Chapter 8: The Mission

The ship shifted under his feet, jostling Brynden as the turbulent air expressed its displeasure. Grabbing hold of a railing, his knuckles turned white as he steadied himself. Gritting his teeth, Brynden waited for the ship to reach calmer skies.

It did not.

"So!" the caped light bearer yelled over the bumping and groaning of the cabin they were in, "What's the plan? Who are we up against?"

Brynden glanced toward the robotic man with an eyebrow raised, clearly baffled as to how he somehow sat through a seven hour long briefing without learning anything about their mission.

Saint yelled from his spot in the cockpit of the ship, mirth clear in his voice. "You are dropping behind fallen lines to scout out why the aliens are being so ruthless these days, my caped friend. Take them out if you can, and if not, bring back any information on them so we can prepare for what might be coming."

The robed woman, currently holding a death grip on a rail sprouting out from the wall, took that moment to share her thoughts on his apparent inattentiveness. "Typical. You hunters don't start asking questions until we are preparing to drop!"

"That's rich coming from you!" The hunter laughed, seemingly not needing to keep a hold of anything. Pointing angrily at the woman, he glowered even as the ship shook violently. "Let me guess, you have a hundred page report on tactical suggestions you wrote up yesterday on something we probably won't even fight?"

A moment of tense silence came and went before she mumbled out an almost inaudible, "… It wasn't a hundred pages…"

"If you three are done bickering back there," Saint yelled, causing Brynden to snap his head in his direction.

"Three? I'm not-"

"We have arrived!"

Annoyed, Brynden felt his eye twitch even as the ship began to descend. One hand on his revolver and the other on a rail, he felt Illuyana's mind brush against his own. Immediately, feelings of calm reassurance filled him projected from his draconic companion. It was a strange sensation, feeling emotions sent from someone else, but he couldn't help but smile from it.

The ship suddenly stopped shaking violently even as heavy footsteps made their way from the cockpit. Looking up, the heavily armored form of Saint stepped forward and looked them all over from his eyeless helmet. "Prepare your stomachs my friends. I am leaving you in the last known location that the group was seen. Use the poor weather to your advantage if you can. Good luck, and come home safe!"

Still feeling the ship being piloted, Brynden looked past the massive man to the cockpit only to see Saint's ghost floating just over the pilot's chair… and seemingly doing a much much better job than Saint was at keeping the ship steady. Shaking his head, he heard the hatch open and the rushing winds and freezing air smash into his uncovered face.

"Last one out pays for drinks when we get back!" The caped man playfully yelled before jumping off into the wintery void of the darkened blizzard.

Looking towards the blue woman, he saw as her eyes were wide open in a clear showing of disbelief. Shaking her head, she slowly made her way over to a duffel bag and began to sort through the supplies.

Her loss!

Rushing out the hatch and jumping behind the man in order to not pay for drinks, Brynden quickly realized his mistake immediately. All he could see in front of him was gale force winds and blizzard conditions, the snowflakes flying straight into his eyes as he fell. Visibility was very limited, and he didn't quite know how high up he was. Sure, he could slow his descent using his abilities, but time it wrong and he was a splatter on the ground. Before he could even formulate a wish for safety, he saw the blue light sphere of a ghost's resurrection below him through the snow. Slowing his descent as much as he could, he still landed very roughly on the ground, stumbling a bit before steadying himself.

Watching as the man reformed, still prone on the ground in front of him, he walked over to see him groaning in pain. "Ouch." Reaching down, Brynden helped him to his feet without a word. Standing up with some assistance, he brushed his shoulders off before turning around and examining Brynden closely. Reaching down and gathering his shotgun from the spot he just died at, he strapped it to his back before smiling. "Thanks." He said before looking upward.

Seeing the ship slowly descending, the robed woman stepped out casually onto the snow before the ship took off behind her.

Walking over, the caped exo put a hand on the woman's shoulder. "Looks like you are paying for drinks then."

The woman ignored his teasing before making her way slightly to her left. Kicking some snow out of the way of a small pile, she uncovered the face of a corpse frozen in the snow. Reaching behind her, she shouldered her rifle as she began to scan her surroundings. "The briefing said they might have an outpost to the west of here…."

Nodding, Brynden took charge as he led the way. "Let's move."

Illuyana was frustrated.

