Pyrrhic Ascent Suit (Titan)
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Pyrrhic Ascent Helm
SIMULATION RECONSTRUCTION LOG // LA-01-01 // MERCURY
The Exo Titan Reed-7 cuts an imposing silhouette across the Mercurian sands, the sun at his back. Reed and his Ghost fix their attention on two streaks of fire gleaming across the sky.
"They're late," Reed's Ghost chirps.
"Again," Reed notes with a sigh. His eyes follow the burning trails across the dusty beige sky until they reveal a pair of jumpships entering the atmosphere.
"I'm picking up a… dispute on open comms," Reed's Ghost notes, bobbling through the air around his Guardian. "You may want to brace for impact."
The jumpships dive low and hug the ground after reentry, kicking up a cloud of sand that billows across the ancient stone courtyard of the Caloris Spires. Reed turns his head to watch them speed off to the opposite horizon.
"—believe for a minute that's all we could've done!" A voice shouts over comms and finishes in physical space as Reed's Warlock companion, Shayura, transmats down to the surface. Crackling bands of energy ripple off of Shayura and another Guardian, a Hunter: Aisha. Shayura is incandescent with anger. Waves of golden fire lap at the sides of her face.
Reed doesn't say anything as his companions arrive. They're doing enough talking for everyone on Mercury, so he gives them their space, choosing instead to focus on the task at hand. He moves toward the looming structure of the Lighthouse and the Guardians gathered outside, waiting in their queue to compete in the prestigious Trials of Osiris.
His Ghost looks at him with concern; Reed reassures him with a gentle tap of his finger against the Ghost's shell. But Reed can hear his friends becoming increasingly frustrated with one another. Arguments like this have happened before: Is Eris trustworthy? Should the Vanguard track down Cayde's murderer? Was Cayde's death his own fault for being so reckless? Their disagreements had always ended with understanding. Today, however, things feel different.
"Hey!" Reed turns and shouts back at them. It's louder than he intended. The bright red Exo recoils a little from the volume of his own voice. The clap of his rebuke distracts both Warlock and Hunter. They look up at him in sudden silence.
Reed lifts a hand to the back of his neck, scratching sheepishly. "Can we do this later? Please?"
Shayura and Aisha afford each other a brief and mild look. Wordlessly, they put away their conversational weapons for another time. Shayura draws a Sword and points it across the windswept courtyard toward a group of Guardians, indicating a challenge.
"Fine," Aisha agrees reluctantly.
Reed will take that as a victory, however small.
Pyrrhic Ascent Gauntlets
SIMULATION RECONSTRUCTION LOG // LA-01-03 // BAZAAR, THE TOWER, LAST CITY
The noise of the Bazaar is a background hum, seemingly electrical but performed by so many organic systems. Reed-7 finds comfort in the banality of human conversation when viewed at a macro level—the impression of life. It's something other than language to him, something he imagines the universe might sound like to a Warlock. At least, he assumes they hear those things.
There is relief that in this moment, Reed hears only the people in the Bazaar, not the voices of horror that haunt him from Io's cradle. When he thinks too hard about it, he can still hear the Darkness moaning through his Ghost. Rather than dwell on it, he searches for something else to fixate on, something to distract him.
The whole of the Bazaar is decorated for the Festival of the Lost, with colorful engram-shaped ornaments hung from decoratively macabre trees. A Ghost—one he's fairly certain belongs to the Warlock Osiris—goes cartwheeling by with a shriek of laughter, trailing cloth wrappings in her wake. The moment of levity helps lift Reed's spirits as he returns to his table in New Monarchy's enclosure where Aisha and Shayura wait for him.
"Drinks," Reed says, setting down three tall mugs wafting with steam. Aisha offers him a supportive but strained smile. "Careful," he notes as she reaches for a mug, "they're hot." He'd earned the nickname Strike-Dad thanks to obvious and well-meaning cautions like that.
