Frontier – Act03 Chapter11 – Dead of Winter

Chapter 11: Dead of Winter

Venus

House of Winter Ketch Simiks-Fel

Engineering section

As Telemica charged through the ship’s corridors, she didn’t stop to engage the Fallen crew she encountered. The titan simply ran through them, letting them break upon her like calm waves on a beach, forgotten a moment later. When she found her path intersecting the engineering section across a high-up gantry and spotted the ritual far below, she didn’t think that the other members of Fireteam Warden were nearby. She only thought how truly epic a story she would tell when she annihilated a Kell, a Servitor Prime and an Archon Priest in one meteoric strike. Without a moment’s hesitation she vaulted from the walkway and fell to her glory.

It was five minutes after impact, and she was still surprised that her daring maneuver had barely injured the enemy. She grappled with the kell named Plasis, whirling with him in a violent cyclone of close-quarters combat. Her advanced knowledge of strikes, locks and holds was surely being tested by the four-armed giant.

Immediately after the titan’s drop, Mehsor and Suviks-2 attempted to get to a more secure location. Already perched in a perfect sniping position, Vatyr fired a few shots at them in an effort to block the escape and separate them. Suviks-2 began to blink-teleport rapidly away, hoping the Archon would follow but knowing its first concern was its own safety. Unfortunately, as Mehsor began to hunt for the hidden sniper, the Servitor Prime found itself face-to-face with Solas.

Telemica and Plasis traded blows and evaded each other’s attempts at takedowns. The fight was too close and too fast to make use of any weapons other than those of their own forms. Plasis had tried to use his long blade, but Telemica had caught the edge between her palms and snapped it in half. Both knew Plasis had the advantage with two more arms and at least twice the weight of the guardian. The titan had already taken some serious blows and her armour was telling her of broken bones and internal bleeding while it tried to keep her moving.

The Kell grabbed his opponent and lifted the titan over his head with the intent of either throwing her across the room or breaking her spine across his knee, but a massive hammer-fist to the back of the head disoriented him enough for Telemica to drop down on his back, wrapping her arms around his neck and her legs around his upper torso. Plasis vaulted stories high into the air, coming down on his back and crushing Telemica thunderously underneath, but limbs augmented with field drivers and myofiber muscles continued to tighten around the Fallen. Armour began to crack and ether began to escape, causing the last thoughts of the Kell to be of panic before his head popped off and his lifeforce fled his body. A few minutes later, a hearty laugh came from under the dead armor of the Kell, still heavy enough to pin the injured titan.

Solas and the servitor blinked in and out of existence so rapidly, one could be excused for considering them tricks of light. Blasts of void light fired from the synthetic lifeform’s eye at Solas but never came close to finding a target. Solas was smaller and much faster. He knew the Servitor Prime was still weak from the evolution that just took place and would want to escape in order to recuperate. Solas cut off escape paths that Suviks tried to use, while also herding it into a boxed-in section of engineering and keeping it on edge with flashy but random attacks.

As soon as the Servitor Prime found itself caged not just by walls but with its own terror, it lashed out with a mechanical scream as its body opened. Ten metal spears, each almost as long as Solas was tall, launched from its inner workings and flew into the cavernous room, quickly sweeping thin rays of arc light from their tips and attempting to slice Solas into small pieces. The Exo moved as fast as he could, creating dozens of afterimages in his wake. These spears were almost as fast as the warlock was but only just. In minutes the room began to fall apart after getting shredded by the servitor’s arc beams and the shockwaves that Solas left in his wake.

Suddenly Solas vanished entirely. Minutes passed. Suviks couldn’t figure out if it had sliced the guardians into bits, buried him under rubble or scared him away. The spears returned to the main body just as Solas blinked into existence a step away from its huge eye. His hand charged with light and shaped like an arrowhead, he impaled the huge construct, driving himself into it up to his shoulder. The servitor wailed and thrashed as its internal balances of energy were sent wild, tearing itself apart from the inside out. The warlock drew out what energy he could in order to keep the Prime from recovering, but they both knew it was too late. Violent torrents of ether and light tore Suviks’ body apart, ending in an explosion that obliterated what was left of that section of engineering.

Solas appeared on a nearby platform, having blinked away at the last moment. The warlock had absorbed what he could of the Prime’s own ether, and with it, some of its knowledge. It was officially a forbidden technique among the arcane orders, but the more praxic guardians were known to bend the rules as often as they bent the universe. The encounter had left him disoriented, however. His body surrounded by a mote of ether as his mind dove into new resources, Solas simply didn’t have the capability to notice Mehsor behind him.

