Months later... the Tower, the City...
There was a crack of gunfire, the line of seventeen rifle-wielding Guardians holding their weapons into a firing position as they fired off into the mountains behind the Tower. Banners were held over the side of the two opposing walls of the Traveler's Walk, bearing the insignia of the Titan, Hunter and Warlock. There was a calm afternoon wind which pressed gently across the banners, and moved through the crowd of Guardians lining the sides of the main path of the Traveler's Walk. At the section of the four pillars towards the edge of the Walk stood the collection of the Vanguards and the honouring Guardians.
Slowly a line of Guardians made their way down the centre pathway of the Traveler's Walk, holding in their position a dead Ghost in their hands. Avgust stood at the far right corner of the line of the Vanguard, his helmet removed as were with every Guardian in attendance. There was however one stood in the far corner, a Hunter from the looks of the armour, that still had their helmet on. Avgust ignored this, but he still didn't exactly approve of it given the occasion. In the centre of line of the Vanguard was a collection of representatives of the Consensus, including their head: the Speaker.
The Speaker had been silent ever since the spearhead group of Guardians have returned back from the Moon with hardly even a tenth of their original strike force. Either it was because of grievance, or because of regret. A thousand Guardians slain by a force darker than the Fallen could ever be, an army of chitin-armoured monsters who held the swords made of bone. The Vanguard have already established a title for these creatures: the Hive.
Avgust could only think about how Shaxx was right, and how he warned about the dangers of setting out to the Moon to face the Hive without properly established intelligence and strike coordination. The Consensus ignored this warning, and continued with the operation regardless. The Titan knew how upset Shaxx would be, and that he likely already brought a strong argument to the Consensus' Council already. Either way, the idea of Shaxx's Crucible was sounding better and better as time went on. And with something like the Great Disaster, it might be a turning point for the Lord's scheme.
As the fifteen Guardians approached the Speaker, they stood in front of a table with the banner of the Guardians lain across it. The Speaker offered his hand to the first one, a Titan as the Guardian handed a silver-shelled Ghost to the Speaker. The white-robed being took it gently, before placing the thing in a case before him. Avgust watched the movement carefully, as the line proceeded from the Titan, to a Hunter to a Warlock. The pattern of the three classes repeated five time, before the fifteenth and last Ghost was presented to the Speaker.
The Speaker placed the final white-shelled Ghost inside a black case before he rested his hand across the table. He took a moment, seemingly using the silence of the Traveler's Walk to gather his thoughts. He looked back up, before announcing: "This whole idea of service, is to protect all those below us in the City. To protect and preserve the will of the Traveler. To work as Guardians to ensure the future of this great City for all who come before us."
The silence held, as the Speaker paused again. He took a moment or two before he continued to speak: "Many here would ask what this service would mean, if the Guardians who could continually be brought back from the dead no longer can. A loss of a friend, a brother or sister is always confusing to the new Guardians as they think they can always be brought back from the dead. But what about those who cannot?
"Then as we see here this day, they journey has come to an end. Tragic, it has been for us—and tragic it will always be for us. They made the ultimate sacrifice by giving their lives for the cause of the Traveler and it's people. They have created an impression not only in the enemy, but in us as well. Their memory, their stories and their legend shall always be with us, and shall be imprinted in the walls of this Tower forever. Future generations shall rise by their stories, taught about their successes and told about their final journey into the dark.
"This is in a way another answer for what happens to the Guardians who shall not return. They live on in lessons, in the instruction taught to the newer generations. Their legendary exploits and battles shall be shared with these generations forever. As you here tell the stories amongst yourselves, know the importance of them for those who shall arrive now and further down the line.
"While we mourn, know it would be foolish to mourn forever. If we let ourselves feel defeated beyond this moment, we shall let ourselves fall to the Darkness even more. Take this time to express your grief in any way possible at this moment, take a moment to reflect on the past and what it shall mean to you in the now and in the future. Overcome this obstacle, as I know you are all so capable of doing. I thank you for your service, and for all you have sacrificed and all you can done to keep us protected.
"And thank those who have departed into the next, for their service and their sacrifice to keep everything protected. Take this day to strengthen yourselves from the Darkness, and free yourselves from the shadows of the night. Per audica ad astra, Guardians."
Finishing his remarks, the Speaker closed the last case as he set it in a row across the table. The crowd of Guardians stood silent, as the gentle breeze continued to sweep across Traveler's Walk. Avgust closed his eyes and drew in a deep breath, he released it as he then reopened his eyes. He looked at his fellow Vanguard officers, a row of other Titans, Warlocks and Hunters that were deemed the most experienced and elite by the Vanguard Mentors. They had been missing four from their ranks, who were killed during the Great Disaster.
