A Bittersweet Reminder

It was a gorgeous day in the Last Free City, an early morning shower having left a sheen that the rising sun sparkled off of. The day that every child of the city waited eagerly for had arrived, excitement comparable to that of Christmas Day glee. The Tower was hosting it’s annual Guardian Appreciation day, when civilians of all ages and races were welcomed to meet those that protected them, to speak with the legends they so adored, and end the day with a massive feast in the Vanguard hangar.

Most families arrived just before noon, or around there, due to the extra time needed to herd the energetic younger ones. Others simply came and went as they pleased, the foot traffic of the Tower at an all time high. Laughter broke out here and there, most trying to keep the spirits high, conversations providing an atmosphere of ambient noise.

A weary Awoken clad in his usual Titan gear had kept off to the side, taking up the spot Eris used to occupy when she first arrived. The only thing missing from his loadout was his helmet having left it in his dorm to avoid scaring civilians, or children for that matter. With the rest of his squad milling among the visitors he simply watched from a distance, leaning back on the railing as his Ghost hovered there.

“I’m sure you have a fan in there somewhere,” the Ghost blinked at him, the voice feminine, “Why don’t you just take one walk around, Atul?”

“Don’t even try, Sylvia, I’m fine just where I’m at,” the Awoken waved his hand at her, rather irritated with her constant goading.

“It’s funny, you’re not scared of Wizards or Hydras, but you hide in fear of regular and harmless Earth children,” she prodded, knowing if she hit the right buttons she’d get him to move, “Traveler forbid that you die of hugs and giggles.”

“Five minutes, will that get you to shut up?” he looked up at her, none too pleased with her antics.

“Six minutes and I won’t bring it up for a year.”

“Deal.”

With a shove off the railing he lumbered towards the main area, the hallway to the Speaker’s office to his left. It was from there that shrieks erupted, quickened little footsteps following and growing louder as they reached him. In complete instinct he turned, starting to reach for the assault rifle on his back but he stopped himself at the sight of what just had startled him. A pair of Awoken children stared up at him, dancing in place with little hands flailing, an Exo couple quickly bringing up the rear.

“It’s you!” the little girl screamed, bubbling with so much excitement her feet barely staying in touch with the ground as she hopped.

“Mom! Dad! Look!” the boy was next to his twin sister, his actions just the same.

Atul himself just stood there, blinking in surprise, he hadn’t expected to be recognized at all much less be the highlight of a kid’s day. Now he had two doing the wiggle dance, Sylvia drifting down to them where they turned her over like a Rubik’s Cube to be solved.

“I apologize, sir, they’ve been trying to find you all day,” the mother gave a bow of her head, keeping a healthy eye on the children manhandling the Ghost, “They’ve just been so excited to see you since they heard of how you took down Phogoth.”

“Do you always tell war stories as bedtime lullabies?” Atul had to ask, finding the notion odd yet flattering at the same time, having half a mind to pull Sylvia out but she was quietly giggling so he left her to the whims of the twins.

“It’s not exactly easy to hide the existence of those trying to wipe us out, so it’s better to just tell them stories of Guardians to help them sleep,” the father answer, “Yours are some of their favorites because you’re an Awoken.”

“What’s the Moon like?”

“Did the Ogre thingy make scary sounds?”

“Can I hold your gun?”

“Can I have your Ghost?”

The bombardment of questions from the pair brought Atul to kneel in front of them, their innocent look on the war bringing a soft smile to his face. If things were only as simple as they saw them. “The Moon is beautiful, I can see you from all the way up there. You can’t play with my gun, it’s too dangerous, and you can’t have my Ghost because I need her. But, I do have something you can have.”

Sylvia had been released, resuming her place at Atul’s side while he sifted through the pouches on his belt. The Awoken twins looked like they were about to explode, quickly reaching happiness overload. The Titan offered one closed hand out to each, letting them pry at his fingers before he opened them up slowly with his palms facing upwards. “They’re called Motes of Light, they’re a part of the Traveler.”

It wasn’t the illumination from the Motes that lit up the faces of the twins, but rather that they receiving a gift from their personal hero. Both scooped up their present, alternating between holding it up and clutching it to their chest as if it could run away on it’s own.

“What do we say?” the mother prompted, taking the free hand of each to start to lead them off to see more Guardians.

“Thank you!” came the chorus, making Atul’s smile widen yet there was growing sadness in his eyes.

“Thank you for all you do, sir,” the father offered his hand out, the Titan shaking it rather firmly, “I haven’t seen them this happy since the day we adopted them. I can’t express how grateful my wife and I are that we have Guardians like you protecting us day in and day out.”

“Just part of the job,” it was the only reply Atul could muster, the father unknowingly leaving the Titan in a state of an existential crisis. He stepped back to where he had been hiding before, head hanging and hands picking at his gloves.

“Atul? What’s wrong?” Sylvia dipped low enough to look him in the face, the single blue eye blinking.

