Rise of the Guardians: Dark Menace
Chapter 01 - City in ruins
Locke's eyes snapped open. For just two seconds he remained lying still, breathing fast and unsteadily then he wanted to sit up quickly but a sharp pain in his stomach caused him to drop back again. Clutching his belly he spun his head around. He was in a dim lit empty room. Dust and pebbles covered the floor, the walls and ceiling were rutted with large cracks and holes. But it wasn't the surrounding that looked like it could crash down on him any second or the fact he neither knew where he was nor how he got there that made him to feel so mortally terrified. It was a nameless, faceless terror that held his heart in a freezing cold grip but it didn't trigger his memories and whatever had caused his feelings had been wiped out of his mind completely.
Staring at the ceiling the young Guardian tried to catch his breath again and calm down his nerves. He hadn't found any wounds so the already fading pain could just have been caused by his sudden movement. Or was there something in his body - something that wasn't just responsible for the pain but also for the memory loss? But how much had he actually lost? Locke closed his eyes and tried to remember. His mind was flooded with memories of his childhood he wished he had forgotten, the year since he had become a Guardian, the fights against the Legions and Enerjak, the days he spent with Lara, the rebuilding of Haven. The last he remembered was Sabre talking to him about his concern over their rapidly growing strength but after that - only blackness.
He turned his head to the side when suddenly a piece of paper and a small empty syringe vial cought his eyes. They were covered by dust a bit and before he had spun his head too rapidly and mainly focused on the room in general so he had completely overlooked them. Carefully he set up, reached out a hand and grabbed both items. Wet dust covered the inside of the vial so it couldn't have been empty for too long, maybe it had been there for just a few hours. Then he unfolded the piece of paper. The words on it looked messily as if the writer had been shaking - with fear? - but it was clearly his own handwriting. Locke breathed in sharply when he saw today's date being mentioned in the first sentence. According to this if he had written it down correctly he hadn't been Guardian for one but already for two years. That meant a whole year had been erased from his memories. Quickly his eyes wandered over the rest of the note he had written to himself.
"Reading this means my experiment has been successful and the essence of the Master Emerald had only been strong enough to start killing the "thing" inside of me but not myself. I'm aware the antidote will cause amnesia but the level of it depends on how much of the thing I had been able to kill. Hopefully I got all of it even though that means I would lose all my memory back to the day the infestation started. No matter how much of my memory has been erased, it will recover eventually but no matter how much I want to I should try not to remember too fast since it will cause surviving forces in me to grow again."
Slowly Locke put the letter down and shook his head unbelievingly. What in Aurora's name had he carried - or still carried - inside of him that led to such a dangerous experiment at this strange place probably far away from Haven? And what had he experienced before, that caused him to wake up still feeling the terror of it? Well, if he remained on this dirty floor he would never find out.
The young Guardian stood up but a second later he was down on his knees again, arms clutched around his stomach, the pain giving him dry heaves. Blurry pictures flashed in front of his eyes.
A flash of light, the ground was shaking, buildings were crumbling. Two figures made of blinding green light stood in the ruins of the white city. For them it was too late already. Their infestation was complete.
Heavily breathing Locke snapped out of his visions. He remembered these scenes. It was merely a few days ago that he had been in Albion, trying to protect it from – whatever. A part of the city had been destroyed that day. The other Brotherhood members he couldn’t recall to be anywhere but why? They never would have left one of their kind all alone in a situation like this.
A sudden shiver went through the ground and forcefully ripped him out of his thoughts. It was only short but Locke’s senses were alarmed and his instincts screamed at him to get out of this building, fast.
And then the sirens started howling. In Echidnaopolis each kind of alarm had a different siren sound – one that called the EST and the ambulance to a bigger accident sounded different than a fire alarm. This certain kind of siren was known to most Echidnas thanks to documentations but it hadn’t been heard anymore since the last Great War – air raid alert.
Within a second the Guardian was on his feet and dashed out of the room. His mind and instincts still implored him to go for one of the old and still intact underground bunkers – with his knowledge not only of the Guardians’ but also the city’s history he knew quite well where they were located – but as a member of the Brotherhood he had to protect his people first and think about his own safety last, come what may.
Another shiver went through the long abandoned building when he ran through a damaged and pebble-covered stair case and made him stumble against a wall but he quickly pushed off and found balance again. If the quakes became stronger the whole building would collapse on him. Why he had chosen such a place for an experiment on him he could only guess but he assumed he had done it in case something went wrong – if the “thing” had survived the whole dose of Chaos essence then at least the host’s body would have been eliminated within the next few minutes and before the parasite could grow to its full size.
Locke had barely entered the street when something hit the building. The quickly activated shield was too weak to even resist the shockwave, he was slammed down and burried by debris. Pain and the growing pressure on his back made it hard to breathe but the Guardian forced himself to lie calm and suppressed his panic. One wrong movement now and some of the rocks could slide down and crack his spine - a damage not even his rapid healing ability could take care of. He tasted blood, also could feel it dripping down the corner of his mouth and imploringly hoped internal injuries healed with the same speed too.
It wasn't before the last rumbling stopped that he carefully activated the next chaos shield, close around his body and weak at first then it strengthened and spread larger, shoving boulders out of the way. Locke needed to breathe in deeply a few times before he managed to get up and have a look around. Most of the building behind him was still standing, nothing else in the same street was damaged, the attackers of the air were nowhere to be seen or heard - for now. The Guardian climbed over the wreckage and as fast as he could made his way deeper into the city where he knew the nearest bunker was located. He had to make sure his people were alright.
A few Echidnas had left the underground shelters already and made their hasty preparations to leave the city. For an enemy who wasn't just out for destruction but also for kills they would be easy targets in the open fields but they didn't seem to care about that at all.
Locke grabbed a rushing by female's arm.
"What has happened here? Who is attacking the city?"
For a few seconds she stared at him with panic in her eyes then with all her strength she pushed him away.
"Stay away from me, you killer! You monster!" she screamed turned tail and darted off.
The young Guardian stared after her in bewilderment and shock. In the distance he heard her cry, "The Guardians are back! Run for your lives!"
In a reflex he placed his hand on his left side where he remembered to have set the injection. What kind of monster had he been shelter for? Then it also dawned on him that she had spoken of "Guardians" - more than one. Suddenly he felt sick and his legs threatened to give in. Haven - he had to get back immediately.
The sirens howled again and this time he could see the approaching jets though he didn't want to believe his eyes. These weren't the grey jets of Haven. They were completely white with the emblem of Albion.
Locke ran to the middle of an open place, waved his arms, tried to catch their attention.
"What in Edmund's name are you doing?" he screamed. "This is Echidnaopolis you are attacking!"
As an answer a beam was shot at him. He leaped out of the way and the attack hit the ground, leaving a smoking hole in the asphalt. A pained expression on his face Locke raised his arms, hands glowing with Chaos energy. He couldn't shield a whole city so if he couldn't reason with them he had to try and stop them with a counter attack. The first few hits ripped some of the jets open, made the pilots lose control over their machines and sent them spiralling downwards, the next blows forcefully pushed them away from the city so they would crash somewhere outside. The remaining jets veered and returned to where they had come from.
Locke sank down and stared at the ground so he didn't have to look at the destruction or the pillar of smoke coming from outside of the city. A killer... The female was right, he had killed in the past, he had done it again now but both times he only did when he had no other choice - as far as he remembered. During the year that had been erased from his memory however... Quickly he shook off these thoughts, didn't want to let them through to him now. He had to get back to Haven and find the other Guardians.
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