Frontier Update #11: Life, Love and Video Game Fanfics

Things can get pretty complicated pretty quickly.

Back in July when I posted Update #8 I had things under control. I had enough time on my hands to finish this thing. Then I got engaged to the love of my life, quit my job, started two companies and began planning a wedding with my new fiance.

Not so much free time now, as you’d expect.

In fact I have not actually turned on my console since well before TTK launched. Still, I intend on finishing this project, even if it’s going to take me a bit longer.

Good news! Thursday was my new record for views (132) thanks to some kind words and bumps on some facebook Destiny groups. I post to a few active ones each time I publish but you never know who will see it and who won’t.

I was asked if I’ve tried to get Bungie’s eyes on my work and perhaps get myself on the community spotlight, but honestly I don’t see that going anywhere. Sure, I could spam Deej on Twitter, but honestly it would have to be a community effort and not just me. Perhaps when I’m done this thing I’ll give it a shot.

How about we delve into some behind-the-scenes thoughts!

***Spoiler alert! Please don’t read on until you’ve read up to chapter 30!***

Act 06 was the first step into the climax that I have planned for this saga. By this point most of the pieces I needed to complete my plan were in play. I’ve had a crack or two at writing large battle scenes but I needed some of the tone here to resemble the chaos and brutality of WWII movies. Storming the beach being held by an entrenched and endless foe. I’m not sure I really got that across but that was the intent.

Ultimately, this act was about breaking up Warden. Figuring out exactly how I was going to do this really didn’t end until I started actually writing. That happens sometimes. If you can force yourself to just write, things happen. What ends up on the page may be inspired or trash, but even if you have to start all over, you’ve got the wheels turning. Getting those wheels turning is often the hardest part of writing. In the end, having him die in a sacrificial manner seemed best to support the impetus of Vatyr and Telemica. And yes, once again there are some dead giveaways to where this is going if you’re a Dune fan.

Act 07 was the new normal. Some of my readers have noted that the new Guardian Arrenn Gee seems a bit stoic and fades into the background easily. That isn’t so writing him is easier, in fact I’ve noticed things are a little harder without a proper third wheel. What you’ve experienced is Arrenn’s character and there is a lot of purpose behind it, but you’ll have to wait to find out what that purpose is. And if you were wondering, yes, his name is a gag on RNG, but that in itself is also a clue to readers.

I’d like to talk about chapter 24. The mysterious conversation came out much better than I thought it would, to the point where not only did people understand just the right amount of what was going on, but actually wanted more. I’m going to attempt to write another chapter like that, but it’s a fine line to walk. These chapters are purposefully loaded to the brim with foreshadowing and if I give too many hints or arrange things in the wrong way, the story will be ruined. 24 took quite a while to get right so I’m hoping you’ll all be forgiving when it comes to more long stretches with no posts.

Let’s talk about sex and violence. Act 07 held two of the bigger challenges I’ve set for myself up in this project. The first was chapter 26 which was my first attempt at writing soft erotic elements. Why go erotic at all? In my opinion, sex is a much an element of life as anything else, so avoiding it to me never really feels real. So did I go too graphic, or did it just come off silly? I have not really received much feedback on this so if you have any thoughts on the matter, please let me know. I did this for a few reasons. Firstly, I needed to anchor in the concept that Vatyr was being guided by a damaged heart. His devotions and secrets were all plainly coming to a head. Some may have noticed that Vatyr had a past with the Queen all the way back in chapter 12. I also wanted to paint Vatyr as a bit of a reckless rogue when it came to taking risks in the interests of what he cared about, which takes us to the violence in chapter 29. Originally, I planned on a simple hard-vacuum knife fight between Vatyr and Uldren, but after trying to write something as kinetic as that, it seemed to fall very flat. I’ve noticed that in most novels, melee fights are very short because it’s exceedingly difficult to write them in an entertaining way if they last more than a few swings. Also, there was the issue that I couldn’t kill either character. I had planned for the Queen to intervene at the last moment, but that would not have given me the resolution that I needed to progress. I didn’t actually plan on having Vatyr save Uldren until I was halfway into writing the chapter and began to add the gravity elements.

***End of spoilers***

That’s it for now. On to Act08! Hoping to find some time in very early November to sit down and hammer out some words. Ask whatever questions you’ve got in the comments section, and spread the word if you can.

