Weblore:Season of the Worthy

From Destinypedia, the Destiny wiki

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"And my vanquisher will read that book, seeking the weapon, and they will come to understand me, where I have been and where I was going."
The following is a verbatim transcription of an official document for archival reasons. As the original content is transcribed word-for-word, any possible discrepancies and/or errors are included.

Weblore is a series of lore entries posted on Bungie.net prior to the launch of, and during the associated seasons of, most Destiny 2 expansions. These lore entries expanded on the background of the characters and locations that would be featured in the expansion.

The first two Season of the Worthy weblore entries were posted on March 10, 2020. The last two entries were posted on March 11 and 13, respectively.

What Gives Me Pause[edit]

banner for the weblore "what gives me pause"

MARS

“I’m willing to overlook your past.”

Crimson light quivers, exhales, and surges in waves across bedrock walls at quickening tempo. Deified machination ripples in judgement.

“Trust doesn’t come easily with you.” Osiris’s eyes wash in Warmind light. He remembers Saladin’s words. Remembers the names that were. He feels small again, against the wash. Alone.

Osiris feels the weight of Rasputin’s assessment. Rhythmic cipher crashes over him as displays sling projections into maddening motion. Osiris’s face splits into golden multitudes to consume the information. Eyes in all directions, searching for the path. Rasputin constructs a model of the system, highlighting an anomalous signal near the edge of Sol’s influence. Osiris’s mind sieves the data into manufactured purpose.

He is led.

Never one to follow.

With nothing left to chase.

Oxidized dust scours the landing pad. Sagira greets Osiris as he exits the bunker and slumps into his jumpship.

“How did it go?”

“Better than expected.”

“Did you say hi to Ana?”

“She is busy. We have a lead.”

Osiris grips the flight stick. His gaze slips betwixt and between points of focus.

“Do we have to leave right now?” Sagira floats into his sightline. “I’m sure Saint woul—“

Their eyes don’t meet.

“We have a long flight.”

Sagira relents. Her tone sharpens. “How long?”

KUIPER-OORT EXPANSE

||KUIPER SLINGSHOT ACHIEVED: COURSE CORRECTION; NEGATIVE; BREAK LINE TRAJECTORY FAILURE||

||ALERT: GRAVITATIONAL ANOMALY: BOW||

Solar warmth peels away into guideless vacuum as Osiris skims across the Heliopause. A hollow serenity bathes his face.

“What is it?”

Osiris breathes a sigh of relief at the sight of the anomaly.

“An answer.”

“I… feel strange.” Sagira settles from her orbit about Osiris’s shoulders, her voice crackling with interference.

“It might be best if you stay with the ship.”

“It might be best if you had better ideas.”

Osiris grunts under his breath and cuts the engines. “I won’t be long.”

|COURSE CORRECTION;NEGATIVE;BREAK LINE TRAJECTORY FAILURE||

“That’s never true.” Sagira scans the warping stillness. “There’s nothing in there, Osiris.”

“No reason to worry then.”

Sagira narrows her iris at him. “I can’t even find a point to transmat you to.”

“No matter.”

“What?” Sagira faces the anomaly. “What are you trying to prove?”

Osiris affixes a visor to his helmet and clips a localizing beacon to his belt. With a hiss, his head swims in pressurizing atmosphere.

“It has to lead somewhere.” His helmet radio vies with interference.

Sagira droops in disappointment. “Does it?”

He looks through her, eyes sullen and heavy. He nods.

A great Maw yawns before them, wicked and soft. Brilliant unfurling layers of opaque invitation. They drift. The Deep comfort hums through his skin, breeding a resilient calm. A silent static stasis boiling away at the brim of consciousness.

||COLLISION ALERT: BOW | COURSE CORRECTION;NEGATIVE;COLLISION IMMINENT||

The Anomalous Maw welcomes. It is a gullet, endless in hunger and depth that splits reality like petals opening to consume the Sun. The depth warps. Sweet flavor spins through the senses. It cradles him, locks in motionless descent, rocks away fear with warm recognition. Stretches, and wraps, and cribs.

||COLLISION ALERT: STARBOARD;BOW;ABEAM;RADIAL;AFT;BOW;ABEAM;PORT:AFT;RADIAL;PORT:BOW | COURSE CORRECTION: NEGATIVE;TRAJECTORY FAILURE;COLLISION: FAILURE||

It threads through space set adrift beyond and before, until there is only within. Within: a point. Lone and stark amid the undulating expanse. Distant, at the edges, and forward, only deeper.

Osiris a wayfaring witness. A reluctant heir. A broken promise made true. A husk to fill a throne of sustenance. A shear to prune the vine. A warden to vacancy. A mind elated and crestfallen. A sojourner of meaning ever seeking.

He turns back. Sagira’s light blinks from shaded canopy within his vessel. Starless bends weave and break through pools of luminescent memory. They flow to the point beyond.

The point grows gaunt, and if he were to reach out, he would brush the walls with his fingertips. Osiris stands in dark quiet comfort. He treads placid trim. He swims in depth lined by pale rivers of white gnashing, far below and above.

He sends forth his Echoes. Their sight finds no purchase in the gullet. They push the walls beyond his fingers and let stand only the path of want. They drift until no longer felt. The skeins neither snap nor remain.

Before him, the gnarled point softens and splits into a blooming cathedra. A metal seed laid barren in the bosom of the throne in a pool of light. A nexus. He plucks it from the pool. From its drippings spawn a rapturous light, spreading through the enormity and ravenously washing over the gullet at increasing pace.

Dark gives way to cold reflective alloy.

To logic and formless calculous.

The cathedra, overwhelmed by prediction, rings with the dull mimicked tone of congruence. They scream to Osiris. His mind. They crave, never to tire, his unique causality. They would grow, unceasing. Death to death, forever.

The path of want falls to assimilation.

Osiris flees to the safety of Sagira’s blinking light. The gullet quivers reverberation that trails his every step in sentient chromic glisten. He calls for her. To open the ship. To break the false-light wave that besets his every step. To—

“I’m glad you changed your mind.”

Sagira’s shell shines a reflection across the cockpit as Osiris’s jumpship rolls to face the Sun. “Ready to go?”

||KUIPER SLINGSHOT JUMP-LOCK: TRAJECTORY CLEAR; GREEN LINE||

“Sagira…” He grips a cold metal seed. “Yes.”

The Sun hangs dim and distant in a sea of ink. Its waning glare burns the focus out of Osiris’s eyes. Blind to all other points, they drift; engines humming in anticipation; vessel drenched in an angular shadow.[1]

Legacy[edit]

AG Weblore AnaBray.jpg

RUST
LUCUS PLANUM EXPANSE
MARS

Tectonic groans shake the surface. Apollinaris Mons had been bellowing pyroclastic clouds for two days before the quakes doused its ambition. They shattered the volcano's southern slope, sending the landmass shelves that supported Apollinaris' caldera into freefall. Volcanic lightning forked illumination through plumes of soot over the cascading landslide. The face of Mars shed, and with it the glint of a treasured age was laid bare; grit-polished bone that hung among the alloy-flaked basalt cliffs like trophies in an iron case.

Fresh Martian storms cut red into the sky.

Oxidized sandscape stretches for miles around the broken mountain, bent into multiple sloped creases that had cupped Apollinaris' base before the fall. Their fracturing borne spillways down the volcano's banks, as if loosed from between the fingers of fallen Ares, lost to time and waiting to be exhumed.

Dunes migrate outward from the ruin, carried forward on strong zephyrs—each ever distant from the last. Under the windblown sands knuckled patches of basalt are revealed like fossils carefully brushed into sunlight by the breath of Aeolus. Wind, now unfettered by stony resistance, roars across open wastes, unfurls through the salt-encrusted yardangs that sparsely pock the surrounding desert, and rejoins the currents. Dust and ash follow. Thirteen salt-form opalescent spires encage the approach. They had ribbed inward against the caldera’s deluge; soot-ash frenzy staining them of burnt bones.

Within the storm, a glow refracts.

A red-sea pyre.

Coals still warm.

A sojourner’s welcome.

Ana Bray traverses the newly sunken expanse, wrapped in mixed layered garb that forms a pseudo-duster and trails her frame in scruffy shawls of loose thread. Jinju glides in front of her and spins a thin Light barrier to buffet away the scouring winds. She halts at the shore of the caldera, Apollinaris Mons’ wide crest vies for dominance over the horizon as it presses the borders of her vision. Resonators embedded across her custom SN0MASK hum and disperse dirt from her visor.

“You were right about the storm, Jinju. It’s not going anywhere.” Her voice crackles through her respirator.

Jinju chirps sassily and rocks side to side.

Ana scoffs. “Where’s your sense of adventure?”

Jinju pointedly focuses her iris on the lengthy distance they’ve already traveled, then on the remaining distance, and back to Ana.

“Yeah. It didn’t look this far from the air.” She shifts a bandolier of pouches over her head. 18 Kelvins tight to her hip.

Her augmented eyes twist and focus to the cliff-face installation across the caldera. Braytech. Solid and unyielding in its form; a cenotaph to the progeny of her line. Ana’s hand finds the snap-lock on a bandolier pouch, pulls a locational tracker from it, and switches it to life. The screen pops dull-resolution green, and a rhythmic ping pulsates some distance ahead.

Warsat Spike Integrated

Distance: 31,739 meters

Output: 51 GWh

Geiger Reading: (!) 67 µSv/y (!)

Biometric Activity: Negative

Network Uplink: Negative

Broadcast Signal: Negative

Time: 12:04

"No Hive, no Cabal. Either they're stretched thin or we got here faster than I thought." Ana cycles her sulfur-stained respirator filter with a new one.

Jinju cheeps excitedly at the lack of hostiles, “About time.”

"Right?" Ana looks back to the tracker. “That’s a lot of power, whatever you are.”

Jinju slowly emerges over Ana’s shoulder and emits a duo of low hums.

“Geothermal makes sense.” She nods towards the center of the caldera.

Ana commits the information to memory before stowing the tracker. “Good readings. Nice shot, Red.”

A synesthetic tone ripples marmalade hue through her helmet in response.

“You’re welcome.”

______________________________________________________________________________________

Their descent to the roof of the exposed facility entrance had been the cleanest route. The trio's position atop the tunneled arch oversaw the caldera, with the installation's entrance causeway far below them.

