Chapter 2

17th of May, 2058

New Mexico, R-15 Border-Zone

Red light filtered through the dark room, rivers of gentle illumination flowing around the shadowy shapes that loomed out of the murky gloom. Three crimson stained glass windows stretched from floor to ceiling around the circumference of the high-roofed hall, etched with symbols and iconography.

In the middle of the room sat a black wooden desk; simple, but solid and imposing, paperwork scattered over the scarred surface. Behind it sat a man, dark hair unruly and uncombed, brown face grey with stubble and lined with worry. He was dressed in a dark suit of coarse material cut off at the sleeves, under which he wore a silky grey shirt. A burgundy tie hung from his neck, barely tied, almost an afterthought. A black pen was clutched in fingers numb from hours of writing. A scribble on a sheet of paper to test it, and the useless pen was flung across the room, clattering in a corner somewhere in the darkness that permeated the chamber like a bad smell.

A knock sounded on the wooden door of the hall.

Gideon jerked upright, yanked the tie into a semi-straight position, and called 'Enter,' in a voice hoarse from hours of disuse.

The door (black, of course) creaked open gently, and a man in a considerably finer suit entered, footsteps echoing around the cavernous room. In one hand he held a black false-leather briefcase which was embossed with the chamfered triangle and scorpion tail emblem of the Brotherhood. He approached the desk and stood there expectantly. Gideon wiped the sleep from his eyes with one hand and gestured blearily to a seat in front of the desk with another. The man sat and placed the briefcase on the floor beside him.

'Prelate, welcome,' Gideon tried to sound as sincere as possible, but the mutual animosity was tangible. Prelate Kingsley inclined his head slightly.

'I'm here on important business -' Kingsley began, voice slick with superiority and self-confidence.

'I gathered,' Gideon interjected dryly.

'-so we'll have to make this short; there are other matters which require my attention in the region.'

'I wasn't aware Temple Command was running any operations in my region,' he narrowed his eyes at the Prelate, but the only response he received was a supercilious smirk.

Kingsley picked up the briefcase, and opened it, retrieving a thick bundle of papers, which he examined briefly before throwing onto the desk. Gideon picked it up gingerly, as if it were a bomb about to explode. He leafed through it idly, gazing at it more intently with every page he turned.

'Is this a joke?' Gideon asked incredulously.

'I'm deadly serious. The Inner Circle has decided that in response to the deficit in funds all regional commanders must pay an additional 15% tax. I'm sure you're aware that this is the word of the Brotherhood, and any disobedience must be met with severe consequences.'

'I… I… yeah, sure.' Gideon stuttered in disbelief.

'We have an understanding, then. Good.' Prelate Kingsley swept some of the papers back into the open briefcase, snapping it shut. 'I do hope you don't get any ideas. I wouldn't want to have to come back here.'

Gideon tried to put as much disgust and abhorrence into his stare as he could and directed it at Kingsley, hoping to burn the Prelate on the spot by sheer power of loathing. A slight smirk touched Kingsley's lips as he stood and strode away from the desk, letting the door creak shut behind him, lingering slightly as a reminder of the ego of the man who had passed through it.

Gideon put his head in his hands, waited till the insufferable Prelate's footsteps faded away and yelled, letting all of the detestation he had for the man and the whole bloody system that he represented out in one long, drawn out expression of hopelessness.

With quick shake of his head, Gideon plucked a spare pen from his pocket and began filling in the new paperwork that had been dumped on top of the already overflowing piles.

18th of May, 2058

American Outback, Border-Zone

Prelate Aaron Kingsley dropped his briefcase on the floor and slumped into his ornately carved antique chair. Fighting back a migraine, he pulled a silver case from the inside pocket of his suit jacket, plucked a fat cigar from it, lit up, and breathed in deeply. The Tiberium infused tobacco mixture flooded into his lungs, and after a moment his head cleared.

The office in which he sat was a small, oval space, with burnished metal walls. It was brightly lit, a change from most Brotherhood spaces, and a burgundy shag pile carpet lay on the floor. Various holy artefacts, stone statues, sacred scrolls and the like, sat in alcoves around the room. In the centre a curved, glossy black topped desk stood on thick pedestals.

Kingsley hit a button concealed under the desk, and a warm red glow grew over it as the holographic projector concealed within heated up. Glowing white lines flashed into being in the midst of the crimson fog that hung over the table, forming into a desktop screen that wrapped around the chair. Kingsley reached out into the air and tapped on an icon in the shape of a dollar sign. The icon flashed and a window opened up on the screen, displaying a database of names and figures.