Frontier – Act07 Chapter30 – Sinister

Chapter 30: Sinister

Audiences with Mara Sov of the Awoken, Queen of the Reef, were often very small. The Queen herself, her Prince and brother, some guards and whomever was being granted the audience. Almost without exception, audiences were only a single person, and if they were representative of a group, that group would only send one person to represent them. No attendants. No servants. Such things were distractions that the Queen didn’t allow in her throne room.

This time, however, there were three. Three guardians. A human warlock, a human titan, and an Awoken hunter. This irked the guards, but Mara Sov saw the necessity of it this time.

The Techeuns stood in seemingly random places around the room, seeing things useable and saying things without saying. They sensed this was a pivotal moment, but for all their efforts could not yet see the shape of it.

Uldren looked out of the large windows towards the Awoken people. His people. His first duty was always to them. Did Vatyr represent a danger to them and their ways? He did honour the Batchall challenge. His second duty was to his sister, the Queen. Did Vatyr represent a danger to her? The Queen loved him and trusted him implicitly. His third and final duty was to his own honor, and in that, Vatyr had shown some new and unexpected value. The guardian saved his life when all the Prince wanted was revenge for a slight that perhaps never existed. He turned his head to see his sister had pivoted her throne directly toward him, her eyes peering into his soul. Sometimes she could still drive fear into his core, but this stare was one of sibling compassion, though her expression was the stone and perfection that her station demanded.

Uldren turned and walked towards Vatyr, who was flanked by his team on either side. The guardians bowed deeply, as was custom. Uldren signaled with a twitch of his hand that they could rise, and they did so slowly, as was custom. Uldren and Vatyr stared at each other for a few long moments, trying to discern each other’s heart.

Without breaking the stare, Uldren brought up his hand and opened his palm to reveal a small data stick. “This will lead you to the ship and get you past the automated sentries we’ve set up around it. You’ll find it anchored to 1143 Odysseus, trailing in the orbit of Jupiter.” Vatyr looked at the device and slowly took hold of it. Uldren’s other hand shot up and grasped Vatyr’s wrist tightly, holding it in the space between their faces. The guardian’s eyes returned to Uldren and he was brought in close. “There is a great deal between us that remains unresolved. If you die, I’ll consider it your loss of the Batchall and a forfeit of whatever honor you have left. I expect you to return, alive and successful.” Uldren whispered in a low growl. Vatyr nodded, and the grasp was slowly released.

“Go. Now.” said the Prince, turning his back and coming to a deep kneel before his sister. Another bow given by the guardians before they departed.

 

Frontier – Act07 Chapter29 – Defying Gravity

Chapter 29: Defying Gravity

Asteroid Belt
19 Foruna /687 Tinette
“The Fortuna Plummet”

During the Reef Wars, Queen Mara Sov and Paladin Abra Zire deployed the mysterious gravity weapon Carybdis, slamming asteroid 687 Tinette into asteroid 19 Fortuna in an effort to stop the Fallen fleet of Beltrik the Veiled from resupplying. The battle, as well as the resulting mass of two shattered asteroids, has since been known as The Fortuna Plummet.

Vatyr floated silently in the hard vacuum, hidden in a nook of a random rock as he reviewed his position. The two celestial bodies had indeed met catastrophically, but they were far from obliterated. In the end, they resembled two bubbles partly joined together with a cloud of debris around the molten hot contact area. Huge canyons had torn through the minor planets, giving the impression that the only thing keeping it all together was their own gravity. It was within one of these canyons on 19 Fortuna that Vatyr hid.

Indeed, the gravity in the area was perhaps the most remarkable and dangerous element. The leftover effects from the Carybdis created small, random but severe gravitonic events in the area. The result of these gravity events popping in and out of existence could potentially rip holes in the hulls of passing ships or send them careening into the Plummet itself. In addition, the constant shifting of gravitational fields in the area sent the millions of smaller objects in the Plummet careening around at railgun speeds, and from a distance, the cloud of dust and rocks more resembled an angry swarm of wasps. To a lone body with minimal attitude control and even less protection, any time spent in the Plummet was suicidal.

Vatyr had no idea where Uldren could be. The Plummet spanned hundreds of kilometers in every direction and was filled with billions of places to hide and ambush. His passive sensorium would help to some degree, but using any sort of active scan would give his position away instantly. Of course, that was the only way to track down one’s target in this environment, so both Vatyr and Uldren took to sending out sporadic active pings over the past few hours, shifting position to avoid assault and pinging the enemy before shifting again. Two sharks circling each other.

