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4278892928Dark Heirlooms[Report by VanNet encrypted router.] Zavala, your most recent correspondence came as a surprise; while I thank you and Ikora for undergoing the formality of lifting my exile, I had not expected any additional direction from Vanguard High Command—and so I have not read it. The zealots that followed me to Mercury have proved themselves useful… twice now, actually. They possessed an artifact in their stores: a Hive fang. Look to the grooves that run along its root. They allow it to break away from the jaw so that another may take its place. The Hive bear resemblance to another predator I found in simulations of ancient Earth. I don't imagine you've ever seen a shark, Zavala, but you would admire their simplicity and single-minded devotion. They are creatures of predatory instinct. Pure, in a way, to know what one is and act on it. They are not unlike our enemy. Not evil, but driven. You will receive a case. Within it, you will find said fang; it is of Xivu Arath, Hive aspect of war. In my travels, I found similar artifacts ground and burnt upon a shrine buried deep beneath Luna's crust. The shrine reeks of Hive magic, and it is obviously the site of a ritual. I fear that in reaction to our Dark visitors, the broken ranks, left leaderless after Hashladûn's demise, called out to be recommitted into the fold. It is time to act, Zavala. She means to test our vulnerability. Do not wait in your office for the Traveler to guide you. The City looks to the Vanguard to lead us to something better than fear. Be that leader, and I will stand by you.
1540046410The Unclaimed LightbearerGuardian, Let us not waste time on formalities. Spies from both the City and Reef have become aware of an unclaimed Lightbearer, though they have not yet been able to put a name or face to the reports. Their attention has only focused now that this Lightbearer has fallen prey to the Shore's self-appointed overseer. It is a matter of time until all is laid bare before prying eyes. You would be wise not to hasten this effort. Instead, give credence to this: our Crow is a new Light. Attention is required elsewhere, and whatever latent grudge you bear against the flesh the Light has inhabited carries merit no longer. Uldren Sov is dead. Do not pummel the corpse of your grievances. Keep this information between us, or if the first trigger pull was not enough to satisfy, know that you only risk our chance at victory for a scrap of catharsis. I do not believe this to be your nature. Xivu Arath leaves no room for distraction. The appearance of her mongrels are the fingers of her encroaching grasp. We have a single moment to halt their advance, for if she is successful, her brood will establish a foothold that could take centuries to purge, if it can be purged at all. Falter, and she will swallow this system. Secrets keep the peace, for now. Truth in time. I will assist you where I can. —Osiris
4113740832Cryptolith LureCrow looked furtively over his shoulder as the hydraulic doors to Spider's personal treasure trove whooshed open. He had the gang boss's blessing to peruse the collection in hopes of finding something to combat the spread of the Hive cryptoliths. Nevertheless, Crow felt a subversive rush as he assessed the aisles of display cases, filled to the brim with curios and artifacts. Glint maneuvered through the rows, scanning item after item. "Look—an Ahamkara brain, fully intact! And here—a Golden Age missive written on pulped plant matter! And this looks like a pre-Collapse datapad, named after a fruit! And here's—" "Glint," Crow interjected, "do you hear that?" The Ghost froze in midair. In the stillness of the subterranean bunker, Crow could hear something in the room. Not moving, not rustling, but… whispering? Yes. A soft voice, calling out. Crow crept to the back of the room, toward a City Age cabinet, filled with extinct circuitry. On the bottom shelf, covered in dust, was a nodule of Hive technology. Crow remembered seeing similar components atop Hive Seeder Ships. Crow picked up the component. The whispering increased to a near-audible level, both comfortingly familiar and repulsively alien, before falling silent. "This is it," Crow muttered to his concerned Ghost. "I found our transmitter."
1594120904No Time to ExplainNovarro's timeline analysis indicates the weapon is the fabled Exo Stranger's Rifle, enhanced at a future point in this continuity and then sent back to this present… …on Europa. Late Golden Age. Deep inside a secret lab. "Which window?" "3025, Dr. Bray." "I thought we'd run out of possibilities there?" "We had… and then a new one popped up." "Austen-1, how is that possible?" "We don't know. We still don't understand how any of this works. It's highly volatile and uncontro—" "Have we pinpointed the weapon's exact location?" "…More or less. Elsie-1 is supposed to attempt retrieval tonight." "We can't risk the window closing before then. I'll be going this time." "But last time, those things in the sky almost killed you." "And now I know how they work. That's half the battle." The old man gears up and enters a strange metallic pod made from Vex parts. Austen-1 stands at a distance from the pod, typing "April 10, 3025" into a console. "All right, Dr. Bray. You're a go in 3… 2… 1…" A burst of light. An icy wasteland. What stood pristine moments prior is now dark, old, and falling apart, as if centuries have passed. Clovis wades through the wreckage and comes to a frozen, deserted battlefield littered with human, Exo, Vex, and alien bodies. He reaches down and brushes snow from one of the alien bodies, lifting one of its many arms. "Fascinating…" A piercing whir emanates from somewhere in the distance—Clovis looks up and sees a black and red ship floating in the air. It stops above the battlefield and emits a bright red light, scanning the area as if searching for something. Clovis slowly pulls a device from his pocket. He presses a green button, and the screen lights up, showing a blinking dot a few yards away. Very close to where the ship itself now searches. He grabs a dead Exo and opens a panel on its arm, tinkering before closing it with care. He quickly sneaks away, and in seconds, the Exo explodes, drawing the attention of the ship. He sprints across the battlefield towards where it was searching only moments ago. Using his device again, Clovis scans the ground until the blinking light goes solid. He digs into the snow until he hits something. He pulls it up halfway—a rifle, shining like new, etched only with one word: Now. Clovis attempts to fully free the weapon. But it's stuck; attached to something. He pulls harder, revealing an entire dead Exo, hand wrapped tightly around the grip. He takes a good look at its face and gasps. "Elisabeth…?" The whirring sound reaches Clovis's ears again, pulling him out of his stupor. The ship heads right towards him. Clovis pries the gun from Elsie's rigid hand and sprints back the way he came, diving into his pod and activating it just as the ship fires on him. A burst of light. "You could have been killed," says a familiar voice. "Instead, I got you a gift, Elisabeth," Clovis responds, catching his breath and dusting himself off. "One down, an infinite number left to go. It better have been worth it."He looks into her eyes and musters a half-hearted smile. "We'll make it so."
2603483885Cloudstrike"Tell us about the Stormherd!" Kellikin shouted. She resisted the urge to shush him because he'd been helpful earlier, yelling a warning to her when he saw the violet haze rising from the hilltops. It had given her time to call them into the bunker. Eldest of the children, he'd already experienced several voltaic squalls. "Okay. Gather round. Come on. Huddle up so I don't have to shout. "A long time ago, the raiders came every winter. They came and took nearly all our stored food, and many in our village starved. But then spring would come with time for planting, and another summer. In the autumn, we harvested as we are doing now. Each time, we stored even more food, and we hid it more carefully, in case the raiders returned. "And they did. When they saw that we had survived the winter, they fought even harder for our food, and found nearly all that we had hidden. And so it was, for too many years. They always took from us, never giving anything in return. "And then, one autumn night, there was a great rumbling. At first some thought it was thunder, but it was the roar of the raiders' quads in the valleys. They had come early! "Maybe they had a new leader. Perhaps they were too impatient for the harvest. We'll never know. "Because as the raiders roared through our village, a blue-white bolt of lightning struck among them—BOOM! Before anyone's eyes had cleared of spots, a masked stranger clad in robes and wielding a crook had killed a score of them. With her weapon, she hooked lightning from the clouds and hurled it, thundering among them. "They say there was something more than mortal about her, for those who were there said she could move faster than the eye could track, and her steps took her higher than anyone could leap. But eventually, the raiders surrounded her, and she fell to their guns. "Yet there was something else different about her: the storm crow. It flew at her shoulder, and when she fell, it looked upon her body, and under its gaze, she rose again. "This time, she pointed her crook to the sky, and clouds moved at her command. Our people fled as thunderbolts stampeded through the village. Our homes were not safe. Only our root cellars, like this bunker, were a refuge. "No one emerged until the thunder ceased rolling. The raiders had fallen or fled. None would return, not until three winters had passed. And now, raiders only trouble us outside the village. "So when you see the purple mist rise from the hills and hear the thunder, that is your sign to take shelter. And when you hear the rumbling roll through the village, it just might be the Stormherd, come back to make sure we're safe." Thunder rolled again, but only a few children started. All looked to the ceiling and wondered.
3487253372The LamentFROM THE DESK OF CLOVIS BRAY Dear… me. For one who has delved into some of the greatest secrets science has to offer, you would think I'd find speaking with oneself rather monotonous. However, this very letter represents a successful culmination of all I have worked to achieve. You'll have questions, no doubt. Hopefully by now, the AI has answered most of them. Except one: Why? Legacy, of course. …Is the answer you'd expect from me. And rightfully so. It's not wrong, but it's only part of the story. Frankly, I'm alarmed. For all my successes in scientific research, I have lacked any substantial findings of an afterlife. All I can find is death. An infinite nothingness. No remembering my loved ones, no seeing them again. No feeling their touch, or hearing their voices. In my pursuit of eternity in this reality, I have foregone those niceties. Abandoned them. But you are a second chance. An opportunity to continue what I started, and hopefully in time, make amends with those I've wronged. Attached to this letter, you will find a gift. A blade built just for you. Keep it close. Never let anyone else take it. Stay alive. For legacy.
2399110176Eyes of Tomorrow
3460576091DualityIt was a trophy hunt. One of Baron Spider's precious associates—the title he bestowed on those truly loyal to his cause—had vanished. Spider suspected treachery. He demanded Crow take to the field and come back with an answer; something Spider could use to encourage loyalty, he said. Something he could mount on his wall. Crow had tracked the associate to an unexplored corner of the Tangled Shore, but when he finally crested the ridge, he saw exactly what he had expected. The trail ended at a cryptolith, which jutted crudely from the dark basalt. The whispers of Xivu Arath had caught another of Spider's toadies—just like the last one, and the pair before that. But as Spider said, he wasn't interested in "mights and maybes." He demanded proof. Crow knelt in the shadow of the cryptolith, the Lure already in his hands. There were recent Eliksni tracks in the fine blue sands; a dozen or so individuals. Nothing he couldn't handle. He pulled a vial of condensed Ether from his belt and slotted it into the Lure. The concoction bubbled as it mixed with the soulfire inside the reservoir. Moisture beaded on the Lure's thin metal casing. He drove the mount into a crack in the ground, adjusted the output, and watched as the thick pheromone mist rolled away from the Lure. He waved Glint over and the pair headed to a rocky vantage point. He tinkered with the compression on his modified Shotgun, placed it across his lap, and prepared himself for the worst part: listening to the cryptolith broadcast its malignant sermon. He felt the presence of the spire itch on his skin. Crow tried not to stare at the grotesque totem as it twisted and hummed, but he felt profoundly uncomfortable when its pulsing light was out of his sight. It was as if he was being hunted. Crow adjusted his weapon sights again as his silent vigil continued. He felt the stress beginning to wear on him. Waves of throbbing pressure emanated from the tower. His eyes ached. He concentrated on his breathing. Glint flew to a nearby boulder to scan an interesting patch of lichen and Crow closed his eyes, trying to quell the nausea building inside his head. Hushed whispers surrounded him. He felt as though something reached out and caressed his chest, just above his heart. The scent of perfume, soft and familiar… "Crow," Glint said. Crow's eyes snapped open. "I see them." A group of Eliksni Wrathborn were approaching the Lure. One among them wore the telltale quills of the House of Spider. Their movements were uncoordinated but had the troubling strength granted by subservience to Xivu Arath. "They're already gone," Crow said bitterly. The Wrathborn came upon the cryptolith. They were distraught, ranting. Their fury was rising. They lifted their voices in harsh clicking speech and tore at the ground around the Lure with their otherworldly power. One passed Crow's perch, and he could see it: cloudy eyes, slavering jaws, an aura of wrath shimmering around it like a heated haze. It charged toward the rest and its rhythmic howls of rage joined theirs. "They're chanting," Glint whispered, his curiosity forcing him to peek at the growing horde. "The syntax is garbled, but I could translate—" "Don't," Crow said. "Please." He looked down the sights of his weapon and started his work.
370712896Salvation's Grip[in winding Eliksni script:] This power bestowed by the Dark was given first to the Eliksni—not to the machine-children, who are unlucky second-borns, unstoried and short in their memories. Just as the Great Machine touched the Eliksni first, so too does the Dark—though where the Great Machine's touch was fleeting, the Dark lingers. [a scribbled note:] the cold Dark is an ENDLESS lingering [in winding Eliksni script:] Encased in the cold Dark, you cease to be a flesh-and-blood thing but become a memory thing, a thing of stillness. To have memory is to be storied and to be storied is to be worthy, yes, but to be still is to be dead. We have not been still since the Long Drift, and we will never be still again. [scratched hard into the page:] stillness is more than weakness, it is NOTHINGNESS [in winding Eliksni script:] Instead, we will make still and dead the things that seek to scratch out our memories, so they themselves will be dead-memories. We will mark this place as the Great Machine marked our home, and our story will be told in the scars we leave on this world. —Notes on Stasis, or "the cold Dark," attr. to Kridis, trans. from Eliksni by Eris Morn
981718087Deafening WhisperThe Acolyte shuffles amidst the carnage of the battlefield. It lopes blithely beneath the impassive statues of Awoken Techeuns, unable to make the abstract connection between the memorials and the stiffening corpses. It sorts through all materials with equal interest: blood-stained cloth, stone rubble, burnt paper, viscera. It examines an empty bandolier. It chews on a clump of hair. It does not consider the taste. The Acolyte rolls over the upper half of a corpse bisected by Tulkor's void eyes. Unlike other enemies, this one clutches a thick black tube. Not flesh, but metal. It pauses. Weapon? Its grasps the tube and pulls, prying the tube from the enemy's rigid fingers. It remembers hearing the tube roar. Seeing explosions stagger The Ferocity of Xivu Arath. Weapon. For the first time since the assault began, the Acolyte glimpses the Final Shape. With this weapon, the Acolyte could ascend. It could impose Logic. This weapon could destroy— Its incipient thought is interrupted by a hollow crunch. The Acolyte's eyes go dim. It slumps to the ground as a Knight dislodges its sword from the Acolyte's skull. It tosses away its subordinate's corpse with one hand and picks up the grenade launcher with the other. A fine weapon. Worthy of a Knight of Xivu Arath.
2714022207Corsair's WrathThe Corsair reloaded behind her improvised barricade as Shredder rounds sizzled overhead. She wished she had better cover. The Hall of Names hadn't been constructed with defense in mind—apparently nobody dreamed the Awoken would be assaulted here. She reloaded her fusion rifle and assessed their situation. It was dire. Unless Leona Bryl's team managed to roll up the Hive's southern flank, her squad would be overrun. At least the Hall of Names was a fitting place for a last stand. She was six rounds short of a full clip. She turned to her left to ask Lira for extra ammo, only to discover her teammate slumped over, blue skin already going grey. The thick purple ichor of a soulfire round oozed from the hole in her chest. The Corsair gritted her teeth and looted Lira's kit for ammo. The Corsair finished reloading and popped her head back over the barricade. She downed three loping Acolytes in quick succession before even noticing the ogre looming in the background. It was enormous—at least seven meters high. She unloaded her fusion rifle into its face, trying to burrow rounds through its armored hide. She managed to blow off a chunk of its upper jaw before her rifle clicked empty. The Corsair dove back behind her barricade, ammo spent. She looked around the Hall for the last time, admiring the elegant statues, her chest swelling with bittersweet pride. The faces of her people, Techeuns and Queens, presiding over the battle. She remembered what Sedia had said to her long ago, before things got out of control: "We are only briefly Awoken. The rest of our existence is an eternal dream. And in that dream, we will all—"
1513993763Friction Fire"What do you mean, 'lost'?" The Spider's tone is filled with ill-concealed fury. He leans forward in his throne. "Their Pikes were equipped with trackers. Why didn't you chase them down?" Brivi kneels in front of Spider, all four of his palms on the ground. "Their Pikes remained. They are outside. Just the crew was gone. And the crates." He does his best to appear compliant by tamping down his quills. "Gone. In the middle of the Reef. On foot. With over a million Glimmer in weapons. Something about this doesn't add up." Spider motions to Avrok and Ahrrha, who advance on Brivi with Molten Welders raised. "But we'll get to the truth of things soon enough." Brivi begins to panic. "Please, Baron Spider. If it were not truth, I would not come back." Avrok prepares to melt off one of Brivi's upper arms, and looks to the Spider for the order. Before Spider can speak, Crow steps forward from the wings. "If I may, my Baron…" Spider gestures for Avrok to hold, and turns his attention to the Lightbearer. "What is it? If you don't have the stomach for my discipline, you have permission to leave the room." "It's not that, Baron. It's just that Brivi's account is consistent with several other instances Glint and I have seen out on the Reef. We think it has something to do with those Hive constructs." Crow spares a sympathetic glance toward the prostrate Brivi. "Besides, what Brivi says is true. If he were in on the theft, he wouldn't have come back. If you'll just allow Glint and me to retrace his steps, we may find out what happened to the road crew. Who knows… we may even retrieve the weapons." Spider relaxes in his throne. "Very well, Crow. Go find my weapons. And if you locate the road crew, you know what to do." "Yes, Baron." Crow turn on a heel and strides from the room. Behind him, he hears the Spider growl, "Avork, you may proceed."
4184808992Adored"You are late. This is an insult." Brivi, the Eliksni leader of Spider's road crew, leaps from the back of his Pike. He brandishes his Wire Rifle with his lower arms and bristles his helmet quills to emphasize his grievance. "The Spider expected this shipment yesterday." The Human smuggler shrugs in irritation. His steely eyes bore into the glowing lenses of Brivi's helmet. "I don't give an Ogre's steaming turd what the Spider expects." His hand drifts towards his Sidearm, resting gently on its handle. "If he has another way to get City Age gear out of the Tower without the Guardians noticing, he's welcome to try." The three other members of Brivi's crew snarl at the insult and power up their Arc weapons. Brivi holds up one of his upper arms to stay their tempers. Killing this Human would only further anger the Spider. "Show your wares." The smuggler snorts. He opens the cargo hatch on his jumpship with a depressurizing hiss, revealing several crates of gleaming weapons. He smirks with derision as the road crew's demeanor instantly changes from hardened gangsters to kids in a candy store. They immediately begin fondling the weapons, admiring the City Age craftsmanship. Brivi picks up a brass-colored Sniper Rifle bundled in rich purple cloth. Its fine scrollwork and elegant barrel make it seem more like a musical instrument than a gun. He wonders how wealthy the Humans must have been to put such artistry into something so utilitarian. He wonders how many other treasures molder in the room this was stolen from. He wonders how many Eliksni this rifle had felled in its time. Beside the Human weapon, Brivi's scrap-repaired Wire Rifle looks pathetic and disheveled. He resents its shabbiness. It reminds him of why Humans call his kind "the Fallen." Brivi drops the Sniper Rifle to the floor with a careless clunk. "Load this junk," he growls, "so we can go."
2453357042Blast BattueRc-9: This is Vanguard Militia Scout-ship: Recon-9, making my report via VanNet proxy satellite. I have completed my sweep through the Reef and am filing an incident report hence forth referred to as Inc-01, should it be referenced. Shuffling is heard as the speaker adjusts. Papers sift and the microphone crackles slightly. Rc-9: The basis of my visit to the Tangled Shore was to conduct routine Vanguard/Reef security sweeps, as agreed upon since the day of incursion. I was escorted most of the way to the Shore by Awoken gunships, and only landed once my long-range scanner picked up a sub-audio reading emanating from the underbelly of one of the larger asteroid landmasses. The speaker clears their throat. Rc-9: I called in the disturbance to a nearby Awoken vessel and was told to, and I quote, "Mind my own business and be on my way," so naturally, I thanked them for their assistance, feigned departure, and landed to check it out. They didn't seem to notice the signal. At the signal's source, I discovered a small camp of what I initially thought were Scorn. Upon further observation, I found that these were not Scorn but Fallen afflicted with some kind of flesh deformity and mental degradation. Shot one dead and the others just looked at me. They didn't fight back. Fired a few cesium charges into the asteroid hole and watched 'em burn. Just sat there. I didn't hear it clearly, but they were chanting something. I don't know. Hard to hear over the fire. The speaker laughs to themselves and emulates popping noises. Rc-9: I heard more of them whispering a little deeper in, so I waited for the area to burn out and continued inside. I found one structure of apparent Hive architecture, though it did not appear to have been constructed in any traditional sense… but then again, I don't know what I should even expect from the Hive at this point. A single Fallen was inside, became violent when I approached and brandished a weapon. The weapon was not loaded, and I put them down. Rc-9: My logs will show a few recovered pieces of equipment that I will list now. One presumably organic section of the Hive structure. It is perpetually wet, just… great job on that, and causes dizziness and blurred vision when held with ungloved hands. It also has the unnerving ability to project dysphoria or general unease. I was asked to collect a sample for study by my CO. I've done that. Put it in a lead box all the way in the back of the cargo hold. Yeah. Eternal tithings to Xivu Arath. Whatever. Um… as I was saying. A tin is heard being unlatched. Rc-9: Also recovered: one tube-style Grenade Launcher. It has no foundry markings. Definitely not Fallen, and I don't think the Scorn even know how to make weapons. Do the Awoken make Grenade Launchers? Always struck me as a Human weapon. Beautiful weapon. The thing wants to be used. Maybe I'll get an opportunity to use it before I get back to the Tower. Lastly, I recovered a locational tracker from one of the Fallen. Following it back to someplace else in the Reef. Little remote. I'll call in my findings once I've finished there. Rc-9: Beautiful weapon. The recording cuts.
2776503072Royal ChaseVanNet/PRXC SCOUT WIDEBAND//:AudCHNL-33295, Public//:LogSkew-859128312785 VGS-6: You still tracking that monster near Saturn? PXC-0: Yes. Nil-1 is holding position directly over Titan. On mark… uh, 27 hours. Rotating off in three. VGS-6: Long shift. You Praxic boys are cold. Regret your induction yet? PXC-0: It's not a problem. We don't sleep. VGS-6: Right. [Dead air.] VGS-6: I mean, you do sleep. PXC-0: Negative. VGS-6: Come on. I've met Guardians before. PXC-0: We do not. VGS-6: Don't make me call in the Gunny. PXC-0: Your Gunny would know better than to argue with the Order. VGS-6: Okay, listen JEFF. You're not THE Order. I don't give a sh— PXC-0: Quiet. Energy rev spooling from the target… VGS-6: What? You said it was basically dead. PXC-0: Basically… Verim, record this. Establish direct feed uplink with NavTAC. PXC-0-Verim: Uplink connectivity is spotty. Gravitational anomaly detec—no it's collaps— [Inaudible. Interference.] [Dead air. Silent minutes.] PXC-0: (Breathing heavily) NavTAC, return. Link reads as established… NavTAC, return. Telemetric positioning pins us on the opposing side of Saturn. Displacement reads as roughly 470,000km. Titan is… Titan is gone. This doesn't make any sense. PXC-0: NavTAC. Vanguard Recon, come in. Tower actual? Harriet, are you out there? [Signal Redacted] [Transmission Redacted]
2334069598Any Other SkyI'm back at the start. It's always confusing, even on my third (fourth?) time around. There's Cayde-6. Zavala. Ikora. The parade. I can't waste time here. Too many lost moments. I need to… find… whom? Damn it. Think. Ana? No. Who?! Or is it… what? I'm so disoriented. I remember pieces of past attempts, but not every detail. There has to be something I can do to make the refresh easier. Maybe new gear or tech. If my family's legacy has anything to offer, it's technological advancements. When I wake up, I need something familiar to ground me. Something I can carry back with me. It could be small. I need to think ahead. Plan more. Even though I seem to have an endless supply of it, time is still a precious commodity. The more time squandered, the more likely I am to repeat the mistakes of past attempts. I do remember trying to warn the Vanguard. They regarded me as another doomsayer and had me promptly removed from the Tower. I'm sure I sounded like a raving lunatic. By the time I was proved right, it was too late. Eris was corrupted, like always. Drifter lost to his hopeless pursuit. No one believes me. No one trusts me. I need to stick to the shadows. Something is happening around this time that's preventing me from making a discernible impact. Somewhere, there is the key to stopping this. I will find it. I've been given an opportunity to right the wrongs of this world. Instead of hurtling headfirst without a plan, I'll stock up. This time, I'm going to focus on making the next cycle better. Let's call this one a wash. I'll save you next time, Ana. Cheers.
2877837241FirecrestThe tinker circles the massive Sparrow, assessing his work. He nods in satisfaction. One would never guess that two weeks ago, the thing was a shrapnel-ridden wreck. Just as he begins polishing, there's an ominous pounding on the garage door. The tinker takes deep breath, and opens up to find a full fireteam in the street. The Warlock strides into the shop while the remaining Guardians lounge on their Sparrows, idly examining their weaponry. The Warlock makes a slow circuit around the Sparrow. "Nice job on the bullet holes. Half-assed polish job, though." The Guardian's ferocious helmet makes it impossible for the tinker to tell if she's joking. "Stabilization fixed?" The Warlock mounts the machine and hits the ignition. "Yeah, but obviously I couldn't test it at speed. If it wobbles on you, bring it back for free." The tinker nervously eyes the Pulse Rifle slung across the Warlock's back. Suddenly, a smallish robot is floating beside the Warlock. The tinker had seen Ghosts before, but never this close. It speaks. "This is irrational. I'm capable of reproducing your Sparrow on command and in mint condition. Why pay this person to repair your old one? It increases the failure rate by 18% at minimum." The tinker stares at the Ghost, his face reddening. He had worked day and night for two full weeks on this Sparrow, and the proceeds would keep his shop open for another three months. It was the biggest job he'd had in a year. "I know, but sometime you just need that Human touch." The Warlock taps the datapad on her wrist. "Glimmer's in your account." "Thanks. Come back anytime." The tinker holds out his hand and the Warlock shakes it, like in the old days. "See?" The Warlock says to her Ghost as they rejoin her fireteam. "Well worth the money."
4101640411Icon of "I. The Prisoner"I. The PrisonerIn the depths of the Prison of Elders, Eramis is the Kell of No House. Outside, she is the firebrand of House Devils, the archfiend of Twilight Gap, the Shipstealer. But here, she has no house. Here, she reigns all on her own. In the arena, where Eliksni runts and leaderless Cabal challenge her, she rules with a broken Arc spear for a scepter. It's the strongest weapon they'll give her, and she bends it to her will. No matter how many times the Ether-fat guards try to send her to her death in that arena, she triumphs. She kills their champions; watches the Ether hiss from their masks. Watches the gel leak out of their suits. She begins to cherish the smell of a good fight. Blood. Sweat. Ether. Fear. She imagines that one day, a banner will be emblazoned with a broken spear and an inverted crown. House of Anarchy. House of Riot. House of Eramis. House of Nothing. When there is only one Kell, there is no need for houses. Today, she fights a Centurion of the broken Red Legion. Money changes hands. His pauldrons are scuffed with the memory of battle, and he's been given a War Hammer. He raises it to cheers and peacocks for the crowd. Eramis tosses her broken spear between her hands, waiting. Two glowing, pinpoint eyes focus on her as the Centurion turns. He swings the hammer at her, and she rolls out of the way. He swings it again, but she's behind him now and out of his sight line. Like a creature searching for a fly on its back, he struggles to find her. She jams the sparking head of her Arc spear into a notch in his armor and uses the leverage to vault herself onto his shoulder. He rages like a niirsai beast, all fury and stupidity, and nearly throws her from his shoulders. She tries to pull her spear free, but his giant hand knocks her senseless for a moment. The spear releases at the last minute; she grabs the top. Arc energy bites her palm as she jams the tip of the blade under the edge of his helmet and into his neck. He screams. Before he falls, she leaps off and lands on her feet. The crowd never cheers for her. Instead, they whisper. No prison will hold Eramiskel, they say. Eramiskel is a devil greater than the Devils themselves. Eramiskel does not know how to lose.
4101640408Icon of "II. The Wolf"II. The WolfThe neighboring cell holds a Wolf. She ignores him at first. He's too greedy for her acknowledgement. Sometimes, he reminds her of the needy Dregs that followed her old Kell like carrion birds, squawking for attention and squabbling over his kills. What the Eliksni have lost, more than anything else, is dignity. Eventually, the Wolf learns to intrigue her. He calls himself Praksis, and he has ideas. But he's young. He thinks every idea he conceives of is the first and best of its kind. She suspects he's never had to report directly to a Kell. He likes to talk about machines—building them and bending them to his will. He has a mad idea about recapturing the Great Machine, binding it in Arc wire, and making it give them its power. He's been listening to the stories about Ghaul. She lets him talk, and she asks him questions. Every question is a whetstone. Every conversation is a test, and it will only take one failure to lose her interest. "The Great Machine made the Eliksni great," she says. "Until it left us. When it did, we were weaker than when it arrived. Why do you seek its touch again?" "To return us to that strength," he says. His voice is muffled through the wall between them, but the arrogance comes through clear. "How can you build strength on a foundation of weakness?" she asks. Each word is a needle. Each word should sting him with revelation. He remains silent. "Did the Great Machine make the Eliksni strong, or did it draw out the strength within us?" she asks. Again, silence. She tilts her head back, looking at the dark ceiling of her cell. "Reliance is the greatest weakness. Remember that. You are playing with a child's stacking spheres." He's silent so long that she begins to wonder if he was worth her time. Then, he says, "I will create new spheres." She closes her eyes and smiles.
4101640409Icon of "III. The Traitor"III. The TraitorOn the day of the prison break, Eramis is nursing a gut wound. It's not fatal, or at least she doesn't think so. She won the match in the arena, but not before an arrogant Captain drove a Sword into her side. It cut through her Devil robes and left a bloom of blood that reminds her of the water flowers on Riis. Athrys loved water flowers. She's dozing when Variks arrives at her cell. "Eramis." She opens her eyes and then narrows them immediately. Despite the wound, she stands—too quick, she gets dizzy—and steps toward the cell door. "Traitor," she says in greeting. Variks flinches. He shakes his head, lowers his eyes. Even with the door between them, she can see his fear. It buoys her. "There is change to come," he says quietly in Eliksni and then looks over his shoulder. His eyes dart back and forth, fearful, suspicious. He switches suddenly to the clumsy common language of the Guardians. "Change Variks will make, yes? Change Variks will lead. But Variks, too, will need a leader…" Eramis laughs. "You wish to make me your prisoner-Kell?" "No," Variks cringes. "Variks wishes—" "I do not care what you wish, Variks the 'loyal'," she says. There are Eliksni who change in the shadow of prison bars. They fall. They shrink. But Eramis has grown. She must show Variks that even with this steel between them, he is smaller. He is still a Dreg pretending to be a vandal. "If there is justice in this world, one day, I will dock your last two arms and leave you for dead." Something in Variks's eyes hardens. They share a tense silence. Finally, he says, in a voice as cold as Ether, "Do not say that Variks did not try to help." He leaves, and Eramis settles herself again on the floor of her cell. Later that day, an alarm sounds. The warden projects a message in Variks's voice. The doors of her cell open, unprompted, as frenzied Eliksni and Cabal charge through the prison, thirsting for freedom.
4101640414Icon of "IV. The Visionary"IV. The VisionaryIn the first several months of her freedom, Eramis curses Misraaks the Forsaken. He is a wish-to-be Kell, a captured traitor, a four-armed Dreg cringing before a false queen, playing pretend among the enemies of the Eliksni. And worst of all, the most humiliating: he has beaten Eramis. She has failed to acquire the SIVA weapon, failed to shame the Guardians, failed to reignite the fires of the House of Devils. Her failure haunts her. Now she sits in the bridge of her stolen Ketch, straight-spined, staring. Staring at some distant point that she has long passed, one she can never return to. Atraks, youngest of her council, watches her from across the room. She closes the gap between them. "My Kell," she says. She has a voice like a child. Eramis is quiet for a beat longer than she needs to be. Finally, she says, "You are too young to remember the old house. What the Devils were before." Atraks bows her head out of respect. "This failure has no sting for you," Eramis bites, bitter. Atraks keeps her head bowed. Then, slowly, she raises it. Her eyes dart over Eramis's face, searching. "I am too young to remember," she agrees. "But my eyes are clear. I can see what the Devils will be." Eramis opens her mouth to remind Atraks of her place, and then pauses. Something in her mind has unlocked. She stands to her full, towering height, stretches her second set of arms. "No," she says. Clarity has descended on her like a Riis rain shower. "The Devils are nothing." She begins to walk out of the room, purpose in her step, fire reignited in her belly. "The Devils are dead." House of Anarchy. House of Ruin. House of Eramis. "We must become something new."
4101640415Icon of "V. The Nightmare"V. The NightmareAs she dissolves the old bonds of House of Devils, Eramis is haunted by shadowed dreams. In one, she relives Twilight Gap. She lunges, driving a sword into the belly of a Guardian-soldier, grunting as they yell and crumple forward. Another Guardian rushes at her head-on before she has time to yank the Sword free. But she hears the sound of a Shock Rifle firing behind her… and leans abruptly to the right as the shot flies by and hits the Guardian before her with full force. She looks back to see Kridis, shimmering with the purple glow of the Void as her Servitor shields her. Kridis tips her head in acknowledgement of Eramis and turns to fire the rifle into another cluster of Guardians. Eramis rips her Sword free and forges ahead. They are closing in on the city now. Guardians are falling all around her. They are so close. Fast, heavy footfalls come up behind her—Phylaks, ferocious and bloodthirsty, shouts to Eramis as she attacks a towering, broad-shouldered Guardian. Eramis ducks and slides out of the way. As Phylaks makes contact with the Guardian's head, Eramis slashes the beast across his side with her Sword. He loses his balance, and she kicks his hip, tipping him toward Phylaks. In these days, Phylaks almost always fights with her bare hands. She breaks his neck. Eramis pushes forward. They are so close… A ferocious laugh erupts to her right, and then the thundering blast of a Scorch Cannon. Taniks, a blur of whirring machinery, creates explosions of earth and flesh and blood all around them. He keeps laughing. So close. But then… before her, a blinding flash of gold. She sees Eliksni burst into flame and ash around her as a gun fires one shot after another. Pools of shining light are the only trace of the victims. The Guardian wielding the gun is like a tiny sun. Another shot. Kridis's Servitor. Another—Kridis herself. Eramis remembers losing, but she does not remember this. Doesn't remember seeing Phylaks evaporate into blowing ash. Doesn't remember the shot that hits her in the chest, or the burning fire that explodes through her limbs, or her own scream… She wakes with a jolt, breathless.
4101640412Icon of "VI. The Herald"VI. The HeraldThe dreams persist. They are old memories, but twisted: battling a Guardian in the Prison of Elders and falling before their Light; Athrys banging on the walls of her sleeping pod, calling for the Great Machine. She can't sleep. Something in the dreams tells her to travel to Earth's Moon, and she follows the sign. On the Moon, she fights through corpse-stinking Hive like swarms of flies. Their fetid stench is unbearable, worse than the carcass piles at the prison, worse than the battlefield of Twilight Gap. They eat and breathe death, and she resents their breath upon her, so she cuts through them like so much tall grass. A Knight stalks her deep into the catacombs, staying on the edge of her hearing, matching her footsteps. She lets it make the first strike, and when it does, she cracks its exoskeleton armor with her Sword. The thrill of the fight—hearing the Knight howl as it meets death—is almost comforting. A reprieve from her unsettling dreams. She's painted with Hive blood as she continues her advance, and when she finally comes upon the ship, a familiar sight causes her to freeze in her tracks. She remembers this fleet. She remembers seeing them in the sky like black arrows. She remembers the space where the Great Machine was, and then the blank space where it wasn't. It was all a lesson in dependence, one that took many years to learn. This time, the black arrow speaks to her. She knows it's not Eliksni. It's not one of the clumsy tongues of Earth, nor the lilting speech of the Reef. It is something else: a whisper. But one that is so loud and somehow understood so perfectly. Stop waiting, it says. No one is coming for you. You must be your own salvation. She feels something in all four of her hands, a tingle, a buzz. It reminds her of the broken Arc spear. She clenches and unclenches her fists, staring at the sleek surface of the ship. There's power here. Power that she can grasp. But not yet. A waking dream strikes her like lightning. She's transported. The bleak, gray dust of the Moon falls away, and she stands in a white plain of whipping ice and snow. It blinds her, chases her breath away. Then she is on the Moon again, and the whispers are silent. She knows where she must go next.
