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511888814Secant FilamentsIn this treatise, I plan to revisit earlier mathematical theorems and revise them considering our new observations on the Light, the Darkness, and lifeforms imbued with those respective powers. But before I do so, I must preface it with a personal note. Despite high-minded assumptions, mathematics is not an intrinsic language of the universe. It is how we describe the portions of the universe that we can observe. While numbers can track the abstract and find pattern in chaos, they cannot account for fundamental aspects of reality such as compassion or justice. The existence of the Lucent Hive, and Hive Ghosts in particular, may expand our understanding of causality, but they themselves are not "new"—the only thing that is new is our awareness and observation of them. These Ghosts have already been living alongside us. They've traveled with us. Endured with us. What we see is the mushroom, the fruit of the fungus. The fungus itself is a vast mycorrhizal network of filaments growing and working unseen below the soil, often barely connected to the fruiting bodies we observe. Similarly, we have observed Ghosts—Hive Ghosts included—without understanding the nature of the unseen filaments that may guide us. In our eagerness to understand the universe, we must not assume our observations are complete, or objective. Otherwise, we blind ourselves to possibilities… like the possibility that an unnoticed faction among us may be one temptation away from betrayal. Or that what drives our creator is no more than the same base desire for survival that drives all living things. —On Secants, Introduction, Ophiuchus
1322544481Hoarfrost-ZThe Last City, Earth GX-818 Experimental Notation: Recovered Hive Ghost inoperable. Still responds to electrical impulse. Ran gauntlet of tests and gleaned welcome protocol data. New chest rig comes in handy for experimentation and observation: every time the Ghost exhibits movement, can render it inert without so much as lifting a finger. Must employ this technique in future studies… Hardware architectural analysis confirmed that this derelict creature exhibited a malleable structure. Certainly wasn't created with a specific framework in mind and looks to have adapted its configuration to its Lightbearer once acquired. Is this necessary for the bonding process? For creating the perception of companionship? Is it possible for a Ghost to connect to a Lightbearer without undergoing restructuring? Previous behavioral studies have shown that Ghosts can be selective. Given lack of pre-programmed directives, it is now clear that they make conscious choice about whom to revive. Hardware evidence suggests that Ghosts were always capable of reviving Hive; perhaps they always intended to. Addendum for Spider: You've asked me why I like to "tinker with your toys" before I deliver them. Well, here you are. Proof of what I've been saying all along: We live at the whims of a god who blesses the few at the expense of the many. We follow leaders who claim to understand this speechless orb, and we are expected to do as it wills, no matter the cost to ourselves. So many people still condemned to die, and it willingly granted immortality to a death cult, served on a silver platter by these… automata. Well, I too have a will, and I will not prostrate myself before something capable of such evil. Your Ever-Skeptical Häkke Exile, Alexei
1703551922Blight RangerI've thanked God for this mask more times than I can count. It reflects most everything; keeps me on the safe side of whatever's coming at me. Most times… Dust storm left me no recourse. Came to a small encampment of refugees from Freehold, now buried. Most of them were workers at the old BrayTech facility, none too happy to see an Exo. One of them began to play a rueful tune on a cobbled-together string instrument. To this day, I haven't forgotten the words he sang: Let me tell ya now Bout the time the Devil walked through my door Said oh, let me tell ya now Bout the time the Devil walked through that door Ain't nothin', nobody Could hold me down anymore It was mine, all mine Devil gave me that golden ring It was mine, all mine Devil made me laugh and sing But little by little The Devil took my everything It was wailin' and gnashin' When the Devil did his dirty work Just wailin' and gnashin' When the Devil did his dirty work Oh, what a fool had I been Thinkin' I was above the dirt In the dirt, they were buried Made me blue to see that red In the dirt, they were buried Made me blue to see that red Devil took no pity Left me no place to rest my head Lord, help the Devil How'd he get to be so cruel Lord, help that Devil How'd he get to be so cruel That mean old Devil Was just some other devil's fool This mask reflected the gaunt faces of the survivors, but it didn't hide me. I could feel hot tears stream down my cheeks. They saw their own pain in me. The accusatory glances stopped then, and a sad understanding remained. Because we all knew, this place will never be the same.
2169905051Renewal Grasps"Regrettably, Lakshmi was killed by Vex during the assault…" Ikora's words echoed like the tolling of a bell. Ada-1 rocked back on her heels. She had never much liked Lakshmi-2—tolerated was a better word—but her fellow Exo had been her partner in a very intriguing new venture. Now, Lakshmi was dead, and so was the promise of Project Stronghold. A bunker where the city's leaders could be preserved through any attack was now just a hazy memory. Project Stronghold's reach was more expansive than Ada's contribution. Indeed, her focus had been steered in this direction by Lakshmi, yet the necessity of the bunker had made perfect sense when Lakshmi proposed the endeavor. A city cannot survive without its leaders, but Ada never expected that Lakshmi herself would instigate an attack. Ada-1 had been used. The realization stung, but having yet another venture collapse around her was too bitter a pill to swallow. She was destined for greatness, wasn't she? Ada heard the servos in her hands whining. Her fists were balled tight. She hadn't meant to… she hadn't meant for any of this. Every day spent, every breakthrough made, just grains of sand in a sculpture doomed to be washed away by the unstoppable tide. She had worked for years to defend this system, its people; and all she had to show for it was a glorified spindle. No matter. For now, she would focus on one day at a time, and today, she would spin gold from straw. Her fingers traced the lines on the shoulder of the new gauntlets she had designed. She was determined to see them completed. They wouldn't save the system, no, but they would represent the Black Armory well. Sometimes, she just needed something for herself.