Jinju scans a cylinder protruding from the corroded roof, years caked around its metal frame. Ana kneels beside her. She scrapes oxidization from the cylinder's riveted label with her boot knife.

Cranial Node S-0319

Ana runs her glove down the cylindrical node, brushing dust and oil grime from its metallic shell in search of a seam. "Hello Cranial Node S-0319. Nice to meet you, you sneaky bastard."

She guides the edge of her knife to chip away rust and expose the discolored metal underneath. How long did it take for rust to bleed tarnish into the steel's luster? She wipes her palm across the enclosure circularly, smearing ash progressively thinner until it blends like cloudy wax polish. Ana exhales, rolls her shoulders and continues chipping away. The knife's blade finds purchase in the crease of the node’s access panel seam. Ana pushes an impulse of Light through the blade, busting the access panel cover free from its rusted locks.

AUX ACCESS

REDLINE-1-OPERATIVE

SUBSET —PILLORY #9

BRAYTECH™

SERIAL – 1012058112-CLVS-9

"Auxiliary panels. Why would they put these on a closed system… outside?"

Jinju cocks her shell to the side as if to shrug. “Hard to say.”

"Nothing in the archives?"

Jinju shakes her shell left to right: No.

Ana shifts. "You know what this is, Red?”

Discordant tone ripples indistinct expressions that fade against her visor.

"We'll see if you remember anything after we hook you into the mainframe.” Ana kneels and looks over the exposed node panel before replacing the cover. “Maybe even something on Atlas.” Words sent forth to die in the storm. Atlas. Clovis Br— her grandfather's mythic journal. Its obscurity had proven far more challenging to overcome than anticipated. Ana's determination, however, was a resilient creature. Here, she would find answers.

Jinju chirps and bobs toward the setting sun breaking through the edge of the storm. Thunder booms.

Ana rocks back on her heels, letting her momentum tip her into a seated position in the dirt. Her eyes follow rusty drifts across the conquered spillway. A red front swims from the clouds overhead outward, kilometers away, nearly cinching off Sol's pale light. The star is a frail bulb. The delicate few petals of warmth that escape settle on Ana’s face: pollen sunk to surface. She lets it soak—a momentary basking.

Night creeps from the horizon, and with it the cold of darkness.

She wouldn’t stay long enough to be exposed.

Ana eyes the causeway beneath. A reinforced blast door, rough with erosion, was blown agape at some point. Jinju peers over the hundred-meter drop and descends steadily without hesitation. Ana pulls a dual-line cord from her bandolier and embeds it into the stone face. She lets her center of gravity teeter and fall, catching herself on cushions of Light to slow her.

Her feet find ground, Ghost beside her. She anchors the other end of her dual-line in the causeway steel and clamps an auto-lift to it. Ana revs the auto-lift and runs slack out of the line.

Jinju turns to Ana. Iris meets eyes.

“Think anybody's home?" Ana dips her head toward the entrance.

Flavored tone ripples cinnamon, and the scent washes across her visor into a dull whine.

Jinju chirps and nods towards something behind her.

Some distance from the opening, a detached sign lay exposed:

CLOVIS — 9

Ana's eyes sharpen, adventurous and keen.

“Nine? Here I thought we’d found all the sites on Mars.”

End

Patina CLOVIS – 9
APOLLINARIS’ CALDERA

The splintered blast door wheezes. Licks of wind spill over the caldera and whistle through ragged gaps between metal-shed fragments. The blast door had been peeled away; curlicues of high-density Plasteel gnarled into dead spider legs.

Ana focuses her eyes on the damage. "This door. It's built like a vault. Something punched right through it."

Jinju draws a scan over the door, frame to frame. “They’d need a lot of power to penetrate that much Plasteel.”

Heat discoloration, frictional wear, and vigorous application are printed throughout the vault-style door. Channels like neon paint-spatter radiation scar the metal's face, gilded in veins of copper-teal patina. Tarnish concentrates along the strips that once formed the center of the door, while the surrounding shore-like edges, still largely intact, remain swollen and fused to the archway framing it.

Ana steps closer to the blast door and runs her hand along the steel. She swats to silence the resonators on her visor. “I didn’t see this from up there. I thought it was just pitted but look at these markings.”

Jinju floats squarely above Ana’s head. Her iris traces the spiraling patterns within small indented pits in the metal. Together, they follow interlinking connections that flow from the door’s center, outward, carving symmetrical grooves only micrometers in depth.

“So… not punched. More like pushed.” Jinju zeroes in on stress fractures in the metal. The damage was applied delicately, as if someone had split, bent, and smoothed each individual protrusion with meticulous intention.

Ana scrapes corrosion into a sterile receptacle with fingertips clawed in pointed Light and stows it in her bandolier.

Jinju chirps. "Damage pre-dates the eruption—by a lot. It’s a miracle it wasn’t flooded."

Ana nods. “These patterns look like… wavelengths? What do you think, Red?"

Aurelian honey-dripped tones wash through Ana’s helmet in luxurious fashion.

“Something Golden Age. Sure." Ana massages her palm contemplatively. “Biometric scan still says it’s empty. Whatever did it, they’re gone now.”

Jinju flicks a light on and shines it into the door-hole puncture. “Guardians first.”

Ana scrunches her face at her Ghost. “You know, normally it’s the lackey that goes in first.”

“Yes,” chirps Jinju.

Rasputin hums a resplendent and authoritative purplish rhythm through Ana’s helmet. It persists, orchestral vibrato trailing in her ears.

“Ha. Ha.” Ana responds, devoid of amusement.

They enter together.

Ana leads.

Jinju’s light speckles through ash flittering in from the punctured doorway, but all elsewhere there is only stillness. A small utilitarian atrium encircles them with a freight lift directly ahead, saddled by two large windows. Smudges and clouded filth belie a grander facility beyond them. A sectioned-off reception desk fills the space on their right, while lockers line the opposing left wall or lay fallen in impact craters of collecting ash. Above them a large gyro arm, split away from the vault door, is ensconced into the ceiling. Cracks in the surrounding superstructure tell of a violent snap.

The room isn't particularly tall, only enough to accommodate the entryway frame behind them. From the arm, the ceiling slopes down swiftly to the top of the lift mechanism, lines of florescent bulbs popped or burnt out ages ago litter the floor in a field of glass shards that transform Jinju’s light-beam into prismatic skitters across the walls.

Ana looks around and crunches through the glass, making her way to the windows. Her visor ripples infrared as a scan sweeps the room. Heat signatures, nil.

“I’m not seeing any access points to plug Red in.” Her voice trails with abject confusion.

Jinju whirs and floats passed Ana, decompiling herself into data-points of Light that sift into the walls around the lift. Jinju’s flashlight goes with her. Darkness rushes in on Ana to fill the space left by Jinju's absence. It halts against a Light epimysium, clinging to her like a second skin.

She waits in depth. A pause.

Time: malleable in the dark.

Ana puts her fingers to the glass and leans. It feels firm, cold, resistant to pressure. She draws in her fingers, leaving trenches in the caked soot. Her fist closes and polishes a clean hole through the smears.

A pop sounds overhead and glass plinks off her helmet. Ana ducks her head reflexively.

The few remaining intact fluorescent bulbs surge with electricity. Some burst into flashes of ash and sparks, but enough remain to dimly light the room. Through the newly cleaned window porthole, lights twinkle within a dark expanse of liquid before swelling into waves of psychedelic surf across endless towering fields of circuitry. Ana inches her face closer to the glass.

The lift chugs.

A thin overlay interface pulses to life on top of the basalt separation between lift and window, pulling away Ana’s attention.

Jinju recompiles herself into being, a smug lilt to her wafting motions through the air. Her light-beam carves existence out of the dark. “Rasputin can’t do everything you know.”

A crimson-hue lash spits venom across Ana’s visor.

“Good job Jinju. Red, cool it.”

The trio board the lift.

The lift descends.

MAXIMUM CAPACITY—14515kg

They drift diagonally deeper. On either side, paint-stamped signage bears familiarity.

>>> CLOVIS — 9 >>>

The Bray name, in origin—at least as far back as anyone would care to look—was seated inseparably from Clovis. Preservations on the shaft walls, though dulled under waning ash coat, solidify his legacy in stenciled prints visible through the split-weave chicken wire wrap that surrounds the lift.

Ana lets loose a whistle. “Raasssputin. This has your name written all over it.”

Senseless quiet sounds back in recognition of a daunting unfamiliarity.

>>> PILLORY CONTAINMENT / MAINTENANCE >>>

Hydraulic pipes groan as the freight lift transitions from the stony shaft enclosure into a glass-walled overlook.

Ana steps forward, Jinju close behind. Both peer through the rusted links into monolithic mangroves of circuitry and data cores, drown in an oceanic tank. Coolant ebbs and flows through bundles of sapphire wiring in shallow breaths. Psychotropic-surge washes over motley arcs of electricity as they zip between the towers like synaptic impulses.

Tint spills through the glass and flows over eye and iris alike, dripping color into faint emergency lighting. Ana slips between the feverish half-breath beats of pigment that roll over the lift cabin. She could stare forever. If time would wait, it might be enough.

Rhythmic. Fleeting. Frenetic. Beauty.

In arrest.

Something blinks in her visor:

(!) HYPOXEMIA: b/o 77% (!)

She shakes it. Comes to. Breathes. Sharp.

Ana turns her head towards Jinju, her eyes still affixed to the glass.

“Are those servers? An archive?” An undercurrent of excitement pitches through Ana's voice. Atlas had always materialized in her mind as a journal or hidden subset of file directories… but this, if it was what she thought it was… After all these years buried gems still hold the capacity to surprise her.

Jinju sends scans out into the drink. "They're shielded." She sinks a bit under the weight of her disappointment. “It’s odd that they’d run the servers off backup power, if that's what they are. I was only able to trip the auxiliary breaker from the atrium.”

>>> MAINFRAME ACCESS >>>

"At least we're going the right direction."

Clatters and whines echo through the shaft as the lift comes to a stop.

Gates glide through pristine tracks and slip into alcove slots in the walls, giving way to a maintenance nexus fed by dozens of service hatch, fiber-line cluster, and access tunnel nervous systems that sprawl the facility.

Directly ahead, a door:

PILLORY MAINFRAME
PARAGON

Ana’s visor sweeps and hi-lights a dead network aperture embedded in a web of tunnels below them.

