Frontier – Act04 Chapter14 – Death From Above

Chapter 14: Death From Above

Mars
The Black Garden
50 minutes later

Unlike Fallen houses that often warred against each other, Cabal formations all served the same empire. While their specializations and differing missions gave the impression that they were isolated from each other, you need only give them a target big enough to know your dire error.

50 minutes ago, the entirety of the Black Garden expedition was beginning to evacuate. Vatyr was just greenlighting the first transports to lift off when dozens of hypersonic booms shattered the sky. Leaving quickly and while under fire was always something the scientists and soldiers had in the back of their head and were prepped to do, but they probably didn’t expect to be doing it while the sky was falling.

Siege Dancer orbital drop pods descended well beyond terminal velocity thanks to heavy heat shielding, acceleration thrusters (as opposed to the deceleration thrusters one would sanely expect) and fanatical soldiers inside. The jet-black pods slammed into the ground and walls within the Black Garden, incinerating some and burying others under synthstone debris. Almost all of the Cabal survived, much to Vatyr’s surprise, and were all too eager to climb out of their metal tombs and kill anything that was not one of them.

Shock and awe. That’s all Vatyr could think of as he loaded another magazine into his scout rifle. Hunkering down behind a chunk of broken wall, he tried not to be too impressed with the creatures trying to blow him up with volleys of micro-RPGs.

They may have had the element of surprise, but it’s difficult to surprise a group of super-powered soldiers that have all died a few times. Guardians engaged the Cabal shock troops head-on, allowing the regular military forces to extract what scientists and equipment remained. Fireteams worked together to isolate the hulking aliens and create avenues of escape to reach the transports in other sections of the Garden.

A pair of warlocks slowly advanced, wreathed in solar light and lashing at the heavy shields of the Cabal intruders with solar flares. Long whips of plasma extended punishment with sweeping waves of their hands, cutting their foes to ribbons. A small group of hunters took up residence within a small cave in a high moss-covered wall, firing sniper rounds and tossing out swarm grenades to keep the Cabal harassed.

More booms from above. Another wave. More shooting stars bringing fire and death. Their landings obliterated whatever was in their way, friend or foe. A mighty titan thought he was protected under his dome of void light, and probably didn’t have time to feel regret as the defense of his armour barely slowed the incoming projectile. A Cabal colossus roared as he poured death into the hunter’s cave with his heavy slug thrower.

Vatyr could see the last transport lift off once the drop pods subsided. As he signaled for the other guardians to take up more defensive positions and dig in, cannons thundered from over the high ridge behind him, sending huge tracers along the bow of the last personnel carrier. Shields buckled and armour sizzled but the pilot at the stick kept his head, pulling the ship away from the anti-aircraft fire.

Jumping to a higher perch, Vatyr could just make out where the shots came from. The Blind Legion imperial land tank had arrived. No reinforcements would make it through now.

“Sorry I am late. We ran into some Vex along the way and had to take an alternative route. The crew I was guarding was on that last transport.” spoke Solas over comms. Vatyr turned around just in time to see a massive void light explosion rip apart a handful of Cabal soldiers molecule by molecule. “Sitrep.”

“The main Cabal force is here! Where’s Telemica?” asked Vatyr as he scanned the skies.

“We will have to locate her later. For now we have to take control of the situation.”

Vatyr made it to ground and cut a path to Solas. “Take control? The Black Garden is lost to us, Solas. We have to get everyone out of here! We can’t hold against a land tank and a few thousand elite Cabal soldiers!”

With the processing speed of an Exo and the unfathomable depths of a warlock, Solas’ mind quickly assessed the situation. The rolling superfortress was an extinction-level weapon in its own right and would be fully on top of them in minutes, not to mention the dozens of other armoured assets and most of the Blind Legion, one of the most dangerous Cabal formations. There were only around 20 guardians in the Garden with no anti-armour backup, and were having enough trouble with a few dozen Siege Dancers. “You’re right.”

He tied into the communication frequency that all the local guardians were using. “Break. Break. Break. Guardians, I am Solas-3. I am assuming command of this operational theatre under authority code TYR and initiating a code BLACK planetary evac order. I’m transmitting a map to all ghosts. Encryption Aleph-1056. Decrypt for fortified escape routes accessible on foot. Evacuate the Black Garden. I repeat, evacuate the Black Garden. Get outside the new exclusion zone and return to Tower for debrief. Immediate action on receipt. I will take full responsibility.”

Solas received pings of compliance from every guardian on the channel as they made their way to several uncovered passageways that will leads them out of the danger zone. Most ghosts were rescued to later revive their charges, but a few were lost to Cabal bombardment.

———

In the middle of the endless Martian desert, Telemica was a still, crumpled mess.

The land tank had used a repositioned exclusion satellite to triangulate her flight path and shoot her down. She’d barely managed to keep her shattered craft together, but the ship desintrigrated in the crash and she was thrown into the side of a dune like a ragdoll, knocking her unconscious and pulverizing her body.

Squire built an anti-grav stretcher out of the ship’s remains as quickly as possible, took over Telemica’s armour controls and slowly got her on to the rig so he could get her clear, using the last of armour’s life-support systems to keep her alive. After finding a cave for shelter, he sent out a coded distress beacon and worried himself sick over his injured guardian through the night before help arrived.