119228495Tusked Allegiance GlovesCrow was already reloading when the strange Hive's lifeless body crashed to the forest floor. Glint flew toward the corpse without a word. Crow pretended not to notice and kept walking through the woods. He's been in a mood all day, Glint thought with a static sigh. He could use some time alone. When he reached the Hive, Glint resisted the absurd reflex to scan it for compatibility. Instead, he simply assessed, noting the strong arms that could handle the recoil from heavy weapons; the thick shell, built to absorb all manner of firepower; the remains of a bony shield that sizzled nearby, powerful enough to protect— The space next to Glint fluctuated as a bone-white Hive Ghost appeared. The two froze warily in midair. "Hey," the Hive Ghost whispered after a moment. "It's okay." Its voice was surprisingly soft. Its green eye flickered reassuringly and it began to focus Light. Glint bobbed unsteadily. Crow was fifty yards off, moving carefully through the trees. "You shouldn't—" "It'll be all right," it said and hovered lower to the ground, pouring Light into the fallen Hive. The surrounding ferns trembled with the sudden flow of energy. "Wait," Glint pressed. But the Ghost ignored him as the thick armor of the Hive began to reform. "Crow!" Glint screamed, "Crow, here!" And he flew to him without turning back.
950963812Tusked Allegiance BondThe huddled Guardians fell into shocked silence as Commander Zavala's silhouette loomed over the table. A hooded figure sat, suddenly enveloped by the shadow, and leaned backward until his head bumped against Zavala's chestplate. He tilted his chin up and craned his neck to fix Zavala with an upside-down smile. His hood fell back. "What's with the face, Big Blue?" Drifter said. "Somebody's gotta teach 'em how to play offense." "Get this out of my Tower." There was iron in the Titan's voice. An old fear split Drifter's face. He leaned forward, swept the contents of the table into his knapsack—tangled cables, a red lens, shards of bone, a green eye spinning madly in a jar of thick fluid—and left without a word.
849255710Tusked Allegiance HoodAGAIN. Sok'tol, Fifth of the Light, felt flame surge through his body as he was resurrected. He became aware of many things at once: the altar beneath him. The roaring of Acolytes. The powerful grip on his shoulders, which even now began to crack under the pressure. Above him, a trio of Wizards held his Ghost tight, its bleached shell ensnared by ebony tendrils of controlling spellcraft. It pulled against the bonds but could do nothing but look down at him helplessly. SING OF HER LIES. SPEAK OF HER TRUTHS. The voice was everywhere. As Sok'tol strained to sit up, something slammed him down, pounding his chitinous skull into the stone again and again. He screeched as the bony frill surrounding his face splintered and snapped loose. He felt his jaw dislodge, felt his own teeth crush against his face, felt himself crack and shatter. Blackness. And then— AGAIN. As his shell knit and restored soulfire flowed anew, Sok'tol, Fifth of the Light, shuddered awake. The Acolytes roared again. They crowded the altar, surrounded by a haze of green. Sok'tol peered upward at the Ogre pinning him against the altar. It tightened its grip on his shoulders, claws crackling with wrathful energy. It shook its massive head, crowned in an emerald corona, and bellowed in a voice that was not its own: YOUR STRENGTH BECOMES MINE. AS WILL HERS. SPEAK. Sok'tol concentrated the Light in his armored hand and began to form a grenade, but the shrieking Acolytes reached forward and tore his fingers apart in their claws. Sok'tol bared his teeth and hissed up at the Ogre, whose eyes rolled with fury as a blast of soulfire erupted from its mouth. Sok'tol opened his jaws to howl as he was obliterated. Blackness. And then— AGAIN.
693728753Tusked Allegiance BootsBask materialized near a low wall and zipped to where Jolur had collapsed. The Ghost began to focus his Light when incoming fire sent him spinning to the ground. "What did I tell you about dying in the open?" the little Ghost cried in frustration. Determined, he rose into the air, but the Hive Knight was already charging across the Trostland cobblestones. A sudden explosion of Void energy took the Knight by surprise, but it dodged the pulsing shockwaves of a Vortex Grenade. A tall Warlock in a worn green robe loped from the treeline and slid to a stop before Bask. She hastily formed a ball of Light in her palm and slammed it into the ground. Delicate wisps of energy began to rise from the soil. "That's not gonna help!" Bask whirred angrily. The Warlock stood, sheltering Bask with her body as he resumed his focus on Jolur. The Knight screeched and resumed fire. A volley of Shredder bolts doubled the Warlock over, but the energy seeping from the rift gave her the strength to keep standing. "Thanks," said Bask sheepishly. "Don't mention it," she said, gritting her teeth through the gunfire. A blinding burst of energy surged as Jolur rose to his feet, body shimmering with Light. He braced himself and lobbed an orb of unstable energy that reduced the Knight to howling ash on impact. "Appreciate the assist," Jolur said to Bask and the Warlock as he brushed dirt from his decrepit boots. "These guys are stronger than I thought, but it's nothing a Nova Bomb can't handle." The Warlock inspected the damage to her robe. "What's going on with these Hive?" "I don't know," Jolur said. "Lord Saladin sent a group of us down to figure out—" Another blinding burst of energy surged nearby. The Knight rose to its feet, body shimmering with Light. The Guardians stood frozen in horror. "Since when can they do that?" Bask squeaked, and the fight began in earnest.
187431790Tusked Allegiance GauntletsCrow was already reloading when the strange Hive's lifeless body crashed to the forest floor. Glint flew toward the corpse without a word. Crow pretended not to notice and kept walking through the woods. He's been in a mood all day, Glint thought with a static sigh. He could use some time alone. When he reached the Hive, Glint resisted the absurd reflex to scan it for compatibility. Instead, he simply assessed, noting the strong arms that could handle the recoil from heavy weapons; the thick shell, built to absorb all manner of firepower; the remains of a bony shield that sizzled nearby, powerful enough to protect— The space next to Glint fluctuated as a bone-white Hive Ghost appeared. The two froze warily in midair. "Hey," the Hive Ghost whispered after a moment. "It's okay." Its voice was surprisingly soft. Its green eye flickered reassuringly and it began to focus Light. Glint bobbed unsteadily. Crow was fifty yards off, moving carefully through the trees. "You shouldn't—" "It'll be all right," it said and hovered lower to the ground, pouring Light into the fallen Hive. The surrounding ferns trembled with the sudden flow of energy. "Wait," Glint pressed. But the Ghost ignored him as the thick armor of the Hive began to reform. "Crow!" Glint screamed, "Crow, here!" And he flew to him without turning back.
