Six Months Previously.
The hunter stands to attention in front of a wide desk. “You sent for me Commander?”
“I did, I’ve just received a Vanguard level scouting mission, you and your team are to leave within the hour” replies the Commander, seated at his desk.
The hunter notices various maps and reports scattered across the desk in a seemingly unorganised sprawl. “Me and my team will be ready Sir.”
The commander doesn’t speak nor take his eyes away from his double window that overlooks the city. “Is everything alright sir?” asks the hunter, now concerned.
“Everything is fine, Vanguard. You’ll receive your orders and destination just before you depart from the hangar, understood?” says the commander with a stronger resolve.
“Yes Sir” the hunter salutes and walks out of the room.
The hunter switches on a radio and beings to speak. “Vanguard Fireteam Alpha, we’ve just been handed a scouting mission from the commander. Be prepped and ready to leave from hangar one in thirty minutes, understood?”
“Understood Sir” replies a male voice over the radio.
“Thirty minutes!? What kind of heads-up is that!?” A female voice shouts through the radio.
“It’s not our place to question the chain of command Vanguard, now get to it” Reminds the hunter in a fashion that suggests a long-standing familiarity to such replies from the fellow vanguard.
“Aye Sir” replies the woman in a sarcastic tone.
The hunter switches channels and attempts to contact a third person, there’s no answer.
As the hunter enters hangar one a familiar but still impressive sight welcomes its regular visitor. Hangar one, which is reserved exclusively for Dead Orbit fireteams, has a high ceiling covered with alternating spotlights and extraction vents. Wall size drapes embroidered with the Dead Orbit crest tumble from above and cocoon the room in a grey and black embrace. The entire far wall is open so that ships can dock and depart with minimal delay, the ships themselves are fueled and ready to go on the tarmac. Fireteam Alphas’ ship is a Goliath of a vessel, retro-fitted with various recovered relics from the ancient times, it is the pride and joy of dead orbit often heralded as mankind’s flagship into the stars.
The other two vanguards are awaiting their leader, one with perfect composure, the other, not so much.
“You give us a thirty minute warning and dare to waltz in after us!?” snarls the female warlock.
“Sorry to keep you two waiting, I was trying to make a call before we set off” explains the hunter apologetically. The warlock rolls her eyes and moves to take her seat on the ship, the hunter and the third member of the team, a tall male titan, follow suit and take their seats.
After a few moments Dead Orbits Commander patches into Fireteam Alphas’ radio frequency. “Alpha, this is the Commander, do you read?”
As the leader of the fireteam only the hunter responds “Yes Sir, loud and clear”
“Right then alpha I’ll get right to it. Fireteam Alpha are to locate and observe a possible Fallen threat, the reports indicate that they may be hiding within the ruins of the buried city on Mars. This is a Vanguard level mission with an unknown time frame. Any questions?”
“Any information about the size of the force we’re looking for sir?” asks the titan.
“I don’t have any figures for you but we know that a Fallen carrier did enter mars’ atmosphere a few days ago, orbital surveillance lost track of it when it entered the Buried City. Consider the whole area hostile.”
The warlock looks displeased “Commander, It seems to me that a mission of this importance and scope would usually be handed to two Fireteams, why are we the only ones being assigned to it?” she asks with a hint of concern in her voice.
The commander doesn’t reply for a few moments “The goal of this mission is to locate and observe the Fallen threat. What you learn will be forwarded to the City Elders and from there a plan will be made on how to deal with them. Do not engage the enemy, you are to go unnoticed for the duration of the mission.”
The three vanguards reply with “Yes Sir” in unison as the commander leaves the frequency.
The ship springs to life as the hunter plots a course to Mars.
“How do you feel about this Sir?” asks the warlock whilst stood behind her leader.
“I feel honoured that our commander and the city elders have so much faith in us” replies the hunter.
“Yeah me too, but don’t you think this is all a little odd? The short notice, the lack of manpower being allocated to the mission, it just seems we’re not being told the whole story” suggests the warlock, still unconvinced.
The hunter stands “I encourage both of you to voice any concerns you have but I won’t allow you to question the chain of command, we’ve been given this mission and we will see it done. Understood?”
The warlock backs away with a slight glimmer of fear in her eyes “Yes Sir, sorry. I didn’t mean to come across that way, I was just confused.” With that she moves back to her seat and doesn’t say a word for the rest of the trip. The Titan watches the exchange with a sense of unease, it’s rare to see his leader get angry.
It’s not long before the fireteam are in orbit of Mars thanks to one of the many additions the vanguards had made to their ship.
“Right, judging by the geography of the area surrounding The Buried City, I think we should enter the atmosphere five miles south of city and fly in along this canyon, that way we can have the ship fairly close to our scouting routes in case we get into trouble, any other suggestions?” Both shake their heads and walk back to their seats.
