Frontier – Act11 Chapter51 – Forward

Chapter 51: Forward

Earth
The Last City
Years later…

“It has taken years for us to rebuild this City. Our home. Years to heal from our wounds, mourn the dead and reforge our bonds. Hard time full of blood, sweat and tears. First, the Vex came to take away The Traveler, but we denied them their prize. Then the Fallen House of Kings came to our walls to strike at us while we were wounded, but they too were turned away.”

Angela stood at the podium atop the rebuilt and improved observatory in the centre of the tower lookout and took a breath to collect her thoughts before continuing. Her voice and image projected across the domain and beyond. She had expected her heart to be beating out of her chest. Perhaps in a time not so long ago, that would have been the case. She had found her mettle since then.

The young Speaker was flanked by the Vanguard leadership and other dignitaries, all in formal dress. She’d been preparing this speech for some time. She needed the people behind her for what was to come. She needed their hearts and minds. She could feel they were with her so far, and now she had to turn it up.

“Our valiant guardians protected us, laying down their restored lives for us time and again when things seemed most bleak. They stood, fought and were victorious!”

The crowd cheered.

“The factions found new common ground. The Dead Orbit became the foundation from which we built the Vanguard Navy. The Future War Cult opened their mysteries to us, allowing our research and development to jump ahead decades. New Monarchy enshrined me, your Speaker, as their Queen. New allies came to hear our call. The Queen of The Reef, The House of Judgement, the warmind Rasputin and more!”

The crowd cheered louder.

“Today, we commemorate the fateful day when three brave guardians accomplished the impossible. Through The Traveler’s blessing gifts, they destroyed the invader’s leader with a glorious blow. A single punch with such fury and power that it carved a deep valley into this mountain range that stretches into the horizon. Today, in honour of their service, bravery and sacrifice, we name this battle scar in the face of the world The Valley of The Warden.”

The crowd cheered even louder.

“The Darkness has officially been put on notice!”

The crowd roared. A chant of her name rolled through the masses. The entire City came alive. She let them and herself have it for a minute, then raised her hand to calm them.

“My people, we have walked through the forge of dark days and been remade stronger than ever before, but darker days still await us. Forces that will stop at nothing to grind us back into the dust. Will we let them?”

The crowd cried out defiantly.

“Our unity will make us stronger than anything they could ever break. Our light will burn The Darkness and its minions away. We will take back our worlds, and pioneer the golden path beyond. Today is a day of remembrance and celebration. Tomorrow, and for all the tomorrows after, we will move forever forward!”

The crowd erupted. Nothing could stop them now, Angela thought. She took a wave and vacated the podium. The festivities below were now in full swing, and the time for pretty words was over. For the people of the Last City on Earth, it was a time for joy. For Angela, it was always time for work. She had Vanguard reports to review and expansion plans to oversee. Tomorrow she’d be on a transport to The Reef to formalize trade negotiations and other partnerships.

Angela entered her private office in the observatory. An elegant space full of old books mixed with new tech. She keyed the biometric scanner hidden in the mechanisms of a sextant sitting on her wide Brazilian walnut desk. Hidden scanners in the office identified her and activated the portal.

Solas’ old lab had held up fairly well after the Vex incursion. The invaders never found a way into it, so as soon as Angela had gotten the chance after the battle, she had run down to the main entry and keyed the door. The power core was nearly drained, the unique ammo stores were all but depleted, and the main processing core was totally burned out. Ikora helped her close the few experiments that the frames were still running and relocate the main entry portal to Angela’s new office. The lab had once been where Solas prepared for Warden’s ordeal. Now, it’ll serve a new purpose.

At the centre of the lab, where Solas’ pod once was, stood something new. Within a complex assortment of cables, scanners and interfaces, three clear teardrop-shaped crystalline bulbs hung from a miniaturized version of the lab’s old power core. Each bulb containing a ghost.

After the battle, Angela had ordered Warden’s ghosts found. They were assumed dead but Angela had just become the new Speaker and she didn’t hesitate to put that influence to work. Using the wealth of tools in Solas’ lab, she discovered that Wisp, Glitch and Squire were in fact still alive, perhaps through some residual effect of The Traveler’s boon. It should not have been possible, but impossible was becoming more and more common these days. Fireteam Warden had survived by the thinnest of margins.