438108034Tusked Allegiance PlateMithrax delicately pushed the low curtain aside as he entered the bedroom. Tall shelves crowded him, cluttered with relics from Mercury and beyond: piles of intricate scrolls, silver hourglasses that turned of their own accord, ceramic pots of red soil sprouting delicate metallic vines beneath glass domes. An enormous feathered mantle was mounted carefully on a wooden stand and crowned with a birdlike cowl. The hulking form of Saint-14 sat in a wooden chair facing the bed where, impossibly small beneath the blankets, rested the man known as Osiris. Mithrax rapped politely on the doorframe. "My friend," Saint-14 said. "It is good of you to come." Mithrax approached Saint and bowed. "It is an honor to be invited," he said. "These visits are pleasant to me." He held out the covered dish he was carrying in his lower arms, but Saint's eyes remained fixed on Osiris. The Titan took a ragged breath. His voice was a hoarse whisper: "Could the Psion machine… connect my mind with his? So that I might share his dreams?" Mithrax felt useless. He spoke softly: "The Psion tells me the subject must have residual activity for a reading, and Osiris has been asleep very long. Besides, the connection you seek joins the Light of one being to the Light of another, and Osiris is—" "Lightless, yes," Saint finished flatly. He leaned forward in his chair, his elbows on his knees, hands clasped before him. He was silent for some time. "I will let him sleep alone," Saint finally said, and caressed Osiris's hand with impossible tenderness. "When he wakes, we will dream together once more." He adjusted the blankets, stood, and nodded toward the covered dish Mithrax still clutched awkwardly. "I am hoping that is not more eggplant," he said. Mithrax coughed on his Ether. "The eggplant is most nourishing," he protested weakly, and Saint groaned.
2240729575Tusked Allegiance HelmetAGAIN. Sok'tol, Fifth of the Light, felt flame surge through his body as he was resurrected. He became aware of many things at once: the altar beneath him. The roaring of Acolytes. The powerful grip on his shoulders, which even now began to crack under the pressure. Above him, a trio of Wizards held his Ghost tight, its bleached shell ensnared by ebony tendrils of controlling spellcraft. It pulled against the bonds but could do nothing but look down at him helplessly. SING OF HER LIES. SPEAK OF HER TRUTHS. The voice was everywhere. As Sok'tol strained to sit up, something slammed him down, pounding his chitinous skull into the stone again and again. He screeched as the bony frill surrounding his face splintered and snapped loose. He felt his jaw dislodge, felt his own teeth crush against his face, felt himself crack and shatter. Blackness. And then— AGAIN. As his shell knit and restored soulfire flowed anew, Sok'tol, Fifth of the Light, shuddered awake. The Acolytes roared again. They crowded the altar, surrounded by a haze of green. Sok'tol peered upward at the Ogre pinning him against the altar. It tightened its grip on his shoulders, claws crackling with wrathful energy. It shook its massive head, crowned in an emerald corona, and bellowed in a voice that was not its own: YOUR STRENGTH BECOMES MINE. AS WILL HERS. SPEAK. Sok'tol concentrated the Light in his armored hand and began to form a grenade, but the shrieking Acolytes reached forward and tore his fingers apart in their claws. Sok'tol bared his teeth and hissed up at the Ogre, whose eyes rolled with fury as a blast of soulfire erupted from its mouth. Sok'tol opened his jaws to howl as he was obliterated. Blackness. And then— AGAIN.
2270509928Tusked Allegiance GreavesBask materialized near a low wall and zipped to where Jolur had collapsed. The Ghost began to focus his Light when incoming fire sent him spinning to the ground. "What did I tell you about dying in the open?" the little Ghost cried in frustration. Determined, he rose into the air, but the Hive Knight was already charging across the Trostland cobblestones. A sudden explosion of Void energy took the Knight by surprise, but it dodged the pulsing shockwaves of a Vortex Grenade. A tall Warlock in a worn green robe loped from the treeline and slid to a stop before Bask. She hastily formed a ball of Light in her palm and slammed it into the ground. Delicate wisps of energy began to rise from the soil. "That's not gonna help!" Bask whirred angrily. The Warlock stood, sheltering Bask with her body as he resumed his focus on Jolur. The Knight screeched and resumed fire. A volley of Shredder bolts doubled the Warlock over, but the energy seeping from the rift gave her the strength to keep standing. "Thanks," said Bask sheepishly. "Don't mention it," she said, gritting her teeth through the gunfire. A blinding burst of energy surged as Jolur rose to his feet, body shimmering with Light. He braced himself and lobbed an orb of unstable energy that reduced the Knight to howling ash on impact. "Appreciate the assist," Jolur said to Bask and the Warlock as he brushed dirt from his decrepit boots. "These guys are stronger than I thought, but it's nothing a Nova Bomb can't handle." The Warlock inspected the damage to her robe. "What's going on with these Hive?" "I don't know," Jolur said. "Lord Saladin sent a group of us down to figure out—" Another blinding burst of energy surged nearby. The Knight rose to its feet, body shimmering with Light. The Guardians stood frozen in horror. "Since when can they do that?" Bask squeaked, and the fight began in earnest.
2516879931Tusked Allegiance MaskAGAIN. Sok'tol, Fifth of the Light, felt flame surge through his body as he was resurrected. He became aware of many things at once: the altar beneath him. The roaring of Acolytes. The powerful grip on his shoulders, which even now began to crack under the pressure. Above him, a trio of Wizards held his Ghost tight, its bleached shell ensnared by ebony tendrils of controlling spellcraft. It pulled against the bonds but could do nothing but look down at him helplessly. SING OF HER LIES. SPEAK OF HER TRUTHS. The voice was everywhere. As Sok'tol strained to sit up, something slammed him down, pounding his chitinous skull into the stone again and again. He screeched as the bony frill surrounding his face splintered and snapped loose. He felt his jaw dislodge, felt his own teeth crush against his face, felt himself crack and shatter. Blackness. And then— AGAIN. As his shell knit and restored soulfire flowed anew, Sok'tol, Fifth of the Light, shuddered awake. The Acolytes roared again. They crowded the altar, surrounded by a haze of green. Sok'tol peered upward at the Ogre pinning him against the altar. It tightened its grip on his shoulders, claws crackling with wrathful energy. It shook its massive head, crowned in an emerald corona, and bellowed in a voice that was not its own: YOUR STRENGTH BECOMES MINE. AS WILL HERS. SPEAK. Sok'tol concentrated the Light in his armored hand and began to form a grenade, but the shrieking Acolytes reached forward and tore his fingers apart in their claws. Sok'tol bared his teeth and hissed up at the Ogre, whose eyes rolled with fury as a blast of soulfire erupted from its mouth. Sok'tol opened his jaws to howl as he was obliterated. Blackness. And then— AGAIN.