The Archon was in a blind rage after seeing the Servitor Prime destroyed, ready to bring the pandemonium of energy he held up in his hands down on the Exo. Vatyr had evaded the Archon a while ago and was watching Solas’ back from afar when the saw the Archon appear. Never taking his eyes from his scope, he formed a void shell of a bullet in his hand and filled it with as much solar light as he could before placing it in the breach of his sniper rifle. The hunter closed the breach and fired the light-bullet at the back of Mehsor’s head. The shot echoed through the entire ship and off the walls of the cavern it sat in.

When the star-bright bullet encountered the helmet of the House of Winter Archon Priest, the energy within expanded and encapsulated the entire target in a huge ball of blue-white plasma that resembled a chaotic star several meters in radius. The event was so explosive that it sent Solas flying, tumbling to another platform. If one could listen past the deafening roar of the plasma ball, one would have experienced the last screams of the priest as the matter that made up his body was turned into fuel for nuclear fusion, sustaining the mini-sun and melting anything nearby for a few seconds before vanishing like an extinguished candle.

Vatyr made his way over to help the dazed Solas, then the pair freed an injured but still giddy Telemica from under the remains of her foe.

“Now what, fearless one?” asked Vatyr, aiming the question at Telemica. “We’ve accomplished the near-impossible.”

“Now? Now we collect our prize. Squire?” Telemica called her ghost into being.

“Yes, my goddess?”

“You and the other ghosts take control of the main engineering controls. Lock out all other control access on the ship and lock down every compartment. Give me control of this ship. I’m taking it.” commanded the titan.

Glitch was already in the process of dominating the ship’s systems. Wisp materialized and followed Squire to Glitch’s location.

“I hope they can pull this off.” murmured Vatyr.

“A little faith goes a long way.” offered Solas, who sat on the ground to rest. “Our little lights will come through for us.”

All over the ship, screens went dark and doors slammed sealed. Amazingly the battles that the guardians had initiated had not damaged the ship enough to keep it from flight. Engines roared to life as anti-grav generators came online. The ship tore itself from the moorings anchoring it to the cavern and lifted into the sky.

“Set course for the city. Send word that we’re on route.” commanded Telemica with arms crossed and head held high.

“My lady, we have ships incoming. Fallen. Skiff-class. They’re locking weapons on us.” said Squire. A nearby screen offered the view of several dozen of the small ships coming in as quickly as their engines could manage.

“Word must be out. The Fallen on the ground are firing everything they’ve got at us, but it’s nothing that will damage the hull. Those skiffs on the other hand…” mused Glitch.

“Remove them from my sky!” she commanded with a wave of her hand.

“Love to. Problem is we’re already occupied hacking and controlling a few other major systems. As it’s only the three of us doing all the work, adding one more high-priority system to break into and use probably isn’t the best idea.” suggested Glitch. While the ghost’s tone annoyed the titan, the advice was sound.

“Spinning up FTL. We can jump to just outside the City’s defense lines.” said Wisp, bringing up hyperspace telemetry readings in order to solve the equations that make it possible to move matter without moving it. Squire took over the other systems while Glitch assisted Wisp in controlling the technology that would rip a hole in spacetime. Generators came to life and engines whined as the universe swallowed the ketch up here and spit it out there.

Frontier – Act03 Chapter10 – Terminal Logic

Chapter 10: Terminal Logic

Venus
House of Winter Ketch Simiks-Fel
Engineering section

Rumor has it that Winter’s Prime Servitor was destroyed long ago in a battle involving some of the first guardians. Since then, while the House’s resources have always been vast by Fallen standards, lost servitors were not something easily replaced. A form of synthetic life all their own, they needed to be cultivated and nurtured. Grown, in a fashion. Such a thing took time and resources not readily available to the Fallen, and there was no assurances that a prime would arise from the dozens of precious servitors being tended even under the care of skilled priests.

Solas could feel a Subprime Servitor nearby. As beings born of void light, their very nature sends vibrations through the fabric of spacetime. Their signatures were unique to a warlock sensitive to such forces.

“I’ve searched Winter’s database. The subprime has been designated Suviks-2 and the Pra-Kell’s name is Plasis. The subprime appears to be performing all the roles of a prime for Winter, but has yet to undergo its final metamorphosis.” said Wisp over the interface. “It could be a matter of days before Winter becomes a much larger threat.”

“I suppose it is good timing on Commander Tzu’s part. He can always trust Telemica to obliterate a crucial target in grand fashion.” retorted Solas.

