Dagan, along with some of his comrades, of the Sixty-Fourth Paladin Guard, sat in squat-like positions around the glow of several infrared spikes in the portico of the Old Fortress. None of them wanted to wait just inside any of the portico doors, for they all remembered the stories told to them when they were young ones, of the great vast empty rooms which housed the many free-standing sculptures, and pictographs hanging on the walls throughout every room and corridor. The stories were meant to spook the minds of the young ones.
Dagan's skin prickled in the frigid air as he sensed that they had done this before. He looked around at the unhelmeted drawn faces of Hallie, Hadrian, Cymbeline and Thrillip, while he absentmindedly ran his fingers over and over the Icon of Lysandra which he wore around his neck. He was going to wear off the features of the genderless icon if he was not careful.
This was not the kind of service that any of them expected to be doing when they all enlisted together with the Paladin Guard of the Manha-10 Geosphere, last cycle. They had anticipated doing security detail, pack watch, pulling slumped bodies from the Tubes after overdosing on strings, along with other menial duties which the Guard performed, but not this. Not hunkered down in the cold open colonnade of the Old Fortress: waiting. Waiting and watching for what, they did not know. All they were told was that the alarms had sounded at Terminus-Hegira and everything was put into lockdown when an unknown craft penetrated the outer and inner security shields and landed on the tarmac of the only place in the domed city where it was still possible to take a shuttle transport to one of the other domed cities around the planet. Their only escape route to leave the city was now effectively cut off.
"But how is that even possible?" Cymbeline asked as they donned their camo suits earlier in the barracks. Cymbeline always made sure that she was outfitted within zero tolerance of the Paladin Dress Code regulations. "There are at least half-score checkpoints one must go through in order just to get to the final one at Terminus-Hegira." She said, adjusting her stunner and other gear.
"How the hell should we know Cym? You were there with us when the patrol drones flew by and told us to gear up and move out." Hadrian said irritated. He was always irritated with her since the split.
"Well I just don't see how something like this can happen. If all those safeguards are in place to prevent an incursion, then this shouldn't be happening." She responded, equally irritated with him.
The Guard Units, from the Primary and Secondary forces, all the way to the Sixty-Third were dispatched from the Hive to the Dolmans of Power and to Terminus-Hegira itself, respectively. Dagan's 64th Guard was told to be a lookout and monitor things from the Fortress along the edge of The Central Jungle.
'Useless grunt work, is what this is, no one ever came to this part of the city anymore. Everyone knew that.' Dagan thought, trying to tune out the squabbling of his comrades. At least Dagan and his friends knew. 'Not even Stringers come here. The stories told to the young ones were enough to keep everyone away. The Fortress was too close to the Tower of Gall and practically inside The Central Jungle itself.' He mused, adjusting his pack.
But that is where they were told to go; and to keep their eyes open. So here sat Dagan and his friends.
"I'm cold here!" Cymbeline whined, wiping her nose on the sleeve of her camo-shirt. She double-checked to make sure there was no residue left on her sleeve.
"You're always cold. It's always cold everywhere, we are in the late stages of nuclear winter, in case you haven't noticed, Cym." Hallie retorted, in between sneezes.
"I wish I was born at a different time." Cymbeline spoke softly into her vest.
"Wait! How do you know we are in the late stages of this winter, Hallie, miss science-puss?" Hadrian asked antagonistically. He stood leaning against one of the columns of the colonnade, puffing on a chalk-stick. "Since when are you such a know-it-all about the climate conditions outside the dome?" He pulled one last drag on the chalk-stick and tossed it away. Looking inside his satchel he pulled out another pack.
"I watched an infomercial last cycle that said some of the Lore-Masters and Science Geeks believe we are in the final stages and that the New Spring or Primavera, as they are calling it, might be only cycles away!" She told them excitedly.
"That's bull-waste and you know it Hal. You just need to look out from the uppermost levels of the Lyceum of Andron, or any of the other Towers that rise above the top of the Dome and anyone with half-sight or half-a-brain can see this New Spring won't be here for a hell of a long time. Not in our lifetimes anyway." Hadrian chuckled to himself.