Unknown location, Central Administrative District, Moscow...
Two white lights flickered in the chamber that was otherwise dominated by red lights. The walls, ceiling and floor of the chamber were completely made of metal—tubes running through the metal frames and braces of the wall as glowing red wires circled around them. The chamber was vast, immense in size as it took the shape of a circle. A large disc was mounted to the ceiling, spinning around as all the tubes running through the walls ran up to it—seemingly feeding it power and knowledge as a variety of screens lined the walls.
The white lights flickered again, before suddenly snapping completely on. The lights projected down at the ground, somewhat managing to eliminate the red lights completely. The disc on the ceiling started to spin, as the screens placed on the walls flashed and sparked. Binary code ran along the screens, inputing several different commands and operations. As the light grew more and more intense, the disc began to spin faster as sparks flew from the variety of tubes and wires connected to it.
The binary code stopped showing, as the screens faded to a complete blue screen. A door that led to the chambers hissed, as four segments pulled away which allowed the entrant inside. A being stepped inside, walking down a metal-plated staircase as the heavy armour on it caused the steps to clang as they were walked upon. As the being made it's way to the centre of the chamber, as slowly text in Russian rolled across the screen: How long has this facility been offline?
«You know just as much as I do, Muromets.» The being replied in the same language. It walked along the chamber, kneeling as it examined the tubes running inside the frame of the wall. Picking up a metal plate, the being slowly attached it to the wall.
The screens flashed again, displaying a new message: Much has changed.
«Indeed it has. Our people have fled, our defenders have fallen and our loyal have betrayed us. Time has taken it's course, and it threatens our ruin. But we will not let it ruin us. History will not change.»
History is a subject of the victor. Despite this, much has still changed. There is a new City. A new stronghold.
The being looked at the monitor intently, eyes focused intensely on it. The being placed a hand against the wall, leaning towards the monitor as it asked: «Where have we discovered this?»
From your orb that you have brought us.
A mechanical arm reached down from the top of the circular chamber, whirring as it lowered to the level of the being. Within it's mechanical claw, it held the broken white frame of the odd device that had called itself a 'Ghost.' The circular eye turned towards the being, flashing as it seemingly looked at the being with dread. The being looked back to the monitor, before speaking: «So it is indeed good for something, this 'Ghost.' Has it given us any more relevant information than just a name?»
No, it has not. And I doubt it will. It has been silent ever since I had taken it's knowledge of the City.
«Then it is of no use to us. Dispose of it, Muromets.» The being replied, walking away from the mechanical arm as it pulled itself up to the ceiling of the chamber. «Have we gotten any word from Gagarin?»
Gagarin still evades my requests. And has sealed itself further, hiding from my sensors. It seems as if it isn't going to cooperate willingly.
«Where is it's storage facility?» The being inquired.
I cannot answer that, as it has managed to disrupt my search. I will have to search longer if we are to extract any more information regarding its location.
The being wandered around the chamber, narrowing its eyes as it eventually paused in the centre of the chamber. It took a while to think, before looking back at the monitor and speaking: «It must be hiding in the Aeronautics Bureau, it is a program for the RFBA after all. Can you not find its location that way?»
I have already tried. But it managed to remove part of our capital's map from my database. As I have said, it isn't going to cooperate willingly.
A projection of the Moscow capital map appeared on all the monitors, displaying that it was missing half of its contents. The being stared long at the map, as eventually it brought its hands together. «It made one mistake at least: it gave us an area to search. Prepare our mobile armour for a search of the area.»
Of course. However you do remind me: we have an apparent breach in our capital's security.
The being turned instantly towards the monitor, looking sternly at it as it asked: «What do you mean?»
I thought I alerted you about the presence of three airships engaging the proximity of our capital. I thought our air defences have managed it, but apparently not.
Video suddenly showed across the monitors, as it was obviously from a security camera mounted to the side of a building. From the footage, an S-850 platform was using it's turret to fire upon an unidentified target. The target landed on in, breaking the turret before destroying the command module for the vehicle with a pistol. The video footage stopped, and disappeared completely as text rolled across it again: It is not the only one. Even more units are being engaged as we speak.
