Frontier – Act10 Chapter47 – Infection

Chapter 47: Infection

The petrified ash that moments ago was the body of The Companion Mind known as Arrenn Gee quickly became airborne as the sky above the City became angrier. Rasputin was perhaps minutes away from deploying the Black Sun protocol, a gravitational annihilation beam weapon that would reduce its target into 4D holographic data in much the same way that quantum singularities did. Its existence was only known to a very select few in the higher echelons of Vanguard Command. Panic would have surely resulted if the general population had known that the warmind had such a weapon hanging over their heads.

Solas understood why Rasputin was taking this course of action, and understood why all attempts to dissuade him proved fruitless. Even after all this time, Rasputin still had little faith in guardians. The only way to stop Rasputin was to end the threat, so without giving himself time to rest or congratulate himself on his victory, he turned his complete attention to the seed of Darkness.

The sickly oil-like energy stream of corruption that poured out of the seed curved and twisted its way through the air, ending at The Traveler and gradually covering the huge white orb like a disease. Arcs of light traveled back along the stream. Was the seed feeding on The Traveler? Solas could sense that the connection was far too strong to break with brute force and there was not enough time for proper analysis, therefore the only option was to destroy the seed itself. But how to do that? The only other encounter with a seed was in The Black Garden, and the seed was only vulnerable after inhabiting the Sol Progeny. The prevailing theory was that the seed itself couldn’t directly influence the physical world, so it required hosts and subjects to do its bidding, but here it was, affecting The Traveler. How?

Among the myriad of broken Vex bodies, Solas sat in full lotus and opened his mind to the convulsing mass of evil before him. Something was unique about this seed. He sensed little he could understand, until a speck of Arrenn’s remains carried on the wind to the seed and touched its surface. The roiling body of the seed exploded in a furious torrent of what Solas could only describe as anti-life, throwing the warlock backwards and blanketing the watch in a thick miasma. Once it cleared, Solas had his answer.

The seed was exactly that, a seed from which something was intended to grow. What emerged stood nearly as tall as Atheon. A wide body of glass that was reminiscent of a more evolved hydra, with humanoid limbs and a cycloptic head atop its torso. Eight small balls of darkness similar in appearance to the seed floated around him. The infection stream continued to pour out the Vex’s crystalline body and towards The Traveler like a thick smog.

The last Shard brother finally emerged from his chrysalis. Virulion The Infecting Mind.

Solas sent out a quick burst message on every friendly channel he knew of, informing them of the situation. On the surface of it, this seemed to work in their favour. Now the seed was gone, and a corporeal entity could be defeated.

Solas’ six hands became a blur of light as he attempted to bind Virulion. Small portals to Sol’s photosphere opened up around the Vex giant, launching thick solar filaments at it. The ropes of light looped around and lashed Virulion, impeding his movement. More portals opened as Solas continued his binding.

Solas considered how to destroy the now-bound monster, but only had a few seconds before he saw that it would not be so easy. The orbs of darkness quickly whizzed around Virulion, severing the filaments and collapsing the portals. The Vex was free in less time than it took to bind him.

Solas was suddenly knocked to his knees, not by a physical attack, but by something else. A psychic attack? No, that was not something the Vex did. This was something else. Psychic vibrations pulsed from Virulion’s glass shell with such strength that it was like Solas’ mind was being shaken apart. Concepts flooded in. Anger. Destruction. The zealot-like fanaticism of these acts was the will of God. Wordless thoughts and fractals of emotions boomed deafeningly in Solas’ skull. The warlock found it impossible to focus on anything, or even grasp on to a single thought of his own. This was how The Infecting Mind communicated. He screamed his dark thoughts at you until your will to resist was buried under the rubble of your shattered psyche.

“Here we come to save the day!” called out Vatyr over comms. Solas could focus just enough to perceive Vatyr flying in with Telemica in tow. The titan dropped from 20 feet and landed in front of the warlock. The resonance of her null jacket distorted the telepathic link enough for Solas to break it. He rose to his feet slowly and quickly slapped together a psychic barrier patch for himself, while also remote-installing it in the armour Telemica and Vatyr wore.

Telemica turned to face Virulion with sword unsheathed. “Did you take care of Arrenn?” she asked.

