Thieves and Beggars

Thieves and Beggars – Finale

The bell has been raised
from it’s watery grave
Hear it’s sepulchral tone?
A call to all
pay heed the squall
and turn yourself toward home

Yo ho, haul together
Hoist the colors high
Heave ho, thieves and beggars
Never shall we die!
~Hoist the Colours by Hans Zimmer (Pirates of the Caribbean 3: At World’s End)

“Damn it!” I stumbled as the ship shuddered like a dying beast.

“We’re entering the upper layer of the planet’s atmosphere!” Ebony squeaked in terror, and I couldn’t blame him.

“How long can the ketch withstand it?” I asked.

“I don’t know! We might burn up on entry! Even if we don’t, atmospheric pressure will be crushing for our jump ships in less than 2 minutes!”

The others were already far ahead: say what you will about Titans, but they can run at speed when the need is on them, and Magnus and Drake were blinking through time and space as fast as their Light would allow. I was hard-pressed to keep up. I could blink with Arc energy, but it was taxing and not nearly as quick as the Warlocks.

A shank barreled out of a door as I passed and I struck it aside with my sword.

“Bring our jump ships in!” Farstride’s order indicated that he’d reached the outer deck.

“We’re already at high pressure depth! You’ve got to transmat in the next 45 seconds!” Freyja, his Ghost, transmitted this helpful tidbit across the comms.

“We’re not going to make it,” I said. //Fear settled into my circuits with a cold certainty. The deck rang under my boots with each step. I could hear dregs and psions behind me, chattering with rage at my back.

I saw Drake and Magnus duck through the doors into the outer deck area, and they were already beyond the airlock by the time I made it: both of them did a swan-dive over the edge into the stormy gas of Saturn, barely visible, and disappeared in flashes of Light as their jump ships swept in. I raced to reach the outer deck as well: a wave of scorching heat and pressure that lit my warning systems washed over me and I stumbled again, the gale-force winds tearing at my cloak. I used the sword to channel my Light, offsetting the pressure, and pushed forward.

“Guardian, behind you!” squeaked Ebony.

I pivoted on //instinct, waiting for the blow, but none came.

The Captain stood behind me, as if he was waiting, as if he had always been there, wrapped in shadows and Darkness. His upper arms were crossed. A third arm rested on his hip, the last gripped the hilt of a blade as long as I was tall with its point in the deck. His eyes glowed in the shadow, and even in the obscuring gasses I could see his cloak billowing around his shoulders, the flag of the Corsairs.

I backpedaled away from him, toward the exit. He watched me go, no perceptible movement besides his cloak and his glowing eyes.

“We’re out of time,” said Ebony. I nodded, turned my back on the Fallen Captain, and leapt off the deck into the crushing atmosphere. The winds threw me around like a rag doll even before the transmat activated and deposited me into my jump ship.

“We’re too far down!” Ebony cried out as my hands gripped the controls. I looked outside at the Ketch in the howling Saturn storm. There was a flash of green and brown light…and it was gone, as if it had never been. The winds battered my own ship. I tried to right it, but alarms were shrieking all over as the hull buckled.

“We’re going down!”

There was a wrenching sound, a rush of atmosphere as the ship tore apart, and then…

“Ouch!” I yelped as an unexpected transmat ended.

“Comfy?” asked Telrik from his pilot seat. I was crammed in behind him, sprawled against a bulkhead and a monitor behind his pilot seat. “Glad your Ghost noticed me coming in, you were just about done there.”

“Thanks…I think.” I tried to shift but couldn’t, as my leg was jammed between the seat and the plating of the hull.

“We’re gaining altitude. Sorry about your ship…looks like you’ll need a replacement.”

I sighed. “Looks like.”

“The Reef has a few blockade runners for sale, you should take a look.”

“Yeah,” I sighed. “I had that ship almost 2 years, you know.”

“I hear ya. Oh look at that, we’re clear.”

The faint light of Sol pierced the canopy as we raced out of Saturn’s atmosphere.