Avgust couldn't imagine what the other Guardians must have been feeling like, considering their losses were much higher than the Vanguard. Entire Fireteams destroyed by the Hive in a matter of a single operation, many have lost friends that they have had since their resurrection. Whatever it took the City, the Guardians would organise to avenge their losses and ensure the protection of their City.
Despite this, he knew very well the consequences of being blinded by vengeance. Avgust was very sure that plenty of Guardians would want to set out now to fight the Hive once more. Perhaps the Speaker was right, the Guardians should take the time to reflect and collect themselves. Perhaps reduce the chances of anyone doing anything too rash.
The Titan lowered his head, as the rest of the Vanguard began to file out of their order and position. He however stood in the line, as his fellow Vanguard began to file out. He stood there alone for quite some time, taking the time to figure that he has respected those who have fallen appropriately while in silence. After this while, he decided to leave the Traveler's Walk as well—before he was stopped by a familiar voice: "Lieutenant Boris?"
Avgust turned around, seeing the two Vanguard Mentors that were currently on station: Commander Zavala and Ikora Rey, as Andral Brask was still missing. By this point, Avgust himself knew the possibility that Brask was ever going to return to the City was very slim. But still, the City was lucky that they still have two Mentors on station to help guide and lead the Guardians—especially in trying times like this.
"Commander Zavala, Ikora Rey." Avgust said, giving a salute to the two Vanguard Mentors.
"You were at the Moon, were you not Avgust?" Ikora asked.
"Yes, I was. Served order communications and mission organiser at one of the few outposts we organised there."
"So not as direct as in the Twilight Gap, then?"
"No. But had to help with the evacuation of the Guardians when we considered the operation a loss."
Ikora nodded her head, as Zavala took his turn to speak: "So you did see what happened out there, then."
"The green flames, the swords. Saw everything there was to see about it." Avgust replied.
Zavala nodded his head as well, looking back out into the mountains and the trees that could be seen from the Traveler's Walk. Ikora glanced briefly, before she looked back to Avgust. "I can't help but think about what we could have done differently. Change the outcome of the Battle for the Moon. We could have prepared ourselves for the battle with the Hive if only we have given it enough time." Ikora spoke softly.
Avgust remained silent, but he understand what she had meant. He to would have preferred that they prepared better for the battle as well, take time to understand their enemy and adjust their strategies to face the Hive better. The Fallen were one thing, but the Hive were another.
Zavala turned back his head to the Lieutenant and Ikora before he approached the group closer. "I understand the frustration with the tactics employed, I too know fully that what we have done was indeed complicated the situation of not only the security of our City but also our strength. We were too eager, too proud. And now we must accept the consequences of our inability."
Avgust lowered his head, considering what the Commander had meant. He then looked back up: "We have to learn to do better, than. We can no longer risk an assault on such a scale without knowing for sure."
Ikora seemingly smiled when Avgust said this, "Exactly what we were thinking. Since we were incapable of gathering a completely detailed analysis for our battle for the Moon, we as Mentors have decided it necessary to increase our reconnaissance missions not only to gather more, but also increase the detail of our intelligence."
"We believe that if we not only increase our patrol patterns, but expand the techniques to better and expand our information gathering—we can better prepare to organise strikes and raids on enemy positions." Zavala concluded, "Which of course is necessary for our efforts against the Darkness."
Avgust nodded his head, thinking the course of action the Vanguard plotted to take to be appropriate: "I see, very well then. I am not exactly sure why you are instructing me on such a matter..?"
"It is very simple, Lieutenant. According to the Cryptarchy, and some of the records of the Consensus as well as a few Warlock orders—we have reason to believe that vital technology is being stored somewhere in a very ancient city." Zavala said.
"We believe that in this location—not only could there be technologies that can improve the capability of our technologies: weapons, transport, information... the possibilities there are vast." Ikora added.
"So, you are telling me that Golden Age technology is hiding in some ancient city?" Avgust asked.
"Not only can this technology improve ours, it could possibly lead us to a second Golden Age." Ikora responded, "Imagine a City that could be more self-sufficent, better armed and more advanced than anything we could have hoped. The intelligence in this city could change so many things for us, Avgust."
Avgust took a moment to think of the possibilities that Ikora have mentioned, nodding his head slowly. "Yes, one could only imagine the possibilities. But I will however need to know where exactly you are planning for me to go."
Zavala reached for a missive from a pouch mounted onto his mark, handing the metal case to the Lieutenant as he spoke slowly. "The details are inside, where you are going and what you are looking for. However we are left in the dark about plenty, Lieutenant. We are not even entirely sure whether or not there will be resistance. As a precaution, we are pulling together a few Guardians to join you in a Fireteam. We cannot risk losing any Guardians out there, especially our best."