“Conclusively. He was protecting his brother, who just emerged from the seed. Meet Virulion, The Infecting Mind. We only have a few minutes to defeat him before Rasputin launches his attack,” informed Solas.

“Not a problem. I’ll end this in one shot!” hollered Vatyr. He’d landed on the centre peak of the watch’s architecture and deployed Infinity Cylinder, his new sniper rifle. The unusually long barrel and thick cable connecting the rifle’s body to the back of Vatyr’s Astranagant armour told Telemica that the weapon was less of an anti-personnel weapon and more of heavy anti-material cannon, designed to eliminate heavy and hardened targets from extreme ranges. Judging from the advanced nature of Solas’ other creations, the titan guessed it could punch a hole clear through a Cabal land tank in a single shot. Vatyr brought the rifle up to aiming position and a grin formed on his face.

The body of the rifle seemed based on the newest fusion rifle tech, as there were six heavy fusion cores laid out in a tight hexagon that came to life. Vatyr’s wings furled out and back, venting the vast amount of excess heat away from his body.

Virulion seemed to either not notice the two new guardians, or not care. He slowly turned his hulking form back towards The Traveler. The sickening miasma began to pour out of him thicker and faster than before, as if he were refocusing his efforts on dominating his target.

“Don’t wanna play with us? I’d rather not shoot you in the back, but I’m not above taking the shot when the clock is running.” Vatyr mused. “Stand back! This thing packs a wallop!” he screamed as the Infinity Cylinder’s cores roared deafeningly. The hunter pressed the trigger, and the world lit up. A high-pitch scream burst forth from the weapon’s barrel, along with an intensely wrathful bright beam of white-hot light.

The event shook Telemica’s perception enough that it took her a full second to turn and see the beam’s target still standing, Infinity Cylinder’s beam shattering of some invisible barrier around the Vex. Some beams arched into the sky, while others lanced straight into the tower or off to skewer far off mountain faces.

Before an expletive could escape the lips of either Vatyr or Telemica, Solas braced. Infinity Cylinder’s shot would end soon and another may not be possible in this fight. He had to act fast. His hands shot out and grasped at the sky that the beams cut across and pulled fiercely. Through a sheer force of will that some warlocks would find astounding while others would deem inelegant, he curved the beams back towards Virulion like a flower’s petals closing in the moonlight. Infinity Cylinder began to cut into Virulion’s front mere fractions of a second after its shot broke across his back.

By the time the attack got Virulion’s attention, the rifle’s charge was expended. “Not the game-ending attack I was hoping for.” Vatyr mused darkly. “Now what?”

“Now we press the attack until the damn thing falls!” Telemica cried out, already leaping on Spiral Caliber’s solar burst at Virulion with a fully-deployed Buster Sword. She swung hard at his head, powering through with her new arm and doing her best to sever the Vex’s head from the rest of his body. Thunder clapped as the blade met Virulion’s protective barrier, but that just made Telemica press harder with an ecstatic war cry.

Recalling Infinity Cylinder and deploying Exia, an autorifle that doubled as an anti-starship beam sword when the barrel was connected to Anstranagant’s feathers. Vatyr’s energy blade slammed into the opposite side of Virulion’s neck, doubling the titan’s continued assault like scissors.

Before Solas could warn his comrades, the barrier pulsed once with a deep bass sound that rocked the world, sending all three guardians flying back and slamming into the walls of the watch.

“This isn’t going to be that simple,” noted Solas through considerable pain as he got up.

“So, do you have a plan?” asked Vatyr.

“That’s a light-equalization barrier of staggering density and genuinely transcendental complexity. Virulion is using The Traveler’s core essence-light to protect itself from our attacks. At the same time, Virulion is injecting a quasi-pathogenic anti-light construct into The Traveler in an attempt to dominate it,” explained Solas.

“Come again?”

“We use The Traveler’s light to do what we do, but it is impossible to use that light – The Traveler’s very nature – to injure The Traveler itself. The Infecting Mind was designed to take advantage of this fact. To shroud himself in The Traveler’s light to defend against us, while taking control of its host. Without overcoming that defense, none of our attacks will land.”

“So what you’re telling me is that for the first time ever, you have… no plan?” suggested Telemica.

“I’m working on it.” assured Solas in a tone that was halfway between personally insulted and honestly grave.

