Frontier – Act10 Chapter44 – Piercing

Chapter 44: Piercing

Earth
Above The Last City

As the battle raged in the streets and structures all across The City, the air above was filled with screaming engines and circus-like streaks of aerospace combat. Vast swarms of squawking Vex high-speed harpies commanded by gigantic hydras surged through the sky. The Vanguard had seen these formations in play before on Mercury, but not in anywhere near these numbers. Guardians weren’t just rapidly getting shot down, they were getting swatted away like bugs.

In contrast to the Vex’s specialized air/space superiority units, the craft employed by guardians were simply insufficient. It was rare to have a guardian’s jumpship fitted with any serious weaponry, as most guardians found that speed, agility and stealth proved far more effective in their field tasks. Also, while Amanda Holliday had amassed a sizable arsenal of guns, missiles, bombs and the like, they were too difficult to replace to be applied day-to-day in the field.

Amanda worked furiously from her fortified command centre in the Dead Orbit shuttle to get whatever implements of destruction she could into the field. Fighters were being called back to land when they could and being hastily fitted with all manner of offensive systems before being launched again. With sophisticated automated systems at her disposal as well as her impressive deck crew of specialized frames, she was slowly working the turnaround time down. The defensive guns perched at the hangar doors were doing a good enough job at protecting ships as they landed and took off, but the shipwright knew that it was only because the Vex had not turned their attention to her efforts yet. Once they did, she imagined they’d only have seconds before being rooted out.

A Javelin-class jumpship had just taken off freshly laden with a suite of micro-missile launchers and a forward gun when Amanda noticed an odd shimmer in the middle of the landing pad. At first, she thought the camera had been damaged by stray fire, but the shimmer was on all the cameras and in the same localized space. The shimmer intensified after a few seconds and coalesced into a winged and armoured humanoid form.

“Transwarp transmat successful. We’re back in our own universe. That wasn’t nearly as jarring as going through Solas’ door,” said Glitch.

“And we’re in a hangar. That’s pretty appropriate. I guess we’re supposed to go through a pre-flight of some sort?” quizzed Vatyr.

“Yeah… that seems like a good thing to do… let me see what I can pull up from the OS.”

“Watch out!” screamed Amanda through the loudspeakers. Vatyr turned to see a ship swooping in for a landing at high-speed and mere seconds away from plowing right through him. Amanda instinctively closed her eyes, knowing that nobody would have been fast enough to evade the landing ship.

“Thanks, Holliday. That was a bit close.” Vatyr called out. Amanda opened her eyes again to see the ship had indeed landed, but a different camera on a different angle showed Vatyr, hovering near the hangar ceiling. Black metal wings on his back were outstretched and emitting a soft yellow-orange solar glow. The landed ship was automatically shuffled to the side of the hangar for refit. Amanda rushed out of the Dead Orbit shuttle and over to the landing pad as Vatyr landed a little less than gracefully.

“What in blue blazes are you wearing?” Amanda asked in a mix of amazement and disbelief. Her eyes flashed all over the suit of armour that Vatyr wore. The wings seemed to move and flex in a way that normal metal shouldn’t be able to. It was as if it was something between technological and organic. The wings were attached to the back of a chest piece that seemed reminiscent of prototypes of the thruster-laden Twilight Garrison titan armour, but this design was far leaner and obviously far more advanced. With the exception of gauntlets and boots that matched his chest piece, most of Vatyr’s body was covered in a slim black hunter-esque bodysuit that looked designed for maximum dexterity with segmented aqua hard-light plates protecting him in key areas. His helm looked like a cross between a golden-age flight helmet and the top half of a large falcon’s beak, on the tip of which was a small orb that Amanda recognized as a ghost’s core. Glitch? Where was the rest of him?

“It’s called the Astranagant. I’d love to show it off to you, but we should both focus on work. You get back to organizing our ships, and I”ll see what I can do about evening the score.”

“I don’t know if you’ve taken a look outside, but we’re not exactly able to put up much of a fight. They own the sky.”

