Posts Tagged With: Day 120

Day 797 – Part 2

“I had forgotten that, while Thor hurls his Hammer from storm-clouds, Odin prefers his strike to come out of a calm sky.”
Robert Low, The White Raven


“What was in that book I gave Morgan?”

Findlay’s question interrupted my reading of the SIVA crisis reports. I hid my //annoyance. “Observations of the tactics the Cabal have adopted to deal with the remnant Taken threats. I don’t think the Cabal have ever been thrashed like this before. It has changed their approach.”

“So why give it to the Cryptarchs?”

I put the report down. “The Cryptarchs do analysis of an enemy’s language and habits and trade that to the Vanguard for help with relic retrieval. The Warlocks like it too since it helps them weaponize their use of the Light.”

“Titans and Hunters don’t care?”

“We Hunters rely on our wits and weapons, not just our powers to get things done. And Titans have never met a problem they couldn’t just smack their thick skulls against.”

“Hey…” Findlay began.

“We’re about to land at the Iron Temple.” Emma reported from the cockpit. I tucked the sheaf of reports into my satchel and stood before drawing my hood up.

We transmatted into a blizzard: the world was nothing but blowing whiteness, and the sun was near setting. Darkness was rapidly descending.

“Where’s the meeting point?” I shouted.

Findlay waved me to follow him. The snow obscured everything past a few meters, but his Ghost gave off a little halo of light that made a decent beacon. I saw other Guardians pass us: in spite of the weather there was a sense of activity and movement all around us, muted orange light here and there I took to be torches or fires.

Findlay guided us across a bridge made of wood and rope.

“Blood of the Traveler, what is this, the dark ages?” I demanded, clinging to the icy ropes that kept me from being blown off the side.

“In a manner of speaking,” said Ebony helpfully. “The Iron Temple was built centuries ago. It’s older than the City.”

“Wonderful,” I said. The walk across the bridge seemed to take forever, but I caught up with Findlay at a huge set of doors with a great axe carved into them.

“Push!” shouted Findlay. I complied, and orange light streamed out of the enclosure along with a semblance of warmth. Once inside we turned and the pressed the doors back into place, and they snapped close with a heavy crunch.

“Look what the new boot found.” Miranda was sitting at the edge of a fire pit that dominated a small room with a high-ceiling that I took to be the base of a tower. She had her hood drawn up to cover her bald head, but her Awoken eyes were shining bright in the firelight.

“Throw him back out,” said Magnus. He was huddled in his black robes and almost sitting in the fire…no, he was sitting in the fire. “He let the cold in.”

Drake laughed and waved me over. “It is good to see you again, Morc.”

I sat next to the other Warlock and punched his shoulder. “You as well.”

“Is this all of us?” asked Findlay.

“Arianna’s on her way over with M and a briefing,” said Miranda. “Be patient, kid.”

“Where are the others?” I asked.

“Out being Titans,” said Magnus. “You know: beating their chests, smashing things, the usual.”

“Where’s House?”

The others frowned. “No one knows,” admitted Drake finally. “He went after something in the European DZ on assignment from Dead Orbit. Not sure what they wanted out there, but he was eager to go. No one’s heard from him in 8 weeks, and both Dead Orbit and the Vanguard are being tight-lipped about it.”

“We know he isn’t dead,” said Magnus. “Farstride would have been told. But whatever he’s up to, he’s even harder to find than you.”

The doors cracked open and 2 Hunters, Arianna and the fiery little M, ducked inside from the blizzard.

“Close the damn door!” shouted Magnus, and thrust out a hand. The doors snapped close before the Hunters had even begun to push them.

“This place and its lack of tech is unbearable.” M took her hood off and shook her short blonde hair free, sending snow all around her.

“Back in the day this was practically a palace compared to what we lived in,” said Magnus.

“You say that like you were there,” I laughed. Magnus looked through the flames at me. I gaped at him as the implication dawned. “Were you…?”

“Briefing,” snapped M. “The faster I’m done here the faster I can get back to the Tower.” She looked at Arianna. “This your whole crew?”

“This is us.”

“You scrounged up a Titan.”

“Can’t leave a stray puppy out for the Devils to eat,” said Arianna.

Findlay frowned at all of us. “What did I do to deserve this?”

Drake guffawed at him. “You will get used to it, kid.”

“This will be familiar territory for 2 of you,” said M. “We’re sending you south of the Cosmodrome.”

“What? Why?” I asked. “The reports I read said the SIVA plague lands are north of here.”

“And our Titans will do a wonderful job smashing up SIVA: it’s a simple task, but I need brains and skill, so I got Warlocks and Hunters for this.”

“I am sitting right here,” muttered Findlay.

“As I said, this will literally be familiar territory.” She looked at Arianna and me. “You remember that little Fallen experiment you broke up a couple of years ago when the Devils attacked that settlement?”

“Yeah,” I said. “I still have that Captain’s sword hanging on my wall.”

“Well, your reports got cross-referenced with reports coming out of the plague lands: we think the Kings might have had some of SIVA all along.”

Magnus sucked in a breath between his teeth. “No, not possible. They wouldn’t have been able to keep it quiet. You saw how fast it spread once it was out of containment.”

“Not actual SIVA mites, no,” said M. “But specs and enough tech to get the gist of it. We’re confident now that the Kings were trying to replicate their own kind of SIVA, and it’s possible that has something to do with how the Devils sniffed out its existence. There are too many parallels.”

“What does it matter?” asked Drake. “The Devils have it now. Why send us south?”

“Because a settlement we didn’t know existed has been sending out a distress call…and they mentioned Arianna and Morc-35 by name.”

