Frontier – Act11 Chapter51 – Forward

Chapter 51: Forward

Earth
The Last City
Years later…

“It has taken years for us to rebuild this City. Our home. Years to heal from our wounds, mourn the dead and reforge our bonds. Hard time full of blood, sweat and tears. First, the Vex came to take away The Traveler, but we denied them their prize. Then the Fallen House of Kings came to our walls to strike at us while we were wounded, but they too were turned away.”

Angela stood at the podium atop the rebuilt and improved observatory in the centre of the tower lookout and took a breath to collect her thoughts before continuing. Her voice and image projected across the domain and beyond. She had expected her heart to be beating out of her chest. Perhaps in a time not so long ago, that would have been the case. She had found her mettle since then.

The young Speaker was flanked by the Vanguard leadership and other dignitaries, all in formal dress. She’d been preparing this speech for some time. She needed the people behind her for what was to come. She needed their hearts and minds. She could feel they were with her so far, and now she had to turn it up.

“Our valiant guardians protected us, laying down their restored lives for us time and again when things seemed most bleak. They stood, fought and were victorious!”

The crowd cheered.

“The factions found new common ground. The Dead Orbit became the foundation from which we built the Vanguard Navy. The Future War Cult opened their mysteries to us, allowing our research and development to jump ahead decades. New Monarchy enshrined me, your Speaker, as their Queen. New allies came to hear our call. The Queen of The Reef, The House of Judgement, the warmind Rasputin and more!”

The crowd cheered louder.

“Today, we commemorate the fateful day when three brave guardians accomplished the impossible. Through The Traveler’s blessing gifts, they destroyed the invader’s leader with a glorious blow. A single punch with such fury and power that it carved a deep valley into this mountain range that stretches into the horizon. Today, in honour of their service, bravery and sacrifice, we name this battle scar in the face of the world The Valley of The Warden.”

The crowd cheered even louder.

“The Darkness has officially been put on notice!”

The crowd roared. A chant of her name rolled through the masses. The entire City came alive. She let them and herself have it for a minute, then raised her hand to calm them.

“My people, we have walked through the forge of dark days and been remade stronger than ever before, but darker days still await us. Forces that will stop at nothing to grind us back into the dust. Will we let them?”

The crowd cried out defiantly.

“Our unity will make us stronger than anything they could ever break. Our light will burn The Darkness and its minions away. We will take back our worlds, and pioneer the golden path beyond. Today is a day of remembrance and celebration. Tomorrow, and for all the tomorrows after, we will move forever forward!”

The crowd erupted. Nothing could stop them now, Angela thought. She took a wave and vacated the podium. The festivities below were now in full swing, and the time for pretty words was over. For the people of the Last City on Earth, it was a time for joy. For Angela, it was always time for work. She had Vanguard reports to review and expansion plans to oversee. Tomorrow she’d be on a transport to The Reef to formalize trade negotiations and other partnerships.

Angela entered her private office in the observatory. An elegant space full of old books mixed with new tech. She keyed the biometric scanner hidden in the mechanisms of a sextant sitting on her wide Brazilian walnut desk. Hidden scanners in the office identified her and activated the portal.

Solas’ old lab had held up fairly well after the Vex incursion. The invaders never found a way into it, so as soon as Angela had gotten the chance after the battle, she had run down to the main entry and keyed the door. The power core was nearly drained, the unique ammo stores were all but depleted, and the main processing core was totally burned out. Ikora helped her close the few experiments that the frames were still running and relocate the main entry portal to Angela’s new office. The lab had once been where Solas prepared for Warden’s ordeal. Now, it’ll serve a new purpose.

At the centre of the lab, where Solas’ pod once was, stood something new. Within a complex assortment of cables, scanners and interfaces, three clear teardrop-shaped crystalline bulbs hung from a miniaturized version of the lab’s old power core. Each bulb containing a ghost.

After the battle, Angela had ordered Warden’s ghosts found. They were assumed dead but Angela had just become the new Speaker and she didn’t hesitate to put that influence to work. Using the wealth of tools in Solas’ lab, she discovered that Wisp, Glitch and Squire were in fact still alive, perhaps through some residual effect of The Traveler’s boon. It should not have been possible, but impossible was becoming more and more common these days. Fireteam Warden had survived by the thinnest of margins.

The three ghosts now floated comfortably in a liquid light solution pioneered recently by Omolon foundries. Slowly, they were absorbing light and gaining strength. There was no way for her to know when they’d wake up. It could be tomorrow, or it could be a hundred years from now. Every evening, Angela would come down to this lab, make sure the frames were tending to them properly as well as Angela’s other experiments, check the readouts and findings, look at the three ghosts, and promise her friends that the world they saved would flourish in their absence. Finally, before retiring to her bed, she’d always ask her friends for a small favour.

“Come back soon.”

