2014 In Review

The WordPress.com stats helper monkeys prepared a 2014 annual report for this blog.

Here’s an excerpt:

A San Francisco cable car holds 60 people. This blog was viewed about 460 times in 2014. If it were a cable car, it would take about 8 trips to carry that many people.

Click here to see the complete report.

Frontier Update #3 – Off To A Good Start

I’m not the kind of guy who finds it easy to follow through on these kinds of writing projects. I end up being my own worst critic before I can get anything out there. The fact that I’ve gotten this far is a bit of a personal triumph.

First and foremost, I really need to profusely thank all the readers, and especially those who gave me feedback and encouragement. Getting some momentum behind this project was much easier thanks to all of you.

Let’s review what we have so far. I can give you my personal thoughts on it. Then we can speak of what comes next.

First, we met the blind Exo Warlock, Solas-3. He was the first character I came up with. I primary an Exo Warlock on Destiny and when I was building his look in the character creator, something about no eyes and horns really sparked something in me. I’m not sure why I find this chapter perhaps my most disappointing, but it probably has something to do with all the awesome stuff I have planned for him in upcoming acts. I am very eager to get to it, but patience will be a friend to us all right now. Also in case it’s not obvious, the name is indeed a loving tip of the hat to Bioware.

Second in the fireteam intros was the Human Titan Lady Telemica Magna. She’s an amazonian warrior goddess. I received a fair bit of feedback telling me that it was hard to get a sense of the character. To me, she’s probably the least complicated, and therefore she’ll be the backbone to a lot of stuff that happens to Fireteam Warden. She’s a bit of a fixed point that many future events will converge on. She’s not simple and won’t be one-dimensional, but what you see is mostly what you get.

Lastly is our Awoken hunter, Vatyr S’Jet. I don’t have a lot of experience writing rogueish characters but I’m really looking forward to fleshing him out. He’s a scoundrel. A lover. A fighter. He may become the heart of the team, but I know for certain he’ll be pulling them into crazy situations.

And that was Act01. Nothing crazy. Introductions for the most part and a hook into Act02.

I have a lot of stories planned, but for Act02 I wanted something other than a massive excuse for action, and at the same time a chance tp overlay something of my own on to the world. So after a quick meet in chapter04 the fireteam left for Old Italy. The names of the chapters come from classical music. A concerto is a music piece in three parts. a battaglia is a musical piece depicting battle, and a coda is the end to a piece of music. I’ll probably going to be getting a lot of chapter titles from music.

Writing gun-based action scenes in small static spaces is oddly difficult. I’d written martial arts and swordplay scenes before but this was new. It was a challenge to make it interesting. If it were set in a dynamic space or if the characters were moving around more writing it may have been easier, but I needed it to be a pretty hopeless and frightening situation.

And what of Angela? She’ll return. She may not be blasting away Hive but her relationship with Fireteam Warden is a strong one that will come back around. There are many forces at work in my vision of Destiny’s world. They don’t always come from outside and they don’t always play nice.

So what comes next? At present I have 11 more acts planned. Each act is a self-contained story, but they’ll grow from each other. Some will contain multiple chapters, while a few will be one-shots.

There’s also the question of when I’m going to write all of these. I was able to put out nearly 6000 words because of holiday vacation time. I am going to try my best to get another act out before I have to go back to work, at which point finding time to write may be a challenge. I have a lot of plates spinning. We’ll see how it goes.

Before I post this I’ll ask again for constructive feedback. What did you like? What did you not like? Not because I need my ego stroked but because writing in a vacuum without someone telling you if you’re out of your mind is a little unnerving.

Thank you again for hanging with me and my little piece of creative ambition. Stay tunes because we’ve barely begun!


Frontier – Act02 Chapter07 – Coda

Chapter 7: Coda

Old Italy, Western Sicily

The sun was shining.

It was the first thing the guardians and refugees noticed. The sun cast its warmth as if it was a normal summer afternoon. No rain. No clouds. No wind.

The second thing they all noticed was that they were lying upon the faint remains of the chapel. A ring of splinters and sticks was all that was left of the quaint structure. A crater existed where walls once stood, and the only thing in the crater were people.

The guardians were the first to wake up. Vatyr scouted the shoreline while Telemica saw to the surprisingly intact refugees. Some died in the battle and many were hurt, but whatever ended the conflict didn’t seem to cause any additional injuries.

Solas walked inland towards a cliff overlooking the beach. There he found the little girl, wrapped in a blanket. As she stared out over the water with trepidation written on her face, Solas began putting the pieces together.

