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Post by BluE on Thu Nov 03, 2011 4:41 pm

A bead of sweat trailed down Martin Scofield’s forehead before dissipating into his thick, but well-tended brow. His whole face was misty with sweat underneath his mask, but he was thankful for its protection. So focused was he in the moment that he didn’t even notice the stinging sensation of a chemical mist in his eyes. The Savannah weather chilled to the bone, but it was humid. His senses came back to him one by one. He felt his wool jacket stick against his chest—soaked from the water vapor in the air. He realized it was hard to breath—he suddenly felt stifled underneath his tactical vest. The living room he was standing in was a wreck of torn furniture, ruined walls, and, of course—corpses. Dozens of them littered the floor from the firefight that had just occurred; his adrenaline was finally subsiding as he scanned the scene.

Sound—the next sense that returned to him in the calm, and not a second too soon. He heard a quiet moan from below. Looking down between his boots, he saw one of the aformented corpses—it had gaping holes all over its body from high-velocity blaster dart impacts. Its legs were little more than shredded flesh and limp bone, and its face a ruined shell of the human it once was—sallow skin hung loosely from its bony face, and its lips were permanently drawn back into a fierce snarl. A bloodstained yellow bandana clung to its head, rotten bangs falling over it—he was a few inches away from a fleshy bite to his boot.

Unconsciously, Martin lifted his hefty Stampede ECS, a two and a half foot monster of seven pounds. He aimed it directly at the zombie’s head, the orange tip still smoking from its latest barrage of fire. The zombie shifted closer now, its maw still open—less than three inches from the end of the deadly weapon’s barrel. A certain satisfaction surged through Martin as he felt the Stampede’s powerful set of D batteries fire into life to ready another cough of deadly darts. However, just before the firing mechanism was activated, one of the batteries sparked violently before giving out, and then the rest of the gun died in a wheeze.

Martin was brought from god to prey, his whole body freezing. The zombie was so close now that vile spittle fell over the top of Martin’s black boots—he couldn’t move, he couldn’t even scream, he was defenseless. All of his training left his mind as his weapon, a machine and killing tool that had saved him so many times, now failed him. But suddenly, he was shaken out of his stupor as an ear-piercing boom rattled his head. He heard a sickly crunch—it had to be the zombie biting into his soft flesh.

However, all he saw was a mess of brain matter and skull fragments—embedded in the middle of the mess was a single whistler dart, still burning through dead flesh. The ringing lasted in Martin’s ears when he looked beside him to see another person holding up a Maverick REV - 6. It was a spectacular specimen of a weapon—blue with a yellow cylindrical firing chamber—one of the original models that was taken off the line because its recoil was deemed too dangerous for the human hand. It was known to lacerate skin and create hair fractures on bones—but this man handled it well enough.

Pierre Delacroix, a veteran in the ways of killing zombies and Martin’s mentor reloaded his Maverick in one deft movement, the reverse-plunger responding in a click that might as well have been a purr as its master readied it for more destruction. “Ah, ze smell of burning polyester, it clears one’s senses…see zat you do not rely on it, eh?” the man joked grimly, tapping a gloved finger against Martin’s gun. Looking down, Martin realized that one of the batteries was cleaved nearly in two, a gaping claw-mark leaving deep gouges in his weapon. Did that happen in the last firefight? Did they really get that close? The entire battle was a blur—the night was a blur.

Martin’s mind unconsciously drifted back into the previous events Entering the eerily quiet block of houses off of Martin Luther King Boulevard, the squad of VIGIL warriors had expected a simple sweep. There were reports of a zombie outbreak in the residential area, no more than two or three houses. Two teams were immediately deployed from the VIGIL base in Atlanta to isolate and eliminate the menace before it became an issue.

They had lost all radio contact with team Messenger within the first hour of entering the area, and it didn’t take them, team Voyager, long to find out what had happened to them. What was supposed to be a breach and clear of three houses turned into six, then an entire block, and so on to dozens of homes. The team’s objective had quickly turned from a matter of extermination into a rescue mission. Messenger was deployed several blocks into the residential area, and Voyager had to fight through a veritable tide of the undead to reach them.

They shambled numbly around the streets at first, but news unconsciously traveled fast with the ghouls. Once it was discovered that there was fresh flesh to be had, they came out in droves. Doors burst open, silhouetted bodies crashed through windows—the interiors of the houses still lit, their occupants mindlessly slaughtered before they could even fully fathom the situation. Voyager, five VIGIL operatives in all, swiftly cut a path through the undead tide in a Vee formation. The head count was in the dozens by the time they had reached the large house that Messenger was designated to clear.

The smell of resin and burning flesh forced Martin back into reality—back to his training. Remembering the talents that brought him to VIGIL’s door in the first place, he quickly tightened two gloved fingers around the disabled battery of his Stampede and replaced it with a new one. The weapon hummed into noisy, destructive life once more. Pierre was already walking down the hallway that connected to the main room of the house. Martin spared one last look around the spacious, ruined living room before turning once more to follow Pierre into the darkness. Four pairs of white masks painted with cobalt blue details clattered against his tactical belt. It was all that was left of Voyager—and a part of Messenger.

It was almost assured that the rest of Messenger was dead, but the rescue mission would be completed. A VIGIL warrior had a curious definition of the term rescue—it was a word that extended even to their fallen brothers. VIGIL had few true laws for their fighters, their soldiers to live by—but one of the most important was to never leave the fallen. A VIGIL undead would never be tolerated. It was a shameful fate undeserving of the heroic. There was rarely time to move the body, but the only thing a fallen brother or sister required was a dart between the eyes and the collection of their mask. The mask would then be shipped to Central VIGIL Command and left to hang in the Hall of Vigilance, where all of VIGIL’s fallen—hundreds of masks spanning a history of thousands of years—held eternal watch over their brother and sister warriors that still drew breath.

Martin pulled his own mask, designed in the visage of a lion, back over his face, a quiet resolution filling him. He would not join the fallen heroes in the Hall of Vigilance yet—there were still missions ahead of him to complete. The rest of Messenger had to be rescued, and Central Command had to know the truth: Savannah had turned into a Code Blue.

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Post by Th3Mi55ingL1nk on Thu Nov 03, 2011 8:39 pm

I am always a sucker for some good lore.