The three ghosts now floated comfortably in a liquid light solution pioneered recently by Omolon foundries. Slowly, they were absorbing light and gaining strength. There was no way for her to know when they’d wake up. It could be tomorrow, or it could be a hundred years from now. Every evening, Angela would come down to this lab, make sure the frames were tending to them properly as well as Angela’s other experiments, check the readouts and findings, look at the three ghosts, and promise her friends that the world they saved would flourish in their absence. Finally, before retiring to her bed, she’d always ask her friends for a small favour.

“Come back soon.”

 

Advertisements

Frontier – Act10 Chapter50 – Warden

Chapter 50: Warden

Angela awoke atop The Traveler’s zenith. The world’s curvature was almost noticeable from this altitude, but Angela had no trouble breathing or discomfort of any kind. Being this close to The Traveler, its essence must support life regardless of the surrounding environment, she deduced.

The last thing she recalled was getting pulled into the infection stream and the feeling of her life being drained away, before a warmness enveloped her. The voice that spoke to her was both alien and oddly familiar. It was sweetly welcoming and beyond old. The voice asked her for help, like the elderly asking for the strong hands and sturdy back of the young. She was glad to help, but had no idea how. The voice now sounded a bit like hers, and told her that now was the time for her to be strong. Now, together, they would shine like never before.

The next thing she knew, she was on top of The Traveler, and in the distance, though mere specks of light and echoes of booms could be perceived from this far away, she knew what was happening. She looked up, and the machine god of a bygone age prepared to strike at home.

She filled her lungs with air and screamed at the faraway point of light that carried all their fates with it. “Fight!”

Solas, Telemica and Vatyr simply ceased to be amid the furious torrent of light. When it calmed and coalesced, what remained was a towering humanoid figure made of blue-white light and without any discernible features. It had no eyes, ears, nose or mouth. It had no fingers or toes. It wore no clothes. Its body had no definition denoting biology or gender. Its boundaries shifted and licked like the surface of a flame. Its core was intensely bright but required no strain to gaze into.

Virulion The Infecting Mind fired a pair of torch hammer shots at it, but the shots were harmlessly absorbed into its being. The Vex fired several more shots but with the same result. The new entity stood motionless, facing The Traveler in reverent posture.

It was when Virulion charged with a lunging right punch that the entity heard it. A girl’s voice. “Fight”, the girl said. The entity twisted with supernatural speed and caught Virulion’s fist, stopping it dead. The impact echoed across the landscape. Virulion attempted to pull itself free but couldn’t. The entity pulled the fist in to grab Virulion’s arm, spun around, and threw Virulion back towards the lookout with ease. The Vex sailed through the air with a defiant roar and came down with a crash. The Infecting Mind got up quickly, but the entity was already standing in front of him, waiting.

When it spoke, sound emanated from it in all directions. Its voice was a combination of the three guardians that formed it. “I am The Warden. This place and these people are under my protection. Be gone.”

Virulion’s chestplates shifted and moved, revealing a cavity which held the last fragment of the seed of darkness from which Virulion emerged. The evil pulsing heart of Virulion, The Infecting Mind. Cables and connections webbed through and around the seed. Virulion was showing The Warden that he was chosen. Blessed. An ordained avatar of the Darkness’ will. Screaming tendrils of diseased energy shot out of the seed and hooked into The Warden, attempting to drain the entity of its light. A sound raked from Virulion that could be considered nauseating laughter.

The Warden didn’t stagger or shift. The tendrils buried their way in, but burned away in moments. The seed sent out more and more in an effort to devour this entity of pure light, but every attempt simply evaporated. The Warden’s light was simply too intense for The Darkness to corrupt.

Virulion quickly closed its chest to protect the seed and brought both its arms together in front of it. Components shifted and rearranged until the Vex monster’s arms and body formed a singular immense energy cannon. Virulion would destroy this abomination of light in the name of God. It took moments to charge and the blast would land at point-blank range, but The Warden didn’t move.

The avalanche of dark energies Virulion unleashed seemed to roar up without sound from the pits of some nameless hell and spill into the world like a plaque of ruin, leveling what was left of the Tower Watch and collapsing a large section of the nearby hangar. It was as if the pure and unadulterated will of some dark god of destruction poured out of the Vex’s body. Such a thing could exist for only moments, but that was all it needed to annihilate anything in this universe.

