Posts Tagged With: Hunter

Scattered – Part II

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Day 1099

“My dear young lady,’ said the professor…’there is one plan which no one has yet suggested and which is well worth trying.’
‘What’s that?’ said Susan.
‘We might all try minding our own business…”
C.S. Lewis, The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe

“Victory is a matter of will!”

“You ever get tired of Shaxx saying that?” asked Rill.

“It’s just a prerecorded announcement,” I replied, not taking my eyes from the screen. “Although I’m pretty sure he believes it.”

Henrik, Rill’s boyfriend, grunted and swigged from a brown bottle. “Victory is a matter of weapons and skill.”

I didn’t disagree with him and stood up. “I’m getting another drink before the match gets too far along. Anyone need a refill?”

“I’ll take another,” said Emma. The others shook their heads. I made my way to the bar, hood drawn still drawn up, and slid my glass to the frame behind the bar. “Need another of Cosmodrome IPA, too,” I added. The frame blinked and dutifully began to refill my glass.

“I didn’t know Exos could drink,” said a voice at my elbow. The speaker was Awoken, pale blue skin and jet black hair that had the slightest bluish tinge that contrasted starkly with her pure white robes. Her Ghost’s shell was gold and green, depicting a committed Iron Banner contestant that matched her shining green eyes.

“Thought you Warlocks knew everything,” I quipped.

The Awoken rolled her eyes and threw up her hands in a mock defensive pose. “Oh, you’ve wounded me, oh witty Hunter. Seriously, are you really one of those?”

“One of those what?” I asked //tersely.

“One of those guys who thinks if they’re insulting and standoffish it’s somehow endearing?”

I blinked at her, suddenly //flustered. “You’re defensive.”

“Really? Someone makes a casual observation and your first reaction is to put them down for being different from you. Which of us has their defenses up?”

I opened my mouth to retort…then rethought it. “OK, you got me. My mistake.” I drew my hood back and stuck out a hand. “Morc-35, of the Valherjar and the Erickssons.”

“That’s better.” She shook my hand. “Gwendolen, Vanguard. My friends call me Gwen.” She looked at one of the large screens in the half-empty taproom. “So that’s your unit fighting in the Iron Banner, Shores of Time match?”

“Yeah.” I glanced at the screen. Farstride, Findlay, Heisenberg and Telrik were tearing through the competition as only a team of Titans could. Magnus was holding ground near the B-Zone, and a random sixth Bladedancer, unaffiliated as far as I could see, had rounded out the roster for the match. “They’re moving up the rankings pretty well this tournament.”

“Why aren’t you with them?”

“I’ve been out of the Crucible for about a year now. The Iron Banner would eat me alive.”

“Ah. So it has nothing to do with your fear of not being able to revive?”

A host of different emotions roiled through me before I locked down the answer. “You’re the Warlock that Father Ericksson told me about.”

Gwen nodded. “He’s given up trying to convince you to see me, so he asked me to find you. He says you need help. I would like to try, if you’ll let me.”

I took my refilled glass and the bottle from the bar where the frame had placed them. “I’m not a specimen for you to study. Go ply your magic tricks elsewhere.” I turned to leave.

She placed a hand on my arm. “Morc-35, listen: if your condition is what it sounds like, you may be infected with something. Which means you might be curable. Your family is worried about you.”

I shook off her hand and walked back to the table and placed Emma’s drink in front of her. I sat down and studiously kept my back to the bar and Gwen.

“I’m telling you,” Emma was saying to Rill, “these matches are rigged. Look at that!” She pointed at the screen with the scoreboards, showing the different rankings of each team of contestants. “There is a clear bias of matching teams that are imbalanced with one type of Light against teams that have 2 of each energy type, and the teams with 2 of each almost always win.”

“That’s a load of BS,” Rill shot back. “Look at the bracket for the next match: the Fifth Circle is almost purely Golden Guns and Sunsingers, and they haven’t even lost a match yet!”

“Well sure, when you have 3 Guardians who can self-revive it’s impossible to take territory back from them. If this were a Clash tourney they would be just as badly off. My point still stands.”

“Whatever. You’re still going down. The Northern Paladins are winning.”

“Because the Valherjar are almost all Arc-types and the Paladins came with a rounded team. Rigged.”