“I got the Hunter,” said Telrik into the comms. “All fireteam members accounted for.”

“Everyone meet at the Reef.”

“Roger that.” Telrik kicked the ship into warp and we left Saturn behind.

“Well,” said M, staring at us balefully. “That doesn’t sound like an actual success.”

“The ketch was going down, it was damaged, and even as tough as ketch’s are, it couldn’t have survived Saturn.” Farstride projected more confidence than I had.

“Did anyone actually see it destroyed? Who was the last one off?”

Everyone looked at me. I shrugged. “It…it disappeared,” I said.

M sighed. “Well, you took out their Pilot Servitor and forced them away from the Dreadnought. I suppose it will have to do.” She paused. “Did you at least manage to salvage anything?”

“There wasn’t time,” said Farstride.

M shook her head. “Well, see the Quartermaster, I’ve set aside some gear and glimmer for you.” She dismissed us with a flick of her fingers.

We all trooped up to the flight deck of the Tower hangar, the roar of jump ships coming and going filling the space. I wandered over to the railing while the others went to the Quartermaster to sort out the disposition of the loot. I could see my new ship getting a coat of paint, the black and white of a Dead Orbit ship being put on the hull over the blue and silver of the House of Wolves.

“Not a bad run, all things considered,” said Drake, leaning up against the railing beside me.

I nodded.

“Something’s been bothering you since the Dreadnought,” he said. It wasn’t a question.

“Just…” I thought about telling him about the Tower, the voice on the wind. I decided against it for now. “Just thinking about the Corsairs. Not many factions have survived as long as they have, done what they’ve done. Do you think that ketch survived?”

“Between you and me?” Drake laughed. “Yes. I don’t think diving into a gas giant is enough to stop anyone that determined.”

“Do you think we’ll see them again?” I asked.


I nodded. We watched the ships come and go for a few moments more. “I need to go,” I said suddenly.

He nodded. “I thought as much.”

I looked at him, //surprised. “How?”

The Awoken laughed again. “You are easy to read, for an Exo.”

“Thanks. Racist,” I added, eliciting another laugh.

“Just don’t get lost out there, Hunter.” He clapped me on the shoulder and went to join the others. I pulled my hood up and made my way to my new ship.

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

Thieves and Beggars – Part 7

“Oh, you fools! Dance to your heart’s content in that small world of yours! Our world is the expanse of space!”

~Captain Harlock

The wind was filled with the sound of voices. No: a single voice, a laugh. I stumbled toward the Tower, closer this time, so much closer. The broken shapes were coming at me, stumbling, hissing. I seized something from the ground: a sharp piece of bone, honed to a needle-point. I braced for the attack. The laughter grew louder.

“Hunter…” The shriek was insistent and familiar. “We have unfinished business, you and I! We have unfinished busine-“

A slap of Light. “This ketch is getting painful,” I said offhandedly. I shot a charging shank and followed my rescuer, Heisenberg, into cover. The Pilot Servitor was still spinning and firing.

“It’s taking damage,” said my fellow Exo. “We just need to wear it down.”

I took out my sniper rifle and leaned out of cover to shoot. The rounds stripped pieces of metal from its chassis as they passed through. Already the big Servitor looked riddled with bullet holes. It turned its eye away from us, focusing on the control-panels of the bridge.

Drake ran through the open space of the bridge and launched a globe of Void Light at the Servitor. There was a sudden and brief absence of noise as the Void bomb went off, and the Servitor collapsed to the deck, sparking from gaping crater in its side. The remaining dregs shrieked in fury and flung themselves at us, and were immediately mowed down by gunfire.

“Jolly good!” said Farstride in a faux accent. We all clambered out of cover to examine the Servitor.

“Is that…organic?” Magnus pointed at the wound in the machine’s side: something sickly white and glistening twitched inside the Servitor’s housing, mostly obscured by the machinery within.

“That’s not possible.” I leaned closer and reached out, intending to grab the thing and tug it clear of the Servitor’s insides. Then the ketch lurched as if it had struck something and we all stumbled sideways.

