The Vanguards of Dead Orbit – Chapter Four

As the Fireteam walk through the illuminated doorway the change in temperature is almost immediate. “Whoa, even if we don’t find anything it was worth the trip just to get out of that sun for a while” muses the warlock.

“You need to stay focused, we don’t have any clue what we could find in here” snaps the hunter. The warlock sighs and moves back into a tight formation.

The first room is as scarce as the outside, the interior walls are grey, flat and smooth to the touch, the floor appears to be made of similar material. The second room the vanguards come to houses a sight they had never seen before, the remains of what seemed to be a few thousand of the city’s populace are stacked at each corner.

“What is this?” gasps the warlock under her breath.

“I don’t know. Judging by the decay, these remains have been here for hundreds of years” replies the hunter in a cold and emotionless tone.

The titan breaks formation and moves towards a pile of remains in the center of the room “This one killed them all and from the looks of it they asked him to.”

The titans fellow vanguards turn to him “How could you know that?” asks the warlock, horrified.

“There are countless spent shells all around this body and a single vertical bullet hole through the top of its skull. The remains in the corners are riddled with bullet holes of the same caliber which could mean that this one shooter took out all these people. He would have had to reload and move onto the next corner, but no one moved an inch, they simply waited their turn.”

The warlock gazes at the remains “What could have driven them to such a thing?”

The titan looks up from the remains “Perhaps whatever attacked and destroyed the city offered a fate far worse than death.”

A long moment of silence is broken by the hunter “We need to move, we have to clear this building before we can radio back to the city with a negative on a Fallen presence.” With that the Fireteam turn their backs on the tomb and begin making their way down a long flight of stairs.

There are still no signs of life three levels down “I wonder how much further down it goes?” asks the warlock as the vanguards start on their fourth floor.

“Who knows? We’ll continue until it ends or our way is blocked by debris” states the hunter.

The warlock nods her head “That’s a given, I also wonder if we’ll find out what’s powering these lights?”

The faint illumination that had caught the warlocks eye to begin with had been coming from the strip lighting that were imbedded into the walls, the fact that they were still working was curious.

“Perhaps they’re solar powered? There’s no shortage of sunlight up top” suggests the hunter.

“Maybe. Must be well built to have survived for so long” agrees the warlock.

The fireteam step on to the fifth level and notice that the layout of this level differed from the previous ones, as they round the corner from the stairwell endless darkness greets them.

The hunter looks back at the stairwell, the light strips along the walls were still on “I wonder why only this room is dark?” asks the hunter.

“I’m not sure sir, would you like me to dispatch my ghost to see if there is any light to be had?” replies the titan.

“Yeah, lets see what’s beyond the darkness shall we?” says the hunter.

The titan raises his hand and opens his palm, moments after a small robot appears.

“How can I be of assistance?” asks the ghost as it hoovers a few inches in front of the titans visor.

“See if there’s a way to turn the lights on could you?” the ghost flies up into the air until the faint glow it radiates all but disappears.

“How high is this room? None of the other levels were anywhere near this size” asks the warlock in amazement.

The hunter takes a second look at the staircase “Well, on all the other levels the doorway was on the right, this bottom levels doorway was to the left, that means it could be as high as all the other levels combined.”

The warlock whistles in reply.

The titan turns to the hunter “The ghost has diverted the power from the other levels to the lights in this room, awaiting your signal Sir.”

The fireteam crouch down with their backs to the wall.

“Alright, hit it.” orders the hunter while holding a revolver in each hand.

The lights blaze to life in a shower of sparks. Although many of the bulbs couldn’t handle their resurrection a fair few had pulled through and were enveloping the room with their light. The room was indeed many levels high and at least another two deep, the ceiling was in fact split in two, there is a clear divide straight down the middle and on either side are huge gears with chains still attached. The walls are made up of numerous slabs of cement. Old tattered banners, ripped apart by years of neglect hang tentatively along many of the outer walls.
Their original colour, purpose and design now a mystery to all but the occupants of the mass grave four levels above.

As the lights in the center of the room come to life the fireteam finally get the intel they’ve been looking for.

Sitting in the middle of this ancient man-made cavern is an enormous fallen carrier.

It only takes the hunter a few moments to realise where they are and how much trouble they’re in. “We’ve got to run for it. I had no idea that there was an old hangar here. I don’t think anyone knew.” As the fireteam move to the stairwell in an attempt to escape before the Fallen notice their presence a high pitch shriek echos throughout the city sized hangar, that horrifying noise is shortly joined by the sound of gears rotating and metal scraping against metal, the door to the stairwell is closing ahead of them.

“Run!” Shouts the hunter and the fireteam break into a flat-out sprint.

The effort is wasted.