“That’s not what I wanted to hear.” the titan mused as she readied herself for another attack.

Solas didn’t want to let on how dire the situation was. Could a way be found around the barrier? Probably, after months or maybe years of research on a target that was not trying to kill them. The problem was that they didn’t have months. In the next few minutes, either the Vex would take The Traveler as an offering to The Darkness, Rasputin would destroy everything, or both. Virulion’s imposing and disregarding back was beginning to look bigger by the second, and the sky was most definitely getting darker.

 

Frontier – Act10 Chapter46 – Annihilating

Chapter 46: Annihilating

Earth
The Last City
Ground Zero

Ikora felt his presence before she saw the shimmer indicative of a higher-dimensional transmat insertion. How could she ever forget the telltale tingle in the air caused by her mentor, friend and closest confidant? She could only spare the effort to open her eyes for a single moment and witness him standing there. The others were far more surprised.

“Warlock Solas! Get your damned head down!” cried out Cayde. Solas was standing in the middle of the Hall of Guardians, and was a clear shot for the Vex to take. Crimson bolts lanced at Solas from the hallway, and evaporated inches from him. Several more volleys assaulted the Exo but none landed, merely ceasing to exist before landing.

Solas walked up to the hallway, and extended his arms. Before that point Cayde had been too concerned with the wellbeing of the warlock, and the confusion directly after, to notice.

Solas had six arms.

More accurately, Solas had four additional arms, a pair above and a pair below the one anyone would expect to see. It was difficult to see where they connected to his body under the layers that a warlock’s garb normally entailed, but there didn’t seem to be any additional apparatus connecting the arms to his body. No backpack. The Exo must have made the modifications directly, Cayde surmised.

As the Vex considered how to attack an enemy such as this, Solas’ six hands began to weave patterns of light in the air. Cayde had seen this sort of light expression before from many of the highest-level warlocks, but never with this level of complexity, and obviously only with two hands. All six danced in expert coordination, composing light as if it were a full orchestra.

Then, in a blink of an eye, the Vex in the hall were gone. The air popped as it rushed in to fill the sudden vacuum left by the departed units.

“What-” Cayde began to ask.

“I moved them.” Solas answered.

“Where?”

“The same supermassive singularity accretion disk that their weapons pull their energy from.”

“How?”

Solas didn’t answer, instead making his way down the hall and up the stairs.

The entire Watch was swarming with Vex. Hobgoblins and praetorians stood on guard for the seed of Darkness, now grown large enough to block Solas’ view of The Traveler. Solas could feel what it was doing to The Traveler. Poison. Infection. Domination. Solas’ entry into the area instantly caused every Vex gun to be trained on him.

Extending his arms as though he were about to begin to lead a symphony, he called upon his true weapon.

A book appeared in front of him. The large ornate tome floated silently in the air. It opened fully to him as if he were going to read from it, its spine cracking with the sound of old natural bindings. Within were pages made not of paper, but of light. Impossibly thin, they fluttered back and forth in a rainbow blur, humming and whistling whimsically. Within the tome, Wisp was remotely connecting Solas’ mind to the pod in his lab via a hyper-entanglement interlink, and in turn bridging Solas’ mind to the gargantuan quantum processing capabilities that the pod afforded him. Solas’ true weapon had always been his mind, and now it was fully unleashed.

The Vex began their assault on the intruder, loosing a torrent of gunfire upon him. The Exo warlock blink-stepped with such speed and rapidity that he seemed to be in more than a dozen places at once. Light poured from Solas’ 30 fingertips, intricately weaving reality around him at the speed of thought. Cryptic symbols and labyrinthine constructs of power filled the space. Vex fired wildly at afterimages, sometimes destroying other Vex with friendly fire in the process. The remaining Vex came to a variety of ends, but all in short order. Some vanished as those in the hall did, while others exploded into light or evaporated like dust in the wind. One was encased in a jet-black coffin of energy and quickly transformed into pure Hawking radiation.

In seconds, Solas was left with only two opponents: whatever was within the seed of Darkness, and former guardian Arrenn Gee.

“I don’t believe we’ve been formally introduced.” spoke Arrenn, who had yet to turn and give notice to the Exo.

