Thread Rating:
  • 0 Vote(s) - 0 Average
  • 1
  • 2
  • 3
  • 4
  • 5
After The End, A Beginning
After The End, A Beginning
We called it the Traveler. And its arrival changed us forever. Great cities were built on Mars and Venus, Mercury became a garden world. Human lifespan tripled. It was a time of miracles. We stared out into the galaxy and knew that it was our destiny to walk in the light of other stars... but the Traveler had an enemy. A Darkness which had hunted it for eons across the black gulfs of space. Centuries after our Golden Age began, this Darkness found us, and that was the end of everything... But it was also a beginning.
Sometimes, you know from the moment you wake up that the day is just going to suck. Given that I woke up with the sun high above me, and I was lying on what was clearly dirt and some rather pointy rocks digging right into my lower spine, I was definitely in for a lousy time. Rolling away from the rocks and dragging myself up to my knees, I couldn’t contain a groan at the exhaustion running through my body, that odd feeling of both not enough sleep and sleeping too long. Holding back a yawn, I reached up to rub at my eyes, only to pause as my fingers bounced off some sort of visor.
As I started to actually wake up, it dawned on me that I wasn’t just wearing a visor. My entire head was encased inside a sealed helmet, and when I managed to open my eyes, I saw my hands and forearms were covered in a thick, grey material, armor plating included in the less flexible sections. Some sort of bodysuit, maybe body armor. Not a good sign. I didn’t know where I was. Another bad sign. And as I thought about it, I didn’t know how I got here. Maybe it was just the uncomfortable awakening, but when I tried to remember yesterday, it just refused to take shape in my mind. What the hell had happened to me?
“Guardian? Guardian. Eyes up, Guardian!” The woman's voice cut through the panic that was starting to form, and the exhaustion vanished as alarm filled my body. I jumped to my feet, ready for anything, ready to get some damn answers. That would have been nice. Instead, I found myself staring at what looked like some sort of tiny robot, slightly bigger than my hand, just floating in the air at about head height. A blue diamond optic stared at me from the grey central core, as a set of four white cones rotated around its forward half. “It worked,” it said, sounding almost gleeful. “You’re alive!”
Before I could ask for details on just what the hell that meant, the drone continued on, bouncing up and down in the air slightly. “You don’t know how long I’ve been looking for you. I’m a Ghost. Actually, I’m your Ghost. And you… well, you’ve been dead for a long time. So you’re going to see a lot of things you don’t understand.”
Luckily, with my face hidden behind my helmet, the machine couldn’t see the utterly baffled expression that comment caused. Dead. It thought I’d been dead? How did that even work? Death wasn’t some temporary condition you just got over. It was a permanent and final end. Really, the concept was ridiculous. This ‘Ghost’ had to be faulty.
I was completely certain of that. And then I turned my attention away from the robot for a moment to consider my surroundings. In front of me was a highway, one that looked like it had been abandoned for decades, maybe more. Grass, plants and even some small trees had done a good job of destroying the asphalt, and at least one section had collapsed at some point. But worse than that were the vehicles. Car, trucks, motorcycles… the road was covered in their rusted out shells. Swallowing instinctively, I took a step closer to the nearest car, looking in through where the passenger's side window should have been.
Flinching back, I couldn’t contain a gasp of horror as my brain processed the sight. The car hadn’t been abandoned. Inside, some still somewhat buckled up in their seats, were the long-decayed remains of the passengers. Between time and scavengers, almost nothing but bones remained, but that was still enough to get my heart racing as I looked at them. Especially the smaller pile in the back seat-
Thankfully, before I could truly finish processing the sight, and probably collapse into a panic attack, my attention was pulled away by a cry that echoed towards me from far down the highway. It was a mixed blessing though. While it distracted me from the graveyard in front of me, it was not a sound of safety. It was a shriek of rage and menace, a strange, animalistic bark that didn’t sound like it could have come from human lungs. And as I listened to it, I couldn’t shake the feeling that it was directed at me.
Next to me, the Ghost looked down the highway, then turned to me. “This is Fallen territory, we aren’t safe here,” it explained. “I have to get you to the city.” Considering that, I nodded slightly. Fallen was a word that invited all sorts of images, and none of them were really that pleasant. Wherever this city was, it sounded like the better option, at least until I could find out what the hell was going on. “Okay, hold still,” the Ghost added, before flying towards me and vanishing in a flicker of light.
As one would expect, that made me jump and look around slightly, before the Ghost spoke again, this time with an odd echo behind it. “Don’t worry, I’m still with you. Now, we need to move, fast.” I raised an eyebrow. It almost sounded like it was coming from... inside my head? What was this thing, and what had I gotten into?
Glancing back down the highway, I caught sight of movement in the distance. Humanoid figures, clad in red and brown, darting between the ruined cars in an attempt to stay out of sight. But even at this distance, I could see that they clearly weren’t human. Their proportions were slightly off, and the way they moved wasn’t quite right. They had to be the Ghosts Fallen. “Okay, you got a plan?” I asked, actually speaking for the first time since I woke up.
“We won’t survive long out in the open like this. Let’s get inside the wall.” Given that there wasn’t any kind of building in front of me, I turned around found the wall in question instantly. It was hard to miss once I was looking in its general direction, after all. The Wall, and it really needed to have a capital letter at the start of its name, was a massive structure, at least a hundred feet high, and stretching off in both directions for as far as the eye could see. Like the highway that ran up to it, it had clearly suffered from abandonment and time, steel panels missing or covered in rust, plants attacking the concrete, windows smashed in. Despite that, it was still an incredible sight that I had to stop and take in for just a moment.
I didn’t know what had happened. I still wasn’t sure I believed the Ghosts claims about my death. But I no longer had doubts about the validity of what I was seeing. Somehow, this was all real. Taking a breath, I ran for the Wall.
My first idea was the tunnel that the highway ran down into, but it was long buried by mud and dirt and was completely blocked off. Fortunately, there was a service entrance right next to it, with the door having fallen off at some point. I couldn’t see any other options, and I really didn’t want to be standing around outside when the Fallen on the road reached this point, so I charged in, taking the steps three at a time. Maybe I could lose them in the maintenance tunnels, find a dark corner or closet and stay there until they moved on.
While I considered that, it became clear that the Ghost was considering more proactive options. “Okay, I need to find you a weapon before the Fallen find us,” it said. “There should be something around here you could use.”
“Not if it’s as old and broken as the rest of this place,” I replied, looking at my surroundings. Rusted barrels, rotten boxes… I couldn’t see anything here that would make a decent weapon, unless I found a bit of pipe to use as a club perhaps.
“There should be something,” it mused. “After all, before the Collapse, this was a military facility.” Before it could continue, the sound of movement echoed through the corridor roof, and I slowed, putting my feet down much more softly. “Quiet,” whispered the voice in my head, rather pointlessly in my opinion. “They’re right above us.”
Whatever was above us, they didn’t linger long, the sounds moving back in the direction I’d come from. Taking the opportunity, I picked up the pace a little, quickly reaching the end of the current corridor. Here, the path was almost completely dark, until the Ghost reappeared next to my head, a light shining from its central optic to reveal another set of stairs. “Thanks,” I said, pausing to give a few oddly shaped storage crates next to the steps. Red, mostly spherical, with odd bulges on the side, they didn’t look like anything I’d seen before, and certainly stood out around all the old steel and concrete of the Wall.
Putting that aside for the moment, I went up the steps and around a corner, finding myself on a balcony that looked out over… something. With the Ghost the only light source in what was clearly a very large room, I had no way of knowing if I was ten feet above the floor, or fifty. Most likely a storeroom of some sort. “Hold up a moment,” the Ghost said, floating ahead of me. “Fallen thrive in the dark, we don’t. We need some light in here. Let me see what I can do.”
“Sure,” I replied, moving over to the railing and resting a hand against it, testing if it could hold my weight. Once I was certain I wasn’t going to go tumbling into the abyss, I took a deep breath and waited, watching as my tiny robot companion floated around. Occasionally, a second set of lights, tiny laser lines really, would sweep over whatever it was looking at.
“Another one of these hardened military systems and a few centuries of entropy working against me,” it grumbled to itself. As I watched, it darted back and forth between two separate sets of cables, running its lights over them. Every now and then, it muttered something quietly, clearly getting more irritated as systems refused to do what they were told. It was interesting, watching the little drone work. The grumbling, the way parts of its shell twitched in certain patterns, even the way it was flying back and forth looked like it was ‘stomping’ its feet in irritations. The Ghost had emotions, or it had been programmed so well there was virtually no difference. Fascinating.
Who had built it? Why was it out here all alone? Why had it been looking for me? I really wanted to get to the city now, if only so I could sit down and get some answers out of the thing.
My musing on the nature of the Ghost and the mystery of today were interrupted by a triumphant “Aha!” from my travelling companion. Looking up, I saw a series of lights in the ceiling and walls flicker to life, some faster and stronger than others. Below, I could see a number of shipping crates, while above was a crane system for movement and retrieval. Warehouse, like I’d thought. If we could get down safely, we might be able to hide inside a shipping crate. We’d need to move quickly, but it might work.
That plan lasted about five seconds, when strange, alien growls echoing across the warehouse grabbed my attention. Tracking the noise, I saw them standing on a walkway about fifty feet away, close enough for me to get a decent look at them. There were about half a dozen of them, most of them rather scrawny looking things that I guessed were about five and a half feet tall, wearing tattered brown bodysuits with red highlights. Standing at the far end of the pack though, one of them was drastically different. He was taller, bulkier, his armor looked more solid… Oh, and he had four arms. Definitely not human.
“They’re onto us!” the Ghost exclaimed, panic in its voice.
As the aliens raised their weapons, I looked around, trying to find something to take cover behind. Nothing like that presented itself, but with the lights on, I could see that a security shutter that covered a nearby corridor wasn’t all the way down. “Through there!” I said, sprinting for the opening. I took it feet first, dropping into a slide just in time to avoid a bolt of blue-white energy that crackled through the air. Skidding to a halt on the other side, I saw the Ghost dart through the opening, even as I scrambled to my feet. “Hiding isn't going to work now,” I managed.
“Probably not,” the Ghost agreed, looking around the corridor. Thankfully, it had managed to turn the lights on in here as well, which meant that at least I wouldn’t be tripping over things in the dark. I flinched as more bolts of energy cracked against the shutters behind us, panic rising in the back of my mind. “At least, not unless we can prove we’re more trouble than- aha, here, I found a rifle!” Sure enough, the machine was floating over an old, battered assault rifle, still clutched in the hands of its previous owner. “I hope you know how to use that thing,” it added as I reached down and shook the bones loose.
“Hell of a time to be asking me that,” I muttered, looking at the rifle for a moment. Khvostov 7G-02, fully automatic, twenty-five round magazine. Without really thinking about it, I checked the magazine, locked it back into place and put a round into the chamber. “Maybe I do,” I said, slightly surprised. I didn’t really remember using one before, but it felt rather natural. Then again, what did I remember?
Putting that thought aside for the moment, I started moving forward again, even as Ghost vanished back into my head, which was still as weird as the first time it happened. Behind me, the sound of weapons fire faded, which probably meant those particular Fallen probably knew a way around, and were on their way towards me right now. Four armed monsters hunting me in the shadows. Even with the Khvostov in my hands, I was utterly terrified. Still, it wasn’t like I had much of a choice. Trying to keep my hands from shaking, I kept moving through the Wall.
When my path crossed with the Fallen, less than a minute later, only pure luck saved me. One moment, I was turning a corner, rifle up and ready, then relaxing slightly as I saw the corridor ahead was empty. Then, before I had time to react, two of the creatures appeared right in front of me, seemingly out of nowhere. One slipped out through a gap in the wall that had once housed a pipeline, while the second one, one of those larger four armed ones I’d seen on the catwalk, dropped down from a hole in the ceiling. It was that one that raised his weapon first, a bulky, two handed weapon with a muzzle that looked like it was designed to vaporise doors, even as I skidded to a halt and tried to dive back around the corner. Just before it could fire though, the smaller alien tripped slightly on one of the remaining pipes, colliding with the other one's shoulder and knocking him off target.
As the corridor next to me exploded in a shower of shrapnel, I bit back on a terrified yelp, brought my rifle up, and fired. Short bursts, center of mass. Even through the fear, there was an odd sense of satisfaction from that. The closest description I could think of was professional pride. And then the four armed Fallen was falling to the floor, gasping in pain. Next to him, the other alien, the one whose clumsiness had probably saved my life, looked at his companion, then back up to me. Aiming the Khvostov at him now, I glanced at the pistol in his hand. “Drop it!” I ordered, wondering if it could even understand me.
Either it had no idea what I was saying, or it just didn’t care. Hissing at me, it raised its pistol, but it wasn’t even halfway up before I fired. Another short burst, another center of mass. Unlike the first one, which was still gasping in pain, this one was clearly dead as it simply slumped to the floor.
For a moment, I just stood there, looking at the pair. One dead, another well on its way. I’d just killed. Of course, they’d tried to kill me first, but even then, there was something horrible, something pointless about it. Then, taking a breath, I shook my head, stepped over the pair, and continued on my way.
I could wonder about life and death later. Right now, I needed to survive.
So, Destiny novelization with female-voice ghost? Innnteresting. Waiting to see if you're going to take this to innnteresting places and innnteresting people. *Hides the carrot*
While the general plot line will follow Destiny, there will be noticeable differences and additional elements. Basically, I'm looking to use the various wasted material in the lore.

Dinklebot and Nolanbot may appear elsewhere.

That first gunfight with the Fallen had been brief and terrifying, but it had also been a warning. This place was falling apart, with all sorts of hiding spots and crawlspaces in every hallway. I wanted to run, to escape this Wall as quickly as possible, but all I’d achieve with that would be running into an ambush and probably dying. Instead, I moved slower, carefully, constantly checking behind me, or any suspicious gap in the ceiling. It was slow, yes, and I couldn’t help but worry I was giving them time to surround me anyway, but at least this way I had a decent chance of catching the four armed bastards before they shot me.

“We call the ones with two arms Dregs,” the Ghost explained as I paused behind a support pillar, sweeping the room for movement or suspicious holes in the wall. “From what we know of Fallen society, they’re pretty much at the bottom of the ladder.”
“Hence the name?” I whispered, moving forward towards a door. It was open just a crack, and whatever was on the other side, at least it looked like the lights were all on.

“More or less,” agreed the Ghost. “I haven’t exactly seen them fight much - A Ghost isn’t really suited for combat without a Guardian, so most of what I know about them comes from Vanguard reports on them. They say that most of the time, Dregs tend to use knives and shock pistols, with the occasional rifle. Oh, and they really like grenades,” it added, sounding slightly worried.

Glancing through the opening for signs of life, I couldn’t help but frown, understanding that worry well enough. The thought of facing explosives in these narrow corridors was terrifying, possibly even worse than the initial ‘aliens want to kill me’ nightmare. That said, it didn’t sound like a major concern, if only because I doubted they’d want to risk catching themselves in the blast. If I made it out of here and into the open however...

Unaware of my thoughts, the Ghost continued with its brief lesson. “In battle, they’re usually led by Vandals. Uh, those are the ones with four arms and bigger guns,” it added helpfully. “After that, there’s Captains, and Barons, and so on, but, well, I really hope there aren’t any of them here at the moment.”

Pressing my foot against the door, I slowly pushed it open, waiting for the squeal of rusted hinges to bring trouble running. This time, it seemed I was in luck, and I heard only the tiniest squeak before it was open enough to let me through into what looked like an old bunk room. “They’re not the friendliest sort, I assume?” I asked, grinning weakly at the unease in the robot's voice.

“They’re usually at least nine feet tall,” the Ghost said, its voice unnaturally flat. My tiny smile promptly vanished.

“Okay, yeah, no thanks.” Adding ‘Vanguard’ to my list of things to properly interrogate the robot about later, I dodged around the rusted frames that were once bed and moved to an open doorway across the room. It led to what had once been a small bathroom before something had taken out the far wall, revealing yet another corridor. Pausing, I tried to remember the recent twists and turns, then sighed. “Which way?”

“If you take a left here, it should lead back to that catwalk across the storeroom,” my guide replied. “And before you say anything, I know that risks us running into some of those Fallen, but it should also be the quickest way out of the Wall. We get out of here, we’ve got a better chance of disappearing, or maybe even finding a vehicle.”

Biting my lip slightly, I thought about that, then nodded. “Risk vs reward, I suppose.” Sighing, I stepped out into the hallway. Before I could say anything else, the sound of movement caught my attention. Soft, barely audible, but it was still enough to make me tense, bringing the Khvostov up. For several seconds, there was nothing. Then I heard it a second time, a scraping noise, coming from ahead of me, followed by tiny flecks of concrete falling from a gap in the ceiling about ten feet away.

A moment later, a Dreg dropped into view, landing in an easy crouch dead ahead. Looking through the rifles cracked sights, I saw four glowing white eyes lock onto me, and a faint chill of horror settled into my stomach at just how alien it truly looked. Not wasting any time, I squeezed the trigger. Clean shot, center of mass.

And I missed.

With a speed I sure didn’t expect, the Dreg darted down and to the side, easily avoiding my fire. The next thing I knew, bolts of that blue-white light the Ghost had called Arc energy were flying at me, and I fled back into the bathroom for cover. “Fast little bastard,” I muttered to myself, flinching back as several tiles shattered next to me.

“Should we double back?” asked the Ghost.

“No, they’ll surround us for sure that way. Only real option’s to break through-” The gunfire paused, and I took the opening, stepping out into the corridor again. Finding the Dreg was easy enough, as now that it had sprung its attempted ambush, it had nowhere to take cover. Looking up from reloading its weapon, it snarled at me and prepared to dodge, This time however, I was ready for the things speed, and it took several rounds to the chest and head, dropping it. Briefly, silence settled on the hallway, but it was quickly broken by the animalistic shouts of other aliens in the distance.

Cursing to myself, I started moving forward, but just as I passed the corpse, the Ghost told me to stop. “We don’t have time-” I began, but it cut me off.

“That pouch on its belt, open it up.” I frowned, but did as it instructed, finding a strange block of white crystal inside. Before I could take a good look at it, it disintegrated in a flash of light, and I responded by jumping up and shaking my fingers like they’d been burned.“Preprogrammed smartmatter,” the damn robot explained, sounding rather proud of itself. “This form’s used to store ammunition, which I can convert to a form your rifle can use.”

“Right, good, okay,” I replied, getting my breathing under control. Sure, ammo was good, but the little demon still could have warned me it was going to do that. “Can we go now?”

“We probably should.”

Thankfully, whatever map the Ghost had come up with was accurate, because just as it had said, the corridor led back to that catwalk I’d seen those Fallen cross earlier. Unfortunately, the platform in front of that catwalk was currently occupied by a pair of Dregs and a Vandal, all of which appeared to be quite mad at me. One of the Dregs snarled something at the top of its lungs, waved a pair of knives in the air, and promptly charged me. My response was to instinctively shoot the bastard long before he reached me, sending him crashing into a pile of old plastic shipping containers. Given he was still on the far side of the room, this was probably a mistake, but in my defense, those knives looked like they belonged in a slasher movie and I didn’t want them anywhere near me.

Either way, it left me with two serious problems. First was the fact that the other two Fallen had used the chance to move to better cover. Second, my gun was empty. I’d forgotten to reload, and thus, was now standing out in the open without bullets. Suitably terrified, I glanced around the room, then ran towards the first solid object I saw, even as I dropped the now empty magazine. “You said you were making me more ammo, right?” I gasped, diving behind my new cover.

“It’s ready, left hand!” came the reply, my fingers tingling from that teleport effect again, and the sudden weight of a fresh magazine appeared. Fumbling slightly, I managed to reload the gun, a moment before a pair of arc bolts grazed my helmet. For a moment, I froze, stunned, then swore as I realized I’d chosen to take cover behind a plastic box. Cursing my stupidity, I scrambled to my feet, then ran towards a nearby concrete pillar.