The door slams down hard on their hopes of an easy retreat. “Dammit!” Screams the warlock as she bangs against the solid door “How are we going to get out of here?” she asks the hunter with a slight panicked tone to her voice.

The hunter takes a knee “Calm yourself down. If this rooms size is anything to go by I’m sure there’s more than one exit out of here, we just need to make our way to it.”

The warlock steadies her nerves and turns to her leader “They know we’re here, they’re not going to let us just walk on out of here.”

The hunter manages a short laugh “We’ll just have to not give them a choice in the matter.”

The hunter turns to the titan “You’re at the front. Shoot, punch, stab anything that comes your way.”

The titan nods “Yes Sir.”

The hunter then turns to the warlock, “You’re second, use your spells on anything you can, danger close is approved.” The warlock slings her weapon across her back and begins to focus the spells the traveler blessed her with into her hands. “I’ll hang back a little and pick off as many as I can, I won’t be more than ten meters behind you so don’t go too crazy with the spells.” says the hunter with a degree of humour, “We can do this vanguards, as long as we cover each other we’ll make it.” With that the three ready-up and begin to move.

A piercing shriek reverberates throughout the cavernous hangar once again.

“What’s taking them so long? They must know where we are.” whispers the warlock with a mix of confusion and frustration.

“I’m not sure. Perhaps they’re setting up an ambush ahead, keep on your guard” replies the hunter.

The fireteam move further and further into this tomb for rotting steeds, countless ships line the outer walls of the hangar, some spaces are empty but most aren’t. A sign that there wasn’t enough time to make it to safety for the majority of the city’s inhabitants.

The walkway the fireteam are using bring them into a walled off section of the hangar, as they walk in the enemy show themselves. The first hostiles to attack are four Fallen Dregs. They scale down the wall and leap at the titan as if straight from a hellish nightmare. The titan is unfazed as he dispatches two with his shotgun and then uses the Fist of Havoc spell to surround himself in an explosion of kinetic energy which cinders the two remaining dregs and sends them flying backwards.

The next wave of enemies consists of eight Vandal class fallen and five Dregs. The warlock throws her Nova bomb into the approaching Dregs and manages to take three of them out instantly. The hunter zeros in on the vandals with Eagle Eye and fires, on impact the bullet explodes and takes out three of the vandals instantly. The hunter takes a second and third shot and finishes off the vandals just as the warlock conjures two solar flares and launches them at the two remains dregs. They’re taken to the ground and ripped apart by the extreme heat.

The fireteam re-group in the center of the room. “There’s no way that’s the last of them, we’ve not come across a Captain yet either.” says the hunter as the fireteam walk through the door way and back into the main hangar.

The only path to take brings the fireteam to an observation deck overlooking the Fallen Carrier. “I wonder if there are any identifying marks on the carrier itself, we’re still on a scouting mission so we should probably check quickly from up here while things are still quiet.” With that the hunter walks to the railings at the far end of the deck and uses the range finders to see if anything stands out.

After a few minutes the warlock moves towards her leader to see if she can speed the process along, as she steps on to the deck it jerks violently beneath her feet, it begins to buckle and bend until finally the aged and rusted supports gave way, the deck comes crashing down and lands twenty to thirty meters from the fallen carrier.

The warlock manages to jump backwards off of the deck before the majority of the supports give way. She watches her leader and friend get dragged down by rusted claws of steel and darkness.

“Sir!! Can you hear me!?” She screams in fit of despair, forgetting all about the enemy, the city and everything else besides her friend.

The immense sound from the deck crashing down resounds throughout the enormous hangar, it is joined shortly by the mechanical whine of the bay doors on the fallen carrier opening, through them numerous Fallen come pouring out like water from a tap.

The hunter comes to, the fall coming back in small segments of flash backs. With a leg trapped underneath a girder and a worrying pain in the chest, the vanguard doesn’t feel confident in the chances of escaping the seething wave stretched out in front of the collapsed deck, the hunter takes a quick count of the enemy force and puts it at around one hundred, a mix of Vandals, Dregs and even Captains. The hunter is surprised that none of them have even taken a shot.

The answer to why they hadn’t comes into view.

A Fallen, an extra third the size of an average Captain walks casually down the fallen carriers ramp, wearing a flowing crimson cloak that slides elegantly along the floor, donned in armour as black as the deepest ravines on the moon and wielding two gigantic blades that crackle with electric current.

The hunter looks at this giant fallen and then at the carrier behind it, the insignia on the side of the ship confirms the hunters suspicion, it’s a Fallen skull with two blades crossed under it on a red background, this carrier belongs to the Fallen Terror, a general class Fallen who has taken the lives of countless guardians.

