Frontier Update #10: Time To Mature

I’ve been keeping a very close eye on all the news leading up to The Taken King, and while I’ve been pleased with what has been presented, I find I can’t bring myself to buy in.

Will I continue to play Destiny at this juncture? No.

I watched the Twitch reveal. TTK looks great, and Bungie seems to be not just correcting some (not all) of the narrative-killing choices they made in the final year before launch of vanilla Destiny, but also appear to really be taking player criticism to heart. That all said, I can’t justify the price at this time. Beyond that, I simply don’t crave it in the way I feel I should.

Am I giving up on Destiny? No.

I know there are millions of people who will be playing TTK so Destiny 2 in 2016 is a pretty sure thing, given that IPs of this nature and profitability don’t exactly spring up often. TTK will prove to Bungie (and Activision) that the narrative-driven game that we all wanted will move product just as much – if not more than – the competitive-focused game we were sold last year. At the same time, having player actions be a much more determining factor for loot and progression will prove to not detract from the game’s day-to-day longevity. From there, Destiny 2 has a decent chance to become the game vanilla Destiny was intended to be.

I also expect Destiny 2 to ditch PS3/Xbox360 support. This is a good thing, as the majority of technical hurdles that we’ve had to contend with in the current iteration of Destiny can be traced back to that support. Creative programming can only take Destiny so far and by now I don’t think it’s silly to suggest that the “next-gen” consoles of Xbox One and PS4 have become “current-gen”.

In essence, I’m giving Destiny time to mature.

So, I’ll continue to keep an eye on Destiny and hope that Destiny 2 will be an offering that fully rekindles my desire for this IP.

Back to writing.

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Frontier – Act07 Chapter26 – Neverland

Chapter 26: Nevrland

The bed seemed impossibly soft, but sleep was at most an elusive concept to Vatyr.

The hunter stood nude in the center of the huge cylinder-shaped bedchamber, taking in the singular mural that took up the entire wall. It depicted the mighty Queen Mara Sov as she rose to power in the Reef Wars. Most would much rather look at the naked form of that same Queen on the bed, pale and drenched, a far cry from the embodiment of power immortalized in the painting, but Vatyr knew how terrifying she truly was. The conquering and idealized entity rendered in the mural was far less intense.

The Techeuns had easily stopped the murder-fueled Uldren in mid-flight with their psychokinetic gifts; the Queen herself ordered him and the witches to leave, not even deeming the scene unfolding worth her gaze. She was clearly displeased with his actions but could not possibly be surprised, and neither was Vatyr. As the visage of fury soared through the throne room at him with a pure and deep violence singing from his aura, Vatyr considered letting the Master Crows’ blade sink into his heart. At least this dance would end after so long. He knew fully all the levels of antithesis that the guardian represented to Uldren, and Vatyr couldn’t yet bring himself to war over it. Had she commanded it, he would have embraced the steel looking to rip the life from his body without hesitation.

Numerous veiled attendants appeared and scurried off with Vatyr, removing his bodysuit, bathing him and scenting him with perfumes to the Queen’s liking. He was then led to her bedchambers, where she awaited him.

The night had been long and exhausting. There was no love in her actions, only lust and the joy in being worshiped. His every movement, exertion and word intended to placate and satisfy the goddess that straddled him commandingly. Even now, she merely lay there in her afterglow, letting her plaything recuperate for the next round.

He loved her. Endlessly.

He was not sure why he adored her, and he couldn’t possibly be sure that his devotion existed purely because she bent his will to it with her own. Nobody was quite sure where the borders of her influence lay, nor how she came by the power that bent spacetime and souls. Most were certain that she was the source of whatever encapsulated the Prison of Elders, and that was more than enough to fill most sane people with fear and awe.

Yet, he still loved her.

“My Queen, may we converse in the time between…” Vatyr was not quite sure how to properly describe what had filled the last few hours.

