EXOS OF DESTINY: EP.17 | TAKEN

Warlock becomes attentive as the main console in his Quarters springs to life.

“Warlock, report to the Hall of Guardians. Immediately,” says his Mentor, Ikora Rey.

“Could be bad news,” Ghost answers.

“Don’t be so melancholy, Ghost. We’ve got a job to do.” Warlock jogs out of the door.

Ikora Rey meets Warlock at the entrance of the Hall of Guardians. “You made good time from there. Now, I’m certain we have the right Guardian for the job.” She looks over her shoulder to see Commander Zavala brooding.

Warlock takes a glance at him, then, back to her. “Where to, my Lady?”

“How much have you read about Phobos?”

“The larger of the two moons orbiting Mars. The closest to its planet in the solar system. I fail to understand why the Cabal would build such an expansive base on that rock.”

Ikora steps forward, “We think that base is under attack. In the very least, something is wrong!”

“I will leave right away.”

“Commader Zavala will be on the Comm. Offer him the same respect as you would me.” She glances back over her shoulder.

“Of course.” Warlock notices her more worried than concerned look. “Is there anything I should know before departure?”

She shakes her head, “Keep your signal LIVE. We…we’re…”

“Going in blind.”

She nods in agreement.

“Nothing new to us…”

“This is different! The Cabal aren’t shaken easily. Be careful out there!”

Warlock salutes as Ghost hesitates to move. Warlock puts a bit of distance between the two in a short time.

“Watch him for me, Ghost,” Ikora Rey implores. “We can’t lose one of our best.”

“Yes, ma’am. I don’t like this mission, yet…I picked him for a reason.” Ghost hurries off.

Ikora feels a little better.

In the Tower Hangar, Amanda Holliday gives Warlock a smirk, “You boys leaving Titan behind, again, huh?”

Warlock freezes in place, “Hunter’s been assigned?”

Holliday frowns, “No, he was pretty quiet about this one. Anything?”

Warlock is annoyed, “Nothing. He could share information from time to time.”

“Hey…your boat’s ready. Better high-tail it outta here. Zavala’s orders.”

Warlock disappears right in front of her as he enters his ship.

“Hunter. Hunter. Hunter,” Warlock repeats.

“I’m sure your brother is fine,” Ghost replies. “Though, I can’t say why his Ghost chose him.”

“Nothing?” The ship revs to life and hovers towards a clear take-off.

“He hasn’t tried to contact The Tower or yourself…” Ghost continues scanning the logs, “…or your brother.”

His ship skyrockets into orbit, “I don’t have time for this.” He sets the coordinates for Phobos, then, opens the Comm Channel to The Reef.

First. Static. Then, “What happened to him?” Petra Venj asks from her post on The Reef.

“You’ve spoken to Hunter? Recently?”

“A few hours ago,” she recalls.

“He hasn’t returned. I need to leave! Report back if he contacts you,” Warlock kills the signal and the ship bolts into hyperspace.

At the Vestian Outpost on the edge of The Reef, Petra Venj looks over the shoulder of one of her guards. “I don’t see him!”

“There’s a lot of debris. Even for our scanners…” the Guard replies.

Petra is torn.

“Commander, there’s no one else! You can’t put Veriks in charge.”

“How many ships do we have left?”

“Enemy scouts may still be out there. We can’t lose you, too!”

“He’s alone. If I have a chance to save him, then…”

The Guard puts her hand a Petra’s shoulder, “He may be dead already, Commander. We…we’re not picking up any traces of life.”

Petra Venj pulls away heading for the Ship Hangar.

“You can’t…” the Guard pauses. “I’m going with you!”

Another Guard steps up, “So am I!”

Petra smiles and the three women head for the few ships remaining in the Awoken Fleet.

Warlock is out of hyperspace studying the readings of the moon below. Like nothing he’s ever seen before. Billows of smoke pour out of the Cabal base.