4101640413Icon of "VII. The Scribe"VII. The ScribeEramis and Variks stand in the shadow of a half-constructed city. Her people have salvaged bits and pieces from the Eliksni hideouts across the system and lashed them to the ruins of a Golden Age facility, building something new from something old. It's Eliksni flesh on the bones of humanity's failure, nestled in the icy tundra of Europa. She watches Variks's face as he looks up. There is something familiar there. An awe that she remembers from a long time ago. "It will be a new Riis," she says, raising her eyes to the scaffolding before them. "A new home for our people. No more running. No more living on the outskirts." Variks looks away finally to meet Eramis's eyes. "What of the Devils?" He speaks Eliksni. It surprises her. "Old names," she says, dismissive. "Leave the old names and the old ways in the past." Just as she remembers, Variks doesn't let his awe stand in the way of practicality. His gaze has turned appraising. "And why choose this place? Why choose this frozen moon?" "I saw it in a dream." She can feel his skepticism. She doesn't blame him, actually—since the prison break, he's been hiding somewhere, some forgotten corner of the system, waiting for judgment to come. He gifted his people with freedom, and then built himself a cell of isolation. He can't see beyond what he thinks he knows. "And why did you call for me?" he asks. There is a hardness in his voice. "After everything. We are not allies, Eramis." "Old ways," she says again. "If the Eliksni are to survive, we need to abandon all memory of division. Petty squabbles, house politics… I want to wipe it all clean." She looks up at the scaffolding again. "This will be a new world, Variks. New ideas. New stories. We will be known and remembered as something new." Variks follows her gaze. Now his voice has softened. "And why me?" Eramis turns to face him fully now. He fears her still—she sees it in the hunch of his shoulders, the way he turns his face to the side, as if looking at her head-on will hurt his eyes. "In the new world," she says. "I will need a scribe."
4101640402Icon of "VIII. The Council"VIII. The Council"Old friend." There's a bloody grin in Phylaks's voice as she clasps Eramis's hand and pulls her close to her chest. Kridis stands behind Phylaks, tall and ethereal. They're exactly as Eramis remembers them. Phylaks chuckles. "I always said no prison will hold her." Eramis laughs, easy and familiar. It's as if nothing has changed. She's transported back to her House Devils days. The days of assignments in the darkest, grimmest parts of her old stomping grounds: the Cosmodrome, with no one but these two for company. They laid waste to members of encroaching houses, razed human settlements to the ground, dreamed about the day they could challenge and strike down their own Kell to take up the mantle for themselves. But Kridis looks behind Eramis, not at her. And soon, Phylaks does the same. Her eyes narrow. She lurches forward, past Eramis, to grab Variks up by his neck. "Traitor Dreg," Phylaks hisses and spits. "Cringing little—" Variks scrambles and kicks like a creature in a trap. "Phylaks," he gasps. Praksis and Atraks stand to the side, waiting to meet the veterans of the old house. They watch without concern, though Praksis looks pleased. They do not intervene. Phylaks tightens her fist. "Let him go," Eramis says. Phylaks looks at Eramis, and then drops Variks. She says nothing, but Eramis can feel her disapproval. Kridis's too. Doubt creeps into their minds… "His crimes are undeniable," Eramis says, dismissive. She doesn't look at Variks but hears his tortured breathing as he scrambles back, away from Phylaks. "But he's all that remains of House Judgment." "You've no special love for scribes," Kridis says skeptically. Eramis inclines her head. "No. But a scribe who can draw the ear of the Reef Eliksni?" Phylaks grunts in understanding but still looks unimpressed. She returns to Kridis's side. Kridis, on the other hand, looks pleased. "Clever," she says. Before they can question her further, Eramis changes the subject. "But I didn't call you here for politics." She gestures with one of her secondary arms. "Come. Let me show you what we've built."
4101640403Icon of "IX. The Kell of Darkness"IX. The Kell of DarknessWhen the obsidian ship descends on Europa, Eramis is prepared. Her council by her side—Variks, Phylaks, Kridis, Praksis, and Atraks—she greets its arrival with bated breath. The foreign whispers return. This time, they say… Do not wait to be chosen. Choose for yourself. Choose salvation. Eramis boards the ship and chooses strength. It is in this moment, as she holds this cold and ancient power in her hands, that House Salvation is born.
3072887025Icon of "X. The Warrior"X. The WarriorI am Phylaks, once-warrior of House Devils, once-child of home-Riis. I speak now to Eliksni still-scattered. Listen close. There is no repeating. Death to House Devils! Ashes to Home-Riis! I cast off these useless things, and I pledge my life here to Riis-reborn, to Eramis and her House Salvation! I fought many battles and found no warrior above the knife-will of Eramiskel. Together, we sieged the walls of the Earth-city with weapons in every claw! Side by side, we spilled life-force across the system. No Ketch was out of her reach! No death could seize her! Even enchained by the wretched Reef-born, she grew only stronger in mind and body. Chelchis, Skolas, Aksis—resurrect them all and watch her reduce them to Dregs. Her new-claimed power is beyond any they wielded. Beyond any our people ever knew. And she will grant it to all who unite under her banner! Even now, as lieutenant, I share in that with her. Side by side, our bodies thrum with the same ice-cold energy. Energy to drag the Great Machine from the sky and fortify our new city with its metal hide! Energy to defeat the wretched of this system and feed our children with the battle-bounty! Energy to reign beyond a thousand lifetimes. All you, now hear: I am Phylaks, the Warrior of Darkness! Life to Riis-reborn! Victory to the Kell of Darkness! Glory to the House Salvation!
3072887024Icon of "XI. The Technocrat"XI. The TechnocratThis is Praksis, the Technocrat speaking from Riis-reborn. It has become evident that, even as our numbers grow, many Eliksni have yet to accept our Kell's invitation to take part in the long-awaited progress of our people. Thus, it falls on me to make an argument I did not think I would have to make… No. That is false. I did anticipate some degree of cowardice, obstinacy, stupidity—whatever you might call it—but only in the beginning, when we lacked evidence for our endeavor. At this late stage, however, when Eramiskel succeeds where all others failed… Alas, I might find it hard to believe if I could not see the empty spaces in our half-filled capitol. Or heard the whispers of doubt sown by the weakling of House Light. Yes, even from this moon of some distance, I can tap into your transmission, Misraaks. Others may call you Forsaken, but I dub you Foolish, clinging still to that moon-sized obsolescence. Do you forget the lesson we teach our children? A Ketch laden with the unnecessary will never fly. As for those of you following in his example, placing your faith in peace with our enemies… well, what good are the words of a scientist if you ignore what is before your own eyes? I can only encourage you to truly think. What proofs have your alleged allies offered of their loyalty? Their willingness to share equally with you? How have you benefitted, truly benefitted, from them? If you answer, "None yet," or "I don't know," I admire your patience. For myself, for my Kell, for all of us of House Salvation, the time has grown too long and the failures too many to invest in such a flimsy experiment. The Eliksni must update our approach if we are ever to rise. Either join us as we march toward progress… Or be swept aside with the vestigialities.
3072887027Icon of "XII. The Priestess"XII. The PriestessEliksni! Kridis, the Priestess, cries out to you across the abyss! As we speak, the once-Shipstealer brings the promise of our people to pass. Soon we will rise to true prominence, united under one banner and one Kell—with no gods but ourselves. For who withstood the Whirlwind? Who pieced together Ketches and armories out of ruins and scraps? Who roamed the vast expanses for generations, subsisting on drips of Ether and facing endless battle? Who survived?! We did! Not the so-called Great Machine nor the idols we crafted in its image. The Eliksni survived! So why do we pine still for a light that shines not on us? Why do we kneel to the Servitors that we created? Because we are afraid. Because—for all that we've suffered, for how long we've traveled—we clung tight to the belief that we were meant for a higher existence, meant to evolve beyond our current forms. If only the Whirlwind hadn't cut off our people from godliness too soon. This, I believed as well. I mourned the death of our collective potential in our rituals and rites. Felt the acid-burn of despair in my body as I received succor from our Prime Servitor. Dreamt of the day I turned my weeping eyes up to the sky and found it empty of salvation. I was blind. But Eramis removed the Light from my eyes, and now I see. So I entreat you, children of Riis. Come receive clarity for yourselves! Witness the greatness of the House Salvation and the Kell who leads it. Rejoice, for she who brought our Servitors low where they belong will do the same to the Great Machine! The light holds nothing for us now. Long we have traveled in darkness. Now is our time to embrace it!
3072887026Icon of "XIII. The Wildcard"XIII. The WildcardI am Atraks, the Wildcard, and I have been charged by my Kell to speak to the youth of the Eliksni. Those who, like me, have never known a life that wasn't wandering. Who have no memories of Riis, only tales of glorious cities under glowing green skies passed down from our elders. The very same ones who moan that we have never felt true peace, which can only be found under the shade of the Great Machine. Well, I, for one, am glad for it! I could not be more grateful the Whirlwind came to slice the ties before I was entangled too! They told us it was destruction that visited that day, but what if it was salvation? They called us unlucky to have been born in the dark of deep space, but we were born free! They say we lack the Light to truly see, but when we first opened our eyes, there was nothing to block our view of the vastness of the universe. So why do we let the nostalgia-blind point the way? Why do we carry their dead dreams? They have turned their backs on the future! I say, let them! All the easier to strike them down and finish the cleansing started long ago. Then, you can join us on Riis-reborn.
3072887029Icon of "XIV. The Scarred"XIV. The ScarredHa! So, the Kell of Winter seeks the aid of Taniks, the Scarred. How formal! Wasn't long ago you called me self-serving scum and spat at my banner-less armor. I might've ripped each and every one of your arms from you then. And torn off your legs for good measure. But I sensed one day, you'd come begging for my services. Lucky I am such a vulgar mercenary after all, eh? It works in your favor now, that I hold payment above pride. Payment not just in Glimmer. In blood and battle too. No one Kell, no one house has been able to slake my thirst. No one job, either. Though… a break-out of the Prison of Elders might come close. But for Aksor? You ask me to pass over far-greater warriors for that impotent Archon? You think he will serve you better than Peekis, the Disavowed? Than Pirsis, Pallas-Bane? Than Calzar, than Drekthas? You'd choose Aksor over the Shipstealer?! Eramis, who led the charge at the Final Attempt? Who hurled herself at the wretched Lightbearers, who moved so quickly I would've sworn she had eight arms? When your pathetic Winter-ones followed in her footsteps, they had to wade through the flood of life-force she left in her wake. And still you wonder why I refuse my house-pledge. You could conquer the system, but you'd rather adhere to these arbitrary customs. Aksor belongs to Winter, and Eramis does not. Twice my usual price. The fee is for my restraint. It will take what little I have to free Aksor over the fiercest of Eliksni fighters.
1215310598Icon of "I. KETCH"I. KETCHThere is a saying among the Eliksni: Ketch is Kin, Kin are All. Out in the Reef, the detritus of civilization is all there is. Out in the Reef, ruins are as much landmarks as planets and moons. The flotsam of derelict colony ships from the Golden Age flood the atmosphere along with the ruined hulks of Hive ships from campaigns fought against the Awoken. For the Eliksni, finding the wreckage of a Ketch is like finding the ruins of a family home, and all the emotions that come with it. But the societal scars of Eliksni clans have long since vanished, and for those who bend a knee to the Spider in the remote corner of the Reef known as the Tangled Shore, they have lost the privilege of such sentimentality. A salvage crew was dispatched the week after a small scouting party from the Spider's personal fiefdom spotted the wreckage of a Ketch belonging to the lost House of Kings. The crew chief on the operation, an ambitious Vandal named Kosis, had shed her attachments to a life within that very house years ago. But the choice to leave something behind and the act of doing so are two entirely different things. Kosis insisted first on surveying the wreck herself, alone, before allowing her team near it. They were to take anything with even a shred of value after unceremoniously cutting the vessel from bow to stern. As they marked it for dissection, she watched them from a nearby escarpment. She looked around and carefully revealed the small bundle of vestiges she personally salvaged from the Ketch: a ceremonial washing bowl, a child's musical instrument, and the cracked ceramic effigy of a Servitor. Kosis covered them with a tattered cloth the color of the setting sun—branded with the symbol of a house she no longer called hers—and buried them. It was the only dignity this ship would receive.
1215310597Icon of "II. RATIONS"II. RATIONSAs dusk fell over the frontier of the Tangled Shore, the salvage crew assembled their shelters in a loose circle around the downed Ketch. The Dregs begrudgingly established guard posts on overlooks surrounding the camp, with nighttime sentry rotations to match, and the crew's scrap-work Shank orbited the site on alarm mode. Savek seethed as she and the other Dregs dug out their guard posts. These precautions were meant to deter competing parties from biting the crew's claim, but it was a waste of energy this far out. The foreboding quiet would betray any approaching Pikes. Once camp was established, each crew member received an Ether ration commensurate with their station. Savek tried not to hunger as she watched Kosis inhale three full portions of the life-giving essence; more than twice her own share. The Spider had given them just two tanks—partly as a cost-saving measure, and partly as an incentive to get the job done quickly. Later that night, a crewmate woke Savek from her deep slumber. "You're late. Northwestern posting. Two-cycle shift," the Dreg grumbled. Savek clicked her mandibles in irritation and trudged wearily into the deep violet gloaming of the Shore. Savek was nestled in her dugout at the top of a wide dune, trying not to fall back asleep, when she heard a faint whisper. An urgent, familiar call from the far side of the dune, away from camp. Savek bolted upright. Maybe someone wandered away from camp. Or maybe, she thought subversively, someone secured a portion of Ether and needs an accomplice. The latter possibility sent her scuttling down the dune. When she reached the bottom of the slope, she found herself alone. Yet the beckoning whisper persisted, voluminous as an explosion and gentle as a caress. It came from a rocky cave no larger than Servitor. Savek drew her rusted Shock Pistol, clicked on her light, and peered into the cave. There, she saw it: the small black tower, poking gently out of the ground, like a babe in swaddling.
1215310596Icon of "III. WORTH"III. WORTHSavek returned to the camp as quickly as possible. Her excited description of her discovery was bold enough to spark Kosis's curiosity. Savek was keenly aware that failure to deliver on such a claim would be punishable by more than the docking of an arm. They gathered two Dregs, but by the time the four reached the structure, Savek could see it had changed. Where once only darkness filled the space within its frame, a hint of sickly green light now shone. Tendrils of smoke wafted from the apertures, as though it were an incense brazier. Kosis immediately strode forward and assessed the nodule crowning the surface of the barren rock. As the Vandal knelt beside the structure, she saw deformed latticework-like veins protruding through and eroding the stone, as though the object was grown rather than constructed. Kosis waved the Dregs over. Pressure began to build inside her head, behind her eyes, as the ground rumbled. They sprang back, away from the structure; the artifice sprang to life in turn. It twisted its way out of the ground, spiraling upward and outward, spreading open like a terrible biomechanical flower. Only when the eruption halted did Kosis feel the pressure in her head recede. It was undeniably of Hive origin, but Kosis had never seen anything of the sort. This implication, this realization—perhaps this was novel to the Spider as well. If that were true, this piece of "living" Hive technology would be worth more than Ether. Perhaps… Kosis gestured to the now towering length of living metal. "Take it apart."
1215310595Icon of "IV. RETURN"IV. RETURNFour-meter lengths of wafer-thin metal from the Hive artifact were laid out side by side amid the scrap pulled from the innards of the Ketch. Even disassembled, the Hive tower was intricate. Multi-layered. Woven metal latticework coiled in ever-tightening concentric cylinders. Each could spin independently within the larger housing. Maddeningly complex armatures were contained within, lubricated by gristly, living tissue. Kosis had marked the Hive salvage specifically for the Spider's attention. It wouldn't be shipped off to marketplaces and storehouses like the remains of the Ketch—finds like this were of special interest to him. Kosis considered sending a missive ahead of the shipment but thought better of it. If she weren't there to present the find herself, another ambitious Vandal or Dreg might try and take the credit. Spider would probably promote the usurper strictly out of appreciation for their cunning. Kosis was so focused on ensuring the safety of her salvage that she hadn't noticed Savek and the other Dregs running into camp from the direction of the cave. Kosis stood, Sword in hand, half-expecting a mutiny. But from the fear in Savek's eyes, Kosis quickly realized it was anything but. "It returned!" was all Savek could exclaim. The Dregs confirmed: the dismantled structure had regrown in a matter of hours. Kosis ordered the trio to lead her back to the site, to see it with her own eyes. A part of her yearned to see it again. Much to Kosis's disbelief, their assertion was true. The structure stood as tall as ever, emanating its hideous green light. A pang of dread shook Kosis to the core. Her mind flooded with memories of childhood stories about the Whirlwind and the onslaught of the Hive. "Leave it," she ordered. "Leave it and do not return." It was a command, though one born of fear. The tower whispered an unheard counteroffer into her subconscious. <<Come.>> <<See.>>
1215310594Icon of "V. WHISPERS"V. WHISPERSSavek found herself standing at the mouth of the cave when she woke. The first touch of violet pre-dawn was sharpening the horizon. She stared at the Hive construct, her head crooked as her eyes traced the languid movement of its concentric metal turbines. She inhaled its luminous green vapor. <<Seek the whispers—they are faint, but they are calling.>> She remembered putting in a full day's work on the Ketch, carefully disassembling the remnants of the gyroscopic stabilization system. The delicate assignment required her normally sure-handed touch, but that day, she was distracted and unfocused. In a moment of inattention, she cracked the gyroscope's ceramic housing, reducing its resale value by half. <<The cutting word is a doorway—the first syllable of hated salvation.>> "You've ruined it. That's coming out of your share." Kosis was suddenly standing behind her. How long had Savek been staring at the broken gyroscope? "Flaws diminish the salvage; half portion of Ether and double guard shift. Another mistake, and we leave you behind." Those last words were less literal and more a euphemism mutated over time through Eliksni cultural drift. The Dregs lowered their heads as Kosis strode off in the direction of the Ether tanks, then turned their palms toward Savek in sympathy. <<Cleanse thyself of your decay, then will the mind be free to understand the value of transgression.>> Savek remembered dragging her exhausted body to her guard post. She remembered watching the lazy debris of the Reef float by. She remembered speaking with someone in the darkness. Someone reassuring and powerful. Who was it? She tore her eyes away from the obelisk and surveyed her body in the thin morning light. Her dry skin flaked. Connective tissue wasted at her joints, and a sickly crust had developed around her mandibles. She was emaciated from lack of sleep and Ether. Her hunger was a void, slowly filling with green vapor. <<When imagined, your potential will infect, and spread.>>
1215310593Icon of "VI. SACRIFICE"VI. SACRIFICEKosis dimmed her datapad display and did some mental calculations. Even accounting for the delay brought on by the Hive artifact, they were still far behind schedule. If the situation didn't change soon, compromises would have to be made. Either she had to return with less salvage than anticipated, or she had to stretch the Ether reserves to buy more time. She'd have to reduce her own share. Or reduce the size of her crew. Kosis knew what Spider would choose. She began cycling through crew members, deciding which one to cull, when the sudden silence of the moment struck her. No Arc cutters sizzled. No grunts of effort or idle chatter. No clangs of loaded salvage. Just the empty wind and the whir of the rusty Shank making its usual rounds. A dull pressure built in her thorax as she surveyed the abandoned work site. She searched for any explanation except the one she knew to be true. With the holster unclipped on her Shock Pistol, she set off toward the Hive construct. There they were, sitting idly in the dirt, staring into the slowly churning spire. They paid her no mind. She tried to speak, but only dull clicks escaped from her mandibles. When she finally found her voice, it came across as a croak, barely audible above the deafening whisper of the tower. "You lot. Get back to work." Several of them turned and stared at her quizzically. They seemed confused. The smallest Dreg and newest to the crew, stood up. He approached her calmly, his voice the howl of the Whirlwind. "Those born only to live cannot see eternity, nor are they welcome here. If you dwell on that which is beyond your grasp you—" The peal of the Vandal's Shock Pistol tore through the air, rupturing the crew's trance. Several leapt up while other scrabbled away in disorientation. They stared as the young Dreg slumped to the ground, his face disfigured by a blistering hole. The whispering had ceased. In the silence that followed, Kosis found the rest of her voice. "I just extended our Ether rations by three days." She backed away, her Pistol held level. "Hurry up. We're leaving as soon as that wreck is stripped."
1215310592Icon of "VII. SWORD"VII. SWORDThe Ketch that once belonged to the House of Kings lay on its side now, the vessel's underbelly stripped down to the curving superstructure supports. A half-kilometer of power cabling spooled out from the middle of ship, forming a path that lead to the salvage team's tents. From the escarpment overlooking the salvage site, the Ketch looked like the disemboweled remains of some great beast. Kosis wondered, as she sipped on a hand-tank of Ether, if this is what her people had become. Carrion birds to the rotting carcasses of their society. She wondered how many more generations of Eliksni it would take before the old ways were entirely forgotten. If any Eliksni born today would know how to play the instrument now buried on the overlook. Would her daughters be proud of how she had chosen to survive? She wondered where their bones were scattered. Wondered if they suffered when the House of Kings was torn apart. The sound of footsteps pulled Kosis from her thoughts. She affixed her Ether flask to her belt and rose to greet whomever was coming. It was Savek. Alone. "Your shift isn't over," Kosis firmly reminded the Dreg. Savek lunged forward with a Sword—Kosis's own weapon, stolen from her tent. She sucked in a breath, which might have exited her as a cry of confusion had the Dreg not buried the Sword hilt-deep in her throat. Ether sprayed into the air, comingling with blood. The blade ground against her spine as she slid, helpless, down the length of the Sword. As she fell to the ground, her vision tunneled dark, her extremities numb. Savek screamed a primal and unfathomable wail. The Vandal's last thoughts were of the Kell of Kells. Then, nothing.
1215310607Icon of "VIII. UNMADE"VIII. UNMADESavek supplicates before the obelisk. It looms over her, listing from the cave entrance into the bruise-colored sky. Its black metal surface writhes and undulates like wormflesh. It whispers of victory and transcendence. <<To claim evolution one must be unmade.>> The throb of Ether courses through her prone form. She can feel the longing itch of her arm stumps that yearn for regrowth. Sickly sweet Ether leaks from her body, mixing with that of her crewmates. <<Flesh and mind are but cages—become unbound, or remain ever unworthy.>> Savek's claws dig convulsively into the grainy dirt as her body ruptures. Her skin gives a grisly rip as her viscera expands beyond its confines. The thick glow of Ether is joined by another more ravenous force. Plasm spurts from connective tissue as her body swells, molting and regrowing in an eruption of chitin. <<Your prison of the flesh is being unmade, your mind freed—such glories do not come easy.>> <<Allow the flesh to give of itself, that it may surrender to the coming evolution.>> There, kneeling before her new god, Savek's mind is broken and remade in continuous motion. She watches as her memories are deconstructed into images without association. She observes her identity dissected into the unknowable motives of a stranger. She watches herself transform from She into It. <<You will know—through the pain, through the fear—there is no longer a you that was, only what comes next, and all the pain to follow.>> <<As the old self falls away there will be only suffering.>> It raises its head for the first time, and finds the tower likewise transformed. The black spire opens like a birthing cavity, yawing forth a new realm. The breach draws the creature into a massive cathedral hall with malachite suns roiling overhead. Here, the whispers are all-consuming. <<As the old self falls away there will be only suffering.>> <<There will be only suffering.>> <<Only suffering.>>
587249704Icon of "TEST NO: 142 - Radiolarian Fluid Ingestion"TEST NO: 142 - Radiolarian Fluid IngestionRECORD: 3923E112$EUR-0.280 SUBJECT: Security Log E-098 TEST NO: 142 - Radiolarian Fluid Ingestion - Trial 1 STATUS: CONFIDENTIAL IDENTITIES: C. Bray I, J. Wong, Patient 01 LOCATION: Europa – Deep Stone Crypt [C.B.] How does it taste? [P01] Metallic. Coarse. Something else… [C.B.] Does it feel digestible? [P01] It feels… nourishing. It's cool. I can feel it making its way through me. [J.W.] This is encouraging. No immediate effects. [P01] No… I… wait. (wincing) [C.B.] What is it? Talk to us. [P01] Feels like… it's attacking my stomach— (vomiting) [J.W.] Sir, his heart rate is spiking and his pressure is dropping. Damn it, he's losing fluids at an alarming rate. [C.B.] Exciting, isn't it? What's going to happen? [J.W.] He's going to die. That's what's going to happen. [C.B.] Fine. Send in the medic units. [J.W.] Not sure if it's safe. We don't know if this is contagious. Could go airborne. [C.B.] How else are we going to find out? [J.W.] …We send in the medic units.
587249707Icon of "TEST NO: 167 - Radiolarian Fluid Injection"TEST NO: 167 - Radiolarian Fluid InjectionRECORD: 4087E201$EUR-0.311 SUBJECT: Security Log E-127 TEST NO: 167 - Radiolarian Fluid Injection - Trial 1 STATUS: CONFIDENTIAL IDENTITIES: C. Bray I, J. Wong, Patient 02 LOCATION: Europa – Deep Stone Crypt [C.B.] That's twice now. Direct consumption and direct injection yield similar results. [J.W.] Airborne has been disproven, but direct contact with the fluid still produces corruption. [C.B.] I wish you wouldn't call it that. It's not corruption. It's reprogramming. I'd like to bring Helga into these sessions. She has an engineer's mind; she'll find the workarounds we need. Slimmer units, stronger materials, alternate power sources. [J.W.] I would advise against that. She's… the pursuit of science isn't always her top priority. [C.B.] When she sees what we're seeing—the precipice of a new age—she'll fall in line. [J.W.] I like working without jurisdiction. Wasn't that the point of us coming out here? With her track record, it'll only be a matter of time before the human ethics organizations come down on us— [C.B.] When did I ask for your opinion on this? Send in the clean-up crew and prep the next patient. [J.W.] …Sir. His arm… it's transforming… [C.B.] Would you look at that. [J.W.] It appears to be replacing cells on an individual level. [C.B.] Can it be contained? Is there a way to stop the spread? [J.W.] We can amputate, but at this rate, I doubt we'd be fast enough. [C.B.] Perhaps exposure to Clarity would slow it down? We need to control this, study the arm. If he's going to die anyway, maybe we just amputate and pair the arm with another patient. [J.W.] But we don't currently have any other… Oh. [C.B.] Wouldn't you like to have a shiny new arm? Don't you want to be stronger? Invulnerable? [J.W.] … [C.B.] Don't act so surprised. You know what we're working towards.
587249706Icon of "TEST NO: 259 - Transtemporal Crossing"TEST NO: 259 - Transtemporal CrossingRECORD: 4987E230$EUR-0.403 SUBJECT: Security Log E-205 TEST NO: 259 - Transtemporal Crossing - Trial 3 STATUS: CONFIDENTIAL IDENTITIES: C. Bray I, J. Wong, Participants 01–05 LOCATION: Europa – Eventide Colony [C.B.] Send them through. [J.W.] //Participants, step forward through the portal. Maintain your grasp on the tether. Count to ten and step back out.// Final bet: older or younger? [C.B.] Older, but if they come back younger, I'm going in next. [J.W.] (laughs) I think we should get through more clinical trials before you subject yourself, sir. [C.B.] Here we go. They're through. [J.W.] Countdown: 10, 9, 8, 7, 6, 5, 4, 3, 2, 1… //Pull the tether and bring them back.// [C.B.] Where are they? [J.W.] The tether appears to be stuck. [C.B.] Pull harder. [J.W.] //Tighten the winch.// It looks like it may snap. Maybe they like what they've found. [C.B.] Or something is holding them there. [J.W.] It's giving. Here they come. (whip noise) (splashing sound) [C.B.] Oh, disgusting… you smell that? It's permeating through the glass. What are we looking at? [J.W.] Ugh, looks to be complete cellular deterioration. They're just… mushy goop, for lack of a better term. [C.B.] Guess I won't be going in yet after all. [J.W.] Seems there are still some things man was not meant to conquer. [C.B.] If you believe that, you're in the wrong place, Justin. Just needs a little fine tuning.
587249709Icon of "TEST NO: 312 - Exo Arm Attachment"TEST NO: 312 - Exo Arm AttachmentRECORD: 5002E290$EUR-0.435 SUBJECT: Security Log E-222 TEST NO: 312 - Exo Arm Attachment - Trial 4 STATUS: CONFIDENTIAL IDENTITIES: H. Rasmussen, C. Bray I, Patient 32 LOCATION: Europa – Eventide Colony [H.R.] //How about the index finger?// [P32] Uhh… no. [H.R.] Extremities remain unresponsive. //Are there any sensations at all?// [P32] Phantom ones. I have an itch I'd like to scratch. My chest feels heavy, like someone is sitting on me. [H.R.] While nerve endings are attached to the mechanism successfully, we are not generating action potentials. [C.B.] This isn't working, Helga. [H.R.] Still progress. You'll have to settle for that. [C.B.] I typically don't settle for anything. [P32] Hello? I'm struggling… to breathe. [H.R.] He's experiencing a massive myocardial infarction. //Send in the medic units.// I fear my earlier hypothesis was correct, and the human body in its current evolution cannot sustain the physical exertion the machine parts demand. [C.B.] Then we should evolve. [H.R.] Oh, okay. Let me just jump ahead one hundred million years real quick. [C.B.] We've had some interesting advancements in post-transcriptional modification—gene splicing—with primates, fish, and some birds. What if we built stronger Humans? Could they withstand this process? [H.R.] I'm an engineer, not a geneticist. I don't know if your ape-man can wield a metal arm. [C.B.] That's such a reductive and tasteless comprehension of what I'm proposing. [H.R.] He's flatlined. We've lost him. [C.B.] Well you know what they say. If at first you don't succeed…
587249708Icon of "TEST NO: 088 - Nuclear Power Exo"TEST NO: 088 - Nuclear Power ExoRECORD: 0872E136$SS-0.032 SUBJECT: Security Log A-123 TEST NO: 088 - Nuclear Power Exo - Trial 01 STATUS: CONFIDENTIAL IDENTITIES: C. Bray I, D. Chambers LOCATION: Morning Star Orbital Platform / Europa – Coordinates Unknown ---Incoming call from MSOP. Caller ID: C. Bray--- [D.C.] Sir, we're prepped and standing by for you order. [C.B.] And the reactor is stable? [D.C.] Stable and ready for installation in the Exo body. [C.B.] If this works, generations will praise the work accomplished today. [D.C.] Sir, if you don't mind me saying, the team would have liked you to be here personally. Would have been a vote of confidence for them. [C.B.] May I remind you, it was your insistence we find an alternate power source to Clarity, even though it already has proven to be a success. Besides, if that reactor explodes with me present, it would be the single greatest loss our civilization could suffer and would damn us all for eons to come. Now get on with it. [D.C.] Yes, sir. //Install the core.// Are you able to see well enough? [C.B.] I'm watching with bated breath. [D.C.] Calculated distance of 3 millimeters… 2 millimeters… 1 millimeter… We're in. //Lock the chassis. Switch on the alternator and reroute power supply.// [C.B.] Nothing is happening. [D.C.] (sighs) It would appear not. [C.B.] If nuclear power isn't a sufficient power source, perhaps there are other uses… [D.C.] It's non-compatible, at the very least. [C.B.] It is interesting to note that the chassis may be able to house other forms of power with similarly destructive potential. We may have a walking bomb on our hands. ---Call ended.---
587249711Icon of "TEST NO: 109 - Food Supplement"TEST NO: 109 - Food SupplementRECORD: 1224E209$SS-0.113 SUBJECT: Security Log A-280 TEST NO: 109 - Food Supplement - Trial 15 STATUS: CONFIDENTIAL IDENTITIES: C. Bray I, A. Fältskog, Patients 27-31 LOCATION: Morning Star Orbital Platform [C.B.] Okay, Agatha, what do you have for me? [A.F.] We took your proposal and ran with it. We've distilled and condensed enough nutrients and proteins down to a single pill that should eliminate the need for sustenance within your average patient for 10 years. [C.B.] That's a start, but I'd like to get that number higher. I'm tired of stopping to eat. Imagine what this can do for productivity, not to mention military efforts. Next on the chopping block is sleep. [A.F.] We administered the pill 24 hours ago to five patients. [C.B.] Let's see how they're acclimating. [A.F.] //Patient 27, how is your appetite?// [P27] I don't have one. I miss food, but I think it's habitual. [A.F.] //Patient 28?// [P28] My stomach feels full. [P30] Too full, actually. [A.F.] //Anyone else experiencing this?// (murmurs of confirmation) [C.B.] That's to be expected, I suppose. Must be a bizarre sensation. [P29] Ma'am… I'm actually feeling pretty sick. (groans) [P31] Is there a bathroom I could use? [A.F.] //After we conclude this check-in.// [P27] I don't think it can wait. [P28] Ugh…what's happening… (groans) My stomach… [C.B.] Their stomachs are expanding. Fix it. [A.F.] I… uh, can't. (groans) (retching) (screams) (burst) (burst) (burst) (burst) (burst) (fluid spilling) [C.B.] Agatha, clearly we have not found our solution. I'll leave this, hm, mess in your incapable hands. Don't ever bring me up to witness an event like this again. Disgusting.
587249710Icon of "TEST NO: 140 - Clarity Control Exposure"TEST NO: 140 - Clarity Control ExposureRECORD: 1560E308$SS-0.287 SUBJECT: Security Log A-322 TEST NO: 140 - Clarity Control Exposure - Trial 03 STATUS: CONFIDENTIAL IDENTITIES: C. Bray I, M. Muñiz LOCATION: Morning Star Orbital Platform [M.M.] Sir, we have reports coming in from Clarity Control. [C.B.] About time. Well? [M.M.] They're dead, sir. [C.B.] How many? [M.M.] All of them. [C.B.] And they all came in physical contact with it? [M.M.] No, sir. Some were merely within proximity. I have a recording if you'd like to see it. [C.B.] Right away. ---Recording plays.--- "Did it… you all hear that?" "Hear what?" "It's speaking…Mom? Is that you?" "No! Don't go near i—" (unintelligible screams) (choking) (fluid spilling) ---Recording ends.--- [C.B.] Fascinating. It appeared to be communicating with them. I wonder what it said… [M.M.] With your permission, we'd like to quarantine the area and restrict all access. [C.B.] I'd like to try a different approach. Send in some fresh faces. Tell them nothing, except to keep their distance. I'd like to know what it's saying.