“Do you know anything about me from before you first brought me back to life, Sylvia?” he asked quietly, facing the city to hide his troubled expression from the crowd. “Did I have a family? Did I have children like those two who were made orphans?”

“I’m sorry, but I don’t know. Alot of records were lost during The Collapse, even if we went digging we wouldn’t find much,” the Ghost drifted closer, pressing her shell into his hands, “Your family line could have already ended, or it could still be going. There’s no real way to tell other then DNA testing every Awoken in the city, which we don’t have the resources for.”

“So those kids, they could have be my great great grandchildren?” he held her against his chest plate in a hug, as if he was clutching a beloved plushie that he found comfort in.

“It’s in the realm of possibilities.”

Tears had started to stream down his face, never before having brought up the thought that he could have possibly been married and had children. And he had failed them by not coming home. Yet, that’s if he ever had the opportunity to love in the first place, something he would never know. The very thought of everything he had missed out on had him back up until his back met a wall, sliding down it as he held Sylvia close. All he could do in that moment was mourn for those long dead, the very same people who were equally distraught over his initial death all those centuries ago.

| | |

Brownie Points

The Human Hunter stepped off the elevator into the dormitory level for her class, Ghost floating just off her shoulder. It was a sight she wasn’t expecting, panels torn away from every surface and stuffed with plants. Sunlight poured through doorways held open by furniture which caused a stalker’s heaven of contrast between light and dark. If she didn’t know any better she could have sworn she was in an abandoned building on Venus.

A single Exo sat on a couch within the landing lobby, a tattered book in his lap, “Good of you to make it, lass. We’ve been expecting you.”

“But, I just got here,” she was taken aback, knowing she had been brought back to life by her Ghost a mere hour ago. Surely news didn’t travel that fast even with instant comm lines.

“I know, and that’s why I’m here,” the Exo lifted himself off the beat up couch, book tucked against his side as he stepped to her, “I’m Besk, I’ll be your mentor of sorts. I’m here to help you get your life back on track after how ever many ever centuries you’ve been dead.”

“I’ve heard of you,” the Ghost finally piped up, scowling at man, “You’re the ‘Vertical Killer’.”

“That is not here nor there, lad. Don’t interrupt, it’s rude,” Besk pushed aside the Ghost, holding the book out to the Human, “You’ll need to pick a name for yourself out of this, and one for your Ghost.”

“Oh, okay,” she was starting to feel overwhelmed, even if the conversation was relatively simple, being dead for so long had it’s cons. Coming to grips with the existence of Ghosts, learning that you’ve been decaying for decades and given the chance to take up arms again, it was alot. Not to mention that every person met was a brand new person. As she took the name book she looked up at him, perplexed, “Can’t I go by my old name?”

“Do you remember what it is?” Besk folded his arms, disbelieving that she did. It rare thing to remember your own name, much less want to go by it. Resurrection wasn’t like waking up from a long nap, more like coming out of a coma with a variable degree of amnesia.

“Sedna,” she answered without hesitation, though she did surprise herself, “It’s the name of the Inuit goddess of the sea.”

“Impressive,” Besk took the book in a snap, tossing it over his shoulder, “I guess you won’t be need this, lass. Although, you still have to pick a name for your Ghost you’ll have to do that later. It’s getting rather close to dinner time and I hate being last to the cafeteria, so let’s start your hazing.”

“Then why start this if you don’t want to be late?” the Ghost interfered, not liking the idea of antagonizing at all considering his Guardian was so fresh from the grave.

“Everyone goes through this, no exceptions,” Besk answered curtly, yanking a knife from his belt to hold it out to Sedna handle first, “There’s six of us in here, you have to tag one of us with a stab, lass. The prize is a full dorm room to yourself, if you fail before the dinner bell rings then you have to share. Unlike the Titans and Warlocks you have to earn the luxuries here because that’s how we rank ourselves. It’s a throwback to the old theory of Darwinism.”

The blade had been taken, Sedna holding it by her side as she silently acclimated to it’s weight and balance by readjusting her grip several times. The downside to this sort of test was that she didn’t have nearly the amount of abilities that the rest of them had. They were all veterans tried and tested in the field, having survived the horrors of war. Yet, the only comforting thought was they had died before as well, so surely they were prone to mistakes.

As soon as Besk had finished speaking Sedna lashed out, swinging for his chest to hopefully catch him off guard. The tip of it missed by mere centimeters, his reaction being a quick blink a few feet behind where he had been standing. A single finger was raised, shaking it with a low chuckle, “Very good, lass, but try to actually hit me.”

In the next second he had turned invisible leaving her to only her senses. Every leaf was watched, listening for a mere rustle of cloth. She knew that though he was invisible by sight he was still solid, which meant he affected the environment. Stooping low she started down the single hall, wondering if Besk had ducked into one of the dorm rooms. In the thrill of the hunt she nearly forgot to breathe, rhythm shallow and quick.