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Post by BluE on Mon Nov 07, 2011 3:28 pm

Chapter One: Benefactor

The room had no intentional lighting to speak of. No wall lights, ceiling fluorescents, or even a lamp illuminated the room. However, the control room of VIGIL Command wad doubtlessly one of the brightest areas of the entire underground complex. Desks neatly lined the circular room. They fanned out ten rows deep, with barely a foot of space between them. Each desk had a VIGIL operative busily typing away at a keyboard, their shadowed faces looking intently at their screens as they worked with an almost fervent passion. The furthest--and in turn the largest rows in the room were in charge of keeping track of global satellites, international news reports, and various other notifications via intercepted phone calls, text messages, and the varied means of internet communication. These operatives were known collectively as the Eyes of VIGIL. They located potential infections and found out the true extent of the problems. Without the Eyes, VIGIL would be blind to the happenings of the world--they would have the means to protect, but not the knowledge of 'what' to protect.

The rows closer to the center of the circular room were full of chattering operatives. Each one had a large headset and a series of tactical maps displayed on the dual screens on their desks. These operatives communicated directly with VIGIL warrior squads directly on the field. All of them were individuals gifted with tactically-sound minds, observant natures, and, most importantly, quick wits. While they numbered less than the Eyes, they were equally as important to VIGIL's organizational stability. Each operative was in charge of an individual squad on the field and communicated with them constantly through the course of a mission. These operatives granted each squad an extent of tactical omniscience, and because of their value, were referred to as the Mouth of VIGIL. Depending on how many instances of infection were present at any given time on the globe--there could be ten to two-hundred squads in activity at a time--and there would be just as many mouths to see to them.
Watching over all of these happenings--patrolling the rows and, at times, briefing squads on situations before being deployed were the legendary Conductors. Every Conductor had been a field warrior at one point or another, and had a track record of actively fighting against the zombie menace for at least thirty years among each of them. These men and women were the veteran of the veteran, and were treated with a reverence often reserved for the leaders of countries. If VIGIL were a traditional military force, these would be the closest things to Generals--but their long, violent, and often heroic histories made any sort of official title seem undeserving. Conductors were rarely seen out of VIGIL Command--only being deployed on the surface in times of extreme distress. Instead, these individuals--forever donning their individual clan masks--gave their valued appraisals to the squads nearing the field. They were master tacticians all, gifted orators, and each possessed an innate ability to command.

However, it is their military histories that give them the undivided respect of VIGIL as a whole. Each mask's design was a story, a thing of legend that had the backing of dozens--sometimes hundreds of missions behind them. There, striding around in circles in the furthest row was Asad Zachary. His mask was painted with an abstract design that gave him the impression that his face was permanently encased in a warlike snarl. He had a holographic screen mounted on his forearm and was presently making a video brief to a pair of VIGIL squads that appeared to be flying to their destination via helicopter. And there, between rows six and seven was Veronika Elstina. She was looking intently at a Mouth's tactical map, quietly pointing out with mere gestures of her gloved finger at the screen--doubtlessly insight that had escaped even the Mouth's consideration. Her mask was painted to look like a dancer of old. The eyes betrayed an artificial sadness, the blue painted mouth forever-curved into a forced, almost grimace-like smile. It was rumored that Veronika's entire squad had been surrounded somewhere in Northern France many years ago--she was the only survivor. How she managed to either kill or outrun an entire horde of zombies still hangs in the murmured rumors that bounce off of the steel hallways that link the massive complex together.

The command center, as always, was a vibrant hub of activity. The room was filled with noise--the tapping and rattling of keys on a keyboard--constant whispers and quiet speech of Mouths relaying advice and information to warrior squads through their headsets, and, of course, the often resonating voices of the Conductors--whenever they chose to spoke. The chamber itself was a sprawling hundred and fifty feet wide and thirty feet tall. All around the walls, massive monitors displaying squad statuses and geographical maps of different purposes hummed quietly and blinked every few seconds as their frames switched locations. Conductors and aides walked with purpose in and out of the room. Papers were handed out, coffee was sipped, and the busy life of VIGIL's hub went on like a beating heart, constantly and indefinitely pouring life into the clan.

Wordlessly overseeing the operation was a single figure who sat in the very middle of the entire room. He was elevated on a command post, a railed circle that was raised just high enough in the air to look over the control room as a whole. Display screens surrounding his platform streamed constant information. Dizzying holograms of orange and blue text whizzed down all around him, illuminating his form. He was dressed in armor that could have been likened to that of a traditional knight of the olden times, but there were telltale signs of the tampering of technology. His joints had a series of thick wires jumbled together, streaming from one armor plate to the next. The shining, almost pure white armor was smoothed to perfection. Every indention, every curve, and every link in the armor was barely noticeable. In truth, sitting in the middle of the sprawling control room with orange and blue colored lights reflecting dully off of his armor, the man closer resembled a god than a man--or at least the closest a person could perceive one to look like.

His name was simply Founder, and his mask, which curved elegantly upwards to meet the plate armor on the back of his head, was painted with the purest of cobalt blue, the perfectly drawn lines forming the seal of VIGIL over his face. Founder was both his name and title. Founder had existed since VIGIL's inception over a millennium ago. Some said that since Founder's face had never been seen, his rank had simply been passed on from one worthy individual to the next over the course of years. Others said that Founder wasn't even a human anymore--instead, he was some sort of android or even pure machine life. His skill in all things was unrivaled, his foresight ran on the line of omniscience, and whoever could be behind that helmet couldn't possibly be human. In fact, the most popular rumor was that Founder was a true immortal, a being that was once human, but through some divine means, found godhood. Regardless of the manner of rumors that surrounded him, one immutable fact was that he was there, sitting--a living, breathing myth. There was power in those words.

"Founder, a voice greeted with reticent regard. He turned his head up slightly from the numerous flicker data screens around him. It was one of the Conductors--Mognel. "We've just lost all radio contact with two of our squads in the Georgia area."

"Voyager and Messenger?" Founder replied. It was a question, but didn't remotely sound like. He exuded so much confidence that everything he said--even his opinions--seemed compelling enough to be fact. The armored legend's head turned back down to the data slates around him. With a simple motion of his gauntlet, the feed's information switched to all relevant information. "Curious," he continued to rumble before Mognel could reply. Founder shifted back into his seat and tampered with more of the screens. Error messages flickered across the display, their red glow illuminating a deep crimson against his armor. "No satellite feed...not even squad status."