She turned to him, her elvish Awoken features glowing faintly under the blanket. A tear finding its way down her cheek. “I don’t understand. I don’t understand any of it. Matriarch Hera just insisted on keeping me safe. Always safe. She would have died for me, sacrificed the others for me.”

Solas saw the hand cannon on the ground next to her, its barrel pealed back like a banana all the way to the cartridge. The handle apparently melted by intense heat until the impression of the girl’s hand was sunk deep into the metal. “Your gift makes you a target.”

“I led them away from danger, to safe places. I could sense which way to go. They think I’m some sort of blessing, but I’m a curse.” She said, choking back her sadness and slowly holding up her ghost to Solas as if proving her point. “Even this little one couldn’t protect me. He gave me my shroud and then just… turned off.”

Wisp materialized and flew over to the girl’s ghost, bathing it in light the colour of love and family. Solas could hear the cheers coming from below. The refugees must think they were saved from demons by angels. It was not the first time those cut off from humanity saw the world in such archaic terms. Such is the way of things when the truth of The Traveler’s light and the Golden Age becomes myth and legend. In time they’d come to know the truth.

“It is not dead, but the light within it is nearly gone. I hypothesize that bringing back one such as this requires a vastly larger expenditure of light than usual. It can be rejuvenated with time and care.” Wisp said, enveloping the girl’s ghost in light. In seconds, its little eye blinked blearily back to life. The girl broke down in tears, thanking Solas and embracing him. The Exo was not accustom to physical affection, but did his best. He saw this girl’s light clearly now, and it was bright and lovely.


The Tower
One Week Later

The Speaker had sensed the girl, named Angela, coming into the world some time ago, but because of the stealth shroud her ghost had given her for protection, he could not track her down. He knew her ghost was somehow incapacitated due to the lack of communication, and that The Hive were sniffing her out. If The Speaker had sent a large group of guardians, it would have tipped off the enemy too quickly. Conversely, if a high-priority call was made, Vanguard Command would have likely requested proof and other red tape. The Speaker needed a small team to get the job done without drawing any attention.

The girl was important. After all, she was to be the new Speaker.

Angela’s unique gifts gave her a unique connection to The Traveler and its light that was beyond that of a normal guardian. While speakers were generally long-lived by the day’s standards, they needed to train apprentices, yet worthy candidates were few and far between. These precious few lived with the current Speaker and took over duties when the master died or was otherwise unfit to continue.

Word of Angela spread fast. Her young age and power were certainly noteworthy, but she’d also be the first Awoken Speaker. That fact alone had far-reaching political ramifications.

Solas found Angela standing on the outer walkway by The Speaker’s great machine. She wore white robes and a white metallic headband denoting her place and status, but they didn’t seem to suit her just yet. She was staring at The Traveler as Solas joined her.

“Matriarch Hera and my people seem to be integrating well.” She said with a sigh.

“Yes.” Solas responded calmly.

“I know. I’m not supposed to think of them as ‘my people’ any more. All under The Traveler will be under my care and guidance at some point. Still, it feels good to focus on a small group for now.”

Solas said nothing. The silence held for some time.

“I never thanked you for all you and your team did. We’d all be dead if it wasn’t for you.”

“You saved us. You. Never forget that. It is within you to change to course of our civilization, and others. I, and all guardians exist to serve you”

Angela nodded, a smile meeting a tear at the corner of her innocent face. Her right hand reached up to find his left. “You’ll visit?”

“Of course” said Solas in a caring tone that surprised them both, yet didn’t.

As darkness continued to seek paths of destruction, the sun began to set on the last bastion of a civilization that one little girl was charged to lead under a dormant god, and one synthetic who would die to protect her.

Frontier – Act02 Chapter06 – Battaglia

Chapter 6: Battaglia

Old Italy, Western Sicily

“We’ve got incoming!” hollered Telemica. Vatyr and Solas could sense the familiar excitement in her voice. Of course Telemica’s focus was the safety of the refugees, but she savoured combat like others enjoyed fine food or drink. She quickly posted herself by the front doors as others created whatever barricades they could. The sleek form of a Suros Regime auto rifle formed in her hands.

Vatyr leaped up on to a thick wooden beam in the centre of the ceiling. Taking a crouching position, he motioned for his A.1F19X-Ryl scout rifle to appear in one hand and Glitch to materialize in the other. “I’m going to need as many swarm grenades as you can give me. Devote all the armour resources to it except for the cloak.” he commanded as he faded from sight. Glitch began to zoom around the open space of the hall, depositing exploding nanobots that would swarm upon any Hive in proximity. In a few short seconds the space was filled with nearly a hundred of the small buzzing points of light.