“Jinju, think you can get us in through that?

Crinkle-thrum laughter purrs from Jinju’s shell. “Power will be restored momentarily.”

Ana approaches the mainframe door; Jinju’s Light-fetters dissipate behind her. It’s no blast door, but still far denser than any of the surrounding maintenance hatches. Ana turns away from the door and looks back to survey the room.

Brass-hue citrus prickles surge from temple to temple across her visor. Discrepancies in the floor’s smoothness trim with ballistics pings. Impact-gouge divots had whisked chunks of melted stone into shallow swept peaks all along the floor. A peppering of gloss-ridden flakes around each of Rasputin's contact pings designate three main concentrations of fire.

“Someone had a gunfight down here. Looks like everything was flying one direction. Nice catch, Red.”

Satin satisfaction weaves over Ana’s skin and dissolves like perfume.

Jinju reforms, prideful.

“Auxiliary power spooling down. Main power stations, of which there are twenty-two, are coming online presently. Expect full operational system functionality to be restored within a minute or two.”

“What would I do without you?”

“Well you’d only die once, and that would be it.”

Ana shakes her head and attempts to bite down a smile.

Rasputin remains silent.

The trio position themselves at the door as breaker activations roll thunderous current through the facility.

Ana unclasps the holster strap on 18 Kelvins.

Light-strips sputter and strain to illumination along corners and grooves outlining the floor and ceiling. Glimmers catch in the gunfire ruts behind them.

She extends her fist to Jinju.

Jinju bumps it with her shell.

Ana taps her knuckles against her helmet to a bass-beat response.

She nods. “Stay behind me.”

A lens blinks at center-top position above the mainframe door. It sweeps red light over them, focuses in on Ana Bray's badge, and shuts off. Moments pass before a decrepit speaker garbles a synthetic wail of acknowledgement. Piston locks slink into silicon-grease sheaths and the access door retracts into the ceiling.

Bodies.

Flickering shadows strobe three forms—sunken and ragged. They lay motionless in pools of iridescent slick; tacky globs grip tattered textile strands like thread-bare posts driven into oil. Powerless. Unlit.

"Exos," Jinju's somberness bleeds into the cadence of her movement as she sweeps the scene. "Repairs might be—

"And wipe them again? No." Ana follows her in and hovers over one of them, carefully avoiding the pool of oil. "Let them be… besides it's not like they're going anywhere."

Between the bodies lay a sleek instrument, sized for crew deployment and dressed in precious filigree tendrils rimmed in calligraphic etching. The instrument’s core links to multiple platinum discus drums implanted into its frame, resembling the smaller resonators on Ana’s helmet, and ends with a hopper-crown of artificial diamond bearings.

"Here's what they used to crack the entrance door." Jinju assesses structural damage to the device. Twists of broken machinations do nothing to diminish its Golden Age beauty. "Took a lot of hits. Inoperable. Not beyond saving though.”

Jinju tilts to the machine while Ana approaches an Exo body. "Should I transmat this back home?"

"Yeah…" Her answer full of distraction.

Ana kneels, a visor sweep hi-lights bullet holes, ruptures, and mechanical failures—her eyes, however, see only the BrayTech emblem emblazoned on the Exo's uniform. Ana pulls a rusty-clasp badge from the Exo’s belt.

0220-17

ECHO PROJECT

PARAGON CLEARANCE

"This is how they accessed the lift… and got through the door scan. How long ago was this?"

Power kicks on. Strip-lights drone as charge flows through the room. A thick glass enclosure dug out of the far wall brightens. Beyond the glass divider: a step-way and a series of consoles undergoing automated boot procedures.

Jinju analyzes an Exo. "They're well preserved down here, hard to tell exactly. I’ll take some samples."

A synthetic voice, wracked with static and age, seethes into the room.

"Security Verification…"

Jinju and Ana turn to each other.

Ana lifts her hands into a shrug and mouths: I don’t know!?

Jinju’s look intensifies into a glare, her thoughts almost transmitting telepathically: Try something?

"Bray, Anastasia. Verification—"

Scans run over them.

"Anomalous Entity Detected…

Rogue Mind Detected…"

A duo of gauss repeaters drop and align firing solutions. Ana grips Jinju with her gun-hand and flings her back, condensing a swarm grenade into her left. She tumbles sideways as the coilguns open fire and flings the grenade in the opposite direction. It erupts into firefly explosives that flutter toward the turrets. The repeaters snap to the solar-heat signatures and unload at the distraction.

18 Kelvins lines up with the leftmost repeater, chunking round after electrified round into the sparking turret. Her gun burns, super-heated, discharging arc-rounds with cores of solar Light. Metal drips molten from the turret’s fluxing frame. It rattles. A final round ruptures the magnetic barrel and splits the rotary breach, sending splinters of shrapnel across the room.

With the swarm grenade's fireflies depleting, the remaining gauss repeater swivels and locks onto Ana. She ducks under a leading shot and spins—using the centrifugal force to whip a solar knife through the turret, splitting it. Flame-licked fluid spills onto the ground as the knife detonates.

Fire fills the role of the stuttering lighting fixtures.

"Of course, THOSE still work." Ana pivots on her heel. "Jinju?"

Extinguishment protocols sputter into action, dousing the oily blaze with directed bicarbonate foam.

"Alive!" Jinju slinks into view from behind a fallen Exo and examines the bullet-laden turret. "You've never tripped a security system before.”

Ana thumbs the ECHO badge in her hand before stowing it. "I don't think I did." She walks to the far wall.

“What did it mean by ‘rogue mind’?” Jinju glides close to Ana’s shoulders, remaining partially covered and taps her helmet with a plink of Light. “Does someone in THERE know?

Jade-scale hue tremors ripple over Ana’s visor like caffeinated tea before they fade into deep blood-red knots in her chest.

“Let's get some answers."

Ana swipes the ECHO card through a glowing slit in the glass. Recognition beeps and clinks sound as magnetic locks unlatch from the thick ballistic plate door. She pushes her way into the room, Jinju peers over her shoulder as she passes and watches Ana's login clear on the console before following.

CLOVIS — 9

>PILLORY ACCESS

>ECHO LINK (!): PENDING REQUEST

>WARMIND NETWORK BYPASS

Ana stares into the console's interface. "What are you?"

"Not Atlas." Jinju's dejection reverberates in the glass cell.

Ana flicks a sideward glance over her shoulder at her Ghost before selecting 'Warmind Network Bypass'. "No, but it looks like this system has backdoors all over.”

She toggles through a list of shadow-networks, production facilities, and connected Pillory stations.

“It’s not Atlas, but it’s a start. There are eleven other stations like this—there’s a whole subnet defense network completely disconnected from the Warmind initiative.” Ana steps back.

“Why?” Jinju circles the screen.

“Why’s right.” Ana dives back into the terminal.

The facilities listed span the system. Earth and Luna, Europa, Asteroids adrift now belonging to the Shore. Mars— naturally. Even so far as Uranus. That station, an orbital, caught her eye. ECHO. She flicks back to the previous menu.

“Echo link. One of these stations has a pending request.”

Thin-tap tones of pale tin reek metallic inside Ana’s helmet, frenetic and uneven.

“Pillory does sound bad.” A few swift motions navigate the trio into the Pillory Access menu:

>REDLINE PROTOCOL – Test Pillory

Status: [Ready]

>REDLINE PROTOCOL – Initiate Pillory

Clearance: [P-7s]

>REDLINE PROTOCOL – Purge Pillory

Status: [No Target]

>REDLINE PROTOCOL — PROCEDURAL OUTLINE

Select: [Ver. 1.072]

"Never hurts to read the instructions." Ana selects the procedural outline. Her gaze chisels into the loading screen.

______________________________________________________________________________________

In the event of a REDLINE PROTOCOL incident:
[PARAGON-level members] Pillory system network: CLOVIS — 1 - 12.
ACCESS POINT: CLOVIS — 9
In the event of a catastrophic failure, neural degeneration, or loss of containment, herein collectively referred to as a [ROGUE MIND] incident, initiates [WARMIND CEREBRAL PARTITIONING] and [QUARANTINE INTEGRATION] into twelve CLOVIS station(s) within [NEURAL WEB-WAY].
REDLINE PROTOCOL:
Check [PURGE] for [No Target].
System reads [Locked] when in use
System reads [No Target] when in standby
Fire: Test Pillory
Must read [Ready]
Fire: Initiate Pillory
WARNING: Initiate only during [ROGUE MIND] incident.
Automated Link: [ECHO CONTINGENCY]
Fire: [ECHO] Project, automated
Sever connection to [ECHO LINK] for [REDLINE PROTOCOL QUARANTINE] in the event of a [ROGUE MIND] incident.
Internal Failure Resolution Directives:
Troubleshooting…
Network schematic…
Neural Web-way…
Containment Failure…
Station Maintenance…
Clovis 1-12 ______________________________________________________________________________________

Jinju rolls her shell end over end along the top of the console display. "Want me to get in there?"

"Yeah. Download everything. Figure out where we can stitch Rasputin in and give him station control."

"Oh?"

Lavender-aroma relaxation subsides sour worry-knot tensions building throughout the atmosphere in Ana's suit.

"Red. If anyone can pull your brain apart, it should be you."

"That… sounds fair," Jinju agrees.

Ana leans into the console. "All these connections are one-way network integrations from closed systems. We'll have to do it manually at each site."

"Oh…" Jinju’s voice digitizes as she trails off into a snowdrift of Light and enters the console.

"But first…" Ana jumps back to the main menu and selects the pending 'Echo Link' request.

ECHO LINK

CAELUS STATION ACTUAL, URANUS

(!) MANUAL DISTRESS TRIGGER (!)

LAUNCH-1 INITIATED, MANUAL — FAILURE

BAY 1: COMPROMISED | BAY 2: INERT

(!) COUNTERBALANCE FAILURE (!)

(!) ORBITAL DECLINE — 42d12m07s (!)

The orbital decline timer ticks down.

“No time to waste. Once you get Red access, we have a station to save.”

End[2]

Remembrance[edit]

AG Weblore Felwinter.jpg

Some time during the late Dark Age.

Iron Lords Efrideet, Saladin, and Felwinter sat in a Warlock meditation chamber, around a massive oak table, in a keep on Felwinter Peak. A fire crackled in the corner out of the lips of a stone-lined hearth.

