southernisms: (Slaine)
[personal profile] southernisms
"Well," the Ghost reported, sounding reluctant. "The good news is that I've found a ship."

Slaine reloaded shells into the shotgun he'd temporarily swapped the rifle out for, his back to the wall as he warily glanced out into the next corridor. The range was terrible, but he was more than grateful for the knock-back when several “Dregs” – he wondered if that was their actual name, or just an observation the Ghost had made regarding their apparent flunky status – had gotten too close, pulling out long knives just as they had gotten within range before being taken down. It had been an unexpected but good find, even if the last time it had been used was probably against another human being. Better not to think about that right now...or the fact that these aliens were likewise sapient beings. Even if they were being controlled by this mysterious “'Darkness”', even if this was supposedly a mercy, that hardly meant he had to like it. In fact, the very idea repulsed him.

"Er...what's the bad news?"

"It's surrounded by Fallen,." came the vocalized, slightly digitally-reverberated reply.

Bloodshed, it would appear, was inevitable. "Of course it would be," he muttered in resignation.

The passage looked clear enough, and nothing was showing up in the immediate vicinity on the Light Detection And Ranging system built into the helmet, but Slaine nevertheless proceeded cautiously, retrieving the rifle from the magnetic harness and replacing it with the shotgun.

Carefully, the Guardian circumvented areas displaying in red on the LIDAR, likely going well out of his way to reach whatever hangar the promised ship lay rusting in. If it could at least fly, he might be able to reach at least a relatively safe – or at least Fallen-free area – to scavenge enough parts to patch it up for the much longer trip to the City. That was, of course, assuming he could avoid further conflicts. The issue of being able to find more ammo aside, he had already used one of his pulse grenades and he could already tell it would be a while before he could use one again. The way his Ghost explained it to him was that this mysterious “Light” was akin to a renewable resource of energy where the necessary reserves would take time to recharge before another grenade could manifest. It was a little inconvenient, but not something he could do anything about. He should be grateful he could even do anything of the sort at all.

Despite the situation, he couldn’t help but smile at the memory of the first time he’d thrown one – it had been unintentional as what he’d been trying to do was merely concentrate this so-called Light into a weapon. At least, that’s what the Ghost had told him to do, but whatever it had been expecting was not what could only be described as a grenade of pure ball lightning. The humour of the memory was in how the Ghost, a faceless entity, had somehow visibly expressed utter shock through its features. Once it had gotten over said shock, the Ghost had explained that the ability to condense raw electrical current into a throwable object was an ability only known to individuals called ”Stormcallers”. Having previously established he was a particular kind of Guardian known as a ”Warlock”, the Ghost finally explained why he’d been shocked: Warlocks being resurrected as Stormcallers was unheard of. Having only occurred within the past hour or two, all the terms Ghost had thrown around were still bouncing around in his head trying to make sense of themselves, though the time for making sense of a dictionary’s worth of terms was not now. What he now was and what these powers of his were from – aside from the cryptic references to “the Traveller” – whomever he was – were still a mystery to him, but all that mattered currently was he was quickly learning to use his new-found abilities and they would become very handy to him very soon.

In the meantime, it was challenging enough navigating through the weathered ruins and the vegetation tangled within it, what with the added feeling of racing against time despite not knowing how much time was left on the clock. Nothing that couldn’t be overcome, though, even with the occasional pocket or two of Dregs badly needing bullet implants in their vitals before they could put the same into his. Oddly, a small part in the back of his mind wouldn’t have minded – welcomed, even – the onset of death’s embrace by such means, but such fatalistic inclinations were quickly ignored. He’d already been dead and was not desperate to be a corpse again any time soon.

"Huh," the Ghost mused, the construct twisting around in a chorus of mechanical grinding and electronic chirps, as its optical lens focused on the peculiar metal grating over a window. "Looks like the grating had a high-voltage charge; they were clearly trying to keep something in or out.” The Ghost looked at Slaine and gave his final opinion on their locale: “This was a military prison, all right."

Slaine thought on it, and the prognosis wasn’t confidence-boosting in the least. With all the abilities he had – clearly that on the Special Operations level, if not super-elite – it likely meant that he hadn’t been a guard, visitor or staff. Even the strongest of highly-trained soldiers could be stopped by enough firepower or armament, and not even the best of the best knew how to survive a round to the head.

