“We cannot build the future by avenging the past.”
― T.H. White,
“Movement,” said Arianna from her prone position. She was staring down the scope of her rifle at the Fallen encampment we had began to stalk a day before.
“Relief or patrol?” I asked. I huddled in the hollowed cylinder we had made our own camp inside. Whatever the silo had been used for in the Golden Age past, it had long since been stripped clean of its purpose. Only its walls and floors remained, and not a speck of rust could be found on the metal. Its gleaming surface and height – it was good 12 meters tall and on an elevated stretch of land among a small crowd of shorter buildings – had made it into an excellent shooter’s blind. The top level had a vent that Arianna now peered out of, any reflection from her scope hidden by the silo’s own design.
“I don’t think it’s either. Take a look at this.” Her Ghost shimmered, and the view from her HUD was fed into my own, letting me see down the scope.
The colors of the camp were the red of the Devils, which was no surprise. Vandals and Dregs milled about. Shanks floated by on preset perimeter patrols. In the center of the camp were 2 large Servitors, pumping out a portion of the jamming signal that blanketed the region. We had seen evidence of the camps in a cross-grid pattern across the Ruins every few kilometers, each with Servitors broadcasting the jamming signal.
A group of 6 pikes was approaching the camp. At their head was a Captain in gold regalia.
“Kings,” I said softly.
“Just the leader,” said Arianna. “Those Dregs following him are mercs.”
“So they’re not here in force,” I said.
Arianna snorted. “The Kings are here, that’s force enough. Question is, why are they working with the Devils?”
One of the camp’s Skiffs opened up and disgorged the Devil’s Captain. It was the first time we had even seen him. He approached the new arrival and they began conversing, albeit with a lot of gestures.
“Someone isn’t happy,” said Arianna dryly.
Eventually the Devil subsided. He made several curt gestures, and a handful of his Dregs scurried to pikes. The King pointed at a couple of Vandals. I saw all 4 of the Devil’s hands curl into fists. Then he pointed at 2 Vandals and repeated the gesture to mount up. The Devil Vandals grabbed their gear and went to their mounts. The King remounted his own pike and sped east in the general direction of another camp. His newly reinforced unit followed.
“They’re gathering troops,” murmured Arianna. “But why now?”
The Devil Captain stood looking after the departed King until a Shank floated by within arm’s reach. He snatched it out of the air and threw it to the ground. Before the unit could react he kicked and stomped on it with a flurry of blows, until only pieces of wreckage remained. His other troops, milling about seconds before, suddenly became very busy or out of sight until he had stormed back into the skiff.
The feed shut off and Arianna slid back until she had enough head room to sit up, then slid her helmet off.
“So what now?” I asked.
“We don’t know anything we did not already,” she said after a moment. “That Servitors were making the jamming signal was a pretty logical guess. We already suspected the House of Kings was here.” She spread her hands. “We need more information. We should go further in.”
I shook my head. “We’ve confirmed those things: that was the objective.”
“So what do you think we should do?”
“Finish the job,” I replied. “Attack the camp, kill the Servitors and get a signal to the Tower to tell them what we’ve seen. They’ll send a host to attack the Fallen and sweep them out.”
Arianna shook her head. “Politics,” she said bitterly.
“What?” I asked.
“Commander Zavala would. And he has the most say. But, the rest of the Vanguard – Ikora, specifically – might not. And then there’s the Consensus and the Speaker…”
“Short version, please,” I interrupted.
“The reports from the Moon about the Hive have everyone afraid, Morc. The truth is, we’ve beaten the Fallen before. Yes, it was at cost and the City lost territory, but we can and have beaten them.” She glanced at the low ceiling as if she could see through it to Luna overhead. “But we lost to the Hive. We lost badly. Unless the threat out here is great enough to hurt the City directly, everyone is going to be conservative with resources. We need to show the Tower something they can’t ignore.”
“Alright. So we go further in,” I agreed. I began cleaning up the detritus of weapon parts scattered before me.
“What’re you doing to your gun?” she asked.
I held up a cylinder for my hand cannon. “Explosive rounds,” I said. “The cylinder isn’t as enforced because there’s less primer involved to make room for the explosive head. Reduces the range and makes it a little heavier, but the explosive radius is about a meter wide.” I snapped the piece onto its housing, tightened the tiny mounting thread with a small tool, and then snapped the weapon closed with a flick of the wrist. “Last Captain I met had thick armor. This should be helpful.”
Arianna chuckled with what I took to be approval. “OK. Well, we’ve got a long trek ahead of us,” she said, stuffing her own gear back into her pack. “By the Traveler, I miss my sparrow.”
“Too bad we can’t steal their pikes,” I agreed.
“Well, hopefully we find what we need quickly and we stop sneaking everywhere. We’ll wait for nightfall. Then we head southwest. Bet you glimmer to pastries that what they’re hiding is dead center of this signal jamming.”
“I don’t eat pastries,” I said.
“What a horrible life you must lead.”