A hand-written letter in messy scrawl rested atop the table.

“Warlord Shaxx accepts my challenge,” Felwinter said, summarizing its contents. “He advises us to enter from the south wall, which has been destroyed. The front door…” He picked up the paper and scrutinized it again. “Is undergoing weatherproof.”

“This is your plan?” Efrideet said, with some skepticism. “How did he get this to you?”

“His Ghost brought it.”

“Your plan is Ill-advised,” Saladin said. “And a waste of time.”

“No one’s beat Shaxx in a fight. Iron Lords or Warlords,” Efrideet continued. “Much less take territory from him.”

“Ikora has. And I believe I can,” Felwinter replied, his eyes burning inside his sleek, Exo skull.

Efrideet tapped the table with her fingers, and Saladin stared into the polished surface.

“Unless either of you has a better idea? We’re running out of time.”

Saladin shook his head. “It’s true. Radegast wants to launch a frontal assault. Entire Lord fireteams.”

Efrideet’s eyes narrowed under her helm. “He wouldn’t. There’s almost a hundred people in that castle.”

“Shaxx is holding those people hostage.”

“They stay with him willingly,” Felwinter replied.

“The Warlords might pull the trigger. But Radegast wouldn’t,” Efrideet repeated.

“Have you seen Radegast lately? He’s tired of the wars. No one’s been at it longer.”

“That’s no excuse. We came under him to end the infighting.”

Felwinter stood. “Then let me do my part for the cause.”

The sky was completely white and there was a stark chill to the air as the trio entered the castle from a gaping fissure in the ruined south wall. As they stepped into the exposed hallway, the Iron Lords passed a few of Shaxx’s people, who hurried away from them. One child cried in her mother’s arms. They looked tired, but they weren’t starving. And they were clothed for the oncoming inclement weather.

The Iron Lords found Shaxx as they turned a corner, and the hallway opened up into the massive entrance of the keep.

He was cautiously applying a fast-drying liquid polymer as a draft stopper underneath a set of ancient plasteel doors.

“Won’t that hold a little too well?” Felwinter asked, as he strode up with the Iron Lords.

Shaxx didn’t stand. Or look at them.

“I’ll dissolve it when the storm is through,” he said, liberally squeezing the paste with both hands from a gel tube.

“A brute force solution. I hear that’s how you fight.”

“I do what works with the tools I have,” Shaxx said, standing to inspect his weatherproofing. “We’ll freeze without this. The Ghostless would suffer.”

“That’s something you care about?” Felwinter took a step forward.

Shaxx turned to address the Exo.

“These people are under my protection. I owe them. Something the Iron Lords should ponder more often about those they protect.”

“The Iron Decree was drafted to protect the Ghostless,” Felwinter replied. “Give up your territory and join us. Let us show you how powerful your Light can become.”

“Strong words. I’ll wager you said the same thing to Citan. Before you killed him and his Ghost.”

Saladin looked to Efrideet in shock. She pretended she didn’t notice, and kept a hand near her cannon.

“Your Decree disallows final-deaths of your opponents,” Shaxx continued. “Yet you’ve killed countless Warlords. And an Iron Lord, if the rumors are true.”

Felwinter’s eyes quietly blazed. He took a step closer. “Were they friends of yours?”

“I don’t have friends. Just people I protect.”

“We could use your help,” Felwinter replied.

“You already have a Saint-14.”

“Saint serves the Speaker, not the Iron Lords. He thinks highly of you.”

“Perhaps I’m not being clear. I’m not going anywhere, and you lot aren’t coming in. As long as I hold this territory, there will be no collateral damage from turf wars inside our borders. Iron Lords and Warlords be damned.”

“Your south wall says otherwise.”

“And you’re starting to piss me off. Are you here to duel or whine?”

Felwinter guessed that Shaxx now stood a little more than three feet from him.

The Iron Lord stepped forward, dragged a Solar sword from the air, and thrust it at Shaxx. The Warlord turned his stance sideways as the burning blade sang past his helm, ducked the horizontal cut that followed, and stepped back as Felwinter drove the blade into the stone floor. The chamber erupted with ethereal fire and Solar Light—

Shaxx’s backfist took Felwinter’s head from his shoulders in a shower of sparks. The Iron Lord’s Light died with his crumpling form.

Efrideet coughed as Saladin blinked inside his helm.

Felwinter’s Ghost unfolded above his prone corpse and the Iron Lord reemerged from a pillar of cascading Light.

“You should have used your Void instead,” Shaxx said. “You could have brought the whole fort down on us. Gained a fighting a chance.”

The Iron Lord shook his head. “Your people wouldn’t have survived that.”

Shaxx’s hands engulfed Felwinter’s shoulders like descending moons. “I would have stopped you. But I like your thinking. Now get out.”

The Warlord left the chamber without looking back, towards the direction of the south wall.

“I need more time,” Felwinter said, before Saladin or Efrideet could utter a word.

Saladin shook his head. “Radegast already assigned us to strikes against the House of Devils. There’s an uprising in the Cosmodrome. This was our shot to deal with Shaxx alone and we failed.”

“One Lord makes no real difference on a strike against the Fallen. Buy me time and I’ll solve this.”

“We don’t have time. You said it yourself. The Warlords will attack this fortress en masse.”

“Not if I challenge again.”

“He literally took your head off,” Saladin replied.

Efrideet had a hand on her helmeted chin. “We can buy time. Warlords in this region respect a prolonged challenge against Shaxx.” Her eyes flickered to Felwinter beneath the helmet. “Shaxx has multiple confirmed kills. Final deaths. It’s no small thing to challenge him. Most of those cowards won’t, and they’ll gladly let you try again, ‘til Shaxx decides to go after your Ghost…”

Felwinter stared at the weatherproofed plasteel doorway of the chamber. “I have a feeling that won’t be a concern,” he replied. “Besides. These people will never repair that south wall alone. The oncoming storm will be their end. I’ll help them.”

“Change of plan, then,” Saladin said. “You’ll buy time for us.”

“What?” said the Exo.

“Keep Shaxx busy until we finish this business with the Fallen. Then we’re coming for this castle. Efrideet, if I could have a word?” Saladin asked, his cloak flowing around him as he departed in the same direction as Shaxx, leaving Felwinter alone in the chamber.

***

Efrideet snorted. “You didn’t know?” she exclaimed over the wind as she and Saladin descended the mountain on a gravelly, snow-covered road.

“That Felwinter is an oathbreaker?” Saladin shook his head. “No.”

“You’ve never wondered why Radegast hates his guts?” she said. “That takes a lot.”

“Agreed. Why has he abided this?”

“Every one of Felwinter’s confirmed kills broke the Iron Decree. He provided ample evidence. Ghost-killers, murderers, and worse. All of them. But he never asked for permission.”

“Felwinter is no Saint-14. Why does he do it?”

“He calls it operational necessity.”

Saladin scoffed. “I’ve never heard an Exo talk like that.”

“Like what?”

“They’re usually more expressive.”

“Does this change the plan?”

Saladin looked up at a trio of circling carrion birds as they walked. “There is no plan. We’ll quell this Devil uprising, then strategize a frontal assault with the full force of the Iron Lords behind it. Hopefully Felwinter keeps Shaxx busy until then.”

Efrideet shook her head. “People will die.”

“If the Warlords attack him first, it’ll be catastrophic. Shaxx forced our hand.”

***

Shaxx and Felwinter watched Efrideet and Saladin descend the snow-covered mesa from the shattered south wall.

“I thought I told you to get out,” Shaxx broke the silence.

“I mean to challenge again,” Felwinter replied.

“Not today,” Shaxx shook his head. “My Ghost believes it’ll snow before nightfall.”

“Yes,” Felwinter said. “What did this?”

“Fallen Walker.”

“No amount of Golden Age polymer can repair this wall before that storm rolls in.”

“No,” Shaxx agreed. “My Light will be the wall.”

“A Ward of Dawn? Your people will freeze. A Well of Radiance is what you need. My Light will be the wall.”

“You think my Hammer of Sol wouldn’t burn bright enough to last the storm?”

“Of course it would. And you’d set this castle ablaze. Leave it to me.”

“I leave my people to no one. But if you’re seeking shelter, you’re free to stay.”

“You call them ‘your people.’ You rule them? Like a king?”

“I protect them.”

“Some kings don’t know the difference.”

A light dusting of snow started to fall.

"Does your mountain have a name?” The Iron Lord asked the Warlord.

“No.”

“I call mine Felwinter Peak.”

“Do I look like I care?”

***

For days, the storm had kept anyone from traversing the mountain path. Between Felwinter and Shaxx, the people of the castle were safe from the elements.

Saladin and Efrideet had sent word the Fallen campaign would last at least another few weeks.

So Felwinter challenged again. Shaxx accepted. Iron Lord met Warlord at the backfield beyond the shattered south wall.

Felwinter aimed a palmstrike at Shaxx’s center of mass. The Warlord slipped sideways, narrowly avoiding the burst of Void Light that blossomed forth, and cracked a backfist into Felwinter’s skull, sending him sprawling backwards.

Felwinter struggled to a knee, then to his feet, his long coat flowing around him. A fissure of sparks sprayed from his skull. “How many Warlords have challenged you?” he asked.

“I lost count a century ago,” Shaxx replied. He stayed in his sideways stance, waiting for the Exo to make a move.

“I will never stop. Never rest,” Felwinter said. “And the Warlords are just like me. They refuse to end each other, not because of a code, or an Iron Decree. Because they’re afraid to die. And they will plague this world forever.” Felwinter raised his arms in a striking position. “How many of us will you fight?”

“As many as I need to.” Shaxx closed the distance, slipping past the Exo’s guard and snapped the back of his fist into Felwinter’s temple, which promptly shattered.

***

The skies were clear, so Felwinter challenged again the day after.

Shaxx accepted.

They met on the backfield.

“How long will your people last out here?” Felwinter asked.

“Longer than you,” Shaxx replied.

It was true. A flying knee separated the Iron Lord from his head within seconds of a short melee.

When the Exo’s Ghost put him back together, Shaxx was already halfway back to the south wall.

“How long do you expect them to stay here?” Felwinter called after him.

The Warlord turned back. “What are you talking about?” he asked.

