Monthly Archives: October 2016

Thieves and Beggars – Hoist the Colours, Part 2

“In an honest service there is thin commons, low wages, and hard labor; in this, plenty and satiety, pleasure and ease, liberty and power; and who would not balance creditor on this side, when all the hazard that is run for it, at worst, is only a sour look or two at choking. No, a merry life and a short one, shall be my motto.”Bartholomew “Black Bart” Roberts (Johnson, 244)

“M was right,” I said, looking down the scope. I had turned in my old shotgun for a sniper rifle in recent days and had it zoomed in on the Ketch tethered to the Dreadnought. “Definitely not an official house I’ve seen, but they’re flying the black flag with 3 orbs. It’s the Corsairs.”

“Fallen presence?” asked Farstride. He stood just to my right.

Telrik stood to my left, looking down his own sniper scope. “None near the gangplank: but there’s lots of Fallen gear and casings on the Dreadnought deck, among other things. They are ready to dig in.”

I followed Telrik’s gaze to confirm his observations. “They must have already sent teams into the ship. I see a few Scorch cannons: looks like they came ready to breach anything they could find.” I lowered the Hakkë rifle and pondered for a moment. “Do you think they can punch through a Rupture?

“Traveler forbid,” said Magnus from behind me. The Stormcaller sounded genuinely bothered by the notion.”Anyway, given the trouble we had to go through to get Guardians through the Ruptures, it’s not likely.”

“These Fallen have both the guts and the resources to launch an attack on a Guardian-occupied super-weapon of Hive origin. We need to assume they came prepared,” said Drake.

“Ever the voice of optimism, Drake,” quipped Farstride.

“Just reason,” said the Warlock.

Telrik spoke up. “We need to get aboard. Their leadership is not likely to leave the Ketch.”

I loped forward into clearing of gathered Fallen supplies and gear and picked up a Scorch cannon. The weapon was heavy, but it had a full magazine. I hefted it to my shoulder and walked up the gangplank out of the Dreadnought’s atmosphere to the Ketch’s lower deck, the other Guardians trailing behind. I took aim at the sealed bulkhead shutting the vacuum of space out of the Ketch.

“Weapons free,” said Farstride. I heard 5 guns cycle rounds into chambers. “On your count, Morc-35.”

“3, 2, 1…” I pulled the trigger and the warhead buried itself in the metal of the ship. The cannon whined as the charge built up. “Stand ready!”

The warhead detonated, and a rush of gas and ether blew out into the open space, whipping my cloak back like a storm.

Out of the billowing flames and smoke a figured loomed, moving with surprising speed in spite of its bulk. I backed up, narrowly missing the head-sized fist aimed at my chest. There was a yelp from someone behind me as the attacker lunged and we scattered in the small space. I rolled for the gangplank, running behind Drake and Telrik to get clear.

“Colossus!” Farstride’s shout could be heard over the sound of a slug-thrower winding up.

“Cabal couldn’t have beat us here, they would have posted a perimeter!” Magnus vaulted over a stack of Fallen crates at the same time I did and we put our backs to the meager cover. The sound of heavy slugs chewing up the chitin deck made me flinch away from the edge of the cover. The Colossus roared out a challenge and the hiss of rockets burning through the thin atmosphere was followed by a series of small explosions.

I popped over the edge of the crates, snapped a sniper round at the Colossus, then ducked again. “No damage,” reported Ebony in my ear. “He has a Void shield.”

“Void weapons!” I shouted into the comms over another roar of rocket fire. I looked around to see who had heard my call-out: Heisenberg-3 pivoted with a raised fusion rifle from behind a deck column and snapped off a series of Void bursts. The Colossus turned his rapid-fire cannon on the gold Titan and the rounds shattered pieces off the column just as Heisenberg got behind it. I stuck my head out again for a look. “Damage?” I asked my Ghost.

“Minimal.” I sighed in //frustration and fired another shot.

“No damage. It’s now an Arc shield…Oh.”

I ducked and rolled as the rockets came in, Magnus following suit. The Fallen crates were reduced to cinders and ash and we ran for more substantial cover, near the hallway that led to the open deck. “It’s a modulator!” said Magnus. We slid into a round depression encircled by Hive markings – probably a ritual site – and took aim over the lip. “Target has a modulating shield.”

“Great,” said Telrik in a heavy voice. “My Ghost is showing me the shield is already recharged. Each time it flips over it comes back up, meaning he’s got three separate charges on there.”