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Categories: Morc-35 | Tags: , , , , , ,

Day 120-127 – Part 7 (Finale)

“Long ago, when I had my Merlyn to help, he tried to teach me to think. He knew he would have to leave in the end, so he forced me to think for myself. Don’t ever let anybody teach you to think, Lance: it is the curse of the world.”
T.H. White, The Once and Future King


1 shot was all I managed before the Captain’s first sword sliced through my armor, opening up circuits and plating with surprising force. I stumbled back, and the Fallen boot pinned my leg to the floor. I fired twice more before the other blade found the gap between my helm and damaged plate and left nothing but Darkness in its wake.

When I reanimated I saw Arianna skipping away, her sidearm barking furiously as she fled the Captain’s attack. I shot the Fallen in the back, the explosive rounds creating a wall of fire. He stumbled, turned, and charged me again. I kept shooting, back pedaling to gain more time. The Captain lunged, blades raised high, and I rolled to the side.

Arianna hit him in the back before his feet touched the ground and bore him to the floor with her weight. Before he could get his limbs under himself to rise she put the sidearm to the side of his head and pulled the trigger. Nearly a dozen barks of the gun in less than 6 seconds, and the Captain twitched and went limp.

She stood to her feet and blew out a breath. “Well, that was anticlimactic.” She looked at the Servitor. “Now the ‘abomination’.”

The Servitor whined and groaned, and the rush of a teleport filled the room with violet light. The Captain hung in the air before the chained machine, limp and seemingly lifeless. Streams of Arc energy and what I took to be Ether surrounded the Fallen. The air crackled and filled with a rank ozone smell, and the Captain twitched and jerked.

“Oh come on!” said Ebony.

The Captain fell to the ground. Then slowly, stiffly, it raised its broken face and glared at us through 2 of its undamaged eyes and snarled.

We raised our weapons and fired. A violet shield absorbed the first volley of shots. The Captain stumbled forward through the fusillade, motions jerky and stiff. He dropped a sword and the now free claw flicked a shock grenade in our direction. We split away from the explosive.

“Not fair, not fair!” shouted Arianna. The Captain charged her, sword and claws cutting the air to grasp at her. I ran forward, seized the dropped Fallen sword, and turned to look at the Servitor where it strained and groaned against its chains.

“Here goes.” I hefted the unwieldy blade and threw it at the Servitor’s core. It flipped end over end and crashed point-first into the central globe. There was a shriek, and Arc energy ripped out of the Servitor in a storm, splitting it into pieces like an overripe melon. The chains fell slack and clattered to the dais.

I turned toward Arianna, who stood over the Captain’s limp form, the muzzle of her weapon pointed at the base his skull. We waited for him to rise. Another boom rattled the cavern, but the Captain did not stir.

“Well, time to go,” said Arianna.

“Wait,” I said. I pointed at the destroyed Servitor. “We can’t just leave. How did the Fallen find a way to restore himself to life? How did he use the Ghost? We have to know!”

“Actually, I am not sure the Captain was brought back to life,” said Ebony. He was scanning the corpse. “The Servitor might have been using him like a puppet. Or maybe he wasn’t truly dead and the Servitor just restored him.”

“That doesn’t answer how, or what it might mean for us,” I said.

Another series of booms, and the cavern filled with more dust. “Fine, Morc,” said Arianna. “You want to stay and find out, go right ahead.” She turned for the exit.

I looked back at the wreckage of the Captain and the Servitor, //hesitant. Then I grabbed up the Fallen’s sword and the dead Ghost and raced after Arianna. “Ebony, where are those ventilation shafts?”


“Likely enough, your Ghost was right,” said Morgan, sipping the tea I had set out for him. My tiny living space – which Morgan had dubbed “a weapon closet” when he saw the various weaponry hanging on the walls – was filled to capacity with the huge man in it. He relaxed in the only real chair there was. I leaned against the edge of my work-bench.

“So it was not truly restoration?” I asked.

“Doubtful. Nothing we’ve seen from the Darkness has shown the capability to produce new life. Spawn its own kind, perhaps. But something from nothing? I find it unlikely.” He slurped more tea.

“But not impossible?” I pressed.

Morgan eyed me over the rim of the cup. “Why?”

I gestured to express the //futility of it all. “What are the differences between us and them? We use the same kind of weapons, tactics and power as our enemies. We have similar goals, if you look at the Fallen and maybe the Cabal. We are living machines,” I gestured at myself, “the Vex are living machines. Truly, what separates us from the Darkness?”

Morgan looked at Ebony. “I think you should have brought him back as a Warlock.”


“Nice swords,” said Arianna. She nodded in the direction of the Fallen blade and the Hive cleaver where they hung crossed on the wall.

“Thanks,” I said. I offered her a (rigorously cleaned) cup filled with tea. She accepted it. “So what is on your mind?” I asked.

Arianna perched lightly on the edge of my workbench, somehow without spilling the tea. To avoid any //awkwardness I took the battered chair. She looked down at the brew, then ran a hand through her short red bristles. “I came by to apologize, actually.”

//Surprise. “For?” I asked.

“What I said before, about the Erikssons.” She put the cup aside and drew out her sidearm, then flipped it my way. I caught it and examined it.VestianDynastyNoUI

“That sidearm was 1 of the only things found on me when Dead Orbit recovered me and my ship. Chatterbox was pretty ecstatic when they hauled me aboard, they told me.”

“You would be too after centuries of looking,” muttered Chatterbox, the words impossible to miss in the small space.

“I don’t have family, Morc,” said Arianna, ignoring the Ghost. “None except the family I have made here: the Valherjar, other Guardians, so on. That little gun is 1 of the only links to the Reef and my original family that I have. You,” she said, as I tossed the sidearm back, “you have been adopted by a family. That’s a rare gift to people like us.”

“You mean Guardians,” I said.

