Chapter 51: Forward
The Last City
“It has taken years for us to rebuild this City. Our home. Years to heal from our wounds, mourn the dead and reforge our bonds. Hard time full of blood, sweat and tears. First, the Vex came to take away The Traveler, but we denied them their prize. Then the Fallen House of Kings came to our walls to strike at us while we were wounded, but they too were turned away.”
Angela stood at the podium atop the rebuilt and improved observatory in the centre of the tower lookout and took a breath to collect her thoughts before continuing. Her voice and image projected across the domain and beyond. She had expected her heart to be beating out of her chest. Perhaps in a time not so long ago, that would have been the case. She had found her mettle since then.
The young Speaker was flanked by the Vanguard leadership and other dignitaries, all in formal dress. She’d been preparing this speech for some time. She needed the people behind her for what was to come. She needed their hearts and minds. She could feel they were with her so far, and now she had to turn it up.
“Our valiant guardians protected us, laying down their restored lives for us time and again when things seemed most bleak. They stood, fought and were victorious!”
The crowd cheered.
“The factions found new common ground. The Dead Orbit became the foundation from which we built the Vanguard Navy. The Future War Cult opened their mysteries to us, allowing our research and development to jump ahead decades. New Monarchy enshrined me, your Speaker, as their Queen. New allies came to hear our call. The Queen of The Reef, The House of Judgement, the warmind Rasputin and more!”
The crowd cheered louder.
“Today, we commemorate the fateful day when three brave guardians accomplished the impossible. Through The Traveler’s blessing gifts, they destroyed the invader’s leader with a glorious blow. A single punch with such fury and power that it carved a deep valley into this mountain range that stretches into the horizon. Today, in honour of their service, bravery and sacrifice, we name this battle scar in the face of the world The Valley of The Warden.”
The crowd cheered even louder.
“The Darkness has officially been put on notice!”
The crowd roared. A chant of her name rolled through the masses. The entire City came alive. She let them and herself have it for a minute, then raised her hand to calm them.
“My people, we have walked through the forge of dark days and been remade stronger than ever before, but darker days still await us. Forces that will stop at nothing to grind us back into the dust. Will we let them?”
The crowd cried out defiantly.
“Our unity will make us stronger than anything they could ever break. Our light will burn The Darkness and its minions away. We will take back our worlds, and pioneer the golden path beyond. Today is a day of remembrance and celebration. Tomorrow, and for all the tomorrows after, we will move forever forward!”
The crowd erupted. Nothing could stop them now, Angela thought. She took a wave and vacated the podium. The festivities below were now in full swing, and the time for pretty words was over. For the people of the Last City on Earth, it was a time for joy. For Angela, it was always time for work. She had Vanguard reports to review and expansion plans to oversee. Tomorrow she’d be on a transport to The Reef to formalize trade negotiations and other partnerships.
Angela entered her private office in the observatory. An elegant space full of old books mixed with new tech. She keyed the biometric scanner hidden in the mechanisms of a sextant sitting on her wide Brazilian walnut desk. Hidden scanners in the office identified her and activated the portal.
Solas’ old lab had held up fairly well after the Vex incursion. The invaders never found a way into it, so as soon as Angela had gotten the chance after the battle, she had run down to the main entry and keyed the door. The power core was nearly drained, the unique ammo stores were all but depleted, and the main processing core was totally burned out. Ikora helped her close the few experiments that the frames were still running and relocate the main entry portal to Angela’s new office. The lab had once been where Solas prepared for Warden’s ordeal. Now, it’ll serve a new purpose.
At the centre of the lab, where Solas’ pod once was, stood something new. Within a complex assortment of cables, scanners and interfaces, three clear teardrop-shaped crystalline bulbs hung from a miniaturized version of the lab’s old power core. Each bulb containing a ghost.
After the battle, Angela had ordered Warden’s ghosts found. They were assumed dead but Angela had just become the new Speaker and she didn’t hesitate to put that influence to work. Using the wealth of tools in Solas’ lab, she discovered that Wisp, Glitch and Squire were in fact still alive, perhaps through some residual effect of The Traveler’s boon. It should not have been possible, but impossible was becoming more and more common these days. Fireteam Warden had survived by the thinnest of margins.
The three ghosts now floated comfortably in a liquid light solution pioneered recently by Omolon foundries. Slowly, they were absorbing light and gaining strength. There was no way for her to know when they’d wake up. It could be tomorrow, or it could be a hundred years from now. Every evening, Angela would come down to this lab, make sure the frames were tending to them properly as well as Angela’s other experiments, check the readouts and findings, look at the three ghosts, and promise her friends that the world they saved would flourish in their absence. Finally, before retiring to her bed, she’d always ask her friends for a small favour.
“Come back soon.”