The being seemingly shook with anger and frustration, as it walked away from the monitor before announcing: «Highlight the location at which this has happened! We cannot afford to lose anymore if we plan to secure this capital once more!»
Of course, the monitor winked, marking their locations now. Should I prepare more units for engagement
«Put them on standby, and wait on my order. When I give the go, you send them in immediately!» The being announced, stepping up the stairway as the doors separated and pulled away.
The white lights overhead flashed and then shut off, as the disc in the centre of the room continued to spin. The monitors flashed again, relaying the message: Yes, sir.
Along the border of the Novomoskovsky Administrative District, Moscow...
Along the buildings, a light snow was now drifting through the streets and alleys—collecting along the floor and rooftops. There was a brief break in the clouds, as wires and dust blew gently in the wind. The dark skies made the entire place seem too isolated and cold, as the empty streets of the district whistled quietly. Rubble of the wrecked buildings shifted as the armoured being of Avgust stepped through it. He carefully made his way through it, stepping close to the sound of gunfire as he raised his Thunderlord.
"I can't tell if that is a Guardian's gun or a machines," Svarog warned, "So be careful."
Avgust shrugged, as he looked into the hole made in the side of the building. The way the first floor collapsed, it provided a ramp for anyone to move up inside onto floor. He moved closer to the gunfire, as the wooden panels underneath his feet creaked and bended. The Titan approached the closest window, looking down into the street below as he heard the roar of gunfire. The armoured vehicle was right below him, one which shared the white and green colour scheme with the red star. Except this model didn't have treads, and instead it replaced the missile silos with four barrel cannons.
The cannons fired, breaking into the building side as another Guardian came into view to return fire. By the looks of the Guardian, it seemed to be Zareph firing back at the machine. The bullets from his rifle pinged harmlessly off the metal plating, as shells ejected from the four barrels. The cannons lowered again, firing at the building once more as the wall of it blew away completely. Zareph ducked, retreating back into the building as Avgust summoned Svarog.
"We are in close enough proximity, open up a communication channel!" The Titan commanded, as the Ghost nodded itself up and down to show that it understood. Svarog opened up into a blue orb, sending out digital information as it then slowly closed and looked at Avgust. "I've sent the request, they should be answering any second!"
Sure enough, there was a click that sounded into Avgust's earpiece as the familiar voice of the Hunter came through the piece: "Avgust?! Is that you?!"
"It is! You need to listen to me—"
"Yeah we see it too! It's been chasing us ever since we touched down... we saw you get shot down, how did you survive?" Zareph interrupted.
"We can wait for that! Where is Teash?"
"It's not good, but she is here! Are you going to come to us?"
Avgust swore silently as he muted his end of the COMM, looking down at the vehicle that was preparing another barrage of shells. He looked over the machine, as it obviously wasn't concerning itself with him at the minute. Discovering a large cylinder attached to the rotary base of the turrets, Avgust discovered a warning symbol for explosives.
The Titan reactivated his COMM, aiming his Thunderlord towards the cylinder before he asked: "What kind of heavy weapon do you have?"
"Already tried that, Avgust!"
"Not what I meant! What kind of heavy weapon do you have?" Avgust asked again, more sternly this time.
"Rocket Launcher, Suros-rated."
"Perfect! Do you have any shells for it?"
"As I have said, tried it already!"
"Any synthesis packages?"
There was a silence over the COMM, as the vehicle launched another barrage at the building—blowing up the supports of the building and all the objects inside of it. The face of this building began to depress, seemingly threatening to fall forward. Zareph swore over the COMM, "Damn! That was way too close!"
"Stay on topic!" Avgust replied.
"I've got one, Avgust! But after that I am all out!"
"Can you get over to me?"
There was a silence, as Zareph asked: "Where are you?"
