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?”