“What’s the plan?” I asked.

Farstride took charge.“We need to focus fire with the specific damage type. Sound off on Heavies and Secondaries.”

We rattled off our arsenals. 3 Arc, 2 Void, 1 Solar heavy weapons and 4 Void, 1 Arc and 1 Solar Secondary weapons.

“We’re a little iffy on Solar…” said Drake.

I peeked at the Colossus: it was huge, even by Cabal standards. Not quite Valus Ta’aurc in size, but still formidable.

“Even if we take down the shielding, how do we crack his armor before he flips over?” Magnus’s question echoed my own.

“I’m open to suggestions.” Farstride snapped a few shots at the Cabal. It was moving slowly but surely onto the Dreadnought deck, exposing our positions. We would have to retreat to the deeper parts of the ship any second now.

“Ebony,” I hissed. My Ghost flickered into existence near my head, his black shell whirling with consternation. “Analyze: is there a pattern to the modulation?”

“Umm…you fired a Solar weapon, it modulated to Void, Heisenberg-3 fired a Void, it modulated to Arc…”

“I have an idea!” I activated my camouflage.

“Glad someone does,” said Farstride.

“Use Arc energy! On my mark!” I abandoned my cover and ran forward into the clearing, snatching up the Scorch cannon where I had dropped it among the shattered crates. Once in hand I ran past the Colossus – thankfully oblivious – then turned around and took aim at his feet. The warhead buried itself in the chitin and the cannon began to whine. “3…2…1…mark!”

A fusillade of bullets and a grenade assaulted the Cabal’s position. I released the trigger and the warhead went off. The Colossus stumbled into the divot left by the explosion.

“Shoot him! Shoot him!” I fired another round, and this one buried itself into the Cabal’s armor. More weapons fire and grenades were lobbed, and Ebony began reporting damage. The Cabal fumbled at something on its wrist and the Void shield returned.

I sprinted for the hallway, this time without the benefit of camouflage, as the Colossus turned to put me down…and ran into a Vandal, swords out. The Fallen buried both of them into my torso, and before the Light went out I saw a swarm of reinforcements pour out of the bowels of the Dreadnought.

Categories: Morc-35, Thieves and Beggars | Tags: , , ,

Thieves and Beggars – Hoist the Colours: Part 1

The king and his men
stole the queen from her bed
and bound her in her Bones.
The seas be ours
and by the powers
where we will we’ll roam.

Yo, ho, haul together,
hoist the colours high.
Heave ho, thieves and beggars,
never shall we die.

~Hoist the Colours, Hans Zimmer (Pirates of the Caribbean 3: At World’s End)

“Why us?” asked Farstride.

“Because most of your crew have encountered these Fallen at some point.” M, the diminutive Hunter in blue that had increasingly become a contact for the Vanguard, stood in front of the gathered Valherjar. Behind her, pinned up and covered in red strings like an old-world crime-board, was a 2D map of the solar system. Scribbles in the margins were mostly of dates and names, connected to planets by the many red strings. “Granted, a lot of Guardians have. I estimate anywhere between 20 and 40 percent of Hunters alive today have seen them directly or indirectly. Titans, maybe 12 percent. Warlocks I am not sure about. And it is an indisputable fact that the Sunbreakers have tangled with them at some point in the past.”

Arianna ran a hand through her red Mohawk and “Hmmed” noncommittally. “You have some hard numbers for a group of Fallen pirates without a name or face to put to them.”

“The House of Beggars, Commander Zavala calls them. I prefer Corsairs.”

“I like that better,” said Telrik. The big green Titan crouched at the front of the gathering.

“So this House of Corsairs: what’s the plan?” asked Magnus.

M turned to the board and pointed at Saturn with her knife, occasionally tapping it for emphasis. “Now that the King is dead, Guardian presence on the Dreadnought has become routine. We’re still scouring its secrets, learning the architecture, digging out Hive nests. But the initial surge of Guardian presence on the ship has slumped. Our new jump capability has Dead Orbit looking to expand our borders, and there’s now a fresh push on Mars because the Cabal are in disarray.” She turned around and reached into the pack near her feet. She pulled out a fold of black cloth and held it up, let it fall open to reveal three overlapping white circles on a black field. “A Ketch was seen by Dead Orbit near Saturn. Not a hard sighting, but the Fallen houses are in disarray: the Wolves are scattered, Winter is practically nonexistent since the Wolf rebellion, the Exiles are almost as bad off as Winter, the Kings have gone underground, and the Devils are hiding and licking their wounds.”

