Noon. The sun was at the tip of the sky again, shining down with a brilliant gaze across the Seattle wasteland. Sunlight shimmered off bits of broken glass and barely reflected on the surfaces of rusted cars and trucks. Footsteps pattered through the streets at a decent pace; twelve footsteps to be exact, of six individuals. Fireteam Black carefully navigated their way through the ruins of Old Seattle, but by now they knew that the odds were heavily weighed against them. Every so often, the Kell of Veils returned to taunt them about the futility of their mission.
“My kin control these lands. You have no hope of surviving.”
Perhaps it was hubris that drove the Kell to mock the Guardians, or perhaps it was a sort of psychological warfare meant to wear down their morale. Nevertheless, the Kell of Veils continued his occasional broadcasts. His loud and raspy voice played across what seemed to be an expansive system of loudspeakers, so the Kell’s voice was never distant.
“He’s full of shit.” Providence said, abruptly. Some of the other Guardians chuckled at the sudden and unexpected statement.
“Be it a House of parasites fully engrossed with the shadows to mock us from the darkness.” Emperor replied. “He’s just trying to toy with us. We’ll pay the mongrel back in full once we find him.”
“It won’t happen. We won’t allow ourselves to get ambushed again.” Sylus replied. “We know these “Unseen” specialize in cloaking tech. We’ll be ready for them if they come around again.”
“It isn’t very good tech.” Providence remarked, as he and the rest of Fireteam Black entered into the remains of an old shopping district. “Fallen stealth fields always have a certain tell about them. You can see the way the light reflects off the field; it isn’t perfect. You just have to be paying attention.” What he had said was true. Providence managed to headshot a Vandal back in the library. What had been so surprising about that was it was even in the dark; Providence likely had awareness levels higher than most Hunters.
“That’s how we get them, then; provided they attempt to attack us up close.” Sylus commented, lowering Voidwatcher into his grasp. He had an easy feeling about their new location; it was an old shopping district that had once been a hub of commerce, now reduced to silence and a foreboding air. The wind rustled through the landscape; time stood still in a place where life ceased to be. A post-apocalypse as it was, with nothing but six Guardians roaming through to stop a Kell. Skeletons littered the ground about, and shopping carts were twisted into rusted hulls of little compare. Sylus always talked to Brian about how much negative energy there was about in places of great tragedy.
Sylus had stopped, with an apparent purpose of observing the scenery that now lay before Fireteam Black. Brian had known Sylus long enough to realize that he wasn’t observing, but rather contemplating.
“I know that look on your face. It’s that same look you always get when we’re going through places like this.” Brian commented.
“It doesn’t get any easier. Seeing all this death about, it really begins to bother you.” Sylus himself always considered to be altruistic; a bona-fide image of all that was still good in the world. Seeing such scenes of violence and corpses clinging to each other, it really disturbed him. It appealed to his humanity and his sense of righteousness. It made him desire to seek justice all the more sooner. Something else always seemed to bother him, though.
“I’m sure we’re all bothered by it. It isn’t like you’re the only one. Besides, isn’t that why we’re out here; to prevent stuff like that?” Brian was quick to retort.
“It’s different. The Golden Age was our hubris. Humanity thought they could control the galaxy, and they very well tried to. The Collapse reminded us that we aren’t the only ones out there. A huge percentage of humanity, all wiped out by some unknown force we couldn’t even comprehend. Maybe we deserved it. I don’t rightfully know.” Sylus reached the entrance of a bombed-out storefront; any products once sold there were charred black, indiscernible from whatever they once were.
“That’s an incredibly jaded thing of you to say.” Brian responded. The rest of the fireteam moved ahead of Brian and Sylus.
“Maybe it is.” Sylus watched his footing, after a wrong step caused glass to break and crinkle beneath his feet. “It doesn’t change how I feel now. Fallen, Hive… whatever they call themselves, I have to do something about it. When I was back at Twilight Gap, things happened there that no Guardian, no person should ever have to witness in their lifetime.”
“I’ve heard the stories. They say Saladin led the charge to victory.” Brian replied with a somber tone. He sounded quite serious all throughout his replies, as if he knew how this sort of talk made Sylus feel. It was unexpected for Brian, being that he was so often known as a comedic relief.