587249697Icon of "TEST NO: 167 - Bonus Appendages"TEST NO: 167 - Bonus AppendagesRECORD: 6880E465$EUR-0.832 SUBJECT: Security Log E-411 TEST NO: 167 - Bonus Appendages - Trial 08 STATUS: CONFIDENTIAL IDENTITIES: C. Bray I, D. Chambers, Patient 103 LOCATION: Europa - Eventide Colony [D.C.] We're confident we've isolated and solved the issue. [C.B.] I know success is possible. It's been shown to me. [D.C.] Yes, you mentioned the vision previously, sir. We believe that the transition was too jarring. This time, we've fabricated some memories within the patient. This should lead them to believe that the extra arms are in fact part of who they are. [C.B.] Good. I don't want to have to watch another catastrophically expensive Exo tear itself to pieces again. [D.C.] //Let's bring the patient online please.// We've already completed the initial awakening seminar, so as not to waste your time. [C.B.] Did they see the tower? [D.C.] They did, sir. //How are you feeling?// [P103] Not great… Where am I? [D.C.] //Please stand and explore the full range of your mobility.// [P103] What do you want me to do? [D.C.] //Raise your arms.// All four seem functional. [C.B.] Don't celebrate yet. They seem to be moving in tandem. Can they move each one independently? [D.C.] //Please move each arm. Individually.// [P103] I… can't. I can't. I can't. What's— not mine. What's. Get them off! Off! (screaming) [C.B.] It would appear they're on the verge of a psychotic break. (metal tearing) (screaming) [C.B.] Dr. Chambers, next time you run this test, I want you in the room with the patient. You understand? [D.C.] …Yes, sir.
587249696Icon of "TEST NO: 512 - Ice Wielding"TEST NO: 512 - Ice WieldingRECORD: 6882E467$EUR-0.838 SUBJECT: Security Log E-419 TEST NO: 512 - Ice Wielding - Trial 03 STATUS: CONFIDENTIAL IDENTITIES: C. Bray I, J. Wong, Exo 98 LOCATION: Europa – CMC [C.B.] Are we ready to introduce our Exo marionette to the future? [J.W.] Energy transfer initiated. [C.B.] I love that sound. The sound of progress. [J.W.] We're at 15%. [C.B.] Look at his hand. Magnificent. [J.W.] The ice is concentrated at the palm. Now at 20%. [C.B.] Imagine the look on Abram's face if he walked in now. The man has no vision. I don't trust people like that. [J.W.] Agreed. Threshold at 25%. Now would be optimal. [C.B.] Let's see what he can do. //Try to focus the energy into a controlled burst.// (loud hum) (blast) (impact) [C.B.] It went right through the wall. [J.W.] I'll pop the champagne. We're at 30%. Should we stop? [C.B.] No, keep going. We can have him chill the champagne for us. (laughs) [J.W.] Passing 35%. The ice appears to be spreading up his arm. I think we should pull back. [C.B.] Keep. Going. //Another round of blasts for us!// (loud hum) (hum intensifies) [C.B.] Blast, damn it! Blast now! (hum intensifies) [J.W.] Sir, the ice is permeating throughout his body. (hum intensifies) [C.B.] He's turning into an icicle. //BLAST!// [J.W.] He's unresponsive. Killing the feed. (hum subsides) [C.B.] Is he still alive? [J.W.] He's frozen solid. It's possible he'll still be operational. [C.B.] Incredible. We forge ahead under strict lock and key. I want this under my control, no matter the cost.
1251508579Icon of "LETTER 1"LETTER 1Dear Traveler, My name is Micah. I am ten years old and a human. You probably knew that second part, but my Papa says there were probably lots of different intelligent species where you come from, so I wanted to be specific. Where are you from, by the way? I'm from Mars. But right now, me and my Dad are on our way to join my Papa at a brand-new colony on Europa! Papa is the lead quantum engineer at BrayTech, which basically means he builds super-cool computers. He's so good at it, he gets to work with the Clovis Bray on all the top-secret stuff. He even designed some of Rasputin's hardware! I hope he shows me what he's working on. He used to do that, back on Mars. "It'll be a good learning opportunity for you," he'd say, "But only if you promise not to tell anyone." And I never have. Even though my friends back home bugged me about Papa's work all the time. My old home, I mean. Soon Europa will be my home, and you'll be my new next-door neighbor over on Io! I wish we could pass by you on the way so I could see you up close, but Eventide (that's the colony) needs supplies and Dad is supposed to start working right away. He's a psychologist. I don't really get what he'd even do for BrayTech. All he does is ask people how they're feeling over and over again. Maybe they need him to train a Warmind like Dr. Ana Bray did. Only instead of language, he'll teach it how to analyze its dreams. Dad always teases Papa that a human brain is a lot harder to work with than a hard drive. Maybe Papa got him on one of his projects to finally prove him wrong. What do you have: a hard drive or a brain? Are you an AI like Rasputin? Have you ever talked to him? Sorry if these questions are nosy. Dad says I'm super curious and that's okay, I just need to learn when to stop asking questions. Which is pretty unfair since he gets to ask me stuff all the time. Like right now, he asked what I'm writing. So I better encrypt this real quick and go. I'll write more later. Your friend, Micah
1251508576Icon of "LETTER 2"LETTER 2Dear Traveler, We finally landed on Europa. Before we got off the ship, they gave us official BrayTech snowsuits to put on whenever we go outside. The suits are super chunky and hard to walk in, but Papa says there's an extra-thick lining on the inside to protect against the bad ions bouncing down from space nearby. Plus it helps keep us warm. Did you know that at night, it can get as cold as 140 Kelvin? I wonder why Clovis Bray chose to build Eventide here, when you're over there terraforming Io? Even if you're not finished, it's probably way nicer… Still, I'm glad we're here. Seeing Papa again made me so happy I almost cried. (I didn't though.) Once, on the way here, I forgot what his face looked like. No matter how hard I tried, I couldn't see it in my mind. It was awful. He's grown a beard, so he looks different now. I like it, but Dad said he feels like he's kissing a polar bear. Papa said Dad'll grow a beard too once he discovers how much warmer his face will be. "Soon you'll have two polar bears for parents, Micah!" For now, I've got a penguin. A plushie, not a real one. I'm too old for plushies, but Papa told me it's from Clovis Bray. "A souvenir for your soon-to-be arctic adventures!" Plus it came with this mini version of an ion-shield snowsuit, like the one I have to wear. It actually looks pretty cool, so I think I'm going to keep it. Do you know about polar bears and penguins? Back before you came, they lived on Earth's two poles that had climates a lot like Europa's. But our technology was so inefficient, it was poisoning Earth's air and killing off whole species of animals and plants. Like the opposite of terraforming. I'm gonna name this penguin Mihaylova after the scientist-aeronaut on Ares One. Do you remember meeting her and Hardy and Qiao? Can you see their faces in your mind? That was a long time ago, way before I was born, but you've been around so long, human years must feel like a minute to you. If that's true, then expect to see me (except grown up with a beard) on Io one second after you get this. I'm still not sure how I'm gonna send my letters to you yet. Maybe they'll let me use a Warsat. I know those are really for high-level threats and stuff, but how many of those can there be? This is a Golden Age. Your friend, Micah
1251508577Icon of "LETTER 3"LETTER 3Dear Traveler, We've been here a week now, and so far, Eventide is pretty boring. Because of the snow and the danger from bad ions in the air, almost the whole colony is packed into this one underground building. The only people that get to go outside without special permission are the maintenance people and the Exos. Oh, right! I can't believe I didn't talk about the Exos! They did it, Clovis Bray and Papa and all the BrayTech scientists made real walking, talking, human-shaped AIs! I even got to see one when Papa was giving us a tour of the colony! It looked so cool and shiny. It even had these awesome glow-lights for eyes! I wanted to talk to it, but Dad said I couldn't be trusted not to ask too many questions, so he went over on his own. Papa told me that's why Dad is here: to talk to the Exos and analyze their "human-ness." He also said he thinks I can be trusted, especially when it comes to keeping my excitement to myself. Some people are scared of the Exos. Which I don't get. How can anyone be anything but amazed by them? Papa laughed when I asked him that. "You're like me. Always seeking out the new and interesting. We forget to fear what we don't know." But he didn't laugh long before he got serious. "Sometimes that can get us into trouble. That's why we have people like Dad to balance us out." That's when Dad came back, looking kinda worried. He wouldn't tell us anything because of "doctor-patient confidentiality." Which is annoying. That's what he always says! Except this time it doesn't make sense because they're not real patients. Before I could point that out, Papa asked if I wanted to peek inside the factory. Which, of course, I did. So we went around to the loading bay to look. I couldn't see much, but it was still cool. This is all supposed to be secret, but I think it's okay if I tell you. You're the reason we can do all this, after all. Your friend, Micah
1251508582Icon of "LETTER 4"LETTER 4Dear Traveler, I can't believe we've only been here a month so far. It's boring being inside all the time! Every day is the same. Dad wakes me up and makes breakfast––then leaves to join Papa at the Exo factory. Luckily, I have Mihaylova the Penguin to keep me company while I walk aaaaalll the way to the other side of the building for school. It's not a school, really. Classroom is more like it. There's only 50 of us kids, so they shoved us all in one room with two teachers, which is how I found out that everyone got a penguin plushie. I feel dumb thinking I was the only one, but also, it's kinda dumb of Clovis Bray to assume babies and big kids would want the same toy. Some of the older kids threw theirs in the recycling chute, but I managed to rescue one. I think I'll call this one Calumet. That's the aeronaut you didn't get to meet because she died on the way to Mars. That's the one thing that scares me. Not the Exos or anything else I don't understand. Dying right before a new discovery. Doing all the work to lead up to something new… then bam! Some stupid accident wipes me and the rest of my 290 years out. I read that before the Golden Age, people only lived to 100 years old if they were lucky. And by then, they'd be so sick, they couldn't get out of bed! Good thing you came along. I wonder how long the Exos are going to live. Probably forever, right? As long as they keep on top of caring for them… but I guess eventually, their hard drives would get erased by cosmic rays. Papa says that doesn't happen for thousands of years. Plenty of time for backups. Last night, I dreamed I was an Exo. I was standing in the center of a frozen lake in the middle of the night, with no snowsuit, and I didn't feel cold at all. The sky above was completely black, except for one bright moon in the distance. Just as I was looking up, wondering what to do next… Dad woke me up. At first I was mad, but he reminded me that dreams are messages from deep inside our minds. Until we figure out the message, the dream repeats. So, hopefully, I'll get to finish it tonight. Your friend, Micah
1251508583Icon of "LETTER 5"LETTER 5Dear Traveler, Today was definitely more interesting than it's ever been here in Eventide. At school, we took a trip outside to learn about Europa's climate. That's what our teachers said anyway. I bet they were just as sick of being stuck inside as we were. While we put our ion-shield snowsuits on, the teachers lectured us about staying in sight with a buddy. But of course, when we got outside, everyone went running in a bunch of directions. That's when I decided I'd learn more useful stuff over at the Exo factory with Papa and Dad. I didn't break the rules. The factory was in sight, plus I had two buddies: Mihaylova and Calumet. I knew I couldn't go in the front door without a badge. So I went around the side to the loading bay where there were two Exos unloading a bunch of crates. They looked like they were almost done, so I hid under the dock to wait for them to leave. Instead, I heard one of them sit down. "I'm taking a break. Need to or not, this is when we used to have lunch. I refuse to work through lunch." And the other one said, "I miss lunch. I miss getting hungry." Then the first one replied with this weird tone, "Hmm… so you would say… you're hungry for hunger?" Which made them laugh for a long time. When they finally stopped, the second Exo said, "What do you tell that shrink, by the way? You tell him about the whisper?" That's when I wanted to leave. I didn't like them making fun of Dad. Plus, the way they talked about food and dreams… it made me feel sick. So sick that I guess I made a noise because then I heard, "What was that?!" So I ran. I heard shouts behind me, footsteps catching up, a bang and a sizzle right over my head. Then two cold hard claws snatched me up. That's when I looked straight into its glowing blue eyes.
1251508580Icon of "LETTER 6"LETTER 6Sorry I didn't finish my letter last night. I had to stop for family dinner. Dad's been really strict about that lately. The other night, I thought his brain was gonna melt out of his ears because Papa was late. Anyway, the Exos caught me quick and one of them lifted me up so we were eye to eye and… I get why people are scared now. I mean, I was more scared of getting in trouble than anything else. But looking into those eyes was… Spooky. Almost like being somewhere so dark you can't see your hands in front of your face, though you can feel they're there. I couldn't look away, even as I heard the other one asking what they should do with me. If it'd be easier if I just went missing. Then all of a sudden, its eyes went dark, and I fell to the ground. A second later, it collapsed in a sparking metal heap next to me. I must've started running again. The next thing I remember was coming back to the empty classroom, holding Mihaylova and Calumet, and looking at the penguins that got left behind. Some of them were lying on the floor! For some reason, that made me mad. Maybe I'm too old for plushies, but at least I take care of mine. So I picked out the ones that looked lonely and ran home across the building to hide them under my bed. Then I went back outside to find my class, just as the teachers were counting everyone up. No one had even noticed I was gone. Which means they don't know who took the penguins either. So now I have nine penguins: Mihaylova, Calumet, Hardy, Qiao, Clovis, Willa, Alton, Elsie, and Ana. Your friend, Micah
1251508581Icon of "LETTER 7"LETTER 7Dear Traveler, It's been so long since I talked to you, I had to reread my last letter to remember what I wrote. We've been here almost three months now. Everyone is tired. Especially Dad. He's been so busy with his "patients" that he even called off family dinners. I make my own breakfast now. Though sometimes I wake up so late, I skip it. Remember that dream I told you about? I still haven't figured out the message and I've been having it every single night. It always starts the same. I'm an Exo, standing in the middle of a frozen lake under a black sky and a white moon. For some reason, I start jumping. Up and down. Over and over. Each time, I go a little higher and land a little harder. Sometimes I worry the ice might break, but then I hear a whisper. Saying I'll be okay even if it does. "I won't let you die before the interesting part." As I jump, the whisper goes, "Higher, higher!" Or maybe it says, "Closer, closer!" Maybe it's both. Last night, I went so high, I almost left the atmosphere. From there, I could see that the moon was you, hovering above Io. I reached up to break away from gravity and fly to you, but then a different voice yelled, "You're acting so selfish!" Which is when I woke up and heard Dad and Papa fighting…
1251508586Icon of "LETTER 8"LETTER 8I woke up from my jumping dream to hear Papa yelling, "You're so selfish!" and then Dad telling him to keep his voice down. Even whispering, I could still hear Dad say he wasn't selfish. The project was just too dangerous. "Not to mention useless! If Clovis wants stable and functioning soldiers, he shouldn't put them through trauma in the first place!" Papa said that the point wasn't to avoid trauma, but to prepare for it. That we should be able to protect ourselves without relying on you, Traveler. That something more powerful could come along, or you could turn on us. Which made me feel sick again. Papa's always told me about how much you've given us, how we should return the favor by learning and exploring and stretching the Golden Age for thousands of more years. But now he was saying… "Skip the ethics lecture and tell me: if you knew humanity could be wiped out in the next 50 years, wouldn't you try anything and everything to save us? To save our child?" It got quiet then. For so long that I almost went back to bed when I heard Papa again: "This DER stuff is hard, but I think the humanisms you suggested are the solution. In fact, I'll bet my life on it." Dad said that's what he was worried about. "I love you, but forget about being safe in 50 years. Micah needs to be safe here and now." He said some of the colonists were going home with the next supply ship. He hoped Papa would join us. Papa started crying then. I got back into bed and piled all my penguins on my head to block it out. It didn't really work because then I started crying, too. What's going to happen? Micah
1251508587Icon of "LETTER 9"LETTER 9Dear Traveler, This will be my last message to you. Maybe you won't see any of these messages anyway. Even if I knew how to now, I'm not sure I'd send them. I'm not sure about a lot right now. The next day was pretty normal. Papa made breakfast and walked me to school, which he's never done before. I think he was worried I heard their fight, because he said he was sorry for working so much. Then he asked if I liked it here. I didn't really know what to say, so I said yes, but I missed Mars. I think that still made him sad, because he said he was sorry again and said he'd spend less time at work. Dad's been working even more. At first, I thought that meant he'd changed his mind about leaving. But now I haven't seen him for a whole week and my stomach won't stop hurting. What has stopped is the dream. Two nights ago, I finally broke away from Europa's gravity. As I floated to you, the whisper followed: "Are you sure you know what you think you know?" I woke up before I got close to you. And last night, I didn't dream at all, which must mean I figured out the message. But all I have are these words stuck in my head. Are you sure you know what you think you know? This morning, Papa told me Dad's been sleeping at the factory because he's so busy, but soon he'll get a break. "And then we'll spend the whole day together as a family." I'm not sure, but I think he's lying. Tomorrow, the supply ship leaves for Mars and I want to go. So I've packed my bag and once Papa goes to sleep, I'm going to put on my snowsuit and go out to find Dad. I don't care if I run into a whole army of Exos. Maybe I'll take Mihaylova out of my bag and carry her. For extra support. That's probably dumb, but… I don't really know what else to do. Goodbye, Micah
4028955452Icon of "RECOVERED MEMORY; WEN-1"RECOVERED MEMORY; WEN-1JUNE3/10:43AM The walls are shaking again. Like thunder. I wonder how deep they've gotten now? Good thing we're so far in. This room was meant to hold. Too thick to breach, supposedly. We'll see if it crumbles under the weight of the Vex. "You're worried they'll get in here." It's almost like he can hear what I'm thinking… Then again, who knows what kinda dirty tech he put in our heads? "There are only two places on Europa I built to be impenetrable, and this room is one of them. Stop worrying, and activate the new model," he says. He's breaking protocol again. Every Exo and human in this room can see it. "Dr. Bray explicitly stated we were to wait for her return—" "I am the only Dr. Bray you take orders from now. We have to assume Elisabeth is dead." The talking robot head is just as cold as the old man was. What else would you expect from the psycho who died and made himself into an all-seeing AI? Here's to hoping the unconscious Exo in front of us is nothing like the real thing. "Now activate him immediately, or I will promptly deactivate you." Okay, okay. I trigger the Awakening Protocol. The Exo's eyes light up. It's confused. I remember that feeling. Who am I? Where am I? Where'd my skin go? At least we woke up with protocols in place. This guy's entering a war zone. Can't be pleasant. "Who am I? Where am I? Am I… metal?" the new guy asks. Called it. The AI takes the lead. "The answers to those questions are rather complicated, and our usual methods of easing you into this reality are not currently at our disposal. So I will attempt simplicity in my responses." The AI goes on to quickly explain where we are, what Exos are, how they work, and why they're important. "…And once you've completed your training, there will be a shiny new toy waiting for you to commemorate your accomplishment. Why? Because you're special. Unstoppable. A fighter and an intellectual—better than the rest. Nothing in the whole universe will be able to stop you," the AI finishes. "I see. That sounds… good. And who… what are you?" the new guy asks. "I'm glad you asked. I'm Clovis Bray. And you and I are—" "Why is he awake?" a voice demands. Dr. Bray—she's alive! Came in through the tunnel. This should be good. A couple Exos trail behind her: Noe-2 and Mia-9. "I thought you'd died, Elisabeth," says the AI, "So I asked Wen-1 here to wake him up." Dr. Bray flashes me an angry look. I ought to unplug the AI bastard. "So you broke protocol," she says. "I put the protocol in place, Elisabeth. I can break it. I only need someone I trust to initiate the signal." I can sense Dr. Bray's frustration. "The Vex are everywhere. We should be evacuating Europa. There's a group of survivors pinned down in Bunker E15. I need help rescuing them." "That can wait. I've equipped Charon's Crossing with an advanced signaling technology connected to the Warmind and his bunkers. If we match that to the communication signal used by the Vex, we could theoretically lead them off-world and salvage what we've built here. But the Vex have cut off internal communications channels and Cloud Memory Collection. You'll need to do it manually, Elisabeth," the AI says. "That'll lead the Vex straight to Mars. Earth. You've said it yourself: the Vex desire only annihilation. You're talking about billions of lives lost. I'll play no part in that," she says. "My sweet naive granddaughter. Humanity never stood a chance against the Vex, and those lives are expendable. Besides, each one lost is an Exo gained. Another soldier to fight against the Vex. The future is Exo. It's Bray. Our legacy—that's all that matters," the AI replies. The new guy's listening in. He may be a bit of a blank slate, but he's not digging any of this. Dr. Bray's jaw is clenched something fierce. Looks like she's gonna attack. I don't blame her. "Perhaps our legacy should be burnt to the ground," she says. "Elisabeth… are you planning to activate the Morning Star?" "Once I get everyone I can off-world, I'll do whatever I have to. We won't lose any more lives over this." Hell yeah, lady. "Everybody, listen up. Exos and able-bodied humans—I need you. Grab any weapons you can, and let's go," she says. We're all in. Weapons in hand, we start piling into the tunnel. Even the new guy, but Dr. Bray's not about it. "Hold on there. You haven't gone through any initiation protocols. You're not ready," she says. "If there are lives to be saved, that's where I need to be," the new guy replies. He's oddly determined. "Where you need to be," the AI interjects, "is with your family. Me." "Every instinct I have is telling me to reject you," the Exo retorts. Nice, new guy. I bet if Dr. Bray could smile, she'd be doing it right now. She grabs a gun out of a cache and tosses it to the new guy. "Perhaps you're ready after all," she says. New guy stands steady. Handles the weapon well. He's definitely ready for this; protocols be damned. "Elisabeth," the AI says. He wants the last word. As usual. "I will protect our legacy." "That makes two of us," she says and closes the tunnel door behind us. Badass.
4028955455Icon of "RECOVERED MEMORY; KNOX-4"RECOVERED MEMORY; KNOX-4MAY19/5:00AM Another day, another Forage into 2082 Volantis. It's always the same. Every time, we enter into the Glassway where the portal resides. Defensive protocols go into effect. Portal gets activated. We take out any Vex that come through, then Dr. Bray leads our unit inside for further resource collection and exploration. I hope they don't make me go first this time. Front line usually gets picked off immediately. "Knox, you're taking lead today," she says. Of course. "Understood, Dr. Bray." Portal's activating. Next step should be— "Dr. Bray, we have a problem," Dr. Ruiz interrupts. Great. Wonder what's wrong? "Talk to me," Dr. Bray replies. "Noe-2 noticed a critical error in our surveillance tech on the alien side of the portal. The sensors are offline. Can't tell what's coming through without them." "Has that ever happened before?" "…No." Dr. Bray takes a pause. Then, "Shut it down." "We'll need authorization." "I'm authorizing it." "His authorization." Clovis doesn't trust her to make the big calls. It drives her insane. "Listen, Esteban. Clovis is currently on a respirator in a coma. He's likely going to be dead within the next 24 hours. So, with all due respect, I am making the calls now—" *LOUD MECHANICAL NOISES* What was that? Came from the portal. Everyone's looking. Something's coming! *LOUD EXPLOSION* "MINOTAUR! FIRE ALL CANONS!" Dr. Bray yells. She's got this. The Minotaur's coming through. We're firing. Nothing's working. Maybe she doesn't got this. "ROCKETS!" another Exo screams. Dr. Bray's trying. We're all trying. This thing is something fierce. And it's not alone. "We've got Goblins!" someone exclaims. They keep pouring through. Non-stop. I'm firing away. This isn't normal. It's too many. "Incoming!" Dr. Ruiz screams. What the hell is that?! It's like a Vex Hydra but… WAY bigger and with a wraparound shield. It's destroying everything. Shards of Exos rain down on us. They just keep coming. No end in sight. I'm firing every last bullet I have, but it's not enough. "Ruiz—shut it down, now!" Dr. Bray yells. He isn't shutting anything down. He's just a mangled corpse now. Dr. Bray sees it. "Evacuate immediately! Go, go, go!" she shouts as she and a few others run, barely escaping. I try. I run as far as I can, but it's no use. They're on me now. Ripping out my arms. Pinning me to the floor. This is it for me. Maybe I'll be brought back as Knox-5. But if not? Well… I close my eyes. A woman smiles at me. She's cooking pierogis. Must be Mom. Can't wait to try them. It's good to be home again.
4028955454Icon of "RECOVERED MEMORY; WESLEY-3"RECOVERED MEMORY; WESLEY-3JUNE3/2:12PM Haven't been here in a while. Had me working on that satellite dish last time. "Where are we?" the new Exo asks. He always has so many questions. Fine, I'll bite. "Charon's Crossing. Main comms station for Eventide to connect with the rest of the Sol system," I say. "This is the place that AI mentioned… I thought we weren't coming here." Dr. Bray steps in. "We're just making sure Clovis can't get what he wants. I'm sending a distress call, and then we're jamming all external comm links. We'll meet back up with the others when we're done here." New Exo's still a bit confused. He's got a million questions. When it comes to the Brays, we all do. "Wesley. Did you forget why I brought you?" Dr. Bray interjects. I didn't forget. Just distracted. "I was waiting for you to send the signal, Dr. Bray," I reply. "Drop the formalities, Wes. Just prep the jammer, please." Okay, okay. Getting to it. New Exo's standing guard at the door. Dr. Bray brought him as extra muscle, she claims. I think she just doesn't want him out of her sight. "So… the AI called you granddaughter," the new Exo says. He's not holding back anymore. Wonder if she'll tell him. "That he did," she says. "And he called me family. So… you and I are related?" "Something like that." "You don't want to tell me?" "We shouldn't discuss an Identity Upload without proper protocol because it could cause unwanted side effects." "I may've been activated today, but I'm not stupid. What aren't you telling me?" We all know the truth. Just tell the poor guy. Dr. Bray sighs. "Unlike Clovis, I have no intention of guiding your fate. If it were up to me, you wouldn't exist in the first place." That was… harsh. New Exo looks hurt. "I just want to understand why I'm here." Dr. Bray lets up a bit. "Look… I'm sorry. But you should realize how lucky you are. You have a second chance here. Trust me when I tell you you're better off not knowing." "So you're deciding for me too. Like Clovis." Got her. "I am not Clovis." "My attention switches back to the task in front of me. Uh oh. Something's wrong with these systems. "Sorry to cut this exciting chat short, but our whole comms system is being overridden," I say. "Clovis." Dr. Bray is furious. "That damn liar… Our internal comms systems aren't down at all. He's going to get billions of people killed. Screw this. We have to get everyone on that evac ship immediately. Then, I'll deal with the Vex and Clovis. End this for good." My god. She's actually going to do it. She's gonna blow up the whole damn moon. This family is insane. I have to get out of here. And then I never want to see another Bray again.
4028955449Icon of "RECOVERED MEMORY; REBA-3"RECOVERED MEMORY; REBA-3JUNE3/5:01PM Elsie, er, I mean, Dr. Bray just arrived with some bad news: the Clovis AI is sending the Vex off-world. She's got a plan to stop it but won't pull the trigger until we're all safe. I admire her. We had some bad news of our own to give in return. We tried to evacuate everyone in the Bunker E15, but it was too late. Vex had killed everyone in there. It was… horrific. RIP, friends… Dr. Bray says she's forming a plan to reach the evac ships, but she's been sitting in silence for the last five minutes. I think she's feeling guilty. For not getting back to the bunker in time. Or maybe she's thinking about how this whole Vex takeover is partly her fault in the first place. Facilitating the forages to Volantis. Killing countless Vex. If only she knew the truth. What Clovis did to her. I've been dying to tell her. But I haven't. Because, well, I didn't want to end up like her. But I can barely stand it. We were friends. Good friends. Now she only knows me as Reba-3. Oh, here she goes. "Listen up, everyone. The Vex have to be in the tunnels by now. So we're going by foot in the snow to get to the ship. Our destination is 55°52 N, 44°11 W, in case you get lost. I want every Exo to turn their Infrasensors on and ensure their weapons are loaded and ready. We will get all of you off-world. I promise." Dr. Bray has always been eagerly empathetic, but she's never been in a place to act it. Until now. She takes the lead position, with that new Exo at her side. Here we go. ---------------------------------------------------------------------------- It's dark. And windy. The Infrasensors help us see Vex every few meters through this snowstorm. We get the drop each time, but for how long? *GUNFIRE* Spoke too soon. I've got two on my left. *GUNFIRE* Got 'em. *GUNFIRE* Got me. "Reba's down!" *GUNFIRE* Thanks for the cover, new Exo. But you're about 10 seconds too late. And I can't move anymore. Dr. Bray kneels next to me. "Reba… I'm sorry." "It's what we signed up for, isn't it?" I say. Not really, though. We signed up to live forever. I'm just trying to be supportive of others as I lay dying. This damn empathy protocol. It's what made Elsie and I such good friends. "I'll recover your Memory Bank from the Archives. I promise," she says. I doubt it. But if she does manage to get back into the lab… "Elsie. Bank E1-815. It's in his office." That's the best I can do for her. Because it…s a…ll….fadi…….ng……to……em…ptine….ss…no……w…………………………………………………………………
4028955448Icon of "RECOVERED MEMORY; HECTOR-6"RECOVERED MEMORY; HECTOR-6JUNE3/9:34PM Can't believe we're back at Eventide. The place is in ruins. Sad to see it this way. But I need to get off Europa. Rumor is Dr. Bray's going to blow up the whole place. "Evac ship's in sight at 11 o'clock." Thanks for the callout, nameless Exo. "Everyone. Hold!" Dr. Bray says and points out the Vex around the evac ship. "We're going to have to do this carefully," she tells us. "Everyone—" "Elisabeth," a familiar voice says. Oh no. It's the AI. He's overridden all our comms. We can all hear him. "Do not set foot on that ship." "Piss off, Grandfather," she snaps. "And you, my new friend? What will you do?" the AI asks. He's talking to the nameless one now. What the hell is he planning? Dr. Bray looks to the nameless Exo. She shakes her head, signaling him not to say anything. But he looks mad. Seemed mad at her since they got here. "Tell me who I am, and I'll stay behind," the Exo says. Really? Family drama? Dr. Bray's furious. "We don't have time for this!" "My friend, I'm surprised you haven't figured it out by now," the AI responds. "I'm Clovis Bray. Like you," the Exo says. "That's right. Clovis-1," the AI says, sounding almost giddy. "But I can't remember anything about my life." "By design. You were stripped down to your most basic emotional form, like all Exos. But help me keep your friends from leaving, and I will tell you everything about your life." There's a pause. Dr. Bray shakes her head at Clovis-1. "Please," she starts, "we don't need another Clovis." I've seen her speak sincerely before, but this is way beyond that. This feels more like… begging. Clovis-1 and Dr. Bray share a look. "Piss off, old man," Clovis-1 says into his comms. Dr. Bray is utterly thrilled. We all are. Phew. "So you still refuse to acknowledge your god. So be it," the AI says. What the hell does that mean— *HUGE EXPLOSION* SYSTEMS OFFLINE
4028955451Icon of "RECOVERED MEMORY; UNA-8"RECOVERED MEMORY; UNA-8MAY19/8:00AM Something's happened. They won't tell us what just yet. But Elisabeth Bray is here now, looking beaten up. "Wake him up," she demands. Wake him up? He's practically dead. "Are you okay, Dr. Bray? You don't look so good," I say. "Una. Wake him up, right now." That tone. She's not playing around. Fine. "He's beginning to wake." "Thank you, Una. Grandfather, can you hear me?" she asks. "E…. Elisabeth?" the man wheezes from his respirator. He can barely breathe let alone speak. Why is she bothering him like this at the end of his life? "Don't try to speak. Just listen. The Glassway has been compromised. We were ambushed by the Vex. They just came through and… killed them all, Grandfather." Uh, what? "I managed to trigger the remaining defenses on my way out, but they won't hold. The portal is just sitting there, open. They're pouring through. I'm activating the evacuation protocol. Please give me the codes to do so." "My… backup," Clovis chokes out. "Activate it." "But that means…" "I die. Yes. But my… time is not yet… over." I clean up the blood spitting out of his mouth as he talks. Everyone deserves a little dignity on their death bed. "There's no time, Grandfather. We have to evacuate, or people die." The old man's eyes say he knows. "Legacy first… Elisabeth," he says. She's a bleeding heart beneath it all. Doesn't matter how many times they reset us—can't lose the essence of who we are at our core. Every Exo knows that. Dr. Bray stands. She turns to leave. "Fine." That can't be it, can it? She stops at the door. "You'll regret this. Whether you live or not."
4028955450Icon of "RECOVERED MEMORY; MIA-9"RECOVERED MEMORY; MIA-9JUNE3/9:45PM *Eeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeee* The ringing… It's starting to even out. I get back to my feet. Our evac ship… It's gone. The AI destroyed it. Nearly killed us all in the process. In fact, I think he got some of us… He did. Oh god. Hector… He's not the only one. "What… what did he do?" Clovis-1 asks. We're all wondering the same thing. All experiencing the same shock. He helps Dr. Bray to her feet. She's pretty beaten up. "Grandfather… you monster," is the only thing she can bring herself to say. He's on our comms again. "A necessary evil, Granddaughter. Now, as I said before, the Vex will follow the signal off-world, and when they're all gone, we can close the portal and resume production. If you want to survive in the meantime, I would suggest coming back to Exoscience. To me." I don't think any of us are eager to do that. Especially not Dr. Bray. She's leaning on Clovis-1 for support. I've never seen her so defeated. "He won," she utters. Don't say that. "Not yet," Clovis-1 replies. He's got some fire in him still. "There's nothing more we can do. The AI outplayed us." "We can shut off that portal." "And how do you think we're going to do that? Look at us. We're barely standing." "When Clovis woke me, he told me I was special. Said he had a powerful weapon for me. Called me unstoppable. But that I need my training first." She stares at him like he's crazy. Not yet convinced. "This is our fault, Elsie. Regardless of what we look like now, we're Brays. Without us, these people would all still be alive. We owe it to them to fight to our last breath." Guy's got a point. Dr. Bray nods. Hell, I'm nodding. Everyone still alive is in. Let's do this.
4028955445Icon of "RECOVERED MEMORY; ANJOLI-7"RECOVERED MEMORY; ANJOLI-7JUNE4/1:05AM So the AI doesn't care if we live or die. Okay, then. Let's take matters into our own hands. It's hard to stay quiet with all of us packed into Clovis's office. Didn't get here without a fight, though. Even the secret tunnel we snuck through was rampant with Vex. Lost more of us on the way. They're everywhere here too, but fortunately, the walls and windows of Clovis's office are reinforced to handle this kind of thing. Spare no expense, he always said. Though it only ever seemed to apply to himself. Clovis-1's been strapped in, running through the Exo Training Protocol. His stats are beyond what we've ever seen. Breaking records. Nearly breaking the programs themselves. Then again, of course he is. Clovis built him that way. The guy wanted to be the best, alive or dead. "If I were Vex, I'd be turning tail and running for my life," Clovis-1 says, rising from the training module. "Let's put you to the test then," Dr. Bray says and points to a locked weapons cabinet. Inside are two weapons. One's a glimmering Pulse Rifle, the other a brilliant Sword with a blade like a chain saw. Thing looks like it could cut through titanium. We tried to bypass the cabinet's security while Clovis-1 was training, but no luck. The weapons cabinet scans Clovis-1 as he approaches. "Welcome back, Clovis," it says as it unlocks. He takes the Sword in hand and smiles. "You should take that one," Clovis-1 tells Dr. Bray. "Should I, now?" "How else are we gonna look awesome taking the Vex down together?" She nods. Grabs the rifle and slings it over her shoulder. Looks badass. Dr. Bray grabs something else from the cabinet and pockets it. Looked like a memory bank. Why does she need that? "How's it feel?" Dr. Bray asks. "Like it was made for me," Clovis-1 says, admiring the craftsmanship of the Sword. "In fact, it was," a voice booms over the PA system. The AI again. Always watching. Always listening. "You should know, strong as you are, this is likely suicide. The Vex truly have disrupted the Cloud Memory Collection system, so your memory banks are no longer transmitting data moment to moment. Anyone who dies out there will be rebuilt here from their previous imprint." "Then we take imprints now and live with it. Some will stay here. To keep bringing the rest of us back," Dr. Bray says. She makes a good point. "Rapid Memory Degradation aside, the Vex are many, and they are cunning. It won't be long before they catch on and come after you here. If you're to do this… you'd best fight with everything you've got." Something lights up outside the office and down the hall. "I've unlocked the armory. Foolish as you may be, I'd be the bigger fool not to support you in trying." "This doesn't forgive what you've done. People died. People we can't bring back," Dr. Bray says. She doesn't back down. "I seek no forgiveness. Only a promise." Always an angle. "Do not destroy the portal." "Who said anything about destroying it?" The AI sighs. "You. The first time you tried." "…First time?" "The memory bank you just slipped in your pocket. That belonged to Elisabeth-1." Dr. Bray just shakes her head. "Why?" "Because I wanted you on my side." Clovis-1 is mad. "It's too late for that." Dr. Bray puts a hand on his shoulder. Calms him down. "We won't destroy it, Clovis," she says, winking at Clovis-1. "Well, then. Stock up, everyone. You have quite the fight ahead of you."
