Monthly Archives: February 2016

Day 358 – Part 1

“Bond didn’t defend the practice. He simply maintained that the more effort and ingenuity you put into gambling, the more you took out.”
Ian Fleming, Casino Royale


 

“Match point! Place your bets!” The crowd in the taproom shuffled and murmured.

“How much did you make?” asked Drake as I entered the amount of glimmer I placed on the winning Trials team.

“g500,” I said. “If they take the match, I stand to make about g2,000.”

“It’s a poor practice, gambling,” said Telrik.

“What’s the harm?” asked Miranda. The Awoken Hunter punched her own numbers into the table’s terminal. She sat next to Arianna, and minus the shock of red hair on Arianna’s head, the 2 could have passed for sisters. Miranda’s own smooth pate glistened in the omnipresent violet haze of Reef, which could be seen even in the enclosed space.

“It disrespects the effort made by the contestants. The Crucible is about training for fighting the Darkness. This,” he said, gesturing at the huge screen across the room, “is showmanship.”

“As if you’ve never shown off,” said Arianna dryly.

Telrik merely shook his head.

“And this isn’t really the Crucible,” said Miranda. “This is the Trials of Osiris. The Reef is hosting these, so their rules.”

At mention of the Reef, I saw Arianna glance at the crowd of Awoken across the room, clustered away from most of the Guardians present. They seemed to have less reservations about placing bets on contestants, but they pointedly kept physical distance from anyone with a Ghost floating nearby.

“And Telrik, don’t tell me you don’t want to see King’s Ransom get their asses whipped,” I said. Up on the screen, the countdown to the next round began.

“I don’t want to add to their cut if they win,” he said pointedly.

“2% is not a lot,” I countered. “How else are they going to get Guardians to put a feed up?” I leaned back and put my boots on the table in an attempt to display //nonchalance. “You said yourself this is a good learning exercise. C’mon, they’re losing anyway.”

The match began, the light of Sol blazing over the Mercury arena. We watched through the eyes of Fernanda-24. Syphis – the Awoken Titan – and Ronald the Hunter dashed ahead of her.

“For a Titan, he’s quick off the starting block,” said Telrik.

The team ran to their left, along the edge of the arena.

“Far entrance of the shrine,” murmured Arianna. “If they guess-”

Ronald’s head exploded and his Ghost floated over his destroyed body, drawing a gasp from the crowd in the taproom. Syphis leaped back and a round skipped off the column beside him. The feed whipped around as Fernanda-24 changed course, heading back the way she came. Her motion sensor lit up red from 2 angles as the enemy team closed. Another blue skull lit up her HUD as she reached the central entrance: Syphis was down.

Another Warlock met Fernanda-24 as she cleared the threshold into the shrine. Fernanda-24 pointed her weapon and fired, the hand cannon booming out 3 rapid shots. Blood spurted from the Warlock’s arm as he leaped into the air and made a gesture. A ball of Void energy ripped its way into reality and hurtled into the screen. There was a flash of Light, followed by Darkness.

“Ooooooooh!” roared the crowd in unison. The countdown on the screen began.

I reached for the terminal. “Guess I’m walking away with some glimmer.”

“It’s not over,” said Drake.

I made a dismissive gesture. “Sure it is, you just saw it.”

“Rez!” shouted someone in the room. The screen lit up.

“Oh, not again,” I groaned. “I thought she burned that earlier in the match!”

Fernanda-24 ran out of the shrine, past another Warlock that had clearly just had her dancing interrupted. She raised a Fusion rifle, but Fernanda launched a grenade of Solar fire into her face. The Warlock fell back, her shot went wide and she vanished into a cloud of ash. A red skull flashed into existence.

The crowd cheered or booed according to their bets. Tables were pounded and drinks were spilled as excitement filled the room. Fernanda slid on her knees to Syphis, her Ghost already in hand.

A sniper round slammed into her, but the Light of Sol had put another layer of energy over her, deflecting the first shot. Syphis came back to life and without a moment’s hesitation extended his hands, a wall of Void Light encasing them both.

“No!” I leaned back and looked up at the ceiling, not wanting to see the end of it. Still, I could only look away for a moment.

Both members of the King’s Ransom ran out of the bubble shield, bringing a piece of it with them. The red skull fell away from the screen as they raced towards Ronald’s Ghost, firing at the sniper. The Titan ran for cover, but he was gunned down as he fled. A moment later all 3 King’s Ransom soldiers were on their feet. They turned in unison and met the 2 Warlocks – 1 freshly revived – coming after them with a hail of gunfire.

