Midnight; not a soul pressed through the ruins of Seattle any longer. Much of the House of Veils had already been laid to waste, but there laid more one, desperate plan; one more juncture until the end. The clouds gathered, as if the heavens would bear witness to the events that were about to unfold; events that would surely mean salvation, or catastrophic defeat. The final chapter was about to unfold.
Arkanz grumbled to himself, making seldom utterances of joy as his plans had come to fruition. He made constant modifications to his weapon, all to make sure that it would fire again when it was time. This he knew, that time would be soon again. Surely, the vermin had not survived the Needle’s explosion. Even if they had, they would be weak. It was nothing that the Kell could not handle. The tall frame of the Kell shifted across the barren weapon platform, carelessly swiping away debris and severed wires. He interfaced with the weapon’s control console; a few, well-placed, rhythmic taps from his bony fingers, and the weapon’s core proceeded from a dull blue to a bright and glowing blue.
“All will end soon. Your loss shall not be in vain, brothers.” Arkanz muttered, vowing that he would avenge his dead. The Kell knew that, one way or another; it was all going to end tonight. So, Arkanz brought forth the final phase of his plan. “The vermin will not keep me from my goal; not anymore. This has been a plan years in the making.” As Arkanz continued to make adjusts to his super weapon, this ultimate bringer of destruction, a single bullet clipped his lower left hand, and caused him to cringe and grasp it. He swiftly turned around and shouted. “Who dares?”
Clambering over a pile of rubble, it was Sylus alone who faced the Kell. His armor was battered, partially ruined in the aftermath of the Needle’s destruction. His helmet was missing altogether, presenting a set of piercing, orange eyes that broke through the darkness of post-midnight. “It’s over, Arkanz.” Sylus said, clutching proudly upon his trusted Voidwatcher.
Though a being of malice and contempt towards the Guardians, Arkanz still remained somewhat courteous towards Sylus, and switched his dialogue to English. “You would face me alone? You are just as much a fool as I had thought you to be.” Arkanz gestured towards the weapon behind him; it appeared to be a massive rail cannon with a super-heated energy core, which was glowing so brightly that it illuminated most of the platform that Arkanz and Sylus were standing on. “Behold, light thief; the fruit of my labor. Your ancestors were paranoid and deluded. They crafted these mighty cannons so they might blast apart the skies above, and halt the coming darkness. It still came, and it tore your world asunder.”
“We knew it was coming, but we weren’t prepared enough.” Sylus retorted; he began to slowly strafe around Arkanz’ position, keeping his aim trained on the Kell.
“You fell, and fell and fell so deep into the abyss. You clawed at the world around you, trying to climb out again.” Arkanz laughed in a thunderous blare. “I remember your face from your precious Twilight Gap. I remember your agony as my kin tore their blades through the flesh of your kin.”
“You’re a monster.” Sylus opened fire immediately afterwards, hammering down the trigger on his custom auto-rifle. The internal void battery heated up exponentially, leaving void flares out the exhaust ports. Although his aim was true, Arkanz barely even had to move to avoid the sustained fire.
Arkanz casually moved aside before offering a retaliatory gesture. A handheld cannon of some sort rose up over his shoulder, having been stored at his back. The cannon was held in place by a small robotic arm, which allowed freedom of movement. The cannon came to life with electricity, crackling about and arcing short distances away from the metal housing. Seconds after Arkanz unveiled his Shock Cannon, he let loose a dangerous blast from the weapon. A ball of lightning was shot forth, and struck the ground near Sylus’ feet.
Though Sylus had mostly avoided the blast, electricity arced outward from the epicenter. It connected into his foot and dealt a devastating shock, causing Sylus to yell out in pain. His entire leg went limp, forcing the Titan to drag it behind him as he scurried into cover. Sylus had to dive behind a pile of crates, just to make it there before Arkanz fired another shot. The electrical blast collided with the other side of the crates, but left Sylus safe for the time.