“It’s mostly true.” Sylus responded. “The Fallen hounded us for a whole day. To think, the first time the Fallen Houses actually managed to unite themselves, we almost lost. We lost a lot of good Guardians in that battle. Many more became heroes. When Saladin appeared and rallied the last of us, we managed to break through their defense line and liberate Twilight Gap. There were a few Titans I met that day, and I’ll never forget them.” Sylus spoke fondly of his comrades, with a sense of reverence and camaraderie.
“I was never there for it. I think, most of the Guardians here weren’t here for it.” Brian remarked. “It always amazes me just how much you’ve been through, Sylus.”
“Make no mistake; Twilight Gap was one of the City’s darkest days. Yet, leaders are forged through the fires of war.” Perhaps that was why he was chosen. Sylus was a natural leader. All he could do now was make the City proud and not let down his fireteam.
“You’re a good leader, Sylus.” Brian replied.
“Thank you, Brian.” Sylus nodded his head, before both he and Brian returned into the embrace of the warm Seattle sun.
“We’ve got movement up ahead. Take some cover.” Providence suddenly spoke up. This prompted the entire fireteam to find appropriate cover to hide behind. Sylus, Arxus and Emperor hid beneath a large bus, with Vandyn, Brian and Providence hiding beneath nearby cars. Providence had himself perched right at the hood of the car, being sure that the sun was at such an angle that it wouldn’t produce glare on his sniper scope.
Far off down the street, Fireteam Black had witnessed perhaps a first since their arrival in Seattle; the House of Veils wasn’t hiding this time. With that said, it wasn’t as if they weren’t heavily armed. A squad of Fallen patrolled down the street, flanked with Shanks and Dregs. At the forefront, there was a Captain wielding a Shrapnel Launcher. Rounding out the squad, the massive Fallen Walker shook the earth, marked with the emblem of the House of Veils.
“They have a Walker, that’s just great!” Brian expressed false glee.
“No, no… something’s off.” Sylus remarked. “It seems like they’re looking for something.”
“Scavenging, maybe?” Arxus asked.
“It’s possible. Up until this point, we’ve never encountered them out in the field. They’re an immensely reclusive House.” Sylus continued to watch the Fallen troop movement. As the Walker lurched towards the nearest intersection, the Captain shouted in another language. The Dregs broke off and scattered into nearby buildings, accompanied with Shanks.
“Filthy parasites.” Emperor remarked, feeling a great abhorrence towards Fallen. Given how he spoke about them, it was clear that he disliked them the most, perhaps even loathed them. His constant reference of them as parasites likely alluded to their survival amounting to nothing more than scavenging off of dead civilizations.
“With a conniving Kell like theirs, I feel like it might be something more than that.” Sylus continued. “Brian, Emperor, we’ll take the left side up into the buildings. Vandyn, Providence, Arxus, you take the right side. If we’re lucky, maybe we’ll find a good enough position to flank them.”
“You got it, boss.” Arxus responded. Vandyn, Providence and him slowly crouch-walked away from their cover, passing into nearby conjoined buildings. Arxus took the lead, slowly moving up a decrepit-looking stairway. Dimly lit light bulbs hung from the ceiling, flickering and rocking about every time the Walker took a step. In this claustrophobic environment, there was plenty of cover for the Guardians to take, if things got loud.
Meanwhile, Brian, Sylus and Emperor took the left side, passing up into an old café. They had to be extra careful around furniture, as they avoided knocking any down, which would certainly alert the prowling Dregs. Sylus moved up first, followed in by Emperor and Brian at the back.
“How are we supposed to take out that Walker?” Brian whispered.
“You have your sniper on you?” Sylus asked a counter-question.
“Well, yeah… I never leave home without it. Why?”
“Hopefully, I’ll be able to coordinate a proper attack. Arxus and I will unleash hell on that Walker’s legs. When the engine opens up, you and Providence will lay in on it until the thing can’t move any longer. Emperor and Vandyn will be on clean-up duty.” Sylus told this to Brian, but made sure comms were open so the entire fireteam could hear it.