A shadow passing over the wall to her left had her turn, slicing outwards toward the origin behind her. She was met with a brief view of a grinning Awoken fading out of sight with no real trajectory considering he was vanishing into another dorm. In a twist of her body she tried to follow but was yanked backwards. A Human had taken hold of her cloak and pulled with all of her strength which made Sedna land on her back, cracking her head against the floor. Before she could swing again at the Hunter she was gone, melting into the foliage as she darted down the hall.

“…okay…think…” Sedna muttered to herself, Ghost having hovered above her to keep out of the way while she glanced about, “If I was a Hunter with a taste for pranks, where would I be?”

Regaining her footing she faced down the hall, putting her back towards the elevator, glancing to her left and right yet she didn’t advance further. Her quickened breathing slowed to deep inhales, exhales kept to pressured releases between her lips. It looked like she was struggling, unsure what to do next after the two embarrassed her.

With a spread of her feet she prepared to lunge forward, blade held in the standard grip as her arm started to reel backwards in preparation to strike. Just as it seemed she was about to lash out again she pulled her own little trick. The grip on the knife was switched, reversing it to where the tip pointed out behind her. It seemed like she was going to stab nothing at all, but instead metal met metal. The result was Besk flashing back into existence, his own knife having caught hers, particles washing off of him, “Well, lass, you’ve certainly earned your own dorm room despite being taken by surprise twice. How did you know I was here?”

“It was a gut feeling,” Sedna had a rather pleased smirk on her face when she turned to face him, offering his weapon back.

“Extra credit for trusting your instincts,” Besk took the knife, sheathing it in the back of his belt before he laid an arm across her shoulders, steering her towards the elevator, “And with half an hour to spare. You did better than I did, took me a whole hour to tag someone. Better get used to this game too, we play it every Friday night and use all of our dorm levels for it.”

“So that’s it? I’m in?” Sedna asked, looking over her shoulder to see the rest of the Hunters popping into visual existence as they talked among themselves, all heading to dinner. The camaraderie was strong, the volume of their boisterous conversing growing.

“Lass, you were one of us the moment you stepped off the elevator. We just like to make the new kids sweat a little to make sure they can handle it.”

| | |

Ghost’s One Liners

“Mental note: Never tick you off.”

“Did we forget to get you breakfast again? Is that why you’re grumpy?”

“Oh, do that again, I wasn’t watching!”

“Didn’t we push your bed against the wall to avoid waking up on the wrong side? It doesn’t seem to be working.”

“Whoa, no need for such violence! Heh, I’m kidding, carry on.”

“That’s a war face if I’ve ever seen one.”

“I’m glad I don’t wear pants because they’d be brown right about now.”

“This is gonna make such a great story to tell during dinner. Wait, do you eat? Like fish flakes or something?”

“We’re surrounded, perfect. Now you can’t miss.”

“You scare me sometimes.”

“What do you call a fallen Fallen? Just irony.”

“What do you call a room full of Thralls? Melee practice.”

“Remind me to wash your undersuit when we get home.”

“Don’t be mad but I think I forgot to pack the ammo synthesis.”

“Why are you running? You have a Sparrow.”

“Are you on your period? You’ve been rageful more than normal lately.”

“Wipe your boots, you just stepped in blood.”

Brutal

If there was ever a time to have a bowl of popcorn and beer it was in the observer’s room of Crucible where rows upon rows of tables and chairs were filled with Guardians currently off duty. There was nothing more exciting than watching fellow Guardians beat the living daylights out of each other in a controlled environment to see who was top dog. Today’s matches were of especially high viewership due to one person in particular and though she was not immortal she had the nickname for a reason.

“Hey Anders, did you let Luka and the rest know we were meeting up here?” a brute of an Awoken Titan flopped onto a seat next to the Human Warlock, the chair threatening to break underneath him, “I’ve never known Luka to be late for a show.”

“They’re coming, Svet, I’m sure. I think he had to pick up his date first,” Anders moved a massive bowl of popcorn on the table between them. Where they were sitting was strategically picked out since it was between two monitors that overlooked the majority of the battlefield, each of the smaller ones below was from the vantage point of a fighter. The only thing on the screens though was the Crucible emblem with a countdown that was currently at two minutes.

“Luka has a date? Who in their right mind would date a Hunter? Everyone knows they’re craziest out of all of us,” Svet picked up a handful of popcorn, shoving into his mouth as he talked. Manners weren’t highly thought of, no one had time for that.

“Says the Titan who would rather take a Cabal slug to the helmet than simply move out of the way,” Anders chided, knowing all too well how they fought considering the three of them were part of a six man Crucible team called the Rapscallions.

The Awoken Hunter in question arrived, arm wrapped around a Human Warlock. An attractive one at that who gave a cute little wave as she was introduced. “Guys, this is Faye. Faye, these are the guys.”