“We’re losing the…” Ghost begins before the readings dissipate. “Something’s interfering with our equipment. I couldn’t make out what it was when I had the chance.”

“I’ll put the ship on ‘stand-by’. We may need to leave before finding the cause of this,” Warlock concludes.

A ring in the cockpit. “Contact from The Tower,” Ghost says.

Warlock heads for the surface of the moon, “Open Comm, Ghost.”

The atmosphere is turbulent. Phobos orbits Mars faster than the planet’s rotation speed.

Ghost speaks into his helmet, “I’m picking up an entrance ahead. We must get inside. Quickly!”

“The Cabal are leaving,” Warlock huffs as he races across the rocky terrain. “What are they…?” he spots a Cabal making it’s last movements before death.

“Guardian…” Ghost reminds him.

Warlock picks up his pace again, gun extended as he reaches the broken wall turned entrance into the base.

“What in the name of…” Commander Zavala breaks in over the Comm. “Be wary, Guardian. Anything that can frighten off the Cabal cannot be taken lightly.”

The building is falling apart. Gaping holes in the roof. Random explosions throughout the base. A battle. And the Cabal lost. Warlock pushes through and over debris. But to whom?

“I can hear them,” Eris Morn interjects.

“Guardian, I asked Eris to join us. Perhaps, she can shed light on this situation,” Zavala adds.

“What are these…? Like…dimensional portals of some kind.” Warlock examines strange material that seems to rip seams into space itself.

Eris continues, “They’re getting louder…calling his name!”

“Yes, Eris…thank you,” as Zavala struggles to understand who she’s referring to.

A Cabal soldier burst into the room. Warlock steps back, ready to fire. Suddenly, the strange material appears to reach out grabbing the Cabal, pulling it into the seam. Gone. In a split second.

He’s too deep within the base to know his way back. Warlock pushes forward as the Mentors in The Tower watch his progress.

Room after room, empty, dead, or dying Cabal soldiers scattered across the floor. Warlock steps through double doors as they slide open.

“He…he’s here!” Eris calls out.

Laughter. Evil. Darkness. An Echo…his name is Oryx. A shadow of the Taken King fills the middle of the room proclaiming victory. Bullets fly through his face as Warlock fires. No effect. The King is gone.

Orbs of dark matter spawn throughout the room. Hive. Cabal. Deformed. Splitting into two…three…more. Warlock opens fire as flames streams towards him. His armor’s shields take the brunt of it. Find cover.

One by one, these forms are shot, spiraling into nothing. Gone. Are they dead…or dead already? Their Commander remains as bullets bounce off of his thick exterior. New plan. Warlock gathers all of the Arc energy he can contain and releases it as bolts of lightning through his hands.

The deformed Hive Commander wails and he disintegrates from the electrical charges.

Commander Zavala’s voice breaks through, “Guardian, this mission is scraped. I want you out of there, now!”

Ghost puts up schematics of the architecture on Warlock’s visor, “I may have found an opening here.”

Warlock heads in that direction.

Through sets of double doors and gaping holes in the interior, he slides to a halt just outside of the building.

“Can you jump that far?” Ghost asks.

He doesn’t answer. More enemies emerge from dark orbs on the another end of this jump. He wouldn’t survive a fall from this height. Enemies howl behind him as they approach his position. Warlock fires, killing the Taken obstructing his path. Then…he jumps as the Taken behind him close in.

“That was close,” Ghost sighs as they land on the other side.

“The ship?!”

“A remote area at the edge of the base. Almost there!”

He runs as fast as he can while the last remnant of Cabal try to fight off their Taken kin. There’s the ship! He takes one long jump after another to avoid the civil war.

Boom! Warlock spins in reverse before hitting the ground. The shield of a Taken Cabal has the ability to fire some sort of concussive blast. Good to know. He finds cover. Still, one Taken Cabal can’t keep him from getting home. They better have answers when I get there!

