Frontier – Act06 Chapter22 – The Golden Path

Chapter 22: The Golden Path

Fireteam Warden had found the trunk of the conflux, which was now wider than they could perceive from their vantage point. As tall as it had grown, it had also driven itself down into the planet’s core as well. The area around the massive energy form had been transfigured into a shaft so spacious that it held its own atmospheric phenomena, rolling clouds slightly obscuring the far walls. Tendrils of light and data jutted like roots into the walls of the shaft, no doubt connecting to the canyon-size circuits coursing throughout Mercury. Even with the aid of his rifle’s scope, Vatyr couldn’t get eyes on a top or bottom to the shaft. The conflux itself hummed in a note that made Telemica think of synthetic monks intoning, the frequency of which she could feel in her bones.

Without pause, Solas began to crawl along the walls of the shaft, avoiding the occasional static discharge. Vatyr and Telemica shook themselves out of their awe and followed, noticing that he was headed for a nearby outcropping of synthstone near an oddly thick root. It took them close to an hour of climbing slowly along the near-shear walls to reach the outcropping, which almost appeared like a landing pad or control station. Veins came off the root and connected to a large synthstone wall at the end of the platform.

“Anyone find it odd that we have not encountered as much as a goblin since we entered this place?” Vatyr said, looking over the edge.

“Odd, and disappointing.” grumbled Telemica.

“It doesn’t matter. This is exactly where we need to be… where I need to be.” said Solas as he walked slowly but with purpose towards the wall.

“It is? How do you figure that? There’s nothing here that will help us shut this thing down.” said Telemica. An anxiety from an unknown place within her began to creep. She brought her rifle up a little tighter to her frame in a subconscious effort to feel in control.

Solas placed his flat palms on the wall as if trying to push it over the edge. There was an explosion of kaleidoscopic light that would have blinded Vatyr and Telemica had their helmets not adjusted quickly enough, though the light seemed to creep into their brains as well and disoriented them for a few seconds. As they came to, they saw Solas cocooned in rainbows of violent light, some of it coming from the wall and some from him. The Exo continued to appear to push as hard as he could against the wall with his palms, bracing his feet under him. The others knew the vast majority of his exertions were not physical.

Before they could ask the warlock what was going on, the wall at the base of the outcropping slid aside to reveal a very large portal, which immediately opened and began pouring out Vex units. Vatyr blink-jumped high into the air, forming void light into the shape of a bow and arrow. The hunter unleashed a salvo of dark bolts which pinned the Vex in place. Meanwhile, Telemica was bringing to bear her most prized possession, a Gjallarhorn rocket launcher. Unleashing shots in quick succession, the initial wave of Vex were leveled, but more were pouring out of the portal every second.

The light surrounding Solas began to emit a high-pitched sound reminiscent of metal screaming under stress. The same light and sound seemed to slowly reverberate through the wall and into the massive conflux root that it was connected to. The normally ordered and serene white motes of data within the conflux began to become erratic, their colour changing slowly to an angry crimson. Golden symbols and streams began to flow out of the wall Solas was interfaced with and fight their way to the main trunk of the conflux, disrupting it further.

Vatyr and Telemica poured every bit of firepower into the oncoming wall of Vex from behind their portable cover barriers, but it only slowed them. Within minutes they would be overrun.

“Solas! I have no idea what you’re doing but we’re running out of time!” yelled Vatyr over his shoulder. Solas showed no signs of hearing him but appeared to be doing everything he could to accomplish whatever he was intent on accomplishing.

Hydras with dozen of harpy swarms could be seen flying towards the outcropping, and nearby sections of the shaft wall began to transfigure into cyclops batteries. Telemica screamed mightily as she unleashed clip after clip into the metal foes. The bloodlust inherent in a warrior’s final stand against an insurmountable enemy had taken hold. Her rifle clicked a second before Vatyr’s, announcing that they were entirely out of ammo. Flipping her rifle and holding it barrel-first, she called forth all the light in her being to form a colossal hammer. Vatyr followed suit, using his sniper rifle as a core to an immense sword. They both charged into the horde with battle cries on their tongues, knowing they would die together.

Before the duo met their fate, the shaft began to quake violently, throwing all but Solas off to the ground. The conflux began to shift and mutate, changing colour and shape rapidly. A fog that usually announced the arrival of Vex spewed out of the portal, wrapping the Vex in darkness and dragging them back into the network.