Svet and Anders looked between themselves, disbelief strewn across their faces. As much as they wanted to bombard her with questions of ‘Why this guy?’ and ‘What are you thinking?’ there was no time at all. The Crucible countdown was on twenty seconds and dwindling. It was Faye that shushed Luka, shoving him into a seat and taking one next to him. It was practically a sin to miss the intro to the match, all eyes on the screens that spanned from one end of the room to the other.

“Today’s Crucible match brought to you by Future War Cult, gametype is Control,” the announcer came over the speakers, Blind Watch flickering across the monitors, “Alpha team is Raptor Regiment, Beta team is randomized.”

On the left large screen the Alpha team rezzed in, on the right screen was the randoms. The Guardian everyone was waiting for came into view, a female Hunter that immediately had the crowd chanting her name, “Rhamy! Rhamy! Rhamy!”

“Wait guys, where’s Jordan, Basil, and Uyu?” Luka had turned around, looking at his two team mates. Each of them pointed up at the screen, jaws dropped. The other half of their team had entered as randoms and were now fighting along Rhamy. Jordan was a male Exo Hunter, Basil being a female Human Warlock, and Uyu was a male Exo Titan. To have half their team making up half of Beta was both a slap in the face and an honor considering who they were matched up with.

“Looks like your buddies had better plans than hanging out with you, Luka,” Faye leaned over, giving her little quip before wrapping an arm around his, “Don’t worry, I have some faith, my strange coins are on Beta.”

Before the Hunter could fire his own comment back at his girlfriend he was hushed by the timer reaching zero. Rhamy was the first to move, taking a knee at ‘A’ with her sights down the scout rifle. The comm chatter from both teams came through the speakers of their respective monitors, the spectators going silent for the most part to listen.

“I want one Hunter behind this point to protect it, the other make a run for ‘C’ with a Warlock following. The second Warlock will remain between ‘A’ and ‘B’ to provide cover fire. I’ll take the Titan and we’ll storm ‘B’. Same strategy as always, ladies and gentleman, keep two as ours and only take the third if we can spare it and watch out for the spawn flip,” Rhamy came over the line, issuing orders just like the Crucible veteran she was.

“Why should I even listen to you? We’re not a clan,” an unnamed Warlock piped up. His mistake was that he was kneeling right next to Rhamy. Before he knew it she decked him across the visor, his only saving grace was that she held back most of her strength.

“Because I said so. You better have self-resurrection because you just made it apparent that you’re not worth the four seconds of anyone’s time to be revived much less by your Ghost’s,” Rhamy hauled him back up to his feet by the collar of his robes, “You get to stay here and babysit.”

The rest of the team split up, heading off into their assigned directions. Rhamy and Uyu button hooked the doorway, Uyu staying atop the stairs to keep an eye on the lower hall and the doorway to the right while she slid into the proximity circle of ‘B’. Two Hunters came zipping over the railing, one heading for each of them. Uyu started and finished his attacker with a simple handcannon round to the face while shadestepped behind a pillar for cover, luring the Hunter to her. In the precious few milliseconds she rammed her knife into his visor followed up with a volley of rounds from her scout rifle.

The announcer came over the speakers, drowning out the comm chatter, “Uyu draws first blood. Beta team occupies ‘A’ and ‘B’ taking the lead.”

“Yeah! Get some!” Svet couldn’t help himself, entirely too excited for his clanmate. Yet, the jubilation died in an instant as a strange sight flicked up into a main viewing monitor. It was the insubordinate Warlock, seated on the railing between ‘B’ and ‘A’ with his weapon holstered on his back. He wasn’t fighting, and he certainly wasn’t defending.

A pair of members from Raptor Regiment rounded the corner, aiming down the line to quickly take him out. Yet, neither of them fired, the sight of a Guardian not participating throwing up a red flag to them. Raising up their hands, weapons pointed to the sky they quickly spoke to their captain who spoke aloud, “GameMaster, we have an issue. Requesting open communication with Beta.”

“Issue acknowledged,” the announcer stated, “Open lines confirmed, timer stopped.”

The game was at a complete stand still, each Guardian holstering their weapons and raising their hands. It wasn’t exactly a surrender, just a timeout in the battle due to just one person not wanting to play along.

“Rhamy,” the Raptor captain, “You have a Warlock not participating. Would you like to take care of it?”

“My sincerest apologies, Captain,” she emerged from the doorway sounding rather sincere, having left ‘B’ unattended, Uyu right behind her. The Warlock just sat there, arms folding over his chest defiantly as she approached. Her tone had instantly changed to icy authority, “Guardian, what is your malfunction?”

“I don’t take orders from just anyone,” he snapped at her, sliding off the railing to stand but still had his arms folded, “You earn my respect.”

By now the Raptor Regiment and Beta team had created a loose half circle around the two. The spectators were on the verge of screaming, not doing so simply because they knew they would not be heard back on Earth at the Tower.

