For Tess, passing back through the gate into three dimensions was like walking out of the ocean. She felt a sort of existential weight sluicing off from her. Existence became simpler, narrower, more compact. But where the ocean had buoyed her up and let her move in any direction, now she was limited to walking on a single plane. For a few squalid seconds, she felt like she was squeezed between two plates of glass under a burning glare.
Then, the sensation eased and her mind remembered what it was like to be three dimensional. As she passed through the gate she became three bodies again. Jale, Sweet Susie and Christina were totally recognizable as themselves but their minds and bodies moved in concert. Their neurons fired in sequence like a piano minuet played with individual notes split among different instruments in different rooms but struck in perfect coordination. It felt wonderful.
Here was the stifling jungle vista of Venus. Vex constructions thrust up out of the ground, breaking the gentle curves of vegetation without respect for symmetry or beauty. The jungle grew around the Vex buildings, oblivious.
Snapping discharges of slap rifles sizzled in percussive patterns that the Daughters had never been able to hear before, but now were laid bare. Vex patterns were simplistic, brutal and everywhere. The callouts, cheers and curses of Guardians were a dissonant counterpoint to the Vexnoise. The warriors of Light were joyful and ferocious, equal parts otter and hyena.
They had returned to the moment before they originally arrived on Venus to enter the Vault. Oliver Dance and his fire team were preparing the ground for them, forming the spire that would open the Vault. Somewhere in the vasty darkness between Earth and Venus, their younger selves were flying toward the yellow green orb and the uncertain treasure it held.
A smile crossed the faces of the women who used to be, and were again, the Daughters of Praedyth. The idea that there wasn’t much time was funny now. Time was just a direction in a sphere. It made just as much sense to say there wasn’t much up.
Like a flock of starlings, they wheeled as one toward the fight. Finding the silences in the Vexnoise was easy. They split and turned, firing their weapons with unerring accuracy. For all their efforts at coordination and uniformity, the Vex were just lot of small parts joined together. The Daughters of Praedyth were truly one being spread across three bodies. They broke the Vex apart like a hammer smashing glass.
“I know Sweet Susie is a badass,” Oliver would later tell his warlock friend, Cassandra Ganz, over drinks. Whiskey for her, beer for him. “But this was something else. I swear she fired a no look shot with her pulse rifle, three hundred meters, hit a Hobgoblin right in the juicebox. I think Christina had eyes on it, but there was no way Susie could see it, she was looking in totally the other direction!”
He would pause and rotate his mug on the bar, condensation rolling down the sides of glass and dribbling onto the wooden surface. A frown would distort his handsome features, normally lit with a wry grin. “It was truly incredible. Beyond belief. Creepy, actually.”
Jale, Sweet Susie and Christina wrecked the Vex machines, rendering them down into their component parts. It was surgical, but only in the sense that an autopsy is surgery. The Minotaurs seemed almost indignant at being destroyed so quickly and easily. They were probably used to being striding colossi on the battlefield, but the Daughters knocked them over like pawns.
The spire formed and the Vault door began to open. Greetings, thanks, and waves were exchanged among the Guardians. The battle rush was still on Oliver and the two Titans he’d brought with him. It wasn’t until later that they began to think about the display of power, precision and coordination that just been demonstrated to them. Later they would wonder how this shot, or that bit of synchronized action, could possibly have been done. For now, they just bid goodbye to the Warlock women and went to their ships.
As one, the Daughters looked skyward and transmatted to their own ships, trading places with their younger selves. Two points on a line diverged, crossing but never merging. The Daughters of Praedyth flew toward Earth at the same time as they puzzled at the piles of dead Vex and open Vault door.
They dropped into low Earth orbit and their ship’s navigation computers exchanged electronic handshakes with the Tower computer’s, negotiating their landing. Jale and the others felt relief and wonder at seeing the blue and white of Earth again. The fact that they were returning just forty minutes after they left was just another piece of oddness piled on top of the many odd experiences that had shaped them into what they were now.