3056950148Tusked Allegiance StridesBask materialized near a low wall and zipped to where Jolur had collapsed. The Ghost began to focus his Light when incoming fire sent him spinning to the ground. "What did I tell you about dying in the open?" the little Ghost cried in frustration. Determined, he rose into the air, but the Hive Knight was already charging across the Trostland cobblestones. A sudden explosion of Void energy took the Knight by surprise, but it dodged the pulsing shockwaves of a Vortex Grenade. A tall Warlock in a worn green robe loped from the treeline and slid to a stop before Bask. She hastily formed a ball of Light in her palm and slammed it into the ground. Delicate wisps of energy began to rise from the soil. "That's not gonna help!" Bask whirred angrily. The Warlock stood, sheltering Bask with her body as he resumed his focus on Jolur. The Knight screeched and resumed fire. A volley of Shredder bolts doubled the Warlock over, but the energy seeping from the rift gave her the strength to keep standing. "Thanks," said Bask sheepishly. "Don't mention it," she said, gritting her teeth through the gunfire. A blinding burst of energy surged as Jolur rose to his feet, body shimmering with Light. He braced himself and lobbed an orb of unstable energy that reduced the Knight to howling ash on impact. "Appreciate the assist," Jolur said to Bask and the Warlock as he brushed dirt from his decrepit boots. "These guys are stronger than I thought, but it's nothing a Nova Bomb can't handle." The Warlock inspected the damage to her robe. "What's going on with these Hive?" "I don't know," Jolur said. "Lord Saladin sent a group of us down to figure out—" Another blinding burst of energy surged nearby. The Knight rose to its feet, body shimmering with Light. The Guardians stood frozen in horror. "Since when can they do that?" Bask squeaked, and the fight began in earnest.
137898636NightstalkerThe Bladedancers deride us as slow. The Gunslingers say we lack precision. "How is that better than a knife?" "How is that better than a flaming pistol?" Well. My boots sink inches into the ground with every step. My rebreather filters the stench out of the air, but my eyes sting like I'm showering with battery acid. "We're almost there," my Ghost chirps. My jaw clenches. I know we're almost there, Little Light. This vile marsh opens to reveal a black cave's maw. Inside, an infinite number of little green eyes flicker like bad stars. CRACK! I fire a single bullet into the air and the horde in the cave shrieks and runs out. "This is it, you two." The Warlock and Titan leap from the bog behind me. A bow appears in my hands, and I let a single binding shot loose from the shadow. Now there are Orbs of Power everywhere. Eat, my friends. Eat.
2146447808SentinelI'm shaking, hands on my knees, panting. Let the monsters come. Let them come forever. Let them climb the piled bodies of their dead. I don't care. That's the thing I do better than anyone. Not care. Let them come in their hundreds and every one will die at my feet. I don't care about their homing rockets, their exotic matter slugs, their blades from another dimension. I don't care because I cannot be moved. I am the wall against which the Darkness breaks. Malphur can turn his gun to fire and Shinobu can dance with lightning, but when the horrors run out of the dark, I am the one who does not move. I am a wall. And walls don't move. Because walls don't care.
693166189VoidwalkerThe streets were chaos. We fell under Cabal bullets and blades; red was the color of the day. Everywhere, red. Darkness found me three times that day, and each time, Ghost woke me; I woke to ever more red. I looked to the sky, but even there, I saw nothing but the red reflection of a civilization burning to ash. Hope faded with the last of my Light; this was where I would meet my final death. A flash of violet pulled my eyes from down sight. A Cabal ship careened out of the smoke, burning black-indigo. And I saw her, riding the wing, but she was gone in a blink as the ship smashed into the earth. She reappeared in the middle of a legion, and in a second half-heartbeat, rose into the air and dropped an explosion of Void the likes of which I'd never seen. I had believed I was a Voidwalker… until I beheld Ikora Rey.
940788946Star JasmineI find myself once more stalking the night, my Witness, unknown as their final gasps. But my sojourns are no longer otiose errands. I am no more a predator among the Ahslid than the weaver is a predator of flax. Death creates gaps into which my progeny rises and stokes paranoia to tighten their fists. Each carapace crushed winds the clockworks my hands assemble. They no longer need my direct ministrations. My children have children—some bequeath my lessons. The favored spawn are those who learned my lessons well. They converge on my shape, and unprovoked, prepare banquets of wisdom on which their kin gorge. They craft weapons—little more than hurled rocks standing in the long shadow the Darkness casts—but enough to crack their world apart. Only Uun disappoints, frightened as he is now by his own potential for glory. I cut him free of my succor. Obscurity is the crueler fate. You taught me the most precious lesson of irrelevance. Only purpose can be momentous. It is the moment of clarity that freed me from worldly soil. This final gift I withhold from my progeny. It is the most challenging lesson to teach, and I stand in awe of the elegance with which you revealed the truth to me. I cannot do the same without reflection. I have imitated myself all too well, but to imitate you, my Witness, it is the one challenge to which I find myself unworthy.
2953240785Sovereign OrderThree ships flew overhead in tight formation. Their shadows flickered across Grutuk's iris as she calculated their probable landing zones. Satisfied, she rose from the tangle of blackberries where she had been hiding, the thorns scraping harmlessly against her ivory shell. Xavol sat quietly, one dark claw scratching idly at the dirt. He had drawn the old runes, once powerful symbols of tithing, now nothing more than shallow scrawls. Grutuk nudged him. "Time to get to work," she said. Xavol rose slowly, then kicked away the drawings with his foot. He hissed and clacked his jaws. "You always say that," she sighed, and the two headed toward the trees to wait for the Guardians.
