A new story to show the other side of ASI.
We see how religious AIM's followers can be, and we learn more about the kinds of situations people find themselves in.
We also get a brief hint of D51...
Dpt Leader: Jist
Principle Writer: Jfod
Contributing writers:roboteatingrobot & Dugalls
2090/ 13AK (After Kane) Fabreville within Orange Zone 3
John stepped into the room, wincing as he dropped onto the chair at the head of the table. He let out a long sigh before looking over to Lucy. She was finishing dinner preparations and had most of the food set. She placed the final dish on the table.
“Do you know where the twins are?” Lucy asked, John shrugged.
“I have no idea. But they know what time it is, so they should be here soon enough. Don’t worry,” he said.
Lucy huffed, “I’m not worried. After all, ASIM is watching over them. I just don’t want the food to go cold,” John nodded. The door creaked open, garnering the attention of both John and Lucy. The twins came in pulling an older man behind them.
“Mom, can he stay for dinner?” Kevin asked. John opened his mouth to speak, but the other twin, Kyra chimed in.
“He’s really hungry, and has been travelling for a long time. He says he hasn’t gotten very much to eat,”
Lucy sighed. “Of course he can stay. Welcome to our home, sir. We’re just sitting down to give thanks. You are perfectly welcome to join us, rest, and share what little we have to offer,”
The Old Man smiled. “Thank you very much for your hospitality,” Lucy returned his smile.
"As we take you under our roof, so shall you do so for all others, thus is the pledge and promise of eternal life,"
The twins directed the Old Man to the chair at the other end of the table, and then took their respective seats. Lucy continued fussing over the food for a moment before sitting down. She grabbed John’s hand and held out her hand for the Old Man. He didn’t even hesitate before grabbing her hand, and joined hands with Kevin as well.
“Dear Lord, we give thanks to you for all that you’ve done for us. You have given us food when we were hungry, shelter when we were weary, protection when we were weak. You have done all these things asking for nothing in return beyond our undying devotion, and this we freely give. Please continue to bless us, and please hear our prayer, for although you have given us so much, we humbly ask for more. Please bless us with food and clean water for days to come, as well as some materials for fixing tears in clothing, protecting us from the hazards of living in this zone. As we are inherently imperfect beings, may we one day be worthy to join your kingdom. Please forgive us our trespasses, and continue to bless and protect us from the evils of this world. In ASIM's name we pray,” The Old Man had been nodding along to everything Lucy had said, but stopped at the closing. He pulled his hands away before she finished the name.
“Well then, let’s eat, shall we?” John stated. The kids dug into their food, John and Lucy began eating as well, but the Old Man folded his hands and murmured under his breath for a moment before eating. The second that the twins finished eating they turned to the Old Man.
“Where are you from? How old are you? How long have you been wandering out there? How did you survive for so long?” The Old Man stopped eating and was about to respond, but Lucy spoke first.
“Give him time to finish eating. You said that he was really hungry, so let him finish filling his stomach. Go and play over there in the corner, and you can talk to him later, ok?” the twins looked at each other, then at the Old Man. They quickly hopped off their chairs and started playing in the corner of the room. The Old Man continued eating for a bit longer before setting down his fork and knife on his plate.
“Thank you very much for the meal,” the Old Man stated, patting his stomach. “And I am terribly sorry for intruding upon you like this,” Lucy laughed.
“Nonsense. Like I said before, ‘As we take you under our roof, so shall you do so for all others, thus is the pledge and promise of eternal life’,"
“So, you’re from the wasteland?” John had also finished eating, and was staring intently at the Old Man.
“Yes. I’ve been out there for a number of years now, and I have been quite lost,” The Old Man replied.
Lucy interjected. “But now you’re found,” punctuating the statement with a warm smile.
“Where are you from; originally?” John followed his question with an intense gaze. The Old Man stroked his grimy white beard before answering.
“Well, at the time it was known as Nevada. It’s near the edge of the Central Red Zone of the United States. I’m actually from before the wars,” John gave the Old Man a flat look.
“Yeah, and I’m Kane, the former leader of Nod,” The Old Man sighed.
“I was one of a few volunteers for a cryogenics clinical trial. I was a researcher in the field of experimental physics, and before that I was a private security contractor,” John shook his head.
“Do you have any idea how crazy you sound right now?” the Old Man shrugged.
