The data chip you found in the book has another series of files on it, sorted by numbers and names under the heading “Thieves and Beggars.” You open the first file and an audio-visual record plays. The recording is not time-stamped, and shows the snowy ground below the Wall as seen from the ramparts. The day is dark and the sky is overcast. Snow is falling, a sharp wind carrying the flakes sideways. The Wall creaks with each gust, and the sound of the wind mixes with the words…
“Freyja, are you recording this?” The camera panned left to a Titan in steel-colored armor. A scrolling text unfurled next to his head: J. Farstride.
“Recording on, Guardian,” said the operator. The view bobbed slightly.
The Titan motioned to the Wall’s pathway: a line of Fallen bodies had been neatly laid out, eight in a row. Five were Dregs, two were Vandals, the last a Captain (or unusually large Vandal), and next to him was the wing of a destroyed Shank. Each was armored in a dull purple armor, their weapons laid out beside them. At the end of the row was another Guardian, a human female. Her helmet was off, her pale face flushed with the cold and her blonde hair whipping in the wind; the camera identified her as “L. Pulaski”. She winked at the recording Ghost, and then began to speak.
“Subjects appear to be Fallen of an unknown origin. Flag unidentified. Fallen attacked the outpost at approximately 0600 hours this morning, just as shift change was occurring, implying advanced scouting and preparation. Casualties to the Fallen were approximately seventeen Dregs, nine Vandals, four shanks, possibly one Captain, unclear as to the last. Casualties to the Guardians were six, all revived. The Fallen target appears to have been three buried walkers: leftovers from a recent battle. Said walkers were damaged during the Fallen retreat and abandoned, and cleanup crews hauled them inside the wall for later retrieval and study. Due to manpower shortages, this has not yet occurred, and the walkers have remained.
“Attackers used standard tactics: employing skiffs to drop troops onto the Wall and penetrate our defenses. What is not standard is their equipment, which brings me to the reason for this record. Ghost, if you please, take note of the weapons and gear.”
The recording panned down to the Fallen bodies again, and zoomed in on their weapons.
“As you can see, non-standard armaments were being wielded by almost all Fallen present. Weapon types are reminiscent of Cabal infantry, heavily modified for use by the smaller Fallen.” Pulaski reached down and picked up a broad firearm, big as a shotgun but blocky and square. “Rounds were explosive slugs, common to Legionaries on Mars. Lower explosive yield, greater velocity.” She put the gun down and stepped to the Captain and picked up his weapon. “Though of Fallen make, this is what appears to be their take on a Heavy Slug Thrower. This Fallen wore a magazine for his rounds on his back, which were belt-fed into the weapon. It successfully brought down two of the Guardian casualties and almost cleared the Wall of defenders.” Pulaski put down the slug thrower and picked up the Shank wing. “This last is the most odd: the material of the Shank was built out of the same alloy that is found in Phalanx shields. We could only bring it down by targeting the joints in the wings. It was otherwise impervious to fire.”
The camera panned back to the Guardian’s face. “I am recommending a recon mission to Mars, to find more evidence of these particular Fallen. It is possible that this a new House we have-” Pulaski’s head snapped sideways with a crack and something spattered the view. She limply hit the walkway with a rattle of armor. The crack of the shot followed a second later.
“Guardian down!” The camera winked with a flash of transmat light and the view changed to Farstride’s HUD. “Unit commander down!” Farstride’s breathing was heavy, rapid. He jumped over the Fallen bodies and knelt next to Pulaski. “Uh, Ghost, where’s her Ghost?”
“Here,” said a little red Ghost, hovering over the body. “We need cover!”
“Right!” Farstride thrust out his hands in both directions and the world turned a violet color. Shots pinged against the bubble. “Umm, motion tracker shows a lot of movement, low, below the wall. We need to get Pulaski on her feet!”
“Guardian.” The red Ghost floated into view. “I know it’s your first day on the Wall, but you need to breathe. Calm down.”
“Yeah, yeah, calm.” There was the sound of a shuddering breath. “So what do we do? Where are the other Titans?”
“Sniper rounds took out the nearest, the other four have already left for the City. I have transmitted a ‘Guardian Down’ signal.There are a pair of Warlocks just half a click away East-wise on the Wall. They are already inbound. Also, a Hunter is coming in on a Sparrow from the inside of the Wall. They’ll need updates and direction when they get here.”
Farstride nodded. “What about Pulaski?”
“There’s too much interference, for some reason or another. It will take time to revive her.”
The walkway rang with the sound of boots, and a Hunter in a blue cloak slid into the bubble. “‘sup, mate?” The text next to his head read “K. Lowery”.
“Fallen shooting at us. My commander is down.” As if on cue the Wall shuddered and groaned. “And now they’re shelling us with a walker.”
“Cheeky bastards,” said the Hunter. “What’s the plan?”
“More reinforcements are on their way.”
“Here,” said Freyja. A pair of Guardians were sprinting toward the bubble shield. One staggered from a round, but was hauled forward by his partner. The wounded Guardian fell into the protection of the shield and hissed with pain; his name read “Starbright”, the other “Orion-9”. Another walker round struck the position, and the Wall moaned.
Farstride took charge. “This shield is coming down soon. We need to distract that walker. Starbright, you stay here with Pulaksi’s Ghost. Orion, Lowery, we are getting down there and taking that Walker out.”
“Leave the Wall?” asked Orion. As if to answer there was another crack of thunder and a shudder. “OK, point taken.”
“We will come at it from three sides, OK? I’ll run up the middle, you two flank it. Ready?” Farstride’s revolver appeared. The other Guardians nodded.
“Go!” They rushed the edge and vaulted over, down, down into the snow. Farstride caught himself just as he neared the ground, and landed in an explosion of snow and ice. Then he was running, right at the walker. It was braced for artillery fire, focused behind the attacking Guardians. Freyja began highlighting the Fallen surrounding it, picking them out of the falling snow. A dozen Dregs, nothing more.
“This is Star, the shield is down.”
Scout rifle-fire echoed as the Hunter engaged with the Dregs. They fell with clean shots to the head, spewing ether. Orion was almost invisible in white and silver robes, until he hurled a bright Solar grenade at the Walker’s feet, back-lighting him like a miniature sun. The walker’s repeater had already taken aim at Farstride, and his HUD lit up with red as rounds struck his armor. The camera flopped sideways, rolled, came back up. Snow hissed into steam as the shots tracked. Farstride’s other hand appeared and fanned the hammer on his revolver, and rounds cracked into the walker armor. The tank began pulling up its braces, forgetting the Wall to defend itself.
“Help!” The radio crackled with a panicked cry. “Skiffs overhead! They’re dropping troops on me!” The camera spun around to look back up at the Wall. A pair of skiffs hovered, disgorging Vandals. “I’m-“ The words were cut off, and a flash of Light lit the ramparts.
“Titan, move!” Farstride spun around in time to see the barrel of the walker cannon light up with fire. The view flashed.
End of Record 001