I checked the score on the match we were watching: 8325 to 7650 with 2:31 on the clock. Although the Valherjar held only a single zone, they were closing the gap through attrition – an effective strategy for a team comprised mostly of Titans. Another screen in the bar flipped over to the match to provide an additional angle and we got a good look at Telrik rushing an enemy zone: he hit with a Fist of Havoc and scattered half the enemy team. In moments Farstride reinforced his position with a shield. A few seconds later and another rush, and all 3 zones were held by the Valherjar, turning the match into a massacre.

The final score was 10150 to 9950. The bar erupted into cheers and groans, and the Iron Banner brackets shifted with the new standings.

“Woo!” Emma slammed her drink on the heavy wood table and stood up on her chair, dancing. “Valherjar, Valherjar! Woo! Enjoy that extra delivery shift this weekend while I’m sunning myself, sis!”

Rill leaned her head on Henrik’s shoulder and shut her eyes. “Damn it. I’ve haven’t had a weekend off in almost a month.” She looked at Emma. “Double or nothing if they lose their next match.”

“You’re on!” Emma dropped back into her chair, laughing.

I risked a look over at my shoulder. The Warlock was gone, as far as I could see.

Emma noticed the look and followed my gaze. “You lose something?”

“Someone,” I said. I turned in my chair again to watch the next match.

“So did you talk with her?” asked Emma.

I glared at her. “Please say you didn’t tell that Warlock where to find me.”

Emma had the good grace to look embarrassed. “I thought-”

“Blood of the Traveler.” I kicked my chair back and stood up. “I don’t need this, Emma.”

“Morc – ”

I drew my hood back up and left the bar.

Ebony spoke in my ear. “Far be it from me to disagree with you,” he said. “But if the Warlock is right, I am in danger as well. We should talk with her.”

“Shut up,” I snapped.

“Guardian – ”

“Shut. Up.”

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

Day 797 – Part 4

“The Fates and Furies, as well as the Graces and Sirens, glide with linked hands over life.”
Jean Paul Friedrich Richter

“So…do we knock?” asked Miranda.

“That doesn’t seem particularly wise.” I didn’t take my eye from the scope. “I can see 2 turrets by the gate and what looks like an armed patrol every 6 to 8 minutes. If they don’t like Guardians we’ll have a fight on our hands.”

“Didn’t they invite us? They sent out a distress call, after all. They asked for some of us by name.”

“Baby Titan has a point,” said Drake. I heard Findlay sigh. “We may as well ask why.”

I lowered the scope and looked at Arianna. She flipped her throwing knife in 1 hand, blade to hilt to blade, clearly thinking. Eventually the knife stilled. “Drake and Miranda, you hold here. The rest of us will go talk to them. Remember your buddy system.” She looked over her shoulder at Rill. “I could use an extra set of eyes, if Emma doesn’t need you on the ship.”

The young woman shrugged. “Sure.”

A beaten dirt path led up to the gate, and the 5 of us left our cover in the shrubs of the low dunes to follow it.

“They see us,” I said softly.

The turrets turned our way, but no shots rang out. We were about 12 meters from the gate when we were finally challenged.

“Hang on,” said Chatterbox, Arianna’s Ghost. “It’s some bastardized form of Russian. Translating.”

Arianna took off her helmet, exposing her shock of red hair. “My name is Arianna. I’m a Guardian of the Last City, and I have the Guardian Morc-35 with me. We received your distress call.”

There was some talk behind the gates. Another shout. “They said for you to raise your hands and approach.”

“Do as they say,” said Arianna. We all put our hands in the air and walked forward. The wooden gates groaned open as we approached.

Men and women dressed in brown furs and leathers waited for us inside. The ground was packed hard and dusty, and a variety of structures from yurt-like tents to wooden shacks lined rough lanes. The encampment was larger than it had appeared from outside, and there were more people than could be accounted for from just the buildings.

Ebony did a quick little pulse for a scan. “There are underground structures nearby, not unlike the one we found the modified Servitor in.”

“So, same people?” I asked softly.

We were approached by a cadre of humans and a single Exo with rifles before anyone could reply. They spoke harshly at us, pointing at our weapons.

“They said we have to turn over our guns,” reported Chatterbox.

There was a tense pause. The rest of us looked at Arianna, who deliberated. Then she shook her head. “No.”

