A team of three had been sent to Venus, particularly a newly reclaimed zone from the Fallen that had an area of particular interest. It seemed that the Ishtar Academy wasn’t the only place of research and education during the Golden Age. A smaller installation half the world away was nestled at the foothills of a mountain range, a few openings here and there spewing blue lava.
The building were overgrown, vines clinging to every surface, grass rising up from cracks in the foundation, rain puddles gathering under dome panels of broken glass. It was the very definition of decrepit. Signage of what the place was had long since faded away and peeled off the walls. The only defining traits that stated the place was made by humanity was the architecture, and the fact that the doors required a handprint of four fingers and a thumb.
“Great,” the Warlock tampered with the security pad but the doors didn’t budge, even her Ghost had no luck, “They send us all the way out here and for what?”
“Well not for this,” the Titan rasped his knuckles against the fusion sealed door, calculating a few things in his head before he started to step backwards. The Warlock and Hunter cleared the way, knowing exactly what he was going to do. A swift shoulder charge was enough power to dent the doors, creating a gap for them to slip through.
“Wow, it looks like people just vanished,” the Hunter stated, going a bit farther ahead of them in wonderment.
The lobby had books and tablets set on benches, scattered on the floor in groups where she could only assume people had congregated for conversation. Labs had papers in print trays, tablets propped up for notations, experiments long forgotten on benches. Even the cafeteria had bowls, plates, and utensils all over tables as if the place had vacated in the middle of a meal. What the fireteam found the most disturbing was the lack of blood or any signs of distress. It was a silent monument of mystery.
Finally they came to a security room with one large set of double doors that fed in a long wide hallway, another set of doors at the end though they were far more heavy duty. The three went over all of the equipment in the room, Ghosts scanning every port and drive they could find.
“I got something,” the Titan’s Ghost called out, feeding enough power into the drive and display screen to play the last six minutes of footage in the video memory.
It seemed just like a normal day, staff and scientists going about their daily lives. The first abnormality was a wave that made the whole building quiver, a shockwave akin to the beginnings of an earthquake. But it was only one shift, the people within having the initial pause before panic set in. Yet before any of them could move to safety they completely disappeared. Upon closer inspection, playing the video back at one hundredth of normal speed, it could be seen that the first to vanish were those closer to the security doors and the last being those in the lobby. Each person dematerialized, the thread of their existence unraveling in milliseconds.
“Whatever is behind those doors,” the Warlock said, all three of them looking to what she spoke of, “Could be far more dangerous than we expect.”
“I didn’t come this far not to know,” the Hunter started for the first set of double doors. Unlike the initial entrance to the place the Ghosts were able to unravel the security codes, combining forces to decrypt the quadruple locks. The same was done for the second set, not opening it just yet. The Hunter dropped a smoke grenade at their feet cloaking the three in invisibility before they stepped through. Their Ghosts lit up, showering beams of light around to get a better view of what they had just walked into.
The initial dais they stood on was man made but it quickly fed into a massive cavern. The glow of blue lava streams hardly cast any sort of visibility, from what they could see were stalactites the size of skyscrapers dripping with water down to pools of water far deeper than their light reached. What was most damning for them were the piles of bodies, splashes of white staining nearly every surface, metal eroded away on some of the framing. Dead Vex were scattered everywhere, not a single red eye to be seen. Just at the fringe of the light fading away was the glint of a metal ring, a Vex timegate.
“By the Traveler…” the Warlock was practically breathless, the invisibility dropping away as they started in. Careful to step around the bodies they were far too enthralled with what had transpired to notice what was taking place in that moment.
The shriek of arc energy rattled through the cavern yet there was no glow in view. In an instant the fireteam put their backs to each other, primary weapons drawn and off safety. With nothing to aim at they simply scanned about but it was to no avail. From the center of where they stood the attacker came up between them, the electrified blade first ramming upwards to gut the Titan through his spine. The weapon was wrenched through the armor to slice straight through the Warlock’s throat. Both of them dropped to the ground, the Hunter having enough sense to reel backwards out of striking range.
When she finally faced the direction of where the attacker had come from there was no one. Dropping her Suros autorifle she called upon the Void, drawing back the string of her bow as it materialized. In the next second the violet arrow was released, striking the stone floor and turning into a blackhole. The tether was the telltale sign, anchoring the attacker to keep them from moving at all. In the brief moment of safety the Ghosts resurrected the Warlock and Titan who were more than a little pissed off.
“Fire at will!” the Titan roared, instantly bringing his aim up to shoot the tethered person before he even recognized the silhouette. Just before he pulled the trigger a new Ghost appeared out of nothingness.
“Wait!” the little Light had set herself between the end of the barrel and the target, “I can explain!”
The blackhole dissipated, the target vanishing as quickly as it came. Since it was a Ghost the Titan lowered his weapon, still peeved he had been killed but the surprise of seeing a one of theirs overcame that, “Start talking.”
“He’s a little on edge, the only moving things he’s seen since the end of The Collapse is the Vex and me,” the Ghost explained, her voice sounding like there was a tiny British woman inside, “I’m sure we’ve been in here quite a few decades.”
“Try a few centuries,” the Hunter corrected, staring upwards into the dark between the stalactites, hoping to catch a glimpse.
“Who’s he? And who are you?” the Warlock inquired.
“I’m Dusk, the Ghost of Shadow Clone the Human Hunter. Technically his callsign has two little x’s between the first and second word but I’m not quite sure how to pronounce it, I don’t dare ask,” she answered, the back spikes whirling this way and that as she spoke, “I didn’t realize it had been so long since I found him down here.”
“What happened? Why is he still here?”
“From what I’ve gathered in our time together he was sent here during The Collapse to help evacuate the denizens but by the time he got here they were gone. When he reviewed the video archives he found that the Vex had shifted reality around the timegate, causing the people to just stop existing. It was easier for them to make time in this facility jump forward so they wouldn’t have to do the tedious task of exterminating them all,” Dusk answered, drifting between the three, “Because this facility was for research and development he took it upon himself to secure it until back up arrived. He tried to clean the place out but he was overrun, the Vex coming through the timegate in waves of hundreds.”
“Why did he stay if he was so outnumbered? Why didn’t you bring him back to Earth?”
“It was his objective to protect the people. He failed by dying so when I brought him back to life he wanted to finish the job. He cleared out this whole facility, using the video archives to set everything back in place,” Dusk finally came to a stop, blue eye blinking at them, “I don’t dare argue with him to leave. He’s killed thousands of Vex and they eventually stopped coming through the timegate because they lost so many.”
“When was the last time a Vex came through?”
“Over a century ago, since then he’s taken the fight to them.”
“Excuse me?” the Warlock was perplexed, “He’s gone through the timegate?”
“On several occasions,” Dusk answered, “We’ve gone to the Vex homeworld one hundred and thirty two times. Each time we’ve had to go further in since they’ve deemed the area around the timegate on their side as a dead zone.”
“And this was all done by one man.”
“I don’t think you understand,” Dusk corrected them, “There’s a reason he’s called Shadow Clone, there’s no Light in him. He is the humanoid duplication of the Darkness.”
It was then the timegate burst open, framing Shadowxxclone in a brilliant white. Blade in hand he silently held out a hand for Dusk to return to him, of which she did without hesitation.
“Wait! Come back with us! Come home!” the Hunter started to rush towards him, hoping to stop him.
The only words he spoke to the fireteam echoed through the cavern, ringing in their ears as he stepped through to the other side and the Vex timegate closed.
“War is my home.”
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