Frontier – Act09 Chapter39 – Gambit

Chapter 39: Gambit

The first time was always a little rattling.

By the time Vatyr and Telemica got their bearings back, Angela was already accessing one of the lab’s terminals and getting the next step in the plan set. The three ghosts rested on a pedestal that looked like a small birdbath filled with a glowing white liquid, soaking in the energy.

“Wh…What happened? Where are we?” asked Vatyr, standing up slowly.

“This is Solas’ lab. It resides in its own pocket universe and the only static portal in or out is the one I just took us through. Sorry it was so rough. Usually the gatekeeper A.I.  has to verify each person requesting access, but given the situation we were in, Wisp and I had to get a little insistent.” explained Angela.

The frames that have been proceeding with their assignments without interruption for months were now assisting the young Speaker. One carried Solas’ body to the coffin-sized metallic pod in the centre of the room. It split along a previously invisible horizontal seam, the top half levitating to open the pod up. Inside there was only padding with a person-shaped indentation in it. The padding was clear and filled with a glowing aquamarine crystalline gel that shifted as it sensed Solas’ presence. The frames carefully placed his body inside and sealed it closed.

Angela took a moment to breathe. It felt like she had been holding her breath since Solas first told her of his plan, and she was beginning to feel more than just a little drained. She looked at Telemica and Vatyr, who were looking at her, awaiting answers. She placed her hand on the pod gently as light coursed through it in tiny shooting stars and collected her thoughts.

“This pod allows Solas to decompress his mind, allowing him access to faculties and processes that would normally be physically impossible. Not too long ago, he was meditating in this chamber when a – let’s call it a vision to keep it simple – coalesced. A million different bits of seemingly unconnected data came together to form an inescapable conclusion. The Vex were preparing to move on The Traveler. Eliminating The Traveler and the guardians not only in response for weakening them in The Black Garden and The Vault of Glass, but also in an effort to eliminate a viable threat to the Vex’s future.

“From that point on, there was only one way to survive the Vex plan. Solas called it ‘The Golden Path’. The Mercury assault, him falling into the conflux, Vatyr going to The Reef, all of it… his plan.”

“How did the Vex get into The City?” asked Telemica.

“The seed of Darkness that Solas carried with him was the cornerstone to the Vex plan. With it, they could suppress The Traveler’s power enough to expose The City to invasion.”

“So they plan to overrun us?”

“No. That would cripple both sides, but end in a stalemate. The Vex are only an element to the immediate threat.”

“What else is there? Fallen? Cabal?”

“Rasputin.”

“No way! Rasputin is not our enemy.” interjected Vatyr.

“Rasputin was the greatest warmind of the Golden Age. He was built to safeguard, and the Collapse taught him that humanity was not the be-all and end-all of existence, and stopping The Darkness became his only real objective. He formed a new moral structure that didn’t hold humanity at its core during the Collapse. He’s been combating the real threats out there since he was reactivated, while to him we’ve become close to irrelevant, which is why he doesn’t care to collaborate with us. We’re nowhere near his level.”

“So why is he a threat to us now?”

“As we speak, whatever came out of the seed is not just suppressing The Traveler; it’s attempting to infect it. Dominate it. Devour it. Once Rasputin realizes that we’ve lost control of the situation, it’ll only be a matter of time before he decides to… deny the asset.”

“Meaning?”

“Meaning he’ll turn The City and The Traveler into nothing more than a smoldering crater,” Telemica answered.

Angela nodded grimly. “Solas knew this was inevitable. He even tried warning Rasputin, but never got a response.”

“Wait a minute. If the Hive Dreadnaught’s destruction would have wiped out most of the system, wouldn’t something as powerful as The Traveler represent a far larger threat?” Vatyr inquired while looking over complex data sets displayed on multiple screens.

“Maybe. Maybe not. We still know very little about The Traveler. It could just die. It could take our entire galactic cluster with it. It could end the universe. Rasputin has decided that the lack of data is sufficient to establish that destroying The Traveler is less of a threat to universal life than letting it fall into the wrong hands.” Angela explained.

“What about the Vex? They have to be aware of Rasputin in all this.”

“They can throw a near-infinite number of units at us by pulling from all points in space and time. Their only limits are power, but given the reasonable possibility of a win that for them could give them the universal acausal powers that they’ve been after all this time, they’d drain black holes dry to make it happen. Their goal is to own The Traveler before Rasputin makes his move.”

“Either one of those outcomes means we’re all kinds of wrecked. What do we do?”