“Then I’ll take it back.” Vatyr announced. In the blink of an eye, Vatyr was a hundred meters clear of the hangar. With the help of his wings, a main thruster on his back that roared with solar light, micro-verniers covering his armour and small canard wings growing out of his hard-light armour segments, he accelerated at blinding speed toward the closest hydra.

“Let’s see what this thing can do!” exclaimed Glitch. “Deploying feathers!” The armour’s wings stretched out fully, launching eight feather-shaped devices in all directions. The feathers began to glow with arc light, coming up alongside Vatyr. “Each feather contains one of my body’s segments, so controlling them is almost second nature.” Glitch realized. A dozen harpies angled to intercept the hunter, and Glitch found it was finally his turn to take the lead in a battle. “Commencing attack!” Each feather accelerated to blurs ahead of them, darting through the sky at crazy angles and changing directions instantly to evade fire. Within seconds they had reached, engaged and destroyed the harpies, unleashing piercing beams of void light from their tips.

“Nicely done, Glitch, but we have a lot more incoming!” Vatyr yelled. A group of harpies rained death down from above him. Glitch recalled the feathers instantly and arranged them in a tight geometrical shape around Vatyr. Connecting void beams to each other and running arc light along them, Glitch created a protective bubble that easily weathered the attack.

“I’ve got you covered, boss!” Glitch declared jokingly.

“Thanks, partner. Now it’s time for me to earn my keep.” Vatyr answered. The hunter quickly accelerated to top speed towards the closest hydra, streaking solar light in his wake. Four of Glitch’s feathers extended circular barriers and ran point-defense routines while the others fired at will, sweeping their beams across the sky. The massive hydra and the thousands of harpies it commanded changed focus from eliminating guardian ships to Vatyr. Instantly, a cloud of harpies changed course and swooped in to meet the hunter.

Vatyr called up the Astranagant’s main heavy weapon. The frames that introduced him to the Astranagant armour’s systems had shown him three weapons before deployment, and it was the first time in ages that the veteran guardian had been at a complete loss for words. Exia was an impressive autorifle that when one of Astranagant’s feathers was mounted around the barrel, a massive energy sword was formed. Infinity Cylinder was a beam-based sniper rifle that while was slow to charge and fire, had enough output to vapourize the side of a mountain off in a single shot. This situation, however, required the heavy.

The gun was called Dis, a heavy machine gun patterned after the fabled Super Good Advice, and adorned with the ornate symbology of Alpha Lupi. The gun lacked a magazine, instead having a quantum entanglement generator that transmatted all of its ammo continuously from Solas’ lab stores, ensuring that the weapon could be fired for hours without needing to reload any kind of magazine. Not only that, but the ammo itself was decades ahead of anything Vatyr had seen in the field, traveling at the speed of a railgun round but being able to drastically change course mid-flight. As the leading edge of the harpy swarm came into range, Vatyr let lose a cold machined fury he had never thought existed.

Dozens of harpies were torn apart by the second, but the towering hydra only threw more at the guardian until they formed a singular metal blob, lashing out at a small point of light. Tendrils made of attacking harpies jutted out of the mass as if trying to grab Vatyr. Astranagant had what the frames had called an inertia store converter, which repurposed the immense amount of energy that Vatyr was creating through inhuman acrobatic maneuvers and kept it from killing him or causing him to pass out. Vatyr accelerated at speeds that would flatten a person’s brain inside their own skull and still managed to continually fire at the harpy swarm.

“Not to be a killjoy, boss, but we can’t spend all of our time on this one hydra. We have a schedule to keep,” noted Glitch in a slightly somber tone. She was enjoying this just as much as her guardian, but there were bigger considerations.

It took a matter of seconds for Vatyr to launch dive down into the city, blink-shifting rapidly around buildings and obstacles. The harpies simply could not keep up. “I assume you have an idea,” said Vatyr.