The hunter did his best to control his breathing. Breath control was core to his training. In space, your breathing was your only companion. It lived inside your suit and your head. It had a tendency to amplify things. Calm breathing meant a cool head and steady hands. Aggravated breath made you claustrophobic of your suit and agoraphobic of everything outside it. Your mind spins and your hands shake. Vatyr was having a hard time keeping things in check. Was it because of the lethality of his opponent? Was it because of what would happen if he lost? Was it because of what would happen if he won? He was not sure which he feared more, and that fear was making choices for him at the moment. Deep breath. Control. Calm. Focus, damn it.
A vibration shook his bones suddenly, like being too close to a huge sub-woofer. Vatyr tucked his legs under him and instinctively shoved off the rock he was nestled up against, only to see it reverberated to dust in seconds by a graviton eddy.

Vatyr floated towards the surface of 19 Fortuna, peeking over the crest of the canyon wall. A rock the size of a Hive seeder flew silently past Vatyr’s head, only inches away and faster than a bullet. Death came at you from all directions in this place. Normally space was not so inhospitable to a trained hunter. Vatyr had taken multiple jaunting missions where zero-g traversal and combat was called for, but the constantly and aggressively changing landscape of The Fortuna Plummet was unlike anywhere else in the system.

Ping. One of Uldren’s. Vatyr’s HUD told him his opponent was closing in fast now. If Vatyr left the canyon, he’d be spotted easily, so he took off quickly down the canyon ridge that led directly to where the two asteroids had made contact.

Ping. Uldren again. Vatyr realized that he had let himself get cornered. Nowhere to go but towards the infernal wall at the end of the trench. The hunter would love to set up an ambush at that point, but with what? No projectile weapons, no explosives, nothing. Sure, he could conjure something out of his light that could end this thing pretty quickly, but the entire point of a Batchall was to meet on equal terms. Uldren had no access to The Traveler’s power, so honour dictated that Vatyr could not use it either.

Ping. Closer. A lot closer. Uldren was in full pursuit and gaining fast. Most zero-g combat instructors would tell you that if you have the good fortune to have decent attitude control systems, it is beyond unwise to open them up completely in a straight line. You become a bullet without control. Uldren was letting his emotions take over, lusting after the kill. The Prince was normally a focused and cool Machiavellian operator, but this was as personal as personal gets. Vatyr was under Uldren’s skin and he suspected that using this propensity to blind aggression constituted his only, if slim, chance of winning. The question was, how?

The horizon curved sharply towards the Plummet’s epicenter and Vatyr decreased his speed. He’d need to be able to maneuver sharply among the dense debris.

Vatyr pinged his own active sensorium and fed all his data into a cartography matrix. The layout shifted quickly and constantly in this molten hellhole but a quick snapshot could help. His HUD sprang to life, illustrating his immediate vicinity. The hunter’s eyes danced across the data as his mind ran a thousand different scenarios instantly. A plan emerged, and as usual for Hunter S’Jet, it was reckless.

Pings began to spring up on Uldren’s HUD. Lots of them. The Prince surmised that the guardian (no doubt naive in the ways of zero-g combat) had gotten himself lost in the crush between Fortuna and Tinette and was desperately trying to find a way out with his active sensorium. A sneer crawled across his face as he armed his tether and readied his blade. He squeezed the handle of his knife, relishing the impeding sensation of sinking with all his might into Vatyr’s heart. It had been some time since a kill had been so raw and personal. There was no mask to wear here. The Prince of Crows wanted his honour back, and he’d carve it out of the guardian’s vacuum- frozen corpse.
Zooming into the hellish environment, Uldren brought his weapon up, expecting the disoriented hunter to be right in front of him, but all that floated there was the small, shiny active sensor module that would have normally been in Vatyr’s helmet. A trick? A trap? Uldren fired his tether towards one of the rocks floating close to where he had entered the area, intent to exit by using the environment in a swooping brake maneuver. The Prince angled his maneuvering jets and began to swing around his anchor when his comms opened.

“Gotcha, my lord.” said Vatyr, who was standing on the very rock that Uldren was rocketing towards. Even with his vast superiority in skill, Uldren had no control over his direction or angle. In comparison, Vatyr’s feet were planted firmly and could apply his blow easily, which gave him the clear advantage.

A moment before contact, reality itself seemed to quake. Uldren came to a stop just outside the reach of Vatyr’s dagger, and for an instant, their eyes met in bewilderment.

