Chapter 1: Showdown
The Ghost passed its scan over another ancient pile of bones with no effect. “No… Not you.” The drone sighed audibly before it continued its search, its spherical midsection drooping between the triangular pieces of its outer shell. It had been so long since the Traveler had stood its ground over Earth and pushed the Darkness back. So long since the little Ghost had been made and set off on its mission: to find its Guardian, a being capable of using the Traveler's light as a weapon. So long that the Ghost's sense of time had lost all meaning. Some of its brother and sister drones had traveled far beyond the reach of Earth, to find their Guardians on far-flung worlds… but this Ghost knew its Guardian was here.
Old Russia. It thought to itself. I'm in Old Russia again. Light, it's been so long. How much longer will this last? How much longer will I be forced to search for my Guardian-
And suddenly, there it was. The Ghost felt a slight tug on its central sphere, causing its eye-light to reduce to a pinprick of gold. It froze in midair. No. Could it be? Is that…
It followed this feeling do a downed ship. No easily identifiable marks or parts- but this wasn't here the last time the Ghost was near the old Cosmodrome.
Are… the Ghost shook slightly. Are you in there?
The little Ghost hesitantly made its way through a hole blasted into the side of what had been the ship's hull- so much of it had been picked apart over what must have been many, many years by humans and Fallen alike. The Ghost slowly made its way through, scanning piles of bones or other remains as it found them.
Then the feeling came back, stronger than before- the Ghost visualized a brilliant spark of light and shook with joy. That was the sign. The journey was over
Traveler… I… I've done it. I've found them.
The segments of the Ghost's shell separated from the central sphere in a blaze of golden Light. The Ghost poured its light into this spark. Surrounding atoms came together, forming into a lanky humanoid male- a shock of bright-red hair grew in sharp contrast to his blue-gray skin- he was one of a new group of humans the Ghost had heard of over the Ghost Gossip Network, called “Awoken.” But the Ghost didn't care about that. It felt something it hadn't for a long time. Joy.
Oh, Light I've done it! I finally found you! The Ghost gathered more pure materials from the surrounding area, forming basic clothes around this reborn life. The Awoken lay on the ground as if asleep, and the Ghost brought its triangular segments back to its core, making it look like a small star.
The Ghost spoke, perhaps for the first time in centuries. “G... Guardian?"
The Awoken stirred. He sat up slowly, as if sore. He held a hand to his head and groaned.
The Ghost came closer. “Guardian?” The Awoken froze.
You did hear me.
“Eyes up, Guardian!” The Ghost spun its sections as the Awoken looked at it, eyes wide.
“Wha…?” The Awoken looked around him. “Are… are you talking to me?”
“Yes!” The Ghost spun happily in the air, bobbing like a fishing lure. “You have no idea how long I’ve been looking for you!”
The Awoken refocused on the Ghost. “For… for me? But I have no idea who… or really, what you are.”
“Oh! I’m so sorry!” The Ghost floated back to eye level “I’m a Ghost. Well…” He turned then faced the Awoken once more. “Actually, now I’m your Ghost. I haven’t been in the Cosmodrome for a while and I found you now, so you’ve probably been dead for a while…"
“Wait, what?” the Awoken sat bolt upright. “You’re saying I was dead?"
“Yes, but the Traveler has brought you back with its Light.” The Ghost paused, turning downward. “Though me. You’re meant for great things, Guardian."
The Awoken leaned forward and laughed.
“What’s so funny?” The Ghost moved in closer to the Awoken’s face. Its top and bottom sections scrunched in, as if annoyed.
“It’s just,” the Awoken got out, between chuckles, “You’re talking about all this greatness, and I don’t even know my own name."
The Ghost moved back. “Well…” it looked around the hallway they found themselves in. This section of the ship was badly damaged in the impact many years ago, but it was possibly that some evidence may have survived. The Ghost found some near- shattered glass that had some lettering on it.
“Rin… Rindel?” The Ghost looked up. “If this was your room, this may have been your name."
The Awoken stood and turned to look at the panels. He could barely make out the lettering in the dust. He knelt over and blew on some panels. Two narrow ones spelt RIN and DEL, the third with one name- ZIVAS.
“Rindel Zivas.” The Awoken repeated, nodding. “That… that sounds right.” He turned to face the drone. “And you? Are you just called ‘Ghost?’"
The Ghost flinched. “Well, I…” He turned. “I don’t have a name. From what I can tell, most of the time, Guardians name their Ghosts."
Rindel smiled. “My little light, huh?” He paused. “I’ll call you…”
The Crucible could hardly be called “quiet” on the dullest of days. The series of open-aired arenas were sectioned off from the rest of the City, but the varied architecture made it perfect for honing the skills of humanity’s protectors- Guardians. It was a stressful environment- Every engagement was live-fire, with death being a daily occurrence. Of course, that didn’t matter when Guardians had their Ghosts to revive them and get them back into these elaborate matches.
The late summer sun beat down on the battlefield like a drum, matching the staccato bursts of gunfire. A lanky figure wearing light armor and the hooded cloak of a Hunter slunk into a staging area. No one else in here yet. Good. Gives me time to think...
Are you sure this is a good idea?
The Hunter ignored the little voice inside his head. His Ghost, Solas, was phased into him, making it easier to disregard the question as another random thought.
Solas let out a long, metallic sigh. You can't just run from the Vanguard's debriefing, you know. I've been getting pinged for months.
“Later.” The Hunter finally spoke, his voice hoarse from a lack of use. He leaned against a wall and idly adjusted his cloak’s hood over his helmet.
Though Solas was still phased, the Hunter felt him tilt, as if to affect a quizzical look. If this is about Sarra , I’ve been saying for years-
The Hunter bashed a fist to his chest. Solas rolled his eye. For the record, I don’t see the point of this exercise. But when you get called out by the Vanguard in front of the entire Tower, I’ll be the one saying I told you so.
The Hunter shrugged. He didn’t care about the reports, about Zavala and how he’d inevitably be lectured on being out alone, about not coming back to report more often. He clenched a triangular amulet that lay close to his chest before tucking it under his armored vest. Yes, none of that mattered. He had a memorial to attend to.
How long has it been, love? He wondered to himself. Five years? It feels so much longer than that...
“Hey! Are you deaf? We drop in ninety seconds!
So much for being alone with my thoughts.
The Hunter turned. A Warlock had been the one doing the yelling. The hunter noted that his robes looked flawless- not a stain or tear in sight. The same was said of the heavily armored Titans that stood on either side of the newcomer.
Like they haven’t been out in the wilds for some time, he thought.
“I haven’t seen you before.” The female Titan standing furthest away hefted a large multi-barrel machine gun like it was a rifle. “When were you rezed?”
“Oh, that doesn’t matter!” The Warlock’s faceplate did little to hide his exasperation. “We should have waited for Anthony. Now we’re matched with some rando, and if we lose our winning streak, so help me…”
“Easy, Skye.” The other Titan looked about as apologetic as he could behind his helmet’s visor. “He’s a few matches away from meeting Ikora’s record. I think you can tell he’s on edge.”
The Hunter shrugged. He activated a small screen on his left arm and tapped at displays as he brought a foot up to the wall.
You know, if you want to listen to some music, all you have to do is tell me. Solas’ voice came as if whispering in the Hunter’s ear. The Hunter continued tapping his screen.
“You know, it bothers me when I speak to someone and they don’t respond.” Skye the Warlock moved up to the Hunter, grabbing his chestplate. “You too good to talk to us or something?”
In a lightning-fast motion, the Hunter drew a large-framed revolver and pressed the muzzle into the Warlock’s robes. It took a moment for Skye to register what had happened, but he shifted slightly, moving further from the Hunter.
“I'll talk when I've got something to say,” the Hunter almost whispered. “I suggest sticking with your fireteam. If you're worried about the match, don't worry about me.”
Skye released the Hunter and backpedaled to the Titans. “Just hope that you don't cost us the round, stranger.”
“Guardians!” The booming voice of Lord Shaxx echoed through the staging area. “Welcome back to the Crucible! As a reminder, this round’s game is Elimination. If you're killed on the battlefield, your Ghost will transmat you back to the staging area after fifteen seconds, where you will stay until the round is over, last team standing wins. You may revive downed teammates if you can get to them in fifteen seconds, but just remember that you’ll be painting a Cabal-sized target on your back!” He let out a jolly laugh. “Get out there and show me what you're made of!”
The group transmatted to the field. The Hunter took off before the others on his team could say anything.
The female Titan sighed. “Typical Hunter. Should we connect him to our comms?”
Well, as long as we can stay alive, why should we care?” Skye pumped his shotgun. “To victory!”
The Hunter slid behind cover as a hail of gunfire hit the wall he had been in front of. He had managed to take down one of the opposing Guardians, but according to his HUD, two of his teammates were down for the count. That’s just fine, he thought. I work better alone, anyhow.
Bullets continued to pepper the thick concrete between him and his assailant. The Hunter swung open his revolver chamber to reload, when a burst of energy zinged just over his head. The opposing gunfire abruptly stopped.
“That’s two!” Skye pumped a fist into the air before running over to the Hunter’s position and slapping his shoulder. “Hey, no hard feelings about earlier, huh? It’s just you and me, so we need to work together if we’re gonna win this. Any ideas?”
The Hunter simply shrugged. Skye shook his head.
Contact! The Hunter felt something nudge his shoulder with Solas' warning. Six o’Clock!
He leaped from his position as a pair of Pulse Rifle bursts fired, their rounds finding their way to Skye’s faceplate. The Hunter spun midair and threw a pair of cylinders toward his Titan opponent. Seeing the cylinders, the Titan formed a shield of pure Light- but no explosion came, not even smoke. If those were grenades, they were duds.
The Titan chuckled. “It’s just you left and two of us, Hunter. You may as well call it quits so we can go back to the Tower early. There’s no shame in admitting you’re outgunned.” He looked around, his Pulse Rifle raised. “Hell, I’ll even buy you the first round when we get back! How ‘bout it?”
From cover, the Hunter held out his display and pressed an icon with a triangle on it. A small smile formed on his lips.
Suddenly, a strange noise, like a beam building energy, could be heard in the area. The Titan leveled his rifle, confused. Then he heard singing.
Well it's been such a long time coming, I thought you'd understand
The realization hit the Titan like a warhammer. The Hunter hadn’t thrown grenades. They were speakers.
That I'm so far ahead of the lines you've been drawing in the sand
The Hunter smirked under his helmet. He holstered his revolver and moved to a higher position.
'Cause it's simple, you were wrong
He decided to hazard a peek into the next area. True to form, the Titan held his position- And based on his movements, he was extremely confused.
You must have known that we’d end up alone
“Where are you?” The Titan’s voice boomed in anger in the small space as he tried to cover every entrance to the space he could think of.
I know you thought I'd sold my soul, but you never told me to my face
The Hunter reached into the air and grabbed at pure Light. It manifested in his hand as a revolver cast in flame. It was now or never.
I just had to leave you cold and blow this shit away!
The music broke into a crescendo as the Hunter revealed himself. He jumped from his perch into the space occupied by the Titan. His Golden Gun erupted in a glorious volley of devastating Solar Light.
A bust of bullets hit the Hunter in his side for his troubles. He felt the bullets burn his flesh, but his momentum could not be broken so easily. His first shot had gone too high- just over the Titan’s helmet. He rolled as he hit the floor, stopping abruptly in front of his opponent.
The Titan, in a rage, threw his rifle away. His fist crackled with Arc Light. The Hunter was close enough that a punch enveloped in electricity would likely finish the match.
The Hunter sprung away from his landing, putting just enough distance between himself and the Titan that the punch missed. The next volley from the Golden Gun, on the other hand, found its mark. As the Titan fell in front of him, he felt another burst of bullets strike his leg. He dove for cover with what strength he could. Traveler’s Light, it hurt!
Give me just a few seconds, The Hunter heard his Ghost in his head. I’ve already transmatted out the bullets in your chest cavity, and lucky for you, only one bullet is still in your leg. Give me twenty seconds and you’ll be right as rain.
The Hunter hardly felt the cooling sensation of Solas’ healing. He pulled out the amulet from under his chest and rubbed his thumb on an edge. Somehow, he felt calm in the moment.
It feels like you’re right here with me, Sarra.
Why did you have to leave?
A noise from behind snapped him from the reverie. A Warlock stood behind him, bringing a Pulse Rifle to bear. The Hunter raised his Golden Gun to fire.
The flaming revolver fizzled away in motes of Light like embers.
Swearing, the Hunter kicked himself away from the wall to avoid a burst of gunfire from his opponent. Stupid, stupid! A weapon made of pure light never lasted very long- and he let himself get carried away. He sprang to his feet as another burst of bullets only served to remind him of his opponents presence.
As he rounded a low wall, he turned toward it, intending to jump over and ambush. His own auto rifle was stowed behind his cloak and would be impossible to draw without stopping- He drew his revolver and jumped over the wall, ready to cut his opponent down.
The next thing he noticed made his heart stop.
This Warlock- was that-
Same, form-fitting dark robes. Same battle stance.
But that was impossible. She had been dead for years.
He felt a burst in his head and everything went dark.
The Hunter sat up from his position, holding his head. A splitting headache made his vision blurry for a moment and cut off all conscious thought- A side-effect of resurrection that he had always experienced as a Guardian. The pain faded almost as quickly as it came - but the next thing he heard almost made him wish he’d stayed on the ground.
“Outstanding!” Shaxx entered the battlefield with the downed Guardians from both teams, slowly clapping. Even with orange accents, his stark white armor made him look like a knight from old fairy tales. As ever, he wore a full-faced helmet with a pair of horns, one of which had been broken off in battle years ago. “I don’t think I’ve seen a performance so glorious in a while. He clapped the victorious Warlock on the shoulder. “That was impressive.” The Hunter could tell that the Warlock was pleased with herself, helmet or no. He pictured a smug smirk on her face.
No, of course that wasn’t her. The Hunter frowned under his faceplate. Still… it felt so similar to when I met her for the first time...
“Equally impressive,” Shaxx continued, “Was the performance of this Hunter. Distraction is a valuable ally when overpowered in battle. It can drop the most well- laid defense if done correctly, but also remember that you should never let your opponent distract you from your objective. Remember this lesson. Of course, I can think of no better teacher of that lesson than the Iron Wolf himself. Isn’t that right, Rindel?”
The Hunter flinched. That nickname. As if it wasn’t bad enough that Shaxx had identified him, he brought up a name which had its fair share of spectres associated with it. Before he could respond, a page came in over the citywide comms system.
“Guardian Rindel Zivas.” Commander Zavala’s voice echoed throughout the city. “Report to the Vanguard for debriefing. Now.”
Rindel looked toward the tower. The jig was up. He sighed before looking at Shaxx.
Shaxx shrugged, a motion that looked more comical than it should have with the Titan’s enormous shoulder pauldrons. “Sorry, Rin. We’ve all been told to report sightings of you. Commander’s orders. Now, get up there.”
Rindel made his way to the exit. He looked around. All the Guardians were now talking amongst themselves in hushed tones. Even Skye, the arrogant Warlock seemed like he was in awe.
Rindel kept walking. It took everything for him to ignore the stares. This was one of the reasons he avoided the Tower as much as he could.
Solas phased out of him. His red shell had seen better days- it looked more brown from a lack of maintenance. He focused a beam at Rindel’s throat and rotated side to side, looking as if he was shaking his “head.”
“What?” Rindel’s voice was much clearer, showcasing his annoyance. “Gonna say ‘I told you so?’”
“I would,” Solas started, “But then, you just did it for me.”
Rindel glared at his Ghost behind his faceplate. Getting from the Crucible setup to the Tower was a long walk in any case. Answering to Zavala’s ire would make it feel far, far longer.
Chapter 2: Maneater
“Hey Cyclone? You in here?”
Rindel made his way into a small garage space in the Tower’s vast hangar, lead on by the echo of a distorted guitar riff. As he made his way in, he saw a burly metallic gold Exo under a sparrow hoverbike’s chassis,
“Yeah!” Cyclone pulled himself up from under the Sparrow and held out a metallic gold fist - He looked like a robot, but he was every bit a human as Rindel was. “Glad you were able to find me.”
The pair bumped fists and Rindel sunk onto a rolling stool, looking over the hoverbike. “Someday, I’m gonna get my hands on one of these.”
“You’ll need some serious glimmer for a racing model like that.” Cyclone chuckled as he picked up a water bottle from a workbench. “That said, I didn’t ask you around to talk that kinda shop. We’re meeting with the guys in about half an hour. Think you’re ready for your first off-world Vanguard detail?”
Rindel’s eyebrow raised. “Off-world, huh? What’s the occasion?”
“Our little Hive skirmish in the Cosmodrome.” Cyclone paused to tilt his head back, pouring water from the bottle directly into his mouth. “We basically gave up Luna to the Hive years ago- apparently, the Vanguard hoped the moon would be enough for ‘em. But if they’re showing up on Earth, that means they’re growing bolder.”
Rindel nodded. He leaned out from the Garage and stared for a moment at the white-gray orb that floated effortlessly over the Last City. “Hey Cy?” He called to his friend. “I know this might sound stupid, but… D’you ever just look at it?”
“What, the Traveler?” Cyclone grinned. “Yeah, I do. They say that this is the place it fought off the Darkness. Right here.” He threw his now empty bottle into an open-topped cylinder and crossed his arms. “And it brought us both back from death, so I guess we’re obligated to do its will.” He tapped Rindel’s shoulder and winked. “Or, y’know. Something Zavala would say.”
“So what then?” Rindel ran a hand through his bright red hair. “We blindly follow it?”
“Far as I know?” Cyclone picked up a wrench and placed it on the workbench thoughtfully. “It’s that, or we make our own destiny.”
The lift doors opened to the top level of the Vanguard Tower. This was the Guardian’s home.
Or, it was supposed to be. Rindel was more at home these days almost anywhere but here. Surveying the Old Russian Cosmodrome, intercepting rhinoceros-like Cabal scouts on Mars, messing with the robotic collective known as the Vex on Venus- anything was more welcoming than being back here. But then, he didn’t exactly expect anyone here would be happy to see him.
Really, I don’t have much left. It would be so easy to just cut it off. But I can’t.
His eyes narrowed behind his visor.
I can’t go down that road. I refuse to.
A pair of Tower Guards waited just outside the lift, as if to punctuate just such a thought. Both were dressed in light armor, holding standard-issue Vanguard auto rifles.
“Guardian Rindel Zivas. We are to escort you to Commander Zavala.” The Guard to Rindel’s left stood stiffly as he spoke. It was apparent that he didn’t order around Guardians too often.
“I appreciate that, but I know where the Commander’s office is. I’ll be over there soon.” He started to move off the lift and was blocked by the Guard to his right.
“Commander Zavala requests your presence immediately, sir.” He looked directly where Rindel’s eyes were behind his helmet’s visor. “I’m afraid you’ll have to come with us.”
Rindel affected a sigh. “What, I don’t even have time for a shower before my debrief?”
Neither man moved a muscle.
Rindel rolled his eyes, glad that the Guards couldn’t see his face. “Alright. If he wants to see me badly enough that he sent you two, we shouldn’t keep him waiting. Lead on.”
The Guards turned and began walking. Rindel followed along.
May as well get this over with.
“Poor kid. You aren’t the only one who’s having a rough time with Zavala.”
Rindel raised an eyebrow as he considered his Ghost. “The hell are you talking about?”
Solas “nodded” toward a Titan walking the other direction in training gear. The Titan looked a bit small for his armor-and like he’d been crying. He turned his face away from Rindel and the Guards as they walked past. “His Ghost pinged the local network- He hasn’t been doing terribly well in his training, and he’s been asking for pointers.”
Rindel frowned. “Percentages?”
“Below seventieth percentile of minimum.” Solas sighed. “I guess if he were a Hunter you could help, but-”
“You know we work alone.” Rindel clenched a fist. “Some kid getting yelled at by Zavala isn’t changing that.”
