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Изменено (Azidamadjida): 3/30/2017 1:30:45 PM

REEF MOB, Ch. 3: The Surly Bonds of Earth

If you missed the last chapter, you can find it [url=]here[/url], or if you need to find a previous chapter, you can find them all in the [url=]Table of Contents[/url]. Enjoy the story and if you like it, a bump would be greatly appreciated! If you have any questions or corrections, comment or message me anytime, I welcome any and all feedback. *** The echoes of battle still haunt the Twilight Gap military installation – when the Guardians have all left after playing their war games, you can hear the old ruins weeping, hear the last gasps of thousands of past Guardians dying, hear the clanking and explosions of the Fallen Walkers. Here it was, they claim, that the armor of the fallen Guardians was reforged into the first Gjallarhorn, where the grunts and roars of the Cabal were first heard – I was never much of a historian, and I never appreciated the horrors and death that occurred here. Like all other Guardians, I just chased the adrenaline rush, using death as a scorecard rather than something to avoid. Freed from the narrow perspective of the War Against the Dark, all one can see is suffering, pain and death across the System – when removed from your chosen side, both sides start to look the same over time. The legends start to mimic one another, and the line between Light and Dark fades into the middle ground of Twilight. Ghost opens the channel and hails our ship. “Zha to Volition.” Radio static, crackling noise, then – “Well, it’s about damn time.” Ia Tanis, my captain. As brazen and quick in speech as she is while flying, though possessing a depth that belies her glib demeanor. “Had to lose some New Monarchy we ran into.” “Great, more zombie zealots that know about us. Good job.” “I think they’ll have enough to handle. The Talons had killcams.” “So you made ‘em think you were New Monarchy?” “Not exactly. I left it open for them to think it was either the Awoken or the Guardians – I’m betting their House will split their forces to surprise attack both.” “Revealing themselves in the process…..I like it.” “And keeping them off of us.” An artificial voice breaks in, saying casually “Djido, glad you made it out. What’s your ETA?” I smile in spite of myself, something I always find Nas-09 brings out of me. “Thanks, Nas, I should be there in a few minutes.” “I’ll have the ship ready to pick you up, amigo. Volition out.” Ghost cuts the channel as I smirk at Nas’ idiosyncrasies – I never knew where he found these words from the dead Earth languages, only assumed it was something he picked up during the time when the rest of us had to sleep…or try to in my case. My smiles fades as I floor the sparrow toward the ruins of the Twilight Gap. The ground begins to elevate as trees appear – the terrain grows rougher as my Ghost chirps “You might want to slow down. The increased cover slows my ability to resurrect you.” “You think that’s some lingering attachment to the Traveler?” “I don’t know…I don’t think so. I’m not sure.” “You’re pretty indecisive for an AI, you know that?” “Maybe the Traveler isn’t what you think it is.” “Whatever, it’s not like it even matters, you Ghosts are all that’s left of that monolith. Just little fractured pieces scattered in the wind.” The ground slopes up its final rise and I see the shape of the ruins drawing closer. “Like you and the other humans.” “You know I’m not human, little light.” “And you know I hate that nickname.” “Lingering effects of your original programming. Never fails. You wanna go back and stay with the murderous robots, too?” I can feel Ghost scowl as he replies “You know what I meant when I said you were human. You still are, deep down. All of the Awoken are.” “We’re not human. We’re better.” “You know that’s not true. Prince Uldren alone undermines that argument – and Eris has directed just as many to die as the Prince has. I thought that you would understand better than most that there are no clean sides in this conflict.” I’m lucky I’m driving and can use it as an excuse. Ghost wisely doesn’t pursue the point, lapsing into silence as we get close enough to the ruins to make out the shimmering shape hovering above them. As it sees us approach, the Volition uncloaks and descends to meet me. It’s a custom build off the Ceres Galliot stock kit that Ia’s been modifying for years, making it look more like jet black jagged claws reaching menacingly forward than a ship. Using different alien technologies, she’s made the Volition a unique vision of terror: Ketch armor studded across the sleek frame of the Awoken ship, reinforced with Cabal parts and pulsing with Hive growth. I brake my sparrow beneath it as Ghost dematerializes it. I look up, waiting for the ship to bring me in – and keep waiting. I look up