“No doubt you came back to me with purpose more serious than your need to venerate me most directly,” she purred as her naked body arose from the mountain of sheets and pillows as if carried upon libidinous dreams. She stalked slowly towards Vatyr as if the hunter was prey, “Are there not more enchanting focuses of your attention?”

When she pivoted around him and met his gaze, Vatyr was awestruck. Such power housed in such a faultless form, and yet he was the only one to find the softness in her eyes. He dropped to his knees and began to kiss her body deeply, speaking as he went. “A dear friend has sacrificed himself in a colossal battle against the Vex, no doubt saving Earth and the Reef in the process. His deeds alone won the day.” He kissed her feet, her calves, her venus, her belly and her breast. A smile crawled across her lips. With a slight hesitance as he met her gaze again he cradled her head softly in his hands and for a fleeting moment his fear was elsewhere, seeking that softness in her eyes that only he knew. He kissed her lips in the long and tender way that took him back to what seemed like another lifetime.

“My Queen is powerful, and benevolent. She rewards those who serve her people, and so I come to her now to beg for her guidance. If there was some way to bring my friend back, surely my Queen would know of it.” Vatyr had hoped he would be more eloquent in his plea, but his reason for being here was being quickly overshadowed by the divine creature before him.

Vatyr’s body suddenly shot into the air, 20 feet above the bed, and hung there inverted. Mara’s outstretched hand pointed at him, holding him in place. Static filled the space between them, her face stoic and timeless. Her eyes locked on to his, staring into his soul. Guardians were used to seeing impossible things, but Vatyr had never seen such a display of power put on with such ease. To Queen Mara Sov, bending spacetime to her will was as easy as breathing. Vatyr could feel her mind pressing on every inch of him. The world around him echoed a low thunder at the edge of his perception, like the atavistic thrum of a black hole, threatening to shake him to quantum potentials.

“You come here seeking a boon which only I can give, and yet you denied me what I sought from you all those years ago.”

“Yes, my Queen.”

“A thing that I could have easily taken and, one would have thought, came from a mutual place.”

“Yes, my Queen.”

“And in response to my invitation, the likes of which no other being in the cosmos would not covet, you left to scurry around in the dirt and fight a war that is not your own.”

“Yes, my Queen.”

The pressure increased. The thunder rolled. It was if he was being driven deep into the Earth’s mantle.

“Are you willing to give me what I still seek, in exchange for what you seek?”

A split-second of hesitance is all Vatyr could allow himself. “…Yes, my Queen.”

Vatyr’s body slammed down into the vast bed with purpose, dazing the guardian. Gathering himself, he found he was already set upon by the nubile form of the Awoken queen, moving not unlike a pouncing cat playing with her kill. “I always knew my pet would come back to me one day. Tomorrow I will grant you your boon. Tonight, we play.”

 

Frontier Update #9: Enter @Volk37

Back in the days that I was writing professionally, I was known as someone who put the copyeditors through shit. Whatever skill I may or may not have in writing, I have a horrible eye for grammar editing. I doubt that’ll ever change, so I’ve always been happy to find some people message me with grammar errors that I’ve missed.

Vasily Prokhorov (@Volk37 on Twitter, VPT Volk 37 on Xbox) has been possibly my most loyal and engaging fan, as I can thank him for the vast majority of comments left on this blog as well as retweets on Twitter. Recently, he offered to help me edit my chapters before I post them as well as offer whatever feedback he can to improve the pieces. It would be foolish of me to say no, so please thank him for cover up English not good.

On with the show.

Frontier – Act07 Chapter25 – Starseeds

Chapter 25: Starseeds

On any other occasion, Titan Telemica Magna would have strongly advised against such an insane course of action, but after the loss of Solas, she was willing to entertain any ideas.

On any other occasion, Hunter Vatyr S’Jet would have been denied his request to fly out to the Reef with the express intent of confronting Queen Mara Sov, but as Fireteam Warden was on leave, no permission was expressly sought or given. Plausible deniability, as Cayde-6 would have put it. Vatyr had simply asked Telemica and Arrenn to suit up for a jaunt-type campaign. Arrenn seemed quietly nervous about it at first, but given the option of simply staying behind, he chose to follow.