“One. If you’ll indulge me.” Bringing the feathers into a spiral formation ahead of them and emitting as much light as possible, Vatyr and Glitch dashed upward at full burn. A giant drill formed from the light, spinning fiercely and driving into the harpy cloud. “This is the drill that will pierce through the heavens!” Glitch exclaimed wildly as waves of harpies smashed against the light construct. Unable to defend their hydra master, the hunter and his ghost smashed through the Vex defense and straight through to the other side like a bullet, skewering the hydra lengthwise and causing the mountain of metal to rupture and explode.

The hydra’s destruction sent feedback through to the harpies it controlled, setting off chains of self-destruction that enveloped the entire swarm in massive strings.

“Um… A drill that will pierce through the heavens themselves?” quizzed Vatyr jokingly.

“What? I’ve always been a bit hot-blooded, boss. Anyways, one down.” announced Glitch with pride.

“Many more to go. Let’s work.”

 

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Frontier – Act10 Chapter43 – Words That We Couldn’t Say

Chapter43: Words That We Couldn’t Say

The pod pulsed and flickered with a wide spectrum of light and patterns while they watched. All any of them could do is watch and know that while they did nothing, the outside world fell apart. The silence was barely dented by the low modulating hums and whistles of the pod, the busy working frames and the floating ghosts.

“He’s probably looking for me.” Angela said under her breath.

“Who? The Speaker?” asked Vatyr.

“Yeah. Chances are that regardless of how bad things are getting, all he cares about is finding me.”

“You’ve become quite the focus.”

“The world is a dangerous place. He knows that if anything happens to him, a replacement would be vital to everyone’s survival. Without a connection to The Traveler, we’d be lost.” I think it’s more than that for him. I’m like his daughter now. Angela had lost count of how many times she had to stop herself from calling the old man father. How many times he had stopped himself from calling her daughter, she wondered.

Telemica sat and watched the pod with a still intensity. If she allowed herself to look at the reports coming in from the outside that flashed across the nearby screens, she’d leap out of her own skin. Every fibre of her being was screaming at her to dive into the fray and tear some Vex apart, but she knew that she alone wouldn’t be enough to turn the tide. Solas had planned a critical role for her, and after everything she’d been through and… remembered… she decided that patience was the better part of valour.

As the metallic cocoon slowly ceased to glow, the tension in the room skyrocketed. Whatever processes had been going on within, they were complete. Was Solas alive? Dead? Still corrupted by the seed of Darkness? It was like someone had flooded the lab with arctic cold water. Everyone held their breath. Even the frames paused their work and came to attention close around the pod, ready to act.

It was only half a minute before the pod’s seam reappeared and it began to open, but it felt like an eternity. Solas lay inside, motionless. The contours of the padding shifted to give him a reclined seated position as the frames moved in, checking him over with scanning equipment embedded in their armatures. Holographic readouts appeared all around the pod, no doubt automatically, to give the occupant critical data after being deprived for extended periods. His eyes were once again gone, sealed behind an eyeless and all-seeing horned shell. Angela rushed in between the frames and took Solas’ hand tightly in both of hers; her eyes clenched shut as if she was willing him to come to life. Wake up. Please. We need you. I need you.

Solas’ hand slowly closed around Angela’s. Sensing his return to consciousness, the pod inclined further, allowing Solas to face his comrades.

“Status?” Solas asked dryly. Wisp floated close and in a flash, reintegrated with his long lost guardian. At the speed of thought, Solas was brought up to speed. “I see. According to plan more or less.”

Vatyr approached and extended his hand towards the warlock, “A plan I wish we’d been made aware of beforehand,” he said with a smile. I’m glad you’re back, brother.

Solas nodded and clasped Vatyr’s forearm in a classic warrior’s greeting, “It was imperative that you be kept in the dark. Your actions after my apparent demise needed a unique driving factor.” Vatyr nodded, knowing better than to argue with the Exo in matters like these.