One of the guards that I took to be the leader repeated his demand, loudly. Arianna shrugged at him. “No. Tell your chief we come in peace. And taking our weapons won’t mean anything, you know that: we’re just as dangerous without them.”

This flustered the guard, and he stepped forward, brandishing his rifle. A shout behind him stopped him in mid-stride.

“Let them pass with their weapons. She’s right: it would mean little.” A figure in long, dirty red robes strode forward. Her hands were tucked into her voluminous sleeves and her head was covered by a deep hood, but even so her Awoken eyes shone brightly in its shadow. A blood-red Ghost hovered above her shoulder. “Welcome, Guardians. Please, come with me.” She beckoned us forward with a motion of her head. “We’ve been expecting you.”

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

Day 797 – Part 3

“One sibling this annoying is misfortune! What warlock has cursed me to have two?”

~Thor Odinson (Marvel Universe)

“Would you leave like a thief in the night?”

“I didn’t hear you approach, Father.” I turned around.

“I doubt that.” Father Ericksson walked up to me, his cane shuffling through the snow. He had not had a cane when I had last seen him. Nor had he been as bent as he was now, almost double, as if he carried some unseen weight on his back. Rill walked at his side, almost hovering.

“It would have been nice to have seen you before left again.”

I ducked my head. “I am sorry. The war…” I trailed off: the words sounded hollow even as I spoke them.

“The war between Light and Darkness existed even before the first gods, Morc. Do not get so caught up in it you forget the larger picture.” He motioned me to follow and began to walk away from The Hand of Tyr. Rill frowned at me as she passed, taking a satchel to the ship.

“You’re sending her with us?” I asked as we walked.

“Emma is to be your fire team’s pilot, and I do not like when one of our people flies alone, even with Guardians. Were it not for your insistence on privacy, they would have flown together to retrieve you from Mars. They are as close as only sisters can be since the hunt that wounded you all.”

I cocked my head and looked at him. “Emma told you.”

“She did.” Father Ericksson stopped walking and sighed. “I have an entire clan to watch over, Morc-35. The health and mind of each is important to me. Even that of an Exo.”

“I don’t know what telling you can do to help,” I said.

“Perhaps nothing,” he admitted. “But I would ask you this: do not go. If your each subsequent death brings you closer to some unseen edge, then going into battle is beyond foolishness. Stay here, speak to the Warlocks, and let them help you.”

“I’ll be helped when that Wizard is dead.”

“Are you certain?” He stared at me hard. “The realm of death belongs to the Hive. Do you think destroying something that is Taken will be enough?”

“It will be enough for me.”

He studied me for a few moments more. “I see you cannot be dissuaded. Very well. But when this mission is over you will return to the family, and you will speak to a Warlock before you go haring off after that Wizard again; I know of one who is discrete and will help you without telling the Vanguard. You may take your revenge after.”

I nodded. “Yes, Father.”

He patted my arm, and I felt the frailty in the gesture. The strong warrior chief I had met 2 years before had been replaced by a feeble man. I burned with questions as to what had happened, but felt //ashamed I did not already know. Perhaps I had been gone too long.

“Be swift, Morc-35. Time is growing short. For all of us.” He turned and walked back toward the Iron Temple. I watched him go until he was out of sight, then returned to the ship. The fire team was stowing their spare weapons and extra gear on board.

Arianna whistled sharply to get everyone’s attention. “Head count. The Ericksson’s here,” she gestured to Emma and Rill, “will establish a forward base and maintain our Sparrow uplink, so we’ll have mobility.”

“I don’t have a Sparrow,” said Findlay weakly.

“You do now,” said Rill. The other Guardians turned to look at her. “Morgan gave Morc-35 an Eververse voucher as payment for the tactics assessment you dropped off for him. He traded that for a Sparrow for you.”

“Uh…wow, thanks,” said Findlay to me.

“Titans are slow enough without a Sparrow,” I told him.


Arianna resumed her briefing. “After we’re in the mission zone it’s short-range comms only. If the Kings are involved we can be certain they have tricks up their sleeves, and the fact that someone out there has our names means they might be able to listen to long-range comms, so we’ll need to keep everything low-key and encrypted. No use of names and coordinates over audio: tight-beam everything between your Ghosts as much as possible and have them pipe it in. Clear?”

Everyone nodded.

“OK, buddy-system in case we get separated: Magnus, you’re with me. Drake, you’re with Miranda. Morc, you get the new-boot.”