She nodded. “We don’t get to be regular people, you and I. We’re soldiers in a war started before this planet had even formed, if the Speaker is to be believed. If you find something like a family, protect them for all you are worth. Because when you die for the last time, they may be the only people who notice.” She sipped her tea and made a face. “And get 1 of them to teach you how to make tea.”

“Morgan liked it,” I said //defensively.

“Morgan will drink anything.”

Categories: Morc-35 | Tags: , , , ,

Day 120-127 – Part 6

“…in going to sleep he had learned to vanquish light, and now the light could not rewake him.”
T.H. White, The Once and Future King

Light surrounded me and I hit the ground running, nearly bowling Arianna over in my haste to get clear before I realized Ebony had reanimated me inside the central hut. We stood in the mouth of the tunnel that cut into the Earth. Arianna had her sidearm out and pointed at the door. I drew my hand cannon and copied her.

“Why aren’t the Fallen coming inside?” asked Ebony.

“They’re gathered outside,” Chatterbox said. “But they aren’t making any move toward the door.”

We continued to wait, but the door did not open. Finally I lowered my weapon. “They’re not coming in.”

“I’m worried this might be our only exit,” said Arianna. “We need to discourage them if they try to come after us.”

“Actually, my scan confirmed that there might be other exits,” said Ebony.

“Might be?” demanded Arianna.

“Well, it’s possible they are just ventilation. But it stands to reason that a community that lives underground would have more than 1 way out.”

“I still don’t like it.”

“We do not have much choice,” I pointed out.

She sighed and holstered her sidearm. “Well, maybe, but-”

A distant, chilling scream echoed up from the tunnel. We both pivoted and pulled our weapons clear again.

“We need to go get the King,” she said. “Stop him.”

I nodded, and we descended into the Dark.

***

The tunnel was smooth on every side. I knelt at one point and took off my glove to run my fingers over the surface of the floor. They made a metallic scraping sound on the rock, but so faint Human ears would have missed it. “Laser-cut,” I said.

“Fascinating,” said Arianna. “But shouldn’t we be more worried about what the Fallen are up to?”

I glanced up at her. Chatterbox’s bright beam of light forced my eyes to compensate, but I knew it to mean she was looking at me. She flinched when Ebony followed my gaze and accidentally shone his own light in her eyes. “This isn’t a simple job,” I said. “This tunnel is wide enough to accommodate almost 6 people shoulder-to-shoulder and the dimensions are perfectly uniform. What does this say about the people down there?”

“That they have access to resources, possibly Golden-Age resources,” she said with an edge of irritability. “But the Fallen know that too, and it’s probably why they’re here.”

“Then why don’t the Devils follow us down here?” I asked.

“Morc, people are dying down there,” she said. “C’mon!”

I rose and followed her. Our descent was smooth and rapid, but it ended suddenly: a circular meeting of ways, with 3 smaller tunnels that branched in different directions. They appeared to be level, unlike the one we had come down. The dark was thick, and I absently wondered where the lighting system was.

“Bodies,” reported Chatterbox. Ebony and I followed their gaze and lit up the 10 human forms littered around the circular space. I looked down the tunnel to my right and saw another crumpled form there. Blood pooled around them all.

Before anyone could say anything another scream ripped through the tunnels, this 1 much closer. Weapons fire followed, echoing snaps and cracks that resonated strangely.

Chatterbox pointed his light at the tunnel to our left and we sprinted that way, side by side. We passed passageways on our left, doors that opened into rooms large and small. They went by in a blur as we ran. I had to jump over more corpses, 1 a Fallen Dreg slumped halfway inside a door with ether still hissing from its armor. We saw light at the end of the tunnel and ran on.

We reached an arched doorway, its doors flung wide into the room beyond. The room was a perfect circle, the ceiling a dome and lit by curving light strips. In the center of the room was a crude sort of dais made of rusting steel, and great chain links bolted into the floor around it. The chains wrapped around a globe that appeared to be hollow with a cut open side to house a smaller globe of opaque material with something small and dark nestled inside that. The larger globe was dark and still, and it took me a moment to realize it was a gutted Servitor. Before it stood the Fallen Captain, the House of Kings banner wrapped around his shoulders. He gripped a human with 2 claws and pressed a sword against her throat. 2 of his Dregs saw us enter and gave out cries of alarm.

Arianna snapped off several shots and put both of them down in seconds. The Captain hauled his captive in front of him like a shield and stood with his back to the silent Servitor.

“Deja vu,” I said. I noticed the 4 bodies scattered around the room. All were dressed much like the little army that had tried to resist the Fallen attack, but they each sported an elaborate headdress.

“Come no closer, no?” The Captain’s voice grated and clicked. “Or she diiieessss.”

“It talks,” snorted Arianna.

“Lower, weapons,” ordered the Captain.

“No,” I replied. “Let her go.”

“No,” said the Captain.

“An impasse,” said Arianna.

“Desstroy, abomination,” said the King. He jerked his horned head back at the dead Servitor. “Desstroy, and we leave, yess?”

The human whimpered and struggled at these words. Blood welled over the edge of the sword and she hissed with pain.

I peered past the sight of my weapon at the Servitor. It was a High Servitor, judging by its size. I couldn’t see what the opaque globe in its housing contained, but I saw the faintest sparks. Arc energy?

“How did you know this thing was down here?” asked Arianna. The Captain focused on her a moment, and I took my cue to step right, widening the distance between us. “This settlement is old. They’ve remained hidden for years. And how did they get a High Servitor?”

The Captain clicked and snarled in his own tongue. “Enough queriesss. Agree to desstroy it, and we will leave, yess?”

“Because it’s his fault,” I said. The Captain looked at me now, and I saw Arianna take a small step left. “Something he did let the humans take it and mutilate it. That’s why he has the mercs – the Kings told him to clean up his mess. And that’s why the Devils are under orders not to come down here.”