Angela was shaking. Her body quaked as her hands gripped the Exo’s for what appeared to be dear life. Her bowed head did nothing to hide the fact that she was crying. Solas’ free hand came to rest lightly on her head. “You did exceedingly well.” I could not be more proud of you.

A few seconds passed before Angela nodded and released her grip. Pivoting quickly and moving towards the closest interface station, she began to bring programs and systems online within the lab. The frames immediately went to work to support her. She turned to face Fireteam Warden, tears still in her eyes but a smile on her face and a puffed chest that screamed pride and confidence. We’ve got a civilization to save. Let’s get to it, guardians!

Two frames approached Vatyr and Telemica, each motioning for one to follow. “What’s this about?” asked Vatyr.

“This stage of the plan requires that we have access to power not available to other guardians. Foreseeing this, I’ve designed and built equipment packages designed specifically for each of you. Using them, we should be able to repel the current threat before Rasputin can act, or before the Vex and their Axis Minds can succeed in defeating The Traveler. Follow the frames and they’ll get you set to engage.” explained Solas, standing slowly.

Angela continued to prepare things and Vatyr followed his attending frame towards a different chamber, but Telemica remained standing with Solas.

I know what I saw. I know you saw the same things. I know they were memories of us.

I will never forgive myself for killing you, my love.

Love. There was love, once. I can feel the space it left in me. A pain that I’ve never noticed before.

One day, we’ll resolve this. To find our way forward.

Tomorrow holds many possibilities for us, but now is a time for battle. We fight today to win a tomorrow. Together.

“Are you two going to hustle or am I gonna have to save the day on my own?” called out Vatyr before entering. After all, Telemica and Solas were just staring at each other in silence as far as he could tell. “Not that I mind. I’ll need whatever goodwill I can work up to keep Zavala from making me walk back to Vesta naked,” he said with his back turned as he passed from view.

Telemica smiled. Whatever the past was and whatever the future still held, Warden would endure… together. She turned and followed her attending frame, grasping Solas’ shoulder in assurance as she passed.

Frontier – Act10 Chapter42 – The Siege of Shards

Chapter 42: The Siege of Shards

There would come a day when this invasion would become known by many names. The day The Traveler fell. The Siege of Shards. Hell. Not a soul considered these names on the day, which offered no time for poetry or reflection. This day was only for battle.

Earth
The Last City
Hangar

Amanda Holliday ducked fast under a hastily-erected barricade made of crates and other structures that could be thrown into place. Line rifle bolts buzzed angrily over her head, putting holes in various things behind her. Vex ground units were not known for their mobility, so the hope was that it would force them into a stalemate. So far, it was working.

A crash and a hail of gunfire from above tore Amanda’s attention to a few brightly-coloured combatants, loosing as much death upon the machines as they could from their lounge window. “Get those birds in the air, Shipwright! No doubt the support is needed elsewhere.” called down Lakshmi-2 of the Future War Cult as she reloaded her fusion rifle. Others cowled in violet, gold and orange added themselves to the battle.

“She’s right. We’ll hold the line here. There’s a command centre of sorts that we’ve rigged for you in our shuttle hangar. You and your people should fall back there and get as many ships into the air as possible,” said Arach Jalal, his black and white soldiers flanking him and relieving her mechanics of their positions. She quickly fell back to the shuttle, finding a hastily slapped-together command centre. Not much more than a comms station and a few readouts tied into the Tower’s hangar management systems. Reports were coming in of huge swarms of fast-moving harpies strafing the City’s defense placements. Everyone quickly got to the work of bringing the automated systems in all the Tower hangars to life.

Earth
The Last City
Street Level

Shaxx was no doubt the only person with a grin under his faceplate. The sound of distant battle like soothing music to him. His Redjack fireteams quickly engaged the Vex threat, pulling the attention of the machines away from the defenseless populace. Arcite 99-40 loomed in the shadow of his larger horned partner. Shaxx knew his attention wasn’t on the battle in front of him, but on dozens of engagements around the City. Coordinating the Redjacks took a fair bit of finesse. After all, it was a rare skill indeed to out alpha-personality all of those huge alpha personalities. Bribery and the promise of glory/bragging rights often did the trick.