“Why do I have to be paired with the Titan?” I demanded.

“Consider it a punishment for being so hard to find.”

“I’m a punishment?” asked Findlay.

“All aboard!” Arianna transmatted into the hold and we all followed her.

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

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.”

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

Day 797 – Part 1

“What am I to do now? I hate you for leaving me. I ache from your loss. There is nothing that can console me now. I am changed, so are you.”

~Ragnar Lothbrok

“So if the Wall has been breached, why are you here? Aren’t you a Titan? Defender of the Wall and all that?” I demanded.

Findlay looked down and scuffed his boot against the flight deck. We were standing beneath Emma’s jump ship, The Hand of Tyr, a model of the support craft that had carried us to the Dreadnought a year before. “I don’t have a ship. Or a Sparrow.”

I stared at him. “How long have you been a Guardian?”

“Umm…” He looked over at his Ghost floating at eye-level. “A week.”

A week?!” I shouted. I noticed a frame behind Findlay turn around to look at us. “How by Odin’s left eye did you manage to join the Valherjar inside of a week?”

“Well, actually, I’m only a provisional member right now,” Findlay admitted, not meeting my gaze. “Arianna vouched for me. I still have to go through some tests and get full approval.”

“A week,” I growled.

“Calm down, Morc.” Emma climbed out of the ship the old-fashioned way. “If you’d been here you’d know that attrition has been catching up with everyone.” She pushed the ladder away and a frame waddled over to remove it. “Word in Dead Orbit is that we lost a record-number of Guardians to the Taken, even after the King died. New blood is a welcome sight.”

“Anyway,” said Findlay, “I, uh…need a ride to the Iron Temple.”

“A ride to the what Temple?”

“We need to get you up to speed,” said Emma drily.

“Yeah! We can do that on the way!”

“I need a few hours first,” I said tiredly.

“You need a few weeks,” Emma countered.

“But we don’t have a few weeks!” gasped Findlay.

“Oh for the love of…just, be back here in 6 hours, OK?” I began to leave the hangar.

“Umm, what do I do in the meantime?”

I stared at him. “What?”

“Well, you’re kinda of the senior Valherjar, so…what am I supposed to do in the meantime?”

I bit back my first response and reached into my satchel. “Look, take this,” I handed him a leather-bound book, “to Morgan, the Cryptarch.”

“Morgan, right…what’s a Cryptarch?”

“Oh, you have got to be shi-!”

“I’m kidding, I’m kidding!” Findlay took the book and bolted for the exit. I watched him go.

“Bitter at the exuberance of youth, old-timer?” asked Emma.

I grunted and she laughed at me.

“It’s not dusty.” I looked around at my living space: the single chair and the workbench were clean. The swords crossed on the wall were polished, even the Hive cleaver. The entirety of my small book collection – 8 volumes in all – rested on their tiny bookcase, even if they weren’t all in the same order as when I had left them.

“Well, if you don’t use an apartment in the Tower and they don’t hear from you after 6 months they take it back. So I’d come by and make sure it was cared for, and logging in the swipe pad meant that you’d have a place to come back to.” Emma sat in the chair and flicked on the light.

“Leave it off.”

She frowned at me but complied, and the only light to the room streamed through the tiny window that faced the City. I placed my beaten satchel on the workbench, scattering red sand everywhere. By the Traveler, where did it all come from? I began emptying the bag, a piece at a time.

Emma crept up to look over my shoulder. “You found some interesting stuff.”


“Is that a Vex’s eye?”

“Hobgoblin.” I picked up the scope with the red eye in the front lens and handed it to her. “The sight resolution is unmatched. Unfortunately it still has Vex intelligence stored in it at some level. It’s more or less worthless as a scope, but it’s worth studying for R&D.”

“Why does that make it worthless?”

“The scope will intentionally feed false telemetry to make you miss; in some cases it just stops working. I disassembled the eye 6 times before I finally figured out that some vestige of the Vex mind was still in there. I don’t dare hook it up to anything in case it creates some kind of infection.”

I sorted the contents of my satchel: relics, experiments, tech, into their proper places on the workbench. Then I cleaned the surface, sweeping away the sand.

“Talk to me.” Emma was staring at me as I went through my tasks.


“You were gone for almost a year!” Her words were almost a shout. “You haven’t spoken to the family, you haven’t asked me how they are, you haven’t asked what has happened since you left! You haven’t said why you left!”

