Chapter 45: Cleaving
The Last City
These Vex were getting wise, Shaxx thought. They’d somehow figured out that he and Arcite had been commanding a sizable number of fireteams across the combat zone. Of course, he was a much easier target than the Vanguard leaders in their fortified hall. The pair had to move faster and faster to stay ahead while still coordinating their forces. It was only a matter of time before the Vex locked him down.
There was a chase. Shaxx never considered the Vex were an enemy that would pursue a target in that fashion. Numerous rapidly-teleporting minotaurs flanked by harpies managed to run him and Arcite into a dead-end between two fallen apartment buildings. The alley was around 30 feet across, and the destroyed structures created high walls with multiple outcroppings but little in the way of cover on the ground. There were two nearby fireteams, but they were already engaged and couldn’t break off to assist. Shaxx and Arcite dug in and did their best to hold off the Vex.
It was inevitable that the Vex would wear them down, but Shaxx didn’t seem to mind. “You know, my friend, the horror of this day and most probably the end of everything we’ve built notwithstanding, I’m having a great time!”
“I figured you might be. Ever consider that you may have an issue?” Arcite posited, throwing a grenade over his cover at an approaching minotaur.
“Oh, I’m sure that I’m unhinged in some way.” Shaxx laughed.
“Can your deranged mind figure out how we’re going to get out of this one?” asked Arcite as he reloaded his Hakke Strongbow-D shotgun.
“A miracle and nothing less.”
“Someone call for a miracle?” boomed a voice from atop the wall behind Shaxx and Arcite. Looking up and peering through the noon sun reflecting off The Traveler, the two saw a titan standing tall on the ledge.
“Ho there! Come to save our sorry asses?” called out Shaxx.
“It would be an honour!” the titan called out as she tipped over the side of the wall.
The frames had time to properly explain Telemica’s new armour to her because it first required that her arm be replaced. Somehow, Solas’ predictions had calculated a high probability that she’d lose an arm in the rescue attempt due to the nature of Vex transfer gates. The new armour, named Regalia, included bleeding-edge cybernetic arms to replace the lost limbs. Telemica would only need the left one.
The first system she was told about was the Spiral Caliber. Each boot had two aggressively segmented wheels, which encased highly-miniaturized solar light-based repulsor tech modeled after sparrows like the EV-36 Sol Scout. Using a combination of solar light, nano-kinetic drivers and artificial gravity fields, a guardian could traverse any terrain with extreme efficiency. Shaxx and Arcite were amazed as the titan rode the wall down to them at both incredible speed and with incredible control.
The Vex began to divert their firepower to the newcomer. Rapid-fire bolts peppered and torch hammer fireballs surged towards Telemica and would have surely been her undoing, if not for the Null Jacket defensive system. A void light cloak that moved with her, shaping to her as if it were a long coat made of violet energy.
The Vex’s aggression didn’t worry Telemica in the least with such a strong defense at her command, but her code demanded it be responded to. Bringing the drive cores of the Spiral Caliber to full, she performed a sweeping kick at her attackers, sending a blast of roaring solar light slamming into their front line. Telemica bounced from outcropping to outcropping, sending searing shockwaves of devastation down until landing between Shaxx and Arcite, and what was left of the Vex group.
Two damaged minotaurs were attempting to return fire, but Telemica had other plans. Bolting towards them at ground speeds that even a sparrow rider would find extreme, she was upon them in a fraction of a second and plowed a left hook through both of them. The third part of the Spiral Caliber system was her new left arm, laced with the same tech as the wheels on her feet and designed to convert all that kinetic energy into destructive force.
Leaping back to a few feet from Shaxx and Arcite, Telemica took stock of the remaining Vex. Seven minotaurs with varied levels of damage and two harpies.
Shaxx and Arcite took the pause to reload and move up to better cover along each wall. “That’s some interesting gear you have there, titan Magna,” mused Arcite. Her entire armor seemed to be patterned after the helm Arcite had once heard about. The Empyrean Bellicose. A silvery translucent shell that barely hid the magnificent mechanisms it protected. Word was that it was filled with all manner of tech that was cutting edge even in the golden age. Arcite could tell that her left arm was entirely cybernetic and used the same design philosophies, which led his eye down to something entirely different on her hip.