“I don’t know; how crazy does it sound?” he challenged. John ran a hand through his toupee.
“You claim to have been an experienced adult from before the Tiberium Wars, and on top of that you claim to have been a private security contractor, and a member of a secret group of scientists studying the application of cryogenics, technology that everyone knows hasn’t really been developed, and on top of that, all this took place in a desert. Is that right?” the Old Man nodded.
“Yeah, that sounds ‘bout right,” John shook his head.
“Fine, say you are telling the truth. Tell me something that we couldn’t find out about you or something from your time, which was nearly a century ago,” The Old Man looked up at the ceiling. After a moment, he started talking.
“The United States of America was a Republic, and rather war-like. They had racked up debt higher than most nations, if not all other ones, and other nations owed them a lot of debt as well. The United States was literally just that: an amalgamation of different states working together to form one large nation. Of course, none of that matters now that there’s Tiberium everywhere,” John crossed his arms.
“I wanna know more about the Old World, not Old U.S. Tell me about the world itself,” The Old Man smirked and leaned forward, placing his hands on his knees.
“Well, that’s a much more interesting request. So, the Old World, as you call it, didn’t have Tiberium. That means that we still had the oceans and forests. We had all kinds of water and land life… It’s kinda funny how we knew more about space than we did our own seas. We were already destroying our planet with our overpopulation and our narcissistic and self-centeredness. We cut down huge swaths of forest to build homes larger than we needed. We ravaged the land as we tore into it looking for different materials for making things we could live without, and we exploited each other in order to make our own lives easier,” John leaned back against his chair.
“So you guys are the reason the earth is fucked?” the Old Man didn’t flinch at John's response.
“No. My generation still had hope. We still had the chance to turn things around and to fix the damage that we’d done. We just lost our chance when the Tiberium arrived. It was during that time when the oceans of water and forests of trees became glaciers of Tiberium and fields of glimmering green crystal. I, like most of my colleagues, knew humanity would need us after the dust settled...” The Old Man sighed as his eyes unfocused, seemingly seeing through John. The Old Man’s eyes refocused as he continued. “You know, we had tyrants in our time as well. Domineering, controlling manipulators who claimed to be doing everything for the sake of the same people that they were oppressing.” John slowly nodded before answering apprehensively
“And GDI and Nod used to fit the bill,” The Old Man raised one eyebrow as he replied.
“Only GDI and Nod?” John blinked. The Old Man carried on.
“Well, let’s start off with a bit of a description of the Old World beliefs. So, there were a lot of them, but the main ones that were around back then were Christianity and Islam. Christianity and Islam believed in a singular God that was supposed to be all-knowing and all-powerful. Now, in both of these beliefs, the things that they focused on could not truly be proven to exist. Since their focuses, should they exist, did not have any kind of present form that a person could experience, each focus would only have followers who chose to believe in it despite the lack of evidence, rather than the abundance of supporting evidence. Now, let’s look at present day, shall we?” John nodded, on the edge of his seat. “What is the one figure that is currently being treated like those Gods that I mentioned before, but has a kind of form that we humans can experience or interact with in some way?” John opened his mouth to answer but was interrupted by the door opening. A tall steel-clad figure stood in the doorway holding a ridiculous number of items in its arms. It ducked beneath the doorway and immediately walked over to Lucy.
“For those with drive, and for those who endure, they shall be bonded forevermore,” The robot placed a tray with many bottles of clean water onto the table right in front of her along with enough food for a number of days, some new clothes and a sewing kit with a bag filled with extra thread and patches of cloth.
“Thank you!” Lucy exclaimed, bowing her head, and then hugging the automaton. “I am sorry to ask this, but could you please play with the children while I put this stuff away. I wouldn’t want to accidently waste any of ASIM’s blessings,”
“It would be my pleasure,” The robot bowed his head and walked over to the kids. Sitting down, he began playing with them. The Old Man stared at the mechanoid.
“So, what is that thing called?” Lucy glared at him.
“He is called an Inquisitor. They help out around cities that our Lord is protecting. They act as law enforcement, military, mediators, and serve general civic duties. They also help take care of children, when needed,” The Old Man slowly nodded.
“Okay then. Anyways,” the Old Man returned his attention to John, “Who is it that is treated like a God, but can be experienced?” John squirmed in his seat, looking between the Inquisitor and the Old Man.