Telrik’s little green Ghost practically spasmed with a scan. “We’ve hit Saturn’s upper layer already! We picked up speed!”

“It committed suicide,” I said. “That’s why it stopped fighting us near the end: it’s taking us down with the ship.”

“Can we transmat out of here?” asked another Ghost.

“No, we need to be closer to the outer hull.”

“Double-time to the outer deck! Move!” Farstride’s order had us all running for the exit.

I paused and looked back at the dead Servitor, looking for the pale white invader in its belly. But whatever it had been, it had disappeared. I shook my head and turned to follow the others as the ketch shuddered again.

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

Thieves and Beggars – Part 6

Let no joyful voice be heard! Let no man look up to the sky with hope! And let this day be cursed by we who ready to wake…the Kraken!

~Davy Jones, Pirates of the Caribbean 2: Dead Man’s Chest

“More psion recruits.” Magnus punted a charging psion in its stomach and slapped a grenade in its face before jumping back. The explosion made a “whoomp!” in the enclosed hallway that blew my hood off my helmet.

“Be more careful with those,” I growled. Magnus ignored me and kept going. I straightened my cloak before catching up with him and Farstride.

“This place is bigger than I thought, said Heisenberg-3 into the comms.

“A ketch has to cross deep space with an army,” Farstride said. “Anything in your guy’s passage?”

“Some stray shanks,” reported Drake. “Nothing too serious.”

Exploring had brought us to a hold filled with the leftovers of destroyed shanks and even a couple of Servitors. With 2 different exits to the hold, Farstride had us split up and see what we could find.

“This ship feels almost abandoned,” said Farstride. “Did they put that many out on the Dreadnought?”

“Maybe that’s why they recruited defector Cabal: their numbers are depleted.”

“Drake is probably right,” I said. “In which case, if they have a Kell or some similar leader they might be in the field.”

“So let’s loot the ship and scuttle it,” suggested Telrik.

Farstride nodded. “Sounds good to me. 10 minutes to find any more goodies, then we blow a hole in the hull.”

“We could destroy their Pilot Servitor,” I said. “Destroy that and the ship would be crippled.”

“The bridge,” said Telrik. “Let’s meet there.”

“Abandoned,” said Magnus as we crowded onto the bridge. “Odd. We’ve found only a handful of patrols, no new servitors, no Kell or Captain…if it wasn’t for their emaciated Archon I would think the Fallen weren’t even in charge of the ship.”

“What if they’re not?” asked Telrik. He walked up to a large chair that was clearly meant for the Ketch’s commander and settled into it: the seat made him look like a child pretending to be a grownup.

“If they weren’t whoever ran the place wouldn’t bother keeping servitors around for Ether,” I said. “They’d just kill everyone off.”

“You sure?” asked Telrik. “Maybe the Cabal defectors are running the show and are keeping the Fallen around to operate the ketch.”

“Possible,” I conceded. “But then why try to co-opt Hive magic on the Servitors? The Cabal would just be more likely to use the Servitors as means of control, right?”

“Maybe that’s how they control the Servitors.”

“Speculation is pointless right now. Let’s figure out how to scuttle the ship and get on with things.” Farstride’s tone was firm.

“We could set the ship on a course for Saturn,” said Drake. “Let the gas giant do the work for us.”

“Brilliant,” said Farstride. He held out his hand, and his little white Ghost floated over to a control panel to begin hacking it.

“What about the Pilot?” I felt compelled to point out. “If we try to crash the ship and the Pilot Servitor is still around it’ll just correct course and save it.”

“Whatever we do, we need to hurry it up: if their troops return from looting the Dreadnought we’re all screwed.”

Freyja the Ghost finished her scan. “We’re shoving off…now.” The ketch shuddered as it pulled away from the Dreadnought in a slow pivot. “The ketch will pick up speed as we near the gas giant, but we should have nearly 6 minutes at this burn rate to be safely aboard our jumpships and away.”