"...Are you sure you revived the right person?" he muttered rhetorically, half-hoping his robotic companion wouldn’t hear.

Unfortunately, the Ghost did. "I'm sure," the artificial intelligence assured him. "I've scanned countless corpses in countless areas for countless years...yours was the only Light-compatible one I’d found."

Slaine had to give the Ghost credit; it appeared to understand his uncertainty. Not that he was probably hiding it all that well even through the helmet.

"If it's any comfort," Ghost continued, "The area I found you in was outside what I think were the holding cells. In fact, your corpse was in what looked like...well, it wasn't a ship exactly, but it had to have been some kind of military hardware. A big one, from the looks of it. Not a tank, but..."

A vague image emerged in his head of an elegant white construction duplicating a human form, which would have easily dwarfed the ruined buildings and even the towering trees he was currently desperately making his way through. Was it a memory, or something which his still-dazed mind conjured up? Though it just as quickly disappeared from his mind's eye, he was certain that whatever wreckage he had been revived from had been from something entirely different. "Some kind of big robot shaped kind of like a person?"

"That was awfully specific. But I think you might be right." The Ghost reacted as if recalling something he’d read. “There are ancient records of Golden Age hardware called ‘kataphrakts’ that were essentially well-oversized versions of your powered armour. However, the Vanguard has found so little evidence that most of it was considered PSYOPS.”

Still, even if it wasn't the fleeting image he had imagined, Slaine figured something of a similar make would be more than useful. He might not even have to fight at all if he could salvage one, especially if it had flight capabilities. That still left a problem of a fuel source, but he'd worry about crossing that proverbial bridge when he got to it. "Is there anything like that around here which is still serviceable?" the towhead asked.

He got the sense of the Ghost shaking its head. "I'm afraid not," it responded with a regretful tone, dashing any potential plans Slaine had started to entertain. "A lot has been lost since the end of the Golden Age...we're lucky I've located so much as a jumpship in this mess. The Fallen really did a number on the place and they probably looted most of the useful hardware. That's to say nothing of how to even reconstruct such a machine, as it would be impossible in our current state – again, remember that any knowledge of it was classified as false intelligence. That's even assuming we could locate blueprints for..."

"I get it, I get it," Slaine waved his free hand impatiently. "Let's just find the ship and worry about possibilities later." However, this left him in a depressing scenario: things had come down to a very basic rule of survival. Either he fought his way out and found the mysterious sanctuary his Ghost alluded to...or he died here. But how would the odd AI fare in the latter scenario? Even if its human-like tendencies turned out to be nothing more than an illusion, and considering the fact it had flown all around countless places scanning dead people without having come into danger, in their brief time together he had come to think of it as alive, its apparent emotions real. "If I'm killed, what happens to you?"

"I'm bound to you now," it explained. "Even before I found you, the Traveller made me to find you. And if your Light is stolen, I'll die too."

That settled it; he couldn't drag someone else down with him, even a very quirky living machine. "Then we fight our way out, find a ship, and get to this City you mentioned."

"Glad we it..."

Suddenly, red sections flared to life on Slaine's LIDAR even as he heard the warning, followed seconds later by more Fallen troops appearing with their weapons already drawn and firing. Unfortunately, the narrow corridor provided nothing in the way of cover and barely any more space to manoeuvre. Two Dregs managed to score several hits, the shield eating a few and the armour a few more, but one punched through it all, passing through Slaine’s shoulder like a piece of paper. The sensation was akin to stabbed in the shoulder with a hot dagger. How he knew what either felt like remained a mystery like everything else, but whatever the case was, it hurt like hell.

Gritting his teeth to help bear the pain in his right shoulder, Slaine flattened himself against the wall as much as he could, using the structure to brace his arm long enough to quickly reload and dispatch the pair - and a third Fallen who had popped up from cover close to them. He fully expected a fresh wave of pain once the adrenaline started to wear off, but much to his surprise his injuries appeared to mend after a few moments of recovery. Even more surprising was that his armour was likewise repaired without so much as a scorch-mark. As convenient as this new-found regenerative ability was, it was likewise downright unsettling.

"The way to the ship is through here," the Ghost remarked, interrupting his train of thought while indicating a passageway off to the right.

If nothing else, Slaine reasoned, at least one good thing to come out of his current state was that he wouldn't be limping broken and bleeding all the way to this ”City”. Filing away questions about his increasing number of strange, new abilities – along will all the other questions gradually building up in his head – he followed the AI.