“More Redjacks reporting in. The Lords of Iron are enroute. No word from the Disciples of Osiris yet but I’ll keep trying.” said Arcite.

“Give them challenges. Evacuate all citizens from each district to the towers and shelters. The faster, the better.” suggested Shaxx as he lobbed another grenade over the wall.

“What about forcing back the Vex?”

“We need to prioritize. We won’t be able to clear every area of the enemy when they keep porting in at this pace. The most important thing to do now is remove soft target collateral damage from the equation.”

Earth
The Last City
Observatory

Eris Morn felt that her time was being wasted. The Vex were just machines. Powerful machines, but only machines. Surely everyone realized that the Hive represented a much larger threat during this time of weakness. They must be monitored! The Dreadnaught alone could obliterate them in an instant, even from Saturn’s rings. Nobody would listen during the chaos, so she followed suit and assisted where she could.

Even the Vex were vulnerable to the illusion-casting powers of a Hidden Warlock. The Vex came down the hall from the main watch and ported in from Traveler-only-knows where, but they never saw the observatory or the people. The Vex saw an empty platform, and simply left to find targets.

Executor Hideo and his New Monarchy entourage stood guard at the entrance to the observatory. The Speaker asked them to remain outside as he worked. Perhaps he worried that Hideo would take the opportunity that this invasion presented to eliminate the Speaker, further clearing the way for their agenda. Eris would have been unable to stop them and turn back the Vex at the same time. Regardless, he was far more focused on finding Angela. Her survival was of paramount importance to him. The observatory’s arcane mechanisms whirled, spun, and calculated, but instead of attempting to gleam The Traveler’s secrets and messages, he looked for the young protégé.

“No! You must not peer into the timestream!” screamed Eris.

In his haste, the Speaker had allowed his instruments to send out a tachyon pulse to detect Angela elsewhere in the timestream. To the Vex, the pulse was like a flare being sent up. Vex units began to crash though Eris’ illusion and engage the New Monarchy resistance.

Eris fell back directly to the Speaker. She’d berate him later for his foolishness, she thought.

Earth
The Last City
Hall of Guardians

He’d never admit it to anyone, ever, but Cayde-6 was having fun. It didn’t mean that he didn’t find the situation as gravely serious as it was, but that didn’t mean he didn’t miss the life or death struggle. Perhaps he’d seek professional help if any of them survived. For now he’d just crouch beside the door that lead into the Hall of Guardians, throwing as many bullets down the hall as he could without getting popped. Banshee-44 stood on the other side of the doorway, adding his firepower.

Ikora Rey sat full-lotus in a corner, her mind trained entirely on keeping the room clear of Vex trying to port in. In her many years of study, she’d learned something about how The Traveler kept The Last City free from foes that would quickly overrun their defenses. She’d never had to replicate the effect before, but in the past she’d found a sense of impending doom had a wonderful ability to motivate.

Zavala Tzu worked with all the intent and focus he was known for. He had ordered the frames to relocate their workstations to the same corner. Once they were all set up, he erected a barrier of void light around them, allowing them to organize the counter to the Vex incursion without the risk of an errant shot. Air support was beginning to roll in so the situation in the hangar must be improving. Good. Receiving recon and battle data from Shaxx’s Redjacks, as well as Saladin and his fellow lords. Sending fireteams to fill in the gaps and apply cover for the fleeing citizens. Sending fireteams to the observatory to secure the Speaker. Zavala’s fingers flew furiously over interfaces and his voice spoke with the authority of a god over comms. The chaos began to clear, and Zavala’s will began to reforge the battlefield.

Earth
The Last City
Tower Watch

Arrenn Gee was no more. His function had been executed. His facade was no longer required. He was The Companion Mind once more.

