The more petals Lionel swept into his garbage bag, the more there seemed to be. His back, slightly crooked with age, burned in protest as he continued to stoop and work.
A man in a long coat stood watching him on the opposite side of the long hallway. Lionel figured he’d go away eventually, but the man stayed, idly flipping a green coin.
“Can I help you?” Lionel asked, growing annoyed.
“They make elders do this? Can’t the maintenance frames handle it?”
“Speeds things up. The petals get everywhere from the… whatever the kids call it.”
“That’s the one.”
“Come on! No one’s too old to celebrate Crimson Days.”
“My wife died the day the Tower fell.”
The man stared at the ceiling. Lionel continued to sweep.
“I got nothing to do today,” the man said. “Let me take care of this for you.”
Lionel dumped another dustpan full of petals into his bag, then turned and walked right into the man’s outstretched hand: palm up, full of glowing, sapphire cubes.
“Lotta Glimmer,” Lionel said, eyeing the money and the man in turn.
“Yours. Let me finish this job for you.”
“You a Guardian?”
Lionel stared down at the pure material potential sitting in the man’s hand.
“I’ll take your vest and hat, too,” said the man. “Please.”
The man took off his coat and put on Lionel’s orange vest. He put on Lionel’s hat and pulled it low, covering his eyes. As he walked, he passed a frame diligently sweeping the connecting antechamber, and paused to point back toward the petal-strewn hallway he’d just come from. “You missed a spot,” he said. The frame stared at him, then at the hallway. It marched towards its new objective.
The man continued his walk.
Warlock Aunor Mahal brushed past a maintenance worker in an orange vest emptying a trash can into a large plastic bag. The door to the Consensus closed heavily behind her.
The Vanguard and representatives from various City factions had gathered around a massive table. Cayde’s seat was empty.
“The Drifter poses no immediate threat to the population,” Zavala was saying to the Consensus as Aunor approached. “Therefore, we motion to grant him a more permanent lease—"
“My Order disagrees,” she cut in fiercely.
Zavala turned. With a slight incline of his head, he gestured from her to the rest of the group, “This is Warlock Aunor, representing the Praxic Order.”
“I have paperwork to file, so I’ll make this short,” she said. “If the Vanguard is willing, the Praxic Order would like to excise the Drifter from the City. Immediately. We’ll do it ourselves.”
Zavala turned to look at her. “The Praxic opinion is noted. But the City welcomes all Guardians—“
“He’s no Guardian.”
“The City welcomes all of humanity who are willing to stand in defense of the City.”
“Commander, with due respect, you asked the Order to have a voice in this discussion.” She looked Zavala in the eye, and swept her gaze around the table to address the Consensus and Ikora. “The Praxic Order has existed since the founding of the City to keep artifacts of the Darkness out of Guardian hands. In our opinion, the Drifter represents as great a threat to our people as Ghaul or the Taken King.”
“Go on, girl,” Executor Hideo said, steepling his fingers.
“She is no ‘girl,’” Ikora hissed.
Aunor ignored them both, continuing, “The Drifter has convinced the Guardian population to use the Taken as a weapon. To murder Guardians.”
“There have been no final deaths,” said Zavala.
“That we know of,” Aunor replied. “You’re allowing that man to normalize interaction with the Taken.”
Ikora and Zavala shared a look.
“The past few months, the Praxic Order has seen a historic number of Guardians go rogue.”
“’Rogue,’ ‘rogue,’ what is ‘rogue,’” Arach Jalaal said. “Everyone is a rogue now. It is fashionable to be a rogue.”
“You’ll see it in my report,” Aunor said. “Some have adopted the name ‘Dredgen.’ You want my professional opinion? Ideas are powerful things, and the Drifter has too many. Board that travesty he calls a ship and throw him out an airlock, before the City sees another Dark Age.”
The Vanguard and the Consensus looked at her in silence.
“I have paperwork to file,” she said again, turning around. “You know where my office is.” As she left, she saw that same maintenance worker had fallen asleep in the entrance way, hat over his eyes, leaning against a trash can. She narrowed her eyes.