“No, but I’ve met another Shard.” Solas noted as he walked toward his foe. Arrenn had completely shed his human visage to reveal an incredibly imposing Vex. Arrenn was only a fraction smaller than a minotaur but no less imposing. At the same time, his glass-like body was far more complex than an average Vex, giving Solas a sense of his deadly speed and accuracy. Add to that Arrenn’s ability to manipulate reality like a warlock and his lineage as one of the Shards. Solas knew that this would be no simple contest.

“No doubt brother Atheon told you that there was no way you could find victory. You most of all should be aware of all the turning gears here. Why come back at all? Why try to protect that which is doomed to fall?” Arrenn asked, turning to meet Solas. Solas had never seen such a face on a Vex. Though cycloptic, it was humanoid and amazingly complex given how little the Vex would care for such things or even what most Exo were gifted with. Did Arrenn create his own face? The perfect baleful sneer that the metallic face formed spoke volumes of the unique entity within. The creature inside surely demanded a shell that could properly display the evil it contained.

“I’ve studied many things in my time, and the Vex have been one of the most interesting of subjects. You want us to think that your existence denotes our inevitable defeat, but in fact it’s the other way around. Your current state, still bound by the laws of a universe you have yet to fully tame, proves that we can match you. We can survive. We can prevail. You think us so small, but I’ve seen it. The golden path. The way forward. The only way forward. Imagine my complete lack of surprise when I saw that the path led right through you.”

Solas’ last words had barely left his lips before Arrenn was upon him, a black metal vibroknife heated to a dull lava glow in his left hand, driving for the Exo’s face. Solas’ two upper arms were fast and strong enough to catch the Vex’s wrist before it landed, but just barely. Arrenn’s face had turned from a malefic sneer to a visage of deadly rage, and his right hand was inches away from Solas’ torso, weaving a quick gravity pulse into existence.

Solas was thrown back, slamming hard into the archway leading to the Hall of Guardians and collapsing down the steps.

“You speak of things you can’t possibly understand. We are the Vex! Our realm encompasses all of spacetime. Our influence over reality is complete! We exist in every possibility. Our victory is the only probability! You are less than nothing on the cosmic scales that we control.” Arrenn roared while stalking towards the steps with the intent of grinding what was left of the Exo under his boot.

Solas rocketed into the air, levitating within an aura of light. His two lower arms were wrapped in thick steel cables that he tore up from under the steps, their ends in his palms sparking wildly.

“It’s no wonder you posed as a warlock. You talk too much.” Solas asserted calmly. His four remaining hands wove quickly. In an instant, the entire watch filled with lightning. The Vex was lifted into the air as he was assailed by most of the power that usually kept the Tower alive. The cables in Solas’ hands glowed white-hot as they conducted far more energy than they were used to, as Solas used the power to attack Arrenn on an atomic level, hacking away at the bonds that held the materials that held him together.

Just as it seemed that Arrenn would be broken down, the cables failed and melted into glowing molten metals, giving the Vex his chance to retreat to the relative shelter of the seed. Solas fell to the ground. The attack had exhausted him.

“Impressive. I have to say that you’ve surprised me. We could take shots like that at each other all day, but that would bore me. I couldn’t present such an ugly victory to god! What do you say we finish this properly?” quizzed Arrenn, standing in wait a few feet from Solas.

The Exo got up. He knew exactly what Arrenn had in mind. It was called The World Circle. There was a time before the City’s walls were raised when warlocks fought deadly duels in this fashion, but such practices had fallen out of favour since the advent of the crucible. Legends suggested that the symbol that Osiris took as his own was patterned after this contest.

They stood nine feet apart and saluted each other in the traditional warlock way, with the right-hand palm covering the left closed fist. Outstretching their open palms to each other, they formed the circle. Between them was a ring of jet-black null-energy. A blank canvas that was intrinsically connected to both combatants. From this, two warlocks would weave, attack and defend their opponent until one was defeated, and almost always dead.

The two warlocks began to create constructs within the circle; symbols of power formed a new cryptography of local reality. Leylines intersected where one warlock attempted to block or parry the other’s efforts. Attacks landed on a warlock’s essence while their bodies reacted sympathetically. The goal was not to kill your opponent from physical trauma, but to obliterate the very concept of their being.

