The settlement was barely surviving, repeated attacks over the last few months had almost crippled the outer walls and over half the guards lay dead, or injured. The inner walls remained mostly intact, but the mutants were so close to the women and children within the heart of the settlement, that something had to be done.
Settlement Hope's council would meet to discuss the best course of action for the group of survivors, as it became clear that their newly discovered 'Eden' wasn't in fact, as green as they had believed it to be, years before when they set out on their journey.
Representatives from the various castes within Hope's community met in the council chamber, along with the Settlement's Chief. Chief Vladikov was a respected man; a survivor from the Old Days, an ex-CEG marine and a visionary that one day; Hope would find its namesake on this hellish world left behind by the Great Exodus.
Chief Vladikov approached his podium, flanked by two of the Settlement's best trained warriors; clad in salvaged exo-armour and wielding modified CEG AK95 Assault Rifles, mighty bayonets protruding from under their barrels. These were men who had seen the Mutants first hand, and survived to fight another day, by Vladikov's side.
The Chief gestured to the council members to sit. His imposing glare cast around the chambers; taking in the looks of fear and anxiety among his people.
"Settle down." He spoke, his deep, course voice echoing through the chamber, commanding instant respect. "Council of Hope, we have upon our hands a most demanding responsibility - to ensure the survival of our people amongst this new plague."
The Chief gestured to his guards to stand down as he gripped his podium to make a speech.
"We have fallen upon hard, troubling times. We have seen our loved ones taken from us, we have seen our own people up and leave our very world in search of another, leaving us behind to be consumed by the hells our ancestors created. But we survived the Great Exodus, and we survived the Purge, and we survived the Uprising!"
The Chief paused momentarily, looking around the chambers. "And we will survive these new trials, too. There is one thing we do not lose, and that is Hope."
"And such, the time has come that I must make a decision that will set in motion the path of each and every one of us, a decision that has weighed heavy on my heart since we arrived here in this cursed 'Eden' told to us by our forefathers. A decision, that I have now made."
Chief Vladikov pointed to the observation window; the morning sun casting her rays over the skeletal ruins of the once great Metropolis of Ancient London, vegetation clawing back at the once-proud human civilisation, a thick, heavy fog hanging in the air just above the ground as light shafts carved through it. But, beyond that, outstretched onto the horizon was a great expanse of open land; forests had sprung up where there were once roads, giant, mutated trees many times bigger than the largest of the Old Days reigned supreme in this new world.
"We will make the journey to the North. To the Great Plains." The Chief spoke. The council chambers soon filled with murmuring and anxious discussion as the council members spoke amongst themselves as to the Chief's announcement.
"Settle down. There will be time for reflection later. There is no time now, time is something we do not have the luxury of possessing. We will leave our settlement here and make the journey North, to the Great Plains. My scouts have told reports of lush fields of plant and animal life, free from the savagery of the mutants that infest the ruins of the Metropolis. While we have been mislead by ancient legends of 'Eden' here in Ancient London, it is by a turn of fate that we have discovered the Great Plains, and our destiny awaits us there."
The Chief stepped back from the podium, he was then approached by one of the guards who spoke closely, seemingly on edge.
Vladikov nodded, reaching for the rifle slung over his shoulder as he turned to the council members once more.
"But we have no time, we must move now! They have almost breached the outer defences of Hope. Take what you have and head for the Main Gate, the Guard will protect you while we set in motion our new journey! It is time to put into practice what we have been training for!" Chief Vladikov exclaimed, raising his rifle into the air while the council members rushed out of the chamber; returning to their quarters to collect what they could and round up their people.
The Chief turned to his personal Guard, a man named Commander Rok.
"Take your men and head to the Main Gate, protect our people at any cost. I will be take a detachment to the Hangar and ready our transport. If all goes well we will meet you at the Gate in short order. Do not open that Gate until you have my word, do you understand, Rok?"
"Absolutely." Commander Rok replied, nodding in acknowledgement. "My Chief, what if you cannot bring the transport? What of us, then?"
"Failure is not an option. We will be there, but we might need more time. See to it that none of those savages break into the camp. Go now!" Vladikov replied
Commander Rok saluted, gesturing to a a nearby group of similarly-clad Hope Guards to move out. He clutched his personal radio to his mouth. "All Crimson and Phoenix Guards to report to Main Gate immediately. Combat Ready. I will be there personally, Command Rok, out".
"God Speed." The commander said, before turning to his men and moving out into the myriad passageways that would lead to the Main Gate of the Settlement, followed by a dozen or so heavily armed soldiers clutching bayonet-equipped AK95 rifles.
The Chief and his men would head out to the Hangar; there rested a mighty transporter vehicle. Fully articulated, quad-tracked mobile weapons platform. A relic of the Old Days, a CEG-era Super Armoured Tank. The main turret had been removed and the gunnery deck hollowed out to provide space for refugees, along with supplies and equipment needed for a long journey over treacherous land.
However, the Tank's secondary armament remained intact: four, dual-linked rotary assault cannons, 125MM in bore diameter, CIMD-design, each rotary cannon fed with a linked belt-feed system and a 24-round drum. High cyclic rate of fire combined with switchable magazines for sustained firing of high-explosive fragmentation shells.
The Tank had seen many new additions since its service in the Old Days; makeshift armour panels had been clad on her hull, applique panelling providing some additional protection. Barbed wire, razor wire, spikes fashioned from ancient Supersteel beams ground to a point. Upon her bow; a mighty plow with a jury-rigged Phased Plasma Disassembler for breaking down large obstacles. All would make this vehicle a true, veritable mobile fortress; destined to take the people of Hope on their new journey.
Indeed, the Chief had foreseen a flaw in the Old Legends of 'Eden' being harboured within the dead carcass of Ancient London, and upon arrival had discovered the Super Tank in a nearby military outpost. Secretly, his men had worked on creating a chariot that would lead his people out of this hell and into the Great Plains beyond. Now was the time to put that plan into motion.
The Tank rested in an armoured hangar enclosure about a kilometre from the main Settlement, it would not be easy to break through to the hangar, but Vladikov's men had reassured him that the hangar was sealed and well protected from the hordes of mutants that roam the open spaces between the ruined sky-scrapers and fallen buildings. Upon arrival, the Chief and his men would use the Tank to carve a path to the Main Gate of the Hope Settlement, where they would pick up the refugees and begin their new Journey.