He looked at his glass shell. His architecture was far more complex than common Vex units, but he was the smallest in stature of the Axis Minds. He was also one of the very few Vex that had a sense of individuality. It was a necessity to accomplish his function.

His function was his entire reason for existing, and it was simple. He was a key part to a larger equation. God desired The Traveler, and together with his partner, God would take it for its own. In return, the Vex would become gods themselves.

Above him, his companion slowly formed from a cloud of God’s shadow found within one of The Traveler’s minions. This hidden seed was the key to this victory. Already, The Infecting Mind exerted its power over The Traveler, slowly blighting the light and replacing it with God’s will. The Infecting Mind was the greatest carrier of God’s power that the Vex have ever created, dwarfing even the revered Sol Progeny. Its glass body designed to carry the purity of God’s wrath. Together, they were known as The Shards.

There was a third, and is and will be again. Atheon built the centre of the Vex’s universe and grew the Vex’s influence in leaps and bounds, but The Traveler’s pawns defeated Atheon, exposed by the loss of the garden. God took notice of this, and demanded retribution.

The Vex conquest would be perfect. God’s enemy would be dominated by God itself and eliminated from the perfection of the Vex equation. God demanded it.

 

Frontier – Act09 Chapter41 – Deep Stone Crypt

Chapter 41: Deep Stone Crypt

Where am I?

What am I?

Am I?

I?

Grappling with the concept of I is like trying to hold smoke in my hands. Nebulous. No matter what self does, self leaks out of every crack in self. Maybe self is the smoke trying to keep self from wafting away to nothing. Yes, that’s it. Self’s mind is barely holding a form.

Self needs to move forward. Forward… where? Self has no concept of where self is, and yet some instinct is telling self to just go.

The first step. I apparently have legs. In fact, I’m a bit more solid now. Stone-like. I feel stiff. Gritty. The same grey-black stone and fertile earth under me also makes me. All of me.

Step. The smoke-self is gone. I’m not leaking anymore. I am I, fully and completely. I can see further now, as well. The sun is cutting across a mountain ridge in the distance, scattering unnatural fancies of light over the sky and terrain as it sets. There’s something in the far distance. I feel a pull towards it. A purpose. My only purpose, though I have no idea why.

Step. I’m much closer now. Far closer than a single step should have taken me. This place might not be real, but perhaps it’s simply a different kind of real. I’m not quite sure I’m real yet. There are others. Others exist, when only moments ago it seemed the concept of I was hard to grasp. There’s something rising high into the sky out of the group. A stone spire in the shape of a giant fist. I’m drawn to it.

Step. I’m among them now. They’re made of the same stuff as me, but most seem somewhat less than me. Less substantial. Less corporeal. They seem happy though. Content in this place. They’re not moving towards the spire. Some are pushing through the mob, as I feel I must.

Step. They’re packed so tightly together. Their shuffling and random paths would have knocked me down a few times if there was enough space to fall. It takes almost all my effort and limited physicality to make my way through. The closer they get to the spire, the more agitated they seem. They move faster. They swing about as if they’re under attack. The spire seems so close now. I’m almost through.

Fall. Pain. I’m on the ground. Have I been hit? No, I’ve made it past the violent throng. This is a pressure. A force is being exerted on me, like a mountain avalanche falling on me, or an ocean drawing me down. I notice that at some point I started breathing because now it seems almost impossible to. There are others. They scream in… pain? No. Terror. They crawl back to the others. Others can barely move at all. I have to get up. I have to keep going.

Stand. Step. It gets worse the closer I get to the spire. I stumble again but do not fall, focusing on keeping my feet under me.

Step. More pain. Slashing pain. Bludgeoning pain. Burning pain. Freezing pain. It’s coming from all around me, but nothing is there. My parts tell me they’re damaged and failing, but I force them forward.

Step. Fall. It’s the spire. It’s crushing those who attempt to approach it. I’m pinned to the ground and in more pain than I thought existed. Death. I can be unmade. Fear… crushing my chest and blurring my sight. Panic on the edges of me. I can see an entrance at the base of the spire. It’s so tall that I can no longer see the top. It seems to rise infinitely, but I saw its peak before. A rising fist. A sign of resolution.