+ East Coast Border-Zone (Temple Prime)

+ West Coast

+ New Mexico

+ Outback

+ South America

+ Brazil (Temple Prime)

+ North Coast

+ Amazon

+ Columbia

+ East Coast

+ Argentina 1

+ Argentina 2

+ Argentina 3

+ Argentina 4

Kingsley tapped the 'New Mexico' heading, and a dropdown menu appeared. He clicked on 'income', and a sheet of figures appeared in a separate window, displaying the income of Gideon's base's harvesting operations.

'Shit,' he chuckled as he examined the readings, and clicked open a similar screen, labelled 'expenses'. No wonder Gideon was loath to part with any more of his regional funds; there was barely anything left of them. The man had dedicated the majority of his income from the last half year to rebuilding the small villages that dotted the Tiberium Wastelands outside of GDI controlled territory, providing each population centre of over 2500 people with a refinery/power plant to help facilitate the running and rejuvenation of the area. Gideon, in his youthful foolishness, was having a fit of naivety, and was attempting to save each and every soul under his dominion, instead of stepping back and viewing the bigger picture.

Still, the boy had potential, if only he could be shaken from his extremist views.

A sudden harsh beep shook him from his thoughts.

'Kingsley! Get down here now.' A rough voice emanated from his desk's speakers.

Rubbing his eyes wearily, Kingsley took another puff of the cigar, before shutting down the holographic projector, pushing back his ornate chair and, with a sigh, making his way to the door.

Beyond the carved wooden door was a wide foyer area, with a dark, brushed metal floor and walls constructed entirely of red stained glass arranged into sharp, angular shapes. Corridors curved off in both directions, away from his office. Brotherhood officers stood sentinel on either side of the door, looking almost like man-sized insects in their black battle armour, with its sharp, chitinous edges and glittering red optics units in the helmet. Directly across from the office was another pair of doors; an elevator. Walking over to the open elevator, Kingsley stabbed at the button for basement 3, and the doors slid shut as the elevator carried him downwards, into the depths of the structure. His head span slightly, and his breath caught in his chest, though whether that was a result of changing air pressures or just his apprehension at what was waiting at the bottom of the shaft was uncertain.

The doors slid smoothly open, and Kingsley found himself in a similar foyer space to the one he had just left, albeit considerably worse lit. On either side of the elevator, corridors curved away into the gloom. In front of him, a set of large, ornate wooden doors sat ajar, and Kingsley could just glimpse a red glimmer coming through the gap.

Swallowing nervously and adjusting his tie, he pushed the doors open, and walked through, to find a long, rounded oblong table, surrounded by slightly simpler seats than the one that sat in Kingsley's office, many of which were empty. It was impossible to judge the size of the room, as the walls were swallowed up in gloom. A large display hung from the far wall, projecting several faces in split screen. To either side of the large display were floor to ceiling screens covered in the archaic and florid text of the Brotherhood.

Kingsley walked forward and took his place at the table.

Around the table and in similar rooms in the dwindling strongholds of the Brotherhood around the Earth were assembled the few remaining guardians of the disaffected and disillusioned populace that GDI had exploited and abused.

General Jacob Sweeney, wearing a crisp black shirt and jacket, emblazoned with the symbols of the Brotherhood and adorned with medals of honour and service to its cause. A wispy head of white hair was brushed away from his brow, exposing a jagged line of scar tissue that ran across it. Sweeney had served the Brotherhood faithfully ever since defecting from GDI in the reprieve between the First and Second Tiberium Wars. In recent years he had become somewhat of an inspirational figure for the younger generals, as a man of his age was hard to come by outside of the Blue Zones.

Swinging on his chair in at the corner of the table was a man whose past was shrouded in as much secrecy as Kane's. Dressed in an outdated GDI combat vest, stained a dark brown with some unidentified substance, and a set of standard issue slacks, the man known only as Reamer had arrived on the doorstep of the Temple in the American Outback (somehow avoiding the layers of deadly automated defences, good old fashioned death traps and crack squads of the best trained warriors in the Brotherhood) with fifteen information storage packs stuffed with data on GDI's most recent weapons and technology research and troop deployment orders, and, most importantly, the news that GDI's Ion Cannon network would be offline intermittently for another 7 months, as it was being upgraded with advanced targeting and energy storage systems. He had, of course, been locked up immediately.

Kingsley, who had been curate of the Outback Temple at the time and head of its Manifestation and Sanction Committee, remembered the deliberations of the Brotherhood's generals as they pondered over whether Reamer was a GDI defector who had brought the data as a genuine gift or if it was a ploy by the oppressors to gain their trust or trick them into doing something rash.