Vatyr and Telemica had tried to learn what they could of Arrenn in the time they had. He was certainly becoming known as the quiet type, not prone to voicing himself unless directly confronted, and even then, it was short and to-the-point. Likewise, his ghost Gnome only spoke to Arrenn and even then only on a pure telepathic level. Calling the ghost shy would have been an understatement. On the other hand, Arrenn’s skills as a warlock seemed to be beyond what a new guardian would usually have, especially one that had not aligned with any of the covens or other organizations. Inherently talented, they’d say.

Any ship approaching the Reef was immediately set upon by the Queen’s patrols from the fleets, or by Corsairs. In the past, guardians were forced to either turn back or be destroyed, but that had changed recently. The Reef was beginning to open to Earth, but security was still extremely tight and the air of clandestine machinations along with general mistrust continued to hang thick in this part of the system. Guardians were expressly prohibited from communication with anyone but chosen representatives. Contact with the general populace would be a grave error, and attempting to contact the higher-ups was tantamount to insulting.

“Earth ships bearing zero-two-zero-mark-one-two-zero, you have entered the realm of the Awoken. State your business.”

“Say nothing. Glitch will handle this,” said Vatyr on a private commline.

Minutes passed and Telemica’s sense of impending danger grew with every humming cycle of her ship’s engines. These days, the Tower and Vestian Docking Control handled the comings and goings of guardians. It was all very official and locked-down. Whom was Glitch communicating with? She was about to ask Vatyr what was going on until the patrol ships cut in.

“Vatyr S’Jet, by direct order of Queen Mara Sov, you and your companions will conform to my trajectory. Any deviation or communication from this point forward will result in your destruction.”

“From this point forward, do whatever they say. Answer all questions and submit to every demand. Otherwise we’re pretty much dead.” said Vatyr before cutting comms.

Fireteam Warden brought their ships alongside the Awoken patrol, who then banked hard to starboard. Telemica had visited the Reef before. She knew the way to the Vestian Outpost where all guardians were routed to, and they were headed nowhere near it, or even the Awoken military headquarters at 5560 Amytis. The escort took a winding route, ending up at the heart of Awoken space, 4 Vesta. The staggering sight of one of the system’s largest asteroids fused with hulks of civilization-moving ships and teeming with Awoken life was a sight that few outside of the realm would ever behold.

Landing at a small hangar bay, the guardians were immediately taken into custody and separated. Telemica kept a close eye on Vatyr for signs of agitation as they were relieved of armour and weapons, but this appeared to be entirely part of his plan. They dared not communicate even via ghost, as it was known that the Queen’s Techeuns would hear it and relay it to the Queen instantly.

Telemica and Arrenn were shackled and led down dimly lit passages, leaving Vatyr on the pad surrounded by the majority of their Awoken reception. The sounds of civilization and movement fell away until the deep silence of vacuum surrounded them save for the clang of boots on metal walkways that they themselves created. Eventually they were deposited in a small spherical holding cell with no windows. The door closed with a hermetic hiss that separated the atmo of the complex from the cell, and artificial gravity quickly bled away. It was obvious they were being held in a module that was simply tethered in space, no doubt ejectable at a moment’s notice and reserved for the most dangerous of beings outside of the Prison of Elders.

Once the titan and warlock were out of view, Vatyr was given more space, a level of charade lifting. A number of the royal guards entered from the far side of the hangar and took over. “The Queen has agreed to your request for a meeting. Follow closely.” said one of the guards with a curt bow of the head, her hand resting on her sidearm. Vatyr was led across the hanger and through the door that the guard entered from. They traversed halls bustling with activity, mostly of the military variety. As the entourage passed, people stepped to the side, speaking in hushed tones about those that passed. It had been a long time since Vatyr had seen so many of his people, and it plucked a lonely string within him.