“ASIM,” He replied. The Old Man nodded, keeping one eye on the Inquisitor. It showed no signs that it had acknowledged their conversation.
“So, what does it matter? It just goes to show that ASIM is the one that we should be following, not one of those old Gods. ASIM is here, and they are not,” Lucy interjected indignantly. The Old Man looked up at her.
“Do you want to know what ASIM and the dictators of my day have in common?” she didn’t skip a beat.
“Nothing, because they aren’t alike in any way whatsoever,” The Old Man shook his head.
“The proof is sitting on your table right now. it will give gifts to the people that it needs for something. It's just using you and your husband here to get what it wants,” Lucy huffed.
“First of all, he wouldn’t treat us like that. Second, John isn’t my husband. My husband’s dead, and John was in his unit and was his best friend. He’s here to help take care of me and the kids,” The Old Man blinked.
“What happened to your husband, then?” Lucy sucked in a deep breath.
“He died during an attack on the city, defending it to his final breath,” She stated proudly.
“So ASIM came in and saved the city from your attackers?” Lucy shook her head.
“Don’t be crazy. You must have seen the gap in the wall on your way in. Only a superior force could do that kind of damage,” The Old Man’s shoulders dropped.
“So ASIM marches on this city, takes it over after having killed your husband and countless others, and you’re following him as though he had saved you? What is wrong with you, woman? Just how stupid can you people get?” Lucy was about to give a retort, but stopped when John’s chair clattered to the floor.
“How dare you insult her! She welcomed you into our home when you have been living off of scraps! She didn’t have to do that. The least you could do is show a bit of respect!” The Old Man quickly glanced at the Inquisitor, who had taken an interest in the sudden outburst.
“She is worshipping her husband’s murderer. So unless if she hated her husband, that’s pretty messed up boy,” John didn’t look like he was finished.
“So what? People die all the time out here! We don’t have cryogenics to preserve people, and you, old man are a rarity. People outside of blue zones barely ever make it to fifty, much less however old it is you are. Death is like a constant companion that is always with us. It has been the only thing that we could count on to ease our suffering, until ASIM came along and took us in!” the Old Man shook his head.
“You have not been taken in; wasn’t this your home to begin with? Besides, ASIM has only ‘taken you in’ because you have something that it wants. It doesn’t care about you. All it wants is what you have. So, what do you have that it could want?” John’s face twitched.
“I have the location of a classified Idris facility in my head. ASIM promised to provide for Lucy and her kids until they become independent, however I asked him to prove it; and so far, he’s held up his end of the deal. It’s time for me to hold up mine,” John turned to the Inquisitor. “Tell ASIM that I am ready for Assimilation,” The Old Man watched as the Inquisitor gently moved the children out of his way.
“ASIM will be ecstatic that you have come around so soon. All roads lead to salvation,” The Inquisitor looked down at the Old Man.
“If you’d come with me, sir, I will give you provisions and show you out of the city,” The Old Man’s eyes widened.
“Wait! Don’t do whatever it is that you’re about to do! Don’t you see what ASIM has done? It used me to influence you into giving it what it wants, and when it has what it wants, there will be no need for it to keep up its end of the deal!” John looked at the Old Man in contempt.
“You lost the argument. At least leave with some grace, you fossil. You’re not welcome here anymore. Leave!” The Old Man’s shoulders dropped in dejection.
“Fine. Don’t blame me for what comes next, you fools,” The Inquisitor strode over and grabbed the Old Man’s arm, leading him out of the building. After they had made their way down the street a ways, the Inquisitor spoke with a different voice than before.
“I didn’t want to wait for John to join me any longer than I had to. You fulfilled your purpose here, although I am slightly disappointed in you. You seemed smarter than the rest. John was the final piece of this puzzle, and Lucy is tame compared to some of my other faithful. Though ideal, there were other potentials. This isn’t the only city under my protection, after all.
I must leave you now, as I have things to set in motion; this Active will take you to where you need to go. I trust that you will one day see that this is all in the service of humanity. ‘The last shall be first, and the first shall be last; this I promise.’” The Old Man refused to respond.