Their suspicions were only reinforced when a GDI patrol somehow located the temple deep in the border zone days later, but Reamer claimed innocence, and when General Sweeney ordered a wireless infiltration team to search the GDI battle net they found no clues about his identity.

Using the data, Sweeney ordered his subordinates to stage an ambush on a GDI patrol that would supposedly be passing through the border zone in a day's time. The raid was successful and Sweeney grudgingly admitted that Reamer was genuine, and he was released. Sweeney and General Aram began organising a coordinated offensive to remove GDI from the map altogether, but before they could finish planning and execute the operation, an army of cyborgs swarmed across the Asian Red Zone, taking out GDI settlements all through the hell-hole. The Asian arm of the Brotherhood took this as their signal to attack, and began their own, badly organised offensive, and the Americans were forced to follow suit.

In the 6 months following Reamer's arrival, he assisted the Brotherhood in neutralising and driving GDI from the border zone in North America, all the way back to its crumbling stronghold in Blue Zone 7. This move irreparably damaged the GDI foothold in North America, and gave the Brotherhood secure control of 57% of the viable land in the continent. However, before they could make the final push into Washington and cut out the cancer forever, GDI's revamped Ion Cannon network was brought online in response to the unexpected global offensive, and the Brotherhood was forced to slink away into the shadows or risk extinction.

These days, Reamer was still a complete enigma to Kingsley, but was a trusted adviser to General Aram, a Hispanic man dressed in a silky black suit and swathed in a fine cloak who sat at the head of the table. Aram cleared his throat and leaned across the table to address the assembled.

'Brothers,' he began solemnly, 'I bring disturbing news. Our spies in the oppressors' organisation have discovered a plan by their administration to infiltrate our order and sway our members to follow their corrupt and hypocritical ways.'

'Even as the world dies, they seek to undermine us and stop our work.' General Kai spoke disbelievingly from the screen. He was an Asian man with a slight figure and a crop of unruly dark hair over his vibrant green eyes.

A murmur of unease spread through the various members of the Inner Circle on the video screens.

'Truly, this is distressing information,' Kingsley leant across the table to address General Aram directly, 'but may I enquire as to how you came to possess it?'

General Sweeney turned to Kingsley with disdain in his eyes. 'Show some respect, Prelate,' he reprimanded in a voice rough from decades of barking orders into radios. 'This Brotherhood cannot possibly survive if we begin doubting each other. We will be doing GDI's work for them. I'm sorry, General, continue.' He nodded ingratiatingly to Aram, who inclined his head slightly.

'Thank you, brothers. This information has come to us thanks to the expertise of our Intelligence Acquisition Division. Curate Leis, if you would.'

A slight man, with tightly cropped blonde-hair, wearing a full-length black survival bodysuit sat almost at the very edge of the circle of illumination. Only the slightest of features – a sharp, narrow nose and thin lips – were visible in the midst of the pools of shadow that obscured the rest of his face. He moved forward, and the red light illuminated his sharp-boned cheeks, flat brow and cold, grey eyes. Leis nodded curtly at Aram, before turning to address the other men that sat around the table.

'During one of our recent data raids on the GDI battlenet and associated mainframe we came across a communiqué between two codenamed GDI operatives, which made mention of an Operation: BANDIT, and revealed small elements of the scheme that General Aram has just described. Following up on this and several other leads we have been pursuing, our agents located one of the operatives, who was undercover in a refugee camp run by Commander Gideon of the New Mexico region. He divulged the remainder of the details at the conclusion of an eighteen hour dialogue with our resident Confessors.

'The plan, it appears, is as thus; to persuade one the senior officials of the Inner Circle in North America to defect and betray the Brotherhood by providing information to the enemy and sabotaging vital operations in the region. They hope to use this betrayal to alter the state of the current impasse.'

Leis fell silent, with a contemplative look in his otherwise emotionless eyes, before nodding ever so slightly, seemingly satisfied. Having concluded his report, the curate shifted his chair back a fraction, retreating into the shadows once more.

Immediately, General Sweeney leant across the table to talk directly to General Aram, exclaiming; 'But why should we fear? The faithful of the Brotherhood could never be swayed by anything that GDI could offer. We have no need for their resources, their decadent lifestyle, or their ideology.'

Kingsley coughed, and all eyes turned to him in an instant. He looked somewhat perturbed by the sudden attention. Clearing his throat agian, he spoke in a forcedly strong voice.