"Our signal's being jammed?" Mognel asked, lifting a brow invisibly beneath his mask--painted in the design of a sleeping dragon. Mognel was a quick study. Where he lacked a particularly heroic background, his strategic decisions as a Mouth in previous decades had saved the lives of dozens of warriors on the field.

"No," Founder said softly, and with another wave of his hand, the displays all around him shimmered out of existence. Now, without the light of the screens around him, Founder's armor looked eerily dark, the only light emanating from him was blue, and came out as a dull mist from the meshed eyeholes in his mask. "I've seen it before. It isn't being jammed--it simply 'isn't'."
"Isn't, sir? I don't understand."

"We can understand it as well as we can any modern science. We can speculate, we can hypothesize--test and theorize--but in the end, all it means is that we have a guess that's more likely to be right than the other. The paranormal, the turpitude things in life--they exist to create chaos, to deny and challenge what we establish as fact, as law. There is no jammer, Mognel, as that would imply humanity was our enemy," Founder went on, slowly folding his thick hands over his lap. "It simply doesn't exist in the eyes of our technology. We program our tools to function in our worlds, but there have been times--many times, I'll add--in the past that through some magical or heretical means. We push through it all the same."

Mognel's face didn't need to be seen to sense his incredulity. That's one thing Founder liked about him--he was as honest and pure as the mask on his face. "Magic, sir?"

"Of course," Founder said almost immediately--humor coating his voice. "Magic is everywhere--this room, what we accomplish here is magic to many--what we see, what we face is magical. It is a word our ancestors have used for many millennia. Where there is no explanation, there is god--there is myth--and there is magic. I will not pretend that no matter how long we've been at this that we're any closer to understanding."

"You seem very calm over the fact that we're blind on the field right now."

"I am calm in my ignorance, not my inaction. We are not scientists, we are warriors--our fate is to but fight, kill, and die. Where is our nearest outpost from the location we went dark?"

"Atlanta, sir."

"Contact them. I want six squads mobilized and sent there immediately. If this darkness will deny our technology, we will strike forth into it with the blade."

"Vigilance Eternal, Founder," Mognel said with respect, bowing his head before quickly turning on his heel and leaving. Even as he was walking away, Founder saw Mognel's hand lift to activate his mounted holographic screen--doubtlessly hailing the Atlanta base to send orders. Founder let out a soundless breath through his nose before relaxing back into his seat once more. All around him, the screens flickered back into life, the global feed began to stream once more, and life went on in the control room.

VIGIL knew no rest, no peace. The organization as a whole was on a constant state of alert. Shifts were changed, but the control room never went dark, and as far as anyone knew, Founder never left his platform, much less the base. The news of Messenger and Voyager squads was troubling, but hardly surprising. Few knew, but these sort of occurrences happened by the day. Highly trained squads could vanish into nothingness, foes never known could strike at any time. It was a daunting task, but one VIGIL took gladly.

They were the vanguard of the Earth, the first to face the threats that the world was yet prepared for, and if they did their job properly, the Earth would never find out about those threats. Georgia had always been a volatile area--the city of Savannah in particular. It had been a common scene of paranormal disaster in the latest decades, and seemed to only be getting worse. If there was, in fact, a new infestation in the city, new measured would have to be taken.

Founder glanced up thoughtfully at the ceiling--the domed top was shaped in a perfectly proportional representation of the Earth. Bright blue dots denoted the locations of active squads. It was a normal day, and there were dozens of the shimmering things everywhere--the Americas, Asia, Europe--even some in remote locations seemingly in the middle of the ocean or the polar caps of the globe. He kept the display there for everyone to see to remind them that VIGIL never slept, that there were always boots on the ground to fight the unnatural.

He took one appraising look around the control room. Mouths, Eyes, Conductors, aides, and patrolling warriors all had their roles--and all were dedicated, rapt in their attention, passionately active in their work, and fiercely loyal to the last. They didn't need reminding--no one that earned their mask ever did. It was hard not to feel overshadowed, sometimes. Founder chuckled to himself and brought up a touch-screen, beginning to type up new orders that he hoped he wouldn't have to initiate. But, things tended to take a turn for the worse in this choice of lifestyle--he was fine with that.

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Post by Son on Mon Nov 07, 2011 8:04 pm


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Post by BluE on Thu Nov 24, 2011 1:36 pm

inc wall of text

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Post by BluE on Thu Nov 24, 2011 1:41 pm

Chapter Two: Rescue

The dead house rumbled with explosive power. Even now, on the streets of the residential area, the bodies of the countless dead that team Voyager had slain were no longer visible as a new tide of ghouls stumbled over the bodies of their fallen. They were machines of destruction, these zombies. They knew no will, no guidance, no higher purpose--only their desire to feed. If there ever was such a thing as an undead hierarchy, the ones that looked the fullest were the most successful of their kind.

It gave Pierre Delacroix all the more satisfaction when he saw their stuffed innards explode from a few well-placed shots. Martin and him were making good time--as good as one could hope for under the present circumstances, at least.

Martin's Stampede continued to hum loudly in mechanical power as the pair made their way down a slipshod hallway. The gun made a high-pitched whine as the darts soared from its barrel at roughly three rounds per second. He was aiming physical, tangible destruction. It felt good.

"Six," Pierre said as he lifted his Maverick in front of him as the pair rounded a corner. The second the word passed his lips, Martin spun on his heel and made a full 180, one word was all that was required for him to know what he had to do. Surely enough, another wave of zombies had caught up to them--at least a dozen of the monsters. Their clothes were tattered and bloodied, their eyes bloodshot and wide. The zombie at their head was a particularly monstrous example of undead. Her face was contorted and mutated to an extent to make her skull look more bat-shaped than human. The woman's nose was sheared off to reveal the two black triangular pits of her nostril, bits of cartilage still hanging off of the loose flesh of her face. Her teeth were two rows of razor-sharp knives, and her ears were gnawed at enough to give them a pointed appearance. Her arms were longer than a usual human's-- easily reaching down to her ankles, and her fingers were black and deformed--fusing into three cruel claws on each hand rather than five digits.