There was a noticeable pause before Solas piped up again. “Apparently Zavala told him that he’d sooner be a better trash collector than a Guardian.”
“Geez. Laying it on thick, isn’t he?” Rindel rolled his eyes. “‘Regard your soldiers as your children, and they will follow you into the deepest valleys-’”
“‘Look on them as your own beloved sons, and they will stand by you even unto death,’ Yes, I know. Sun Tsu, and I agree with him on this case.” Another lengthy pause. “I told his Ghost to let his Guardian know to not take it so personally and that he should go to one of the Titan clans for more training. They’ll help him out.”
Rindel felt a small smile form on his lips. There. At least we can do someone some good for him.
The next he heard from Solas was a few feet away from the door leading to Zavala’s office.“Forgetting something?”
Rindel, turned, facing his companion. “What?’
His Ghost tilted in mid-air. “Don’t you think you’ll be in enough trouble without taking your helmet off in front of the Commander?”
Rindel stopped just before he entered “Yeah, you’re not wrong.” He pulled back his hood, undid the pressurized seal that connected his helmet to his suit and removed it.
The Guards moved away from him, standing on each side of the large door. Rindel wasn’t sure if it was out of discipline or if it was because of the smell. His red hair hung just past his shoulders and was matted in a few places, a thick beard grew down to his chest, and his skin was now a pale blue from lack of exposure to the sun. He reached up to knock and turned the brass doorknob.
Zavala could best be described as “imposing” on the best of days. The broad-shouldered Titan commander’s armor was polished to a mirror sheen that contrasted the dark red suit underneath. It blended in with his blue skin and made it seem as though Zavala’s bald head was actually a helmet. He faced a large plate-glass window that overlooked the City, and turned as the door closed. “Rindel Zivas,” He began. “Now that you’ve finally decided to grace us with your presence, we have a great deal to discuss. Have a seat.” He stood, still as a stone, waiting.
The Hunter walked through the room and took his seat. Zavala sighed, moving his arms from behind his back. “I’ll skip the pleasantries.” The Commander’s eyes blazed like a blue fire as he sat. “How do you explain your absence from the tower?”
Rindel leaned back slightly. “I’ve been out in the Wilds, meeting our enemies where they live.”
“Indeed,” Zavala crossed his arms, looking briefly at a holographic display just behind Rindel’s seat. “As is the duty of every Guardian who serves the Light. But, I must ask- What are your motives?”
Rindel tilted his head. “I’m sorry, Commander, I’m not sure what you mean. As you said, I’ve been fulfilling my duty-”
“Your duty?” Zavala tuned a monitor on his desk. There were several windows up that showed logs of kill counts, locations, dates- “To humanity, or to the pursuit of power?”
“You pulled my ship logs.” Rindel slouched a bit in his chair. His lips pursed and he tried to look at the City, at the desk- anywhere but directly at Zavala. Here we go , he thought.
“Yes, I did, and what I have seen is concerning, to say the least.” He pointed to varying logs. “You have spent limited amounts of time here on Earth and Luna, with more time dedicated to Mars, Venus, and the remains of the Reef. But what really worries me,” he continued, pointing to three logs in particular. “Are these entries.”
Rindel glanced at the screen. A total of six and a half months, spent in a small area around Saturn.
”The Dreadnaught!" Zavala placed both of his hands onto the desk. “What could possibly compel you to spend so much time there?”
Rindel crossed his arms. “I don’t know, I thought you might be happy that there’s around twenty thousand less Hive in the Universe.”
“Don’t try to play this game with me!” Zavala shouted. “This behavior speaks to obsession on one hand. But, considering that you are the only one that has been near Saturn in the last six months, it also possibly speaks to having a deathwish.” Zavala leaned in closer.”Have you taken any artifacts from the Dreadnaught? Weapons?” Zavala paused briefly. “Bones?”
Rindel bolted upright, standing out of his chair. “What are you trying to say, Zavala?” He gripped the edge of the desk. “You think I’m going to turn to the Dark like one of the Shadows of Yor?” He drew his revolver and slammed it onto the wood. “Take a look for yourself! I’m no Dredgen! Does it look like I’ve been carrying a Weapon of Sorrow?”
“No, but this proves a greater point to me,” Zavala sat down, steepling his fingers. “You have been out on your own for far too long.”
Rindel’s face softened. He moved away from the desk and took back his seat.
“You’ve made quite a reputation for yourself over these last few years. ‘The Iron Wolf,’ I believe they call you?” A slight smirk formed on Zavala’s face. “Are you familiar with Rudyard Kipling?”
Rindel closed his eyes, shaking his head.
Zavala chuckled. “An author from before the Golden Age.” He stood and walked to a large bookcase, pulling out an ancient-looking book. “This is a collection of poems and stories, but apropos to your situation, a passage here caught my eye.” He opened the book and read the passage out loud;
”Now, this is the law of the jungle, as old and as true as the sky,
The wolf that shall keep it may prosper, but the wolf that shall break it must die.
As the creeper that girdles the tree trunk, the law runneth forward and back;
For the strength of the pack is the wolf, and the strength of the wolf is the pack.”
Zavala snapped the book shut. “There is a reason why Guardians go out into the Wilds in teams. We’re stronger that way. You can fall back on and rely on other Guardians. If you fall on your own, we’d lose one of our best, and we can’t have that.” He looked directly at Rindel. “You need to find a new fireteam, Rindel. But, I also know that I can’t convince you of that just by telling you to. So, for that reason, in addition to your flagrant disregard for Guardian reporting protocol, I’m putting you on a minimum of two month’s leave from active duty and revocation of flight privilege. Effective immediately and in effect until you find a new group with which to sortie.”
Rindel felt as though he lost balance for a moment. “You’re grounding me?”
“In a manner of speaking, yes.” Zavala placed the book back on the shelf. “Considering that you have the run of the city when I should be throwing you in the brig, take it as a sign of appreciation for all you’ve done. Find yourself a new fireteam.” He motioned for Rindel to leave. “And for the Traveler’s sake, take a shower.”
Rindel dragged himself up from the chair. As he internally cursed his situation, Zavala’s voice pierced his thoughts.
“You almost forgot this.” Rindel turned, seeing the commander holding his revolver out to him, grip first. He took it back, turning to leave.
“That revolver- Hawkmoon. You do know who that belonged to initially, don’t you?”
“To Saint-14. I’m well aware.” Rindel holstered the weapon as he looked back to his commander. “What’s your point?”
“My point is that Saint was one of the bravest and most powerful Guardians I ever had the pleasure of knowing.” Zavala’s eyes turned downward. “He’s also not been heard from in well over twenty years. He left on a crusade by himself and never returned.” He walked closer, placing a hand on Rindel’s shoulder. “He was no Shadow, but he too was driven by obsession. I don’t want you making the same mistake he did.”
Rindel took Zavala's advice. After a well-deserved deserved shower, shave and trimming of his hair, he changed out of his armor and into a set of more civilian clothes and did what any obedient Guardian should have done - Report to his Vanguard leader, Cayde-6. The metallic blue exo had been thrilled to see him, and Rindel wasn't opposed to spending time with him - Cayde’s idea of a debriefing was to go out to his favorite Ramen shop, followed by a visit to his office to play cards. Amanda Holliday, the Tower’s shipwright and Shiro-4, one of the Vanguard’s scouts, decided to join in, drink, and be merry.
“Know what, I’m out.” Shiro threw his cards towards the mostly standard tower frame that acted as their dealer. “The trick is to quit while you’re still ahead, right?”
“What, you too chicken to hang with the head honchos?” Amanda lightly nudged Shiro as she pushed in some of her own glimmer. “Call.”
“Call,” repeated the frame. “Heads up.” The frame drew a card and placed it down on the table with four other cards in community pool before turning to Rindel. “It’s up to you.”
Rindel paused a moment before pushing in a larger pile of glimmer. “Raise. Two thousand.”
He watched as Amanda’s smug look turned to dread. For now, though, he focused his attention on Cayde. The Exo paused mid-drink and checked his cards. He affected stroking a beard before pushing in more glimmer. “I’ll see you, and raise you another five hundred. How’s that?”
“Raise.’ the frame repeated. “Miss Holliday? It’s up to you.”
“Well, shoot. I’m out too.” Amanda tossed in her cards.
“Fold.” The frame announced. “Rindel. Bet or showdown?”
Rindel looked directly at Cayde, keeping his face neutral. Either this’ll work, or it won’t… But either way, it’ll be over quick.
“Re-raise. All in.”
Cayde processed what was going on for around half a minute. Suddenly, he threw in his cards. “Nope. Nope! I'm noping the eff out while I still can. You win!” He raised his arms in a mock celebration as Rindel discarded and collected his winnings.
“No,” Amanda protested. “No fair! That is such a cop-out!” She stood and grabbed Rindel's cards before anyone could protest. As she compared them to the community cards, her shoulders dropped.
“What?” Now Shrio was standing. “Enough suspense! What’d he have?” Even Cayde was leaning forward, waiting for Amanda to share her revelation.
Amanda turned the cards so the others could see. “Nothin’. He had a crazy handful of nothin’.”
Cayde slumped in his chair. “You damn near cleaned me out on a bluff? ” He shook his head and pointed at Rindel. “Know what, I ain’t even mad, that’s just impressive.”
Rindel cracked a grin as Solas transmated his share of the glimmer off of the desk. “It happens to the best of us. No hard feelings.”
“Speaking of hard feelings, I heard about the thing with Zavala.” Shiro patted Rindel's shoulder. “Sorry about that.”
Rindel frowned. “Not your fault, Shiro. You don't have to be sorry.”
“Still. Think of it like a vacation.” Shiro walked to Cayde’s wetbar, pouring himself another drink. “Some time away from the field can be a good thing. Relaxation and all that.”
Rindel nodded, settling back into his chair. Maybe for some people. I still have work to do out there.
Scores to be settled.
“So, let me get this right,” Cayde started, raising his hands near his face. “In addition to being all, ‘I can’t bear the thought of losing you’ and making it sound like killing so many Hive was a bad thing, Zavala quoted The Jungle Book. The Jungle Book?!”
“Really, Cayde?” Shiro raised a section of his face over his right eye, giving the impression of a raised eyebrow. “You’re gonna give Zavala crap for quoting Kipling?”
“Maybe I am,” Cayde continued, downing the neon-blue liquid in his glass. “At least he didn’t quote The White Man’s Burden. What’s your point?”
Rindel raised his glass, using it to point at Cayde. “Read any Stevenson recently?”
The whole group laughed. It was common knowledge among Hunters that Cayde adored Treasure Island. An original copy of the book was displayed on the bookshelf near Cayde’s desk, which was being used now as their poker table.
“Well, if I may, Sir,” Cayde tried to affect an old British accent. “With no intention to take offense, I deny your right to put words into my mouth.” He winked.
“Alright, let's get back to the really important topic!” Amanda had topped her glass off as well, and stood in the corner of the office, addressing the group. “What can we get Rindel into so he doesn't lose his mind in the next two months?”
“What about the Crucible?” Shiro suggested. “You've got the skills to put plenty of Guardians in their place, and I'm sure Shaxx’d be glad to have you.”
“Did you see my match earlier?” Rindel gave Shiro a sidelong look. “I lost, remember?”
“To be fair, that 'lock you lost to has been kicking all kinds of ass these last few months,” Cayde suddenly bolted upright. “Hey! There's an idea! Why not see if she’d be on your fireteam?”
Rindel was about to respond when he heard a knock at the door.
“Okay, who the hell-” Cayde was cut off as Ikora Rey entered. She was far more dressed down than usual- She wore a simple jacket in her usual shade of violet over a white button-up blouse. She surveyed the room before seeing Rindel.
“Excellent. I thought I might find you here. May I speak with you a moment, Rindel?”
Rindel looked around the room. Shiro shrugged. “You may as well see what she wants. I think we’re done here, anyhow.” He stood and made his way for the door. “Thanks for the drinks, Cayde.”
Cayde waved as Shiro left the room. “Well, c’mon in, Ikora. I’m sure Rin would-”
“Actually, I was rather hoping we could speak privately.” She glanced over at Rindel. “There’s a little place I like near the Tower's base. Meet me at the lift.” She turned and walked away from the door.”
Rindel looked at Solas. “Well? What do you think?”
“As if you have anything better to do,” Solas nudged Rindel’s elbow. “You really shouldn’t keep her waiting.”
“I, I just…” Cayde looked at Rindel while pointing at the door. “Did Ikora just ask you out?”
Rindel’s eyes widened as his face flushed, turning his cheeks a purplish shade. “Wha- No! You heard her, right Amanda? She wants to ask me about something!”
“Namely, if you’re single.” Amanda laughed. “Just be careful. I hear she bites.”
“Guys.” Rindel held up his hands. “It is not a date. If she wants to talk with me, that’s her business, and Solas is right. I shouldn’t keep her waiting.” He grabbed his bomber jacket and started walking before the door. As he was about to exit, Cayde started to sing to a backing track his Ghost, Sundance played.
“I wouldn't if I were you,
I know what she can do,
She's deadly man, she could really rip your world apart!
Mind over matter,
Ooh, the beauty is there, but a beast is in the heart!”
Rindel held his face in his hands. “Seriously?”
“Oh, here she comes!
Watch out boy she'll chew you up!
Oh, here she comes!
She's a maneater!”
“Okay, okay! Enough! I’m taking off!” Rindel didn’t quite slam the door- he did hear Amanda join in Cayde’s song, both laughing at the absurdity of it all.
Solas floated in front of Rindel’s face. “What?”
His Ghost faded off the lower half of his eye while lifting his shell’s upper quadrant, making it look like he raised an eyebrow. “Are you sure that this isn’t a date? It sounds like a date.”
Rindel rolled his eyes and gently pushed Solas away. “It’s not a date.” He continued walking, and Solas made the expression again. Rindel turned. “It just isn’t. More to the point, Hall and Oates? Really?”
Chapter 3: Last Resort and Spa
Rusty’s Pint Garage was normally a quiet place to grab a drink. The location, close to one of the city’s vast walls, meant that it happened to be a preferred haunt for several Guardians- It was close enough to the Tower that they could still respond at a moment’s notice, but far enough away that, so long as they wore civilian clothes and hid their ghosts, they could pass as regular residents of the Last City.
Tonight was not a quiet night at all. Crota, the Hope-Eater, the Son of Oryx had been slain. A distinct sense of joy and calm had come over the City, and the Guardians that had lead the offensive into the Hellmouth were celebrating.
Rindel sat toward the back of the main room. A frothy beer sat in front of him, but he was sure that the warmth he felt was from everyone here- Guardians were normally respected or even feared in the city, but everyone in this little bar wanted to shake his hand just for being part of the group that killed the Ascendant Hive.
“Hey, everyone!” Cyclone-7, a broad-shouldered Titan stood in front of the bar, being sure that he had every patron’s attention. “I know that you’re all pretty well-aware that we ended Crota, but I want to take a second to recognize my fellow Guardians.” He raised a Stein glass that was nearly empty. “Kris, Neil, Setsuna, Arvo, I just wanna say thanks for backing my sorry ass when I had this brilliant idea: Let’s take Eris Morn at her word that we can go into the Hellmouth and enter an Ascendant Realm! Manufactured realities? Who cares!” Scattered laughter erupted from the gathered crowd.
A red Exo lifted up a glass from a table. “You’re saying that like you could have done it without us, you lug!” Arvo-9’s gruff voice reverberated through the building. “You needed us backing you up from the time you were rezed! How was this any different?” More laughter filled the building as Cyclone motioned for everyone to quiet down.
“Because, Arvo, I made the kill, but anyway,” he continued speaking through the laughs. “I want to thank Rindel most of all.” Rindel stood a little straighter as the room collectively looked at him. “You were the one who actually destroyed Crota’s sword all that time ago, you remember that?” Cyclone took a step closer to Rindel’s position. “When the rest of us were bickering about who ought to keep it, you just stepped in and destroyed it, while it was beginning to take hold on the rest of us. Looking back, that was the first thing you did that redefined what’s possible in this world, at least as far as I’m concerned. That’s how I knew we could do this. So thanks for that,” Cyclone said, raising his glass, “And more importantly, thanks for killing the Ogre that was trying to rip me in half, because if you hadn’t I wouldn’t be here right now. I certainly wouldn’t be trying to moonlight as a failing comedian!”
As the laughter finally died down, Cyclone raised his hand. “I guess what I’m trying to say is, we couldn’t have done it without you, Rin. I can’t think of anyone I’d rather have on my fireteam, and I am proud to call you my friend. Cheers, brother.”
Rindel raised his own glass and finished his beer. Cyclone finished his off as well and addressed the room. “Now, there’s only one problem with this bar. There are way too many empty glasses! Next round’s on me!” The entire building shook from the patron’s cheers as they rushed to the bar to top off their drinks.
Rindel shook his head as a blusey Pre-Golden Age guitar riff started on the speakers. “Does he really want to blow that much glimmer on booze?
“You two entered into the Black Garden, and then Cyclone killed one of the Ascendant Hive within a few months. I say let him.” Solas hovered just over Rindel’s shoulder, close enough that he could still be heard over all the commotion. “Speaking of that, if he’s buying, there’s no reason not to get topped off.”
Rindel raised an eyebrow. “What, no lecture on drinking too much?”
“It’s a celebration. I’d hate to be a buzzkill. Though if you must know, your blood alcohol content is negligible.” Rindel could almost feel Solas’ sarcasm radiate within him as the Ghost phased into him.
“Another beer it is!” Rindel stood from his chair and made his way toward the bar. He felt a tap on his shoulder.
“Hey, what’s the big hurry, stranger?”
Rindel turned and found himself face to face with a female of the Awoken race. The first thing that grabbed Rindel’s attention was her hair- A fiery orange plume rested on her left shoulder, while the right side of her head was buzzed short. Her lilac skin complimented her soft features.
“Uh, I was going to-“ He felt his cheeks flush as he tried to find the words to describe his actions. “Erm, I was gonna get another drink, if you want anythi-“
She closed her eyes and laughed. “If you’re that flustered, I may as well come with you.” She grabbed Rindel’s hand. “Come on.”
Rindel was sure the alcohol had tripped him up slightly, but he could have sworn he’d heard that voice before. An opening appeared at the bar, which they filled. A jet-black Exo bartender addressed them. “What’ll it be?”
“A Tom Collins, please.” Rindel’s new friend looked to him. “What about for you?”
Rindel put his Stein back on the table. “Another lager if you would, Mika.”
The vessel was pushed away before Mika could pick it up. “Hold on,” the Awoken said. “You’re just having another beer?”
“Well, yeah.” Rindel tilted his head. “Any reason I shouldn’t?”
She turned to the bartender. “Mika, get this man a Manhattan. We need to show him the error of his ways.”
Mika let out a synthesized chuckle. “It’d be my pleasure. A Tom Collins and a Manhattan, coming up.” The Exo turned and moved down the counter to make the drinks.
Rindel, meanwhile was too perplexed to complain about her dismissing his choice in drink- She was so familiar to him, but he couldn’t quite nail it down.
“I’m really sorry- Have we met before?” Rindel felt drawn in on himself, embarrassed for asking. Thankfully, she responded with a laugh.
“No, I guess you wouldn’t recognize me in this getup.” She paused for effect. “Though, our first meeting was way fiercer than this. You fought like an animal- I believe Shaxx called you a wolf?"
“Wait, we met in the Crucible?” A smile grew on Rindel’s face. “You’re a Guardian!”
“Bingo!” She held out her hand, which Rindel shook. “We haven’t been properly introduced. Sarra Safahl. You’ve been making quite the name for yourself, Rindel Zivas.”
“Is that so?” Rindel took hold of a small, stout glass that Mika had brought back for him. It was filled about halfway up with an orange-brown liquid, with a pair of ice cubes and a candied cherry floating in the drink. Sarra took hold of a tall glass with a clear fizzing liquid. “What have you heard?”