Pain ripped through my left shoulder, racing down my arm and across my chest. Gasping, I managed to make it behind the pillar in something of a controlled fall, leaning against it and taking a breath before looking down. A large piece of armor over my bicep was missing, and the flesh underneath… “Guardian, focus on my voice,” Ghost said, voice low and determined. “I’m monitoring your armors health monitors. I know it hurts, but it’s only the skin. You can make it through this.”

Taking a breath, I forced the nausea back. The pain was real, but I couldn’t let it dominate me. If it did, the Fallen would kill me. And then they would probably destroy Ghost as well. I couldn’t let that happen. I was starting to like the little robot, and besides, it still owed me a proper explanation for what was happening.

The pain faded somewhat, and the world came back into focus. I could hear one of the Fallen saying something in its native tongue, an odd series of barks that echoed oddly. But the other had gone quiet, not speaking or firing its weapons. I focused my attention and listened.

Above, claws scraped against metal, and I spun, bringing my rifle up. My left arm burned with pain, but I ignored it as I saw the Vandals crawling along the ceiling, two arms grabbing at handholds, the other two holding a large, misshapen rifle. Realizing it was seen, it brought the rifle around and took aim, a blue-white glow forming at the tip.

It seemed that alien rayguns needed time to charge before firing. My Khvostov didn’t. I hit the bastard right in the center of its row of eyes, taking the head clean off. To my surprise, there was no blood. Instead, a grey-white light leaked from the wound, evaporating into the air. “Huh,” I panted, watching as the body fell off the ceiling, landing awkwardly over a railing. Then, remembering the Vandal hadn’t been alone, I turned my attention to the Dreg.

Snarling furiously, the creature had stepped out from behind the overturned table it had been using for cover, and was holding a long stick whose tip was visibly crackling with energy. “Grenade!” Ghost yelled. My eyes widened, and I promptly shot the crazy alien mid-throw. It was a wild shot, barely clipping the Fallen, but it still made it drop the grenade. The Dreg froze, staring at the bomb at its feet in what I suspect was horror. Meanwhile I turned and ran like hell across the catwalk.

I expected fire, flames, debris, everything movies have taught us to expect from grenades. Instead, I heard a series of sharp cracks, and a flash of light I was quickly coming to associate with Arc energy. Reaching the other side of the catwalk, I turned back, then had to stop and stare. Small pulses of the blue-white energy were dancing over the floor and the unlucky Dregs corpse, occasionally causing a small burst of sparks when they touched something conductive. “Huh. You know, I expected more…”

“Boom?” Ghost offered.

“Yeah, that.” Groaning, I leaned against the catwalk railing, taking deep breaths to push down the pain. “God dammit.” Feeling my hands start to shake, even as my breathing sped up, I closed my eyes for a moment. This wasn’t the time, not yet. I could have a nice breakdown later, when I was away from murderous monsters. Thankfully, the terror began to recede slightly, the shaking fading away. Opening my eyes, I looked back across the catwalk, watching the last of the arc energy fade away. As the crackling came to an end however, another noise caught my ear. Chittering, hisses and barks, the sounds I was quickly coming to recognise as the language of the Fallen. And it was coming from the corridors behind me. Great.

Checking my rifle, I prepared myself for yet another fight, but as I turned, I caught sight of a small alcove, tucked away in the corner just past the hallway. It was probably a cupboard before time and rust hollowed it out, but now, with a little luck... “I’m not sure this is a good idea,” Ghost noted as I ducked into my new hiding spot.

“Honestly, neither am I,” I admitted as I managed to reload the Khvostov. “But I’ve already been shot once today. Another fight right now probably won’t end well. Now quiet.” Pressing myself as tight as I could against the back wall, I listened as the voices came ever closer. Eventually, they reached the steps up to the catwalk and, without slowing down, continued on over to the other side. I didn’t dare look, just in case one of them was looking back, or lingering behind the rest, but at a guess, there were probably at least four or five of them.

“Well, I’m in your head right now, so they can’t hear me,” Ghost pointed out. “Which is actually a good thing, because it lets me explain something important. Something I haven’t been able to tell you about yet. Take a look at your arm, where you were shot.” Frowning, I realized that the pain was starting to recede, feeling more like an ache than the burning sensation from earlier. Looking down, I blinked in surprise. A minute ago, my skin had been burned away, revealing the flesh underneath. Now though, the skin was back, a soft golden-brown that almost seemed to glow as the pain faded away completely. A moment later, the bodysuit I was wearing began to repair itself as well, new material seemingly growing from the edges of the tear.

Before I could say anything, and probably get us both killed, Ghost began to explain. “Your armor isn’t the best, given I had to use whatever materials were around, but I was still able to include a basic self-repair system. But your own healing, that comes from somewhere else. You are a Guardian,” it said, its voice low, almost… reverent. “Your soul is a conduit for the Travelers Light, a power unlike anything else in the universe. The power to stand against the Darkness that threatens us all. Increased physical abilities, including regeneration, are part of the standard package, as it were.”

Even if the situation hadn’t been so dangerous, I doubt I would have been able to speak. Superpowers. Honest to god superpowers. Aliens, strange robots, and now superpowers. I thought back to when I’d run towards the Wall, only now realizing I’d never felt tired or even short of breath. And I might have even been running faster than I’d noticed. Grinning to myself, I listened to the sound of Fallen arguing in the distance. My chances of getting out of this madhouse might have just gone up a lot. At the same time though, there was something about what Ghost said that was bouncing around the back of my mind. Traveler. I’d heard that name somewhere before, somewhere important, but for now, the details seemed to elude me.

Shaking my head, I put the thought aside for the moment. Judging by the noise, at least a few  Fallen were moving on, away from me. It made sense really. If they didn’t realize that they’d run past my hiding spot, the logical assumption was that I’d doubled back down a side corridor. Shifting slightly, I risked a quick peek, leaning out of my hiding spot as little as possible. On the other side of the catwalk stood two Dregs, their backs to me as they talked to each other. One of them growled something, then knelt down next to the corpse of the Vandal I’d fought earlier. Despite the situation, I winced slightly, feeling a slight stab of guilt. Yes, it had been trying to kill me, and I hadn’t really had any other choice but to fight back, but seeing one of its own kind mourn it-

Snarling, the other Dreg shoved the first one aside, before planting a foot on the corpse's chest, reaching down and pulling at something. I heard a rather disturbing crack, and the Dreg stumbled back, holding up a piece of armor in triumph. Understanding dawned on me, and the guilt faded away to nothing. “Typical,” Ghost muttered, clearly thinking the same thing. “You know, some people back in the City think that the entire Fallen culture is based around stealing anything they can from anyone that can’t stop them. It really would explain a lot.”

As the two Dregs began to fight over the body, I ducked into the corridor the’d originally emerged from, bringing my rifle up. Once I made certain nothing was going to pop out of hiding and attack, I started moving forward as quickly as I could while still staying quiet. “Hey, if it distracts them from following us I’m not sure we can really complain right now,” I whispered back.


It seemed that my earlier comments to Ghost had been more accurate than I would have thought. Despite the paranoia brought on by the fights, which led to us checking every corner and looking over my shoulder every five seconds, it appeared we’d actually managed to get past most of the Fallen lurking in the Wall. Soon enough, the narrow hallways came to an end, opening into what had once been a pump room of some sort, before time and looters had ripped the machinery apart. Now, it seemed like the Fallen had converted it into a living area of some sort, with various  supplies and equipment stacked in corners, and red banners hanging on the walls.

Completing a sweep of the room, I looked up at the central banner, considering the symbol woven into it. The best description I could think of was three blades, shaped to look like an animal's skull. “What is this?” I asked Ghost as it appeared in the air next to my head.

“The symbol of the House of Devils,” it replied, running its scanner lights over the object. “Ever since the Battle of Twilight Gap, they’ve been the most active House on Earth. Or at least the most visible. The House of Kings are mostly in hiding, but they still pop up from time to time, plotting against the City.” Turning away from the banner, it flew around the room, scanning various supplies. “I’ve heard reports that Winter is mostly based on Venus these days, scavenging anything that’s survived the biosphere degradation,” it continued as it paused by one of the old pumps. Behind it, I tilted my head to the side thoughtfully, mentally filing Venus away as yet another interesting little detail of this strange world. “As for the Wolves, who knows? The last time anyone heard about them, they went up against the Reef. That didn’t go well for them,” it mused, twitching in what seemed like the robot version of a shudder, before pausing and turning back to me. “And you’ve got no idea what I’m talking about, do you?” it asked, sounding sheepish.

Chuckling softly, I shook my head. “Not really, but it’s helping,” I replied. “Fair warning, I am going to interrogate you later. At length. Once a horde of four armed aliens aren’t trying to kill us. So we should probably keep moving,” I pointed out, my amusement fading. Bobbing up and down in a nod, Ghost flew back towards me, vanishing in a flicker of light again, and I set off for a side door that opened up into an old air vent. One that turned out to be slightly flooded, which I discovered by stepping right into a puddle. “Well, at least I know my boots are properly sealed,” I muttered, ignoring the giggling in the back of my head.

Trying to avoid the water, both on the ground and dripping from various cracks in the ceiling, I made my way down the tunnel, ducking between the blades of a fan that broke down an eternity ago. Surprisingly enough, there were still some fans slowly spinning further down, sending shadows spinning across the curved walls. Given the amount of light coming down the tunnel, there had to be an exit not that much further down. If I could get past the fans...

“There, on the right,” Ghost said suddenly, pointing out a doorway just before the next fan blades. “That should lead out into the Cosmodrome. There has to be something we can fly out of here.”

Bringing my rifle up, I entered the doorway and moved down the short tunnel. “Cosmodrome? Like the Baikonur Cosmodrome?” I asked, the word triggering something in my brain. It was like when Ghost had mentioned the Traveler. There was something about this place, something important to me, but once again, I couldn’t grasp the details. Then again, I’d been here, supposedly dead, when Ghost found me, so maybe it was as simple as that.

“Well, if the maps I found are accurate, yeah,” Ghost replied cheerfully, unaware of my thoughts. And then I emerged from the Wall and stepped into the Cosmodrome, rifle at the ready for any threats. Thankfully, while the first thing I saw would definitely have been a threat once, the tank had been left to the elements for centuries, leaving it nothing but a rusted husk. I caught sight of several more tanks, covered in rust and dirt, along with what was left of a truck and some shipping crates. Then I looked past them, past some old buildings, and looked up.

Spaceships. Visible in the distance, but still looking like they were the size of skyscrapers, were two spaceships, standing tall in their launch scaffolding. It was obvious even from this distance that they were as old and neglected as everything else around us, but even so, I still had to stop and take in the sight. They weren’t really a single craft, but multiple vessels fused together. Giant rockets, shuttlecraft of some sort, massive storage containers, and three spheres on top that I suspected were the size of city blocks. They were clearly designed to leave Earth as fast as possible, with as much mass as possible, and quite possibly never stop.

“Colony ships,” Ghost said quietly, as much awe in its voice as I was feeling right now. “Back in the Golden Age, hundreds of them launched from places like here. This is where humanity began its march to the stars.”

“I can’t think of anywhere more appropriate,” I replied, smiling softly. Gagarin’s legacy, continuing on from here. Incredible. Then the smile faded. “But the Golden Age didn’t last,” I noted as I walked past the tanks and along a decayed service road. “You say we climbed up, but it looks like we fell back down again.”

For a moment, the tiny machine didn’t reply. I took the time to jump down over a ledge to what had once been an unloading area for shipping containers. “We don’t know much about the Collapse,” it admitted. “Most of the records were destroyed, and the survivors either didn’t pass on the relevant details, or weren’t in the right place to know what happened. But we know it didn’t happen because of humanity. It was an attack.”

Frowning thoughtfully, I turned back in the direction of the Wall. “The Fallen?” I asked.

“They’re a symptom, not the disease,” Ghost said. It would have continued, except for the sudden rumbling noise that echoed across the Cosmodrome. Spinning towards the noise, I instinctively brought my rifle up, before my eyes widened and I lowered it again. After all, I couldn’t really imagine any gun having much effect against two massive cones of blue-white light, rippling out from a point in the sky. I watched as the light brightened in intensity, the noise growing louder by the second. “Jump point!” Ghost exclaimed, sounding horrified. “We’ve got a ship incoming, a big one!”

With a deafening roar, the rift exploded, sending a shockwave of energy racing across the sky. The wind that followed it knocked me back several feet as it passed, but I barely noticed it, my eyes locked on one of the two spaceships. Everything it had endured, centuries of neglect, the elements, probably the Fallen looting it, it all came to an end when that shockwave hit. As I stood there, the launch scaffolding buckled, the craft began to tilt, and then something inside the ancient vessel buckled. It snapped, just below the spheres, collapsing in on itself as it fell, and all I could do was watch as a piece of history died.

For a moment, I didn’t more, stunned by what I’d just seen. But then the roar of engines dragged my attention back to reality, and I looked towards the colony ships killer. “That’s… not a human look,” I said at last, watching the misshapen craft pass overhead. It was a bizarre sight, an asymmetrical mess, with a long, pointed bow, a gigantic engine hanging off the port side, and odd curves and bulges elsewhere.

“It can’t be. That’s a Fallen Ketch,” Ghost muttered, disbelieving. “They’ve never brought them so close to the surface before.”

Adjusting my grip on the Khvostov, I watched as half a dozen smaller ships in a similar design style appeared out of thin air, taking up positions around the Ketch. “Well, it looks like the Fallen decided to break from tradition,” I muttered. “I don’t think this is just a raiding party.”

“No, it’s not,” Ghost agreed, appearing next to me, even as the Ketch continued to fly away, passing out of sight behind the buildings. “That Ketch could have hundreds of soldiers on board, maybe more. That’s an occupation force. They’re planning on holding the Cosmodrome.”

Imagining an army of the vicious monsters I’d fought in the wall, I couldn’t help but shudder. Licking suddenly dry lips, I asked, “Do we need to go that way?”

Pausing to consider its maps for a moment, Ghost shook its body. “That path leads to the Rocketyards. It’s mostly heavy industry and train lines to supply the colony ships.” It turned around and pointed to the left, pretty much the exact opposite direction the Ketch had gone. “That way leads to the docks for smaller jumpships. And that’s probably our best bet for finding something we can fly, or at least getting further away from the Fallen - hey, wait up!” it protested, flying after me as I broke into a run before it could finish. “Just because I have anti-grav propulsion doesn’t mean I like high speed flying!”

