible. He kept his grasp on the Thunderlord, pressing through the snow with the warm weapon in his hands.
It was the only thing that truly seemed warm, as he couldn't feel the heat from his thermal suit. He enjoyed the cold, because it made him feel at home. With snow falling, making carpets under his feet and a cool breeze brushing against his person. But that didn't mean he didn't understand the true value of heat under these conditions. He looked at this HUD, reading the indication which read: 28M.
"28 metres until our objective." Avgust announced over the cold, as Heinrich looked up from the back: "28 metres until the spot I saw them."
"We won't be seeing them any time soon." Orur replied, dragging his feet through the snow. "Hell, they might not even be here."
"Don't have many places to go."
It took an additional ten minutes to make the way up the mountainside, finding secure footing against the snow and ice which would allow them to make it to their destination. As they did, Avgust looked down towards the steep decline—which beyond in the white would hold the base of the House of Iron. He couldn't see anything, other than the Hunter and Warlock taking a place by his sides.
"We could just slide down the face here, it is a pretty flat land down to where they are at." Heinrich stated, removing his Handcannon from its holster.
"We won't be seeing much, past all of this." Avgust replied, running his hand across the blizzard. The Hunter shrugged, offering his advice: "But think about it, they won't be seeing us. I am sure that we will be able to actually fix some explosive to the Walkers and Skiffs and bug out. They won't see us, and they won't have a way to do anything to us."
"Could work," Orur replied, "But we also came to eliminate whoever is leading them."
"That is true, but can we really eliminate him without making a scene?"
"I don't think so." Avgust answered, as he prepared the Thunderlord. "We can move in, destroy their Skiffs and then get their Walkers. When they have no way to escape, we move in and take out their leader. Do they have refuelling stations around the facility?"
"From what I saw, yes." Heinrich replied, "I'll mark up where they were when I last saw them."
Three objectives popped up on Avgust's HUD, varying distances from 95m to 142m. He nodded his head, before stating: "We will take one each. I will get the closest one, Heinrich you can get the furthest. Orur, you get the one in the middle. Target the Skiffs and Walkers as you see them, so we can converge on those locations later. We have a limited amount of time to do this. Is everybody ready?"
"As ready as I can be." Orur replied, as Heinrich only replied: "Yes."
"Then head out, Fireteam." Avgust was the first to step off and begin his slide down the slope. Snow moved under his feet, piling up as to build an adequate cushion for when he finally hit level ground. It slowed his momentum as well, his boots biting into the rock face of the slope. Reaching the bottom, the Titan jogged forward towards the objective marker.
His heart began beating, similar to the sound of a paced gunfire. Each mighty pump was a bullet fired, a weapon being put to the works. He stared forward, as his vision began to create blurry shapes from ten metres. It seemed to be a massive wall, detailed with rust and paint and decorated with a rather colourless banner. Snow had found its way over the shape, coating it in a layer of white that would likely only be broken by the heat.
A familiar shape soon became visible, a four armed monster holding a long rifle. It was likely it had not spotted Avgust yet, given the blinding white—nor could it hear him, from the deafening wind. The Titan raised the Thunderlord, as the electric barrel of the weapon began to glow intensely. The arc energy broke off in the wind, but from the squeeze of the trigger the sure sound of striking lighting was made: a crack against the snow as the silver round shot towards its target.
The Vandal didn't even have time to react before the bullet enveloped itself deep within the throat of the Fallen, as the arc energy surged through it causing sporadic limb movements—before it fell of the wall dead. The COM in Avgust's ear crackled to life, as Heinrich spoke: "Not a quiet weapon."
The Titan heard the Fallen from within the complex, as their sounds emanated shock and anger. Leaping upwards, the Titan used the light from within him to lift him and his heavy armour up atop the wall. There were lights from within the white, giving the Vanguard a place to fire at. Lowering the Thunderlord down to within the facility, Avgust fired down blindly into the light as he himself let out a challenging roar. The bullets fired into the snow and steel, or they cracked bones and tore flesh.
From the horrified shrieks of the Fallen, Avgust was guessing it was a little of both. The rounds tore apart the torches they had up, darkening the environment as occasional arc flashes would provide the Vanguard with an idea where they would be. Few arc rounds challenged his, as the Titan dropped down into the facility and jogged forward. His boot stepped over or on top of the dead Fallen who had challenged him, telling him of his triumph over them.
The distance between him and his objective narrowed, but the Vanguard found a series of walls blocking his progression towards it. Avgust was beginning to feel trapped within the metal walls and the blinding air. Slowing making his way through the labyrinth, the Vanguard stepped into what seemingly was a vast emptiness. He turned his head about, not spotting anything in particular before he finally allowed himself to turn his head back towards the objective he had marked.
Avgust raised his Thunderlord, pacing over to the objective as he soon found another wall. He read the distance between him and the objective yet again: 0 metres. This was particularly odd, especially to the Vanguard. Had the asset been moved already? Had it been moved to refuel a Walker or a Skiff within the past few days? It seemed unlikely they would transport an entire container, considering both of these could be completely refuelled with smaller containers.
"Heinrich," Avgust finally spoke: "The fuel has been moved."
