And in that very moment, away behind in some courtyard of the city, a cock crowed. Shrill and clear he crowed, recking nothing of war nor of wizardry, welcoming only the morning that in the sky far above the shadows of death was coming with the dawn.
And as if in answer there came from far away another note. Horns, horns, horns, in dark Mindolluin’s sides they dimly echoed. Great horns of the north wildly blowing. Rohan had come at last.”
― J.R.R. Tolkien,
The interior of the jump ship was crowded with Guardians – if 8 could be called a crowd – and I was grateful I was in the cockpit. Emma Eriksson turned to me in her seat, proudly wearing a Dead Orbit uniform. “Buckle up, 45 seconds to jump out.”
I obliged, strapping my frame into the bare seat against the wall behind her. “You seem awfully chipper.”
“The first jump to Saturn made by a human in centuries? Perhaps ever? I might be a little excited.” Her eyes crinkled as she flashed her teeth in a grin.
“Technically a Guardian did it first,” I said.
She rolled her eyes. “Fine, Mr. Technical.” She put her helmet on and turned back to her console.
“15 seconds to jump out,” said Jorge Eriksson, the pilot. Emma flipped a switch on her comm console and the message broadcast through the cabin. Guardians shuffled in their seats, strapping in.
“5…4…3…2…mark!” There was a rushing sensation and then the slap of the bubble of “normal” space formed within the field and returned us to reality.
Emma opened a broadcast to let Jorge speak to the rest of the fleet. “This is Geri, jump complete! All ships, sound off!”
A staccato of status reports filtered through from the squadron of jump ships crowded around the support vessels. I was in 1 such ship with Drake, Farstride, House and a handful of volunteer Guardians from a Vanguard unit. The other support ship, Freki was flying a tight formation off our starboard. Our support vessels carried a grand total of 18 Guardians, and another 24 personal jump ships escorted us with the remainder of both Guardian units.
“Tower channel established, and broadcasting…” said Emma.
“Guardians, your efforts for the City this day shall not be forgotten,” said Commander Zavala’s voice over the comm. “You are, as Cayde-6 says, the first wave of ‘The Calvary’. The fates of the City and its allies lay in your hands. Establish our beachhead. Clear the way. Good luck.”
“Dreadnought approach vector established. Descending into the Hive ship’s gravitational well,” reported Jorge.
Emma’s comm station crackled with a shout of surprise. “Cutting event! Hive ships cutting in! We’re under fire!”
“Break formation!” The ship lurched wildly to port as it attempted to peel away from its partner. I was //glad I had strapped in as the opposite wall became the floor. I heard a retching sound from the cabin as a human Guardian was suddenly sick from the surprise maneuver.
Communications between the escorts rang out through the cabin. “Multiple destroyers and Tomb ships! They’re on a track for the LZ!”
“Jump ships, cut them off. Support ships: go for the landing zone, get boots on the ground before they reinforce that position!”
The ship lurched again, this time nose down toward the Dreadnought’s gravity well and I wished for a window to see what was going on outside the hull of the craft. As if on cue, I was granted my wish. Well, sort of.
There was a horrific tearing sound, and the cabin over my head was sliced open by the edge of a Tomb ship’s hull like a jagged knife. Emma shouted something unintelligible as the venting atmosphere tried to lift her out of her seat into the vacuum. Anything loose in the cabin shot out through the rapidly widening aperture.
“Mayday mayday mayday!” shouted the pilot. “Collision, off course, unable to stabilize!”
Geri groaned as its hull warped and split. I turned in my seat to look back at the cabin: the other Guardians were all standing, their boots either magnetized or the Light keeping them planted to the deck as the ship ruptured around them.
“We’re almost in transmat range! 20 seconds to impact!” Jorge turned in his seat and shouted through the comm. “Abandon ship!” Then Geri shrieked like a wounded animal and the cockpit tore away from the main cabin.
I unfastened myself from the seat as we spun down – if there was a ‘down’ in space – and reached for Emma. She was still buckled in, and I drew my knife to slash her free. Then something hit the broken cockpit – whether debris or a stray shot I do not know – and suddenly I was thrown clear into space. “Emma!” I shouted at her and reached for the Light, pulling myself through time and space to blink forward and reach the cockpit again.
I missed. Whether I was too far away, or I simply miscalculated the trajectory, it was not enough. The cockpit hurtled out of my reach, down, down to the carapace of the Hive vessel beneath us. I realized I was spinning, like a bullet out of a gun. I saw figures and pieces of ship falling around me, well out of reach. Beyond the debris I could see Guardian ships zipping through space, firing at Hive vessels. Saturn, huge and ominous, its rings shining with pale light. And then the chitinous hull of the Dreadnought rushing at me, closer, closer, closer-