“Not unlike a bomb…” quipped the ghost. Solas knew Wisp held a bit of satirical disdain for titans and hunters. Leaving their little lights together to bandy about and tout the guardians they are bonded to be a source of amusement for the fireteam.

Solas stayed crouched, separated from the main engineering section of the ketch by a vented grate. Vatyr had gone ahead under cloak and was systematically clearing the engineering section of Fallen.

The room was a vast and poorly-lit chamber filled with immense spacetime-bending machines and crisscrossing walkways. Vatyr used the zero-g functions of his armour to traverse these walkways inverted and unnoticed. He flowed from target to target, eliminating them silently by sliding his blade into the back of their necks in a flash. The surgical attack instantly incapacitated the Fallen, but didn’t have the flashy explosion that accompanies taking their heads clean off. Each dispatched foe was helpless and limp as their ether slipped out.

When Vatyr was relatively sure the room was clear of softer targets, he dispatched Glitch to interface with the main engine controls that were located high above the floor. Glitch would attempt to lockdown until the next phase of the plan she and the other ghosts had devised.

Vatyr found himself an elevated position to cover both his ghost and the newly located target. Far down below in a large nest of computers, cables and other unrecognizable devices all woven together hovered the Subprime Servitor, Suviks-2. It sat there, exposing its inner workings to the bed of technology it lay in, tendrils of etheric energy everywhere. It pulsed with a burden Solas knew well as Vatyr relayed back video.

“It’s preparing to become a true prime.” said Wisp. “We need to act immediately.”

“No.” Solas said, obviously engrossed in the site. “This is something that happens once in many lifetimes. We stand to benefit much more if we allow it to happen and observe.”

“We’ll have to fight a fully-fledged prime.” Vatyr stated as fact, his voice not betraying his feelings one way or another.

“We can handle it. The gains outweigh the risks.” said Solas without pause. His confidence unaverred as he focused on a new task. The crawlway was just large enough to allow him to sit in a full-lotus position as he dropped his mind out of the physical world and focused himself and his uncanny warlock senses.

Vatyr lay there cloaked as a Fallen Archon Priest entered the room, followed by dozens of vandals, servitors, and the Pra-Kell Plasis. Even though the appearance of such strong foes should have worried the hunter, it didn’t. Their presence here meant Telemica was not engaging them alone elsewhere. An Archon Priest being on the ship however did increase the risk ahead substantially.

Glitch relayed newly mined data from the database she was interfacing with. “Confirmed Archon Priest. Goes by the name Mehsor. Vanguard has a pretty substantial bounty out on this one.”

Plasis was enormous, perhaps larger than the priest. If he had not already taken control of the House of Winter, he would be very soon. The subprime took notice as the Pra-Kell approached the nest and knelt in front of it, the priest behind him. As the other Fallen surrounded the nest, Mehsor began weaving ether-infused void light around all the participants. Solas could tell these were pathways or conduits, but he was unsure what their purpose was.

The nest suddenly surged to life and slowly encapsulated Suviks-2 like a cocoon, lifting it into the air. Metallic tendrils shot out of the cocoon and sped through the conduits, impacting into all the participants except for the Pra-Kell and priest. Vatyr heard Fallen screams before their bodies fell apart one by one and servitor shells dropped lifelessly to the ground.

“Of course. Sacrifices.” said Wisp as the cocoon’s tendrils retracted.

The cocoon began to writhe violently as Mehsor poured vast amounts of void light into it through Plasis in front of him. It grew and grew until it was a solid mass of violent energies. Suddenly the shell burst open with a dull thump sound that seemed to be heard not by the ears but by the soul.

A Prime Servitor was born.

It loomed massive and menacing, its body molten metal hate. It stared at the Pra-Kell and Archon Priest, still cracking with void light. Its ruby red eye glowed hot. The archon waved his hands and weaved new conduits, connecting the Pra-Kell to the prime and the prime to the priest. Mehsor and Plasis’ bodies lifted from the ground and became suspended in front of Suviks-2, which was clearly in a partially manic state.

Solas could see it all. The prime needed to be bound. Leashed. The trinity of the Prime, Archon Priest and no-doubt what was about to become a true Kell was a power base from which the greatest Fallen houses found their strength and influence. Tendrils of ether wrapped around the three, intermingling their very essences and causing the Prime Servitor’s eye to cool. Suviks-2’s body lurched open, revealing strange mechanisms and metallic organs. From these, ether poured into the priest and Pra-Kell, causing their bodies to grow and strain under the new vigor they shared.