'Well, it's not that we should be worried by the enemy's plans, but it would be remiss of us to not be cautious. After all, members of the Brotherhood have been swayed by our opponent's deceitful ruses before.' His eyes, which had mostly been focused on an indefinable point in the distant gloom flickered for an instant towards the video screen, before returning to their previous position.

This involuntary motion was not missed by the shrewd eyes of the imposing man whose image was displayed in the far right corner of the video screen. His face had the weathered look of one who has seen much combat, and was topped by a patch of silver bristles. He was physically daunting, and impression only increased by the sizable suit of traditional Black Hand powered armour he wore.

'Do you mean to imply, Kingsley, that I would willingly betray the Brotherhood?' Marcion demanded in a affronted voice.

'Of course not,' Kingsley replied placatingly, but his eyes spoke volumes. 'I was merely advocating vigilance and caution on our part. The last thing the Brotherhood needs at this time is infighting.'

'Yes, it would be incredibly dangerous, wouldn't it, if we had members of our circle who didn't believe that the principles of self-sacrifice for the greater good applied to them, too, and were only interested in their own personal gain,' General Sweeney said in a perfectly neutral, but slightly stilted, voice, pointedly staring straight ahead of him.

Kingsley, shocked that the general had spoken so bluntly in the company of the most important members in the Brotherhood, looked at Aram beseechingly, but he seemed to be similarly engrossed by the obscured walls.

Composing himself, Kingsley sat rigidly and looked towards the screen, where an array of emotions were displayed upon the faces of the other members of the Inner Circle, ranging from mild amusement to scorn and dismay.

'Are we done here?' Prelate Jung, commander of the Fai Tung Sanctuary, a relatively safe region of what used to be Mongolia, spoke with disdain in his voice. 'It's just that I have other things to be doing today than listening to your petty arguments. A group of refugees were just rescued by one of our Recon companies after their village came under attack from a contingent of GDI Zone Raiders who suspected them of links to a zone running cartel in Zone-12. We need to find them accomodation and track down the raiders that are still on the loose within the outskirts of Fai Tung, so I'll hope you'll excuse my lack of patience for your trivial interpersonal issues.'

General Sweeney looked somewhat put out by this sudden outburst from Jung, but he nontheless sank into a somewhat more contrite position. Jung shook his head in disbelief. Seeking to smooth over the antagonistic mood that filled the air, Aram raised his hands in a gesture of placation.

'Brothers, let us not be waylaid by small misunderstandings. We must act together if we are to withstand the deceit and manipulations of our oppressors. Together we will stand, ready and awaiting the return of the Prophet.' A tight expression came over his face, as he proclaimed; 'In the name of Kane!'

'Kane lives!' General Kai, Prelate Jung, and High Confessor Marcion agreed in strong voices. Several other voices echoed, slightly behind, and a few seemed to have a slight coughing fit.

'... lives...' muttered Kingsley.

One by one, the faces on the screen blinked out, leaving squares of static, with a 'connection terminated' message over each. Once the last face had disappeared, the screen turned black, and an uncomfortable silence filled the room.

After a spell, Sweeney spoke once more, somewhat hesitantly.

'There is one small item still remaining, General. It appears that a force of Zone Raiders, that we believe to be a scout party attached to the 19th Recon Division, discovered a group of smugglers living and producing in the B-7 Border-Zone yesterday. This much we discerned through data-raids and intercepted comms transmissions by a Zone Captain Peele. However, a local Observation Base reported a colossal explosion from the site that decimated the division. Our scouts' analysis of the site suggests a Tiberium-fuelled explosion, but the size of this explosion was many orders of magnitude stronger than what could possibly be produced by the average smuggler's supplies.'

This revelation clearly disturbed General Aram. When he spoke, his voice was low and portentous.

'I suggest that you investigate further, General Sweeney. It is important that we discover what has occurred there.'

'I agree,' Jovar DuPont, the Resident General charged with Temple Defence, spoke up for the first time now. 'I have heard rumours of similar explosions amongst men on the deep patrols into the Zone. I have speculated that they may be caused by critical masses of Tiberium, similar to the Prophet's L-T Bomb.'

'That would be a most disturbing situation, indeed.' General Sweeney agreed. 'I shall arrange a taskforce to investigate the site of the explosion at once. There is a commander in the region, Gideon, in whose camp the GDI infiltrator was found out. I believe he'd be the ideal choice to lead this taskforce.'

'Thank you, General. This entire situation is a mixed blessing. Nearly an entire division of enemy troops has been destroyed, but now there is this potentially greater threat from our planet itself.'