4028955444Icon of "RECOVERED MEMORY; NOE-2"RECOVERED MEMORY; NOE-2JUNE4/6:00AM We storm Europa with everything we have. I've never seen anything like it. His strength, agility—unmatched. Vex after Vex, sliced through like butter, that Sword of his wailing like a banshee seeking vengeance, carrying the weight of thousands of lost souls. It seems like a pain lingers inside Clovis-1. As if he fights not just for those we've lost, but to fill a void that was occupied by fear in a previous life. Likely the same fear that brought every one of us to Europa and opened the very gates of hell. That void begins to fill once again, this time not with fear, but with love. Dr. Bray stands valiantly alongside him, rifle in hand, leading the charge with ferocity and strength of will. These are the leaders we needed. Leaders guided by hope. We fall. We rise. 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10. We fight alongside them. Those of us who can make our way across Europa and into the Glassway where the portal resides. We fall. We rise. 11, 12, 13, 14, 15, 16, 17, 18, 19, 20. Over and over, we fight. We fall. We rise. Rinse and repeat. 21, 22, 23, 24, 25, 26, 27, 28, 29, 30. Every time, we get a little bit closer. Every time, more and more Vex bodies pile up. It infuriates them. They flow faster, they fight harder, the numbers increase. They know now what we're after. They throw everything at us. But Clovis-30 and Dr. Bray are unrelenting—Sword slicing effortlessly, stroke after stroke. Rifle blaring like thunder, bullet after bullet. We fall. We rise. 31, 32, 33, 34, 35, 36, 37, 38, 39, 40. The constant reboots aren't without sacrifice. A number of memory banks begin to fry from rapid overuse. A few of us are never coming back. We know this. We rise. 41, 42, 43. We finally make it to the inner chamber of the Glassway, where the portal resides. It's barely visible, blocked by the horde of Vex that defend and pour from it. In the midst of it all is a giant Vex, the one Dr. Bray told us about. A floating doomsday Vex with the wraparound shield that resembles a Hydra. There is no fear in their faces. In the midst of all this, the two Brays stand strong. They rally the few of us that remain. Lead us towards a task far beyond daunting. One that should by all rights be impossible. But they show us the truth. That with enough courage and compassion, anything's possible. Together, they're the lament that carries the voices of every soul lost to these mindless machines. With Clovis-43's final strike, the blade shatters into pieces. He doesn't care—the deed is done. As the final piece of that monstrous Hydra hits the ground, we burst into cheers. The very few of us that remain. Dr. Bray lets me do the honors. After all, I was there when this all started. The command runs. The portal shuts off. We did it. "And now, we destroy it," Clovis-43 says. He wants it gone for good. "No," Dr. Bray says. What? I thought she would agree. "You know what this did. It has to go." "Clovis. You, me, and every other Exo… we deserve the life we were promised. If this portal falls, and we die, we lose that life. And if we're gone, and the Vex find some other way back, humanity is doomed. So, let's shut it down. Hell, let's swallow the damn key. But the portal stays." Clovis-43 sighs. "I hope I don't live to regret this." "Same goes," she says sincerely.
1178042180Icon of "RECOVERED MEMORY; CLOVIS-43"RECOVERED MEMORY; CLOVIS-43JUNE13/3:46PM "So it's come to this," I say, trying to be cheeky. "Come to what?" Elsie asks. "I didn't bring you back to Exoscience just to take a stroll through a snowstorm," I say. She laughs. "No, I didn't think you did." "I have a gift for you. Through those doors." "He's through those doors." "Exactly." I pat her on the shoulder before we walk inside to find the Clovis AI all alone. "If it isn't the saviors of Europa. Done cleaning up the rest of the colony?" the AI asks. "Just about," I say, nodding to Elsie. The AI knows what's coming. "You don't have to do this, Clovis-1." "It's 43, now. And my name isn't Clovis. Not anymore," I say and look to Elsie. "Do the honors?" "Gladly." She steps toward the main console. Scans in. "But I—" he tries to plead. We're not letting his snake oil words land on slick ears ever again. She enters a series of complex code into the console. Then says the final magic words. "Deactivate artificial intelligence." The light in the giant Exo's eyes goes out. If Elsie could smile, I know it would be huge. "Well then," she says, "can we finally get off this icy hell moon?" Not quite yet. "I've got one last request." ---------------------------------------------------------------------------- "You're sure about this? "This is the last of the radiolarian fluid, you know," she says. Many of the souls we lost at the hands of the Vex and the terror of Clovis were gone for good. But we managed to bring a few back. Got them all off-world. Now it's just us. Soon to part ways forever. I get her apprehension. Elsie finally gets a grandfather worth her time, and now I'm about to get a fresh reboot. She deserves to know why. "When we added Bank E1-815 to your current imprint, all those memories came back to you. About your family. Sisters. Brother. Mother and father. About the pain. The loss. The guilt." "Yeah…" "Elsie, I caused that." "You're not him." "I'll always be the ghost of him. No matter how hard we try to ignore it. And you… you deserve to be free from that person." She bows her head, which tells me she agrees. It pains me to no end. There was a world where we were a happy family. This isn't it. We both know it. I place a tablet in front of her. "What's this?" "It's his journal. Yours if you want it. Lock it away if you don't. It's mostly encrypted, anyway. I read a bit. The kind of person I was… fear driven. Obsessed with legacy. I won't become that. Not again. It's time for you and your siblings to rebuild the Bray legacy the right way. Or tear the whole damn thing down." I can see how badly she wants to. Maybe she will someday. "All right then," she says. I don't really know how to say goodbye. But she does. She pulls me in for the first hug I've ever had. Holds me tight. We share the moment. A reverie of what could have been. A passing glance through the looking glass. Wish I could shed a tear right now. Doesn't matter—I feel it anyway. She does too. "Do me a favor?" I ask. "Anything." "That nickname the other Exos gave me… add it to my imprint? With my number?" She laughs. It's good to hear it one more time. "You really like it, don't you?" "It's growing on me." "Okay then, Banshee." I step into the pod. Doors close. I give her a little wave. Let's see what 44 has in store.
582234699Icon of "Chapter 1: The Family Line"Chapter 1: The Family LineAnother sleepless night. Not that I require sleep, but it helps me to feel normal… whatever that is. I hear shuffling outside. Probably a rat scrounging for food. Good luck. I'm sick of always having to search for a safe place to rest, though everyone's displaced these days—since the Last City fell. I hear the noise again. Louder. Someone's near. Before I have the chance to move, they're at the head of my cot. I swing off of the taut fabric, grab my weapon from the floor, and then roll across the room, blasting Stasis at my assailant. They dodge it entirely, leaving my bed momentarily frozen in time. I fire off rounds, grazing their shoulder. "Elsie! Wait!" No one calls me that. Except her. The attacker removes her hood. She's changed; a bit worse for wear, but it's her. My stubborn sister. "What were you thinking, Ana?! Why did you attack me?" "You attacked me!" It's been years since I've seen her, after the Bombardment. Last family reunion didn't end well. A crimson line rolls down the length of her arm. "You're wounded." "It's nothing. I'll be fine." "You're not fine. Where is that annoying gnat? Why isn't it fixing you?" "I said it's nothing." Something's up. I stare through her until she offers an explanation. "She's… gone," Ana admits begrudgingly. "Let's leave it at that." I'm not surprised to hear this. "What are you doing here, Ana?" "I need you to teach me… show me how to use Stasis, like you. You really understand how to control it. You're not corrupted… like them." She sounds desperate. That's a bad sign. "We've been over this. My answer remains no," I say. Ana is smart but too easily lead astray. It's a miracle she ended up how she did. I can't get involved. "Every day, I make it by the skin of my teeth. Without the Light, without the Traveler, I'm a sitting Dreg, just waiting to be picked off." "I have bigger concerns." "Than family?" she asks, trying to pull my heart strings. Won't work. I pick up my bag and head out the door. "You're just going to leave? Fine. I'll find someone else to help me learn Stasis, so I can take down Savathûn." Are things really so bad for her that she has this death wish? "You know what she did, Ana. Stasis won't save you. This is a suicide mission." "There are others out there who are tired of living in fear too. We can find them." "Good. Go talk to them instead." "Listen to me. We can attack with the Light and Darkness. Together." "Or we can keep our heads low and move on." "There's nowhere else to go! You want to run away—that's your choice. But I'm telling you we can do this," she says and holds up a satchel, pulling a drive from it. "We just need a little help." "You… have him?" I ask in disbelief. "What's left of him." The Warmind. I guess he didn't vanish with Mars. There is power there, but this is still a foolish plan. Although Ana seems hell-bent on learning Stasis and, with Rasputin, she'll do it. Once she puts her mind to something, there's no stopping her. I always thought the best way to protect her was to stay away from her. If I push her away now, can I really say I'm doing it for her? "Only trouble is, he's stuck on this drive…" she says knowingly. "He could use a new vessel." Ana smiles at me coyly. She knows exactly what to do and just how to bait me. I cast out a million second thoughts. I can't let my sister get herself killed. "Lead the way."
582234696Icon of "Chapter 2: Itinerant Mendicant"Chapter 2: Itinerant Mendicant"Stay ready. We don't know what's in there," I say to Ana, standing in front of the entrance to the Deep Stone Crypt. We make our way through the war-torn lab. Eramis's siege before the Bombardment sure left its mark on the place. She found Darkness here and helped spread it like a plague on the world. Clovis almost did the same in his time. "If I remember right, we have a long drop ahead of us. You better hang on to me," I say. She wraps her arms over my shoulders, and it's the first time I've been close to a person in over 100 years. I can smell a trace of sodium tallowate. But only a trace. She hasn't bathed for a few days. She squeezes tight. I forgot what this felt like. My body produces a fleeting sensation of warmth. I move down the elevator shaft. We land as quietly as possible, remaining still. It's dead down here, but the power is on. Someone must have been here… or still is. As we make our way through the eviscerated research center, I notice Ana taking it all in. She seems almost familiar with the space. "Clovis was an animal, sure. But what he discovered and built is absolutely incredible," she breathes. Never heard her speak so highly of the old man. She forgets that I was there. Doesn't realize the hand he played in our future, even centuries ago. "This way!" she calls out, running ahead. After walking through several corridors, we come to a familiar dead end. It's still there. Clarity Control. I dreaded seeing this again. Practically a standing testament to all the bad that Clovis did. I want to get away from it, but Ana's fixated. "Hey, you ready? We need to keep going," I say. She snaps back to reality. "Sorry." Finally, we find it. The place where Exos were born. Ana covers her nose as we're greeted with a rotten smell. Slowly, we turn the corner and see a decomposing corpse desperately clinging to a lever on a console. "The Drifter…," Ana says. Hard to tell how long he's been here. We pry his hand from the console and carry him out of the room to try and purge the stench. "What do you think he was doing here?" I ask. "Most likely the same thing we are," Ana says, plugging in her drive. "But he failed. Probably for the best. He doesn't deserve another chance." It's depressing, seeing him like that. All alone down here… Ana works the console. "Uploading now. Should be out of here soon. Grab that lever." I pull down, and a latch opens, releasing radiolarian fluid into an empty pool nearby. I catch Ana staring at the spot where we found the Drifter's body. "You ever think about what we could have done differently?" she poses. All the time. "Not really," I answer. "So much of this death and destruction stems back to us, to our family. I know Clovis was responsible for a lot. He had a hand in bringing the Darkness to this world." "How do you know that?" I ask. "I found a journal the last time I was here. It's old, and half the pages were torn out, but it had a lot of information about him that was salvageable." Of course, she's been here before. Clearly, she's not telling me the whole truth. "What else was in it?" I ask. "Outside of the redacted memos and experiments, there were stories and recollections of our family. It's all from his perspective, so he was never the villain. But still, maybe he wasn't as bad as we thought. He seemed to care about us, in his way." "Really?" "He did some good, Elsie." "I was there, Ana. I saw the things he did. He was delusional. Of course, he was never the villain in his own story." We sit for a while and wait in silence. The pool begins to bubble. Ana jumps to her feet as a sleek metal hand emerges from the fluid. Slowly, the Exo rises. Silky liquid drips from the tendrils that conjoin the parts. Eventually, it takes its first steps out of the pool. "Red?" Ana asks timidly. Its head turns. Glowing eyes of scarlet meet ours, and it speaks… Russian. "Welcome back, old friend," Ana says. We're in business.
582234697Icon of "Chapter 3: Towerless"Chapter 3: TowerlessI keep thinking about the Drifter in the basement of the Deep Stone Crypt and wondering when that will be me. Would I have ended up dead, alone and rusting away, if Ana hadn't found me? The Last City looks worse than I remembered. Buildings leveled and edifices stripped of their vibrancy pollute what was once the last vestige of hope humankind had. The commerce, the children, the bustling life—all gone. Difficult to think about that day. The Bombardment. We were hit on all sides. Eramis, the Cabal, Savathûn, all attacking our strongholds at once. We never recovered. When the Dark Guardians turned on Eramis and the Cabal, everyone who wasn't killed went into hiding. Rasputin says something in Russian that I miss, and Ana laughs. Is that what it's like to be with friends again, I wonder, as I stare off at the empty sky where the Tower once stood. "You were close with the Vanguard, right?" I ask. "I don't know if I'd say 'close.' We had a working relationship. They trusted me." "Still, must have been nice. Closest thing to a family." "If Zavala could hear that…" she trails off. A pensive expression rounds out the lines on her face. "What was ours like? Our family… before all this." "Didn't your research tell you, Ana?" "You were with them… with us. You know what they were really like." "I don't know. We were a family." "Can you just try a little, for me? You know I don't remember anything. You got to spend time with them. You must be able to tell me something. Anything. What did Mom's hair smell like? What was Dad's favorite song?" "I don't… remember everything. Clovis made sure of that." "Then tell me what you do know," she pleads. "I don't want to have this discussion." "You don't have the right to keep this from me. It's my life, too!" "Drop it, Ana!" From behind us, we hear the readying of a rifle. Ana looks to me and inches her fingers toward her weapon. "We don't want trouble." My hand goes frosty with Stasis while Rasputin's fist clenches. "You came to the wrong place," the rifleman says. Ana cocks her head and faces him. "Zavala?" I turn to get a look. Before us stands the once proud Commander of the Vanguard, disheveled, in rags. His ghastly white beard is as thick as a steel door. And from the looks of him, a gentle breeze would knock him off his crutch and one remaining leg. They must have taken his Ghost too. Sad to see the deterioration of a body that's been stripped of its Light. "Commander! You're alive!" Ana exclaims. He doesn't lower his rifle. "It's me… Ana…," she says with hurt in her voice. His expression never changes. "We have a plan to take down Savathûn. We need to speak with Ikora Rey. Is she here?" I ask. He grimaces. "She is," he says and points with his rifle toward the flotsam of the Tower. "Buried deep under that."
582234702Icon of "Chapter 4: Unguarded"Chapter 4: UnguardedWe stare at Zavala in disbelief. He's so clinical. Emotionless. Like everything I've heard about him. Some things never change. "Ikora's gone?" Ana asks. "Along with everything else. Whatever you have come to find, it is not here. Best you go." "No, wait. We could use your help," Ana pleads. He turns and hobbles away on his crutch. Ana throws her hands up in frustration. I shake my head, but she follows him with Rasputin at her side. "Commander, this all goes back to Savathûn. If we can eliminate her for good, maybe there is hope…" He stops. "There isn't." "You can't just walk away. Ikora wouldn't…," she says. Zavala turns to Ana. "You're just like her. Always were. Stubborn and self-righteous. That's how she ended up there." He points to the rubble. "Keep going, and you'll meet a similar fate. I'm sure Savathûn would happily abide." "Ana, this is seeking blood from a stone. Let's go," I say. Surely, she sees how broken he is. "I'm not leaving. Without Ikora, he's all we've got!" Ana exclaims. "He doesn't want to help us!" "You're a coward!" Ana screams at him. "A coward? I did everything I could to save the City. And her. But we were at odds. Just like the two of you. It… was our downfall," Zavala says. He shakes his head and sighs. "Looks like it'll be yours, as well." "Commander…" "I don't command anything anymore." That quiets us. "I never had the opportunity to apologize, make things right. The next time I saw her, it was too late. Don't make the same mistakes I have." I see how much this pains Ana. Damn it. Fine, I'll help. "Ana doesn't recall this, but our father… what I remember of him… was a stubborn man. He and I would fight all the time, but I never walked away without telling him that I loved him. The one time I forgot, he never came back. We've made mistakes, Zavala. All of us. We won't repeat yours this time… if we fight together," I say. Zavala looks me up and down. "So you're the fabled Elisabeth Bray, I take it." "I am." "We could have used you sooner." "Like when the Pyramids arrived," Ana chimes in. "Our troubles began long before they showed up," Zavala says. "They were just the leaves of a tree planted long ago. The Vanguard ran some cloak-and-dagger missions a while back in the Black Garden. We tried to suppress the Black Heart. It ended up corrupting the Guardians who came into contact with it. From there out, Dark Guardians spawned… and Darkness slowly spread." "I'm here now. That's all that matters." "Who's the other Exo?" Zavala asks. Rasputin announces himself. "You have the Warmind? Incredible. Still… why would you need my help? He's infinitely more capable than me." "Rasputin is a weapon, but we need to know where to point him," Ana replies. "Which is why we could use whatever information you have to find Savathûn. We thought that if we could ally with Darkness and Light, we might stand a chance. Find symmetry where staunchness failed," I propose. "That old song," he muses. "Even if I could help, the Warmind won't be enough. Not for what lies beyond Savathûn. She is only a pawn." "Meaning what?" "You want the real Witch—you want Eris Morn."
582234703Icon of "Chapter 5: Almighty, Once"Chapter 5: Almighty, OnceWe follow Zavala back to his home: inside the wreckage of the Almighty that had crashed long ago. "Do you remember this, Warmind? Our great success," Zavala says and gives us a half smile weighted down by years of reclusiveness. "And our final victory." Rasputin finds his way over to a console and plugs in. "There are files in there I've been trying to decrypt for years. Maybe you'll have better luck," Zavala says. He lights a fire and prepares a kettle. "I can't imagine Eris…," Ana says, her voice trailing off in shock. "Eris wasn't special. She was corrupted as easily as the rest. She came to me after finding an artifact inside a Pyramid on the Moon and deceived us all. The Bombardment was her masterstroke, proving that the Darkness destroys all it touches." My sister shoots me a knowing and somewhat hopeful glance. "What happened that day? It's been impossible to find accurate recounts," Ana says. "We were outnumbered. When the Witch Queen found me, she called me 'the nonbeliever' as she tore my leg from its joint and pulled the Light from my Ghost, discarding me like trash. Ikora had it worse." I look to Ana, who is hanging on every word, fighting back tears. The urge to console her rushes up from the pit in my stomach, but I repress the sensation. I wasn't meant for that. "I looked up to the Traveler, hoping it would be our salvation from this atrocity. But instead, it just… left. Abandoned us when we needed it most. I wanted to reach out and grab it. Make it stay. Make it save us, as we always thought it would. But that was it. Gone. Cabal forces crumbled the rest." Rasputin interrupts. "What's that, Red?" Ana asks. "Did he say what I think he said?" I ask, perking up. "He says Ghaul's plans to ensnare the Traveler and harvest its Light, the blueprints, they're all here. He's copying them now." My mind races. Zavala has been sitting on a gold mine. "Looks like you might get your chance to capture the Traveler after all," I propose with vigor. "We bring it back here. Make it fight and restore the Light." "You'd need to find it first," Ana says. There's a hesitation in her voice. As if she actually doesn't like this plan. Rasputin chimes in again in Russian. "What's he saying?" Zavala asks. "He can track it. The Traveler," I say. "Clovis installed the capability as a failsafe in case it ever tried to run off." "Even with Red tracking it, we'd need an army to build Ghaul's device," Ana says pessimistically. "Ana, this is as good a shot as we're going to get. Did you drag me all this way to give up now?" I ask. "No… no, you're right. We can figure this out." Zavala smiles faintly while watching us. "What do you say, Commander? One last ride for Ikora?" Ana knows just what to say. "I suppose," Zavala says, "If this is the end of the world, we may as well go down swinging." Ana's eyes light up. "We'll still need that army." "I know of someone in command of an army who has a bone to pick with Eris," Zavala says. "We need to find Mara Sov."
582234700Icon of "Chapter 6: A Matter of Trust"Chapter 6: A Matter of TrustWe've been traveling for a few days now, tracking Mara Sov based on her last correspondence with Zavala. The signal was further out than we'd anticipated. "Got a minute?" Ana asks, knocking on the entrance to my quarters. "Sure." "I just want to say thank you. Coming with me, helping me convince Zavala." I admit, it's been inspiring seeing Zavala renewed with purpose, even though he's chosen to keep the ratty beard. "I couldn't have come this far without you," she finishes. It has been nice being with her, despite the circumstances. It's odd having a sister again after all this time. "Just doing my part," I reply. Ana stares off. I can tell she wants something. So I wait. "I need one more thing from you," she says. There it is. "I need you to show me how you use Stasis. Elsie, you're proof that it's not inherently evil. It can be controlled. You show me how, and people will see it's possible." I was hoping we'd moved past this. "I'm not a figurehead for some movement, Ana. Stasis isn't something you simply control. There's constant temptation. I struggle still, to this day. Using it takes time. Discipline. And even I still haven't mastered it. Not sure I ever will," I say. "We will. And when we do, all the deniers will vanish. We'll get our world back. We deserve to get it back." "We deserve what we got." "Speak for yourself. Countless people died while you sat on the sidelines and watched everything fall apart." "If you only knew, Ana. The Darkness…" "Always an excuse. You want to do your part? Then step up and actually help me with this." "I'm trying to. What is this really about, Ana?" "You just don't get it." She storms out, leaving a fuming wake behind. I catch a glimpse of Zavala in the corridor. He was listening. "You're using Stasis?" Zavala asks condescendingly. "I get to hear it from you now, too?" "Okay, okay. When there was a Vanguard, I thought I had all the answers. Perhaps that was our undoing. I know now that commanding has as much to do with giving orders as it does listening to others' needs. Don't be like I was—angry and trying to control everything. Listen to your sister. Consider why she's asking this of you." "I have." "We're here! Approaching now!" Ana calls out, her voice echoing down the corridor. "Hoped I'd never see this thing again as long as I lived," Zavala says as we come face-to-face with the Leviathan.
582234701Icon of "Chapter 7: Commandeered"Chapter 7: Commandeered"Commander Zavala, it is good to see you. Or what remains of you," Queen Mara Sov says with a cutting elegance as we exit our ship and board the Leviathan. "I believed you dead." "Part of me was. I am glad to have found you," he says. "We are in need of all the allies we can find. And you bring the Bray sisters, I see." I bow. "It's good to see you again, my Queen." I learned in my time with her, before everything collapsed, that the Queen is particular about her customs. Mara smiles back at me. "And you, my friend." "Where is Calus?" Zavala asks. "We are unsure of his whereabouts. A problem for another day." She's surrounded by Cabal and Fallen working alongside what's left of the Awoken army. I had heard some defected to Eris after Mara's failed assaults. Everyone has lost so much to the Dark armies. "I'm surprised you don't have Vex here as well," Ana says discourteously. "An attempt at humor, my Queen," I say, nudging Ana in the hopes of conveying to her that the Queen expects respect. "The Vex are trapped in time by our betrayer and her Dark army," Mara says. "We have something that we believe can turn the tide," Zavala says, gesturing toward Rasputin. "The Warmind can locate the Traveler using Clovis Bray's tracking algorithm. We know how to capture the Traveler once we find it, but we'll need your army to build the harness." "I have slowly been gathering forces in preparation of striking back at Eris and the Witch Queen. I would invite you to join our ranks and swear allegiance, but I can smell the aroma of Darkness around you," Mara says, her gaze resting on me. "My Queen," I say, lowering my head, "I am wielding Stasis, but we want the same end: to survive this." She's unconvinced. "Elisabeth, you once asked me to pick a side, even if it was the wrong one. Tell me, did you choose correctly?" she asks. "I should hope so, since I am at your side once more." Mara and Zavala exchange a loaded glance and he nods, offering his approval. "Do not mistake my hospitality for trust. You will earn it on the battlefield." I bow again. Ana does not. Later, as I approach the Queen's quarters, I overhear Zavala. "…have to be aware, I do not fully trust her. I think she has a thirst for Darkness." "We will do our best to keep a close eye on that one," Mara responds. How could they still not trust me? "If things go south, I'll do it myself. Ana is my friend, after all," he replies. Oh. "What are they saying?" Ana whispers, startling me. "Nothing. Let's go," I say quietly. "Is there a spy in our midst?" Mara calls out. Not quiet enough, I guess. "No, ma'am. We were just coming in to talk strategy," Ana says as we enter the room. Quick thinking! "The Leviathan presents some interesting possibilities." "My forces are constructing the harness as we speak. No matter what advantages you believe we have, we are still underprepared for the threat we face. Eris Morn is powerful in ways even I do not comprehend. She is using the Darkness to its full potential." "What if we're able to do the same… but with the Light?" I propose. Through the unending expanse of space, we see a soft light, a beacon. The Traveler. "There you are," Zavala says to himself as Mara and her makeshift army ready themselves. As we approach, I am awestruck. I forgot how massive it is. We have one shot at this. "Red says he's able to access some of the ship's higher functions and weaponry. Dormant satellite arrays as well. Could prove useful," Ana says. "Some good news, finally," Zavala exhales. "Elisabeth…" Suddenly, Zavala collapses to the floor, grabbing his head and screaming loud enough to echo through the Leviathan. "What happened?" Mara demands. "I don't know! He just fell," Ana responds. His eyes open wide. He calms. Then he speaks. "We need you. Return to us." Is he? He's speaking… to the Traveler? "You chose us before. Please, give us another chance." He closes his eyes and rubs his head. "It intends to run," Zavala says, standing and regaining his composure. "What are we gonna do?" Ana asks. Zavala releases a deep, focused breath. "Take it back. By force." "Launch the harness!" Mara Sov commands as her crew gets to work. It fires as the Traveler becomes aware, burning with a rich, luminous glow. Too bright to keep staring. I shield my eyes hoping we built this right. The Leviathan shakes, and I grab onto the wall to keep from falling. The light fades, and my eyes adjust. Sure enough, the harness has latched onto the sphere like a barnacle, the six arms gripped tight. The Leviathan erupts in applause. I look for Ana, but I can't find her in the mass of bodies. "We're coming home, Ikora," Zavala says pridefully.
582234690Icon of "Chapter 8: Migration"Chapter 8: Migration"I heard you the other day," I say, barging into Zavala's quarters. He's mid-shave. "Ana. You said you'd kill her." He wipes his blade clean and washes his face. "If I have to, yes," he says. "What makes you think you'll have to?" "I have known Ana a long time. Something isn't right." "Weren't you just advocating that I listen to her?" "I wanted to see if something was off with you as well." "You're a bastard," I seethe. "I'm making sure we're successful." "You wouldn't even be here if it weren't for her. You'd be rotting away on that wreckage." "Are you done?" "She's my sister. My responsibility. You don't get to make that call." I know whose shoulders bear this burden, and in this moment, he does too. "Then if it comes to it, let's hope you have the strength to see it through. For all our sakes," he says. The Leviathan is quiet. Not the atmosphere of a rallied army charging headfirst on to victory. This feels like a death march. It's not my place to rouse the crowd, so I stand next to Ana and watch as we approach the Moon, the Traveler locked in tow within the harness. "Everyone knows their part. I would like to say that I will see you all again on the other side, but we know that isn't true. That's not why we are here. We are here to stop Eris Morn, at all costs," Zavala says. He and Mara exchange a glance and a nod. He walks past us without another word, past the Cabal and Fallen. Guess he doesn't like goodbyes, either. "We have arrived. Ready yourselves," the Queen orders. "Make no mistake: Eris will die this day." We rush into the drop ships, leaving Rasputin to pilot the Leviathan. I join Ana and Mara on our journey to the surface. "Ana… for all those years, I did what I had to do. But I am sorry it was at the expense of us," I say. "Save it for after. We're gonna win." The drop ship hits the ground with a thud, sending tremors through me. The door opens, and we're greeted with a frontal assault of Thrall. We come out firing. It's chaotic, but through the turmoil, I spot the Scarlett Keep. I see Eris Morn, drawing power from beneath the surface, and I see an army of Dark Guardians stampeding toward us. I look up to the Leviathan and the Traveler, aglow in a phosphorescent haze. He's doing it. Zavala is overcharging himself with Light, siphoning from the Traveler using Ghaul's plans and tech. Good luck, Commander, and thank you. Ana and Mara fight through the Hive mercilessly as the Dark Guardians approach. I find Ana and signal toward Eris. In lockstep, we carry out our assault. Ana opens fire on a Hunter while I cover her, blasting a flanking Ogre with Stasis. Ana drops a grenade under its massive feet, and a second later, it's dust. Eris spots us, and I swear she's smiling. From behind the Keep, a full brigade of the Awoken armada rises, perverted with Hive thorns and insignia. Now's the time, Warmind. As the Awoken defectors fire onto the battlefield, they're blasted out of the sky by satellite arrays in a dazzling display. I can feel Eris's frustration at this. Then I see her, shrouded in Darkness, performing a summoning ritual. A singular beam of blinding Light tears through the black sky with the velocity of a shooting star, headed straight for the Scarlett Keep. Give 'em hell, Commander. He collides with the structure so precisely that he only creates a small fissure. After a moment, an explosion, bright and disastrous, completely levels the Keep to rubble. We hear a deafening scream throughout the field that could only be Savathûn. Mara races to us. "The Witch is weakened. We strike now!" Eris is regaining her footing as we close in. "All of my detractors in one place. Thank you for bringing them to me, Ana," she says and smiles. I turn to Ana, confused. She pulls out a knife and readies it toward Mara. I make a move to stop her, but I can't. I'm frozen in place… by Ana. She stabs Mara Sov in front of us. "You're welcome, my Queen." Stasis and blood drip from her hands. "We are all Dark, eventually," Eris says with glee.
582234691Icon of "Chapter 9: The Return"Chapter 9: The Return"What have you done?!" I scream as Mara Sov's body drops lifelessly to the ground. "Elsie, listen to me. This was necessary. The Darkness cannot thrive while believers of the Light remain. There's a world beyond this conflict. Let's go there together," Ana pleads. "This is not the way!" I cry and ready my Stasis. "Elsie, please don't do this. You can still join us. Don't you want to be a family again?" Not like this. Not through death and betrayal. Zavala was right about her… I remember the promise I made. "I forgive you for all the years you kept me in the dark. I know you were trying to protect me. Forget the past. We can start over. Let me protect you now," she says with such sincerity that I know she's too far gone to reason with. The look on Ana's face tells me she knows where I've landed. She's genuinely hurt, gritting her teeth to stop herself from crying. I try to raise my hand to blast her, but she's already on the move. Ana attacks and stabs me in my side, disconnecting core components. My left arm goes limp. I look up to see Eris summoning a portal. The Vex come flooding through. Our army of Cabal and Fallen are being eviscerated. Vex Hydras swarm the Leviathan and open fire. If I could cry, I would. We lost. Again. Suddenly, Eris stands above me with a twisted grin. "Do you see what the path of the self-righteous yields? You call it protection, but all Ana felt was abandonment. You left a void. Darkness filled it." "You have bigger problems," I say, looking to the sky. A piercing noise emanates from the Traveler. Its brilliance begins to swell. Worried and confused, Eris commands all her forces to focus on killing it with Dark energy. "It didn't have to be this way," Ana cries as she drives the knife into me once more. "You could have been with me!" I finally shatter my own binding, blasting her with Stasis. She flies back, locked in the air. I see her struggling. "Ana, she's corrupted you!" "No… She gave me purpose!" Damn it all. I know what I have to do. I kiss her forehead as I turn her blade and thrust it into her. Her eyes go wide, and some semblance of my sister returns before she fades. "Elsie…" she trails off into the void. My own sister… Eris will pay for this. The Darkness energy Eris manipulates canvases the landscape and makes its way to the sky. I see the Traveler, getting brighter as the Darkness encapsulates it. I race toward Eris, but I'm too late. In an enchanting explosion, the Traveler's Light enshrouds all in totality. Then darkness. n I'm awake. I see a tower. THE Tower. I'm in the Last City. It's… thriving. Bustling with life. Children laughing. There's a small parade. I fight through the crowd to find Cayde-6 at the center of it. "I think I finally got him this time!" he shouts as a beardless Zavala greets him. "Taniks has been dead before," Zavala says. From behind him emerges Ikora Rey, like a vision. "Let the new Hunter Vanguard bask. He's earned it." I'm so sick of this scene. Of hearing these words ever since the day I killed my sister. That was the first time. Now I've lost count. No matter what I do, it always ends the same. Blood and betrayal. Then I'm back where I started. Right here. I'm being taunted, punished. Forced to relive this loop. There has to be a way out. I will find it. I have to save my sister.
1570455211Icon of "To Ikora Rey"To Ikora ReyIkora, When first approached to enlist in your network of Hidden, I was reticent. I had placed my faith in others previously, and it led me to the most arduous period of my life. When I emerged, hardly anyone trusted me; rarely did others see value in me. Except you. You have always remained an ally, without my asking. I am now asking. The Darkness's arrival ushers in a new age and, with it, the revelation of Stasis. We must seize this opportunity before it is too late. This Collapse now escalates—our enemies' agendas advance, and we are losing. The Vanguard has played its part in bringing us to this stage, but Zavala is stalwart and far too stringent in his ways. He will never permit us to wield the Darkness in service of the Light. I know this journey into Darkness is dangerous and unprecedented. You and I know few have tried, and even fewer have lived. We will become the exception. It is an audacious claim, surely uttered by easily corrupted fools, but it is one I intend to see through. I know what they are saying. They fear what I will become. Help me to assuage those fears. I am in control. I have touched Darkness and have seen its plans for us. Do not trust it or its messages of peace and salvation. Stasis is not a gift; it is a tool. One that can be molded to fit our needs, and I have seen how to manipulate it for our gain. The surge of power can be overwhelming and tempting to give in to, but my will is strong and brighter than the darkest of nights. I have dug in, carved new paths, and found sinew reserves in myself long thought depleted. We can win, Ikora. If we wield this tool correctly. We can prevent being overcome from attacks on all fronts. We can rid the world of Savathûn and the blight of the Hive. Consider that. Nothing will dare stand against us when we command the Dark and Light. You believed in Osiris's teachings of balance once. Do not tell me you falter now. I know you are wavering. This is an opportunity to find meaning and purpose the Vanguard hasn't provided. The foundations you've helped lay will provide stability, but they must be built upon. I need you to help preserve the ideals we have been fighting for, now more than ever before. You can allay those opposed and convince them of our efforts. Be the bridge to usher in the misled. Stand with me. Together, we will achieve balance.