“Just point me where I can shoot. I’ll handle it.” Providence responded, over the comms.
“Soon. Everyone, take your positions on the rooftops.”
Both squads of Guardians ascended up their respective buildings, reaching the rooftops. Plenty of cover was to be had there as well, making the perfect spot to hold down. Brian laid down upon the rooftop and pulled out his precious sniper rifle; moving forward to such an angle, he peered down over the streets and watched as the Walker turned itself around and began to walk away. Sylus got into position behind an air conditioning unit, and pulled out his prized possession.
He set his Gjallarhorn down against the roof, pulling it open to load in another rocket. “Everyone in position?” He asked, as he closed the weapon.
“Yep, all clear here.” Brian responded.
“Ready and waiting.” Arxus responded.
“Get on with it.” Providence responded.
“Vandyn, ready for action!” Vandyn responded.
“Time to exterminate.” Emperor responded.
“Arxus, you have first volley.” Sylus gave the go-ahead.
Arxus pulled out his own rocket launcher, being of an older model that the Vanguard issued. State-of-the-art, but hardly as reliable as Sylus and his Gjallarhorn. He ascended from his cover and aimed, and… his fingers hammered back the trigger twice, as fast as he could fire his rocket launcher. The rockets flew down with intense velocity, and hit its mark. The rockets detonated upon the Fallen Walker’s right front leg, leaving a pretty sizable scorch mark and heavy damage. Fireteam Black lost their element of surprise at that point.
“We’re under attack! Go and get them, thoust fools!” The Captain immediately started barking orders. The Walker slowly turned itself around to face the direction it had been fired from, and the Dregs and Shanks filtered out from the buildings at street level.
Vandyn and Emperor immediately started gunning them down, with Dreg heads popping off left and right, and Shanks dropping to the ground after being riddled with a hail of gunfire. Sylus fired off his own rocket, just as the Walker started firing off its machine gun. The Gjallarhorn impacted the same front leg, with Wolfpack Rounds tearing through the armor. The armor layer shattered and the Walker stumbled and fell, unable to keep itself standing. That’s when it exposed its engine, and Sylus signaled the second attack.
“Black, lay into it!” Sylus shouted.
Providence and Brian both started firing off at the engine with their snipers, ringing up multiple direct hits in rapid succession. Bits of metal flew off as sniper fire ripped through the engine, though it wasn’t nearly enough to put the Walker down for good. Even with the combined efforts of Providence and Brian, the Walker slammed its exhaust hatch shut and the Walker was able to rise up again.
“Up on the roof, you fools!” The Captain shouted. The remaining Dregs and Shanks redirected their efforts towards the buildings that Fireteam Black holed up on, and the fireteam suddenly found themselves under sniper fire as well.
“Snipers, across the way!” Arxus shouted, ducking behind a billboard. Stealth Vandals had managed to sneak in after the fireteam’s initial assault, and they suppressed the Guardians with Wire Rifles.
Providence and Brian maintained their positions, firing off into the Vandals. It was entirely at random, but the distinct sound of escaping Ether was all too frequent. Providence fired a shot off into a Vandal’s leg, causing it to flip face first right into the ground, several stories below.
“Emperor, Vandyn! Cover your fireteam!” Sylus shouted over the roar of gunfire. The two Warlocks rushed to the second floor, and attempted to ward off the Dregs and Shanks that invaded their buildings. It was a simple task, given how weak both were. Though, they were large in numbers. The gunfire never seemed to cease, now that it had started.
“Damn you, vile vermin!” Emperor yelled, as he threw his palm forth and engulfed a Dreg in flame. He dodged and weaved through what had been a living room; rusted pots and other assorted objects flew onto the floor, being struck in a hail of constant missed shots. He sprinted out of cover, grabbing a Shank whole and chucking the machine straight at a wall. The mechanical menace fell to pieces immediately, and Emperor huffed.
In their rush to take out all the reinforcements, Fireteam Black had forgotten about the Walker.
“Fire!” The Captain shouted. The Walker’s main turret launched its payload, and flew straight into the roof on the left side. A massive explosion of flame consumed a good portion of the building, and likely the Guardians within as well.