“We stop them by any means necessary.”

“And Solas believed that we’d be uniquely equipped to do that now?”

“He called it a gambit. By sacrificing himself to the enemy, he lured them into a course of action that left them more exposed than they would have been otherwise. The Vex incursion on Mercury would have decimated our forces if it had continued. That many guardians pushed to their limits and beyond would have strained The Traveler’s reserves, leaving it exposed to a much worse incursion than this. On top of that, they would have had an opportunity to remove Rasputin from the equation without our interference. We never would have stood a chance, and Solas knew it. So, by giving them him and the seed of Darkness that resided within him, he gave them more power, but also gave us an opportunity to defend ourselves and win.”

Red light pulsed out of the pod as warning messages covered nearby screens.

“What is it now? Vex?” asked Telemica as Angela ran passed her and read the screens.

“Oh no. No, no please no…”

“Angela, what is it?”

“The seed didn’t completely leave. It’s still trying to kill him.”

“Is there anything we can do?”

“Only one thing can be done, though I was praying this wouldn’t be necessary. It was my hope that he’d be able to retain his eyes this time, but that won’t be possible.” Angela said with a tone that told Telemica and Vatyr that her little heart was breaking. Her hands began to fly across the console in front of her as the pod began to glow with a bright white light. “I’m flooding the pod with all the light in the lab’s core. It’ll reform The Traveler’s seal on his eyes and lock The Darkness away once again. After that, he’ll need to pass through the Deep Stone Crypt…”

Angela’s last few words were forced through a choked voice as she fought and failed to remain composed. The thought of her friend having to endure that trial ran a cold dagger into her chest. Her body shook as the anguish slowly erupted. Her hands clenched into fists so white and tight that her nails threatened to break the skin on her palms. Tears began to stream down her cheeks.

Telemica put her hand on her shoulder. “It’ll be alright, little one. I’ve known Solas capable of achieving the impossible. He’ll do it again. He’ll return to us, I promise you that.” Angela quickly twisted around and embraced Telemica around her waist, letting her pain flow freely. A good loud cry that heals the heart rang out through the lab. Telemica’s only remaining hand came to rest on her shoulder as the young Speaker let herself be young for a few minutes. “Guardians fight their way through death more than once in their existence. The Deep Stone Crypt was created by The Traveler in order for worthy Exos to forge their own souls in the crucible of combat. Solas will return to us. He’s stronger than even we know. What we need to figure out is what we do when he comes out of that pod. We need to be ready for him.” Vatyr said, looking at the glowing pod and wishing his wounded friend well.

“He, *sniff*, he had a plan for that as well. A plan for you two.” Angela said as she composed herself. “Follow me.”

 

Frontier Update #12: 2015/2016

Happy whatever you do! Do it well and with people who love you. Here we are at the end of 2015. Few things to go over.

Firstly, I bought TTK. Yeah, I said I wouldn’t. A good friend of mine got a PS4 as an early Christmas gift from his awesome wife, and he asked me to explain Destiny to him. That convo went something like:

“Yeah sure. You just… Um… I should come over. It’s complicated.”

So I did, and saw that I was the only person on his friends list. After hooking him up with a few clan contacts (big thanks to Knight of The Dawn to taking him in) I decided that I should get TTK to play with him.

It has been almost a month. Have we played? No. We’re busy people, which is part of the reason I didn’t want to buy TTK to begin with. Oh well.

Did I ever post my PSNID? It’s PsycheDiver. Friend me.

Moving on.

SRL. That was… interesting. Designing tracks and boosts specifically to keep everyone in a crazy pack and give everyone a chance of pulling out crazy wins made for an interesting beta. I’m going to call it a beta as much as the first few Iron Banners were betas. Live-testing ideas via the grinder of the Destiny community is really one of the best ways for Bungie to work stuff out.

Besides there being only two maps, I’d say it was fun. I played until I ranked up to 3 and completed the main quest, and by that time I had a almost-320 helm and almost-320 class items. Good enough for me. I also got a Lumos sparrow though to be perfectly honest I was hoping for a Sol Scout. I’m not complaining. The Lumos is cute.

What would I do to make it better? Obviously more maps is at the top of everyone’s list. Earth, Mercury and Saturn (on the outside of the Dreadnaught, please) are my hopes. I don’t care about The Moon because it’s just too grey for me, and I’m not sure how The Reef would have a map that wasn’t Rainbow Road from Mario Kart (or maybe you want that. Maybe I want that…).

