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?”