again impatiently, waving my arms at the ship. “WHAT’S THE PASSWORD?” Ia’s voice booms out over the comm. “You don’t get paid if you don’t open up!” I shout back, calling her bluff. I feel my body start to dematerialize, as my helmet follows suit, revealing the self-satisfied smirk I can’t wait to show her – … – she sees, shaking her short-haired blue head ruefully, her golden eyes dour as she pouts at me. “You’re never any fun.” I look around the interior of the Volition, nodding in turn to each member of the crew: Ia, leaning casually against her captain’s chair. Nas, recloaking the ship from his copilot’s chair before turning to smile at me in his own way. Kenedi, our intellectual Exo medic, who looks up momentarily from his latest book to nod. And finally, Solis, the hulking Fallen former Captain hunched over in the confines of the ship, smiling at me with her eyes. I purposefully avoid looking at her docked upper arms out of habit as I walk up and hug her. She purrs happily. “I know, baby girl, I know. I’m happy to see you, too.” I break the embrace, smiling at her. “We got it. Ghost.” Ghost materializes the Talons’ case, and I weigh it in my hands with pride. Solis walks forward cautiously, awe-struck. She growls, speaking haltingly as she croaks: “[i]Is what I tell you?[/i]” “I think so. Things got hairy before I could open it, but we didn’t lose anything so who cares – “ “Wait, you didn’t open it before you brought it on board?” Ia interjects suspiciously. “How stupid are you, Djido? Are you kidding me?!” “Hey, hey, hey – “ I start, but Nas backs her up as she fumes. “No, she’s right, Djido, who knows what could be in it. You should’ve checked before you boarded.” “Hence the damn password!” Ia shouts, half-irritated, half-triumphant. “All right, fine, you want me to go outside and open it?” A sudden beeping in the cockpit – Nas darts forward, looking at the incoming message. “Uh, no time for that, we’ve got incoming.” Ia bolts to the pilot’s seat and straps in, already working the controls with practiced ease. “Markings?” Nas looks at her, his dejection apparent even on his face. “New Monarchy.” Ia shoots a nasty look at me as Solis takes the case and Kenedi straps himself into his seat one-handed, still reading. “[i]I keep safe[/i],” Solis growls and I smile weakly as I strap myself in. “Let’s just hope lady luck’s on our side, buckaroo,” Nas calls back as he works with Ia. The ship jolts forward suddenly, screaming away into the atmosphere. I see Nas watching his screen intently, seeing if our pursuers will waive off. Another warning beeps. “Cloaking’s failing, diverting power to all engines.” “We don’t need secrecy when we’ve got speed!” Ia cries back, flooring it. Nas watches the screen again, then sighs. “[i]Merde[/i],” I hear him say, still not knowing what any of his comments mean but knowing enough that whatever he said’s not good. He turns to Ia, saying “Evasive maneuvers.” “Way ahead of you, tin man,” she fires back, banking sharply and throwing us all against our seats, the G-force slamming us like a Titan’s fist. The Volition shrieks as it hurtles toward space, ripping across the sky as the New Monarchy ships struggle to keep up. “Almost out, hang on!” Ia cries. We punch through the upper atmosphere – and meet the traffic of Guardian ships streaking through space into and out of their homeworld. “Ahhhrgh….I hate….TRAFFIC!!!!” Ia shrieks as she weaves in and out of the ships – the Volition darts dangerously between the myriad of ships of all classes, makes, and designs – the tapestry of Guardian ships does their best to dodge the wicked Volition, but their quick evasions crash the ships into each other, creating more debris and chaos for our ship to traverse. Nas checks the screen again, looking for the New Monarchy ships as I hear Solis whimpering behind me. “Can’t find our tails, too much interference out there!” Ia ignores him, staring intently at the viewscreen, entering an almost meditative state of connection to her ship – they are no longer two lifeforms, but one, and we’re all just along for the ride. She banks, darts, dodges, and weaves through the endless obstacles until finally, mercifully, we’re through – Nas checks the screen, sighing with relief as he sees no immediate pursuers. “We need to set down on the Moon,” Ia finally calls out, steering the Volition toward the dark side of the lunar surface. “We need to check out that case before we go any further.” My heart finally starts to slow as I look back at Kenedi and see him still nonchalantly reading his book. Solis looks like she’s about to vomit. I turn to face Ia, whose eyebrow is cocked as she looks at me. I can almost read her thoughts through her face: [i]I did my part and you screwed up. Get good, amateur.[/i] I can only nod, knowing she’s right.

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