1570455208Icon of "To Zavala"To ZavalaZavala, Our world has changed, and the people of the Last City look to you—to the Vanguard—for leadership. We have come face-to-face with that which we have feared and condemned for so long. New insights have been discovered and knowledge once thought unobtainable has been gained. There is an untapped potential in Stasis for us to be greater than the sum of our parts. Yet the Vanguard remains stagnant in its unwavering crusade against the Darkness. You believe we must destroy the Darkness. We cannot. We should not. We must use it, learn its power. We have a chance to show our strength in the face of utter calamity. Make no mistake—the new Collapse has arrived. Stasis is the key to enduring it. Our enemies will come from all sides, but the balance will see us through. We simply cannot win this fight on firepower alone. If that were the case, the Warmind would not have been reduced to a boneless heap of machine parts. I know what you think of us. The Drifter, a nuisance. The Stranger, an unknown quantity. I am also aware of the impossible feat of fully earning your trust. Your trust is a luxury. Yet I have been ever ready to serve and support Vanguard efforts throughout your tenure. Never once have I led you astray. Believe me when I tell you that this is the only way forward. We are doing what is required to win this fight. Now is not the time for staunch biases. It is time to end the old guard. There is a new calling, whether you answer it or not. You do not have to embrace it, but do not stand in our way. We will move on with or without you. What you reason to gain by holding on to antiquated ideas is nothing compared to what we will lose if we do not fight back against those who use the Darkness by employing any means necessary. If we do not, we will surely face complete annihilation.
1570455209Icon of "To My Queen"To My QueenMy Queen, Your absence during this time is distressing. I am certain the efforts on your front are not in vain, though I must inform you that our situation is evolving rapidly. Your guidance and support are greatly missed. We have made substantial and irrevocable progress into our understanding of the Darkness. Its wants, desires, and needs become clearer each passing day. I have much to share with you, though I am concerned you will be displeased by the means with which we have obtained the information. Before word reaches you that Eris Morn has been compromised, I will tell you myself: I am… fighting the Darkness using Darkness itself. It is vital to me that you know beyond any doubt that I am of sound mind and body, and our agreement stands. While I use Darkness to combat it, my focus remains steady. I know there are threats far greater assailing us on all fronts. We must strike back in measure, and this is my part, my front. For left unchecked, Savathûn will become the greatest threat of them all. When I encountered her last, she demeaned me, tried to use my friends against me and rob me of my strength. She has no idea how powerful I have become. I will see her end… firsthand. I acknowledge there is great anger in me. I know the Darkness would sooner exploit my rage than grant me serenity. I will not dishonor our friendship with lies: It is hard to control my emotions. I feel the temptation to give in. I urge you not to condemn me. You know what I have seen. What I have been through. I am not one for reckless abandon. Though this may seem a last resort, I have unveiled a great potential for us all. While I have received resistance from the Vanguard, more are joining our ranks. Soon, we will wield the power we need to stave off the odious minions of the Darkness permanently. Soon, the Witch Queen will feel my wrath. Soon, there will be peace. I hope when you return, it is to a world without strife. For now, I ask that you continue to believe in me. Your support has remained a beacon in the most trying of times, and were it to extinguish, I fear what would ensnare me. I am sure you are frightened and appalled by these developments, but I assure you this is for the greater good. While you may disapprove of my methods, know that the ends will justify the means.
1570455214Icon of "To the Stranger"To the StrangerStranger, You raise a great deal of suspicion in your ways, and your words harbor the weight of someone who has witnessed more than they let on. As one who has seen through the Darkness and into the void, I too know how to conceal unbearable truths. Know this: truth is eternal. Run from it as long as you can. It will catch up. You speak of events that have not come to pass with a certainty that unsettles my mind, yet your purpose here feels obfuscated and opaque. Secrecy will not galvanize our cause. It will fester and rot away our cores until our enemies eviscerate our hollowed and putrid husks. Occasionally, I sense you may be afraid. Of the future? The past? Of me? Share your secrets, for then there will be nothing to fear, and the Darkness will have one less weakness to exploit against us. Drifter raises other concerns about our coalition. I sense our allegiance to be a precarious one, each of us out of our element, though we all stand to lose far more than we gain through betrayal. If our dedication to the cause does not waver, we will see the other side of this Collapse. The bonds we have formed outside of our alliance must not break. We must continue our efforts to convince those opposed to our work that it will be the foundation for our preservation. Our hope lies in a collective unity, though we must also ensure that none shall inhibit our growth or progress, no matter where the opposition lies. I fear for what that entails. I too have trepidations regarding the path we are on. Even as I feel our power swell, there is still temptation rife with destructive potency in Stasis. What else could it unlock inside of us… In these unorthodox times, I look to the Darkness and our enemies. See how it empowers them, while it toys with us? Oryx would never have led the Taken without its guidance. Eramis's army has been a vile, deadly force due to its influence. We should learn from their examples. It will subjugate us all if we allow it, so we must spread our message of balance through the Dark. We must show our control—or we too will be lost in the shadow it casts. Now is the time to rise up and take command. Use its power to eliminate the puppets in its grasp. If we are successful in our instruction, through discipline, Guardians will harness the long-dormant power within, without fear of corruption. They will listen to you, Stranger, as they have before. Be their lodestar for hope. That is our path to eradicating those who misuse the Darkness. Through our singular focus and unparalleled strength, our enemies will fall by our hand, and the unending night will give way to a dawn not seen since the Golden Age. Is that not what we are fighting for?
1570455215Icon of "To the Drifter"To the DrifterDrifter, While your presence is often irritating and your odor repellent, you have proved yourself quite knowledgeable regarding our foes. As Darkness appeared, you did not flinch. Your assistance during its arrival was greatly appreciated. Under normal circumstances, I would belittle you and tell you how one such as yourself is unworthy of the position you find yourself in. But nothing is normal during these times, and I accept any ally willing to see past the antiquated philosophy we have sustained ourselves on for so long. You too acknowledge the need for balance during this time of extremes. Need I remind you our actions must reflect this. Your unpredictable nature has no place here. We must remain steady in our convictions, no matter what the Vanguard or the Guardians say. Keep your ears open. Should forces gather against us, it is paramount that we outmaneuver any counter to our plans. We are both accustomed to working alone. For this effort to be successful, we must cast aside selfish intentions and find common ground. Alone, we will collapse under the weight of this undertaking, and the Darkness knows how to exploit weakness. I know you feel it as well—the power Stasis brings. Does it frighten you? Even though I believe my grasp stronger than yours, I do not have any illusions regarding the Darkness. It will tear through your lack of conviction faster than you can abandon the cause. I am curious, however, as to your feelings toward the Stranger. You appear as a creature of instincts, and mine remain sharp. I am nagged by the sensation that she is not being entirely forthcoming, and much of her information is shrouded in speculative riddles. I believe her intentions are true, but I cannot separate myself from the uncertainty I feel. Where does your confidence lie? I suspect you do not trust anyone, myself included. Perhaps that is a trait worth adopting. We will be tested in ways we are not prepared for. I hope you see the gravity of our charge, despite your consistent mockery and cynicism. This is no time for humor, though you may not have the capacity to process your emotions without it. It is wise to keep your comments to yourself. Invest in a journal for reflection when times are lighter. And, lastly, I ask you to refrain from referring to me as "Moondust." Perhaps then I can overcome citing you as "Rat."
1570455212Icon of "To Osiris"To OsirisOsiris, I fear this letter may never reach you, old friend. Your disappearance is as mysterious and unexplained as the loss of the planets we suffered. I write to you because we are in the midst of a new era. You predicted this turning point long before it was on the horizon, and we are in need of your wisdom, now more than ever before. You will be pleased, or mortified, to know you were correct. Balance is the only true way. You have seen the scales tip firsthand; too much in either direction has never resulted in the harmony we hope to achieve. The Vanguard is dubious of our intent and ability, fearing corruption and displacement. They do not trust me. You were held in similar contempt for speaking your truth and empowering free thought. You know what it feels like to be chastised and labeled a traitor. We are mere steps away from a disintegration of our institutions, and they cannot see destruction staring them in the face. We have been manipulated from all sides. Savathûn has played the Darkness as an instrument of deceit, while the Vanguard has used the Light to blind us. There was power in between, kept from our grasp. No longer. Ikora wavers. She stares at the precipice, unwilling to fall into the abyss. We can no longer wait for her to make a choice. While it pains me greatly, this is not the time for personal feelings to factor into actions. I have allied with those branded unsavory and have taken the power the Darkness holds to oppose it. It cannot oppress that which it does not control. For so long, we have clung to the Light, denying the strength offered by the Dark. By using Stasis, we will end this war. We see this contest for what it truly is: a game, played by our adversaries. And we have been the pawns. We are pawns no more. This is not a battle I want to wage without you, although we may not have a choice in the matter. Wherever you may be, please come back to us.
1570455213Icon of "To Asher Mir"To Asher MirAsher, My Gensym Scribe. This communication shall go undelivered, along with others that never found their destination. I feel guilt. Pain. Anger. I am sorry I was not there for you at your final hours. What you must have felt, knowing you were facing the certain end… I hope the majesty of Io and the sacred land of the Cradle provided some comfort where I could not. Your affliction was ravaging you—this is known. After all your suffering, perhaps you welcomed death. In a way, I envy you. To know tranquility. To discover what awaits us on the other side of this fight, beyond the torment. That does not excuse my absence, for which I struggle to forgive myself. I will never forget how you cared for me after my escape from the Hellmouth. You provided me with hope after I had lost all, and compassion when I believed I deserved none. You made me feel myself again. I have stolen strength from the Darkness, imagining it would lead to a changed world after all of this. There would be peace. A cure for you. A warm cup of jasmine tea between old friends. It was an end that justified the means. I make a solemn vow today to you, Asher: I will have our revenge. I am powerful beyond our enemy's anticipation. The abominable Hive will be exterminated, and Savathûn's illusions of sovereignty will be broken. The vile family line will end with the Witch Queen. I will not stop there. The Vex will have their day. I will scream your name, so it echoes for eternity as I banish them in time to rust and decay and be forgotten. Our enemies sought to corrupt us from the inside. They believed us compromised and invaded, but our infections will be healed through my actions. They were unaware that we were siphoning knowledge. We are the infections now, and we will rot them out. Too many of my friends have disappeared. Paranoia warns me more will follow. I must act quickly. Your legacy will not be forgotten, and your work will fuel the eventual Vex deletion. I will see a monument built in your honor. Rest assured, till our Light shines together again.
1570455202Icon of "To the Witch Queen"To the Witch QueenYou believed yourself clever, unassailable, and omniscient. For too long, you were. Manipulating and pulling at our strings, howling at our failings. The Black Needle punctured our deficiencies, injecting fear and doubt into our cause. You have grown greedy, Witch. Your ambition has forced you to overextend your reach. You have revealed your weaknesses and, through Stasis, I have become powerful enough to rid us of your curse on existence. We control the Darkness and the Light now, and it will be your undoing. Your hands are wet with the blood of my allies. I have not forgotten the suffering your meddling has caused. We saw you, the puppet master behind Oryx's plot. We heard your screams as Crota met his end. Your cowardice will conceal you no longer. I am coming for you. I will be your end. As your elders before you and your progeny after you fall, and all that surrounds you crumbles, Eris Morn will stand in front of you, smiling as I wipe your name from the Pantheon of Gods. You will suffer a humiliating defeat as your power dwindles and your influence withers. We will laugh at your demise. You will become a fascination. Children will sing songs and tell cautionary tales of the old witch whose avarice deprived her of her desires. You will fade into fable and, eventually, nothing. A bygone dream of pains no more. Do you understand this clearly, Savathûn? We are no longer forced to endure your torture. There is no veil for you to hide behind. We see you plainly. Your orchestration has led to too many foul notes. All your attempts to subjugate this power have failed. You are a plague, and we are the cure. Your army will be eradicated, and the Hive will be a layer of dust, cushioning our footsteps. Trust me—you will hate it. I find myself giddy at these thoughts. Revenge suits me, it seems. I no longer know fear. I am overcome with certainty. When next we come face-to-face, I will remove the bandages that shield me, so I may see you for all you are and all you are not. And you will see me and know that the fire that burns behind my eyes will be your oblivion, suffocating and searing you to ash. Prepare yourself. I am your ruin.
1570455203Icon of "To All Guardians"To All GuardiansGuardians, Discontent and skepticism permeate our allies and corrode our bonds. I am certain the rumors that circulate in the Tower have found their way to you: Eris Morn has been compromised, corrupted by the Darkness. You and I know that could not be further from reality. You have stood by me, and we have been empowered, enlightened, and vivified. We have struck a balance. There is much that you are already aware of. You have seen how the Darkness does not seek to subjugate, as the Light does not. They are tools. They are choices. They are made to be commanded and controlled. This is clear now. Along the path, you have been the only consistent allies worth trusting. I have my doubts about the Stranger and, similarly, the Drifter. If they fail us, or worse—attempt to deceive us—we will have to continue on without their support. I do not fear that possibility. As long as we are together, we will be unstoppable. We can recover what has been stolen from us and procure retribution for that which is irreparable. We finally have control over the Darkness and can use it against those who seek to destroy us. All of us now have the means to persevere and win this war. Any Cabal insurrection will be thwarted before it's allowed to endanger. The Vex will be banished to some forgotten time. The Fallen will surrender, or perish. And what of Savathûn and her forces? They will bend until they break into decomposing pieces of refuse. Stasis provides an answer to where we have fallen short previously. Use this power, with me, to abolish our foes and prevent what our forbearers could not. The next Collapse is here, and we must abandon our previous misconceptions of right and wrong. You are aware of the stakes, so I will leave you with a word of warning: The new Collapse did not come from the Darkness alone. It comes from all around. It comes from within… and the assault has already begun. This campaign is far from over, so there is much to prepare for. We will be the masters of our fates once more. I cannot wage this war alone. I need you. All of you. I know what I ask: for you to face the unknown. Use forces beyond our comprehension. This is a world of uncertainty, yet it remains clear—wielding the Darkness with righteous intent will be our true salvation. Will we unite?
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1619425569Mask of Bakris"No! Leave her be! Praksis foresaw this. You will be silent! Don't listen to them, Atraks. Focus on my voice. That is not you, Atraks. It is not. Do not turn away! That body belongs to someone else. It wears a mask. Just a mask. Take the mask off. Reach down and touch it. Good. Now take it off. Pull harder! This imposter is clever. The mask is affixed. You must cut it free. Take this blade. Do not hesitate. Do not poke! Chop it. Smash it! Yes… good. More. More. Wet your hands in this impostor's gore. Spread it about. Good! There… you have it now. You have removed the mask… Does that look like your body now? No. It is an empty thing. I will take this mask and clean it. When others wear it, you will not see your face in it. You will know it is a mask."
2415768376Athrys's EmbraceThe suns have set. The day is done. The pink gives way to gray. The beasts of field find warren warm to keep the chill at bay. But you are not a beast. And you are not the sky. You are your mothers' love-made-flesh, fragile as a sigh. And so you need no warren, Only mothers' warm embrace, A soft cocoon of nursle, our hearts alike in pace. So I hold you mother-strong, Love a beacon, burning bright, Second only to our Machine's eternal Light. And so I hold you, young-one, In our Machine's eternal Light. Guard you as you slumber, dear, In our Machine's eternal Light. Wake soon, my young so rested, In our Machine's eternal Light. Feel the mother-warmth, hatchling, In our Machine's eternal Light. Your mothers must retire now, Let you pass the night onward, But love will keep a hearth alight if this, your heart, we stirred. For you are not alone, my nymph, 'Neath your chest, our love does beat, So mothers never stray too far, though distant we may be. And we'll embrace in night's retreat, When skies are pink once more, When twilight grounds fear and deceit against the evening's foreign shore. So shed no tear now, my young, You're within my ever-sight, For always love it carries, by our Machine's eternal Light. —Recovered audio file of a traditional Eliksni lullaby
1467044898Icefall MantleThe message flagged "Urgent, Top Priority" hosts seven distinct typos; unusual for such a cautious, thoughtful man. He believes this is an emergency, but surely no reason to panic, despite the vehemence of his message. No reason to ruffle others' feathers or reveal his anger and fear. There will be a rational exchange, he reasons. This is all just a misunderstanding. He refuses to break into a run as he hurries down the deserted hallways leading to Test Unit C-21. Holographic alarms silently flash over and over: Danger! Authorized Personnel Only! Danger! Authorized Personnel Only! Danger! Authorized Personnel Only!… He makes a comms call that goes through clearly, but it's broken by scattered thoughts and shortness of breath. The call goes unanswered. Doctor Hector Abram blasts into the observation theater, towering with frustrated rage. But the workstations there sit empty; the theater, dark. No audience for his planned tirade presents itself. He turns instead to the stage beyond the transparent shielding and feels himself grow smaller with the enormity of the drama unfolding before him. The apparatus of the lab holds a test subject in a harness; no velvet glove, just rare metals woven round a form of similar complexity. The Exo's body dangles and twitches; the puppeteer's presence sensed but unseen. The foreign energy courses again down through cords—the third surge and the strongest yet—making the puppet quiver and dance. Doctor Abram raises a hand to his mouth, which seems to climb to his eyes of its own accord. Through splayed fingers, he witnesses the triumph of the puppeteer, as ice takes shape around the puppet like magic. "You see now why this was necessary." Doctor Abram jumps and turns at Clovis Bray's words. He had not seen him, sitting comfortably in the darkness.
3974038291Precious ScarsCallieach racked another slug into her Shotgun and fired into the downed Legionary. Her fresh lungs—still not desensitized to the burn of cordite—spasmed as she coughed, but her Ghost was the only soul left to see her moment of awkward human frailty. The Titan righted herself and tested taking a few deep breaths before scanning the room. Cryomagma expelled by nearby ice volcanoes began to fall as snow through the open ceiling, slightly obscuring her view of the starry river cascading through the Milky Way. The off-white powder flurried down into the rubble and highlighted the scattered white and blue bits of Seraphite shards. Cal slung her Shotgun and began to collect them. "Can you scan for the rest of these, Winter?" Her Ghost chirped and rotated on her central axis. "What are you… Are those the pieces of your old helmet?" "Yeah. Need to put it back together," Cal said and brushed the crystallized solution of water and ammonia from a concrete slab, placing the recovered pieces with a surgeon's care. "It's my fault for getting caught with my helmet off." "We have a real objective," her companion huffed. "I can make you a new helmet!" "I like this helmet." "It's covered in Cabal viscera," Winter protested as Cal continued to pluck shards from the ruined floor. "A little wash, a little Glimmer, a new environmental seal; it'll be good as new." "Cal, it's been shattered. It's useless." The Titan tore a scrap of Cabal banner free and began to carefully wrap the pieces. "I was broken when you found me. Am I useless?" "You don't want me to answer that honestly right now." Cal pointedly ignored the Ghost's comment. "Of course not," Winter finally relented. "Your old wounds helped me determine what kind of person you were. You can't remember it, but the damage to your femur and vertebrae suggested you were a person who could press forward despite phenomenal pain. Your scars told me what you could do." "That's why it's important for me to remember: I am what I've been through," Cal countered while prying a final piece of regulator out from under an Incendior's boot. "The footprints are not the dance," Winter corrected. "Out of all the Ghosts in Sol, I get the poet." "What I mean is, you are more than what you survive. Your scars," the Ghost clarified, "told me you were someone who could endure. They didn't tell me how. They also didn't tell me about your morals. Your sense of humor. Your generosity. But eventually, you did." "There's more to me than being broken." "Exactly." Cal cooed over the last piece of helmet, which still bore a tiny, childish drawing of a heart. The initials within, MG, were visibly scuffed. "So maybe there's a little more to my helmet too."
2316914168Dawn ChorusMy heart warms like fire kindled; my spirit exalted by the Flame. I smile at my enemies, because I rejoice in their chastening. No one burns so brightly or holds the righteousness of the Flame's Sword. No longer shall you quaver; be not timid in the light of our Flame, for the Flame is our guardian; and by His hand shall all we dread be burnt away. The guns of our enemies silenced, and those among us who fled return with courage. Those who have shivered at shadows now set fires and keep fear at bay. Bright is the future we have before us, because we carry the Flame forward into the night. The Flame dies and comes alive again; like a phoenix, He rises from ash and burns anew. The Flame makes us strong by sharing His light; He rekindles the hope that lies within us. From the weak He forges strength; from the impure He burns the wickedness. Our path through darkness is clear, for the Flame has lit the way. For our hearts are the hearths in which the Flame burns; His fires will guard the homes of His faithful, but the evil will be blinded by its light and flee into shadow. By bullets alone shall none prevail. The Flame's Sword shall never dull its edge or brilliance. The foes of the Flame shall forever be turned to smoke and blown away. For the Flame is everlasting; haunted by His own ghost, He cannot die. —Song from a hymnal discovered in the Scorched Chapel, believed to be an account of the Risen named Hungren-3
2780717641Necrotic GripProject day 2. I just got my first look at Artifact H-349. It's heavier than expected. More than a few people questioned if we even should study something with such a… dire legacy, but if we can't understand our enemies' tools, then we leave ourselves vulnerable to them. --- Project day 5. Ran our first test of the artifact's… let's call them "necrotic properties." We used cattle; they were large enough to survive the initial discharge. The results have been… upsetting. No more animal testing. --- Project day 30. Spectral analysis is back, and it's got nothing. The artifact doesn't operate like traditional Hive tech, which is our closest analogue. A cult of deranged fanatics can mass produce knockoffs, but we can't even tell you what it's made from. --- Project day 31. We had an accidental discharge. Carro, lab tech over in 4B. Human, so… this is going to be it for him. We've got someone staying with him as the corruption spreads… At the very least, there's so much more to study now as we watch his unfortunate deterioration. He's been babbling since it hit his central nervous system, saying, "I'm reborn," or variations thereof. I think… he almost sounds happy. --- Project day 39. The Vanguard forbade a postmortem, but a few of us couldn't stomach the idea of Carro's sacrifice being in vain. The results have been insightful. Off the record, I'm keeping a few tissue samples. It almost feels like having him around again. --- Project day 41. We began the day with another moment of silence for our lost colleague. Too bad he's not around to appreciate it. --- Project day 45. We kept thinking about H-349 as a destroyer. But it's more sophisticated than that. I mean, with a normal gun, it's just… boom. Done. H-349 on the other hand is deadly, not destructive. Much like a viper, its bite does not bring about instant death. Instead, its venom cajoles. It co-opts your beating heart into a death clock, ticking down your last moments. Your own pulse kills you. Death may be slow and agonizing for its victim. But for the viper, time is an amenable trade for efficiency. --- Project day 51. Yanniv has been crying. A lot lately. We must accept that tragedies happen; it's a hard lesson to learn. --- Project day 65. Another accidental discharge today. We realized that Yor's little creation is hungry, so we fed it more. It certainly performs in exchange; the activity is intriguing after it feasts. I've been able to follow Yanniv's degradation with a more analytical mind than when we lost Carro. I have to say, the process is so elegant; the science involved almost seems poetic. It may be reproducible. Just imagine how much more I could've learned if the scanners were all active at the time. --- Project day 77. Another accidental discharge. This time, I ensured the scanners were running beforehand. — Audio logs of Warlock and researcher Jana-14, salvaged after evacuation
4120616984Wild Hunt GraspsII "Not sure I needed you two to find this." Gaelin-4 dismounted his Sparrow. He pulled down his hood and drew Transfiguration to his eye. The cindering wreckage of an exploded ground transport was marred with dull green spinnerets of thin smoke. Warped metal littered the site, which consisted of a compacted road surrounded by craggy outcroppings of rock. The transport itself was pried open and half-full of melted slag. Cooling runs of igneous magma drooped through still-molten floor of the transport. He surveyed the frantic scuttling footprints throughout the area. The two Fallen with him cut their Pike engines and sat waiting for the Guardian to make a move. Each Pike toted a small package of supplies: Nivviks with Lure and extract. Vynriis with Ether and extra ammunition cells. Both carrying multiple Web Mines. Gaelin-4 slung his rifle and looked to the Fallen. Nivviks gestured forward with his dominant arms. "After you, yes?" The Exo made his way into the site. The two trappers followed. "Security unit." Nivviks held up a frame's head. "Bad job." "How aggressive have you made them? Anything that would incite the Wrathborn to move away from its shrine?" Nivviks pried an eye from the frame's socket and pocketed it. "Insight? No, recorder is broken." The Fallen chittered with laughter and let the head clunk in the dirt. Vynriis snickered. The Exo was not amused. "It's an oddity to stray from their shrine, savvy? Something drew it out." Gaelin looked to Vynriis. "Yes, but," Vynriis formed the words with care, "territorial expansion." "Not so set in ways as Guardians," Nivviks said, walking passed Gaelin-4. "Age makes them bolder—it would seem." Gaelin ignored the preceding remark. "There are newer retreads in the tracks," he said, tracing freshly overturned dirt against old torrefied patches. "It has returned before. It will again." "Oh? The Guardian thinks this?" Nivviks looked to the transport's melted chassis. "The Guardian does. Predators mark new territory with a kill. It'll be back; make sure no one challenged their claim. Try to keep up, Spiderling." "I will." Nivviks craned his neck to peer into the burst transport. "Soulfire, I smell it." "Is that what your boss was transporting? Could have caused the explosion." "No," Vynriis's response was quick and sharp. "Exotic flora." "You speak too freely!" Nivviks chastised her in Eliksni. He quickly contorted his face into a smile toward Gaelin-4 before switching languages. "It is private matter, yes? Sensitive. No questions." "Motive is important." Gaelin's eyes flicked between the two Fallen. "No. Only capture is important." "Fine. At any rare, no flower survived this." The Exo knelt in the dirt and unfurled his fingers into an open palm. "Old blood here, but no bodies." A Ghost materialized and silently scanned the stained ground. "Fallen. Traces of Ether and… Cabal oil?" Gaelin turned to his escorts. "There were associates on this convoy?" "Always…" Nivviks eyed Gaelin's Ghost as it dematerialized into the Exo's hand. Vynriis nudged Nivviks and spoke. "They take bodies. Don't know why." She added, "Cabal oil unexpected." "Rumor is Calus has a ship snagging Scorn from the Reef. You're sure it was Wrathborn?" "Assuredly," Nivviks said, locking eyes with Gaelin-4. "Good riddance to Scorn." "Cabal're just as susceptible as you are." "It would seem, yes…" Nivviks crouched near Gaelin. "Camp?" asked Vynriis as she joined the huddle. Gaelin nodded. "Build a fire… and plant the Lure." "Trap instead?" Vynriis looked to Nivviks. "Why we're here. No surprise with fire." "Let me worry about that. Just build the fire." Nivviks stood. "Build yourself, Light-wielder."
574579716Wild Hunt VestIII Dust whipped across the Tangled Shore as nebulous clouds rolled and torrented overhead. It wasn't clear to Gaelin-4 where exactly wind was generated in the Reef, but it howled just the same. The three huntsmen lay on tattered mats in the dirt, backs to each other and the sky, in a triad. From two of their backs: matte black quills bent in the wind. The third's back was shrouded under a faded tan cloak, tent-poled by the quiver extending from his Orpheus Rig hip plate. Their vehicles: lashed down under camouflaged covers. Shimmering flames licked the interior of the burnt-out transport. The engine oil they used for fuel turned the blaze a violet hue. "I'll draw it to the Void tether. Once it's snared, we can spring your Arc-cage." "The Guardian does not want Web Mines? Highly effective." Vynriis gestured to her covered Pike. "I don't need anything exploding while I'm securing the cage." "If the Guardian says so," Nivviks replied, checking the bolt on his Wire Rifle. "Just don't shoot me in the back." "If the Guardian says so…" Gaelin-4 sighed. "Enough shop." Hours of night drift by slowly. The violet fire began to burn down. "Does the Guardian enjoy Spider's employment?" "I'm a freelancer. Payment is my employer, not Spider." "Likewise," Vynriis said cheerily. "Somewhat…" "Oh yeah? He pay you well?" "Well enough," Nivviks replied. "Work well, pay well. Start your own work." "And Spider supports that sort of entrepreneurial spirit?" Gaelin-4 asked. "Payment flows upward, and the Spider looks elsewhere. All is made well," Nivviks said. "Do you know who that man back there was, in your Spider's lair?" "No," Vynriis answered. "Do not care." Nivviks added. "Osiris. You should know. Ever heard of Six Fronts?" "Many times, from Guardians who speak of little else than their victories." Nivviks adjusted his posture. "I think I can speak to it. I was there," said Gaelin. "I was not," interjected Vynriis. "Vynriis knows only the Shore." "Do they tell you all Fallen died that day? No Guardians? Convenient," Nivviks cackled. Gaelin-4 rolled to his side to look at Nivviks. "You saying otherwise?" Nivviks turned to face him. "Yes. I remember the fronts. I remember Red War. I remember Earth. I remember Riis. I remember before the Great Machine lifted you up." Vynriis listened to the two without moving. "You're older than I thought. I'm sure you'd agree things were simpler then. You knew who was good, and who was bad. I miss those times. Now… it's a mess." "Simple?" Nivviks laughed in Gaelin's face. "Life was never simple, but suffering makes the mind narrow. Changes what we see. Survival makes many enemies. We know this truth." "Alive for so long. You killed your fair share of our people," Gaelin said bluntly. "And you, ours," Nivviks replied. "Now we are not killing. Is this not simple?" Gaelin thought for a moment. "Past can be hard to forget." "Yes, but Guardians have the gift of time," Vynriis said quietly. "Your heroes, our nightmares," Nivviks said. "Osiris. We had a different name. He is… not so intimidating now." "I wouldn't say that to his face. You should be thanking him." Gaelin-4 rolled back to his original position. "Thanking today, cursing at the fronts. Perspectives change, yes?" Nivviks said, rolling back as well. "I guess. Without Osiris, we could be on a completely different timeline… or worse." "Yes… this one is preferable. Many prosper. No problems here." "You being sarcastic?" "If the Guardian says so."
2362912735Wild Hunt CloakV Gaelin-4 inhaled sharply. He sat up and flexed his limbs. His ghost floated before him. "It was a lucky hit." "Aren't they all?" Gaelin stood and brushed himself off. "Appreciated, Clip." "Wire Rifles made it run before things got too bad." The Ghost dipped in a nod and dematerialized. "Before?" Gaelin-4 turned around. Nivviks and Vynriis sat several paces away in pensive observation. "Those rifles jam or something?" "Guardian requested to handle situation." Nivviks clacked his jaw. "Went as intended, yes?" Gaelin glared at Nivviks, but the Fallen simply stepped forward and offered a hand to help him stand. "Kept the Guardian's body from being dragged away. Saved pretty rifle," Vynriis said, placing Transfiguration in the Exo's hands. Gaelin's glare relaxed as he locked eyes with Vynriis and conferred a mute look of thanks. "Quarry is on the move. Unwise to return to an expecting Spider with empty hands." Nivviks took a long breath from an Ether canister. "What will the Guardian do?" "How long was I out?" "Not long… minutes," Vynriis replied. Gaelin closed his eyes and concentrated. He felt his prey still tethered to his Light, marked by traces of the Void. Nivviks was right: it was close. "We hunt." "Ah…" Nivviks stood. "Fortunate that we wounded Wrathborn," he said, pointing to a trail of fluid. Gaelin-4 looked to the dim afterglow of the quenched fuel fire, to the fresh trail before them. "I defer to you, old timer." "Good… yes. Try to keep up," Nivviks chittered. He pulled a transponder from his belt. "Tracking shot. Useful. Not far on Pikes… or flimsy Guardian bird." Gaelin-4 mounted his flimsy Guardian bird. "By all means, lead." They followed the trail in silence. Nivviks led, then Gaelin-4, then Vynriis. They had encircled him like a tenderfoot calf. He had underestimated the Wrathborn's resilience. Made a fool of himself to show up a couple Fallen on a dead rock—but a breakage heals stronger if it's set right. They closed the distance quickly. The Wrathborn's lair was a small cave hovel with a bend just passed the entrance. He could almost see the creature's breath through the stone, feel its movements. "Does the Guardian wish for Web Mines?" Vynriis held a mine out to Gaelin sheepishly. Gaelin took it. "Let's line the entrance, Vynriis." "How many?" "All of them. We overwhelm it at the choke, then tether and spike it down." Nivviks nodded. "Draw it out. We will keep its tails from killing you… again." "Appreciated. Guess I'll be bait." Gaelin-4 entered the cave and saw the Wrathborn caressing a tendril rooted in its back. Before it, a shrine of black twisted spines. They had begun to harden and gain a translucent metallic sheen, increasingly stained by drippings as his eye wandered higher. The missing associates hung impaled at their apex as tarnished crowns. The spines fed upon them, and Gaelin could see the planted stems weaving together at the base. The Wrathborn yanked the tendril from its back and planted it. They quivered. A hint of a voice. Gaelin would look upon them no longer. He formed a vortex of Void in his palm and slung it beneath the Wrathborn. It stumbled backward as the grenade burned away. Behind it, the Fallen bodies disintegrated, but the spires remained unscathed and thirsty. The Wrathborn turned to pursue him, ripping at the ground, ceiling, and walls for holds. The Guardian ran and dove over a line of Web Mines at the cave mouth. He cloaked as the Wrathborn was barraged by their spheres of Arc disruption. Nivviks and Vynriis pelted the beast with Wire Rifle shots, fending off tendrils and drawing attention from Gaelin-4. The Guardian nocked a Void-Light bolt and cast his Shadowshot into the Wrathborn's chest, drawing its limbs in with crushing gravity. The trio drew Arc-cage stake-points and flung them into position around the incapacitated Wrathborn. As the last stake made connection, the Arc-cage sprung and shocked the beast into unconscious submission. Morning light trickled over the horizon as the three finished tying down the cage for transfer. "Better this time," Nivviks croaked. "Cave is unsettling." "Web Mines were a good idea," the Guardian replied. He sighed. "I strongly advise you demo that cave." "Agreed. I will call for a Ketch." Nivviks stepped away, shouting back, "Enjoy your liquor and whelp." Gaelin-4 smirked. Vynriis checked the cage's seals and looked to Gaelin. "What will the Guardian call his War Beast?" "Castus." "A good hound."
