532863720Starfarer 7M// NO CONNECTIONS // Artemis-5 slumped in her chair and watched text blink on a dark monitor, the details of her apartment reflected in the glass: shawls draped across furniture, the dirty drinking glasses scattered on the sill, the Traveler looming through a frosted window. Suddenly, the monitor flashed and she fixed her posture. // ONE ACTIVE CONNECTION // A brawny, bearded man appeared onscreen, his mouth open wide as he gestured wildly and pantomimed an operatic performance. "Xander? I can't hear you," Artemis said. The man's shoulders drooped; he leaned offscreen to fiddle with a device until muffled scraping sounded through the feed. "Well, that was unfortunate. You missed my unparalleled vibrato." "Truly the greatest of the Traveler's gifts," Artemis chuckled. "Why is your feed so dark?" "Oh, the sun's pretty dim out here; you just kind of get used to it. How are you?" "Good! Tower decorations are up, and—" // TWO ACTIVE CONNECTIONS // The screen's feed split and an Awoken woman appeared, seated in a pilot's chair. The pale sphere of Europa floated past the porthole behind her. "I'm late, I know," the Awoken said as she fumbled for something beneath the camera frame. Xander scowled. "This is why I secretly set your invitations 30 minutes early, Nissa." "This is why I sabotaged your airlock, Xander," Nissa joked. She sat back and pulled up a small gift box adorned with a purple ribbon. "Ready then?" Xander raised his eyebrows. "Are you in a rush?" "Unlike you, I have real work to get back to." Xander scoffed. "I'll have you know this assignment came from Zavala himself." "What's he got you doing out there?" Artemis asked. Xander sighed. "Figure out how planets go missing." Nissa snorted. "Simple enough, just understand the workings of our most ancient enemy. See you in a couple years then?" "Don't say that!" Artemis interjected. "It's been too long already." "I'll give you that," Nissa grumbled and pointed toward the porthole. "I've had more than enough of this snowball." Artemis winced. "When can you come home?" "When this Pyramid decides to piss off or Ikora thinks we have enough data. So, never." "We'll all be home soon enough. I bet that next year, we'll be doing this in person," Artemis said. Xander rubbed the back of his neck and grimaced. "You think so?" he mumbled. "Even when we get back, is it going to be the same?" Artemis sighed and cocked her head to the side. "This isn't what today is supposed to be about." "Hard to feel festive when we're stranded across the system," Nissa complained. "And surrounded by mortal danger," Xander added. "And out of coffee…" Artemis leaned on the table, her elbow resting with a metallic clink as her friends continued to list their grievances. A strong gust rattled her window, and she listened as the cries of a child echoed amid a soothing shush and assurances that everything was okay, repeated like a desperate mantra beyond her door. "Today makes me thankful," Artemis said, finally interrupting her friends, "for my Light." Nissa belted a forced laugh. "Yes, I'm so grateful I won the 'endless war' lottery." "You think this is any easier for the Lightless? At least we have some say over what happens—we can do something about it. Then again, maybe you're content with sitting there and making sarcastic quips," Artemis snapped. Xander held his palms up to the camera. "Gentle, Artie. We're all feeling it. She's just saying it out loud." Artemis jabbed a finger towards her window. "There's people in this City hearing the same news, seeing the same feeds as us. All while trying to celebrate today. Just like us. But they're scared. If we can't keep our heads up, what does that mean for them?" The video feed grew quiet except for the gentle hum of a ship. "I'm scared too," Xander admitted. Nissa nodded. Artemis shook her head. "Nobody signed up for this, but we were the ones gifted with the Light." Nissa sighed. "This gift feels pretty heavy right now." Artemis heard the wind rip through the Last City once again, and it whistled through the cracks in her walls. "We're the only ones who can carry it." "Would you really have signed up for this if you had the choice?" Nissa asked. Xander waved his hands dismissively. "Don't get philosophical—" "Yes," Artemis said resolutely. "A thousand times over." Nissa toyed with her gift box. Xander smirked and raised a brow. "A thousand times?" Nissa chuckled. "A thousand times over!" Xander bellowed melodically. He reached offscreen and grabbed his own gift box, holding it up proudly. Artemis laughed and grasped her gift as well. "Same time, okay?" A smile crept across her friends' faces, each one focused on the ribbon of their box instead of the millions of miles between them. "Three, two, one…"


3856705927HawkmoonWhat is this feeling? I did not ask for it. I do not understand it. I do not want it. The Crow is so carefree in his ignorance. The bonfire's glow lights up his pale features and I am drawn to the hope in his gold eyes. Where is the despairing child I anticipated? He drinks from an open bottle of wine against the recommendation of his Ghost. The Guardian encourages him and they are laughing. This celebration is maddening; neither have reason to be so jubilant. Their world is ending and they thrash like dying creatures in the final light of collapsing stars. They do not seem to acknowledge the futility of their existence, the impermanence of it in the face of cosmic annihilation. Now the Guardian is drinking, standing close to the fire. Their Ghost, too, encourages them not to partake. They poison themselves for the enjoyment of it. I am reminded of my sisters. Of moments spent by lapping shores, gazing up at infinite stars full of possibilities and wonder. I am left yearning. What is this feeling? I do not understand it. I do not want it. They are celebrating their victory over the Taken. The Crow is making a gun shape with his hand, swinging the nearly empty bottle of wine around in the other like a Sword. The Guardian looks pensive, sitting on a rock by the fire, contemplating the secret they are keeping. The Crow notices, but tries not to show it. He wants the Guardian's spirits to be lifted. He wants to be supportive, so that they may share in their triumphs together. As equals. I am reminded of my home. I am reminded of the warmth of the sun and the embrace of my family. I am reminded of my father's face. I am reminded of everyone I betrayed. All the blood spilled in the name of immortality. The warmth of the sun burns me with its memory. What is this feeling? I do not want it. The fire has nearly died. The Crow fell over and cannot stand, though he insists he is fine. The Guardian is turning the embers with the tip of their Sword. The Ghosts are talking to one another in quiet conspiracy. The celebration has ended, but I can sense their emotions are mixed: complex and myriad things, when a simple, singular focus would suffice. There is a growing kinship here. Against better judgment. What is this feeling?


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915662500VI: Revenant's SwitchView diff
915662501VII: Broken WingView diff
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