"Behind the machine, window of the grey building." Avgust replied, removing an electric torch from his utility belt as he angled it outside the window. Looking back towards the building where Zareph and Teash were, he saw as the Hunter peaked out. Activating the torch in response for only a brief second, the Hunter looked towards it before withdrawing back behind his cover.
"I can try, thing as a point-defence turret though—and if it sees us then we have a problem!" Zareph replied.
"It is a straight shot to what I want if you get over here!" Avgust said.
"It also means leaving Teash, you know!"
Avgust sighed, as he closed his eyes and spoke: "Tell her Ghost to stand by for resurrection... we will collect her immediately after we finish removing this vehicle!"
There was another silence over the COMM, as eventually Zareph came back onto the line: "Alright, okay! I'm going to make my way over, but if you see that rust-bucket push up more than it should—you shoot at it, alright? I don't want Teash to be left alone with it!"
"You've got my word..." Avgust replied, keeping his Thunderlord pointed at the vehicle. There was a few solid moments of dread, as the vehicle fire more shells into the interior of the building even more. The face of the building depressed, as bricks and mortar fell into the snow below. Eventually, Zareph appeared in the building window across from Avgust—waving to catch the Titan's attention as he lowered his rocket launcher.
"In position!" Zareph said over the COMM, looking at the vehicle.
«Khorosho,» Avgust replied as he pointed to the large cylinder with the marker that made it's explosive contents clear, "you see that cylinder? Shoot it and it should be enough to breach the armour. After you finish, I will fire into it with my weapon to detonate its contents."
"How big of an explosion are we talking?" Zareph asked, as Avgust replied: "Prepare to run when you see it blow."
"By the Traveler, Avgust!" Zareph sighed, as eventually he raised his rocket launcher. "Ready to fire. You?"
"I've been ready." Avgust replied, watching as the vehicle slowly crept forward as he then yelled: "Fire!"
Not even a split second after, the fuse to a rocket could be heard as the front of Zareph's weapon lit up as air around it hissed. The rocket flew forwards, leaving behind a bright trail of flames as within a second it collided with the armour of the cylinder. The armour broke as the explosion rocked the vehicle, hot metal flying every which way as smoke began to emit from the back.
The rotary turrets tried to turn back to fire upon Zareph, but Avgust quickly opened fire just as soon as the explosion blew away. The Thunderlord chugged a mechanical song, as arc-enveloped rounds struck at the new opening made by Zareph. The cylinder groaned under the stress, as it sounded as if the machine gun's rounds were striking the shells stored within the cylinder.
Soon enough, the cylinder soon blew open as an explosion washed across the streets. Shells detonated as they were flung from the vehicle, as both Avgust and Zareph turned away from the explosions. Avgust ran back down the hallway, still hearing the explosions from the street behind him as he slid down the ramp way made by the collapsed floor. The explosions continued, as the Titan took a corner of the building in case a shell was flung down an alleyway.
After a matter of seconds, the sounds of detonation ended for sure. The Titan stood up, looking back up the ramp way as he walked up it carefully. He could already see the chaos, as the window which he stood at only a few seconds earlier wasn't there anymore—but was rather replaced with a hot crater. Avgust walked through it, dropping into the street below as he saw only the frame of the vehicle left: the only thing that remained of it.
The ground sizzled, as the faces of all the buildings of the street were collapsed completely. The one which the vehicle was shooting at teetered, eventually falling forward as the bricks cracked and the mortar broke loose—adding to the mixture of smoke and dust made by the explosions and the other collapsed buildings.
Svarog appeared over Avgust's shoulder, "Well, I guess I can't get a scan anymore."
"That is alright." Avgust replied, "We know how to destroy these things now."
"Unless that cylinder wasn't meant to be exposed, Avgust."
The Titan nodded his head, walking onto a pile of rubble as soon enough Zareph appeared. The Hunter dusted himself off, removing an auto rifle as he looked down to Avgust and announced: "I bet we aren't the only ones who heard that."