"There's cinnamon in yours," Reed says to Shayura, who may be asleep, her head down on the table atop her folded arms. Shayura has the wherewithal to give him a distracted thumbs-up. It's at least comforting, if not wholly reassuring. Aisha gives Reed a wordless look of concern and shakes her head. Their talk had not gone well while he was away.
"I know you're upset about Sloane," Reed says, deciding to tear off that conversational bandage. "But you know the commander's done all he can. We've done all we can. Don't blame yourself for—"
"Thanks," Shayura says without looking up. She sits up enough to grab her steaming mug with two hands and drag the piping hot cider over to herself. She slouches over the mug, breathing in the aroma of cinnamon, honey, apples, and cloves. Her eyes drift shut, and for a moment, she seems more herself.
Aisha and Reed take a moment to breathe. Give Shayura time to breathe. "I know," Shayura finally says in a small, guilty voice. "I'm sorry." It's hard to tell if she's talking about Sloane, or about her behavior in general.
"You don't need to apologize to us," Reed says with a look to Aisha, finding her approval. "You should apologize to Leitka and his Ghost."
"It was Titan," Shayura finally says, staring into her mug. Reed and Aisha look at each other, but neither interrupts. They let her reach that point at her own pace. "I was back on Titan. Like when we were Lightless, surrounded by Hive. There was this Knight… no matter how many times I killed him, he kept coming back. I should've died out there."
"But you didn't," Aisha says, reaching out across the table to take Shayura's hand, giving it a reassuring squeeze. "We got our Light back, and—"
"What happens when the Darkness closes in?" Shayura asks, though she knows neither Reed nor Aisha have the answer. "Will she be Lightless again? Alone?"
Reed and Aisha share a look, and the Exo reaches across the table to lay one of his large hands on Shayura's, atop Aisha's. He doesn't have a rousing speech, strong words, or even cold comforts. He just has his presence to offer in support of her traumas.
He has to hope that's enough.
Pyrrhic Ascent Plate
SIMULATION RECONSTRUCTION LOG // LA-01-02 // TRIALS ARENA, THE LIGHTHOUSE, MERCURY
Reed-7's arms feel like they're going to break apart at the seams. The vibration building in his body threatens to shake him to pieces for every second that he maintains his barrier. It stands as an extension of his Light and also his body. He feels it like a piece of himself, one that he has overextended time and again, as it deflects an Auto Rifle's rapid-fire barrage.
Only two Guardians are left on the opposing team ; the remains of the third are scattered around the area, smoking and sizzling. Reed considers how fast he and Aisha might be able to rush in on their cornered Guardian. Even if Reed gets taken down, it might be enough time for Aisha and Shayura—wherever she is—to secure a victory.
"Aisha?" Reed asks. His voice rises in concern as his barrier begins to destabilize. He knows it's now or never. But as he looks to Aisha, Reed spies flames forming between her knuckles.
Aisha has the better plan.
As the opposing Guardian pauses to reload behind cover, Aisha boosts straight into the air, through the top of the barrier. Reed lets the dome collapse and feels the immediate release of pressure on his limbs, his legs nearly buckling. He watches Aisha glow brightly, spinning like a burning wheel before unleashing a volley of knives made from condensed plasma in every direction.
To Reed, it simply looks like a flash of fire and smoke as the opposing Guardian collapses in a heap, Aisha landing next to him. With a sigh of relief, Reed-7 gives her as enthusiastic a thumbs-up as he can muster.
"Did you see Shay while you were up there?" Reed asks.
"No. She's probably playing tag with the one that keeps going invisible," Aisha replies. "Let's go find her and finish this up."
A plume of atomic fire rises up over a nearby block of Vex design as if in direct response to Aisha. The Lighthouse emits a soft tone; the nearby Ghosts begin reconstructing their dead Guardians after the match's conclusion.
A scream rises from the same direction as the fire, spurring Aisha and Reed into action. The pair navigate the familiar Vex architecture quickly. Two more agonized screams fill the air. When they reach the source of the noise, Reed freezes in his tracks as he witnesses Shayura impale the other Guardian through the faceplate of his helmet with her Sword. The opponent's Ghost shrieks in frustration, trying desperately to get between Shayura and his Guardian.
