Deep in the heart of the old Seattle ruins, disaster was brewing. A being of contempt, the Kell of Veils, had been devising a plot that would most assuredly bring about radical change. While the Kell continues to plot and bring his plans to full fruition, Fireteam Black had arrived in the ruins of an old, Golden Age bank. The Fallen forces here rallied a checkpoint, disallowing any to pass any further. Although Fireteam Black did not know it yet, they were entering a race against time.

Thunder boomed outside, and lightning flashed across the sky, creating a temporary light source that blinked through holes in the ceiling. The storm itself was a fearsome presence, and it only intensified as time passed ever forward. The House of Veils had managed to heavily reinforce the bank’s interior, serving as one of their forward operating centers. Weak crystals offered little illumination, casting barely any light against slabs of up heaved concrete and a tiled floor covered with assorted cables and other miscellaneous objects. Above, rain filtered through broken skylights, and the wind howled like a deadly beast, fiercely whipping around purple banners that proudly displayed the House insignia. Now, the bank hardly even resembled what it had once been during the Golden Age. It was a broken place full of broken things, with images both perverse and bizarre. The Fallen had long since claimed this place.

Sylus watched enemy troop movement from the safety of shaded debris; his leader intuition told him to fully ascertain the House of Veils’ presence before making any sort of decision. The Titan watched in silence, seeing these devious sorts in their natural ways. With how organized the Fallen were now, it was no question that they had been here for a while. He recalled how much of the streets leading up to this place had been blocked off by debris, limiting the direction they could take. It would have been a foul thing to imagine that the Fallen were capable of leading them into a trap.

“Well… that’s a lot of damn Fallen. I really wish I took that vacation like I said I would. What do we do next, boss?” Brian commented, asking Sylus what the next move was going to be. Of their entire Fireteam, Brian was always the most afraid. He tried to hide his pain behind a sense of humor, but it didn’t always work as much as he wished it did. Surely, in this moment, things seemed bleak. There was no way around but through, and it involved fighting a force they had not been prepared to encounter. Brian had every reason to be afraid.

“If I might suggest something, it appears that device is of great importance.” Vandyn began speaking, pointing out the ether machine at the center of the room. It seemed to affect the Servitors in an odd manner, attributing to their unnatural white glow and pulsing nature. Alike any other Servitor, these shared a purple hull, though trimmed with gold to appear more regal. It was common among Fallen cultures that they treated their Servitors as machine gods. It seemed as though the House of Veils took that fact a bit more seriously.

“I’ve never seen anything like it.” Arxus interjected. He clutched a shotgun in his hands, ready for anything that may come his way. He seemed on edge lately, especially after what had happened down in the prison. Sylus seemed to handle himself rather well, despite being tortured. Arxus felt contempt because of the same reason.

“It appears to pump ether directly into the Servitors. They would then amplify that ether output and distribute it around the room.” Vandyn pointed out towards the other Fallen. “Look, there. Normally, Servitors improve the regenerative functions of any Fallen troopers. This would envelop them in a purple glow, but clearly that one is white. It appeared to apply some sort of enhanced effect, one might assume.” Surely as Vandyn had pointed out, all of the Fallen in the room were wreathed in a white glow, much like the Servitors. Vandyn merely deduced that if their normal function had be heightened, the Servitors might have been able to confer more towards their worshipers.

“Right; we need to take out that machine, then. It seems like the only logical course of action.” Sylus responded, holding onto his Voidwatcher rifle. He noticed how the device utilized cables to pump ether directly into the Servitors; much like Vandyn had said, they would likely distribute it around the room, as that was how Servitors normally functioned. If they managed to destroy the device, it would level the playing field, albeit that they would still be very much heavily outnumbered. “Brian, Providence. You two will cover our flanks. Provide sniper support and try to target anything that’s trying to shoot us. Emperor and Vandyn, you focus on the little ones. Dregs, Shanks, Vandals; anything that’s in our way, you kill it. Arxus and I will try and disable the machine.”

“You got it, boss.” Brian responded. Brian jumped, before throwing his hand upward. Balling his hand up into his fist, he seemed to grab at the air and pull himself forward; his entire mass instantly teleported itself into a different location, noted by his body trail briefly becoming purely energy. Brian perched himself on the second floor of the bank, which had mostly collapsed. Much of the second floor had become the first; the debris scattered around was evidence to the fact. Brian took position behind a thick metal railing, and waited for a signal.

Providence traveled in the other direction, finding something to grab upon so he could pull himself up. The Hunter utilized his triple jump to great effect, easily scaling up the wall. Where Brian had perched on a broken second floor, Providence found himself nested comfortably atop the defaced visage of a gargoyle. The top side of the stone figure had plenty of space for him to crouch, and use as a sniper nest. Retrieving his rifle, he aimed down at the Fallen crowd, and waited patiently.

Emperor and Vandyn merely took up positions behind the barricade of concrete and assorted debris; effective as it was, it would likely not hold once the Fallen opened fire. They had a wide open space to maneuver, even if their cover was broken. The bank was rather huge, with multiple pathways running in and out of the center room. Much of the Fallen situated themselves towards the center and back, with the huge tunnel behind them being Fireteam Black’s exit strategy.

