Chapter 22: The Golden Path
Fireteam Warden had found the trunk of the conflux, which was now wider than they could perceive from their vantage point. As tall as it had grown, it had also driven itself down into the planet’s core as well. The area around the massive energy form had been transfigured into a shaft so spacious that it held its own atmospheric phenomena, rolling clouds slightly obscuring the far walls. Tendrils of light and data jutted like roots into the walls of the shaft, no doubt connecting to the canyon-size circuits coursing throughout Mercury. Even with the aid of his rifle’s scope, Vatyr couldn’t get eyes on a top or bottom to the shaft. The conflux itself hummed in a note that made Telemica think of synthetic monks intoning, the frequency of which she could feel in her bones.
Without pause, Solas began to crawl along the walls of the shaft, avoiding the occasional static discharge. Vatyr and Telemica shook themselves out of their awe and followed, noticing that he was headed for a nearby outcropping of synthstone near an oddly thick root. It took them close to an hour of climbing slowly along the near-shear walls to reach the outcropping, which almost appeared like a landing pad or control station. Veins came off the root and connected to a large synthstone wall at the end of the platform.
“Anyone find it odd that we have not encountered as much as a goblin since we entered this place?” Vatyr said, looking over the edge.
“Odd, and disappointing.” grumbled Telemica.
“It doesn’t matter. This is exactly where we need to be… where I need to be.” said Solas as he walked slowly but with purpose towards the wall.
“It is? How do you figure that? There’s nothing here that will help us shut this thing down.” said Telemica. An anxiety from an unknown place within her began to creep. She brought her rifle up a little tighter to her frame in a subconscious effort to feel in control.
Solas placed his flat palms on the wall as if trying to push it over the edge. There was an explosion of kaleidoscopic light that would have blinded Vatyr and Telemica had their helmets not adjusted quickly enough, though the light seemed to creep into their brains as well and disoriented them for a few seconds. As they came to, they saw Solas cocooned in rainbows of violent light, some of it coming from the wall and some from him. The Exo continued to appear to push as hard as he could against the wall with his palms, bracing his feet under him. The others knew the vast majority of his exertions were not physical.
Before they could ask the warlock what was going on, the wall at the base of the outcropping slid aside to reveal a very large portal, which immediately opened and began pouring out Vex units. Vatyr blink-jumped high into the air, forming void light into the shape of a bow and arrow. The hunter unleashed a salvo of dark bolts which pinned the Vex in place. Meanwhile, Telemica was bringing to bear her most prized possession, a Gjallarhorn rocket launcher. Unleashing shots in quick succession, the initial wave of Vex were leveled, but more were pouring out of the portal every second.
The light surrounding Solas began to emit a high-pitched sound reminiscent of metal screaming under stress. The same light and sound seemed to slowly reverberate through the wall and into the massive conflux root that it was connected to. The normally ordered and serene white motes of data within the conflux began to become erratic, their colour changing slowly to an angry crimson. Golden symbols and streams began to flow out of the wall Solas was interfaced with and fight their way to the main trunk of the conflux, disrupting it further.
Vatyr and Telemica poured every bit of firepower into the oncoming wall of Vex from behind their portable cover barriers, but it only slowed them. Within minutes they would be overrun.
“Solas! I have no idea what you’re doing but we’re running out of time!” yelled Vatyr over his shoulder. Solas showed no signs of hearing him but appeared to be doing everything he could to accomplish whatever he was intent on accomplishing.
Hydras with dozen of harpy swarms could be seen flying towards the outcropping, and nearby sections of the shaft wall began to transfigure into cyclops batteries. Telemica screamed mightily as she unleashed clip after clip into the metal foes. The bloodlust inherent in a warrior’s final stand against an insurmountable enemy had taken hold. Her rifle clicked a second before Vatyr’s, announcing that they were entirely out of ammo. Flipping her rifle and holding it barrel-first, she called forth all the light in her being to form a colossal hammer. Vatyr followed suit, using his sniper rifle as a core to an immense sword. They both charged into the horde with battle cries on their tongues, knowing they would die together.
Before the duo met their fate, the shaft began to quake violently, throwing all but Solas off to the ground. The conflux began to shift and mutate, changing colour and shape rapidly. A fog that usually announced the arrival of Vex spewed out of the portal, wrapping the Vex in darkness and dragging them back into the network.
Telemica and Vatyr were stunned, turning to Solas for answers. They saw their Exo companion, facing them at the edge of the outcropping, the interface wall crumbling behind him. “It must be this way. We must walk the golden path. All others lead to oblivion.” he said telepathically. Before either guardian could speak a word or take a step, the outcropping below Solas gave way, sending the warlock falling to the depths below and beyond their sight.
She wanted to scream. She wanted to jump over to save him, even though it was impossible. The outcropping continued to collapse in their direction. Vatyr grabbed the stunned titan and pushed her against the wall and into the nook that the now-inactive portal had cut out. It was just big enough to house them as the shaft continued to shake itself apart.
The conflux sputtered and stammered, sending waves of cascading multicoloured corruption throughout its body and out through the roots that spread through the planet. Like a hologram that had a faulty emitter, it shook and waved until finally collapsing in on itself in a flash of blinding light and deafening sound.