= Ψ =

The dim light cast from the Ghost helped negotiating the dark-engulfed passages, but there remained enough hidden obstacles the light couldn’t illuminate to slow progress least, when the Guardian was able to find and avoid them. He stumbled more than a few times over rubble and invading vines, until a particularly nasty tangle caused him to trip outright...directly into the path of a thin line of red laser.

A digital chirp sounded as a sensor went off, a blue light of reception flickered on the connecting mine, and the towhead only had enough time to think of something mildly sarcastic before the “shortest career” his artificial companion alluded to came to an end. That is, assuming that the Ghost was unable to work the same miracle it had before.

As luck would have it, instead of an explosive demise, the laser line had been connected to a dud and so both man and machine narrowly avoided death once more. Yet, even as he lay prone on the ground and heaved a heavy sigh of relief, Slaine wished he could recover from embarrassment as quickly as he now could from physical injury.

"Guardian?" The synthesised voice of his Ghost indicated it was hovering directly above him, its tones suggesting immense relief. "Thank the really had me worried there."

"Just took a sharp blow to the ego is all," the neophyte Warlock muttered as he lifted his head. He didn't dare move further until he could visually pinpoint more tripmines. He wasn't going to try getting lucky a second time, but at least he was able to easily located three more, the first of which was two yards away. "I only wish I'd found these without falling on my face." Not to mention nearly getting myself killed.

Picking himself up and brushing the dirt off the front of his coat, Slaine was able to study the improvised explosive devices better now that the immediate danger had passed and he could focus more clearly. A series of lines of red light criss-crossed and illuminated the narrow corridor ahead, each projected from a small digital device connected to an individual explosive unit. In the distance, Slaine could hear echoes of the Fallen's alien chatter, revealing their presence even as proximity warnings displayed on the helmet's LIDAR. They probably knew he was somewhere nearby, although that could work to his advantage, especially if they had ways of tracking him similar to his own. A plan started to form in his head, hopefully one more viable than his previous one.

Blue-green eyes shifted slightly to his Ghost, regarding it though the strip of visor. "It looks as if these are controlled digitally. Do you think you could hack the control device?"

The glowing eye disappeared for a moment as a shutter lowered over it. For all the world, it looked as if the thing had blinked in momentary surprise. "I...think so, yes. What did you have in mind?"

A few seconds of silence passed as the Guardian worked through his plan. "Deactivate all but the one closest to us and the one at the end of the corridor. And there are probably a lot more tunnels like this with these sensor mines...if you can do the same thing with the others, do it."

"I'll get right on it," it replied, beginning to cycle through the necessary processes and emitting a series of flashing lights. It was still something of a gamble, Slaine knew, trying to turn his enemies' own defences against them, but he would know soon enough whether or not it would work. If it didn't...well, he'd have to adapt to the situation quickly.

The Ghost only required a few seconds to complete its task before it spoke again. "That should do it. Now what?"

Without answering immediately, Slaine picked up a shard of concrete and tossed it into the path of the closest live laser before taking cover behind a water tank to wait. "Now we see if this works. Here goes nothing."

"Actually, it's a rock."

Slaine felt the corners of his mouth lift. He couldn't resist. "Actually, it's concrete."


Suppressing a guffaw, the Guardian had only seconds to wait before his plan loudly announced that it had worked. The sound and vibrations of the explosion was first answered by a Dreg, tearing around the corner with a characteristic muffled scream. The alien was ready to finish off whatever work their traps had done, only to set off the IED at the far end; not a pleasant way to go, by any means. The next hostile was a bit cleverer, shifting to get a clear shot from around his cover and firing at Slaine from across the stretch, but the corridor and mines – deactivated, but the Vandal had no way of knowing that – clipped the Fallen's otherwise agile movements. One of the three blasts of energy managed to nick the Guardian painfully in the arm even as he shifted out from behind the tank and flattened himself against the floor, but the Fallen's restricted position gave Slaine an unobstructed shot at his head. Ether violently escaped through the rupture as the Vandal went down.

"Good work," his Ghost congratulated as he rose and dusted himself off with his left hand. "I would have suggested just shooting them, but that ended up working out a lot better. This must not have been your 'first rodeo', as it goes."