The Earth suddenly trembled, and disturbed dust filled the air. Arianna laughed, and again I moved when the Captain looked away. “And now they’re going to bury us. Why not? ‘Sorry, Kell, but the Captain ran down there followed by a couple of Guardians, he didn’t come out, he must be dead.'”

“He made it!” gasped the Human. Whatever language she spoke was instantly translated by our Ghosts. “He created it! To speak to the machine!” The Captain jerked her and she keened in pain.

“Rasputin!” said Arianna. “Of course! That’s why they needed the blackout. They’re trying to make something to hack him.”

“How do you figure?” I asked.

“Chatterbox says he detects an Arc signature that matches a WarSat. They’ve figured out his tech and now they have a backdoor into his systems.”

Another boom shook the Earth, and then another. More Walkers, pounding the entrance with artillery fire. “But he failed. He lost it, and the humans messed with it. So he collects the relevant information, destroys the evidence, and returns to the Kings with a stepping stone to get at the greatest weapon in the solar system.”

“Does that about sum it up?” I asked. By this point Arianna and I had put several visible meters between us, and we each had an angle on the Captain that allowed us a shot without hitting his captive.

The Fallen Captain made a weird, undulating sound in his throat. He was…laughing. “Yess, correct,” he said. “But…” He slowly reached into a pouch on his belt with one claw and withdrew something small. “The Machine sshe speakss of is not your creation.” He tossed the object underhanded in my general direction and I snatched it out of the air. //Disgust  and //fear filled me as I suddenly understood.

“And I did not fail,” he snarled, and made a sudden twist with his arms – his captive fell dead in a pool of her own blood. “I ssucceeded.” He raised his weapons and flung himself at me as the Servitor behind him came to life. I raised my weapon to fire and, in my haste, dropped the dead Ghost he had thrown me.

Categories: Morc-35 | Tags: , , , , ,

Day 120 – Part 5

“Wars are never fought for one reason,” he said. “They are fought for dozens of reasons, in a muddle.”
T.H. White, The Once and Future King


“Music?” I demanded incredulously as shanks closed in on us. I shot a couple as they came too close.

“Sure,” Arianna replied, her rifle snapping in reply to Fallen weapons. “You have to have fun at this job.”

I stared at her for a moment, and she laughed when she saw me. “Aw, c’mon Morc, what’s the worst that can happen, we die? Been there, done that.”

Dregs attacked, swinging shock-daggers, and I countered with a few strikes from my own blade, leaving ether in the brown grass.

“So, pick a song,” said Arianna. I heard her gun snap again.

“Uh…” I said, wittily.

“Pick, or I will,” she promised.

Thunderstruck,” I said hastily.

“Chatterbox?

The music started to play, a distant buildup that mirrored the sound of pounding Fallen boots and machines.

“…Thunder!…”

“Don’t stand too close together – a single explosion might put us both down and that will bring this to a quick end.” She put words to action and skipped a couple meters away.

“…I was caught in the middle of a railroad track…”

“Dregs on the left,” warned Ebony. I rolled that way and came up with my shotgun in hand. The Dregs swarmed in, trying to circle me.

“…I looked round, and I knew there was no turning back…”

3 shots put down the attacking cluster and I whirled as a Vandal closed in from around the corner of a hut.

“…my mind raced, and I thought, what could I do…”

A strike put him down. I heard Arianna laughing as her sidearm barked out a series of rapid shots and shanks crashed into the Earth. “If we see Servitors, we put them down, get a signal to the Tower,” I said.

“Agreed,” she replied.

“…there was no help, no help from you…”

Wire rifle shots kicked up dust and dry grass near my feet. I sprinted a few meters aside, putting a hut between me and the source of the shots. A boom sounded in the distance, and the hut exploded into a ball of fire.

“…the thunder of guns tore me apart…”

“Walker is moving in!” For the first time I could remember, Ebony actually sounded a little panicked. Before I could answer I heard a loud snap and saw a flash of Light in my peripherals.

“…You’ve been…Thunderstruck!”

Arianna shot off 3 rounds of Solar Light at the approaching walker. All 3 shots struck the front left leg, shattering it. The machine staggered forward, its nose plowing into the dirt and exposing its core.

“Hit it!” she shouted as her sparrow appeared and she raced toward the vulnerable machine. Already the walker’s back legs were adjusting, and what I took to be stoppage gel was coalescing around the exposed wiring of the damaged leg in a super-heated cloud. I held out my hands for my machine gun and leaped to the top of another hut to get an angle as the weapon transmatted into my waiting hands. I was at least 25 meters from the walker and had mere seconds to make an impact before the snipers took me down. I wasn’t likely to make a real dent in it from here.

So I turned my weapon on the swarming Fallen that Arianna had left in the wake of her sparrow and cut down as many as I could in the space of a few seconds. The elevation and heavy rounds were enough to kill or scatter them.

“…Went through to Texas, yeah Texas, and we had some fun…”

What happened next required Ebony to play it back for me later to see it. Arianna raced her sparrow at the exposed left side of the walker, and just before impact, jumped clear of the bike. Midway through her somersault over the walker she flipped a knife sheathed in Solar fire into the walker’s brain and caught the side-mounted gun on the opposite side with 1 hand to stop her fall. She coalesced Solar Light into a grenade and thrust it into the barrel of the smaller gun, then kicked off to the ground as Chatterbox transmatted her sparrow back into existence under her feet. She landed on the bike and sped away as the grenade went off, taking the side-mounted weapon with it and staggering the walker a second time just as it recovered.

“…Yeah yeah, they, they, they blew our minds…”

For my part I was ducking between buildings and using my machine gun liberally: M’s advice to “pack” had not gone unheeded. A Dreg charged in, a knife in each hand, and I rattled off fire in its direction.