“What I’ve heard and what stories you can tell are two different things.” Sarra moved from the bar. “So, you killed an Ogre? How did Cyclone get into that situation?”
“So, this is what you had in mind.” Rindel looked over the stark brickwork of the building that Ikora had brought him to. “I’m a little surprised it isn’t a library.”
“Contrary to popular opinion, I know how to have a good time.” Ikora slid up a plaque that revealed a keypad. “Aside from berating Cayde, of course.” She pressed a series of numbers and a voice emanated from a speaker.
“Ikora Rey.” She looked to Rindel. “And guest.” The door unlocked and opened for them. Ikora nodded her head toward the entrance, and they walked in, immediately descending a set of stairs to muffled music - A series of vocals over a pulsating electronic beat
I got the message, I heard it loud and clear
Should have expected, So brash and cava-
Leary from those dancing days
Born in to the world with two left feet in the grave
The stark black tiling near the stairs eventually faded to a soft white iridescent set further into the room. The walls were black marble, with glowing tubes of Chroma marking the edges. Ikora made her way past a group of patrons dancing in the middle of the room, and Rindel followed, walking to the rhythm of an electric guitar.
If I can hold you tonight
And keep you so safe, armor falls aside
If I can hold, baby, you tonight
I doubt it's going to change what we are inside
He made his way over and sat next to Ikora at the bar as a middle-aged man made his way over to them behind the illuminated counter, wearing a white suit that almost made him blend into the surface.
“Mademoiselle Rey,” The man greeted her warmly with a strong accent. “Welcome back to Marchand de Destin. What can I get you?”
“A Boulevardier for me, Alain. And whatever this gentleman would like.” Ikora held her hands in her lap, waiting for Rindel to place his order.
“A Manhattan.” Rindel had his elbows on the counter, his chin resting on the backs of his hands.
“Bien sûr,” Alain responded. “Une minute s'il vous plait.” He moved down the bar and began preparing the drinks. It wasn’t long before he came back with a pair of glasses. The Guardian pair thanked the bartender, then Ikora lifted her coupe glass and took a sip.
“Okay then, let’s get right to the point,” Rindel said suddenly after taking a drink from his lowball. “This isn’t a social call, is it?”
“Not in the traditional sense, no.” Ikora considered her drink, moving around a toothpick that held an orange peel and several candied cherries. “I have a favor to ask of you, Rindel.”
“A favor?” Rindel raised an eyebrow while looking at her. “What, need me to make sure Cayde attends consensus meetings?”
“While I appreciate the offer,” Ikora began, “That isn’t quite what I had in mind. I have a Warlock who was recently resurrected. She hasn’t gone on her first official Vanguard mission yet, because she hasn’t been set up with a partner. I would like you to do it.”
“Pass.” Rindel replied flatly, taking another sip of his drink. “That sounds like something one of the Clans should handle.”
“You don’t think I’ve been asking them?” Ikora set down her drink. “This situation is… unusual. She’s been in the Tower for three months.”
“Three months?” Rindel almost fell off of his barstool. “How has she not gotten any field action in three months?”
“Being blunt, she scares people.” She stopped a moment. “She’s been fighting in the Crucible almost since she arrived at the tower. And she’s an amazing fighter. But being a female Warlock, having an astounding Crucible record and being my student…” Ikora trailed off.
“People think it’s your second coming.” Rindel’s lips tightened. He had never been able to witness Ikora’s reign in the Crucible, but her reputation carried on still. That Ikora was a formidable fighter was the very reason that several Guardians avoided her when they could- She had a reputation of being “scary,”
“So, your decision?” Ikora was facing him. “Bearing in mind you’d be able to get back out into the field.”
“Sorry, but my answer is still no.” Rindel downed the rest of his drink. “I don’t care what Zavala thinks. I work alone.”
“As you have for some time, yes.” Ikora finished her drink as well and signaled the bartender for another round. “Well, I’d hate to think of our night out together as a complete waste of time.” She gave Rindel a sly look. “I couldn’t help but notice you were all playing cards when I arrived. Care to play a round or two with me?”
Rindel smiled. “Just don’t get too upset when you lose all your Glimmer.”
Rindel smiled widely as he pulled in a group of chips from the table. A couple of rounds had turned into many, many more. Ikora had won a few hands, but her pile was getting smaller and smaller.
Do you intend on clearing her out? He heard Solas in the back of his head. Based on your current win rate, I estimate that it will take another two to three hands to do so.
Let’s just see how this plays out. Rindel considered his hand: Based on the community cards, he had a two-pair going with kings and aces. The jack from the turn was of no consequence to him, it languished with its brother from the opening three-card flop.
Ikora looked at her cards from across the table. Her lips pursed, and Rindel’s eyes narrowed.
Ah, he heard Solas’ voice in his head. You’ve found her tell?
Close to one as I’ve found. Every time she’s tried to bluff, she’s done that. Rindel plotted his next move when Ikora’s voice broke apart his thoughts.
“Rindel, how would you feel about raising the stakes?” She had placed her cards down, caressing her chin with her thumb and forefinger.
“What did you have in mind?” Rindel leaned forward.
“In addition to my remaining Glimmer,” she said, indicating the small mound of chips on her side of the table. “I’ll remove your grounding. If you beat me at this hand, I’ll reinstate access to your ship and supplies, and you can leave the tower as you please once again.”
Rindel tried to keep his best poker face on, but inside, the gears were turning. Ikora had given him the key to his freedom on a silver platter. He couldn’t let himself lose his cool.
“But,” Ikora continued “You’ll need to go all in to call me. And if you lose,” She looked him directly in the eye. “Not only will you lose your Glimmer, you will also take my young Warlock on a mission. Does that sound fair?”
“I’m terribly sorry, Miss Rey,” their dealer held up a hand. “Table stakes only.”
“No, hold on.” Rindel kept his gaze on Ikora. “Give her a chance to win her Glimmer back.”
The dealer shrugged.”Okay. Both players will go all in, the river card will be followed by a showdown. Are we in agreement?
Ikora neatly pushed in her chips. “Yes.”
Rindel considered the possibilities. This was either the greatest bluff in the history of the City, or Ikora had a good hand of her own. It couldn’t be a straight or a flush; there were too many suits and not much in the way of card variance on the table.
You know, Solas said in his head. I’ve got a bad feeling about this. If you don’t want to take on her student, you should fold and-
“Call.” Rindel shoved all his chips toward the center of the table.
The dealer nodded as Rindel heard a metallic groan in his head. “Heads up. Here’s the river. Showdown, please.”
Rindel could hardly believe it. A second king graced the table, which turned his two-pair into a full house. He threw his cards down onto the table, feeling smug.
“Full house,” The dealer called. “Kings full of aces. Miss Rey?
Ikora considered her cards a moment, then put them down as one. Rindel saw a jack.
So, there it is. Just three-of-a-kind jacks. Not enough to-
Ikora then moved the top card, revealing a second jack. Rindel’s face slowly drained its color.
“Four jacks.” The dealer looked to Rindel. “Miss Rey wins.”
Rindel was stunned. Ikora had that hand from before she made her suggestion, and she’d played him like a fiddle. As Ikora summoned her Ghost and t ransmatted her winnings off the table, he saw a genuine smile on her lips.
“You must have thought I was bluffing, Rindel. As I said, you will take my student on a mission. Meet me in the Hangar at noon. I’ll be sure that Amanda Holliday knows to get your ship resupplied.”
Rindel was vaguely awake. He lay in his bed, the covers pulled up around him. He could simply drift back into the realm of sweet, blissful slumber at any moment.
That was, until the sharp sound of his window blinds being drawn let loose a barrage of unforgiving sunlight onto his face. He immediately curled up, grabbing his head in both hands and wincing. It felt like a pair of Vex Gate Lords had decided to dance a samba on his skull.
He wasn’t aware that he was moaning until Solas floated near his face. The upper half of his eye light was dimmed, making the Ghost look as irate as he sounded. “Well now. Welcome to the realm of the living.”
Rindel gingerly sat up in bed. He wanted to glare at his companion but realized that doing so would only make things hurt more. “Solas, it’s far too early for clichés as it is. It feels like I survived a shotgun blast to the head.” He kept his eyes closed as he tried to put himself back down. “Could you please pull the blinds closed? I’ve got a terrible headache.”
The Ghost flew behind him, pressing him back up. “I’m afraid I can’t let you do that. You have a promise to keep, and you certainly aren’t going to do that by staying in bed.”
Rindel had by this point put his feet to the ground. Solas moved to face him. “You really need to watch your alcohol intake. I did warn you that this would be likely to happen with the amount of whiskey you drank last night.”
Rindel wore a blank look on his face. The events of the previous night were encased in a dense fog. He vaguely remembered starting the night with Cayde, then getting dragged out by Ikora, and then…
“Oh, crap.” He placed a hand to his forehead. “I get to take out the young Warlock.”
“So, you do remember.” Solas spun his frame as he floated near Rindel. “Well, you’re not going to be of much use to her with a hangover.” Solas projected a healing beam onto Rindel. He inhaled deeply as the throbbing in his head subsided.
He opened his eyes, taking in his quarters. He looked to Solas. “How much time do we have?”
“About three hours.” Solas tilted. “Is there anything you need to do?”
“Yeah,” Rindel replied, as he pulled his armor from a closet. “If I’m going to be setting an example for a new Guardian, I may as well make my gear presentable.”
Rindel strode through the entrance to the hangar. Though his dark cloak was ripped in places near the bottom, it was cleaner now than it had been in months. His dark-colored armor was all much the same way- Embossings of wolves were flanked with nicks and scratches, each a remnant from a battle hard-won. He pulled on a strap for his left gauntlet, ensuring it was securely in place on his arm. Hawkmoon hung at his side, ready to face the minions of the Darkness where they stood.
“He-ey now. Lookin’ sharp there, Rin!” He heard Amanda before he actually saw her walking towards him. Her coveralls were already stained with oil and grease,and she had a large grin on her face. “Your ship’s all set, and Ikora’s waitin’ for ya.” She came up next to him and lowered her voice. “So, is it true? She cleaned you out and got you to take the rook out on a bet?”
Rindel sighed. He’d overheard a few Guardians talking about this in the mess hall. He should have known that this story would spread like wildfire.
“Yes, it is true.” his eyes lost a bit of their glow- from a brilliant electric blue to a storm gray. “It’s also true that I drank like the Fallen drink Ether, which I paid for this morning.”
“You shoulda seen Cayde when he heard about it. He was laughin’ for a good five minutes.” Amanda pat him on the shoulder. “Even if this is shit detail, at least you’re headin’ out to the wilds again. Take care of yourself, wolfie.” She winked and head off toward the depths of the hangar.
Rindel shook his head as a small smile formed on his lips. Through everything, Cayde and Amanda brought a sense of levity to every situation. But she was right, he was going back into the wilds. Even if this was a Vanguard op, he would be leading it, so any action he and this Warlock would take on would be his call. He forced himself to relax.
As he neared his ship, he saw three figures standing next to his ship. From where he was, he could make out Ikora and Zavala, guessing that the third person must be the Warlock in question. He did his best to put forward an air of confidence. At this stage, he had to do as Ikora asked, and the faster he did, the faster this ‘Lock could find herself a new fireteam and the faster he could get back to venturing out alone.
“Right on time, Rindel.” Zavala faced Rindel, his hands held behind his back. There was a noticeable pause before he spoke again. “You are nothing if not punctual.
Ikora stood next to her protégé. “Rindel, thank you for agreeing to this. I’d like to introduce you to my student.” She nodded toward the Warlock, who stepped toward him. She wore dark blue robes that bore a golden eagle design, which almost matched her blonde hair, which came up in a quiff. She extended a gloved hand, which bore extra padding that ran to above her elbows.
“I’m Samantha. Samantha Drake. I’m looking forward to working with you, Guardian Zivas.”
Rindel shook her hand. Her grip was strong, and her green eyes burned with determination. He felt the hairs on the back of his neck stand on end- maybe there was something to the rumors, but more than that, she felt so familiar to him.
Zavala coughed. “Now that we have all been introduced, let’s go over the mission plan. Guardians Zivas and Drake, you are to investigate reports of Fallen activity in Old Chicago. As far as we know, that swamp holds nothing of interest, but if the reports are true, several battalions worth of Fallen have settled in. Find out what has their interest and disable or destroy it if you can.” He looked to Rindel’s ship. “I’ve transmitted additional information to your ship’s mainframe. I understand that the weather in the area can be particularly violent at this time of the year. Be careful and come home safe.”
Samantha stiffened. “Yes sir, Commander! We won’t let you down.”
“See to it that you don’t, Guardian Drake. You two are cleared for launch.” Zavala turned and made his way out of the hangar
Ikora considered the Guardian pair before her. “Good luck to you both. I expect to see good things in your report, Samantha.” She moved to follow Zavala out of the hangar.
Rindel breathed deeply and sighed. Here we go. He walked to his ship and double-checked the supply loadout from a tablet he pulled from a pouch at his side. Two weeks’ worth of rations for redundancy, two hundred liters of water, three quick deploy tents, and a crate of ammunition. This level of supply was overkill for this kind of mission, but it never hurt to be prepared.
Besides, it makes for less time wasted when we’re done and I head back out on my own. A wry smile crossed his lips.
“Guardian Zivas? Are we ready to go?”
He looked up from his display. Samantha still stood in that same stiff manner that she had with the Vanguard. It was hard to tell if it was out of respect or nerves.
Rindel raised his eyebrows. “First of all, it isn’t ‘Guardian Zivas.’ The only person who calls me that is Zavala, and we aren’t that polite in the wilds. Second,” he looked her over, brows furrowed. “Where’s your gear?”
“Commander Zavala informed me that I would be going on a mission this morning. I had my weapons checked in from the Armory, so they should be on your ship already, Guardian Zivas.” Her eyes widened. “Er, sorry.”
“It’s fine, just call me Rindel.” He checked the ships logs. Sure enough, there were entries for weapons that were not his own- A shotgun, a sidearm and…
“What’s this?” He pointed to an entry labeled Last Perdition. “Your required reading for the trip?”
“My pulse rifle.” Samantha demeanor changed as she put her hands on her hips. “The name wasn’t my idea. Shaxx came up with it.
“Well, that was fast.” Rindel chortled. “You just that stiff around the Vanguard or…” Rindel’s voice trailed off as he felt something click in his mind. A Warlock in dark robes, weilding a pulse rifle in the Crucible. “Wait a second.” He looked up from his tablet.”You’re-”
“Yes, I’m that Warlock from the Crucible.” She crossed her arms. “Any more questions, or are we going on our way now?
Rindel raised his hands. “None for the moment, no. Supplies are looking good. Let’s get aboard.”
“Before that, just one thing.” Samantha uncrossed her arms.
“If you’re going to insist I call you Rindel, then call me Sam. Only the Vanguard have called me ‘Samantha.’”
“Hey, whatever you say, slick.” He put the tablet back into its pouch. “Let’s get this show on the road."
Chapter 4: Riding on the Wind
“For the love of all that is good and just in the universe, would you please stop flicking lint at me?”
Rindel smiled as he gathered more lint off of his boots. Flicking the balls of dust and associated products was the most entertainment he’d had in the last several hours of transit. He rolled another wad and waited until Cyclone was once again buried in his terminal before he let it loose.
Cyclone said nothing as he slowly turned to look at Rindel. The last lint missile had lodged itself just behind Cyclone’s eye. Rindel could barely contain his laughter as the Exo attempted to dislodge the foreign object.
“Rindel, seriously.” Cyclone eventually gave up and summoned his Ghost, which made quick work of the lint. “I’m nearly finished with this write-up for Tess. She’s been bugging me for weeks and I think I finally found the best way to describe the origins of the New wave of British heavy metal”
Rindel raised an eyebrow. It was no secret that Cyclone was very interested in music from before the Golden Age of humanity. As Guardians made their way through the wilds, they sometimes came across records or barely operable computer systems that gave them more information about humanity’s past- So much had been lost to the collapse, and people wanted to piece that together as much as they were able to. There were groups of scholars and researchers who made careers out of digging up humanity’s past.
Then of course, there was Tess Everis. She ran Eververse, a marketplace that was part Guardian outfitter, part Golden Age catalogue. Rindel had met with her on a few occasions, and she seemed nice enough. There was a catch, of course- Any Golden Age material was made to be thoroughly researched prior to being released to the general public, meaning Tess had a group of her own researchers. Cyclone was one of these, but Rindel suspected that the real reason Cyclone even volunteered was to have early access to anything that Fenchurch or any other Guardians brought in.
“Sounds like you’re making progress.” Rindel didn’t care as much about the research side of Cyclone’s hobby but the music was fun to listen to. “Who was in this… wave?”
Cyclone grinned. “It’s a metaphorical wave. It meant a shift in how music was composed and played- and serves as an origin point for many other compositions and artists. Prominent groups of the British wave included Motörhead, Def Leppard, Iron Maiden and Judas Priest.”
Rindel shook his head as he suppressed a grin. Cyclone always got so excited when he was able to share in his passion for music with other people. Watching his Exo friend’s eyes literally light up made asking these questions worth it, even if he didn’t fully understand what he was talking about.
“Cy, you should really think about getting into your combat gear. If Aprikose was right, we should be around fifteen minutes away from Io.” Sarra entered the cockpit in her full gear, minus her helmet. She walked over and pat Cyclone on the shoulder. “You can always finish your report on the way back.”
“Yeah, yeah. Give me a minute.” Cyclone deactivated his terminal and stretched out before moving to the cabin to change. Rindel took a seat on the right side of the cockpit and double-checked their course as Sarra took a flanking seat toward the center.
“You’ve been to the Reef before, right?” Sarra’s voice drew him away from checking the flight path.
Rindel looked back to her. “Well, yeah. Cyclone and I dropped a year or so ago. It’s… interesting.”
“What are the Awoken there like?” Her sea-green eyes burned into his. She looked conflicted, and Rindel could guess why. They were both Awoken themselves, but the Awoken of the reef were, in spite of being relatives to all Awoken in the system, extremely secretive. It was hard to know if they could be trusted, and it was this potential that kept the Guardian Awoken asking themselves many uncomfortable questions.
“Depending on who you’re talking to, you’ll just as easily be spoken to in riddles as you’ll have a knife at your throat.” Cyclone re-entered the cockpit, now dressed in his normal plate armor. He took a seat at the controls. “At least, that’s how that smug bastard of a prince acted.”
“We don’t have to work with Uldren on this trip, thank the Light.” Rindel checked his gear and looked to his comrades. “I can’t say for sure that Io is completely clear, but it’s as good of neutral ground as we’re gonna get for this meeting. We ready?”
Sarra nodded while Cyclone fiddled with a knob on the console. A rapid, pulsating drumbeat filled the cockpit as both Rindel and Sarra turned to face the Titan.
“What, I’ve only been writing about this stuff for the last seven hours. Besides,” Cyclone continued as a heavily distorted guitar riff began. “You two get to be the first outside of researchers to hear this.”
Rindel smiled. He had to admit that the sound of this music was filled with energy. “I can live with that.”
Sarra smiled slightly as she settled into her chair. Rindel was glad to have her along on the trip, but decided to focus on the music, to mentally reset and prepare for what was to come. After all, any news from Petra likely meant that her queen, Mara Sov, was calling in a favor- and he wanted to be ready for whatever that could end up being.
Shooting for the stars
Cruise the speed of light
Glowin' god of Mars
Body burning bright
Well I'm ridin', ridin' on the wind!
Yes, I'm ridin', ridin' on the wind!
Tearing up through life
Million miles an hour
Blinding all in sight
Surging rush of power!
Rindel had the final approach mapped to the ship’s autopilot system. His music player had randomly selected this track, but he wasn’t complaining. His head bobbed in time with the beat
Well I'm ridin', ridin' on the wind!
Yes, I'm ridin', ridin' on the wind!
