(**The following tale takes place in the world of Destiny.)
Omil leaped from behind the Cryptarch and landed into a form near invisible behind the warlock who had been at the vault for the past twenty minutes.
“You’re late,” Trenton said, not bothering to look back.
“I know,” she said, standing and regaining her visible form. She smirked at how ever entertaining a species she found the humans to be. Their sarcasm always seemed to click in their stating the obvious. She turned to look out over the mild mango glow of the horizon behind the Traveler.
“What’s the point?” Trenton asked from out of view.
“Of looking at it – the scene, the Traveler, Earth. Your kind has no concept of beauty, am I right? I mean, human beauty, I guess.” He held up another hand at the vault and sealed it with a satisfying hum.
“My kind?” Omil asked.
“Yes, your kind. Were my words not strong enough for you? I thought every Awoken had within them a data base of every human language of Earth’s history.” Trent turned and stepped toward her. The Awoken’s arm was too swift. In a blurred moment, he was was off his feet and looking up at her. She was holding him down, her wild fiery orange eyes staring out beyond the Tower. In his mind, it was humiliating – a human dropped by an Awoken in public. Nothing illegal, but a clear and direct cut into his pride. His instant desire to rage back showed on his face, yet her strength seemed to hold him in place like a flailing newborn. Just as he was going to make a reach for her face, she released and reached for her automatic rifle, her hunter’s eyes narrowing in on her some aspect of her gaze outward.
She ducked back down, slamming the warlock off balance and tossing him to the floor, positioning herself over him as gunfire upturned the granite square of the Tower grounds.
Trenton jolted, turning his face away from the exploding bricks.
“This way,” Omil said. She had removed herself from her position of superiority above him and was already ahead of him when she spoke. “The Speaker – he’s in danger. We need to get there. Now.”
Biggs scrambled up and snatched the Monte Carlo off his back as he stuck close to the hunter as they dashed toward the Speaker’s wing. “And how the hell do you know this again?”
“It’s an Awoken thing,” she yelled back over her back. “Don’t try and understand it.”
The two sprinted while the tower erupted into vigilance and panic. Guardians all around them were sent into a frenzy. Weapons were drawn and the footsteps quickened. Omil turned back just before ducking into the hallway to find Trenton firing into the air, joining other gunfire already from kicking off from the Cryptarch’s tent on the other side. Two large shadows passed above.
“Not now, Biggs!” she grabbed his shoulder and moved him along.
Biggs followed, annoyed. “These cocksuckers are gonna end up in a different kind of hell.”
Omil yanked him onward toward the Speaker’s chambers, and when the sky came into view on the other side of the winding corridor, there was further smoke polluting the scene. Guardians fired into the sky with every sized cannon they could muster. Members of each of the Tower’s guilds raced through its halls and across its vast squares. Omil and Trenton crouched behind several pillars and hallway walls as another wave of giant ship shadows rolled overhead raining another onslaught of gunfire upon the the Last City.
Omil reached behind her and retrieved a sleek red-barreled rifle and looked adroitly through the cubed scope atop it.
“Hereafter, you’ll be no more,” she whispered to herself. She squeezed and the thin barrel pulled slowly into her with a hollow release. Biggs turned back to the sky and watched as one of the grey ships screamed a dark smoke and jerked out of its position in the sky. It lost it’s place in midair and toppled planetward. He smirked as it zipped past the balcony of the Tower’s walls and looked back at the hunter. She was resetting the rifle on her back.
“One cocksucker down,” she said. “Let’s move.”
They took cover as they moved, keeping low and protected as often as they could. When the entered the covered walls of the Speaker’s den, they peeked first around the corner and drew their weapons, Biggs on one side, the hunter on the other.
“Speaker!?” Biggs yelled from the outside walls. No answer came. He looked at the hunter and nodded her in.
Both turned the corner guns drawn – Omil’s auto rifle, came smoothly into sight of the stairs leading up to the Speaker’s chambers, Biggs’s Monte Carlo scanning the room for anything dumb enough to be there at that moment. He sidestepped across the doorway, covering her crouched form as she ascended the staircase silently.
The ceremonial purity of the Speaker’s robe was stained by several spatters of his own blood. He was still standing, though, resting on the brick-like shoulders of Lord Shaxx, the headmaster of the Crucible training grounds, the most formidable of Guardian training experiences.
Biggs topped the staircase several steps after the hunter, still scanning the room from top to bottom as he made his steps.
“Grazed,” Shaxx said. His voice was the same cold whisper the Tower rumored it to be. He almost never spoke, and rarely was he seen this much in the open of the grounds. He repeated the words both to the Hunter and the Warlock.
“Grazed, but he’s fine. He needs safety.”
“Yeah, not sure if you’re privy, but the Tower’s not in a good place, Shaxx,” Biggs said, looking at the Speaker and back out into the open room that was the Speaker’s office. He flashed his barrel back down the steps to the opening of the Speaker’s Chambers.
“That’s the attitude that got us here in the first place, warlock.” the lord said. “Now’s not the time for a heavier dose. We need release, and the first thing we need to do is get the Speaker to safety.”