The COM clicked twice, as from the other end the Vanguard could hear the distinct noise of Fallen chatter. Heinrich finally replied: "Has it? Odd. I'm not finding anything either."
"Orur?" Avgust asked.
There was complete radio silence from the Warlock's end, before a voice struggled to say: "Nothing..."
"What about our targets?" Avgust inquired, as Heinrich replied almost immediately: "I have seen a single Skiff out by the airfields as I have moved in. Perhaps they decided to move spots, the weather isn't favourable out here."
"Then why have a small unit present?"
Avgust lowered his Thunderlord, peering through the snow in order to find the other Guardian's locations and readouts. But there was nothing being detailed on his HUD. Perhaps the storm was running interference with those delicate of signals? Either way, the Titan wanted to rejoin the Hunter and Warlock as soon as possible before he was targeted by something bigger than Dregs or Vandals.
"Set a waypoint for your location, please." Avgust asked, "If we can't find anything—we might as well get back together."
Two clicks again from the channel with Heinrich, before the Hunter replied: "Marking now."
A navigational marker appeared on Avgust's display, showing the Hunter to have been only 36 metres away from him. The Titan slowly paced over towards Heinrich, his Thunderlord raised as he slowly scanned his surroundings. The area felt almost too empty, as if something had been here before—but moved before the group appeared too close. And then he realised why, as he stepped into a large imprint in the snow—which seemed to form a long and fresh trail. The footprint looked easily like that of a Walker's, and that was unsettling for the Titan. They might not be able to see the machine, but the machine would likely be able to see them.
"We have an active Walker." Avgust cautioned, "Looks like it is running in a direction close to your position, Heinrich."
"I don't see a Walker, Avgust." Heinrich dismissed, "I do however see a target. Should I engage?"
"It is our mission objective. Eliminate the target, and head back to regroup."
Avgust watched as he found that through the blizzard, a shape of a large wall began to form. He looked up to where the navigational marker was, seeing that it was a floor above him. Through the snow, the Titan made out the familiar shape of a floor grating that is most commonly used to supplement fire escapes. He lifted himself up to the grate, pulling himself up as he found that the door which lead into the facility had been opened.
He raised his Thunderlord, stepping carefully inside—as soon an overwhelming sensation of heat began to bite at his very figure. The snow on his armour began to melt, and soon he felt the synthetic fibres of his bodysuit to be relaxed a bit more. He peered around the facility, making it out to be a service station as at the bottom in the garage there was a dismantled recovery vehicle from the Golden Age.
Several banners were strewn across the facility, with the insignia of the House of Iron being weaved into the grey cloths. Avgust drummed his fingers across the barrel of the Thunderlord, as he soon found himself hovering over the navigational marker yet again. He looked around the facility once more, not seeing Heinrich or any of the Fallen he imagined would have been in here.
Very, very soon did Avgust begin to feel slightly discomforted about the current situation. None of this seemed normal by any degree: the absence of the Hunter and the Fallen. The navigational markers which lead exactly no where, and the absence of materials explicitly detailed to have been here... the way Heinrich's COM seemed to click, the Fallen chatter rather than the sounds of their dying.
Avgust might have been able to understand the House of Iron moving locations, but with such a small House—why would they have left behind a force for such an undesirable region? It seemed too risky to keep a Walker and Skiff on location, especially if they had so few. It was something a fool would do.
Or it was something a genius would have done. Something that would seem so manageable, especially if given proper intelligence.
The Titan could have predicted now why there was a revolver pressed against the back of his head. It seemed so obvious now that it was what it was. Avgust felt like cursing something foul, but he calmed himself before he carefully spoke: "So, this was why you were hesitant to strike against the Iron."
"They are small, Avgust." Heinrich replied, "They are controllable. Their destruction isn't necessary if we can get them to do what we want."
"They are our enemies, Heinrich. Tell me, how long did they know we were coming?"
"Five hours ahead of our arrival."
"Plenty of time to move their equipment then, especially if they had insider's information."
"This isn't why I am doing this, Avgust." Heinrich replied cooly, "I am doing this because I don't see the City surviving much longer."
"With Guardian's like you, that seems very likely."
"What are we protecting, Avgust? The people of the City? If they can't protect themselves, how are they going to survive when we are gone?"
"If Guardians stand to protect them, there is a chance we will survive."
"We can't always stand in defence of the weak, Avgust."
"You are sick." Avgust replied aggressively, as the Handcannon was pressured more against the back of his head.
"I'm doing what I have been told to do, Avgust. Head out into the wild, seize the opportunity it presents. This is my opportunity to survive, because I am strong enough to. I am doing what is right for our kind, Avgust. I am doing the right thing."
"If you need to convince yourself that you are right, you are likely to be wrong—Heinrich."
"Stop with that bullshit, Avgust."
"This isn't strength, Heinrich. This is weakness. You are aligning with the cutthroats who only months ago, wanted to take from you your life. They wanted to take the life of everyone around you, your friends, your fellow Guardians—the countless innocent people in the City below. You are here doing this because you can't accept the responsibility of protecting these people, you are doing this because you don't understand what is the right thing to do."
"This is the right thing to do." Heinrich replied.
"This isn't the right thing to do." Avgust criticised, "Only in the eyes of the corrupt is it the right thing to do."