Swaying back and forth as Brynden slid his way to a barrier made out of concrete that withstood the test of time. Glancing about, he saw no fallen ahead. Gesturing for his followers to make their way behind him along the frozen ruined road, Illuyana felt as the other two light bearers as well as their ghosts followed behind him. Each of them kept their weapons at the ready even as the snowfall from the blizzard kept them hidden.

"Nothing ahead, let's move up."

Illuyana felt like the whole maneuver was entirely unnecessary.

We are trudging along out here in the cold for what? Stealth? Pfah.

Her frustration wasn't borne of the danger, nor fear, nor worry about their safety. No, her frustration was settled within the desire to simply get this over with! All this waiting around, checking corners, and wasted time… ugh. She is a metaphysical apex predator! They were here to fight the fallen, no? If so, why weren't they fighting? She knew Brynden could take the four-armed aliens with ease now, so what was the point of all this?

Oh, but she couldn't grant her own wishes, so here she sat… unsatisfied.

Even as she swayed back and forth inside the fluffy hood of her bonded partner, she felt the wind begin to pick up outside. She continued to sway back and forth as Brynden made his way slowly onward. She didn't sense anything out of the ordinary in the immediate area, but felt a twinge of desire even through the cloak of snow.

Sending her senses outward, she could feel the fallen around them, waiting… watching… wanting… feeling…

Figuring she wouldn't get caught peeking through the massive snowstorm around them, she poked her snake-like head out of his hood to glance around. Trying to search through the blizzard to no avail, she slumped back into the hood and huffed. She could sense the enemy, but she also knew that they were still unaware of the presence of three lightbearers sneaking through their lands.

"We are surrounded, but they don't know we are here." She mentally informed Brynden, a bit of her frustration seeping into her tone. "You might want to raise your guard a bit."

Unlike all of the other times she spoke through her bond, Brynden responded this time. "Are there more of them in the direction we are going, or where we came from."

Finding herself surprised at his response, she felt immensely satisfied that he was taking to her mental link so well. After all, the closer their bond, the stronger her magic… in theory at least.

Extending her senses outward, it became clear that the direction they were going had a vast amount of these creatures all seemingly coalescing ahead. Enveloping his mind so as to let him feel what she was feeling, Brynden stumbled in the middle of the road for a moment, taking a second to stop himself from tumbling face first into the road. Surprise flowed through their mental bond for a moment before he got used to the feeling.

"A little warning next time? I wasn't expecting an out of body experience."

Poking the back of his neck with a talon, she smiled from where she was. "Ah, but you know where they are now, don't you?"

Feeling his muscles tense as he raised his weapon, she idly noted that he seemed more sure of his movements now as he made his way forward. Feeling a tendril of appreciation coming from her bonded partner, she took solace in the fact that she was still helping. She felt Brynden's tenseness, desire to help, and determination not to fail the city. Despite her frustrations at how exactly they were going about the situation, she would be here for him.

She only hoped that things would get exciting soon…

"I'm going in, don't fall too far behind!"

Watching as the caped man jumped clear into the second story of a surprisingly well-preserved building, Brynden heard several shots go off inside. Thankful that the roar of the wind would cover the sound, Brynden made his way into the front door. The building's doors appeared to have been ripped off from something, be it the wind from this storm or some other long forgotten event. Looking around, he saw as two fallen turned to him, their electric guns glowing menacingly. Two gunshots left his gun as he shot the two of them before they even had a chance to fire, his accuracy from the hip just as sharp as if he took the time to aim.

"Room clear," came from behind him, the robed woman making her way inside behind him as she spoke clinically about the dead aliens. "Come on, these buildings are all interconnected. We should be able to make our way through them unseen."

Watching as the woman's ghost hovered over her shoulder and lit up like a flashlight, Brynden blinked as she made her way down a dark hallway. Blinking, Brynden looked onto his shoulder and saw Illuyana looking back at him with a deadpan expression.

"I am not a flashlight." She said, seemingly baffled at the idea that this situation would ever arise.

"Of course not." He thought-spoke back to her, honestly offended that she thought he would even think to use her for something so degrading. Pulling out his hammer, he channeled a bit of solar energy into the weapon forcing the darkness to fade away before him. Smiling, he added, "I would be a horrible protector if I put you out in the open where you can get shot like that just for some light, nor will I degrade you like that."

Even as he was checking corners and open doors for any fallen that his female teammate might have missed, he felt the appreciation that was sent his way as she slithered back into her spot.