The ship makes short work of reaching its destination on the Mars surface. The Fireteam exit down the ramp and begin to make their way up the nearest slope to get the lay of the land.
“Well, nothing out here but some sand with a side order of stone, how far south are we from the city?” asks the warlock in a casual manner.
“About two miles, we should be able to see the largest of the buildings from the top of this slope” replies the hunter.
The three of them march on with the hunter up front, the warlock in the middle and the titan at the rear, each scanning the horizon for any movement as they make their way through a shallow ravine.
The landscape of Mars was truly bland, it was orange sand heaped up against orange stone, the only variation came in the form of yellow vegetation which was small and scarce.
After an hour of careful walking the team made it to the ridge overlooking the buried city, there was nothing bland about this scene. The ancient texts claim that this city had once been the central hub for the whole planet, home to millions of people. Now you can barely make out half of its skyline – the rest had been defeated by the drifts of sand. In the center stands a high tower of broken glass, it shelters the smaller ones scattered around it from the worst of the brutal wind.
Neither of the three stop to admire the view, they have set up distance finders and scopes. The hunter plants the rifle, ‘Eagle eye’, on the ridge beside the titans range finder and begins checking for signs of any life within the city. There was nothing, no tracks and no evidence of a ship even being here.
“This is odd, if there really was a ship here surely we’d see something to tell us as much” states the warlock after half a day of scouting.
“I’d normally agree, but the Fallen are smart, it wouldn’t be the first time they’ve hidden all traces of their presence from us” replies the hunter whilst continuing to survey the area. “One of you get some rest, I’ll take a double shift and then we’ll return to the ship to figure out our next move.” The titan continues to look through the range finder.
“I guess I’ll rest up first” says the warlock, now used to her fellow vanguards seemingly limitless stamina.
One Week Later.
The warlock turns to her leader “It’s been a week and nothing, Sir, what if they were never here?”
The hunter sighs “I know you’re frustrated, I am too, but It won’t do any good thinking like that. The Orbital Surveillance tracked the fallen ship entering the city limits and it never left, we just need to keep looking.”
The warlock gets to her feet and begins to pace. “But for how long Sir? we’re not getting anywhere by just prowling the ridge line, we need to get into the city and see what’s really going on”
The hunter had given that prospect a lot of thought. “We don’t have enough intel to just walk on in there and start poking around, there could be a whole platoon under our feet and we wouldn’t know it.”
“Well, what else can we do? We can’t go back to the city with nothing, scouting from the ridge line isn’t doing us any good. I honestly think this is our last option.” says the warlock earnestly.
Although lacking confidence in the idea of just marching into the city blind, the hunter can’t help but agree that this is the only course of action left to them. The hunter turns to the titan “What do you think?”
The titan thinks for a moment. “I don’t see any alternative Sir”
The hunters head drops an inch, “Me neither, alright team, we’ll get a night’s rest and then make our way to the closest building. If we see any indication of the enemy we’re retreating back to the ridge and continuing our surveillance, agreed?”
“Agreed Sir” confirm the titan and warlock.
The next day the Vanguards find themselves standing toe to toe with the city. It’s only now that the sheer size of the towers around them come into their own, as they move closer to the colossal gravestones they begin to picture the city’s former beauty and the people who once called this home, they also imagine the horror that those very people must have felt as everything they knew was ripped away from them along with their lives and futures.
With that picture in their minds the Vanguards worries leave them and pure resolve takes it’s place, all three of them say to themselves, “I won’t let this happen to my city.”
They arrive at the building with the most protection and the best view almost disappointed, just like on the ridge, they could see nothing that hinted at a hidden Fallen force.
“Well, nothing so far, let’s head up a couple of floors and have a look” say the hunter in an attempt to keep the team busy.
The titan covers the stairs and the hunter and warlock look across the dune in front of them. At first nothing seems amiss, the same scene they’ve been looking at for just over a week, but then the warlock notices something new.
“That door, I couldn’t see it from the ridge because of the sand. It’s illuminated slightly, can you see?”
The hunter takes a look through the scope “It is. I don’t see anything disturbed outside the door though, it could be something left by a previous fireteam.”
The warlock clicks her tongue. “I think we should check it out, it’s the only sign of life in the entire city and we can’t monitor it from the ridge due to the built up sand.”
A foreboding feeling sets into the hunters stomach. “I don’t know, we have no way of knowing what could be waiting in there.”
The warlock can’t contain herself any longer. “Sir, as you said before, we’ll move into the city and if we see any sign of Fallen activity we’ll retreat, as long as we clear each room as we go we’ll have a path of retreat if we stumble onto anything inside.”
The warlock could tell she wasn’t winning her leader over so she decides to change tactic. “We’ve done this a thousand times, have some confidence in your team.” She looks her leader in the eye for a long time.
The hunter gives in “Very well, I guess we’d have to check it out sooner or later.”