Every minute into the battle, another circle randomly formed, intersecting the main one in some fashion and expanding the battlefield in unpredictable ways. The first addition was equal to the size of the original but hung perpendicular, creating an entire third dimension to the trial. Equations of life and death flooded outwards and around the combatants, interlacing furiously as each warlock attempted to get ahead of the other.

Minutes passed as the circles rapidly filled with death. Solas quickly learned that Arrenn was adept at feints and misdirection, while Arrenn found it a challenge to cope with Solas’ vast breadth of skill. Moves came at a furious pace, neither combatant daring to take more than a moment to consider their next series of moves.

Neither warlock seemed to be gaining an advantage over the other when a crack of thunder shattered the world. The warlocks staggered as if they were slammed by sonic booms but dared not break from the Circle, as certain death awaited those that took the coward’s way out. The bright noon sun that normally lit up the brisk mountain valley quickly darkened as Sol was eclipsed from the centre out. The sky turned an angry lightning-filled violet, and the wind picked up to match the deathly tone.

“You’re quite a skilled combatant, but I’m afraid your time is at an end! When Rasputin attempts to destroy The Traveler in the hopes of keeping its power from God, my brother within the seed will seal it off in a localized time-dilation field. This City will be leveled. The Traveler will soon after succumb to our corruption, and then nothing in this universe will be able to stop us!” gloated Arrenn with a cackle.

“Impressive plan. Firstly, thank you for this invigorating match. It has been an enjoyable distraction, as well useful in keeping your attention away from the efforts of my comrades. Even now, the tide of the battle throughout is turning heavily in our favour. In fact, I feel a small amount of guilt by indulging the ego of such a weak opponent while my friends did all the real work.” Solas calmly noted.

“What? How dare-”

“Secondly, thank you for confirming your plans. My calculations pointed almost assuredly towards it, but it’s pleasant to have my findings verified.” Solas continued.

“Impossible!”

“Lastly, and hopefully quite obvious at this point, there was one element to this game that you and the Vex neglected to properly qualify.”

“Which was?”

“Me.”

It was then that Arrenn realized how outmatched he had been from the beginning. Solas’ four additional hands had yet to be employed in The World Circle, but were only the tip to the enormous iceberg of his power. His tome gave him access to all of his vast mental resources, and his enhanced body allowed him to apply those resources on a truly exponential scale. Multidimensional thoughts processed in attoseconds. Fingers weaved with such blinding speed that they nearly disappeared, and with such accuracy that Arrenn almost found himself in awe. Solas was operating at a level so far beyond Arrenn that the only way the he could realize it was to have it plainly demonstrated.

The Circles suddenly filled with an overwhelming incursion. Before Arrenn could counter, Solas perfectly and conclusively dominated their shared world. Arrenn’s essence was unconditionally ripped away from his self in the span of a breath. Perhaps if The Companion Mind had not been so shocked at the revelation, he would have had the chance for one last retort, but it was too much, too fast. Arrenn was simply gone. Erased. His vacant shell fell back, completely evaporating into rusty dust in the strong wind with nothing left to land on the floor.

 

Frontier Update #13: A Few Hiccups, But Progress.

Greetings Guardians,

First things, no chapter this week. I’ve got the majority of it written, but closing it properly is a bit of a challenge. I’d rather not rush it. There’s also so much on my plate this week. It’s my birthday today, V-Day later on in the week, I’ve gone back to the gym, and my two businesses are demanding a lot of my mental fuel this week due to an investor summit all last weekend.

Good news is that I’ve done a remap of the final events of Frontier and it looks like chapter 51 will be the finally. Not far to go at all. All in all we’re going to close this thing around the 63,000 word mark. A small 200ish page novel, basically. I’ll let that sink in after it’s done.

In the meanwhile, feel free to go back and reread your favourite chapters and leave your comments on what you loved about them! In fact, feel equally free to go back to the chapters that you feel could have been better. I’m always happy to accept constructive feedback.

See you all next week!

Frontier – Act10 Chapter45 – Cleaving

Chapter 45: Cleaving

Earth
The Last City
Street Level

These Vex were getting wise, Shaxx thought. They’d somehow figured out that he and Arcite had been commanding a sizable number of fireteams across the combat zone. Of course, he was a much easier target than the Vanguard leaders in their fortified hall. The pair had to move faster and faster to stay ahead while still coordinating their forces. It was only a matter of time before the Vex locked him down.