Two shots went off, the first zipped by the lead ghoul's ear, shredding it, but not even phasing it as the round continued to zip by and cause the next zombie's head to explode in a red mist. The second was meant to be a debilitating chest shot--it would knock her off her feet and send the zombies behind her tumbling over their ally--basic VIGIL tactics. However, she reacted with dizzying speed, and lifted one of her meaty claws to defend herself. She swiped the dart away--sending it spinning off-course before it detonated on the wall beside her. The explosive impact visibly burned the side of her arm, but she hadn't lost a bit of momentum in her blood craze.
Suddenly, to Martin's surprise, the ghoul bent her arm back unnaturally--as if a pitcher were about to wind up a throw all while holding a strong sprint. Her uninjured claw reached forth, and her arm extended unnaturally in turn. The twelve feet between them was immediately closed as the bungee-like arm tore past Martin's face. He felt like a grenade had exploded on his head. He was immediately torn off of his boots and found himself on his back, avoiding spinal injury only by rolling into the fall at the last moment. Martin steadied himself once more and felt at his face--the blow glanced his mask--cracked its side, but it didn't break, that's all that mattered. Breaking out of his momentary shellshock, Martin realized the lead ghoul was only a few feet from him, her claw still embedded in the wall behind Martin. She seemed to be using her outstretched claw to bring her towards her prey at an even faster speed than usual, not unlike a slingshot.

He lifted his Stampede to shoot, but felt an arm tug at him. "Duty first, sacrifice second!" Pierre scowled, throwing Martin down the turn in the hallway. "Keep moving," Pierre shouted as he reached into his tactical vest. He pulled free a blue and orange ball--no larger than a person's hand, and threw it blindly around the corner. Even though Pierre immediately turned, the concussive force of the blast was enough to splinter the wall he was using for cover. Bloodcurdling screams were cut short as the entire hallway of zombies were killed. Martin didn't have to look around the corner to know that the hallway would be nothing more than debris and gore.

"Zome breathing room, maybe," Pierre murmured, wiping soot and orange dust from his mask as he began walking down the hallway once more, quickly catching up with Martin.

"How are we going to get out of here with the masks, Brother?" Martin asked, frowning as the pair made their way down the next hallway. He had realized by now that they weren't in a house, but in fact an apartment complex. Normally, they'd have to spend hours to search it--hours that they didn't have--clearing out the building to find Messenger team, but thankfully, their endangered allies had made their path clear enough. Littered across the floor were zombie corpses, blood, and the clear, telltale signs of nerf dart fire--black and orange streaks seared and broke holes into walls, ceilings, floors, and more often than not, in the middle of fallen zombies' heads. "Our very own Aahnsehl and Gretel," Pierre had commented, butchering the name of the story with his thick accent.

Pierre was technically Martin's equal in rank--but in actuality, he was infinitely more qualified than him. This was one of Martin's first missions--in fact, he was barely out of VIGILANT training. Pierre, on the other hand, had fought on dozens of fields of combat around the world. He was a roaming agent, using his particular talents to teach newly-formed squads the ways of combat, and in turn, the ways of VIGIL. However, by the Creed's diction, it was common--and in fact expected--for them to refer to each other as Brother. They were unequal in training, but in the very same in situation and carried the same expectations of duty--and that was enough to merit respect, to merit equality, in the eyes of the Creed.

"We find Messenger," Pierre corrected, loading two fresh darts--modified whistlers--into his Maverick. "After zat, we find roof access, light a seegnal, and wait for evahc."

Martin was about to ask another question, but before the man could get a word out, the wall next to them literally exploded in a rain of plaster and wood. The pair--what was left of squad Voyager, jumped back at the same time, instinctively lifting their guns as they did so. What came out of the hole in the wall was a horrifying sight to behold. It was the lead ghoul from the last attack--or what was left of it. Her flesh was charred black, even the exposed bone of her femur and arm joints were dark beyond recognition. Her head was little more than a skull, wisps of black hair still clinging to her scalp as she lifted her two blackened, but still very much deadly claws towards the pair.

"Sheet," Pierre scowled as she let forth a banshee howl and reached both of her arms back.

"Down!" Martin shouted, and not a second too soon, the pair was on the floor as two thick, meaty clawed arms distended and whizzed through the hallway, talons finding a grip on the floor over thirty feet away. However, the ghoul was still running towards them at a frightening speed, even as her claws were buried in the floor ahead of them, the slingshot effect taking hold once more.

"Move!" MOVE!" Pierre shouted, and together, him and Marvin ran as fast as they could away from the monster--half-crouching as they did their best to duck and weave around the zombie's extended arms. The meaty limbs were so close to them that Martin saw that they were swollen, muscular, and throbbing. The flesh underneath her burned skin was almost purple. They smelled foul, and Martin fully believed that if he wasn't wearing his mask, the smell very well might have sent him reeling. Suddenly, the arms shrunk back, and the two meaty claws found themselves speeding towards Martin and Pierre from the front like a pair of thick, sharp anvils. Martin jumped to the side, just barely avoiding a fatal collision with the claw. Pierre flattened himself against the nearest wall--feeling the pointed ends of the talon shred the back of his tactical vest, but he knew --or at least hoped he knew that it wouldn't pierce his flesh.

As the pair sprinted down the way they came, Pierre lifted his Maverick and took aim. The first shot rippled through the air with explosive power--the high-velocity whistler round literally screaming until it met its target--blasting into pieces on the zombie's head, creating a literal crater in her jaw. Her bottom row of teeth were either gone or embedded in the zombie's skull, but the shot didn't even seem to slow it down. Pierre jammed the Maverick's primer against his shoulder--which had a metal bar mounted atop of it. He felt the Maverick load a new dart into the chamber, another whistler round ready to explode. He took aim, but just as he shot, the zombie threw one of her clawed arms forth, the round blew up on her forearm--but the flesh was so thick, so muscular, that it barely seemed to phase the tainted muscle beneath the charred skin.

Pierre and Martin found themselves thrown against the floor once again to avoid the claw that literally made the wall in front of them explode--the ceiling moaning its protest. The pair quickly scrambled around the corner they had just narrowly escaped a minute before, the wall that had splintered now literally fell apart as the claw blasted through the wall. They didn't see the attack coming this time, and the anvil hand collided with Pierre's chest just as he turned to dodge the attack. Martin was desperately trying to shoot the arm off of Pierre as his mentor grunted loudly in pain--the claw was tearing through Pierre's vest, layer by layer, and slowly crushing his torso.