“I’ve learned much. Now we need a plan of attack.” said Solas, coming out of his trance state.

Vatyr cycled through his arsenal list and was about to agree, if not for the booming battle cry of Telemica from above as she fell terminally on the Fallen monsters like an arc light comet.

Frontier – Act03 Chapter09 – Higher Ground

Chapter 9: Higher Ground

Venus

“I shouldn’t have to say it again.” piped up Vatyr.

“I’m betting you will anyway.” groaned Telemica.

“Indeed I will!” feigning indigence this time with a slap on the knee. “This is a bad idea.”

“Pray tell, which part of the plan you are referring to?” asked Solas. “The concept of stealing a huge interstellar ship filled with Fallen elite? The fact that it is just the three of us alone and with no backup attempting this madness?”

“Nope. None of that bothers me in the slightest.” corrected Vatyr. “It’s the halo drop. I hate drops.” The small transport shuddered slightly to flavour his comments as it broke through the highest layers of the planet’s thick atmosphere. Before the Golden Age, Venus was covered in a dense fog caused by a runaway greenhouse effect. Terraforming efforts over hundreds of years made Venus hospitable to life of a more human variety. While you could now see the surface from orbit, that didn’t ease Vatyr’s nerves at all.

“I’ll never understand how an Awoken could be afraid of heights.” teased Telemica.

“We don’t make a habit out of jumping out of our ships and dropping tens of thousands of meters.” rebuked Vatyr, checking his armour’s seals for the fourth time. “It’s bad for your health.”

The ketch’s location was originally discovered via an old mine entrance, but subsequent incursions have forced the Fallen to heavily fortify that route. There was no chance for three guardians to pass through undetected. Stealth and speed would be key, as the target could literally fly away at any moment. While the idea for a low-orbit drop directly to the hull was Solas’, Telemica was all too eager to enact it. Optical camouflage would hide their decent from upward eyes and Solas would utilize some intricate arc light to catch them on landing.

A blinking yellow light in the hold notified them that the air was being vented out, which changed to a solid red as the rear door opened. Fireteam Warden stood in single file as Venus filled their view, her curvature and terminus proclaiming her majesty. Telemica wanted to take point, but as Solas was the only thing keeping this trip from ending prematurely, he stood in front.

The red light began to blink. Once. Twice. Thrice. Green light. Training took over and three guardians gave themselves to gravity.

Being exactly on-target was beyond critical for the team’s survival, not to mention the mission’s success, so each ghost took over the body positioning and micro-controls of each guardian’s armour. Wisp, Glitch and Squire had to put them down mere meters from each other, which was a task not possible without their immense computational capabilities.

Vatyr and Solas couldn’t hear it, but were certain of the terrifying grin that must now be on Telemica’s face.

As soon as the trio broke through cloud cover, small strapped-on packs on their chests opened up and thin meshes of optical filaments deployed to cover their fronts, mimicking the view of the sky behind the descending warriors and rendering them at least partially invisible. Vatyr could have used his armour’s cloaking systems, but as he was now unable to see himself falling faster than the speed of sound, he found he actually calmed a bit.

Of course, Solas could see through the mesh. Wisp gave him the landing target that the three ghosts would put the guardians down on through their neural interface, but it was up to the warlock to land them safely.

5000 meters. 4000 meters. 3000 meters. Solas began to form arc light bubbles around his team, weaving magnetic lines through them and the metallic body of the ketch below.

2000 meters. 1000 meters. The team screamed past the point where parachutes would have worked if they had them. The bubbles began to coalesce. The camo mesh burned away as the shells became nearly opaque, but Vatyr still got a quick view of the rapidly approaching landing site, sending his heart into his throat.

500 meters. 100 meters. The guardians could feel their skin ignite with arc light as their armour did all it could to keep them from blacking out due to rapid deceleration.

  1. 10. 1. Three solid balls of lightning touched down like feathers on the hull of the massive ship, then vanished quickly as they grounded out along the hull. Touchdown.

No time to think or breathe. The three ghosts materialized and quickly cut a hole in the hull as the guardians ran quick diagnostics, made sure they were not spotted and armed themselves.

A round slab of hull was silently levitated out and Vatyr bent down inverted into the hole, Heaven Can Wait hand cannon raised. As expected, they were right over a service gantry. No guards. Vatyr dropped in silently, followed by his team.

