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.