Arxus stayed by Sylus’ side and nodded. “This isn’t quite like our first few missions.” He readied his rocket launcher, pushing it down towards the ground and carefully loading in another two rockets.

“Ah, dear pupil; consider this your first real test, then.” Sylus responded, mimicking a typical “old master” archetype. Sylus holstered Voidwatcher on his back, before removing his Gjallarhorn. The gold etching reflected a soft light from the dim crystals scattered around the room. He reloaded, opening up the launcher to load in fresh ammo. He nodded back to Arxus. “We’ll go on my mark. Three, two, one…”

Thunder resonated throughout the complex, two of a different sort. Arxus and Sylus were first to open fire, letting loose a volley of rockets into the device at the center. Both landed direct hits, letting up a huge plume of smoke and dust. Providence and Brian led up in second place, and unleashed a lethal barrage of sniper fire, scattering the back line of Fallen into cover. Their near synchronization of attacks might have led one to believe they had prior experience, which was entirely possible. Brian never quite mentioned how he knew Providence, Emperor or Vandyn. Only that he “knew some people”. Vandyn and Emperor were last to go, letting down a suppressing fire to riddle through the lower echelons of enemies. Dregs and Shanks alike were subjected to heavy pulse rifle fire, possibly bringing their demise. As the dust cleared, however… Fireteam Black was soon to realize that things had not exactly gone their way.

“The device is intact, what the hell!?” Brian yelled. Even from a direct attack from both of the Titans’ rockets, there wasn’t even a scratch on the thing. Much to their dismay, none of their attacks had done a thing. Sure, some had recoiled under heavy duress, but even the lowliest Dreg was back on the offense. The Servitors quickly turned their direction towards the concrete wall and opened fire; heavy energy blasts nearly shredded the stone to pieces, leaving Fireteam Black with little options.

“Fireteam Black, scatter!” Sylus shouted.

Fireteam Black was forced to scatter their numbers, after a complete failure of a first attempt. Fallen began to shout as they rushed the back wall, filtered through the various breaks in the concrete debris. It had come as a surprise that their attacks did nothing, but it only confirmed much of what Vandyn had mentioned. The ether machine was critical to the House’s defense; it somehow granted them immunity to damage. Arxus and Sylus split off from their central position, and sprinted in opposite directions.

“Have you any bright ideas, oh glorious leader? The parasites resisted your feeble attempts so easily.” Emperor said, with some obvious cynicism attributed to his robotic voice. He tried to continue his suppressing fire, but to no avail. The Dregs shrugged off his shots, save for the occasional stagger due to the weight of the bullet.

“Less attitude, more running!” Brian shouted over the hail of gunfire. He was forced to vacate his second floor perch, as Vandal snipers caught him almost immediately after they opened fire.

One of the Servitors focused fire on Providence’s perch, causing the stone gargoyle to burst apart almost instantly. Providence was forced to move, or he had risked falling to the ground and possibly into the waiting clutches of the Fallen. He kept himself elevated; jumping atop the up heaved concrete slabs that lined the far back of the bank. As if timed with his rather impressive agility, the weak concrete exploded into dust mere seconds after he would jump away, as one of the Servitors sustained fire in his direction. He safely landed on another broken section of the second floor, before quickly hiding in a side room. “Any ideas would be great right now.” He lifted his hand up to the side of his helmet, filtering out the extra sound in his COMM.

“I will duly notify you when I come up with another strategy. Until then, I would suggest we certainly take Mr. Marx’s advice and scatter!” Vandyn snatched Emperor’s collar and yanked him back, just before the Sunsinger’s cover was turned into a storm of shards.

Arxus had been sprinting up the side of the room, weaving through the various side rooms and hallways that had once been, probably, offices. He hardly had any chance to catch a break, as a Captain burst through the wall and grabbed the Titan. He struggled, kicking his feet and squirming, but his attempts seemed to fail. Eventually, Arxus decided to do what he knew best; he clenched his fist and threw it as hard as he possibly could, connecting it with the Captain’s cheek. The Captain’s shields broke instantly, and the creature did stagger, leaving Arxus room to breathe. He snatched his shotgun from his back and unloaded a hail of buckshot against the Fallen warrior. He managed to blow a hole right through the Captain’s chest… or so he thought. The Captain recoiled from the damage, clearly having ether leaking from the wound. However, the white glow around his figure soon enacted itself, and before Arxus’ very eyes, the Captain’s wound sealed itself completely, within just a few seconds.

“What the fuck.” Arxus looked up at the Captain, and he swore it was grinning at him. The Titan turned tail and ran, sprinting back in the other direction.

The rest of Fireteam Black was hard at work trying to survive an enemy that suffered no damage. Sylus was way on the other side of the room, desperately fighting off two Captains at the same time; both of which quickly healed from their injuries. Even the proud Emperor-19 expressed trouble dealing with the threat. Surely, there had to be some sort of solution to the problem. Providence had been thinking that although the device was immune to their weapons, maybe it wasn’t immune to indirect damage.