3…2…1…match.

“It’s JEOPARDY!!!!” yelled the announcer, and the room exploded into excited talk and cheers. “Match point, 4 to 4! Jeopardy bets are 20-1! The King’s Ransom card has 7 wins and 0 losses! Place your bets!”

I snatched the terminal from the table and //angrily punched in my numbers. “Morc,” cautioned Arianna. I ignored her and put my glimmer down.

The next match took less than a minute.

“5-4! Payment is due! Next match for the King’s Ransom announced in 2 minutes!”

I threw down the terminal and glared at everyone at the table, daring them to say a word. I noted Miranda was smiling.

“What makes you so happy?” asked Drake.

“I just won g18,000,” she said, chuckling.

“You bet on King’s Ransom?” spluttered Telrik.

“Why not?”

“What did you lose, Morc?” asked Arianna.

“I don’t want to talk about it,” I said. I took my own Trials amulet out. “Ebony, do we have our match set up yet?”

“Just received word,” said Ebony. “Our next match is-”

“Next match!” shouted the announcer. “We’ll have live feed from both teams! The King’s Ransom, at 8 wins and 0 losses, will face a team with 8 wins and 0 losses: the Valherjar!!!!!”

I dropped my Trials amulet on the table. “Oh, come on!”

“Hmm, whom should I bet on?” asked Miranda as Arianna and Telrik stood to their feet.

“Come on Morc, we need to get to the arena,” said Telrik as he slung his rifle over his shoulder. Then he stopped and looked at me. “Wait, what did he mean when he said live feed from both teams?”

“Uh, I’m sure it was a mistake,” I said hastily. “Ebony, transmat me to my ship, will you please?”

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The road ahead leads to War…

The road ahead leads to War…

Screenshot-Original

Categories: Morc-35 | Tags: , , ,

Day 173

‘Arrow!’ said the bowman. ‘Black arrow! I have saved you to the last! You have never failed me and always I have recovered you. I had you from my father and he from of old. If ever you came from the forges of the true king under the Mountain, go now and speed well!’

~ J.R.R. Tolkien, The Hobbit


“Crota is dead!” The Tower and the City buzzed with the news. The Dark god of the Hive had fallen in his own realm. Nobody could speak of anything else it seemed. Except for Telrik: the Titan had, strangely enough, disappeared.

“He’ll be back,” said Farstride. We stood at the lip of the Tower hangar, looking down at the City below. “He just has some business to handle.”

“At least it’s not more Crucible training,” I said, unable to keep the //relief from my voice. “He went a little crazy there for moment.”

Farstride laughed. “We are all a little mad, Morc.”

“Perhaps.”

“Have you met Miranda yet?”

I thought for a moment. “The Hunter? The 1 that looks like she sleeps in a swamp?”

“That’s the 1.”

“Yes. She joined the Future War Cult.”

“Now, no infighting in my unit,” said Farstride firmly.

“No infighting,” I promised. “At least, not from my end.”

“Hmm.” He sounded doubtful.

“I have enough feuds to settle without starting 1 in the Valherjar,” I assured him.

“Oh. You mean Fernanda-24 and the King’s Ransom.”

I waited for a landing ship to pass and the noise to die down before I replied. “Yes. It would seem the Warlock and her 2 henchman took a particular interest in us when Telrik was pushing us all in the Crucible. They wiped the floor with me several matches in a row.” I looked aside at Farstride. “I sense some animosity there.”

“You are not wrong,” admitted Farstride. “I blame Telrik for bringing it with him. We all have baggage though.” He shrugged. “Thankfully, Drake does not seemed fazed by it, and he is the only New Monarchy connection we have for now.” He pointed at the faded crescent of the moon on the horizon. “So, Crota, dead. What do you think?”

“Less Hive to deal with,” I said simply.

Farstride laughed again. “That is 1 way to look at it. But you know that there are nests all over the Cosmodrome now. And I’m not sure Hive gods really can die.”

“That is…not comforting,” I said.

“Point being, more training in the Crucible is not a bad idea. I want us all in regular teams for the 3 vs. 3 matches. I think I will assign you and Arianna to Telrik.”

“2 Hunters and a Titan?” I asked.

“We have only 2 Warlocks,” he said. “I want Drake to work with me and Miranda. And I think leaving Magnus free to fill in where needed makes more sense anyway.”

“All due respect,” I countered, “You are putting 2 Arc and 1 Solar together and keeping an entire team of Void wielders together. Is that not a bit unbalanced?”