Sweeney and DuPont shared a quick glance, inscrutable as ever, but Aram appeared to miss it. He continued to talk in his long-winded, florid manner.

'It is decided then. In these grave times, our Brotherhood must be stronger than ever if we are to stand against our oppressors. May the hand of Kane be upon you.' Aram nodded and stood, indicating that the meeting had concluded.

The other members of the Inner Circle stood at attention as he exited through the grand doors of the chamber, black cape flowing behind his broad figure like a shadow, Reamer at his side, unfathomable, face closed off. Once Aram had left the room, Leis nodded to DuPont and Sweeney, pointedly ignoring Kingsley, and strode out after the pair, followed quickly by Kingsley, who seemed in a hurry to get away from Sweeney.

DuPont sighed, ran a hand through his wavy, dark brown hair, throwing it into disarray, and dropped back into his chair, swinging his long legs up onto the table, combat boots caked in dried mud. Sweeney collapsed, his body seemingly unable to support itself anymore. Laying his head on the tabletop, he coughed heavily several times before sitting upright again.

'He's going to have to go.' The words were spoken without hesitation or uncertainty. They were strong and confident; a death sentence.

'There's no way the Brotherhood is going to stay intact with him in charge. Aram's pompous speeches and waiting around for... him to return are going to be the death of us.' Sweeney visibly shuddered upon mentioning the word 'him'.

DuPont nodded his silent approval, deep in thought. Suddenly he spoke up; slowly, measuring each word as he said it.

'It'll have to look like an accident. We're already under enough suspicion from our Asian brothers, and Marcion, without offing our leader. How about these Tiberium explosions? Aram admitted himself that they're a danger to us, a growing risk of living on this planet. He could fall victim to one during a trip to one of the outlying bases.' DuPont posited.

Sweeney shook his head. 'It would be too hard to arrange, and there would be no way to ensure that we would even be allowed to take command by the Inner Circle after his death.' He paused for a moment, before snapping his fingers. 'If he were exposed as a traitor, the ones who provided the evidence to the rest of the council would be very well rewarded. After all, the whole council has now heard of the plot to corrupt one of our number. All we need to do is leak a damaging amount of information that only Aram could have access to, and watch as the accusations fly.'

'They'll still cry foul, even if we could prove that Aram was a traitor. They don't trust us for shit, and Kingsley… fucking Kingsley'd be on our cases before you could say 'snoop.''

'I hate to agree, but you're right.' Sweeney sighed.

'We need to bring in someone from outside the Inner Circle. Someone who the council won't be suspicious of. Someone devoted utterly to upholding the cause of the Brotherhood.'

'You crafty bastard.' Sweeney looked up, and the widening grin on DuPont's face grew wider still. He nodded slowly.



Extract from Dialogue Report and Transcript

Date: 05/17/2058

Subject: GDI Informant Stephan Kepler

Resident Confessor: HC Liam Carstor

CONFESSOR J. RAJEEK: I'm sure you've had enough by now, Stephan. This can be over in a moment, if you want it to. Just give us the word.

PRISONER: Bullshit!

RAJEEK: I assure you, I'm being completely honest. There's no need for this stubbornness – nobody would think any worse of you for choosing to help the enemy if it's the right thing to do.

PRISONER: You fucking Noddie scum!

RAJEEK: That's hardly an attitude conducive to an open and equal discourse. Now come, be reasonable. All we want is the name of the target. Your operation has already failed; if you help us now, we can help you. The Brotherhood's arms are open to all.

PRISONER: You ain't gonna get nothin' outta me, you fucking fanatic freaks! I ain't gonna turn on my men. I've got morals, unlike you, you sadistic headcases! I hope you rot in hell, you and that cadaver you call a-[unintelligible]

RESIDENT: That's enough, Rajeek. [pause] Stephan, the Brotherhood cares very much about the fate of this planet and its people. The destabilisation of our order would have disastrous consequences for the hundreds of thousands who call this wasteland home, as well as for the balance of power in your little slices of paradise.

PRISONER: We'd all be better off without you. You're the ones who fucked up this goddamn planet. I ain't gonna help you fuck us up even more.

RESIDENT: So that's your final word? Nothing we can say to persuade you otherwise?

PRISONER: You're goddamn right it is!

RESIDENT: Very well. Rajeek?

RAJEEK: Yes sir.

PRISONER: I'm a fucking infiltrator, you goddamn headcases. I ain't gonna crack. Just give up now for fu—[unintelligible]