Darkness descended over the city of Seattle. A deep hatred permeated the air, filling the lungs of any who breathed it. It was noticeable. The Kell of Veils’ plan was entering its’ final hour, as Arkanz marched ever closer to his ultimate goal. Surely, his success would bring forth radical change, the likes of which could turn the world on its head. Surely, he had to be stopped. Fireteam Black made their final approach to the Veils’ Den, high above the blackened city streets. It would be here that the world would bear witness to one final struggle; one that would not only decide the fate of Fireteam Black and the House of Veils, but humanity as well.

The Fallen had long since abandoned their posts surrounding the Space Needle. The disheveled earth and dark skies melded into a uniform landscape, one where sight was limited. All signs pointed to the possibility that they were yet again in hiding, but after having thrown everything at them, perhaps Fireteam Black could have been wrong. Perhaps, they were on their last legs. The Guardians of Fireteam Black had torn a path through the wastes of the city, killing every major ranking Fallen in their path: the library, the prison, and the bank, and now they were at the end of their journey.

A loud bang sounded off, as Fireteam Black breached the Needle lobby. Arxus had blown off the door hinges with his shotgun, before promptly kicking the doors down. Metal screeched as it slid across a lusterless tile floor, stopping a few short feet away. Now, Fireteam Black made their entry; with two Hunters on their flanks and Warlocks in the rear, the Titans took point. The fireteam moved as one into the pitch black lobby. It was extremely dark here; the previously familiar crystals were absent, and it seemed to be a proper haven for those who worked in the shadows. As far as they were aware, that seemed fitting to the House of Veils.

“Vile things; it is no wonder that they fester in the dark.” Emperor was the first to speak, as Fireteam Black proceeded deeper into the lobby.

“Black, put your lights on.” Sylus ordered.

One after the other, their Ghosts activated their flash lights, and the room was illuminated once more; at least, as illuminated as it would be. The lobby was a circular room, overgrown with an abundance of foliage, ranging from ferns to invasive ivy. A semi-circle desk sat in the middle, mostly broken, wood rotted to a sickly black. Fallen storage crates were stacked up in the corners, specifically underneath the stairs and behind the desk. Of course, the crates bore the insignia of the House of Veils.

“Where are they?” Brian seemed surprised. It was an immediate red flag that they had so easily abandoned their post after their ether machine had been destroyed, but now… it was almost like it was a ghost town.

“Maybe they ran away.” Arxus responded. The Titan lowered the aim of his shotgun, carefully stepping over the rusted door he had just blasted down.

“Doubt it. Fallen don’t back down from a fight. Not like this, anyway.” Providence rested his hand cannon over his shoulder, entering a more relaxed stance. Clearly, there were no enemies around; he felt no need to be chasing shadows.

“Truly, such a behavior seems more in line with the Cabal. Perhaps they are simply tactically retreating?” Vandyn suggested.

Brian circled around the desk, inspecting whatever was around. A skeleton was slumped over in a chair, with a cap riddled with holes, likely from age and moths. Brian reached out to touch the skeleton, and it was so brittle that it turned to dust immediately. The abruptness of it caused Brian to gasp in shock.

Hearing Brian gasp, Fireteam Black raised their weapons and shined their flashlights down on Brian.

“What happened?” Sylus asked.

“It’s nothing. I didn’t expect this bag of bones to be so old.” Brian laughed nervously; he was clearly a bit embarrassed by his reaction.

Fireteam Black stood down immediately afterwards, before Sylus took the time to relay his orders.

“If they’re anywhere in here, it’ll probably be up at the top floor. Don’t let your guard down, team. We aren’t out of this yet.” Sylus clutched the grip of his auto rifle in one hand. He gestured with the other, pointing Arxus towards the stairs.

Arxus followed through with the gesture, carefully approaching the stairwell. He quickly positioned himself at the base of it, shining his light upwards into the darkness. Of course, there was nothing worthy to speak of. Vines were hanging from the ceiling, perfectly obscuring a majority of the scenery beyond.

Sylus silently gestured for Emperor to follow up behind Arxus, with Providence taking the rear flank. Though there were no signs of Fallen in the Needle, Sylus wasn’t willing to take chances. They had been ambushed several times before, resulting in Brian’s injury and their imprisonment later on. This time, they would get the drop on them.

Emperor wielded his Invective as his chosen weapon; though not the original, it was based on the same model of shotgun that Ikora Rey had used in her more wild days. An intricate pattern was etched on the side, glowing with a bright orange light. Emperor followed Arxus, and both of them slowly paced up the stairs. Providence followed behind them, keeping his trusted Devil You Know at his side. Behind them, Sylus, Brian and Vandyn took up the rear.

The second floor was much the same as the first; foliage was everywhere, covering everything. The Fallen had not even bothered to clean it all up, perhaps preferring a more natural look to things. Or it was simply that it wasn’t necessary to remove. Skeletons were strewn over the ground, with piles of bone meal in some places; a grotesque sight to be sure, but nothing could compare to the gore piles in the prison. Arxus headed up first and sat crouched, shotgun aiming around the room. Grim shined his light wherever Arxus aimed, leaving a cursory glance at the interior of the second floor.

“All clear.” Arxus stated.

Emperor and Providence came up next, both of who eased out of their alerted stances. Emperor lowered his Invective, and stared about the mostly empty room.

“I would come to wonder why they would live in such squalor.” He began to speak. “It is easy to do, for a parasite.”