“We can play this game all night, vermin. It does not matter any longer.” Arkanz began to stalk across the platform, laughing again with a booming tone. He had already managed to severely injure Sylus, so this left him with quite a bevy of confidence. He began to slowly approach Sylus’ position. “I must admit. Since your arrival, you’ve been nothing but a thorn in my side; no more. You cannot stop the coming storm.”
“What are you hoping to accomplish, exactly?” Sylus spoke in pained groans; he tried to move his leg, but it stayed limp. He gritted his teeth; eyes squinted as his face burned from the frigid air. “What will destroying the Traveler do for you?”
“Everything.” Arkanz launched another cannon blast, this time causing Sylus’ cover to topple over on top of him. “Today will be a day of liberation. With this weapon, the wounded machine will die and the era of Guardians will end. There will be only darkness again, just as it was when I came to this world.”
Sylus groaned, as crates landed onto him. He quickly shoved them aside and hobbled away from his cover, seeking out somewhere else to hide. He could barely even move fast enough now, but still managed to avoid suffering another attack from Arkanz. It was clear that the Kell was toying with him. Sylus collapsed behind a piece of debris, cringing as pain shot up his leg. “You’re just crazy. Even without the Traveler, you won’t be able to destroy our will.”
“Won’t I? You have seen my prison; so what if you flooded it? I will make more. I will crush your hopes and your dreams and leave you begging to die. When you reach that point, you will consider it a mercy to have your life ended by me!” Arkanz roared, and ran towards Sylus so quickly that it left the Guardian little time to react.
Sylus had no time to react. With his leg numb, he couldn’t crawl or limp away fast enough to avoid Arkanz. Arkanz easily swatted away the debris that Sylus had hid beneath, and caught the Titan by the throat. Lifting him up to eye level, Arkanz laughed in the broken Guardian’s face. “This is how it ends; not with a bang, but a whimper. You could not have even bothered to put up a fight against me.” Rather than wring the life out of him, Arkanz dropped Sylus to the ground.
It was a few feet before Sylus hit the ground; he winced in his perpetuated agony, before trying to crawl away from Arkanz. He reached for his auto rifle, which had dropped nearby. Even with the short distance, Sylus would never be able to reach his weapon.
Arkanz kicked the rifle away with his foot. “No need for toys, now. Accept your fate.” Arkanz began to charge up another attack from his Shock Cannon, hoping to obliterate Sylus from close proximity. The blast would likely deal devastating damage, given that much of Sylus’ armor had been destroyed in the prior blast from the rail cannon. However, Sylus wasn’t willing to take his death lying down.
Sylus quickly grabbed something from his belt and chucked it straight towards Arkanz’ cannon; the purple object stuck against the Shock Cannon’s barrel, and was about to explode.
“What is this!?” Arkanz shouted as he tried to tear away the Shock Cannon off his shoulder; before he could do so, the object exploded and caused the cannon to split open, rendering it entirely useless. Arkanz suffered some scarring on his face, as shrapnel cut into his flesh, from both the primary and secondary explosions. He quickly tore the cannon off, severing the robotic arm it was mounted on. Arkanz spiked it against the ground, before cradling his face with his hands.
“Magnetic Grenade.” Sylus smirked, before quickly reaching for his auto rifle. He turned onto his back as he snatched up Voidwatcher, and let loose on the trigger. Given how Arkanz had been busy clutching his face, he was subjected to a full magazine of Voidwatcher, which riddled him with void burns across his torso.
The subsequent rifle fire caused Arkanz to stumble back, colliding against the exterior hull of the rail cannon. He pressed against it for support, eventually releasing his face and revealing the ether that oozed from his wounds. “You will pay, vermin! I will make you suffer for this!” Arkanz pulled out his back-up weapon; a Shock Rifle. He took aim towards Sylus and readied a shot, though was soon to find that he would be without that weapon, as well. Before he could fire a shot, the gun was ripped away from his grasp. A sniper shot had rung out.