I turned to look at her: she was trembling. The scar on her face from our hunt on the Hive…gods, was it nearly 2 years ago?…was livid and bright even against her dark skin.

“I went to find Skadi. To kill her.” I lowered myself to the floor and leaned against the workbench. She sat next to me. I could see the light of my mechanical eye-shine reflected in her human eyes. “She got in my head.”

“The Wizard?”

I nodded. “Each time I die…she gets closer. It gets Darker. I don’t know how many deaths I have left.”

She took my hand in her own. “Have you seen the Speaker? The Vanguard? The Warlocks might help.”

“And become ostracized like Toland or Osiris? Or Dredgen Yor?” I shook my head. “No. I will find her and kill her. It’s the only choice I have.” I turned to look at her. “When they had me in the nest…it was always your face she took. To hurt me.”

Emma stared back at me. “I had no idea. Why…why didn’t you say something?”

“What was there to say? My first family member, the one who was adopted like me was what she tried to corrupt. I didn’t want you to know. They hurt you too.”

We sat in the dark for a few minutes more, hand in hand. Then she squeezed mine. “We should go. There’s a lot of work to do at the Wall.”

I nodded. “Ain’t no rest for the wicked, am I right?”

Emma chuckled. “None at all.”

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

Day 796 – Finale

If Heaven and Hell decide that they both are satisfied
And illuminate the “NO’s” on their vacancy signs
If there’s no one beside you when your soul embarks
Then I’ll follow you into the Dark

Death Cab for Cutie, I’ll Follow You into the Dark

I was up to to my knees and sinking in oily muck the consistency of mud. The wind was black and thick with Blight, whipping through the joints and plates of my frame. I had lost my armor some time ago, and my cloak long before that. I clutched the broken hatchet I had found weeks before as I slogged forward. I couldn’t see the Tower anymore…in truth I didn’t even know if it was still there because the wind obscured everything beyond a few meters. There were still bodies, their fingers and the tops of their heads poking through the sludge. I couldn’t remember which had been there and which I had killed. Maybe I had killed them all.

I could hear her laughing. It was louder now, a cacophony.

“Hunter! We have unfinished business!” Each word was a thunderstorm, every syllable a rumble of thunder that buried whole litanies and sermons inside it, a never-ending echo-chamber of spells and power that descended into some unseen depth.

I had to get to the Tower. I had to cross the field. I was so close. So close.

Claws, shining with Darkness, pierced the Blighted mist and wrapped around my skull. I was hauled free of the muck to stare her in the eyes. Blight dripped from her fangs.

“WE HAVE UNFINISHED BUSINESS!” Her scream warped sound and color and heat and cold and death and time…

I struck at her, burying the broken hatchet in her crest. She screamed, but it was a scream of laughter, and I felt her claws dig deeper the more I fought, plucking at my memory and my inner self. Something buried deep in that inner self knew to fight was to worship, to worship was to surrender to the Deep, the Law of these Spaces that had invaded my space, my mind-

Light, wholesome and clean and bright charged my circuits. It wasn’t much Light, but when a person has spent a long time in a dark room even a little illumination can be blinding.

“Up!” a familiar voice said. I tried to place it. Hands spun me around, pointing me down the thoroughfare. “Run! We’ll catch up. RUN!”

I tried to run and felt something clutch at my ankle: the Centurion’s big fist was wrapped around my leg. He was shattered, his armor and body broken as if he been caught beneath a falling cruiser. Even as pressure gel pumped mercilessly into the red sand he clutched at me. I pulled my sword free from his mangled forearm and gave him a swift soldier’s death. Then I disentangled myself and ran.

The Cabal were in disarray. The Interceptors were smoking ruins, the Harvesters  were raining fire from the sky. Troops hunkered in the nearby buildings and behind shields, firing into the battle zone. I ran. I didn’t even have enough Light to channel into my sword for protection, but my armor did the trick. Once clear of the slugs I summoned my Sparrow and gunned it.

“Ebony?” I asked, //fearful of the answer.

“Here.” My Ghost sounded exhausted.

“Blood of the Traveler, I thought you might be dead.”

“Nearly.” He fell silent again.

The moment I was clear of the Blight it felt like the sun had risen. Light coursed through me again, charging everything. I slowed the Sparrow and turned.