The Raptor captain stepped forward, placing an hand on Rhamy’s shoulder piece, “Kid, you have no idea who this is, do you? This is Rhamy, the Eternal Exo. She’s been fighting against the Darkness since the Tower was first built, she’s one of the oldest Guardians still in service. I’m honored just to be playing a game with her, much less being in her presence. It’s a rare thing to have her come out of the field to play a little Crucible.”

“At what point was I supposed to care? I must have missed it,” the Warlock spat, nose turning even higher in the air, “Titans and Hunters should be taking orders from Warlocks anyways.”

If there was ever a time that ten people wanted to kill one person, it was now. This was of course excluding the people back home watching that were raging against the screens. The only person that didn’t want to was Rhamy, she had another idea.

“Captain, have you ever had the Strength of the Pack merit?” she asked calmly.

“No, ma’am,” he removed his hand, curious as to what she was getting at.

“Perfect,” she folded her hands behind her back, still staring at the Warlock who matched her gaze,” GameMaster, reset the scores. Transfer myself and the four other active players to Alpha. This Warlock will be the only Beta team member. We’re going to teach him a little lesson.”

“And what if I don’t stay? I can leave any time I want to,” he still was as belligerent with his ‘holy-er than though’ mentality.

“Dude! Just shut up and take the beating!” Luka yelled at the screen, obviously unheard.

“If you leave before this game is done, if you do not properly play, I will have your Ghost revoked from you and have your status changed to Civilian,” Rhamy stated rather in a matter-of-fact way.

“You can’t do that,” he started to protest only to be interrupted.

“Actually, she can,” the GameMaster piped up over the line, “She has more service time than Zavala, Ikora Rey, and the Speaker combined.”

“I’m a legend. It’s best you start rewriting yours right now.”

Before he could say much else the Guardians were dropped at their spawn points. The rest of the game a laughable exhibition, the Warlock unable to gain more than ten points much less stay alive for longer than seven seconds. The crowd back on Earth were quite enjoying the slaughter.

“Can she really do that?” Faye asked, curious as to Rhamy’s influence, “Can she really take away someone’s Ghost and kick them out of the Tower?”

“No, the GameMaster is always up for a good show so he just played along,” Anders said between mouthfuls of popcorn, “But he is right about her service time, that’s why she’s called the Eternal Exo.”

“Huh… I guess this means I lose the bet,” Faye wasn’t too pleased about that part.

“How many strange coins did you bet on Beta?” Luka asked, starting to fish around in his pouches to replace whatever his girlfriend had lost.

“Twenty thousand,” she answered sheepishly. The answer had the three freeze, staring at her in disbelief. “What? I find alot of engrams.”

| | |

The Reason

Today was not a holiday, nor a day for any particular celebration for the Last Free City. It was merely another Tuesday, the serenity pierced by the sound of construction but that had become a normal part of the ambience around the Traveler. The citizens had come to accept the noise and traffic of Ghosts along with certified engineers as just another everyday occurrence. What was so out of place was the Warlock that stood underneath the injured orb, the Human merely staring straight up with his hands behind his back.

The visitation of Guardians was welcomed, who could blame them for wanting to see the very creature that helped bring them back to life through the grace of a Ghost? There was always an unspoken bond between the Traveler and Guardians, some stronger than others, but each one had their own way of showing their appreciation and dedication to their duty.

“We’re pushing back, Traveler,” the Warlock said aloud, not minding if the care crew heard him, “The line of Darkness has started to recede back and though it’s long from being over we can see progress. We may be sparse but we’re resilient, we won’t fail you.”

“Well said, Guardian,” an Awoken had snuck up on him, along with a handful of elementary students she had in tow who openly marveled at the Warlock, “See kids? They’re just like you and me, no need to be shy.”

The Warlock turned to the group giving a rather low bow for a second, a grin quickly growing across his face. “My apologies, Miss, had I known I would be interrupting a field trip I would have stepped aside.”

“Oh don’t be silly! You’re the highlight of our day,” the teacher waved for the kids to keep going though she didn’t step past him, “We’re just making our monthly visit to drop off the flowers we grow in the school’s greenhouse. It’s just a little token of our gratitude.”

Most of the students stared as they went by, some tripping over themselves as they all tried to get a good look at the Warlock and his gear. A few tugged on the end of his robes but he made no effort to shoo them off. The care crew had cordoned off the area, the protocol ingrained so the students didn’t wander off into places they shouldn’t be alone. Having visitors was never a bother considering the Traveler hardly required the crew to do much other than make sure resourced were available in close proximity to further the healing process.

“Flowers for the Traveler, that’s actually an endearing gesture,” the Warlock watched the students carry handfuls of snipped blooms to special offering dais that was directly under the Traveler’s center, “Does every school do this?”

