The Dark Future
Chapter 1: The Family Line
Another sleepless night. Not that I require sleep, but it helps me to feel normal… whatever that is. I hear shuffling outside. Probably a rat scrounging for food. Good luck. I'm sick of always having to search for a safe place to rest, though everyone's displaced these days—since the Last City fell. I hear the noise again. Louder. Someone's near. Before I have the chance to move, they're at the head of my cot. I swing off of the taut fabric, grab my weapon from the floor, and then roll across the room, blasting Stasis at my assailant. They dodge it entirely, leaving my bed momentarily frozen in time. I fire off rounds, grazing their shoulder. "Elsie! Wait!" No one calls me that. Except her. The attacker removes her hood. She's changed; a bit worse for wear, but it's her. My stubborn sister. "What were you thinking, Ana?! Why did you attack me?" "You attacked me!" It's been years since I've seen her, after the Bombardment. Last family reunion didn't end well. A crimson line rolls down the length of her arm. "You're wounded." "It's nothing. I'll be fine." "You're not fine. Where is that annoying gnat? Why isn't it fixing you?" "I said it's nothing." Something's up. I stare through her until she offers an explanation. "She's… gone," Ana admits begrudgingly. "Let's leave it at that." I'm not surprised to hear this. "What are you doing here, Ana?" "I need you to teach me… show me how to use Stasis, like you. You really understand how to control it. You're not corrupted… like them." She sounds desperate. That's a bad sign. "We've been over this. My answer remains no," I say. Ana is smart but too easily lead astray. It's a miracle she ended up how she did. I can't get involved. "Every day, I make it by the skin of my teeth. Without the Light, without the Traveler, I'm a sitting Dreg, just waiting to be picked off." "I have bigger concerns." "Than family?" she asks, trying to pull my heart strings. Won't work. I pick up my bag and head out the door. "You're just going to leave? Fine. I'll find someone else to help me learn Stasis, so I can take down Savathûn." Are things really so bad for her that she has this death wish? "You know what she did, Ana. Stasis won't save you. This is a suicide mission." "There are others out there who are tired of living in fear too. We can find them." "Good. Go talk to them instead." "Listen to me. We can attack with the Light and Darkness. Together." "Or we can keep our heads low and move on." "There's nowhere else to go! You want to run away—that's your choice. But I'm telling you we can do this," she says and holds up a satchel, pulling a drive from it. "We just need a little help." "You… have him?" I ask in disbelief. "What's left of him." The Warmind. I guess he didn't vanish with Mars. There is power there, but this is still a foolish plan. Although Ana seems hell-bent on learning Stasis and, with Rasputin, she'll do it. Once she puts her mind to something, there's no stopping her. I always thought the best way to protect her was to stay away from her. If I push her away now, can I really say I'm doing it for her? "Only trouble is, he's stuck on this drive…" she says knowingly. "He could use a new vessel." Ana smiles at me coyly. She knows exactly what to do and just how to bait me. I cast out a million second thoughts. I can't let my sister get herself killed. "Lead the way."