Avgust took hold of the missive, looking at the metal casing as he brushed his hand over the engraving of the container. He looked back up, turning his head to Ikora as she started to address him: "Take a look at the information, Avgust. Put together a course of action, we are sure you will be able lead the operation appropriately."
"Just understand this: your objective is simple information extraction. If at any point the Dark becomes to great for you or anyone, you will fall back and retreat to the City unless action against it is absolutely necessary." Zavala stated firmly, "If this is so, we will know for sure where a target of ours is and we will put together a strike team."
"Understood, Commander." Avgust replied.
"Then I believe we are set." Ikora stated, unfolding her arms as she glanced back at Zavala. "We will leave the rest of this time to you, Avgust. Take your time, meditate and think on what assignment we have given you. Reflect on your service to the Moon, and find your time to respect those we have lost."
"I would also advise you get some rest, Lieutenant. We know it has been a long week, and you must certainly be getting tired. We will need you at your most ready for when the time comes." Zavala replied, "Until then, Lieutenant."
"Per audica ad astra, Commander... Ikora." Avgust said, saluting once more for the two Vanguard Mentors. They nodded back, as they spoke in near unison: "Per audica ad astra, Lieutenant."
As they finished, both Zavala and Ikora turned to leave Avgust and head back down to their Hall. The Lieutenant watched them for a while, before he returned his gaze back to the mountains beyond the Traveler's Walk. He watched as the clouds broke against the mountains, the fading sunlight rising to only touch the peaks of the mountains. He closed his eyes and drew in a deep breath, taking his last moment at the Traveler's Walk to remember and to respect the fallen Guardians. Reopening his eyes, he turned on his heel and began his walk towards the stairway into the Tower Plaza.
Svarog appeared over his shoulder in a sudden flash of light, as it turned itself towards the Titan. "So we are headed out for a reconnaissance mission, then."
«Da,» Avgust replied, "We are headed out to what appears to be some ancient city that might indeed carry the secrets of a second Golden Age. Improve our ability to wage war against our enemies."
"Sounds like a great plan, but we do expect the Darkness has already gathered around the city? With something as important as this, we can be sure at least the Fallen are already there."
Avgust steps down the stairs into the Plaza, looking around to the vaults and the trade centre—eventually spotting the Traveler itself. He stared at the snow-white sphere that hovered over the City, with the many scars and injuries it had sustained during the battle for its life during the Collapse. It had sacrificed everything in order to keep its people alive, and for that he knew it was his responsibility to serve the Traveler. It did after all create Svarog to bring him back from the dead, a call of action to protect not only it—but it's people as well.
"Short answer is, we do not know Svarog. That is why we are headed there to find out, so that we can properly engage them if it is true."
"I guess I should have expected that, but still. I don't really like engaging the unknown unless there is a shred of certainty." Svarog concluded.
Avgust looked at the Ghost oddly, as he then looked down at the missive in his hands. He turned his head back up to Svarog, before he replied: "I would not concern myself too much, Svarog. After all, if there are indeed Fallen there—we know what to expect of them. And even if we are outnumbered, the Commander has informed us that we will retreat. We shall be fine, especially since we will be accompanied with other Guardians."
Svarog narrowed its blue 'eye', before it turned away back towards the Traveler. "I'm sure we will be fine. Just that we don't exactly have a stunning record of completely successful missions. Something always happens."
"Then let us make sure it doesn't this time."
Moscow, the Red Capital...
Snow beat harshly across the still-standing structures of metal, concrete and glass. All across the landscape of the capital, there was rubble and destruction that laid somehow managed to lay undisturbed for the centuries since it was created. Wires blew precariously in the rugged wind patterns, along with torn and shredded banners that held either by flagpoles or from the structures themselves. Statues dedicated to the legends past were in rough condition, rather by rusting or by having lost parts during the battle of the capital.
It was truly a sarcophagus of metal and glass, the body by war and the tomb left untouched. There was a flash of electricity down a wire suspended between two buildings. For the first time in what was centuries, there was finally activity throughout the capital. Lights from within the buildings flashed, as their lights illuminated from the windows. The electric signs held at the base of the towers flashed as well, as from city loudspeakers there was a burst of sound akin to that of binary:
01010101 01001110 01000100 01000101 01000110 01000101 01000001 01010100 01000001 01000010 01001100 01000101
The electric signs flashed with the same message, as suddenly the message began to repeat from a street away from the two buildings. One by one, the towers and buildings flared with the same message, the same sounds... the same activity. Roadblocks running down the street lifted from their dormant state along the intersections and alleyways. Snow and ice broke from under the structures, as then the air raid sirens blared.
After this sound, all activity suddenly ceased from all the structures. The capital returned back to the blackened and dead state it had assumed for centuries before. But despite this, the rumble somehow changed the dead environment. It had told that it was dead no longer.
But instead, alive.