Solas readied his hand cannon Heaven Can Wait and took up a defensive position behind the altar and pulled the mysterious girl under it. “Stay here.” He said shortly.

“I can help!” protested the girl, even as the sounds of approaching Hive intensified.

Solas paused for a moment. “Yes. You can. Just not here or now. For now it is my place to protect you. Will you allow that?” he asked with a hand on her shoulder. Solas didn’t yet understand the intricacies of it, but he knew this little soul was at the centre of all this, and had been for a longer time than just this night.

“Yes.” The girl sighed in resignation. “Please. Thank you.”

The screams from outside stopped as the front door suddenly bucked hard. Trigger fingers applied pressure. Muscles tensed. Breathing stopped.

Stained glass and wood exploded from the sides of the room as thralls leaped into the chamber. Their cries were short lived as they were shredded by a cloud of buzzing swarm grenades. Glitch continued to zip around the air, replenishing what she could.

The front door bucked again and a sense of panic began to rise. “There are far more demons out there than other nights!” cried one of the armed men, his flight instincts overpowering his fighting sense. Another slam against the door. It would soon give out.

“Look to the guardians, my children! They will keep us safe!” announced the Matriarch to her kin. Telemica took the queue and raised a fist into the air, charging it with a burst of solar light that spread over her body as she let out a bloody roar. She knew many of these people would die tonight, but if any were to survive, they needed to have hope first. Giving her troops hope was something Lady Magna was renowned for.

The door exploded into tinder as the hulking form of rage known as a Hive Knight entered the chapel, leading a flood of acolytes and thralls. Telemica leaped out from behind the battlements and sundered the knight’s armoured skull with a massive light-charged flying haymaker punch. The knight crumpled and evaporated as Telemica landed and began to unload on the others.

“Fight! The night will be ours!” bellowed Telemica. A hail of bullets joined hers as more Hive poured through the doorway. Squire materialized and began pulsing charges of arc light into the wall of enemies, hoping to impress his goddess of war.

Vatyr supported Telemica with precision fire from his perch, but he knew Glitch’s efforts to cover the area with swarming nanobots would give out soon. Thralls entered the fray via blown windows as fast as the holes would allow.

From the rear, Solas’ massive hand cannon rounds helped to hold the space as his warlock mind raced. He could see that the Hive were being attracted to something, but he couldn’t sense what. Normally his sight, which pierced the veils between this reality and others, could spot such a thing instantly, but he could find nothing. The only oddity was the child, who seemed to be encased in a cloak of nothing. Not invisible, but a vacuum of existence. No light or darkness seemed to interact with her.

Before Solas could continue that train of thought, a Hive Wizard ripped its way into the spacetime above the altar and dove down. At Solas? No, he realized. He dropped his weapon and brought his hands up, slamming his void light against the darkness of the intruder. When a wizard and a warlock dueled each other, it was a battle of titanic minds wielding the essences of universes, rather than tools throwing bullets and explosives. They didn’t attempt to simply destroy each other, but unexist their foe.

Solas had engaged in such duels before, but this wizard was different. Its mind was deeper and blacker than anything the warlock had encountered before. Massive. So deep and cold it appeared limitless. Energies spiraled between the two but the wizard was closing in. A skittering laugh came from the monster, as if to taunt the Exo’s inevitable failure.

Knights burst through the walls that once held the main doors and slammed into forward barricades, forcing Telemica to throw up a barrier of light. It would hold but not for long. The refugees cowered within the bubble, expending the last of their ammo. Vatyr’s swarm grenades had been used up and Glitch had retreated back into the hunter’s armour, exhausted. Vatyr switched to his Defiant Gravity-A machine gun, and used an ammo synthesis module, but his reserves would not hold long.

“Enough!” screamed the little girl. Solas suddenly noticed she was bravely standing beside him, holding the hand cannon he dropped with both her hands. As she pointed it at the wizard, the gun appeared immense in her small hands. Surely firing it would snap her wrists, but before Solas could protest, she pulled the trigger.

Everything went white.

Frontier – Act02 Chapter05 – Concerto

Chapter 5: Concerto

Old Italy, Western Sicily

The personnel transport bucked hard against the turbulence. A storm was moving into the area over the Pacific Ocean. Vatyr hated turbulence. Put him in a ship approaching the speed of light and his constitution was solid, but put him on a rocking boat and you’re likely to find him tossing his lunch overboard. Most Awoken had the same affliction. Vatyr could not wait until he was back on solid ground as he adjusted his armour’s settings in an attempt to calm his stomach.

