The smell of gunpowder permeated the air as Raymond stared out through the airships main window. Columbia lay before him. The city seemed like it was sleeping, enfolded in soft clouds that washed through it like a rolling fog. It made every edge seem smooth and muted. For the first time in more months than he would wish to count, Raymond was taken aback by the shear beauty of the city.
'Clean break comrade, no sign of any flag wavers following.'
Raymond turned to face Clarence. The man was short, wiry and hugely unimposing despite his shaved head and rifle in hand. He was also one of the most brutally efficient members of the Vox Populi. A fact further proved in the taking of the ship. Raymond was right to ask him to lead the boarding party, though he would freely admit that the man scared him.
Raymond nodded his approval to the man and turned back to the sights of the city. As the airship dipped beneath the buildings of Columbia the city began to fade away like a dream. A melancholy gloom fell on the airships bridge as it ploughed deeper into the clouds. In the rapidly diming light, Raymonds own image materialised on the glass. His clothes were plain, well-worn and devoid of any finery. A simple white shirt, brown pants and waist length brown jacket. His only concession to colour, a resplendent red sash that ran from his left shoulder down to his right hip. The face staring back at him was gaunt and lined by years of hard toil and worries, but his eyes still shone with a fierce light.
'Like a angry ghost' he thought.
The course of action he had set himself and his comrades on would escalate the battle for Columbia to the next level. A place it was heading for anyway.
The Founders options for reprisal against a hidden organisation would be limited. Monitor and restrict the workers movements. Bully and terrorize them into submission. That would work well for the Vox's recruitment drives.
Something broke Raymond from his reverie, a damp feeling under his toes. He looked down.
Raymond started at the sound, turning to face Clarence. He thought the man had left the bridge.
'I think your standing in what's left of the captain comrade.'
Death from Above
The great Comstock had predicted a raid on Monument Island, but smoke was rising from below Emporia Towers, off in the distance. William could just make out security zeppelins rushing to the scene. One was trailing well behind.
How could the great prophet be wrong? Had he misread the divine images that were his constant burden? William didnt have any answers, he was just a normal man, but he was relieved that he wouldnt see action this day. A dozen soldiers were crouched in hiding all around him on the landing platforms, but for some reason it didnt make William feel any less exposed. The great golden angel that stood, out of sight above, felt like a weight bearing down on him.
He turned from the sight of Columbia and returned to his hiding place behind one of the temporary barriers that now lay across both platforms. Crouching down by Sergeant Richard, he took his service pistol from its holster and held it low with both hands.
'Whats going on Captain.' The man sounded as nervous as William felt.
'Not sure, some kind of explosion in the city. Stay alert Sergeant.'
'Do you think its a setup Captain, a distraction?'
William looked into his Sergeants face. 'You think those miscreants could even conceive of such a thing? They're dull witted trouble makers that will soon be put down by the glorious Prophet like rabid dogs. Do I make myself clear Sergeant?'
Richard swallowed as he eagerly nodded his agreement. Some of the other men were mumbling from behind their cover. It had taken William many months to acclimatise himself to being around the lower orders, and he still had much to learn, but even he could tell that that couldn't be a good sign. His men could feel his anxiety. Maybe his parents had been right. He should have gone into manufacturing.
He didnt feel up to a round of shouting at his men however, even if they needed the encouragement. Instead he peaked out over the top of the barrier. That trailing zeppelin seemed to be getting closer
Williams heart skipped a beat. Life in the armed forces had been all about monitoring undesirables, keeping them under pressure and under control so that they couldn't sow the seeds of discontent and erode the city from within. Military life was supposed to be about honour and glory, like the displays at the Hall of Heroes. But Williams was scared. He didn't feel at all like a great hero.
'Ready your rifles men, we have incoming. Protect the child with your lives!' His voice rang hollow and hoarse but he was beyond such concerns now as the zeppelins guns roared into life.
The End of Days
Richard ran up the staircase to the upper decks of the docking bay. Behind him three men lay in smouldering ruins along with the captain. He dove behind a set of boxes that stood stacked beside the main doors into Monument Island. He could feel the blood pumping through his veins but his senses seemed numbed. It had all happened so fast he didn't have time to be afraid, just react.
