“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,
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.
“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.”