My rescuer pulled up on her Sparrow, and I recognized the orange cloak and leather armor. “Arianna, it’s nice to see you.”

“Morc; you’re welcome for saving your life,” said the other Hunter. “If you had a death wish you could have least let us all know first.”

“I trusted the Traveler would help me out, though I admit you cut it close.”

Arianna took off her helmet and smoothed her red mohawk. “Sure you did.” The Awoken Hunter dismounted and took my hand cannon out of her belt. “You’ll want this where we’re going.”

I took the gun. “Where’s that?”

“I’ll explain when my backup gets here.”

I holstered my weapon. “How did you find me?”

“I had help.” As if on cue a winged ship in Dead Orbit colors cut through the sky overhead. It banked sharply and came around, then settled next to us, kicking up sand and dust.

A Titan transmatted out to the surface. He was dressed in black and green, his armor resembling a shirt of chain mail more than the common cuirass of plate. His helmet was off, revealing a human with a shaggy mane of blonde hair, but he seemed unaffected by the thin air.

“Hello! You must be Morc-35!” he said to me. “I’m Findlay! Pleasure to meetcha!”

I stared at the cheery Titan as he approached and stuck out his hand. He looked no more than 20 years old. I looked at Arianna, ignoring the proffered handshake. “This doesn’t answer my question.”

“The help I meant wasn’t him.”

“She meant me.” Emma Ericksson had come up behind Findlay. He stood aside, looking a little flustered as Emma approached. “You told me I could tell them where you were in an emergency. Well, they said it’s an emergency.”

I dismounted my Sparrow and walked over to Emma to give her a hug. She buried her face in the edge of my cloak. “It’s been 8 months. You haven’t even called. I’ve…Father Ericksson has been worried.”

“I’m sorry,” I said, feeling a twinge of //guilt.

Emma pushed me away. “Save it. At least you’re OK.” She crossed her arms and glared.

I looked at Arianna. “So, this emergency?”

“It’s a big one!” Findlay interrupted before she could speak. Arianna closed her mouth and rolled her eyes so hard I thought her skull might crack. “The Fallen have breached the Wall!”

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

Day 796 – Part 2

I imagine death so much it feels more like a memory
When’s it gonna get me?
In my sleep, seven feet ahead of me?
If I see it comin’, do I run or do I let it be?
Is it like a beat without a melody?
See, I never thought I’d live past twenty
Where I come from some get half as many
Ask anybody why we livin’ fast and we laugh, reach for a flask
We have to make this moment last, that’s plenty

~Lin Manuel-Miranda, My Shot (Hamilton: An American Musical)

Snap. Flick. Click. Snap. I emptied my hand cannon and reloaded without even a thought and cut down another dozen shadowy Thrall.

The Wizard retreated into the recesses of the gutted building. I followed her, the muzzle flash from my gun lighting the way.

“Come on Wizard!” I shouted at her. “You ran on Earth! You ran on the Dreadnought! Stop running!”

She laughed again, and more Thrall shadows rushed me from the Darkness. I shot them as well. Snap. Flick. Click. Snap. “Coward!” I screamed into the shadows.

This time I was met with silence. I waited, but neither Thrall or Wizard emerged. I cast a grenade into the Dark and the Arc Light revealed nothing. Nothing.

“NO!” I screamed. “Come out! Come out, you demon!” No one answered.

“Guardian.” Ebony’s voice was soft. “The Cabal are gathering outside.”

I swore and turned on my heel. The air still seethed with Blight, making everything murky. The scuff of sand on my boots was hushed. I walked to the exit and stopped just short of stepping into the light.

4 Harvesters hovered outside, dropping troops into the thoroughfare. The Cabal had formed a shield wall behind which the Legionaries and Psions had gathered. Most wore Siege Dancer colors and the ranks were quiet. I counted the shields: the wall was 16 Phalanxes wide and the unit was at least 4 deep, not to mention Psions in reserve. More Harvesters dropped off troops.

I glanced side to side, looking for an exit. The Interceptors had taken up positions at the nearest intersections. I considered retreating into the building and escaping through the other side…and then the Harvesters opened fire on the lower stories. Building material began to crash down in the dark behind me and dust billowed out into the street.

“I think you pissed them off by harassing them for the last few months,” said Ebony.