"Yes, I am sure there are more." Avgust replied, as he then stepped up to Zareph. "Where is Teash?"
The Hunter lowered his head, looking to the barely collapsed building as he quickly motioned to it. "She is there! We need to get moving, because she is in really rough condition!"
Avgust nodded his head, as he walked with Zareph over to where he apparently hid the Warlock. Clearing the collapsed face of the building, Zareph dropped down to floor level as he proceeded towards a staircase that headed both up and down. Avgust dropped down after Zareph, looking at the symbols that marked the staircase.
"Ground level." Avgust muttered, as Zareph looked back at him before asking: "What?"
"Is nothing." The Titan replied, as Zareph shrugged and continued down the stairs. Avgust followed him, as he eventually was forced to turn a corner. Doing so, he saw a projection of light emitting from Zareph's Ghost as it projected itself down on something.
Avgust lowered himself down to a crouch along with Zareph, as he examined the features of Teash. Her armour was cracked, as her purple blood was stained across the collar of her coat and along her arms and legs. The Titan noticed her faint breathing as his eyes eventually found themselves concentrated on a piece of shrapnel embedded in her stomach.
"How long has she been like this?" Avgust asked, setting down the Thunderlord on the floor as he removed his backpack and placed it against the wall.
"Happened only minutes before you arrived, she was just out there shooting at the thing and then..." Zareph paused, "she just flew back. I went to check on her and this is what I found."
Teash's Ghost appeared over her, the silver shell looking at both Zareph and Avgust. It spoke with an almost feminine tone, "She is in critical condition, not sure what I can do."
"Resurrection?" Avgust asked, "Might be able to put her down so you can reassemble her."
Zareph looked at Avgust, before asking quietly: "Are you seriously considering that?"
"I am not going to let you open fire on my Guardian here!" Teash's Ghost replied sharply, "Remember your rules?"
Avgust paused, looking at the silver-shelled Ghost as he nodded his head, "I do. And you remember what one of those rules were? Help amend the ills of your fellow Guardian so that they may help you with yours."
Teash's Ghost looked at Avgust, seemingly shaking as eventually Svarog appeared over Avgust's shoulder. Svarog clicked, before speaking: "Please, let us help. I know it isn't a pleasant experience, especially for us... but it is dangerous to move her as is right now. We need to do this not only for our sake, but for yours and hers."
Zareph's Ghost joined in: "It is right, you know."
Teash's Ghost sighed, looking between Avgust and Zareph before it spoke sharply: "It would be able to fix most of the injuries, but I think you know Lieutenant—it doesn't fix everything. And that shrapnel? It will be a persistent problem."
"We will keep that in mind." Avgust replied.
Zareph shook his head, looking towards Avgust and his own Ghost before he spoke: "I can't believe we are doing this... so, which one of us?"
Avgust paused, looking at Zareph and then at Teash before he curled his fist and reached for the sidearm at his utility belt. He removed it, flicking off the safety as he aimed it towards Teash's head.
Avgust pulled the trigger, as the two looked away instinctively, as purple blood splattered across their armour. Zareph swore, as Avgust flicked the safety back off and retired his sidearm. He resisted the urge to vomit, trying to force his thoughts away from the thing he had just done. Avgust had fought and killed a Guardian before, but Heinrich and Pariah were corrupt and were trying to kill him. But Teash? She was laying on the floor dying. Innocent. It was a completely different feeling, and something that bothered him greatly.
As Teash's Ghost formed an orb, Avgust reached out to combine his light with the Ghost's. He felt something leave his body from his fingertips, as Teash's body seemingly evaporated completely as it slowly started to form in a type of whirlwind. Eventually, Avgust could reach away as Teash touched the floor. She stumbled forward, grabbing at her side as she lurched forward—panting as she tried to collect herself.
"You alright—" Zareph tried, as Teash spoke loudly: "Back off!"
Zareph and Avgust stepped back, as the Titan reached down to retrieve his backpack and the Thunderlord. Attaching the backpack to his back, he lifted the Thunderlord as he waited for Teash.