“No, just us. There’s very few resources to grow what we offer and I don’t dare take the students near the walls to pick more. We may be safe with you all at the Tower, but I would rather not take the risk,” the teacher flanked around him to pick up a particularly small child, a little Human boy with permanent crutches. He was the only one without a flower in hand. Holding him to her hip she tossed a smile to the Warlock, “It was wonderful to meet you, Guardian, I hope by the grace of the Traveler you see us through this war.”

The boy had an expression of both sadness and envy, having locked his eyes on the Warlock rather than anything else. All of the other students were going about their Tuesday trip ritual, arranging the flowers and enjoying the merriment.

“Miss,” the Warlock came beside her, holding out her arms, “May I see him for a second?”

“Uh, sure,” the teacher was apprehensive but handed the child over, making sure he wasn’t harmed in the process.

“Have you ever flown?” the Warlock asked, setting the boy on his shoulder.

“No?” he answered, a bit confused since it was readily apparent that he couldn’t walk well much less fly.

“Would you like to?”

“Yes!”

“May I take him for a few minutes, Miss?” the Guardian asked, not wanting to merely run off with a child.

“As long as he doesn’t miss the next class,” she grinned, knowing the Warlock had nothing but the best intentions in mind.

Before the boy knew it he was at the Tower, looking out over the Last Free City and the Traveler, perched on the shoulders of the Warlock. The Guardian had borrowed a flight harness from the shipwright, strapping the kid down tight so neither of them would have to worry about accidentally letting go.

“Ready?” the Warlock asked, standing at the railing.

“Ready!” more than one voice answered.

He found the rest of the boy’s class behind him, bound tight to the shoulders of other Warlocks, Hunters, and Titans who had volunteered to give the kids an experience they’d never forget. The teacher was off to the side with the Speaker, silently shrugging at the Warlock with a grin. It seemed like the idea spread like wildfire before he knew it.

The Guardians stepped up to the edge, their kid locked down to their armor to avoid any catastrophic mishaps. In unison they climbed the railing, any air traffic having cleared out immediately including wandering Ghosts. Wordlessly the Guardians jumped into open air, initiating their glide and float abilities to delay their descent.

Shrieks and laughter painted the atmosphere as the children flailed, arms spread out as the winds rushed past them. To them this was as close to flying they would ever know, feeling a weightless freedom that was like no other sensation. There was not a care in the world, not a fear of anything, simply enjoying the fact it was merely them and their beloved Guardians dancing about the air currents like foliage seedlings.

The line of them started to fall into disarray, curling and spiraling about each other like butterflies in a blossoming field, nothing but the city below them and the sky above. Just when it seemed the excitement descended into enjoyment a new development in the flight came forth.

Hunters blinked into existence in the whirling cloud, releasing armfuls of flower petals to drift among them. From below it looks like an explosion of color, the combined laughter of children and Guardians a rolling thunder. As they all knew today had no real cause for celebration, but they had all survived another day and the Traveler still blessed them despite being so crippled. If that was not a cause for a sporadic show of gratefulness and to throw off the stress of being on the brink of extinction for a minute or two then what was? For all that witnessed such an event the entire universe was forgotten, simply drinking in moment before it would inevitably end.

The landings were soft on a surface street, petals having snagged into crevices of armor and buried into hair, but no one seemed to care. Released from the harnesses the students hugged their carriers before heading off with their teacher. It was something they would never forget, not the children nor the Guardians.

“And that’s what makes all of this worth it,” the Warlock stated, voice cracking a bit.

“What does?” his Ghost asked out of curiosity.

The Warlock was choked up by the crippled boy being lifted up by his teacher, giving a weak wave as tears streamed down his smiling face. It was the first time, and mostly the last, that the boy would ever come to know the feeling of being absolutely free. War was a treacherous road and this one had already spanned a few centuries would continue on for more.

“I do not fight for honor, glory, or even the Traveler. I fight for the children, to free them of the nightmares that plague their future.”

| | |

Eternally Lost

The realm in which the team had delved into was one they had not expected in complexity or difficulty, caught off guard by the mere massiveness of what laid before them. Before they left Earth they became aware that there was a possibility they would not return, yet the fireteam of three accepted the mission. The Speaker himself came to their departure along with a handful of their comrades.

It was known that this three had fallen to the grave together during one of the final battles of the Collapse and it was pure coincidence they were risen by their Ghosts at the same time. A rare event thus why they were commonly referred to as the Triplets, having fought together since their resurrection. With a trio so in tune wwith each other there was hardly any other fireteam or clan that qualified for such a dangerous task.

Evline was the youngest, an Awoken Warlock who more often that not had her nose in a book and if she wasn’t fighting she was studying. The best way that anyone ever described her was a ‘ball of adorable energy in robes’ which was spot on with her bubbly personality.

Damaskis was the middle child, for lack of a better term, a Human Hunter with blacker bags under his eyes than what might have been scientifically possible. A flat browed expression had become permanent on his tired features, yet he was usually chewing on some sort of candy he made in his dorm.

