Chapter One - Scene One - Ascendant

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WHEN the sun rose upon the solid permafrost of the Arctic Circle, nobody suspected that it was on this day that the future of the planet Earth would change beyond prediction. A vicious wind was coming off the ocean, buffeting inland and whipping up frozen motes that were visible from the shuttle's small, round windows high above the sparse cloud cover.

Requiem had his forehead planted against one of these ports, listening to the roar of the super heated atmosphere stream past the exterior of the hull. From this height the earth seemed to move at a steady crawl underneath them, edging the craft and her crew ever closer to fate. He knew some on board would die this day. The forges of Mars could engineer decent enough body armour, enough to encase the stronger of his group in a centimeter of tempered alloy. However, this would not be enough against the Council's rifles. He wondered gaily whether any of his hired mercenaries had worried about this or whether they were just worried about the money involved.

As he turned to look at the assembled rag-tag team of soldiers a shudder ran down the length of the hundred meter long craft which made some jerk and some grin. He knew which ones would die first. And it wasn't those who were afraid, they were the sensible ones. Instead he took a cool breath, brushing out of his vision dusty hair and addressed them as a leader.

'I want everyone to make sure their Terminal Dampeners are charged, primed and that your rifle's safety switches are off, just like we have rehearsed ladies.'

It was hard to be heard. Despite this, the assembled crew, seated in two neat rows either side of the shuttle's vast cargo, hold sprung to life and whines of capacitors being charged broke above the sound of the wind rushing outside or the loud drone of the craft's four Royceland boosters. The grimy walls of the hold illuminated as various weaponry was charged. It was the sound of security against government forces. The lights, a sight of a coming liberation.

Requiem continued to study his team's faces, some grim, others contemplative. All tense. A vast sum of financial and material resources had gone into the building of this highly efficient combat group, each man, headhunted by him for their skills and abilities in the field. A few of the members around him used to be soldiers, like Requiem, under the old Metroplex One force, all known and battle proven.

The others were street urchins, hardened and raised in the slums of the Metroplex, made known to him after his exit from the army when the war ended.

Requiem thought back to the slums with fond disgust, they acted as a shroud to keep him from the Government's eyes and provide him with ample enough hostility to maintain his skills - if he sought it out. Many a time he had fallen into brawls with the gruff types in smoked filled back alleys behind a makeshift bar over substances of illegal nature. More often than not the fight would end with the victim bloody, an eye ruined for good or sometimes if they were unlucky - or lucky if he thought about it, saved from the pain of embarrassment - death, Requiem's boot nestled on the back of their neck as they laid face first in the muddied metal grating of the slums.

It was in this shanty that he had spent the last few years as the Earth healed itself from conflict. The period of relative unification and peace clearly didn't last long. The human nature, thought Requiem. The human nature always has to be in conflict.

With this he fell into muscle memory, years of being a soldier making second nature his every movement. Taking the white, fist sized rectangle of a fusion pack from his utility belt, he slammed it into his rifle with precision and flicking off the safety switch. Power was released into the magnets along the barrel of the rifle, and they begun to glow a soft blue. The air suddenly felt static on his arms and the rusty smell of grime was replaced with the burning smell of ionized atmosphere as the weapon made an eager whine, ready to perform its intended function.

With ingrained habit came absent mindedness and Requiem gazed across the cargo hold to the metal man in the corner. He couldn't see the his head as it was enveloped in the crimson folds of a hooded cloak, but he knew that the Martian Overseer Nilesey could sense him looking.

'Commander,' the man spoke with an odd tone. His voice sounded synthesized, artificial and, Requiem suspected, was no longer driven by vocal chords but by an inbuilt computer. The hood tilted slightly upwards and two glowing green eyes stared out from the shroud.

There were hints of humanity on Nilesey's face. Where his mouth should have been were two interconnecting tubes connected to a bulky metal face mask that seemed fused into the skin. His nose seemed normal enough, albeit the skin tones were deathly pale and as with his vocal chords, were probably non functional, most likely relying on a sensor array suite somewhere along his body. But his eyes were the worst. A soulless light, venomously green.

'Is there any way in which I can prove to be of assistance?' Spoke Nilesey without so much as moving. Every few seconds the eyes would blink off and on without accord as if some processor deep within the machine man's body was trying to mimic human function.

There were very few things that unsettled Requiem. He had been conditioned to withstand the horrors of war and had witnessed every type of death occur on the front lines and in that emergency back up bunker of the now desolate United Empire. But Nilesey was a force that even he couldn't comprehend, a man without substance, he was as efficient as the machine his body was made of, fast and sublimely dangerous.

Requiem recalled suddenly with a shudder, unnoticeable to the rest of his team, the first time he had caught sight of the once human. The derelict alleyway had been deserted, everyone had run from the threat of the Martian Overseer.

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