Getting into the building was simple, if worrying. A quick search of the loading docks revealed that one of the doors had been pried open recently, which at least gave me a way inside, although I probably didn’t want to run into the people indulging in breaking and entering before me. “They could still be inside,” Ghost decided to point out as we moved into the building.
Stepping around a puddle, I couldn’t help but grimace slightly. “So, we go slowly,” I whispered.
“It probably wouldn’t hurt?”
“Even with a possible army of four armed monsters landing behind us?”
Even though it was currently intangible, I could almost feel Ghost shuddering at the thought. “Okay, fair point, but the only other plan I’ve got right now is screaming, and I can’t really think of any way that would actually help,” it admitted weakly.
Despite everything, I had to smile at that. “It might make us feel better,” I replied, earning a giggle from the tiny robot.
As we moved through the halls, it was clear the Fallen had been hard at work, demonstrating that looters remained the same across species. Storage cupboards torn open, desk drawers thrown on the ground, I could even see computer cases that had been ripped open and the motherboards stolen. It was odd, really. This entire Cosmodrome had been killed, slowly and painfully, by time and neglect, but seeing crude vandalism here was actually rather infuriating.
Still, at least the power was on somehow. Trying to navigate this place in the dark would just be asking for trouble. As I moved into what looked like some sort of machinery workshop, I wondered just how anything in the Cosmodrome could have power after all this time. Maybe the Fallen had hooked up a generator to make their scavenging easier?
Appearing next to me in a flicker of light, Ghost flew across the workshop towards a desktop computer. “This computer still has power, and I think it’s hooked up to the local intranet,” it reported. “Or what’s left of it at least,” it corrected itself, running its scanner lights over the computer tower. A moment later, the light cut off, and it ducked under the desk. “Ah, I found the router. You know, there’s a lot more of the network up and running than I would have expected. They used to really make things to last.”
“Glorious Soviet Engineering at work,” I commented, looking over a workbench that contained what I guessed was a half-disassembled turbine. “I don’t suppose the security system survived?” I added, picking up an old socket wrench. “We might be able to find a way around the Fallen.”
There was a rather unladylike snort from under the table. “Not with ‘Glorious Soviet Paranoia’ getting in the way,” it grumbled. “Everything I’ve got access to here is civilian or administration. Anything like that would go through the military network.” There was a pause, then Ghost flew back up into view. “Got it,” it declared. “Records show there was an Arcadia-class jumpship in dock thirteen. That could be our ticket out of here.”
“If it’s still there, and if it still flies,” I pointed out.
“I’ve heard stories about Arcadias surviving a lot worse than time in a hanger. It’ll be a bit battered, but it’ll fly,” Ghost said, sounding rather confident as it vanished back into my head. (I really needed to come up with a better description than that.)
Putting the socket wrench back down, I made my way towards the door, but I couldn’t resist one last dig at the drone. “If it’s still there.”
I couldn’t help but grin at the grumbling I heard. “I found such a pessimistic Guardian, I swear…”
It wasn’t too hard to actually find Dock 13. While the signs were old and faded, they were still more or less legible. And the biggest obstacle in our path there turned out to be some rooms where the floor had caved in from water damage, requiring a brief detour. Really, we should have known it was too easy.
The actual hanger wasn’t much to look at. Tin walls, a retractable roof that had collapsed at some point, and some old machinery that, at this point, was probably only good for scrap. The jumpship that was parked at the far end of the hanger was much more impressive. About the size of a small airplane, it was an advanced, sleek looking craft, although it clearly got more thrust from the large turbines mounted on each side of the fuselage than the aerodynamic parts of the design. While it was covered in dirt and grime, and showed some damage from time and the elements, it looked to be in surprisingly good condition.
So naturally, between us and the way out of this particular madhouse, were quite a few Fallen.
Leaning against a wall, I carefully leaned over and risked a peek into the hangar before pulling back into cover again. “I count seven,” I whispered, closing my eyes for a moment and feeling the sweat form on my forehead. “At least.”
“Rebuke,” Ghost said, in a tone of voice that suggested the word was a curse of some kind. Honestly, I couldn’t blame it. If not for the fact that my voice was audible outside my head, I’d be swearing, and rather loudly. “My count was the same. I think two of them were Vandals too.”
“I can’t take seven of them at once,” I said quietly. “Not with just this,” I added, gesturing at my Khvostov. The battered old assault rifle had served me well today, true, but it couldn’t kill that many aliens before they regrouped and cut me down. Which assumed there weren’t more of them in there, behind the jumpship or the old machinery. It didn’t seem fair. A way out of this madness was right there, but right now, it might as well be miles away.
Before the terror could truly take hold of me, Ghost made a thoughtful sound. “You have more than just that gun at your disposal. As I said earlier, being a Guardian grants a number of abilities. Quite a lot of them are intended for offense.” It sighed, and when it continued, it sounded slightly embarrassed. “I was planning on going over them later, once we’d gotten somewhere safe, but, well…”
“Desperate times and all that?” I said, taking a breath. Knowing that maybe there were still options, the fear began to recede again, the death grip I had on the rifle loosening enough that for a moment, my fingers tingled oddly. “So, what’s the plan?”
“Just… try not to make any noise,” Ghost said. “I’ll walk you through it, but this first part is going to feel… weird.” Raising an eyebrow, I resisted the urge to ask for more detail, instead simply letting my breath out. “Beginning Light infus-”
Silence surrounded me as I walked through the massive garden, carefully placing my bare feet between the black vines that covered the ground. A young girl walked alongside me, her hand in mine, clearly afraid but determined. With every step we took, the shadows moved ever closer, hiding the large, square stonework that surrounded the garden. Soon, the only light left was coming from the girl, the simple white robes she wore glowing softly.
As we moved deeper into the garden, shapes began to appear within the darkness. Men of bronze, watching us with hateful red eyes. Every step the girl and I took, they anticipated, moving a heartbeat before us. We unintentionally matched their pace, with their sharp, mechanical movements backed up by the sound of gears clicking over. Terrified, the girl huddled in closer against me, but her Light never wavered, and the bronze men never dared to step past that barrier.
Eventually, our way was blocked by a door seemingly made from hundreds of carefully carved bones. Stepping forward, but never releasing my hand, the girl reached into her robes and took out a key made of Light. Placing the key into the lock, she turned to me and smiled, before unlocking the door. Her robes glowed brighter, driving the darkness back, and the bronze men shrieked in agony. By the time I turned to look at them however, they were gone, leaving only flickers of red light behind.
Opening the door, the girl tugged at my hand, and I followed her out of the garden and into the crypt. From the moment we stepped inside, it was clear no rational being belonged here. The bones of the long dead had piled up under massive barbed hooks hanging from the ceiling, while the statues that lined the walls showed figures in agony, their bodies ravaged and mauled. This was no place for the dead to rest. This place was a celebration of their murders.
But in contrast to the horror of this place, at the far end of the chamber, there stood a figure of Light, sitting cross-legged on the ground, head slumped forward as if asleep. Its body was bright enough that I couldn’t make out details, only the general shape. But when I saw it, I felt my fear begin to dissipate, knowing we weren’t alone in this hell. It looked up from the ground when we approached, tilting its head to the side thoughtfully as it considered us. Then it relaxed slightly and climbed to its feet, the movement sending bizarre shadows dancing around the room.
As it walked towards us, I realized that the Light that made up its body wasn’t actually consistent. There were areas where it was weaker, looking like a pattern of scars that ran up its left leg. From the way they limped, taking care as to how much weight they put on that leg, it was clear the injuries went far beneath the skin. I couldn't help but wonder how long they’d been like this. Injured, and trapped in a place they clearly didn’t belong.
Pausing, the figure glanced down, following my gaze, before turning its attention to my companion. She squirmed under the attention, but still looked back up at them with a smile. After a moment, it looked back at me, and while I still couldn’t see its features, their smile literally brightened the entire room. By the time I’d blinked the spots out of my eyes, they’d stepped forward again, holding their hand out towards me. I paused, looking down at the girl by my side, who grinned and nodded eagerly.
The moment our hands made contact, I felt a sudden warmth flow through my fingers and into my hand. Around us, the shadows began to recede, as the Light emanating from the figure and the girl was joined by my own. The warmth flowed up my arm, resting deep within my chest, even as our Light burned away the horror show around us, leaving the room clean and peaceful, the madness driven away. Grinning, I held up my other hand for my new friend to see, palm upward, commanding the power it had gifted me with. It flowed through me, weaving together in a simple yet beautiful pattern, and there was a spark of flame-
“-ion. Huh,” Ghost said, as I held up a sphere seemingly made of solidified flame, that utterly failed to burn my hand as it should have. “That was easier than I expected. I thought I’d have to walk you through the process.” I didn’t reply to her. Instead, eyes wide, I stared at the impossible object in front of me. Somehow, I could feel the energy flowing through it, the ‘Travelers Light’ Ghost had told me about. Tiny threads of power, woven into a complex pattern around a larger, more excited ball of energy. One that seemed to be straining against its bonds, constantly trying to expand and…
Understanding made me flinch, holding the object as far away from me as possible. An explosion. I’d made an explosion and somehow trapped it in a net. Only the knowledge that the ‘net’ would start to unravel the moment I let go of my new grenade allowed me to hold onto the damn thing. And, as if that wasn’t crazy enough, I’d done it while having a bizarre hallucination about a darkness infested garden and a man made of light, one that had lasted less than half a heartbeat in the real world. Of course, that was assuming that any of the other madness taking place around me was real...
Gritting my teeth, I shook my head. This wasn’t the time for the existential crisis I could feel closing in. For now, I needed to focus on escaping the Cosmodrome and the Fallen. Only then could I really allow myself to freak out. So instead, I took a breath, braced myself, then turned and tossed the grenade into the hanger. It bounced twice, coming to a stop in a puddle next to a pair of Dregs, the sound of steaming water grabbing their attention. They both looked down, at which point one of them froze, while the other screeched in understandable terror and tried to dive for cover. A moment later, both aliens vanished in a burst of fire.
As flames danced across the room, burning several Fallen and setting at least one of them on fire outright, I moved into the room, Khostov at the ready. My rather energetic distraction seemed to be working rather well, at least in regards to the Dregs, who were running around all over the place, avoiding flames or trying to put themselves out. Unfortunately, the Vandals were a bit quicker to recover, with both of the four armed monsters rapidly taking cover behind support beams and machinery.
Bullets and bolts of Arc energy crossed paths in the air, and one of the Dregs screamed as I skidded to a halt behind a crate. Ghost shouted a warning and I turned, catching another one in the face with the butt of my rifle, knocking it to the ground before it could stab me with the knives it had been holding. As it moaned, clutching at its face, I was moving again, firing on the Vandal raising one of the charge-to-fire rifles I’d dealt with in the Wall. My shots went wide, but the creature ducked for cover anyway.
With the flames from my grenade dying down, and the Vandals snarling what I suspected were orders, all the Fallen still on their feet were now directing their attention towards me. Agony raced across my lower back, and I stumbled up the steps into a side room, nearly crashing into the old, broken computer racks along the wall inside. “Reload,” I gasped, ejecting the nearly spent magazine, and Ghost immediately materialized another one in my hand. With surprising ease, I locked it into place, then brought the weapon up and opened fire on the Dreg that had decided to follow me inside.
Even as the creature's body sprawled across the floor, I was already running away again, taking another exit out of the room to try and circle behind the rest of the Fallen. I could already feel the pain in my back beginning to fade, replaced with a soft warmth as the Travelers Light healed my injuries. By the time I’d reached the hanger again, that pleasant warmth was gone again, leaving the adrenaline, fear, and more than a little excitement. And an odd sense of confidence and familiarity, like I’d done this before, far more than once.
Coming to a halt in a doorway, nearly slipping in a puddle in the process, I brought the Khostov up, placed the crosshairs in the cracked sights on the Vandal crouching behind a support beam, and promptly put half a clip into its back. As it fell, shrieking in agony, I couldn’t help but wince in a combination of sympathy and guilt. That guilt promptly vanished as the last Vandal lunged at me from the wall it had been climbing across, a pair of cutlasses in two of its hands.
One of the blades glanced off my rifle, the other barely missed my face, and then things it was on top of me. The Dregs were short, scrawny monsters who honestly looked like they weighed a hundred pounds soaking wet. But the Vandals were taller, bulkier, and it seemed to be mostly muscle, judging by the way those two blows forced me back across the room. And of course, it had four arms, a fact which I was reminded of as one of those extra fists drove into my stomach, hard enough to knock the air out of my lungs. I stumbled, gasping, then dropped to my knees to barely avoid those swords again.
Moving on what felt like instinct, or possibly some forgotten memory, I drove the butt of my rifle into the side of the creatures knee. As it staggered back, howling in pain, I stood up again, and followed up with a second blow, this time to the helmet that covered the aliens face. That drove it back towards the hangar door, giving me the room to move again. A moment later, I had the Khostov up, and then the Vandal was on the ground, moaning in pain. “Sorry,” I muttered as I walked past it into the hangar, one arm resting over my stomach. “God, I feel like you popped something…”
The hangar was deserted now, with only the dead and the unconscious to keep me company. As I turned to check my surroundings one last time, Ghost appeared in the air next to me, flying over to the jumpship and running her scanner over it. It was an interesting sight. Unlike the Fallen craft I’d seen fly past earlier, this looked much more, for lack of a better description, human. It was mostly symmetrical, everything was where I expected it to be, and there was even some faded safety markings in the sections a person wasn’t supposed to touch while the vehicle was running. At the same time however, the thick layer of dust, visible rust, and the other signs of time having an effect, did not exactly fill me with confidence. Wincing at a flash of pain from what felt like my kidneys, I watched Ghost work. “So, will it fly?” I asked her at last, “or were the last few minutes a horrible waste of time?” Which, given what I’d just done, really wasn’t a pleasant thing to be considering right now.
Pausing in her scans, Ghost glanced over at me. “Actually, all things considered, it’s worse than it looks. I mean, I wouldn’t want to try leaving orbit, not without getting a professional to look at the jump drive, but for what we need?” She giggled, bobbing up and down slightly. “I can make it work.” With that declaration, she vanished in that now familiar flicker of light, but not into me, as was becoming almost normal at this point, but into the jumpship.
For a moment, nothing happened. But as I felt the Light settle in my waist, the gentle warmth washing away the pain, the jumpship slowly began to come to life. The turbines began to spin, slowly at first, forcing past an eternity of rust, then faster, evening out in a mostly-smooth roar. As the hangar walls rattled from the noise, a cloud of dust erupted out from underneath the craft, forcing me to take a step back. And then, slowly, unsteadily, it began to rise into the air. It wavered slightly, nose dipping back towards the ground, before straightening up again, the engines settling into a mostly consistent growl.
“See? No problem!” Ghosts voice called out from somewhere inside the ship, sounding utterly delighted with herself. That honest enthusiasm brought a smile to my face, and I walked towards the vehicle, trying to work out how to get inside. It could fly, which meant I had options now, options that were more than just running on foot, hiding, and probably getting hunted down like an animal.
As if I’d needed any more reminders of that particular problem, the shrieks of more Fallen echoed through through the building. Sighing, I turned back towards the hangar entrance, readying my gun, before pausing at a sudden thought. “Ghost, how much ammo do we have left?”
“... The clip that’s already in the gun. Oh dear. Um, I’ll get the transmat running!” I glanced at the magazine of the Khostov, which had maybe a handful of bullets left, if I was lucky. Biting my lip, I backed closer to the ship, eyes darting around the room. I’d seen at least one Fallen crawling along the roof and walls earlier, and I seriously doubted that sneaky bastard had been unique among his people.
Which meant that this time, they used the door I’d first entered the hangar through. Dregs at first, taking cover in the room beyond, as I had only a few minutes ago. Then a Vandal carrying a large rifle appeared. And behind that, was something bigger. Much bigger. When we were sneaking through the Wall, Ghost had told me Captains were nine feet tall, but being told that was nothing like actually seeing it in person. A four armed giant large enough its head almost scraped the ceiling, almost as wide as I was tall. Red and grey armour that looked like it belonged on a tank covered almost all of its body, and as a final, wonderful touch, it was holding two absolutely massive swords that could probably kill an elephant. All four of its glowing eyes focused on me and it marched forward, snarling something in a language I had no way of understanding.
“Oh, you’re mad at me,” I whispered to myself, feeling my hands start to shake. I’d fought Dregs and Vandals. I’d even killed them, and my strange new powers even meant I didn’t have a scratch afterwards. But this monster? It was probably going to tear me into tiny little pieces. Slowly.
“Not a problem. Bringing you inside,” Ghost called out. Light flickered around me, a sensation like falling into ice-cold water flashed over my body, and then instead of the old hangar and the angry aliens, I was sitting in an old, rather uncomfortable chair, surrounded by various panels covered in switches and lights, and a screen that looked out at… Understanding dawned on me, as Ghost quickly lifted the ship up through the hole in the hangar roof. Transmat. Obvious what it was when you thought about it.
Arc bolts flashed past outside the ship, but it looked like we were already high enough that the Fallen didn’t have much chance of hitting us. “And we are out of here!” Ghost declared, just before acceleration pushed me back into the chair, and my view of the hangar's roof was replaced by sky. As we fled the Cosmodrome, I couldn’t help but sigh in relief. Whatever was going on, I’d escaped the worst of it. I’d escaped the Fallen, we were heading towards this city Ghost had told me about.
And there, maybe I’d get some answers.
Standing on top of the Wall, a slender, feminine figure watched the ship vanish into the clouds. As she watched, several Fallen skiffs turned to follow, but she paid little attention to them. She knew they’d lose track of the battered old spacecraft in about thirty seconds at worst. “Not the most dignified start,” she said to herself. “Still, there’s signs of who you’ll become. No wonder you’ll grab my attention.” Turning, she walked away, fading to mist as she did so.
Re: After The End, A Beginning

At first, I didn’t do much. I just sat in that old flight chair, letting Ghost float over the controls, her odd little scanner beam lighting up every now and then. If nothing else, I wasn’t sure if I knew how to fly a spaceship, and it looked like she actually knew what she was doing. Eventually, I managed to set the safety on my rifle and rest it on my lap, closing my eyes and taking a deep breath, trying to think. I didn’t have much luck.

Eventually, I came back to reality as Ghost spoke, sounding rather satisfied. “Okay, we’re clear. We got enough of a head start that those Fallen skiffs have given up. Even as old as this ship is, they were never going to catch up with an Arcadia on full burn.” I opened my eyes to look at the little drone floating in front of me. “Plus, they know what happens to any of their ships that get too close to the city. We’re not worth that kind of risk.”

“So, we’re safe?”

“As safe as anyone can be,” she said.

“So I can take this damn helmet off?” I asked, tapping a finger against the object in question.

“Oh, uhm, right. I’m pretty sure the design I used is able to be removed on its own…” She floated in closer, then bobbed up and down. “Okay, there’s two latches under the collar, one on each side…”

Once I knew what I was doing, removing the helmet became rather easy, and in only a few moments I was holding it in front of me, considering it thoughtfully. Most of it was simple grey metal and plastic, and the front of it looked like ski goggles and a rebreather mask had been fused with it. Crude yet complex at the same time. Placing it next to the Khostov, I leaned back and turned my attention to Ghost. “How long until we get to this city of yours?”

“Just under an hour,” she said.

Grumbling, I tried to get comfortable in the flight chair. Not an easy task, given there was what felt like a large spring aimed right in the middle of my spine. “Not enough time for a proper nap. If I even could sleep after all that crap.” Running my hands through my hair, I noted that at least seemed to be short, so I probably didn’t have a severe case of helmet hair. Had I always cut it short? Or was it related to how Ghost brought me back from the dead?

The thought lingered in my mind for a moment, my unease growing as I started to realize there were things I didn’t know. Things I should have. I didn’t know how long my hair was. I didn’t know what colour it was. I didn’t know what colour my eyes were, or how tall I was...

I didn’t know my own name.

I don’t know how long I sat there, simply staring at nothing. With everything that had happened today, I hadn’t had time to even really process the situation. But now, with the adrenaline gone, no monsters about to leap out of the shadows, and nothing to do but think, my mind was starting to notice the little details. Such as the fact that before I woke up on that long abandoned road, surrounded by rusted cars and sun-bleached skeletons, I remembered nothing. Not my home, not my family, not even my name.

Groaning, I leaned forward and rested my face in my hands, trying to control my breathing as I worked through the problem. I wasn’t just a blank slate, of that much I was sure. I could walk, talk, and I obviously knew how to fight. Ghost said she’d brought me back from the dead. At this point, I was actually ready to believe that. She also said I’d been dead for a long time, and the state of that road definitely supported that claim. Hopefully, this amnesia was temporary, caused by being dead for so long. And the questions of my past probably wouldn’t be immediately vital.

“Guardian?” Ghosts voice cut through my fear, and I glanced up to see the tiny drone hovering right next to me, somehow radiating concern despite having only a single optic for her ‘face.’

Sighing, I made myself sit up straight and gave her a weak smile. “Sorry, I guess today’s starting to catch up with me.” Even if I was coming to trust her, I wasn’t sure I wanted to discuss my memory issues with her just yet.

“Right, that makes sense. Um…” the little drone bobbed up and down,the panels around her optic rotating. “I am sorry about dropping everything on you like this. Waking you up with Fallen right there, getting you in a gunfight almost immediately, all that. I mean, I knew I was in Fallen territory, but I still thought we’d have a little time for me to explain things to you.” She sighed. “I had this whole speech planned out, you know? I worked on it for years, but then the Fallen show up and make a mess of everything.”

She sounded so utterly offended at that, I couldn’t help but laugh, making the little drone float back in surprise. “It’s alright Ghost. We made it out alive, after all,” I pointed out. Ghost bobbed up and down in a nod, and I gave her a smile. “And all things considered, I think I’ll take being alive over being a skeleton on the side of the road.” My smile wavered slightly at that, but I pressed on before I could linger too much on that unpleasant thought. “So, this city you’re taking me to, what’s it actually called?”

“Actually, it’s just the City,” Ghost replied. “We’ve never really needed another name for it.” Noticing my frown, she nodded. “And yeah, it’s because it’s the only city around. I mean, there’s some towns and villages hidden here and there, but…”

“You mentioned a Collapse earlier,” I said. “From what I’ve seen so far, I think I get where you’re going with it.” Ghost nodded, and I sighed, looking out the cockpit window at the sky beyond. One city. Even with my memories nothing more than a void, I somehow knew how wrong that was. The world was meant to be so much bigger than that. “A Golden Age and a Collapse. I must have missed a lot of history.”

“Centuries. Maybe even longer.” Ghost said, floating back and forth in the air. “It’s a long story, and to be honest, we don’t have all the details ourselves. There’s a lot of holes in the history books.”

Looking up at the cloudless sky above us, I couldn’t help but chuckle bitterly. “Given what the Cosmodrome looks like, I can believe that. Hell, I wouldn’t be surprised if there were entire history books missing.” Sighing, I rested my hands behind my head and thought about it for a minute. “Okay. So, before the Fallen, before the Collapse, even before the Golden Age. The story has to start somewhere, right?” Ghost nodded, and I gave her a smile. “Well then. Once upon a time…”

That earned a soft giggle from the drone, before she floated to the center of the cockpit window and turned to face me. “Once upon a time, there was the Traveler. An ancient being, its body forged from the heart of a neutron star, possessing the power to grant life to dead worlds. For millions of years, it’s wandered the universe, for reasons it’s never decided to share with us.And then, in the early twenty-first century, it came to our solar system. One by one, it reshaped the worlds it passed. Gravity changed to allow humans to walk on the surface safely, their atmosphere transformed into clean air. Mercury, Venus, Mars. All of them remade into garden worlds, waiting for humanity.”

I tried to imagine the sheer scale of what Ghost was implying. Oxygen, water, air pressure, shielding from cosmic radiation… The time and resources needed to terraform even one planet was beyond anything I could hope to put numbers to. And this Traveler had done it to multiple planets? “Those ships back at the Cosmodrome, I’m guessing that’s where they were going?”

“And just about everywhere else they could reach,” Ghost said. “Moons, any asteroids large and stable enough to build on, hundreds of space stations… Humanity spread out across the solar system, and maybe even beyond.” She turned to look up at the blue sky, and when she spoke again, I could hear the wonder in her voice. “They say there were cities of crystal on Venus, and beautiful forests covering most of Mercury. Scientific discoveries brought back species humanity had rendered extinct, cured diseases, even created synthetic intelligence. With the Traveler’s help, humanity had entered a Golden Age.”

Pausing, Ghost seemed to lose herself in thought for a moment, still looking up at the sky Despite the wonders she’d just spoken of, I felt a cold dread work its way down my spine. The Cosmodrome, one of humanities gateways to those other worlds, was little more than abandoned ruins, with alien scavengers picking over the remains. The implications for the rest of the world, let alone anything beyond the atmosphere, were obvious and troubling. So I was hardly surprised when Ghost looked back down and said, in a much sadder tone than before, “But it couldn’t last.”

“Because the Traveler had an enemy. Even after all these centuries, we don’t know who or what it was. Just that it was incredibly powerful, and the name the survivors gave it. They called it the Darkness. When it came, everything humanity had achieved, everything they’d created… all of it was just… wiped away.” Ghost sighed, the light in her optic dulling considerably. “We can’t be sure how many people were alive before the Collapse. It’s all guesswork, from what records explorers and historians have been able to piece together in the centuries since, but we think it was at least sixteen billion. By the time the Darkness was driven back, well.” She looked up at me, the panels around her optic slowly rotating. “The most optimistic estimate was still less than a hundred million.”

