Monthly Archives: October 2017

Scattered – Part II

“People often believed they were safer in the Light, thinking monsters only came out at night.”
C.J. Roberts, Captive in the Dark


The two Hunters flitted between the trees like sparrows: short, quick flaps of their cloaks from brush to branch and disappearing into the background the moment they were still, even in the bright daylight. Gwendolyn was convinced she stuck out like a streak of chalk on a clean blackboard in her white robes. A branch cracked like a gunshot under her feet and she winced when Miranda turned her head to look back at her. Arianna waved them beneath a tall pine and hunkered down. Her Ghost peeked out of a satchel on her belt.

“There’s an old tower of some kind about half a kilometer away.” Arianna kept her voice low. “We get to the top, set up our transmitter there, and we should be able to get a signal from anywhere in the solar system. I’ll go to the top, you two establish a perimeter. Radio silence until the transmitter is on and the channel is encrypted.”

Gwen nodded. Arianna motioned them on and flitted forward through the scattered shadows cast by the branches. Miranda motioned for Gwen to follow and took up the rear.

The structure was beyond the edge of the trees in a wide field that the forest was slowly reclaiming with saplings and brush. It was a twenty-five meter tall round tower of rusting metal with a domed top and crowned with antennae that stuck out at odd angles, some leaning like they would fall. It was joined to a scaffolding of metal that had tracks and gears designed to raise a large square frame up and down the side. An ancient staircase wound around its shell to a narrow platform at the top of the tower.

“It’s a launch platform,” whispered Anu in Gwen’s ear. Her Ghost sounded excited. “Probably for satellites for private companies or family use back in the Golden Age.”

At the foot of the tower Arianna motioned them to different points before scaling the tower stairs. Gwen knelt and pointed her rifle back the way they had come and waited. As the minutes passed she settled her breathing and listened: the wind sighed through the ancient trees and stirred the grasses, birds called to one another, and she could faintly make out the sound of water running over stones somewhere.

Time ticked by. A squirrel scrambled up a nearby sapling and watched her with curious eyes. Then he hunched with his tail over his head and chattered at her. When she didn’t respond he jumped from the sapling to a nearby bush and disappeared.

The light from the sun dimmed for a moment. Gwen was filled with a sudden sense of loss: she remembered trying to sing in the burning library and how Sol did not answer her call. It was like being caught in a blizzard, blowing on the ashes of a cold fire and seeing no spark flicker to life. The thought made her shiver with cold and she shut her eyes, and tried to imagine the heat of Light at her fingertips again.

The darkness behind her eyelids slowly filled with a deeper black, a hollow feeling of space so vast she felt as if she was suddenly in free-fall to some unimaginable depth. Sparks of Light spun past like distant stars as she rushed down, down-

“Transmitter online.” Ariann’s voice cut into her consciousness and Gwen snapped back into reality. She stood up and turned toward the tower, shaking a little.

“Did either of you…feel that?” asked Miranda.

“That weirdness a minute ago? Yeah. Come up to the top, there’s something you’ll want to see.”

They climbed the rickety stairs to the top. The transmitter had been attached to one of the antennae and blended in with the other aging equipment. Gwen’s Ghost opened a channel to receive on the new encryption, but only static came through.

Arianna was looking into the distance with a scope and motioned them closer. She handed the scope over and pointed out to the forest beyond. Miranda took it and stared for a long minute. Gwen couldn’t see what it was they were looking at.

“That’s the shard,” Miranda said after a long moment. She handed the scope over to Gwen.

“Yeah. I think we should go take a look.”

“That’s a long way. Shouldn’t we get back to the ships? If we get a signal we’ll need to move.”

“I think we have time,” said Arianna. She looked at Gwen. “What do you think, Warlock? You felt it too, right?”

Gwen looked through the scope: on the edge of the horizon was a great white and gray piece of metal, crowned in clouds and what looked like flashes of light. She nodded at Arianna. “Yes. That’s a piece of the Traveler. I’ve read about it.”

Miranda sighed. “Chasing weirdness with everything else going on right now.”

“Weirdness is all we have left at this point, Meer.”

Miranda shrugged. “OK. Hope you like walking, because that’s a long hike.”

Arianna laughed. “Oh, we’re not walking all the way.” She pointed south.

Gwen followed her pointing finger and saw a Cabal cruiser in the sky a few clicks away.

“I think the Cabal can spare a few rides, don’t you?”

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Categories: Gwendolyn | Tags: , , , , , ,

Scattered – Part 1

“Stories are Light. Light is precious in a world so Dark. Begin at the beginning. Tell Gregory a story. Make some Light.”
Kate DiCamillo, The Tale of Despereaux


“Gwen, I think they’re arguing.”