I laughed: //anger was still coursing through me at having lost the Wizard. I checked the rounds in my hand cannon and stepped into the light.

The Centurion, in the rank behind the Phalanxes, bellowed out an order. The shield wall advanced and slugs began to smack into the sand and the building supports behind me as they opened fire.

I blinked forward and over the shields, pushed off the air molecules with Light to turn myself around, and threw an Arc grenade into their midst. Cracks of thunder and lightning split the armor on 2 Legionaries and opened the ranks, and I dropped into the middle of the Cabal horde, my hand cannon already roaring with fury.

The Cabal unit split down the middle where I had made the hole and reformed around me: the maneuver was smoother than Reef silk and I was suddenly surrounded by a living vice of metal and Cabal flesh. Rather than fire and risk hurting each other they rushed to crush me with their weight, the Centurion leading the charge.

I shot at him first, firing for the joint on his knee. Even as I raised my gun he turned his bulk so that the round struck the armor on his thigh, slowing but not felling him. He rushed in and aimed a fist at my head.

I blinked past him, knife in hand, and turned to bury it in the space between his helmet and shoulder armor. The knife glanced off his shoulder instead: again he had turned, and though I scored his armor I didn’t hurt him. He pushed off the ground, using his bulk to upset my balance.

I juked aside as the first of the Phalanxes closed in, swinging his shield. I blew off his helmet with a couple of shots, then ducked as another soldier rushed in, and then another. I felt my own armor crunch as I was struck. I blinked away again, only to find myself in another group of Cabal. I blinked again, this time clearing the attackers, but now with no risk of hitting their own comrades I was being shot at.

“Blood of the Traveler!” I yelled and drew my sword. I blinked back at the unit and began cutting through them: Arc Light poured through the blade like a wave, melting their armor like sand fortifications on a beach. And still they formed up, and still they rushed in.

Stoppage fluid began leaking through my armor as I began taking hits. I was vaguely aware that Ebony was trying to warn me that there was too much Blight and reviving me was impossible. A shield smacked into me and I went sailing to collide with another Legionary. I rolled away and called the Light through my body, pulled out my knife and danced through the Cabal, disintegrating them with snaps of Arc energy.

But then the Light was gone: there was nothing left, and the Blight continued to cloud everything. I knelt in the sand with my gun in hand and kept shooting as the Cabal closed around me.

The Centurion rushed me again: he was wounded but not more than I was. He had scooped up the shield of a fallen Phalanx to block my shots long enough to get close. He batted my gun out of my hand with it. I drew my sword and buried the blade in his forearm. He roared, seized me by the cloak with his other hand and threw me to the sand, then planted a boot in my chest. Circuits and plating cracked. He pointed his gun at my head.

Just before the muzzle flash, I saw a bright shooting star descending from the sky behind him, rushing down and growing larger by the millisecond. Then he fired and my world was Dark again.

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

Day 796 – Part 1

Well you may throw your rock and hide your hand
Workin’ in the Dark against your fellow man
But as sure as God made black and white
What’s done in the Dark will be brought to the Light

You can run on for a long time
Run on for a long time
Run on for a long time
Sooner or later God’ll cut you down
Sooner or later God’ll cut you down

~Johnny Cash, God’s Gonna Cut You Down

The ceaseless wind pushed up a tiny dune of red sand in front of my vision. In the faint glow of dawn I could see the tiny grains tumbling over one another, pushed and pulled incessantly by air and gravity, helpless against the shaping forces of the planet. Eventually the wind picked up again and blew the little dune away, returning my line of sight to the campsite in front of me.

In the center there was a fire pit, its charred remains already coated in a fine red dust and leaving only a faint wisp of smoke. Camp fires were anachronistic when heat and light could be produced with modern technology, but Humans and Fallen seemed to find them comforting – even Hive used fire in rituals. A thin metal beam had been laid next to the fire pit to serve as a seat. The sand had been beaten and stirred with traffic, giving the impression of 3 to 4 campers who had stayed the night and already packed up and left before the rising sun. Any real tracks would have been already obscured by the blowing winds.

Without moving my head I looked up at the buildings: the hollowed skeletons of skyscrapers and ancient research facilities stretched their emaciated digits to the starry sky, clothed only in the tatters of rusted sidings and corroded pipes. The campsite itself sat in the hollow of a crater in what had once been a wide thoroughfare several lanes across, now abandoned by all but the occasional decrepit vehicle long since gone to decay. The only sound was the whistling and sighs of the wind that blasted and wore away at the remains, a susurrus that would never end until the cadaverous remains of the invaders were wiped away and buried beneath the ocean of dust that covered the red planet Mars.