Telemica and Vatyr were stunned, turning to Solas for answers. They saw their Exo companion, facing them at the edge of the outcropping, the interface wall crumbling behind him. “It must be this way. We must walk the golden path. All others lead to oblivion.” he said telepathically. Before either guardian could speak a word or take a step, the outcropping below Solas gave way, sending the warlock falling to the depths below and beyond their sight.

She wanted to scream. She wanted to jump over to save him, even though it was impossible. The outcropping continued to collapse in their direction. Vatyr grabbed the stunned titan and pushed her against the wall and into the nook that the now-inactive portal had cut out. It was just big enough to house them as the shaft continued to shake itself apart.

The conflux sputtered and stammered, sending waves of cascading multicoloured corruption throughout its body and out through the roots that spread through the planet. Like a hologram that had a faulty emitter, it shook and waved until finally collapsing in on itself in a flash of blinding light and deafening sound.

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Frontier – Act06 Chapter21 – Broken Mirror

Chapter 21: Broken Mirror

While the synthstone structure was only a matter of days old and located on a long-dead planet, the caverns within appeared centuries-old covered in deeply coloured flora. As he ran his hand along the verdant moss, Vatyr posited that this must be either a byproduct of the Vex’s time manipulation techniques, or something carried over from where this synthstone originated.

Fireteam Warden had been marching at a brisk pace for hours, traveling far deeper into the construct than they expected. It had been quite a while since the sounds of the battle outside ceased to reach them. Were they even on Mercury anymore? One could never be certain of anything when the Vex were involved.

Paths diverged as they traveled further. Solas took point and did his best to sense their direction, Telemica staying close to him to check corners while the warlock’s mind stretched forward.

“Guardian S’Jet broadcasting to anyone on these frequencies. We have entered the conflux installation and are proceeding onward. Is anyone receiving this transmission? Over.” Vatyr spoke into his comms for what felt like the thousandth time. He was not sure if the signal was reaching anyone, and didn’t want to consider that there was nobody left to reach.

“I wouldn’t bother with that anymore. Chances are the only beings who can hear you now are us and the Vex.” Telemica retorted.

“Stealth was never an option. The walls themselves are clearly watching us.” Solas interjected, causing the skin of his fellows to crawl. Solas often forgot that he saw far more than the others could. The ghosts could offer few answers and refused to even speculate on the situation, which was adding to the general sense that every step the fireteam took into these caverns was a very bad idea.

Days passed with no rest. Guardians possessed superhuman endurance but even their minds and bodies still had limits. Telemica’s vigilance was beginning to take a serious toll as they rounded a corner and saw a hazy white glow at the end of a long and widening passage. “Finally. Be on guard, guardians.”

The hall ended at a cliff, water pouring over the end like a waterfall into oblivion. Warden had to cling to the almost sheer walls to keep from being taken by the rapids that seemed to come from nowhere. What they saw next shook their confidence to the core.

 

Frontier – Act06 Chapter20 – Throwing Stones

Chapter 20: Throwing Stones

Mercuryfall during Operation: Glass House would go down in history as the deadliest 15 minutes in guardian history. Vex anti-space emplacements appeared instantly all around the conflux, taking aim at incoming transports. At the same time, the conflux itself did a remarkable impression of a tesla coil, swatting craft with huge lashes of electromagnetic energy.

After the battle, it would be found that only one in five transports made it to the surface.

As the fight on the surface materialized, the battle for the skies took shape. The Shipwright selected fireteams with the best pilots to form fighter squadrons. The top brass was not sure if the Vex would have a significant spaceborne force or not, so the fighters were equipped for bombing runs as well. Guardian craft streaked along the surface, annihilating Vex cyclops emplacements and allowing more guardians to land and reach the conflux.

Electric fog poured out of the cracks between space and time, ball lightning rolling through it to reveal legions of Vex. Titans rushed forward, deploying forcefield generators for cover. Firefights all over the surface reached a fever pitch quickly. It was expected that the guardians would be severely outnumbered, and the Vex didn’t disappoint. As sparrow-riding fireteams performed high-speed strafing runs across the front, the wall of red eyes appeared endless.