 

Frontier – Act10 Chapter48 – Sacrifice

Chapter 48: Sacrifice

The clock ticked, and the world became darker.

Telemica and Vatyr continued to engage Virulion, The Infecting Mind. At least, they attempted to engage him. Virulion’s focus remained solely on The Traveler. The Vex monster refused to acknowledge either the guardians or their attacks.

Solas hung back and applied himself to the puzzle before him. He poked and pulled at Virulion’s being from every angle and dimension he could access doing everything he could to open up some sort of gap in the defense.

The clock was ticking. While the City beyond was slowly being retaken by guardian forces, comm channels were beginning to take interest in the rapidly changing sky, as it was clearly not Vex-related. Solas refused to explain the truth of the situation. What purpose would it serve? There was nothing anyone could do. Virulion’s infection was progressing at an alarming rate, and his barrier made of the essence-light of The Traveler was unnervingly effective at negating any incursions the guardians tried to make. It made perfect sense to Solas. The guardians got their power from The Traveler. It was insanity to think that The Traveler’s gifts could be used against it. The warlock’s expanded mind raced to find a solution.

The clock ticked, and The Traveler began to slump in the air.

“You’ve become so strong since you first came to me, but this is beyond madness… even for you!” The Speaker pleaded to his young apprentice at the other end of the commlink. The Speaker was at the helm of an old Arcadia-class jumpship and bringing it in alongside the stream of sickly corruption that connected Virulion to The Traveler. Angela was crouched on top of the jumpship, holding on for dear life as the inexperienced pilot at the helm maneuvered into position.

“This is the only way either of us can think of to break the Vex’s connection to The Traveler and turn the tide of this battle. Warden can’t do it themselves and we’re running out of time! There is no other way to dissuade Rasputin from leveling this entire mountain range.” Angela reaffirmed. “I’ll be able to give them the opening Warden needs to end this!”

“You could die! You simply do not understand how important you are to us!”

“We’re all going to die if I don’t!”

The Speaker wanted to argue her out of this plan. He wanted nothing more than to turn the ship around and find another way. He wanted to protect her, but he knew it was impossible. Angela was far too headstrong and tenacious. He adjusted his course to bring Angela directly under the stream. “I’ll hold position right under you. After you’ve broken the connection, I’ll catch you. I promise.”

She wanted to tell him how much he meant to her, but she needed to stay focused. She could feel the stream of sickness sap her strength from a few feet above her head. Was this what The Traveler was feeling? The effect intensified as the ship inched closer, as if the spectre of death was breathing down her neck. Every cell in her body was demanding that she escape, but she forced herself to reach up and let herself be absorbed by the riptide of energy.

Angela’s scream of anguish seemed to carry along the stream like an echo down a metal tube and slam into Virulion with enough force to slightly stagger him. Warden’s full attention turned to the girl suspended in midair, but only Solas knew what she was trying to do. Her connection to The Traveler allowed her to act as a graft over the wound torn open by Virulion’s infection. A boost to The Traveler’s natural defenses. Her hope was that The Traveler would then be able to break the connection itself, but that didn’t happen. Virulion refocused its efforts, causing the contagion to rip through the young girl.

“Angela! Get out of there!” The Speaker pleaded. She couldn’t respond. Looking though a camera, The Speaker could see that she was clearly unconscious, but still pouring out massive amounts of light. Her arms were spread wide in the air as if she were trying to block Virulion’s efforts with her tiny body. Slowly, pure light crept from The Traveler through the stream and into Angela’s back, brightening her already radiant aura.

For the first time, Virulion appeared to be set upon. The barrier around him seemed to flicker and dim. The infection stream thinned.

“Whatever she’s doing, it’s working.” Vatyr noted. He fired off a few rounds from his rifle, but even though Virulion’s barrier was weakened, the projectiles still bounced off harmlessly.

“Fall back, Warden. We need to regroup and come up with a new plan before Angela’s light is exhausted completely,” ordered Telemica.

“No! You will not diminish her sacrifice! For the City!” The Speaker bellowed at Virulion. Gritting his teeth and throwing the throttle forward hard, he sent his jumpship on a collision course with The Infecting Mind. His old lungs launched into a dead man’s defiant war cry as he poured all of his light into the ship itself.

The clock stopped. The world turned on its head as The Speaker’s suicide attack found its mark.

 

Frontier – Act05 Chapter18 – Freakangel

Chapter 18: Freakangel

Towers sprouted up over the centuries around the Last City on Earth to fill the role of sanctuaries for the guardians who fought back against the forces that would lay waste to it. Inevitably, the deep interiors of these places were claimed in some capacity or another by a guardian of such and such group. Nobody really complained. There was plenty of room and everyone more or less respected each other’s claims.

