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.


Exotic Concepts #2: Whisper

People seem to want more uniqueness in their exotics. A signature. Something that makes it stand out in the crowd. It’s with great pleasure that I present the first reader-submitted exotic concept. Whisper.

Here’s exactly what was sent to me:

But no one else is there..
Sniper rifle.

Softly: range and impact greatly increased, weapon is silenced. (you don’t appear on radar and enemies have a delayed response. Shots fired have a silencer effect.)

Inside voices: precision kills with this weapon increases reload speed,and greatly increases precision damage for a short time.

Thanks, Mike! Firstly, love the flavour text.

The thing about sniper rifles is that if used properly, they are one-hit killers and effective at the longest ranges. That said, there’s no real need for buffs to damage or range. Reload speed also shouldn’t be an issue unless you have a half dozen enemies lined up. So, what do we do with this concept?

The idea of a silenced sniper rifle is awesome but in Destiny there is one element that is far more telling to the presence of an impending long-range death: that little red light. If you’re lucky enough to see the barrel pointed at you before the trigger is pulled, that telling light is your only indication. I think a wonderful and unique perk would both muffle the sound of the rifle and eliminate that red light. There’s your “Softly” perk.

I’ll admit that kind of left me at a loss for what else to add. Precision and other stuff would be on a vertical perk tree (agility, over-penetration, blah blah blah), so I was drawing a blank. Then I killed a Praetorian point-blank with Icebreaker and it clicked.

Inside Voices: Whisper is effective at all ranges.

This eliminates not only any damage falloff at extreme long ranges, but also makes it useful closer up at ranges where you are using a hip-fired primary weapon. To balance this out, Whisper will need a relatively low firing rate, long reload and a small clip of no more than three rounds. Also, to make the perk useful at all, I’d want vertical perk trees of ballistic and scope options. Two separate trees of three options (one for ballistics and one for scopes) would work well. Having these options allows for customization, but at the same time doesn’t allow for the rifle to be too responsive to changing needs. It’ll test the operator’s ability to handle the weapon, change selections on the fly and respond to fluctuating dynamics. I’m not sure any other weapon in the game would demand such talent, but it would be rewarding. A player that can make this weapon dance in Crucible will be a rare force.

I’d love to have much more customization available, but as sniper rifles are weapons for specific purposes, there’s very little wiggle room. There’s not a lot of success when they expand a weapon type too far outside its intended role. I’m looking at you, Universal Remote.

What do you think? Does it balance? Would you use it?

Again, thanks to Mike for dropping the concept for me to toy with. I realize I went completely off the rails with it but I hope it’s pleasing in the end. At present I’ve got four more concepts in the pipe, two of which are reader-submitted. I’ve also added a page on the sidebar so that readers can keep track of them. Oh, and I’ve got someone working on volunteer artwork for Rose, so look forward to that.

Frontier – Act01 Chapter03 – Vatyr

Chapter 3: Vatyr

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.