Chapter 44: Piercing
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.”