Solas-3 has been around for a very long time, even for an Exo. When a freshly unearthed recruit by the name of Ikora Rey with a bad attitude and an uncanny ability to roll over instructors appeared, it was Solas-3 that took her under his wing as his apprentice and taught her how to hone that tenacity into a weapon. He gained a reputation for being calm, focused and determined. He called the warlock Iron Lords Skorri and Timur among his friends, valiantly fighting with them at the Battle of the Twilight Gap. He was Arch-Magus of a small but well-regarded Warlock Order. His official power rank was AAA+, though some believe his true limits may be well beyond rank S. He was known as The Blind Dragon.

Her blonde hair shone brightly under the harsh hallway spotlights as Angela walked down the hall, looking at the labels on the doors as she went. Guardians and staff noticed the young girl and stopped to offer assistance, recognizing her from vids telling of a new Speaker’s apprentice. Angela thanked them kindly for the offer but declined, preferring to take advantage of the few times she was not waited on like royalty. Her arms encircled a huge tome, holding it close to her chest. Within the book was documentation of Solas at a monumental event in the City’s history. She hoped to use this as an excuse to spend time with someone she considered one of her few and precious friends.

She was so excited and nervous that she almost passed Solas’ lab entirely. In fact, the door seemed to almost not be there unless you looked at it directly and focused your mind on it. The door was only marked with a glowing ward in the centre that was about the size of someone’s hand. A lock? There didn’t seem to be any other mode of entry. Angela placed her hand on the runes as it came to life, warming up and vibrating.

“Angela. I want to see my friend, Solas.” she said. She was not quite sure, but the door seemed to ask a question, to which she responded almost without her own intent. Her training allowed her to make sense of some of the glyph’s design, parsing out spells that could force the truth out of unwilling participants. It glowed in many colours and hummed in many tones as Angela’s hand remained on it. Was it deciding whether or not to let her in?

The door bled from view, as did the entire hallway. Immediately it was replaced with the interior to a dimly-lit but extremely well-equipped laboratory about 2000 square feet in size. The Speaker himself would have been jealous of what Angela saw, as was she before backtracking to how she got inside in the first place. She could see no door or window around her, and her best guess was that Solas somehow kept his lab separated from normal spacetime by sealing it within a pocket dimension. Windows showed her that the lab was indeed floating in the bleed between realities. Perhaps that door was not the only point of access.

Still clinging to her book, Angela walked around the lab, silently observing all the wondrous experiments. Several frames seemed to handle the lab’s various workings and ongoing experiments but didn’t bother interacting with her. She considered trying to get the attention of one but decided it was best not to impede their work.

She came to a curious device in the centre of the room. It resembled a large metal seed, lacking any readouts but several conduits snaked from it and around the pedestal it was set on, leading into the floor. She hadn’t touched anything else in the lab, but something made the thought of touching this curiousity compelling. Her hand grazed the platinum shell and felt the presence of her friend. Was he inside? Bracing herself, she firmly placed her right palm flat on the pod, the book occupying her entire left arm to hold. She closed her eyes and focused her light into her hand like she was taught to, extending her senses and projecting her mind forward.

Bright and warm sunlight washed over Angela as she opened her eyes and found herself in yet another place. The smell of old books, older wood, dazzling crystal and a vague something baking filled her nostrils. It was instantly the most comforting place she had ever been, yet she was pretty sure it was not real. It was too perfect, but that didn’t make it any less wonderful to her.

The true secret of this place was that it was not a place at all. While Solas’ body rested inside a sunflower seed-shaped platinum pod of his own design, his mind had room to expand and evolve, thanks to the pod’s supplemental memory and processing capabilities. The warlock’s celestial-scale mind was indeed contained fully within the Exo’s frame, but he built the pod some time ago to allow his intellect some room to breathe and stretch. All of the wisdom that he’d collected since his resurrection was stored here. Every book. Every experience. All of his knowledge stored in this place to be constantly reviewed and analyzed.

Still clinging to her own book, Angela’s curious eyes ran across dozens of other book spines. She found that she could taste the data within them if she just focused on them a bit. She was checking out a recovered Golden Age scientific journal about using exotic matter resonance fields to stabilize quantum slipstream travel, when she felt a new warmth coming from the third floor. Turning, she saw a silhouette of pure light. It didn’t have any features but Angela could not only tell it was Solas, but that he was looking and smiling at her. It was stunning to her because Solas always had his emotions under strict control, but this side of him was free. With all his balances and barriers left behind, the Exo was able to simply be. He was intensely happy to see her. Moving through the construct of the library, Solas floated down to her and lifted her up, embracing her in a warm hug. Angela could hear no sound emanating from him, but she knew he was laughing. He was so happy to see her it was a bit of a shock at first, letting loose her own laugh and returning the embrace.

They spent the day sharing stories without speaking, laughs without laughing and just reading in the comfortable silence of kin.