Even though I’d expected it to be bad, the sheer scale of what Ghost was suggesting still hit like a punch to the stomach. My first attempt to reply cut off with a pained gasp, forcing me to take a breath. “How? Something that powerful, so destructive, and we drove it back? How?”

“The Traveler,” Ghost replied, her optic brightening again. “Despite overwhelming odds, it stood against the Darkness. Every person killed, every world burned, cost the Darkness dearly, even as it forced the Traveler back. Eventually, in one final battle above the Earth, the Traveler was triumphant, injuring the Darkness to the point it was forced to abandon the solar system and flee into the void. It was a narrow victory though, one that cost the Traveler just as much as it did humanity.”

My mind drifted back to that odd vision I’d had when Ghost had channelled more Light into me. The figure made of Light, trapped in a temple of death, the scars of old injuries running across its body. “It was injured,” I said quietly. “Almost killed.”

Ghost blinked, clearly not expecting that comment. “It was, yes. While the Darkness retreated, the Traveler fell back to Earth. We’re… reasonably sure it’s not dead.” I raised both my eyebrows. “You’ll understand I mean when we get there. It’s…” she paused, then twitched a pair of its panels in what seemed like a shrug. “It’s incredibly alien. But its body still contains the Light, which prevents the Darkness or its servants from getting too close. When people figured that part out…”

“Survivors started making their way there,” I finished, hearing the terror in my voice. “And this City of yours grew up around it.” Ghost nodded, and I shifted in my seat, trying to get comfortable again. Running my hands down my face, I stared up at the sky and tried not to hyperventilate. Regardless of what had happened to the world, having a panic attack while forty thousand feet above the ground would be a terrible idea. Eventually, I managed to calm down slightly, and I pulled my attention back from the clear blue sky, looking at Ghost. “Okay then. I’m following you so far. I’ll probably have nightmares about it later, but I’m following you.” That got a slight laugh from the tiny drone, before I leaned forward to consider her again. “So, next question. What’s a Guardian?”

“You are, obviously.” That non-answer earned her a raised eyebrow, and she giggled. “Sorry, couldn’t resist. When the Traveler was injured, it knew humanity wasn’t safe, and that there was a good chance it wouldn’t recover in time to help them. So it created the Ghosts. I don’t know how many of us there are, but we all have the same purpose. To find our partner, the one that can channel the Traveler’s Light. Together, we can stand against the Darkness and its minions, and give humanity and its children a future.”

“But I was dead, so you needed to fix that?”

Instead of sounding defensive or off balance, as I would have expected, Ghost simply ‘shrugged’ again. “Well, most Guardians are.”

“Really,” I said, giving her another raised eyebrow.

“Really. The ability to channel the Light is extremely rare. Most people with the ability are dead, and have been for a very long time. Which is why I was able to bring you back. And… why I can again, if need be.”

At that comment, I went very still. Taking a moment to compose myself, I kept my voice as level as I could. “Again. Are you telling me I can’t die?”

“Oh, no, you can definitely die, although you’re a lot harder to kill than a normal human. But with the Light flowing through us both, I’m capable of resurrecting you again. There’s limitations, mind you,” she said, sounding almost apologetic. “It requires the Light, I have to be close enough, and if something damaged or destroyed me, that’d be the end of both of us. But I’m a lot more durable than I look, and that’s before you consider the fact that when I’m merged with you, I’m not entirely in this physical dimension.”

Groaning, I dropped back against the chair, closing my eyes and running my hands through my hair. “Holy crap,” I declared. “I am a space magic zombie warrior, in the future. Fighting aliens.” Considering that, I couldn’t help but laugh. “This is definitely the craziest day of my life.”

“Actually, by modern standards, this is kind of normal,” Ghost admitted. Opening my eyes, I gave her a faint glare. “Oh. Sorry.”

“You’re really not filling me with confidence,” I told her, although I couldn’t keep the smile off my face. “Next you’ll tell me cats didn’t survive the Collapse.”

Blinking at that, Ghost tilted to the side. “No, they’re still around. Why cats?”

“Because I really need something cute and cuddly right now. Preferably fluffy too, which rules you out.” She nodded, conceding the point, and I closed my eyes again, letting a silence settle over the cockpit. Neither of us spoke for a while, as I simply tried to process this impossible world I’d found myself in.

While it was an unpleasant issue, my amnesia likely wouldn’t be an immediate problem. At this point, I was confident Ghost was more or less telling the truth. Which meant I’d been dead so long that there wasn’t much chance of whatever history I might have coming out of nowhere and catching me by surprise. I wasn’t really sure how I felt about that, but at least I’d probably have the time to think it over.

The rest of what I’d discovered was more of an immediate concern. Being brought back from the dead to defend humanity from aliens with some kind of space magic didn’t exactly sound like something I could just say no to. Especially if this City we were flying to really was the only remaining piece of civilisation around. So I may have just been drafted into a war I knew nothing about. And that was the big problem. There was still so much about this world I didn’t know. Not even secrets, just the everyday details that a local would take for granted. If I was going to survive, I needed information. And given I still had nearly a while before we arrived at the City… Sighing, I opened my eyes and looked at Ghost again. “Right, moving on...”


The jumpship shuddered in a sudden crosswind, something in the rear of the craft making a disturbing groaning noise. Reaching for my seatbelt, I glanced at my companion. “Ghost, I have to ask. Is this really the best way to get to the City?” Locking the buckle into place, I gestured at the window, and the rather energetic storm that we’d just flown into.

Curiously, Ghost actually seemed to fidget under my gaze. “Well, it’s not the best way to get there,” she admitted. “Going around wouldn’t really have been a problem.”

“Then why didn’t we?” I said, wincing as the ship shook again. “I’m not entirely sure this old girl’s up for this sort of turbulence.” The fact that I could see lightning crackling outside certainly didn’t help with my peace of mind. “It’s not over the actual City, is it? Because if you want to try and land in this…”

“Oh, don’t worry, it’s moving away from the City, and the edge of it is already past the walls.”

Both my eyebrows rose again, and I leaned forward as far as my seatbelt would allow. “Really now.” Ghost squirmed under the attention, and I chuckled. “Ghost, did you come this way so I’d get an impressive first look at the City?” Slowly, she bobbed up and down in a nod, and my chuckle grew into a laugh. “You are a little drama queen, you know that?” I said, leaning back against the chair.

“I wouldn’t say I’m a drama queen,” Ghost protested. ‘I just thought it’d look nice-”

“Relax, I’m only teasing,” I assured her. “Besides, we’re nearly there,” I added, gesturing towards the sunlight peeking through the clouds ahead of us. One last shudder ran through the craft, and then we were out in the daylight again. As my eyes adjusted to the afternoon sunlight, I got my first look at the Last City, and all thoughts of teasing my partner were forgotten.

It was massive, stretching from the giant wall a few miles away, to the snow covered mountains on the edge of the horizon. Even at this distance, I could make out highways, factories, residential districts and parks, all growing larger and more complex the further you went into the city, until you reached the skyscrapers at its heart. It was incredible, the result of centuries of labor and growth, a metropolis unmatched by anything else in history. Just the sight of it outside my window helped reassure me that not all of civilisation had ended up like the Cosmodrome.

But most of my attention was on the skies above the City. Hanging there, in complete contempt of gravity, was a massive sphere, dozens of miles wide. What would have once been a flawless white surface was now covered in scars from an ancient battle, and an entire portion was missing from its underside. More than that though, was the Light I could feel, contained within that impossible vessel. The Light that I channelled, that Ghost used to bring me back, it all came from here.

“The Traveler,” I whispered, feeling so tiny in the face of that being. “It’s…” I pulled my gaze away from it, looking at Ghost instead. “I see what you meant earlier. About it being alien.”

“Oh yeah,” she agreed. “But it’s alive, isn’t it?”

“Whatever that means here. But I think so.” Smiling, I turned my attention back to the view. “Flying through the storm was the right choice.”

Ghost giggled softly, her scanner beams dancing over the controls again. “Welcome to the City Guardian. Welcome home.”
Re: After The End, A Beginning
Bits and pieces
Plots and plans
A little Magic ...

It's Weird Science...

Sorry, Seemed appropriate.
Looking forward to the next bit.Any thing I write here may be used for content, unless used for personal gain,
or used against the Grand Duchy of Fenewick.
Never trust the Spell Checker, that correctly spelled word may not be the one you aimed for.
Re: After The End, A Beginning

The first time I’d been transmatted, it had felt like I’d been dropped into ice water. This time was far less uncomfortable, feeling more like a sudden, brief chill running up my body. And then I found myself out of the jumpship and standing on the edge of a rather beautiful plaza. Well maintained lawns and plants, marble paths, banners and flags standing tall in the chilly afternoon breeze.

And there were people everywhere. Some were at what looked like shopfronts of some sort, while others were simply kicking a large purple ball around the plaza. After the past few hours, there was something so comforting about seeing normal people doing normal things.

“Welcome to the Tower,” Ghost said as she appeared next to me. “Headquarters of the Vanguard, home of the Guardians.”

“And the last line of defense before the actual City,” I noted, turning to look over my shoulder. From here, the top of the Wall that surrounded the City, the view might have been even better than the flight in. If nothing else, the plaza was aimed directly at the center of the City, and the Traveler floating directly above it. It was very inspiring, and I felt a sudden urge to find and compliment the architect.

Before I could get too absorbed in the view, I turned my attention back to the plaza, and realized that my arrival had drawn some attention. Some of the people had turned away from what they were doing, giving me thoughtful looks. Some even smiled, or gave small waves of welcome.

“We’ve all been where you are right now,” said an oddly accented voice to my left. Glancing that way, I saw a dark skinned woman approaching me, smiling gently. Young, maybe late twenties, early thirties, about a head taller than me, with dark blue hair, and wearing bulky black armour that looked like it was made for charging tanks and winning. Next to her was another Ghost, although this one was a dark red, with a white stripe running around its outer spikes. “Most of us are more than willing to help out at a time like this.”

“And where am I?” I asked, honestly curious as to what her answer would be.

“Newly resurrected in a world that makes no sense, with holes in your mind and a tiny robot telling you you’ve been chosen to fight a mysterious evil.” Coming to a stop in front of me, she held out a hand. “I’m Rebecca.”

‘Holes in your mind.’ That was a phrase with very interesting implications. Shaking her hand, I gave the woman a thoughtful look. “I’m not entirely sure who I am. Something makes me think that’s a common thing with Guardians?”

“All too common, I’m sorry to say. The Ghosts do what they can, but even they have limits, especially when we’ve been dead so long.”

“... Does it come back?” I ask, dreading the answer.

“It varies,” she replied. “Some of us get a lot, some get next to nothing. There’s more than a few thanatonauts researching it, but personally, I’ve found the best option is to just wait and see what shakes loose.” She shrugged slightly, looking apologetic.

Returning the shrug, I give her a lopsided smile. “Well, if nothing else, it’s been so long it’s not likely our personal past is going to be a huge issue, right?”

“Yeah. Yeah, that’s a fact.” I didn’t quite know what to make of the face she made there, but she moved on before I had time to press the issue. “Anyway. When your Ghost requested landing clearance, she said that, in addition needing Kinderguardian orientation, you also needed to speak to the Vanguard about the Fallen?”

Kinderguardian? “That pun is bad and someone should feel bad,” I groaned.

Rebecca shook her head. “I know the guy that came up with it.”

“He’s proud of it,” her Ghost said, revealing that it seemed to have a male voice. I guessed that all the Ghosts got to have individual identities, which seemed only fair. “So very proud.”

“And you’re about to meet him, because he’s your Classes representative on the Vanguard Council,” Rebecca continued, her expression a mix of amusement and irritation. “Which is why I volunteered to help with your orientation. Because if you don’t remember your name, he’s going to give you one.”

“Which he’ll make sure everyone knows,” her Ghost said. “Because he honestly thinks he’s being helpful.”

Considering the kind of name someone that thought ‘Kinderguardian’ was the height of humor would come up with, I couldn’t help but wince. “Exactly,” the taller woman said. “You might want to beat him to the punch, as it were. It’d be a lot harder to shake off a name like… EggplantAvenger.”

“... Like what?”

“You have purple hair. That’s the tamest Cayde style name I could think of,” Rebecca replied. I frowned thoughtfully, trying to pull some of my hair down where I could see it, but was foiled by it being too short. Although I had the odd feeling that it was supposed to be longer.

“Yeah, I can see where you’re coming from.” Glancing over at my Ghost, I smiled. “Any ideas?”

“Um. I suppose Guardian is taken?” she asked.

“That’s a job title, not a name,” I pointed out, trying not to laugh.

“Well then, I can’t think of anything else.”

Laughing, I gave my companion a friendly pat on the shell, before giving the matter some serious thought. “Let’s go with Rose. The rest, I can probably work on later,” I said at last

“You should be good,” Rebecca agreed, before gesturing at the stairs in the center of the plaza. “Now, let’s not keep the Vanguard waiting any longer, hmm?”


Just like the plaza, the Hall of Guardians was an impressive sight, especially after the ruins of the Cosmodrome. Polished floors, decorative banners, bookshelfs filled with books and scrolls that, while obviously old and well read, were carefully maintained, and support staff manned the computer workstations around the outside of the room.

In the center of the room, three people stood around a conference table, watching as my Ghost projected a hologram of when the Ketch arrived at the Cosmodrome. Given that at this point, I was really just the dumb muscle tasked with delivering the person who actually knew what was going on, I stayed well back and let the smarter people talk. Instead, I used the chance to look at the men and women Ghost was talking to.

When we’d been in the air, Ghost had told me about the Vanguard. As the central authority for all the Citys defences, both conventional and Traveler-resurrected super soldiers, they were who I’d likely be working for if my fears about conscription were accurate. The chance to see them in person would likely be rare and invaluable. There was an added bonus here. Not only was each of the Vanguard Commanders a different type of Guardian, or ‘class’ as Ghost insisted on calling them, but they were also each one of the three races that called the City home. I couldn’t help but wonder if that was deliberate.

Ikora Rey, the Guardian closest to me, was the human of the trio, wearing an elaborate purple greatcoat. Dark skin, short cropped dark hair, she watched the images with a calm, thoughtful look on her face, hands behind her back. According to Ghost, she was the representative of the Warlocks, Guardians who often focused on the research, the science, although like the name suggested, there was a mystical element to them as well.

At the far end of the table, Zavala was an interesting contrast to Ikora in many ways. His skin was a pale blue, marking him as an Awoken, a descendant of people who’d tried to flee Earth during the Collapse and been changed somehow (Ghost had been very vague on details). As a Titan, the knights and crusaders among the Guardians, he was wearing thick plate armour that my mind could only class as ‘space paladin’. And where Ikora had been calm, he was leaning over the table, glaring at the hologram as if it personally offended him.

And lastly, there was Cayde-6. He seemed oddly cheerful about the news Ghost had brought the Vanguard, idly playing with a knife as he watched. Physically, he was the most bizarre of the trio, given that he was a robot. Exo was the term for them, apparently. Golden Age combat robots that had gained sapience and personality somehow. Theories ranged from the Travelers doing, to a discovery in the Golden Age, to simply going too long without a proper system update. However it had happened, there was now a highly advanced humanoid robot in what looked like rather tattered leather armour in front of me.

Even stranger than that, according to Ghost and Rebecca, he was my superior. The Hunter Representative on the Vanguard. Supposedly, we were the explorers, the adventurers, the ones that would wander off into the unknown to see what was out there. Despite everything, I had to admit, that did sound rather interesting. My gaze lingered on the cloak the man was wearing. Well aged leather, brown with red trim, very nice to look at.

I’d seen a few different people wearing cloaks on the way to the Vanguard. If they were the trademark of the Hunters, things weren’t all bad.

As Ghosts recordings came to an end, my partner floating back from the table, Cayde was the first to speak. While I still lacked the context to fully understand the situation I’d stumbled across in the Cosmodrome, the Exos first words taught me a lot about my new boss. “Whelp, looks like Tevis owes me a looooot of glimmer,” he declared, putting his knife away.

The other two Vanguard Commanders gave him unimpressed looks. Next to me, Rebecca groaned, running a hand down her face. “For chrissakes Cayde…”

Cayde ignored her, rubbing his hands together in glee as I marveled at how well articulated the panels on his face were, to protect such smug satisfaction. “Seriously, he was convinced the Devils were gonna try and push into the South African Zone, maybe try and get into the Cape Town ruins. He was so certain, that I might have made a little wager with him…”

“Cayde,” Zavala said. He barely raised his voice, but he got his point across well enough, and the hunter fell silent. “The Fallen rarely bring their Ketches in where we can see them. If they’re willing to deploy in such force to the Cosmodrome, we need to find their landing zone and deal with it. As soon as possible.”

“And we need to find out why,” Ikora noted. “Riksis has always been cautious, going to great lengths to avoid over committing his forces. A legacy of how he earned his position,” she added, smirking slightly. “He would not take action like this unless he had a very compelling reason.”

Leaning against the table, Cayde nodded. “I’ll call Shiro, see if he can’t track it down for us. After that, Strike?”

“With increased patrols and potential missions in the area,” Zavala agreed. Looking over at Ghost and I. “A fortunate discovery Guardian. Thank you for bringing it to our attention so quickly.”

“Hell of a first day, eh rookie?” Cayde added, grinning at me. “Now, we probably won’t use this footage in our recruitment vids, but considering your Ghost had only just found you, I’d say you did a pretty good job.”

Feeling my face heat up, I quickly nodded. “Thank you sir.”

That comment drew an exaggerated shudder from the Exo. “Ugh, don’t call me sir. Makes me feel all old and respectable.” Next to me, Rebecca didn’t bother to suppress a snort, earning herself a glare from Cayde. “Don’t you have reports to file or something Becky?”

“Oh no sir, as you know, I believe in getting such problems resolved as quickly and efficiently as possible,” she replied, her voice so incredibly polite and respectful I couldn’t help but be impressed by her style. “I was originally planning on heading back to Canberra in the morning, but given Rose’s report, I think I’ll be heading to the Cosmodrome instead. In the meantime, I was planning on helping her settle in.” She looked over at me. “How are you with spicy ramen?”

“I could do ramen,” I admitted. For some reason, Cayde was now giving Rebecca a death glare, helped along by the way his eyes glowed.

“You’re dismissed Guardians,” Zavala said, his voice mild, and Rebecca saluted him before leading me back towards the door.

“Why is it neither of you pull her up when she gets like that?” I heard Cayde ask behind me.

“Because you were sniping at each other long before you took the dare,” Ikora replied, amused, and then we were far enough away I couldn’t listen in any more.

Next to Rebecca, her Ghost pivoted to give her a scolding look. “Must you?”

“Yes, I must,” she said, unconcerned.

I was much more concerned, given that the man she’d just been irritating was apparently my boss. “Can I at least ask what that was all about?” I asked, trying to keep the anger out of my voice.

To her credit, the Titan at least had the grace to look embarrassed. “Ah, yeah, sorry. Don’t worry too much, Cayde-6 always knows to aim at me, and to watch out for splash damage… At least, ever since the Dragon’s Breath incident,” she added with a nostalgic smile. I let a little more irritation slip into my glare, which seems to do the trick. “Right. Anyway, Cayde and I have never gotten along. Lots of history. Back in the old days, we’d take it to the Crucible or such, but these days we’re stuck to verbal sniping.” She chuckled, rubbing at the back of her neck as we walked up the steps back to the plaza. “We have very strong opinions of each other.”

“How so?” I said, stopping at the top of the steps to take in the view of the Traveler again.

“I think he’s a lazy, irresponsible idiot who is nowhere near as funny as he thinks he is, while he thinks I’m a workaholic bitch with a stick the size of the Tower wedged up my ass,” she said cheerfully.

