“Light thinks it travels faster than anything but it is wrong. No matter how fast light travels, it finds the darkness has always got there first, and is waiting for it.”
― Terry Pratchett,
“Are you sure this is worth it?” I asked.
“Are you kidding?” asked Farstride. “We’ve got her cornered.”
“The Cabal have her cornered,” I corrected. “And in spite of their losses, they don’t seem to have suffered as badly as we would have thought.”
“Look again.” The lightly-armored Titan handed me his small scope and pointed to the Cabal forces in the rocky valley below us. I lifted the scope to my eye. A cluster of skeletal buildings, marking the edge of the Buried City where it met Meridian Bay, had been taken over by a cohort of Cabal Legionaries and Psions. The central building, the tallest, was surrounded by the Cabal, and at its summit was a Fallen Wolf Skiff, tied to the tower like an old Earth blimp. I could see Vandals patrolling its floors, and the Cabal refused to approach the base of it in force. I focused on the Cabal forces, a standard mix of Legionaries and Psions, but I saw only 1 command officer: a Colossus in Dust Giant colors.
“I’m not seeing it,” I admitted after a minute.
“Look at the Psions,” urged Farstride patiently. I obeyed, and trained the scope on the smaller Cabal creatures. They darted to and fro between the bigger units, clearly prepping for their assault. Then the realization clicked.
“Those aren’t Sand Eaters,” I said. “And they are not Dust Giants. Blind Legion?” I ventured.
“No,” said Farstride. “No, that’s a different unit: Skyburners. The fleet that evacuated Phobos.”
“They’re bolstering other units,” I concluded. “But if they have that kind of troop potential…”
“The Vanguard have long suspected the Cabal have been pulling their punches,” said Farstride. “Looks like they were right.”
“How does this support your case for stealing the Baronness from under their noses?” I asked.
“It doesn’t make the slightest difference,” admitted Farstride cheerily. “But I think we have a good shot. They don’t know we’re here, they will likely not want to engage in anything too protracted, and I hate leaving the job unfinished. We’re taking down that bounty.”
I emulated a sigh to indicate my //reluctance and handed the scope back. “OK, Boss: what’s the plan?”
“This is a terrible plan!” insisted Ebony.
“Quiet!” hissed Ivory – or “Freyja”, as the little white Ghost insisted she be called, a fact I had missed until I had called her a “him” – at Ebony. “You’ll give us away!”
I stayed still next to the doorway of the tallest building as a Psion skittered past me. It paused and looked around, and I felt an odd pressure as its gaze swung my way. I waited, hoping my cloaking tech was efficient enough to fool it. Then it chittered and continued on its way. I ducked into the building, lugging the crate in my hands to a nearby support beam.
“That’s not load-bearing,” said Freyja.
“Well, point out a support that is!” I snapped.
“Rude!” she declared, and floated away to a large flat wall that extended several meters into the structure. She scanned it. “This will do,” she said. I lugged the crate to the base of the support and set it down. A Wolf Shank floated past and I snatched it out of the air and slammed it against the support beam before it could alert the rest. It shattered into pieces, and I returned my focus to the crate.
“You’ll want to pour your Light into the case itself. Not the explosives, or you might set them off, or cancel Farstride’s Void energy,” said Freyja.
“Bad plan, bad plan,” worried Ebony, dancing on the edge of my sight.
“Both of you shut up,” I ordered. I extended my hand and concentrated a moment. I was no Warlock, but any Guardian knew how to channel their Light. But the unstable nature of Arc energy did make me //nervous, and I was less than confident that I would not blow us all to bits.
“The Void will keep the bomb stable,” assured Freyja, as if reading my thoughts.
“That’s not what you said a moment ago,” I snapped.
“Not if you slug everything at it,” she replied. “But if you concentrate on the case itself, there won’t be enough interference until something trips it. Trust the Light.”
I nodded and began charging the case. Sparks of Arc energy crackled softly around my hand, and I felt the Light pour through me like the current of a storm. The rush filled my circuits, and for a moment I could see outside myself, as if disembodied…
“Guardian, stop!” Ebony’s voice cut through my //euphoria and I struggled to reduce the flow. The case glowed with energy.
“Now tie it to the structure,” said Freyja. “Think of it like twisting a pair of wires.” I did as she instructed, wrapping my fingers in a twisting motion, tying the Light energy to the building’s superstructure.
“Farstride, we’re done,” reported Freyja.
“Good! I’m beginning my run about…now!” There was an explosion of a rocket outside the building, and the calls of the Cabal rousing their comrades to battle.
“When the time comes, you’ll just undo the tie,” said Freyja.
I hefted my shotgun. “If you say so,” I replied doubtfully. I rushed for the door, camouflage forgotten. A Legionary filled the entrance. I shot it in the knee and it fell, roaring. I put another round of heavy shot into its helmet, shattering it and the Cabal collapsed in a shower of gasses. I leaped over the body and into the battlefield.
Farstride stood in the courtyard of the building, surrounded by Cabal heavy units. He had a sidearm, newly acquired at the Reef, in his hand. A staccato of gunfire from the little weapon cracked the breastplate of a Legionary. He leaped forward and planted his fist into the broken armor and the Cabal disappeared in an atomized cloud of Void energy. He charged through the cloud, and it wrapped around him a like a coat. Then he pivoted on his heel and smashed his fist into the knee of a another Legionary, felling it like a tree, then dropped both fists into the top of its helmet: it crumpled like a tin can under the force of the blow. The Titan drew his hand cannon in one hand, his sidearm in the other, and spun. Gunfire erupted from his weapons, cutting through Cabal armor like razors while their weapons fire skipped off the Void shield surrounding his body. The Cabal around him collapsed into heaps, and with a flourish he holstered his weapons.
“Must he be such a cowboy?” sighed Freyja, and winged her way toward her Guardian.
“Time to get clear before the Fallen clue in,” said Farstride. He summoned his Sparrow and I copied him, and we raced for the dunes once more. Gunfire skipped off the rocks around us, and I looked over my shoulder to see the Colossus shooting at us as we fled.
At the top of the dune we turned our Sparrows around and looked back at the Cabal camp, astir like a disturbed ant nest.
“Time to blow it Morc,” said Farstride.
“That’s what she said,” I quipped. I reached out at the tower where I had planted the explosives and sought the sensation of Light at its base. I found the tether between my Light and the building and tried to tug them apart.
The lowest 4 stories of the building vaporized into Void energy, and the rest of the building dropped straight down into the sand with a boom that rattled our Sparrows, and then every floor of the structure collapsed downward like a vertical set of dominoes, dragging the floating Skiff with it into a cloud of smoke and dust. The Cabal tried to scatter and were swallowed up by the cloud, and then the surrounding buildings shuddered and collapsed. The cloud billowed upward into the sky, and the weak light of Sol was momentarily obscured.
“I’d say that was a confirmed kill,” said Farstride.
“No bounty without proof,” I said.
“I’m sure Petra won’t argue,” said Farstride. He clapped me on the shoulder. “I’d say this was a job well done.”