“That doesn’t prove the Corsairs are the Ketch Dead Orbit saw,” said Drake. The Awoken Warlock had barely moved or spoken since the group had assembled.

“True,” said M. “But honestly, if any of the major Houses have a Ketch, they’re not going to send it out there. The Corsairs? They laugh where the Fallen fear to tread.”

“Magnus’ question still stands,” I interjected finally. The other Valherjar all looked at me, but I pressed on. “What is it that the Vanguard wants?”

“The Corsairs cannot be allowed to take anything from the Dreadnought. They’ve survived and thrived where the other Houses have continued to suffer, and it’s probably because they leech off the other powers in the system. We need to know what resources they have, what they’re capable of, and if we can, put them down once and for all. I want you to get at their Archon and their Kell, if they have one or the other. Most likely they have a Servitor pantheon they serve, and if we can shatter that, we can shatter them.”

Miranda shook her bald head, her purple skin glowing in the artificial light. “They sound like cockroaches: they only come out to feed on the dead and dying. Hardly seems like it’s worth the effort.”

“It may look that way now,” said M, her expression hardening. “But these Fallen have figured out how to survive in a solar system under constant assault, have met the Darkness and the Light in battle, and pushed both back, leaving us with hardly any information as to how. If they loot the secrets from the Hive on the Dreadnought they could become a force to be reckoned with. We need to stop that before it happens.”

“The Hunter has a point,” said Heisenberg-3. The newest addition to the Valherjar, a Titan Sunbreaker, he had barely spoken 2 words since his induction to the unit. I had yet to see him without his armor and helm on, and wouldn’t have known he was an Exo had Farstride not introduced him as such. The deep sound of his voice startled almost everyone present. “Ignoring a threat like this only invites trouble for later. We should act now.”

The gathering fell silent and looked at House, the last in the group. The human Bladedancer was neither armored or armed except for his sword, dressed in his black and white Dead Orbit uniform as if he were on the way to a formal dinner. “What?” he said finally. “Leave me out of this. I’m not going anywhere near Saturn until I hear of a way out of the Heliopause. I have more important things to do.”

“Hear, hear,” Miranda muttered softly.

“Well, Farstride?” demanded M. “Do I need to find another unit? Or are you in?”

Farstride waited a long time, so long I thought he might turn it down. Then he rolled a shoulder in a shrug. “Sure. Why not?”


Categories: Morc-35, Thieves and Beggars | Tags: , , ,

Arianna – Thieves and Beggars 078

“Knowing someone isn’t coming back doesn’t mean you ever stop waiting”
Toby Barlow

The recording is time-stamped 25 years prior, and shows the Tower Hangar. Two human technicians, both in Dead Orbit colors, and a handful of frames mill around an Awoken-style jump-ship. The vessel is suspended by cables and appears inert. A worker frame is preparing a cutting torch near the cockpit. The ship itself has had its side opened, exposing its inner-workings, and a tangle of cables have been attached and now run to a monitor. The humans concentrate their efforts on these and occasionally flit back to the blank monitor. After another cable is spliced into the vessel, the monitor lights up…

“Hey, Carl, look at this.”

“Please tell me we’re in, El. I’m missing Crucible Hour you know…”

“Definitely!” El grinned and waved her male compatriot over. “I’ll buy you your drinks tonight, I promise. I told you this would be worth the extra time.”

“Hope the boss agrees. I’ll take glimmer over free drinks any night.”

“Liar,” said El. Her fingers flew over the keys. “You’d just spend it on drinks anyway.”

Carl grunted but didn’t argue. He walked over to stand next to El. “System locked?”

“Yeah…gimme a second…” El frowned at the monitor. “I’m going to pipe this into the record. Might be useful if we ever salvage another like this.”

The feed splits with the monitor’s readout. A baffling display of scrolling characters in an unidentified language or script plays over in a loop every 43 seconds.

Carl grunted again. “This could take months.”

El sighed. “Yeah. Maybe we can get a Cryptarch to give it a look.”

“Back to Plan B then. We cut it open.”

“But that could ruin the integrity, Carl! We’ve been over this. When was the last time you saw an intact jump-ship from the Reef like this?”