Another thing I’d change would be a higher chance of sparrow drops, and new sparrows that include factions as well as sparrows that are not just trick-enabled but boostable ala Timebreaker. Some ship drops would be cool as, since this is Amanda Holliday’s thing. The horns are silly and can be done away with because nobody cares about them. I understand that SRL was deeply connected to micro-transactions, so I’m not sure if increased drop rates would be smiled upon by Bungie bean-counters.

Is there a way to make sparrows more interesting in the core game? If you have ideas, feel free to discuss them in the comments.

I’m excited for Iron Banner. My sub-300 light level may be an issue, but I am determined to get my loot. I’m expecting Mida to do well by me and I’m proficient in Control playlists.

TTK in general is enjoyable, though I have yet to go through the raid. The questing system and new focus on story is most definitely a step in the right direction, and I feel that things have been streamlined well.

As for Frontier, I’m still writing this thing. I have two chapters in the pipe for next week, and others in varied levels of drafting. I’m planning on getting a lot of it done over the next few weeks if I can tear myself away from Iron Banner. I estimate that I have less than 10 chapters to go in order to wrap this thing up, after which I’d post some final thoughts. After that, I don’t expect I’ll have much to do with this blog and I don’t expect that I’ll get a sudden surge of interest after it’s completed. I’ll leave the blog online indefinitely and if I decide to dedicate myself another story, I’ll let you know.

I am considering how I can let people know that the project is completed, or exists in the first place. There’s the usual Twitter contacts and Facebook groups, but Bungie’s attention is elusive at best. I can only imagine how things would change if I got a bump from them. I hesitate to cross into spamming territory. I don’t want to be that guy. On the other hand, it’s nearly impossible to get noticed by Deej or his kin. Let me know if you have any suggestions.

WordPress usually gives each blog a cool infographical breakdown of a blog’s performance at the end of the year, so I’ll share that. It’s usually quite interesting.

One last thing. If you’re reading this, I want you to know that you are loved. People don’t hear that nearly often enough. It may not feel like it every day but we all have a unique ability to spread love through our actions, no matter how small or insignificant it may seem. Please remember that.

Until next time.

Frontier – Act09 Chapter38 – Advance

Chapter 38: Advance

Vatyr crouched low against a corner, a found Suros WSC-17 scout rifle at the ready but only a handful of rounds left in the mag. A hand signal told the others behind him to hold as he cloaked and darted around to make sure the way was clear. Pain reverberated in a dull throb throughout his body, adding half-seconds to all of his movements. The ghosts had equipped the two guardians and Angela with rudimentary armour made with available reprogrammed matter, but it was worlds apart from Warden’s usual loadout. The life-support suite barely put a dent in Vatyr’s aches.

Angela clutched a Häkke Thalestris-C sidearm tight in her two small hands, doing her best to look confident with it. The armour helped. She’d never worn anything like it before and was still getting used to how it reacted to her moves and thoughts. She’d received basic combat training by her aides, but never been terribly comfortable with the tools of war. There wasn’t time for ineptitude here. Everyone was counting on her.

Telemica held Solas’ unconscious body in a one-armed fireman carry, clearly annoyed to be the only unarmed person in the group and not making any real effort to hide it.

Vatyr reappeared in front of them. His face a mask of concern.

“Did you find it?” whispered Angela.

“Not sure, but there are a lot of Vex between here and there. How is that even possible? How can they be here?” asked Vatyr, confused as to why The Traveler’s protection was suddenly ineffective at keeping hordes of Vex from porting in and wreaking havoc.

“The seed of Darkness is suppressing The Traveler’s power like a disease suppressing an immune system. The City is nearly defenseless, and this is only the beginning.”

“More are coming in every minute. I can’t get us through.”

Angela held up her pistol in confidence as Wisp, Glitch and Squire materialized to join her.

“My lady, we must prevail,” stressed Squire to Telemica.

“We’ve got this!” assured Glitch to Vatyr.

“This is the path we must follow,” asserted Wisp to the group.

“Trust us. We can make it,” resolved Angela, probably to herself just as much as to anyone else.

Telemica and Vatyr had to say something, they thought. Of course they did. They were the adults, and combat was not a place for a child, especially for one as important as she was. They had no idea if The Speaker was dead, making her the single most important person on the planet. They tried to say something, but no words came. There was something in their eyes. There was something about how their own ghosts hung solidly in the air next to this girl who showed a confidence beyond the innocence many would attribute to her.