The Fallen General takes in the sight before him and begins to laugh, he then orders his minions to bring the hunter to his feet. As the fallen approach the hunter like a torrent of rushing water the warlock leaps down from above with a nova bomb raised above her head, she smashes it down on the fallen with enough force to send them flying back at their general.

The warlock glides down with perfect grace “How’s that for a greeting?” she asks as she charges a solar flare in each hand.

The General looks down at his feet, one of the vandals the warlock sent hurtling back had come to rest up against his leg. The General kicks his minion off of him and shrieks while raising two of his four arms towards the hunter and the warlock.

The warlock turns to her leader “Sir are you okay? Can you move?”

The hunter looks up “My right leg is crushed and I think a fair few of my ribs are broken.”

The warlock turns back to the fallen in front of her “I’ve got this, just hang in there.”

The warlock moves forward while unleashing a barrage of solar flares at the fallen forces advancing on her, she takes down the first wave in a blaze of yellow light. Her gloves start to burn from the heat of the flares, she pays little attention to this and begins charging a nova bomb.

A vandal takes a shot at her and makes contact with her abdomen. Blood begins seeping out of the wound and trickles down her leg, she steels her resolve and unleashes the nova bomb straight into the heart of the fallen force, it tears two entire squads apart and it topples over another three. The amount of blood running down the warlocks robes increases and forces her to one knee.

The General doesn’t waste a moment and orders four captain class fallen to close in on her and finish her.

The warlock expected this and begins to snigger under her breath “I’ve got one more surprise for you”.

The hunter notices what the warlock is attempting to do “Don’t do it!” bellows the hunter, “Your body won’t be able to take it!”

The warlock turns to her oldest friend while wearing a smile she knows her leader cannot see due to her helmet “It’s been an honour, goodbye.”

The hunter kicks at the girder “Cassandra!”

Cassandras hands are consumed by purple light, it tears away at cloth and flesh alike. She screams in pain as her arms are ripped apart by her own spell. The Captains close in on her as she slams her fists into the ground, Cassandra along with the four Captains are consumed by purple flame. The fallen captains are incinerated along with half of the remaining fallen force.

The hunter watches on as Cassandra self destructs, the entire hangar becomes illuminated in purple light. The figures of the fallen dance across the walls as they’re turned to ash by the flames.

As the purple glare from the nova bombs subside the hunters eyes scan the area desperately “Cassandra! Can you hear me?!” the hunter begins kicking at the girder again “Cassandra! Answer me! That’s an order!”

Only a piercing shriek replies.

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6 Responses to The Vanguards of Dead Orbit – Chapter Four

  1. Ragashingo August 7, 2014 at 3:29 pm #

    Interesting. I was expecting the carrier to be hidden elsewhere, but a hanger makes a lot of sense. My only quibble with this one is that the Hunter and Warlock argued so much up to this point that the “oldest friend” comment didn’t ring as true as it could have. Other than that though I enjoyed this one.

    • Ragashingo August 7, 2014 at 3:50 pm #

      Oh, and I enjoyed the somewhat dark scene of the long decayed gunman and those he shot in the lobby.

      • WM August 8, 2014 at 11:14 am #

        I’m glad you mostly enjoyed this chapter, it was personally one of my favourites to write.

        I was going with a kind of atmosphere were Daemon and Cassandra had known each other so long that they are extremely relaxed with one another, perhaps it came across a bit differently for readers.

        I was a little worried putting the Lobby scene into the chapter, it was a fairly dark subject and I didn’t want to risk alienating anyone, I decided to include it in the end because I felt it offered a peek into what kind of horror the Collapse could have been, feeling so helpless that a quick death was asmuch as they could hope for.

  2. Jim Stitzel August 8, 2014 at 12:23 pm #

    I have absolutely no issues with a bit of darkness being woven into the narrative — but then, I wouldn’t, since dark fiction is the stuff I like to write a lot of the time. One thing about writing — never be afraid to explore the topics and issues that make the most sense to your story, even if you think it might turn some people off. If you write for your audience first, you will almost always end up with a work that is less interesting and poorer in quality. Write for yourself first. You are your first audience. If you’re not entertained and pulled in by your own writing, there’s no way your audience will be. :)

    • WM August 8, 2014 at 1:27 pm #

      Thanks for your insight, I too am a fan of darker fiction, the Dark tower series by Stephen King being one of my all time favourites.

      I can see what you mean about not writing for the audience first, people pleasing is the death of a good story, look at the Song of Ice and Fire, George RR Martin has been brutal with that story, taking away many fan favourites and yet everyone still loves the work.

  3. Jim Stitzel August 8, 2014 at 3:10 pm #

    King’s long been one of my favorite authors, and a lot of my writing has been compared by my readers to his (which is, frankly, flattering). I love the Dark Tower series. It’s had a huge influence on the kinds of ‘weird fiction’ I write.

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