While I paused to take in that image, Ghost decided to join in the conversation. “So, which of you is right?” she asked.

“We’re both a little right, both a little wrong,” she replied with a shrug and a lopsided smile. “Anyway, he wouldn’t normally be quite so irritated. He’d give me shit right back at least. But right now, he’s stuck in there working, while we are going to a really good ramen shop. His favorite ramen shop, in fact,” she noted with an evil grin, setting off across the plaza.

Standing there, I watched her for a moment, then turned to Ghost. “Exos can eat?”

“They were designed to, apparently,” she replied.

“Huh… who designs combat machines to eat food?”


Cayde’s favorite ramen shop wasn’t actually that far from his office, located along the northern side of the Tower, in a small commercial lane way. As I used the opportunity to ask Rebecca about the world and the City from a more Guardian perspective than Ghost, I made two discoveries.

First, that I was rubbish with chopsticks, but a fork was socially acceptable in the modern era.

Second, that when someone in the City said that their food was spicy, they weren’t exaggerating. They liked their spices Hot. Thankfully, I’d been smart enough to play it safe and try a milder item on the menu, but I was still dealing with a burning mouth.

Rebecca was clearly amused by my suffering, and I had the distinct feeling she’d seen this happen before, with other new Guardians that didn’t know what to expect. Still, at least she was kind enough to limit herself to a mild smile, while she continued to answer various questions about the world I found myself in now. It was as random an interrogation as the one I gave Ghost on the flight to the City, bouncing from topic to topic, although Rebecca was often able to answer from much more personal experience. On more than one occasion, I was tempted to ask the young looking woman how old she really was, but each time, I backed away from the question.

There were some things I didn’t want to know just yet.

Eventually though, as the sun set and night fell over the City, Rebecca led me deeper into the Tower, through wide, well maintained hallways, into what was clearly a residential area. “I get my own room?” I asked.

“We can hardly kick you out on the street and tell you to find a hotel,” Rebecca replied as we passed a pair of Warlocks that seemed to be studying a strange golden glowing dodecahedron the size of my fist. “And we certainly have the space these days. All Guardians are welcome in the Tower, unless they do something to have the privilege revoked.”

As we came to a stop by a door, I couldn’t help but grin. “I’ll try not to be that stupid. Thanks.”

Her return smile was much more gentle. “Like I said earlier, we’ve all been there. If I can do something to make it a little easier, I’ll take it. If anything comes up, your Ghost has my comm number.”

“Right.” On an impulse, I darted forward and gave the taller woman a hug, which she returned with a soft laugh. It felt nice, but also a little odd, like I wasn’t used to being the shorter one in such an embrace. And then I stepped back, she smiled, before turning and setting off down the corridor.

“Nice woman,” Ghost commented.

“Even if she hates my new boss,” I noted, before pressing the door control and stepping inside. There wasn’t anything too surprising on the other side. Just a simple single bedroom apartment with all the basic furnishings. “I guess this is home for the moment.” Glancing over at Ghost, I smiled. “It’ll do. Now,” I continued, considering my gauntlets, “just how do I get the rest of this getup off…”

“Oh, allow me!” Ghost said. The now familiar light of transmatting ran over my body, feeling like nothing more than a brief breeze this time. A moment later, as I looked at golden brown skin, I realized it was because Ghost hadn’t transmatted me, just my equipment. “I’ve converted all your armour back into engram form for storage in my data core,” she announced.

And then I looked down. “Yes. All my armour,” I said, keeping my voice level.

“... Oh. Right. Clothes. Well, at least I didn’t do it outside?”

Resisting the urge to try and strangle her, or at least glare, I stalked towards what I suspected was the bathroom. Inside, I found everything I expected. Shower, toilet, sink and a sizeable mirror, which was my primary target right now. Coming to a halt in front of the sink, I got my first look at myself.

Light, golden brown skin, features I’d say were of a mixed heritage at best. A nice face, not brilliant, but hardly likely to scare people. Short cropped purple hair, which was currently a rather messy heap on top of my head. Purple eyes too, and at a guess, I’d put my age as somewhere in the mid to late twenties. Once again, I felt that sense of oddness as I considered my face, and then the somewhat slender, athletic body it was attached to. It felt… off. Younger than I’d expected, shorter too. At least the face felt mostly right, if too young. “Maybe it’s just self esteem issues,” I said, glancing down at my chest.

Considering that for a moment, I cracked up laughing, turning towards the shower.
Re: After The End, A Beginning
The morning after my rebirth, armed with a notepad and pen, I set out into the Tower, to try and find out more about this place. At this point, I knew the basic details, but I still needed understanding. And the easiest way to do that was through observation. Watching Guardians and the people of the City in their natural environments.

And for some reason, I had the oddest desire to narrate it all with a British accent.

My first stop was one Rebecca had recommended to me the night before. While we’d been having dinner, I’d pointed out that I was suffering the cliche of not having a thing to wear. She’d found this very amusing, because it turns out that for most Guardians, body armour is considered acceptable social wear. In almost any situation. Working in the wilds outside civilization, I could completely understand. Even when the Tower, the last line of defense for the City, I could understand. But what about dinner parties, or doing the gardening? It sounded very uncomfortable.

Still, at least she’d understood the problem, and had a solution. Following her directions, I made my way to the northern section of the Tower, not too far from the commercial lane we’d been in. Soon enough, I found myself at the entrance to a small alcove filled with shelves almost overflowing with all sorts of goods. Fabrics of all types, paints, dyes, various sets of Guardian armour, it was packed with everything a tailor wanted.

Right now, there was only one other person present, a human woman in what I guessed was her mid-fifties at best, clad in bright, multi-colored robes. “Ah, good morning my dear,” she said as she caught sight of me. “You must be Rose, yes? Rebecca told me you would be coming.”

“That’s me, yeah. Are you Eva Levante?”

“I am indeed,” she said, smiling. “I serve as the outfitter, for Guardians who wish to be more than just a suit of armour and a gun. Please, come in.” As I came closer, she considered me, her expression thoughtful. “Hmm, now then. Rebecca said that you were after actual clothes, as opposed to wearing your armour all day.” Picking up a tape measure from the table, she looked me over again. “Hold out your arms please.”

Obeying her commands, I let the woman work, while I considered the civilians I’d seen around the Tower. Robes, thick vests, scarves that were often large enough to cover the head. “Denim doesn’t seem to be a common thing around here,” I commented.

Eva glanced up from her tape measure, eyebrow raised. “Was that a request or an observation?”

“More the later,” I replied, not entirely sure why I’d even had the thought. “I’m looking to blend in, to look normal… Whatever that might be these days.”

“Mmm.” Putting the tape measure down, Eva gave me a thoughtful look. “You want to be normal?”

“Or at least know what it is.” Chuckling, I shook my head. “I’m a long dead woman with no memory, resurrected by a tiny robot to protect the future. My life is in a weird place right now.”

“It is not that strange by modern standards,” she pointed out, although she was clearly amused. “You wish to know your place?”

Thinking about that, I nodded. “I suppose so. Everyone wants to know what they fight for, right?”

To my surprise, Eva’s expression actually turned somewhat regretful. “Not all Guardians do. There are some who simply fight because it is all they know. They go out, kill the enemies of the City, return to the Tower to resupply, and repeat. They never seek anything more than that. It never occurs to them to even ask if there is anything else.” She shook her head, closing her eyes. “Many of them never even speak. They live, but sometimes I wonder if they are truly alive.”

My throat suddenly felt very dry. “That… isn’t something anyone else has mentioned.”

Appearing next to me in a flicker of Light, Ghost looked almost apologetic. “I considered it,” she admitted. “But given how much else I have to tell you, I thought it could wait. I mean, that’d be a worst case scenario, and it clearly hasn’t happened to you, so…”

Pinching the bridge of my nose, I sighed softly. “I’m going to keep finding disturbing things, aren’t I?”

“That would happen anyway,” Eva pointed out, her voice soft. “This is a very different world to the one you lived in, even if you can’t consciously remember it. This is a world that has been at war for centuries. We have survived, and in doing so, we have adapted.”

“And now it’s my turn,” I mused.

Placing a hand on my shoulder, Eva nodded, squeezing gently. “It is. But remember, you do not have to do it alone.” A silence settled over us for a moment, before the outfitter spoke again, her voice much more cheerful. “Now then, let’s see about making you something a bit more pleasant to wear, shall we?”


Eva was every bit as good as Rebecca had told me. Within half an hour, I was wearing simple but well fitting clothes, as opposed to the body armour Ghost had made while resurrecting me. Now feeling much more human, I made my way back to the Tower plaza, then went up the stairs to a balcony off to the side.

I hadn’t noticed it in all the excitement the day before, but this far above the ground, there was a noticeable chill, that even clear skies and the morning sun couldn’t completely chase off. Considering the snow-covered mountains that surrounded the City, I had a growing suspicion that my new home rarely had summers fit for a day at the beach. Thankfully, Eva had been kind enough to lend me a headscarf as well. Wrapped up in that, and with Ghost resting comfortably in my head, I settled down to indulge in some simple people watching.

The plaza was actually a lot busier than I’d realized yesterday. There was a jumpship of some sort arriving or departing at least every five minutes, with Guardians of all shapes and sizes transmatting in and out. Eva had mentioned that she often helped Guardians decorate their armour, to help them establish their own image and identity despite the chaotic lifestyle they lived. I could see it in the crowd below. No two Guardians looked the same, even those in similar armour.

As I observed, I started asking Ghost questions again, occasionally writing down notes, often for things she couldn’t answer, or topics to come back to later. Much like the previous day, there was little in the way of direction or structure, instead simply going wherever my curiosity took me.

By midday, I was starting to feel a little hungry, and the chill was beginning to get really annoying. Writing down one last question for Rebecca later (‘Why are Guardians randomly dancing in the plaza?’), I put the notepad away and stood up, stretching a kink out of my back. “Right then. Lunch?”

“Lunch,” Ghost agreed.

Walking back towards the stairs, I paused, catching sight of a Warlock and a Hunter climbing over the railing at the edge of the plaza below and onto the antenna beyond it. As I watched, the pair walked out to the ends of the antennas, briefly turning to talk to each other. “What are those two doing…?” I muttered.

“I think I know… Guardian, try not to freak out too much,” Ghost said. Frowning, I gave the air in front of me a confused look, hoping that it was conveyed to my partner somehow. Then, both Guardians took a few steps back, before…

Before they took a running leap off the antenna and into open air.

I couldn’t speak, simply staring at where I’d seen two people seemingly commit suicide. Just like that… But surely I wasn’t the only one who’d seen them do it? Why was no one else reacting?

Two Ghosts appeared near the antenna, one of them shaking back and forth in clear exasperation. As I watched, both of them separated into their component parts, their outer layer floating a short distance away from their cores, Light gathering inside the sphere they created. Reality shifted, the Light took form, and then the two jumpers reappeared, both clearly unharmed. The Hunter was even laughing, while the Warlock looked irritated.

“Was that a resurrection?” I asked, trying to contain my disbelief.

"It was, yes. A lot of Guardians, um… Let’s just say that Tower jumping is something of a sport among certain groups.” Understandably, she sounded more than a little embarrassed by this detail.

“Tower jumping,” I repeated. I could already imagine it. Points for distance, style, speed, impact… “What’s below that ledge?”

“A large flat surface no one uses. It was part of the original Tower schematics.”

Which meant the original architects had expected something like this. Slowly, I took out the notepad again, opened it up, and wrote another note down.

‘Guardian Suicide Games. WHAT.’


Sadly, I wasn’t able to corner Rebecca and shake some answers out of her. She’d left the Tower before I even woke up, leaving a message for me with my Ghost. Apparently, she’d gone to the Cosmodrome, to help track down that Ketch I’d seen, and then do something about it.

Considering that comment, I looked up from my soup at Ghost. “What do you think she meant by ‘do something about it?’”

“Best case scenario, they capture it, then take it somewhere that they could safely refit it for the City fleet,” Ghost replied, sounding thoughtful. “That’s not too likely though. The Vanguard has only ever captured a handful of Fallen Ketches, mostly because removing the pilot Servitors control over its systems tends to leave the ship in no shape to fly for quite a while.”

“So, if capturing it’s not really a workable option, I’m guessing the next option would be destroy it, or just plain break it?”

“Or kill the ships commanders at least. Any Baron considered worthy of commanding a Ketch is a serious threat to the City.”

Nodding, I returned to my meal, although I was still worried. “Do you think she’ll be alright?”

“I’m sure she’ll be fine. She’s been around for a long time, after all. She’s nowhere as big a name in the history books as Zavala, the Iron Lords, or Lord Shaxx, but I’ve heard rumors she was around in the Dark Age. Dealing with a Ketch isn’t a huge problem for her.”

“If you say so.” Sighing, I dropped the spoon back into my meal. “Even if someone gets a lucky hit in on her, I get the feeling she’d be used to it by now.”

“She’d likely resurrect with no more reaction than a curse and desire to return fire,” Ghost chuckled. That chuckle faded as she saw my expression. “You’re still thinking about those two Guardians, aren’t you?”

“Yeah… It’s just…” I sighed, running a hand through my hair. “They treat suicide as a sport. They jump off the top of the Tower, die, then come back and laugh about it!” Despite my best efforts, I shuddered, imagining the sensation. The fall, the terror, the impact… “Eva said the world was different from what I knew, that there would be adjustments I’d have to make… but is life really so cheap now?”

Surprisingly, it wasn’t Ghost who replied. Without my noticing, Cayde-6 had appeared, seemingly out of nowhere, and was pulling up a chair. “Yes and no,” he said, spinning the chair around and sitting on it backwards, resting his arms on the chair back. “If you head back out there, into the wilds? You’re going to get killed at some point. Hell, you’re going to get killed a lot. There’s a lot of things that don’t like us. Fallen, Hive, weird-ass robots on Venus, angry turtle men mining Mars, and that’s just the obvious ones. There’s a thousand other ways to go. Jumpship breaks down and you crash, you explore an old building that’s not as stable as you thought, accidentally shoot a Golden Age power source, you realize an old minefield is still active after you’ve walked into it…” He coughed, despite not having lungs. “Happened to a guy I know.”

“You’re not really making me feel better sir. Also, I’m trying to eat,” I added, gesturing at my soup.

“I know, I’m getting there. The thing is, when you die, you can come back. As long as your Ghost is there, and you can still channel the Light. Here, in the City, no problem. But there are places out there the Light can’t touch. Things that know how to kill Ghosts. I’ve heard people say Guardians don’t fear Death. That ain’t true. It’s just that we’re better at slipping away from the Reaper… most of the time.” His voice was serious now, deeper, slower. “There’s a lot of Guardians that have trouble with that. Some of them get reckless, even out there, where their luck could run out. They asked themselves the same question you are now, and they didn’t like the answer. They decided it was that cheap.”

“And the ones jumping off the Tower?” I asked.

"Stress relief. Think about it. They did it where it’s actually safe, where they knew without a doubt their Ghost could bring them back. It was death, yeah, but not Death with a capital D. It’s more a really extreme sport. Or a really weird fetish, I suppose. Not my thing personally, I have an aversion to pain after all… Am I making sense?”

“I’m not entirely sure,” I admitted. “I think I see where you’re coming from. Maybe.” Strangely enough, it was making me feel somewhat better.

“Mmm. Motivational speeches aren’t my thing. I usually leave that sort of thing to Zavala, but he’s a Titan. All ‘heroic last stands’ and ‘make them pay in blood, yours and theirs’. Not really Hunter thinking.”

Smirking, I leaned forward. “And what exactly is ‘Hunter thinking?’”

Somehow, I could almost see a matching smirk on the Exo’s face. “Today is a good day for the other guy to die.”

“And if we die too, get back up and kill him again?”

“And steal all his stuff.”

“Nice. I kind of want to translate to Latin and use it on a coat of arms.”

Slapping the table, Cayde laughed. “I wonder if I could get Ikora to do that for me. Pretty sure she knows Latin.”

Shaking my head, I picked up my spoon again. I still wasn’t entirely sure what to make of the attitudes to death, but at the same time, knowing that it wasn’t entirely casual acceptance did help. Somewhat. “So, besides helping me out of a mood, any particular reason you tracked me down?”

“That was just a side benefit,” Cayde-6 replied. “I was on my way to lunch myself when I saw you. Now, I was going to contact your Ghost later on, but since we’re both here… You interested in some work?”

That made me raise an eyebrow. “I’ve been alive for less than a day,” I noted. “You can’t be that desperate.”

“Nah, but it’s low risk, that footage your Ghost recorded showed me you can handle yourself, and it’s a good chance for you to earn some glimmer and start making a name for yourself,” Cayde said, shrugging. “I could annoy a few other Hunters, but you’re already here…”

Glimmer. The word sparked something in the back of my brain, despite my best attempts to suppress it. A form of mass produced smartmatter created in the Golden Age, the City used it as a form of currency. The rate it was used in manufacturing compared to the rate Guardians and mining expeditions recovered it from the wilds made it a surprisingly stable economy, better than any printed money the City could have attempted to use.

And right now, I had only a tiny supply of it. A small stipend the Vanguard had given me to help me establish myself, and whatever Ghost had managed to salvage while she’d been searching for me. It wasn’t going to last long, and when it ran out… “What’s the job?”

“There’s a relay station in the Cosmodrome,” he replied, before raising a hand. “It’s in the Mothyards, well away from where the House of Devils decided to make trouble. There might be a patrol or two to dodge, but it shouldn’t be too bad. We know the station’s functional, it’s just grumpy about accepting remote commands.”

“Not a problem for a Ghost,” my companion noted.

“If you get it online, we can reactivate the old patrol network we had there, and get transmat ability into the western part of the Cosmodrome. It’d make our jobs a lot easier all around.”

Thinking it over for a moment, I very nearly decided to decline. Going back to the Cosmodrome? I’d barely gotten out of there the last time. But if I stayed away from the Fallen, then it really was just a simple case of getting in, having Ghost do her magic on the relay station, and then get the hell out. “I’m in,” I said.

“Fantastic,” Cayde said, holding out a hand. A gleaming white dodecahedron appeared in it. “You’ll want these.”

“An engram?” I asked, taking the item from him. Rebecca had shown me these. A wonder of the Traveler, they were information given solid form by the Light, a process that supposedly even scientists in the Golden Age didn’t truly understand. This strange item, almost weightless in my hand, could be almost anything.

“Tracker class body armour,” the Hunter Vanguard replied. “Better than what your Ghost made for you. Still not brilliant, but your Light’s still new. That’d be the most powerful armour you’d be able to power right now.”

Looking at the engram for a moment, I nodded and let it vanish into Ghosts storage. “Thanks.”

“I gotta look after you guys. It’s one of the few parts of the job I like,” he replied, standing up. “Before you go check on your ship, go talk to the gunsmith. He’ll know you’re coming, give you something a little better than that rusty old relic you dug up.”

“Hey, I like that relic,” I protested.

“So much you’re gonna take it back out there?”

“I’m nostalgic, not stupid,” I shot back.

“That’s my girl. You have fun out there. Try not to die, even if you can rez. Still hurts like a bitch,” he noted as he walked off.

Watching him go, Ghost turned back to me. “Back to the Cosmodrome. You sure you’re up for this so soon?”

“Hey, you brought me back to be a defender of the City, right?”

“That’s not necessarily an answer,” she pointed out.

“I know. Still, probably the best chance we’re going to have to ease into things, right?” I said, turning my attention back to my soup. If I was going out into harms way, I’d at least be doing it warm, with a full stomach.
Re: After The End, A Beginning
Sorry I've been missing out on this.  Life, and me trying to do my own writing and all.  You know how it is. :p

Excellent use of the flat WHAT trope.  I found the whole friggin scene to be hilarious.  Will we get to see people playing with the fan on the building in the middle of the plaza?