In contrast, Telemica slept sitting up, and Solas was so still in his seat that you’d be forgiven for thinking the synthetic was simply off.

“Visual on the landing site” announced the pilot over the intercom. “This storm will likely get a lot worse before it gets better. Once we land, it’ll be difficult to take off until it clears.”

Telemica arose and checked the ship’s sensors. The shoreline was littered with various structures predating the Golden Age. What little intel The Speaker had provided said the refugees would be found here. Hiding. Hiding from what, Telemica wondered. No Fallen houses or bandit gangs were reported to operate in the area.

The ship jostled harder this time. The storm would no-doubt be a full-blown hurricane in hours. The pilot had little choice but to put her down at the first opportunity. Scans of the surrounding buildings showed several dozen heat signatures coming from the beachside buildings, and they landed a few meters away from the one with the most signatures.

Under the pitch black and angry sky, Telemica banged on the large door to what looked like an ancient chapel. “We mean you no harm! We bring food, medicine and safety! Please let us in!” she announced loudly enough for those inside to hear over the howling winds. It took a few more announcements for the doors to open.

Guns, some old enough to be in a museum were leveled on the fireteam as they slowly entered with hands in the air and helms off. Vatyr instantly counted 56 human refugees in this chapel alone, with at least 10 of them being armed with more than knives and sharp implements. Solas was the last to enter and he seemed to change the energy of the room slightly. Vatyr guessed they didn’t encounter many Exos out here.

Telemica rolled the large sack of offerings from her shoulder and held it out at arms-length. “As promised. I hope these help. We only mean to talk.”

An elderly woman hidden behind the altar rose to her feet and walked toward the guardians down the centre isle without reservation. Using simple hand gestures she commanded one of the armed men to take the sack. He did, and after a quick inspection handed it to the woman, though the woman’s eyes never left those of Telemica’s. “Speak.” She commanded.

“We’re guardians of the Last City. It’s a place where you and your people can be safe and comfortable. We’re here to transport you there.” Telemica announced.

“And if we decline your offer?” the matriarch asked defiantly.

“We’re not going to abduct you, but if you’ll let us explain, I am sure you’ll want to come with us.” responded Vatyr. The Matriarch’s gaze seemed to change when looking at the Awoken. Had she never seen one before, or was it something else? Tense minutes past before the Matriarch waved her hands in the air, signaling the guards to lower their arms and allow the guardians entry. A woman bolted to the Matriarch’s side and was handed the sack, which was promptly emptied and surveyed.

A tense hour later, Telemica, the Matriarch and her advisers were discussing the situation at hand in a corner room while Vatyr was ogled by the rest. Children prodded his armour, poked his luminescent face and tugged at his gold-white cloak. A few of the maidens even giggled and laughed in the corner while stealing glances at him, and Vatyr took enough amusement from it that he stole a few right back.

Solas was right by the altar, taking in what was obviously the ritual centre of the room. A statue of a man nailed to a cross fascinated him. No doubt part of a long-lost religion. The face of the man was of agony, but not pain. There was also something else he was observing: the small girl hiding behind the altar. “You can come out of hiding. I am not a threat to you.” he said softly.

She arose slowly. She was wrapped up completely in grey cloth with not a single part of her exposed. Even more curious, Solas could not see through the seemingly simple vestments. “Perhaps I am the threat.” spoke the girl in a voice that could not be older than eight years.

“Perhaps. I suggest a truce for the time being.” responded Solas. Normally such a conversation between a guardian and a child would be comical, but there was something about this child that told Solas she was being dead serious.

She stood there for a moment observing the Exo before walking to the main group. “Night comes. Be vigilant.” she whispered.

An explosion rocked the chapel. Vatyr rushed towards a boarded-up window and peered between the boards to see the transport in pieces and flames. Telemica rushed out with the Matriarch and others, donning her helm. A new and angry howling rose over the wind, and Fireteam Warden understood why a simple militia team couldn’t handle this mission.

The Hive were upon them.

Frontier – Act02 Chapter04 – Should You Choose To Accept It

Chapter 4: Should You Choose To Accept It

The Last City, Caucasus Mountains
The Tower

While the common understanding of The Tower by citizens of The City is that it was a giant military installation, to the guardians who dwelt within it was much more. Over the centuries since its construction and the legitimization of the Vanguard Command, guardians had formed their own culture centered there. Rites, rituals and codes evolved naturally among the demigods that sought to take back what the Darkness had stolen.