“How long do you expect your people to stay? They will not survive the winter.”

“I’ll find a way.”

“You have a way. If you won’t join the Iron Lords, let us help you.”

“Your wars have left my people homeless. And worse. They would never trust you.”

“If you asked them to, perhaps they would. You’re the king.”

“I’m no king.”

“Prove it.”

“I have nothing to prove to you.”

“Prove it to them.”

***

Weeks later, Efrideet and Saladin brought a silver army with them, gleaming weapons in their hands.

Nine Iron Lords dismounted their machines at the foot of Shaxx’s mountain.

Twelve Warlords armored in eclectic styles from across the region opposed them at the path that led up to the mountain peak. Particle weapons hummed to operational life on both sides. Slug rifles racked and readied.

Felwinter and Shaxx watched them from the ruined south wall.

“Your friends are here to back you up,” the Exo said. “If they need to.”

“I don’t have friends,” Shaxx replied. “And they don’t need to.”

“Tell them. Stop this before the shooting starts,” the Exo said. “Your people will not survive this.”

“Is that a threat?” the Warlord asked.

“No. They’re not like us. Everything they might become dies with them.”

Shaxx stared down at the Iron Lords. “You people involve yourselves in matters that are not your own. Especially Radegast.”

“Radegast is scattered. He thinks he has the weight of all those we protect on his shoulders. No one has that kind of strength. Not even a Lightbearer.”

“Why do you back them?”

“Because the Iron Lords are going to change the world; no one can stop them.”

“I stopped you.”

“Your people will not survive this. Tell the Warlords to stand down. They’ll listen. They fear you. You’re not bound to an Iron Decree.”

Shaxx shook his head. “They fear that everything they might become would die with them.”

***

The other Warlords had departed.

Shaxx stood with the Iron Lords on the path up the mountain.

He stared down at them.

“Who won?” Efrideet asked.

“Shaxx,” Felwinter said. He patted Shaxx on the shoulder. “Shaxx did.” The Exo pulled Efrideet aside to arrange an evacuation plan for Shaxx’s people to Vostok Observatory in the Cosmodrome.

Saladin and Shaxx stood in silence as the other Lords began their march up the path.

“Hello,” said Saladin.

“Hello,” Shaxx said.

They shook hands.

“Iron Lord Shaxx?”

“No.” ***

Felwinter, Saladin, and Efrideet sat at a massive oak table on a keep atop Felwinter’s Peak.

A holographic blueprint of Shaxx’s castle hung in the air.

“It will take some time to breach the security codes,” the Exo said, indicating an underground extension a mile under the fortification. “But this is it. One of several across the Earth. Perhaps across other worlds. Some are tied to more important systems than others. All Golden Age. Some hide weapons. Armor. Nanites.”

“What is it?” Saladin asked.

“A Seraph Bunker. Rasputin tech.”

Some time after—during the Late Dark Age.

“You seem far too obsessed with these ‘Warminds,’” Timur said to Felwinter.

They’d been walking for hours, dipping in and out of Fallen territory. Timur made no effort to avoid them, and Felwinter followed his lead. He didn’t know where they were going. Timur had been talking almost nonstop, though. Asking Felwinter what he knew about SIVA. What he thought the Warmind might have to do with it. It was lucky that Felwinter already had a reputation for keeping quiet.

He played dumb when Timur asked about Seraphs. Timur was easy to rile up that way. It was good; it made Felwinter feel like he was still in control.

As they tore through another round of shanks, Felwinter fell back and let Timur do the heavy lifting. When Timur spoke again, his voice was breathless with a passion and enthusiasm that Felwinter couldn’t feel.

“Have you ever wondered what it is that calls to you in that void of memory,” Timur breathed, “where the edge of the past infects your present?”

Felwinter was tense with expectation. He felt the world contracting around him until nothing existed but the sidearm in his hand. He heard his Ghost in his helmet comms, whispering: “Wait.”

Timur strode recklessly ahead. He expected Felwinter to watch his back, and he did. Watched him walk. Watched his Ghost, too. There were a lot of Fallen out here. Anything could happen to either of them. It would be easy to tell this story back home.

"Don't jump to conclusions,” his Ghost whispered as they fell behind, but Felwinter heard uncertainty in her voice. He adjusted his grip on the sidearm, lifting his hand a little…

… and dropped it again as Timur turned around. “It’s an itch you can’t scratch, isn’t it? Well, maybe you can.”

Felwinter's expression was blank. His finger twitched on the sidearm.

“You think I am one of them?” he asked as Timur turned back around to lead the way. “That all Exo are?”

“Lord Felwinter, I know what you are,” Timur said with a laugh in his voice. Felwinter lifted the sidearm again. An familiar dread coiled in his chest. He saw his future changing. Again. He saw himself running. Again.

He was so tired of running.

The sidearm was level with the back of Timur's head.

Timur had a smile in his voice when he spoke next. “I know what you are," he said. "And you are no Warmind or even one of its puppets.”

Felwinter’s arm dropped and swung at his side, as if all his energy had gone out of him all at once. It was impossible, but he almost felt lightheaded. His Ghost whispered something again, but he didn’t hear it over his own relief.

“Come,” Timur said. He walked with the arrogance of a man who didn’t realize he’d brushed shoulders with Death. “You must see this.”[3]

Legacy Pt 2[edit]

AG Weblore AnaBray.jpg

CONTINGENCY[edit]

EN ROUTE: URANUS – CAELUS STATION
OUTER BAND — LOCATION INCONCLUSIVE

“I was able to pull some data from those Exo samples.” Jinju perches on the cockpit dashboard. Two tech mites crawl over her shell.

Their jump-ship plummets through fractalescent polychrome luge, ripping across the sable pitch of space at blistering speed.

Ana leans back in her pilot seat, one knee pulled to her chest. She watches strands of shimmer bend around the hull. A bobble-owl jiggles along as the ship shivers, underneath it: Camrin, in frame.

“Hit me.” Her eyes turn to Jinju.

“I couldn’t completely narrow it down, but they’re definitely from the Golden Age, circa the Collapse.”

Jinju continues, “I’ve been going through the Pillory mainframe download. Those stations are meant to split Rasputin’s mind up in the event that he became… uh… insubordinate.”

“That’s disgusting.”

“ECHO appears to have been a contingency program that activates afterward. They also had a cornerstone schematic of his brain.”

Light static fuzzes from bubble speakers on Ana’s dash. Her helmet hangs on a hook behind her; Rasputin’s uplink is offline.

Ana chews on the information for a moment. “A foundational brain model would help with containment stability after the partitioning process. It’s like a front porch for your brain.”

“It… goes on.” Jinju continues, “Your name is cross-referenced all over this, Ana. Neural Web-way. Psycholinguistics. Exo brain maps with candidate profiles. It looks like Clovis Bray was syncing Rasputin’s basic core with viable hosts.”

“Oh.” Ana’s mind races. “For what though? Drop him into containment and clone him? Pretty elaborate restart button. I guess with an Exo you could also make some pretty potent AI with more limiters than a Warmind.”

Jinju processes. “Hm. Nothing conclusive here.”

Ana turns her gaze back to the stars. “It would be terrible to be buried like that—trapped in pieces of your own mind. You wouldn’t even know who you were anymore. Where you start, and where other versions of you end.”

“Speaking of, the Clovis—9 site is ‘78% assimilated into his sovereignty.'” Jinju distorts her voice as Warmind facsimile. “He’s so dramatic about it.”

Ana brightens as she laughs. “You remember how Camrin would always impersonate him?”

“He did not appreciate that, but it was funny.” Jinju cheeps lightly. “Is she still buried in work from the Moon?”

“Hole opened up to the Black Garden. Pyramid. Creepy signals. Raining Vex. You think Owl Sector could help themselves from getting involved?”

“I heard rumors through the Ghost-vine about the Pyramid. They said it steals your shell. Lives there, like another you. They said it makes you do things.” Jinju pauses. Her iris flicks to Ana’s raised eyebrow. “Not helping?”

“Let’s just change the subject.”

Jinju squirms awkwardly. “You’ll see her soon.”

“I know.”

“They’re working directly with Ikora. She’s safe.”

“I know…”

Warm-tone reassurance trickles into the cabin through Ana’s helmet receiver.

“I KNOW. WHEN DID YOU EVEN GET HERE, RED?” Ana aggressively huffs in exasperation.

Tech mites traverse Jinju like a jungle gym. One dangles precariously from a shell flap. “Guess who’s there too.”

“How do you know this, and I don’t?”

“Ghost-vine. It’s Eris Morn. She’s working with the Guardian.”

“Eris?” Ana scoffs. “She’s not much of a conversationalist so the two of them should get along just fine.” She gestures to the mites. “Do you really want those crawling all over you?”

“Their names are Pho and Deim, and I love them.” Jinju coddles her mites. “Besides, it’s like Cam’s with us in spirit, right?”

Ana chuckles and scratches her brow before raising a fist in solidarity. “She is. To the brim.”

The shimmer surrounding the jump-ship jitters before abruptly smashing into empty space. Ana leans forward and looks out into the void.

“Um… where’s the planet?” She slowly rolls her head around the cockpit.

They drift through space on placid waves of nothing toward a distant nowhere. The vast luminous twinkle of the Milky Way plays out in panorama, though gloom-speckle pinholes prick gaps in the starry sea. The absence from them directly apparent to Ana’s eye like rays of darkness from a black sun through shear cosmic sheet.

Jinju perks up, internal sensors suddenly askew. “Something nabbed us right out of our jump. We’re off course by…” Jinju calculates, “…three AU?”

“What!?” Ana manually scans the trajectory equations in the nav-computer. “There’s nothing wrong with the math.”

||JUMP-DRIVE ERROR: MISALIGNMENT|| squawks on bubble speakers.

“Little late.”

Tart synesthetic tickle creeps red and patient. Low and pressing, as not to be heard by those that might be listening.

“Relax. I know we’re off course, but it’s not that far… relatively speaking.” Ana scrunches her face at a nav-screen as it’s overtaken by interference. “Okay, I can’t see where we are. Hang on.”

A slow wrinkle skulks across space. It presses up the fabric. Insignificant points between stars warp and spur small disturbances in the constellational congruence of the galaxy. From afar it is nothing. A flutter of wings in wind.