The Warden stood unharmed. Through Virulion’s armour, the seed screamed in rage. The Infecting Mind separated his arms again and threw a desperate haymaker punch. Midway through the attack, The Warden countered, in a flash severing both Virulion’s arms at the shoulders with a flurry of cleaving knifehand strikes.

Virulion staggered and convulsed as the seed of Darkness within it attempted one last time to lash out, bursting out from the chest of The Infecting Mind and leaving Virulion a dead hulk for its penance. The seed lashed out like a hydra, constantly growing hellish heads and tentacles to replace the ones that either burned away in the light or were severed by The Warden’s uncanny counters. The tables so obviously turned only seemed to cause Virulion to attack more violently and exhausting itself, perhaps feeling its end was at hand.

When the futile attacks ceased, the Warden slid its right leg back and brought its arms up to deliver a serious, finishing blow. “You end is now. The rest of your kind will meet the same fate… in time.”

 

Frontier – Act10 Chapter49 – Brave

Chapter 49: Brave

Telemica lifted a slab of debris away from the corner Solas was buried in.

“Are you alright?” the titan asked with concern.

“For the most part. Vatyr?”

“Up here.” Vatyr answered over comms, high above the now demolished Tower Watch and coming in to land near his comrades. “The Speaker’s ship just detonated on contact. Vapourized. Pretty much no significant debris from the ship itself. The effect is similar to a slipspace core overload. I recognized the telltale whine of a jump core being overspun, but I’ve never seen the fallout so localized and focused. Virulion was sent sailing through the back wall and into the lookout, but he’s still moving. Doesn’t look too damaged either. I’m surprised this tower is still standing to be honest. All that energy must have been focused right into the Vex. Crazy.”

“We all knew The Speaker was powerful. A fitting end.” Telemica considered.

“What about Angela?” Solas demanded. The warlock ran back to the centre of the watch to find most of it had been obliterated by The Speaker. Peering out, he saw Angela still hanging in the air in a huge mote of The Traveler’s essence-light. It was significantly brighter than before, and the infection stream had been completely severed.

“Angela. Angela, can you hear me?” Solas queried into open comms. There was no response. The light around her continued to grow and take on an aggressive note. Was The Traveler trying to defend itself?

Virulion shifted and whined, throwing debris off itself and rising.

“He looks pissed off.” Vatyr noted.

“Good.” Solas growled. With a roaring fury, he sent a salvo of huge nova bombs hurtling towards the Vex, slamming Virulion with enough void light to level a small apartment building. The Infecting Mind shielded itself with its arms and braced under the impact. It was not seriously damaged by any stretch, but it was not immune to the attack either.

“It felt that! The light barrier is gone. Angela and The Speaker broke the link, making it vulnerable.” Telemica shouted in triumph. Her armour’s systems burst with renewed vigour.

“Let’s go!” yawped Vatyr. Fireteam Warden leaped into the fray with Virulion quickly, before the Vex could reestablish its attack on The Traveler.

Vatyr ignited his anti-ship beam saber once again and attacked Virulion in tandem with Telemica’s Buster Sword from opposite directions. Virulion brought its arms up and blocked the massive blades with surprising speed, shrugging them off easily and batting Telemica with the back of a hand. The titan was sent smashing through a high section of the wall. Vatyr blasted upwards and rained harassing fire down on Virulion with his Dis heavy machine gun.

Solas called forth a vast reserve of void light and reached his mind deep down into the weave of reality. Focusing on Virulion’s glass-like structure, he willed the crystal to vibrate. Solas wanted to shake the monster apart, atom by atom.

Telemica launched out of her hole with an echoing battle cry. Spinning, she sent two sweeping waves of solar light at Virulion from her feet, as well as a meteoric jet from her left arm.

The Infecting Mind blocked the titan’s first two solar attacks and redirected the last one up at Vatyr, narrowly missing him but forcing him to veer off. Then, opening his huge palms and exposing a port in each that looked like the muzzles of torch hammers, he fired two immense blasts of boiling energy at the titan and warlock. Solas was too focused on his attack to react in time. A hastily erected barrier saved his life but sent him sprawling. Telemica narrowly managed to evade it with the aerial maneuvering capabilities of the Spiral Caliber system. She tried to press the attack, but Virulion was ready for it. He grabbed her out of the air and tossed her back in the direction of The Traveler. She would have gone clear over the side and fallen to her death if Vatyr didn’t pluck her out of the air.