Re: After The End, A Beginning
We are not supposed to use the Ventilator fans to slice lunch meat.
No I don't care how thin the slices are, it makes a mess, and some has to clean it up.
Re: After The End, A Beginning
Black Aeronaut Wrote:Sorry I've been missing out on this.  Life, and me trying to do my own writing and all.  You know how it is. :p

Excellent use of the flat WHAT trope.  I found the whole friggin scene to be hilarious.  Will we get to see people playing with the fan on the building in the middle of the plaza?


People won't be dancing on the fans just yet. We'll be leaving the Tower soon, and heading back to the Cosmodrome. I'm sure we'll see Guardians doing something strange and silly again soon enough.

As for Sparrow Racing, I'm sure we'll see an informal version. SRL is a while away Tongue
itsune9tl Wrote:We are not supposed to use the Ventilator fans to slice lunch meat. 
No I don't care how thin the slices are, it makes a mess, and some has to clean it up.

'Things Guardians Are Not Allowed To Do Anymore' is either a fic of its own, or something that was once stuck to the Bounty Board, and quickly grew out of hand.
Re: After The End, A Beginning
At first glance, I honestly wasn’t sure which of them was older and more battered. The rifle I’d found in the ruins of the Cosmodrome, or the blue and yellow plated Exo studying it. According to Ghost, Banshee-44 had been the official Gunsmith of the Tower for at least a century, possibly more, and had served in the City Militia before that. That was an impressive achievement for anyone, but it became truly exceptional when one realised that he wasn’t a Guardian. To live so long in such dangerous times, without the resurrective immortality a Ghost provided…

Standing in front of him, I felt like a child standing in front of the School Headmaster. That said, if he noticed my unease, he was kind enough not to show it as he placed the rifle on the table at the front of his stall. “Khvostov 7G-02,” he rasped. “Designed in the early Golden Age by some of the best gunsmiths of the time. It would have been a wonder, but then it had to go through a committee.” He shook his head sadly. “Politicians and bureaucrats. They get handed a work of art, so of course they break it. Still, enough of the original design survived. If you knew what you were doing, and had the right tools, you could still make something magnificent.”

Running a finger along the side of the barrel, he nodded in satisfaction. “It’s an ancient weapon, battered and worn, but it still fires true. Maybe it was waiting for you,” he mused, looking up at me. “It got you through the Fallen, and all the way to the City. Not bad for an antique.”

“I don’t think we’d have gotten out of there if we hadn’t found it,” I admitted. “But if we’re going back out there, I think I need something a bit better maintained. Cayde said you’d be able to help us with that?”

“Heh. He said that, did he? Best keep an eye on him Hunter. Cayde’s good at making promises on other people’s behalf.” With that warning, Banshee turned towards a rack of guns on the wall behind him, while Ghost and I exchanged a bemused glance. Considering the weapons in front of him for a moment, the Exo took a rifle down and walked back over. “Luckily for you, this time he’s right. I’d never let a Guardian go into the Wilds without a proper gun, not if I could help it.”

Taking the gun from him, I looked it over. A bullpup design, with smooth white panelling covering the front of the rifle, it was bulkier than my Khvostov, but noticeably lighter. “Trax Callum semi-automatic rifle,” Banshee said. “This is a marksman’s design, built for precision. I think it’ll serve as a good starter weapon for you.”

Inspecting the rifles sights, I nodded, remembering Ghosts explanation. Guardians used the Light to enhance our abilities, physical and otherwise. It made our armour stronger, our bullets hit harder and all sorts of interesting effects. In some cases, we were able to even craft weapons from the Light itself. Naturally, the City had developed ways to take advantage of that. Technologies that welcomed the Light flowing through it, that could refine and direct it. Even that simple, old leather armour Cayde wore, despite its primitive appearance, could potentially withstand a direct hit from a tank.

There was a downside, at least for myself. The more powerful the gear, the more Light it needed. And right now, I was young, and my ability to channel the Light weak and unrefined. If I tried to power the sort of gear an older Guardian like Rebecca or Cayde used, I’d probably faint from exhaustion before I even pulled the trigger. Which would be embarrassing, and not exactly productive. Hence, I was using ‘starter weapons’. While they could channel the Light far better than something like my Khvostov could, the power they demanded was well within my limits.

Thinking back, I wasn’t able to suppress the smile as I remembered I Ghost had gotten a little too eager to explain, and ended up going on about the mechanics in great detail, forgetting that I’d understood maybe one word in ten when it came to City Age Science. I still wasn’t even sure what a ‘paracasual reassessment probability kiln’ was even supposed to be.

Looking back up at Banshee, I gave the man a grateful nod. “Thank you.”

“It’s what I do,” he replied, waving a hand dismissively. “Used to be that I’d be out there, right alongside you, taking the fight to the Fallen myself. Used to be I’d see how your gun worked up close. I can’t do that anymore. Turns out even Exos can’t ignore time forever. So, now I do what I can to make sure you come home.”

Hesitating, I tried to think of a good reply, but the man simply turned away, leaning over a half dismantled machine gun. After a moment, he began muttering to himself under his breath, and I realized that he’d seemingly forgotten I was here. “Let’s leave him to it,” Ghost whispered.

“Uh, have a nice day,” I said, before making my way along the edge of the plaza, towards the door to the hanger bays. Banshee seemingly didn’t hear me, his attention focused on his work. “That was… abrupt.”

“He does that sometimes,” Ghost replied. “I mean, I’ve never spoken to him before, but I’ve heard a lot from Ghosts who have. They say that, in a lot of ways, he’s a lot like a Guardian. All the times he’s been repaired from near death, it’s left a lot of scars, physical and mental.” Pausing, I gave her a puzzled look, and she sighed. “Memories, Guardian. Just like yours are inaccessible, his are… scattered, for lack of a better term. Apparently, his work is how he keeps himself grounded.”

Contemplating that for a moment, I couldn’t quite hold back a shudder. The void in my mind was already horrible enough. If it was there, but in pieces? That sounded like the stuff of nightmares. “You know, don’t take this the wrong way, but the future is really failing to live up to expectations.” My new Scout Rifle vanished into storage, letting me wave my hands around as I continued. “Ruins, alien invaders, brain damage and memory loss apparently being commonplace…”

“I wouldn’t say commonplace,” Ghost protested. “Let’s be fair here, Banshee’s been through some rather exceptional circumstances.”

“I’m pretty sure the future was supposed to be a wonderful, post-scarcity society, where my every indulgent whim would be catered to,” I noted, letting a smile appear on my face. “I’ve yet to see any attractive servant boys around to feed me grapes.”

Catching on to my joking, Ghosts panels spun in what I was coming to recognize as a suppressed giggle. “Well, we used to have those, but then the Darkness came along and ruined it for everyone.”

“Is that going to be your default excuse?” I asked. “‘Oh, it’s totally the Darkness’ fault.’”

“Only when I can find a way to justify it,” she replied cheerfully as we approached the hanger. “But seriously, Banshee didn’t mean any offense by it. He just tends to be very focused on what he can do.”

“Which is make sure our guns are the best they can be,” I replied as we passed through what I suspected was some sort of security station. Stepping out of the way of a Titan in gleaming red armour coming the other way, I turned to consider the brightly decorated rifle on his back. “Say, the nice paint jobs on some of these guns…?”

“Those need more Light than you can channel right now, yes.”

“... Is it wrong to say I kind of want them because they look cool?” I asked, feeling my cheeks heat up slightly.

“There’s a text shared among Hunters,” Ghost said after a moment. “It’s called the Pahanin Errata, and it’s a collection of quotes, sayings and advice from Pahanin, one of the first Hunters the City has records of. There’s an entry that I think applies here.” Turning to her, I raised an eyebrow. “Your missions: protect the City. Look better than the Warlocks. But don’t look like you’re trying.”

My laugh turned into a cough, and I shook my head, trying to reclaim a little dignity. “So, that’s how it is, is it?” Ghost nodded, and I had to fight the urge to laugh again. Earlier, Eva had told me she worked to help make Guardians more than just a gun and a suit of armour. She helped them establish an identity for themselves in this strange world. And suddenly, as I’d looked at a shiny gold and black rifle, her work made so much sense.

Smiling at my own foolishness, I continued on into the hangar, following Ghosts directions as she led me past racks of missiles, countless supply crates, and a lift bringing jumpships up from deeper in the building, towards a massive workshop towards the rear of the Tower.

When I last saw the jumpship Ghost and I had used to escape the Cosmodrome, it had been old and battered, paint scraping off, rust in places no aircraft should have rust, and so on. Rebecca had told me the Tower Shipwright would have made getting it actually safe to fly a priority for her people, but it had still been less than twenty four hours. I’d expected to find a work in progress at best, a large collection of spare parts at worst.

Instead, I found my jumpship sitting on its landing gear, gleaming from a fresh coat of paint. There were still old scars and scrapes, but the rust was gone, all the panels were properly bolted down, and the grass I’d seen on the starboard engine was gone. As I stood back and looked it over from a distance, Ghost flew up close and started running her scanner beams over it.

“Oh my goodness,” she said at last, turning towards me. “It’s been completely overhauled. Wiring, fuel lines, circuitry… it’s in great condition.”

A new voice made both of us jump slightly, turning towards the blonde human woman walking towards us, wiping oil from her hands with a rag. “Well, I’d certainly hope so,” she commented, my mind tagging her accent as southwest american for some reason. “I only spent all night workin’ on it with whatever Frames I could spare.” Grinning, she held out a hand. “Name’s Holliday. Any vehicle needs, I’m usually the one takin’ care of it.”

“Rose,” I replied, returning the handshake. It occurred to me that she might be the first person I’d seen since arriving at the tower that wasn’t wearing thick clothing over her entire body. Then again, given how much warmer the hangar was than the rest of the Tower, a sleeveless top did make a lot of sense.

Flying back over, Ghost twitched her panels. “Wait, you worked all night to get it operational?” she asked. “Personally?”

“‘Course I did.” Reaching up, Holliday gave the Ghost a friendly tap. “How could I not? It’s been a long while since I saw a new Arcadia make it to the City. Even if I wasn’t the shipwright, I’d probably have done it.” Her smile softening, she gestured at the ship. “It was an Arcadia that got me interested in flyin’ in the first place. Always had a soft spot for ‘em ever since.”

Nodding, I moved closer to the craft, making a brief lap of it. “How much of it were you able to salvage?”

“About ninety percent of the actual frame,” Holliday reported. “Engines took a bit of work. The parts weren’t as bad as you’d expect, but there was a whole lot of crap in there. The wiring was the real nightmare.” I glanced at her, and she grinned, resting a hand against one of the engines. “You’d be amazed just how much of it there is, even in a jumpship this size. Still, it’s all replaced and right to go.”

Scanning the ship again, Ghost floated down next to me. “I’d heard you were one of the best ma’am, but this is… this is incredible.”

"I wouldn’t be here if I weren’t good at my job,” Holliday said, although it was clear she appreciated the praise. “That said…” she gestured at a side bench, where a silver cylinder about a foot wide and three feet long rested, half dismantled. “I haven’t been able to get everything ready in time. Your NLS Drive still needs a lot of work,” she admitted. “It’s all there, but until it’s properly calibrated, well. All it’d do right now is turn you into mathematical vapour.”

Ghost and I exchanged glances, conveying our unease with that concept easily enough. “Well, that’s not going to be an immediate problem anyway,” I told her. “We’re not planning on leaving the planet any time soon.”

“You’re headin’ back to the Cosmodrome, right? Cayde told me,” she added in response to my raised eyebrow. “I’ve managed to teach him to keep me informed about things like this.”

“I have to know how you managed that,” Ghost said, sounding genuinely impressed.

Holliday gave us a smirk. “Percussive maintenance. He doesn’t cause me too many problems, and I don’t need to crack his skull with a wrench.”

“... That makes more sense than I should really be comfortable with,” Ghost mused.

Coughing to contain a laugh, I nodded. “Well, in this case, he’s right. He wanted us to take care of a job in a region called the Mothyards.”

“I know the spot. It’s an old plane graveyard, well west of where the Vanguard say the Devils are making trouble. I’ve had Guardians recover some gear from there before. Now, I already uploaded the latest maps to her computers,” Holliday told me, giving the Arcadia another pat. “You can go over them if you want Ghost. Personally though, I’d recommend flying in from the north, along the Forgotten Shores. Word is there’s practically no Fallen up there yet, so you should be able to get in undetected. Might be a bit more of a walk…”

“But it’s probably better than flying into whatever the Devils are using for anti-air,” I agreed. “Thanks Holliday.”

“No problem Rose.” Her expression became more serious. “You two watch yourself out there, y’hear? Vanguard might say the region is low-risk, but that don’t mean there’s no risk.”

“I’ll be careful,” I promised her. “If nothing else, Ghost might be able to bring me back, but I’d rather put off finding out how that feels for as long as possible.”


Getting comfortable in the flight chair, I once again marveled at Holliday’s skills. “She even replaced the chair,” I noted with a smile.

“And she installed a City-designed interface for the flight controls,” Ghost said. “Much easier for me to connect to.” Looking up from her work, she hesitated. “Are you sure about this?”

“About what?” I asked, pausing from where I was strapping in.

“About going back to the Cosmodrome. About going back out into the Wilds so soon, for that matter. I only found you yesterday, and you haven’t even gone into the City yet. We spent all day in the Tower.”

Frowning slightly, I considered her question. We’d been so desperate to escape the Cosmodrome, and yet here we were, about to go right back in. On the surface, it sounded crazy. And why were we doing it? Because a man I’d only just met asked me to?

No. There was more to it then that. Even if I wasn’t sure on all the details just yet, being a Guardian felt right, like it had a purpose to it. Defending the City, the last bastion of mankind, felt right. I could make a difference, I could help. In the grand scheme of things, this might be an odd job that even a ‘Kinderguardian’ like myself could do, but it was a start. And if I could do that, then I’d go see the City I was helping to defend.

“I’m sure,” I told Ghost. “Besides, I really want to take a look at that place when we’re not running for our lives.”

“Fair enough,” she said, turning back to the controls. I watched her for a moment, before catching sight of a tiny piece of paper, sitting next to one of the gauges. Curious, I picked it up and unfolded it, raising an eyebrow at the handwritten note. It was messy, and had more than a few words corrected or outright crossed out, but it translated easily enough.

    Amanda’s the best damn engineer in the City. You won’t have problems with your ship. But if you run into trouble on the flight, get the hell out. Ships can be replaced, Guardians can’t. Just remember. You’re new to the Wilds. That’s all right. Watch your back, shoot straight, conserve ammo. And hold your head high. You’re a Hunter.
    - Cayde-6

Rereading the note a few times, I smiled softly, before folding the note back up and putting it in one of the pouches on my belt. “Well then partner,” I said to Ghost. “Let’s get out there, shall we?”
Re: After The End, A Beginning
I've always liked the Tower NPCs...  With the possible exception of the Cryptarch.  He's always so fraggin' stingy.

And it's nice to see this kind of portrayal of Cayde.  Under all his bluster, he really is a big softy who genuinely cares about his people.
Re: After The End, A Beginning
I was there, at the beginning. In the dark reign of Rahool. I walked the Four Worlds, a solo player in a universe of raids and strikes. I battled Gate Lords and Archon Priests, Devil Walkers and the guardian of the Shrine of Crota. I stood at the Gates of the Loot Cave, and as the Hive charged forth, screaming their worship of death, I met them with bullets and the power of Arc! As my guns ran dry, others stepped up to the line. A million deaths or more, and it might have been enough, as long last, the golden gleam of an Exotic Engram finally caught my eye. Hands shaking, I returned to the Tower and approached the Cryptarch, holding out the armour engram...


Ahem. Yes. Moving on.

I knew I was going to enjoy writing Cayde, and that he was going to show up in story no matter what. It's one of the reasons I chose Hunter over the other two classes, because at least here, it's a little more justified when he decides to stick his horn in.
Re: After The End, A Beginning
The fact that he's voiced by Nathan Freakin' Fillion is just icing on the cake.  (Dear god, the crossover potential...  Frank Castle, Cayde-6, and Malcom Reynolds all walk into a bar...)
Re: After The End, A Beginning
... which is odd, because the second and third of them should have noticed it. <rimshot>-- Bob
Then the horns kicked in...
...and my shoes began to squeak.
Re: After The End, A Beginning
Bob Schroeck Wrote:... which is odd, because the second and third of them should have noticed it. <rimshot>

I saw this comment right as I got to the Cayde-6 portion of Destiny 2's main plot. Based off his luck there, no, he would not have noticed the bar. Smile
Re: After The End, A Beginning
Black Aeronaut Wrote:The fact that he's voiced by Nathan Freakin' Fillion is just icing on the cake.  (Dear god, the crossover potential...  Frank Castle, Cayde-6, and Malcom Reynolds all walk into a bar...)

Richard Castle not Frank. The first is a Fillion character the second is the Punisher , (who just walks through the bar and pays it no mind) 
RE: After The End, A Beginning

Once upon a time, what was now known as the Forgotten Shores had been a small harbor, used by the Russian Federal Bureau of Aeronautics to supply the various Skywatch complexes that maintained contact with the offworld colonies. Now, it was nothing more than a collection of rusted hulks that had washed ashore, along with the remains of an old administration building that seemed to be racing the hillside underneath it to see which of them could collapse faster. It had little left of real interest, making it the perfect location to come ashore unnoticed, then follow a small stream south to the Mothyards.

That plan, simple as it was, didn’t even last until we landed. We were just close enough to start making out details along the shoreline when Ghost twitched back in alarm. “Guardian, I think I’m detecting a firefight,” she reported, floating down closer to the controls. “Yes, there’s a lot of Arc energy events. I think it’s the Fallen.”

“Any idea who they’re shooting at?” I asked, hoping that maybe, just maybe, we could fly back out to sea and not get involved.

“I’m not sure.. Aha! Just picked up a void energy pulse, looks like a Vortex grenade going off. There’s a Warlock down there.”

Taking a breath, I summoned my helmet out of storage, transmatting it straight onto my head. A simple convenience I was beginning to suspect I’d be using a lot. “Alright, find somewhere to drop us off. If we can trap them between us and the Warlock, even better.” Sighing, I readied my gun. “I was hoping to go at least a day before killing someone.”

“Or getting killed ourselves,” Ghost added.

“You’re not helping.”

Whatever my opinion of her humor might be, her piloting was perfect. We came in low and fast, swinging around over the remains of a boat that had broken in half, before passing over a tugboat at the bottom of the hill. I had just enough time to catch sight of Arc bolts flickering towards the administration building, and then I felt the sudden chill of the transmat, followed a moment later by the impact of my boots hitting the dirt.

“Ship AI has the controls,” Ghost said, even as the jumpship banked hard left and headed back out over the sea. I didn’t really pay much attention, moving to the edge of the boat and leaning out, rifle raised and ready. I saw the Fallen easily enough, most of them firing at either the administration building, or the rapidly vanishing form of my jumpship. Dregs mostly, although I could see the distinctive shapes of a few Vandals among the pack. Before any of them turned their attention towards me, I raised my rifle and took aim at the nearest Vandal.

Banshee had said the rifle he’d given me was a marksman's weapon. As that first Vandal fell, that strange milky white light Ghost had called Ether leaking from where his head had been, it was clear the Exo knew what he was talking about.

While my arrival might have caused some confusion, it certainly didn’t take whoever was in charge long to get their minions in order. About half of them continued to focus their attention on the building above us, while the rest made their way down the hill towards me. And they were fast. Faster than I’d expected, after the ones I’d fought the previous day. It took two missed shots before I stopped trying to be fancy and take their heads off, and went for the center of mass like one should.

A Dreg fell, screaming as it rolled down the slope. Concrete shattered next to a Vandal as it vanished from my sight. Ducking back behind my cover, I barely avoided an Arc bolt taking my head off. The motion sensor in my helmets HUD flashed red, and I looked up to see a rather fast Dreg scrambling over the top of the tugboats cabin. His flanking maneuver came to a sudden and violent end, before I made my way towards the other end of the boat. With a thought, the Light raced through me, brilliant, burning confidence gathering in the palm of my hand. Stepping into the open, I threw the incendiary grenade, sending it bouncing up the hill into the pack. The explosion briefly drowned out the sound of gunfire from further up the hill, but it wasn’t in time to spare me the sudden pain of a wire rifle bolt burning across my left thigh.