With the deactivated mines more or less intact, Slaine hid his apprehension at the suggestion he had been in battle before with a shrug before advancing to collect the explosives. They were positioned on opposite sides along the walls, alternating between the ceiling and the floor. Shooting each would permanently disable them, and the emitters themselves wouldn't be difficult to hit – given nothing was shooting at him at the moment – but doing so would have wasted both perfectly good ammo and the explosive charges. While he wasn't certain he could reactivate the emitters, the explosives themselves should still be viable...assuming he didn't blow himself up along the way.

"You want me to carry those?” asked the Ghost. “You're going to have your hands full until we get to that ship, metaphorically and literally."

Slaine remained sceptical, but he offered up what he'd collected. He only had time to blink before the IEDs promptly seemed to disappear into thin air. "What was…?"

Had the Ghost been human, he imagined it would be puffing its chest out with pride. "TransMat capabilities. I can store much more than that."

Slaine decided against inquiring further – the most pressing question being just where were these devices being stored – as it would just become a distraction as he grappled with the current situation, along with all the other ones still in his head from earlier. With the corridor clear and no further warnings from the LIDAR, he was free to advance. But while that would normally be a positive, some mysterious instinct warned him not to relax his guard. If there had been other Fallen waiting further ahead, they must have retreated and were in all likelihood regrouping. It would be a mistake to think they had simply given up after all that. It wasn't as if there was any other choice but to press on towards what he could only hope was their way out of this battle zone.

That mysterious instinct proved its worth when they closed in on the jumpship's location. It was just as the Ghost had said; he counted at least seven Fallen soldiers and one which was clearly in a leadership position. Frustratingly, the alleged ship remained beyond his sight, likely in a nearby bay.

The construct seemed about to helpfully fill Slaine in again before the Stormcaller quickly put a finger to his mouth – or as best he could from behind a visor – and quietly signalled to the AI to keep quiet lest it unintentionally give their position away once again. It was probably going to let him know the Fallen with the different appearance and heavier armour was one of the 'captains' it mentioned earlier. Given the numbers and a much tougher opponent, he was definitely going to need a plan, and secrecy was of the essence.

Yet, before Slaine even had the chance to study the environment and find a way to employ the collected ordnance, his thoughts were interrupted by a nightmarish, ear-grating sound like the scream of twisting metal which made his blood run cold. When he turned to search for the source, the situation had taken a turn for the truly demented.

Spheres of inky, blue-tinged black coloration materialised out of nowhere, barrelling forward on a collision course directly into the large group of enemies standing between him and his goal. At first, he considered that some potential ally – or at least another enemy that he could use to his advantage – was attacking the Fallen, and their own apparent panic certainly seemed to suggest it. That optimism quickly died when he realized that in their wake, the mysterious black, smoke-like globes left not destruction in their wake, but a whole new batch of enemies similar in appearance, only coated in blue-black energy.

Slaine made sure to stay put; he doubted that he would fare any better being struck with whatever this attack was. However, his proven instinct screamed at him to get the hell out of there. Now. His Ghost only confirmed it by helpfully panicking with the question. "What are these things?"

The Guardian’s head snapped around, his gaze boring into the glowing eye of the construct. "You mean you don't know?"

"No!" it insisted emphatically. "I've never seen anything like this before!"

Whatever plan Slaine might have come up with in the meantime was quickly dashed when two of the unfamiliar hostiles quickly closed in on him in a series of jerky, yet rapid, zigzag movements. Neither entity wielded any weapons that could be discerned, but that hardly seemed to matter when the oddly-moving pair – seemingly coated in the smoky, blue-black energy of the orbs they’d spawned from – raked him painfully with what could now be identified as sharp claws before he could fire off a round of shots. He repaid the attack in kind soon enough by firing off multiple rounds before they could make another swipe at him.

Bizarrely, rather than falling to the ground and leaving corpses behind as he shot them, the aggressors disappeared in a way similar to their initial appearance, in a vortex of smoke-like energy. It was almost as if space itself had collapsed on them. As if that hadn't made things considerably more difficult, the sound of gunfire had drawn the attention of the other glowing blue-black creatures, having already dealt with the Fallen. The odds were certainly not in his favour now.

Note: FYI for the Destiny fans, the canon point is after the end of the main storyline (after the Black Heart is destroyed) but before The Dark Below, though as you can see, the Taken make an early appearance.

February 2017

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