“Actually, I am giving a talented supporter 2 highly mobile killers and keeping a support, defense, and offense specialist in a team together,” he replied. “There’s a method to the madness here, Morc. Trust me.”

I shrugged and fell quiet. Another ship roared into the landing zone, whipping the air into a gale with its passing.

“New regimen starts with the next Iron Banner,” said Farstride. “Until Telrik gets back, Magnus will fill in.”

“You want us in the Iron Banner?” I asked, //unsettled.

“It’s time to get stronger, Morc. So we’re going to meet the strongest and come out stronger. See you there.”


 

“We need to hold A!” shouted Farstride. A sniper round gouged out a chunk of stone next to his head and he sidestepped. Another round whipped through the Bravo flag we had established just moments before in the “A” zone and he moved again.

I crouched invisible a few meters away, looking for the reflection of the scope from the shooter. “He’s on the water tank,” I reported.

“Got him!” said Miranda. The wiry little Awoken hunter leaped over the lip of the huge metal dome the enemy sniper crouched on. I saw the sniper turn to meet the new threat, but he was too slow: there was a bright flash and he disintegrated into Void dust.

“Guardian down!” reported Ebony.

“We lost Magnus,” said Drake. “And I’m holding B all alone.”

“Morc, head center and reinforce Drake,” said Farstride.

“Don’t die,” quipped Drake. “We’re only down by 3-”

“Guardian down!”

“Oh damn it,” I said, sprinting down the tunnel toward B. I could see the color changing on the Zone as I approached.

“Magnus, head for B,” said Farstride. “Miranda, help me out here.”

“Where’s Arianna?” I demanded as I charged into the B zone. A Warlock in red robes stood there. She raised her weapon at me and I rolled for cover. Just as I put stonework between myself and the Warlock an explosion cratered the zone.

“I was saving that for a special moment,” said Arianna. I looked around the corner to see her plant our flag in the ashes of the Warlock. I took a moment to pull up the roster and saw the enemy team had undergone a slight change: Fernanda-24 was the now exploded Warlock waiting to be revived.

“When did she join the match?” I asked with mild //exasperation.

“We’re up by 100,” said Drake. “Just hold this for 1 minute and it’s our match.”

As if on cue, the world filled with white noise and I stumbled away, blind.

“Rez! We got a rez on B!” shouted Arianna. “We-”

“Guardian down!”

“No!” I turned on my heel and fired wildly in the direction of the Zone. Fire and heat filled my sensors and I jumped away, but it only grew worse. My vision was partly clear in seconds, but I knew it was already too late.

Darkness.

Light. I started to run.

“Weapons down, Guardians,” said Shaxx’s voice. “This fight is over.”

“110 points,” said Drake morosely. “That’s it.”

I didn’t even bother looking at the score. I simply holstered my weapon and looked for the exit. Arianna joined me a moment later. “Somedays,” she said as we walked out, “I really hate this Crucible game.”

Categories: Morc-35 | Tags: , , ,

Day 120-127 – Part 7 (Finale)

“Long ago, when I had my Merlyn to help, he tried to teach me to think. He knew he would have to leave in the end, so he forced me to think for myself. Don’t ever let anybody teach you to think, Lance: it is the curse of the world.”
T.H. White, The Once and Future King


1 shot was all I managed before the Captain’s first sword sliced through my armor, opening up circuits and plating with surprising force. I stumbled back, and the Fallen boot pinned my leg to the floor. I fired twice more before the other blade found the gap between my helm and damaged plate and left nothing but Darkness in its wake.

When I reanimated I saw Arianna skipping away, her sidearm barking furiously as she fled the Captain’s attack. I shot the Fallen in the back, the explosive rounds creating a wall of fire. He stumbled, turned, and charged me again. I kept shooting, back pedaling to gain more time. The Captain lunged, blades raised high, and I rolled to the side.

Arianna hit him in the back before his feet touched the ground and bore him to the floor with her weight. Before he could get his limbs under himself to rise she put the sidearm to the side of his head and pulled the trigger. Nearly a dozen barks of the gun in less than 6 seconds, and the Captain twitched and went limp.

She stood to her feet and blew out a breath. “Well, that was anticlimactic.” She looked at the Servitor. “Now the ‘abomination’.”

The Servitor whined and groaned, and the rush of a teleport filled the room with violet light. The Captain hung in the air before the chained machine, limp and seemingly lifeless. Streams of Arc energy and what I took to be Ether surrounded the Fallen. The air crackled and filled with a rank ozone smell, and the Captain twitched and jerked.

“Oh come on!” said Ebony.