2893840584Criticality of QuicknessDarkness signatures decay in just under two days. Ether residue degrades in as little as 4 hours. Hive ritual oils dissipate in less than 20 minutes. As agents of the Hidden, you must understand: evidence is fleeting, and time is your enemy. That means you must act in swiftness… but not in haste. Never in haste. Put your hands down. I recognize that look. A few years after I bonded with Ikora Rey—long before the Last City—we happened upon a settlement near the ruins of Sturivon in the EDZ. We discovered the locals slaughtered, with no surviving eyewitnesses. But Ikora was quite familiar with Fallen weapons, even by then, and recognized the impact marks immediately. She wasted no time mounting an assault on the Fallen camp in the nearby hills. Only when she got there, she found no one but the sick and the young, completely unarmed. Had Ikora investigated the ruins of the settlement more thoroughly, she would have discovered the Human boot prints. You see, it turns out the Warlord Benyo Lukacs had raided the Fallen camp days earlier; he put their warriors to the sword and stole their weapons for his own use. Ikora spent 14 hours tracking the Fallen encampment, and another 11 rushing back to find the clues she missed. Her haste gave Lukacs a 25-hour lead. Time enough for him to wipe out two refugee caravans. One-hundred and eighty-four lives lost… all because she did not spare another five minutes' investigation. Begin your new lives understanding the vital difference between quickness and recklessness. Unless you think yourself strong enough to carry the weight of 184 mistakes. —Audio Recording, Advanced Forensics Introductory Lecture, Ophiuchus
1993613993Ivory EmpressAmanda raised her eyebrows as Crow cruised onto the landing pad. He sat atop a gleaming new Sparrow, adorned with gold and ivory. "Fancy ride, huh?" he asked. "Yeah, fit for a prince," Amanda replied dourly. Crow ignored the dig with a wan smile. "It's not mine. Just borrowing it while I'm on Earth." Amanda gave a small harrumph. "Borrowing it from the Cabal?" Crow rapped one of the curling ivory horns with his knuckle. "How could you tell?" "Guess that means you've got some new friends now," she snapped, sharper than intended. Crow scuffed the ground with his toe. "Not really. I don't have a lot of close friends. There's Glint, of course. But he's more like an appendage." "Well, you used to have plenty of friends," she said, "but that was a lifetime ago." Crow opened his mouth to retort but stopped short. The silence stretched on. "Don't let me find that thing on my landing pad when I get back," Amanda finally said, crossing her arms. "This ain't a parking lot." Crow nodded and slowly scooted past, keeping his eyes forward. As Amanda watched him go, she heard a small, digital voice chirp, "Did you call me an appendage?" The shipwright smiled and then immediately caught herself. Her smile curdled into a sour frown. She clenched her fists in frustration. "Why do you do this to yourself, Holliday?" she muttered as she stormed back to the Hangar. "Every time. Every damn time."
781717692Mind ShardPrime-40 leaned against the side of the small café and watched the children of the City happily chasing Artemis. Artemis seemed to enjoy it as much as the children did. He barked playfully and wagged his tail as if to encourage them as they ran to him, only to suddenly juke and sprint quick circles around the courtyard over and over as they laughed. Finally, he flopped down in the shade of a wooden table, and the children descended on him in a whirlwind of head pats and belly rubs. The roar of a Sparrow broke the calm. Prime-40 stepped forward as it tore past, his cloak whipping around him in the dusty air. Another Guardian heading up to the Tower, Prime-40 thought. He squinted into the distance and saw a stream of ships leaving the Hangar, heading east. "Something's happening at the Cosmodrome," he said quietly. Artemis trotted over to him and whined. Prime-40 knelt and scratched him behind his ears. "Come on," he said. The Exo and his dog walked along the low wall at the edge of the City. Prime-40 ran a gloved hand along the rough and crumbling surface, his fingers absentmindedly skimming over cracks from years of wear. When they reached a gap in the easternmost point, Prime-40 climbed through without trouble and gazed for a moment at the dry grassland stretching far into the distant mountains. He kicked a stone block upright and sat down, resting his strong back against the City wall. Artemis sat obediently at his feet. "If trouble's coming," Prime-40 said, gesturing past the scrub and blooming mesquite, "it's coming from over there." Artemis barked in agreement. "Whatever it is, we'll handle it together," Prime-40 said. "Same as always." Artemis huffed contentedly, laid down, and crossed his front paws protectively over Prime-40's boots. The two looked out over the plains, and together, they waited for what would come next.