“Not so fast.” Someone could be heard speaking from nearby. Providence emerged from over the hill, carrying his sniper rifle over his shoulder. Smoke drifted away from the barrel; it seemed that most of his armor was still intact, though covered in dirt and scratches. After Providence had risen from the hill, Emperor, Brian, Arxus and Vandyn joined him on his flanks.
“So, this is the Kell? Damn, you’re ugly.” Brian remarked, stifling a chuckle. The whole fireteam eventually showed up; banged up, but still kicking.
The crew quickly moved down the hill and linked up with Sylus, and Fireteam Black was back, together again.
“I told you not to go by yourself, boss. Look what happened to you.” Arxus spoke, remarking about Sylus’ limp leg.
Sylus shrugged him off. “Stop worrying so much. We have a job to do.”
Arxus turned his gaze towards Arkanz, as did the rest of Fireteam Black.
“You should all be dead! How?!” Arkanz had been so confidence that his weapon would have sealed their fate, but all of Fireteam Black had survived the incident.
“It’s over, Arkanz.” Sylus was helped to his feet, thanks to Arxus.
“Never.” Arkanz quickly turned himself around, and began moving all four of his arms in a rhythmic pattern. “Even if I die here, my plan will be realized.” The rail cannon began to power up, with blue lights slowly rising across the exterior of the weapon. Arkanz turned around and laughed, before slamming his fist into the control panel. The panel broke apart beneath the impact, leaving no way to stop the charging sequence. “Even with my death, there is no stopping the launch. In a matter of 20 minutes, the cannon will be fully charged and it will fire. Your machine will die.”
“No way.” Arxus said in disbelief. His eyes narrowed then, as he unleashed his rocket launcher.
As if on cue, every single member of Fireteam Black also took out their heavy weapons; mostly a mixture of machine guns and rocket launchers. In a single sustained volley, they unleashed hell on the Kell, blasting Arkanz with rockets and bullets and sending him straight to his maker. The sheer force and impressive arsenal left Arkanz reeling, forcing him to drop to his knees immediately. His flesh was scarred with solar, void and electrical burns. Even though on his knees, he merely laughed in response, knowing that Fireteam Black would never find a way to stop the cannon.
“Your world is doomed...” Arkanz slowly fell from his knees, to the ground. He stirred no more. There was a brief calm that came with that silence. It was a victory, however hollow it was.
Had Fireteam Black succeeded in their venture? Was the House of Veils no more? There was still work to be done, and no questions could be answered just yet. The rail cannon reached the second charge, indicated by two blue lights on the hull.
Brian quickly moved around towards the console, investigating the extent of the damage caused by Arkanz. “Fuck! He completely totaled this thing!”
“How are we supposed to shut it off?” Arxus asked.
“I don’t know! We have to think of something.” Brian looked around frantically, searching for some possibility to shut down the cannon. Fireteam Black already had multiple experiences with the thing; it was a miracle that they even survived the blast.
“We redirect it.” Sylus said. The feeling was finally coming back to his leg, allowing him to stand again. Knowing that the cannon couldn’t be shut off, their only repose was to redirect the blast so it didn’t strike the Traveler. The weapon itself appeared to be something capable of long distance fire. Arkanz had said it had taken years to plan, so it likely took him a while to perfect the calculations of aim.
“Where?” Brian asked.
“Somewhere in the city.” Sylus hobbled over towards Brian, and looked around the platform. Down in the distance, down the hill, there was ample space where the blast might go. Hopefully, it would travel far enough so Fireteam Black wouldn’t be caught in the aftermath. “Down there.” Sylus pointed. “We have to point this thing down.”
Arxus took off first, and sought out some method to move the cannon. Likely, the console also controlled the orientation of the cannon, as well as the firing sequence. Without it, they would have to move it manually. Activating his Lift, Arxus jumped on top of the cannon. To test just how hard it was to move, he made a short hop. The cannon didn’t even budge. “How much do you think this thing weighs?” He asked.
