Exos of Destiny: Ep.25 – Soul Essence

Previously on Exos of Destiny…
Titan travels back to The Cosmodrome to infiltrate the Bunker of Rasputin, the Warmind. The Taken have already bypassed the A.I.’s security measures. Titan nearly dies during the confrontation, but secures the Stealth Codes necessary to complete the next mission.

“What happened to you?” Hunter asks.

“Don’t ask,” as Titan limps his way through the Tower Hangar.

“Isn’t that usually my line?”

Titan ignores his brother’s usual charm, “Even you can’t Cloak for this long. I hope these Codes work.”

“Cayde is the best we have. Admit it.”

“He’s also the most reckless and slightly undisciplined.”

“Titan…”

“This isn’t going to be a walk in the park.”

“And you have to tell me that?”

“You don’t know what you’re walking into, Hunter.”

He takes a stroll around the Hangar as Titan stops in his tracks. “How many times are we going to have this conversation?”

Titan shakes his head, “Do you always respond with questions?”

Hunter wants to grin. “Nice. Look,” as Hunter walks up and eyes Titan face to face. “I’m better at navigating than you. I don’t need an admission, right now. If things get sticky, I have a sixth sense on how to get myself out.”

“Really?”

“Yeah.”

“Need I remind you of…”

“No. You don’t need to,” Hunter walks to his ship, Stealth Codes uploaded. “Get some rest, big fella.” Hunter teleports into his ship before Titan can respond.

“What happened to you?”

Titan turns to see the concerned look of Amanda Holliday.

“Your ship is grounded, Titan. Short on parts. All the action you boys have seen is killing our numbers,” she concludes.

“When will the next shipment arrive?” Titan asks.

“Soon, I hope. It’s already late.”

They both look up to watch Hunter’s ship take off into space.

Amanda pats Titan on the shoulder, “He’ll be alright. Hunter’s always had a knack for surviving.”

“So I’m told.” A subtle beep sounds off as Titan takes an energy pack off his arm and hands it to Holliday. “Thank you. I have enough power to go from here.”

Amanda hesitates before taking the pack, “You, Exos. Don’t know when to quit.”

“Of course, we do. We’re just too stubborn to do it.” Titan walks away.

Amanda smiles. There’s no arguing the point.

Hunter is on the Moon, yet again. “If I ever see this place… Where are we going?”

“We’re coming up on the entrance to the Temple of Crota,” Ghost answers.

“I hate this place.” Hunter enters the Temple and begins the long descent into its interior.

The Comm cracks to life, “Hunter, back in action, I see!”

“Cayde, as I understand it, this mission is very important…”

“I’ll be brief. Eris is also on Comm. Let’s us know when you get there.” Cayde closes the Channel.

Hunter is blasting away at Hive patrolling the area.

Page after page, Warlock is taking in an enormous amount of information in the Tower’s Library.

“You’re still down here?” Titan asks.

A dismissive wave, “Not now, Titan.” More pages turn.

Titan takes his occasional stroll around the Library. “What have you found?”

Without looking up, “It would help if you’d leave me to concentrate,” Warlock concludes.

Titan doesn’t budge, “I wanted to make sure you’re still alive.”

“I’m not the one…” Warlock is taken aback as he sees his brother in the dim light.

“Don’t ask.”

“I assume you retrieved the Stealth Codes.”

“Yep. I got ’em.”

“And Hunter?”

“He’s…”

“Oh, yes. The Temple of Crota.” He puts a large book on the table and spins it around towards Titan. “Here. Hive Witches may try to bring Crota back to life.”

“How?”

“The Essence of his soul.” He flips the page. “See. Looks like a green, cloudy midst in the air. But that’s a Hive soul alright. Powerful. Well protected.”

“Even with the Stealth Codes…”

“They may be able to detect him. Smell. Fluctuations in the misty air,” Warlock adds.

“Great…”

“And with the Taken at Oryx’s disposal… Where are you going?”

“Our Mentors need to know about this. Come on!”

“Titan, we can’t help him. He’s probably knee deep in the tunnels, by now. I must finish my studies,” Warlock demands as he returns to reading a slew of pages.

Titan shakes his head, “I hope Ikora is right. If all this research leads to nothing, we’ve wasted valuable time.” He walks out of the Library.

Hunter truly is knee deep in the interior of the Temple. “Run that by me, again.”

“Okay. The Shard that you stole was empty. You have to fill it with the Essence of Crota’s Soul. Then, when you’re back on the Dreadnaught, the Portal that leads to Oryx will think you are Ascendant Hive. Did I leave anything out, Eris?”

