Chapter 1: "What we call the beginning is often the end." –T.S. Eliot

The HAMMERDOWN-Protocol had failed us.

I can still remember watching, waiting for answers. It had all been so sudden, so horrendous. I was stationed at Fort Hamilton when it first happened. The squad and I were just sitting there, jaws dropped, watching the news. We knew we were going to be deployed eventually. With Fort Hamilton being one of the closest military bases to Manhattan, we were surprised we hadn't already been deployed. They were going to need all the help they could get, from the looks of it.

However, the looks of it almost made me not want to go there. At first, I was convinced it was a terrorist attack, like 9-11. I was only 19 when that struck, and watching the World Trade Center fall scarred me. It scarred everyone. But this scar went deeper. Whatever this was, it had more power and driving force behind it. The Statue of Liberty, which once stood for all of America and our greatness as a nation, had been decapitated. And not far away from that, an oil tanker had been flung into the city. No type of human technology has the power to do that and deface the Statue of Liberty within such a short time frame. This was not the work of Al-Qaeda. This was something entirely different.

It wasn't long before Major Randor gave us a briefing and orders. "Troops, Manhattan is under attack. We're not completely sure what the attacker is, but I can tell you this: it's big and it's tough. However, this does not make it impossible! Now is the time to crush what crushes us, to destroy what destroys us. I understand some of you probably have family and friends in Manhattan; view this as your chance, troops, to give them and the other good people of Manhattan a better shot at surviving the night!" there was a brief cheer, and military psychology started breaking out. Those who took Randor's speech in – and who probably had family in Manhattan as well – were getting pumped up, ready for combat. Then there were the others shuffling nervously, not wanting to rush into the unknown. Rumors were floating around about the intruder; some said it was a giant war machine that China gave North Korea as a Christmas present. More religious individuals said it was the coming of the apocalypse, a punishment of some sort. Perhaps it was; based on what was going on out there, things didn't seem like they were going to get better soon.

Besides, if it was a God-sent retribution, was there a better place to start than Manhattan? Any urban area with that many people is doomed to sin. Although the city was considered to be a place of wonders by many, it had darker sides. I have seen its true face in my time, growing up there with my aunt and uncle. The gathering dirt, sex and corruption are a death sentence. In the night, you can almost hear the song of disgraces play through the air, thickening the atmosphere. I always knew there would come a time, be it religious or political or anything in between, when the residue of humanity would be judged and found guilty, and they'd all look up with pleading eyes and beg mercy. But as sincere as they may be, they had a choice at one point. They chose their fate. Your choices define your actions, and your actions define who you are. Mercy would be irrelevant and uncalled for.