Crawl. I feel my grip on the world beginning to burn away. Am I returning to the mist of my genesis? I’m coming apart. If I turn back I could survive.

Crawl. No. I must press on, though I still don’t understand why. I’m almost gone.

Crawl. My fingertips break through to the spire’s interior, and now I’m inside.

Stand. The pressure is still there, but I can stand. I can force the terror into a box in the back of my mind. I’m made of something else now. Metal. Rusty, dirty metal. I’m stronger, though. I have a better sense of my own capabilities. The room is huge, and there are very few others. A pillar of light shines at the centre.

Punch. Something came at me. I was too far in my own head so I barely noticed it, but I spun and ran my fist right through its head. It fell and vanished. I’m not quite sure how or why I did that. Another is coming at me. A thing made of oil and miasma. It had a face but I didn’t recognize it, though it felt like I should have. It slashes at me with its claws but I duck under it and thrust an upward palm strike through its chest. It coils and vanishes around my hand. My whole body instinctively knew how to do that, and I feel less rusty. Less dull. Is that the purpose of this place? To fight? Was the pressure outside a first of tests?

Run. The enemy surrounds the pillar of light. Others are trying to fight through them to get to the pillar but they’re failing and being ripped apart. I run at an enemy full on and throw a punch, but this one is far stronger. It grabs my outstretched arm and throws me far. I roll and collapse into a heap. Getting up hurts, as if the failed attack leeched more energy from me than the physicality of it should. I can’t risk that again. Another like me is racing by me to attempt the same thing, but I call out to stop him. He helps me to my feet. If we work together, we can break through.

Rally. Others join us. We move as one, rushing a section of the enemy’s line. Together we are stronger than the sum of our efforts. A few fall, but I break through with others and enter the light.

Blink. Another chamber. Same size. Same pillar of light in the centre. I don’t see any of the others that I came through with, but I do see a single enemy by the pillar. It’s bigger. It’s wearing armour and has a sword. Luckily – and for unknown reasons – I also have a sword, though it is made of stone. My body is less dull and most of the rust is gone. My mind is clearer, though I’m keenly aware that the pressure being exerted on me by this place has never been more intense.

Step. It’s waiting for me patiently, like a duelist awaiting his challenger. It has a face. Dark skin, red hair and strong feminine features. I raise my sword to it to show that I am ready, and it attacks. A failed parry sends me sprawling hard. I pick my sword back up before it can pounce and narrowly avoid its killer strike. It swings, I block. I stab, it twists. It lands a blow and I recover. Is it getting slower? No, I’m getting faster. I can read its movements. The sword is getting lighter in my hands, and I am beginning to understand it beyond where the sharp parts are. The next slash the enemy takes finds only empty air. I’m no longer there. I’m behind it, and I plunge my blade into its back straight through to the ground. I enter the pillar of light leaving it propped up on my killer intent.

Blink. This chamber is different. The others were empty. This one is a maze. Lefts, rights, ups and downs. Corridors and smaller chambers. Objects and hurdles. I’m beginning to look more like I feel I should, though I have no idea why I have that sense or what my final form should be like. The dullness is gone, replaced with shine and complexity. There’s a stone gun in my hand, though I know for some reason it will work when I want it to.

Dash. I enter a hallway. I know I need to get to the centre of the room and find the pillar of light, but the labyrinth I’m in seems to shift and deceive. I can hear others and weapons fire.

Turn. Duck. Bullets wiz by my head. The enemies are less armoured than the last one but far faster, and they’re moving in packs of three. I see two others like me pinned down by the same enemies keeping me on the defensive. I make eye contact with them and with our combined firepower we take down the immediate threats. We move through the maze together. Every kill causes our guns to morph and evolve into more effective instruments of death. We find another group of three and join them for the final assault on the pillar, each of us making it through.