Chapter 2: Itinerant Mendicant
"Stay ready. We don't know what's in there," I say to Ana, standing in front of the entrance to the Deep Stone Crypt. We make our way through the war-torn lab. Eramis's siege before the Bombardment sure left its mark on the place. She found Darkness here and helped spread it like a plague on the world. Clovis almost did the same in his time. "If I remember right, we have a long drop ahead of us. You better hang on to me," I say. She wraps her arms over my shoulders, and it's the first time I've been close to a person in over 100 years. I can smell a trace of sodium tallowate. But only a trace. She hasn't bathed for a few days. She squeezes tight. I forgot what this felt like. My body produces a fleeting sensation of warmth. I move down the elevator shaft. We land as quietly as possible, remaining still. It's dead down here, but the power is on. Someone must have been here… or still is. As we make our way through the eviscerated research center, I notice Ana taking it all in. She seems almost familiar with the space. "Clovis was an animal, sure. But what he discovered and built is absolutely incredible," she breathes. Never heard her speak so highly of the old man. She forgets that I was there. Doesn't realize the hand he played in our future, even centuries ago. "This way!" she calls out, running ahead. After walking through several corridors, we come to a familiar dead end. It's still there. Clarity Control. I dreaded seeing this again. Practically a standing testament to all the bad that Clovis did. I want to get away from it, but Ana's fixated. "Hey, you ready? We need to keep going," I say. She snaps back to reality. "Sorry." Finally, we find it. The place where Exos were born. Ana covers her nose as we're greeted with a rotten smell. Slowly, we turn the corner and see a decomposing corpse desperately clinging to a lever on a console. "The Drifter…," Ana says. Hard to tell how long he's been here. We pry his hand from the console and carry him out of the room to try and purge the stench. "What do you think he was doing here?" I ask. "Most likely the same thing we are," Ana says, plugging in her drive. "But he failed. Probably for the best. He doesn't deserve another chance." It's depressing, seeing him like that. All alone down here… Ana works the console. "Uploading now. Should be out of here soon. Grab that lever." I pull down, and a latch opens, releasing radiolarian fluid into an empty pool nearby. I catch Ana staring at the spot where we found the Drifter's body. "You ever think about what we could have done differently?" she poses. All the time. "Not really," I answer. "So much of this death and destruction stems back to us, to our family. I know Clovis was responsible for a lot. He had a hand in bringing the Darkness to this world." "How do you know that?" I ask. "I found a journal the last time I was here. It's old, and half the pages were torn out, but it had a lot of information about him that was salvageable." Of course, she's been here before. Clearly, she's not telling me the whole truth. "What else was in it?" I ask. "Outside of the redacted memos and experiments, there were stories and recollections of our family. It's all from his perspective, so he was never the villain. But still, maybe he wasn't as bad as we thought. He seemed to care about us, in his way." "Really?" "He did some good, Elsie." "I was there, Ana. I saw the things he did. He was delusional. Of course, he was never the villain in his own story." We sit for a while and wait in silence. The pool begins to bubble. Ana jumps to her feet as a sleek metal hand emerges from the fluid. Slowly, the Exo rises. Silky liquid drips from the tendrils that conjoin the parts. Eventually, it takes its first steps out of the pool. "Red?" Ana asks timidly. Its head turns. Glowing eyes of scarlet meet ours, and it speaks… Russian. "Welcome back, old friend," Ana says. We're in business.
Chapter 3: Towerless
I keep thinking about the Drifter in the basement of the Deep Stone Crypt and wondering when that will be me. Would I have ended up dead, alone and rusting away, if Ana hadn't found me? The Last City looks worse than I remembered. Buildings leveled and edifices stripped of their vibrancy pollute what was once the last vestige of hope humankind had. The commerce, the children, the bustling life—all gone. Difficult to think about that day. The Bombardment. We were hit on all sides. Eramis, the Cabal, Savathûn, all attacking our strongholds at once. We never recovered. When the Dark Guardians turned on Eramis and the Cabal, everyone who wasn't killed went into hiding. Rasputin says something in Russian that I miss, and Ana laughs. Is that what it's like to be with friends again, I wonder, as I stare off at the empty sky where the Tower once stood. "You were close with the Vanguard, right?" I ask. "I don't know if I'd say 'close.' We had a working relationship. They trusted me." "Still, must have been nice. Closest thing to a family." "If Zavala could hear that…" she trails off. A pensive expression rounds out the lines on her face. "What was ours like? Our family… before all this." "Didn't your research tell you, Ana?" "You were with them… with us. You know what they were really like." "I don't know. We were a family." "Can you just try a little, for me? You know I don't remember anything. You got to spend time with them. You must be able to tell me something. Anything. What did Mom's hair smell like? What was Dad's favorite song?" "I don't… remember everything. Clovis made sure of that." "Then tell me what you do know," she pleads. "I don't want to have this discussion." "You don't have the right to keep this from me. It's my life, too!" "Drop it, Ana!" From behind us, we hear the readying of a rifle. Ana looks to me and inches her fingers toward her weapon. "We don't want trouble." My hand goes frosty with Stasis while Rasputin's fist clenches. "You came to the wrong place," the rifleman says. Ana cocks her head and faces him. "Zavala?" I turn to get a look. Before us stands the once proud Commander of the Vanguard, disheveled, in rags. His ghastly white beard is as thick as a steel door. And from the looks of him, a gentle breeze would knock him off his crutch and one remaining leg. They must have taken his Ghost too. Sad to see the deterioration of a body that's been stripped of its Light. "Commander! You're alive!" Ana exclaims. He doesn't lower his rifle. "It's me… Ana…," she says with hurt in her voice. His expression never changes. "We have a plan to take down Savathûn. We need to speak with Ikora Rey. Is she here?" I ask. He grimaces. "She is," he says and points with his rifle toward the flotsam of the Tower. "Buried deep under that."