The zeppelin had opened up with its main cannon and then fired some kind of bolt, trailing a cable, into the docking bays roof. A split second later, men had come sky-hooking their way onto the dock. Richard just ran without a second thought.
Several Vox Populi fighters were now taking up positions at the end of the right docking platform and were laying down suppressing fire. Someone was crying out in agony, a soul shattering sound that could be heard amidst the crash of gunshots.
Anna leapt down beside Richard. Her eyes were wide with excitement and fervour as see clutched her rifle to her chest.
'Time to send these neer do wells to hell Richard. Are you with me?'
She didnt wait for a response, just turned the corner and fell to one knee, bringing her rifle up to fire. Richard glanced around the boxes and then ducked back. He could see only six fighters.
Taking a deep breath, he pulled the bolt back on his rifle. Maybe there would be a promotion in this. Enough money perhaps, to raise his family up Columbia's social ladder just a little.
He gritted his teeth and turned back to the fray. Anna was screaming something at the Vox, he couldnt hear what. They were trying to push forward toward Richard's position. He picked one bald headed target and pulled the trigger. The man went down, clutching his shoulder. A lucky shot.
Immediately the other Vox seemed to falter. They were falling back now. Richard couldn't believe it. Anna's rifle was sounding their retreat with a constant angry rhythm. 'Fly you cowards, the Prophet will hunt you down' she roared as she fired into their retreating backs.
Richard held his fire and quickly took in the scene. The Vox were pulling back alright, but the zeppelin was turning to face them.
'Pull back, pull back!' he shouted, but it was already too late as the cannon spat fire once again.
There was a flash of red.
Searing pain shot through Richard's chest. His ears were buzzing and all he could see was brilliant white. Time seemed to stop. There was only the pain.
Slowly, the white began to fade and he struggled to raise himself up onto his hands. He could just about see, as if through a fog. He was lying on his chest, the remains of packing crates lay all around him. Pain flooded across his entire body. He tried to scream, but no sound sprang from his mouth.
Something pushed him onto his back. A gun barrel was hovering over his face.
Richard turned his head and closed his eyes. He was afraid, but better this than a slow death he thought.
Actual sounds started to bleed back as he lay on his back, although he could still hear bells ringing in his ears. Someone was yelling orders and footsteps were hurridely thumping all around him. Someone was barking a command to save ammo.
Suddenly, a piercing metallic shriek pierced the air. A strange unnatural sound that seemed to have no place in this world. Richard struggled to open his eyes, the pain was beginning to fade but he was starting to feel uncontrollably tired. Armed men and women were running back and forth across his view, but Richard could see the Vox Populi zeppelin floating before him at the end of the dock. It seemed to be caught in some kind of yellow spotlight.
Daisy Fitzroy stared down at the posters that lay on the table before her. The table was lit by a single lamp sat on one corner. The rest of the room was filled with barrels and boxes stacked against the walls. Slowly she walked around the table and picked up one of the posters. The poster depicted some kind of strange and horrific beast.
'The true patriot has nothing to fear from the Songbird' was emblazoned across the lower portion.
It had been a week since Raymond's ill-conceived attempt to kidnap the miracle child from Monument Island. The man had always been one for rash actions although setting off an explosion as a distraction and stealing a military zeppelin did show he wasn't a total idiot.
He had been a threat to her leadership. Some Vox members had liked his shoot from the hip thinking. Daisy was right to have let his plan play out. She couldnt have allowed a split in the movement and she was sure that Raymond would get himself killed. Thank God he carried it all out behind her back. If she had become involved, there would have been arguments and many members would have had to choose a side. This turn of events cemented her leadership. Already the Vox were telling tales of Raymond's heroic but suicidal attempt on Monument Island.
It is what needed to be done she thought to herself. But now we know the girl is important, not just another lie spread by the white man to keep us all down.
Raymond was right. It was time to bring the fight to the Prophet.
This story is for the Bioshock Infinite Creative Writing Competition