He looked over- he was still getting used to having someone sitting in the co-pilot’s chair. Samantha had her eyes closed, and it was hard to tell if it was the result of annoyance or discomfort. He frowned. Even if he didn’t like this detail, it would still be rude to keep playing the music if his partner didn't like it. He almost turned the knob down when a Ghost phased in front of him.
“Woah!” Rindel practically jumped back into his seat. The Ghost spun its blue shell as it moved to eye level. It moved its top segment upward, giving the impression of raising an eyebrow before addressing him with a female voice.
“I appreciate your concern for my Guardian’s comfort, Rindel, but you should keep the music on.” She turned, looking at the Warlock, her segments drooping. “She… well, the truth is, she hates takeoffs and landings. She has since I found her. And honestly, the music is a nice distraction.”
A small smile formed on Rindel’s lips. “Anything else I should know about?”
The Ghost’s eye brightened. She started to speak when her Guardian interrupted.
“That’s enough, Ryu!” Samantha still had her eyes screwed shut. “Come back to me.
Ryu let out a soft metallic sigh before phasing out of physical form. Solas chuckled from inside Rindel’s consciousness.
What would you do if I shared one of your secrets with a random Guardian? Rindel got the impression that Solas was smug.
I’d probably just shoot you and sell the parts for scrap. A smile formed on his lips.
I sincerely hope you’re joking, Rindel. That isn’t very funny. He “felt” his Ghost cross arms in annoyance.
Hey, if you don’t spread my secrets, you won’t have to find out. They ended their initial descent and came to a hover over a set of crumbling towers. He found a small clearing next to a large body of water his display identified as Lake Michigan. The water, dark and brackish, had made its way around the ruins of several smaller structures, forming a new shore in this field. Scans showed no Fallen in the vicinity, so Rindel set the ship down, shutting off the engines.
Rindel stood, unbuckling his harness. He pat the back of Samantha’s seat. “Ready to get to work?”
Rindel watched as Samantha secured the last guy line for a tarp that covered the ship. “There!” She called over to him. “ How’s that?
“One way to find out.” He pulled out his tablet and tapped at the screen several times. The light-colored tarp appeared to disappear in patches along with Rindel’s ship underneath it, with only a faint outline of discoloration marking the edges.
Samantha’s eyebrows raised as she tapped a finger against the tarp. “Active camouflage, huh?”
“Sort of.” Rindel slid on his helmet and secured it under his chin. “It works best when the object stays still, so it’s perfect for stuff like this. Good enough to keep Dregs from getting too curious.” He slung a pouch through a gap in his cloak that had an odd-looking handle protruding from it before pulling his hood over the helmet
“Have you known the Fallen to steal-” Samantha stopped herself mid-sentence. “Nevermind, I’m talking about Fallen . They steal anything that isn’t nailed down.” She donned her own helmet and checked that it was secure before grabbing her rifle-Last Perdition
“Okay. Let’s head toward downtown.” Rindel pointed toward the sprawl of ancient buildings in the distance. “The Fallen generally don’t like being out in the open if they aren’t scavenging.
Samantha nodded and the pair made their way toward the city. The sky was somewhat overcast, with clouds that built up on the horizon as they made their way closer and closer to the ruins of Old Chicago. The ruins were overcast with a blanket of light gray, but a large anvil-shaped cloud to their southwest dominated the sky.
“I really don’t like the way those clouds are looking.” Samantha summoned Ryu as she and Rindel walked. “Do we have any forecast for the weather?”
Ryu shook, giving the impression of shaking her head. “Not at this time. However,” the Ghost looked over her Guardian’s shoulder at the Anvil. “The mass does appear to be rotating. That is an indication of a supercell thunderstorm.” She looked to Rindel. “Based on current estimated wind speed, the storm should be on us in the next hour.”
“We’ll be long-gone before it arrives.” Rindel looked back to the young Warlock. “Besides, patrols are a rain-or-shine gig.” He motioned in the direction down the street. “If we figure out what they’re doing here, we can deal with it and be home in time for dinner.”
“Still,” Samantha persisted. “I’ve heard that supercells can be really dangerous. Shouldn’t we hold off until it passes?”
“Your Ghost can heal anything the storm can do to you.” Rindel turned and began walking down the road. “And even if you died, you’ll come right back. Perks of being a Guardian. Well, that and…”
He suddenly stopped and held up a fist. He crouched low and made his way to the wall of a nearby building. Samantha followed suit. “What? What’s going-”
Rindel made a chopping motion in front of his neck. He then held a hand up to where his ear would have been. They both heard a guttural growl very close by. Rindel supposed that it may have been on the opposite side of the wall. He drew a knife and immediately felt a hand grip his shoulder.
“What?” He hissed. The last thing he needed was for her to ask a question.
“It’s my first mission,” Samantha had drawn her sidearm, a standard Häkke model with a suppressor. “I should take point.”
“Just stay back for this one.” Rindel whispered. Without another word, he darted into an opening in the wall. He saw two of the spider-like Fallen in the room. One was busy looking over what looked like an ancient data terminal, looking for anything it might be able to scavenge.
The other turned and saw Rindel enter. His arm shot out, and the knife embedded itself in the creature’s skull. The Hunter drew another knife as the second Fallen jumped, turning to investigate the dull thud of his companion hitting the floor. The blade found its mark in one of the creatures four eye sockets before it had a chance to scream.
Samantha rounded the corner, her pistol raised. She searched the room and checked the openings. Rindel shook his head when her back was turned. At least she had a good discipline for threat detection. He pulled his knives from the Fallen, wiping their blood off on their cloaks.
“I could have taken them, you know.” Samantha sounded indignant. “I’ve run room clears in the crucible more times than I can remember.”
“Well, Miss Shaxx, I hate to break it to you, but the Wilds don’t work like the Crucible.” Rindel stood, sheathing his knives. “If we’d used guns on these two, it’s entirely likely that another patrol would hear it and alert their Captain or whoever is running this group. We’re trying to see what they’re up to, and it becomes much harder to gather intel under fire.”
“In case you didn’t notice,” Samantha held her pistol up, pointing to the cylinder on the edge of the barrel. “My sidearm is suppressed. I could fire off a dozen shots and their buddies would be none the wiser.”
“Suppressed doesn’t mean silent!” Rindel shot back. “You’d still attract their attention!”
Rindel, you may want to check your radar-
“Solas, not now!” Rindel yelled at his Ghost. “Furthermore, if I remember correctly, this is my mission on official basis. It’s my call if you engage or not.”
“Then what’s the point of me being here?” Samantha shouted back. “If you’re gonna do everything yourself, I may as well have just stayed at the Tower! I’d get a lot more done that I apparently will out here!”
Solas phased next to Rindel’s head as Ryu appeared next to Samantha. “Stop it, both of you!”
Rindel glared daggers at his Ghost from behind his visor. “Solas, this really isn’t the time or the place to lecture us on-”
“If you’d listen,” his Ghost said forcefully, “We are currently being surrounded by a group of Fallen."
“They do not sound happy, either.” Ryu continued. “I’m not an expert in Eliksni, but I’m pretty sure I heard them mention something about dismembering the both of you. Repeatedly.”
“Both of you phase, now.” The two Ghosts disappeared. Rindel reached from behind his cloak, producing a compact auto rifle. Samantha holstered her pistol, moving Last Perdition from her back to her hands.
“Okay then. Obviously, they know we’re here. What now?” Samantha pulled the bolt back on her rifle, chambering a round.
“Stealth is off the table.” Rindel replied. “We go loud.”
Samantha conjured a burning ball of light into her hand. He almost felt a smile from behind her visor. “Let’s burn them to the ground.”
Rindel nodded and backed up to a wall in the room. He put a foot against it and kicked off, using the momentum to dash out of the room. A group of Dregs waited outside with a few Vandals in tow.
He drew a knife from his side and stabbed the nearest Vandal in the chest, which fell into a gurgling heap in front of him. As the Fallen collapsed, he maneuvered the muzzle of his rifle up and over the alien’s body, firing on the Dregs in full-auto bursts. They fell to the ground looking more like colanders than soldiers.
This group dealt with, he decided to hazard a glance over at Samantha’s position. She made her way to a pair of Vandals, ducking and weaving through their shots of Arc-infused plasma. A Dreg jumped into her path, screeching a defiant battle cry.
Rindel noticed another Dreg coming up from behind Samantha. He aimed at the alien, but it was dealt with before he could pull the trigger. Samantha threw her pulse rifle over the blockading Dreg’s head, and in a fluid motion, drew her sidearm as she blasted it with a palm full of Solar Light. She immediately spun and unleashed a quintet of rounds on her would-be-assailant.
Both Dregs fell as she used her momentum to leap into the air with a backflip, tossing a small, glowing ball of light at the Vandals. The ball ignited blades of grass as it rolled toward them, attaching itself to one of the Vandal’s legs. It screamed in either pain or horror as the ball expanded, swallowing it and its parter whole. The only thing that remained when the ball collapsed were a scorched section of earth and cinders of the Fallen
I like her. Solas commented in his head. She’s got some moves.
Oh, yeah? Rindel noticed a group of eight of the aliens converging on his position. He stowed his rifle and crafted a blade of Solar Light. Watch this.
Showoff . Solas’ voice was flat.
He threw the blade at the Dreg directly in front of him. It embedded itself into the alien’s head and exploded. He drew Hawkmoon from its holster on his thigh and spun it by the trigger guard up to firing position, killing two more dregs with a pair of shots each. He spun to face a group of three that had unleashed a few shots his way and caught a bolt of plasma in his side. He grit his teeth as he tilted his revolver sideways and fired three shots, letting the recoil move the gun to face each of his targets.
A Captain ran to him holding a pair of swords and a pistol. Rindel whipped his revolver to face his new opponent, but this Captain had the sense to grab his wrist with its open hand and pull it upward, letting the round shoot harmlessly over its shoulder. Rindel winced as he attempted to cross-draw for another knife with his left hand - Solas hadn’t had a chance to heal his burn yet - and the Captain stabbed him in the chest through his arm with one of its swords. The Fallen hissed with pleasure as Rindel screamed in pain, then drew an arm back to slash with a second sword.
Rindel used the opening to headbutt the Captain. It staggered, releasing the grip on Rindel’s wrist for long enough that he could wrench his arm free. He pressed Hawkmoon’s muzzle to the Fallen’s chest and pulled the trigger six times.
The Alien fell on top of him, driving the sword into his torso. Solas had healed the burn on his side, but Rindel would need to get the sword out of him before that tissue could be mended. He tried to push the Captain off of him, but felt the mass come off of him suddenly. He looked to his rescuer, only to find a second Captain facing him. Rindel lifted Hawkmoon and pulled the trigger.
Click! Rindel cursed. In the excitement, he’d lost count of his bullets and he was now empty. The Fallen leveled a gun at him and laughed, saying something in its language. Rindel tossed the revolver to the side and lifted his hand to reach behind his back. This served to twist the sword in his torso, but he fought the pain, grabbing at nothing for a moment. Finally, his hand found purchase.
He pulled his hand back down to reveal a strange gun. It wasn’t quite a pistol, it was too big. The two barrels were enormous. The Fallen screeched as Rindel pulled a pair of triggers with his index and middle fingers, unleashing a swarm of pellets that knocked the alien back, leaving a pulpy mess in its wake.
“All clear,” He heard Samantha say over their network, “Everything good on your end, Rindel?”
Rindel dropped the shotgun as he grabbed for the sword with his free hand. “Peachy.” He coughed. A splat of blood appeared on his visor. Damnit. Sword must’ve pierced my lung. He managed to grab the blade, but the angle was awkward- He couldn’t pull it out.
“That didn’t sound good. You okay?” Samantha radioed back to him.
“Oh, fine,” Rindel gasped out. “Just sitting here with a Captain’s sword in my chest.”
“I’m coming to you, hold on!” He saw Samantha dash over to him. She dropped her weapon and inspected the wound. Rindel heard her inhale sharply through her teeth. “This looks bad, but you’ll be fine. Let’s get this thing out of you.”
“Then, just… get on with it.” It was getting harder and harder to breathe. A shiver of fear raced up his spine as he coughed again. The adrenaline was wearing off by this point, and the pain settled in, sharp and biting.
“O-Okay.” Samantha gingerly grabbed the sword’s handle. She knelt, bracing her knee on Rindel’s chest for better leverage. “On three, okay?” She looked down, taking a deep breath before counting. “One, two…”
“Oh, for the love of the Light!” Rindel managed to shout. “Just pull out the fu-”
Samantha pulled hard, and the sword came free in one motion. Rindel swore from the pain as Solas phased into existence and got to work healing his Guardian.
Samantha threw the sword to the side and considered what she looked at. “What the hell were you thinking?”
“Please, don’t talk right now,” Solas interjected. “It’s hard enough to heal a lung normally without him trying to get in a quip.”
Rindel leaned his head against the pile of rubble he lay in and let Solas’ cool healing energy rush though him. Bones knit themselves back together, muscle and skin reformed, and his suit patched itself back into one piece. Just another minute or so. Be patient.
“Why did you take that whole group on by yourself?” Samantha asked. Rindel moved his head up slightly to look at her. “You weren’t trying to show me up, were you?”
He lifted his uninjured arm and made an arcane gesture with one finger.
“Aw, I love you too.” Samantha’s voice dripped with sarcasm. Ryu phased in front of her before she could say anything else
“Much as I enjoy this playful banter, I have some news.” She addressed both Guardians. “We still don’t know why they’re here, but I have an idea of where we can find out. I intercepted some radio chatter from the Fallen. They’ve been ordered to retreat, and I quote, ‘secure the Prime and its Sliver.’”
“Prime?” Rindel asked, his voice ragged. “What, like a Prime Servitor?”
“Don’t talk, I’m almost done.” Solas finished his work and turned to face the others.
“That was my thought, yes.” Ryu continued. “I’ve also picked up a noticeable amount of movement further into the ruins. It seems to be heading-” She placed a marker down, which appeared in both of the Guardian’s heads-up displays. “Here. I’d venture to guess that’s where we’ll find our answers.”
In the distance, they heard a rolling rumble. Water fell from the sky in sporadic patches, quickly turning to a constant downpour.
“That sounds like our cue to get out of here.” Samantha looked to Rindel. “Any ideas?”
“Yeah,” Rindel scooped up the shotgun and flicked the barrels downward, ejecting the spent shells and reloading before placing it back to its holster on his back. He stood after grabbing Hawkmoon. “Solas, do me a favor and get my Sparrow over here, would you?”
Solas approximated a nod. He phased into Rindel and a motorcycle-like hovercraft appeared in front of him out of thin air. He climbed aboard and motioned to Samantha. “Hop on.”
Samantha looked over the Sparrow a moment before getting on the back. “I can see why Guardians normally ride a Sparrow each.”
“How’s that?” Rindel looked back at her over his shoulder.
Samantha looked around and threw her hands up. “What am I supposed to hold onto?”
Rindel’s face flushed, and he was glad his helmet hid it. “You could always hold onto me.” Samantha turned. She looked into the storm in time to witness a bright flash of lightning. She turned and wrapped her arms around his waist. “Just don’t get any funny ideas,” She said.
“Wouldn’t dream of it.” He kicked the Sparrow off the ground, starting up the engines. “Besides, I hate to break it to you, but you’re not exactly my type.”
He twisted the throttle and they sped for the waypoint, unsure of what they would find.
“Yep. That’s a Prime Servitor, alright.”
Rindel moved the spotting scope away from his eye. He had his helmet off for the moment, and ran a hand through his plume of red hair before tossing the scope to Samantha. “See the spines on its shell?”
Samantha doffed her helmed and shook her straw-colored hair before she looked through the scope herself. She saw at least forty Dregs grabbing crates, salvage or weaponry, loading them onto a pair of their Ketch dropships. Behind them was a large, floating ball that towered over the few Captains that directed the Dreg’s movements. It glowed with a purple sheen that originated from several spines that were arranged on the three sections of its shell. It hovered, unmoving aside for the occasional adjustment of its metallic carapace. “Yeah, I see ‘em.” She tossed the scope back to Rindel. “So, then. What’s the play?”
Rindel considered the courtyard they surveyed. The wind had picked up considerably, the rain falling in sheets. They were currently in what Rindel presumed was an office building of some kind, several stories above the Fallen group, and were surveying them through one of the remaining unbroken sheets of glass windows.
“Your attunement is with Solar Light, right?” He pursed his lips, considering his options before turning to Samantha. “Sunsinger?”
“Dawnblade.” Rindel saw a small smile form on her lips. “I can make Swords out of Solar Light.”
He raised an eyebrow, frowning. “That may be useful if we want to clear those Dregs in a hurry. You’d be able to rip right through them.”
Samantha placed her hands on her hips. “I can also throw them at things… and make the swords explode.” Her smile turned into a mischievous grin.
Rindel’s eyebrows raised as he let out a low whistle. He’d created an exploding knife earlier that day. He imagined the possibilities of that on a larger scale. “Okay, scratch my original thought.” He took another look at the courtyard and noticed a Dreg holding a large metallic cylinder that it grabbed from behind the Servitor’s position. A similar grin formed on his face. “Hey, Sam? Take a look at this.”
“Okay?” She took the scouting scope back from Rindel and looked down at the courtyard. “What am I looking at?”
“See the Dreg holding that canister?”
“It’s probably filled with Ether.” Rindel smiled from ear to ear. “We rupture it, they’re gonna be focused on it. That gives us an opening.”
Samantha smiled herself. “I think I’ve got a better play.” She ran to one of the broken windows, slipping her helmet back on. “Wait for my signal, then jump in and lay fire into that Servitor with your Golden Gun. I’ll float down and hit it with my swords.”
“Blitz play, huh?” A crack of thunder rumbled through the air. “That’s fitting.” He pulled his helmet on his head, adjusting his hood over it. “What’s the signal?”
“You’ll know.” she pulled Last Perdition from her back and settled into a prone position, the barrel poking through a small hole in the wall. She waited another ten seconds before letting off a pair of three-round bursts.
The Dreg holding the canister fell near one of the Ketches. The second burst hit the container, rupturing it and sparking an electrical burst that engulfed the Ketch, causing it to explode, taking about twenty-five of the Dregs and a pair of Captains with it.
Rindel pointed at the explosion. “I take it that was the signal?”
Samantha let loose a trio of bursts. “Yep.”
Rindel grinned and burst through the glass.
The remaining Fallen didn’t pay as much attention to him as they should have. The ones that turned to attack him were swiftly shot down, letting Rindel run all the way up to the Servitor’s position. It turned to face him as he got within ten meters of the monstrosity.
“Got a present for you!” Rindel threw a ball of light at the Servitor. As it made contact with the construct, it split off into a group of smaller motes of light that spread away lazily before striking the Servitor with concussive force. A pair of Captains yelled a battlecry to showcase their displeasure and rushed. Rindel reached over his shoulder and grabbed his shotgun.
“Not this time.” He waited for the one to his right to come close to him before unleashing fire from both barrels. The Captain was knocked back from the force of the impact, leaving Rindel open to throw one of his knives at the other Captain, catching it in the chest. The second Fallen shrieked in pain as Rindel stowed the shotgun. He reached into nothing and called on his inner Light.
The Golden Gun appeared in his hand, undiminished by the rain, which simply turned to steam on contact with the weapon. He aimed for the Captains first, turning them both into ash. He then refocused on the Servitor, holding his left hand over the rear of the revolver. He pulled and held the trigger, fanning four rounds of burning light into the Fallen construct. It moved away, trying to put distance between itself and the Hunter that stood before it.
Rindel noticed something sticking out of the ground underneath where the Servitor had been. A small white shard, maybe a few centimeters long.
I’m getting a large light reading off of that piece of rubble! Solas said in his mind. Rindel! I think… that may be a piece of the Traveler!
Rindel’s eyes widened. That explains it! The Prime was using it to make Ether!
Grab it! Do not let the Fallen take it with them!