Chapter 4: Unguarded
We stare at Zavala in disbelief. He's so clinical. Emotionless. Like everything I've heard about him. Some things never change. "Ikora's gone?" Ana asks. "Along with everything else. Whatever you have come to find, it is not here. Best you go." "No, wait. We could use your help," Ana pleads. He turns and hobbles away on his crutch. Ana throws her hands up in frustration. I shake my head, but she follows him with Rasputin at her side. "Commander, this all goes back to Savathûn. If we can eliminate her for good, maybe there is hope…" He stops. "There isn't." "You can't just walk away. Ikora wouldn't…," she says. Zavala turns to Ana. "You're just like her. Always were. Stubborn and self-righteous. That's how she ended up there." He points to the rubble. "Keep going, and you'll meet a similar fate. I'm sure Savathûn would happily abide." "Ana, this is seeking blood from a stone. Let's go," I say. Surely, she sees how broken he is. "I'm not leaving. Without Ikora, he's all we've got!" Ana exclaims. "He doesn't want to help us!" "You're a coward!" Ana screams at him. "A coward? I did everything I could to save the City. And her. But we were at odds. Just like the two of you. It… was our downfall," Zavala says. He shakes his head and sighs. "Looks like it'll be yours, as well." "Commander…" "I don't command anything anymore." That quiets us. "I never had the opportunity to apologize, make things right. The next time I saw her, it was too late. Don't make the same mistakes I have." I see how much this pains Ana. Damn it. Fine, I'll help. "Ana doesn't recall this, but our father… what I remember of him… was a stubborn man. He and I would fight all the time, but I never walked away without telling him that I loved him. The one time I forgot, he never came back. We've made mistakes, Zavala. All of us. We won't repeat yours this time… if we fight together," I say. Zavala looks me up and down. "So you're the fabled Elisabeth Bray, I take it." "I am." "We could have used you sooner." "Like when the Pyramids arrived," Ana chimes in. "Our troubles began long before they showed up," Zavala says. "They were just the leaves of a tree planted long ago. The Vanguard ran some cloak-and-dagger missions a while back in the Black Garden. We tried to suppress the Black Heart. It ended up corrupting the Guardians who came into contact with it. From there out, Dark Guardians spawned… and Darkness slowly spread." "I'm here now. That's all that matters." "Who's the other Exo?" Zavala asks. Rasputin announces himself. "You have the Warmind? Incredible. Still… why would you need my help? He's infinitely more capable than me." "Rasputin is a weapon, but we need to know where to point him," Ana replies. "Which is why we could use whatever information you have to find Savathûn. We thought that if we could ally with Darkness and Light, we might stand a chance. Find symmetry where staunchness failed," I propose. "That old song," he muses. "Even if I could help, the Warmind won't be enough. Not for what lies beyond Savathûn. She is only a pawn." "Meaning what?" "You want the real Witch—you want Eris Morn."
