This was not right.

They had made a mistake.

Tanrex, the Investigative Mind, poured over the streams of data entering its systems. Again and again, it searched tirelessly for what had happened, without success.

The goal had been simple. All they would do is test their teleportation and time travel abilities simultaneously, bringing materials from the far past for analysis and conversion.

They had not meant to bring an entire city back, and on Earth, no less.

Distracted, Tanrex could not help but think about that city. So much trouble, so many delays, so many lost connections, all because of the Guardians. Their tenacity was unmatched, although they could not hope to comprehend their grand plans. This setback must have been due to their interference, somehow.

Returning to the data, it studied what had actually been brought back through the portal. It appeared to be ruins of human structures, torn apart by what seemed to be human weaponry. High levels of radiation contaminated the area, although it was unclear if that was simply due to the accident or if it was part of the city itself. Clearly ancient, at least several centuries years old, possibly from the 'Golden Era' the Guardians liked to talk about. However, as far as it could tell, there was nothing noteworthy besides that.

A thought came unbidden to it.

It is inconsequential.

Tarlex subsequently ignored the ruins, going over the experiment once more. They were not important. All that mattered was correcting the process.

It did not notice that, far away on Earth, beneath the ruins it had so recently brought into existence, something stirred.


"Look out, there's more coming from the tunnels!"

"Shit, I'm running low on ammo!"

"Where the hell is the demolition team? We can't hold here forever!"

Panicked voices shouted out in the cramped tunnel, echoing off into the distance. Hasty orders and warnings were thrown out into the air, as the men shouting them tried to establish some kind of order.

Mikhail ducked behind a nearby barricade, barely avoiding a series of glowing green projectiles as they soared over his head. Cowering behind the pile of sandbags and scrap metal, it was all he could do to try and reload his rifle, holding a new magazine in his trembling hand. The screams and chaos all around him made it difficult to even think, let alone keep his hands steady.

Around him, the northern entrance to Exhibition was being overrun. Machine gun and rifle fire bellowed around the main blockade as dozens of men tried to fight off the unknown threat ahead of them. Their defenses, built up to impressive strengths since the first appearance of the Dark Ones, were being pressed hard against this new threat.

The guards and militia were fighting with all they had, making sure the enemy paid for each step they took. Their weapons rang out constantly, and the tunnels shook with the occasional grenade or pipe bomb. Unfortunately, despite all their efforts, they were still being pushed further and further back. Bodies littered the ground, and many of the defensive barriers had been blown away.

As Mikhail peeked back over his cover, firing off another burst, he tried to make out the bizarre figures surging towards them. They weren't like the regular mutants that he had dealt with back at Riga, or even the ones he heard about from the stalkers.

These things were worse.

Bizarre, humanoid figures that seemed to be made out of chitin and bone scrambled through the tunnels ahead of him. Some of them were scrawny, sprinting forwards to slash and impale the closest defenders with their claws. Others seemed to hold back, letting the smaller ones take the brunt of the firepower while sending shards of some disturbing green crystal towards the defenders.

He had even seen one or two massive ones wielding fucking swords, of all things. It almost seemed like a joke to Mikhail when he first saw them. Then, after one of those creatures cleaved through three men at once, it quickly stopped being funny. The fact that it took three entire magazines just to take one of those bastards down made Mikhail even more frightened of them.

Despite how odd these creatures were, there was one fact about them that had made them far worse than even the most aggressive Nosalis packs: they never ran out of bodies.

They had already been fighting here for an entire day, with the creatures swarming them for hours at a time. It was surprising that they hadn't overrun the station yet, with how slow reinforcements from other stations were arriving. The only reason they had even managed to set up this defense had been due to an alert from a lucky stalker, who had managed to run to the station after his group was ambushed on the surface. If he hadn't warned them…

Mikhail shuddered, moving his mind on to more pressing matters. Such as the fact that his rifle was no longer firing.

Having spent his newest magazine seemingly in seconds, Mikhail scrounged through the ammo crates nearby, hoping that there were still a few spares left. It was a miracle they hadn't run out of ammunition completely with how many rounds they had already fired. Thankfully, he managed to find one that still had some rounds in it, slamming it into the rifle and racking the slide. In the midst of all the chaos, the weight of a full magazine was still one feeling that brought some measure of comfort to him.

"Everyone, fall back! Fall back!" a voice called out behind Mikhail. "We're moving to the rear barricades! Get over here!"

Backing away from his cover, Mikhail quickly began to sprint further towards the station, trying to stay out of the firing line of the rear guard. Tracers and green projectiles filled the air around him as he hurried, lighting the walls in a horrifyingly beautiful display of color. Others nearby quickly followed him, with a few aiming backwards and providing covering fire. He could hear a couple of dull thuds behind him, presumably someone throwing grenades at the creatures.