Vatyr sipped his tea on the steps of the Tower Watch. He found observing ships come and go soothing. The noon sun felt warm on his shaved head as his sunset-orange eyes tracked flyers of various designs. A contented grin formed across his blue-white face as the herbal tea relaxed his body and his mind. He learned a long time ago that one thing a hunter must always seek is the calm before the storm.

Vatyr spotted Telemica exiting Guardian Hall and waved her over. A powerful titan in and out of battle, she towered over other guardians who honoured her with a wide berth. The natural intimidation of her tall and powerful physique was offset by her exuberant and reassuring face. Dark chocolate skin etched by combat, intense emerald eyes and blood-red hair set in a way that was attractive but just short enough to not become a hassle. Few were not phased when that scarred visage of confidence and beauty exploded in the fury of battle, but her helm spared most of that.

“Reporting in on your latest glorious victory, no doubt.” Vatyr half-joked, grasping her extended right forearm in an age-old sign of greetings among warriors.

“Of course!” laughed Telemica, chest puffed in pride. “The Cabal formations collapsed easier than I expected. If only I had an assistant to fill out these damned reports.”

“Or perhaps a bard to sing you praises everywhere you tarried!” joked the hunter. When it came to battle, Lady Magna’s success was so rarely in doubt, Vatyr considered it some cosmic joke played on her foes. By the expression on Telemica’s face, it appeared mention of a bard caught her fancy, and suddenly he felt sorry for her ghost in what would no doubt be his new responsibilities.

Before Vatyr could continue, a ghost flew over to them from the north. “Hunter S’Jet and Titan Magna, the Speaker wishes to address you both at your earliest convenience.” it said before scurrying off.

It was not unheard-of for The Speaker to converse with guardians, but it was notably rare. The Speaker was often reclusive within his observatory and few wished to trouble him. The general feeling was that since he had the ears of the most powerful people in The City and his concerns were beyond a normal guardian’s ken, it seemed unwise to interrupt.

As the two guardians entered the northern wing of The Tower and approached the observatory, they spotted the third member of their veteran fireteam waiting at its entrance. Solas-3 stared at the immense machinery that somehow allowed The Speaker to do his work, though stared would be technically incorrect. Solas didn’t have eyes, but did indeed see. People often had a hard time conversing with the Exo who had the majority of his face covered with metal. Some dared to ask if he saw through the two black horn-like apparatuses that gave him a pseudo-fantastical look, but he would never answer definitively. It was the first secret of the warlock built of secrets.

“Ho there, Solas” spoke Telemica as they reached him. They didn’t worry about surprising him, as they knew Solas saw things beyond what normal eyes could.

Solas turned his head slightly in their direction to address them, his indigo backlight seemed to be a visual calming agent to his words, “We should not keep The Speaker waiting.” before walking in. The other two followed.

At the top of the single curved flight of stairs, The Speaker busied himself with holographic displays. No doubt the latest scans of The Traveler. The Speaker turned to address the fireteam when they approached. “Ah. Yes. Good. Thank you for returning so quickly, guardians. I have need of you. There is a small band of humans living in old Italy. Western Sicily. They need to be extracted and brought to The City with as much speed and as little attention as possible.”

“Why not just send a transport with regular militia?” Telemica asked as respectfully as possible. Gathering refugees was not something guardians often did, especially veteran fireteams.

“The darkness is swirling around a point of light. It must be saved.” said The Speaker in his usually cryptic fashion. The answer didn’t satisfy the titan, but before she could press, Vatyr touched her shoulder, signaling her to pause.

“As you wish, Speaker.” said Solas with a small bow. The other two followed suit and exited.

As the three guardians made their way to the hangars, Telemica’s patience was wearing thin. “Do you two want to fill me in?” she asked as she followed.

Solas was ahead but didn’t slow his pace or turn when addressing her. “The Speaker does not want this mission to be high-profile, but it is critical nonetheless. Gears turn. There is much more at play here than we realize.”

“Our dossiers were on his screens as well. Fireteam history, psychological assessments… he’s chosen us specifically for this mission, whatever it may be. It also explains why this mission was given such a low priority but was assigned to us. He’s hiding the operation in plain sight.” Vatyr interjected.

Telemica nodded in understanding. It put her on-edge to not have all the available information, but a soldier followed orders. At least she knew to expect more than what was on the surface. “Whatever it is, Fireteam Warden will be triumphant!” she exclaimed with a raised fist. Vatyr found her confidence reaffirming, and knew Solas did as well, regardless of the lack of reaction from him.