"Damn this thing!" Martin scowled. His shots were perfectly placed in the same spot over and over, but it didn't even make the arm twitch. Slowly but surely it continued to grip...and crush Pierre with its force, and judging by the sound around the hallway, the ghoul monster was already sprinting towards them, the claw's arm shearing through more and more sections of wall as the zombie tore her way through--seemingly excited by the purchase of her claw, the promise of prey. Such a thought infuriated Martin, he shouted in anger and continued blasting at the arm--and likely would have continued to until the zombie was upon him if Pierre didn't punch his shoulder.

Looking at him, Martin realized Pierre had slid his Maverick over to him. "Quickl--Augh!" Pierre shouted. There was a loud crack as one of the clips on his tactical vest finally gave way and snapped in two as the claw continued to press in.

Martin quickly gripped the Maverick in his hands--it was heavier than he thought it would be, but he didn't have time to wonder about it, he didn't have time to stall. Deftly, Martin primed the weapon and took aim at the spot he had been shooting at. He squinted behind his mask and took the shot, the whistler dart exploding with such power that the recoil made Martin slide back his boots. Almost half of the impact area of the monster's bony wrist was now a smoking crater The zombie shrieked as it rounded the corner, the remnants of the limb still barely keeping hold of the claw grasping Pierre in a vice grip. However, the pressure was gone, and Pierre immediately took a combat knife out from his thigh holster and made a vicious attack on the loose pieces of flesh still connecting the limb--the serrated edge was just enough to rend and tear the flesh apart, finally disarming one of the zombie's weapons in the most final way.

Pierre was still gasping for air, he wouldn't have time to run away--Martin knew that, and without hesitation, he took a knee next to Pierre and lined up his sights on his Stampede and immediately began discharging round after deadly round into the ghoul's head--each shot finding its mark, each shot causing more holes, ripping her head back, but none of them fully-penetrating her thick, mutated braincase.

"Ze first law of our Creed, Bruhzer," Pierre whispered in a harsh gasp. As he said this, he let another grenade fly--not at the ghoul, but above it. The effect was immediate--the roof, already weakened from the zombie's attacks to the walls caved in, the weight of it enough to not only flatten the zombie against the ground, but to send the floor she was standing in to cave in. The monster fell into the darkness below, and in the same moment, Pierre was on his feet and pulling Martin along. "Ve vill complete ze mission. Rehpeat it." Martin regretted he couldn't take time to appreciate the sickening crunch he heard with the explosion.

The pair jumped across the chasm they created. Already, the moans of a new wave of undead from below were rumbling through the complex. The fight against the ghoul monster was draining, a monumental effort--but that was all part of Martin's training as a Vigilant. He knew that his role called for him to be tireless in his actions. While the undead still crept upon the Earth, he had a job to do, and anything to deter from that job--whether it be eating or sleeping, was a momentary distraction at best. There was a mission here and now, and it called for completion.

As they were running in the right direction once more, Pierre tugged at the claw still buried in his vest a couple of times before giving up and reloading his gun. "Rehpeat eet," Pierre reminded Martin, looking at him with a seriousness that was made all the more true by his mask--an abstract design of jagged lines that met in sharp corners--it gave the impression of a rocky texture. It fitted Pierre's nickname within the clan-- the Rock, because it seemed that nothing could ever stop the man from accomplishing what he had set on his mind.

"We will complete the mission," Martin echoed, beginning the recital of the Creed as they made their way through another hallway. Already, a few zombies were stumbling outside of nearby rooms or shambling around the floor--legs or even their whole lower bodies blown off by rounds doubtlessly from Messenger squad. The undead didn't stop the pair, regardless of their speed, regardless of their tenacity, or how frightening a horror they were. Few things could give a member of VIGIL pause--especially when they had vengeance in their hearts, and a mission in their minds.

"Woe to the warrior that denies his or her duty." A round from the Stampede blazed through the air, went clean through a zombie's head, and into the skull of the one behind it. They corpses fell over each other limply as Martin and Pierre sped by, Martin speaking the Creed as they ran.

"Once committed to a task, it is finished to its fullest extent." The pair rounded another corner. A zombie was waiting there--stalking. Pierre shot it once, and its head was gone before it could even open its mouth to bite at them. Continuing down the next hall, a sight gave even the determined VIGIL warriors pause. It was one of their own, a male in full tactical gear, the first they had seen since leaving the complex's lobby. The left section of his shoulder blade was little more than a bloody hole. He lay dead in front of a hallway--judging by the hole in the middle of his mask, he had already been given the mercy shot. With a nod from Pierre, Martin picked up the bloodstained thing from the person's head. He recognized him--John Roberts, an Atlanta local. He knew immediately when he saw the design of blue flames painted on the mask--they called him the Blaze, one of the most agile members in the Atlanta Combine. The dark skin of his face was thankfully left unmarred aside from the clean hole in his head. To a VIGIL, that hole wasn't cruel, or sad. It was respectful, it showed a proper end to a warrior's life. Martin closed John's still open eyes before continuing in a whisper. "There is a fine line between hopeless sacrifice and casualties sustained for an honorable cause."

"Learn ze difference well," Pierre finished for him, patting Martin's shoulder. Martin looked up at him as he tied the Blaze's masks to his belt. "It looks like zey fell back eento zees room. Let's go, before ze horde catches up."
Surely enough, there was a pile of zombies at the doorway where John had died. It seemed he had sacrificed himself to allow his squad to set up a position to funnel the zombies into. He saw that either he could die, or his whole squad could die, and he made the decision promptly. He sacrificed himself, but he sacrificed himself for the survival of the team--for the survival of the mission. He lived as a true VIGIL, and died as one. Martin realized that now, and gripped his Stampede all the tighter as they entered the open door of the apartment. It said 407 on it. There were six floors in the complex, and looking at the gold-colored sign on the door, Martin wondered if Messenger eve had the thought that this room could be their graves.

407. The two scanned the den. There were even more zombies inside, the entrance hall was littered by the corpses of dozens, the doorway into the connecting hallway had dozens more. Messenger had covered each other with multiple fields of fire. They were still functioning like a squad--they did well. It was an expert example of marksmanship and teamwork, the sort of thing that deserved to be immortalized in books, in film, to be seen and respected by the world. Here was a small team--three of the original five of Messenger. They had seen their squadmates die, they were surrounded and being overcome by a hopelessly large tide of zombies, and yet, they did not simply stand and die, they did not give in to their fear, into cowardice and end themselves--they stuck to their training. As they stepped over another pile of corpses, Martin knew that at this point, a team's mission would change. When there's no way out, when death is certain, it became a matter of numerical worth. How many zombies could you kill with the sacrifice of your own life? You functioned as a team, maximized those numbers, and made your deaths worthwhile--honorable, worthy of VIGIL.