“Well, they ain’t here now.” Brian replied, as he reached the top of the stairs. He looked around the room as well, with his light casting a reflective sheen off of Emperor, Providence and Arxus’ armor as they crossed his vision. “It looks like they left in a hurry, too.”

“What does it matter? We should burn this place to remove their filth.”

“You really are a pyromaniac, aren’t you?” Brian was a bit scared of Emperor, though he never admitted it. Emperor was a Warlock, but he acted more like a Titan. He was someone even Shaxx would be proud of.

“Hey, look over here. We got an elevator.” Arxus stood up and moved across the room; there was an elevator in the center, which likely led all the way to the top floor. It was much more compact than the elevator from the prison, with a single cabin gated off by a rusted portcullis. Arxus shifted around towards the other side of the elevator, where he could locate some proper controls. It functioned entirely on a console panel, rigged up by the Fallen. It was no wonder that Emperor called them parasites; they seemed to appropriate whatever they could get their dirty little mitts on.

“See if we can get it working.” Sylus said.

Arxus attempted to interface with the control panel. After a couple minutes of trying, he quickly realized that there wasn’t any power, and it wouldn’t function without it. “No power. It won’t work.”

“Step aside, chum. Let me see if I can jury-rig this thing.” Brian pushed Arxus aside and inspected the console himself. It was a standard-faire control panel that Fallen often used wherever their influence was. The console was a box, with cables hooked up to a generator above the elevator door. Obviously, without any sort of power source, it wasn’t going to run. Luckily, Brian was a walking conduit. With a sudden spark, he whipped out a Hunter knife and was instantly engulfed in pure arc energy. Electricity danced along the edge of his blade, and lit the room up somewhat more beyond their flashlights. Using his electrified knife, Brian wedged it between the front panel and the main housing.

“What is he doing? The fool’s going to break the thing.” Emperor spoke.

“You would be surprised. Brian is very good at this.” Sylus responded, hushing Emperor so he could continue to watch.

Brian pried off the panel, revealing a mess of circuitry and metal. There were a few things missing, likely stuff that the Fallen had ripped out before they left. It was nothing Brian couldn’t fix. Brian shoved his arc blade into the machinery, and it immediately charged right up. Electricity rippled through the cables and straight into the elevator’s generator. The generator made a loud humming noise as it started up, before resting with a less loud humming noise. Brian yanked his arc blade out, just before his electricity fizzled out.

“Impressive.” Providence said.

“Well, elevator’s working again.” Brian replaced the front panel, hiding the machinery within. “We better get along before it, y’know, sputters out again. That’d be real bad, believe me.”

Operating the console again, the elevator doors opened up, and Fireteam Black piled inside. Now they were on a trip up to the top, with the Veil Kell waiting for them. With another console within, Arxus interfaced with it, and the elevator doors pulled shut. They were on their way, as gears whirred and a pulley system activated, tugging the elevator cabin towards the top. It was still very impressive that all of this even worked, after hundreds of years being left in disarray. It was likely that the Fallen were mechanical savants, and masters of their craft. It seemed like the most likely scenario. Though with their ascent towards the top, Fireteam Black couldn’t help but feel an omnipresent sense of dread.

Several minutes passed, before the elevator reached the apex. The top of the Needle was just as dark as the lobby; windows were boarded up with plywood and metal. Fireteam Black entered into another circular room, with a large wall separating their current position with the other half of the room. The top seemed to be a bit clear, free of foliage and other assorted debris.

“Black, be careful.” Sylus whispered. He motioned towards one of the doors, taking half of his fireteam with him. Providence, Vandyn and Sylus set up on the left door, with the rest on the right. They prepared their guns, and prepared for a potential fight.

Seconds later, both doors were blasted off their frames, being kicked across the room a good few feet. Fireteam Black stormed the room, only to find it completely devoid of any opposition. The room itself was mostly empty, except for six crystals running parallel through the room, leading up to what appears to be a fancy throne. It was built in a similar fashion to those found on Ketches; obviously, every part of it was from scavenged material.

“Empty.” Sylus said, disheartened. The Kell had been there at some point, but he had long since left the place.

“As expected.” Providence replied. He yet again eased off, hopping up onto the Kell’s throne for a seat.

“What do we do now? He could be anywhere.” Arxus said. Given the House of Veils and their tendency to be of the shadows, it was very possible that they could have gone absolutely anywhere. They could have even left the city by now. Fireteam Black could have possibly failed their mission.

Just as Arxus finished speaking, a very familiar static blared across the airwaves.

“Or perhaps I am right here.”

“Arkanz!” Sylus shouted. Fireteam Black raised their weapons and frantically searched around the room, knowing that the Kell could be nearby, or he was about to ambush them again. Though, that hadn’t seemed to be Arkanz’s angle. Rather, he complimented them.

“I really must commend you for getting this far. I hadn’t expected you to be able to destroy our ether machine so easily. Then again, you have ruthlessly slaughtered all my best officers in order to reach this point. I’m not surprised.”

“You brought this upo-“

“Oh, spare me the patronizing tone. You, you are the ones who have brought this upon yourself. You seemed to think that you could dismantle my operations and get away with it. Suffice to say, you are very wrong.”

The entire Needle began to shake, suddenly and violently.

“Uh, uh, guys? What’s going on? I don’t like this!” Brian instantly started panicking.

“Calm down, Brian!” Sylus shouted.

“No. Your friend is right. You should be panicking. You should fear what comes next.”

The ground shook as though an earthquake. Blue lights seemed to filter through various cracks in the boarded-up windows. Just as the second Sylus realized what it was, it was already too late. The sounds of an explosion ripped through his ears, and everything went black after that.

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