The rain drummed steadily throughout the sector, beating down on armour and machinery, soaking through flora and half destroyed buildings in the distance. It was late night: the compound lit by jerry-rigged worklights and lanterns, the latter of which were maintained by hunkered down infantry. There were no moving patrols tonight, there was little point, and no one wanted to expose themselves to the elements.
Aside from the rain, all was quiet.
Aside from the turning of emplacements, all was still.
The might of man rendered immobile by the will of nature.
Far above, beyond the storm and blackest clouds, a single figure danced in the sky: the elegant master of a world thousands of meters above the land. The Corpus Fury whirled and swayed in the moonlight, casting a shadow upon the clouds below. The aircraft was slightly larger than other models of it's kind: it's wings adorned with yellow accents, a cosmetic preference of the woman who was at it's helm. Nyx's eyes wandered across the readouts before her: altitude, fuel, orientation, and more all sparkling in the silver light flooding the cockpit. Her thoughts drifted with her Fury, switching from one topic to another at a whim. She thought of her parents and sister, long forgotten by this unforgiving world. She thought of her employer, Shadow, and how they hope to succeed against other organizations. She thought of the man who was her current commander, and how he had gotten so many to fight alongside one another. Nyx thought of many things as she flew, wishing nights like this, rare as they were, could last forever.
A voice behind him: human enough to comfort, mechanical enough to unsettle.
"Troop positions and current operational status, as you requested."
He turned from the window, black painted Survivors armoured coat billowing behind him.
The android continued, "by my estimates, your forces can be at combat readiness within three minutes at your word."
He checked the datapad: a schematic of the salvaged Corpus base with labeled dots representing various units.
The man lifted his hand to his ear, triggering the Sentinels command implant, "Kaid Escara?"
A moments pause, "Sir?"
"Reposition your Cyclops at the southeastern quadrant of the perimeter, please, and contact Sargent Thule to keep eyes on the gap."
Another pause, "Doesn't Mikey have that area covered?"
"He appears to be... preoccupied... at the moment," The Commander noted the tracking chip of a Sentry by the name of Amanda in the Cyclops Michael was supposed to be piloting.
"Trust in me, Mister Escara."
"Okay, moving now."
RUBI glanced at the datapad, "You could easily tell them to stop."
"I see no reason to, and neither do you."
"He should be watching for-"
The Commander waved his hand, silencing the android. He had quietly observed the development of this little relationship over the past few weeks, and was rather interested to see where it went.
"The three minute reaction timer was by your calculations, and I'm assuming you accounted for this too. Have more faith in the men and women under my command, please."
The armour factory was quiet, with Purifiers, Seekers, Phalanxes, and Technicals parked along both sides of a large central deployment hall. The overhead lights were turned off for the night, shrouding the whole of the factory in what should've been total darkness. In the back of the facility sat a strange, armoured, unarmed vehicle. The device which sat in place of a conventional weapon cast an ethereal orange shadow throughout the factory, and upon the faces of the two men before it. Galen, the pilot of this particular Caretaker, knelt upon both knees, head bowed in silent prayer, hands clasped around an orange pendant. The other man stood a few paces away, clad in a ghillie suit, with a high powered sniper rifle slung over his shoulder. The hood of the suit was down, showing the uneasiness of the Sharpshooter as he regarded the man who had asked for him. Without warning, Galen stood, placing the Sentinels necklace back around his neck. He turned, facing the Survivors soldier, and nodded his head.
"Whenever you're ready."
Fidgeting with the rifle strap, the other man looked unsure.
"Are you sure you want to do this?"
He nodded again, saying nothing.
The Sharpshooter slung the rifle from his shoulder, flicking off the safety. He chambered a round, and aimed. Galen stood, hands clasped behind his back, waiting.
The shot rang out, the sound reverberating throughout the hall. Galen still stood, and simply smoothed his uniform. He turned, examining his Caretaker, searching for the point of impact. After a minute or so, Galen produced a high caliber shell, found sticking out from the armoured plate of the vehicle. He pocketed the bullet, nodding to his Survivors companion a third and final time. The Sharpshooter acknowledged the dismissal, turning and shouldering his rifle. As he walked back to the barracks, he made a mental note never to underestimate Sentinel Zealotry, or their technology.
"Sir, the current time is 22:35. I advise you to turn in for the night, I can keep an eye on the compound from here."
"In a moment," he glanced at the triangular Sentinels ring on his right hand, brushing the sharp corners with his other thumb.
"You said that an hour ago, you'll understand if I don't believe you this time."
The Commander said nothing, merely returned his attention to the datapad before him.