“You must hurry before Oryx detects your presence.”

“I should have let you guys tell me this before I left,” Hunter ends.

“Yeah. Good luck, Guardian,” Cayde-6 closes the Comm.

“I always love our conversations with the Tower,” Ghost adds.

Hunter smirks, “Ghost. Sarcasm. Not now.”

“Pardon me. Simply stating the obvious… Oh, right,” Ghost finally agrees. “This is the place. Once you activate the Stealth Codes, they should remain active, this time. Still, the Hive’s sense of smell is impressive. Don’t get too close.”

Looking around the place, there’s a huge crevice in the wall. Hunter peeks through. Full house. Wizards. Ogres. Hive Captains. You’ve gotta be kidding me.

Even though the Hive can’t hear his voice inside Hunter’s helmet, Ghost whispers, “Patrol formation. Look for patterns.”

Hunter nods as he recognizes the areas covered by specific Hive minions. He whispers, “Activating stealth,” and waits for Ghost’s reply.

“So far, so good,” Ghost responds.

“Could you be a little more optimistic?”

“Sorry.”

Hunter squeezes his way through the crevice. Scanning the large area, he spots the Orb needed to open a door on the other end of a bridge.

Pacing back and forth, Hive Captains turn their head as Hunter nears.

Lighter footsteps. Hunter backs away two paces. They resume their patrol. Then, he hears growling as he turns to an Ogre walking towards him, sniffing the air. Don’t panic. To the left. He finds himself jogging through a large opening.

There it is. The Orb Key sits atop a pedestal as two Hive Captains circle the area. Hunter looks back to watch Wizards pause in mid-air, looking in his direction. He wants to ask Ghost about the status of the Stealth Codes, but dares not to say a word. Thankfully, Ghost is silent, as well.

His back up against the pedestal, he moves around to get out of the Wizards’ view. It dawns on him that if they detect him, he doesn’t have enough bullets to get out of this one. Don’t think. Just jump.

It will take a double jump to get to the top and snag the Orb Key. A leap of faith? Absolutely, as he jumps, grabs the Orb, and runs straight for the long bridge leading to the door.

The two Hive Captains head towards the back of the pedestal where they sense someone landing, which leaves Hunter clear to make it to the Bridge. He wants to look back, but does not.

The top of the door seems to touch the sky as Hunter inserts the Orb into position. He finally looks back to see Hive guards looking around the area for him. The door makes a giant thud as it begins to open.

“You don’t think they heard that, do you?” as Ghost finally breaks the unbearable silence.

Hunter doesn’t answer; he enters the next area. Stopping in his tracks, “Singing.”

“Yes. It is true. They’re trying to revive Crota,” Ghost says.

Hunter cautiously jogs forward. “What have you got?”

“The Stealth Codes are holding up. Only…”

“Even if I get this Essence…”

“We’ll need a way out of here,” Ghost agrees.

Hunter pauses. “Look for a route, Ghost. Quietly.” Hunter continues forward.

Quietly?

Warlock has put away all, but one, book.

“You are one of the best students the Order has ever seen.”

Warlock puts the open book on the table and stands at attention, “My Lady, what do I owe the honor?”

Ikora Rey gives him a dismissive wave, “At ease, Guardian. Finish the last page.”

“As you wish.” Warlock takes in the last sketches, notes, and official text. Several thoughts run through his mind. “It wasn’t always this way. I staggered behind the others. Last to leave the Academy.”

“Yet, today, as a Voldwalker, you rival a Titan Sunbreaker. You’ve learned to harness your power more than I imagined one could.”

“It’s led to my confinement?”

“I needed you here, Warlock.”

“While my brothers nearly die?” Warlock asks before realizing. He doesn’t have a chance to recant.

“Your research helped them get through each step. Each mission. Without you, they’d be dead,” Ikora continues.

Warlock closes the book, putting it back on the shelf. Hands on his hips, he tries to calm himself. “I am a warrior, as well.”

“Yes. I know. Which is why I pushed you the most.”

He turns, “What do you mean?”

Ikora leans on the table. “I don’t just send my recruits blindly into battle. But I do send them. When we understand our enemy fully, the best we can. And now, you do.”

“You’re asking me?”

“I saw Titan, your brother. He may have been able to take more punishment than you before, but not now. Commander Zavala wants him to stay put.”

“And…”

“Hunter, as you know, is on the Moon. Once he returns, Cadye will ground him, as well. You’re all we have left.”