Ikora Rey was reviewing after-action reports in her private office within the Tower. The Dreadnaught kept offering up new secrets and lies. Both were equally interesting. Her door opened without her permission. That shouldn’t have happened.
“What are you doing back here?” Ikora asked when Jale stepped through the door.
The Daughters of Praedyth all stepped into the office as if it was their own. “We found Praedyth, Ikora. We met him and some other people who have all taken it upon themselves to confront the Darkness head on. Something is going to happen at Europa. The next epoch of human existence will be shaped at Europa, and soon,” Jale said.
“What’s going to happen? Don’t play coy, Jale. Things like this are no game. If there’s some cataclysmic threat coming, we need to know as much as we can.”
Jale appeared frustrated, her jaw tightening. “If I could tell you more, I would. All we know is that there is a, well, a knot of potentiality is how it was described to me, centered on Europa. Lakshmi-2 may actually know more specifics about what is likely to happen than I do.”
Ikora snorted. “The War Cult doesn’t give out information, they just soak it up like a sponge. You know that, Jale. Where have you been? Where did you meet Praedyth? Who else did you speak with?”
The Daughters took turns recounting their trip through the Vault. Ikora interrupted only twice to ask questions. They refused to say what they’d seen after meeting Praedyth.
“The other people we met with asked us not to reveal their names. Though one of them has a message for the Speaker. The message is this: Zeus must always give way to Prometheus.”
“Well,” Ikora drawled, pretending nonchalance, “that’s very dramatic. Sounds like Osiris. He was never as clever as he thought he was. Unbelievably powerful, brilliantly talented, but not unduly clever at wordplay.”
None of the Daughters reacted to Ikora’s deduction. “We’re taking the Needleship that Amanda Holliday built for the fireteam that tried to find Queen. We’re going to Europa, but we came here to warn you first.”
Ikora raised an eyebrow. They should not have known about the mission to find Queen Mara Sov. Something else was wrong. Jale was different. Her tone of voice, her posture and the set of her face were all different. What was more, she realized with the beginnings of real fear, the change was mirrored by all three women. They didn’t move in concert like mechanical dolls, but something seemed to flow between them, connecting their movements in a totally unsettling way.
The Daughters swept out without another word. They crossed the Tower together and entered the Hangar. Sweet Susie and Christina split off to go talk to Amanda about bringing the Needleship up. Jale continued up to the room used by the Future War Cult as their base of operations in the Tower.
Lakshmi-2 stood with her head bent in counsel with on of the FWC’s many followers. She looked up when Jale cast the communicator at her feet. The same device Lakshmi had given to her that very morning.
“Hello, Jale. Have you decided to return my gift?” Lakshmi-2 purred.
“Your plan worked,” Jale said as she walked slowly toward the ancient exo leader of the FWC. “We used your transmitter and contacted the explorers that journeyed into the Vex network all those centuries ago.”
Lakshmi-2 made a gesture and all the cult members filed out immediately and down the stairs. Jale and the exo were left alone together. “Tell me about your trip to the Vault, dear. Who did you speak with, what did you see?”
Jale shook her head and Lakshmi threw her shoulders back then relaxed again. The sudden movement was the only indication that she was aggravated at being denied the information she sought. “Surely, if you’ve been through the Vault you’ve seen things, experienced things that have put you beyond petty recriminations.”
She’d seen the end of Humanity. A fallen Tower. Lived in four dimensions. Burned a moon. Yes, she was different for what she’d experienced. The idea of seeking some revenge on Lakshmi-2 for orchestrating her evolution into a higher state of being did seem petty. She had a new perspective now and could see there were more important considerations than a petty feud with someone who was, ostensibly, on her side.
“I’m many things now, sister Lakshmi. I was child, and then an adult. I died and was raised as a Guardian. Now, I’m even more than that.”