It was perfect.

“Do you think they’ll come?” asked Ebony in my ear.

I didn’t respond. I was //amazed my Ghost thought I would even answer. Or maybe he didn’t expect an answer, and was merely passing the time. I trained my eyes up again, and saw a beam of light from Sol graze the top of the hollowed structures. Morning was here.

“I hear something,” said Ebony.

The ceaseless whispering of the wind was interrupted by the thrums of Interceptors; the sound bounced and careened off the buildings.

I waited.

The first of the Interceptors entered the thoroughfare nearly a kilometer away, the acoustics of the buildings making the sound seem much closer. It was joined by 3 more. They did not charge up the street at the campsite, but took their time without using their thrusters. The Cabal had learned.

The leader dismounted on arrival, his huge boots crunching the sand underfoot. He sank a little as the ground settled under him. The other Interceptors floated forward a few meters, but no one dismounted. I studied the leader as he approached the fire pit: a Centurion, wearing the blue and gold of a Siege Dancer. His armor was pocked, his insignia faded almost to nothing from regular exposure to sand and wind. He drew out his weapon, and I could even seen the smoothed areas of the grip from countless uses of the gun.

I felt the tiniest bit of //elation course through my circuits as the Centurion kicked his way through the remains of the campsite. My eyes flicked to his escorts: they had established a rough perimeter, floating their Interceptors in a lazy circle around their commander, but their gaze often strayed to the buildings above their heads.

“They think you’re up there in a sniper nest.” Ebony whispered even though no one else could hear him.

I waited.

The Centurion grunted to his troops, and 1 flicked something on his Interceptor and barked a series of commands. Moments later a pair of Harvesters swooped through the sky, low and slow, taking their time as they passed between the skyscrapers. The Centurion grunted again, and his escorts dismounted. They began talking, gesturing at the fire pit and the buildings all around.

“Something’s wrong,” said Ebony. “The Centurion is saying he doesn’t want to deploy his troops.”

I squeezed the grip of my rifle and mentally backtracked through my preparations. Had I missed something? Did they know?

“Wait…a lieutenant is insisting it’s protocol.” Ebony “hmmed,” to himself as he parsed the speech. “She’s very adamant. The others are telling her that protocol out here is different. Maybe she’s a transfer from the Sky Burners.”

More talks and grunts. The Harvesters had arrived now, and the sound of their engines overwhelmed almost everything as they floated above. The wind was stirred by their presence and kicked sand every which way.

“The Centurion sounds like he’s making a compromise…they’re deploying a Harvester here and sending the others on.”

A Harvester activated its thrusters and flew down the thoroughfare while the other opened its belly and disgorged Legionaries and Psion troops to the ground. The Psions chattered and spread out, and 1 came straight at my position and stopped with its boot less than half a meter from my face, looking up and all around.

I waited.

Then the air tore open with a scream and I felt a wash of //relief as the first of the Taken launched their attack. Vex simulacrum, looking like living, oily smoke charged the Cabal. The massive soldiers formed up with intense discipline to repel the Taken. A Taken Minotaur appeared in their midst, blasting several Legionaries aside.

I waited.

Shadowy Thrall suddenly charged in, whipping their claws through the air at the Cabal, only to be easily knocked aside to disappear. Several Thrall managed to latch onto the Centurion, who calmly pointed his gun at the clinging shadows and vaporized them.

I followed the trail of shadowy Thrall back to their source, looking and //hoping

A Taken Wizard floated in the mouth of a doorway to one of the buildings: she was all but invisible, a deeper shadow in the darkness of the crumbled structure, sending forth her spawn to crush the Cabal interlopers.

In a single motion I stood and raised my sniper rifle, the sand cascading and streaming off my invisible form in a shower of dust, sighted on the Taken Wizard and fired. I heard a Cabal yell out the word I knew to mean “Guardian”, but I ignored them: the bait had served their purpose.

“Skadi!” I screamed at the Wizard. “I’m here to finish our business!”

I could hear her shrieking laughter on the wind.

Categories: Morc-35 | 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: , , , ,

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