The Captain fell to the ground. Then slowly, stiffly, it raised its broken face and glared at us through 2 of its undamaged eyes and snarled.

We raised our weapons and fired. A violet shield absorbed the first volley of shots. The Captain stumbled forward through the fusillade, motions jerky and stiff. He dropped a sword and the now free claw flicked a shock grenade in our direction. We split away from the explosive.

“Not fair, not fair!” shouted Arianna. The Captain charged her, sword and claws cutting the air to grasp at her. I ran forward, seized the dropped Fallen sword, and turned to look at the Servitor where it strained and groaned against its chains.

“Here goes.” I hefted the unwieldy blade and threw it at the Servitor’s core. It flipped end over end and crashed point-first into the central globe. There was a shriek, and Arc energy ripped out of the Servitor in a storm, splitting it into pieces like an overripe melon. The chains fell slack and clattered to the dais.

I turned toward Arianna, who stood over the Captain’s limp form, the muzzle of her weapon pointed at the base his skull. We waited for him to rise. Another boom rattled the cavern, but the Captain did not stir.

“Well, time to go,” said Arianna.

“Wait,” I said. I pointed at the destroyed Servitor. “We can’t just leave. How did the Fallen find a way to restore himself to life? How did he use the Ghost? We have to know!”

“Actually, I am not sure the Captain was brought back to life,” said Ebony. He was scanning the corpse. “The Servitor might have been using him like a puppet. Or maybe he wasn’t truly dead and the Servitor just restored him.”

“That doesn’t answer how, or what it might mean for us,” I said.

Another series of booms, and the cavern filled with more dust. “Fine, Morc,” said Arianna. “You want to stay and find out, go right ahead.” She turned for the exit.

I looked back at the wreckage of the Captain and the Servitor, //hesitant. Then I grabbed up the Fallen’s sword and the dead Ghost and raced after Arianna. “Ebony, where are those ventilation shafts?”


“Likely enough, your Ghost was right,” said Morgan, sipping the tea I had set out for him. My tiny living space – which Morgan had dubbed “a weapon closet” when he saw the various weaponry hanging on the walls – was filled to capacity with the huge man in it. He relaxed in the only real chair there was. I leaned against the edge of my work-bench.

“So it was not truly restoration?” I asked.

“Doubtful. Nothing we’ve seen from the Darkness has shown the capability to produce new life. Spawn its own kind, perhaps. But something from nothing? I find it unlikely.” He slurped more tea.

“But not impossible?” I pressed.

Morgan eyed me over the rim of the cup. “Why?”

I gestured to express the //futility of it all. “What are the differences between us and them? We use the same kind of weapons, tactics and power as our enemies. We have similar goals, if you look at the Fallen and maybe the Cabal. We are living machines,” I gestured at myself, “the Vex are living machines. Truly, what separates us from the Darkness?”

Morgan looked at Ebony. “I think you should have brought him back as a Warlock.”


“Nice swords,” said Arianna. She nodded in the direction of the Fallen blade and the Hive cleaver where they hung crossed on the wall.

“Thanks,” I said. I offered her a (rigorously cleaned) cup filled with tea. She accepted it. “So what is on your mind?” I asked.

Arianna perched lightly on the edge of my workbench, somehow without spilling the tea. To avoid any //awkwardness I took the battered chair. She looked down at the brew, then ran a hand through her short red bristles. “I came by to apologize, actually.”

//Surprise. “For?” I asked.

“What I said before, about the Erikssons.” She put the cup aside and drew out her sidearm, then flipped it my way. I caught it and examined it.VestianDynastyNoUI

“That sidearm was 1 of the only things found on me when Dead Orbit recovered me and my ship. Chatterbox was pretty ecstatic when they hauled me aboard, they told me.”

“You would be too after centuries of looking,” muttered Chatterbox, the words impossible to miss in the small space.

“I don’t have family, Morc,” said Arianna, ignoring the Ghost. “None except the family I have made here: the Valherjar, other Guardians, so on. That little gun is 1 of the only links to the Reef and my original family that I have. You,” she said, as I tossed the sidearm back, “you have been adopted by a family. That’s a rare gift to people like us.”

“You mean Guardians,” I said.

She nodded. “We don’t get to be regular people, you and I. We’re soldiers in a war started before this planet had even formed, if the Speaker is to be believed. If you find something like a family, protect them for all you are worth. Because when you die for the last time, they may be the only people who notice.” She sipped her tea and made a face. “And get 1 of them to teach you how to make tea.”

“Morgan liked it,” I said //defensively.

“Morgan will drink anything.”

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