3225000411Wild Hunt MaskI "Welcome, my wily new friend. Your compatriots spoke quite highly of you. Your propensity for… live capture." "My compatriots gab." Gaelin-4's eyes flickered from Fallen, to Spider, to Fallen before lingering on a man in the back-shadowed wall to Spider's left. "I guess as long as they're all good words, it's fine." "Better to be spoken of than not at all, no?" Spider touched curled fingers to his rebreather as if to block his tiny inhalations of anticipation. Gaelin-4 heard shifting at his back and spotted two associates leaning against the wall behind him. They sported Wire Rifles and Short Daggers on their harnesses. "Depends… This bounty from Arrha; mark is a month in the wind." Laughter blustered from the hulking Eliksni's mouth. "Your ilk, always so direct. Down to business. I like that… that acumen." The Spider gestured forward with his lower arms, and an associate plunked a small metal crate before Gaelin-4. "I assure you, they are still very much in the neighborhood." The associate unclasped the lid. Two Golden Age era bottles of amber liquid nestled in padded cloth glistened in the lair's uneven lighting. The shadowed man behind Spider bent forward for a better view. Gaelin-4 approached and lifted the craft-glass bottle. "For me?" He asked with a smirk. "This must be a crap job." "Directly from my private selection. A motivation to return my quarry, alive—in addition, of course, to a generous Sapphire Wire reward." "'Motivation' suggests they wouldn't cooperate if asked." "Oh, I'm sure they would… if they were able." Spider leans forward. "You're hunting a Wrathborn." Gaelin-4's head tipped upward to meet Spider's gaze. "Why don't you just send your Enforcer after it?" "A man only has so many hours in the day. Attention is required elsewhere, and this is a personal matter." The syndicate boss turned each of his four hands over one after the other. "However, you will be using an invention of his. Clever, but keep that to yourself. Compliments get away from him." "Alive?" Gaelin-4 turned the bottle in his hand. "That's right. This particular mark caused irreparable damage to something very close to my benevolent heart. Restitutions are in order." Spider brandished a jagged, shivering smile. "And I need your flunkies stepping on my heels?" "Assisting you. Nivviks and Vynriis know the details and have experience in these matters. They will take you to the site of the attack." "I hear you folk empty your marbles when you get too close to those things." "This particular mark has begun to wander to greener pastures. No cryptolith in sight." Gaelin-4 bobbed his head, processing the information. "Keep your wire. I want the beast whelp." Spider's bristled momentarily as he considered the terms. "That wouldn't be fair, but I could live with it— if you tell me who dropped you that little crumb." "When the job's done and tender exchanges hands, I will." "Keeping me in suspense; I'm not a patient Spider." "I don't expect to be long." Gaelin-4 leaned toward his tagalongs, dropping words for the Fallen to pick up. "You're with me, Dreglings." Nivviks hissed and said something in Eliksni to Vynriis before moving. She nodded to Spider and shouldered her rifle, then fell in line. The Exo's eyes flicked to the man in the shadows. "Exile," he said, bending his head in a courteous nod. "Mind your business, Guardian." The man's voice was even and measured. "And good luck." Gaelin-4 smiled, took his Transfiguration from the doorman. "Osiris," he muttered under his breath as he crossed the exit. "I knew it."
3996418706Wild Hunt StridesIV Vynriis was the first to spot movement. Twenty meters, against the horizon. A lumbering hulk of muscle and high-density Cabal plating indolently ascended a stone column in her firing line. It huffed air deeply, leapt forward, and impacted the ground with dead-weight grace on two armored trunks. The tremor ran through her bones. The trio swapped to close-band comms. "Beast in sights." Gaelin-4 and Nivviks slowly crawled to her side, taking care not to draw attention in the quiet night. The beast was Cabal all right, red-paint-scraped armor of the Legion buckled against an outpouring of muscle and blistering flesh. From its back and stomach, bladed tendril mutations slithered through gaps in the armor. Its hands were fused in an ever-grip around two massive cleavers that ploughed trenches in the soil as it trundled toward the flames. "It appears… abnormal for a Wrathborn," Vynriis noted. "Old. Perhaps one of the first. An escapee of the Crow's?" Nivviks mused. "Preventable. Spider will be displeased." The Wrathborn Gladiator tore into the wrecked transport. Licks of flame seared its exposed meat without notice, and remnant oil set the Gladiator's cleavers alight in patches. "I'll handle this. Excuse me." Gaelin-4 stood and strode directly toward the Wrathborn. It lurched to face him and loosed a tortured bellow. Gaelin snapped a smoke bomb into his hand with a flicker of Void Light and flung it into the Wrathborn's mouth. After a muted pop, dull purple smoke poured from its head, and the Wrathborn reeled in the fumes; bloodcurdling shrieks cast plumes of smoke like clouds against the starry backdrop. Gaelin knelt and shouldered Transfiguration. He sent four heavy Arc rounds that cracked splits in the Wrathborn's helm. It howled and stampeded towards him; tendrils lance-hooked into the dirt to rip its body forward faster. It tripped the Shadowshot he had set. Void Light tethered the Wrathborn, anchoring it at the core of its existence. The beast whiplashed and lost its footing; face struck floor—shattering its helmet. The mad thing rose, smoke billowing from its nostrils like a hellion. It wrenched with every fiber of strength, veins bursting to break. "Keep pullin' like that and you'll tire yourself out." Gaelin-4 sauntered around the Wrathborn, darting stake-points into the ground to form the Arc-cage's cornerstones. He pulled the third from his belt when he felt something snap within him. It broke the Void tether? From the dying smoke launched a tendril. He ducked it and saw the fiery blade just quick enough to roll over it and into invisibility. He flicked another smoke bomb into his hand and struck the beast between the eyes. It flailed and sent tendrils in his direction. Gaelin rolled back and came up, rifle forward. He dropped the first two and began to reposition when the ground erupted beneath him. A tendril pierced his thigh and dangled him in the air as two more drove at his head and chest. He cracked a spike grenade against his knee. The stick sputtered and beamed with Void Light. He severed the oncoming tendrils with the beam, and they gushed soulfire like a fissured dam. The torrent incinerated the grenade and half of Gaelin-4's right arm. His rifle fell. Before the thought to reach became action, the Wrathborn slammed the Exo to the floor and pinned his leg. Gaelin's breath tremored. It raised its horrid cleavers. He drew Lonesome from under his cloak and shot the thing in the eye. It cast him across the site and through a stony point protruding from the ground. Shards of broken rock cascaded around the Guardian. Gaelin clutched a puncture in his chest, a barb of stone protruded from it. The throw had shattered his hip. He was unable to stand, and it was getting dimmer. A shadow in his vision. Lightning wires overhead. Pressure.
3766623069Calamity Rig SleevesYou probably heard I'm takin' a little trip—maybe already took one; I don't know when you're gonna listen to this. Let me say, the only thing that'd get me into the true cold again would have to be big enough to change it all. When you look down and see it's already in your hands, that's hard to walk away from. 'Specially when it was almost yours to begin with. So yeah, maybe I've got itchy fingers, but I'm the kind of fella who'd pick somethin' up so nobody else gets it—it's a zero-sum game. I take what I can. Only thing is, I'm not takin' it alone. And you know me. I like to keep some folk close—real close. I feel somebody's hand on my throat, I figure they're about to kill me or kiss me. Personally, I like to keep my options open.
2444786923Calamity Rig VestHow do you feel about all this, hero? You've got a dead heart beating in your chest right now. Only reason you're still movin' is because somebody's got a job for you and they don't think you're done yet. Anybody asked for your point of view lately? Lots of changes lately—go here, hunt that. Kill him. Kill her. You tell me, "Hell yeah, Drifter! I live for that stuff!" I'm tellin' you, yeah, you do. Get me? Am I guilty as the rest of 'em because I tell you to bank a few Motes? You expect me to tell you to decide for yourself, am I right? You know just enough to be stupid. I'm asking you how you feel because nobody else will. Trust.
2184578992Calamity Rig CloakI don't know who you are. Don't know what school you follow, which side you're on—could be heads, could be tails. Could be the edge. Could be you shoot before the coin lands. Just know I'll be the one picking it up. You ever hear the story of the fella who painted bullseyes around his bullet holes? Ol' Drifter's plan is coming together—maybe not as clean as I wanted, maybe without the right folk nearby, but it's happening. That's why I left this message for you, in a place you wouldn't look if you didn't give a damn. Things are changin'—hell, things have already changed—but Drifter's still a safe bet. And I've still got plenty of time. Just not as much as I did before.
3999851514Calamity Rig MaskHey, sister. Or brother. Hell, I don't know who's gonna end up listen' to this. Could be a snitch, an idiot, or somebody who ain't picked a side yet. And that's perfect, because all this talk about choosin' sides? Noise. Before this is over, the only one's gonna have your back is you—and that's even odds. Use your head. Think clear, all right? Because there are whispers going around, and you need to know when to plug your ears. Things have been different since Sloan went dark… ooh, poor wording? What's wrong, too soon? Let me tell you that we killed some time on New Arcadia. Learned some things. Listened to the wrong whispers. Be careful who you trust from here on out, all right? Yeah, that includes me, but I've been tellin' you that since the beginning.
1955230815Calamity Rig StridesBeing one of the Light's chosen blessed magic babies means you always come back with what you lost. So if frostbite's weighin' on your mind lately, put it aside. Ain't that it don't hurt—I mean, it hurts—but comes a time you can lose a toe and not think twice about it, aside from figurin' if you could drop enough to make a stew. (You can't, if you're askin'.) What I'm sayin' is, you can walk the edge if your feet are tough enough. Oughta be high up enough that you can see what's on both sides before you decide which one to hop down to. You get me? If you follow the Drifter, don't wear your nice shoes.
1899070067Legacy's Oath GripsLakshmi-2 knew exactly what she was asking. The query was the question. She needed to be both literal and lateral. >REMOTE ARCHIVE DATABASE TEXT ONLY SEARCH INITIALIZED >WELCOME, USER "LAKSHMI-2" >PLEASE ENTER SEARCH QUERY >exo identification change post-Collapse >RESULTS A luminous ream flooded the holographic display: a few hundred thousand electric haystacks, likely nary a needle among them. >PLEASE ENTER SEARCH QUERY >exo identification/OR/name change—"Bray Exoscience" >RESULTS The haystacks had dwindled, but she could still spend years rummaging through them to no avail. Lakshmi-2 stood silent amid the stacks, musing for some time. >PLEASE ENTER SEARCH QUERY >search for and identify Exo names; query sub-command: flag results as "exonamesearch" >RESULTS There! Now she had just one enormous haystack. What needles there may be would certainly lie within. >PLEASE ENTER SEARCH QUERY >query entries flagged exonamesearch; identify exo name -#; query sub-command: flag results as "exonamesearch-#" >RESULTS If anything changed in the millions of search results, Lakshmi-2 couldn't discern it. >PLEASE ENTER SEARCH QUERY >query entries flagged exonamesearch-#; identify "-#"; flag results as "exonumber"; cross-reference entries flagged exonamesearch-# and exonumber for results = exonamesearch-#+exonumber+1; flag results "haystack"; query entries flagged haystack; extract post-Collapse data The computations couldn't have taken any longer than the other searches, but Lakshmi-2 didn't know if her typed commands would be interpreted. Anticipation stretched time. >RESULTS Lakshmi-2's eyes widened as the haystack vanished, leaving a double handful of glittering data points. But how many were needles? After only a few minutes of reading, she knew: it had happened before. After a few hours, she felt she had all she'd find from the archive and made a few notes for further inquiry: Historical Basis for Spontaneous Reset Syndrome —Heyka-3/4: Notorious Dark Ages Warlord. Post-reset, became a lone raider. —Vander-2/3: Rescued from the Great Disaster because reset incapacitated him. Served as City guard post-reset. Ghost destroyed on Luna. (Pre- or post-reset? Do Ghosts protect Exo Guardians from spontaneous reset?) —Lilakee-5/6/7: Curious case. Known sufferer of severe DER-related nightmares and outbursts. Commandeered a jumpship and vanished. —Selass-7/8: Technician sent to data mine Titan settlements. Reset occurred in return transit. Post-reset, remained research technician assisting Cryptarchs. These were Exos that had seemingly rebooted themselves; they had wiped away their own identities and taken a new number. Or had someone else somehow done it for them? Could there be records of some of them outside the archive? Could one or two still be alive? Lakshmi-2 closed her eyes, slowed her breathing, and focused on the dichotomy of her emotions. What she'd discovered felt momentous, but she knew her colleagues would treat it as a curiosity. People often discounted Exos. It was if there were a line between frame and flesh and blood. The idea offended Lakshmi-2, but at the same time, she knew Exos were different enough from normal Humans. The existence of Exos who reset themselves—for whatever reason—proved that. Or did they? A quick search of the medical archives turned up ailments and causes considered quackery by the Golden Age: psychogenic amnesia, dissociative fugue, retrograde memory loss, personal obliteration, betrayal theory… What did it all mean? Lakshmi-2 felt uncertain, and that always boded ill.
3911759797Legacy's Oath VestI'm so angry, so frustrated. I've lost family and friends. The world has been ripped apart, and I'm left standing in the void at the center. Why me? Why am I left alone here? Survivor's guilt doesn't begin to describe my pain. I miss my family. I don't know what family means when I don't even carry the blood to tie us together any longer. At times, I feel I was made to be a walking advertisement for BrayTech. A product. "Look how successful the Exo Project was." I'm just a collection of memories and impulses—some kind of abomination. I know that can't be true. I… just don't know what to do. I must be meant for more. I can't live a "normal life." I never had a chance for that, not with the family I was born into. I'm filled with rage. I want to correct the mistakes of my predecessors. The blights on humanity unleashed by my grandfather… could that be his intent when he made me? Was I born from unacknowledged guilt and some fear of consequence? He seemed incapable of those emotions, but he was only Human in the end. Whether he planned this or not, I'm going to destroy that damned crypt, and I'll rid the world of the shadow cast by Clovis Bray and his infernal creations. I also know what that means for me. One day my mission will end, and I won't have to wonder what to do with myself. I will be the last to go.
2490687254Legacy's Oath Cloak"Do you know why we're here?" "Of course. You invited me to this interview… Oh, no tea, thank you. I don't drink." "You're aware of why—" "Why you're interested? Of course. I've been doing a lot of research since I awoke. You're from something called the Future War Cult. Odd name for what seems to be sensible precaution." "Yes…" "And so your interest in my case must have something to do with the Cult's 'sensible precaution.' I gather that our kind were made as some sort of super soldiers long ago, for a war no one seems to know much about. And now, we live much like other people in a universe that has gone to war with itself. Although, I think we Exos might also be immortal. Isn't it odd?" "Much of this conversation is odd." "I'm not talking about us. I mean that given a whole universe seemingly at war, with invading aliens of all sorts, there's a people specifically designed to be super soldiers. And yet, we Exos just do as we like?" "Go on." "Take me, for example. I'm a researcher—a scientist. And I'm a damn good scientist, from all that I've read. And when I woke up, there was nothing more natural for me to do than simply carry on doing that. Super soldier? More like super scientist. I'd hardly know which end of a gun to point at them. But here? In my lab? I touch a machine or just look at it, and I know how to use it. It's like… like…" "Riding a bicycle." "A what?" "Never mind. Tell me more about what happened when you woke up." "Well. Suddenly I was here, in my lab, but lying on the floor over there. I looked around, and it was like I said. I just knew how everything worked. But I couldn't remember anything." "Nothing at all? Not even your name?" "No. Nothing. Well, language and motor skills and so on, obviously. But it was the oddest sensation. I've since looked up how I might describe it, and I never found anything better than déjà vu. Everything was familiar but foreign. Even my own body. It was… unsettling. But then I found files of some of my research. And I knew it was mine. It was like reading something I'd forgotten I'd written. I didn't remember where or when or even why I'd written it, but they were clearly my thoughts. It was clearly me. And that's how I found my old name." "Yes, let's talk about your old name. The number. Why did you change it?" "It… it wasn't… it didn't… A new designation was necessary." "Are you all right?" "Yes. I'm fine. Why?" "Something happened to you there. Your eyes. Nothing moved." "Well, excuse me. I don't know what you mean. So… do you have a theory?" "Several. What were you researching before you… before you changed your name?" "Ah, a project with my colleagues, Gonzalez and Mwangi. Delightful people. Have you met?" "Briefly. Your research?" "Yes, well, I won't bore you with the technical details, but we're engaged in a study of dark matter and dark energy. It seems to be my main area of interest. I awoke when I'd been in the midst of looking into…" "Yes?" "Well… errors." "Errors?" "Yes. The data we've collected has peculiar… anomalies. Between you and me, I think it stems from human error. But I'm going back over all of my previous work to see if I missed something." "And have you? Found anything amiss?" "No. If anything, it's been quite therapeutic. It turns out that I'm a damn good scientist." "…" "Um… you know, it's odd. I find myself quite parched. Would you mind pouring me some of that tea?"
1840511864Legacy's Oath MaskWe're all thrust into situations we find unseemly. The real test is what you do when you find yourself in one. We're staring down the barrel at another Collapse. I can see all the signs around me. There is no denying it anymore. The Darkness has arrived. Now, I'm being tested once again. I carry a great potential inside. To create. To forge. No one else can do what I do… and a part of me thinks I should keep it that way. I'm not sure I want to share this gift. It's a tremendous responsibility, this power. I know how I use it. Can I trust anyone else to do so reliably? Would this ability be corrupted, squandered; should others have access? I can already see the Darkness manipulating it to its advantage. On the other hand, it would push Exos everywhere ahead technologically, elevating our standing and truly making us superior. I've always felt the Last City could use more protection than the Vanguard could afford. I could provide that, widespread, and make it readily available to all. March myself right into the Deep Stone Crypt and use the Bray Exoscience Facility to its fullest capability. Stave off this dark night. The armory is already known. It's a pointless institution if it's not providing help to those who need it. Where would that leave me though? I imagine I'd be just another Exo, reducing the Black Armory and its traditions to some moot forgotten foundry. That's not the legacy I'm trying to preserve. The armory… me… we're more than just the weapons we make. What we represent—the values we stand for—would be lost without us and would run astray without supervision. Yet, if I don't act now, there won't be anything left to preserve. The Darkness will not yield. The Guardians will require more from me. The armory needs to evolve.
2994497405Legacy's Oath StridesHmph. I don't always know where I've been, what I've done. Every so often, a weapon comes across my workbench, and I see… traces… what looks like my work. Something that sparks a memory, a flash. Nothing of substance. Nothing reliable. Marks on my body tell me I've seen plenty of action. If need be, I'm ready for more. The Tower is my home. It suits me, and I'll protect it, no matter the cost. I'm treated like a person here, not a machine. Feeling accepted and enjoying your work aren't easy things to come by, and I'm… hmm, sure I'm already doing the most important work of any of my lives. Safeguarding humanity. Arming Guardians. Ready to defend what I care about. Can't think of a higher calling for myself. Being an Exo isn't some sort of curse. It's given me opportunities I wouldn't have otherwise. I'm… uh, lucky. I don't live with the burden of whoever I was. Lotta folks only get one chance. I've had 44 to start over—to get it right. I feel like I've done it this time. Must have messed up the previous 43… I know I never want to see 45, that's for sure. If I have to give everything I have to save the people and home I care about, so be it. Might be time for a new generation, anyway. This is who I want to be. My choice. I want to be good. Make a difference. A lot of people are driven by selfishness. Greed. Obsessing over things they can't control. I try not to let those things guide me. I aim to be my own guide, and so far, I'd say it's been pretty successful. Everyone should be so fortunate—a fresh start to do what's right. I'll keep doing what I can. There's a whole world of good and bad out there. Only one is worth helping.
590210270Cinder Pinion GraspsIt was the morning of the new Crucible season when the shout echoed through the Tower. Master Rahool flinched, fumbling his engram. Commander Zavala looked up from his desk. Kadi 55-30 hurried to steady a haphazard pile of shipments. In the Hangar, a flock of well-fed pigeons took wing. "THEY ARE THROWING NEW GRENADES!"
4292696742Cinder Pinion VestLord Shaxx charged onto the Crucible field. "Gather close, my champions," he shouted. "Yes, both teams. I want to congratulate you." The Guardians peeked warily from cover, then assembled before Shaxx. "I remember the first time I saw a Hard Light shot bounce around a corner," he began. "The first time I handed over a Mountaintop. The first Guardian to bring Gjallarhorn to my Crucible." The huge man shook his head fondly. "I know the powers you hold will soon be commonplace, but I wanted to acknowledge you for being among the first to bring them here. To me." "Thank you for showing me your crystal columns," he said to a Titan. "For the swirling maelstrom brought by your staff," he said, nodding at a Warlock. "And you!" He walked to a Hunter in a few long strides and clapped him on the back. The Hunter tumbled to the ground so hard, his weapons reloaded. "You threw scythes at them!" boomed Shaxx gleefully. He helped the Hunter to his feet, then turned back toward the group. "May your strength guide us through whatever troubles are yet to come," he said, and saluted. The Guardians bowed. Lord Shaxx stood proudly for a moment, his hands on his hips. "What are you waiting for?" he cried. "Resume the match!" And the Guardians fell upon each other once more.
756592213Cinder Pinion CloakLord Shaxx looked down at the City as he spoke. "The children in the City have always played at being Guardians. Shouting about their hammers and shields, swinging branches as Dawnblades. Many a time, I would pretend to be slain by one of their attacks as I walked through the City, and they would always laugh." He gripped the railing in his fist. "Now they shout different words as they play. They call forth different powers. When struck, they hold positions, freeze in place, keep still. Their smiles fix on their faces. They fall perfectly quiet." He began to say something else and gestured emptily toward the City, but his hand fell to his side. He turned toward you. "You and I, we are warriors. We know the weight of our weapons when we draw them. But the children…" His voice was quiet. "It unsettles me."
3373295793Cinder Pinion Cowl"Do I fear it?" Lord Shaxx stooped to bring himself slightly closer to the recruit's eye level. "Tell me: if I were to wear your helmet, would I fight as you do?" The Guardian shrank visibly and shook her head. "Of course not. We use the weapons of our enemies, but we do not become them. Do you know why that is?" The recruit stayed silent. Shaxx put his hand on her shoulder. "Because a weapon does not change a warrior. If a weapon makes you a monster, you were a monster to begin with." He turned to the other Guardians. "We are surrounded by fear. It presses on us from every direction. If you fear the hearts of your brothers and sisters, then speak to them." Shaxx nudged the recruit. She tentatively raised her hand and summoned a fistful of Stasis crystals. He nodded with approval. "If the heart you fear is your own," he said gently, "speak to me."
338624912Cinder Pinion StridesThe dejected Warlock walked away from the Crucible with his Ghost hovering over his shoulder. "He noticed, didn't he," said the Warlock flatly. "Don't know what you mean," lied the Ghost. "Shaxx. He saw when I—" the Warlock spread his hands, fingers splayed, and wiggled his fingertips. The Ghost shrugged his points and gave a noncommittal beep. "He may have." The Warlock groaned. "How bad did it look?" The Ghost made a sympathetic noise. "Not bad." The Warlock stared blankly at his Ghost. "Okay, pretty bad," the Ghost admitted. "You shattered." "Shattered… how?" "Like a statue somebody knocked over," said the Ghost. "You just went everywhere. Everything broke except for your boots." The Warlock exhaled slowly. "And Shaxx saw?" "He probably did, yeah." The Warlock shrank into his hood. "What makes you think so?" "Well, because," the Ghost said carefully, "he said you had nice boots."
1674107205Phobos Warden GraspsII Osiris walked into the office without hesitation, as if it were his own. Zavala looked up and pushed his blank papers to the side. "Osiris," he said. "You don't seem to be taking your exile very seriously of late." "I treat it with the same regard you give its enforcement," sniffed the Warlock as he crossed his arms. Zavala raised his eyebrows but saw traces of a smile around Osiris's eyes. He leaned back in his chair and gestured for him to continue. "I bring hope from an unexpected source," Osiris said. "There is a devotee of mine on Mercury—a certain Brother Vance—stationed just outside the Infinite Forest. His point of view is unique, but it may be more valuable than I had anticipated." Osiris opened his hand and cast a small projection: a fleet of Pyramid ships. "Since the Traveler's reformation, Brother Vance has been studying prophecies where such an event took place. He believes he has discovered a way to stop the Pyramids." A spiderweb of trajectories crisscrossed the projection. There was a flash and the Pyramid ships melted into Osiris's palm. Zavala leaned forward. "He found this by studying simulated realities?" "Specifically realities where the Pyramids invade our system and the Traveler reforms," Osiris said. "In all the realities where the City survives, Brother Vance believes there is a common thread." "I… know Vance," Zavala said carefully. "Can we put our future in his hands?" Osiris bristled reflexively, but then made a reconciliatory gesture. "We have seen more than our share of tomorrows, wouldn't you agree? We have done so through the strength of our community." The Warlock laced his fingers together. "Brother Vance, he is one man, true. But so were you. So was I. It would be unwise to dismiss what his future may hold."
1492796803Phobos Warden VestIII The silence in Zavala's office was interrupted by a burst of static over the comms. Asher Mir's nasal voice rang shrilly over the speakers. "Ikora was unavailable!" he said impatiently. "Asher," Zavala said into his comms. "What have you got for me?" "Oh, just some ravings about how best to handle the encroaching Pyramids, if that sort of thing is of any interest to the Vanguard," Asher said. "Go on," said Zavala. "I analyzed the paracausal shockwaves from the Traveler's recent inexplicable pulse. I believe I could assemble a machine that would allow us to render these malicious polyhedrons inert." Asher paused. "Vulnerable. Does that appeal to you?" "How does it work?" Zavala asked. Asher made a noise of deep dissatisfaction. "I could either build the machine or explain its purpose to you. Both would take equal amounts of time." Zavala smiled. "Build your machine," he replied. "Is there anything you require of me?" Asher considered for a moment. "No. I anticipated nothing more than your tacit approval, so I am already thrilled with this conversation," Asher said, not sounding thrilled. "I will do the same thing I always do: find answers. Then I will deliver them to you and you can use them to form some sort of plan. How does that sound?" Zavala took a breath. "Agreeable." "Very well. Do try to manage your enthusiasm," Asher said dryly. The signal went dead, and Zavala was once again alone in his office. Zavala disconnected from the call and looked down at the blank pages in front of him. There was another burst of interference as the audio system squealed against a forced reconnection. "Hm, and thank you," said Asher's voice over the speakers. "That will be all!"
4225717704Phobos Warden CloakV There was a soft knock on the door and a technician tentatively poked his head inside the office. "The system is ready, Commander." Zavala looked across his desk. No echo of the past called out to him, no guilt-driven daydream—just a young man from the City, nervous about disturbing the commander. Zavala rose to his feet. He stood and braced himself against the desk for a long moment, arms wide. He took a steady breath and nodded. The technician synced the office systems and initiated a broadcast, then stepped to the side as Zavala approached. "Sir," he whispered urgently, gesturing to the neat stack of pages left behind on the desk. "Your speech." Zavala left the papers where they were and began to speak. "People of the Last City. Humanity has endured a devastating blow…."
3830796194Phobos Warden MaskI Zavala stared at the blank pages on his desk. He sat with his back to the window. The Traveler shone brightly outside, but there was little warmth in its light. Since its reformation, Zavala found it strangely unfamiliar. Its size made everything else seem smaller somehow. He shifted in his seat and tried to relax his shoulders. He reached up to rub his temples and found he was clenching his jaw. He stretched his neck and placed his palms flat on his desk. His hands were cold. He knew where it ended, but he didn't know how to begin.
2073079655Phobos Warden StridesIV Deputy Commander Sloane sighed as she entered Zavala's office. She fell into the chair opposite his and waited for a moment, head down, elbows on her knees. Finally she spoke: "Somebody's selling pretzels in the Hangar. They're all out now, but I could smell them when I docked." Zavala leaned over his stack of blank papers. "They're very good," he confided. "They have little containers of beer mustard, too." Sloane looked up and shook her head in disbelief. "I've been away too long," she said. "It's good to see you," Zavala said. Sloane stretched out in the chair. She looked comfortable. "Listen," he began. "You've held Titan against the Fallen for long enough, and I figured you could use a change of scenery. You've heard about the uprising on Europa. I'd be grateful for your expertise." The woman sized him up. A smirk played across her chapped lips. "You want me on the front lines again?" she asked. "Must be a very credible threat." Zavala looked down. "I'd go myself if I could," he said. "We're being hit on all sides. I feel as though I'm just barely holding this system together." His mouth was tight, but his eyes were pleading. Sloane leaned forward and placed her hand on his desk. "Don't worry," she said. "We've survived many horrors. We'll survive this one, too."
1560380339Wild Hunt GlovesII "I'm saying it's a fight we can avoid right now. The Spider doesn't give them much." Shakto wanted to say it wasn't enough to die over, but he had seen her starved husk enough times to know that wasn't true. Sustenance was always enough to die over. And for her, hurting the ring was enough to spend a hundred lives. "Enough for us. Enough to hurt Driksys even if he isn't there. The Ether stops, the loyalty stops, the fights stop." "He might not have come in person. Even so, Driksys serves Avrok." Shakto ballooned the volume of his voice in her comms, buzzing her helmet and sending ringing through her ears. "We shouldn't hit him directly. Not yet. It would draw attention from the Spider." Trihn clunked the base of her hand against her helmet to kill the rattle. "If we only ever did what you condoned, we'd have half the armory and a sliver of the knowledge." She cut the Pike's engine atop a ridge overlooking a shanty encampment in the gulley below. "It's not about that," Shakto said, dismounting. Six Pikes were parked in a group below, engines still flexing as metal cooled. One of the Spider's spined Servitors slumped in a cornered heap near a vertical jut of rock. It shimmered hypnotically with power cutting in and out. "That's odd," Shakto said as he floated forward. Dull atmospheric glow gave way to stars and empty space behind him. Trihn dismounted and spoke without looking at him. "More is more." "If there's a servitor here, it's serious." "Driksys. That's an upper Associate's Pyke." "It might be Avrok's, or one of the others. Okay, Trihn. If Spider gets wind you're robbing him, killing his Associates, he'll send the Enforcer. We do not want that." "Only if they live." "Who do you think comes looking if they don't? You're not ready for that kind of fight." She knelt and surveyed the empty camp. "Then we wait and see who turns out." It was morning before movement broke the droning stillness. Trihn felt her eyelids bobbing, flickering momentary dreams in zoetrope staccato between glimpses of light washing over the horizon. "There." Shakto's tone nudged above the ambient tectonic groan of the Reef. Trihn creaked forward to peer over the ridge. In the gulley below, an Eliksni Captain adorned in bent and snapped quills dragged itself by a single arm across the dirt. Ether gas and fluid gurgled from damaged lines across its mask and equipment rig. "That's not Driksys." Trihn's words were half-caste disappointment and relief. "No." "Still one of his though. I recognize the red-tipped quills." "A subordinate. This is better for us." "What happened?" "No perimeter trips or weapons discharges that I'm aware of," Shakto chirped with a tinge of befuddlement. "Can you tell who?" "From here? With their face in the dirt?" Trihn stood and brushed her robes. "I'm going to get a closer look."
2018938613Wild Hunt VestmentIII The encampment was several days old, formed from a few dirty tents huddled around a handful of unpacked crates and two sealed ones. The entranced Servitor had dimmed, and foul-smelling liquid spilled from punctures and rutted gashes in its plating. Trihn looked the machine over curiously. It was an oddity this far from the Shore, and to be left unprotected was even stranger. Toppled in the dirt, an Arc spear tip drew her eye to an open case of digging tools, high-tensile strength line, and respirator filters— and just beyond: the wheezing Captain. Trihn scooped the spear from the ground and walked the few short steps to him. "What name do you go by, cur of Driksys?" Her Eliksni was of the Shore, a crudeform result of the elegant language diluted by Sol-domestic phrases and pronunciations. The Captain thrashed and rolled onto its back, snapping quills like kindling. It propped itself on rough-hewn fleshy stubs to extend its reach and swiped at her with its single remaining arm. Froth spilled from its cracked mask, and underneath a broken section at the brow-line, a maddened eye fixated on her. "What's wrong with him?" Shakto materialized at Trihn's side. "I don't know. Presenting physiology is Fallen, but altered. Something in the Ether?" "Whatever they called you, your life is mine now." The Lightbearer drove the Arc spear into the Captain's chest with one measured thrust. "We'll keep doing this until he has no subordinates. He'll be forced to deal with us eventually." Trihn swiped a spent Ether canister from the Captain and held it up to the light. "Shakto." "Looks clean to me," the Ghost said after a focused scan. Trihn tossed the canister to shatter on the ground and moved back to the unopened crates. She cracked off one of the lids with the spear and set both aside. Just short of a dozen full fragile vials containing delicate blue jostled within soft packaging. Save a few with froth percolating through worn seals, the Ether swished like plasma-fluid surf inside the glass. "They wouldn't leave this much unattended." Shakto followed the dirt-dragged trail back from the Captain to a curve in the stony walls of the gulley. The trail led him to a narrow separation in the rock face. "Trihn." It was enough space to contort her body through. Scrapes ran from the edges of the split into a slithering dark tunnel. Trihn took a stone from the ground and rolled it in her hands, coaxing condensed smoothness from it with palms of Void-Light. She flicked the glowing sphere into the separation and watched it roll a few meters along a line before it skipped over the edge and fell steeply out of sight. "You think it fell straight through the Reef?" "I'd say no. That rope goes somewhere." Trihn squeezed shallow breaths into her lungs with each shuffling step. It was all the stone pressing on her ribs would allow. She closed her eyes to keep instinctual panic in check and lurched forward with a final step to meet the precipice. The walls opened; her lungs filled. Line dangled beneath her feet. She grabbed the line and tested the solidity of the ground-spike holding it in place. "Shakto, I'm going down." Several meters deep in the darkness, buzzing spelunking lights set a grizzly scene aglow. Three Vandals, two Dregs, and a Captain lay slain and lifeless and ripped agape—some residually twitching from Arc blade cuts. Near the Captain, two severed arms bled pools. A third arm, prosthetic, was pinned to an adjacent stone wall with a spear. Her breath trembled. She knew this violence. It was the only thing the pits had ever offered her. "What did you find?" Shakto's voice reverberated down the shaft, preceding his descent.
365082710Wild Hunt BondV Her spirit awakened from dull normality; she saw the glistening maelstrom engulfing the living onyx before her. She heard clarity in the purring mirth emitting from the stone. Three times she had done this, the last leaving several fractures in the bones of her hands. The stone played out her vengeance in a thousand different ways. She studied each path that left Driksys dead and forgotten. She studied those that showed her failure. But there were gaps, and she always needed more. Trihn drew upon the second vial with her golden needle. It struck as if bottled lightning. She peeled back the layers. She witnessed it, knew now that the onyx stone had not risen, but was thrust into the floor like a plunging blade. A bannerette in claim. A needlepoint finger. It sold the simple answers in exchange for mental frippery, the unused space between thoughts. A buried name to be revealed. Suggesting, then asking, insisting, impellent. Embedded. It tore her consciousness across the cosmos to a grand terrace of onyx Swords, hilted in emerald flame and overlooking darkened systems. A glint in the distance. A world? A name? A promise offered and dragged in Sisyphean humor as voices from the black edges of space converged in laughter. A lone figure stood on the terrace aside two empty thrones. A host of mouths split down the centerline of its form. They screamed with countless voices. Their harmonious epiphany dragged the buried name from the depths, from the pit, from the heap, to the surface. It was the only truth before her, and with it, Trihn drowned in regret. Trihn opened her eyes to Shakto nudging her head. It took every ounce of restraint to keep her blade sheathed. It was the fright, she thought. She hadn't expected him. "You were muttering a name." He waited for her response. She sat up in the dim cavern before the cryptolith and quickly scooted back several paces. Her muscles ached and every small motion splintered pain through torn tendons and micro-fractured bones beneath her skin. "What?" A pulsing irritant was raging inside her head. It wasn't the Ether. This was different. "Do you remember the name?" Shakto moved back to her side and began restoring her injuries. "Something is coming here." Trihn turned to her Ghost. "I don't." "Xivu Arath." Shakto saw no recognition in his Lightbearer's eyes, but Trihn felt the name nestle into the small unused crevices of her mind. It had taken hold. In the day's journey back to the mainland of the Shore, the name would spread, making war on her thoughts. Trihn would dream of Driksys, always, only to awaken with dug-in fingernails drawing blood from her palms or to find herself alone wailing into the night on some desolate mote of rock. She had been separated from Shakto twice like this before they found a remedy: death. Revival kept the name at bay, but only for so long. She came to know the name through its persistence. Xivu Arath. It would knock her down many times, but she had always found the ritual of righting oneself uplifting. This would not bury her, for she still had much to do.