Jale sighed, nodded and stepped up to Lakshmi. She held up her right hand in a gesture of supplication. Lakshmi relaxed and that’s when Jale hit her squarely in the chest with a palm strike. The old exo flew backwards and bounced off the thick window that looked out over the hangar, rattling the inch thick glass in its frame.
“But, I’m also still human.”
Hours later, the Vanguard leaders convened. Ikora Rey, Cayde-6 and Commander Zavala gathered around their table and looked at each other. “Well, what do we know, Ikora?” Cayde asked. Ikora briefed the other two about what she’d heard of the Daughters’s travels.
“We know from the Books of Sorrow, the Hive’s recording of their history, that their journey began with three sisters flying a ship they described as a ‘needleship’ into a gas giant planet. Now, three sisters are headed toward Jupiter with Amanda Holliday’s Needleship. The symmetry is disturbing to me.”
Zavala rapidly drummed his fingers on the table in aggravation. “I don’t know the others, but I know Sweet Susie. She’s a Guardian, a warrior of the Light. It sounds like you’re saying she, Jale and Christina are a threat now.”
Ikora looked steadily at Zavala. “I’ve seen them and talked to them, if only briefly. I don’t know what they are now. There is a rumor Jale had a confrontation with Lakshmi-2 after she came to talk to me. The War Cult didn’t file any kind of a report but the word is that Lakshmi came off much the worse for it.”
Cayde-6 raised a eyebrow. “Is she hurt?”
Ikora nodded. “Yes. Deeply wounded pride is what I hear.” The Warlock Vanguard couldn’t keep the smile out of her voice even though her face remained impassive.
Cayde frowned. “Europa is where the exos were created. We haven’t had access to any of those facilities for a long, long time. And with The Nine taking up residence on Jupiter, who knows what’s brewing up there. We need to mount a full raid team on this one.”
“I agree with Cayde,” Zavala said.
There was a short silence. “I’m sorry, what?” Cayde said.
Zavala waved a hand brushing aside Cayde’s incredulity. “Don’t act as if we never agree, Cayde. It just happens that we’re in agreement a little more quickly than usual this time. You actually came out with a sensible response instead of sneaking around on your own and coming up with some crazy plan that happens to work out through luck.”
“Okay, that sounds more like you, O commander mine. I was worried you’re sick or something there for a second.”
“No, I feel fine. Maybe you’re just getting older and more mature, Cayde,” Zavala said, openly displaying a grin on his normally saturnine face.
Cayde-6 was momentarily shocked to speechlessness. Commander Zavala had told a joke. Ikora took the opening to interject. “We’re all in agreement then. We need to send a raid team, six guardians, to investigate Europa. I have some ideas as to who to send. Oliver Dance and Cassandra Ganz did a good job on the Mara Sov mission. They work well together and can be trusted.”
“I’ll see if Lord Shaxx and Lord Saladin have suggestions as to a couple of Titans for the team. I have some in mind, myself. I’ll communicate with both of you when I have two solid recommendations,” Zavala said.
Ikora turned to Cayde-6. “I’m sure you have some names you’d like to throw into the hat?”
The Hunter Vanguard help up his index finger. “Just one. I’ll get back to you. You two can feel free to pick the rest of the team.”
A meal had been delivered to Kvioh’s cell while Cayde spoke. She’d eaten slowly, but still had plenty of time to finish the food before the tale was finished. She thought she saw where this was going and her heart rate quickened. She tried to tamp down her excitement, made sure not to let any of her feelings appear on her face or in her movements. Deliberately, she crossed her arms and waited, silent.
When Cayde-6 spoke, his voice was bright with fun. She didn’t know him well enough to tell whether his tone was actually happy or if his voice hid some darker undertones. If the stories were true, his memories and combat experience stretched back in an unbroken line to before the Collapse. With that kind of perspective on life, who knew what he might find amusing.
“So, that’s the story. Now, the question: do you want to stay here, or do you want to take a trip to Europa?”