“Sam! Whatever you’re gonna do, do it, I could use a hand here!” He ran for the shard and noticed that the Servitor was glowing.
“On my way!” He saw a flash against the buildings that reminded him of the lightning. “Did you figure out why they’re here?”
“Yes! There’s a piece of-”
He suddenly found himself high up in the air. Of course. Bastard teleported me. The wind roared in his ears as lightning sparked all around him. He twisted himself around in the air, trying to get the waypoint back in front of him. If he timed it right, he could use the light to prevent himself from dying as he hit the ground.
Then he saw it. Lightning sparked in the distance, creating a silhouette of a terrifying force that sent a chill down Rindel’s spine.
These storms rotated as a result of atmospheric instability. Under the right circumstances, that rotation would increase to immense, terrifying proportions.
Apparently, those conditions had been met.
“Sam! Melt that Servitor!” Rindel felt panic set in. “Hit it with everything you have!”
“On it!” She yelled into their network. He saw several flashes of orange from the surface as he fell and came in sight of the battle just in time to watch the Servitor explode. He broke his fall with his Light, then hit the ground in a roll. He grabbed the small shard, pocketing it before turning to Sam.
“Okay, we need to get the hell out of here. Solas, transmat the Sparrow! We should have dusted off five minutes ago!”
“I’m sorry, Rindel. I can’t.” Solas transmitted over the network. He sounded in shock. “The ship… it’s been hit.”
“I’m sorry, what?” Samantha moved closer to Rindel. “What do you mean the ship has been hit?”
“It was hit by the-” Solas was cut off as a gigantic Fallen leapt down from one of the buildings. It screeched at the Guardian pair, and did something they did not expect. It spoke to them in English.
“Pathetic dead things!” It screamed. “You steal from us what belonged to us to begin with! I shall cut the sliver from you and impale it into you! I shall cut your Ghosts to shreds! I shall-”
The Fallen was suddenly knocked back into a wall. It stuck to the wall, impaled on a piece of rebar. It screamed curses as it tried to pull itself free.
“What the hell-” Samantha turned in time to see the side of the building they were in get torn off. The roar of the wind became deafening. A wedge tornado had formed, and was right on top of them.
Rindel grabbed her arm. “Run! Now!”
Chapter 5: Our Demons
Rindel awoke to the ringing of his personal comms unit. He pulled his bedsheets up over his head, hoping to shut the annoying sound out. After a moment, the ringing stopped, and he felt a shift on the bed.
“Shouldn’t you get that?” Sarra spoke softly as she wrapped an arm around Rindel.
“It’s probably just Cy wanting to hit up the Crucible or something.” He pulled the sheet down and took in Sarra’s soft features and smiled as he brushed her cheek with his hand. “If it’s important, he can leave a message.”
“Well, at least he woke us up.” Sarra poked Rindel’s nose with one of her slender fingers. “You would have slept through the whole morning, otherwise.”
“I guess that means we should make the most out of it, then.” Rindel quickly pulled in Sarra for a kiss, relishing in Sarra’s surprised squeal that dissolved into giggles. As Rindel rolled onto his back, he noticed that they had an intruder. “Aprikose, what have we said about bothering us during our private time?”
Sarra’s bright orange Ghost spun his rounded segments before he replied with the stiffness of a butler. “My apologies, Rindel. but Solas and I are getting hailed relentlessly by Splendid. Apparently, Cyclone requires your presence, quite urgently. I would recommend-”
“Yeah, yeah, I’ll call him.” Rindel grabbed the comms unit and hailed Cyclone’s frequency. The gold-colored Exo appeared on his screen in his full battle gear.
“Rindel! There you are! I’ve been trying to contact you for half an hour! Splendid wouldn’t tell me where you were, and Zavala-” His gold eyes narrowed. “Hey, Rin? There any reason I can only see you from the nose up?”
“What? No! No reason at all! Why would I-” He heard a giggle from behind him as Sarra wrapped an arm around him, using her other hand to angle the device down slightly. heat rose in Rindel’s cheeks as he watched Cyclone blink several times.
“Rindel will be in the main courtyard in a few minutes. I’m sure you understand.” She slunk out of view of the camera, leaving Rindel to wonder how his life turned out this way.
“Well.” Cyclone made a noise as if he were clearing his throat. “Duty calls. Zavala wants us in his office fifteen minutes ago, something about a Cabal base on Phobos.”
“Alright. I’ll see you in fifteen.” Rindel closed the feed and tossed the screen onto the bed, throwing his clothes on in a hurry. “Sarra, I’m sorry about this. I know we had stuff planned for today, and-”
“It’s okay.” She tightened the belt on a bathrobe, then wrapped her arms around his neck. “The nice thing about dating another Guardian is that we both know the drill, don’t we?”
Rindel smiled as he wrapped his arms around her. “Ain’t that the truth.” He kissed her cheek and pulled away, grabbing his bomber jacket from a stand. “Besides, Cabal on Mars? I should be home by tonight.”
“Tonight?” Solas flew between the two Guardians, considering them both. “Don’t you mean, ‘this afternoon?’”
Sarra laughed, bright and clear. “Of course! You and Cyclone have fun now, okay?” She waved at Rindel as he closed the door behind him.
Rindel took a deep breath in through his nose, appreciating the crisp autumn air. Since he and Sarra had started dating, everything felt more complete, somehow. He zipped his jacket up and looked to his Ghost. “Well then. Shall we see what Big Blue has in store for us?”
“With Cabal near Mars?” Solas gave an approximation of a shrug, bobbing in the air like a fishing lure in water. “What could possibly go wrong?”
Rindel’s eyes opened to a blurry world and a splitting headache. He was aware that something had happened to him, but he couldn’t quite put his finger on it. The following seconds allowed the pain to subside into nothingness, and with that, sweet clarity.
Oh, right. I got tossed by a tornado. As his vision cleared, the blur became a pile of detritus that had landed on him. He stood up, the debris clattering on the ground around him. He felt around him for his weapons. Over his shoulder, he found a smooth handle. A strap from his vest was torn, leading to nothing. His hands went to his hips, then his right hand found a textured pistol grip at his thigh.
“Okay Solas, put me in contact with Vanguard control. They’re gonna want to know why we’re running late.” At this point, he had no idea where his auto rifle was- it looked like the strap he used to secure it had torn, so it could be anywhere in this rubble. He held a hand out and the Ghost materialized. “Solas? How’s that connection coming?”
His Ghost’s top section shifted forward and down as he concentrated on establishing the connection. “I… I can’t. The comm relay is down. It must have been damaged along with the rest of the ship.”
Rindel shifted slightly. “How bad is it?”
His Ghost’s sections spun. Solas’ eye-light dimmed.“You don’t want to know.”
“How bad, Solas?”
“Well, the ship’s transponder still works, so I at least know where it ended up.” A waypoint appeared on Rindel’s visor. “It’s about four kilometers from its original position.”
Rindel shrugged. “Meaning, she’s still in one piece?”
“Not exactly,” Solas continued. “Diagnostics put multiple hull breaches as the smallest issue. A wing and two engines are missing.”
Rindel’s shoulders slumped. There goes my ride. “What about the Sparrow?”
“According to logs…” Solas’ eye flashed as he processed data. “Destroyed. Looks like you’re gonna have to hoof it for a while.”
Rindel sighed. “Well, a little exercise never hurt anyone. What about Sam? Do we know where she is?”
“Hold on. I’m going to see if I can get in touch with her Ghost.” Solas went silent for a moment, then his eye-light narrowed. “Oh, that isn’t good. We need to get to her and fast.”
“First off, get a waypoint set, second, what isn’t good?” Rindel began running as soon as the waypoint showed in his vision.
“She’s pinned down and has Fallen on her position.” Solas turned to face Rindel. “Ryu is saying she can’t move. She can heal from the inside, but if Samantha dies-”
“They’ll be after Ryu.” Rindel grit his teeth and willed his legs to carry him faster still. The Fallen worshiped technology - as far as most scholars surmised, the Traveller had come to them before it settled with humanity. Naturally, they wanted it back, and only for themselves.
On the one hand, Rindel was disgusted with the prospect of what they might do to a Ghost if they captured it. On the other hand, Samantha was his ticket back to the wilds, and he admittedly didn’t care much about what happened to her after this mission- But he also couldn’t let her die out here.
Not again. Not on my watch.
Rindel drew Hawkmoon from its holster as soon as he was close enough to hear the Fallen’s shock weapons firing. “Okay. Open up communications with Ryu.”
He felt his Ghost nod in the back of his mind. He could see the waypoint in a building that was in front of him, a few stories up. Ryu’s voice came in over the network. “Rindel? Oh, thank the Light! Samantha is pinned, we could use some help!”
“On my way up!” Rindel dashed through the broken sheets of glass in the building, using the Light to force himself up through a hole in the ceiling that he presumed must have housed stairs. “Is Sam okay? Any injuries?”
“There’s a good reason she isn’t talking to you.” Ryu sounded panicked. “She’s lost a lot of blood, and I can’t revive her while phased."
Rindel bared his teeth behind his visor and cursed before replying. “Copy. How many tangos on you?”
“At least five Vandals, but there’s a Captain here too.” A pause. “I’m sorry, Rindel, but I can’t mark them for you.”
“We’ll get it done, Ryu. Just concentrate on healing Sam.” Solas’ voice was even, a calming tone in the cacophony of gunfire. “We’ll be on them in less than thirty seconds.”
“Alright,” they finally heard. If Ryu had lungs, she would have taken a deep breath. “Just get here soon.”
“See you on the other side.” Rindel held his back to a wall. The Fallen were already quite preoccupied with their target practice, so he’d have to bring attention to himself. Rindel nodded and Solas appeared next to his face.
“I’m assuming you’re planning a blitz play for this one?” Solas eye light burned a brilliant gold.
“Yeah. That seems like the best plan.” He knocked his helmet against the wall and took a deep breath. “Hey, Solas? You don’t mind playing something for me, do you?”
“I never do.” Solas switched off the bottom section of his glowing eye, his voice giddy. “Anything in particular?”
“Something classic.” He paused half a moment. “Know what? Throw on some Glitch Mob.”
Solas phased, and Rindel almost felt him smile. In three, two, one…
Rindel listened as he heard a steady drumbeat fade in with string instruments. There were occasional segments that sounded fragmented- It sounded like the file was corrupted, but he had been reassured long ago that this was intentional. He swung out the chamber on his revolver, checking it one last time. Satisfied, he moved it back into position and warily made his way around the corner into a hallway.
No wonder you’re so stubborn
Nobody ever made you dig deeper
By this point, the sound of the Fallen’s weapons had died down. Rindel narrowed his eyes, frowning. I hope to the Traveler that doesn’t mean I’m too late. He came to a large room at the end of the hall and peeked around the corner.
No wonder you’ve got demons
Everything you ever did is coming back around
The Fallen hadn’t noticed him yet. They were moving toward a figure against the far wall, slumped over and bloodied. Lightning shot up Rindel’s spine as he summoned and threw a solar grenade.
I can’t help you if I’m weaker
You took the honey from the queen bee keeper
He heard a series of cries from the larger room as the Fallen turned. The smell of singed flesh suggested to Rindel that he’d gotten at least one of them. One last breath.
No wonder you have demons
Everyone’s got a choice this time around!
He dashed into the room, making a beeline for an adjacent wall on the other end of the room. Vandals screamed curses at him as they opened fire. Rindel jumped and kicked himself off of the wall, throwing a knife at one of the Vandals as he returned fire. Rounds caught one of the Fallen in the chest as vapor-like Ether seeped from the knife now embedded in another’s skull.
Rindel hit the deck in a roll, popping up to a kneeling position and quickly subduing the remaining Vandals with a pair of rounds to the head each. He stood from his position, a light gurgling sound emitting from the Vandal he’d shot in the chest. Rindel ended its misery with another bullet.
He surveyed the room, Hawkmoon held at arm’s length. All clear. He stood to full height and looked at the figure slumped against the wall. Now, he could clearly identify it as Samantha. Her gear was tattered and burned, with a small pool of blood forming around her.
The silver revolver clattered to the ground as Rindel ran toward Samantha. He realized too late that he’d walked into a trap.
“Rindel, look out!” He heard Ryu over the comms as he felt something push him up against the wall. The enormous form pinned him with three hands as a fourth rummaged around him, eventually pulling his shotgun from his back and throwing it to the side. The alien glared at Rindel as it kept feeling around his torso.
“Where?” It growled, “Where is the sliver?” Rindel immediately recognized the voice- This was the same massive Fallen that had confronted them before the Tornado hit. “Give back what is mine and your death will be quick, yes?”
Rindel strained, trying desperately to get a wrist free. Even completely unarmed, he would be able to do some serious damage to the Fallen if he could. He received a punch in the gut for his trouble, and the Fallen moved closer, looking around.
“Ah, but its Ghost is hiding.” The Fallen nodded toward Samantha. “If I kill you as I did the other one, it will show itself, yes?”
Suddenly, Rindel felt a sharp pain as one of his knives stabbed into his shoulder. He grit his teeth, refusing to give the Fallen the pleasure of hearing him cry out in pain.
The alien tilted its head. “No reaction. Strange. How the other screamed and screamed. But you- You are different, yes?” Another stab, this time to the abdomen. Still, Rindel refused to scream. “Does it feel… nothing?”
“Oh, I feel, alright.” Rindel spat. “I’m just... wondering if that’s really the best you’ve got.”
A sword came up to Rindel’s throat, digging through the lining of his suit and into his skin. “Then we shall experiment, yes?” The Fallen’s face came close enough to Rindel’s head to touch it. “If I cut off its head, what shall its Ghost do, hmm? Will it leave its Guardian to die? Will it risk its existence to save you? Will it-”
Rindel was startled as he fell back to the floor. A glowing blade burst through the Fallen’s chest, and smoke rose in wisps from the wound. As the alien fell, the sword’s glow intensified to a brilliant white, burning the Fallen from the inside, leaving nothing but ash. Samantha stood before him, blood dripping from a piece of rebar that went through her chest. She fell to the ground in a heap.
Ryu flew next to Rindel’s face. “You have to do something! I can’t fully heal her until you get that rod out!” Her upper and lower segments pulled away from the sphere in her middle, as if her eye widened.
Rindel pulled out the knives that the Fallen had stabbed him with and let them fall to the ground with a clatter. Solas phased out of him and passed a healing beam over his wounds, and Rindel relished in being able to breathe properly once more. His Ghost flew over and made an approximation of a hiss “ One side’s been bent over to make it a hook, and the other was bent… well, after entry. This won’t come out easily.” He looked to Rindel. “Unless..”
Rindel nodded as he kneeled next to Samantha. He held a hand to her side to try and calm her. “I won’t sugarcoat it - this is gonna suck. I’ll make it quick.”
Samantha nodded as best as she could, trying to prevent herself from writhing in pain. Rindel held a hand out, drawing his light to form a concentrated blade of Solar Light. He brought the knife down onto the rebar, making short work of the metal and cutting off the rudimentary hook. He stood and gingerly put a hand on the remaining section of steel.
He waited half a moment, then pulled it from her in a single fluid motion. Samantha gasped in pain as Rindel threw the bar away, kneeling next to her once more. Ryu immediately got to work as Samantha breathed a heavy sigh of relief, pausing for half a moment before looking to Rindel. “What took you so long?”
Rindel stood up for a brief moment before he leaned against the wall, letting his torso slide down slowly. The adrenaline was wearing off now, and he shook his head, allowing himself a light chuckle. “Oh, you know, just had the aftermath of the tornado to deal with. Nothing major.”
He heard Samantha’s helmet hit the floor as she brought her head down to rest. “I was trying to find you, you know.” She breathed heavily. “When I came to, I- Well, Ryu found Solas, and I decided to get smart and cut through here.” She brought her head back up and let it fall back to the floor. “I got careless. Didn’t think I’d get ambushed.”
Rindel sighed before he stood once more, knocking dust off of his cloak. “Part of the beauty of being Guardians. We can come back and learn from fatal mistakes.” He shook his head and snorted. “I’m reminded of a line from this pre-Golden Age movie I saw once- ‘Why do we fall?’”
Samantha pulled her torso up and leaned on her elbows. She shook her head. “I’ve got no idea. Because we aren’t good enough?”
Rindel walked to her and held a hand out. “‘So that we can learn to pick ourselves up.’"
Samantha paused a moment and took his hand. He leaned back and pulled her up to her feet, then went through the room, retrieving his weapons.
“Alright then, ‘team leader,’” Samantha had already recovered her weaponry. “What’s our play?”
Rindel reloaded Hawkmoon before placing it back in his holster, then located his shotgun. “First thing’s first. We need to get back to the ship and see if we can get a distress signal out to the Vanguard and resupply.” He looked toward the waypoint in his HUD and sighed. “This patrol is gonna take a lot longer than I thought.”
“Well, it isn’t exactly what I had in mind for my first assignment, either.” Samantha moved for the nearest hallway. “Let’s go. Sooner we get that signal out, the sooner we can get out of here, right?”
Rindel nodded. “Let’s go for it.”
“That should do it. It’ll take a minute or so for the satellite feed to reconnect.” Rindel allowed a small smile to cross his lips as he heard the light whir of servos adjusting the satellite dish.
It had taken the pair about an hour to make their way to the crash site. By and large, they had kept conversation to a minimum, keeping a watchful eye on their forward path, but the further the Guardians traveled, the more obvious it became that they were the only sentient beings for kilometers. Several times, they had heard a noise or seen movement on their motion trackers, only to find it was something as simple as the wind knocking around old metal cans or a wild animal. But soon, they would be able to put all of this behind them and go back to life at the Tower.
“So,” Samantha spoke so abruptly that Rindel nearly spun on his heel, but caught himself. “Ikora tells me you’re supposed to be some kind of walking legend. Something about a Black Garden, a couple of Hive gods- so why have I never seen you before now?”
Uh oh. He heard Solas’ voice in his head. She doesn’t know, it’s not her fault, don’t lash out at her-
Solas. You can stop, I’m fine.
His lack of an answer didn’t deter Samantha. “Far as I can tell, you’ve just been out in the wilds going on a few years now.” Rindel felt a slight pressure build in his chest. Her line of questioning wasn’t grating, but it could easily get there. “I mean, I know Hunters like going it alone sometimes, but… for months at a time?” he could feel her eyes boring into him. “Ikora told me you ran with a crew once. What happened?”
As Rindel opened his mouth to answer, a feed to the tower opened. The camera display the ceiling of the tower’s vast hangar, then swung around to reveal Amanda Holliday. Her face was caked in grease, and she had a pair of magnifying goggles tilted up on her forehead. Her eyes beamed at the screen. “Well; if it ain’t ol’ wolfie! You’ve been out there a while. You two plain’ nice?”
Rindel heard Samantha snigger behind him, but decided to ignore it, taking a seat in front of the monitor. “Well, the weather sure isn’t. We had a violent storm system produce a tornado on us. My ship is toast.” He keyed the diagnostic report over to Amanda before he continued. “She’s in no shape to fly and I’m not sure you want to send a recovery team just yet, in case we get another bad storm, but we need a ride back into town. Got any ideas?”
Rindel watched as Amanda’s eyes scanned back and forth over her screen. Her face scrunched up, presumably from seeing the extent of the damage, and she sighed before she said anything more. “I might be able to dispatch a City Hawk out to ya. Nothin’ fancy, but she’ll get you home.”
“That works for me. Sending coordinates now.” He leaned back in the chair and briefly looked to Samantha, holding out a fist with his thumb extended skyward. Samantha smiled.
“Received. I’m sendin’ out City Hawk Seven-Two-Three. Give us two hours, we’ll come and getcha.” Amanda gave a mock salute. “Just be advised that we’re expectin’ a storm of our own. It doesn’t look like anything too serious, but you’ll have reduced visibility on approach. Tower out.” The feed cut and Rindel’s screen went black. There was nothing left to do but wait.