Gwendolyn opened her green eyes and blinked couple of times to center herself. “Who is arguing, Anu? About what?”

Anu, her silver and green Ghost, spun its shell a couple of times. “The Valherjar Guardians. It sounds like they’re in disagreement.”

Gwendolyn rolled her head a couple times, feeling the slight pops in her neck from sitting still for so long. Then she stood up, stretched, and pulled aside the curtain to her enclosure.

Her little living space was one of nearly a dozen such partitioned spaces beneath a canopy stretched between the two “longboats”: winged troop transports that were several times the length of a standard one-person jump ship. They had been painted in Dead Orbit colors, but the paint job had been covered by branches and camouflage canvas to hide them beneath the trees. The inside of the longboats were housing the civilians, but the canopied space was for cooking fires and spaces for the Guardians to sleep. She passed one of the cooking fires as she walked the length of the longboats to their stern. A couple of teenagers hunkered over a small spit. One of them peeled off a strip of meat from the spit and skewered it on a sharpened stick, then offered it as Gwendolyn passed. She smiled and took it with a silent mouthing of “thanks.” Raised voices traveled to her ears from the stern space, muffled by the tent fabrics but unmistakably agitated. She followed the sound, Anu floating over her shoulder.

“…leaving them behind.”

“It’s been a week, Telrik. We’re not leaving anyone behind.”

Gwen pulled aside the tent wall and stepped into the weak sunlight. Four Guardians were gathered around tail fins of one of the longboats. Two of them perched on the fins themselves: both were Awoken Hunters. One was bald and relatively silent, flipping her throwing knife end to end in her hand. The other sported a bright red Mohawk and was opening her mouth as if to speak, but was cut off by one of the Titans that stood opposite her.

“We’re moving on rather than making an effort to find our people. That’s abandoning them. I won’t do it, and neither should you.”

All Titans could fill a room: even smaller, squat Titans had a presence that was unmistakable and inescapable, a part of their nature that demanded attention and respect. Still, the green-armored giant speaking was a towering presence even by Titan standards, a massive wall of muscle and metal that would give even a Cabal pause. His hair and beard were ragged from days of wilderness living, and his little green Ghost at his side was quiet. Next to the green giant stood another Titan, this one an Exo in gold-plated armor. Both Titans had their rifles out and looked ready to march on a moment’s notice, packs on their backs and blood-lust in their eyes.

“Telrik,” said the Mohawk hunter, her voice tired, “we can’t just assault the City in the condition we’re in. There’s four of us and four thousand or more them. If we had our Light we would already be moving.”

“I won’t leave our leader, Arianna. I’m going, whether or not you agree.” Telrik looked at the other Hunter. “How about you, Miranda? Want to help find Farstride and the others? Heisenberg and I would welcome the help.”

The bald hunter stopped flipping her knife. “I don’t do suicide missions, Telrik. Especially when I know that there’s no point. They’re dead. That Warlock there,” she pointed at Gwendolyn with the tip of her knife, “brought back Morc-35’s journal. Just what do you think that means?”

Telrik turned his head. “That she found a dead Exo,” he said. “That’s not proof it was Morc. It’s not proof the others are dead.”

Miranda sighed. “Warlock. That Exo corpse you found: describe him, please.”

Gwendolyn finished chewing the strip of meat she had been given and thought for a moment. “Steel and leather armor. Red cloak. Broadsword nearby. His body was damaged, but it looked like his exoskeleton was blue.”

“Blue Exo with a red cloak and a sword, Telrik. Morc’s dead. The others probably are too.” Miranda resumed flipping the knife.

The Titan sighed and looked at Heisenberg. “Ready?”

The silent Exo nodded, and both Titans turned away. “We’ll be on the frequency we established a couple of days ago.”

“It’ll be no good if we don’t set up a transmitter to get that far out,” countered Arianna. “At least wait until then. Or just wait until we hear from House and Magnus.”

“Everyday we wait it’s more likely we lose them. We’ll call you in a week.” Then the two Titans marched away, soon disappearing into the trees.

“Idiots,” said Miranda under breath.

“Can’t make a Titan do something he doesn’t want to,” sighed Arianna. She looked at Gwendolyn. “Sorry you had to see that.”

Gwen shrugged. “As you say, Titans are difficult to redirect. What is your next step?”

“Find a good place to set up our long-range transmitter,” said Arianna. “That evacuation order we heard was incomplete, and if we try to use the longboats to signal we’ll just draw the Cabal. There are too many civilians here to risk that.” She sized Gwendolyn up with a head-to-foot gaze. “We could use a third to round out our fireteam. With everyone scattered to the winds, we’ll take all the help we can get.”

“Just let me get my rifle,” said Gwendolyn.

Categories: Gwendolyn | Tags: , , , , , ,

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