“It’s dark out here.” Jinju’s voice is distant as she peers outside. Beyond the canopy an expanse without horizon.

“That’s when the stars shine brightest, Jinju. Find a constellation for me so we can get our bearings.”
||GRAVITATIONAL WAVE ANOMALY DETECTED: JUMP-REALIGNMENT REQUIRED||
“Way ahead of you, ship.” Ana checks jump vectors and flicks through alignment procedures. Mav thrusters sputter to orient the ship toward Sol. Ana test-cycles the jump-drive. It revs and then chokes before locking.

||GRAVITATIONAL WAVE ANOMALY DETECTED: JUMP HAZARD—LOCATION INCONCLUSIVE, CLEAR HAZARD||

“Okay, that’s not a comforting thing to hear.” Ana deploys a sensory buoy from the ship.

Rasputin stings and pricks red iron. Steady pressure. With localized insistence.

“Feel’s strange.” Jinju is distant. “We should go.”

Ana initiates recalibrations on the jump-drive’s positioning solution. “There’s definitely some weird space out there.”

||GRAVITATIONAL WAVE ANOMALY DETECTED||

The ship lurches. Ana’s stomach churns. Jinju vibrates violently in place, an outer shell of Light absorbing some form of force.

Red iron needles whistle tea-kettle pressure in white anxiety from Ana’s helmet.

Cloaked Shadows shift through the vacuum an eternity away and all too close; shown only when they wish to, to only whom they want.

Ana swallows to settle her stomach. “What even was that? Did we move?”

“Leave. Now please. Ana.” Jinju presses against the glass of the canopy, peering outward.

||SYSTEM REALIGNMENT: SOLUTION SECURED||

“There it is. I’ve got a jump-lock.”

||GRAVITATIONAL WAVE ANOMALY DETECTED||

“Again? Then we’re riding this one out of here.” Ana eye-balls adjustments for the gravitational wave into the nav-computer. “Punching jump in 3… 2… 1…”

They slip between folds in space. Formless wake propels them. The ship rides through sub-space at speeds far exceeding her jump-drive's capability. Color dulls in the slipstream. Frisson electrifies Ana's senses into timeless euphoria. The nose of the cockpit stretches ahead, drawn toward some distant vanishing point. She struggles to keep the flight stick straight. Her motions seem small, inconsequential and all too slow within the wave. Fluctuant pockets of drag flex and buck, threatening to throw them off into the unknown. The cockpit twists around her, indicator lights blink in metronomic sequence—purpose and pigment slowly materializing in her mind.

Hull integrity failing. "Not yet."

||COLLISION: BOW, CELESTIAL BODY DETECTED, AUTO-DROP FAILED||

Ana steadies her mind. She force-cancels the jump, seizing the drive and dumping them out into space before thrusters burn to steady them again.

Their emergence is dwarfed by a stratospheric colossus.

Uranus hangs, a daiquiri pearl set in tilted rings.

A grin overtakes Ana’s face. “Nailed it.”

Pale blue gleam inundates the canopy with planetary light. Ana plots an approach to the station. The trio slow burn forward, each silently collecting their faculties. Ahead: tiny beacons blip red. Satellite silhouettes take form out of the planet’s zealous glare. Instrument spokes jut from their polygonal chassis like old-war depth charges itching to trigger.

“Those are Warsats.” Jinju breaks the silence, eager to shift her mode of thought far from weird space and gravity waves.

“Finally, some luck," Ana says with relief. "I bet we can daisy-chain Rasputin into the station’s network through the defense system.”

“Oh, they’re powering up. Maybe we—”

Horns of responsive distortion roll across the cabin like a stress wave. Rasputin’s alert pings litter the canopy HUD.

“Brace!”

Ana pushes hard on the flight stick and reflexively dives under a barrage of laser fire. Nose thrusters roar vibration through her hands as she cuts to guide the ship vertical and tumbles into a barrel roll, slipping around follow-up bursts. A bolt skims shallow across her starboard side: ricochet. Shockwave tremors reverberate through the hull.

“Red, ping all incoming fire vectors! Jinju, arm the spikes!”

Plates split open along the belly of the ship. A drum-launcher of six Warspikes rolls out as Jinju links into the launcher's gunnery apparatus. Indicators blare onto the canopy HUD. Jinju sends two Warspikes straight into the first of fifteen Warsats blocking their path as Ana nudges the ship between incoming laser bursts.

Two spiked Warsats cease fire as their automated defense protocols are overridden, security software utterly failing to halt Rasputin’s invasive assimilation. They come back online—spikes blending into spokes—and swivel to gun down the closest still-hostile targets.

The assimilated twin Warsats thrust to reposition into a shield for Ana and Jinju as they close distance. Crimson flare shines around the Warsat shield as lasers chisel into them. Ana watches HUD pings for an opening between incoming bursts. She finds half a moment and burns hard on the main engine, then toggles full power to maneuvering thrusters to sling the ship under Rasputin’s shield and open a lane for Jinju.

Jinju unleashes four more spikes. They strike true. Rasputin spreads digital plague through the Warsat’s frameworks with each skewering hit. He demands subservience. Laser fire tears through space in all directions as Ana cuts between dueling satellites and rolls to evade overlapping firing arcs. Concussive shockwaves rattle the ship as defiant Warsats explode or fail one by one until the firing stops.

A field of deputized Warsats and debris dead-drift within the planet’s orbital current, back-lit by radiant mesopelagic glow. Beyond them, almost lost among cloud-cream atmosphere, Caelus station.

Ana releases her breath. It feels like she had been holding it since the jump. She forces short gulps of air into her aching lungs and lets her ship glide towards the station without guidance.

Jinju emerges from the gunnery apparatus and floats back to the dashboard. Pho and Deim appear from under her shell. “What was that, Ana? Back there.”

“The Warsats or the freaky gravity?”

“Either… both.”

“Your guess is as good as mine.”

“My guess worries me.”

“Let’s just pull this data and get home.”

“Agreed.”

Ana hangs her head in her hands and muffles a sardonic, “Nailed it.”

CAELUS STATION


Dim and powerless, it gently falls. The label grows at pace with Ana's measured approach. Rasputin's cohort of Warsats encircle her in a defensive phalanx. The station rotates to face the planet. It glitters in gas-giant grandeur as massive translucent hull plates display a desolate gut shrouded in sea-foam reflection. Jinju combs through station blueprints pouring in from Warsat data stores. Caelus consists of one long shaft containing a launch bay and spindly communication arrays at either end. Deeper, passed the launch bays, mostly maintenance frame space cap-stoned by a large reinforced mainframe housing complete with a thick-glass viewing ceiling. Orbiting ringlets, indicated as "Biomes" 1, 2, and 3, spin lazily in unison with the central structure, held in position by mag-lock paddocks that align with metallic rungs set into the station hub's outer plating.

Jinju locates several unpowered docking points before settling on entering through one of the station's bays. She snaps a HUD ping on the canopy.

"Here. This one is open, though it doesn’t look like anything but the outer rings are still pressurized."

"Ready for a spacewalk?" Ana guides them to the bay, catching sight of the transparent interior solar-glass paneling of the rotating ringlets. Clean rivers slosh along the outer ring underneath a dividing sieve. Earthen dirt sprouts abundance above.

"Are those greenhouses?"

"I think so. Everything seems to be locked under a file named 'contingency.'"

"That's not ominous," Ana says, scooping her helmet from its hook and swiping 18 Kelvins from a footlocker.

"We need mainframe access."

"When do we not?" Ana looks at the dark station. It is a grave of potential awaiting the next planet-rise.

Jinju prepares Ana's bandolier. Mites patiently tap pin-legs as they wait for attention.

Ana dons her helmet and puts a hand on the canopy release pulley. "You're not bringing those, are you?"

*** *** *** *** ***

The bay is still: a snapshot of countless possible failures in the face of challenge. It holds only one ship. The bulbous craft lay broken, dropped from its support brackets in denial of an attempted launch. Reflective hexagonal plates sparkle like space dust as the station faces Uranus' light. Scorch stains blacken the far wall behind the craft's ruined ion thruster.

"The propulsion system is missing its ion cell. It doesn't look like damage, but obviously a lot went wrong here."

Jinju beams light over the fuselage as they float through the ruptured bay in weightlessness. The reflective hull is filled with Exos. Mannequin cadavers hang frozen on silk threads, surrounded by globular blobs of various fluids. Loose-wire tangle sags around the lifeless many. One or two glides freely within the cabin. Their chest plates share a pristine logo.

ECHO-1

Ana locates a crumpled worker frame beside the bay’s internal air lock and signals Jinju to come over.

Jinju puffs toward Ana on pulses of Light. Remnants and dust hold motionless in the vacuum. Their groupings, jostled and drawn to each other since the bay's collapse, form tiny gravitational microcosms; a new faux system trapped in the failed husk of a past age.

She flicks her helmet microphone on. "Hey, what about just normal frame access?"

The Ghost sweeps the frame and gets to work. "This isn’t just some mop-bot. This is the Station Manager. Let's get it inside."

Ana props a foot on the wall and forces the airlock closed behind them. Mag-boot clinks to tile. Dust floor, echoing groans, and humid taste populate the station. Even through her respirator the stale flavors of plant matter and dirt coat Ana's tongue in grist-like film. She turns to Jinju, busy at work splicing bad connections within the frame and spinning light to charge its power unit.

"It’ll work, but this unit won’t hold power. It’ll only last as long as I charge it."

"You’re a miracle worker, Jinju."

Jinju cheeps.

She solders a loose line. “It should also be a little more… talkative.”

Ana peers down the hall. From their current position, the airlock functions like an estuary flowing into the rest of the station. She could almost see clear to the central mainframe hub atop a raised panel fortification in the middle of the room. It sits below a ceiling of translucent plates, rimmed in distant ringlet halos falling under shadow. A stairway aligned with the launch bays on either side provides access.

The Frame sparks to life, looks directly at Ana, and speaks with grating age to its voice.

“Welcome, Ana Bray! Very excited to see a Bray walk this hall again. It has been a long time.”

Ana grasps at words. Jinju shrugs, plugs of Light toss in zero-G.

The Frame stands on magnetized foot cups and dusts itself off, nearly bumping into Jinju. “Excuse me, small servo bot."

“Servo b?"

The Frame turns to Ana. “How may I be of assistance?"

