“Unless you can make the world wag better than it does at present, King, your reign will be an endless series of petty battles…”
The Once and Future King, by T.H. White
“Weapons down, Guardians,” declared Lord Shaxx through Ebony’s transmitter. I sighed and slowed my run. A bullet skipped off a support beam to my right, and I flipped the shooter off in annoyance. Ebony fed the score telemetry through my new helmet’s HUD, which I had gotten to replace the gear I’d lost on the hunt with the Erikssons. The Future War Cult had proven surprisingly grateful for the chance to bring down a Hive nest, and why not? They had gained quite a bit of notoriety for their part in the operation. I’d taken the glimmer and purchased gear from Dead Orbit foundries and their colors – that had made the FWC a little less happy, but there wasn’t much they could do about it.
“10,120 to 8,780,” said the shooter, sauntering up. The Guardian was a Warlock, dressed in the reds and whites of a New Monarchy soldier from head to foot. Even her gun had a New Monarchy sigil. She stood out like a cherry tree in full bloom in a brown field, and yet her combat performance seemed entirely unaffected by it. The Warlock removed her helmet, and her glowing green eyes flashed with //mirth. “And…my my, 1.0 for you. That’s even worse than doing badly – you didn’t affect your team’s performance. Almost like you weren’t there.”
I left my own helmet on, arguably a rude thing to do to another Exo – why, I wasn’t sure, but I knew it to be a slight – and shrugged. “I can’t bring myself back from the dead like some.”
She waved her hand dismissively. “You smell like you still have fresh oil and Light on you anyway. I guess we did the right thing going easy on you. After all, I hear you’re recovering from being captured by Thrall.”
I was about to retort when Telrik strode up. “Fernanda-24. Did you enjoy that feeling of your head exploding 7 times in a row?”
“8, actually: it blew my mind that you’re still alive,” she replied.
“Why? Because I don’t hide behind the Walls all day, extorting civilians?”
“Extorting?” gasped another arrival – this one a Titan – as he took of his blood-red helmet. An Awoken with knife-edged features, green hair and bright orange eyes, he had a tattoo on his right cheek that vaguely resembled a New Monarchy symbol. He put a hand over his heart. “That’s a very serious charge, Titan Telrik. Care to repeat that for the record? Now that the match is over I’m sure the Consensus would like to hear that.”
“Some manners would not hurt our cause at all, Syphis,” interjected Drake, walking up.
Fernanda-24 actually inclined her head toward Drake, as did Syphis: the action //surprised me. “Sir Drake,” she said smoothly. “You grace us with your presence.” If there was //sarcasm in her tone I did not detect it.
Drake inclined his head to them as well. “A sterling performance, Fernanda-24.”
“Well, given there were only 3 of us in a group of 6, I fear we did not reach as great a height as we might have.” She looked him in the eye. “We, of course, would still accept your application to the King’s Ransom. Our unit is, as you know, still seeking loyal members of the Monarchy.”
“I fear politics are not of utmost importance to me right now, and I have a prior commitment to the Valherjar,” said Drake. “But I thank you for your offer.”
“It remains open,” she said with no sign of //disappointment. “Ronald, stop stalking the poor Dead Orbit hunter. We need to go.”
I turned my head slightly and startled back a step: a hulking human with a buzz cut and heavy brow stood behind my left shoulder. He moved past me with absolute silence and followed his comrades, cradling a rocket launcher in his thick arms.
“Are you…?” Telrik said to Drake.
The Warlock cut him off. “No. I have no interest in running.”
“But someone wants you to?”
“Some people think that an Awoken would make a good gesture of diversity and unity,” said Drake. “But it will not happen, and I have no interest in the post.”
Before I could ask what they were talking about, a general announcement from Lord Shaxx to clear the arena for the next match prompted us to depart. We headed for the exit, our 3 companions, randomly selected by draw, long since having departed. Frames trundled by, repairing or replacing the parts of the arena destroyed during the match to make it ready for the next clash.
“Well, there’s room in the next round for us. Want to stay and get some more in?” asked Drake.
I shook my head. “Cayde-6 just assigned some hunters to check out an anomaly in the Mongolia ruins. Apparently Fallen have started gathering, and there’s a possibility the Kings are there. I got picked.”
Telrik whistled appreciatively. “The Kings? Watch your back. Word is they do not move for much.”
I nodded. “Going to see the Cryptarchs again before I go. After my first encounter with the Fallen, I want to be better prepared, see what they can tell me.”
“Well, good luck,” said Drake. “If you need help, just call.”
I would have winced, in spite of my helmet still being on. “I will be fine.” I gave Ebony the word and transmatted out to fly back to the City – and the libraries of the Cryptarchs.