“I have a plan. Cover me.” Providence said, as he emerged from his hiding spot to enact said plan. He had been thinking about something while the rest of Fireteam Black fought so bravely. He looked around the bank and saw what had spawned his idea; there was a chandelier perched ever so precariously above where the device was. It was rather large, perhaps once serving as a light source for the building. Now, it was just a heavy piece of metal. That got Providence thinking.

“What on heavens is that vile Exo planning now?” Emperor spoke. Even with his innate Sunsinger abilities, he couldn’t damage the Fallen enough that the Servitors wouldn’t heal it. All attempts seemed to be fruitless. Until something loud crashed at the center of the bank. The fighting seemed to stop almost instantly, with even the Fallen pausing to see what the commotion had been.

Providence had shot the cable that held up the chandelier, causing it to drop onto the ether machine. The heavy weight of the metal frame absolutely crushed the machine, producing an unhealthy amount of sparks and other foul noises. Even the Servitors had been caught beneath, as they were unable to move away from the machine in time. The two Servitors flickered with a weak white light, before shutting down entirely. Providence slung his sniper rifle over his shoulder, peering down at the action below, or the lack of action, for better terms. Everyone had stopped fighting just to see what Providence had done. The Fallen were devastated.

Rather than continue their fight, the House of Veils made their retreat, fleeing down both exits from the bank. For those who possessed it, they cloaked with their stealth fields and ran for the hills. Perhaps it was hubris that caused them to win, or too much faith in their machine gods. Whatever it was, their faith had been broken. Now, they removed themselves from the battlefield as nothing more than cowards. Fireteam Black merely watched on as these Fallen hurriedly fled the scene. The Guardians slowly returned to the center of the bank, and inspected the Servitors.

“How’d you know?” Sylus asked Providence. Somehow, Providence had known that removing the Servitors from the equation would cause the Fallen to flee. It was entirely possible that with all that Fireteam Black had done so far, they instilled fear in the Fallen.

“I didn’t know.” Providence jumped down from his perch, immediately greeted with a congratulatory slap on the back from Brian. He cringed, as if not enjoying being touched. “Just had to have a bit of faith.”

“I see. In any case, it seems like the Fallen have abandoned this place.” The realm had gone quiet, with nothing but distant thunder and rain filtered down from the broken ceiling. It was preferred to be heard rather than the mechanical abominations of the Fallen. Sylus felt somewhat at ease that they had so easily managed to survive, but couldn’t help but wonder if the situation could have been worse.

“To my understanding from this terrible wreckage, it may be that the ether machine was only in its preliminary stages. They had only just hobbled it together with scrap parts.” Vandyn inspected the device, though could not make out much due to the heavy chandelier being on top of it. The two Servitors had been crushed, flickering faintly with the last vestige of their energy.

“They might be desperate.” Arxus remarked.

“It’s possible. Arkanz must have not expected us to get so close so soon.” Sylus holstered his rifle, before rubbing at the chin of his helmet. “At any rate, we should get moving soon. I suspect that the Kell will not be willing to wait for us.”

Just as Fireteam Black was about to depart from the bank, they heard a horrible sound. Something horrible and awful and a thing that they would soon become acclimated with. Some sort of energy streaked across the sky above them, lending a terrible blue glow.

“What the hell is that?” Brian could be heard saying, but the noise it produced was loud.

It traveled across the sky at an alarming speed, with the origin of such a phenomenon being largely unknown. All that could be known was it was big and loud, creating some kind of numbing whistle noise as it tore through the clouds. It eventually collided with a nearby building; a skyscraper that could be seen silhouetted against the sky above Fireteam Black. In just a mere instant, the upper half of the building was gone; completely obliterated and removed from the skyline. Fireteam Black was left in shock and awe, temporarily oblivious to the debris that soon came raining down from above.

“Go, run!” Sylus commanded.

Fireteam Black sprinted out for the exit tunnel, having but a short distance to travel before making it there. The entire bank was collapsing around them, succumbing to the weight of debris from above. Things quickly became chaotic as Fireteam Black made one last final dash towards the exit, and barely made it doing so. The bank collapsed behind them, buried beneath a mountain of rubble and ruin.

Minutes later, Fireteam Black found that they had reached the other end of the tunnel, which had seemed to burrow far into the infrastructure of the city. Most of them were panting, exhausted after practically running ragged from the dangerous situation.

“I don’t know what that was…” Sylus tried to catch his breath. “… but it can’t be anything good.” He supported himself against his knees, hands placed firm upon them as he was bent over.

“No shit.” Providence responded, not having to worry about being exhausted, since he was an Exo. The Hunter looked around their current environment, seeing it much to be abandoned. It was another Fallen checkpoint, with Fallen crates and banners scattered everywhere. He realized that they had reached the base of the Space Needle.

“Finally.” Emperor started to speak. “We reach the lair of the king parasite.”

Sylus took a moment to relax, before easing back into a comfortable state. His heart had been racing after such a harrowing experience, but he maintained a composed demeanor, for the sake of his fireteam. “I suppose, this is another thing to ask Arkanz about.”

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