“I’ll unplug you.”

The Frame ignores her.

Ana smirks at Jinju, then looks at the Frame.

"Walk with me," she says, briskly moving deeper into the station.

The two converse with Jinju in tow.

The main section of the station is a wide-open hall supported by struts. In large red lettering the words:

ECHO PROJECT
OUR LEGACY BUILDS THE HORIZON

Dozens of maintenance frame plates line the floor. Some open. Some semi-raised with collapsed frames steps away, half-responding to a catastrophe. A scene in disorder.

"Zilch on Atlas.”

Ana stares out the translucent ceiling, wistful as the Frame waits for another question.

“So those crops in the rings are food supplies for a colony mission."

"Yes. Thank you for asking that, Ana Bray."

"Yeah. And the colony ships are full of Exos?"

"Partially. ECHO-1 and ECHO-2 were stocked with Exo unit crews. As you know, their task was to establish and oversee embryonic development at Colony M31, Site-A and Site-B."

"If Rasputin got out of hand, they weren't planning on resetting him.”

"I don’t have access to Clovis 1-12 directories."

“They just assumed he would win. The Pillory is a last-ditch panic room.”

"I don’t have access to Clovis 1-12 directories."

Jinju’s iris flicks back and forth between the two. Her tiny Light-leash hums.

Ana massages her palm. “What was my role in all this?”

“As you know, your work on the Warmind made you a prime asset to oversee applicant selection.”

“I chose the people in there?”

Ana watches the ringlet spin, her mind repeating the statement back to her. Artificial night slips back to artificial day as the station's rotation continues.

“As you know, yes. Additionally, your work on the Warmind, as you know, was vital to the establishment of Clovis 1-12.”

“Do I know where the candidates came from? Did they volunteer?”

“I do not have access to candidate profiles.”

Ana shuts her eyes and takes a steady breath.

“You said I helped with the Pillory stations?”

“Yes.”

“How so?”

"I don’t have access to Clovis 1-12 directories."

She nods and lets her helmet slink back to rest on her shoulders. “I think I can piece it together on my own. Is this station linked to any other sites?”

Her gaze returns to the distant ringlet, lit by the recurring planet-rise. Her augmented eyes pick at details.

“As you know, Miss Bray, there are thirteen CLOVIS sites that this station is linked to.”

“Thirteen? What’s the thirteenth?”

The plant life is still vibrant. Regimented.

“Paragon access does not permit that information.”

“You hear that, Jinju? We’re all just slaves to circumstance.”

Jinju chirps. “I’d like to think our choices matter a little. I’d like to think mine did.”

Ana smiles at her. “Yeah.”

“You are a Bray.” The frame pauses.

They lack signs of overgrowth.

Well kept.

“So?” Ana turns to the Frame.

“ECHO project requires a station link with <VERBAL CIPHER ENGAGED> DEAD-ROCK <VERBAL CIPHER DISENGAGED> resources.”

Ana eyes go wide. “Jinju disengage that cipher thing.” Over her shoulder, a glint shines from the far central ringlet. Biome 2.

Jinju glides forward. “What is that?”

Ana looks at Jinju. “The verbal cipher.” She pauses and traces Jinju’s eyeline to face Uranus. Ana’s eyes adjust to sieve out the glaring brightness. “What’s what?” She puts a hand to her visor and squints.

An ion lance threads the station from the distant ringlet.

It pierces Ana’s chest clean through.

Brick-stained atmosphere hisses out of her suit, searing on smoldering fabric fringe.

Jinju’s iris widens with confused shock.

Howling storms slam salt-coarse keys in Ana’s helmet.

End

ACRIMONY[edit]

ECHO-1
CAELUS STATION — COLLAPSE

"DEAD-ROCK SEIZURE IN ACTION: Station Manager initiate manual override in ECHO-1 Launch Bay."

"ALERT: This station is experiencing power fluctuations. Emergency power will run until—

ECHO-0

He awakens alone. A fluke. Others hang around Him, but they remain in the dream. Electrical surge prickles through his entire body. A screen in front of his face begins playing a recording complete with visual aid:

"Welcome to ECHO-1. Before your departure, you should have been briefed by a Station Warden If you don't recall your Station Warden, please alert your Crew Captain. Now then, my name is Ana Bray, and you're one of the lucky few who has been selected for the ECHO Project. The future of Humanity rests on your sho—"

The recording is interrupted as emergency sirens blare through the station.

"STATION HAZARDS: GRAVITATIONAL ANOMALY | STERILE NEUTRINO BURSTS | Please remain calm."

"OVERRIDE BROADCAST: via ECHO-LINK//:PILLORY-SUBLOCK.R.R//:SKYSHOCK ALERT: TRANSIENT NEAR EXTRASOLAR EVENT:—

Power failures wrack the station in rolling thunder. The Exo slumps, lifeless until its next reset.

ECHO-7

Alone.

The recording. He finds familiarity in the newness. The face on the screen seems kind—

"STATION HAZARDS: ROLLING SURGES IN WARDS 1, 2, 3. Please remain calm."

Thunder. Pain to death. Electro-static purge, triggering a reset.

ECHO-22

He awakens to rolling, thunderous darkness and pain. The screen does not illuminate.

Barely audible words form from the air:

"Primary propulsion systems failing. Auxiliary systems near depletion. Planetary impact unavoidable. Distress triggered."

Meaningless. He struggles against chains.

Eons pass. His bonds will not break. His mind fragments and corrupts.

He wishes he could bleed. He wishes he could die. He wonders where the Wardens are.

ECHO-41

Short lives of confusion and pain. He grasps at falling in every direction. There is nothing to grip.

ECHO-89

Thunder, again.

ECHO-173

And again.

ECHO-390

Until one day:

He hangs in the futile passage of time.

A creeping madness weaves its way in solitude.

ECHO-877

Thunder. Thunder. Thunder.

The Warden speaks for the first time in many storms. Her twisted promises are fresh to His ear.

"When we return." Etched in mind.

Wake and sleep. Struggle. Dream and wake. Struggle. Endless. Innumerable. Stillbirths. Tomb spasms. Thunderous pain. Sweet death.

ECHO- 2̷͉͙̜̗͍̙̭̤̘̪͖͈͛̅͑̈̀̾6̸̡͇̼̦̲̩͎̟̠̬̳̲̂̀̉͐̃̈́ͅ2̵̡͎͚̳̠̫̮͉̍̉̌̒͑̓͗͛̉̈́̕̚͝5̸̨̭͚͔̥̲̫̈́̂̈́̊̋͗͑͛͑͝͝

Thunder, one final time. The storm gives life, but never came to take.

He slips from rot shackles. Worn with age. Weary, they snap at slightest motion. Untold rotations pass without movement. Freedom?

He matures questions. A hunger wells up within him.

He travels the station. From Tomb Bay, to the Mind Shell, to the Sealed Space. In dark, and in light.

The Mind Shell teaches Him the new roads. Teaches Him the majesty of the Rings. Teaches him the key.

He walks the Rings.

He tends to His little freedoms. He cultivates. He grows. He does, unknowingly, as He was meant to do.

The Mind Shell tells Him of the Bridge. Tells him of His ancestors. Speaks of the "ECHO LINK".

The knowledge does not leave His thoughts.

He seeks a meaning beyond routine.

The Tomb Bay kept secrets. He had not returned since He walked the Rings. It is a shallow sepulcher.

Brothers and Sisters dreaming. Never to wake as He had.

He digs treasures from their graves. Digs knowledge from the Prison's many minds.

Picks lies from the bones of truth.

He drinks the memories of Echoes passed.

He finds the Prison's purpose. A Bridge's end. If He holds this end, perhaps the Wardens hold the other.

The many minds. The liar's words. Takers. They would know of his escape.

The Wardens would come to take with fresh shackles.

He prepares. He learns from the Warden's alchemy.

He digs through the carcass of his once-mighty Tomb.

From hollow basin, He seizes Starlight power to wield from afar. From its flesh: adorns Himself with a cloak of lies to fool. He armors his soul against the Thunder that kills.

He opens the Bridge at his end and waits.

ECHO- 2̷͉͙̜̗͍̙̭̤̘̪͖͈͛̅͑̈̀̾6̸̡͇̼̦̲̩͎̟̠̬̳̲̂̀̉͐̃̈́ͅ2̵̡͎͚̳̠̫̮͉̍̉̌̒͑̓͗͛̉̈́̕̚͝5̸̭͚̈́̂̈́̊̋͗͑͛͑͝͝- Present Day

He walks the ring when She arrives.

The Warden rides in with finality and judgement.

A red-light storm at Her back.

She had followed the Bridge, as He had hoped. She leads many shells, but only One descends with Her.

She brings with Her the Thunder, and He fears its wicked spark. He places trust to his plated frame.

He watches Her trespass in the Tomb Bay. Sees Her defile the Mind Shell's grand hall.

The Wardens reap what had been sown.

As Wardens always do. She comes to collect him.

He raises his Starlight.

But a Warden is not so easily slain, and She has many allies.

End

DESCENDENT[edit]

CAELUS STATION
ORBIT — URANUS

She is submerged.

Light sways just above a tense surface.

Something far below stirs.

The Light brightens to blind.

Rasputin weeps a terrible cacophony of anguish.

Ana gasps for breath. Her head swims in effort.

(!) HYPOXEMIA: b/o 73% (!)

“Hold still! Your suit is leaking!” Jinju quickens Light into Ana's punctured suit, her Iris jittering from spot to spot as oxygen spurts around her in foggy clouds.

Ana shakes dizziness out of her head. A smoldering frame is sprawled a few meters away. She droops flat to a support beam that runs up to the mainframe office.

“I got shot…” The realization doubles back. “I got shot?”

Ana pats her chest and stiffens. She draws in shallow breath.

“Jinju, did you see where it came from?”

“Central ring. I dragged you into cover. Stop moving so much.”

Ana peeks around the strut; an ion thread zips by and stings her helmet.

Rasputin obliterates every square inch of ringlet within ten meters of the ion beam’s origin in response. Sections of the central ringlet combust and explode under heavy bombardment. The ring buckles, splitting along the seams and splaying out into space. Magnetic anchors fail as the halo fractures and splits away from the station's central architecture. Fragments rush away toward the planet; Caelus’ ruin falls to Uranus in lingering prolicidal consummation.