The group turned down a corridor and entered an elevator. Vatyr could feel the air pressure and gravity change as they took speedy but prolonged ride into the modified ship hulls that encapsulated the asteroid. As they exited, Vatyr noted a distinct change in scenery. Wide halls ornately decorated. Murals and other artwork depicting the history of the Awoken. Well-dressed nobles, ornately armoured guards and hurried functionaries. Everything was spotless and just so. Vatyr was led down the hall as he listened intently and with a sense of grim satisfaction to the whispers around him, most were not as well hidden as the commoners’ gossip was below.

“Him? Is he suicidal?”

“Never thought…”

“…a lot of brazen nerve…”

“…dead within the hour.”

“Prince Uldren will have his head.”

“How dare…”

Large doors opened to let Vatyr and his accompanying guards into a vast open space overlooking the Vestian Web. At the end of a long walkway was a raised throne, turned to look out over the realm. Three robed figures stood by the throne, speaking without words to each other and whomever occupied the seat. Sedia was the first of the Techeuns to notice the newcomers. Shuro Chi and Yasmin Eld joined Sedia and moved from the throne to meet them a few feet from its base. With a waved hand, Sedia dispersed the royal guards, sending them back the way they came. The Awoken witches surrounded Vatyr, peering intently at every detail of his form. They lifted his arms, felt his stomach, and peeked inside his mouth, all the while conversing with each other via their jewel-like augmentations.

“Why have you returned to me?” spoke a haunting voice from the throne.

Before he could respond, Vatyr turned to see Uldren Sov, The Master of Crows and brother to the Queen, flying through the air at him with rage in his voice, pain in his eyes and blade in his hand.

 

Frontier – Act07 Chapter24 – Electric Sheep

Chapter 24: Electric Sheep

“I know you are there.”

“Am I dead?”

“Negative.”

“Am I alive?”

“Negative.”

“What am I, if I am neither alive nor dead?”

“…Both. Neither answer applies exclusively.”

“Where am I?”

“…”

“Ah, yes. That question would certainly not apply. Everywhere… Nowhere…”

“…”

“Well, Aren’t you helpful…”

“It is not critical that you understand. Conversely, It is you that has helped us.”

“You most of all, I would imagine.”

“There is much you do not understand.”

“I understand more than you think.”

“Impossible. We are vast, bordering on all. We are five while you are barely four.”

“I know of many of your aspects. Your goals. Your limits. The cracks and fissures among you. You deny that we perceive you. You deny that we can affect you. You are willfully blind toward us, but we are the only thing in your way. Curious.”

“You attack constructs. Shadows. Impressions. Nothing substantive is within your sphere.”

“And yet we have damaged you in the past. We have taken things from you. Hurt you. Impeded your quest to become all.”

“On the back of a giant.”

“I’d like to believe we make our own fate, but yes.”

“And yet.”

“And yet… for you to exist, we must have failed.”

“You have. You are. You will.”

“You may be many things, but you are not yet immutable. I am not a chalk figure drawn on a cave wall trying to understand the artist. I see things even you do not.”

“Impossible.”

“Is it?”

“Your presence here has happened before, and will happen again. It is how your kind end and how we become all.”

“So much effort to destroy us… One wonders if you are afraid. You are certainly acting afraid. Why else would you be conversing with me?”

“You delay the inevitable.”

“Time is meaningless. All that matters is the path, and I have found the one that you can not see. The golden path that you can not close. I’ve stared into this abyss many times, but this is the first time it has blinked.”

 

Frontier – Act07 Chapter23 – A Band Apart

Chapter 23: A Band Apart

Vatyr and Telemica awoke on comfortable cots, surrounded by golden linens embroidered with a black and white sun. A fireplace nearby crackled warmly. Too confused and disoriented to think or speak, the only thing that got them up was the residual vigilance of the battle they were in seemingly seconds before.

Vatyr was the first to realize they were at the top of the Burning Shrine, home to the mysterious Brothers of Osiris. They saw no such brothers around here, but the symbols were recognizable. Vatyr had been fascinated by them for some time.