To my surprise, the Dreg bore up under the rounds and continued to close. It was wearing heavy armor and was within striking range in a flash. I redirected the first slash of the knives with the barrel of the gun, then dropped it in favor of my own blade. Arc energy sparked and burned as the blades met. I dropped low to the ground and tried to sweep the Dreg’s feet from beneath it; it somersaulted over me and whirled to rush back in.

The Dreg’s head disappeared in a shower of ether and Arianna bumped into me in her rush. “Knife to a gun fight, really?” she asked.

“You’re right,” I said. “I need a bigger blade.”

She barked out a laugh.

“…Thunderstruck…yeah, yeah….”

“Arianna!” I pointed with my knife at the central hut as a gold cloak disappeared inside, several of the heavily armored Dregs following quickly behind it. “The King!”

Arianna shot another Shank down. “We go down there we might not get out!”

“We let them go, and they get whatever they were after!” I countered. “And we won’t last out here forever!”

More Fallen were swarming in.

“Oh…fine! Go, go, go!” she shouted. We turned and raced for the hut.

There was a distant boom, and then-

“…You’ve been Thunderstruuuuck!…”

Categories: Morc-35 | Tags: , , , , , ,

Day 120 – Part 4

“Was it the wicked leaders who led innocent populations to slaughter, or was it wicked populations who chose leaders after their own hearts?”
T.H. White, The Once and Future King


“26 humans down there, at least visible,” said Ebony through my earpiece. “If there are more they are not in sight.”

“I estimate 100 Fallen, mostly Dregs and Shanks,” said Auburn – “Chatterbox”, Airanna had called her Ghost – floating over Arianna’s prone figure as she stared down the scope. For my part, I simply crouched and waited for status updates, suddenly wishing I had a sniper rifle.

“Only one walker,” she said after a moment. “If they have more they are at campsites elsewhere.” She lifted her head from the scope. “Well, this is an unexpected development. Odds are there are more humans in the compound.”

“Definitely tunnels beneath those huts,” Chatterbox confirmed. “Probably the majority of their population is down there.”

“How has a human settlement like this gone unnoticed for so long?” I asked.

“People are pretty ingenious when it comes to hiding,” said Arianna. “What I don’t understand is why it has drawn this kind of response from the Fallen –  or why they haven’t simply bombed them out of existence. There’s nothing to indicate the tunnels are especially reinforced. A couple of walkers could make a few artillery strikes and bury them.”

“Maybe more than a couple,” said Chatterbox. “But it would not take much to seal everyone inside and starve them out.”

“And yet they lay siege,” Ebony mused.

“We need to get inside,” said Arianna. She looked at me.

“I can’t cloak all of us,” I said.

“No, but you can get a look.”

I nodded and loosened my hand cannon in its holster. “Be ready to make a distraction.”

“My specialty,” she assured me.


The humans were dressed in drab browns and furs. Although of dark complexions their skin had a washed-out look, as if they rarely saw sunlight, and in the cloudy daylight it made them seem wan and sickly. The weapons they carried were ancient in appearance, and their patrols were a shambling, inattentive affair, as if they were thoroughly bored at having to make an appearance. I slipped past them easily into the cluster of grass-covered huts.

“Probably the central structure,” said Ebony softly. We stole through the ramshackle excuse for a village to the center hut, only slightly larger than the rest. I tried the door – it was made of a flat black metal – and ducked inside. It was empty; a sloping ramp led into a symmetrical wound in the Earth that disappeared into darkness. Ebony took a moment to conduct a scan.

“I have a clear map of the tunnels,” he reported. “And…something else. A pretty big energy signature below…and it’s Dark.”

The plot thickens,” quipped Chatterbox through the comm.

“Well,” I said turning back to the door, “we can probably – “

The door opened. A human walked in, saw me, and gave out a yelp. I lunged forward and seized his head in both hands, clamped 1 over his mouth and dragged him inside. I swore as I wrestled the human to the ground. I cut off his air supply long enough for him to stop struggling. “He’s out,” Ebony reported. I let him breathe again and slid his weapon away in case he woke up.

What’s going on?” asked Arianna. “The patrols just stopped. Some of them are moving your way.”

I swore again and looked around, but there was nowhere to hide the unconscious man. “Local stumbled on us. I might need that distraction in a moment,” I said.

Might not have to,” she replied. “The Fallen have noticed too. I see a detachment heading in now…most of the humans are heading back to the perimeter. You still have 3 going your way.

“Need to do this quietly,” I said softly. I slipped down the tunnel until the shadows covered me and waited.

The 3 humans barreled through the door and noticed the unconscious man in the corner. They spoke rapidly to one another in a language I didn’t understand and knelt next to their comrade with their backs to me.

I knocked out the first with a blow to the side of the head, roundhouse kicked the next, and swept the third from his feet as he turned. The fall knocked the wind out of him and a sharp blow to the temple silenced him.

Sounds of weapons fire filtered through the walls of the hut.

Morc, the humans are engaged with the Fallen. Stay there, I’ll join you while they’re distracted.

I cracked open the door and peered through the huts toward the perimeter. Arc weapon bursts filled the air with the smell of burnt ozone and shouts from both sides echoed. I saw Arianna making her way forward: in her brown cloak and leathers she blended well with the background, and in the overcast day the light might have been low enough…

A shock grenade landed at Arianna’s feet with unnerving precision. She somersaulted over it and sprinted for the cover of the buildings, all pretense at stealth abandoned.

Shanks swarmed through the little village toward Arianna like a hive of bees. A shank passed by the door I was looking out of and turned toward me. I shot it, but not before it had fired a shot of its own and alerted its comrades.

Morc, I’m cut off,” Arianna reported.

“Hang on,” I replied, shooting down another shank. I tried to cloak, and then a repeater shank opened fire, driving me away from the door I had been standing in.