1776649656Wild Hunt HoodI The Awoken skulked through dead Dregs, picking at exhausted canisters like a carrion dog. She had done this each first week, of each month, since her revival beneath the grave-heap in the bowels of the Shore's fighting pits. She was knocked down many times that day, and many more in the short year; she had borne the Light but found the ritual of righting oneself uplifting. The clawing repetition to breach unspoiled air taught that persistence rewards. Over time with the Light, panicked bloody defeats instead became swift victories and acclaim. Clumsy and unrefined, it was enough to win battles with flashy results. Glitz drew attention to the verboten fighting ring. Its coordinators had not informed the Spider of the Syndicate's contributions to its stores of Ether, nor their discovery of another unclaimed Lightbearer. Instead, they had chosen to pocket cuts and remain silent. They sought to quiet the rumors and retain the flow. In their haste to dispatch her and trap her Ghost, they taught Trihn to devour and the Void freed her mind. Her short stint of bouts mystified in mythos over the months since her escape, but her name wouldn't fade from their memory. The ring still required dismantling. Two days ago, she pressed beyond the Tangled Shore and its watchful baron, into the no man's land between Awoken borders and lawless drifting slag-rock. Trihn hunted vengeance, and Ether: her first nourishment; invigorating habitual nostalgia. The scattered Eliksni that remained throughout the system held little nothing as the bulk of many Houses' stores were consolidated on Europa, or less so within Spider's hold. Trihn had no ship to leave the Shore, but neither did her betrayer. She was happy to make do here. "Proximity beacon is still picking up noise." Trihn's Ghost, Shakto, swiveled to her. "Looks like your old pit buddy's tip was trustworthy." Trihn nodded in acknowledgement as Shakto transferred the information to her tac-band. He continued, "They're fast, but not far away. Although… there isn't much cover in that area." The Lightbearer scanned the projection from her forearm. "Fast, yes. Must be Pikes; can't be on foot. Prepare mine. We can catch them before it gets dark." "They'll hear us coming if we get too close." "And?" Trihn whipped back mustard-colored robes to straighten two short Eliksni-style scabbards at her hips before mounting her Pike. A thundercrack sent her into the astral wind. Shakto compiled into existence in a holstered seat in the chassis, set just above the Pike's maneuvering apparatus. The front scoop sloped groundward from him like a trunk, fashioned with tusks and themed of an old Earth beast. "We're not even sure if they're Fallen, just that something moved through the trip line." "What besides Eliksni Pikes moves that fast?" Her voice was clear through their direct channel. "Scorn… on Pikes." "Their numbers are scant." She navigated connection points between drifting chunks of land. Rubble drifted against the pull of gravity. "And they don't come out this far. It's one of his crews." "Driksys already wants you dead." "You're making my point."
2655910845Wild Hunt BootsIV In the middle of the chaos, a lone metallic structure groaned as Trihn stood in deathly quiet, piecing together the sequence of events. The structure's form was slender, shapely, and one she had not seen before. It bent in lines that were lost within each other's paths; interconnected without sacrificing distinction. It drew her in. Trihn stepped forward and ungloved her hand. She pressed her palm to the onyx-colored metal spires. Something quivered within, and came alive. "What are you?" she would ask, over the concerned interjections of her Ghost. The Answer, it would reply to her, alone. At least, the first time. The day had drawn long into the night and she had left the cavity, paced in the encampment, and returned many times to the onyx spires. She would prod. It would weave the riposte. Power, in many shapes. Purpose. Time. Meaning. Any trait the ambitious could muster, it would ennoble with standing. It would taper the meat. Lean the fat. Deglaze the waste to flavor the cut. A protean horror of trim. It struck awe. Glory incarnate, made tangible within the beholder. It showed her the heap that she clawed life from. It showed her the betrayal Driksys coated her opponent's blades with. It showed her tools they meant to rip apart her Ghost with. It dug out the many beatings her bones still remembered, and the blood ran red into her eyes. The anger. The validating need for vengeance. It showed her a head set upon a pike. More. More. More. That night she dreamed of the pit. If this living metal thing could lead her to Driksys, the way forward was clear. Shakto said it was taller now. A head above its previous size. She had thought that metal does not grow; it is only reshaped or reduced, but upon reflection, had come to accept aggregation was growth. Trihn returned with tools retrieved from her Pike: some gifts, some collected from marks that no longer needed them, all worn from extended use. Dilution fluid ransacked from the parked Pikes would steady the process. Three canisters of Ether swiped from the encampment dangled around her neck in a makeshift sling while the rest were left stowed in her vehicle's saddlebags. Shakto didn't need to warn her of the danger. It had killed her before. Her first victory, her first reward. It would give her the strength. It would focus her mind. The Ghost would await her return above ground. She laid the tools before the spindled onyx structure. Fine silk rolled in soft leather kept them from the dirt. Traced the cloud-chromed instruments with steady pupils. Wiped clean with oil and cloth. Prepared Light to staunch her invigoration should it turn grisly. Connected the pitted dispersal gauge with transparent clean line. Capped line with a fine and untarnished gold barb. Drew thick sapphiric fluid, appropriately diluted. Pinched skin at the thigh beneath fresh wraps. Flesh to onyx. Induced. Cold prickling stung her veins. Muscles tensed and bulged against the sheaths of Light she had bound them in to keep from bursting. Her bones creaked under Ether-bolstered thew. She licked away flavor from her lips, exhalent tinged of briny nitrogen, and shivered. As her body stabilized and the tremors climbed, Trihn's head reflexively craned upward and outstretched her neck. Her mind electrified. Her spine bent at the brim of buckling.
3360705328Calamity Rig GlovesYou probably heard I'm takin' a little trip—maybe already took one; I don't know when you're gonna listen to this. Let me say, the only thing that'd get me into the true cold again would have to be big enough to change it all. When you look down and see it's already in your hands, that's hard to walk away from. 'Specially when it was almost yours to begin with. So yeah, maybe I've got itchy fingers, but I'm the kind of fella who'd pick somethin' up so nobody else gets it—it's a zero-sum game. I take what I can. Only thing is, I'm not takin' it alone. And you know me. I like to keep some folk close—real close. I feel somebody's hand on my throat, I figure they're about to kill me or kiss me. Personally, I like to keep my options open.
4198340972Calamity Rig RobesHow do you feel about all this, hero? You've got a dead heart beating in your chest right now. Only reason you're still movin' is because somebody's got a job for you and they don't think you're done yet. Anybody asked for your point of view lately? Lots of changes lately—go here, hunt that. Kill him. Kill her. You tell me, "Hell yeah, Drifter! I live for that stuff!" I'm tellin' you, yeah, you do. Get me? Am I guilty as the rest of 'em because I tell you to bank a few Motes? You expect me to tell you to decide for yourself, am I right? You know just enough to be stupid. I'm asking you how you feel because nobody else will. Trust.
2000686791Calamity Rig BondI don't know who you are. Don't know what school you follow, which side you're on—could be heads, could be tails. Could be the edge. Could be you shoot before the coin lands. Just know I'll be the one picking it up. You ever hear the story of the fella who painted bullseyes around his bullet holes? Ol' Drifter's plan is coming together—maybe not as clean as I wanted, maybe without the right folk nearby, but it's happening. That's why I left this message for you, in a place you wouldn't look if you didn't give a damn. Things are changin'—hell, things have already changed—but Drifter's still a safe bet. And I've still got plenty of time. Just not as much as I did before.
3317403507Calamity Rig CoverHey, sister. Or brother. Hell, I don't know who's gonna end up listen' to this. Could be a snitch, an idiot, or somebody who ain't picked a side yet. And that's perfect, because all this talk about choosin' sides? Noise. Before this is over, the only one's gonna have your back is you—and that's even odds. Use your head. Think clear, all right? Because there are whispers going around, and you need to know when to plug your ears. Things have been different since Sloan went dark… ooh, poor wording? What's wrong, too soon? Let me tell you that we killed some time on New Arcadia. Learned some things. Listened to the wrong whispers. Be careful who you trust from here on out, all right? Yeah, that includes me, but I've been tellin' you that since the beginning.
2946433642Calamity Rig BootsBeing one of the Light's chosen blessed magic babies means you always come back with what you lost. So if frostbite's weighin' on your mind lately, put it aside. Ain't that it don't hurt—I mean, it hurts—but comes a time you can lose a toe and not think twice about it, aside from figurin' if you could drop enough to make a stew. (You can't, if you're askin'.) What I'm sayin' is, you can walk the edge if your feet are tough enough. Oughta be high up enough that you can see what's on both sides before you decide which one to hop down to. You get me? If you follow the Drifter, don't wear your nice shoes.
2865404850Legacy's Oath GlovesWILLA "Not bad," Willa admits. "Not bad at all." You bow. "Delighted to remake your acquaintance, Dr. Bray." "Likewise. I'm sorry about the amnesia, but Grandpa's work always comes with some nightmarish drawback. At least you're not grunting and tearing your own limbs off." You don't understand. "Should I be?" "Our father did." You feel love and frustration when you look at this small, dark-skinned woman, and those feelings say "big sister" in your heart. "Hey," you offer, "maybe when Grandpa loses his memory, it'll make him a little less…" She smiles. "Like himself?" "Yeah." You laugh. "I guess you've known him longer than me now. Actually, I guess you always have." "Wiping the old man's memory won't change him. He wouldn't do it if it would." Willa beckons you closer to her lab bench. A projection shows tiny machines, interlocked like bricks. "This is SIVA. My latest project. A general-purpose viral nanite to render all prior cytomachines obsolete." You flinch. The tiny things make you think of Vex. "Easy." Willa pats your arm awkwardly. You realize that she is afraid of you. "If you'd waited a few years, you could've used SIVA to repair your brain. Even let it transform your whole body. That's my plan, I think. Immortality my own way. I could be anything I want." "Ew," you say. "Sounds like being made out of bugs." She grimaces. "You realize that if Grandpa never dies, we'll never run BrayTech? We had plans, Elsie. Our plans. Not his."
3908982762Legacy's Oath RobesALTON "So this is what our father died for…" Alton reaches out, fascinated. You offer your hand. He pinches you. "Ow!" you snap. "Why would he let that hurt? I mean—hang on." He rummages around behind his desk, finds a collapsible shelving rod, and grips it like a bat. "Don't dodge." He swings it as hard as he can at your head. You can't help ducking out of the way. "Hey!" "But if I had hit you," he insists, "why would it hurt? I mean, that can't possibly damage you! Isn't pain supposed to signal damage?" Why is he testing you? Is pain tolerance his idea of family relations? You wish you could remember. "Alton," you say, aware that you're retaliating for that pinch, "Grandfather invited me to Europa to join his work. He invited Willa and Ana too. But not you. Why?" A tiny crinkle of skin appears on his forehead as he winces. "Well, I'm more of a troubleshooter than a researcher. He sent me to clean up that mess at K1. But I suppose he didn't need my administrative skills on Europa." "Oh," you say, dubiously. He flips a stylus between his fingers. "He must've told you that." "Alton, he didn't… mention you at all. Much about my sisters, but nothing about you. I found it kind of disconcerting." He drops the stylus. Anger flashes in his eyes. "Mom says Grandfather is afraid of women. Because he thinks he can't control them. I suppose he thinks he's got me all figured out. And he's not interested in things he already possesses."
4155514689Legacy's Oath BondANA "Oh my God, Elsie! You're gorgeous!" She throws her arms around you, and you taste the sodium laurate in her shampoo and the long-chain fatty acids in the rosehip oil that lingers from her girlfriend's kiss, and it is all so good. You hug her as hard as she can be hugged. It's the first time. You cannot remember ever touching her before. Ana murmurs in the place where you once had an ear. "Before you ask if I'm mad, of course I'm not. It was your right to keep it secret." "Thank you," you breathe (don't breathe; can't breathe). "Grandfather told me he wasn't even sure that I had the—the disease. Until recently." "Are you sure you actually had it?" Ana's pretending to tease, but there is a pang of real fear in her voice. "Maybe he faked the diagnosis. To get you into this body. Did you run the tests yourself?" "I can't remember," you admit. "Right, right, of course. I read the letter." Ana draws away, holds you by the shoulders. "Elsie, what matters is that you're going to be around forever. We have so much to do! We can finally climb Olympus Mons. And after we summit, I can push you off a cliff and watch you stick the landing." Her smile is infectious. The light in your mouth reflects in her eyes.
3861374125Legacy's Oath CowlSYLVIE Your mother screams in horror. "No! Il torture ma fille aussi? Elsie, say it's not you; say it's not! Say he hasn't locked you up in that walking lazaretto to die!" "Mom. Mom, please. Je vais bien; je ne suis pas comme mon père, inshallah!" you say, but she won't believe it. You don't know what to say, because you only remember her as a warm feeling. She sobs, and you smell the amino ketones and aromatic acids in her tears. The salty opioids glisten on her skin. You want to hide your face, to hood yourself. Every time she looks at you, she screams and cries harder. Finally, you give up and resign to settling into the little guest bed. The house is full of reminders of your father, who died in a body just like yours. Sylvie really loved him, your sisters told you. And Clovis II really loved her. Even after he was unfaithful. Sleep finally comes but is still discomforting. You dream of murder and hot blood and a mannequin body made of knives. You remember forcing your way through a tower of prison cells, slashing through prisoner after prisoner in order to get to the top. You wake up screaming, practically fall out of bed, but Mom is there to catch you. "Hush, hush, it's all right. It's just a dream." You cling to her, and it is your turn to sob. Nothing comes out of your eyes as you try to explain the dream. "Everyone I knew was in those cells," you gasp. "You, and Dad, and Elsie, and Ana, and Alton…" "Oh, my sweet," your mother whispers. "Of course you dreamt about killing us. Your grandfather made you this way. And he kills everything he touches."
840728420Legacy's Oath BootsLUSIA Grandma Lusia wipes sweat from her brow. "Help me pull this net in." You pull on it together, but it's hooked on something underwater. You strip off your clothes and dive into the gentle river, down to where the fishing net has torn on the propeller blade of a long-abandoned outboard motor. The net is completely ruined; you decide to make the dive worth your while and catch a wolf fish with your hands instead. When you come ashore, you can feel everyone staring at you. A few children point while a group of men whistle and shout. Lusia yells back at them in Sranan, or maybe Ndjuka; you're embarrassed to admit that you don't know which. "Perverts!" she complains. "Don't they have any shame?" "I think it's because I'm a robot, Grandma," you say. Or maybe because wolf fish normally attack people, but you're suffocating one currently in your grasp. "You are not a robot. You're not even a total-replacement prosthetic. You are a body, and a body is the same thing as a person, and a person deserves respect. Basic transhuman hermeneutics." She winks at your surprise. "Did Clovis convince you I was stupid?" Your paternal grandmother was a dizzying beauty in the old family pictures, and she still is. But her power clearly lies in her savvy intellect. She was hard to find, using her old name, Lusia Lin. And no Common Compassion registry to speak of. You look at her with renewed admiration. "Why did you come here to live?" you ask, wrapping yourself in a towel and sitting beside her as she cleans the wolf fish. The flesh is white and flaky and smells like heaven. Your stomach rumbles: a perfect illusion. "It's simple. Suriname is a great nature preserve. And I wanted to be preserved. Besides," she shrugs, "it's home." "Preserved from what?" "From your Grandfather, love." She shows you the fish's teeth. "Always remember that he's lied to you. Your father was Clovis's test run for you. But what are you a test run for, Elsie? Curing Clovis of death? Whatever it is, he's too afraid to use it himself. And that means you should be afraid too."
2888750223Cinder Pinion GlovesIt was the morning of the new Crucible season when the shout echoed through the Tower. Master Rahool flinched, fumbling his engram. Commander Zavala looked up from his desk. Kadi 55-30 hurried to steady a haphazard pile of shipments. In the Hangar, a flock of well-fed pigeons took wing. "THEY ARE THROWING NEW GRENADES!"
1001070225Cinder Pinion RobesLord Shaxx charged onto the Crucible field. "Gather close, my champions," he shouted. "Yes, both teams. I want to congratulate you." The Guardians peeked warily from cover, then assembled before Shaxx. "I remember the first time I saw a Hard Light shot bounce around a corner," he began. "The first time I handed over a Mountaintop. The first Guardian to bring Gjallarhorn to my Crucible." The huge man shook his head fondly. "I know the powers you hold will soon be commonplace, but I wanted to acknowledge you for being among the first to bring them here. To me." "Thank you for showing me your crystal columns," he said to a Titan. "For the swirling maelstrom brought by your staff," he said, nodding at a Warlock. "And you!" He walked to a Hunter in a few long strides and clapped him on the back. The Hunter tumbled to the ground so hard, his weapons reloaded. "You threw scythes at them!" boomed Shaxx gleefully. He helped the Hunter to his feet, then turned back toward the group. "May your strength guide us through whatever troubles are yet to come," he said, and saluted. The Guardians bowed. Lord Shaxx stood proudly for a moment, his hands on his hips. "What are you waiting for?" he cried. "Resume the match!" And the Guardians fell upon each other once more.
1466464938Cinder Pinion BondLord Shaxx looked down at the City as he spoke. "The children in the City have always played at being Guardians. Shouting about their hammers and shields, swinging branches as Dawnblades. Many a time, I would pretend to be slain by one of their attacks as I walked through the City, and they would always laugh." He gripped the railing in his fist. "Now they shout different words as they play. They call forth different powers. When struck, they hold positions, freeze in place, keep still. Their smiles fix on their faces. They fall perfectly quiet." He began to say something else and gestured emptily toward the City, but his hand fell to his side. He turned toward you. "You and I, we are warriors. We know the weight of our weapons when we draw them. But the children…" His voice was quiet. "It unsettles me."
4065915260Cinder Pinion Cover"Do I fear it?" Lord Shaxx stooped to bring himself slightly closer to the recruit's eye level. "Tell me: if I were to wear your helmet, would I fight as you do?" The Guardian shrank visibly and shook her head. "Of course not. We use the weapons of our enemies, but we do not become them. Do you know why that is?" The recruit stayed silent. Shaxx put his hand on her shoulder. "Because a weapon does not change a warrior. If a weapon makes you a monster, you were a monster to begin with." He turned to the other Guardians. "We are surrounded by fear. It presses on us from every direction. If you fear the hearts of your brothers and sisters, then speak to them." Shaxx nudged the recruit. She tentatively raised her hand and summoned a fistful of Stasis crystals. He nodded with approval. "If the heart you fear is your own," he said gently, "speak to me."
3051386969Cinder Pinion BootsThe dejected Warlock walked away from the Crucible with his Ghost hovering over his shoulder. "He noticed, didn't he," said the Warlock flatly. "Don't know what you mean," lied the Ghost. "Shaxx. He saw when I—" the Warlock spread his hands, fingers splayed, and wiggled his fingertips. The Ghost shrugged his points and gave a noncommittal beep. "He may have." The Warlock groaned. "How bad did it look?" The Ghost made a sympathetic noise. "Not bad." The Warlock stared blankly at his Ghost. "Okay, pretty bad," the Ghost admitted. "You shattered." "Shattered… how?" "Like a statue somebody knocked over," said the Ghost. "You just went everywhere. Everything broke except for your boots." The Warlock exhaled slowly. "And Shaxx saw?" "He probably did, yeah." The Warlock shrank into his hood. "What makes you think so?" "Well, because," the Ghost said carefully, "he said you had nice boots."
3881357144Phobos Warden GlovesII Osiris walked into the office without hesitation, as if it were his own. Zavala looked up and pushed his blank papers to the side. "Osiris," he said. "You don't seem to be taking your exile very seriously of late." "I treat it with the same regard you give its enforcement," sniffed the Warlock as he crossed his arms. Zavala raised his eyebrows but saw traces of a smile around Osiris's eyes. He leaned back in his chair and gestured for him to continue. "I bring hope from an unexpected source," Osiris said. "There is a devotee of mine on Mercury—a certain Brother Vance—stationed just outside the Infinite Forest. His point of view is unique, but it may be more valuable than I had anticipated." Osiris opened his hand and cast a small projection: a fleet of Pyramid ships. "Since the Traveler's reformation, Brother Vance has been studying prophecies where such an event took place. He believes he has discovered a way to stop the Pyramids." A spiderweb of trajectories crisscrossed the projection. There was a flash and the Pyramid ships melted into Osiris's palm. Zavala leaned forward. "He found this by studying simulated realities?" "Specifically realities where the Pyramids invade our system and the Traveler reforms," Osiris said. "In all the realities where the City survives, Brother Vance believes there is a common thread." "I… know Vance," Zavala said carefully. "Can we put our future in his hands?" Osiris bristled reflexively, but then made a reconciliatory gesture. "We have seen more than our share of tomorrows, wouldn't you agree? We have done so through the strength of our community." The Warlock laced his fingers together. "Brother Vance, he is one man, true. But so were you. So was I. It would be unwise to dismiss what his future may hold."
383751748Phobos Warden RobesIII The silence in Zavala's office was interrupted by a burst of static over the comms. Asher Mir's nasal voice rang shrilly over the speakers. "Ikora was unavailable!" he said impatiently. "Asher," Zavala said into his comms. "What have you got for me?" "Oh, just some ravings about how best to handle the encroaching Pyramids, if that sort of thing is of any interest to the Vanguard," Asher said. "Go on," said Zavala. "I analyzed the paracausal shockwaves from the Traveler's recent inexplicable pulse. I believe I could assemble a machine that would allow us to render these malicious polyhedrons inert." Asher paused. "Vulnerable. Does that appeal to you?" "How does it work?" Zavala asked. Asher made a noise of deep dissatisfaction. "I could either build the machine or explain its purpose to you. Both would take equal amounts of time." Zavala smiled. "Build your machine," he replied. "Is there anything you require of me?" Asher considered for a moment. "No. I anticipated nothing more than your tacit approval, so I am already thrilled with this conversation," Asher said, not sounding thrilled. "I will do the same thing I always do: find answers. Then I will deliver them to you and you can use them to form some sort of plan. How does that sound?" Zavala took a breath. "Agreeable." "Very well. Do try to manage your enthusiasm," Asher said dryly. The signal went dead, and Zavala was once again alone in his office. Zavala disconnected from the call and looked down at the blank pages in front of him. There was another burst of interference as the audio system squealed against a forced reconnection. "Hm, and thank you," said Asher's voice over the speakers. "That will be all!"
2331975199Phobos Warden BondV There was a soft knock on the door and a technician tentatively poked his head inside the office. "The system is ready, Commander." Zavala looked across his desk. No echo of the past called out to him, no guilt-driven daydream—just a young man from the City, nervous about disturbing the commander. Zavala rose to his feet. He stood and braced himself against the desk for a long moment, arms wide. He took a steady breath and nodded. The technician synced the office systems and initiated a broadcast, then stepped to the side as Zavala approached. "Sir," he whispered urgently, gesturing to the neat stack of pages left behind on the desk. "Your speech." Zavala left the papers where they were and began to speak. "People of the Last City. Humanity has endured a devastating blow…."
1585002523Phobos Warden CowlI Zavala stared at the blank pages on his desk. He sat with his back to the window. The Traveler shone brightly outside, but there was little warmth in its light. Since its reformation, Zavala found it strangely unfamiliar. Its size made everything else seem smaller somehow. He shifted in his seat and tried to relax his shoulders. He reached up to rub his temples and found he was clenching his jaw. He stretched his neck and placed his palms flat on his desk. His hands were cold. He knew where it ended, but he didn't know how to begin.
671358418Phobos Warden BootsIV Deputy Commander Sloane sighed as she entered Zavala's office. She fell into the chair opposite his and waited for a moment, head down, elbows on her knees. Finally she spoke: "Somebody's selling pretzels in the Hangar. They're all out now, but I could smell them when I docked." Zavala leaned over his stack of blank papers. "They're very good," he confided. "They have little containers of beer mustard, too." Sloane looked up and shook her head in disbelief. "I've been away too long," she said. "It's good to see you," Zavala said. Sloane stretched out in the chair. She looked comfortable. "Listen," he began. "You've held Titan against the Fallen for long enough, and I figured you could use a change of scenery. You've heard about the uprising on Europa. I'd be grateful for your expertise." The woman sized him up. A smirk played across her chapped lips. "You want me on the front lines again?" she asked. "Must be a very credible threat." Zavala looked down. "I'd go myself if I could," he said. "We're being hit on all sides. I feel as though I'm just barely holding this system together." His mouth was tight, but his eyes were pleading. Sloane leaned forward and placed her hand on his desk. "Don't worry," she said. "We've survived many horrors. We'll survive this one, too."
2731591698Wild Hunt GauntletsII A monolithic ivory tower pierced the distant horizon. Siegfried, first Striker Titan of the Praxic Order, sat across from The Queen's Wrath and two bodyguards. Their skimmer-craft glided through the dazzling amethyst architecture and swooping fog-ridden tunnels of the Dreaming City. Crystalline reflections danced through the cabin around them like rainbow-mist flares, catching sheen off Siegfried's polished Dunemarchers. "I've never seen this road." "That doesn't surprise me. Much of the city remains inscrutable to prying eyes," Petra Venj chuckled. "You've visited before?" "Once or twice. Is that Rheasilvia through the fog?" Siegfried removed his helmet and hung it on the Invective slotted beside his seat. A thick flaxen braid ran down the midsection of his head, fading into stubbled sides that fed a sumptuous beard. "It is." Petra looked the man over. "That's not a common fashion for a Guardian." "Grew in during the Red War. It took a liking to me." Siegfried stroked his chin. "Will your soldiers be ready to move once we arrive?" "At nightfall." Her hand was outstretched, holding field notes. "You understand what you're facing?" Siegfried took them and slid the note packet into his breastplate beneath a Cormorant Seal. "Innumerable Hive." "Yes, and particularly vicious ones." "That has always been my experience." Siegfried smiled. "I'm sure your Corsairs will allow no harm to come to me. I will do the same for them." "They'll be relieved to have a Guardian leading the charge." "My briefing mentioned fauna being afflicted by a pervasive infestation?" Petra kept the worry from her face. "Recently sapient beings have begun to show symptoms as well." "It's spreading." The Praxic Titan leaned forward. "How have you combated this?" "Intelligence suggests the Hive congregate around some sort of relic. We believe it is the affliction's point of origin." Petra pointed to his breastplate. "Your notes provide more details." "It is my understanding I am not to destroy this relic. Why?" "'Whatever the Hive bow to in the dark: secure it, intact,'" she quoted. "It represents too many unknowns to discard without examination." "That is not my perspective. The Hive exist to purge or be purged. I say we oblige them." Siegfried turned to The Queen's Wrath. "My feelings aside, you are the commanding officer of this expedition. I will comply." "Do so with care. You alone are cleared to approach the relic. My Corsairs don't enjoy the protection of the Light, and I want them keeping a safe distance once the nest is clear." "Very well. Still, know my recommendation to the Vanguard will only be in support of eradication or containment." "The Reef will take note of their opinions. For now, I imagine the Vanguard are rather focused on Europa. At least, if what I hear from Eris is accurate." "Eris Morn is a traitor." Siegfried's voice was stern, his eyes locked with Petra's. Her lip convulsed in a silent snarl. "The information she shares would suggest otherwise." Petra turned away from Siegfried as the skimmer-craft dipped beneath the fog. She thought of Eris's last letter, the sighting of Variks. Pieces in motion. Coats turning or bisected. Wartime nuances. "Maybe this deployment will be good for you." "Anywhere my Light can send shadows into retreat is a good deployment."
2605530826Wild Hunt PlateIII Dusk set over the Dreaming City. Six Corsairs sporting Tigerspite Rifles made final checks on their gear. Movement became still salutes as Petra and Siegfried approached the staging ground. Just ahead, nestled in the Divalian Mists, menaced a fetid pit trimmed in Hive bio-growth. Frenetic inhuman whispers echoed from within like hoarse cords screaming. Field holos displayed maps of twisting tunnelways all orbiting one central chasm. Within the nest, a point flagged their objective. Approach markers tracked the most direct path through. "At ease, Corsairs. This is Siegfried. He is here to assist you in flushing the Hive from this nest and reclaiming our land. Inside, he is in command. My guard and I will hold this forward station. You all know what to do. For the Queen." Petra pivoted to allow Siegfried the floor. "Titan." "Well met, Awoken of the Reef. The Vanguard stands with you. I am the spearhead. Advance on me and we will prevail." Siegfried donned his helmet. "I will not fail you." The fireteam embarked, and in the subterranean ever-dark, the Hive descended upon them. Droves of Thrall choked the tunnels as gunfire deluge hammered from behind rallying barricades without pause. Siegfried lit the hollow with brilliant Arc fulmination, and rounds found targets. Claws drew blood and rent armor, but neither Titan nor Corsair wavered. Seven entered and seven stood. With each break in the flood, they took ground under cover of storm. Siegfried arced through the filth like a deadly spark. Each charge scattered the opposition, leaving only crackling chitin, expended shells, and galvanized ozone. Soulfire fumes fouled the air as reinforcements phased into ritual circles. Acolytes loped to flank the Titan only to be cut off by Corsair suppressing fire. Siegfried faced down a towering Knight with a man-hewing blade. He formed two flashbangs in his fists and lunged with a blinding combo. The Knight shrieked, narrowly missing Siegfried's head with its cleaver. The Titan launched forward, and the fiend fell to the rolling tempest. Labored breathing was the only sound that remained. The Titan looked to a blocked tunnelway in the floor before them. Slick Hive excretion lined the chasm ahead. "This must be their sanctum." Siegfried's palm pulsed with Light. The faint silhouette of a Ghost popped in and out of existence. "Yes. This is it. Fall back and form a perimeter. If I don't return, you are to retreat." Siegfried ripped through the mucus-seal and slid into the dim cavern. Foul fluid trickled from the ceiling in drips and spattered in pools at his feet. A monument of gore writhed before him. Soft tendrils convulsed around a jaundiced grim glow. They grew from the twisted base of an eviscerated Knight—its back and ribs pulled through its split abdomen, bending inside-out in half-completed metamorphosis. "You vile thing." Siegfried walked slowly, his sight focused on the grotesque shrine. The Knight's eyes followed his every step. He was mere meters from the horror when the earth burst on either side of him. Two Ogres stumbled from chitin-covered sacs he had mistaken for walls. He drew his Invective and with well-placed blasts, dispatched the first. Siegfried turned to the second, but it was already upon him. It batted him into a cavern wall and wailed as energy beamed from its eye. Siegfried raised a towering barricade just as the Ogre unleashed its hellish gaze. Cracks webbed through the Light wall. Siegfried braced it with both hands. The Ogre shook the ground as it bore down on him. The Titan readied himself to clash, lightning welling in his bones. Movement in the distance. [CRACK] The Ogre's head snapped sideways from a forceful hit. Siegfried followed the sound to a figure perched in the mouth of a tunnel opposite of him. The Ogre turned and roared— [CRACK] Its head blew back, oozing from a raw wound. Three more shots followed from the figure, bringing the Ogre to its knees. The man looked at Siegfried and performed a small bow. The Titan dispersed his shield and seized the Ogre by the neck. He slammed the wounded thing to the ground and brought both fists down with a bolt of electricity and a killing blow. The Titan turned to confront his rescuer but saw only an empty tunnel. It was early morning before Siegfried surfaced again. Petra stood stone-still in the camp. "I retrieved your samples. You should know that anything I removed regenerated…" Siegfried lowered his voice. "…I believe this was a germinal site. Either lady luck is with us, or this was an ambitious expansion off a larger site." "We're never lucky," Petra replied grimly. "I'll begin narrowing down options for our next strike." "That line of thinking will be reflected in my report to the Vanguard." "You've done more than enough for today, Sir Titan. Rest. Tomorrow we'll take the samples to the Techeuns. I'm sure they'll have plenty to say."
2932601761Wild Hunt MarkV The Titan peered into empty mist. "Damn," Siegfried said flatly. He turned around. A barrel in his bare face. A hooded Awoken behind it, with features obscured by a thin shawl wrap from the eyes down. "Stop. Following. Me." Siegfried raised his hands. His Ghost materialized. "Stay back, Ogden!" the Praxic Striker called out. "Now see here!" Ogden shouted, "I will not watch two brothers of the Light do battle. Calm yourselves!" A second Ghost materialized. "Glint. Be careful," whispered the figure. "We're all on the same side here," Glint said meekly. A Corsair stepped through the mist, rifle pointed at the hooded figure. "Lay down your arms and come peacefully." "Oh no." Glint looked to the hooded man. "Wait, Cro—mh." Heat flashed from the hooded man's free hand. "'Crome,' is it?" Siegfried inquired. "Never heard of you." "Crome" spun and threw a crude Solar blade, splitting the Corsair's rifle and slashing his hand. Siegfried moved to disarm; he caught Crome's turning jaw with an electrified fist, but missed the gun. Crome floundered back several paces and dove into the mists. "What a disrespectful man," Ogden shouted. "That kind of conduct cannot be allowed." "I'll put a stop to it," Siegfried assured him. Silhouettes stumbled through fog. Ghosts dematerialized. Corsair radios muddled with chatter. Crome skulked until quiet surrounded him, interrupted by a small burst of propulsion in the mist. Siegfried was far above him, plummeting through the mist like a coiled storm. Crome glanced upward and took off sprinting. The Striker's fists shattered the ground behind him in thunderous havoc. Crome darted away and twisted, landing on his feet with Dire Promise ready. Siegfried bolted directly toward Crome like living lightning. Each fanned shot from the man's cannon was struck down by bolts arcing from the Titan. Siegfried led with a shoulder. Crome dashed around him and brought Solar flame to form in his hand— "Too slow!" Siegfried whipped a crackling elbow into Crome's stomach and blocked the counterattack. The Titan delivered a knee to the man's ribs that chained into three lightning-fast strikes across the Hunter's body—ending in a thundercrack blow to the temple. Crome grunted and struggled to maintain his footing. Siegfried stood emblazoned in voltaic fury. "You're outclassed." "I'm pretty good at taking punishment," Crome jabbed through clenched, bloodied teeth. "Surrender. I won't ask again." "I can't do that. I'm here to hel—" Siegfried charged without hesitation, but Crome was ready this time. Instead of retreating, he leapt forward with a searing blade. Siegfried caught his wrist millimeters before the blade made contact but lost his footing. They grappled in the dirt. Siegfried pried the knife from Crome's hand. "Enjoy that," Crome said, skidding away from the Titan with a kick to the midsection. The blade turned molten and engulfed Siegfried in a fiery explosion. The Striker rose from the blast-cloud, coughing. "Damned knives…" Crome was quickly disappearing into the mist. "Enough running!" His voice erupted as he slammed electrified fists into the ground. The shockwave rippled through the dirt and tripped the running Hunter. Siegfried took a step forward. The Hunter rolled to face him, gun red-hot. A beam of Solar destruction sizzled through the mist, clipping Siegfried's pauldron before he could react and knocking him to the floor. Siegfried could hear the Corsairs nearby. Disoriented and livid, the Titan found his feet, but not his foe. The Hunter was gone. No amount of searching with the Corsairs would change that, but Siegfried kept them looking all through the night just the same.