Before the two guardians could force a halting sentence from their minds to their mouths, the hallway that Vatyr had just scouted was instantly flooded with thick smoke laced with lightning. The group slunk back, already detecting the sounds of Vex units porting in.

Cloaking again, Vatyr peeked around the corner after the fog cleared. “The hall is full of them! They’re almost shoulder-to-shoulder in there. There’s no way we can fight our way through that.”

“Why are they here? Why not go where the rest of the fighting is?” Telemica asked Angela in a whisper.

“They’re here to find the same thing we are. It’s the only thing that could stop them. If they find it first, we’ve lost everything. Humanity’s time will be over and the light will be gone from the universe soon after.”

“Whatever we’re here to find, I don’t see how- Hey!”

Angela and the ghosts had darted around the corner before Telemica could finish her thought. Dozens of Vex Descendant units turned from probing walls and rooms to see a little girl, holding a little gun, with three little ghosts floating with her. The Vex didn’t hesitate to open fire on them.

But the firing didn’t stop, and light began to pour out from the hall, growing brighter every second. Bringing his rifle up again and fearing the worst, Vatyr peeked around the corner.

Ghost bits whizzed around Angela almost faster than the eye could see, their brilliant orbs of light combined around the girl and held her a few feet above the ground. Every shot the Vex loosed entered the light, curved around her small frame and exited the orb to unerringly strike the same unit that fired it. The small cores of the ghosts rapidly tracked each shot with their little eyes from their perches above her head. Angela brought her gun up and unleashed tremendous bolts of searing light from its barrel, incinerating several units at once. The angelic figure gritted her teeth, holding on to the pistol for dear life as she fed her power through it and the ghosts. Her eyes flared in determination as Vex units were obliterated.

Telemica and Vatyr couldn’t afford the luxury of believing their eyes or not. Vatyr started loosing his precious few shots, taking his time to aim and make each pull of the trigger count. Each bullet demanded to count for a kill, and did. Telemica would have cussed up a storm for not being able to join the fight, if not for the innocent ears nearby. These four little lights were pushing back an enemy force that would cause any fireteam to fall back.

More Vex continued to port in, replenishing what units they could.

It didn’t take long for the breech on Vatyr’s rifle to clack empty. Angela and the ghosts expanded their orb, allowing the guardians to take shelter inside. Slowly, Angela’s sphere moved forward, advancing into the space left vacant by the destroyed Vex and progress to their destination. Bolts of death buzzed around them, almost whimsically in how they angled in order to accommodate Angela’s passengers.

The weapon in Angela’s hands began to glow hot, being brought well past the breaking point. Angela’s will was holding it together, but there were limits. Another wave of Vex reinforcements rushed in from both ahead and behind them when the piece simply evaporated in her hands.

“Don’t worry, sweetheart. We’ll take it from here.” Vatyr roared. Awash in so much light that it was almost viscous, the hunter and titan surged with power. Vatyr channeled his light through his empty rifle much how Angela had done with her sidearm, unleashing a solid beam of annihilation from its barrel and carving out the path forward. Meanwhile, Telemica focused on the enemies to the rear, stomping on the ground with her feet and sending decimating Arc waves through their ranks.

The Vex didn’t let up. The machines poured in from every direction, unloading all their firepower into the sphere of light as if they hoped at least one bolt would find purchase in their targets. Harpies, hydras and minotaurs had also been added to the mix, filling in every inch of the hallway with metal death. The full concentration of the three ghosts was on redirecting the walls of beams and projectiles, and Angela was nearing her limit when she saw a familiar mirage.

“We have arrived.” Wisp exclaimed over comms from inside Solas’ unconscious body.

“Where?” Telemica asked. All she saw was blank walls with some doors further down the hall beyond a sea of Vex.

“Everyone, hang on!” Angela announced, reaching her hands towards the portal only she knew how to see and activating it. The sphere of light and all those inside were pulled in instantly.

 

Frontier – Act09 Chapter37 – Maneuver

Chapter 37: Maneuver

Earth
The Keep
Medbay

When seen from a distance, the towers that segmented the protective walls of the Last City on Earth can seem ominous and imposing. Every citizen and aspiring invader knew that these looming structures were teeming with powerful guardians, who are portending regardless of which side of the walls you find yourself on.

The Keeps were the inward smile of the guardians. At the bases of the main cardinal-point towers lining the inner wall were massive, sprawling acropolises. These complexes were bristling with everything from local markets to services offered by both guardians and other entities. In the higher levels one could find the main hospitals that serviced the City, and within those, the specialized medbays that serviced the guardians.