Gasping in pain, I stumbled forward, turning it into something of a roll that let me reach another rock and take cover. This time, I could feel the Light within me, gathering in my leg and dulling the pain. Waiting a moment, I leaned out, chose another Dreg, and clipped it in the shoulder before ducking back. Then, confident my leg could handle it, I went on the offensive again, climbing up and over the rock, firing at the first thing I saw.

The Fallen tried to regroup, but that was when the Guardian at the top of the hill decided to follow my example, emerging from cover and going on the offensive. Her auto rifle stuttered, scattering bullets across the hill and taking out two more Dregs. The shifting action pulled my attention away from her, but I could still feel it as the Light flowed around her. When I called upon it, it was like fire. Passionate, seemingly unstoppable, flowing into the world as I willed.

This was very different. It was cold, almost angry, and it felt like it had to be dragged into the world, almost against its will. Then, while I was dealing with a Vandal that had decided to try retreating to a safe distance and sniping us while we were distracted, that power passed the point of no return, and the world seemed to explode in a storm of purple energy, washing out over the hillside and everything on it. It only lasted a moment, before the Void energy faded away to wherever it had come from, and the other Guardian and I were the only ones left alive on the hillside. A hillside, I realized after a moment, that had less Fallen corpses than it should have. The rest were gone, wisps of the Void blowing away with the wind as I watched. Shuddering at the implications of that, I took a breath and made one more sweep of the area.

Satisfied nothing else was going to jump out and try to kill us, I turned my attention towards the Guardian. Noticing my attention, she waved slightly, before lowering her rifle and leaning back against a fragment of wall, shoulders slumped. “You alright?” I asked, moving closer.

She looked up at me, her face hidden behind the large, dark face-plate that seemed to be common in the curved helmets popular with Warlocks. “I. Yes. Sorry. It’s just, before you got here, they managed to kill me. Twice.” She shrugged, still taking deep breaths. “I’m not really used to that just yet.” Maybe a Guardian that had been doing this sort of thing for more than a day would have some idea of the right response. All I could manage was a weak nod. As the silence lingered, I took the opportunity to take a closer look at the other woman. After a moment, I realized that there was a very good chance she was as new to the entire ‘reincarnated warriors of the Traveler’ as I was. The rifle she was holding was as simple and bland as mine, and the only touch of individuality in her clothes was the light blue tunic she wore over her bodysuit.

Eventually, time and our situation overcame my unease, and I placed a hand on her shoulder. “We should probably put some distance between these guys and us,” I commented, nodding towards one of the Dregs. Glancing over at it, she nodded in agreement, standing up straighter and taking a breath. “I’m heading south, towards an old airport graveyard. What about you?”

“Ah yes, the Mothyards. I’m going in the same direction, actually.” She sounded much calmer now, as she reloaded her rifle, an act that reminded me to do the same thing. “I heard some interesting rumors about the Lunar Complex not far from there, so I decided to investigate.” She sighed, shaking her head in frustration. “My first time out of the City since I reached it, and I have the misfortune of encountering the Eliksni almost as soon as I make landfall.”

Making my way down the hill, I frowned slightly. “Eliksni?” I whispered.

“It’s what the Fallen call themselves,” Ghost replied.

“Well, that makes sense,” I muttered. If nothing else, I doubted aliens would use a human word to describe themselves, much less one with the sort of implications ‘Fallen’ implied. “Well, if we’re both going the same way,” I continued in a louder voice, “I don’t suppose you’d complain if we backed each other up?”

“That sounds like a wonderful idea,” she said as she followed me down the hillside. “Even without the concern of more combat, I have to admit it would be rather welcome to have someone to talk to.” Giggling softly, she shook her head. “I do love my Ghost, but he isn’t really a conversational type.” Appearing next to her for a moment, the drone in question gave her a mild glare before vanishing again.

Chuckling, I held out a hand. “I’m Rose, by the way.”

“Eliza-4,” she replied, returning the handshake.


We managed to leave the Forgotten Shores without further incident. According to Eliza, the Fallen pack she’d had the misfortune to run into had come from the east, following the shoreline. We made our way south, away from that potential problem, past the rusted corpses of long forgotten boats, and into a gully that had formed around a small river whose name was lost to history. Once, the river had been much larger, likely taking up most of the gully. The industrial developments in the area had clearly cut off most of the water supply, leaving only a shallow stream that barely looked deep enough to reach our knees. Of course, considering this made it possible for us to follow the river safely, I certainly wasn’t going to complain. “So, what’re you looking for in the Lunar Complex anyway?” I asked as we started making our way upstream.

“I’m hoping to use the communications systems there to make contact with certain orbital facilities,” Eliza replied. “At the height of the Golden Age, there was a vast network of satellites and probes in the region of space surrounding Earth. Their purposes varied. Communication, navigation, military… Supposedly, there were even automated vessels dedicated to sweeping the region for any loose material that might pose a safety hazard.” Pausing in her explanation, she turned to check behind us. “Almost all of that network was destroyed in the Collapse, but some fragments survived.”

Thinking back to the brief history lesson Rebecca and Ghost had given me the night before, I nodded. “Right. The City tends to keep a look out for that sort of thing. If it’s completely broken, they salvage it, if it still works, they re-purpose it?”

Ghost appeared above my shoulder, nodding. “When people say the Golden Age was an era of wonders, they weren’t kidding. Even a mostly broken Golden Age system defense platform is way beyond anything the City could hope to create.” Turning, she gave Eliza a thoughtful look. “So, what was it in particular you were trying to contact?”

“My mentor has found a number of references to a system of satellites in lunar orbit, put in place by the Russian Federal Bureau of Aeronautics. He believes that their purpose was to perform covert surveillance on surface facilities operated by rival nations.” She waved a hand in what I assumed was the general direction of the Lunar Complex. “If any part of the network remains functional, this would be the most logical location to make contact from.”

“I’ve heard a bit about the moon since I came back,” I said, pausing to look up at the sky. “After the Collapse, it was taken over by, what’d you call them, the Hive? Death worshiping alien monsters?” Ghost nodded, and I sighed as I started walking again. “Yeah, because the Fallen weren’t unpleasant enough… Apparently the City tried to take it back once. Once.” Remembering the look on Rebecca's face when she’d told me about it, I had to suppress a shiver. “They call it the Great Disaster.”

“And ever since that day, the Vanguard have listed the moon as a Restricted Zone,” Eliza said, her voice barely above a whisper. “While Guardians are free to travel there, they have no support or assistance from the City. And while the official records of Guardians lost on lunar expeditions is thus very incomplete…” She paused, then shrugged as I looked over at her. “Well, very few make it back to Earth.”

“Yeah. Anything that helps there, that’s… yeah.” Sighing, I rubbed at the back of my neck, looking up at the sky again. At this time of day, there was no sign of the moon, but I still glared in the general direction regardless. “Christ, what a time to be reborn in,” I muttered, getting a laugh from Eliza. “Oh don’t pretend you haven’t thought the exact same thing.”

Still laughing, she knelt down to pick up a small rock. “At least once a day since my Ghost found me,” she said, standing up and throwing the rock at the water. It was a decent shot, skimming across the surface three times before sinking, and she nodded in mild approval. “Usually while witnessing my fellow Guardians doing something of questionable sanity.”

I couldn’t help but groan in understanding, even as I knelt down to pick up a rock of my own. “Oh my god, I know, right? I’m actually a little worried if immortality does something to your mind.” Turning the rock over in my hand, I noted it was smooth enough for my needs, and sent it skimming across the water with a flick of my wrist. It did better than Eliza’s shot, managing to skip five times before dropping under the surface, and I grinned with mild triumph. “I mean, Cayde says it was a method of stress relief so they take it seriously when they have to, but competitive Tower jumping just seems like a bad idea all around.”

My comment drew a snort from the other woman, the sort that had the shoulders and chest jump slightly. “I’ve seen worse. The university I’m attending has a department dedicated to Thanatonautics. The art of exploring beyond the boundaries of death, seeking memories and knowledge of past lives.” Her voice was incredibly flat, and not for the first time, I wished our helmets let us see each others faces. “The job involves a handgun, your Ghost, and a notepad to write down what you saw.”

With a flicker of light, her Ghost appeared next to her, staring at us. “She’s not exaggerating,” he commented. “By the way. They like hiring new Guardians.” He vanished again before we could reply.

Ghost and I looked at each other. She spoke first, the tone of her voice suggesting she’d heard of the concept before, but still didn’t like to think about it too much. “I don’t care what they’re paying, or how desperate for glimmer we get. I really don’t want to take the offer.”

“Yeah, I think you’re safe there…” Groaning, I shook my head and started walking again. “Yeah. I’m really hoping that kind of Crazy isn’t contagious.” Laughing softly, Eliza followed us along the riverside.


Following the river to the end of the gully only took us about half an hour, and thankfully the trip was uneventful. If the Fallen had found the patrol we’d killed, they either hadn’t found our trail, or simply hadn’t caught up to us yet. It was rather peaceful actually, especially since the sides of the gully hid the rest of the Cosmodrome from sight. For a little while, I could try and ignore the armour we wore, the guns we carried, and just enjoy being out in the countryside.

Eventually though, as we made our way around a bend, we saw the gully open up before us. In the distance, we could see the massive Cosmodrome wall, standing battered but still unbroken. On our right was the hillside the river originated from, an old road curving up its steep slope to the Skywatch facilities at the top. Even from this angle, we could see the massive satellite dish that sat on top of the main Lunar Complex building, still looking remarkably intact. With a little luck, it might even still be able to connect to the satellites Eliza-4 was seeking.

And to the left, I could see my destination, the Mothyards. The remains of dozens of airplanes, some of them dating back to before the Golden Age, cut up into pieces and left to rust in a rocky field. From what Ghost had been able to find in the historical databases, this aircraft graveyard had once been much larger, spreading over the Steppes to the east, along with the region now claimed by the Skywatch. When the Cosmodrome had expanded to meet the demands of the colony ships, the graveyard had slowly shrunk, the wrecks removed to make space as needed. Now, there was only this one tiny patch of scrap left, a monument to a long gone age of aviation, surrounded by the ruins of the civilisation they helped build. There was something incredibly depressing about the whole thing. Pushing that thought aside, I tried to focus on the present, turning to where Ghost was floating. “So, this transmat relay Cayde wants us to fix. Where exactly is it?” Her panels rotated in thought, before she vanished, and a small diamond appeared on my visors HUD. Looking in the direction it indicated, I couldn’t help but sigh. “On the other side of the Mothyards.”

“Well, that’s unfortunate,” Eliza said, turning away from where she’d been studying the Lunar Complex. “I had hoped we would not need to make such a detour. And I’m not exactly eager about moving through somewhere so… cluttered.”

Considering that, I looked over the Mothyards with a more paranoid eye. The maze of plane wrecks and storage crates took on a much more worrying appearance as I thought about what could be hiding in there. “That’s a fair point.” Rubbing at the back of my neck, I glanced over at her. “You still sure we should do it first?”

Not looking away from the mess ahead of us, Eliza nodded. “Reestablishing the local transmat networks connection to the City first is the logical option.” She gestured at the hill and the buildings at its peak. “Besides, I doubt my goal will be any safer.”

“This isn’t the safest job out there, is it?” I said, earning a soft laugh from the other woman. “Okay then, transmat it is.” Leaving the gully behind, we made our way into the Mothyards, maneuvering around the scrap as best we could. There was actually a lot more of it than we’d realized, with all sorts of things hidden in the long grass. Steel panels, fencing wire, entire seats that looked like they’d come out of a passenger plane, the list went on.

Glancing up into an opening on the side of an old cargo plane, I grinned at the sight of a black kite perched up there, watching the two of us with the kind of cautious curiosity one would expect from an animal that didn’t see humans often. “Well, if nothing else, at least this place isn’t going entirely to waste,” Ghost commented.

“First rule of the animal kingdom,” I replied. “Life can survive damn near anywhere.” After watching us for a moment longer, the kite seemed to conclude we either weren’t a threat, or simply weren’t interesting enough, and took to the sky again. As I watched it fly away, I wondered how many other species had survived the Collapse. Were there still bears and wolves out there in the wild, continuing on as they always had, now humans weren’t there to make more problems for them? And what about domesticated species, like cats and dogs? Not to mention things like sheep and cows, which we’d bred to be dependent on humans for survival. What had happened to them?

Questions for later, I decided, before moving to catch up to Eliza, who was carefully checking a path that led through a fragment of a passenger liner. I hesitated for a moment, half expecting to see the remains of long dead passengers inside, before the sight of empty seats reminded me that this was a scrapyard, not a crash site.

“No sign of trouble so far,” she said.

“Don’t jinx us,” I muttered.

“I think I already did that.” I couldn’t help but grin, feeling just a little bit silly. Really, if we looked at it logically, there was no real reason to be as paranoid for trouble as we were right now. It wasn’t like our situation had drastically changed from a few minutes ago, but here we were, trying to stick to the shadows and checking every corner. Just because our surroundings looked a little different.

That still didn’t stop me from keeping a careful eye on my motion sensor, just in case.

Eventually, as we passed the remains of a small, single seat plane that had been abandoned at the edge of the field, I caught sight of the destination Ghost had given me. Coming to a halt next to the planes ruined propeller blades, I took a moment to consider the tiny shack perched on the top of a hill, half its tin walls missing. “Well, that’s not a good sign. God only knows how long it’s been exposed to the elements.”

“It might not be that bad,” Ghost said. “Most of the transmat network is actually deep underground. This is just an access point.” She appeared next to me as I stepped through one of the gaps in the wall, running her scanners over the collection of rusted pipes and fuse boxes, before coming to a stop in front of one of the boxes. “This one here.” Slinging my rifle on my back, I drew a knife from my belt, then stepped around Ghost and slid it into the shackle of the padlock. With a thought, Solar Light flowed into the blade, and it sliced through the old metal instantly.

Unhooking the remains of the lock, I flipped the latch and opened the door. I then promptly swore and pulled my hand back, as what seemed like several thousand spiders started scurrying around, clearly furious at my intrusion into their lair. Behind me, Ghost managed some sort of strangled yelp, and by the time I turned to check on her, she was on the other side of the shack, hiding behind Eliza. “Really? I’m the one that needs to worry about getting bitten!”

“It’s not about the biting,” Ghost replied, outer panels spinning around. “I’ve got moving parts. Exposed moving parts. Do you know what happens when bugs get in there? They get stuck, then they get crushed, and then you’ve got dead insects stuck inside you, going rotten, and you can’t get them out…” She visibly shuddered, and I nodded, conceding the point.

“Okay, I’ll allow it.” Laughing, I channeled more Solar Light into the knife, watching flames ignite from nothing along the edge of the the blade, before waving it over the cobwebs filling the fuse box. After a minute or so, it was clear enough that Ghost was willing to move in for a closer look. Eliza’s Ghost joined her, and I stepped back to let the pair work. As the pair floated around the circuit boards and fuses, scanner lights and repair lasers flickering, I glanced over at Eliza-4, noticing she was still standing just outside the building. “You’re not afraid of bugs too, are you?” I asked the exo.

“Well, I would argue that afraid is too strong a term. Uncomfortable might be more accurate.” I tilted my head to the side, and she giggled lightly. “I have seams and joints, much like our Ghosts,” she noted. “The thought of organic matter being trapped in there is…” When her voice trailed off, I expected a comedic shudder of some sort. Instead, she walked through the shack, coming to a stop by a hole in the far wall. “I think I saw something.”

Standing next to her, I looked out over the landscape to the east. The view wasn’t that different from anything I’d seen before. A river to the south east, wide than the one we’d followed earlier, hills, old abandoned buildings, and the Wall in the distance. Then, it looked like a part of the Wall changed color, becoming a familiar ugly brown. “Fallen Skiff,” I muttered. I’d been told about the small craft that made up most of the Fallen fleet. A combination of gunboat and transport, they usually hid behind stealth fields, only emerging to attack or drop off troops or equipment. “Before we left the City, the updates we got said those were mostly appearing around the Rocketyards. Nowhere near this far west.”

Eliza nodded, even as we watched the tiny brown blur of another Skiff appear. “Indeed. And considering that pack I was unfortunate enough to encounter earlier, it would appear they’re spreading out across the Cosmodrome rather quickly.” Tapping her fingers against the side of her helmet, she considered the matter, then nodded again. “I think we should take a closer look.”

Turning towards her, I waved a hand in the direction of the Lunar Complex. “If we do, we probably won’t have time to make it back to the reason you came out here before it gets dark,” I pointed out.

“True, but it isn’t going anywhere. They are.”

Thinking it over, I turned to where our Ghosts were still working on the fuse box. “What about you two?”

“Troop movements. Always a priority,” Elizas Ghost said as he manipulated a piece of Glimmer floating in front of him, transmuting it from its usual crystal form into a long, thin cable that vanished with the flicker of transmat.

“And once we get this working, we should be able to get a stable comm link to our ships and the City,” my Ghost added as she ran her scanner lights over the fuses again. “So if it’s too big for us, we can kick it upstairs and the Vanguard can throw someone heavier at it.”

Tossing my knife up into the air, I watched it spin, then caught it and put it back in its sheathe. “So we’re all in agreement. East it is.”

RE: After The End, A Beginning
Yay! It lives! And Rose has found an Warlock-Exo to call a friend! Big Grin

Good job on conveying the setting - it has that unsettling sense of the eerie just like the game.
RE: After The End, A Beginning

Intellectually, I knew that my bond with my Ghost gave me a form of immortality. She’d explained it to me in detail, as had Rebecca. I’d seen Guardians jump off the edge of the Tower, committing temporary suicide as a form of recreation. I knew that as long as the Light was with me, injuries were merely a brief inconvenience, and even death a minor delay.

As I hid behind the remains of an old shipping container, a Fallen patrol less than five feet away on the other side, that intellectual understanding didn’t exactly feel reassuring. Slowly, I moved towards a hole in the container, watching as the aliens made their way down the road leading to the Mothyards.

Four Dregs, all of them as unnaturally thin as the ones I’d encountered before, their lower arms ending in metal caps just below the shoulders. They were at the front of the pack, hissing and barking at each other in their strange language. Two Vandals followed along behind, a least a foot taller than the Dregs, with all four arms intact and some actual bulk on their bodies. They seemed to pay their lower caste colleagues little attention, their own quieter conversation clearly between just the two of them.

However, it was the four machines floating along behind them that really had my interest. Oval shaped things about a foot wide, a pair of tiny engines on the back, and a small cannon mounted underneath. They drifted along at around head height, something inside them making a strange chattering noise that sent a shiver up my spine. “Shanks,” Ghost told me, whispering despite the fact she was inside my head at the moment. “They’re a sort of multi-purpose drone. Combat, accessing computer systems, transmat storage, that sort of thing. Overall, they’re not that dangerous, well, not alone. But there’s never just one Shank,” she noted.

Waiting until the patrol made their way down the road and out of sight, I let out a sigh. “Never just one. And I’m heading towards even more of them. Why did I think this was a good idea again?” I asked.

“You wanted to see what the Fallen were up to.”

“Because I’m too curious for my own good,” I said, standing up and stepping back out onto the road. Glancing to my right, I saw Eliza-4 crawling out from beneath the old fuel tank she’d been hiding under. “We’re both too curious.” Brushing dirt off her tunic, the warlock looked at me, her head tilted to the side in what I assumed was confusion, and I waved a hand. “Nothing important. Let’s keep moving.”

Nodding, she took the lead, continuing down the road. I followed close behind, glancing back in the direction the patrol had left, just in case. There was a part of me that couldn’t help but feel uneasy, letting them wander around behind us, but I clamped down on that surge of paranoia. If we were going to discover why the Fallen were landing in the Steppes, alerting them to our presence by picking a fight with a few at random wasn’t really a good idea.