“One more sweep for the Pilot, and then we head back to the Dreadnought and regroup.” We all formed up behind Farstride and headed for the exit. Pings and crunching sounds filled the bridge as the ketch began plowing through Saturn’s rings.

The door to the bridge opened and filled with the violet glow of an energy blast. The shot vaporized Farstride before he even had time to raise a weapon.

“Shiii-” I shouted, ducking aside for cover, and a blast took me off my feet before I had even finished vocalizing. I slammed up against the bulkhead, stoppage fluid leaking through my armor. I crabbed for cover as the Pilot servitor barreled onto the bridge, firing at anything that moved. Dregs swarmed in behind it, shock blades in hand. 3 charged me at the same time. I managed to shoot 2 before the third cleaved my head from my shoulders and the Darkness caved in again.


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

Thieves and Beggars – Hoist the Colors, Part 5

Billy Bones: He’s a comin’. Can ya hear ‘im? Those gears and gyros clickin’ and whirrin’ like the Devil himself!

Jim Hawkins: Hit your head there pretty hard, didn’t ya?

~Treasure Planet, Ron Clements (2002).

“Selfie!” Telrik posed in front of the downed Fallen and his pile of armor for his Ghost, flexing one arm and hoisting a boomer with the other. Magnus and Drake joined him, each posing in their own way; Heisenberg began dancing behind them on a couple of stacked crates. I ducked into the shot on my knees with my hand cannon raised in one fist and Farstride jumped in front of us: the picture came out looking as if he was laying down, suspended in midair.

“Who screamed like a little girl to get down when he started shooting rockets at everyone?” asked Farstride.

“Heisenberg,” said Magnus.

“Did not,” said the studious Titan. Magnus blew a raspberry in his helmet.

The Ghosts were flitting through the hold, checking the layout and scouting for any useful materials. I knelt next to the downed Fallen and checked it over more thoroughly.

“Definitely an Archon from the trappings,” I reported. “But he’s a bit starved for Ether from the looks of him.”

The others crowded round as I stripped away the armor. The Fallen looked like little more than a large Vandal, his crest unformed, his 4 arms wasted and thin.

“Thoughts?” asked Telrik.

“Recent replacement,” posited Drake. “They may have lost their original Archon breaking into the Ascendant realm. He hasn’t had time to grow with his fresh Ether.”

No one proffered another explanation.

“Then are we done?” asked Heisenberg-3.

Drake shook his head. “If he’s a fresh Archon, then they have a Kell or a Prime Servitor to put him in his place.” I nodded to confirm the statement.

Magnus sucked a breath in. “If they have a Prime that’s been altered with Hive magic…”

I could almost feel our celebratory mood die as the implications settled on us all.

“Cabal recruits, Hive magic…guess we should be grateful they haven’t tapped Vex temporal gates,” said Heisenberg-3.

“Don’t even suggest it…” Farstride said with an audible shudder in his voice.

“I can see why M wanted us to take these guys out,” Telrik grunted.

“On the bright side,” I said, trying to lighten the mood, “everything we’ve seen thus far indicates that they haven’t fully mastered anything they’ve co-opted. At the end of the day, these Corsairs are really just scavengers, like any other Fallen.”

“Right then,” said Farstride. “Let’s saddle up and move out.”

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Thieves and Beggars – Hoist the Colours Part 4

“In a world without gold, we might have been heroes!”

~Edward ‘Blackbeard’ Thatch, Assassin’s Creed IV: Black Flag

“What’s all this?” asked Drake.

“Looks like their loot,” I said. There were crates and crates of stuff scattered throughout the hold we found ourselves in; some were open and held Hive weapons and devices. “They’re stripping the Dreadnought.”

I saw Telrik pick up a large boomer, clearly meant for a massive Knight. “Wow. What have they gotten into?”

“There’s no way they got some of this stuff without cracking open a gate. They’ve entered into the Ascendant Realm.” Magnus’s tone was grave.