Chapter 5: Almighty, Once
We follow Zavala back to his home: inside the wreckage of the Almighty that had crashed long ago. "Do you remember this, Warmind? Our great success," Zavala says and gives us a half smile weighted down by years of reclusiveness. "And our final victory." Rasputin finds his way over to a console and plugs in. "There are files in there I've been trying to decrypt for years. Maybe you'll have better luck," Zavala says. He lights a fire and prepares a kettle. "I can't imagine Eris…," Ana says, her voice trailing off in shock. "Eris wasn't special. She was corrupted as easily as the rest. She came to me after finding an artifact inside a Pyramid on the Moon and deceived us all. The Bombardment was her masterstroke, proving that the Darkness destroys all it touches." My sister shoots me a knowing and somewhat hopeful glance. "What happened that day? It's been impossible to find accurate recounts," Ana says. "We were outnumbered. When the Witch Queen found me, she called me 'the nonbeliever' as she tore my leg from its joint and pulled the Light from my Ghost, discarding me like trash. Ikora had it worse." I look to Ana, who is hanging on every word, fighting back tears. The urge to console her rushes up from the pit in my stomach, but I repress the sensation. I wasn't meant for that. "I looked up to the Traveler, hoping it would be our salvation from this atrocity. But instead, it just… left. Abandoned us when we needed it most. I wanted to reach out and grab it. Make it stay. Make it save us, as we always thought it would. But that was it. Gone. Cabal forces crumbled the rest." Rasputin interrupts. "What's that, Red?" Ana asks. "Did he say what I think he said?" I ask, perking up. "He says Ghaul's plans to ensnare the Traveler and harvest its Light, the blueprints, they're all here. He's copying them now." My mind races. Zavala has been sitting on a gold mine. "Looks like you might get your chance to capture the Traveler after all," I propose with vigor. "We bring it back here. Make it fight and restore the Light." "You'd need to find it first," Ana says. There's a hesitation in her voice. As if she actually doesn't like this plan. Rasputin chimes in again in Russian. "What's he saying?" Zavala asks. "He can track it. The Traveler," I say. "Clovis installed the capability as a failsafe in case it ever tried to run off." "Even with Red tracking it, we'd need an army to build Ghaul's device," Ana says pessimistically. "Ana, this is as good a shot as we're going to get. Did you drag me all this way to give up now?" I ask. "No… no, you're right. We can figure this out." Zavala smiles faintly while watching us. "What do you say, Commander? One last ride for Ikora?" Ana knows just what to say. "I suppose," Zavala says, "If this is the end of the world, we may as well go down swinging." Ana's eyes light up. "We'll still need that army." "I know of someone in command of an army who has a bone to pick with Eris," Zavala says. "We need to find Mara Sov."
Chapter 6: A Matter of Trust
We've been traveling for a few days now, tracking Mara Sov based on her last correspondence with Zavala. The signal was further out than we'd anticipated. "Got a minute?" Ana asks, knocking on the entrance to my quarters. "Sure." "I just want to say thank you. Coming with me, helping me convince Zavala." I admit, it's been inspiring seeing Zavala renewed with purpose, even though he's chosen to keep the ratty beard. "I couldn't have come this far without you," she finishes. It has been nice being with her, despite the circumstances. It's odd having a sister again after all this time. "Just doing my part," I reply. Ana stares off. I can tell she wants something. So I wait. "I need one more thing from you," she says. There it is. "I need you to show me how you use Stasis. Elsie, you're proof that it's not inherently evil. It can be controlled. You show me how, and people will see it's possible." I was hoping we'd moved past this. "I'm not a figurehead for some movement, Ana. Stasis isn't something you simply control. There's constant temptation. I struggle still, to this day. Using it takes time. Discipline. And even I still haven't mastered it. Not sure I ever will," I say. "We will. And when we do, all the deniers will vanish. We'll get our world back. We deserve to get it back." "We deserve what we got." "Speak for yourself. Countless people died while you sat on the sidelines and watched everything fall apart." "If you only knew, Ana. The Darkness…" "Always an excuse. You want to do your part? Then step up and actually help me with this." "I'm trying to. What is this really about, Ana?" "You just don't get it." She storms out, leaving a fuming wake behind. I catch a glimpse of Zavala in the corridor. He was listening. "You're using Stasis?" Zavala asks condescendingly. "I get to hear it from you now, too?" "Okay, okay. When there was a Vanguard, I thought I had all the answers. Perhaps that was our undoing. I know now that commanding has as much to do with giving orders as it does listening to others' needs. Don't be like I was—angry and trying to control everything. Listen to your sister. Consider why she's asking this of you." "I have." "We're here! Approaching now!" Ana calls out, her voice echoing down the corridor. "Hoped I'd never see this thing again as long as I lived," Zavala says as we come face-to-face with the Leviathan.