551038990Edge of ActionThe Scheme-Mother-Reborn returned to her Lure. Here, her Ghost companion and her most trusted witch led her to a broken statue. The statue held a fragmented weapon in its alien arms. When the Scheme-Mother asked why these broken things were on her ship, her most trusted witch told her: You broke them, my queen, because they belong to a traitor. The great Goddess of Whispers reached to hold the broken weapon. Although she did not remember its shape, she could feel its power and potential. The Mother of Lies said: This vile artifact holds memory, and it is memory that I lack. Perhaps the-thing-I-was could retrieve these memories, but the-thing-I-am cannot. I must find a creature capable of holding two wrestling paracausal forces in its breast. I must outsource my remembering to someone else. —An excerpt from "The Books of Rememoration, A Story Sewn into Flesh with Sinew and Malice, A Record of the Scheme-Mother's Resurrection and Return"
551038991Edge of ConcurrenceWith a fresh mind and searching eyes, the Scheme-Mother-Reborn returned to her throne world, which, without the edge of sword logic, had become a shell of itself. Here, she strolled the parapets and fell deep into contemplation. Although she could remember nothing, her mind was as sharp as a tooth. When she emerged from her contemplation, the Whisper-Queen addressed her brood. She said: My children, I know the truth, and out of my love for you, I will share it. Before them, she killed her most trusted witch in a transcendent blaze of Light. This witch became the first of the Lucent, the first resurrected in the image of the queen herself. —An excerpt from "The Books of Rememoration, A Story Sewn into Flesh with Sinew and Malice, A Record of the Scheme-Mother's Resurrection and Return"
551038988Edge of IntentThe Witch, Insidious, was killed upon the rock cliff as a wretched sacrifice. With life drawn from the Sky, she was reborn: the Witch, Radiant. The mangled creature, a Ghost, that bestowed the Sky's life, spoke to her, to restore her unmarked mind. It said: You are a god of the chosen krill, the Hive. You are the mother of cunning and lies. You are the first of your kind gifted with Light, which is a paracausal force of the Sky. The Queen of Lies listened quietly to these reminders. Even in her rebirth, with a mind emptied of memory, her cunning shone brightly, and she stitched together her new truth. She asked her new companion where she must go next, and it was then that her most trusted witch arrived to guide her to her Lure. —An excerpt from "The Books of Rememoration, A Story Sewn into Flesh with Sinew and Malice, A Record of the Scheme-Mother's Resurrection and Return"
46524085Osteo StrigaAh, pardon us. It just seems like he's always hungry. When I first became a mother, I didn't realize how much time would just be spent feeding him. Do you mind? Thank you. No, he doesn't look much like me, I know. There are a lot of orphans these days. I heard him crying from… oh my, it seems like half a world away. It was chance, honestly. I never thought of myself as a parent, but caring for another little life… it's taught me so much. May I? Sorry, I don't know why I'm sharing so much with you like this. You just seem easy to talk to. And becoming a mom has really given me a lot more insight into the little connections between people. I used to focus so much on my work. I actually lost a few friends over it. Oh! Shh, shh, shh… there we go. That's right. Growing babies need their calcium. Now I can see what matters. The beauty in small things and quiet moments. In watching others light up when they see him. In the way meeting new people broadens him. I had another child, you know. That was… before. I didn't keep him safe. It's for the best. He's… safe now. Besides, it means I can appreciate this little one so much more. Just the two of us. I love my little Striga. And he's always… so… hungry. //CASE 620102; SUSPECT IDENT JANA-14; STATUS: AT LARGE //EVIDENCE IDENT #303, AUDIO DEVICE; RECOVERED ADJACENT TO DISMEMBERED BODY, RIBS EXCISED
2812324401Dead MessengerCaiatl and Zavala stood side by side, watching a live feed of the Guardian's assault on the Psion transmission facility, as broadcast by Amanda Holliday's circling aircraft. The Guardian ducked behind cover and pulled out a sleek grenade launcher, recovered during their last assault of the base. They fired into a pack of onrushing war beasts, sending shrapnel hurling through the air. The Cabal empress emitted a low rumble as she admired the weapon. Zavala looked up at the enormous ruler with raised eyebrows. Her gaze was fixed on the firefight, her eyes twinkling with violent ardor. The Vanguard commander shut off the open comms and cleared his throat. "Would you like me to send you one of those grenade launchers? I can have Banshee create a Cabal-sized version for you." Caiatl looked down at the Awoken leader, suddenly aware that her avarice had been on display. She lowered her tusks, which the commander interpreted as equivalent to a blush. "That would be most welcome, Commander," Caiatl replied. "I'd like to fire it into Xivu Arath's belly and bathe in her soulfire." Zavala turned back to the screen. "You have a… passionate spirit, Empress." He did not see it, but beneath her mask, Empress Caiatl smiled. It was terrifying.
2812324400ParasiteGuardian. Transparency is not a strong suit of mine. Undoubtedly, this comes as no surprise. However, our… misadventures, let's call them, with the parasite have left me with a recurring ambivalence in regard to said transparency; as a result, I feel as though you are deserving of a more appropriate level of access to my thoughts surrounding recent events. In my previously mentioned vision was the Witness's one truth: an eternity of Darkness in which I serve as a Disciple. It brought me an overwhelming feeling I previously relayed to you as fear—but in actuality, it was fear born of what I felt most within this vision—gratitude. Gratitude! As if my place alongside the Witness was meant to be a reward for all I have ever done and ever will do. And if the Witness is to be believed, "all I ever will do" is unbecoming, to say the least. It is moments like these wherein I wonder if I myself should be put to rest to avoid perpetuating these dark truths. But I have never before wavered from righteousness, and I don't intend to begin now. With that, you should know that while our revealed truths about Savathûn and the Collapse appeared minimal, I have already used them to begin tracing a trail of evidence that may provide us with the power of preservation in the oncoming storm. When the time is right, we will have further parts to play together. In the meantime, keep the parasite near, and listen close. It's bound to open its mouth again sooner or later. —Mara Sov, Queen of the Awoken
1763584999Grand Overture"So. You're the new guy." Ana Bray cracks a half smile. "Can't be worse than the last Psions that Red and I dealt with." She impatiently taps her heel on her workshop bench as the Psion hurriedly checks linkages and nodes on the neural coupling device around her head. Words and images skip across Ana's mind like stones. "Remain calm. Even though you are defenseless, I do not possess a starship." A sound resembling laughter follows. "Funny." Ana chuckles impatiently. "Okay! I've been setting this up for months. Are you done with the safety checks?" Jinju flies by Ana and runs a scan over the engram. "Be nice." A digital timepiece drains toward zero while the Psion inundates her mind with questions. "My Light, Splicer tech, brain tubes. Yeah, I got it," Ana says. "Plug my brain into Red already and let's do this." Her voice quickens with excitement. The Psion finishes linking cables to a Splicer-tech receptacle housing Rasputin's engram and gives Ana an awkward thumb pointing up. The Psion forms an interlocking image in her mind: a tangle of wires. Slowly, her perspective sifts through them and stops at a radiant center. She hears the words, 'Forgotten vestige, made remembered.' "That's the plan, Pstan!" Ana exclaims. "Drop me in; I can already hear the Tchaikovsky." She stares down the ticking timer: 3… 2… 1… Ana blinks. She stands in a vast thicket of thorn and rot. A warmth radiates from deep within the thicket. Ana blinks. She presses through bramble as barbs draw blood. Her sense of self wavers. She finds her grip on a searing-hot spike, shifting her senses red like an adrenal rush. Ana blinks. She kneels at the spike and rips it from the ground. A Valkyrie javelin is in her grasp. Ana blinks. The thorned vines around her recoil and wither in the heat. She feels something within the javelin, faint and weak, but alive.