“I really don’t think this is a good time, Arx.” Brian replied.
“This vile creature… how dare he.” Emperor felt it necessary to provide his input. He found himself kicking Arkanz’ body, out of pure disgust for his actions. “You would be a fool to try to move that object manually. Clearly, it weighs too much to move.”
“We have to try.” Arxus stared down at the cannon, before he decided to crouch. He heaved a deep breath, gathering his thoughts before deciding what to do with them.
“If I may offer some advice, Mr. Essal. Perhaps there might be a way to move the weapon.” Vandyn began to speak.
“Anything would be good right now.” Right after Arxus made his response, another click came; the firing sequence reached its third charge.
“If you were to hit it at just the right angle with your Fist of Havoc, with the right velocity, perhaps it would be enough to move the cannon. It’s entirely a theory, of course. Considering the fact that we have nothing to go off of but theories, I’m entirely afraid to even offer my advice. And I’m supposed to be the expert here.” Vandyn sighed and sat down, watching the cannon continue to charge.
“Go for it, Arxus.” Sylus gave his vote of confidence. Since none of them had any idea how, it was the best chance they had.
Arxus nodded. He moved away from the cannon, lifting himself up to a fire escape on a building adjacent. Arxus sprinted up the fire escape, with his boots clattering against metal that definitely seemed unsafe to walk upon. It didn’t take him too long at all to reach the rooftop of the building, where he could see everyone down below, and the cruel glow of the device that was set to unmake everything they knew. It was all up to him, now. He recalled when he had first set foot into the Tower, and was hand-picked to be trained by Sylus. He recalled that Sylus didn’t even want him to go on this mission; he had said that Arxus wasn’t ready. They had been training for months before then, and Arxus had confidence in knowing that his mentor was such a well-respected Titan of the City. Sylus was even good friends with Zavala, and that was a rare occurrence in itself. Now, it seemed that Arxus had more than proved himself to be capable. Everything leading up to this point had been on all of them. Now, everything was riding on him. It was a final challenge, a final test for him. Though this time, Arxus knew that failure meant another Collapse. Arxus took a deep breath, and made the jump. With his body angled downward, he gradually gained speed. His fist was pointed down, aiming towards the cannon. He closed his eyes, and his body crackled with electricity. He made the plunge, and he prayed to whatever god that he could pray to. Everything went silent for him, until impact.
Arxus’ fist collided with the cannon like a human-sized bullet. The metal exterior of the weapon was severely dented, and the orientation was thrust downward instantaneously. The cannon was aiming towards the valley below, with only a few moments left to spare. Arxus quickly jumped away from the cannon as the fourth light triggered. The weapon spurred to life, with a massive blast of blue energy being thrust away from the cannon head. It was a slow projectile that sailed through the morning air, and traveled down into the distant valley below them. Before long, the energy detonated in a violent blast that shook the very earth below them. The light was blinding and lasted too long; eventually, it dissipated, and left behind a crater. The cannon powered down again, with the four lights quickly shutting off and the core cooling down to a dim blue.
“Holy shit, he actually did it.” Brian spoke.
Fireteam Black erupted into a unanimous cheer, as they crowded around Arxus and lifted him up into the air. The victory felt bittersweet but well-earned; the days had been long and the nights harsh, but it was finally over. With their weapon destroyed and their Kell dead, it was unlikely that the House of Veils would ever rear their ugly head again anytime soon. It was finally over.
All but Sylus congratulated Arxus; Sylus hanged back and watched. He wore a smile across his dirty face, knowing that his mentorship had brought a worthy successor. All in all, it had been a trial of courage and fortitude. The fireteam brought together Guardians from all classes, all ideals and personalities and ultimately, they were victorious. It felt good, in the end. Just as Sylus was about to get up to join them, he found himself in immense pain. His chest was screaming in agony, and as he looked down, he realized what it had been.
A Hive Cleaver was piercing his chest.