“RASPUTIN STOP!” Laser fire halts immediately. “You’re gunna sink the whole station!”

Tense finger waits on hair trigger. Ana works her starving lungs.

(!) HYPOXEMIA: b/o 67% (!)

“Ana, you need to stop breathing so much.” Jinju bobs with Ana’s head and quickly reseals her visor.

“Can’t hold still.” Ana shakily stands and points up at the dislodged ringlet spinning above her. “Bad angle.”

“I’m pretty sure whatever shot you is dead. Stop talking. You're getting delirious."

Wreckage looms far over Ana’s shoulder. The remaining two halos slowly spin in ignorance through their sibling's burial-dust cloud. Eerie distortion soars across the divide between station and rings, the veneer of invisibility momentarily lost in flight as rubble collides with its form. Rasputin perceives the abnormality.

Harmonic chimes across Ana’s visor resonate and combine into uniform patterned homogeny.

“Active camouflage?” Ana sucks thin atmosphere, a wheezing undertone to her breath. “Jinju, give me an auditory visualizer.”

Jinju whirs and dips back to Ana's suit. “Compiling an interface. Now. Hold. Still.”

(!) HYPOXEMIA: b/o 65% (!)

A ceiling panel twenty meters from Ana erupts in brittle plastic shards that glisten and spin like tiny neutron stars, catching the last of Uranus' light as the station beings to turn dark. Amorphous form thuds into the floor, shattering tiles in a plume of dust that stretches up into a spire before slowly holding in place. The form tumbles to a stop. It stands between her and the open launch bay and slings a kit-bashed Ion caster aside, depleted. Hexagonal patterns stutter to blend with the station interior as the room rolls into tenebrous obscurity. For an instant, an Exo takes form, and then nothing as its cloaking shroud flashes and re-engages in the dark.

Ana doesn’t wait. She rushes heavy clunking boots up the stairs to the mainframe, arrhythmic tremors beat through her heart. Jinju deactivates the switch on Ana's mag-boots and hurls her through the door with a forceful pulse of Light. She speeds in behind Ana, finishing her suit with Light stitch as Ana slams the door shut.

“Ana. Hang in there.” Jinju orients Ana and reactivates her mag-boots.

Ana's feet clomp to the floor. She hangs from them, a loose timber bending in the wind.

Jinju finishes her patch job. New fabric seals air-tight.

"You're good. You're good. Don't pass out. Your suit is re-oxygenating."

(!) HYPOXEMIA: b/o 59% (!)
Stabilizing…

The words are intensely bright on her visor against the darkening room.

"Auditory overlay complete. Check your visor." Jinju's voice focuses her.

"I just… need a minute…" Ana speaks between gulps of air. An unsteady hand draws 18 Kelvins. The mainframe room orients around her more clearly with each breath. It is stark, a large lone desk of singular oak commands the center of the room. A console screen, dead, is embedded in the surface.

Rasputin drops positional estimation pings into her HUD in an attempt to track her assailant. She steps backward, away from the door she had entered through and toward the opposing stairway's door.

Her eyes pick up faint quivers from outside. Indirect. Resonate white noise pings like interference on her visor. She focuses on each occurrence, looking for a note out of rhythm.

Behind.

She spins as the Exo crashes through the secondary entrance at her back. The door snaps from its hinges in a torrent of dust and rackets Jinju into glass.

"Jinju!"

Ana loses track of her attacker momentarily in the darkness before it pushes off from a hard surface, triggering her visor. She spits off rounds from 18 Kelvins. Some find their mark, puncturing the camouflage shroud and revealing her adversary before impotently fizzling on the Exo's outer shell. It covers the gap with surprising speed and catches her gun hand; Ana discharges an arc round; tiny bolts reach across to the Exo’s metal skull in vain as it scorches ceiling.

Bones pop in her fingers and wrist.

(!) HYPOXEMIA: b/o 68% (!)
Stabilizing…

The Exo flattens its other hand and stabs toward her stomach.

"Die. Warden."

Adrenal instinct floods Ana's body. She stops it. They lock. Ana’s vision blurs. She gasps for breath. Muscles quiver in her arms, desperate for oxygen. A spark cinders in her.

"Get off her!"

Jinju zips toward the Exo and paddles Pho and Deim onto it with a flick of her shell. The mites crawl under the Exo's exterior plating and send shock-sting bites through its systems, seizing its joints for a few precious seconds.

Jinju rushes to Ana's side. The Ghost deconstructs itself, orbital shell bits swirl around a core of coalescing Light. She fills the room like a brilliant star, overcharging her wayward Guardian.

Ana's crushed bones reforge. Light fills her eyes. Her grip, still holding against the seizing Exo's bladed thrust, liquefies its plated hand to scrap. A glorious crown of Solar flame erupts from her visor and she cracks her forehead into the Exo’s face. It reels, tufts of flame extinguish in the vacuum. Ana kicks away.

Solar might engulfs 18 Kelvins. Ana hammers off two rounds of celestial annihilation. They melt straight through the Exo, puncture the station plating, and scream through space for light years.

The Exo slumps, a molten heap.

It draws breath.

“Resilient.” Ana drops to a knee. Barrel trained on the Exo's head.

She takes a full breath. The Exo’s eyes are unflinchingly locked to her. It refuses to die.

It points to Ana’s badge with its still-blistering hand.

“Bray. Warden.”

She says the only thing the can think to say: “Who were you?”

It hesitates. “Echoes.”

Her head droops. “How many did you live?” She looks to find his number designation, but it is missing.

It looks passed her as Uranus' light once again trickles through the station. “Echoes… grow… Wardens… keep…”

“What did I do to them?”

*** *** *** *** ***

Ana stares at Echo’s husk. The faint glow of the desk's lit console screen grays out her face behind her visor.

She sits dead-still in rotation. She could stare forever, if she only had enough time.

Jinju nudges her shoulder. “I've got the mainframe data.”

Ana is devoid of thought at the mainframe access console. She watches as Uranus comes back into view over and over again. It dominates the station’s viewing port. She maps the movement of the clouds along the surface, but only ever on the surface, and sees how they differ from the previous iteration on their last spin. She wonders if they are different underneath.

Stable major chords strum in Ana’s helmet, getting caught in the cracked visor glass.

She finally speaks, decisive. “Dislodge the other ringlet paddocks. Warsats can tow them back to the Tower. Skim the shadow-networks for anything else they can use. Get some good from this…”

“Ana, the Warsats could haul this whole station as long as we do it soon.”

Caelus rotates away into shadow once again, and the planet’s sheen fades from sight. Ana clicks a spring-loaded slot on the desk. It snaps to, bearing a placard of ownership.

CLOVIS BRAY

Ana stands. Steady.

“It’s okay to let some things be forgotten.”

End[4]

Maintenance Operations Log 30037[edit]

AG Trials of Osiris 1.jpg

TYPE: MAINTENANCE FRAME OPERATIONS LOG [03037]

PARTIES: Two [2]. One[1], Guardian-type, Class Titan [u.1]; One [1] Guardian-type, Class Warlock [u.2]

ASSOCIATIONS: Bigge 99-40 [Unit2070]; Caloris Spires [Mercury]; Crucible; Trials of Osiris; VG Maintenance Attachment, Osiris, Saint-14, Vanguard Commanders Registry, Cult of Osiris

[u.1:01] I told you I would guide them to build the Lighthouse. Not carry the torch for you.

[u.2:01] The Guardians require a balance Lord Shaxx can’t provide. There is no one else.

[u.1:02] And what about you?

[u.2:02] I have unfinished business out in the dark. Take this.

[u.1:03] What is this? A letter?

[u.2:03] For your eyes only, when I depart. Trust nothing. No one.

[u.1:04] Ha ha. Except you, of course.

[u.2:04] When have I ever led you astray?

[u.1:05] This week, you mean?

[u.2:05] Help where you can. The Vanguard has been serving too long; their blind spots have grown.

[u.1:06] Perhaps. But they’re wiser, too. Ikora Rey and the Commander have guided the City through dire straits.

[u.2:06] Have you spoken to the House of Light, like I asked?

[u.1:07] I would rather not speak with Fallen.

[u.2:07] They may need our help. Their cause is just.

[u.1:08] What happened to “trust no one?”

[u.2:08] What happened to your sense of right and wrong, hero?

[u.1:09] That is the City’s word, not mine. And the people still remember when I defended its borders from those very Fallen.

[u.2:09] Our kind live for a very long time, Saint. Too long to bear grudges.

[u.1:10] These accolades I wear are a reminder of what we lost to get here.

[u.2:10] I think those who gave them to you would be disappointed to hear that.

[u.1:11] I had nearly forgotten that you finally asked about them.

[u.2:11] We live too long for regrets. You taught me that. Don’t forget the House of Light.

[u.1:12] If I can find the time, yes. Not all of us conjure Echoes.

[u.2:12] Reflections, Saint. I have no need for Echoes anymore.

[u.1:13] What do you mean? What’s the difference?

[u.2:13] One is a manifestation of Light. The other… reserved for Taken Kings. Better suited for traversing the Sundial because of what lies at its core.

[u.1:14] One day you’ll have to tell me exactly what you and the Guardian did to bring me back.

[u.2:14] We did what we had to. Trust me.

[u.1:15] Now you sound like the rat.

[u.2:15] No. The Drifter sounds like me.

[u.1:16] Where do you go next?

[u.2:16] Wherever my road takes me. The Lunar Pyramid has galvanized the Hive; Toland has been left unchecked for too long. I’ve heard he’s still wandering the Cursed City.

[u.1:17] Then you really are just going to leave me with a burning sack. I should call it the Trials of Saint-14.

[u.2:17] You could. But you know how fickle Guardians can be about names.

[u.1:18] I will prepare them, in your stead, for what’s coming—one last time.

[u.1:18] It’s bad luck to say last. Try not to put them on too high a pedestal, Saint. There’s no one else to guide them.[5]

References[edit]

  1. ^ Bungie, (2/28/2020), Weblore: What Gives Me Pause
  2. ^ Bungie, (3/10/2020), Weblore: Legacy
  3. ^ Bungie, (3/10/2020), Weblore: Remembrance
  4. ^ Bungie, (3/11/2020), Weblore: Legacy Pt 2
  5. ^ Bungie, (3/13/2020), Weblore: Maintenance Operations Log 30037