A Dreg stepped in my way. I stabbed it and threw the body back. The gunfire continued, but they sounded purely like Fallen weapons now.

Arianna and I met a mere 25 meters from the central building and stood back to back as shanks and Dregs swarmed in on us, cutting off our avenues of escape.

“Well, this is going to be fun,” said Arianna cheerily. “You like music?”

Categories: Morc-35 | Tags: , , , , ,

Day 120 – Part 3

“We cannot build the future by avenging the past.”
T.H. White, The Once and Future King


“Movement,” said Arianna from her prone position. She was staring down the scope of her rifle at the Fallen encampment we had began to stalk a day before.

“Relief or patrol?” I asked. I huddled in the hollowed cylinder we had made our own camp inside. Whatever the silo had been used for in the Golden Age past, it had long since been stripped clean of its purpose. Only its walls and floors remained, and not a speck of rust could be found on the metal. Its gleaming surface and height – it was good 12 meters tall and on an elevated stretch of land among a small crowd of shorter buildings – had made it into an excellent shooter’s blind. The top level had a vent that Arianna now peered out of, any reflection from her scope hidden by the silo’s own design.

“I don’t think it’s either. Take a look at this.” Her Ghost shimmered, and the view from her HUD was fed into my own, letting me see down the scope.

The colors of the camp were the red of the Devils, which was no surprise. Vandals and Dregs milled about. Shanks floated by on preset perimeter patrols. In the center of the camp were 2 large Servitors, pumping out a portion of the jamming signal that blanketed the region. We had seen evidence of the camps in a cross-grid pattern across the Ruins every few kilometers, each with Servitors broadcasting the jamming signal.

A group of 6 pikes was approaching the camp. At their head was a Captain in gold regalia.

“Kings,” I said softly.

“Just the leader,” said Arianna. “Those Dregs following him are mercs.”

“So they’re not here in force,” I said.

Arianna snorted. “The Kings are here, that’s force enough. Question is, why are they working with the Devils?”

One of the camp’s Skiffs opened up and disgorged the Devil’s Captain. It was the first time we had even seen him. He approached the new arrival and they began conversing, albeit with a lot of gestures.

“Someone isn’t happy,” said Arianna dryly.

Eventually the Devil subsided. He made several curt gestures, and a handful of his Dregs scurried to pikes. The King pointed at a couple of Vandals. I saw all 4 of the Devil’s hands curl into fists. Then he pointed at 2 Vandals and repeated the gesture to mount up. The Devil Vandals grabbed their gear and went to their mounts. The King remounted his own pike and sped east in the general direction of another camp. His newly reinforced unit followed.

“They’re gathering troops,” murmured Arianna. “But why now?”

The Devil Captain stood looking after the departed King until a Shank floated by within arm’s reach. He snatched it out of the air and threw it to the ground. Before the unit could react he kicked and stomped on it with a flurry of blows, until only pieces of wreckage remained. His other troops, milling about seconds before, suddenly became very busy or out of sight until he had stormed back into the skiff.

The feed shut off and Arianna slid back until she had enough head room to sit up, then slid her helmet off.

“So what now?” I asked.

“We don’t know anything we did not already,” she said after a moment. “That Servitors were making the jamming signal was a pretty logical guess. We already suspected the House of Kings was here.” She spread her hands. “We need more information. We should go further in.”

I shook my head. “We’ve confirmed those things: that was the objective.”

“So what do you think we should do?”

“Finish the job,” I replied. “Attack the camp, kill the Servitors and get a signal to the Tower to tell them what we’ve seen. They’ll send a host to attack the Fallen and sweep them out.”

Arianna shook her head. “Politics,” she said bitterly.

“What?” I asked.

“Commander Zavala would. And he has the most say. But, the rest of the Vanguard – Ikora, specifically – might not. And then there’s the Consensus and the Speaker…”

“Short version, please,” I interrupted.

“The reports from the Moon about the Hive have everyone afraid, Morc. The truth is, we’ve beaten the Fallen before. Yes, it was at cost and the City lost territory, but we can and have beaten them.” She glanced at the low ceiling as if she could see through it to Luna overhead. “But we lost to the Hive. We lost badly. Unless the threat out here is great enough to hurt the City directly, everyone is going to be conservative with resources. We need to show the Tower something they can’t ignore.”

“Alright. So we go further in,” I agreed. I began cleaning up the detritus of weapon parts scattered before me.

“What’re you doing to your gun?” she asked.

I held up a cylinder for my hand cannon. “Explosive rounds,” I said. “The cylinder isn’t as enforced because there’s less primer involved to make room for the explosive head. Reduces the range and makes it a little heavier, but the explosive radius is about a meter wide.” I snapped the piece onto its housing, tightened the tiny mounting thread with a small tool, and then snapped the weapon closed with a flick of the wrist. “Last Captain I met had thick armor. This should be helpful.”

Arianna chuckled with what I took to be approval. “OK. Well, we’ve got a long trek ahead of us,” she said, stuffing her own gear back into her pack. “By the Traveler, I miss my sparrow.”

“Too bad we can’t steal their pikes,” I agreed.

“Well, hopefully we find what we need quickly and we stop sneaking everywhere. We’ll wait for nightfall. Then we head southwest. Bet you glimmer to pastries that what they’re hiding is dead center of this signal jamming.”

“I don’t eat pastries,” I said.

“What a horrible life you must lead.”

Categories: Morc-35 | Tags: , , , ,

Day 120 – Part 2

“There is a thing called knowledge of the world, which people do not have until they are middle-aged. It is something which cannot be taught to younger people, because it is not logical and does not obey laws that are constant. It has no rules.”
T.H. White, The Once and Future King


“The Servitor,” said Morgan, making a sucking noise around the pipe hanging from his lips, “is the unifying force on the battlefield for the Fallen. More than the Captain, the Baron, the Archon or even the Kell. Destroy the Servitor, and you destroy their communications, their defenses, their supply line and their god. Well, demigod anyway.”

