southernisms: (Wyld Wind)
[personal profile] southernisms
"Hello, Wyld Wind..." the man on the other side of the portal greeted Gavin as he descended the ramp. The following pause was somewhat dramatic, as if to lend weight to the fact that he knew the PPD officer-turned-assassin by more than simply his code name.

"... Or should I say Gavin MacGowan? I must say it's surprising to see one of the Powers Division here on Primal Earth. I can only assume that Provost Marchand sent you here to extend the olive branch, so to speak."

If making him paranoid had been its intended effect, it failed; Gavin was more surprised by the man's presence alone than how he knew his real name. And given the position of the one who had been waiting for him, that fact was not terribly surprising... though that might have been his true intent all along. "Emperor Cole? What are you doing here?"

"That's my own business, young man. I have to wonder, however, about your loyalty to Praetoria. Can you truly accept putting our fair city at risk of invasion by these lawless creatures of destruction?"

Something inside Gavin finally snapped at the immortal's not-quite accusation.

"I've killed good people in the name of Praetoria, Cole," he threw back with a cold anger that would have been out-of-character for him under any other circumstances. The faces of Cleopatra and Interrogator Kang flashed through his mind, only two of many lives he had taken, two individuals who had been as devoted to the people as he was, albeit in their different ways. He had spared Vanessa DeVore -- and thankfully Praetor Tilman opted not to question him too deeply on it -- but only because she had promised that she would curb the violence from the more militant factions within the Resistance... to say nothing of his duty to protect all people. And a powerful mentalist like her most definitely needed protection from Praetor Tilman's psychic leeching. "Don't question my loyalty."

"And yet here you are now, seeking to stop other deaths," Marcus continued. "But your hands are already stained with blood, Gavin... much like mine. Nevertheless, we both have done what we did to protect what we believe in. That is why I fought Hamidon, to protect the world. And it is why I have made Praetoria into what it is today, to protect the people from themselves."

The act of protecting was what he understood; everything Gavin had done, every mission he undertook had been for the sake of the people. It was why he had joined the PPD in the first place -- he had never thought of himself as anything more than a mere soldier fighting to keep the innocents of their city safe. Each opponent he fought, each threat he'd ended with his own hands was the cost of a peaceful night's sleep for the citizens of Praetoria. But it was Marcus Cole's final declaration of who he was saving from what that left the young man incredulous. "From themselves?"

"Yes, Gavin. People are weak... at least, when it comes to doing the right thing. When left to their own free will, they will seek only to destroy that which is good and pure. They simply cannot be trusted with the choice to do what is wrong. I removed that choice when I created Praetoria, and it has flourished because of that. The Seers halt the process before a citizen can even think of making that choice, the Police ensure that those who slip through the cracks are apprehended before they can do lasting damage, and you, the Powers Division, are our final line of defence."

The assassin had, admittedly, not questioned the precise mechanics of their society. Even when confronted with the dilemma time and time again, he chose to defend it. But not because he believed it was right, but that it was the only thing protecting the last vestiges of humanity. "Shouldn't we be more concerned with protecting our own world? A war with this alternate world is only going to cost more lives, both Primal and Praetorian!"

Marcus shook his head with what seemed like sadness or regret. "Primal Earth allows the tragedy of free will to continue, even with some of the worst examples of humanity. But they are not content to destroy merely their own world; they likewise seek to destroy ours. Even now -- as you have seen for yourself -- they invade us on a smaller scale with their Longbow and Arachnos, intent on the destruction our very society."

The Emperor's face hardened once more into an icy mask of determination. "I will not give them that option. I will strike them down before they can act and ensure that no others ever get the chance to make that choice, the choice to destroy. Humanity cannot be trusted with that choice of destruction; only someone like myself can."

The Emperor's lecture was only making Gavin angrier by the minute, which was an impressive feat given the white-haired man's usually even temper. The long years and tragedies had worn down the one-time hero and saviour of humanity, and it would have been merely tragic if not for the fact that Marcus Cole was bringing down innocent people along with him. In spirit, he had given up, something Gavin could not stand for. "Maybe you don't believe in humanity any more, Cole, but I still do."

Marcus smiled for a brief moment before his face returned to the neutral expression echoed on all the posters plastered throughout the city. "You remind me of myself, so long ago. I, too, once believed that humanity was good, that it could come together and save itself from the horrors that it was capable of. But it is impossible... I have learned that lesson the hard way."

His eyes bored into Gavin's, as if piercing his very soul. "As will you. Your time on Primal Earth will show you the true nature of humanity. That I am sure of."

As a young rookie member of the Praetorian Police Department still in his teens, Gavin would have flinched. But now, after all he had seen, he returned that gaze with equal measure. Too many lives were now depending on him and what he had resolved to do. "And you? What are you going to do?"

"I have other matters to attend to, Wyld Wind. This will be the last time you will see me for some time. When we meet again, it will be either be with you by my side as we enter Primal Earth... or with you staring down one of the War Walkers. Make your choice wisely."

Gavin's sole regret was for those he had been forced to kill for the sake of Praetoria, that there had not been some way to save them along with the people he protected. But his service to the Empire was not something he could ever regret, and even the discovery of the person Cole truly was did nothing to jade him. He had never truly served it -- or the Emperor -- in the first place. His one true loyalty remained. And if he had to leave the only home he had ever known to protect the innocent of not one, but two worlds, what was one more sacrifice?

"I already have, Cole."
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