The stasis pod that housed Solas had been wheeled into a surgery theater. The doctors and technicians said they needed room to employ supplementary equipment. Telemica and Vatyr found themselves in post-operative care, recovering from the auto-surgeons and medical frames with their programmed bedside manner. The majority of long-term rooms for guardians were built with three patients in mind, and with Solas still in the pod, the hunter and titan had plenty of space. Attendants had removed the central bed, leaving an inescapable void in the room. Outside the room was the hustle and bustle of a busy hospital, keeping the ambient noise just high enough that the two could attempt to avoid each other. Attempt, but fail.

“You shouldn’t be out of bed,” mentioned Vatyr in his most paternal tone that was halfway between mocking and caring. It was a tone he knew she responded to. He didn’t even look at Telemica as he said it, preferring to read the City’s latest news and a few after-action reports on his tablet. There was very little anyone could do to convince him to move an inch, even on the pain meds he was on.

She ignored his warnings. Telemica stood at the window wearing a robe over her hospital gown, overlooking the farmland that filled up most of the space between the City’s inner and secondary walls. She was constantly shifting and stretching in small movements. In ages past when wounds were bound closed with staples and fibers, she would have surely opened them up and be rushed back into emergency care. These days surgical technology allowed for openings to be sealed fully with stem cells and bio-reactive energy fields that promoted growth.

Her left arm was another matter entirely. Rebuilding the limb properly would take a while and the long surgery to attach it to her body would require her to be healthier than she currently was. Normally this wouldn’t be an issue for a guardian, but titans like her were special cases. Injuries carried far more import than just something to be healed and forgotten.

The silence between them was becoming more uncomfortable. Enough uneasy glances had been passed between them to know that the dreams they shared were not just dreams. Could a dream feel that real? On an instinctual level, they both felt that yes, those things happened. After coming to that conclusion, processing the actual content and ramifications of the memories would likely take longer than any physical injury would need to heal. Solas was also involved, and beginning to move through these memories without him seemed wrong. There was an undeniable intimacy about it all that required him to be present.

Telemica looked down at where her arm used to be, trying to dispel the phantom limb from her mind. How does one convince one’s body that they no longer have a left arm? She was going to have a harder time handling all the downtime she was being forced to take. Commander Zavala sent down orders that she was to be grounded indefinitely under the guise of medical leave, but in actuality her participation in recent events at the Reef were no doubt difficult to swallow. There were rumours of Vatyr being court-martialed and possibly exiled. They hadn’t told anyone about the memories. Best to figure it all out among the three of them first.

“I wonder if Solas saw the same… memories…” Telemica said, knowing the answer. Vatyr knew the implications of it. Not only had they been married, but Solas had also been the one who killed Telemica. The fact that he was under the influence of The Darkness made things much more tangled, not to mention the possibility that The Darkness never truly left him.

“Even though The Traveler sealed that curse inside of Solas, he could still pose a serious problem.” Vatyr said in his most serious tone. Telemica moved as quickly as her broken body could towards the door and closed it, worried that someone would overhear them over the soft bedlam in the hall.

“We don’t know that.”

“We don’t know much of anything at this point.”

Telemica wanted to shut Vatyr down, but paused as something more pressing occurred to her. “Did you see his face? In the pod.”

“No. First thing I remember after the derelict was waking up in here. Why?”

“Solas. He-” Telemica was cut off as the sound of an explosion ripped through the halls, followed quickly by alarms and the sounds of panic. Vatyr threw of his covers and painfully shuffled to the door in his hospital gown and slippers, both guardians peering out the door’s small window.

“Explosions have been reported in the surgery wing. Near where Solas’ pod would be.” reported Glitch as he materialized.

The staccato repeating of rifles rang out through the halls beyond the door, punctuated by more screaming and explosions. “A firefight?” queried Squire as he joined the group.

“Sounds like it, and it’s getting closer,” added Glitch. The group began to move away from the door and towards the window when another explosion blew the door and the wall around it apart, sending both titan and hunter flying crumpled into the corner.

Arrenn stood in the hole in the wall, debris and smoke whipping around him from the wind coming in from the blown window behind Telemica and Vatyr, shattered by the compression wave. A Vex torch hammer in the warlock’s hands spewing violet fumes from its barrel.

Before either Vatyr or Telemica could speak, Arrenn lifted the weapon and took aim at them. In their state, one shot would be enough to obliterate them both.