“It’s useless like it is now, El. At least if we slice it open we can have some salvage, get an idea of how these things work.”

As the technicians argue, a little orange Ghost floats up behind them…

“Hello.” The Ghost’s voice was one of the exceptionally weary.

The technicians both jumped and turned around. “Oh, uh, hello,” said El.

“What do you have here?” asked the Ghost.

“Oh, we found this ship near Venus. We’re trying to get it open.”

“Hmm.” The Ghost floated down to the monitor and scanned it briefly. Carl lifted a hand and opened his mouth as if to protest, but El slapped him in the chest and shook her head sharply.

“Advanced encryption. Not impossible though. I could crack it open for you.” The Ghost turned to look at the techs. The upper portion of his shell drooped over his eye, as if in a perpetual frown.

“Oh. Sure!” said El. Carl crossed his arms and grunted. He glared at El in a manner that bespoke disapproval.

“OK, just a minute…” The Ghost floated over the ship itself and scanned the open side.

“We don’t know who that Ghost is attached to!” Carl hissed at El.

“He’s not! Just look at him: he doesn’t have a Guardian. If anything can decrypt this ship in record time it’s a Ghost!”

“I have a bad feeling about this…”

“Carl, even if he had a Guardian, there’s no way I’m getting in the way of a Ghost. Those things are Traveler-born.”

“Don’t start with that ‘Traveler is a god’ thing again. I swear, you ought to just go join the Monarchy or maybe that cult down on Salem street…”

The monitor flickered, cutting off the discussion. A recording began to play.

“Got something here,” said the Ghost. “Still need a few minutes…”

The recording displayed a clear view of Venus from low orbit, seen through the ship’s cockpit. The planet was approaching rapidly, its various shades of green lit with the occasional flash of blue from a storm…

“Target has leveled out. Looks like they’re heading into the storm. I’m in pursuit and going comm-silent.”

“Understood. Watch your back Arianna.”

Arianna’s hand flicked out and killed the comm, then pulled back on the ship’s joystick to level off, veering in the direction of the storm clouds. They swirled and clung to the sides of the ship as it cut through, and soon the cockpit was lit only by the internal displays, reflected in thousands of rain droplets splattered over the view. A blinding flash of blue washed everything out for a moment, and the vessel shuddered from the shock wave, the sound muted by the ship’s insulation. Arianna’s view flicked over to a 3-D sensor display: 3 large dots at the 12’oclock position and just below. She nudged the ship down slightly and accelerated.

The clouds broke for a moment, and a solid black mass could just be seen cutting through the storm below her. It was gone again in an instant, and a flash of lightning revealed nothing but more clouds.

“You can run…” the pilot murmured. She nosed the ship down sharply, broke through the bottom of the cloud cover to expose the landscape below, and leveled off just beneath the clouds. Wispy fingers clutched at her ship, as if beckoning her back into the morass of the storm. She craned her head side to side, looking for the target, then back at the sensor: her position was absorbed in red. “Where are you?” She looked up.

The black mass pushed through the cloud cover and descended. Two smaller objects broke from beneath it and were lit up with Arc energy from their guns: Fallen skiffs.

Arianna shoved the nose down again, heading into an accelerated dive, then pulled up sharply, back into the storm. The ship wailed with reported hits. She guided her vessel past the spearing nose of the Fallen Ketch, which was gone just as quickly as it had appeared.

The Awoken ship continued to whine and wail. Displays lit up and flashed urgently. Arianna kicked it into a barrel-roll, but continued to push for altitude. She broke through the upper reaches of the storm and into the light of Sol as lights all over her display flickered and winked out.

Arianna reached for her comms. “Reef Control, Granuaille One: copy?” Nothing. “Reef Control, Granuaille One: copy?” The comm remained silent. She pushed the stick and rolled the ship over, giving her a clear view of Venus. The pursuers were gone. “Reef Control, Granuaille One. Direct contact with target. I was ambushed. I am losing power to all systems: looks like something was Arc fried. Transmitting combat telemetry. Establishing Geo-synchronous orbit at these coordinates…”

The flight recording ends abruptly and cuts back to the Tower view. The Ghost flits over to the cockpit while the technicians begin another unintelligible discussion.

“Oh! Oh! Where have you been all this time?” The Ghost flickered and shone brightly over the cockpit.

End of Record 078.

Categories: Thieves and Beggars

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