“We can easily forgive a child who is afraid of the dark; the real tragedy of life is when men are afraid of the light.” -Plato. Chapter 1: Whispers within the Cold. The road from the Bunker to the ruins of Chicago seemed long and were slowly being overgrown by surrounding plant life. Long, winding cracks raced through the black asphalt mixture, telling of a society now long since passed from the memories of those that were treading upon it. Though the road had long since been cleared of abandoned vehicles, one could still spot the occasional human bone here and there, even some recently deceased scavengers that weren’t lucky enough to escape the predations of the raiders in southern Chicago. Still. One couldn’t shake the feeling of the many untold dead here, never to be missed or even known. Carolyn took a deep breath as she peered around her cockpit. This wasn’t the first time she travelled down this road, but it was still unsettling to see the decrepit city’s skyline ahead of a dead road. Her mech walked in the middle of a small battalion, beside an APC. The battalion comprised of a half a dozen tanks, a half a dozen mechs, several foot-soldiers, and Carolyn’s squad. Within the APC was an auspicious guest: Devin Antoinette. The general had chosen to take direct command of the mission just prior to Carolyn’s squad departing from Bunker Chicago, much to her surprise. On the ground, Morai Lee was walking close to the rest of the squad. They supposedly had a private radio channel all to themselves, but it was just as likely that their every whisper on those radios was recorded by a bureaucrat’s automated machine somewhere. He shakes his head as he looks around at the rest of the squad, then looks up at the sky. It was grey and overcast, but that’s how it looked most days, as the planet still hadn’t fully recovered from nuclear winter. Morai starts speaking into the squad-only channel, his foreign accent though understandable, was noticeable apparent. ”We’re being led by a General for a simple revenge mission. This doesn’t feel right.” Morai spoke into his radio as he eyed the APC at the centre of the convoy suspiciously. Carolyn responds, though uncertainty was clear in her voice. “This is odd to me as well, but it’s just as likely that he’s in it for the personal motivation of killing the bastards who threatened my life, Morai.” The mercenary shakes his head, patting his shotgun gently. ”If that’s what you believe, then I envy your naivety.” ”Look, can you run the mission objectives by me one more time Carolyn?” Morai asked. The squad would easily hear an audible sigh as Carolyn reiterated the objectives in a monotonous tone. ”We enter the city ruins and head immediately to the western section. There, we’ll infiltrate a skyscraper we know as a local headquarters of U-ARM while he diverts course and causes a distraction elsewhere. On the tenth floor, we hit the server room, the main office, and liberate a prisoner of war into our custody. We then return home as fast as possible, being covered by my father’s group who will have set up satellite-guided mortars to cover our retreat. We are not to approach the Shadow Zone for any reason, unless otherwise ordered directly to do so by a member of ADAM.” Morai scratches the back of his head. ”Liberate into our custody... So, we’re freeing a man, to arrest him? This man is so valuable, that your General is just... Casually willing to risk his life for this?” Carolyn hesitates before responding, uncertainty in her tone once again. ”I know. There’s more to it than that, but if my father thinks it’s worth risking his life, I’m willing to trust him.” There was a few more moments of silence between them before Morai finally spoke up, clearing his throat. ”Alright. So, Brucey’s BBQ was interrupted. I only got to introduce myself to some of you, so let me more formally introduce myself: I am Morai Lee. I was a mercenary before I joined this little family, and as you can tell, I’ve done this more than a few times. I hope to get to know all of you better in the coming days, assuming we survive.” Carolyn doesn’t seem to introduce herself immediately, instead waiting on others. Still, Morai’s eyes hadn’t left the APC at the centre of the convoy, and neither had his distrusting look.