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Frontier – Act04 Chapter13 – Desert Creatures

Chapter 13: Desert Creatures

Mars
The Black Garden

It was a rare occurrence when Vatyr found it difficult to believe what he was seeing. He’d read the reports of this place, of course. He knew about the Vex and how the Traveler had supposedly trapped them here in a pocket of spacetime, along with a piece of the Darkness itself. He knew about the brave guardians who dared to break in and slay the “heart” of Darkness that the Vex worshiped. Still, for a place of such evil, it was amazingly beautiful and alive.

Massive corridors of synthstone still coursed with Vex energy. Lush flora grew everywhere, providing a living snapshot of the Martian ecosystem that was being encouraged during the Golden Age. Bioengineered flowers with blood-red petals must have been a common sight in Freehold gardens before the Collapse, but without humanity to nurture the changing global ecosystem, Mars returned to the sand.

Ever since the Garden was freed, teams of scientists had taken up residence within its walls, attempting to unlock its secrets. Fireteam Warden was on-site as part of a bolstering of military security, courtesy of the Tower. Fireteams would shift in and out, making sure the remaining Vex presence didn’t become a problem for the expedition. So far it had been going rather well.

Vatyr had taken up a well-used sniper perch while he listened to chatter and gazed at the beauty of his surroundings. It was rare for him to be so relaxed while operating in a combat zone. Solas was off assisting the group of scientists tasked with surveying the shrine where the heart of Darkness once resided.

Telemica was called away several hours ago and seemed far too rushed to explain what was going on. Vatyr didn’t even consider how long she was gone until she opened up comms with the rest of Warden on a secure channel.

“We have a big problem.”

“Nice to see you too.” quipped Vatyr at the video link of Telemica in her ship’s cockpit.

“The Cabal are coming.” stated Solas so dryly it was as if he was stating that the sun was hot.

“How did you-? Yeah. Cabal. Scouts have been tracking increased activity for some time now, as well as changes in the Exclusion Zone satellite network. We thought it was a response to the increased guardian presence of the last few months but a few hours ago we caught a huge spike in activity. Sats we thought were going one way darted off in another and-” Telemica took a half-breath, knowing her team could piece together the rest.

“They’re taking the Garden from us.” said Solas with a hint of sadness.

“The interference lattice is already coalescing around you. Normal communications are already dead and all our orbital assets are either dead, blind or getting extracted. The only way I’m getting through is ghost-to-ghost quantum entanglement, but that only gives us a minute at most. The bulk of the Blind Legion is coming and will have their main imperial land tank on top of you in a little over one hour. I’m just ahead of them and burning hard on a suborbital apogee. You two need to evacuate everyone and everything you can.” Telemica commanded as her signal began to devolve into static. “We’ve got forces and transports on the way but the Cabal will get there first! MOVE!”

The last command was mostly eaten by static as the line went dead and a rumble from above.

Frontier – Act01 Chapter02 – Telemica

Chapter 2: Telemica

Mars

Elysium Planitia

West of the Elysium Mons volcano

The sinister powder brought to bare by a Martian sandstorm could be considered far more dangerous than any Cabal rocket round. Fine enough to get into everything and coarse enough to do a lot of damage once it’s there. When whipped about by super-high winds, the sand overloads barriers and clogs up almost every armour system. A guardian often has an easier time acclimatizing to the hard vacuum and null-gravitational conditions on the Moon. Surviving on Mars is a hard-earned skill.

The storm had passed hours ago, depositing a thick and pristine layer of powder across the plain. As the last vestiges of the tempest bucked against the distant visage of Elysium Mons, a new roar filled the landscape, which heralded the approaching Cabal convoy.

Moving southeast, the convoy stretched as far as the naked eye could see. Thousands of Sand Eaters and hundreds of Harvester transports and Goliath tanks kept a slow, steady pace across the terrain. Intel suggested they were interested in setting up several logistical holdings in the area.

The Cabal column was slowly moving into the engagement zone, but all Telemica Magna could think about was the sand that was slowly working its way into crevasses that she didn’t have names for. Her titan armour had saved her from more assaults, both seen and unseen, than she’d be able to count over the years, but this sand would best her, given time. Her fortress-like form, and the dozens of other guardians she was currently in command of, were all suffering the same silent discomfort, since the only way to conceal the trap from Cabal scouts was the let the storm bury them. It was Telemica’s idea. “Creative camouflage”, she had called it, and regretted the concept almost instantly.

By charting the course the Cabal would take and forming up guardians on either side of that path, Telemica’s plan was coming together perfectly. The full length of the Cabal formation would be assaulted at once and from all directions. Telemica had to use every iota of influence she’d gained from decades of service and storied victories in the Crucible, but eventually Commander Zavala saw the possible gains outweighed the risks. The Sand Eaters were low on supplies and needed energy and materials to bolster their forces. Operations in Freehold had taken their toll over the years and cracks in their effectiveness were showing more readily.

At her word, the guardian formation would rise from the dust and fire a united salvo of rockets at the heavy assets, while buried charges would break any Cabal will to respond too quickly. Telemica’s heart began to swell with the glory she was about to bring to these guardians and her titan order. Perhaps she’d find the Cabal commander. Perhaps she’d make it scream her name over Cabal comms before jamming a shock grenade down its throat. While others spoke of much-needed salvage for the City, Titan Magna only cared to send waves of fear through the Cabal ranks.

“Incoming commands from the Tower, Lady Magna.” spoke the meek voice of Squire, her ghost. Telemica’s mind didn’t register it. The time for battle had come.