Rinalt was the oldest of the three, a Human Titan and the most serious. No one had ever heard him laugh much less smile, it seemed his only emotions were rage, calm, and extreme over-protectiveness of his so called siblings. In his mind a punch to the face was a better answer than words.

The three were sent off with honors to Venus, investigating a threshold that Ikora Rey called an ‘impossible plane of tyranny’. Others who had gone only as far as the first crevice just in sight of the opening could agree with the statement. There was an evil lurking at the end of the winding descent of nearly infinite space.

A hydra had been passed by, one larger than they had ever seen. Damaskis had found a way through without drawing it’s attention, a hole in the wall having an opening big enough to crawl through to a chasm that only spiraled deeper down into the awaiting depths. The next obstacle they found being a labyrinth, naming the newly found Vex sentients Gorgons. After such was a canyon, taking their time crossing it to avoid being swallowed up by the dark below.

Upon entering the next room they found themselves locked in. Another Hydra, a plethora of Hobgoblins, and with the sudden primal need of surviving at any cost kicking in. Hydras and Praetorians bled from the walls like white blood cells trying to wipe out the virus of Guardians that had infiltrated their hold. Despite the learning curve the trio managed to bring the battle to an end, believing that was the grand finale.

“Evline, Damaskis, sit rep,” Rinalt had collapsed at entrance of the room, his back to the sealed door. While he struggled to breathe he reloaded, wanting to be prepared just in case.

“I’m fine, just a few broken ribs,” the Hunter spoke up, having found a crevice to lodge himself into while recovering, wheezing over the comm line.

“I think I shattered my shoulder, I can’t move my left arm at all,” Evline stated, the amount of pain evident in her voice.

“Just stay still, we’ll…” Rinalt had started to say, words going sour in his mouth as he witnessed a horror before him at the other end, “By the Traveler…”

“What is that?” Damaskis asked, panic seeping into his tone.

“It’s Atheon,” Evline answered, knowing all too well from her hundreds of hours studying.

It was rookie mistake for not immediately regrouping, the three spread out too far to do so with the extent of their injuries. Atheon formed on the dias, firing upon the three without pause. While he was confined to the more open spaces he had taken aim upon Rinalt most of all, the Titan instinctively initiating his bubble shielding. A barrage was taken yet the protection did not falter under the pressure.

“I’ll come to you,” Rinalt started to stand, using his pulse rifle as a crutch to do so, “He can’t get back here so we can bunker down until help arrives.”

“Wait!” Evline called out, Atheon having ceased fire which caused concern. In the next moment he raised the free hand, claws spread out towards the glass shard ceiling which made the Warlock scream, “No! Stop!”

In the next moment Damaskis and Rinalt found themselves instantly transported to another area. Before they had strategically maneuvered the portals but this was different. Now they had a new threat and no time to reload.

“Evline, open the portal! Left side!” Damaskis called out, the comm line starting to fill with static.

“On it!” she started to move, needing to cross from one end to the other. To her relief Atheon had stayed frozen in his poise, yet she was now faced with Harpies coming out of the stonework. While it would have been a fight she’d simply do one handed with a handcannon one single thing stopped her on the central platform.

The sound of Oracles on the comm.

“Rinalt! Damaskis! Shoot them! Shoot the lights!” she screamed, taking out the Harpies one by one from the platform, trying to clear a path. There was no time for it to register that her adrenaline was running at an all time high, gut twisted into knots.

“I can’t see!” Damaskis called out, frazzled for the first time since coming back to life.

“Evline! We’re blinded! What do we-…”

Rinalt’s question died with him, the Oracles having slain him where he stood, while firing despite his lack of vision as he went down. Damaskis fell beside him, the brothers dying with their weapons in hands. She howled in horror as she too was wiped from the realm of the living. The battle went silent for a few seconds, the dust already starting to settle. It was a tragic ordeal, Light having been extinguished so quickly it’s like they were never there at all. But, there was one glimmer of hope.

From a raging burst of flames Evline exploded into existence, roaring in fury as she ran straight for Atheon. One round after another from her Hawkmoon barreled into the Vex’s chest, the fiery wings giving her the appearance of a vindictive angel. It was a fruitless effort, she would never be able to take down Atheon alone, it was the sorrow of losing her brothers that drove her to madness. A single blast from Atheon’s rifle obliterated her legs, making her land at his feet face down.

In a last ditch effort her Ghost materialized and started the countdown to return to orbit. If he could only save her he would fulfill his duties. Atheon had another idea, snatching up the Ghost between his claws and starting to squeeze.

“Theo!” Evline had propped herself up on an arm, reaching upwards towards him as she bled out, “Save yourself!”

A shower of Ghost fragments rained down upon her, her way of escaping, her way of reviving, her way of surviving taken away in a mere second. The halved Guardian picked up her Hawkmoon, raising it to unload the clip at the Vex as she let loose an agonizing cry. There was nothing left to do, nothing else to live for, she would atleast go out fighting. Atheon met her barrel with his, only needing to fire once.