These were heroes, all of them, and deserved the highest honors, the most glorious of ends--and yet, here they were. Pierre crept forward into the next hallway, but Martin paused, looking back at the den. There were at least five dozen dead zombies in all. They were flopped limply over couches and chairs or covering the very floor in piles of their dead. Here they were, heroes culling a horde of evil--but where were they fighting? A glorious scene of battle? Open fields, their heroics seen by millions? No, here they were in the dead of night, fighting--and dying, in an apartment complex. It was strange to see such legendary heroics in action in such an unlikely place--Martin likened it to seeing a Broadway performance in a large pile of mud. The grimness of it gave it a realistic quality. Martin could appreciate that.

Looking over his shoulder, Martin quickly moved to catch up to Pierre, who had stopped at the open entrance of one of the rooms. Again, the zombies had been funneled into another doorway, and again, over a dozen of them lay dead at its entrance. They were packed so tight that Pierre had to physically move some of the corpses in order to get into the room. Inside the room was a small bed--another member of Messenger slumped against its foot. The motor of her Stampede was still rumbling when Pierre strode forward to turn off the gun. Martin stepped inside to get a better look. They were using the same weapon--a realization that made Martin unconsciously swallow. Her tactical vest had been torn to pieces, her stomach a mess of spilled innards. This one was Sophia, Martin knew her as more than a Sister in the Clan, but as a personal friend. They had joined VIGIL together and trained in the same Initiate program before they were split to different fireteams. His heart sunk as he kneeled before her. Her skin used to be so bright and lovely--now it was pallid, her wispy blonde hair streaming down over her face in wet clumps.

"She's a hero," Martin whispered, losing control of his anger--his despair surfacing as he tightened his hands on Sophia's limp shoulders. "She deserves better than this, Brother. She was my friend--she deserves better than room 407. What sort of death is this, Pierre?"

"A warrior's death," Pierre replied softly, frowning invisibly beneath his mask. With that, he wrung his hand around the latch on the back of Martin's vest and hauled him up, spinning him to face the man. Pierre steadied him and looked Martin in the eyes. "You have lost ones dear to you, Martin--so 'ave I. Right now, I need you fohkeesed on..." Pierre stopped suddenly, turning his head to another door in the room--the bathroom. Movement--very clear movement.

Without another word, the two of them lifted their weapons and slowly crept towards the door. Martin quickly blinked away the hot tears that were forming on his face and took a deep breath--he couldn't afford to choke right now. As much as he wanted to sit next to Sophia, carry her body out and bring her home, he knew he had a mission. He wanted revenge.

Upon sliding open the door, a mechanical whirr began to resonate in the room. It was a Barricade RV-10--a semi-automatic pistol that fired the same ammo that Pierre's Maverick did, the thought made Martin flinch.

"Easy, Seester," Pierre said sternly, lifting his hand defensively. When Martin stepped inside, he was surprised to see something breathing--more than breathing, but fierce, prepared. A woman was sitting with her back to a corner of the bathroom. Her white mask was painted like a wolf's face, and cradled in her arms was another member of Messenger. His mask was removed and the mercy shot delivered to his head. In the woman's left hand were two masks clutched tightly--Martin immediately recognized one of them to be Sophia's--the Cloud. For some reason, it made the woman's name click in his mind.

"Daciana?" Martin murmured, his shoulders losing their tension as he recognized the leader of Messenger squad.

The woman paused, and then flicked her Barricade off and lowered the lethal weapon down, albeit slowly. "...Scofield," she replied at length. She didn't seem to have trouble remembering Martin's name, but instead had trouble remembering how to speak.

Pierre moved forward to pull Daciana off of her feet. She pushed away his hand and made her own way up, carefully setting down her dead squadmate on the floor as she did so. "Terrence," she scowled in pain as she let him go. She stood at her full height--over six feet--and let out a long sigh. "It seems intelligence miscalculated the numbers of our enemy," she said darkly at Pierre, holstering her gun. She then looked over at Martin. "And it looks like you have my squad on your belt. Thank you for retrieving their masks. Now that Terrence is dead, I was going to collect the rest and die with them on me. I would like them back, now."

Her voice was cold and calculating, her jet black hair was short and bristled back from the ends of her mask much like a wolf's fur would. This was truly Daciana, the leader of Messenger, the Wolf of VIGIL. She had a record that could only be matched by Pierre himself, and thinking about it, Martin should have felt honored to be in their presence, but when he saw Sophia's mask, all he could think about was the loss of a part of his life. Pierre and Daciana talked to one another about what happened to their squads leading up to this point--trading information and getting a better understanding of their current situation. All Martin could do was pause by Sophia's body and look at her once more.

Daciana noticed this and gave Martin an appraising look. "I know the two of you were close. They got her while we were falling back. Cloud died well," she said, a hint of sadness piercing her dark voice.

"Can we bring her with us?" Martin asked softly, turning to look at the two of them.

"We are," Daciana replied promptly, with fire, tapping Sophia's mask as it hung on her belt.

"No one gets left behind," Pierre added, reloading his Maverick once more--Sophia did the same with her Barricade. The two of them left the room and stepped out of the apartment. Martin gave Sophia another look. This wasn't how he pictured these sort of things to happen. He always thought goodbyes were a way of the universe--he thought one of them would be carrying the other in their arms as they gave their final words. Did Sophia even get to say anything to Daciana? Did she even have time to contemplate her own death? Martin thought of Pierre, how he almost died to the clawed monster, only to walk it off immediately as if it hadn't happened. Martin thought more on how many close encounters he had in this night alone--they were battling death, literally, and it was a close fight. There wasn't room to pause, to think about one's own mortality, in VIGIL--there was no life, no death. Simply the mission. Martin knew that, but sometimes it was hard to remind himself of it.