Walking towards a nearby ledge, they saw the aftermath of their engagement with the Vex. The battlefield that was mere minutes ago filled with guardians, Vex, and a gargantuan conflux was now devoid of battle. Vanguard forces were buzzing around, tending to the wounded guardians and the few still-living ghosts that housed what remained of fallen comrades. After getting picked up and reuniting with their forces, they learned that the Vex and their conflux had both vanished in a violent cascade of light and fog. Many considered it a miracle of some sort, as the tide of battle was beginning to flow heavily in the Vex’s favour.

Telemica and Vatyr didn’t say much then, nor did they revel in the hard-won celebration of others later. Instead, they did their best to help the wounded and assist with evacuation efforts. They did everything they could to take their focus away from the fact that they had just lost their friend.

The debriefing took place after a slight recovery time. On one side of the long conference table, Vatyr and Telemica told their accounting of how they infiltrated the Vex installation and shut down the conflux. On the other side, Ikora Rey stared out a window at the Traveler and listened to as much as she could bare. She had arranged it so she would run the debrief, but it was in some ways like a wake, as Vatyr told of the sacrifice Solas had made. Telemica and Vatyr knew how close Ikora and Solas had been over the years. Solas had trained her as a rookie, after all. Telemica knew that while they had lost a dear friend, Ikora had lost perhaps the closest thing to a father she will ever know.

At the end of his recounting, Vatyr stood up from his chair tried and to force all of his ache out from his throat. He tried to say he should have done more, should have fought harder. His words choked behind welling tears and a wave of regret that threatened to swallow him whole. He began to shake before Ikora and Telemica could ease him back into his seat. The three sat there together and felt what needed to be felt. Funerals were not a custom among guardians, but many were known to grieve in some ritualized form or another. Ikora noted that Solas would have been the first to call this mournful reprieve wasted energy, saying he would note clinically that such emotions detracted from one’s focus instead of enhancing it. The next hour was spent sharing stories of the one they had lost.

Eventually Ikora informed them that they were on leave until further notice before dismissing them.

Telemica and Vatyr walked the inner halls of the main Tower. Almost every person they met stopped to offer their condolences. Some came to attention and saluted as they passed, while others stopped to share stories of how Solas had touched their lives. Some titans spoke of a rite of honorable passage. Hunters spoke of a small memorial they found at the base of The Burning Shrine, presumably built by the Brothers of Osiris and that some were journeying to add to it. Warlocks offered words, but whatever plans they had were, like anything, shrouded in secrecy.

Angela had not come out of her room since Solas’ death, refusing to see anyone or even eat. Ikora had asked that they try to coax her out. They went to her quarters and she let them in, collapsing on to the floor in a weeping fetal ball of pain. Telemica carried her over to her bed and the two guardians just let her cry for hours until words could come out. Soon she was calm enough to eat and sleep. Telemica noted as they left the exhausted child that a loss like that at her age will come to define her, and neither guardian could figure if that would be for good or ill.

The pair spent the late afternoon hours at the Watch by the hangar doors, trying to calm their minds while the world moved around them. Not a word was spoken and nobody disturbed them. Twilight began to set in when someone approached and cleared their throat. “Guardian Arrenn Gee, reporting for duty.”

Telemica didn’t turn to meet the voice. She knew fully that she’d see a rookie guardian ordered to replace Solas on the fireteam. It was standard procedure and while many would have liked to give them special dispensation to act as a two-guardian fireteam, their experience and skills were priceless to those new to this life and in need of mentoring.

Vatyr turned to duly greet the guardian. A human warlock. He introduced his titan companion, as well, and asked that she be forgiven as they were in mourning.

“I understand. From what I’ve heard, Solas-3 was someone I would have liked to meet. I also understand we’re on leave for the time being.”

“True, but we do have a mission. One of the utmost importance.” said Vatyr in a matter-of-fact tone that snapped Telemica out of her daze and made her turn.

“We do?” Telemica and Arrenn said at the same time.

“Of course! We’re going to bring Solas back from the dead.”