Suddenly, both of them lurched violently towards the Plummet’s core and rapidly picked up speed. “Gravity event!” yelled Uldren who engaged his thrusters in the opposite direction of the pull, ‘up’ imposing itself aggressively. His engines whined and struggled but quickly proved to be useless against the deepening gravity well. Vatyr clung with all of his strength to the rock he was perched on. Given the extremely localized nature of these events, there was a good chance he could weather it from his position. Uldren, however, was rapidly falling in. Given the intensity of the pull and the fact that it was pulling directly into the molten Plummet’s core, the Prince would not survive the crush.

His engines finally dying, Prince Uldren’s only hope was the tether. Uldren looked up at Vatyr and sneered as his arm began to strain with every enhanced fiber. “It looks like you’ll win this. You get what you’ve wanted.”

“This isn’t what I wanted, you egotistical fool! I was never your enemy or the enemy of our people, but you could never see past your pride!” screamed back Vatyr. This wasn’t right. He was a guardian, and a guardian should be able to find the right path through the darkness.

Uldren screamed as his joints popped out of their sockets, his rage-filled eyes never unlocking from the guardian. The gravity field only continued to grow in intensity and the Prince thought his thoughts of ending. He screamed defiantly at the world but knew the world would not move for him this time.

However, a guardian would, and the world would move for the guardian on this day.

Vatyr sheathed his blade and dove straight ‘down’ at him, firing his wrist-mounted tether back at a rock face that was well-clear of the event. He came to a spine-snapping stop inches from Uldren and latched on to him. Focusing all of his light through his armour, he took his maneuvering thrusters far beyond their operational limits. A column of violent white light rushed out under him, but it was not enough.

“Glitch! Get your tiny shiny ass out here!” Vatyr roared.

The ghost appeared and quickly sprang open, enveloping the two. “I’ll emit all the anti-gravitons I can but this event keeps growing!”

“The anti-gravitons should accelerate the destabilization. We just need to hang on a little while longer!” said Vatyr, trying to instill what hope he could.

Uldren was grasping on to Vatyr’s waist with his free hand, but the Prince’s hand slowly snaked towards the guardian’s sheathed blade. Vatyr noticed just as his hand reached the handle. “You kill me now, we both die. If we survive, I’ll be exhausted and defenseless. Killing me then is still within the terms of the Batchall. It is to the death, after all.” Vatyr said. There was no regret in his tone for saving the man who was intent on killing him.

“What do you want? Why did you come back? Why did you come into our lives in the first place?” Uldren challenged, his voice full of confusion, desperation and pain both physical and emotional. He was begging for answers at what he thought was his failure and his end. There was no honor in killing his opponent in this way, and he had to know the truth.

“Right now, all I want is to save a friend and brother-in-arms from a fate he never deserved. I came back for my only shot at rescuing him. As for our sordid past, all I can say is that I love her. I love her with all my being and I would never do anything to hurt her or her people. I’m sorry you got hurt in all this, but after I pull of this amazingly heroic and near-impossible rescue, I’ll explain everything.”

The world around them convulsed as if they were about to be vomited up by some gargantuan beast. As the gravity well destabilized, Vatyr cried out in effort as it yanked violently at them. Suddenly, a pressure wave smashed into them, expelling the two Awoken from the Plummet core at blinding speed and in a chaotic tumble. Both Vatyr and Uldren were knocked unconscious by the ejection.

It took Glitch some time to find them again. The little light kept both of them from careening hopelessly into the black and carried them both to a nearby Awoken cruiser. The Queen awaited.

 

Frontier – Act07 Chapter28 – Shattered Dreams

Chapter 28: Shattered Dreams

Telemica and Arrenn were escorted to a small waiting room and left alone, save for the two guards posted just outside the door. Arrenn sat quietly and said nothing but Telemica’s mind raced.

The door slid open quickly to make way for Vatyr who was walking so fast he might have broken into a jog at any moment. His hands flew up in a sign of submission as soon as his eyes met the fury in Telemica’s. “Don’t kill me until you hear my plan!” he cried.

“Plan? The only thing you seem to have planned is suicide.” Telemica said, crossing her arms over her chest and leaning back. “Go ahead. Surprise me.”

Vatyr walked over to the far wall and activated the news feed holographics embedded in its wide surface. Everyone in the Awoken Empire was talking about the challenge. His eyes glazed over the data and slipped into his memory. Now was the time to come clean with those he professed to trust most. “I wasn’t always a guardian. My remains were unearthed during the celestial collision that we called the Fortuna Plummet. I was found by the Queen’s Corsairs in the aftermath and brought to her. Those touched by the Traveler are always quietly sent Earthward, but for some reason she kept me. Claimed me. Officially, I was just another Awoken military officer thanks to some creative identity creation by her agents, but in reality, I was her consort. Her lover.”

