“So if the Wall has been breached, why are you here? Aren’t you a Titan? Defender of the Wall and all that?” I demanded.
Findlay looked down and scuffed his boot against the flight deck. We were standing beneath Emma’s jump ship, The Hand of Tyr, a model of the support craft that had carried us to the Dreadnought a year before. “I don’t have a ship. Or a Sparrow.”
I stared at him. “How long have you been a Guardian?”
“Umm…” He looked over at his Ghost floating at eye-level. “A week.”
“A week?!” I shouted. I noticed a frame behind Findlay turn around to look at us. “How by Odin’s left eye did you manage to join the Valherjar inside of a week?”
“Well, actually, I’m only a provisional member right now,” Findlay admitted, not meeting my gaze. “Arianna vouched for me. I still have to go through some tests and get full approval.”
“A week,” I growled.
“Calm down, Morc.” Emma climbed out of the ship the old-fashioned way. “If you’d been here you’d know that attrition has been catching up with everyone.” She pushed the ladder away and a frame waddled over to remove it. “Word in Dead Orbit is that we lost a record-number of Guardians to the Taken, even after the King died. New blood is a welcome sight.”
“Anyway,” said Findlay, “I, uh…need a ride to the Iron Temple.”
“A ride to the what Temple?”
“We need to get you up to speed,” said Emma drily.
“Yeah! We can do that on the way!”
“I need a few hours first,” I said tiredly.
“You need a few weeks,” Emma countered.
“But we don’t have a few weeks!” gasped Findlay.
“Oh for the love of…just, be back here in 6 hours, OK?” I began to leave the hangar.
“Umm, what do I do in the meantime?”
I stared at him. “What?”
“Well, you’re kinda of the senior Valherjar, so…what am I supposed to do in the meantime?”
I bit back my first response and reached into my satchel. “Look, take this,” I handed him a leather-bound book, “to Morgan, the Cryptarch.”
“Morgan, right…what’s a Cryptarch?”
“Oh, you have got to be shi-!”
“I’m kidding, I’m kidding!” Findlay took the book and bolted for the exit. I watched him go.
“Bitter at the exuberance of youth, old-timer?” asked Emma.
I grunted and she laughed at me.
“It’s not dusty.” I looked around at my living space: the single chair and the workbench were clean. The swords crossed on the wall were polished, even the Hive cleaver. The entirety of my small book collection – 8 volumes in all – rested on their tiny bookcase, even if they weren’t all in the same order as when I had left them.
“Well, if you don’t use an apartment in the Tower and they don’t hear from you after 6 months they take it back. So I’d come by and make sure it was cared for, and logging in the swipe pad meant that you’d have a place to come back to.” Emma sat in the chair and flicked on the light.
“Leave it off.”
She frowned at me but complied, and the only light to the room streamed through the tiny window that faced the City. I placed my beaten satchel on the workbench, scattering red sand everywhere. By the Traveler, where did it all come from? I began emptying the bag, a piece at a time.
Emma crept up to look over my shoulder. “You found some interesting stuff.”
“Is that a Vex’s eye?”
“Hobgoblin.” I picked up the scope with the red eye in the front lens and handed it to her. “The sight resolution is unmatched. Unfortunately it still has Vex intelligence stored in it at some level. It’s more or less worthless as a scope, but it’s worth studying for R&D.”
“Why does that make it worthless?”
“The scope will intentionally feed false telemetry to make you miss; in some cases it just stops working. I disassembled the eye 6 times before I finally figured out that some vestige of the Vex mind was still in there. I don’t dare hook it up to anything in case it creates some kind of infection.”
I sorted the contents of my satchel: relics, experiments, tech, into their proper places on the workbench. Then I cleaned the surface, sweeping away the sand.
“Talk to me.” Emma was staring at me as I went through my tasks.
“You were gone for almost a year!” Her words were almost a shout. “You haven’t spoken to the family, you haven’t asked me how they are, you haven’t asked what has happened since you left! You haven’t said why you left!”
I turned to look at her: she was trembling. The scar on her face from our hunt on the Hive…gods, was it nearly 2 years ago?…was livid and bright even against her dark skin.
“I went to find Skadi. To kill her.” I lowered myself to the floor and leaned against the workbench. She sat next to me. I could see the light of my mechanical eye-shine reflected in her human eyes. “She got in my head.”
I nodded. “Each time I die…she gets closer. It gets Darker. I don’t know how many deaths I have left.”
She took my hand in her own. “Have you seen the Speaker? The Vanguard? The Warlocks might help.”
“And become ostracized like Toland or Osiris? Or Dredgen Yor?” I shook my head. “No. I will find her and kill her. It’s the only choice I have.” I turned to look at her. “When they had me in the nest…it was always your face she took. To hurt me.”
Emma stared back at me. “I had no idea. Why…why didn’t you say something?”
“What was there to say? My first family member, the one who was adopted like me was what she tried to corrupt. I didn’t want you to know. They hurt you too.”
We sat in the dark for a few minutes more, hand in hand. Then she squeezed mine. “We should go. There’s a lot of work to do at the Wall.”
I nodded. “Ain’t no rest for the wicked, am I right?”
Emma chuckled. “None at all.”