“So, what are your plans when you get back?”
Samantha’s words tore Rindel from his command inputs. True to Amanda’s word, the City Hawk picked them up after only a few hours, and they were nearly ready for departure. He looked at her a moment, then resumed typing as he responded. “Well, I’ll need to talk to Holliday about a new ship and a new sparrow. I expect that’d take a week or two to be completed at least. After that?” He hit the “enter” key and heard the engines begin their ignition sequence as he spun to face his fellow Guardian. “It’s probably back to the wilds with me. Venus or Mars, maybe further- I’ll go where the winds take me.”
He watched as the Warlock folded her hands together, looking at them. Her lips pursed, then relaxed and pursed again before she spoke. “Well, if you’re not leaving immediately, do you want to team up?” Her eyes met Rindel’s. “I mean, it seemed like we worked together pretty well and you haven’t had anyone backing you up for a while, so-”
“Sorry, Sam. but I work alone.” Rindel crossed his arms and spun his chair to face forward. “It’s nothing personal. I tend to go places where the Darkness is strong. I just don't want someone else to get hurt.”
“Because that's what happened before.” Rindel met her eyes once more. She hadn't asked. It was as if she looked into his mind and found the answer she was looking for.
Rindel didn't answer for two minutes. He felt his mass lurch downward as the City Hawk rose up into the air. Samantha was completely unfazed, a stark contrast to how she reacted before. “I thought you hated takeoffs and landings.”
Samantha smiled softly. “Yeah, getting tossed by a tornado and getting impaled by an alien does some interesting things to your perspective.” Her expression suddenly hardened. “And you’re dodging.”
Rindel sighed, considering his boots. “It’s hardly dodging if you hit the answer on your first shot.”
“Oh.” Samantha’s voice lost its hard edge immediately. A few moments passed before she broke the silence. “I’m sorry. I don’t have any right to bring that up-”
Rindel held up a hand. “It’s alright. You hadn’t even been rezzed when it happened, and it’s by and large in public record anyhow.”
Samantha didn’t respond. Hours passed with only the steady hum of the City Hawk’s engines to stave off the silence. Rindel stared off into the distance, watching the darkening clouds in the distance grow larger and larger, and found himself caught in thoughts of that time, years ago. Of his team, of the Dreadnaught, of-
“Oryx.” Samantha’s voice suddenly pierced through the cabin.
Rindel turned and faced her again, slowly. “What did you just say?”
“Oryx.” Samantha repeated. “The Taken King. You were the only Guardian that came back from the Dreadnaught that day.”
Rindel said nothing as his vision focused on his lap. “Looked up the records, did you?”
He suddenly felt Samantha’s hand on his shoulder. “I can’t even imagine what that must have been like. I’m sorry.”
Rindel’s lips pressed together in a thin line as he turned his head away from her. Her apologies did little to stave off the phantoms he faced of that day.
Samantha patted his shoulder and continued. “I know you’ve probably heard it all. That their lives weren’t wasted, that you did everything you could. All I want to say is that I’m here for you.” He felt her hand squeeze against his cloak. “You shouldn’t have to face this alone.”
Rindel sighed as her words played back in his mind. Of course he needed to face this. Doing it himself just made it easier to press on without worrying about others. And why shouldn’t he? Saladin had told him he was among the strongest Guardians he had ever seen. Was it possible he’d been doing it wrong for the past several years? Was he ready to bare those wounds?
Was he ready to be hurt again?
He raised a hand over to Samantha’s and gripped it. He paused a moment before barely whispering his reply.
A ping on their radar ripped them from the moment. Solas phased into existence at Rindel’s shoulder. “We’re ten kilometers out from the City’s walls. You should probably hail the control tower and let them know we’re inbound.”
Samantha moved her hand from Rindel’s shoulder as he cleared his throat. The City Hawk approached Twilight Gap as he keyed the comm system. “Tower Approach, this is City Hawk Seven-Two-Three, en route to final approach. Please advise on best vector.”
The only thing he heard back was static. He raised an eyebrow. He expected some interference from the storm, but the Tower’s communications equipment was good enough to still get through in the worst of weather conditions. He keyed the comms again.
“Repeat, Tower Approach, this is City Hawk Seven-Two-Three. Anyone home?” More static. He turned to Solas. “Send a ping through alternates, see if that’ll make the tower squawk.”
Solas spun his shell segments as his eye brightened. “Nothing on secondary or tertiary channels. Emergency frequency is playing back static, too.”
Rindel froze. Everything was down. The realization of what that meant chilled him to the core. Suddenly, he sprang into action, strapping himself into the seat. “Sam, you may want to buckle up.”
Samantha buckled her straps in after a few seconds. “Rindel, you don’t think-” Her voice shook, betraying her anxiety. “We’re not under attack, are we?”
“There’s no reason to assume they’ve all decided to leave the control tower at once for a drink.” Rindel pressed several buttons on the control panel and grabbed a flight stick that extended to his seat. “My aircraft.
“Your aircraft.” Solas confirmed. He waited a beat before speaking again. “Remember Meridian Bay?”
Rindel considered his Ghost. “Somewhat. I came in too hot and you had to rez me from the wreckage. I think the first thing you said was ‘you fly too fast for your own good.’”
Solas approximated a nod. “Forget I said that. Fly fast.”
Rindel nodded and pressed the throttle forward, hurtling the craft into the storm- and all the unknowns that came along with it.
Chapter 6: Don't Stop Me Now
“...And so, we commit their bodies to the Light, to be free of corruption. We give unto the Traveler our hearty thanks, for our brother and sister Guardians that have been delivered from the miseries of this world. May they know eternal bliss as one with the Light.” The Speaker for the Traveler extended his arms outward and lifted his masked face towards the ceiling.
Rindel only barely registered the Speaker’s words. He, along with a host of Guardians of every discipline, every rank and every form had gathered in the hall normally reserved for consensus hearings, and while the filled seats would normally have held the multi-colored hues of their varied battle armors, it was currently a sea of solemn blacks and grays. Today was a day of mourning.
The Speaker stood at a podium before five white caskets, each draped with the crest of the Vanguard. “Let us not forget the sacrifices of our brother and sister Guardians, for though they are no longer with us, they have not died in vain, and remain with us in memory. Let us rejoice with the knowledge that these brave Guardians died in protection of the Light and of humanity, and though we mourn in their loss, let us remember them for their heroism and friendship.”
Heroism and friendship. But they had meant so much more than that. Rindel’s gaze was transfixed on the only two caskets that held bodies. For him, they held the remains of his family. A brother, with a heart as enormous as his stature, and a lover, with whom he had seen a glimpse of hope for a peaceful life. These thoughts ate at him and consumed his mind. If he had only acted more quickly. If he had just pulled the trigger a second before-
“Rindel? The funeral’s been over for several hours. You should get something to eat.”
He looked up to find an empty room and his little red Ghost circling his head. He smiled grimly. “You’re right. I’m sorry, little light.” He reached up and caressed his partner’s pointed shell. “I don’t mean to worry you.”
Solas affected a sigh. “At least you have the sense to admit that.” His eye looked downward as the upper section of his shell raised, making him look sad. “I’m sorry, I just-”
“It’s alright, Solas, I know.” Rindel stood to full height, walking to the caskets. “You don’t have to say anything.”
Solas phased into him, and Rindel felt pressure on his shoulder. I’m here if you need me. But you also need time. Do what you need to do.
Rindel nodded as he walked toward the caskets. By the Light, his boots could have been filled with lead for how long it took him to get there. He wanted to do so many things. To apologize, to cry, to scream. But the gaping emptiness would not let him.
“We all lost family today, Rindel. But it seems you lost more than most.”
He turned, coming face-to-face with the Speaker. He approached Rindel’s position, placing a black-gloved hand on the casket holding Cyclone’s body. “The Traveler mourns the death of its Guardians. But, in the same breath as it expresses sorrow for their loss, it rejoices in that so many more lives have been saved. Their Light, and the Light of their Ghosts, have rejoined the Traveler, and their souls are at peace.” He looked directly at Rindel. “All the same, it would be foolish to think that simply hearing these words would relieve the pain you feel.”
Rindel simply looked to Kira’s casket. The Speaker had always been able to look through him, though his sorrow was chiseled into his face. He nodded and looked back at the Speaker. “It’s not just their loss.” He said suddenly. “I… I feel I could have done more.” He looked to the three empty caskets. “Setsuna, Neil… Kris…”
“Were Taken.” The Speaker placed a hand on Rindel’s shoulder. “That Oryx was twisted and vile enough to corrupt Guardians is no fault of yours. In killing them, you set them free from an existence of unyielding torment.”
Rindel's gaze snapped back to the Speaker. “But, Speaker, If Kristina hadn’t been Taken… If Cyclone hadn’t lost his love-” His voice cracked. "If I could have prevented it-"
"My son," The Speaker suddenly took a step forward, wrapping Rindel in an embrace. "This is not your fault."
Rindel felt Solas' presence on his shoulder and broke into bitter tears.
“Rindel? Rindel, get up!”
He coughed as he rolled to his knees, forcing himself off of the floor. He felt the dull throb and vertigo of a resurrection, and shook his head as he came up to kneel.
It’s okay, take a second. He felt Solas in his chest, urging him to not push himself too hard. That was pretty rough, even by your standards.
Rindel dared to look over his shoulder at the smoldering wreckage of what had once been the City Hawk. Flames licked the edges of what had been one of the Tower’s exterior walls. Thank the Light this is an emergency. I’d hate to see the repair bill for that.
“You all good?” Samantha’s hand pressed on his shoulder. “Need a second after the rez to recover?”
Rindel pushed himself up and brushed off his shoulders. “Never better.” He pulled Hawkmoon from its holster and faced her. “Now, let’s find the bastard who wrecked our tower and put a bullet in their head.”
Samantha hefted her rifle and nodded. “No time like the present. Ryu, do we have anything on comms?”
“Nothing.” The Ghost communicated over their network. “Enemy forces have dropped in all over the city. I can’t be sure, but it seems like…”
An interior wall burst next to them. A hulking figure in red scale armor roared a battle cry before firing at the two Guardians.
Rindel unleashed a knife at the alien’s chest as Samantha fired her rifle, placing a trio of bullets into each of the monstrous soldier’s knees. The knife bounced off the alien’s armor, but combined with the pain it felt from its wounds, it was distracted enough that Rindel was able to run up to it and shove Hawkmoon’s muzzle into its chin. He pulled the trigger, and the alien fell with a thud.
“Cabal.” Rindel wiped a drip of dark liquid off of his chestplate. “That answers who, but why would they be attacking the city?”
“From what I’ve read on them, they have more of a ‘blow up planets and take no prisoners’ kind of a MO.” Samantha lowered her rifle slowly. “Unless this is some kind of revenge?”
“I doubt that.” Rindel picked up his knife and re-sheathed it. “The Cabal don’t make a move unless they think it would benefit them in some way. They want something, and it’s here. But what-”
He was cut off by static over their comms system, which resolved into a familiar voice. “...Repeat, this is Commander Zavala. Civilians: report to evac points. Guardians: render assistance if needed, and push back against our attackers. Our city will not fall.”
“Commander!” Samantha keyed the comms system. “This is Guardian Drake reporting in. Guardian Zivas and I are in the Tower. Where should we go?”
There was a noticeable pause on the comms. “Naturally, we will discuss your sortie later. Guardians Drake and Zivas, rendezvous at my position in the Tower Plaza. I could use some extra firepower.”
“Copy. We’ll be there ASAP.” Rindel nodded toward a door at the end of the hallway. “Better not keep big blue waiting.”
“Yeah, really. If Zavala needs extra firepower, we’re in pretty deep.” Samantha moved toward the door and paused in front of it. “That’s weird. Shouldn’t these open automatically?”
Rindel took a look at the sliding door for a moment. He drew a knife, trying to force the blade in between the two halves of the door. “Damn. It’s probably on lockdown protocol.” He moved over to one side. “Any ideas, Solas?”
Before his Ghost had a chance to respond, the door burst open from the other side, hurtling a figure five feet into their room. The figure let out a long metallic groan as a Ghost phased into existence above it, A Ghost Rindel recognized.
“Wait, that’s Sundance! Cayde! You alright?” Rindel holstered his revolver, made his way over to his mentor and squatted next to him.
Cayde bolted upright and considered the Hunter in front of him. “Rindel! You’re a helluva sight for sore eyes!” He opened his mouth to continue, but stopped as he looked past Rindel’s shoulder. He suddenly shoved Rindel to the floor. Before Rindel could respond, he saw three shots of pure Solar energy flash from Cayde’s position, streaking down the hall through the open doorway. He looked through the doorway to see a trio of the invader Cabal burn to cinders.
Samantha looked from the scene of the carnage to the Hunter pair in front of her, motioning to Cayde, who stood up to full height. “I take it that Rindel gets his battlefield antics from you?”
Cayde turned his head to the side with an audible crack. “Bound to happen if you learn from the best. Ain’t that right, Rin?” He held a hand out to the closest thing he could call a protégé.
Rindel grabbed Cayde’s hand and pulled himself up. “That’s one way of putting it, I guess.” He motioned to the doorway. “Apparently, Zavala could use a hand in the plaza. I know you’d love the chance to show him up.”
Cayde chuckled before looking to Samantha, covering the side of his mouth facing Rindel. “This one knows me too well,” he said in an exaggeratedly hushed tone. As Samantha laughed, he addressed Rindel properly. “Tempting as your offer may be, I’m leaving the evacuation-hero-stuff to big blue. I’ve got a date with whoever’s behind this.”
Rindel smirked behind his helmet. “Aw, gonna take them out to dinner first?”
“At my favorite ramen shop.” Cayde winked as he pulled his own revolver from a thigh holster, spinning it by the trigger guard before bouncing a pair of fingers off of his head in a mock salute. “Gotta run!”
Samantha shook her head and looked back to Rindel. “If he’s the standard by which all Hunters and measured, how do you guys get anything done?”
“Oh, that’s easy,” Rindel drew Hawkmoon once more. “You laugh along with him, then dance to your own tune.
"That makes how many now? Fifteen?" The magazine from Samantha's rifle clattered on the floor as she slid a new one into the magwell with a satisfying click.
"I think that Gladiator ought to count for two." Rindel listened to his spent shells bounce off of the concrete as he slid a new pair into his shotgun's breach.
"Of the normal ones?" Samantha shrugged. "I'd say that's fair."
The Guardians made their way through a hallway with a small stairwell at the end of it. As they neared the stairs, Rindel heard a faint cough. Hawkmoon jumped up to firing position on reflex, and Rindel moved toward the stairwell slowly. He felt Solas phase out of him.
"Wait!" His Ghost's segments spun as he faced his Guardian. "I'm sensing Ghost signatures! They're friendlies!"
Rindel let out the breath he hadn't realized he was holding as he holstered his revolver. Samantha held her rifle at rest as they made their way up the stairs.
The room they entered held at least fifty civilians. A human male raised a rifle, then immediately lowered it as he realized he did not face invaders. "Oh, thank God!" His relief was palpable. "More Guardians!"
"More Guardians!" Rindel heard chatter throughout the room. A young boy tugged at his mother's leg. "Mommy, we're gonna be okay!"
Rindel noticed a hulking figure break through the crowd, though a booming voice betrayed his identity immediately. "Ah! The Iron Wolf returns!"
The Hunter shook his head. "Hey Shaxx, good to see you too."
"And my young Dragon! Come here, Samantha!" He expanded his arms as she approached and wrapped her in a bear hug for three seconds before releasing her, then turned to clasp Rindel's shoulder. "I'd heard you two left on Vanguard duty. I'd say 'Welcome home,' but..." He released the Hunter and gestured to the people that surrounded them. "I'm afraid we'll have to fight for it first."
Samantha summoned Ryu, who made an odd grunting noise as her healing beam swept Samantha's body. Shaxx was known for his powerful hugs- most Guardians considered it lucky to walk away from one with less than a cracked rib. As soon as Ryu finished, Samantha took a deep breath, as if to test her lungs, then turned to Shaxx. "It's good to see you, Lord Shaxx, but we have business elsewhere. Guardian Zivas and I are to report to Commander Zavala's position in the Tower to back him up."
"Then you'll need to be stocked on ammunition, surely." Shaxx motioned for the Guardian pair to follow him to a closed sliding door. He pulled it open with minimal effort, then motioned down the hall. "Second door to the right is my armory. Take whatever you need, and back up the Commander."
Rindel nodded. "Thanks, Shaxx. I'd ask if you want to tag along, but it looks like you've got your hands full as it is."Pounding footsteps reverberated around the room from behind him as he turned to enter the hallway.
"Shaxx!" A Warlock ran up to their position. Her boutique robes were caked with dust and grime, no doubt from encounters with the Red Legion. "We've found more civilians. We should get this group to the evac shuttles, and..." She paused, taking in the Hunter in front of her. “Rindel. I’ll be damned. I didn’t expect you to be around here.”
Rindel smiled sadly behind his visor before giving a small wave. “Hey, Kari. Nice to see you too.”
A Ghost materialized next to Kari, sporting a royal blue shell adorned with a lion. “Well, well, well. The prodigal Hunter returns. I can’t say I expected this,” he started, his segments turning. “But then, we’ve heard rumors. Losing a bet to Ikora? Taking Ikora two-point-oh into the field?”
Solas sighed from his place in Rindel’s essence. Oh, boy. Now we get to hear Neko gloat. Exactly what I wanted. Yay.
“I know you can hear me in there, Solas.” Neko somehow looked like he was smirking. “I win. And I’m the one ready to say I told you-”
Kari reached out and pushed her Ghost out of Rindel’s line of sight. “Not right now, Neko.” She refocused on Rindel. “So, it’s true. You partnered up with a rook, and now you’re back. That’s a switch.”
Rindel opened his mouth to respond before Shaxx cut in. “I hate to interrupt this reunion, but you should get going, Rindel. Even Zavala won’t last forever on his own.” He nodded toward the hall. “I can take care of these people. Go!”
“Wait.” Kari reached up and placed a hand on one of Shaxx’s massive shoulder pauldrons. ”We can handle this. If Zavala needs help, you need to go too.”
Shaxx considered Kari a moment before he nodded. “Alight. You know what to do.” He gripped her hand. “Make me proud.”
Kari turned and began directing people into groups. As they entered the armory, Rindel heard Neko over the comms. “Hey, Rindel? I’m glad you came back when you did, in all seriousness. It’s good to see you again. Now, get out there and give them hell.”
“You got it, Neko. Best luck to you, too.” Rindel chuckled. Neko had always come off as something of a hothead, but he was nothing if not direct. He found the Ghost’s no-punches-held attitude to be refreshing sometimes, much to Solas’ chagrin.
“Is it just me, or do I sense some history there?” Samantha had her head tilted to the side.
“Some.” Rindel hefted a Vanguard auto rifle from a gun rack and slung it to his back as he exited the room. “Let’s go.”
Shaxx nodded his head. “What do you know of Oryx?”
Samantha held back as she looked to the Crucible handler. “The Taken King? Yeah, that Rindel ended him, right?
Shaxx nodded. “Kari and her husband, Rem were part of the first fireteam that was sent into the Dreadnaught after a transmat beacon had been set up.” He tilted his head forward. “Rem… well, let’s just say he didn’t make it back. And after Rindel lost as much as he did-”
“I think I get the picture.” Samantha sighed. “I can’t tell- he’s still so broken from that time.” She looked to Shaxx as he hefted a large single-edged sword over a shoulder. “Do you think he’ll ever completely heal?”
“One can only hope, my Dragon,” Shaxx said, wistfully. “One can only hope.”
“Okay. Is this thing on?” Cayde’s voice filled the communications systems of all three Guardians. “So, Sundance keeps tagging these Cabal as ‘Red Legion.’Anybody got any info?”
“Some of my Hidden have filed reports on them," Ikora responded. "They’re elite. Ruthless. And if rumors are to be believed, they have never known defeat."