“And what do you suggest? A hidden room, a secret chamber? Are you gonna whisper a password into the air and just make the Speaker vanish?” Biggs prided himself on knowing it better, understanding it more clearly, seeing before it was visible. Biggs wanted to know the situation with more color than the enemy. He wanted to be the surpriser, not the surprised. Biggs was at this moment not happy with where he was.
One of the nine lords of Guardian history, Lord Shaxx was as calm now as if he were meditating somewhere, controlling the silence around him, directing the quiet at his will. At Biggs lack of control, he simply tilted his helmet slightly and walked slowly with the Speaker to an area just behind the Speaker’s desk. He opened his metal gloved hand and placed it upon the silvery surface of the wall and leaned in, speaking something in a low tone. The words were spoken sotto voce and were unknown to Biggs. A quick clamping sound shifted behind the wall and two strong creases formed in the wall – one horizontal and one vertical. The segment of wall pulled away and shifted inward. The door pulled away.
Omil watched on casually, assessing it all with her glowing sorbet eyes. She turned to Biggs and shook her head.
Lord Shaxx handed the Speaker off to the warlock. “Here; this leads to Lord Saladin’s private chambers, unlisted on any public Tower map. He’ll meet you there and help escort the Speaker to safety. The path is plain and well lighted. Make haste.” He stuffed the warlock and the hunter into the space before sending them off.
“What about you?” Biggs asked, turning back to the legendary Guardian. His voice sounded more docile now, more apologetic somehow.
“As far as anyone else is concerned, warlock, the Speaker has vanished.”
The door closed and reset from the inside and, from where they stood, lights, blue, hazel, and gold lit a long corridor down and away. Omil took the lead and hurried her human baggage along.
The Speaker hung from the warlock’s shoulder, steadily walking alongside, saying very little other than several groans of laborious movement. When looked at closely, Trenton could see the Protector’s shoulder had been grazed with either a full shot from one of the attacking ships or shrapnel from something the round hit. He was breathing fine, thankfully, and that was good enough for Biggs.
Omil kept watch through the corridor, understanding the bad guys would likely be fewer down here than outside the walls.
The corridor ended at a wall, deep red and metallic, and as they got closer, levers moved and locks turned on the other side. The sheen of Lord Saladin’s armor bust through from the other side.
“This way,” he said, motioning them through. Biggs and Omil stepped through the gate.
“You’ll keep that drawn, hunter,” Saladin said to Omil gesturing to her firearm. “At this stage we should assume the safety of the Tower is compromised on all levels.”
There was a general room in which they stepped, before Saladin closed another wall which seemed to them camouflaged at first. They recognized then to be standing in Saladin’s private chamber, just inside his honorary position of commendation during the rare periods of Iron Banner competition. The walls held various trophies, plaques, and all manner of weapon – ranged and blunt. A long hafted battle ax, polished to an unspeakable sheen, rested upon two hooks above them. Three words engraved in smooth italics within.
“The Light never rests,” Omil read.
Lord Saladin looked at the hunter and nodded. Out in the square of the Tower, gunfire, explosions, and mayhem continued to fill the air.
“It’s too late for plans of quick reprisal,” Saladin said, his voice calm and unhurried. “And we cannot waste our precious time with ‘why’ after ‘why.’ There is a ship waiting on the back side, across from FTC. The Speaker needs to be on it.” Saladin reached up and unhooked the great ax. “Follow me,” he said.
Trenton Biggs carried many questions within his pent up arrogant warlock frame, though he knew it wasn’t the time to ask. Omil strafed off to one side, keeping the preferred Dead Orbit auto rifle held at the ready. Biggs walked with one hand around the Speaker’s waste and the other holding steady onto his light-but-giddy Monte Carlo. In the front Lord Saladin walked through the Tower’s Iron Banner courtyard and into the central square itself. When he got to the steps, he held his ax at chest height, and began to run. Amid the gunfire, the Guardians of the Tower turned, and the pace of the moment shifted.
Now with new eyes on the state of things, Biggs’s upper lip curled to see myriad Fallen, Vex, and Taken now walking the hallowed tiles of the last city on Earth. Not only was there a hailstorm from above, but the sickness was now walking below.
But Saladin’s speed was gifted, and Biggs knew he didn’t have the time to sit back and blow ammo across the concrete.
“Human!” Omil shouted, waking the warlock out of his pained inner dialogue. “Follow!” She pointed at Saladin before looking into her scope and firing off several spurts of lead into the air. Across the square, a handful of Fallen grabbed their necks and dropped screeching.
The warlock hoisted the Speaker on one shoulder with a grunt and followed the Guardian legend as they made their way past the Gunsmith’s tent to the South Tower.
Saladin’s blade was a force, ripping through bodies of the enemy as his swift silvery boots came within the right reach. Taken minions were slain within the same upper slice as the two Vex bots before them, Short or tall, few or all, the man of legend seemingly walked through them as he made his way through the halls toward the back. Biggs, his arm beginning to shake as he held his weapon at his front, grumbled at the number of bodies he had to step over as he trailed Saladin in wake of his activity.