Aisha is saying something, but all Reed hears is blood rushing in his ears. Not his blood though. The memory of it. Of something buried behind layered plates of carbon-polymer and plasteel weave. Something haunting his synaptic network. In that moment, Reed is outside of his own body, remembering faces frozen in stone, recalling the whispered plea of his Ghost's tortured voice on Io.
|| Don't you see? ||
Reed's heart races.
|| In Light, there is only weakness. ||
The opposing team's Guardian is brought back to life by his Ghost, but before the Guardian can finish shouting a plea to Shayura, the Warlock cuts off his arm in one stroke. She cleaves her Sword through the top of his helmet in a brutal follow-through. Reed feels his chest tightening, feels a sense of panic kicking in.
|| Only failure. ||
"Shay, no!" Aisha yells, running up to her friend. She wraps her arms around Shayura's midsection. Shayura screams like a frightened animal, lashing out with a swift slash of her Sword in the direction of the Guardian's corpse.
|| Only death. ||
"Shayura! The match is over!" Reed shouts, snapping back to reality. "The match is over!"
It takes both Reed and Aisha to restrain the enraged Warlock. Shayura's voice cracks in a feral cry as flames race down her arms and swirl along the length of her blood-slicked Sword.
"No! No! Stop! No!" Shayura howls, fighting against her comrades. Aisha grabs at Shayura's wrist, keeping her from swinging her Sword again as the freshly resurrected Guardian scrambles away.
"Shay," Aisha pleads, trying to get through to her. "Shay!"
Shayura screams an endless wail into the scalding Mercurian sky.
Pyrrhic Ascent Greaves
SIMULATION RECONSTRUCTION LOG // LA-01-04 // TENEMENT BUILDING ROOFTOP, PEREGRINE DISTRICT, LAST CITY
"Guardians are arriving from all across the system. Even the Hunters are coming back."
Reed-7's Ghost has been giving him updates on the minute for the last half hour. He hasn't been able to move since he reached the railing at the edge of the roof. Seeing the Traveler doing anything is cause for alarm, but seeing the Traveler radiating pulses of Light like some kind of beacon is nearly enough to stop the Titan's synthetic heart. He knows his Ghost is still talking, but he's effectively tuned it out.
Aisha and Shayura are on a lower terrace, far enough away that Reed can't hear them talking, just observe their body language. Both look tense, Shayura most of all. But for all that Reed wants to watch them, he can't seem to keep his eyes away from the Traveler—from the seething waves of blue-white light that erupt from inside its cracked shell, from the way the waves make him feel as they wash over him. It is a vindication to his hope, that the Traveler would not abandon humanity in their hour of need. He wants Shayura to see that, to feel his faith, but each time he looks at her, she seems more distant.
"Reed." His Ghost says for the fifth time. Reed finally acknowledges his name, looking at his Ghost with uneasy silence. "I feel… strange. Something's happening." It's more a plea to the Guardian than anything. A plea of uncertainty and helplessness. Even his Ghost couldn't tell if the coming tide was going to wash them all away; if this was how the final moments of the Collapse were felt. But in this moment, Reed's only thoughts go to Shayura and Aisha. He looks down at them.
He sees Aisha, staring up at the Traveler with wide-eyed awe. He sees Shayura looking down, over the edge of the terrace. Her indifference weighs heavy, even as the Traveler throbs like a beating heart and then erupts into a blinding flash of light.
Reed's last thoughts before the light hits him are of his fireteam. His family.
When the light fades, when his optic sensors recalibrate, he is moved to simulated tears. The Traveler hangs like a moon over the City. Whole. Reed's faith is reaffirmed in that instant, and tested when he sees Shayura walking away while the City erupts into cheers.
Pyrrhic Ascent Mark
SIMULATION RECONSTRUCTION LOG // LA-01-05 // SIMULATED LIGHTHOUSE, THE TOWER, LAST CITY
"There's still snow in the cockpit of my jumpship ," Aisha says after she appears in a crackling wave of latticework from the subordinate Vex conflux now running simulations of the Lighthouse from the safety of the Tower.
