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[personal profile] southernisms
All along the watchtower, princes kept the view
While all the women came and went, barefoot servants, too.

"Looks like some trouble below."

The Hunter known as Klavdiya Kalugina wolfed down the rest of her instant bread before jamming her helmet back on, as her Ghost killed the music. Once again, she was grateful that she had cut her hair ages ago. While it had never been especially long, it nevertheless would have caught on the armour had she not taken a razor to it; the messy bob look she now sported made things considerably easier. Pulling up the hood of her cloak with her left hand and grabbing her sniper rifle with her right, the Hunter rose to one knee and looked down through the scope. It didn't take long to find what her Ghost was referencing; the giant globes of shrieking black energy were hard to miss even from over two kilometres away.

Something was happening to the Fallen down below, and whatever it was looked especially bad.

Vanguard and the Warlocks at the Tower still had yet to figure out what this phenomenon was, happening sporadically at various places and times. At first glance, it appeared as if the enemies in question were being replaced with these strange duplications. One theory was that these were simply tests for some odd shielding technology, but that didn't seem to add up to their strange behaviour and change in abilities. Some of them even reminded her of the Hive's particular brand of cannon fodder – Thralls – but their jerky movements and rapid teleportation was more like how the mechanical Vex moved. And the latter hadn't come to Earth.

Then there was the fact that the Fallen who had not been transformed by that dark energy were actively fighting those which had been. What the actual fuck is going on down there?

"Are there any other Guardians nearby?" the Hunter asked Zaytsev – her Ghost – as she loaded her rifle and began sniping the closest hostile forces. She wasn't picking up anything on her LIDAR, but her Ghost's sensors might be able to locate others while she searched for signs of something more powerful than the oily-black versions of Dregs and Vandals. Something such as a Captain or a Servitor would be manageable, but Traveller help them if something worse showed up. She really wasn't in the mood to deal with an Archon or a Servitor Prime today.

"None that I can, wait. There's one, and...ohhh, that does not look good."

Diya had to wait a moment before the dome shield around what looked like a Vandal finally let go before she dropped him. They weren't supposed to be able to do that. "Man, that was annoying. What...ah."

Zaytsev had put it mildly. Nearly two kilometres away was a lone Warlock – a freshly-resurrected KinderGuardian from the looks of it – bravely fending off what had probably been a manageable pack of Fallen which were now very un-manageable larger pack of smoky jet-black mockeries of them, including an inexplicably larger Captain. If she didn’t know any better, the Hunter would have mistaken it for an Archon or even a Baron.

"блядь," she swore. She needed to act, fast.

Quickly reloading, she began rapidly picking off the surrounding Fallen...or whatever the hell they had become. Each half-second, the air echoed with muffled metallic sounds as each shot landed though each head, raining down death from her perch high above and kilometres away. But instead of leaving behind the bodies of Fallen, each disappeared in a black vortex which seemed to fold into itself before dissipating into nothing. If it really was new shielding technology, would catastrophic failure cause that? If the Fallen were playing around with the bizarre biotechnology of the Hive, why would they be fighting each other?

And there was still the problem of that Captain. He didn't seem to have the Warlock pinned, but the looming black monstrosity was blocking one of the ways to another part of the compound.

"Run, dumbass," she muttered as she whittled away at the orange-tinged shield around the Captain, even if the KinderGuardian had no way to hear her. Unfortunately, the damned thing had doubled the durability of a Captain; she didn't seem to be making much of a dent in it. "Get out of can't beat him."

"They can't hear you," her Ghost chimed in, stating the obvious.

"I know he can't, goddammit," Diya snapped. She was going to run out of ammo for her sniper rifle soon, and she was not going to be able to get down there fast enough to dispatch that bastard with her Arc Blade or Golden Gun before he stole the Light from the new Guardian. It was too far to even just pin him with a well-placed blast from her Void Bow long enough for the newbie to make himself scarce. "Just like that Captain can't hear me telling him to just die already."

It didn't help matters that the newbie seemed determined to play the hero, staying nimble on his feet while he tried to cut a swathe through the altered Fallen. Warlocks weren't generally agile, so she would have been impressed if she wasn't cursing at him for taking advantage of her cover and making a run for it the other way.

Then again, was there something else going on that she didn't know about? Did he need to get through to another part of the compound? The Hunter only wished she knew, though as annoyed as she was, she might as well help him out. Diya had a feeling he wasn't going to be diverting from his objective, whatever it was.

Note: OK, did some rearranging so that I'll be introducing Diya and Ali in this chapter at the end. At least that's the plan.
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