There was a chase. Shaxx never considered the Vex were an enemy that would pursue a target in that fashion. Numerous rapidly-teleporting minotaurs flanked by harpies managed to run him and Arcite into a dead-end between two fallen apartment buildings. The alley was around 30 feet across, and the destroyed structures created high walls with multiple outcroppings but little in the way of cover on the ground. There were two nearby fireteams, but they were already engaged and couldn’t break off to assist. Shaxx and Arcite dug in and did their best to hold off the Vex.

It was inevitable that the Vex would wear them down, but Shaxx didn’t seem to mind. “You know, my friend, the horror of this day and most probably the end of everything we’ve built notwithstanding, I’m having a great time!”

“I figured you might be. Ever consider that you may have an issue?” Arcite posited, throwing a grenade over his cover at an approaching minotaur.

“Oh, I’m sure that I’m unhinged in some way.” Shaxx laughed.

“Can your deranged mind figure out how we’re going to get out of this one?” asked Arcite as he reloaded his Hakke Strongbow-D shotgun.

“A miracle and nothing less.”

“Someone call for a miracle?” boomed a voice from atop the wall behind Shaxx and Arcite. Looking up and peering through the noon sun reflecting off The Traveler, the two saw a titan standing tall on the ledge.

“Ho there! Come to save our sorry asses?” called out Shaxx.

“It would be an honour!” the titan called out as she tipped over the side of the wall.

The frames had time to properly explain Telemica’s new armour to her because it first required that her arm be replaced. Somehow, Solas’ predictions had calculated a high probability that she’d lose an arm in the rescue attempt due to the nature of Vex transfer gates. The new armour, named Regalia, included bleeding-edge cybernetic arms to replace the lost limbs. Telemica would only need the left one.

The first system she was told about was the Spiral Caliber. Each boot had two aggressively segmented wheels, which encased highly-miniaturized solar light-based repulsor tech modeled after sparrows like the EV-36 Sol Scout. Using a combination of solar light, nano-kinetic drivers and artificial gravity fields, a guardian could traverse any terrain with extreme efficiency. Shaxx and Arcite were amazed as the titan rode the wall down to them at both incredible speed and with incredible control.

The Vex began to divert their firepower to the newcomer. Rapid-fire bolts peppered and torch hammer fireballs surged towards Telemica and would have surely been her undoing, if not for the Null Jacket defensive system. A void light cloak that moved with her, shaping to her as if it were a long coat made of violet energy.

The Vex’s aggression didn’t worry Telemica in the least with such a strong defense at her command, but her code demanded it be responded to. Bringing the drive cores of the Spiral Caliber to full, she performed a sweeping kick at her attackers, sending a blast of roaring solar light slamming into their front line. Telemica bounced from outcropping to outcropping, sending searing shockwaves of devastation down until landing between Shaxx and Arcite, and what was left of the Vex group.

Two damaged minotaurs were attempting to return fire, but Telemica had other plans. Bolting towards them at ground speeds that even a sparrow rider would find extreme, she was upon them in a fraction of a second and plowed a left hook through both of them. The third part of the Spiral Caliber system was her new left arm, laced with the same tech as the wheels on her feet and designed to convert all that kinetic energy into destructive force.

Leaping back to a few feet from Shaxx and Arcite, Telemica took stock of the remaining Vex. Seven minotaurs with varied levels of damage and two harpies.

Shaxx and Arcite took the pause to reload and move up to better cover along each wall. “That’s some interesting gear you have there, titan Magna,” mused Arcite. Her entire armor seemed to be patterned after the helm Arcite had once heard about. The Empyrean Bellicose. A silvery translucent shell that barely hid the magnificent mechanisms it protected. Word was that it was filled with all manner of tech that was cutting edge even in the golden age. Arcite could tell that her left arm was entirely cybernetic and used the same design philosophies, which led his eye down to something entirely different on her hip.

A sword.

A katana, to use the old-world vernacular, hung off the titan’s belt, opposite Jolder’s iron sash. It was very obviously technological in nature, but great care was taken to make it look like a traditional weapon from centuries past, right down to the plasteel in the handle tinted just so to make it look like ray skin. The tsuba guard was modeled after the titan symbol, and the scabbard was ornately etched with the orange and white pattern of the Vanguard.