“Maybe that’s why they started recruiting the Cabal: pick up the survivors from the crashed ship, use the info they have to punch through,” suggested Farstride.

“Plausible,” Magnus agreed.

Drake was hovering near the far-side of the hold at a sealed door that blocked our passage. I wandered over to observe him.

“There are runes holding this door shut,” he said. He ran his hand over the door, and the faerie-light of Hive runes glowed across the barrier.

“Blood of the Traveler,” I murmured. “How did they…?”

The Warlock shook his head. “I am not sure. But we need to move on and find their leadership.” He held out his hand and his Ghost floated to the door. “It’s a wonder that they managed to make use of the Hive tech. It begs a lot of questions.”

I grunted and watched his Ghost go to work. The door glowed with increasing intensity as the Ghost scanned and translated, and then a pulse washed over everything. A deep rumble shook the ship, and the door peeled open.

“Hit the deck!” I shouted. A rocket whipped through the aperture and smashed open a crate of Hive weaponry. Cleavers and swords spilled onto the deck and we all leapt to different cover points.

“Nassa sook ka!” roared the Fallen as it came barreling out of the hallway. It was wielding a hefty Scorch cannon and protected by blocky armor that seemed at odds with its lupine form.

“What did he say?” asked Heisenberg-3. We crouched behind a short stack of crates.

‘All shall burn,’ I think,” I replied.

“Oh. I can help with that.” The Titan pivoted out of cover and hurled a burning hammer at the Fallen. The fire washed over it in a cloud. The Fallen took aim, looking unperturbed.

“Whoops.” A Scorch missile buried itself into Heisenberg’s chest and he went sailing past my cover spot. The missile detonated while he was in midair and he disappeared in a shower of sparks and plasma.

“Guardian down,” Ebony reported belatedly.

The noise of gunfire filled the hold, but the Fallen seemed no more bothered than if the bullets had been a cloud of gnats. Servitors now flew out of the passage behind it, some glowing green with a faerie-light.

I ducked and juked my way across the hold to Drake’s side. “Look at the Servitors,” I said.

He popped his head out of cover, took a couple of shots, and ducked down again. “Runes etched on their chassis,” he confirmed.

“Hive?” I asked.

“Looks like.”

I stood up and took a potshot at one of the Servitors. The round gouged a small piece out of its frame. It hurried behind cover.

“They don’t have weapons,” I said. “They just retreat.”

“Servitors are generating a field on the Vandal,” Magnus reported. He was busy pouring bullets into the chassis of a Servitor that had had the bad luck to be cornered by him and Telrik.

Take out the Servitors, stand by to hit the Vandal. And someone pickup Heisenberg,” Farstride added.

“I’ve got the Titan,” said Drake. He motioned to Heisenberg’s Ghost and went to find a safe space to revive the fallen Guardian. I loaded my sniper rifle and began focusing on the Servitors.

Last Servitor down! Hit the Vandal!” We all opened fire on the Fallen.

The bullets bounced and ricocheted off the Fallen’s armor harmlessly. “KAAAAAAA!!!” It roared furiously, raised the Scorch cannon and pulled the trigger in rapid succession – a dozen rockets flew from the weapon and scattered across the hold, leaving no safe space I could see.

“Down down down!” someone screamed, I wasn’t sure who, as we were all running in different directions trying to find some kind of cover. Then all the rounds went off.

Darkness. The field was squishy underfoot. The Tower was closer now, and I could make out the turrets and balconies. Something moved in my peripheral, something clutching and broken and wrong, the shape was wrong, WRON-

“Morc, you good?” I started back into reality, awash in Void Light from the revival. Farstride was kneeling over the body of Magnus, and with a flash of Light the black-robed Warlock returned to the land of the living.

“What happened?” I demanded. “How did you survive that?”

Farstride pointed at the wreckage of one of the Servitors. “These things still generate some kind of protective field even when destroyed, just in a more limited space. But I have no idea how to crack that armor. And he’s got fresh Servitors.”