It was absolutely fascinating to observe the goings on of three different groups of people with little to focus on. This was the sixth night of this storm, one which nearly eliminated the possibility of combat outside of infantry skirmishes or high altitude battles. In the beginning, all factions were uneasy around one another, with many staying in their respective groups around the compound. To remedy this, an Ironstrike force was baited to attack the compound, thinking it poorly defended. Though, no one knew The Commander had "leaked" this information to the hostile group, the assault was repelled easily. He had then ordered a small infantry team composed of members from The Survivors, Corpus, and Sentinels to counterattack and destroy the enemy base. The attack was successful, and inter-faction relations were easier after the team returned. Since then, there has been no hostile action towards The Commander or his forces, and the only combat seen by those under his command were raiding parties sent out to gather supplies.
"What is it, RUBI?" The android was still there, watching him.
"You've been acting rather strangely these past few days. Does the rain not sit well with you?"
He looked at her, bearing in mind she found analyzing human behavior of interest, a trait they both shared.
RUBI's mechanical eyes were piercing as she regarded him. "You always have the air of one who knows so much more than they're letting on."
"I command everyone here, I'm afraid it's my job to know more than everyone else."
She still looked at him, unmoving.
"So, you just know how to break down a whole buffalo?"
"And how to cook each individual part to perfection?"
Weaver stood over the exposed front of a Technical, it's engine running hot.
"I used to go camping with my dad, back before everything went to hell."
On the engine was a flattened metal plate, on top of which were pieces of meat of a kill from a hunting trip earlier that morning.
"We'd make a weekend out of it: a hunting lesson, then how to skin and carve properly, then how to cook it over the engine of a pickup truck."
The woman talking to him was a Sentinel, and the gunner of a Purifier, which was currently sitting with most of the other heavy armour. She, along with many others, had taken refuge from the storm in this building, which was, for all intents and purposes, an oversized garage.
"Must've been nice having a good relationship with your folks."
Their conversation was one among many, as there were roughly twenty people in the garage mingling with one another. The rest of her Purifier crew was there, along with a Sphinx gunnery crew, a handful of Chaplains, Liberators, Sentries, even a Cerberus in the corner, tinkering with his drones.
Weaver flipped over a large piece of meat, listening to the steady pounding of rain on the rooftop.
"Nope. Alcoholic father, unsupportive step-mom, real sap story."
He looked up from the engine, saw the woman rub her eyes in a tired fashion.
"That's probably why I joined the Sentinels. People there are actually nice, they care."
She stopped herself, an apologetic and worried expression quickly overtaking her features and posture.
"Well, I mean..."
Flipping over another piece of meat, he held up a hand to quiet her.
"We've all had things in our lives that make us who we are today. We wouldn't be individuals without those things. I don't know why Malachi did what he did, I just know we fought back, and won our freedom."
The woman looked surprised, not quite sure how to go about a reply.
"I'm not gonna shoot you for what you are, no one here will. We all fight for what we believe in: could be a Machine God, could be something else. Just don't forget, at the end of the day, we're all human. All this constant warfare does is spill more blood, and it's gotta stop at some point."
She nodded, "I... yeah, I like that idea."
"I noticed you reconnected all the cameras throughout the compound. I would think someone like you would prioritize external security over internal surveillance."
The Commander drew a hand across his eyes, "Is this an interrogation now? You could've told me in advance."
"It is not, I just want to understand your actions and maneuvers which led to this point. I know about the Ironstrike transmission you sent, and you are arranging troop layouts such a meticulous manner I've never seen you do."
He turned his full attention to the AI, "Have you ever considered what kind of world we live in, RUBI? Have you ever looked at all the guns and bombs and weapons so common in this age and wondered when it would end? People will happily go about murdering each other, 'fighting for what they believe in' and all for what?"
She shook her head with a whine of servos, "I have never considered such thoughts. It is not in my design, which is expressly for warfare. I am worried your strategies, if you call them that, are inefficient and could ultimately get everyone here killed."
"My actions are shaping the future as we speak. Men and women from all over the sector, people who fight for different reasons and against different foes, sit down next to each other as as allies, friends," he gestured to the datapad, "even lovers, because I worked to make them see past the faction labels, the emblems and titles instilled over years. I got them to see the humanity in each other, and what if the whole sector, hell, the whole world were to think that way?"
RUBI didn't know what to say, didn't even know where to begin.
"I don't expect you to understand this, you're not designed for it, and that's perfectly fine. However, I need you to have faith in me, trust me, trust in the fact that this is the right thing to do."
The Commander rubbed his eyes, "I will take your advice from earlier, though, and go get some shut-eye."
He turned to go, "You have command, RUBI, switch out the guards to the graveyard shift."
Casting a final glance at RUBI, he said, "Don't doubt me, please. I've gotten us through tougher situations before, and this will ultimately be for the betterment of us all."