Warlock turns to face the book shelf again.

“I’ve selected you, because I know you can do it.” Ikora walks out of the Library.

Hunter is kneeling down behind a large pillar. He peeks to see Hive Witches floating above some sort of grave, chanting, a spell of some sort.

Heavy green midst in the air around them. Still crouched, Hunter moves left to escape detection of a Hive Captain. He’s climbed to a high point in the area and still no Exit in sight. He’ll have to sneak back out the way he came in. First, however, he needs to capture some of this smoky green air.

Pulling the Shard from a pocket, he heads towards the Hive Witches. Close enough. He holds the Shard in the air. It begins absorbing the Essence of Crota’s soul. Got it. Putting the Shard away, he back pedals.

“I see you…” a familiar voice proclaims.

Hunter’s Stealth Code starts to malfunction. Taken appear throughout the room. The Hive are on alert. Yes, Oryx has found him.

“The Code has been broken, Guardian,” Ghost interjects. “Run!”

Hunter jumps down to a lower level. Taken Snipers fire at him from all around the circular area. “Exit, Ghost. Where’s…?” He’s rocked back by a Taken Vex. Hunter throws a grenade, which explodes in its face. Another jump to a lower level. His eyes dart, searching for an Exit.

“I’ve spotted a room to your right!” Ghost adds.

Hunter runs into the space. Empty. Feeling up against the wall. “There’s no door.”

Another Taken Vex appears, unleashing a barrage of bullets. Hunter’s shields are weakening. He fires back, but this Vex is heavily shielded. Out of the room, Taken Cabal fire at him from higher levels. Hive Captains turn and fire as they walk towards him.

Not much cover outside of protruding formations of the Moon. Hive Wizards appear three levels up sending waves of destructive energy pulses at him. Surrounded. He takes out his machine gun, killing the most immediate threats. Switching to his fusion rifle, he fires at Taken Vex disappearing and reappearing ever closer to him.

Back the way I came. Hunter takes off ascending to the top level dodging bullets and avoiding enemies along the way. “That door was…” Taken Cabal appear. The pulse from a large shield knocks Hunter back. He rolls and grabs onto the ledge to keep himself from falling all the way back down to the ground floor.

The Taken Cabal stands over him, lifts his shield to deliver a crushing blow. Hunter’s shield breaks as shots pour in on him from around the room. Voices. He hears a familiar voice over the Comm, but can’t make out who it is.

He throws the grenade at the Taken Cabal; it explodes in its face as Hunter lets go, falling towards the ground level. The voice on the Comm gets louder, “Eris..?” Hunter disappears before hitting the ground.

Silence. He doesn’t hear anything, save the sudden wind gust of the Moon. Hunter looks around to see he’s well outside of the Hive Witches’ Chamber. “How..?”

“It’s the best I could do, Guardian,” Eris Morn breaks in over the Comm. “You’ll have to go the rest of the way.” She takes a breath in, “Get out of there.” The Comm closes.

“I didn’t know she had a spell for that,” Hunter thinks aloud.

“Guardian, no one seems to be tracking us. Let’s leave before they do,” Ghost says.

Hunter begins running mid-sentence. “Gear?”

“Severely damaged. The shoulder blade of your exo-skeleton was ruptured during the fall…”

“What?”

“Once your shields collapsed, you took a beating. Then, you grazed a protruding rock formation.”

“Ow.”

“Without shields, your helmet fractured and the skull compromised.”

“How bad?”

“I can see a chunk of your… brain, as it were. I’m amazed you’re still moving about.”

“Is the casing rupturing?”

“Grazed. Yet, still intact.”

“Good. This would be a bad place to pass out.”

“Agreed,” Ghost concludes.

“What’s next?” as Hunter finally reaches the Moon’s surface.

“For you? The order has already been put in. You’re grounded.”

Hunter slides to a stop. “What?! What about..?”

“A significant portion of your exo-skeleton itself will have to be replaced. No small feat with limited supplies.”

Hunter kicks the dirt and suddenly feels the anguish of his body. He collapses to the ground. “Change the landing spot to these coordinates, Ghost.”

“Already done. Perhaps, there’s more damage than first analyzed, one of which, monitors what humans call, pain.”

Hunter buckles to the ground. “You may have a point.”

Fallen scouts approach the area as shots whirl passed Hunter.

His Ship hovers over him; he’s teleports inside. Shots ricochet off of its shields as the Ship leaves the area.

…To Be Concluded.

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