A katana, to use the old-world vernacular, hung off the titan’s belt, opposite Jolder’s iron sash. It was very obviously technological in nature, but great care was taken to make it look like a traditional weapon from centuries past, right down to the plasteel in the handle tinted just so to make it look like ray skin. The tsuba guard was modeled after the titan symbol, and the scabbard was ornately etched with the orange and white pattern of the Vanguard.
“I don’t mean to be the bearer of bad news, but I’m just about out of ammo.” noted Shaxx.
“Not a problem. We’ll be out of this mess in a minute, and I’ll get you back to the Tower.” assured Telemica with ultimate confidence. Arcite stayed silent, knowing something special was about to happen.
“That’s quite a statement, titan. Care to tell me how you plan on making that miracle happen?”
“I can do better than that. I’ll show you.” Telemica asserted as she slowly placed her hand on the katana and crouched. Half a breath passed before she drew her blade in a flash, sending an arc light shockwave slamming into the Vex. Both remaining harpies were sliced in two, and two of the more damaged minotaurs fell. Shaxx couldn’t tear his eyes away from the alley walls, which were etched deeply on both sides by the edges of the wave. He’d seen swords become more popular among guardians recently, as well as money pour into research and development of such weapons, but this was on a completely different level.
Telemica slowly pointed the sword at the Vex. The handle segmented and doubled in length. The tsuba split perpendicular to the blade’s edge and extended out, revealing mechanisms that looked similar to forcefield generators. The air in the alley suddenly took on a charge, as the blade itself seemed to change from a solid black steel to black and angry smoke.
“Nanomachines?” Asked Arcite aloud, almost in spite of himself.
“Precisely! These nans are filled with fighting spirit! With my mighty hands guiding them, their true greatness will be unsealed!”
More likely they’re programmed to respond to her via neural interface, but correcting her seemed like a dangerous proposition, Arcite thought. The nans whirled and twisted until forming a new blade. This one was flat on its sides, double-edged, and huge. Arcite guessed that it was 10 feet long and around a foot and a half wide and surmised that the nans had arranged in a new lattice that gave their construct the greatest surface area without sacrificing strength. Also, because no new material was added, it was the same mass as it was while in the katana form. How many different forms could this sword take? Snake blade? Rapier? Gladius? Shuang gou? Kukri? Spear? Arcite realized his recent fascination with bladed combat had distracted him from what was happening, because the titan had brought the massive cleaving sword back to a low two-handed hang at her side. She was preparing to finish this fight.
In an instant explosion of solar light from the Spiral Caliber system, she was among the Vex. One swung its arm around in a twisting hammer motion, but was caught effortlessly in Telemica’s left hand. Her fist closed around the Vex’s arm and crushed it with equal passivity. The sword came down on the minotaur’s head, splitting the entire unit in half. Turning the blade around and sweeping nearly 360 degrees, she cleaved another five units cleanly across the thickest parts of their bodies.
One last minotaur remained, and not only was it relatively unharmed, it was a praetorian. It began to unload its torch hammer on Telemica, who let it slam into her Null Jacket with ease. She wanted to show this one Vex that it was completely incapable of harming her. Perhaps other units in the network would see it. Telemica wondered if the Vex could feel fear.
She was in front of it in a blink. An instant later, its arms and head were surgically removed. It stumbled back but Telemica didn’t pursue. She wanted it to regenerate its shields and come at her one last time. When it did, she rested the blade’s edge where its head used to be, but didn’t apply pressure. “This is the Buster Sword, a mighty blade destined to cut a path through the darkness. You are unworthy of its power, but in my way nonetheless. Now, return to nothing!” Telemica commanded as arc light surged from the blade in a massive torrent of destruction. The shape of the blade didn’t change, but Arcite’s finely-tuned sensorium could see the truth. The arc light was reorganizing the arrangement of the nans and supercharging them, causing those that made up the nano-molecular edge to oscillate millions of times a second, like a chainsaw built to break apart the bonds of matter. Even though the blade was relatively weightless, it fell right through the extremely durable shield and body of the praetorian. Telemica’s hold was the only reason it didn’t bury itself in the ground.
She turned to Shaxx and Arcite as the two halves of the Vex were still falling to the side. “Another member of my fireteam is clearing some airspace. We’ll get you picked up and somewhere safe in no time.”
“Are you kidding me? After seeing something as awesome as that, how could I not want to press on!” Shaxx bellowed. “Get them to drop some supplies. My Redjacks and I have a war to win!”