1221846797Wild Hunt HelmI "Cousin Zavala. Ikora." Petra Venj's image shone on screen in the Commander's office. Curtains drawn; it was one of few dim sources providing light to the room. "Condolences are not enough." "The worlds may be gone, but their gravity remains… in more ways than one." Zavala cleared his throat. "How can the Vanguard be of assistance to the Queen's Wrath?" Ikora bowed her head in acknowledgement but did not look up from her datapad. Her eyes scoured intelligence reports from Europa, the Tangled Shore, Luna, beyond the pale, the list went on. "I'm afraid my news won't improve the mood." Petra took a deep breath. "What I'm about to divulge to you is privileged information. It cannot leave our confidence." Ikora's attention broke from her datapad. "Is that so? Information related to the Reef Queen's broadcast?" "A separate one sent afterward, entrusted to me. I thought it best we compare notes." "Curious." Ikora lowered her datapad. "We do not have the authority to simply deny the Consensus pertinent information." Her voice was metronomic in its cadence—each word selected with care. "Unilateral command decisions are admissible during wartime, provided I were supplied with evidence enough to do so." Zavala glanced to Ikora before continuing. "Give me something, Petra. Why have you called?" "The Cabal Empire is on the move." "That is concerning," Ikora said, finally relinquishing her datapad to power down on Zavala's desk. Indignation twitched across Zavala's brow. "How many times must we bury them?" "Potentially once more, Commander." "'Empire' implies their forces have coalesced around central leadership. Does the Queen's Wrath have a name?" "Only rumors. Fully decrypting the Cabal's latest transmission cipher is proving tricky. However, a new phrase has entered their lexicon." "What do you mean?" Zavala inquired. "From the few sequences we've cracked, it would seem they are combating something. A disease, of Hive origin." Ikora eyed the datapad. "Petra, a Hidden report details an encounter with an afflicted beast in Soriks's Cut. It bled soulfire." "Osiris can confirm increased Hive activity throughout the system." The Commander looked to Ikora, then to Petra. "Let's get ahead of this." "Yes, I've spoken to Osiris. The Techeuns have heard the Hive whispering to each other of conquest. Corsairs push into their broodholds to investigate, but… if I'm honest, access has become increasingly difficult." "You think this is linked to the Cabal Empire's newfound coordination?" Zavala asked. "Descriptions of the ailment are incomplete, but align with what we're seeing on the ground here." "An interstellar illness?" Ikora's voice was hushed. "At that distance, they would need a bridging point between us." "Or a nexus," Zavala said. "A throne world might do." Petra's brow furrowed in thought. "The Blind Well has been misbehaving." "Petra." Ikora looked celestial, eyes like quicksilver. "Red-sky morning. Full of dread. Recite it to the Techeuns." "Foreboding. I'll relay the message; does it have a meaning?" "A dream. Maybe nothing, but…" She saw that Petra understood. "You say the Hive are more active?" Zavala interjected. "They're up to something." "More violent, if that's imaginable. They seek out fights when before their actions showed tact." Petra's mind went to motive. "The Darkness has them in a frenzy." "New marching orders? Perhaps we could apply additional firepower to your investigation," Zavala offered. "A Guardian embedded under my command?" "To a point," Ikora modified. "It would save many lives. May I request someone who wouldn't destroy everything?" "Who did you have in mind?" Zavala ran a list in his head. "We're short on available Guardians." "Did Sloane make it home?" Petra asked. "She seems capable." "She's indisposed." Ikora looked to Zavala with firm eyes. "Aunor's Striker docked his ship here last night. He's fresh, available." "Is this agreeable?" "The Reef is thankful for any assistance the City can offer. We stand against this together, cousin. Vanguard Rey." "Indeed." Ikora nodded. Petra's image disconnected. "You're quite fond of making friends lately," poked Ikora. "So many brigands in our midst these days; I believe I've learned the value of making deals," Zavala spoke with subtle impact. "With what we've seen from our spearhead on Europa, what they did… strong alliances can be built on the back of honored agreements." "We are of one mind on that. We should keep this operation between us." "Inform your Striker of his new deployment. I would like a name and a file. It's odd for me not to know a Titan in this City."
1742122308Wild Hunt GreavesIV The night felt all too rushed, and morning so soon. Siegfried ached. He couldn't remember the last time he had been sore after a fight. "Good morning, Sir." Siegfried's Ghost, Ogden, hovered over the samples the Titan had taken. "The sorcery these dullards are using is extremely unstable." "I asked you to stay away from that. It's desecrated." Siegfried swiped the samples into his satchel from the gear rack in his tent. "In truth, I'd prefer you remained stowed until we departed." "You were not so rude as a boy, you know." The Ghost squinted at his Titan. "When I express concern Master Siegfried tells me not to fret. Could I not say the same?" "Different times, old friend. Now my body's a fair bit cheaper to replace than yours." Siegfried joked. "Fine point, Sir." The journey to the Techeuns was silent and uncomfortable. He met Petra in the cabin nose-deep in papers. Hoarse screams buried in the hard-blown fog. The Reef was shifting. She had requested his presence but informed him he would not be allowed inside the Temple. Ridiculous. Why was he here? Siegfried's thoughts were abuzz with distortion. Chaos. He followed Petra's march to the Temple chambers, the satchel of samples gripped tightly in his hand. She must have her reasons. Her secrets. The stairways seemed endless and Siegfried could not shake the image from the cavern. That macabre ritual. He tried to think of anything else. "Are there any other Guardians operating in this area?" Siegfried questioned. "Guardians come and go, but I haven't noticed anything unusual, if that's what you mean." "Nothing you aren't telling me?" "I have no reason to lie to you, Titan." "I saw a man." Petra stopped walking. The Temple door was only a few steps away. "Is there more?" "He was Awoken. He bore the Spider's sigil—" "Where did you see this man?" "During your operation." Siegfried paused. "He gunned down an ogre in my defense and fled." "Noble for a Syndicate fly." "I know you fraternize with the Spider." Siegfried watched her. Petra looked taken aback for a moment, then composed. "Do you know why spiders build webs, Titan?" "I don't concern myself with such things." "They enjoy control. Entrapment. The helplessness. Pulling strings in their small, little corners. Let them be, watched but undisturbed, and they catch other pests. Worse pests." Petra strode forward and placed a hand on the door. "Maybe it's time to check his web." The other held out for the satchel. "I'll look into it." Siegfried placed it in her hand. "I eagerly await your findings." "The Techeuns may need your account." Petra smirked to herself, "I give you dominion over these stairs. Stand guard, Sir Titan. Patrol if you'd like." Kalli, Sendia, and Shuro Chi awaited the Queen's Wrath. They placed the specimens each in a sealed containment vessel. They assessed them one by one. They prepared their minds. Slipped into meditation. Tooth, blood, and bone from the sacrificial Knight. Coagulated Soulfire. Shaved tissue of the writhe. Communion in searching.Three voices speak as one.Noise upon noise.Eleusinia drowning. A terrace of emerald flame above a red harborFingers reach like blades from distant hollowsTestingProddingTastingBreeding war. A dream is offered. RED SKY: They carry a brand in the consciousness of their tissues. MORNING: Individual existences all touched in chorus. FULL OF DREAD: Xivu Arath. Avatar of War. More. So much more. They witnessed it all. Petra wished she had not. Siegfried sat lost in thought, seated on the steps. He didn't like the idea of relying on witchcraft, especially that which he was unable to observe. If nothing else, it could at least be faster. The door opened behind him. Petra's face showed signs of fatigue. "I'm sorry to keep you waiting. Return to the staging ground. I'll join you in the morning. There is still much to discuss here." She considered Siegfried for a moment. "Tell the Vanguard Ikora's dream had merit. I'll be in contact." Siegfried sighed and stood. "I see my account of the situation was not necessary." He felt lighter now, moving down the stairs. Sharp even, as he entered the skimmer. Siegfried wasn't sure if it was the peace of an empty cabin or the security of a troop carrier escorting him. The satchel he had left with Petra. None of his concern. He removed his helmet and took a deep breath. He let his mind drift as he watched the beauty of the Strand pass. The grand gateway above him. The fabled crystalline wall standing against the fog. The wall. Atop the wall. Perched like a buzzard. It was him. Something hovered with him, glinting in the light. "There he is again!" barked Siegfried. He flung the door open and leapt without waiting for the skimmer to slow. The Titan soared through the air on Light, surging forward in an electrified dash before sliding into a full sprint. He crested the hill above the crystalline wall soon enough. Motion dragged into the shoreline mist. Siegfried pursued it.
3376563751Calamity Rig GauntletsYou probably heard I'm takin' a little trip—maybe already took one; I don't know when you're gonna listen to this. Let me say, the only thing that'd get me into the true cold again would have to be big enough to change it all. When you look down and see it's already in your hands, that's hard to walk away from. 'Specially when it was almost yours to begin with. So yeah, maybe I've got itchy fingers, but I'm the kind of fella who'd pick somethin' up so nobody else gets it—it's a zero-sum game. I take what I can. Only thing is, I'm not takin' it alone. And you know me. I like to keep some folk close—real close. I feel somebody's hand on my throat, I figure they're about to kill me or kiss me. Personally, I like to keep my options open.
1953865369Calamity Rig PlateHow do you feel about all this, hero? You've got a dead heart beating in your chest right now. Only reason you're still movin' is because somebody's got a job for you and they don't think you're done yet. Anybody asked for your point of view lately? Lots of changes lately—go here, hunt that. Kill him. Kill her. You tell me, "Hell yeah, Drifter! I live for that stuff!" I'm tellin' you, yeah, you do. Get me? Am I guilty as the rest of 'em because I tell you to bank a few Motes? You expect me to tell you to decide for yourself, am I right? You know just enough to be stupid. I'm asking you how you feel because nobody else will. Trust.
1958156274Calamity Rig MarkBeing one of the Light's chosen blessed magic babies means you always come back with what you lost. So if frostbite's weighin' on your mind lately, put it aside. Ain't that it don't hurt—I mean, it hurts—but comes a time you can lose a toe and not think twice about it, aside from figurin' if you could drop enough to make a stew. (You can't, if you're askin'.) What I'm sayin' is, you can walk the edge if your feet are tough enough. Oughta be high up enough that you can see what's on both sides before you decide which one to hop down to. You get me? If you follow the Drifter, don't wear your nice shoes.
2853729012Calamity Rig HelmHey, sister. Or brother. Hell, I don't know who's gonna end up listen' to this. Could be a snitch, an idiot, or somebody who ain't picked a side yet. And that's perfect, because all this talk about choosin' sides? Noise. Before this is over, the only one's gonna have your back is you—and that's even odds. Use your head. Think clear, all right? Because there are whispers going around, and you need to know when to plug your ears. Things have been different since Sloan went dark… ooh, poor wording? What's wrong, too soon? Let me tell you that we killed some time on New Arcadia. Learned some things. Listened to the wrong whispers. Be careful who you trust from here on out, all right? Yeah, that includes me, but I've been tellin' you that since the beginning.
3988623569Calamity Rig GreavesI don't know who you are. Don't know what school you follow, which side you're on—could be heads, could be tails. Could be the edge. Could be you shoot before the coin lands. Just know I'll be the one picking it up. You ever hear the story of the fella who painted bullseyes around his bullet holes? Ol' Drifter's plan is coming together—maybe not as clean as I wanted, maybe without the right folk nearby, but it's happening. That's why I left this message for you, in a place you wouldn't look if you didn't give a damn. Things are changin'—hell, things have already changed—but Drifter's still a safe bet. And I've still got plenty of time. Just not as much as I did before.
1979089297Legacy's Oath Gauntlets"Suzume?" Shiro asked. His Ghost materialized beside him in the cockpit. "Yes?" "Why Shiro-4?" Suzume spun 45 degrees clockwise and peered closer at the Exo, her equivalent of a raised eyebrow. "You'll have to elaborate." "Sure. Sure," he said and waved away his Ghost's evident concern. "No, I mean, why the name?" "It's your name." "But you could have told me any name when you woke me up, and I'd have believed you." This time, Suzume executed a slow counter-clockwise spin that Shiro had come to interpret like pursed lips. "Well, yes, I suppose so. But your name is encoded in you—like how the color of someone's eyes exists in their DNA. You are Shiro-4." "Huh. Why 'Shiro' then, I wonder." "Hard to say. In the language of old Japan, the meaning of 'shiro' depends on context. Mostly, it means white, but perhaps castle." "Don't feel like a castle. White seems odd." "It can also mean…" Suzume's light blinked. "Innocence or purity." "Hah!" "I thought that might get a laugh. Why the sudden interest in your name?" "I've been thinking a lot about everything we're learning from Europa. I've always thought that we're defined by our choices—that we are the good and the bad that we choose to do. But we're also defined by the choices of others. I didn't choose to be a Guardian. And my name, I didn't choose that either. Did I even choose to be an Exo?" "So…" Suzume bobbed unsteady in the air, unused to so much soul searching. "Does that mean you want a new name?" "Hmm. No. I guess not…" Suzume spun 45 degrees clockwise and peered again at him. "…because I've already chosen what Shiro-4 means to me."
2332070527Legacy's Oath PlateLisbon-13's Ghost, Piri, quavered, "What have we done?" "What was necessary." Lisbon-13 raised his gun toward her. "Was it? Did we really—whoa!" Piri cried and dove away as a beam of energy vaporized the tangle of vines through which she flew. Lisbon realized Divinity was too slow. He switched to his Hand Cannon. Shards of stone from a nearby explosion suddenly battered Piri's shell. She had hoped she could talk her way out of this. But there was no time to think—just run. "Listen, Lisbon! Please!" Piri pleaded. Each word was punctuated by a roar from his gun. She dodged the resulting explosions along the terrain. "Honestly, if you want to shoot me, I'll let you! Just stop and tell me why first!" A grenade whirled through the air in response. Piri had seen this tactic too many times to be fooled. She zipped toward the falling explosive and sheltered under a shelf of rock. The blast rattled her senses, but Piri didn't have time for them to clear. She sped through the smoking terrain, inches above the ground, knowing Lisbon would be looking for her flight to either side of the drifting cloud. And then in an instant, the feet of Lisbon-13 materialized in the smoke before her. She nearly ran right into him. How did he do that, she wondered, to think like others and anticipate them? She knew she needed to talk. Fast! "Uh, okay. First thing's first. You want to destroy me. Got it. But why? What's next?" she asked. Lisbon-13 remained silent. Realization dawned. Piri bobbled in the air, shocked by her own conclusion. "…You want the secret to die with you. No… no, no, no. You can't kill yourself. You can't! Lisbon, there has to be another way." Lisbon-13 looked up from his Ghost and through the wafting smoke. "She's right. This is not the way." "What?" Lisbon-13 was not looking at his Ghost. "It's not that the power is too terrible to wield. It's that the burden is too great to bear." "Burden?" Piri asked. The Ghost dodged as Lisbon-13 suddenly stepped forward and brushed past her. And stood, facing himself, once again. The doppelganger—this other Lisbon-13—reached out and put a hand on the shoulder of the Lisbon-13 that stood a few paces behind Piri. "You never doubted yourself. Not for a moment. The others revealed their weaknesses: their pride and self-absorption. But you remember what Rekkana said," it stated. Lisbon-13 nodded. "If anyone can handle the responsibility of this power—" "It's you," the doppelganger finished. "What you fear now is not the responsibility you have assumed. It is the burden…" the doppelganger said, glancing back at the Ghost, "…of having all this power and never getting what you want." Lisbon-13 had seemed distant and cold to his fireteam and his Ghost. The arguments since the Black Garden, the fighting—oh, how she had pleaded to stop the fighting! All nails in the coffin of something dead within Lisbon-13—something killed by this doppelganger in the garden's grotto. But now, some of the old Lisbon's warmth blazed white hot as he shook off his double's hand. "You did this! You ruined everything," he said. "We are all responsible for our choices. You chose this path. They chose theirs. Now is the time to select a new path. Together. We can help each other. We can free you from what you wanted. We can lighten your burden." Piri knew what would happen next. She braced for the explosions and readied herself to leap to Lisbon's aid. But none came. "…Can you make me forget her?" Lisbon-13's shadow-self embraced him. "Yes."
2787536492Legacy's Oath MarkSaint-14, like most Exos, dreamt of the Deep Stone Crypt often. The golden field. The looming black tower. The battle below, surging with faces that were eerily familiar. He was used to these dreams, like many of his mechanical kin, and resolutely uncurious about any deeper meaning. It couldn't be anything good, he reasoned long ago. Besides, his waking life kept him more than occupied. However, since his return from the kaleidoscope depths of the Infinite Forest, the dreams had increased in frequency and in eeriness. For the first few weeks, instead of battle, he faced single opponents in duels: Osiris, Marin, Zavala, Ana—even the Guardian who rescued him from the Vex. No matter whom he fought, he would use all his energy and Light in the fight and lose every time. Flat on his back, he would look up at the tower and know that someone was watching from within. The night before Rasputin alerted everyone of Pyramid ships entering the system, winter fell on his dreamscape, forcing him to charge through pillowy snow drifts at a massive winged Vex, unlike any he'd seen. He lost that night as he would for many more nights, watching as an iridescent liquid—almost like Vex milk, but different, contaminated—flowed from his every joint, sizzling in the snow. During the waking day, he maintained his usual exuberance, taking great satisfaction in helping Guardians hone their craft in the Trials of Osiris. After all, the fights happening in reality were the ones to focus on. Why worry about what he can't control inside his head? But then, the night before a new vacuum of grief was opened in the system, a woman appeared at the threshold of the tower. Her clothes were black; her hair prematurely gray. She watched, arms crossed, as Saint hurled grenade after flaming grenade at the Vex with little effect. "You'll blind yourself with all that bright fire," she tutted. "Maybe then you'll finally learn to look instead of see." In one mighty swipe, the Vex cut the Exo down. The woman sighed as Saint crumpled to the ground. Silence fell, followed by the crunching of footsteps in the snow. "Just like your father," she said, kneeling by his head. "All of you." She laid a hand on the fore of his helm, as if feeling for a fever. "In your next life, you should take more after me." With that, her hand slid down to his eyes and, for the brief moment before he woke up, all was dark.
2276071190Legacy's Oath HelmHigh above the Last City, tucked in one of the Tower's many alcoves, Cayde-6 thumbs through an old book. Plucked from the Speaker's library, it's become delicate with age, or so he assumes, taking extra care turning each page. His sense of touch is good; there's certainly enough circuitry in his metal fingers to pull off the most precise of shots. But even a hair-trigger touch might rip the brittle paper… Cayde pauses on a page. "If sailor tales and sailor tunes, storm and adventure, heat and cold—" Suddenly, a gust of surprisingly icy wind nearly rips the book from Cayde's hands. "To hell with this godforsaken ice cube!" he shouts, almost falling from his perch. He steadies himself and inhales deeply. Hang on there, Cayde. You're not on any ice cube, godforsaken or otherwise. You're on Earth, in the Last City. But the memory lingers, like the floating neon outlines seconds after a blinding camera flash. The snow-white plains of a distant moon, a sarcophagus of ice and iron. —flash— Yes, that's what Europa feels like to Cayde-1 as he loads crate after crate onto the bay outside the Exoscience factory. Even the sky has turned a flat gray, casting all beneath it in dull, deadening light. A warning sky, he thinks. Sailors had some kinda rhyme for it, didn't they? Either way, it hardly makes for a motivating work environment. Cayde sits on one of the crates. "I'm taking a break," he announces. "Need to or not, this is when we used to have lunch. I refuse to work through lunch." Next to him, Knox-4 sighs with relief and longing. "I miss lunch. I miss getting hungry." Cayde grins as much as his mechanical face will allow. "Hmm…" he intones in his best Dr. Abrams impression, "So you would say… you're hungry for hunger?" Knox bursts into guffaws. Cayde chuckles weakly. It wasn't that funny. But as his friend's laughter grows, so does Cayde's. Soon, they're both clutching each other and howling. Then, gradually, their cheer fades. "What do you tell that shrink, by the way?" Knox asks. "You tell him about the whisper?" Cayde shakes his head. Before he can snark about the uselessness of psychologists, the whisper rings in his metal skull. It's red sky in morning, sailor's warning. But you are no sailor. A whimper squeaks out from the loading bay. A moment later, a short snowsuitted figure scrambles out, racing for the far end of the factory. Cayde and Knox shout, taking off after the eavesdropper. No sharpshooter yet, Cayde fumbles for his BrayTech-issued handgun, aims shakily and… —bang— Cayde-6 comes back to himself just as he stumbles into his hideout. He rifles through the piles of loot, until… "Aha!" He finds a pen. Cayde-6 isn't done yet. He flips open the book, no longer being careful with the pages, and starts scrawling. "Spend time with an Exo who's been through it like we have and you'll see all the tells…"
3147136259Legacy's Oath GreavesMicah-10 roams the rolling hills of Old Russia as she has done for many years now. As she may do for many years more. A pack of Ghosts trails behind her, their little blue eyes blinking over the landscape. Micah has helped many a Ghost in their search—it's much easier to find a Guardian while someone else looks out for Fallen scavengers—though she privately wishes they would help her for once. How hard can it be to find a functioning ship?! Very hard when you need said ship to make it far out of the atmosphere, even possibly all the way to the Jovians. Because while her little companions seek out their futures, Micah has her own glowing eyes set firmly on the past—on the Deep Stone Crypt. She once thought it was hidden on Earth, buried underneath the snow drifts of Siberia, but now she suspects it's further out. In a much darker, lonelier place. Somewhere very cold, that she knows for certain. She's dreamt of it thousands of times, fought thousands of battles on the golden field beneath the black tower. And every fiftieth instance, in the midst of the chaos, an older man puts a paternal hand on her shoulder and says, "You just need to get acclimated. It's colder here than on Mars." Every hundredth time, she makes it into the tower and finds a different man sitting in an armchair, writing on a notepad. "Dreams are messages from deep inside your mind," he reminds her, "Until you figure out the message, the dream will repeat." Every single time, no matter whom she sees or what she hears, Micah-10 wakes up, feeling something in her tug towards space. She tells herself some internal magnet must have gotten knocked loose, then curses the ones who made her. In humans, bodily sensation is a form of communication, the connection between the mental and physical. But in Exos, it's all a lie. Cold, heat, hunger, exhaustion, pain—the signals aren't connected to real lack or breakage. For the most part, her body is impervious. On the rare occasion she does break, she won't know it unless someone else tells her. So, in that sense, the Ghosts do help her.
3258197688Cinder Pinion GauntletsIt was the morning of the new Crucible season when the shout echoed through the Tower. Master Rahool flinched, fumbling his engram. Commander Zavala looked up from his desk. Kadi 55-30 hurried to steady a haphazard pile of shipments. In the Hangar, a flock of well-fed pigeons took wing. "THEY ARE THROWING NEW GRENADES!"
3619058596Cinder Pinion PlateLord Shaxx charged onto the Crucible field. "Gather close, my champions," he shouted. "Yes, both teams. I want to congratulate you." The Guardians peeked warily from cover, then assembled before Shaxx. "I remember the first time I saw a Hard Light shot bounce around a corner," he began. "The first time I handed over a Mountaintop. The first Guardian to bring Gjallarhorn to my Crucible." The huge man shook his head fondly. "I know the powers you hold will soon be commonplace, but I wanted to acknowledge you for being among the first to bring them here. To me." "Thank you for showing me your crystal columns," he said to a Titan. "For the swirling maelstrom brought by your staff," he said, nodding at a Warlock. "And you!" He walked to a Hunter in a few long strides and clapped him on the back. The Hunter tumbled to the ground so hard, his weapons reloaded. "You threw scythes at them!" boomed Shaxx gleefully. He helped the Hunter to his feet, then turned back toward the group. "May your strength guide us through whatever troubles are yet to come," he said, and saluted. The Guardians bowed. Lord Shaxx stood proudly for a moment, his hands on his hips. "What are you waiting for?" he cried. "Resume the match!" And the Guardians fell upon each other once more.
3933657983Cinder Pinion MarkLord Shaxx looked down at the City as he spoke. "The children in the City have always played at being Guardians. Shouting about their hammers and shields, swinging branches as Dawnblades. Many a time, I would pretend to be slain by one of their attacks as I walked through the City, and they would always laugh." He gripped the railing in his fist. "Now they shout different words as they play. They call forth different powers. When struck, they hold positions, freeze in place, keep still. Their smiles fix on their faces. They fall perfectly quiet." He began to say something else and gestured emptily toward the City, but his hand fell to his side. He turned toward you. "You and I, we are warriors. We know the weight of our weapons when we draw them. But the children…" His voice was quiet. "It unsettles me."
920266619Cinder Pinion Helm"Do I fear it?" Lord Shaxx stooped to bring himself slightly closer to the recruit's eye level. "Tell me: if I were to wear your helmet, would I fight as you do?" The Guardian shrank visibly and shook her head. "Of course not. We use the weapons of our enemies, but we do not become them. Do you know why that is?" The recruit stayed silent. Shaxx put his hand on her shoulder. "Because a weapon does not change a warrior. If a weapon makes you a monster, you were a monster to begin with." He turned to the other Guardians. "We are surrounded by fear. It presses on us from every direction. If you fear the hearts of your brothers and sisters, then speak to them." Shaxx nudged the recruit. She tentatively raised her hand and summoned a fistful of Stasis crystals. He nodded with approval. "If the heart you fear is your own," he said gently, "speak to me."
6622258Cinder Pinion GreavesThe dejected Warlock walked away from the Crucible with his Ghost hovering over his shoulder. "He noticed, didn't he," said the Warlock flatly. "Don't know what you mean," lied the Ghost. "Shaxx. He saw when I—" the Warlock spread his hands, fingers splayed, and wiggled his fingertips. The Ghost shrugged his points and gave a noncommittal beep. "He may have." The Warlock groaned. "How bad did it look?" The Ghost made a sympathetic noise. "Not bad." The Warlock stared blankly at his Ghost. "Okay, pretty bad," the Ghost admitted. "You shattered." "Shattered… how?" "Like a statue somebody knocked over," said the Ghost. "You just went everywhere. Everything broke except for your boots." The Warlock exhaled slowly. "And Shaxx saw?" "He probably did, yeah." The Warlock shrank into his hood. "What makes you think so?" "Well, because," the Ghost said carefully, "he said you had nice boots."
2267135359Phobos Warden GauntletsII Osiris walked into the office without hesitation, as if it were his own. Zavala looked up and pushed his blank papers to the side. "Osiris," he said. "You don't seem to be taking your exile very seriously of late." "I treat it with the same regard you give its enforcement," sniffed the Warlock as he crossed his arms. Zavala raised his eyebrows but saw traces of a smile around Osiris's eyes. He leaned back in his chair and gestured for him to continue. "I bring hope from an unexpected source," Osiris said. "There is a devotee of mine on Mercury—a certain Brother Vance—stationed just outside the Infinite Forest. His point of view is unique, but it may be more valuable than I had anticipated." Osiris opened his hand and cast a small projection: a fleet of Pyramid ships. "Since the Traveler's reformation, Brother Vance has been studying prophecies where such an event took place. He believes he has discovered a way to stop the Pyramids." A spiderweb of trajectories crisscrossed the projection. There was a flash and the Pyramid ships melted into Osiris's palm. Zavala leaned forward. "He found this by studying simulated realities?" "Specifically realities where the Pyramids invade our system and the Traveler reforms," Osiris said. "In all the realities where the City survives, Brother Vance believes there is a common thread." "I… know Vance," Zavala said carefully. "Can we put our future in his hands?" Osiris bristled reflexively, but then made a reconciliatory gesture. "We have seen more than our share of tomorrows, wouldn't you agree? We have done so through the strength of our community." The Warlock laced his fingers together. "Brother Vance, he is one man, true. But so were you. So was I. It would be unwise to dismiss what his future may hold."
109468961Phobos Warden PlateIII The silence in Zavala's office was interrupted by a burst of static over the comms. Asher Mir's nasal voice rang shrilly over the speakers. "Ikora was unavailable!" he said impatiently. "Asher," Zavala said into his comms. "What have you got for me?" "Oh, just some ravings about how best to handle the encroaching Pyramids, if that sort of thing is of any interest to the Vanguard," Asher said. "Go on," said Zavala. "I analyzed the paracausal shockwaves from the Traveler's recent inexplicable pulse. I believe I could assemble a machine that would allow us to render these malicious polyhedrons inert." Asher paused. "Vulnerable. Does that appeal to you?" "How does it work?" Zavala asked. Asher made a noise of deep dissatisfaction. "I could either build the machine or explain its purpose to you. Both would take equal amounts of time." Zavala smiled. "Build your machine," he replied. "Is there anything you require of me?" Asher considered for a moment. "No. I anticipated nothing more than your tacit approval, so I am already thrilled with this conversation," Asher said, not sounding thrilled. "I will do the same thing I always do: find answers. Then I will deliver them to you and you can use them to form some sort of plan. How does that sound?" Zavala took a breath. "Agreeable." "Very well. Do try to manage your enthusiasm," Asher said dryly. The signal went dead, and Zavala was once again alone in his office. Zavala disconnected from the call and looked down at the blank pages in front of him. There was another burst of interference as the audio system squealed against a forced reconnection. "Hm, and thank you," said Asher's voice over the speakers. "That will be all!"
3729509178Phobos Warden MarkV There was a soft knock on the door and a technician tentatively poked his head inside the office. "The system is ready, Commander." Zavala looked across his desk. No echo of the past called out to him, no guilt-driven daydream—just a young man from the City, nervous about disturbing the commander. Zavala rose to his feet. He stood and braced himself against the desk for a long moment, arms wide. He took a steady breath and nodded. The technician synced the office systems and initiated a broadcast, then stepped to the side as Zavala approached. "Sir," he whispered urgently, gesturing to the neat stack of pages left behind on the desk. "Your speech." Zavala left the papers where they were and began to speak. "People of the Last City. Humanity has endured a devastating blow…."
1766367980Phobos Warden HelmI Zavala stared at the blank pages on his desk. He sat with his back to the window. The Traveler shone brightly outside, but there was little warmth in its light. Since its reformation, Zavala found it strangely unfamiliar. Its size made everything else seem smaller somehow. He shifted in his seat and tried to relax his shoulders. He reached up to rub his temples and found he was clenching his jaw. He stretched his neck and placed his palms flat on his desk. His hands were cold. He knew where it ended, but he didn't know how to begin.
505564841Phobos Warden GreavesIV Deputy Commander Sloane sighed as she entered Zavala's office. She fell into the chair opposite his and waited for a moment, head down, elbows on her knees. Finally she spoke: "Somebody's selling pretzels in the Hangar. They're all out now, but I could smell them when I docked." Zavala leaned over his stack of blank papers. "They're very good," he confided. "They have little containers of beer mustard, too." Sloane looked up and shook her head in disbelief. "I've been away too long," she said. "It's good to see you," Zavala said. Sloane stretched out in the chair. She looked comfortable. "Listen," he began. "You've held Titan against the Fallen for long enough, and I figured you could use a change of scenery. You've heard about the uprising on Europa. I'd be grateful for your expertise." The woman sized him up. A smirk played across her chapped lips. "You want me on the front lines again?" she asked. "Must be a very credible threat." Zavala looked down. "I'd go myself if I could," he said. "We're being hit on all sides. I feel as though I'm just barely holding this system together." His mouth was tight, but his eyes were pleading. Sloane leaned forward and placed her hand on his desk. "Don't worry," she said. "We've survived many horrors. We'll survive this one, too."
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1972179440Last Flight HomeTo Whom It May Concern, In light of recent events, please accept this letter of resignation—effective immediately. I was led to believe that top minds would be assembled in a collective effort to cure [REDACTED]. That was a lie. I am requesting safe passage to Earth and to be removed from the [REDACTED]. [REDACTED] has demonstrated he is incapable of empathy and will travel to the furthest reaches of our solar system to avoid legal ramifications to pursue his twisted vision. I quickly discovered his endeavor was less of a colony and more of a cult: you are either with him or against him. I was once his closest confidant. Now I hardly recognize him. His experiments have become deranged and torturous, all while he maintains the calm lucidity of a sociopath. It is my opinion that his research and assets be frozen, so he can be retrieved and dealt a swift, unflinching justice. He is compromised and is being manipulated. To describe what I've witnessed would be a gratuitous exercise in horror, but I fear without clear circumstantial accounts, there will be no action. One case recklessly and viciously cost a young man, [REDACTED] , the loss of his motor skills and, eventually, his life. The notion of downloading a human consciousness for preservation is not new, but an effective and nonlethal means of doing so has yet to be presented. After months of trials with brain scans that proved they were not comprehensive enough to provide more than a memory bank, [REDACTED] obsession grew. He wanted the bank to achieve [REDACTED] and [REDACTED]. He was seeking the [REDACTED]. It rapidly became clear that his intentions were dubious. [REDACTED] brain was scanned beyond legal standards, and his exposure to radiation incited the accelerated growth of a tumor that impaired his cognitive function. He was moribund and should have been released from this experiment. [REDACTED] insisted this was a small hurdle, and [REDACTED] had been our most lucrative candidate, so all efforts went toward the removal of his tumor. That was when I was made aware of the milky [REDACTED] substance. He was farming the [REDACTED] that passed through the [REDACTED] he constructed under mysterious guidance for their [REDACTED]. I suspect he intends to [REDACTED], so he can close the [REDACTED] and [REDACTED] his converts to [REDACTED] directly from them. Here is the proof: We started with injections in moderate doses under heavy surveillance. Remarkably, the tumor began to recede, and some functions were restored. He was prescribed more injections. Suddenly, he was being force-fed liters in hopes of reversing all the damage he suffered. At first we believed we stumbled onto a cure-all miracle, but soon the ramifications of our unnatural meddling reared their ugly heads. His body chemistry changed—he was overrun with new elements foreign to our periodic table. He was becoming a [REDACTED]; the [REDACTED] was [REDACTED]. The mutilation he endured as [REDACTED] replaced [REDACTED] and [REDACTED] replaced [REDACTED] was beyond the ethical code of conduct and against the moral fibers that bind us. He grew strong, violent, and incomprehensible. He was a threat to us all and was terminated after an attack where two colleagues fell victim to an outburst. This is one case of hundreds. Past dictators have committed [REDACTED] that pale in comparison, and this was never anything more than a quest for his own ego and [REDACTED]. I fear this is only the beginning. It is a tame display compared to what [REDACTED] is capable of. It is paramount you act quickly and decisively. These experiments will lead to large-scale ruin far beyond Europa. The price is too high. Sincerely, Dr. Hector Abram
1083742878RevenantA Fallen Captain stalks his prey through the barrens of Europa, Servitor at his back. The wind kicks up shimmering plumes of frost; he doesn't see the frozen kama hurtling towards him. It strikes with a deafening crack; the Servitor is gone. The Captain flees for cover, but it's too late — he is frozen in a crystalline prison. His battle cry freezes in his throat; there is only deafening silence. He sees a shadow approaching, cloaked in the ice and whirling snow, but it vanishes as quickly as it appeared. Fear grips him as he scans the white wastes. A second kama pierces the ice shelf. Biting whirlwinds erupt and tear at his frozen body. He catches a glimpse of the shadow in the squall, rifle in hand. The hunt has ended; he shatters in the wind.
4268648976BehemothThe ground ruptured and sizzled as Scorch Cannons and Wire Rifles pummeled my cover from all directions. Fallen war cries echoed through their endless ranks; despair grew within me, but with it came a whisper. An offer. I closed my eyes and accepted. The cold embraced me, dimming the sounds of battle into reverberant echoes, thin and distant. I flexed my gauntlets and felt the roar of glaciers grinding against the bones of the world. I crashed my fists into the earth and frozen obelisks erupted, encasing Dregs and Vandals into helpless effigies. I gazed through the crystals enveloping my enemies, and in the myriad refractions, I saw their fear. I felt their desperate will to escape my grip, and in the moment before release, I shattered it.
1503295385ShadebinderI first heard it in the Thrall-carved tunnels on Callisto as I saw Light torn from my friend: a chaotic chime like breaking glass, ringing in the corners of my mind. I ignored it then and burned the Hive vermin with vengeance and fire. But it returned when Ghaul's wicked contraption gripped the Traveler and the Light fled from my bones: a cold chorus in my ears, a shattered song demanding to be heard. I clung to it then, shivering in the rubble of the Last City. It drowned out the marching of Centurions and focused my will to survive. It was in the shadow of the Pyramid on Europa that I finally understood. What was noise became a chilling harmony born of dissonance, a structure I could finally grasp. I joined the song, and as my voice perfected the chord my hands gripped a staff of ice—chaos given shape. It sealed my hands in rime, and the song resonated through my flesh. I was its instrument, and it was mine; when we sang "be still" to the world, it would obey.
3856705927Icon of "Classified"ClassifiedKeep it secret. Keep it safe.
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201476722Icon of "Classified"ClassifiedKeep it secret. Keep it safe.

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