“It seems a weakness,” I replied, gently shifting the pile of papers and books I shared a seat with. Morgan’s little cubbyhole – it would be charitable to call it an apartment – was the most disorganized place I had seen under the care of a cryptarch, maybe in the whole Tower. Ebony floated high over the haze of foul-smelling smoke, scanning pages to open books and maps scattered around the space I took to be the kitchen.

Morgan, in spite of his immense size and belly, navigated the chaos with ease as he prepared a steaming concoction he called tea, although the smell made me want to put distance between myself and it. “Perhaps, but it is also their strength. Like the Mongols and their horse.”

“What?” I asked.

“You’re going to the Mongolian Ruins, yes?” Morgan poured his brew into a chipped cup that displayed dark hair-line cracks across its surface. “Mongolia was once the greatest contiguous empire on Earth. Conquered almost purely by humans on beasts of burden called horses, armed with slings, blades, and bows. In fact,” he said, setting aside his pipe a moment to slurp from the cup, “the Mongols share much in common with the Fallen. They began as a scattering of tribes prone to infighting. Later, they were united under a single leader – a “Khan”, I think it was called – and conquered much of the known world. They revolutionized and modernized Asia, albeit by the blade.”

“What does this have to do with the Fallen?” I asked.

Morgan sighed. “Hunters,” I heard him mutter into his gray beard before he took another slurp of tea. “The Empire did the same thing all great civilizations do: it fractured and was eventually replaced. Likely enough, the Fallen we see today are just that: the remnants of a great empire, clinging to their old way of life, hoping to rise up again.”

“And…the horse?”

Morgan squinted his puffy eyes at me critically. “The horse was what allowed the Mongols to conquer so effectively. But they were susceptible to gunpowder. Such weapons proved an effective tactic.” He put his tea aside and scratched at his beard with one hand while holding his pipe in the other. “I suspect the Servitors are similarly affected by the Light.”

“Why?” I asked, my //curiosity genuinely piqued.

“Well, if the Light is a force, it holds the Darkness is too, yes? And the Servitors…well, we know they produce Ether for the Fallen. But how? And what does that imply about them?” Morgan’s eyes drifted out of focus.

I made to rise, and only just managed to keep from knocking over the stack as I got up. “I thank you for your time, Cryptarch.”

“What? Oh, yes, of course. Always glad to share knowledge with a Guardian.”

“I’ll be back,” I promised. “I want to hear more about your Servitor theory.”

That made him smile, and I suspected I had just won myself an ally with those words. “Of course. Careful in the field, Hunter.”


 7 hunters gathered in a single space made quite a sight. We huddled in the cafe beneath the Tower hangar, the noise of the ships penetrating even the sound of the jukebox in the corner. At the head of the gathering was a Hunter that barely reached my chest in height: she wore her blonde hair very short and tied back and dressed in drab colors, the only exception a small gold start emblazoned over her heart. Her orange Ghost floated over her shoulder. “Bob, this it?”

“We’re still waiting on Ka-“

“No we’re not,” she interrupted her Ghost. “Alright everyone, eyes front. You can call me M. Cayde-6 gave me the briefing.”

“Why are we getting an in-person briefing?” asked a stocky human I did not recognize – although that was true of the group as a whole.

M glared at the interrupter with enough heat to make him shrivel back into his cloak. “Because, if you let me continue, I could tell you that the region we’re scouting is in a comm blackout.” She tapped a map on the table with a throwing knife: a huge region south of the Cosmodrome had been blotted with red ink. “And that means nothing past short-range comms. And without satellite imagery, thanks to Rasputin, we only have flyovers for recon. And every flyover has been interdicted. There are a lot of Fallen in the region. It’s possible they are preparing a beachhead for an assault.”

“So send in a couple of real fire-teams,” interjected another, this 1 an Exo. “A few Titans can clean them out before they’re entrenched.”

M shook her head. “Vanguard does not want to commit Titans or Warlocks to the operation. The reports from Luna have everyone worried the Hive are on the move again. We had a new seeder try to take root a few weeks ago, right around the time the Temple of Crota was cracked open.” She did not look at me, but I felt her attention nonetheless. “So unless we have something big enough to warrant a troop movement that size, it’s just us. We’ll deploy in teams of 2.”

“We’re short 1,” pointed out Bob the Ghost.

“No we’re not.” Arianna slid into the seat next to me on the bench. “I swapped assignments with Kalesh. Sorry I’m late.” She smiled at me. Hot //anger flooded my circuits, but I checked it for the moment.

“Your teammate can brief you then,” said M crisply. “Make sure you pack, everyone. Once inside that zone we’ve no communication with the Tower, and ships are likely to be shot down. The objective is simple: find the source of the blackout. If possible, shut it down. If not, communicate it to the Tower. And find out why: the Fallen are hiding something, and we need to know what it is.”


“Why are you worked up about this?” Arianna asked, hands spread at her sides. “I thought you would be happy to have a teammate.” We stood just outside the Walls, our Sparrows humming next to us.

“I do not need the Valherjar watching over my shoulder,” I snapped. “I can handle myself.”

“That’s why you think I’m here? We don’t think you’re capable?” She rolled her eyes. “Morc, the whole point behind units like the Valherjar is for situations like this: fire-teams that have familiar members work better together. It’s better organization than just having Guardians doing as they please, without the need for a military command structure.”

“I need to do this on my own, Arianna.”

She frowned at me and ran a hand through the bristles of her short mohawk. “Morc. There’s no shame in what happened to you. Guardians fall. Ghosts get caught.”

“It shouldn’t have,” I replied, //bitterly.