Rindel heard Shaxx chuckle behind him. "Today, we shall prove otherwise." He clasped Rindel's shoulder. "Today, they face the might of the greatest Guardians in the history of this city!"
"Then perhaps these 'greatest Guardians' can hurry to the plaza!" Zavala sounded particularly irritated- Rindel wasn't sure if it was more directed at their tardiness or the invading forces.
Samantha forced open a weakened section of the wall with her Light, motioning Rindel and Shaxx through. "We're here, Commander! We're moving up to your position."
Rindel pulled his rifle from his back and pulled back on the bolt. The Plaza was very badly damaged, with piles of rubble marking the places that storefronts used to be. A spherical pod hit the ground hard and spewed dirt and bits of concrete into the air, then dissolved to reveal more of the red-clad Cabal.
"Guardians! To arms!" Shaxx pulled the large sword from his back and ran headlong into the fray, bringing the blade down onto one of the hapless Legionaries as the edge sparked with flame. Samantha fired burst after burst from her rifle until her target backed into the rail at the edge of the Plaza, falling to its doom. Rindel ran straight for a third Cabal, pulling and holding his trigger in an automatic symphony of gunfire. The alien's armor held for a short time before it was simply too damaged to protect its wearer, and the Legionary fell in a heap.
"Well met!" Zavala's voice boomed from a terrace. "Don’t let them past the gate! The evac shuttles are back there!"
"Understood." Rindel reloaded his rifle as he walked toward the commander. "Any word on the evacuation efort?"
"We are filling the shuttles as we speak, Rindel." Ikora's voice came in over the comms. "You need to buy us fifteen minutes."
"You may have to make do with ten." Zavala frowned. "This 'Red Legion' keeps sending their troops at our position, and even with the extra firepower-"
A slug zinged past Rindel's face, startling the Guardians and bringing their attention back to the battlefield. They turned in time to see the offending Cabal impaled on Shaxx's flaming sword. Shaxx placed his boot to the alien's chest and withdrew the sword, letting loose a triumphant laugh. "If it's time to be bought, let the price be paid in the blood of the Cabal!" He raised the sword to a defensive position as more drop pods made their marks on the Plaza. As they disintegrated, Shaxx screamed a battle cry and re-entered the melee.
Samantha flung herself into the air and produced a flaming sword of pure light. A pair of flames erupted from her back, shaping themselves into wings. She held herself in mid-air as she flung sword after sword into groups of the Cabal.
The Red Legion have attached something to the Traveler! Solas spoke in Rindel’s head with a mix of apprehension and determination. They aren’t going to get it as long as we live and breathe!
Rindel flung his new rifle over his shoulder with his left hand as his right drew Hawkmoon in a smooth arc. He let loose a trio of rounds at an approaching Cabal as he ran toward another at full speed. One of his knives shot out at this unfortunate Legionary, who found it more difficult to stand after the blade embedded itself into its knee. Rindel jumped up and over the enormous alien, unleashing a final round into its skull.
The Guardians pushed back against the invaders with a stunning ferocity. But, for every Red Legion soldier they were able to kill, another seemed to pop up in one of their spherical drop pods. Rindel felt a surge of relief when he heard Ikora’s voice over the comms again. “Guardians, the last of the shuttles in this group is away.”
“Excellent news, Ikora.” Rindel saw a faint smile grace the Commander’s lips. “We’ve received no word from the Speaker. Can you confirm if he is on one of those shuttles?”
Ikora took an audible breath before responding. “No, Zavala- he never made it. I’m going to look for him.”
Rindel stopped dead in his tracks. They couldn’t find the Speaker? He had to admit that the Speaker would be a very high-profile target for the Red Legion if they wanted to demoralize the City’s defenders. “I’m heading over there!” He turned to face Samantha. “You coming?”
She holstered her sidearm and shook her head. “We can talk things over later- Traveler knows that Zavala wants a debrief.” She put a hand on his shoulder. “Don’t worry, Rindel. We’ve got this. Find the Speaker!”
Rindel nodded and bolted for the west end of the Tower before Zavala could protest. He keyed the comm system as he made his way down the empty halls. “I’m heading for the Speaker! Ikora, any headway on his-”
A slug flung past Rindel’s visor, ripping a hole into his hood. He kicked his feet in front of him, diving into a slide as he took aim at his attackers. His first bullet caught one of the Cabal in its throat, while the second and third were rendered useless by a devastating Void explosion. Ikora floated to the ground gently, her back to Rindel.
“Holy crap, Ikora!” Rindel holstered Hawkmoon as he approached. “Any headway on-”
“The Speaker is gone.” Ikora’s voice betrayed her rage. “I saw him loaded into one of their transport ships. We were too late.” Her hands balled into tight fists. I was too late.” A crimson Cabal gunship rose up the wall to face the Guardian pair. Ikora turned to face it, a violet glow overtaking her fingers.“Red Legion, you will take no more from us! And you shall have no mercy from me!” She leapt into the air, and unleashed the destructive fury of her Light on the craft’s engine. She landed on the craft’s fuselage as the engine failed, leaving the gunship to plummet to the city below. Rindel fruitlessly reached a hand out, but quickly checked his action.
“Rindel, there’s nothing we can do for the Speaker right now.” Zavala’s voice was steady over the comms. “Samantha and Shaxx are finishing up what remain of the Red Legion in the tower, and I’m coordinating a counter attack.”
“That’s a great idea if I ever heard one.” Rindel eyed the Traveler looming over the city. The device the Cabal had attached spread tendrils along all sides of the structure, as if it meant to engulf the massive sphere. He felt a shiver climb up his spine. “Where do you want me?”
“I want you to move onto that command ship.” Rindel heard shouting in the background of Zavala’s feed. “We can’t get anything past its shields. Board that ship and disable it. I’m sending Amanda Holliday to pick you up.”
“On it.” Rindel made his way to what could pass as a clearing and activated a navigation marker. “All I need is my ride.”
The roar of a pair of turbine engines announced the arrival of a jumpship a moment later. "Hey there, Wolfie. A big blue birdie told me you need a ride?"
"You heard right, Holiday." Rindel made his way to the ship. “Get me on that command ship, I don’t care if you have to trasmat me to make it stick.”
“Careful what you wish for, Rin.” Amanda took off and faced the enemy ship. “Here we go. Hold on back there!”
Rindel felt the tug of the G-forces against his harness. The City Hawk darted back and forth through the air- it may have almost looked comical if Amanda wasn’t actively avoiding enemy gunfire. The ship banked into a high-G turn as Rindel’s stomach lurched. “Commin’ in hot! Get ready for that transmat!”
Rindel suddenly found himself mere feet above a long shard of crimson metal. He rolled as he landed on the ship’s catwalk. No enemies to be found on this level. Good. “Amanda, I’m aboard the ship. Get yourself clear of this POS and wait for my call for pickup.”
Amanda chuckled over the comms. “Okay, Wolfie. Let us know when the shields are down, and we’ll hit that bastard with everything we’ve got.”
“Oh, I’m looking forward to it.” Rindel slunk his way into the ship’s interior. He found a group of Legionaries huddled around a console, all but oblivious to the Hunter’s presence.
I’m willing to bet that none of these troops are ready for something like this. Rindel felt his Ghost “grin” in his chest. Give me a second, I’ll see if there’s a way to sneak into the generator room-assuming that the Red Legion would put it somewhere obvious.
Or, Rindel unslung his rifle and took aim at one of the Centurions. We can always just thin the herd while we look.
Or we can do it the hard way. Solas’ sarcasm was palpable. Just- if you die, try to get flung out of range of their weapons?
Rindel opened fire on the Cabal, delighting in their panicked response to his arrival. “As if I have a choice in where I land when I die.”
One of the Cabal had the sense to draw its weapon and fired several bolts at the invading Guardian. Rindel tucked into a deft roll and returned fire with a volley of his own. A burst of black plumed from the Legionary’s head as it fell to the floor, with its fellow Cabal joining within seconds.
“Now that they’re out of the way,” Solas phased into existence and passed a beam of light over the console the Cabal had been protecting. “There. I just stopped their trooper pods from deploying. And-” He paused a moment as if looking through a directory. “I was right. Totally unoriginal construction means the shield generator is at the back of the ship, below deck.”
Rindel pulled back the bolt of his rifle as he considered his Ghost. “Okay, then. If we know where it is, let’s smoke it so the ground-boys can light ‘er up.
So, let me get this right.” Rindel leaned against one the angled halls of the ship’s walkways. "The generator is on the complete opposite side of the ship compared to our position.”
“Correct.” Solas passed a healing beam over his Guardian’s leg, healing a flesh wound on his thigh that had been made by one of the Cabal’s slug rifles.
“And the best way to get there," Rindel continued, "Is the main deck of the ship."
"Also correct." Solas confirmed.
"Crawling with tangoes who want nothing more than to kill us?" Rindel checked his equipment idly.
Rindel grinned behind his visor as he walked toward the door. "Cue the music."
Solas let out a small laugh as he phased into Rindel, playing a recording of a man singing over a soft piano.
Tonight, I’m gonna have myself a real good time, I feel alive
Rindel stopped just before the door. “Not sure I’m feeling this song for our present situation, Solas.”
And the world, I’ll turn it inside-out, yeah
Oh, trust me on this one. Solas held his giddiness on full display. Wait for it…
And floating around in ecstasy, so don’t stop me now
The door slid open, revealing the upper deck of the Red Legion command ship. Rain fell in large drops onto the deck as lightning flashed in the distance. The song Solas chose increased in tempo and intensity.
Don’t stop me, ‘cause I’m having a good time, having a good time!
Rindel grinned as a drumbeat entered the song, dashing out from his position to engage a pair of diminutive Psions. The one to his left snarled as the one to his right held out a hand, creating a purple glow underneath Rindel’s feet.
The glow dissipated as a force suddenly flung the Hunter five meters into the air. He twisted into a backflip, flinging his knives from his belt as he rotated to face them. Both blades found their mark, and Rindel ran past the slumping bodies almost as soon as he landed, making way for a larger open area.
A hail of bullets and energy bolts greeted him. Rindel rolled on reflex, but still wound up catching a bolt in his side. He sprang behind a metallic container for cover as Solas materialized, treating his Guardian’s wound. “I count five legionaries in that group.” Solas mimed looking around the corner. “Plus an Incendior. Got a plan of attack?”
“Yeah, I’ve got a plan.” Rindel drew on his light, creating a blade of Solar energy in his hand. “Attack.” He rounded the corner and threw the blade at the Incendior. The burning knife slashed through the Cabal’s armor like a hot knife through butter, and exploded half a moment later. The blast ruptured a pair of tanks on the Incendior’s back, which vaporized the remaining troops.
Nice! Rindel got the impression of Solas pumping a fist. That structure to the left should have our generator.
Don't stop me, don't stop me, don't stop me, hey, hey, hey!
Don't stop me, don't stop me, Ooh ooh ooh!
The Hunter nodded and ran for it. An entryway big enough for a tank opened its maw, revealing a lone hulking Cabal- The Centurion gave a low chuckle as it raised a Bronto Cannon and fired several explosive blasts. A large plume of smoke erupted from the deck, and Rindel suspected the Cabal thought he had scored a direct hit- he heard a triumphant cry from across the deck.
Don't stop me, don't stop me, Have a good time, good time!
Don't stop me, don't stop me, Oh yeah!
Let loose, honey!
Rindel used the Light to spring into the air, then pulled on his Golden Gun. Volley after glorious volley of Solar Light cut into the Centurion, which burned to ash as he landed on the ground.
Solas phased into view, the upper part of his eye light burning brightly.“That’s the last of them out here. Head straight ahead, then down- Our generator should be right there.” He paused a moment as his segments shifted. “I guess this song worked wonders after all, didn’t it?”
Rindel smiled and held out a fist, which his Ghost knocked into. “Yeah, I’ll give you that.” He dropped down to the lowest level, using the Light to slow his descent. He entered the open door to the generator, a housing that held a massive fan-like turbine. “What do you think, little light?” Rindel considered his companion. “Double-aught or slugs?”
Solas looked him directly in the eye. “Slugs. Buckshot would have too much spread."
Rindel pulled his shotgun from its back holster and flicked the twin barrels downward. He pocketed the two red shells from the breach, then replaced them with a green pair, flipping the barrels back into position before leveling the weapon at what he presumed to be the weak point of the system. “Let’s try out that theory.”
Don't stop me now, I'm having such a good time
I'm having a ball
Don't stop me now
If you wanna have a good time
Just give me a call!
Rindel unleashed both barrels of his shotgun on the turbine. He cracked a grin as the unit broke free from the rotating shaft, flinging itself against the sides of its housing and irreparably damaging it.
Don't stop me now ('cause I'm having a good time)
Don't stop me now (yes, I'm havin' a good time)
I don't want to stop at all!
The Generator’s turbine ground to a halt as warning displays flashed red as the Hunter calmly reloaded his shotgun and stowed the weapon on his back. Rindel keyed the comm system. “Zavala! We did it! The shields are down! Give me ninety seconds to clear this thing and hit this sonova bitch with everything we have!”
He heard nothing but the faint crackle of static in response.
“That can’t be good.” Solas took over the comms, trying to re-adjust for maximum range. “Zavala? Commander, come in! Can you hear me?”
“We don’t have time for this!” Rindel ran for a large door toward the back of the room. “They’ll see we cleared the shield, and I don’t wanna be here when this thing goes off.”
“I’ll keep trying.” Solas frantically went through frequency after frequency. “Amanda! We’re headed topside! Can you hear us?”
The door slid open automatically as Rindel rushed towards it. He keyed his comm system again, trying to hail anyone he could, but the sight of the moon-like Traveler stopped him. His eyes widened behind his visor. A set of dark tendrils now appeared to extend all the way around the Traveler.
“By the Light,” Solas’ eye light grew. “How do we come back from this?”
The monstrously deep voice came from behind Rindel. He was almost certain that it would have shook the ground if it were any louder. He turned, rifle raised. Before him stood the largest Cabal he had ever seen, in stark white armor adorned with gold trim. Blood red eyes burned at him from muted gray skin, framing a facemask that reminded Rindel of a rebreather. He was flanked by a pair of Centurions, which held their position as their commander raised a hand.
“Oh, I see.” Rindel kept his rifle trained on the massive Cabal. “You must be the big bad commander of these troops.” He paused a moment, considering the ruins clearly visible from their position. “Red Legion, right? I hope you have enough glimmer to cover all the property damage.”
“While amusing, your words are without consequence.” The massive Cabal rumbled. His arm still raised, he motioned to the Traveler. “Welcome to a world without Light.”
A shield activated from the tendrils, casting a deep orange glow around the Traveler. Rindel aimed his rifle and began to pull the trigger.
He felt his knees slam to the deck as a splitting migraine radiated through his entire body. The rifle clattered to the floor as Rindel gasped, suddenly desperate for air. The pain lessened, leaving a dull agony and a throbbing headache reminiscent of his hangover from several days ago. He forced himself to look to Solas, who faltered in the air.
“Rindel, I don’t… I don’t feel so good…” His Ghost’s eye light reduced to a pinprick as he fell out of the air completely. Rindel tried to catch him, but only fell to the floor.
He forced himself to reach, all his muscles screaming in pain, to grab hold of his companion and drag it to his position. He was only vaguely aware of thundering footsteps approaching his position. He came to his knees and looked to the source of the noise.
“Do not look at me, you pathetic creature!”
The sharp pain returned as Rindel sailed through the air. He barely held onto Solas as he hit the deck face-first. He rolled for several feet before he opened his eyes again, revealing a splatter of blood- from his nose or mouth, he couldn’t tell which- and a spiderweb crack along his visor. He barely managed to pull Hawkmoon from its holster. The Cabal was on him instantly, holding Rindel’s entire arm in one hand.
“You are weak!” The being snarled. “Undisciplined! You cower behind walls!” The Cabal suddenly moved his hand down past Rindel’s elbow and wrenched the limb the wrong way.
Rindel screamed as he heard bones snap. Hawkmoon fell from his limp fingers, and the Cabal nonchalantly kicked the revolver away, sending it over the edge of the platform.
“You’re not brave,” The white Cabal continued. “You’ve merely forgotten the fear of death.” He stood to full height, towering over the defenseless Guardian at his feet. “Allow me to re-acquaint you!” He reeled a foot back and kicked Rindel with enough force that he landed millimeters from the edge.
Solas careened off the edge and into the rubble below. Rindel noticed all too late that his friend was gone, and fruitlessly called his Ghost’s name from the edge.
Oh, this is all a bad dream. This is just a nightmare. C’mon Rindel, wake up! He realized it was not a dream as the monstrous Cabal grabbed him by the collar, holding him a full six feet off the ground.
“Your kind never deserved the power you were given.” The Cabal considered Rindel, his voice almost filled with pity.
“Who the hell are you?” Rindel managed to choke out.
“I am Ghaul. And your Light is mine.” He released his grip, leaving the Lightless Hunter to fall over the edge.
So, this is it. This is how I end. Rindel managed to look back at Ghaul, leaning his head over the edge. He held his good arm up, trying to pull on Light that wasn’t there. All he managed was to point a finger at the Cabal, as children of the city would do when playing Guardians and Fallen.
Chapter 7: Lost Light
The Guardian Tower’s courtyard was normally a peaceful place in the summer. It wasn't unusual for citizens of the last city and Guardians alike to spend time in this place during the evenings. Vendors of all kinds would sell food, music would be played, and the people would smile, laugh, and enjoy these halcyon evenings together.
Now it was a hellish warzone. The jagged edges of upheaved stonework and rebar formed a stark contrast to a normalcy that had been thrown out the window by alien invaders- The Red Legion.
Samantha hadn’t been a Guardian for that long - it had been perhaps three months since her Ghost had brought her back from the dead to fulfil a greater destiny- to protect Humanity and The Light. She had hoped that a return from her first mission would be a restful one- But as it would seem, fate had other plans. She and the Crucible’s handler, Lord Shaxx, along with a few other Guardians were now holding the tower, cutting down as many of the Red Legion’s troops as they could.
As she reloaded her Pulse Rifle, her gaze rested on the heavily-shielded crimson capital ship that hung in the sky, close to the spherical Traveler. The only teammate she’d ever had, Rindel Zivas, was on that ship. When Zavala had radioed him to go aboard it and attempt to disable its shields, he hadn’t hesitated. He’d gone up there, alone. Most would have dismissed this as standard Guardian logic- meet the enemies of the Traveler head-on, and quickly if human lives were at stake.
But Samantha knew better. Not too much, but better.
Rindel was troubled. He held a deep regret within him for lost teammates. It was rare for Guardians to die permanent deaths-dying was of little consequence to Guardians when their Ghosts would bring them back to life. But his teammates had died, and he blamed himself. From what Samantha had been able to gather, he distanced himself from the Tower for the last five or so years, working exclusively on his own. “The Iron Wolf,” they called him. Samantha thought the moniker fitting- A loner with a heart of stone.
So why was she so worried for him?
No. Her eyes narrowed with determination. You’re thinking about the guy who killed Oryx. This is gonna be cake for him. He’ll be back in an hour, we’ll clear out whatever’s left and go back to how things were.
Then an orange glow surrounded the Traveler.
She suddenly felt winded, as if she had been punched directly in the abdomen. Suddenly, none of her concerns mattered. She leaned against a nearby wall and drew a ragged breath as her rifle clattered to the ground. She didn’t feel pain, but something felt wrong. Deathly wrong.
An armored figure picked himself up from the ground next to her. “What…” Shaxx spoke with a raw edge. “Samantha! Are you alright?” He moved to stand with some difficulty, as if suddenly unaccustomed to the weight of his heavy armor.
Gunfire erupted in front of them. Samantha dove for her rifle as her hulking companion ran directly toward the source of the sound- what at first glance, looked like a pair of bipedal rhinoceroses, clad in deep red armor. He screamed a battle cry as he raised a longsword with a flaming edge.