A door smashed out of a door further down the hallway, a fallen stumbling backward before it impacted the wall. Fumbling for its weapon, it wasn't able to ready itself before a fiery knife embedded itself between its many eyes.

Walking out from the doorway, the missing hunter walked up to the alien corpse. Removing his knife, he began to wipe the blood off of the blade on a piece of cloth the alien had on it. Glancing up, his robotic face looked amused. "Nice of you two to sho-"

"If you try to justify your inexplicably stupid decision to branch away from the team and potentially alert the enemy of our presence with some clever comment, I will kick you where it hurts the most."

Slowly turning, both Brynden and the hunter looked over to the robed woman, seeing her still searching a nearby room for hostiles.

"Damn." The hunter said, looking at Brynden even as he clutched his knife tighter, "Tough crowd."

Taking a moment to think about the hostility that the two have been showing, Brynden realized that this could be an issue later. He initially thought that the teasing was just friendly banter, but now he noticed that the hostility was more than just that.

I also still need to learn their names…

"Let's stay focused." Brynden said, straightening his back. "She seems like she knows where she's going."

Following behind the robed woman, he made his way down the darkened path. He heard some grumbling behind him, but three of them made their way forward in relative silence once the hunter quieted down.

The three of them traveled as quietly as they could through the darkened building, though it seemed more and more as if they were heading into some kind of underground concrete tunnel. Stepping over fallen concrete slabs and metal rails, the three lightbearers slowly made their way forward. The echoing sounds of footsteps could be heard bouncing around the deep cavern in front of them, each sound grating on Brynden's nerves.

Needing some kind of relief from his nerves, he got the attention of the robed woman. "So, what is this place?"

The woman, still taking the lead, tilted her head back and eyed him with an unreadable expression. After a long moment of studying him, she seemingly found something and her mouth quirked upward as she smiled softly. "The area we dropped into is the old Cosmodrome. There are many old maintenance tunnels that line the area that work as underground highways between the many different launch sites."

Blinking, Brynden glanced forward into the seemingly endless darkness in front of him. "Launch sites?"

Still moving forward, the woman's mood seemingly improved as he asked his questions. "The Cosmodrome was one of the main places on Earth where ships were sent out into space. Many different colony ships were launched from this area."

Blinking, Brynden examined the concrete around him with a new sense of wonder. This was a place built when humanity was not as scattered as it was now, a place of exploration and discovery.

I wonder if we will ever return to a time like this. We have gotten there once before, have we not?

He remembered the Iron Lord's words said to him not too long ago, but only now did he realize what he meant.

"Humanity has fallen to darkness before."

Ruined stores and warehouses were one thing, but the massive tunnel he was in was a testament to just how far humanity has fallen from grace. They made wonders that could touch the sky, and now they were fighting amongst themselves over food and shelter.

And that's ignoring the fallen.

Being reminded of the Iron Lord that spoke to him, Brynden wondered for the first time if Venra was right to push him in that direction. The people of the City seemed to trust that the Iron Lords were a force for good, at least much more than the random assorted people he met while traveling.

Perhaps I should try and join them. Maybe then we might be able to reclaim what we lost.

Clang!

Two guns rose simultaneously towards the side, aiming squarely at the hunter. Seemingly spooked by his own actions, he stumbled backwards as a cloud of dust rose up from a dropped piece of machinery. Lowering their weapons, all three of them cringed at what came next as the echoes of the metallic clanging bounced around the cavernous tunnel they were in. After a moment of no activity, their weapons were lowered.

Looking up and rubbing his upper arm in clear embarrassment, the man let out a soft, "Oops."

"Oops? That's all you have to say?" The woman whisper-yelled. "Next time I threaten the safety of our team, I'll be sure to remember the proper response of 'Oops'."

"Oh yeah? Like your long winded answers to…" the hunter paused, looking to Brynden. "What's your name again?"

Brynden smiled, finally happy that introductions were happening. "My name's Brynden." Waiting for a response, the caped man continued, seemingly uncaring that Brynden didn't know his name.

"Brynden's questions aren't echoing down the tunnel. You two are louder than you think."

"Oh please, you crashing a metal grate onto the ground is far worse!" The woman yelled, clearly uncaring as to her noise level now.

"You damn warlocks think you know everything, don't you? Well listen here you-"

Brynden, however, didn't much care about their argument anymore. Something in the far distance of the tunnel they were in caught his attention as he squinted.

Is that… beeping?

Deciding to ask Illuyana, he thought-spoke toward her, "Do you sense anything down that way?"