The Warlock looked up at Avgust, stepping up to him as she said shaking: "Why the hell did you kill me?!"
"You were on the floor. Dying. Did you want the long way, or the quick way?" Avgust asked.
"I don't give a damn! You should have figured something else out! My Ghost could have—"
"Teash, there was no other way." Zareph replied, "Look at yourself, you are still injured and we just pulled you through a resurrection. Do you really believe—"
"And who are you to let him do what he just did?!" Teash yelled at Zareph.
"Don't expect any respect in this Fireteam." Zareph muttered, as he turned away and looked further down the hallway.
Teash folded her arms, looking down at the ground as she spoke softly: "I just don't want to..."
Avgust looked over towards Teash, tilting his head as he soon asked: "You don't want to what?"
"It's none of your business!" Teash replied aggressively, as she removed her scout rifle from the floor shouldering it. Avgust shook his head, as he looked towards Zareph as the Hunter turned back around. Avgust sighed, as he looked towards Teash—who had lowered her head again.
"It is time," Avgust said, "that we discuss the few options we have."
"What do you mean?" Zareph asked, as Teash looked up towards him as well.
"It is difficult to say, but I must say it. As of a few hours ago, we have lost all communications with not only the City, but the Vanguard as well."
Zareph and Teash lowered their heads upon hearing this, as Teash shook her head and looked away towards the wall, muttering: "Damnit!" as she kicked the wall. Avgust remained silent, before he started again: "We are also stuck with an enemy we do not completely understand. All we know is that they appear to be machine-based: vehicles. What you have just seen is not the only thing we have to worry about. But we have reason to believe anti-air capable vehicles are deployed all around Moscow."
"So no real way in, and no real way out." Zareph stated, "Fantastic."
"That means we need to move fast, and we need to move quick. Preferably off the streets. Because if we get boxed in the streets with a tank, or an anti-infantry vehicle and we are through." Avgust replied. "And lucky for us, I think I may know a way to open communication with the City and the Mentors once again."
"How?" Teash asked, turning towards Avgust aggressively.
"Radio tower." Avgust replied, "We manage to make our way to that, I am sure we will be able to open communications with the City once more."
"So on the roofs, to some old radio tower that might be able to get us through to the City." Zareph restated, "I'm liking it. We avoid those machines on the ground, we can make our way through to that radio tower and get out a message."
"I guess it is worth a shot." Teash stated, "Assuming we don't all die in the process."
"Positive thinking," Zareph said, "not all that hard you know."
Avgust turned from the group and headed for the stairs, before looking back: "We have our way up. Let us move out, Guardians."
Unknown location... Moscow...
As the three beings headed off towards the stairs, the monitor's screen shook quickly to static as it was suddenly replaced with a new angle of the three—this time looking down at them heading up the stairs. A second monitor continued to play footage of the ruined street, viewing from a distance the black smoke rise and the fires continue to burn. A third monitor flashed with a view of a radio tower, the image of it bouncing around the screen as it eventually faded to static.
Then there was a sudden surge of blue lights around the circular chamber, as more monitors began to fill up with images from all around Moscow. The wires shifted, as a disc in the centre of the room started to spin. Mechanical arms soon lowered into the facility, beginning to collect the pieces of metal that had managed to fall off the well-kept walls and frames. Snapping the pieces into place, one of the screens soon faded to static as it was replaced by a red screen.
Will you respond this time? The text in Russian appeared over the screen, Or will you continue to hide yourself from me?
The disc in the centre of the room stopped spinning, as the mechanical arms stopped completely. The text was then replaced by another set: Are you really considering to abandon your duty?
The disc kept completely still, as the text continued: You will help us reclaim the society we lost, you do understand. There is hope for our people still.
The blue lights of the facility flickered off, as all the monitors turned black except the red one.
Hide then. We will find you eventually, Gagarin. And when we do, it won't be as peaceful as we have been thus far.
The red screen went black, and with it—the entire room as well.