Three Awoken ships fly through a heavy patch of debris outside of the Dreadnaught weapon’s range. Petra Venj has taken point. She slides her ship to a halt, “Wait!”

The two ships following her struggle to do the same. “Why are we stopping here?” the Guard asks.

“Commander, I could have run into you!” the second complains.

“SSShh.” Petra studies the field of debris ahead of them. “Cut the engines.”

They follow her command. There ships began to float about like the other pieces of debris around them.

“Risky,” the second Guard whispers.

Petra waits.

“Too much congestion,” the Guard whispers, “Even at this range.”

Venj presses icons on her ship’s console. The two Guards notice what she can see with her naked eye.

“Cloaked?”

“Cloaked,” the second Guard confirms.

“It looks like one of ours,” the Guard points out.

“Could be a trap, Commander. Kill him. Take the ship. That hull is badly damaged.”

“Like the days of old. Trojan horse,” Petra Venj finishes.

The two Guards agree.

“If we open Comm…”

“Yes, tell everyone we’re here,” the second Guard interjects.

“You’re call, Commander.”

Petra flips the knife over in her hand. And, again…again…again.

Their screens turn red.

“Commander, incoming!”

“Five of them!” the second Guard adds.

The damaged, cloaked ship comes to life, struggling to propel forward.

“Hunter!” Petra decides as the three Awoken ships head back towards The Reef. “How much more can that ship take?”

“Little power…90% of what’s left is on the rear shields. The weapons are…severely damaged…”

Energy bursts invade the area.

“He’s falling behind!” the second Guard calls out. “You sure this is the guy?”

“Life readings…if that’s him, he’s fading. Probably wounded! Badly. Barely conscious.” the Guard adds.

“We have to teleport him aboard,” Petra decides.

“You’d both have to drop your shields to…” the second Guard says.

Petra’s ship swirls into a 180, opening fire on the oncoming ships, which scatter to avoid a direct hit.

The shields of the struggling ship fall and then, it explodes.

Petra pulls up into a solid 90 degree climb. She kills the main engine using side boosters to turn the ship around. Facing her Awoken partners, she boosts forward as enemy ships chase them.

The Guard screams as her ship is rocked, “Direct. My shields are…”

“Cut to the right! Hurry up!” the second Guard implores.

Her ship explodes. One down. Two left.

The second Guard grits her teeth as her ship spins from an impact. “Are you hurt?!”

“Hurt? Not really. Scared out of my mind? Possibly!” the Guard replies having teleported to the next ship.

Streaks of orange fill the air followed by explosions from the Hive aircraft.

“Good shooting, Commander,” the Guard smiles.

Still, Petra Venj is teary-eyed as she glances back at Hunter lying on the floor of her ship. “Hunter, say something!”

His cloak is burned, shards of debris in his body. The internal light that usually glows brightly has faded away.

“Is he…?” the second Guard begins.

“The Medical Team is prepped at the Outpost, but…we don’t usually treat Outsiders.”

Petra wipes a tear away from her cheek as another explosion rocks her ship. Rear shields are gone. She brings the ship to a halt, another 180, bullets fly. The explosion of the final Hive ship sends Petra’s careening backwards sideswiping a huge chunk of debris. It’s dead.

“Petra, come in!” the second Guard calls out as the same explosion propels her ship into a chunk of debris.

“Commander? Commander Venj?” The Guard waits for a reply.

Petra tries not to sob as she cradles Hunter on her knees. “He’s not responding.”

The second Guard looks over her main console, “I probably have enough juice to teleport you over…” She wipes her forehead, “We should take him to The Tower, but the Outpost may be too far out.”

“You’re hull has been breached,” Petra adds as she looks out of her ship’s windows. “You may have to teleport here…if possible.”

“Either way, I think we’re…stuck. Comms are down…” thoughts of the second Guard trail off.

Silence.

“I am sorry, sisters,” Petra Venj concludes. “I failed you. I failed, again.”

……………………

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