Illuyana's mind came back with an immense frustration, clearly aimed towards his two teammates. "No, but you might want to keep these two in check. If they make an idle wish, I don't think I will be able to stop myself from twisting them into paste!"

Unable to stop looking down the cavern, his eyes widened as a veritable army of orange floating robots poured out of an unseen passage. He only had a few seconds to react before the drones locked on and sped forward at speeds Brynden wasn't expecting.

"-damn hunters are all the same-"

"-locks aren't as smart as you think you are-"

Brynden didn't have the time to warn the two, reacting to the ominously glowing drones making their way towards them. Summoning void energy within him, he created a shield of pure void around them in a bubble even as he dropped his hammer unceremoniously onto the floor.

The moment the first drone impacted the side of the bubble, a chain reaction rang through the tunnel, as Brynden saw cracks and failures of the concrete above them. Reacting as fast as he could, he practically screamed towards Illuyana.

"I wish we survive the cave-in!"

Rocks and concrete rained down upon his shield, causing him to strain his magics within him to maintain the shield. After a long few moments of watching the rocks and dust settle outside of the safety of his bubble, he let his magic fade.

Darkness consumed them again, the only light being the two ghosts still lit up like flashlights. Finding his hammer on the floor, he once again channeled solar energies into it to see. Sure enough, in front of him, there was a small pathway through the rubble just large enough for them to fit through one at a time.

Feeling a reassuring presence in his mind, Illuyana whispered a quick, "What would you do without me?"

"Starve in the woods?" He answered, remembering just how desperate his situation was when they first met. Shaking off the memory, he held up his hammer for light before turning to his two teammates. The two of them had their guns raised, as if that would have made a difference.

"Alright, listen up." Brynden said, knowing that this problem needs to be solved before something else catastrophic happens. "We have a job to do here, and I for one intend to do it. There are people dying out there to these monsters, and here you two are bickering about who the hell cares what!" Turning to the opening that Illuyana most certainly made for him, he took in a deep breath before continuing. "I volunteered for this mission because I want to protect the City and its people. I'm going to do my duty if you are following me or not."

Making his way forward, he heard the two following behind him quietly. No more arguments, and no more bickering. Illuyana's presence was thankfully an ever-present whisper in the back of his mind, calming his nerves as he continued onward. Taking in a deep breath, he led the way.

Upon escaping from the rubble, he noticed several fallen making their way out of the same door that the explosive robots came from. Gripping his revolver tightly as they roared their challenge, he took aim.

Electric bolts of energy and flying pieces of metal flew through the air as the lightbearers made their way onward through the architecture that has now become a battlefield. The massive explosion that they survived seemed to kick the proverbial hornet's nest as they have been in near constant combat with robotic drones and fallen ever since.

Not that Illuyana could help with the fight. She was still far too small and weak to risk herself in a direct confrontation…

Not to mention, Brynden wishes me to remain safe…

Even as the sound of an explosion rang out around them, she found herself idly wondering when she might be able to join Brynden in battle.

She watched as one of the fallen got close and swiped at him with its claws and wondered when she might respond in kind. She watched as the three lightbearers cut through their enemies like a violent storm of violence and she wondered when she might add her own strength to the fray. She saw a captain shot at him with a fiery canon and wondered when she could return with her own dragonfire. She saw as Brynden fled behind cover to protect himself from the weapons and wondered when her scales would be thick enough to cover him from danger herself.

She longed to join the battle, but for now she must wait.

Feeling a strong desire from Brynden for the fiery canon would let up its assault, she granted his desire. Smiling a fang-filled grin as the fuel cell in the canon exploded in a horrible but entirely predictable malfunction. The captain was engulfed in the flames as it began to scream. Brynden, taking this chance, took a shot from his revolver. Shooting as accurately as he always had since his wish, he ended the creature precisely and instantly.

She felt herself growing slightly stronger with each enemy felled and each obstacle overcome, each one a small delicious morsel to add to her growing power.

"Thanks 'Yana."

Feeling both glee and frustration filling her, she imagined a world where Brynden laid waste to any that opposed them astride her back, the very fabric of reality rippling around them as they obliterated armies with ease. Oh what a delicious feast that would be! That will be!

"Just you wait, O' friend mine. Just you wait."

Bang!

Brynden watched as his shot had the desired effect on the large four-armed fallen, piercing it right between its glowing eyes. Lowering his revolver, he checked his surroundings once more.

