Duress and Egress
Man of science though he was, the first thing Asher Mir did was shoot the damned thing. The Pyramid hovered inside Io's atmosphere, close enough to be impacted by a projectile flung at sufficient speed. In the time it took Asher to blink twice, he knew the angle of attack and the mass of the projectile. Asher finished building the mounted railgun before his coffee had cooled. He charged the magnetic coils, waited for the wind to die down, and broadsided the ship. He had expected the projectile to hit a Kinetic barrier, or best-case scenario, impact the Pyramid and cause utterly infinitesimal damage. Instead, at the moment of impact, the projectile stopped existing. Asher's brow furrowed while an irrepressible smile crept over his face. His metal arm clicked and hummed gently of its own accord. This Pyramid had the audacity to park in front of his laboratory and pull such a cheap trick? Clearly, it had not thought it would meet Asher Mir. He assembled another missile, one with a detectable radiation signature and a radio signal. He fired it at the Pyramid. It similarly disappeared on impact, its signals snuffed out, no longer detectable from Io's surface. Another payload followed, this one a miniature relay station. He routed it through his console and fired. At the moment it touched the Pyramid, it transmitted a spike of radiation and radio broadcast. Asher smirked. They were still there, held in the field of the Pyramid. Visually undetectable, signals squelched, but still physically there. How the Pyramid was accomplishing this feat was unimportant at the moment, though his mind flooded with fantasies of zero-point energy. The question that gave him pause was the what: What was the ship doing to the projectiles as they sat suspended in space in the periphery of its loathsome shape? And why?
Deputy Commander Sloane watched the overloaded Vanguard skiff dip close to the waves. "Watch it!" she barked into the communicator, and the craft straightened out. "That's liquid methane down there, and if it don't kill you, the Leviathan will." "C'mon, ain't no Leviathan," said the pilot, his voice crackling. He was some boy from the City who couldn't have been more than 17 years old. "And if that's methane, how come you don't even got a helmet on?" Sloane grinned. She wasn't used to backtalk. "Because I moisturize, short-timer," Sloane said and squelched the comms. A Fallen Ketch screamed overhead, and Sloane was on the catwalk outside the rig in a flash. She bellowed at the men working on the deck to cover clear of the cargo as she drew her Scout Rifle and dropped to a knee. The first few Dregs were dead before they hit the ground, but the winds whipping off the seas sent her next shots wide. She figured the landing party would go for the cargo shuttle over her men, so she spun to take a sightline toward the craft, but the things were charging for the supplies instead. She cursed and leapt over the railing, landing like a crash of lightning. Her earpiece sprang to life. "Siren's Watch, this is supply craft Vienna Stinger looking for a place to put down." "Landing pad five, south side!" she shouted over the crack of her rifle. "Offload what you brought, and I'll have a supply team swing by in a minute." She plugged two more Dregs and the Ketch's engines changed from a roar to a whine. A halfhearted volley of Wire Rifle fire spattered the landing pad from the Ketch as it blasted away. Sloane called out to her team. No fatalities, nothing taken but two crates of fresh supplies. She ordered the team to the next landing pad and began climbing the long stairs back to her perch. They hadn't hit while they were loading the Golden Age technology for shipment back to the City. They were after the supplies. They were leaving. She looked up at the Pyramid in the sky and frowned. The door to her office closed and sealed with a hiss. A soft blue light on the panel promised that the seal was airtight. Sloane walked across the room to watch the seas through the open hole blown in the side of her rig.
She had tried everything. The great Bray. A lineage that promised to save them. For all her genius and moxie, this was beyond her. Rasputin lay dying in a dozen empty screens splayed out around Ana's command station. She could visualize the bleeding code running through her fingers. Zavala's voice was in her ear, as ambient haze—relegated to the background of her mind like distant gunfire. The image of the Pyramid's distortion wave was still raw. This wasn't an attack. It was a command. A lazy dismissal of all their best laid plans. There were no explosions. No blaring sirens or sparks of dramatic electricity. Nothing to combat or fix. Just a Guardian walled in silent black glass and disbelief. She had been so sure. Ana's eyes tracked Jinju as the Ghost sped from console to console, attaching strings of Light to each. They slowed her as she went, buried under some load. "Ana," Jinju's voice strained under crushing distortion. "I think I've got him. Most of him, but not for long." The words cut through the distant gunfire. "What?" Ana asked. Her voice came softly at first, unsure what form to take as the information processed. "What?!" Jinju groaned and whispered an exasperated, "Pillory… Engram…" "It's not ready." "Ana, now!" "He'll go insane! I… can't." The Light tethers attached to Jinju began to pop one by one. "It's this or nothing!" The prospect sent Ana tearing across the room. She belted a command into the air, and a floor safe opened in response. Ana snatched the dodecahedron enclosure from the safe and braced it in front of Jinju. "Jinju, do it!" The Ghost's shell reformed to forge a directing structure before her core erupted with Light and data. A stream of pure information beamed into the Engram, filling it with spiraling wisps of Light. "Did you…?" "As much as I could." Outside the windows, bolts of atmospheric friction dragged flames through the sky as Warsats plummeted from low-orbit defensive positions. Their impacts were distant.
Brother Vance's smile fell as the Titan entered his sanctum. The smell was unmistakable: ancient gunpowder, burnt oil, scorched Vex fluid, the burnt tang of steel overused through a hundred lifetimes. "You have the Perfect Paradox," Vance said, his voice as steady as he could manage. He extended his hands. "May I?" The Titan shrugged, then dug into his pack for the Shotgun. He placed it in Vance's waiting hands. He ran his fingers over the barrel and tested the weight of the stock. "Ah," he said. "Not the original Perfect Paradox, is it?" The Titan stood in confusion. Vance waited for a moment with his head tilted before he continued. "You did not claim this weapon from the tomb of Saint-14, but instead through some Fractaline-powered tesseract, yes?" The Titan nodded, then stood for a long moment looking at the blind man. "That Sundial made it," he said finally. Vance's grip tightened on the gun. It was heavy, loaded with seven—no, eight shells. Tactical mag. Getting this one had taken some time. "And how many timelines did you thoughtlessly tether to our own for this weapon? Our world now bears the strain of how many additional realities in exchange for this hollow abomination?" Vance's mind swam at the thought of the infinite web that pulled on the Shotgun. "How much Fractaline did you sacrifice for this? Four hundred fragments?" He paused, aghast. "More?" "It's got a trench barrel," said the Titan helpfully. "Remove yourself from my sanctum," Vance said, placing the Shotgun down like a dead animal. "You have accelerated the end of all things, and I must update my prophecies accordingly."