Telemica’s expression had shifted slowly from smoldering anger to pure shock as Vatyr revealed his past in melancholy tones. He sounded as if he were remembering her first embrace with more than a little longing, and more than a little conflict.
“Why?” asked Arrenn in his coldly analytical tone.

Vatyr had to take a deep breath to bring himself back to the moment. His eyes found purchase on a proclamation by a minor house, supporting the Prince’s actions. “I can’t say for certain. I asked from time to time and her answers were always cryptic. Something about me intrigued her, and that intrigue itself was a rare thing.”

“You’re powerful, even for a guardian.”

“That would not have been enough. Trust me when I tell you that her power makes beings like you and I seem entirely laughable. She’s a goddess in every meaning of the word.”

Telemica reacted to that. “You love her.”

Vatyr turned away from the feeds and locked eyes with his titan companion. The answer was never in doubt. “With every fiber of my being. It only ended because Uldren came close to finding out. Mara had me whisked away.”

Telemica rose from her seat to stand in front of him with a compassionate smile on her face. Her hand coming fast and hard across Vatyr’s face nearly upended him, but the smile remained. “That’s for keeping secrets from your family. Now, why don’t you tell us your plan for getting us all out of here in one piece?”

Vatyr rubbed his cheek but didn’t protest. She was right, and he’d have to make amends for it at some point.

“On the outskirts of Awoken space, there’s a derelict ship from the Exodus Fleets. This in itself isn’t special as many Awoken major structures are built out of such massive hulks. This one, however, is off-limits and its exact location is beyond top-secret. The theory is that this ship was outfitted with something that allowed its engines to bend spacetime in a unique way. Someone was hoping that this would help those aboard escape The Darkness. Whatever the nature of that system, it must have malfunctioned. The ship is mired in a bubble where spacetime is completely shattered. What’s more, there are some signs that Vex have taken up residence inside the ship.”

Vatyr walked over to a small table and poured himself a drink before continuing. The amber alcoholic liquid tasted slightly sweet and burned the new wound inside his mouth caused by Telemica’s strike, and reminded him that she was not going to like this plan. “I came here to trade myself for the location of the ship.”

“And what? Stop being a guardian and become the Queen’s toy? Why?”

“The tech on that ship was bleeding-edge at the apex of the Golden Age. It potentially manipulates spacetime in a big way. It’s probably why the Vex have shown interest. Solas fell into a Vex conflux, which is basically a big processor for data sent along the Vex’s spacetime-bending network. I think that ship is our best chance to get him back, if he’s still out there at all.”

Arrenn had begun reading the feeds flashing along the wall, which had started to trend towards the Prince’s supporters. “What about Uldren?”

“If you’re asking whether I knew he’d do something so brazen, the honest answer is I was told by one of the aids that he’d be kept in the dark until it was all over. If you’re asking if Mara knew, I have no idea. Perhaps I should have expected this.”

“What exactly happened out there?” asked Telemica.

Vatyr sighed slightly. He knew how odd some of his people’s traditions could sound to Terrans. This needed to be framed properly. “The Awoken have ancient codes of conduct. While they’ve mostly been synthesized into more modern laws and cultural practices, the old ways are still valid. The Batchall is an honorable challenge between two parties when one feels their honor is being gravely encroached upon. They’re basically unheard of these days among the populace. Even among the nobles, such challenges are rare and are almost always settled with words and assets. It has been lifetimes since there has been a challenge to the death. As the challenged, it was my right to name the type of combat and where it will take place, though I’m sure in Uldren’s mind, I should have no rights at all. Personal, bladed combat was my only choice without involving Tower assets or personnel. Anything else would just escalate the problem beyond control, and we need to get to that ship.”

Telemica rose from her seat and shook her head slowly “So let me get this all straight. You’re about to enter a mortal duel with Prince Uldren Sov of The Awoken, a legendary virtuoso of bladed combat, on the immense shattered asteroid pair where you were brought back from the dead. He wants you deader than dead for the sole reason that his queenly sister made you her sex toy once upon a time and you’ve made the incredibly bad choice to come back for more. If you miraculously win, we have a slim shot at boarding a centuries-old spaceship mired in fragmented timestreams in a one-in-a-billion effort to retrieve Solas from a galactic cluster-spanning super machine quantum network, while you become the Queen’s concubine?”

Vatyr gulped down the last few fingers of liquor as she laid all the insanity out in stark fashion. “That’s about right, yeah. What could go wrong?”