The dust finally settled; books of various sizes fell off the shelves, full of bullet holes, and most fell apart as gravity took control. Pages scattered across the floor, being naught more than a haphazard mess. What came next was as unsettling as what came before. Silence consumed the library entirely. There was nothing but a pitch black, empty space, illuminated by what little the burning books could provide. Fireteam Black stood besides one another, nearly back-to-back in preparation for whatever ambush was coming.
After his momentary panic settled away, Brian realized what he had done. He shuddered, collapsing down onto his rear. A shock blade had managed to pierce straight through his armor, stabbing into his flesh. Blood trickled down the left side of his chestpiece, with his open wound stinging in the bitter night air.
With their local medic on site, Vandyn rushed to the young Hunter’s aid.
“Oh dear, oh dear, oh dear… this wound looks to be very deep.” Vandyn mumbled.
“How bad is it, doc?” Brian asked. He tried to move the arm, but it only made him wince in response. The arm fell limp.
“It is quite bad, I’m afraid. The culprit knew exactly what they were doing.” Vandyn’s Ghost transmatted in a first aid kit, which Vandyn promptly opened up and began pulling things out of. “If I don’t do anything immediately, you’ll completely lose the use of your arm.”
Brian heaved ragged breathes, nodding his head rapidly. “J-just do what you have to, doc.”
Meanwhile, the rest of the fireteam prepared to tackle the ambush. While it had been silent for a time, the attackers were ready to make their play. Quiet steps echoed through the library, with ages-old paper crunching beneath swift targets.
“Who art these invaders?” A voice spoke from the dark, in a known, yet unknown language.
“Pitiful and foolish light thieves wander the land. They haveth no place here.” Another remarked, with cold and clicking tones.
“What are they saying?” Sylus asked, hoping one of their scholarly Warlock friends might have an answer.
“I don’t speak Eliksni, unfortunately.” Emperor responded, leveling his pulse rifle with the upper deck of the library.
A distinct Fallen shout rung out as the attack began; Stealth Vandals emerged from the darkness, with one specifically targeting the preoccupied Vandyn. Their stealth technology had an odd tell, however. Light refracted off the stealth field in such a way that, if looked at right, one could catch a glimpse of the assailant in question.
Providence drew forth The Devil You Know from a holster placed right upon his right thigh, with nigh-impossible reflexes. From the second he laid his hand over the gun to the second he pulled the trigger, it must have been only 2 or 3 seconds. No one was really paying enough attention to notice.
The Exo Hunter slammed his index finger back on the trigger, and let loose the fury. One, two, three shots were fired, sailing right over Vandyn’s head, who offered a delayed reaction to the incident. Bullets entered and exited, striking the Stealth Vandal’s right shoulder, throat and head. The head went pop, just like that; ether rapidly escaped the neck hole, and the Vandal dropped.
“Oh my dear Traveler, please warn me if you’re going to do that again.” Vandyn remarked, still focused on fixing up Brian.
“You’re welcome.” Providence replied coldly, leaving to focus on the rest of the assailants.
Arxus and Sylus were up on the second floor of the library, back to back. Sylus wielded his Voidwatcher auto rifle; it was a rather unique piece of weaponry, containing technology that he never really seemed to talk about. Meanwhile, Arxus had the Comedian; a standard-issue Vanguard shotgun.
“This is just like old times. Patrolling the Cosmodrome, looking for danger. I remember it as though it were only yesterday.” Sylus remarked, with a bit of laughter in his voice.
“It really feels like it was yesterday. Time sure flies.” Arxus smiled beneath his helmet.
“Looks like danger found us, this time. Remember what I taught you. Eyes up and forward.” Sylus spoke to his apprentice, as of now, remembering the practices of war were absolutely paramount.
“Eyes up and forward. I got it.” Arxus watched at the darkness, waiting for that brief glint to appear.
Rather than assault at any specific angle, two Vandals attacked them simultaneously; one from both sides. As they both lunged, Arxus ducked and turned and Sylus swung his foot in a roundhouse. Arxus jabbed the shotgun trigger and unloading buckshot into Sylus’ attacker, while Sylus kicked Arxus’ attacker off the second floor railing. The first Vandal was blown back, and the second plummeted into their book bonfire, smothering it.
“That’s the way, pupil. Quick and clean.” Sylus congratulated Arxus, until another group of Vandals came after them. “Come, this way!” Sylus spoke, ushering Arxus to escape in the opposing direction. The Titan laid down suppressing fire with his auto rifle, riddling the attackers in a hail of bullets. He quickly turned and ran, fleeing with Arxus to another location of the library.