1572896086Recurrent ImpactCrow feels unease when he touches the active Psisorium. There's a throbbing sensation at the base of his skull. It starts at the back of his head and works its way forward. A compelling aura flows from the Psisorium, ushering buried memories to the surface of Crow's mind. Uldren Sov felt unease as he stood with fingertips against the Dark Shard. Everything was wrong, but he ignored it. There was a throbbing sensation at the base of his skull. It burrowed underneath and snaked in between his vertebrae: an impulse taking hold in his nerves that he was helpless to follow. A whisper he strained to hear, "Save her." The Psisorium vibrates against the nails of his ungloved fingertips. Lucent Hive bodies twitch in unfeeling response to the mental scrying. Crow feels the rhythm of alien thoughts sweep over him like wind on stone, catching in ruts and divots worn by time. He sees glimpses, reflections of an end to justify the means. A voice rattled Uldren Sov's mind, the cool tones of his sister slipping into well-worn grooves as he watched dreams carve themselves into his reality. Lucidity flashed like panicked gasps under thin sheets of ice. His desire taken: wishes turning sour in his mouth as he spoke them, tasting no longer of promise, now only of regret.
232928045Under Your Skin
1248372789Sweet SorrowAmanda Holliday hurls a wrench at the wall, her grunt of effort punctuated by the sharp clang of metal striking metal. Her shoulders rise and fall with each labored breath in the silence that follows. She gasps softly and rushes forward—eyes scanning the surface of the wrench for cracks as her fingers frantically reach for the socket. She turns the ratchet, hoping to hear the reassuring click of the gears. But there is nothing, no movement inside from either direction. "Damn it," Amanda hisses, rubbing the heel of her palm against her eye. "Dammit!" She sees a racing helmet at her feet and kicks it across the garage floor. Everything around her is a painful reminder of her ignorance: A blue-and-white auto rifle of Cabal design with an inscribed message on the barrel. Her favorite ramen bar and sightseeing locations circled on a map of the Last City. A datapad loaded with coordinates for the old Haakon Precipice racetrack. The nearly finished Sparrow she and Niik had been working on, blazoned with airbrushed feathers of ebony and white. "Damn it," Amanda whispers. Her back brushes against the wall, and she leans into it as her body slowly crumples to the floor. Her head dips to the side and rests on the cold engine of the Sparrow beside her. She pulls her legs toward her chest and curses into her knees, burying her face in them as her shoulders begin to rise and fall in trembling bursts. Of all the friends she could have made, of all the people who could have become important in her life, of all the horrible twists of fate she could have endured… …why did they all have to be him?
2638190703Aisha's EmbraceShe has been here before. Pale whisps of clouds swirl over pine trees the color of blackened emerald. No birds sing here; only the cold wind whistles through the tree branches. Flares of atomic fire bloom in the woods and lick against smoldering bark. There is poison in the ground, violence in the air. Screams, both human and inhuman, erupt and echo out into the gloom. She has been here before. Two dozen Hive Thrall erupt from the mouth of a cave, shimmering and opalescent like mollusk corpses. They scramble through the dark, shrieking cries of death and birth. Shayura stands, sword of fire held fast, screaming against the crashing tide of chitin and bone. She has been here before. Burning embers of Thrall rain around her, but with each dispatched wave of necrotic soldiers, their numbers seem to double. They press forward, inching her closer and closer to the crumbling ravine. Shayura knows that the only way out is through. Wings of flame roar off her back, leaving a trail of rippling heat and charred Thrall in her wake. She has been here before. The Thrall finally recede, but the towering Knight that strides through their parted ranks is an escalation, not a victory. Her sword clashes with the Knight's shield, shattering it in a single blow before tearing through the Knight's arm and sinking her blade into its chest. She has been here before. She can feel her Light ebbing and wastes no time splitting the Knight in half and separating head from body. Shayura exhales with relief, but with her next breath comes a blinding flash of light. It manifests above the Knight. Her vision swims, her mind reels; the shape is at once familiar and alien—a Ghost. Shayura sees the Hive Knight reborn, reconstructed, as a Guardian would be. She has been here before. But not like this. Deep panic builds in her chest. This is no Hive death ritual; this is not Titan. She runs from the Knight's next swing and slips into the reach of Thrall that tear at her armor. Mustering the last of her Solar energy, Shayura calls up a cyclonic pillar of flame that twists up into the sky and consumes the Knight. …not like this. The revenant Knight collapses in the flames, and its Ghost manifests again. Shayura leaps forward and drives her sword through, pinning the screaming Ghost to the forest floor. Her Solar aura flickers and fades; smoke and steam billow from her back and shoulders. "NOT LIKE THIS!" "Shay!" Shayura's breath catches, her mind jostled. She feels the soft grass beneath her and sees the flower-dappled park that surrounds her, all sitting beneath the shadow of the Traveler in the heart of the City. Her SMG lies on the ground at her side. Tears shine below exhausted eyes, dark hair in a tangle matted to her head. Aisha kneels in front of her friend as one might before a wild animal. Reed-7 stands at her back in abject silence, hand over his mouth. City security fans out behind him, their weapons trained on Shayura. "Shay?" Aisha pleads this time. She gingerly places her hands on Shayura's cheeks and looks into her eyes, searching for a sign of recognition. Shayura eventually reaches up and touches one of Aisha's hands. She tries to talk, but her words are merely whimpers. Aisha wraps her arms around Shayura's shoulders and pulls her into an embrace. "It's going to be okay," Aisha whispers into Shayura's hair. "We're going to get you help," Aisha promises. Shayura does not trust herself or the world she thought she knew. Light is Dark, Dark is Light. The lines have blurred beyond recognition. But at least in surrender, there is peace.