“Engage!” someone down the hall shouted as a hail of bullets slammed into the warlock. Arrenn burst into a ball of solar light to protect himself.

Before Arrenn could take aim again, the roar of a shuttle’s engines boomed through the destroyed window. A familiar wave of disembodiment washed over the titan and hunter just before the torch hammer lit up with the destruction held within.

They found themselves in a familiar trooper bay. This was the same Awoken shuttle that Warden had come home in.

“There’s not much time to explain, but I’ll try,” yelled the small blonde girl at the helm. She yanked on the controls, narrowly avoiding the torch hammer’s bolt and gaining altitude.

“Angela?” asked Telemica. “What’s going on? Since when can you pilot a shuttle?”

“I believe I can illuminate the situation much more effectively while the young lady Speaker focuses on not getting us all killed,” said a floating voice somewhere in the cockpit.

“I’ve got it, Wisp! I’ve got it. I think…,” said the girl who was struggling with controls made for someone quite a bit larger than her.

“Wisp?” Vatyr asked. Solas’ ghost floated into the trooper bay.

“It is truly good to see you both.”

“We figured you were dormant inside Solas. What happened?”

“When Solas fell into the conflux on Mercury, he ejected me. The disconnection sent me into a stasis/shock state not unlike a coma. When I regained consciousness, I was in orbit above Mercury. Solas knew the dangers inherent in his plan, and I was to be part of his insurance policy.”

“What exactly was his plan?”

“Hang on! We’re coming in to pick up our V.I.P.” Angela called back. Telemica and Vatyr looked through the windows to see the Tower Watch embroiled in chaos. A huge cloud of grey electric smoke poured out of the head of a lone figure, growing and writhing like a living thing.

“Is that Solas?” asked Telemica.

“Yes. The seed of Darkness within him is coalescing. It will kill him if we don’t act quickly,” noted Wisp.

“As soon as it has vacated him, we can get him out of there.” yelled Angela, clearly struggling with the maneuver of swooping in close enough to transmat Solas but avoiding the evil coming out of him.

The shuttle buffered harshly against the turbulence being caused. Below, the last of the smoke rushed out of the warlock and discarded his lifeless form off the Tower.

“Hold on!” Angela announced as she put the shuttle into a nosedive after Solas. Telemica and Vatyr were pinned to the back of the bay as the child pilot activated the transmat recovery she had programmed in beforehand and pulled roughly back on the control wheel. The engines of the shuttle strained to level out the craft, narrowly avoiding crashing into the Keep below.

Solas’ body appeared on the floor of the bay, completely limp and lifeless. “I’ll do my best to keep him stable,” said Wisp before merging with him.

“Now what?” asked Telemica.

“Well, since this is the worst-case scenario, we better hope Solas’ plan works!” said Angela as she banked the shuttle hard towards a secondary landing bay.

Meanwhile, atop the main Tower Watch, a massive hand made of glass reached out of the cloud of smoke, reaching in the direction of The Traveler.

 

Frontier – Act09 Chapter36 – Exfil

Chapter 36: Exfil

Telemica was the first to regain consciousness. The shuttle cruised silently in the black, the white chaos of the derelict’s overloading systems shining behind them like a star. She attempted to rise very slowly from the row of trooper seats in the bay that she laid on, but the symphony of pain surging throughout her body forced her to abandon that idea immediately. An overhead readout was interfaced with her nearly wrecked armour and displayed objectively that she was lucky to be alive.

Shattered bones and ruptured organs were one thing, but she was missing her left arm. She’d been through hell before, but this was new for her. The armour had encased the wound in bio-noble foam to keep her from bleeding out and flooded her system with every combat cocktail it had in order to keep her moving. She vaguely recalled it being torn apart in the quantum foam inside the Vex transfer gate. She couldn’t feel it, nor could she not feel it. Some confluence of phantom limb and a warehouse worth of drugs, she figured.

She turned her head. Slowly, carefully and taking frequent breaks in order to give the cabin a chance to stop spinning.

Vatyr was out cold, hooked up to some medical equipment that told her while he was almost as banged up as she was, he was barely stable. Titans and hunters were just built differently. He’d need some serious surgery.

Between them was a stasis pod. The pattern for it must have been in the shuttle’s transmat memory for emergencies. It looked like a metal coffin with a domed transparent cover, offering a clear view of its patient submerged in a translucent green liquid that seemed to emit its own light, a nanotech approximation of amniotic fluid that protected and rejuvenated the patient at a cellular level. Its base was lined with all manner of interfaces and controls. It was almost funny that the entity being healed by fluids modeled after pregnancy waters had never been born in the traditional fashion.

