Well Darkness has a hunger that’s insatiable
And Lightness has a call that’s hard to hear
I wrap my fear around me like a blanket
I sailed my ship of safety ’til I sank it
I’m crawling on your shores
– Indigo Girls, Closer to Fine
I had grown so used to transmats I rarely found them disorienting any longer, but this was not an ordinary day. The flash of light that pulled me through space felt as if it took longer than it should have; looking back on it, I wonder if it means a Guardian can experience the passage of time in a transmat or even in the nothing that occurs before a Ghost’s revival. In this case, it felt unusually long. And then suddenly I was falling again, though thankfully the spinning had stopped. “Ebony!” I shouted. My descent was straight down, parallel to what appeared to be a massive chain descending dozens or hundreds of meters.
“Look for somewhere to land!” Ebony squeaked. Below us, the chain had terminated into what appeared to be a platform. I extended my limbs outward to increase drag as the platform rushed up. Then I blinked.
The impact was still hard enough to register some damage – clearly my timing had been off – and I rolled with the inertia. My momentum brought me to the edge, stone scraping against my metal armor. I looked over the lip of the platform, down, down into darkness.
“That was too close,” said Ebony in a quavering voice.
“Agreed,” I said. I stood to my feet and nearly tipped over. I sat hard on my rear and crabbed away from the edge. “What’s wrong with the ground in this place?” I demanded and tried to stand again. My internal stabilizers compensated and I kept my footing this time.
“We’re not on ground,” said Ebony softly. I followed his gaze.
We stood in the longest hall I had ever seen. Above us, a ceiling arched almost out of sight in an A-frame shape. An eerie light shone at the far end of the hall. Hanging from the high vaulted ceiling were dozens – perhaps hundreds – of chains, connecting to stone pillars bigger than City towers. And the pillars themselves were not even grounded, but hung in the huge open space like overripe fruit on a dying tree.
Realization dawned. “We’re on one of those things? But…this platform is easily a dozen meters wide.” I turned in a circle to get the full grasp of its size.
“We’re just beneath the spine of the Dreadnought,” said Ebony. He looked upward, then back at me. “We are a long way from the transmat zone.”
“Do we have communications with the others?” I asked.
“We have clear communications – I am actually picking up a wide band. The Guardians have gotten Freki close to the LZ and they’re putting boots on the ground.”
“That’s something at least. Pipe it in.”
M, the tiny brash Vanguard Hunter, was giving orders in a crisp tone.“First wave in. Titans, form a wall.”
“Shields are up. Under fire from supporting Harvesters. Cabal presence is high, some Hive skirmisher units.”
“Move toward the inner wall. We may need to find an exit. Warlocks, make a hole. Hunters, spread out. We have scout reports from the initial landing but I want Ghost scans all over this ship. Move it! Escorts, status?”
Telrik responded. “Tomb ships destroyed or dispersing. The destroyers are taking up a perimeter near the lower hull. I think they’re protecting other possible LZ’s.”
“We’ll let the Red Jacks deal with them on the second wave. Bring your ships in and join the others. Titans, once the Hunters have dispersed, I want everyone to spread out. If we bunch up-“
“Blight! Blight events! Taken are storming our position!”
“My shield is down. Need covering fire.”
“Cutting event! A Tomb ship is cutting in.”
“Rockets! Kill that Taken Captain!”
“Loren-6 is down! Loren-6 is down and his Ghost isn’t responding!”
“Ogre! They brought an Ogre!”
M’s voice cut through the wild chatter, blanketing the comm bands. “Ignore the Ogre, it’s assaulting the Cabal. Form a perimeter around the LZ! Hunters, reel it in! Warlocks, call the Sun in here and uplift our Titans! Use your heavy weapons and push the Taken back!”
“We need to help them,” said Ebony.
I shook my head. “We’re too far from the LZ to be of any use. We need to find Emma.”
“Guardian, it’s likely Emma and Jorge are dead.”
I glared at him. “We need to find her. I won’t leave her here.”
“And how do we find her?” Ebony demanded. “If she were alive she would have likely communicated. If we search for anyone it needs to be survivors from the crash. Drake, Farstride, House, Nigel-12: all of them were alive before we transmatted into the Dreadnought.”
“They’re Guardians. Emma and Jorge are just humans.”
“We can’t help them if we’re dead, Guardian!” Ebony danced in the air like an angry black wasp. “We may have communications, but we are cut off from the Traveler’s Light here: if you fall I will have a lot of trouble reviving you on my own. With another Guardian at least I have a better chance of saving you. At least get help before we go haring off after her!”
I restrained the urge to smack the Ghost out of the air. After a moment I realized he was right. “Fine. Any idea where the nearest Guardian is?”
Ebony sighed with relief and fanned out, scanning. “I have a comm hit on Sir Drake. He’s not actually broadcasting, but he’s receiving. I think he’s close. Perhaps in this part of the super-structure.”
“Shotgun.” I extended my hand and Ebony transmatted the weapon. I chambered a round, and turned toward the nearest of the hanging columns, slightly below us and several meters away. “Let’s get to it.” Then I took a running start and leaped off the edge.