2097055732Piece of MindMithrax squeezed through the tight Bazaar alleyway. Visiting the Tower made him feel out of place, like a creature moving through a world designed for smaller beings—which, he supposed, he was. As he reached back to pull his Ether tubes free from a snag in the jagged brickwork, he felt something collide sharply with his elbow. His mind was suddenly filled with a flare of hot bitterness—a burst of bladed anger. Mithrax looked down to see a Psion, clothed in Empress Caiatl's colors, wincing in pain and rubbing its eye. "Forgive me," Mithrax said graciously. "You must be the one assisting the Guardians against the Hive." The Psion looked up at him, then ducked its head in apology. The vision immediately dissolved from Mithrax's mind. "I am Misraaks, Kell of House Light," he said, putting a hand to his chest. The Psion paused, then gestured to its chest and Mithrax's head. It held its hand open as if waiting for a response. Mithrax nodded his assent, and into his mind was placed a scattering of orange cubes, a spiraling helix of inky fins, and the sensation of biting through an unripe fruit. The vision faded. "That is your true name?" Mithrax asked. The Psion gave a short bow. Mithrax smiled. "I understand why Guardians simply call you 'the Psion,'" he said. A swarm of smooth yellow planes fluttered through Mithrax's mind: laughter. Mithrax stepped to the side, and the Psion moved past him. As it did so, there was a final vision: a wink of warm, cheerful brightness, fading but promising to return. "To you, as well," Mithrax called, and the Psion vanished around the corner.
1796949035Razor's Edge"Glint." "Yeah, buddy?" His Ghost's voice is eager. It had been a few hours since Crow last spoke. "Is there anything you hate about yourself?" Crow turns in the seat of his tree saddle overlooking a sparsely forested valley split by clear Trostland waterways. "Whoa. That's intense. Um… well—" "It feels like my guts were pulled out in different directions, and I'm just… standing here, trying to reel them in. Nothing fits back the way it was." He had walked behind a god while she led him on a leash of his entrails—one he'd accepted in enthusiastic fashion. The thought of it was surreal, like another life presented in horrifying detail, in vivid waking visions. It was a wound worsened by the sight of the severity, and of course, he couldn't look away. "Well, that's rather graphic," Glint chirps, processing. "Do you really have to put… uh, it… back in? Is it maybe OK being out?" "Forget it," Crow relents. "Different question." "Sounds good!" Glint agrees with an awkward chuckle. "Do you think the Spear…" Crow stops himself and reforms his thoughts. "…Wherever Savathûn pulled Uldren from… he was always buried somewhere in me, right? Maybe I could use the Spear to step into that place. Step into my past and… put whatever's left of him to rest." Crow exhales and stares blanky into the horizon. "I want him gone. If the Spear could let me do that… I don't know." "Oh… Crow, I don't think it works that way." Glint is quiet long enough for Crow to shift nervously. "Look Crow, we've been through a lot of bad things together. But you've never been the bad part about any of it. I wouldn't change a single thing about you… even a little." Glint sinks into Crow's lap. "Besides… that last guy didn't have me."
858400357Coalition Shell[Transcript transposed via Ghost-link scrivener… uplink terminated—16:29… file archived: [REDACTED]] Z: Empress, welcome. Ikora Rey joins me here. I: Empress Caiatl. My Hidden found your missing frigate. C: Did they? I: It was abandoned on the dark side of the Moon. The Psions who stole it were spotted consorting with Loyalists to Calus, and may still have further plans to do so. C: Defectors! I decreed their freedom, and they use it to drive a blade into my back rather than meet me face-to-face. I: Any idea why they'd claim allegiance to your father? I'm concerned Calus is making a play we're missing. C: Many Psions held significant social standing under my father, due to their military or intelligence capabilities. Now that all Psions are free, some of the old guard feel their status is… degraded by comparison. It is a short-sighted perspective, one that leads to dangerous choices. Z: Short-sighted, but persuasive. In my time with Saladin's Iron Lords, we met a good deal of Warlords unwilling to join us if it meant stripping themselves of authority. There are always those who value themselves over anything else. I: Agreed. We saw something similar from the Future War Cult and their supporters when the House of Light joined the City. It was disturbing how quickly that kind of mentality can take hold. Z: In any event, we should continue monitoring the situation. I don't want to be caught unaware. C: The Cabal will withstand losing a handful of cowards. If I learn more about these defectors' motives, I will send word. I expect you will do the same. Z: Indeed. C: Good fortune in the battles to come, Commander; Vanguard Rey. [Transmission terminated]
1441479303Fundament ShellGather 'round, young'uns. No, no automat for supper; no noodles. Tonight is something special: corn pone and chitlins. This here's history on a plate. Now, don't give me that look before you even taste it. If the world's fixing to end again, it's time you had a meal from our family's past while you hear about it. About how the Rigby clan survived the last time the world went dark. Now the Rigbys, we didn't always squat on the edge of the City. A long time back, we came out of a place that was old and wet, hotter than the fires of Perdition—so your Gramma's gramma and her pappy before her have said. It was also a place where the Devil roamed, giving folk their heart's desire. And I know that last part is true, because your ancestor—Sean Rigby was his name—he came to a crossroads one midnight, drunk and feeling the fool, and… he saw her. Standing there, checking the time and looking cool as no other in the sweltering August heat. Tall as cottonwood in bloom and wearing a smile across her lips that stopped short of her eyes. Some say the Devil is a man with a pointy beard. Others say the Devil's a terrifying beast with claws and a tail. But Sean? He knew right then. The Devil was a lady. The Devil bent down close to him, setting her eyes on his wayward soul. Her voice was honeysuckle-sweet as she said, "I know you, Sean Rigby. I seen you sweat and sob for a scrap of land you can't even rightly say is your own. I seen your family fight to save a name that's more precious to you than gold. Well there is a reckoning coming, Sean Rigby, one that will wipe all lands and all names—high and low—clean from this Earth. I alone can whistle up the way to protect one of these things you hold dear, if your family will owe me… a debt." Old Sean was already a sinner, but a man with nothing will fight to keep what little he has. He figured that alive and in the Devil's pocket was better than dead, so he shook her hand. The Devil opened her eyes—one, two, three—and pointed him to the last star in the sky, far to the south. She said, "That's your star, Sean Rigby. Follow it each night, when it's the last star hanging low, and sing to it. You sing, 'Al Eck Ruk Nam, Shu Nam Eck Ur,' until you call that star down to Earth. You do that, and your family will endure." The Rigbys did as they were told and walked south. Each night they sang, and each night their star sat lower and lower. And when it finally fell, they were safe beneath the Traveler. But now, children, I give you the same dire warning that's been handed down to me: the Devil hasn't come back yet to take what's hers… not from Sean, or any other Rigby what survived him. But a debt's a debt. So you learn and remember that song, children… and steer clear of crossroads once the sun sets.
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