Solas…

She didn’t remember being able to pull him out of that transfer gate. In fact, she couldn’t remember making it off that derelict ship. Arrenn must have pulled it off, somehow. She assumed he was at the shuttle’s controls. What about the Vex? Had he taken them all on? She felt so rattled. She could barely think straight, and actually speaking was out of the question.

Then, there were the dreams.

They had to have been dreams. Impossible dreams. Dreams that felt so real that they left an imprint on a person’s bones, but at the same time there was a representative archetype aspect to them that made them feel like lucid dreams. Simulacra… or something warlocky like that. Representations of grave import. If they were just hallucinations caused by injuries and meds, then that was that. If, however unlikely, the dreams were actually memories, then they were not just hers but those of Vatyr and Solas as well. Was that even possible? Had the others experienced the same?

Plenty of stories and rumours flowed through the Tower about guardians trying crazy things to find their own memories. The Thanatonauts came about primarily in the search for the intelligence found in past lives, or so people said. Stories of mesmerizing success and terrifying failure were common gossip fodder. This, however, was a completely different level.

She’d been so caught up in her thoughts that she didn’t notice Vatyr staring back at her. He must have woken up at some point while Telemica was lost in thought. His eyes were dilated so she knew he was under meds similar to the ones in her system, but there was an intensity to his stare that tore into her. It was like he was screaming at her that he’d seen what she’d seen, and it was real. He was struggling to say something, but the strain must have triggered a drug rebalance by the equipment and he passed out.

Telemica needed answers and tried once again to get up, triggering a drug rebalance for her as well. She fought it just enough to sit partially up before succumbing, managing to get a single glimpse inside the stasis chamber that held Solas. As a heavy sleep took her and she fell back on to her makeshift bedding, one thought consumed her from the pit of her turning stomach:

Why did Solas have eyes?

 

Frontier – Act00 Chapter35 – Do Not Go Gentle

Chapter 35: Do Not Go Gentle

Luna
The Collapse

More than anything at that moment, he missed Mars. It was the place where he’d made his mark as a pioneering xenobiologist, but that was not what he missed about it at this moment. He missed waking up next to his beloved wife in their Freehold City condo. He missed the smell of her hair as the Martian breeze came through the window. He missed the smile that she smiled at him when she thought he wasn’t looking.

Now, with pure death raging all around them, he knew they’d never have that again.

Mars was completely cut off. The Traveler limped towards Earth as swarms of ships did battle around it. He didn’t have much time to watch the space battle as enemy troops on the Lunar surface had rushed their position. The few knights that had been positioned on Luna were in a heated exchange with them while the rest of the militia assisted as best they could, though it was almost like ants trying to assist gods.

He couldn’t quite fathom how they did what they did. The Traveler had blessed the knights with metahuman abilities in the mission of safeguarding humanity from threats. While the common soldiers and conscripts were armoured in one-size-fits-all hardlight armour, knights were clad in glorious vestments and armaments that illustrated their quasi-divine nature.

“It takes thousands of them to match every knight, but I get the feeling that they could expend those numbers easily. They want a stalemate, for these knights to be locked down here.” He said, clumsily spraying his rifle at stragglers.

The battle moved faster than the militia could, and soon the light of the battling knights was only a beacon on the horizon.

She was out of breath, but he never left her side. “You’re an Exo, remember? You can run faster than I can. You don’t get tired.”

“You’re the only thing on this rock I care about, and I won’t let you leave my sight.”

Her eyes. It never mattered what mood he was in, when he looked into her emerald eyes, he found peace. It was as if she was looking into his soul and saying this is you. You are luminous. I love you.

It was not a gas, though it looked and moved like one. A gas wouldn’t have penetrated their armour. It was a miasma, black as onyx and thick as crude oil. It rushed over the horizon from the direction that the knights were fighting, moving with supernatural speed, as if it were an eldritch god with endless appendages grasping hold of the entire moon. It moved through them as if they were not even there, drowning them.

He reached for her, but she was no longer there. He screamed her name, but could only hear her cough and attempt to scream in pain and horror as her lungs filled up. Exos didn’t breathe, but he felt it fill his body and reach into his mind. He dropped to the ground. Silence enveloped him as his senses were buried, and he thought his time was over.

The smoke began to part, rotating around them like the eye of a hurricane, and the outline of her began to form before him. He reached out a hand, his mind scrambling to figure out a way to protect her. Get her to Earth, perhaps. His hand was swatted away with such force that it was nearly torn off.