“Boomers!” Telrik said from the far side of the hold. He was gathered with Heisenberg-3 and Drake. “Use the boomers in the crates to hit him when the field comes down, but it’s got to be quick. If he pulls that cannon stunt again…”

“Warlocks take down the Servitors, Titans grab boomers, Hunters…” Farstride looked at me, then shrugged. “Standby, in case something else happens.”

I sighed //sarcastically and nodded.

“3, 2, go!”

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

Thieves and Beggars – Hoist the Colours Part 3

“Some pirates achieved immortality by great deeds of cruelty or derring-do. Some achieved immortality by amassing great wealth. But the captain had long ago decided that he would, on the whole, prefer to achieve immortality by not dying.”
Terry Pratchett, The Color of Magic

The space between Dark and Light, floating, the stars whizzing past (or were they galaxies? souls?) falling, falling, falling toward the ground, toward the tower, the tower in the field of dead, the dead all around-

“Move!” I was shoved several steps back by Farstride as physical reality slapped back into place around me. The Light of a Void shield charged my circuits. My chronometer showed 46 seconds had passed since the Vandal had killed me. The comms were filled with chatter and call-outs and I tried to sort through the mess as it went on.

“3 Phalanxes on the left, they’re covering the snipers.””Clean up the little ones, we need to focus fire on the Colossus.” “Rockets up!”

“Morc, we need to move from here!” Farstride’s shield was positioned near the entrance to the outer deck; a trio of Cabal Phalanxes were pressing forward, almost to our position, shields up, and I could see Psions and…

“Are they protecting the Vandals?” I demanded. The smaller Fallen were hiding behind the huge Cabal – until a pair of rockets roared through the thin air into the advancing Cabal. The center Phalanx collapsed, exposing the Psions and Vandals behind them, but only a couple were felled by shots before the Phalanxes tightened ranks and continued their inexorable march.

“Worry about it later,” said Magnus. “We’re putting down cover fire, head to Drake’s position.”

We relocated behind one of the solid chitin pillars that divided the Dreadnought decks. “Good afternoon,” said Drake conversationally as we slid up next to him. “The Colossus is advancing and the Psions are forming a screen around him. A handful of Legionaries and Phalanxes are pressing from the corridor, and the Vandals are spreading out to sniper positions.”

I snapped a couple of shots at the aforementioned Psions and ducked under cover again. “OK. He took some damage when we brought his shield down. Can we do it again?”

“His modulator appears to be working still, so yes. We just need someone brave enough to put themselves in the line of fire.”

“He has a Void shield again…” noted Farstride.

I looked at Drake. He shrugged. “Give me a moment.”

“Clean up the support and snipers.” Everyone turned fire on the Psions ducking around the Colossus in response to Farstride’s order. “You’re clear, Drake. Solar weapons!”

Drake ran out into the clearing while the rest of us opened fire. A sniper round smacked into him as he ran, but he stumbled only a moment before launching a Void bomb at the Colossus. The shield shattered and moments later the Cabal Colossus was vaporized in a hail of Solar fire.

We all cheered. The surviving Fallen scattered and ran for the Ketch. The Cabal stood their ground, but without the support of the Colossus they were cut down in seconds.

We gathered on the Dreadnought deck. “Sound off,” said Farstride. Once everyone was accounted for we headed for the Ketch.

“Looks like the Cabal were on board for the long haul.” The deck of the large cargo hold we had entered was meticulously organized. Fallen ships had (from a human perspective) an asymmetrical order, but the Cabal had fought against it, reshaping the interior by stacking their gear and weapon racks in such a way as to make everything cubical and easily defensible.

“How did they live in such an alien environment?” asked Drake.

The Ghosts were busy scanning different portions of the hold, and one spoke up. “Looks like the vents were redesigned to minimize contamination and remove Ether flow. The alterations are recent.”

“So the pirates hired mercs?” suggested Magnus.

“More likely they recruited deserters in the wake of the King’s arrival,” said Telrik.