Sophia died as she lived--a warrior. Already, the three of them were making their way down a new hallway towards the nearest staircase to get roof access. The wave of zombies from below had caught up--the fastest of them, at least. Only a half dozen at a time stood in their way, and Martin fired with all of the accuracy and ferocity that had earned him his title as Lion. He felt dwarfed by legends like Pierre and Daciana, but he knew he was their equal--he knew he earned his place among them. As they moved, the masks of Messenger and Voyager squads clinked loudly against each other between Daciana and Martin--a constant reminder of the seven dead VIGIL. It only served to steel Martin, to encourage him. He knew they were watching him now--he knew Sophia was watching, and as Martin turned again after Pierre called "Six" once more, he knew she would be proud of him--proud of him as he sprayed death down the hallway with his Stampede, killing dozens that were now catching up with them as they tried to escape the deathtrap of the apartment complex.

They were climbing now--one flight of stairs to the next, three sets of black boots clattering over the concrete floor loudly as they made their way up to the roof past the sixth floor. Four...four...five, they were on floor five now, and even as they climbed, they fought. There were zombies ahead of them, at least a dozen at any given moment, but below them--below them were hundreds. There was a literal tide of the monsters. The floor could no longer be seen from above --it was as if undeath swept through like a wave, consuming all in its path--and it was up to them to fight it back, to outrun it, to escape--lest they die, lest they fail in their mission, and the memories they held in their masks be lost to oblivion.

Martin wouldn't let that happen. He pulled out one of his own grenades and hurled it down the flight of stairs--the sound of two dozen zombies exploding was a satisfying one--in the tight confines of the concrete stairways, the deadly effects of their grenades were multiplied six-fold--and presently, was the only thing keeping them from being overrun. Martin tossed down another for good measure.

"Come on, Scofield!" Daciana shouted down--they were ahead of him, now. They had made it past the sixth floor, and Pierre was currently pounding his weight against the hatch of the roof. It was loosely sealed, and shook each time Pierre attacked, but wasn't giving way.

Martin sprinted up the last flight of stairs, but halfway up, a zombie he thought was dead suddenly lurched up and grabbed Martin, pinning him against the railing of the stairway. The zombie was gnawing at his mask, trying to find purchase on the flesh of his face--he was dangerously close to tumbling over the railing--and into the sea of zombies. Even now, they were climbing the last set of stairs.

"...Martin," Daciana said cooly. Martin spared her a glance as he tried to fight off the zombie. It was too close to him for Daciana to shoot--the blast would surely shred Martin to death, no matter where Daciana aimed with her Barricade. So she held up a grenade. Martin knew what she meant, what her tone meant. It was now or never, she could throw the grenade and save herself and Pierre while sacrificing Martin or they would all die together. It was Martin's turn, he knew what was asked of him, even as he wrestled with all of his strength against the undead ghoul's might. It was his sacrifice.

"MARTIN!" Pierre shouted, even as he wrestled with the door. His leader's voice resounded with fury, echoing down the stairway, overpowering even the cries of the undead. "Remember..." he paused to pound his weight against the hatch once more. "Remember ze Creed!"

Martin's eyes blazed with fury. It might as well have been a rallying cry. His full training finally kicked in. He dropped his Stampede, giving up on futilely trying to bring his gun to bear. Instead, he made a choice. He let one of his hands off of the zombie--the hand holding back its arm. Immediately, it gripped him tightly, he felt claws trying to dig into his tactical vest, scrape against his armored elbows. His other hand gripped the zombie by the neck, keeping it back from biting at his mask further. Martin dug into his tactical vest, and with one deft movement, unclipped one of the pockets and pulled out a Jolt EX1--a single-shot gun that could fit in one's palm, but was deadly enough to rival even a rifle--it was precise, had a small blast radius, and could go clean through a zombie's skull. Still holding the gnashing ghoul back with his hand, Martin shoved the weapon under his mask, primed it with his teeth, and slammed the barrel against the zombie's eye.

"Son of a bitch," Martin spat before pulling the trigger. The dart almost immediately made a clean hole in the zombie's head--its eye was gone, and even as it fell, Martin could see the tide of zombies encroaching through the cranial crater of flesh and ooze. Martin crouched down, swept up his Stampede, and spun on his knee to run back up the stairs--and not a second too soon.

Even as he ran up, he saw Daciana's grenade fly down. They had to open that door--the proximity was too close, the explosion would kill them all. Using the momentum of sprinting up the stairs, Martin pushed alongside Pierre with his next thrust, and with a loud boom, the hatch doors flew open, and the three of them literally flew out of it as a concussive blast blew them all off of their feet and into the air.

They fell and slid across the length of the flat rooftop. The hatch was little more than a smoldering ruin--and without missing a beat, Pierre lit a signal flare--bright blue--and threw it into the air. The three of them had taken up positions. Pierre and Daciana in the front, Martin in the back to cover their retreat--should they ever get one.

Despite the explosive power of Daciana's grenade, the moans of the zombies were becoming louder--hundreds of them continued to scale the staircase, and soon they'd be upon them.

"Any grenades?" Pierre asked, glancing over his shoulder.

"Out," Daciana and Martin said in unison.

Pierre laughed hoarsely, taking aim with his Maverick at the exit. "Zees veel be fun."

Already, they were piling out of the hatch--clamoring against each other to get to the prey that had made them chase for so long. They were eager for the kill, these undead--it could be heard in their moans, their shrieks.

"Pierre...remember when you said we'd wait for evac here?" Martin asked, already firing up his Stampede. The three of them began taking shots into the horde, killing zombies as they reared their gruesome heads through the broken hatch.

"Yes," he replied simply, his Maverick booming into the oncoming tide.

Martin had to pause--so great was the sound of their combined fire that he couldn't even hear anything else--the explosive force of Daciana and Pierre's guns combined was a sight to behold. "What happens if the evac doesn't come?"

"We do our duty, Scofield. As VIGIL always does."

Every time they were forced to reload, the zombies made just a little more headway on the rooftop. Slowly, they were losing ground, inch by inch. Slowly, they were being backed to the edge of the roof, but the zombies paid dearly with every bit of ground they gained. The floor was covered in their bodies, and the only thing that kept the VIGIL group from death now was the fact that the zombies had to stumble over so many of their dead to get to them.

Martin felt his clip run empty. He quickly ejected it--the steel, eighteen-round magazine fell to his feet. A sinking feeling filled his heart as he reached inside his ammo pouch on his tactical vest only to realize that he was now gripping his last mag. It was strange to think that how long he had left to live reflected directly on how much ammo he had. It was funny. Martin started laughing.