Thus where the first casualties of the Vault of Glass.

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The Epoch Protocol

Articles
A: Combat Etiquette
I. Engaging the Enemy
II. Camaraderie
III. Dispute Settlement
IV. Crucible Behavior
V. Faction Discretion
B: Tower Rules
I. Weaponry
II. Armor
III. Harassment
IV. Pranks
C: Personal Lives
I. Dating
II. Marriage
III. Children
IV. Property
V. Ownership
D: Expectations
I. Speaker’s
II. Traveler’s
III. Humanity’s
IV. Ghost’s

A: Combat Etiquette

I. Engaging the Enemy – It is expected of all Guardians to abide by a simple code of honor when in battle with the enemy. This is left to translation from one Guardian to next, for example a Titan might not fire until s/he is seen while a Hunter will gladly take the opportunity to surprise. The general rule understood is that a Guardian shall not put others at risk when supremely outnumbered and/or outskilled to avoid unnecessary revivals or losses in Darkness zones.

II. Camaraderie – A Guardian may work with any they so wish as long as the partnership is mutual. One cannot be forced to work with another for any reason. Of course, a Guardian may also work solo and not be questioned, even by authority figures.

III. Dispute Settlement – If a Guardian has an issue with another it may be settled in one of two ways. The first is a one on one Crucible match with agreement on weaponry or fisticuffs, first to ten kills wins. The second is a Vanguard strike side by side, the highest kill count is the winner. Clan against clan is normal rivalry and does not condone a match of any sort.

IV. Crucible Behavior – All results for Crucible, including Iron Banner, are final and non-negotiable. While rivalry and competitive attitudes are encouraged they may not bleed into everyday lives. Guardian on Guardian violence starts and stops in the Crucible arenas. No exceptions.

V. Faction Discretion – A Guardian may choose any faction they wish to enroll with, whether it is one or more. No faction authority figure may pressure, blackmail, coerce, or otherwise persuade a Guardian to serve only their faction. No Guardian may harass or pressure another to serve a specific faction. All Guardians have the right to serve none.

B: Tower Rules

I. Weaponry – All weapons shall remain holstered and/or slung while on Tower premises unless otherwise permitted by a weaponsmith or within a personal dorm. A weapon may only be discharged at the firing range located in the armory. The only exception is when the City and/or the Tower is under attack, otherwise expenditure of ammo is forbidden.

II. Armor – A Guardian must wear armor at all times when outside of the Last Free City. They may also wear as little armor as they wish when at the Tower. It is a Guardian’s personal responsibility to ensure that their armor is clean, efficient, and properly functioning before and after each usage.

III. Harassment – For no reason should a Guardian be harassed for their race, gender, faction, faction ranking, class, armor rig, weapon loadout, shader, banner, Sparrow, ship, Ghost, career choice, or personal choice. No exceptions.

IV. Pranks – Shenanigans are not frowned upon and humor is greatly encouraged to improve morale but they may not cause one or more of the following: Interrupting Tower operations, jeopardizing battlefield objectives, interfere and/or cease a necessary task or procedure, cause psychological harm, cause mental harm, cause physical harm, cause environmental damage, cause structural damage, or be mean-spirited.

C: Personal Lives

I. Dating – A Guardian is at liberty to date any Guardian or adult civilian, no matter their gender, race, age, faction, duty, or class. Relationships do not have to be disclosed for any reason.

II. Marriage – A Guardian may marry anyone they so wish after three months of courtship. The delay is to prevent any ‘Vegas’ style decisions. A divorce can be declared by one side for one or more legitimate reasons and will be finalized after a week. The delay is to prevent decisions done outside of sound mind and body.

III. Children – A Guardian may procreate or adopt as many children as they so wish, whether they have a partner or not. In the event a single parent Guardian does not return the children become wards of the Tower and will be provided for until they are eighteen. In the event of a divorce a Guardian is automatically given fifty percent of custody to all children effected unless otherwise declared or agreed upon.

IV. Property – All Guardian related materials, armor, weapons, and currency belong to the sole owner. Under no circumstance is another entitled to the property of a Guardian, this includes divorce. Upon permanent death a Guardian’s items will be salvaged by the staff of the Tower. Only Motes of Light, Strange Coins, and class items may be given as gifts and passed through inheritance.

V. Ownership – A Guardian may own a dwelling and/or a plot of land outside of the Tower but inside the walls of the City. When a divorce is finalized the dwelling/land is given to the spouse and/or children. Upon permanent death the ownership will transfer to the spouse and/or children. If neither instance applies the ownership will be dissolved for the dwelling/land to be auctioned off and all proceeds will be divided among the school districts and orphanages.

D: Expectations

I. Speaker’s – Defeat The Darkness

II. Traveler’s – Protect The People

III. Humanity’s – Seek Our Survival

IV. Ghost’s – Fight For Our Future

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