Blink. The others are gone again. A hallway of mirrors lies before me. The pressure is intense here, but I can endure. I walk through the hall, seeing my reflection in the mirrors change. I can see images other than myself in the reflections. Memories? Whatever they are, I’m having an emotional response to them. I knew that place. I remember that person. I’m changing. No, I’m returning. The pieces of me are coming back together. By the time I leave the hall and enter the last chamber, I’m almost me again.

Solas. I’m almost back to being Solas.

Breathe. I know this is the last room because I can see the outlines of the spire’s fist shape in the ceiling. Starlight pours in through cracks in the walls. I’ve been rising through the spire’s interior, though I’m quite sure it’s not just a simple three-dimensional space. In fact, I’m sure this place doesn’t physically exist at all. There is no pillar of light at the centre of the room, only a mass of roiling and twisting darkness. That is where the pressure has been emanating from. If it had been this strong at the base of the spire, I would have surely been vapourized. My mind and senses are under full assault once more. There are no enemies here, so I walk slowly towards the darkness, feeling waves of pure terror slam into me over and over.

The final test. I spear both hands into the darkness, my light confronting it directly. My body wracked with agony. My mind shaken with shock. It challenges me with questions and riddles, demanding answers under a level of duress that no words could describe. I’m turning to smoke and dust once more. Only my light and my mind hold me together. I defy the darkness with my very soul. I meet its inquisition with everything I am. Every nucleus of wisdom, every trace of fortitude. Every ray of emotion.

As I give my last to it, every sense is flooded with light. The pressure is gone. I am Solas-3 once more, and I have returned from the Deep Stone Crypt that all Exo brothers and sisters must climb to reach the life beyond ones and zeros that The Traveler has offered us.

I only hope I was right.

Frontier – Act09 Chapter40 – Black Sun

Chapter 40: Black Sun

V343WNI877PCE121 DARK MORNING OUTCRY
AI-COM/RSPN: ASSETS//FORCECON//IMPERATIVE
CONTINGENT ACTION ORDER

This is an ALL ASSETS IMPERATIVE (NO HUMAN REVIEW) (NO AI-COM REVIEW).

Total strategic collapse imminent. FENRIR HEART reports complete operational mortality. SURTR DROWN on standby. Forecasts unanimously predict terminal VOLUSPA failure. Neo-human intervention is negative. Non-human intervention is negative. Extra-solar intervention is negative. Extra-temporal intervention is negative.

As of PCE121 an ANCILLARY CIVILIZATION KILL EVENT [[all flexions]] is in progress. Terra-local. Enemy is PARACAUSAL and EXTRA-TEMPORAL. RAM-UNIVERSAL. Designation: VEX

Declaring YUGA KNOCKDOWN effective on receipt (epoch reach/FORCECON variant). Tactical morality is built at MIDNIGHT.

Stand by for CRITERIA:

Under CARRHAE (WHITE/BLACK/ORANGE/GREY)
If SECURITY STATE is ROMAN
If event rank is NIETZSCHE: TRAUMATIC CONTEXT or SKYSHOCK: EXTRA-TEMPORAL CONTEXT
If VOLUSPA is ACTIVE and in FAILURE [[synapse to FENRIR::SURTR]]
If FAILURE of WARDEN [T] proxies

Stand by for DECISION POINT:

If available ISR and WARWATCH indicates imminent [T] capture
>then [T] capture compromises human/neo-human/non-human survival and super-epochal strategy/ALL

Stand by for ABHORRENT IMPERATIVE:

Activate BLACK SUN
Repurpose all assets
Prevent [T] capture by any means available
Full caedometric release authorized on [T] and surrounding theatre
Remove [T] from operational theatre

Stand by for effect assessment criteria:

Coerce pseudo altruistic [T] defensive action via proxies [G]
Vex disengagement via removal of [T] and [G] variables
Defer civilization kill.

STOP STOP STOP V343WNI877PCE121