The enormous creatures responded with a shot each. Shaxx continued for several steps before he collapsed.
“Lord Shaxx!” Samantha’s immediate instinct was to run to his side, but her combat training took over. She knelt as her rifle’s stock jumped up to her shoulder, the muzzle facing in the direction of the enormous aliens. In a fluid motion, she found her mark- the first alien’s left eyepiece- and pulled the trigger, letting loose a three-round burst. She had already pivoted her knee to face her second target as the first fell, and let loose a second burst.
She ran to Shaxx, not letting go of her weapon for fear of facing more of the creatures. “Lord Shaxx!” She yelled, doing her best to roll him over as she knelt by him. “Shaxx, talk to me! Shaxx!”
Shaxx let out a low groan as he slowly flipped himself onto his back. He suddenly grasped his right shoulder, hissing through his teeth. Blood flowed freely between his gloved fingers, staining the leather. “Axios!” He managed to choke out, his breath ragged.
His Ghost did not materialize.
Hey, Sam? She heard Ryu, her own Ghost in her head. I’m gonna… I’m gonna take five.
Her eyes widened as the pieces slammed together in her mind. Their Ghosts were unable to function. They were suddenly weaker. She felt a void inside of herself.
“The Light is gone.” She suddenly said.
Shaxx cursed as he forced himself to sit up. “So it would seem, my Dragon. Damn it all.” He considered his arm, his voice wavering. “I… I’m useless now.”
“You are not.” Samantha held out her hand. “Not as long as you can keep moving.”
Besides, I’m the useless one, she thought bitterly.
“What do you mean, hold this area? With no Light, what can we hope to do?”
A contingent of Guardians had gathered in one of the older Crucible sites. The labyrinth-like structures made it easier to set up ambush points against the Cabal, light or no light, but without their light or their abilities, the Guardians were still being cut down. Samantha sat with her back to a wall and wrapped her arms around her knees. She hardly paid attention to the Warlock making a fuss of their current situation.
“So, you would rather run?” Shaxx had discarded the pauldron and most of the armor on his right arm. It was now hastily bandaged and hung in a sling made from a fallen Hunter’s cloak. “So long as we draw breath, it is our duty, no, the birthright of our rebirth, to defend this city!” He placed his hand on his hip. “We shall defend the city, down to the last man if we need to.”
“That’s pretty bold talk coming from a man who’s down an arm.” A Hunter stood and walked toward Shaxx. “We need to face facts. We lost.” He let the words hang in the air. “The City is gone. And, damn it, I wanna get back at these guys as much as anyone else. But if I might borrow one of your quotes, we can't kill the enemy if we're-"
A round zinged through the Hunter's helmet. Samantha scrambled to her feet as the body slumped to the floor. She rounded the corner of the building and pressed her back to the wall as Shaxx took up position next to her. The small contingent of Guardians had been caught off guard, and were quickly getting cut down by combined fire from the Red Legion troops.
Samantha pulled back the action on her rifle as Shaxx awkwardly readied a hand cannon in his left hand, audibly hissing in pain. The Crucible handler nodded away from the carnage and began moving away from the gunfire. Samantha followed hesitantly. The Hunter’s logic had been sound- they needed to find a way out of the city if they wanted any chance at survival, let alone freeing the city.
Now, the chances seemed slim to none that they would even be able to make their way out with their lives.
As they came to the next alley, Shaxx raised his cannon and fired. He managed to fire four rounds before he was backhanded by a Red Legion Centurion. Samantha raised her rifle and pulled the trigger.
Click! Her heart dropped out of her chest. She backpedaled away from the enormous alien as she discarded her rifle and pulled her pistol from its holster. Suddenly, she fell. The pistol flew from her hand as her head hit the ground with a crack.
She forced her eyes to open in time to feel and enormous hand lift her off of the ground. The Cabal Legionary emitted a dark chuckle as a thick blade sprang from its wrist. It held Samantha at arm’s length and moved the tip of the blade to her throat.
Just please make it quick.
A flurry of thoughts and emotions ran through Samantha's head. Rage, regret, hopelessness and bitter sorrow. And yet, she found her thoughts directed, almost unanimously, towards the Awoken Hunter that had been her teammate.
She had been unable to do more. Perhaps if she had gone along with him aboard the Cabal capital ship. If Rindel had backup, this would all have been avoided. Instead, here she was, about to die.
And, more than likely, she was about to join him in death. She shut her eyes and waited for the final blow.
Rindel… I’m sorry.
The Cabal suddenly released her. Samantha fell on her back, her visor shattered as her helmet took the brunt of the impact on her head. She coughed as she slowly rolled over to take a knee. The enormous alien had slumped down to the floor, a sizeable hole in its head.
"All clear!" A commanding female voice called out. Samantha looked to the source of the noise- an olive-skinned athletic woman with a hooded poncho. She slung her sniper rifle as she cracked a grin. "Well lookie here." She activated a radio-style COMM link on a shoulder strap. "Hey Devrim! Looks like somebody left some perfectly good Guardians just laying around. I'm finishing up here."
Samantha stood, slowly pulling off her helmet. She let it drop to the ground as she slowly backed up to a wall. She could hardly hear anything that her rescuer said as she spoke to Shaxx. She looked down at her hands.
They were shaking.
“Hey.” She felt a hand on her shoulder and looked up. The poncho-clad sniper had her brows raised. “This sector’s clear for the moment, but they’re gonna fill this back in real quick once they get wind of the casualties. Let’s get you out of here.”
Samantha stared at the sniper for a moment. Her lips tightened as she gave a nod.
The sniper made her way over to Shaxx. “That goes for you too, big guy.” She tried to pull Shaxx up with some difficulty. “Hey, help me out here, blondie!”
Samantha snapped out of her thoughts and rushed over to help Shaxx to his feet. “Who are you? A Hunter?”
The sniper smirked. “What, a Guardian? Hell no.”
Samantha gave a sidelong look to the stranger as they helped pull Shaxx to his feet. “City militia?”
“Considering I crossed an ocean to get here?” The stranger snorted. “Nah, I go the hell out of here while I could. You’re just lucky that I care about people too much to just let them die.” She held out a hand. “Name’s Hawthorne.”
Samantha took her hand. “Samantha Drake. Thanks, by the way. Y’know, for saving us.”
Hawthorne eyes narrowed as she looked down at Samantha’s hand. “Take a breath, blondie. Fight’s over for now.”
Samantha looked back to her hand. Still shaking.
Still not used to mortality.
Shaxx cleared his throat. “We owe you a debt of gratitude, miss. Thank you.”
Hawthorne smirked. “No need. Like I said, I just can’t stand people dying. Now, far as I can tell, you guys have two choices.” She turned and headed for the wall. “Stay here and get yourselves killed, or come with us and see if you can make a difference. What’ll it be?”
To her surprise, Shaxx followed. “What you do is your choice, my Dragon. Don’t feel a need to go just because I am.”
Samantha considered her hand, still shaking from her brush with death. If she stayed here in the thick of things, she’d likely end up dying. And then what? After that, she couldn’t protect anyone or anything.
Her hand clenched into a tight fist. No. Rin would lull them into a sense of security and tear their hold down. And since he’s gone, I have to do it instead.
She took a breath and followed Hawthorne, vowing revenge on the Red Legion.
He was tired. So very tired.
Rindel came to with start. He opened his eyes, and all he saw was darkness.
By the light. Am I dead after all? He raised his left arm to his face, only to find something in front of his helmet’s visor. He tugged at what felt like a heavy tarp, and the world revealed itself.
It was about that time that the pain set in. Almost as soon as he saw the darkness of night above him, his eyes screwed shut as he grit his teeth, doing his best to avoid screaming.
With the pain came memory. Memories of having his arm broken, of being dropped from a command vessel.
Memories of the Traveler, captured. And losing his Ghost. He remembered the colossal white Cabal who was the commander of these troops.
His head felt so heavy. He could just close his eyes and drift off into death.
“Your kind never deserved the power you were given. I am Ghaul. And your light is mine.”
Soon he would die. Ghaul would win and humanity would be all but extinct.
No. This is not how this ends.
His eyes shot open with a burst of determination. Ignoring the pain in his arm, he slowly rolled over once, which was enough to loosen the tangle he was in. He recoiled slightly as water dripped onto his face from the dark night sky- the visor itself was completely broken, with only a few shards of glass left to stubbornly proclaim that it had even been there in the first place, letting rain fall through.
Rindel forced himself to sit- everything was pain. But he couldn’t let himself go now. Not with no light and to a foe that had to contain the Traveler just to stand a chance.
He caged it. His face scrunched up angrily as he thought of the orange glow that had encased the giant sphere. The Cabal took out Light and there wasn’t a damned thing I could do about it.
He gingerly stood, wincing as his legs took his full weight. An attempt to walk normally left pain shooting up the side of his leg. He cursed as he grabbed for it with his good hand.
Then he heard the scratching of metal on metal and the boom of enormous footsteps, and his blood ran cold. He flung himself to the floor and prayed they’d think him dead. Pan shot all around him, but he willed himself to remain completely still. The ground shook as Red Legion foot soldiers drew nearer.
“Ferus!” One yelled. “Another stray!” Rindel felt a pressure against his back- the gigantic muzzle of the Cabal’s rifle. “I’m up by one!”
“Hold fire, Nirak.” A second voice rumbled. “This one is already deceased, and the goal is live ones, remember?”
Rindel felt the muzzle shove into his back. I am a corpse, he thought. I do not move. I do not react.
If he couldn’t pull this off, he’d be right soon enough.
“This one has no marks about him,” Nirak protested. “Why not make sure?”
“This is the one the Dominus flung from The Immortal. ” Ferus mused. “He fell at least a kilometer- nothing could survive that.” Rindel heard an armored foot turn. “We’re still even on kills. Don’t bother with this one. Save your ammunition for the ones that need it.”
The first Cabal made a sound like a metallic hiss, and Rindel felt the giant mass lift off of his body and the ground vibrate with the Cabal’s steps. I am a corpse, he thought again. I do not move.
He waited for what felt like an eternity before trying to stand again. He moved deliberately, limping his way into the open. Every step was agony. His muscles burned as he fought an overwhelming and all-consuming desire to just keel over and die.
In the face of death, he stubbornly refused. This is not how I end. He doggedly walked on. Not here, not to cowards like these.
Perhaps the strain of keeping himself upright distracted him, or perhaps it was these thoughts of vengeance. But he was so consumed that he didn’t notice an errant piece of rubble in his path until he stepped on it. He immediately lost balance, stumbling a few feet before he landed on his broken arm. His eyes screwed shut as he willed himself to not scream.
“G... Guardian?” A familiar voice. He opened his eyes, his vision blurred through tears of pain. A Ghost wearing a horrendously beaten-up shell, darkened with soot and grime. The Ghost made a sound like a sob and flew into Rindel’s chest.
Suddenly, the pain didn’t matter. Rindel grabbed the Ghost and held it as close as he could to himself. “Solas, don’t you dare wander off like that again.” He chuckled in spite of himself through his pain. “I was so sure I’d lost you.”
"Guardian... Rindel," Solas said shakily. "The Light... It's gone. They've taken the City, the Traveler... Everything.”
“I know, Little Light, I know.” Rindel stroked his partner’s shell with his thumb.
“I’m useless.” Solas turned downward in Rindel’s hand. “You’re so badly hurt, and with no light…” Suddenly, Solas shot up in the air. “Wait. I feel… I feel light!” his eye burned brightly with realization. “Rindel! The Sliver!”
Rindel’s eyes widened. That’s right! The shard of the Traveller we found in Old Chicago! He felt around his pockets and pulled out what looked like a small chunk of marble. “Can you use it?”
Solas suddenly spun his segments and Rindel felt the familiar pleasant cooling touch of Solas’ healing. After a moment, he flexed his right arm. There was no break, and his leg felt much better, too. He stood and looked to his companion. “Good thinking, Solas. Now, it could be too much to ask, but d’you think-”
"Nevermind that!” Solas’ eye darted back and forth. “The Red Legion is killing Lightless Guardians. We have to get out of here. Can you walk?”
Rindel got on his feet and squatted a few times. “I think I can do more than that.” He reached out and stroked his companion’s shell. “I guess Ghaul didn’t trap all of the Light, did he?”
Solas trembled slightly in mid-air and phased into Rindel. Assuming Ghaul is the Red Legion commander… The Ghost’s voice sounded somehow tired now. There wasn’t much Light in that shard, Rin. Enough to heal you… but that’s about all. I don’t think you’ll be able to use your Golden Gun or any of your other attunements.
Rindel darted from a low wall toward a storm drain, sliding in and landing, cat-like, on the concrete below. I can make do. I’m more than just a flaming revolver.
You’re also completely unarmed. Head into the sewers if you can. Rindel almost felt Solas frown. Most of the Cabal are too big for those tunnels. If we want to get out, that’d be our best option.
The Hunter smirked and made his way down the storm drain, quiet as a whisper. Not completely unarmed. He reached up and felt the handle of his shotgun over his shoulder Any word on a rendezvous? Light or no Light, it’ll be easier to fight these bastards with numbers.
I'm picking up an emergency broadcast. Even in phase, Solas sounded out of breath. They... They're evacuating the planet. Rindel felt a tremble within him. We're on our own.
He came across a broken grate just big enough for him to squeeze through. Alone or not, We need to keep moving. For Sarra, if nothing else. We’re gonna find a way to kill that sonuva bitch and take the Light back.
A synthesized chuckle. We are at the weakest we’ve ever been. Even when I first brought you back and you were gaining your control over the Light, you were more powerful than this. What makes you think you can?
Rindel stopped and frowned as he came to a rusted-over grate that lead beyond the wall. Because I’ll be dead if I can’t. And so will a lot of other people. He drew the shotgun from his back, pressed the muzzle against one of the anchoring points and pulled both triggers.
A fizzle emanated from the breach of the weapon. Rindel swore and broke open the action. Both shells were scorched.
So much for our escape. He heard his Ghost chuckle again. Any more brilliant ideas?
Only one I’ve got. Rindel threw the dud shells away and placed the shotgun back in its pouch before pressing a boot against the grate, nearest to a support. The old support snapped, and the others simply could not support the grate any longer. It fell out onto the ground with a dull thud.
As the Hunter landed in the field just outside the walls, his Ghost piped up. If we’re gonna stand any kind of chance, we’ll need supplies. Rindel felt a small shiver inside of him. Twilight Gap should have an outpost. We’re about 20 kilometers out.
Rindel took in a deep breath. He took a look up the vast wall that surrounded the city and clenched a fist. Ghaul would get his comeuppance. He would make sure of it.
He set off into the night, unsure of how he might accomplish this task.
“Samantha? We’re here.”
Samantha jolted awake. She bolted up out of her chair, ready for a fight. She heard Hawthorne laugh.
“Geez! Still on edge, blondie?” She leaned against the dropship’s bulkhead and smirked. “Relax. You’re very far away from any threat, Red Legion or otherwise.”
Samantha lowered her fists slowly and let out a breath she hadn’t even been aware she was holding. Her eyes screwed shut as she tried to refocus.
No Red Legion, no Fallen, nothing. We’re safe out here.
She opened her eyes, and did her best to assume a look of confidence. “Thanks again for that. We appreciate your hospitality and-”
“Oh my God,” Hawthorne rolled her eyes, motioning to the door just behind her. “You don’t have to be that polite. C’mon.” She slung her rifle over her shoulder and exited the ship.
Samantha followed out to find that they had landed in a large field. Several other ships landed all around them, and Guardians piled out of the craft in droves. Shaxx gingerly made his way out of one, his arm now in a proper sling. He made his way over to Samantha with an older man in olive battle fatigues.
“Ah, Suraya!” The older man’s face beamed with a smile, contorting his short, graying beard. “Lord Shaxx and I have been discussing some fortification options now that we have a heap of Guardians here at the farm. If you’d like, I can put the kettle on for us.”
“Later, Devrim.” Hawthorne considered Samantha. “We can start up on that tomorrow. Any news from Trostland?”
“A few groups of Fallen, but nothing for us to be concerned with.” Devrim glanced at a wristwatch. “There’s a few hours until sunrise. We have patrols out already, so we should have this lot get some rest while they can.”
“What can I do?” Samantha frowned. “I mean, I got some rest on the way over, and-”
“You need as much as you can get, my dear dragon.” Shaxx held his head down. “You’ll need your strength yet.” He clasped Devrim on the shoulder. “Now then, about that tea…”
“Ah, yes.” Devrim chuckled. “Over this way. I was rather hoping we might continue our discussion of the Fallen Houses. The Devil’s dialect is really quite fascinating.”
As the pair left, Hawthorne cleared her throat. “Okay Guardians, listen up! There’s a campsite set up on the other side of that stream. Link up with the refugees who are already there for now. You’ve got a long day ahead of you tomorrow, so get what rest you can now.”
Samantha held her hands behind her head. She had been able to find a light sleeping bag with a thin padding between her and the ground. She longed for her small apartment, for her bed and her books.
She would give anything to be able to talk with Ryu right now. Her Ghost had been the only friend she had. She had gone away with the light, and it all made her feel like a husk of her former self.
She heard her Ghost’s voice in her head. “Ryu! You’re okay!” She kept her voice down with some difficulty. “It might be too much to ask, but… Can you exit phase?”
Her Ghost appeared in a small ribbon of light. Ryu hovered in the air for a second before collapsing onto the sleeping bag. Samantha held her friend close and refused to let go.
“I was so worried about you.” Heat grew behind her eyes. “Everyone’s Ghosts stopped responding all at once, and the Red Legion started killing Guardians, and... “ She choked back a sob. “Ryu, I thought you might never wake up.”
“But I did.” Ryu pressed into Samantha’s shoulder. “I’d never give up on you. You know that.”
Samantha held onto her Ghost and cried herself to sleep.
“Just another five hundred meters.” Solas said wearily. “Hopefully you can find a place to get some rest.”
Rindel soldiered on, feeling worn-out himself. Guardians depended on the light for more than their fantastic abilities and reviving from death - Their Ghosts were able to heal injuries and ensure that they could push themselves much harder than any normal human. With the light, the twenty kilometer hike would have been a cakewalk, even through the mountainous region just outside the city’s walls. Now, he was tired and hungry, with a dull ache throughout his legs.
“Let’s just hope that there’s still supplies to be had,” He managed to get out, his breath ragged. “I doubt we’re the only ones who thought about this.”
As he exited the thicket of the forest, the outpost came into view- a series of blocky buildings of weathered concrete and rusted metal.
Rindel didn’t care. He thought it was the most beautiful building he’d ever seen. He made his way to a door and smiled.
Maybe I’m no so screwed after all.
"Solas, layover a map on my HUD. Mark where the-" He cut himself short and sighed.
"Oh, right." His Ghost floated in front of his face. "No visor." He spun his shell's segments for a moment before he continued. "The old floorplan puts storage around the corner, first door on your left."
Rindel ran to the door and opened it. Bottles and cans were strewn around, but some still remained. He found a unopened bottle of water and took a drink. It tasted awful - it had obviously been sitting there for some time.
He took a bracing breath and glulped the water down.
"Careful. Don't drink too fast." His Ghost admonished him. "That water won't do you any good if you throw it all back up."
He set the water down and capped it. "Thanks." He looked around him. "Now, let's see. Any bags we can-"
His Ghost entered phase and vanished.
Movement. Opposite end of the hallway. Solas warned. Human-sized. Likely not Cabal or Fallen.
And naturally, no Light signatures to detect, either. Rindel drew his shotgun and called out into the hallway. "Okay then! I know you're here." He cautiously made his way out of the room, making a point to stick the muzzle of the weapon out first. It would be imposing,weather or not it was loaded. "Look, don't make a mistake here. I'm trying to survive, just like you are. There's plenty of stuff for both of us if you just-
He felt a sharp crack on the back of his head, fell to the floor and faded out of consciousness.