“Clever,” said Farstride. “They would be able to make use of the crashed Cabal vessel and equipment in a way no one else could, and they got better shock troops as a result.”

We spread out through the hold, looking for any gear or clues as to the Ketch’s setup. Only Heisenberg-3 was quiet. He strode to the far end of the hold and was examining the bulkhead door that blocked us from the rest of the ship. I followed the fellow Exo and watched him as he studied it.

“I can force my way through,” he said after a moment.

I called to the others and we crowded around. Heisenberg placed his right foot back and opened his fist: a hammer made of golden Solar light filled it, and the heat washed over our fire-team.

Heisenberg-3 raised the hammer over his shoulder, twirled it in his fingers as if winding it up, and then hurled it at the bulkhead. The bulkhead door rang like a huge bell, a deep boom that vibrated everything in the hold. Another hammer, another throw, and the door began to crack. Then he hurled a third hammer and the door caved inward, crumpled and torn off both its upper and lower rails.

“Knock, knock,” said the Titan. Then he walked through the door into the Ketch beyond. I heard someone whistle softly and we followed him deeper into the ship.

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

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

Miranda – Thieves and Beggars 074

“No one can tell what goes on in between the person you were and the person you become. No one can chart that blue and lonely section of hell. There are no maps of the change. You just come out the other side.

Or you don’t.”
Stephen King, The Stand

This recording is not time-stamped. The HUD of a Hunter is displayed, looking down at the dusty gray surface of Luna. The subject is breathing hard, and her hands are visible as she scrambles up the side of a hill.

“What was that? What was that?!” The hunter’s voice, female, was high and panicked.

“That was a Hive Knight. It’s no longer pursuing us…”

“A what?”

“An enemy of the City.”

“What are you talking about? You’re not making any sense! I don’t even know who you are, or what you are!”

“I told you, Miranda, I’m your Ghost. I am here to help you.”

The view rolled over, and overhead the pale blue globe, Earth, shone in the sky. A satellite streaked through the stars.

“Help me? Where…we are on Earth’s moon, right?”

“Yes, yes!” The Ghost sounded relieved.

“How am I on Luna? I was…was somewhere else…” Miranda’s voice trailed off in confusion. She rolled again and looked to her right: the reflective surface of a lunar solar panel flickered nearby. She crawled to it and looked at it, but saw only a flat-gray helmet covered by a tattered green hood staring back.

“You’re an Awoken, so I imagine this makes even less sense than if you were Human. Guardian, I need you to listen.”  A little red Ghost with darker red stripes floated into the view, blocking the reflection. “Right now, the largest army of Guardians ever assembled is preparing to attack the Hive – those monsters that were chasing us. They will need every gun they can get.  We-”

The Ghost stopped abruptly. Behind it, the reflection darkened. The Hunter turned around: emerald fire licked the horizon and spread through the sky.

“What…what is that?” she demanded.

“Something’s wrong.” The Ghost sounded confused, scared.

The Hunter turned and began scrambling up the hill again. “Screw this!”

“Guardian, wait! They’re under attack! They need our help!”

Miranda laughed, but it sounded hollow. “No. We’re getting out of here. Preferably to Earth, if nowhere else.”

“We’ll need a ship to do that,” said the Ghost resignedly.

“What’s that over there, then?” She pointed at a brown structure just at the edge of sight, lit with orange fire at one end.

“That’s…that’s a ship. It’s a Fallen ketch. But I don’t recognize it or the flag. And it looks like they are preparing to take off.”

“Then we’re getting on board.”

“But…the Fallen will kill us if they catch us!”

“Those Hive things will kill us if we stay.” The Hunter started running across the dusty dunes.

“I think this a bad idea,” insisted the Ghost.

“You know, you could try being more optimistic. Your bedside manner is terrible.”

“I’m not a doctor,” said the Ghost defensively.

“Whatever you say, Doc. We’re getting on that ship.”

End Record 074

Categories: Thieves and Beggars | Tags: , , , ,

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