All around him was the remains of a battle that lasted for what felt like hours but was probably only a few minutes. The creatures were seemingly endless in this damn building, crawling through every opening and crevice like bugs escaping from an overturned rock.

The three lightbearers cut through their enemies in silence now, making their way quietly through the ruined architecture. The frustration of their situation was seemingly now gone, their focus was entirely on their mission. There were a few times in the battle where Brynden saw the two helping each other out, a small hint of teamwork building up between the two.

Brynden idly wondered if Illuyana saving him would impact their opinion of him. After all, the previous fight to them must have looked like he just ran through the enemies without assistance.

Shaking that thought off, he focused on his mission.

That big fallen came from this way… he might have been guarding something.

Thankfully they didn't run into any more of the exploding drones, finding instead a large staircase leading upwards. Thankful just to find a way back to the surface at this point, Brynden made his way up two steps at a time. Eventually finding the top, he slowly opened a large steel door which screeched fiercely in protest.

Cringing, Brynden shook it off as he scanned the room he found himself in. All around him were tipped over chairs covered in dust. Thankfully, none of the dust looked recently disturbed, so he relaxed slightly… until he heard it.

The echoing sound of a ship's engine shook the building around him, disturbing some of the dust in the room. Coughing, he brought up his arm to cover his mouth with the sleeve of his fur jacket.

Making his way towards the sound, he opened yet another door only to be blinded by a bright white light. Squinting, he swapped his hammer for his revolver. His eyes settling, he finds himself in a room filled with snow and ice. Glancing up, he saw a hole in the roof leading outside with sunlight shining through.

It must have stopped snowing…

Nodding to himself, knowing that he could easily make the jump, he leapt onto the roof. Getting a breath of fresh air for the first time since he went underground, Brynden smiled as glanced up to the sky. The clouds were starting to lighten, allowing some light to filter through.

His smile only lasted long enough for him to turn around however, as he finally spotted two massive ships floating nearby. The massive triangular ships floating above the ground with seemingly no support had one massive engine on the side, and both were parked right next to each other. Holstering his revolver, he pulled his sniper up and used the scope to get a better look. From this angle, he couldn't see much of anything but the white painted symbols on the sides of them and the nearby floating drop ships.

Hearing the sounds of his two teammates jumping onto the roof, he let his weapon drop as he stared hatefully up to the ships. They have clearly found something that was significantly larger than just a raiding party slaughtering villages for fun.

"Oh, damn." The caped man said, his normally nonchalant voice strained.

"That symbol on both of those ships is of the house of Devils." The woman said, her tone emotionless even as her ghost focused intensely on the spectacle in front of them. "Though, I didn't know there were so many in the area…"

Gripping his weapon tightly, Brynden glared hatefully up to the lazily floating ships. His eyes focused on the symbol on the side of the ship. He can't remember if these fallen were the same as the ones that killed his mother, but he remembered the bodies in the snow and knew that they were monsters all the same.

Before he could even think on what to do about this, the two massive ships began to move. The hulking figures moved upward towards the clouds, disappearing after only a few moments.

The three lightbearers sat there for a long moment, glaring upward at the spot where the fallen ships left, knowing there was nothing any of them could do to follow.

"You know…" Brynden said, looking back to the other two. "I never did get your names."

Smiling what seemed like a genuine smile, the hunter spoke first. "My name's Judaeu."

The warlock remained stoic, but for the first time since he met her, her shoulders relaxed and she didn't appear overly hostile. "My name is Jadis Xin, but just call me Xin."

The three sat there for a moment in silence before Judaeu's ghost spoke up. "I called Saint. He's on the way for pickup."

The three sat there for only a second longer before Judaeu turned to Xin with a smile on his face.

"So… About those drinks…"

—Author's Note—

Hello everyone. Sorry for the delays in all of my stories, no real excuse other than feeling stuck both in life and in my stories.

This chapter was brought to you by: being in the backseat of a car on a 5 hour drive to an eclipse spot. Feat: boredom! I still got 3 hours left to go, so I should get a bit done on the next one too, assuming I don't get too carsick.

Hope you enjoy, and please leave a review if you did! I love reading them, and I still do on all my stories even if I haven't updated in … far too long.

-PyreElegy

edit 1: fixed the hunter being an exo. Please let me know if I missed any instances of him being an exo. There was a brief edit of this where I had him as an exo, but I changed it and missed a few.

Let me know if there are any left lol