Pierre, surprised by this, glanced back over at Martin as he reloaded his Maverick after placing a pair of explosive rounds that destroyed another wave of zombies. He started laughing, too, immediately catching the joke.

Daciana continued shooting into the crowd of zombies. Her bright amber eyes darted over to Pierre and Martin before she simply muttered an obscenity under her breath.

"Ahh, zees is our way!" Pierre shouted in excitement, eager to unload more rounds into zombies. Despite their efforts, they were surrounded, there was no escape now, nowhere left to fall back. It was time for them to make their stand. It was time for them to think numerically--to make their Clan proud.

"We will complete the mission," Martin shouted, carefully placing each of his few shots into the heads of his enemies. He was running low, now. Ten, nine, eight.

"We will purge ze undead," Pierre added, unloading one explosive shot after the next, killing scores of zombies with each blast of his powerful weapon. The muscles of his arm were flexed, strained, even under his black, skin-tight shirt. Seven, six five, Martin's gun hummed.

"We will be valorous, in all things," Martin went on to yell. Four, three, two.
"We will protect our Fallen," Daciana said spitefully. They were back to back, now. A triangle of fire. One... Martin's gun clicked empty. He slung the weapon over his back and pulled out his Jolt, letting loose his remaining darts. Shoot. Reload. Prime. Shoot. Shoot. Reload. Prime. Shoot. Reload. Prime. It was a mechanical procedure of death.

Daciana and Pierre were forced to do the same, they could no longer afford the time to fully reload. One dart, one shot. One dart, one shot. Closer, now. Pierre, no longer having time to reload his gun, resorted to simply punching them with his Maverick.

Pierre began to yell "We--"

A voice rang loudly in their headsets. "Will keep vigil eternally," it said, the short-range comm feed suddenly blazing into life, like a gasp of air after being trapped underwater. Still, the loudness of the newcomer's voice was nothing compared to what came next--what came next was thunder. Constant, pounding thunder.

Rows upon rows of zombies suddenly fell under a torrent of explosive darts. A spotlight shined down on the trio making their final stand. Looking up, Martin saw a helicopter. Its black and blue hull blazed into visible life as two figures mounted on its edge opened fire into the crowds of zombies. A fully-automatic Vulcan EBF-25 loosed a rain of fire down on the zombies, used shells flying through the air and falling over Martin and the others. The other gun was a Vulcan BF-50, a semi-automatic blaster of monstrous proportions. Each shot it fired had the effect of a grenade, massive darts exploded and sent waves of death through the zombies, corpses flying through the air and off of the roof. The whole event took less than ten seconds, but the glory if it felt like a lifetime to Martin. The helicopter landed on a rooftop that was literally caked with the undead and darts. A figure stood between the two masked warriors mounted on the twin Vulcan cannons. Stepping down into the light of the spotlight, his mask was finally revealed. Around the figure, two more helicopters landed, each one ejecting fifteen VIGIL members, thirty warriors in all. They took up defensive positions around the tall, armored figure.

Martin, Daciana, and Pierre all stood stunned in place as they gazed upon Mognel, Conductor of VIGIL. Mognel, the Sleeping Dragon.

Mognel's head turned to look at the three of them, giving them a respectful nod. He saw the masks hanging by the belts of Daciana and Martin and made the sign of VIGIL in honor of their passing, then gestured for them to get on. "You've all done well in discovering what has transpired here--I am saddened only at the cost if the illumination." Mognel paused after saying this--it seemed that every word he spoke had deep meaning, each word deserving to be properly digested and appreciated. "All arriving squads...clean things up."

"VIGIL ETERNAL!" the thirty-strong force roared in unison. Dividing into their firing squads, they began making their way down the hatch, some of them rappelling down the sides of the building. Already, two of the helicopters were prepping to launch into the air and rain death down on the streets. There were thirty VIGIL warriors with air support and likely hundreds of zombies. The undead didn't have a chance.

"What about us?" Daciana asked, finally speaking up as she stepped forward.

Mognel smiled invisibly, satisfied with her willingness to fight. Looking at the squad, he saw that they all shared that willingness.

"We need you back in our temporary headquarters here in Savannah. There's much to discuss...have faith in your brothers and sisters to clean up here. The Creed will be upheld--this foul place will see its due."

Mognel moved forward to face Daciana directly. He looked down at the four masks that hung by her belt. He looked them over and then gave Daciana and Martin a silent look. They knew what it meant. The pair unclipped the masks from their belts and placed them carefully into Mognel's outstretched hands.

"Sir, a moment..." Martin began with a start, reaching over hesitantly towards Sophia's mask.

Mognel glanced at Daciana, who nodded her head in turn. He handed the Cloud's mask to Martin. "Keep it. I will take it with me to the Hall of Vigilance...after debriefing. Now, please, we have much to discuss."

The three survivors of Voyager and Messenger squads piled onto the helicopter, Mognel following behind them. Already, the air was thick with the sounds of battle as the culling of the residential area took full effect. Even the black sky was lit with the firestorm of ballistics that overtook the area. As they all sat in the helicopter, Mognel looked down at the collected masks--their designs illuminated by the fire of their comrades below. He saw meaning in that.

"Vigil Eternal," he rumbled.

"Vigil Eternal," the group on the helicopter echoed in unison.

Martin knew the true meaning of that phrase, now. It was both a greeting and a farewell, a rallying cry and a victory shout, a death's respect and a mission's end. He thought it was a simple reminder of their higher purpose--of their calling to keep watch over the Earth eternally. But Martin realized there was much more to the saying--it didn't just reflect their higher purpose, but everything they stood for, everything they respected. It reflected their Creed in every way.

Eternally would they complete the mission.

Eternally would they kill the undead.

Eternally they would show valor in their actions.

Looking at the inhabitants of the helicopter--the squad leaders of Messenger and Voyager, the Rock and the Wolf, the two masked warriors--a male and female, the Vulcan saviors, and of course, the Sleeping Dragon himself. Martin felt a bond with them that went beyond his training, a bond that could only be fostered by the individual, not trained in a camp.

For eternally, they would watch over their Fallen, and eternally...Martin glanced down at Sophia's Cloud-design mask, gently running his gloved, bloodstained fingers over its cracked surface...and eternally, their Fallen would live on in spirit, eternally they would watch over their living brothers and sisters.

Vigilance eternal.

The thought came to Martin's head, but he said something else.

"VIGIL eternal."

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