"Is that why you're late?" Reed-7 asks in a gently teasing tone. Aisha looks around, spreading her hands.
"And Shayura isn't?"
"She's coming. How long did you stick around the Stranger's camp after we left?" Reed wonders. Aisha looks away at the Lighthouse across the courtyard. He fails to notice the tension in her posture.
"Couple hours. I moved around. House of Salvation was putting down stakes out near some Vex ruins; wanted to make sure they didn't stick," Aisha explains, bringing two fingers up to her neck, depressing a button on her armor's collar that summons her helmet around her head in a flash of light.
Reed snorts and nods. "This is weird, right?" he asks, dropping the topic of Europa. Aisha says nothing in response, waiting for Reed to quantify his assertion. "The simulation. Saint's little… combat closet. It feels real. "
"It is real. I mean, we are. The space is a… I don't know, magic? But me and you? The Guardians? We're all us. The dangers may be simulated, but that doesn't make the effects any less real. Saint wouldn't have it any other way," Aisha says, giving Reed an assessing look. "You didn't go into the Infinite Forest, did you?"
"Hell no," Reed quickly admits. "Couldn't pay me enough to. Can't stand the Vex," he adds with a shudder. "You know how you are with spiders? That's me with the Vex. Don't know why, don't care."
Whatever Aisha was going to say is abruptly cut off when Shayura manifests into the simulated space mid-stride. She walks straight past Reed and Aisha toward the Lighthouse. "Come on."
Shayura's brusque entrance elicits a concerned look between Reed and Aisha, but they say nothing more on the matter.
SIMULATION RECONSTRUCTION LOG // LA-01-05 // SIMULATED TRIALS ARENA, SIMULATED LIGHTHOUSE
Reed's shoulder connects with a Guardian on the other team so hard, it breaks every bone in his opponent's chest and sends him straight through the wall. Reed pivots, turning to see Aisha firing her Hand Cannon through the torso of the other Guardian coming up on them with a pair of spectral blades drawn. She's been holding back and Reed can see it, all gunplay, none of her usual fire and flash.
"Where's Shayura?" Reed asks as he reloads his Scout Rifle. Aisha points down a corridor with two fingers.
"She's been after that other Awoken Warlock since we started the match. I think she followed him that way," Aisha says, already breaking into a jog. "It's three on one, c'mon."
Reed shakes his head, hurrying behind Aisha. He remembers what had happened the last time Shayura had broken off on her own. They shouldn't have come back to the Trials, not so soon, not after everything that's happened. Shayura pushed for this, trying to get the fireteam back to normal, but now he worries it was too early.
When they finally find Shayura, she's standing over a still-living Awoken Guardian whose helmet has been broken, revealing one of his eyes. He stares up at her, at her fire-shrouded Sword. Aisha and Reed train their firearms, prepared to back Shayura up if she misses the finishing blow for the match. But Reed senses something is wrong. Shayura's sight line isn't aimed down at the Guardian; it's aimed up at her opponent's Ghost.
"Shay?" Aisha asks, a nervous tremor in her voice.
Shayura lashes out, striking the Ghost with her Sword and knocking it to the ground. The Guardian exhales a scream of plight, and Shayura quickly draws her Sidearm and plants a round in his forehead. The Ghost chirps, squawks. It is only damaged. Shayura holsters her Sidearm again.
"Shay!" Reed shouts, dropping his Scout Rifle and rushes over to her. This time, though, Shayura expels a blast of force from her palm that knocks Reed onto his back. She turns to the Ghost again, gripping her Sword in both hands, only to feel a sudden stabbing cold rise up her legs and arms.
Reed watches as blue-black ice crusts over Shayura's legs, snuffs out her fire, and freezes her arm solid, Sword and all. Feather-ice bristles off of her body along with waves of visible cold. Reed's focus snaps to Aisha, one hand extended and waves of cold emanating from her outstretched palm. She had saved the Ghost from Shayura, but the power she wields—he knows it isn't the Light .
He knows this will change everything.
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