Besides, while I might not be entirely sure of who I was yet, I was pretty sure I wasn’t the sort of person that went around killing people just because they were there.

Ahead of me, Eliza paused mid-step, turning back to take a second look down a track leading north. Before I could ask, she was running off, waving a hand for me to follow. Making one last sweep for trouble, I jogged after her, even as she came to a halt next to a collection of fuel pipes emerging from the ground. “Found something interesting, I assume?” I asked as she knelt down for a closer look.

Realizing she was blocking my line of sight, the warlock moved to the side, and my breath caught in my throat. A small sphere made entirely of softly glowing Light was lying on the grass, tiny particles spinning around it like electrons in a cartoon atom. Stepping closer, I held out a hand, the tips of my fingers tingling as the Light flickered in response.

Thankfully, Eliza spoke up before I could completely lose myself in the sensation. “An orb of Light,” she said, pulling my attention back to her. “Certain kinds of high intensity Light manipulation by Guardians will leave trace elements behind. They linger in this state for a short time afterwards, allowing any other Guardians to gather the energy for themselves.” As if reacting to her explanation, the Orb suddenly dissolved into a shower of particles which quickly faded, leaving a sudden sensation of warmth deep inside me.

Considering the Warlocks explanation, I frowned. “So, how long is a short time?”

“There is some variation, but on average, the timeframe is between fifteen to eighteen hours.”

Appearing in the air next to me, Ghost spun her panels around in worry. “So that means another Guardian is here? In the Steppes?”

Thinking about it for a moment, I shrugged. “Makes sense really. The Fallen are in the Cosmodrome in force now. Of course there'd be other people here to try and burn them out. And I seriously doubt we're the only people the Vanguard sent in for odd jobs around the edges.”

“That patrol did not seem concerned about an imminent threat,” Eliza said. “Whoever this other Guardian is, I suspect they are longer in the area. For the time being, we should-” Red lights appeared on the edge of my HUDs motion tracker, just before the chittering sounds of Shanks reached my ears. “-Find somewhere to hide again,” she finished with a very slight twitch of her shoulders. Ghost vanished back into my head as I scrambled for cover.


By the time we'd avoided the fourth pack of Fallen, my fear had faded somewhat, replaced by a mixture of amusement and annoyance. The amusement mostly came from the fact that these Fallen didn’t really seem to be keeping their eye opens for people hiding. For that matter, they didn’t seem that concerned about being ambushed. If I'd been feeling particularly bloodthirsty, I could have taken out an entire pack with a single well placed grenade. When I mentioned this to Ghost, she found it quite amusing, giggling for a while before saying that most Guardians tended to have little interest in stealth, which had likely influenced the Fallen habits.

At the same time, I couldn't help but be annoyed that we had still ended up going off course. The Fallen skiffs were landing to the east, but avoiding the patrols had ended up putting us on an old road that headed north. If I was being honest, it wasn’t a major problem, as Ghosts maps indicated the road curved around the top of the Steppes, giving us plenty of opportunities to approach the landing site from that direction instead. But as the evening drew closer, I couldn’t help but look up at the darkening sky and remember my partners warnings about how the aliens thrived in the dark.

“You’re worrying about it too much.” I rolled my eyes at the voice in my head. “I saw that. But seriously, you’re worrying too much.”

“You weren’t this casual about it last time we were here.”

“Last time, we didn’t have a jumpship. The only weapon we had was a rusty old rifle we found on a Collapse-era corpse. And you had no idea what was going on. It’s different now. We’re prepared, we know what we’re doing, and if something does go wrong, I can bring you back.” Her voice became somewhat more teasing. “Or are you afraid I’ll get something wrong?”

Grinning, I shook my head. “I have plenty of faith in your ability to bring me back from the dead yet again.” Behind me, Eliza didn’t quite suppress a laugh, clearly guessing at least the context of the conversation. “But that doesn’t mean I’m going to make a habit of dying. Or even getting shot, if I can help it. That shit hurts.”

“I cannot help but remember the classes I have seen advertised at the Tower,” Eliza said. “They offer training in mental techniques and Light manipulation. The end purpose of that training is to allow Guardians to completely suppress the pain and fear responses.” Pausing, I turned back towards her, and she merely shrugged at my stare. “Apparently, many Guardians consider such biological responses to be… an impediment, for lack of a better term.”

Considering that statement and just what it implied, I started making my way up the hill again. “I’m gonna add that to my list of things I’m just not ready to process.”

“I have a similar list,” the other recently resurrected woman admitted, and I couldn’t help but smile in shared sympathy. Then the crest of the hill came into view, and my smile faded. About thirty feet away lay the body of a Fallen Vandal, limbs twisted at angles that made it clear death had claimed him. Bringing my rifle back up, I checked our surroundings again, finding nothing else out of place. “No targets,” Eliza muttered behind me after her own check.

When nothing popped up and tried to kill us, I started making my way forward again, coming to a halt near the corpse. Curious, I crouched down next to it, taking a closer look at one of the aliens for the first time. This one was missing its helmet, letting me see that its head was somewhat flatter than a humans, while its face was relatively featureless by our standards, most of it taken up by a row of four blank eyes and a circular mouth filled with needle like teeth. Tapping the mandibles that made up the lower ‘jaw’ with the side of my rifle, I rolled the head to the side, giving me a clear look at the Fallens neck, along with the jagged gash across the front of its throat. “Knife wound,” I said, a little surprised at how confident I was of that fact.

Materializing next to me, Ghost ran her scanner beams across the corpse, humming thoughtfully. “It’s also the only wound I can see. So, you think it’s our mystery Guardian?”

“Almost certainly,” Eliza agreed. “Plus, they are most likely a Hunter. Statistically, they tend to be the class of Guardian that use knives.” That made me glance back up at her, and she let Void Light flow down her arm, tendrils of the purple mist fading into the air as it reached her fingers. “Warlocks are trained to channel the Light in subtle but powerful ways. With it, we are never unarmed.”

“Impressive.” Although I couldn’t help but feel it was kind of showing off for the sake of showing off. Why use fancy magical powers when a simple knife would do just as well? Plus, knives weren’t just weapons. Or did Warlocks use fancy space magic for all that as well? “What about Titans?” I asked, trying to get the image of a Warlock peeling an apple with the Void out of my head.

“They punch things.”

“Fair enough.” Turning my attention back to the Vandal, I frowned as another detail occurred to me. It was wearing the same kind of bodysuit I’d seen all the other Fallen wearing, but that was it. Not only was its helmet missing, so was its weapons, anything it had been wearing over the suit, even its belt was gone. “They stripped it.”

My Ghost twitched its forward top panels in a shrug. “Scavenging from the dead is an unfortunate fact of being a Guardian.”

“A Guardian didn't do it,” I muttered, my mood darkening. Taking ammunition or supplies was one thing, but this was a level beyond that. Remembering the Dregs I'd seen in the Cosmodrome Wall the day before, I felt anger settle in. “The Fallen took everything they wanted, then left him to rot.” Closing my eyes, I made myself take a deep breath. “This world, I swear to God...”

Opening my eyes, I shook my head before reaching down and adjusting the Vandals limbs into a somewhat more dignified pose. I couldn’t do much about the actual body, but I could at least treat the poor guy with some of the respect his own kin denied him. Standing back up, I brushed the dirt off my knees, then turned and set off again, gesturing for the others to follow. Ghost returned to my head with that increasingly familiar tingle across my scalp, but thankfully she decided to remain silent.

Eliza followed several feet behind me, not speaking as we left the Vandal behind. It was only as we reached a small parking lot that she finally spoke up. “I think that ‘lack of respect for the dead’ deserves a place on the list.” Pausing, I opened my mouth, then decided it was probably better for my mood to not follow that topic any further right now.

It was entirely possible I would have kept thinking about modern attitudes to death. I was coming to the conclusion I was the sort of person who would overthink anything if given the opportunity. Fortunately, a distraction soon appeared, as we reached the far side of the parking lot and I caught sight of movement at the bottom of the slope ahead of us. Ducking down behind a concrete divider, Eliza gliding in next to me, I waited for any sign they’d seen us.

Thankfully, nothing came up the hill to try and kill us. Taking a breath, I leaned out of our cover and looked down the hill. Sure enough, there was a small pack of Fallen at the bottom of the hill, although none of them appeared to be looking in our direction. They were paying attention to something far more interesting than the possibility of Guardians wandering up behind them. At the end of a rather short trench, I could see the twisted wreck of a human jumpship partially buried in the dirt, tail end sticking up in the air. Watching as a Dreg tried to pry a panel off the wing with its knife, I couldn’t help but frown. “Well, I think we know where our mystery Guardian came from.”

“Are you certain?” Eliza said as she looked out from over the top of the divider. “This could be an older wreck they’re attempting to salvage.”

From the tone of her voice, I suspected she was simply playing devil's advocate, but I answered anyway. “You see the scorch marks in the grass? They’re too fresh. No, this came down recently. Has to be that Guardian.” Leaning back against the concrete, I sighed. “Of course we’d be going the opposite direction as them.”

“Guardian, there’s been no reports of downed jumpships in this region,” my Ghost told me.

Tapping my fingers against my thigh, I considered that. “Is it safe to try a broadcast?”

Appearing next to me, Ghost shook her optic. “It would have to be an open broadcast. This close to those Fallen? Those Shanks would almost certainly detect it.”

“We need to inspect that ship,” Eliza said, looking over from where she'd been talking to her own Ghost. “Preferably without alerting the entire Steppes to our presence.”

Taking another look down the hill, I did a quick count of the Fallen. “A Vandal, two Dregs and a Shank.” Something on the wing released a small shower of sparks, sending the Dreg that had been trying to pry it off stumbling off the edge with a screech of pain, kicking off strange barking laughter from the other Dreg. “Assuming he doesn't kill himself before we get down there,” I added.

Ghost suppressed a giggle. “If I can get close enough, I can stop them calling for help,” she said, before vanishing in a flicker of blue light. Nodding to Eliza, I checked the Fallen again. Confident they were distracted in mocking their unfortunate colleague, I sprinted out of cover, running down the hill and sliding into cover behind a large rock. Glancing back up to my previous cover, I could just see Eliza keeping watch. After a moment, she gave me a thumbs up, and I felt myself relax ever so slightly.

By now, the Dreg that had been knocked off the jumpship wing was back on his feet, growling at one of his companions. Whatever it was he said, it draw a sharp reaction, the unbruised Dreg hissing back at him, crouching slightly as if he was about to lunge. Sadly, before a fight could break out, the Vandal interrupted with a short, sharp bark, and the two smaller aliens instantly flinched and backed away from each other, climbing back onto the wreck.

Remembering the corpse we'd just seen, I couldn't help but wonder about about how quickly the Dregs obeyed here. Was this Vandal simply more respected in general, or was simply how they treated the dead? Shaking my head, I dismissed the issue for the moment. I could probably find out back in the City anyway.

While I'd been watching the show, Eliza had made her way down the hill, moving around the other side of the crash site. Moving forward again, I ducked down behind an old fuel tank, keeping watch through a gap in the steel frame around it. “They’re all in range,” Ghost said, and I nodded, shifting slightly to check on our Warlock partner. She’d moved forward as well, and was now behind an old car, her body language showing she was more than ready to go.

Taking a breath, I held up a hand for her to see, counting down from five with my fingers. At ‘three’, Ghost appeared next to me, her panels floating away from her core as a gentle blue light appeared around it. At ‘one’, I closed the hand entirely, grabbing a knife as it transmatted out of my storage. And then I was moving, out of cover and down into the trench, making my way up behind the Vandal with long, quick strides.

With surprise on our side, it was over in moments. The first they knew of our presence was when my knife slit the Vandals throat, kicking up a spray of purple blood and greyish ether. As it gasped, dropping its rifle to clutch at its throat, I kicked the creatures legs out from under it and looked around. On top of the jumpship, both the Dregs were turning towards the sound of their superior dying, but Eliza was closing in on them, reaching the top of the wreck in an impossibly long leap that seemed to almost ignore gravity. As the Warlock called the Void down on the unlucky pair, I turned my attention to the last target.

Chittering to itself, the Shank spun towards the noise, only to hesitate, likely thanks to Ghost jamming its communications. Taking the opportunity, and without really thinking about it, I threw the blood coated knife at it. To my surprise, the throw was almost perfect, the blade destroying one of the machines engines, sending the poor machine spinning out of control and into the side of the jumpship. Running forward, I tore the knife free of the engine, then stabbed it through the turret section and into the core. For good measure, I let Solar Light flow through me and into the blade, cooking the circuitry from the inside.

“Clear,” I reported, turning back to check on the Vandal. By this point, the poor bastard was on its back, its flailing looking increasingly sluggish, and I clamped down on a surge of guilt as I watched it die.

“Likewise,” Eliza said, throwing one of the Dreg bodies off the side of the wreck. A quick look showed that the other Guardian had somehow crushed the aliens chest in, leaving it a blood stained mess half I was rather uncomfortable looking at. As for the other Dreg, there was nothing left but a few wisps of Void energy, fading into the afternoon sky.

Flying out from where she’d been taking cover, my Ghost made her way over to the wreck, forward panels twitching. “The Shank tried to send an alert out. Nothing really detailed, just a ‘squad under attack’ sort of thing. No one heard it,” she assured us, before powering up her scanner beams and making a sweep over the top of the jumpship. By the time I’d made absolutely certain the Vandal was dead, and kicked its rifle away from it for good measure, she was making a slower, more careful sweep, lingering near where the cockpit would be. “There’s some parts missing here.”

“That is not exactly unusual in a crash site,” Eliza said.

Ghost shook her optic, still scanning. “Not like that. Internal components are gone, but they’ve been removed without disturbing the sections around them. It wasn’t the Fallen that did it, they’re never that delicate. It must have been our mystery Guardians Ghost. Transmat out what parts they could before the Fallen reached them.” Pausing in her scans, her forward and rear panels spun in opposite directions as she considered the matter. Floating down closer to the engines, she started muttering under her breath. “Time would have been limited, so it would have been a triage approach. Main data core is gone, probably their first or second priority. NLS Drive is missing too, but what about the navicomp…” Dissolving into Light, she phased through the wrecks hull for a closer look.

Knowing very little about the inner workings of Golden Age jumpships, I decided to leave her to her work. She'd let me know when she found something. Instead, I knelt down next to the Vandal and rolled it over onto its back, trying to ignore the sudden spike of guilt. I’d killed more than a few Fallen in the short time since my resurrection, but this one was the first fatality that wasn’t a case of self-defense or defending another. They’d died in an ambush, painfully and without warning, just so we could take a closer look at this crashed jumpship.

Given how, only a few minutes ago, I’d been disgusted at how the Fallen had left the body of one of their own to rot, I was starting to feel like something of a hypocrite.

“Got it!” my Ghost called out from the top of the wreck. She’d reappeared under the jumpships engines and was flying towards me. “So, what’s left of the ships avionics are mostly catatonic, but I did manage to pull a few details out of it. First off, it looks like it came down around seven am local time. Weird thing is, I don’t think they tried to send out a distress signal or anything. There’s parts of the comm array missing, probably salvaged after the crash, so I can’t say for sure why.”

“And then they went south,” Eliza said, standing watch near the edge of the crash site. “That would suggest they were following the roads that lead into the Mothyards.”

“Maybe, maybe not,” Ghost replied. “See, one of the other things I found was some maps of the Cosmodrome. They’re damaged, with a lot of gaps in it, but what’s there doesn’t match any of the maps I downloaded from the Cryptarchy Archives either.” That certainly got Eliza’s attention, the Warlocks head snapping around to regard my Ghost with blatant curiosity. “One of the new details it mentions is an information hub, maybe a kilometre east of here. That was the last file accessed before the crash.”

Thinking it over, I nodded as a chain of events settled in my mind. “They were coming here to secure that hub, only to run into whatever anti-air the Fallen had set up on the wall,” I said, waving a hand to the southern edge of the Cosmodrome. “They crash here, start salvaging the ship, but the Fallen start moving in before they’re done.”

Nodding, Eliza picked up the theory I was crafting easily enough. “Moving south may have been more a matter of circumstances than a deliberate choice. But if they were planning on coming to this part of the Cosmodrome before they were intercepted, it would only make sense to turn back to the east.”

“Besides, the hangers for smaller jumpships are all that way,” I added. “Speaking from personal experience, that’s probably the best chance someone might have of finding a ride out of here.”

Glancing up at the sky, Eliza sighed. “At this point, it seems very unlikely we reach the Lunar Complex today,” she said, although thankfully she sounded more amused than anything else. “Such is the nature of our work, I suppose.”

Nodding, I turned away from the crash site. “Come on. Best we not be here when a patrol checks up on these poor bastards.”


By the time we reached the building that supposedly contained the information hub, the sun was closing in on the horizon, causing the shadows to stretch out ahead of us. “It doesn’t look like much, does it?” Ghost said, and I nodded in agreement. When I looked at it, I couldn’t help but think of a temporary office on a construction site, a tiny tin shed that was only intended to keep some equipment secure from the elements.

When I gave the matter some more thought however, I realized an office here would actually make sense. The Steppes seemed to be where a lot of the deliveries to the Cosmodrome had arrived, and that meant there had to be somewhere to organise and process everything. Records and inventories of supplies could be priceless, even if they only provided hints about where to look next.

My musing about what might be inside came to a halt as we got closer to the building, and I heard a faint but familiar noise. I stopped, holding up a hand to warn Eliza, and listened closely for a moment. Shank turbines, I was certain of it. At least three of them, getting louder… and then red flickered across the corner of my HUD’s motion tracker. I started moving again, running towards the shed, pointing at the roof. Light flowed through me, I felt a sensation that was a strange mix of instinct and knowledge that wasn’t entirely mine, and I jumped. Higher than a normal human should have been able to jump, but still not enough to reach the roof.

Then my feet kicked off the air underneath me as if it was solid ground, and I cleared the edge easily, landing on the roof and ducking out of sight. Eliza joined me, having reached the roof via her gliding trick, and the two of us waited, listening to the patrol as they passed by.

By this point, I could hear voices as well, the sounds of the Fallen talking among themselves. It was the same as the other patrols we’d avoided, the emotions behind those voices feeling oddly familiar even if the language itself was utterly bizarre. They made their way around the building, then set off west, still seemingly unconcerned, and I took the risk of leaning up over the edge of the roof for a look. I caught sight of at least two Vandals and a trio of Dregs, before they made their way around a rocky outcropping and vanished.

Appearing next to me, Ghosts panels twitched in concern. “They’re heading for the crash site,” she said. “That means it won’t be long before the rest of the Fallen know we’re here. We need to move quickly.”

“Well, if nothing else,” Eliza said, her own voice low but oddly strained, “I think we just completed our original reason for travelling to the Steppes.” Glancing over at her, I realized the Warlock had moved to the far side of the roof, and was now looking out to the east. Frowning, I moved to join her, and nearly felt my heart stop as I saw what had gotten her attention.

Below us, at the bottom of a steep slope, was a large storage yard, filled with old shipping crates, the rusted remains of trucks, and a small army of Fallen. Dozens of Dregs struggled with large supply crates, overseen by Vandals, while Shanks patrolled the perimeter, looking for trouble. And at the center of the yard, a strange cylinder the size of a small car floated above the ground, firing a beam of energy down through the concrete, tearing the soil out of its way.

“Ohhhh crap,” I muttered, giving up on trying to count just how many hostile aliens were down there, sliding back down behind the edge of the roof. “Well. I think we know why all those Skiffs were flying around earlier.”

“Indeed,” Eliza managed. “They’ve apparently decided to use this as a landing zone for their forces.”

Closing my eyes, I tried to clamp down on the sudden terror I was feeling. “So. Lots of Fallen. A lot more Fallen than I expected. What now?”

Forum Jump:

Users browsing this thread: 1 Guest(s)