At the back, the scene was more peaceful. Fallen were still trying to slide through the thick metal covering of the 200 foot tall ceiling, but their progress was minimal, and there were none others who had yet to make it this far. Biggs was also relieved not only to see his fellow Guardians aiming full weaponry at the hallway. They bowed and saluted as Saladin made his arrival.
They slid through the crowd and Saladin slowed, pulling Biggs along with him.
“Here,” he said, pointing to the hovering legendary ship awaiting them. In giant red lettering with purple trip were written the words Armor of Vows with an almost regal script. “The pilot knows where to go – The Reef, meet with the Cryptarch there. Go now, Guardian.” The lord opened a gate in the balcony and the warlock repositioned the Speaker again upon his shoulder and quickstepped down to the ship, hovering miles above the remnants of Earth below.
Once he stepped upon the ship, the entrance door in the body of the great shipped slid back, and the warlock froze as the point of a rifle came out of the dark belly to meet him. It was followed by white gloved hands and a Fallen Captain attached to that.
The creature growled and, from beneath, two wizards screamed into sight the space on either side of the ship. They flew in from the underside of the Tower and began flinging their electrical curses about the vast room, igniting a panicked frenzy. The Guardians fired back.
Biggs turned back to the Fallen Captain. “Catch,” he said, and in one motion tossed the body of the Speaker toward the creature. The body flew so quickly that it bowled it over. Biggs caught the creature on the ground and pulled the unforgiving trigger against its temple.
“My apologies, Speaker; drastic measures,” he said, picking the revered Guardian. He took the Speaker into the craft and placed him softly on the ground before returning to the action.
As he emerged, Biggs found two bolts from the wizards catch Lord Saladin in the chest. The hero dropped to the Tower’s floor across from him. Now fired up, Biggs stood on the top of the hovering ship, in the middle of the action, and let his weapon sing.
He sawed down each jerky Taken minion, sending them out of existence in a cloud of dust. Two neon purple arrows buzzed through the air and the wizards were knocked up against the outer wall before falling from the air and through the clouds back to Earth.
From the hallway, Biggs watched as Omil danced into the room and sent another purple streak from her bow across the room to a Taken beast.
Dark swirls of black and silver fomented in the unoccupied corners of the room amid the chaos and a large form, twice the height of the other minions came into being.
“A Lieutenant,” Omil yelled to Biggs as she crouched low and made her way to the gate. “Aim for the head!”
From around the room, the few Guardians left fired into the air, trying to dispel the oncoming speed of the dark ominous beast, but it was as though their shots were merely rings into an already too-loud amphitheater.
The beast advanced directly for the ship.
“Human!” Omil shouted. “The head!” She stood in the open making herself fully visible and reachable. She raised her rifle to her eyes, pulled on the trigger, and held.
A flurry of fire jaunted from the the hunter’s weapon and slammed in to the dark beast, causing it to roar and race toward it’s new target.
From the ship, Biggs already had his rocket launcher loaded with two rounds.
The speed with which the creature raced was staggering, and Biggs had to lead his rocket farther than anticipated. The first rocket smoked and burned, but went wide.
Omil’s clip ran out and she made to reload.
Biggs had one more shot before it reached the hunter. He held his breath, focused, and squeezed.
The round struck the beast in the head, which dazed it. But it wasn’t enough. The Taken creature reeled back with both arms above the hunter, ready to claim its prey.
But through the air, a swooping gathered air, and before notice could be made, a large THUNK slammed into the chest of the beast. All eyes focused for the swift moment to see Lord Saladin’s battle ax lodged deep into the muddy black of the Taken evil. The creature screamed an agonizing scream before smoking, and dissipating into the quiet air of a somber South Tower.
Lord Saladin walked laboredly into view and bent to retrieve the ax that had fallen with the creature’s disappearance.
“Hunter,” he said, recovering, “I’ve already talked about dithering. You move now. More are coming.” Saladin’s gloved hand motioned the hunter to the ship. Both she and the warlock made their respective motions of thanks and farewell, and closed the hatch.
Within the metal body of the ship, the Speaker’s breathing was labored, but he seemed to be resting fairly. Biggs slid into the pilot’s seat and strapped himself in behind a colorful screen of lights, sound, and meters.
“Okay,” he said aloud, tapping the screen with a series of darts of his finger. “Coords set. We all ready.”
Omil’s hand, from the back of the ship, grabbed Biggs on his shoulder.
“There,” she said, pointing out at a point just at the upper edge of the Traveler’s greyish outline. Biggs looked and squinted. A dark cloud of Taken ships buzzed in their journey forth toward the Tower in the another wave of torment.
“Yeah,” said Biggs. “I know. We’re going.”
She tapped him again, almost lovingly.
“My point exactly, human,” she said and slid back into a seat next to the Speaker.
The engines fired and the afterburners followed. The ship rocketed its way outside of the Tower’s reach, the earth’s atmosphere, and into the young eve of the solar system. The warlock left angry, the hunter amused.