“I don’t mean to be the bearer of bad news, but I’m just about out of ammo.” noted Shaxx.

“Not a problem. We’ll be out of this mess in a minute, and I’ll get you back to the Tower.” assured Telemica with ultimate confidence. Arcite stayed silent, knowing something special was about to happen.

“That’s quite a statement, titan. Care to tell me how you plan on making that miracle happen?”

“I can do better than that. I’ll show you.” Telemica asserted as she slowly placed her hand on the katana and crouched. Half a breath passed before she drew her blade in a flash, sending an arc light shockwave slamming into the Vex. Both remaining harpies were sliced in two, and two of the more damaged minotaurs fell. Shaxx couldn’t tear his eyes away from the alley walls, which were etched deeply on both sides by the edges of the wave. He’d seen swords become more popular among guardians recently, as well as money pour into research and development of such weapons, but this was on a completely different level.

Telemica slowly pointed the sword at the Vex. The handle segmented and doubled in length. The tsuba split perpendicular to the blade’s edge and extended out, revealing mechanisms that looked similar to forcefield generators. The air in the alley suddenly took on a charge, as the blade itself seemed to change from a solid black steel to black and angry smoke.

“Nanomachines?” Asked Arcite aloud, almost in spite of himself.

“Precisely! These nans are filled with fighting spirit! With my mighty hands guiding them, their true greatness will be unsealed!”

More likely they’re programmed to respond to her via neural interface, but correcting her seemed like a dangerous proposition, Arcite thought. The nans whirled and twisted until forming a new blade. This one was flat on its sides, double-edged, and huge. Arcite guessed that it was 10 feet long and around a foot and a half wide and surmised that the nans had arranged in a new lattice that gave their construct the greatest surface area without sacrificing strength. Also, because no new material was added, it was the same mass as it was while in the katana form. How many different forms could this sword take? Snake blade? Rapier? Gladius? Shuang gou? Kukri? Spear? Arcite realized his recent fascination with bladed combat had distracted him from what was happening, because the titan had brought the massive cleaving sword back to a low two-handed hang at her side. She was preparing to finish this fight.

In an instant explosion of solar light from the Spiral Caliber system, she was among the Vex. One swung its arm around in a twisting hammer motion, but was caught effortlessly in Telemica’s left hand. Her fist closed around the Vex’s arm and crushed it with equal passivity. The sword came down on the minotaur’s head, splitting the entire unit in half. Turning the blade around and sweeping nearly 360 degrees, she cleaved another five units cleanly across the thickest parts of their bodies.

One last minotaur remained, and not only was it relatively unharmed, it was a praetorian. It began to unload its torch hammer on Telemica, who let it slam into her Null Jacket with ease. She wanted to show this one Vex that it was completely incapable of harming her. Perhaps other units in the network would see it. Telemica wondered if the Vex could feel fear.

She was in front of it in a blink. An instant later, its arms and head were surgically removed. It stumbled back but Telemica didn’t pursue. She wanted it to regenerate its shields and come at her one last time. When it did, she rested the blade’s edge where its head used to be, but didn’t apply pressure. “This is the Buster Sword, a mighty blade destined to cut a path through the darkness. You are unworthy of its power, but in my way nonetheless. Now, return to nothing!” Telemica commanded as arc light surged from the blade in a massive torrent of destruction. The shape of the blade didn’t change, but Arcite’s finely-tuned sensorium could see the truth. The arc light was reorganizing the arrangement of the nans and supercharging them, causing those that made up the nano-molecular edge to oscillate millions of times a second, like a chainsaw built to break apart the bonds of matter. Even though the blade was relatively weightless, it fell right through the extremely durable shield and body of the praetorian. Telemica’s hold was the only reason it didn’t bury itself in the ground.

She turned to Shaxx and Arcite as the two halves of the Vex were still falling to the side. “Another member of my fireteam is clearing some airspace. We’ll get you picked up and somewhere safe in no time.”

“Are you kidding me? After seeing something as awesome as that, how could I not want to press on!” Shaxx bellowed. “Get them to drop some supplies. My Redjacks and I have a war to win!”