Chapter 14: Death From Above
The Black Garden
50 minutes later
Unlike Fallen houses that often warred against each other, Cabal formations all served the same empire. While their specializations and differing missions gave the impression that they were isolated from each other, you need only give them a target big enough to know your dire error.
50 minutes ago, the entirety of the Black Garden expedition was beginning to evacuate. Vatyr was just greenlighting the first transports to lift off when dozens of hypersonic booms shattered the sky. Leaving quickly and while under fire was always something the scientists and soldiers had in the back of their head and were prepped to do, but they probably didn’t expect to be doing it while the sky was falling.
Siege Dancer orbital drop pods descended well beyond terminal velocity thanks to heavy heat shielding, acceleration thrusters (as opposed to the deceleration thrusters one would sanely expect) and fanatical soldiers inside. The jet-black pods slammed into the ground and walls within the Black Garden, incinerating some and burying others under synthstone debris. Almost all of the Cabal survived, much to Vatyr’s surprise, and were all too eager to climb out of their metal tombs and kill anything that was not one of them.
Shock and awe. That’s all Vatyr could think of as he loaded another magazine into his scout rifle. Hunkering down behind a chunk of broken wall, he tried not to be too impressed with the creatures trying to blow him up with volleys of micro-RPGs.
They may have had the element of surprise, but it’s difficult to surprise a group of super-powered soldiers that have all died a few times. Guardians engaged the Cabal shock troops head-on, allowing the regular military forces to extract what scientists and equipment remained. Fireteams worked together to isolate the hulking aliens and create avenues of escape to reach the transports in other sections of the Garden.
A pair of warlocks slowly advanced, wreathed in solar light and lashing at the heavy shields of the Cabal intruders with solar flares. Long whips of plasma extended punishment with sweeping waves of their hands, cutting their foes to ribbons. A small group of hunters took up residence within a small cave in a high moss-covered wall, firing sniper rounds and tossing out swarm grenades to keep the Cabal harassed.
More booms from above. Another wave. More shooting stars bringing fire and death. Their landings obliterated whatever was in their way, friend or foe. A mighty titan thought he was protected under his dome of void light, and probably didn’t have time to feel regret as the defense of his armour barely slowed the incoming projectile. A Cabal colossus roared as he poured death into the hunter’s cave with his heavy slug thrower.
Vatyr could see the last transport lift off once the drop pods subsided. As he signaled for the other guardians to take up more defensive positions and dig in, cannons thundered from over the high ridge behind him, sending huge tracers along the bow of the last personnel carrier. Shields buckled and armour sizzled but the pilot at the stick kept his head, pulling the ship away from the anti-aircraft fire.
Jumping to a higher perch, Vatyr could just make out where the shots came from. The Blind Legion imperial land tank had arrived. No reinforcements would make it through now.
“Sorry I am late. We ran into some Vex along the way and had to take an alternative route. The crew I was guarding was on that last transport.” spoke Solas over comms. Vatyr turned around just in time to see a massive void light explosion rip apart a handful of Cabal soldiers molecule by molecule. “Sitrep.”
“The main Cabal force is here! Where’s Telemica?” asked Vatyr as he scanned the skies.
“We will have to locate her later. For now we have to take control of the situation.”
Vatyr made it to ground and cut a path to Solas. “Take control? The Black Garden is lost to us, Solas. We have to get everyone out of here! We can’t hold against a land tank and a few thousand elite Cabal soldiers!”
With the processing speed of an Exo and the unfathomable depths of a warlock, Solas’ mind quickly assessed the situation. The rolling superfortress was an extinction-level weapon in its own right and would be fully on top of them in minutes, not to mention the dozens of other armoured assets and most of the Blind Legion, one of the most dangerous Cabal formations. There were only around 20 guardians in the Garden with no anti-armour backup, and were having enough trouble with a few dozen Siege Dancers. “You’re right.”
He tied into the communication frequency that all the local guardians were using. “Break. Break. Break. Guardians, I am Solas-3. I am assuming command of this operational theatre under authority code TYR and initiating a code BLACK planetary evac order. I’m transmitting a map to all ghosts. Encryption Aleph-1056. Decrypt for fortified escape routes accessible on foot. Evacuate the Black Garden. I repeat, evacuate the Black Garden. Get outside the new exclusion zone and return to Tower for debrief. Immediate action on receipt. I will take full responsibility.”
Solas received pings of compliance from every guardian on the channel as they made their way to several uncovered passageways that will leads them out of the danger zone. Most ghosts were rescued to later revive their charges, but a few were lost to Cabal bombardment.
In the middle of the endless Martian desert, Telemica was a still, crumpled mess.
The land tank had used a repositioned exclusion satellite to triangulate her flight path and shoot her down. She’d barely managed to keep her shattered craft together, but the ship desintrigrated in the crash and she was thrown into the side of a dune like a ragdoll, knocking her unconscious and pulverizing her body.
Squire built an anti-grav stretcher out of the ship’s remains as quickly as possible, took over Telemica’s armour controls and slowly got her on to the rig so he could get her clear, using the last of armour’s life-support systems to keep her alive. After finding a cave for shelter, he sent out a coded distress beacon and worried himself sick over his injured guardian through the night before help arrived.