Glitch zoomed over quickly to an interface panel and hacked in. “No alarms triggered. I’m tapped in, but I can’t take control from here.” The other two ghosts replaced the hull plate so the intrusion wouldn’t be obvious. “I’ve got the layout.” she said as she displayed it holographically for the team. “Command and control is in the centre of the ship, engineering is closer to the engines and the hangar is on the ventral side.” Icons appeared to represent their locations.

“The Pra-Kell will be in C&C and the subprime servitor will be in engineering. If either one tips the other off to the attack, we’re finished. They’ll need to be attacked simultaneously, which means we’ll have to split up.” said Telemica as icons for those targets were placed. “I’ll go after the Pra-Kell. Solas, you can match any servitor. Vatyr you’ll need to back him up.”

“Sure thing, but what about the Pra-Kell’s guards and other Fallen” asked Vatyr.

“I have a plan. Take control of engineering as quickly as you can, then come back me up.” said Telemica with calm confidence as she summoned her Suros Regime auto rifle.

Vatyr nodded. The three ghosts reintegrated into their guardians, and with a quick nod between them, the fireteam began their journey deeper into the Fallen ship.

Frontier – Act01 Chapter03 – Vatyr

Chapter 3: Vatyr

Earth
Ruins of Old Toronto

The sun was just cresting over the horizon, but the Awoken hunter Vatyr S’Jet was always hours into his schedule. His ghost Glitch displayed holographic representations of various traps going through their final automated checks and syncs. Hunter S’Jet was just finishing the reconstruction of his sniper rifle. It was a ritual for him. The pattern of it soothed him.

Harassment, others called it. Control an area through guerrilla tactics and make operations in that area undesirable. Vatyr just thought it was wicked fun.

The Fallen House of Exile had recently moved what few earthbound forces it had to this continent and were currently seeking a place to build a stronghold. Exile was always in dire straits when it came to supplies and infrastructure, and this half-flooded city seemed like a perfect spot to put down some roots and build. Plenty of materials to salvage and old skyscrapers to dock their ketch against for much-needed repair.

Vatyr’s keen hunter instincts warned him of movement at street level before his sensors did, even from his perch over 50 stories up in a half-destroyed office tower. Settling into sniping position, he peered down his long-range scope and ramped up the zoom. Yep, 9 dregs and a vandal were weaving their way through the street, filtering around the husks of old vehicles. While the main force was busy setting up under the broken spire in the city centre a few kilometers away, this group seemed to be a simple scouting party.

A sly grin formed on Hunter S’Jet’s face as his crosshairs settled on the vandal leader. He took an almost cruel enjoyment from seeing dregs panic after their commander either died, or ran away in a futile effort to save his own life.

A blinking indicator popped up on his heads-up display. Glitch silently overlaid his analysis along with video from a remote camera feed, showing another scouting party to the north and another to the west. All three were in Vatyr’s actionable zone, and therefore existed from this point on solely for his amusement.

Through the armour’s neural interface, Vatyr and Glitch concocted a plan: herd all three groups into the same killbox using planted explosives, and pick them off one by one. Each one wondered who was more evil for liking the plan.

The staccato pops of distant explosions echoed through the urban ruins. The party Vatyr had at the end of his rifle barrel looked agitated as their vandal commander attempted to keep composure. Soon the other two squads came running into the intersection that the first was holding in. Vandals and dregs screeched, squawked and growled at each other. Vatyr kept telling himself he should learn the Fallen language, but for now he let Glitch do the translating.

“They’re pretty rattled, boss. They have no idea what’s going on.” mused Glitch, sharing in her guardian’s smug amusement. She set off a few other distant charges just to keep them on edge as Vatyr lined up his shots.

Pop, followed by the screaming hiss of a Fallen’s essence violently vacating its body through the space where its head used to be. One vandal down. Pop. Hiss. Another vandal down with only one left. The dregs were in a full craze now. Some fired wildly into the surrounding towers while others simply ran. Glitch set off another two charges close to the intersection, one of which vaporized a fleeing dreg. There was to be no escape from this hidden and wrathful god.

A background beeping caught the hunter’s attention as he felled another dreg that attempted to bug out. “Recall order from the Tower. Priority… Gemini? Must be a mistake.”

Vatyr prized himself on having a keen sense of things, and something about this message seemed to be more than what it seemed. With lightning reflexes, he quickly mopped up the last 14 dregs while letting the last vandal run back to spread cheery tales of what it was like to be a fish in a barrel. Glitch set the remaining charges on proximity protocol while Vatyr broke down his rifle in the same ritualistic fashion he always did. They’d be back at the Tower before lunch.