Solas scrambled for cover behind a toppled pillar while his comrades observed from above. “We certainly have his attention now.”

“For all the good it’s doing us. We still can’t put any real hurt on him. I’ve never seen a Vex move like that!” exclaimed Vatyr.

“Or take that level of punishment. Guardians have defeated Vex like this before, right?” Telemica asked.

“Yes. The Sol Progeny of the Black Garden were little more than enormous, lumbering minotaurs. Easy to take down if you’re smart enough. Atheon’s defeat within the Vault of Glass was made narrowly possible by the disruption of the Vault’s Oracles, which allowed Atheon’s significant control over the local spacetime of the Vault of Glass’ interior to be neutralized just enough to claim victory. Neither strategy will assist us here,” informed Solas.

“Great. Does anyone have any ideas?” Vatyr asked with some frustration.

Let the light flow through you…

“Who-”

Let the light flow through you…

“Angela?” Solas asked to nobody. Turning to look at the young girl, he could barely perceive her through the enormous amount of light pouring out of The Traveler and surrounding her.

“Is that Angela on comms?” asked Telemica.

“She’s made direct contact with The Traveler for the first time since The Collapse, but through some sort of shared dream-state. Whatever is speaking to us through our light is a merged consciousness between Angela and The Traveler.”

“She really is The Speaker now.” Vatyr said with a note somewhere between mourning and hope. He dropped off Telemica by Solas and reengaged The Infecting Mind with his Dis heavy machine gun. “We can’t let him attack Angela. I’ll keep him occupied for as long as I can. Solas, think!”

Solas’ celestial-sized mind raced, arriving finally at a strategy that gave definitive new meaning to the phrase ‘last-ditch’, but was no doubt the only play they had left. “Years ago, I toyed with the idea of giving guardians one final option. It never worked properly, but with Angela and The Traveler’s help, there’s an infinitesimal chance it could work for us here and now.”

“I’m all ears!” Vatyr said as he dodged oversized torch hammer blasts.

“I’d reduce us to our core light, and merge the three essence patterns that each of our ghosts hold into a single being of staggering power. Easily enough to defeat Virulion.”

“Sounds great! Let’s do that!”

“The chances that the merger would work are, as I said, infinitesimal. Even if it did work, the resulting lifeform would only last a few short minutes. Also, we three as individuals as well as the entities within our ghosts would cease to exist. We’d die.”

Telemica grabbed hold of Solas’ arm. “We’ve died before, remember? Dying again was always a pretty good possibility in our world.”

“But… our time…” Solas found himself at a loss for words. The silent and deafening conflict brought on by the return of their memories had been pushed to the side for the moment by a world-ending battle, but he needed to fix this wound between him and Telemica. Even if it took lifetimes.

Telemica’s lips found where Solas’ forehead would be if he had eyes. “Our time is once again at an end, but I know no fear or regret because you are once again with me, my love.”

Had she been contemplating the past this whole time? Had she ever been conflicted by it? Solas was one of the most brilliant minds the star system had ever seen, but he’d always been ignorant of the emotional aspects of life. Perhaps it had been a simple willful blindness. He was often told he needed to pay more attention to the feelings of others, as well as his own. It had been the one puzzle in his life that scared him, so he avoided it. Now, all of those walls he’d built up around his heart were suddenly gone, and only she remained. He placed his hand over hers. The fear was simply gone, and for the first time in perhaps both of his lives, he needed no words.

“Vatyr, meet us centre stage. We’re doing the crazy thing.” Telemica commanded as she pulled.

“Yes ma’am! Operation crazy thing is a go.” Vatyr joked as he swooped down to meet them at the broken ledge made of what remained of the tower watch. “Guys, just so you know, it has been an honour and a privilege. I may have failed my family and my fleet during The Collapse, but it’s good to know I won’t fail you.”

Telemica clasped Vatyr’s shoulder in understanding, and then turned to Solas, “So how do we save the world?”

“Clear your mind and do what the little lady told you to. Let the light flow through you.” Solas offered. Within each guardian, silent thanks and farewells were offered to the little lights that bore them for so long. The dutiful Squire. The enigmatic Wisp. The daring Glitch. The hunter and titan took one last look at Virulion before closing their eyes. Four of Solas’ hands took hold of theirs while the remaining two began to weave the world, opening a conduit to Angela.