Where his love once stood, now loomed one of the enemy soldiers. Huge. Its black armour seemed to devour the light around it, shrouding it in a shadowy haze. It stood there, growling at him like a rabid dog. The more he looked at it, the more details he could make out. Huge stalactite teeth, no eyes but many holes of random sizes that could have been sockets, claws covered in writhing tentacles. The more he looked, the more he felt his mind fracture, as if the enemy’s visage was applying pressure to it.

Something dripped off one of its claws, something red. Blood? Another drip. Blood. Her blood. The miasma whirlwind seemed to thin out behind the creature for just an instant. Was that a body? Her body? The enemy seemed to take notice of his revelation and chuckled like an otherworldly hyena. Was it laughing at him? The smoke enveloped the prone body as the chuckle became louder. It stepped forward as the miasma continued to close, flexing its claws.

An undeniable and shattering horror gripped him. Instinctively reacting, his hand reached for the energy rifle he’d dropped and began unloading its clip into the creature. He screamed at it as his weapon unleashed its lethality like a firehose, consumed by the need for this abomination to be erased from existence. The barrel came close to melting before the clip ran dry. It staggered, but continued to laugh. He pounced on it and began to bludgeon it with the rifle’s stock, pounding it to the ground with all his strength. He screamed at it as loud as he could, commanding it to die, drowning out its cackling.

The moment it seemed that the creature was finished, the miasma rushed back in, pressing into him like the grip of a colossus. At least the enemy was dead, he thought. He was ready to die. He had nothing left to live for.

As quickly as the miasma had rushed in, it was blown away. He looked at where he’d seen her body behind it, but there was nothing. Looking down, he expected to find the laughing monster he’d pounded into the dust. He didn’t. He saw carmine red hair and lips. He saw emerald eyes. He saw dark chocolate skin. He saw her.

She was dead, killed not by this evil, but by the person she had loved. The person who loved her, manipulated by the darkness enveloping everything they had ever known. With her went all hope from him. Bodies strewn the landscape, and the lights over the horizon had stopped.

He wailed. Nobody heard him. He held her body close to his and tried begging her to come back to him. Nobody saw. He sat silently with her in the dust, and wished he had let the enemy kill him.

The pain growing in his skull almost went unnoticed. As if a thousand leeches rushed in to feed on his head. Even now, the enemy sought to make him an instrument of death, just as it had before with illusions and lies. He could feel it digging into his mind.

He looked one last time at her, trying to picture her as she once was.

The hardlight encapsulating his body allowed him to lay hands on himself without effort, so it was easy to reach up and drive his fingers into his eyes. Exos could feel pain as much as humans did, but the anguish he felt as he clawed out his eyes was smothered by the coldness her death had left him with. With slow precision, he grasped his eyes and pulled them out. He felt no hesitation as he snapped the gel-covered cables connecting them to his head with a sharp pull.

The miasma dispelled as he crushed the techno-organic orbs, but he could feel that it had left its mark on him. A seed, buried deep and unreachable. It was a blessing, he thought, that he’d die in this place, unable to hurt anyone else.

He arose slowly, lovingly placed the remains of his eyes in his beloved’s hand, and that hand on her chest. “A small penance, my love.” It took some time to bury her with only his two hands, but he did.

He would have knelt there by her grave like a living tombstone for the rest of time, swallowed by his pain and loss. The Traveler had different plans.

A column of searing light engulfed him, slamming him to the floor. Every sense he had was flooded to overload, even the one he had just removed.

Words, and yet not words, came to him. They were in her voice, but there was no sound. Like a memory and a premonition at the same time. This is not the end of your path. It sounded like she was smiling.

The light left as quickly as it had come. He stood, his head encased in a horned, eyeless helm eternally fused to his frame.

He saw. He saw everything for the first time, not as it appeared as photons bounced off objects and met photoreceptors in machines and eyes, but as they truly were. Light. Dark. Brilliant colours that had no name but carried such afflictive import. He dared not look at his fallen wife for fear that the sight would break him once again. He could still feel the seed of darkness, but it was sealed by The Traveler’s light. He hoped that would be enough.

A troop carrier landed near him. Two soldiers stepped out but were stopped dead in their tracks by the carnage around them. They half-heartedly raised their rifles at the approaching figure. A horned Exo with no eyes.

“Where is the fighting heaviest?” he asked.

“Earth, sir.”

“Take me there. Now.”