“You’re right,” she said. “You should have led your family home. You should have gotten help. You should have waited. You should have done anything except hunt that whole nest by yourself. You’re a Guardian, and however brave the Erikssons are, it was your job to protect them, not lead them into a trap. The blood of their fallen is on your hands.”

I thought of tall Leif and strong Olaf when they had fallen beneath the Knight’s blade. More //anger flooded my circuits, but it was a cold feeling.

“But,” she continued, “thanks to you and them, we brought down a Seeder. We stopped a catastrophic move by the Hive on Earth. That’s on you too.” Arianna smiled ruefully. “We’re Hunters. We work alone, I get that. But the Tower stands because of teamwork, not in spite of it.”

Reason filtered through my //annoyance, and after a moment I nodded.

“Now come on,” she said. “If we’re going in on Sparrows, it’s going to be a long ride, and daylight is wasting.” She jumped astride her bike, put on her helmet, and raced away. I got on my own Sparrow and followed her into the Wilderness.

Categories: Morc-35 | Tags: , , , ,

Day 120 – Part 1

“Unless you can make the world wag better than it does at present, King, your reign will be an endless series of petty battles…”

The Once and Future King, by T.H. White


Weapons down, Guardians,” declared Lord Shaxx through Ebony’s transmitter. I sighed and slowed my run. A bullet skipped off a support beam to my right, and I flipped the shooter off in annoyance. Ebony fed the score telemetry through my new helmet’s HUD, which I had gotten to replace the gear I’d lost on the hunt with the Erikssons. The Future War Cult had proven surprisingly grateful for the chance to bring down a Hive nest, and why not? They had gained quite a bit of notoriety for their part in the operation. I’d taken the glimmer and purchased gear from Dead Orbit foundries and their colors – that had made the FWC a little less happy, but there wasn’t much they could do about it.

“10,120 to 8,780,” said the shooter, sauntering up. The Guardian was a Warlock, dressed in the reds and whites of a New Monarchy soldier from head to foot. Even her gun had a New Monarchy sigil. She stood out like a cherry tree in full bloom in a brown field, and yet her combat performance seemed entirely unaffected by it. The Warlock removed her helmet, and her glowing green eyes flashed with //mirth. “And…my my, 1.0 for you. That’s even worse than doing badly – you didn’t affect your team’s performance. Almost like you weren’t there.”

I left my own helmet on, arguably a rude thing to do to another Exo – why, I wasn’t sure, but I knew it to be a slight – and shrugged. “I can’t bring myself back from the dead like some.”

She waved her hand dismissively. “You smell like you still have fresh oil and Light on you anyway. I guess we did the right thing going easy on you. After all, I hear you’re recovering from being captured by Thrall.”

I was about to retort when Telrik strode up. “Fernanda-24. Did you enjoy that feeling of your head exploding 7 times in a row?”

“8, actually: it blew my mind that you’re still alive,” she replied.

“Why? Because I don’t hide behind the Walls all day, extorting civilians?”

“Extorting?” gasped another arrival – this one a Titan – as he took of his blood-red helmet. An Awoken with knife-edged features, green hair and bright orange eyes, he had a tattoo on his right cheek that vaguely resembled a New Monarchy symbol. He put a hand over his heart. “That’s a very serious charge, Titan Telrik. Care to repeat that for the record? Now that the match is over I’m sure the Consensus would like to hear that.”

“Some manners would not hurt our cause at all, Syphis,” interjected Drake, walking up.

Fernanda-24 actually inclined her head toward Drake, as did Syphis: the action //surprised me. “Sir Drake,” she said smoothly. “You grace us with your presence.” If there was //sarcasm in her tone I did not detect it.

Drake inclined his head to them as well. “A sterling performance, Fernanda-24.”

“Well, given there were only 3 of us in a group of 6, I fear we did not reach as great a height as we might have.” She looked him in the eye. “We, of course, would still accept your application to the King’s Ransom. Our unit is, as you know, still seeking loyal members of the Monarchy.”

“I fear politics are not of utmost importance to me right now, and I have a prior commitment to the Valherjar,” said Drake. “But I thank you for your offer.”

“It remains open,” she said with no sign of //disappointment. “Ronald, stop stalking the poor Dead Orbit hunter. We need to go.”

I turned my head slightly and startled back a step: a hulking human with a buzz cut and heavy brow stood behind my left shoulder. He moved past me with absolute silence and followed his comrades, cradling a rocket launcher in his thick arms.

“Are you…?” Telrik said to Drake.

The Warlock cut him off. “No. I have no interest in running.”

“But someone wants you to?”

“Some people think that an Awoken would make a good gesture of diversity and unity,” said Drake. “But it will not happen, and I have no interest in the post.”

“Ah.”

Before I could ask what they were talking about, a general announcement from Lord Shaxx to clear the arena for the next match prompted us to depart. We headed for the exit, our 3 companions, randomly selected by draw, long since having departed. Frames trundled by, repairing or replacing the parts of the arena destroyed during the match to make it ready for the next clash.

“Well, there’s room in the next round for us. Want to stay and get some more in?” asked Drake.

I shook my head. “Cayde-6 just assigned some hunters to check out an anomaly in the Mongolia ruins. Apparently Fallen have started gathering, and there’s a possibility the Kings are there. I got picked.”

Telrik whistled appreciatively. “The Kings? Watch your back. Word is they do not move for much.”

I nodded. “Going to see the Cryptarchs again before I go. After my first encounter with the Fallen, I want to be better prepared, see what they can tell me.”

“Well, good luck,” said Drake. “If you need help, just call.”

I would have winced, in spite of my helmet still being on. “I will be fine.” I gave Ebony the word and transmatted out to fly back to the City – and the libraries of the Cryptarchs.

Categories: Morc-35 | Tags: , , , , ,

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