He was quickly corrected when a massive, black-green ball flew by his head, impacting a pile of sandbags ahead of him and scattering them throughout the tunnel. He could hear more screaming, from men either caught by that bizarre attack or simply hit from the other projectiles flying through the air, but he didn't have time to think about it. All he could do was get to the next defensive line and hope for the best.

Sparing a glance behind him, seeing the destroyed defenses and piles of bodies, Mikhail found himself with very little hope.

Climbing over the last set of barricades, Mikhail quickly moved into a firing position alongside those who had survived the retreat. There were still nearly thirty men left, but it was clear that all they could do was delay the monsters at this point. Most of their heavy weapons had already been destroyed or abandoned, and they didn't have the explosives necessary to try and demolish the tunnel.

Another man pushed through to Mikhail's side, hefting up a shotgun and placing several pipe bombs in easy reach. Glancing at him, Mikhail grimaced at the sight of one of those strange projectiles in the man's leg, bleeding profusely and staining his trousers a dark red. It was obvious that, should this position fall, this man would not survive another retreat.

The man turned back towards Mikhail. "Don't worry about it," he grumbled, "these little shits only scratched me." Grabbing a grenade, he started to chuckle. "Compared to the Reds or the Nazis, fighting these bony fucks is nothing."

Concerned, Mikhail turned to look at the others nearby. A collection of dirty, exhausted guards met his eyes, checking their weapons and doing their best to prepare for the inevitable. Most of them were wounded in some way, bleeding from cuts or those unnatural green crystals. Even if they managed to hold out, many of these men would likely die from their wounds. There were simply too many wounded and not enough doctors or medical supplies to help them. Only a handful, himself included, had managed to avoid being hurt thus far.

The only reason they hadn't broken completely yet was one of those men. Clad in thick, black-and-grey body armor, and wielding a heavily modified Kalashnikov, the soldier had been vital in coordinating the defense and leading the guards. His figure was pockmarked with several green crystals, but he remained standing tall, encouraging the others with shouts and battle cries.

He was no mere militiaman or guard. He was a Spartan Ranger, who had recently arrived from Polis to investigate the rumors coming from Exhibition. The Order's logo was proudly emblazoned on the man's helmet, shining out almost defiantly at the creatures that dared try to strike it down.

Pointing forwards, the figure cried out towards the chaos in front of him.

"Look! Look at what these mutants have done here! They charge us, fight us, try to bleed us dry!"

Turning back, the Ranger rose his arms into the air.

"But we have not fallen! We have held under their assaults, time and time again, paying them in kind for every injustice they have forced upon us!"

Overpowering even the inhuman shrieks in the distance, the man's voice continued to grow in volume.

"Soldiers of Exhibition, of Riga, of Alexeyev! They think that they have broken us, that we cannot hold under the weight of their numbers! Will you let them through, towards your friends and families? Or will you prove, once again, that these bastards aren't worth the bullets we send towards them?"

The resounding shouts of the other defenders answered him, echoing out in defiance and anger.

"FOR EXHIBITION! FOR THE COMMONWEALTH! FOR THE METRO!"

Cheering out, Mikhail aimed his rifle back towards the tunnel entrance. Spotting more of those disgusting creatures, he aimed carefully, lining up the sights and waiting for them to get closer.

They would not have Exhibition while he drew breath.


It took two more hours for the last defenses to fall around Exhibition.

The defenders put up an admirable fight, taking many of the Hive with them. Unfortunately, their ammunition ran out before the enemy ran out of bodies. The last defenders died fighting, using their weapons to desperately club away at the throngs of Thralls and Acolytes that pushed towards them before finally falling to the sheer weight of numbers.

Their spirited defense bought enough time for most of the inhabitants to flee, but it was not enough to save everyone. Instead of hundreds being slaughtered in the passageways and sheds of Exhibition, only a few dozen were left behind to be butchered. Knights plowed through the ramshackle huts, scattering their contents throughout the pathways as the last remaining humans were hunted down.

Weaving through the destroyed settlement, Nuvur Kevun watched the proceedings with a contemplative gaze.

Normally, he had only heard of Guardians trying to hold against Hive groups as numerous as his. For mere humans, without a speck of Light to fortify them, there should have been no obstacle. And yet, despite his efforts, they had managed to hold him back for far longer than he had anticipated. Clearly he had underestimated them.

He would not do so again.

Looking towards the station's southern entrance, he thought of the broken holes in the tunnels, and the gates leading to the surface. The surface, while clearly irradiated enough to be fatal for humans, had not been difficult to traverse for those that served him.

As he thought of the humans that escaped, he noticed a map hung up by the now-ruined defenses, showing dozens of other settlements spread out throughout the area. While some had been crossed out, it seemed that humans had infested the entire network down in the tunnels.

Laughing, he began to plan.