Elsewhere, Emperor-19 was fighting by himself. He stalked through dozens of bookcases, stacked high with books of all sorts and varieties. “If only I were here on other business. I would curious what sort of material those from the Golden Age enjoyed to read.” He remarked to himself, before tightening the grip on his pulse rifle. Occasional gunfire sounded off from elsewhere in the library, and it kept Emperor on alert.
Snickering and laughter reverberated through his side of the library. Footsteps darted through empty hallways and lonely corridors. Emperor lifted his pulse rifle and fired off several bursts into the bookcases. Wood splintered and books were shredded, but nothing came of it beyond ruined architecture.
“Scoundrels. The lot of you.” Emperor remarked.
As soon as Emperor had said that, he was attacked on all sides. Stealth Vandals emerged from his blindsides and from around corners, using the Exo’s body like a pin cushion for their shock blades. Emperor coughed, having been rather surprised of this outcome. Perhaps, he had expected it, though.
Emperor slumped limp shortly thereafter. The Vandals pulled their swords from his body, and the Exo dropped to the floor. The Vandals circled about the limp Exo, prodding it with their shock blades to make sure it was truly dead.
“Howeth can we know?”
“I haveth seen the light thieves before. They cannot revive themselves without aid.”
“Taketh his gear. We could make use of it.”
“No, no. Take that pitiful Light creature. We shant allow its allies to revive it.”
However, unknown to them, Emperor’s body began to shift.
“Wait… something is happen. Quick, smother the little light!”
The Vandals made a grab for Emperor’s Ghost, but it was already far too late. Emperor’s corpse sprung to life in a mountain of flame, lighting the surrounding library on fire. “I am the Light.” He remarked, before jumping into action. He thrust forth his palm in a flaming burst, completely incinerating the nearest Vandal. While one attempted to strike at the Exo, Emperor caught the shock blade, and melted it.
It was about then that it had dawned upon the Vandals; Emperor let them succeed on purpose, just to draw them out. It worked flawlessly. Emperor snatched a Vandal by the throat, and threw them against a nearby bookcase.
As Emperor’s Radiance came to an end, the rest of the fireteam rushed in to see what the commotion had been about.
“Emperor? What happened here?” Sylus asked. When he noticed that everything was dead and burning, he seemed a bit uneasy. He never truly trusted Warlocks, due to their ever-expanding oddities. Their destructive nature was just another reason, though seeing combat had ended put him in a state of relief. Sylus holstered Voidwatcher on his back.
“The Fallen parasites figured they could outsmart me. It didn’t go in their favor.” Emperor commented, holstered his pulse rifle as well. He walked back towards the center of the library, where Vandyn and Brian still remained.
Back at the center, it had seemed that their assailants had been vanquished. Vandyn put the finishing touches on Brian’s wound, making sure he was comfortable about it as well. “You’re lucky I was here to aid you, Mr. Banks. I am positively certain that the only other option would have surely been a bullet through the head, though we all know how difficult the resurrection process can be.”
Brian rolled his shoulder and sighed. “Yeah, thanks. I think I prefer your methods.” Brian shuddered, seeing how Providence eyed him from across the room, with his hand cannon in hand.
“Hey, guys… come look at this.” It was Arxus who spoke.
The rest of the fireteam came to investigate whatever it was that Arxus was so interested in. Brian lifted himself off his feet and picked up his scout rifle. Sylus approached Arxus’ flank and saw what it was; the first Vandal that Providence killed, with its head blown off. The House colors were purple, and some of the armor carried traces of Hive chitin.
“So, the Hive were indeed once here... This Fallen House must have put a swift end to them.” Emperor mused, placing a hand to his chin.
“I haven’t seen these colors before.” Sylus remarked, kneeling before the dead Vandal. Upon the cape wore an odd marking, like a hash pattern with more curvature to it. “We should report this to the Vanguard. They had their suspicions about there being a new House, but now we know the truth about it.”
Heavy static seemed to fill the air now. So much so that it was a bit nauseating when it first came on, causing some of the fireteam to wince in response.
“I would not advise that.”
A voice played across hidden loudspeakers in Seattle. It was deep and raspy, but definitely English.
Fireteam Black looked upon themselves with confusion and surprise, but their body gestures suggested that one of them should respond to the voice. Sylus did, eventually.
“And who are you to advise anything?” He asked.
“I am the Kell of this House. You do not belong here.”