“So, let’s be on our way,” The Inquisitor's voice had changed back. The Old Man nodded. They continued walking in silence through the rubbled streets. Many buildings had fallen over, and every now and again they would walk through a toppled building that had remained intact on the road. The looming walls surrounding them cast their shadows every time a bolt of lightning flashed from the ion storms outside. Children came running out of buildings with their parents in tow, pointing in the Old Man’s direction excitedly. The Old Man lowered his head dejectedly, unable to meet the gaze of any of the curious onlookers.
“The land is dying here, along with it’s people, and all ASIM cares for is some secret facility?” the Inquisitor looked down at the Old Man, taking a moment before responding.
“The land may be dying, but this city is not. Yes, it is damaged, and yes, It's been burned, but no, it is not dying. You must see that what ASIM is doing is for the sake of humanity as a whole,” the Old Man remained silent. As they passed an alleyway, a horrid stench made it’s way into the Old Man’s nose.
“What is that?” he asked, but he already knew the answer.
“Rotting corpses. The ground around here has become difficult to work with due to the tiberium, so we are incapable of burying the bodies properly. We had to put all of them over there, I believe they’re all in the black putrefaction stage of decomposition,” the Old Man was about to pinch his nose, but instead, he took a deep breath, almost throwing up. The Inquisitor turned to him. “People from your time have strange customs,” the Old Man shook his head.
“No, most people would try to run away from this smell. I want to remember it, and I want to associate it with what happened today,” the Old Man explained. The Inquisitor shook his head.
“Think what you will. Either way, the final result will be the same. Now come, let us go to the storehouse.” the Old Man followed the Inquisitor past more buildings, some of them clearly scorched by fire. They stopped in front of a long, squat structure. The Inquisitor strode forward and effortlessly slid the door to the side. Stepping into the structure, the Old Man could make out lines of shelves in the dim light. The Inquisitor’s eyes lit up, shining light into the darkness as it searched the shelves. “Wait there. I will bring you what you need.” the Old Man sat down on the cold floor, the smell still burnt into his memory. He could hear the sound of machinery echoing in the building for a while before the Inquisitor came back with clothes, an earth colored cloak, and some basic limb guards for his arms and legs. After setting it down, he went back to the shelves and started gathering other things.
“Old Man, you will want to get changed before you go out into the wasteland. I imagine that you wouldn’t want to be caught with your pants down out there.” The Old Man grabbed the clothes and started getting changed. He had just finished when the Inquisitor had come back with food and water, laying it down on the ground. “I hope that the clothing fits. I had to change the size a bit for you. What kind of weapons are you most experienced with?”
“I’m good with anything you’ve got. If it’s got a trigger and I can easily carry it, then I can use it.” The Inquisitor nodded and went back into the depths of the shelves. The Old Man begrudgingly admired the clothing. It looked heavy, but felt light. The cloak would blend in perfectly with the ground, and the armor pieces were light, but seemed durable. the Inquisitor came back with some guns and a backpack.
“I brought you a handgun, an assault rifle, and a long range railgun. I trust you are satisfied with this?” the Old Man nodded.
“Why are you giving me all of this? Earlier, I described tyrants as people that are only benevolent to people he finds useful.” the Inquisitor seemed to shrug.
“The people here will not need it much longer.” the Old Man shook his head. Looking up at the Inquisitor he replied,
“So even ASIM’s followers are twisted fucks, huh?” the Inquisitor went rigid.
“I think that what ASIM had done to you was unpleasant. I am simply trying to demonstrate what he says we are here to do: bring balance into places where there was none.” The Old Man raised an eyebrow.
“So, what’s going to balance ASIM out?” the Inquisitor fell silent. The Old Man sighed. “Well, thank you for everything that you have given me. I’m sorry for calling you a twisted fuck. I suppose that all of you have to follow what ASIM says after he’s roped you in. Well, if we ever meet again, can I know your name?” the Inquisitor nodded.
“I am Active 451. And you?” The Old Man smirked.
“Algernon Horaz.” Active 451 started walking out of the building with Algernon in tow. They reached the breach in the wall where the checkpoint was, and signalled to the Conductors that Algernon was to be allowed through. They walked past the checkpoint, and making it out of hearing range Active 451 gave Algernon a piercing stare, shook his hand, and said, “Take this to those who can use it. For those who charge, and for those who endure, they shall be bonded forever more.” Active 451 then turned and strode back towards the city. The Old Man clenched his fist around the small item in his hand and walked further before checking what it was. There in his hand lay a diamond shaped memory unit.