Where the conflux met the planet surface was a synthstone base which seemed to be growing outward at the same rate as the conflux itself grew upward. Every guardian on the ground fought

Vatyr slid from a full sprint to his knee then down to his belly, never taking his eyes from the scope of his sniper rifle. The entire contents of his clip had found homes in the cores of perched Vex hobgoblins before Telemica overtook him and advanced past him. Ten minotaurs marched towards the titan, but stopped as she was engulfed in flame. Telemica streaked towards them and leaped into them, smashing them to bits with her hammer of solar light. Solas joined the pair as Vatyr rose to his feet. Lights popped within the ever-present fog, revealing 23 goblins surrounding them. Solas rose into the air and shredded the new challengers with an omnidirectional onslaught of arc light.

Vatyr put down a cyclops blocking the entrance to the base with a massive solar shot, clearing the way for Warden to enter the installation. “We’re pretty far ahead of anyone else. We should dig in.” he said as they gathered at the entrance and surveyed the battle behind them.

“No! We should press ahead!” Telemica insisted, the fever of war having fully took hold of her as she readied her rifle. The synthstone around them continued to grow outwards, and the structures they could see past the entrance shifted around just as much.

Solas waved his hand in the direction of the dark pathwaysensing what was ahead with small points of light dancing around his fingers. “We have run out of time. We must press forward.” Telemica burst ahead, eager to meet the challenges before them, but Vatyr was momentarily frozen in place. Something about Solas’ tone and body language. If he had to put a word to it, it would be terrified. Still, the word was to press on. Vatyr took a quick breath and took off after Telemica.

Solas watched Vatyr disappear inside the complex. The complex grew around Solas and closed the entrance behind him, plunging the Exo into darkness save for the dim glow of the synthstone. “The singularity holds. All paths lead through this crucible.” He said, as if praying to spacetime before breaking into a run.

Frontier – Act06 Chapter19 – Glass House

Chapter 19: Glass House

En Route to Mercury

Spaceflight always put Telemica on edge. It was the silence. The stillness. Without any atmosphere to cut through or landmarks to see come and go, the vessel seemed to not be moving at all. The titan has been known to fly erratically on long sublight journeys. She needed to feel her surroundings. Being in the massive hold of a Vanguard transport made it that much worse. So, she paced. The other dozen guardians in the hold thought she was anxious for the battle ahead, but Solas and Vatyr knew better.

It had been 30 hours since the briefing. Vatyr was not sure when he had ever seen so many guardians called in for a single offensive. The hangars were beyond capacity and the shipwrights were working double shifts. Quarters were tight and getting tighter as more guardians and shipments of equipment came in. Everyone was talking about what could be in the works behind the oddly closed doors of Vanguard Command.

The evening of the briefing had guardians packed into every Tower’s conference room and huddled around every display. The three Vanguard leaders, flanked by possibly every mover and shaker in the war effort, appeared in the Speaker’s observatory. The Traveler loomed silently in the evening air behind them.

Commander Zavala cleared his throat and spoke. “Greetings, fellows. Approximately 72 hours ago, long-range sensors detected a massive surge of energy from the planet Mercury. Initial recon revealed this.” the image cutting to a high orbital video of the south pole of Mercury. The image zoomed in fast, coalescing into a shot of a gigantic Vex conflux reaching hundreds of kilometers into space. The circuit-like canyons of the planet were filling with that same white light, as if the conflux was spreading roots. “This is a live feed. This conflux is growing in size and energy output at an exponential rate.”

A wave of murmurs flowed through the crowds. There was no doubt that this presented a clear and present danger to the entire system. The Vex were believed to have been more or less subdued since they lost the Black Garden, but this was the largest display of power they’ve ever shown.

Zavala continued, quashing the quiet conversations. “Within the next hour, every recalled fireteam will be given deployment orders for Operation: Glass House. The sole objective will be to neutralize the Vex escalation.”

As the fleet approached Mercury, The gold shine from Sol gave way to a cold white. They were approaching the conflux. The southern half of Mercury was now shining brightly, and the energy spire jutted menacingly into space. Telemica was one of the few guardians not huddled around the viewports. Instead, she locked herself into her seat and prepared for the rough ride in. No doubt the Vex would have mighty defenses in place. To her, it was a welcome change of pace.