The Daughters of Praedyth (Chapter 6)

Dear Readers,

I love playing Destiny but the truly important thing in my life is family. A little over five years ago my son was diagnosed as being Autistic. My family’s life changed dramatically on that day. Today, I’m asking for people to support people to support The Autism Center of North Mississippi. This school takes students regardless of their family’s ability to pay and helps those children make great strides. My son is not a student there so none of this money will go to me or my family. I’m not asking for me, but for parents like me. Any help you can give is much appreciated, even if that is just sharing the link on your social media of choice. Take a minute to look at the fundraising page and at the school’s website.

And as always, thanks for reading! Chet Kirkham

“At least this isn’t Mare Imbrium,” Sweet Susie thought, as she was pummeled by enemy fire and died. She hadn’t been at the “Sea of Rains,” Mare Imbrium, or even on Luna when Crota and his knights routed the Vanguard, slaughtering more than a thousand Guardians in the process.  She’d seen the aftermath, though. Zavala had come to visit her.

Their place in the Tower was several joined rooms connected by hallways and stairs.  Sweet Susie wasn’t sure if it had once been suites of offices, or living spaces. Then, it had been a secret place where she and Zavala would meet. There was so much room in the Tower. The Golden Age had been a much more populated era. Now, there were so few of them. Even fewer  after Mare Imbrium.

She had let him make bitter green tea in the fussy, ornate, regimented Japanese style that he preferred. When he was calm enough to talk, she listened. “My error was one of priorities,” he said. “You’re supposed to appear where the enemy does not expect you. It should have been a successful attack. It was fast and presented overwhelming force. It should have worked.”

“The Hive swords were unexpectedly effective,” Susie replied, sipping her tea.

“Swords!” Zavala exclaimed, the frustration clear in his voice. “It was like attacking a cavalry brigade with heavy machine guns and somehow the cavalry wins. My error was that I didn’t know what I thought I knew. We’d confronted Hive knights armed with those swords before. They’re powerful, no doubt, but they shouldn’t have determined the outcome of the battle like they did. Somehow, Shaxx suspected it. All those dead Guardians. All that wasted Light. All because I didn’t know enough.”

She set down her bone china cup and took up his hand. “And where does foreknowledge come from?”

He met her gaze, finally, and said, with the merest seedling of hope, “Sun Tzu again. The use of spies. You’re right. We need to know more about the Hive. What they do in their caverns and holes. We need someone to go amongst them, even to live with them and learn their ways.”

The plan had evolved from there, without any input or help from Sweet Susie. However, she’d been the trigger and she still couldn’t bring herself to meet Eris Morn’s triple-eyed gaze.  Morn was the Vanguard’s spy within the Hive, their key to defeating Crota and avenging Mare Imbrium. She’d been mutilated in the process: body, mind and spirit. The slouching, muttering, paranoid creature Eris Morn had become bore no resemblance to the bright and ambitious young Hunter Sweet Susie remembered.

After Christina revived Sweet Susie the Daughters finally reached the far side of the gap between the Gorgon’s Labyrinth and the entrance to the Vault of Glass itself. Skipping across platforms that faded in and out of existence was difficult enough. Fighting the Minotaurs, one of the Vex’s heaviest units, while you skipped required timing, ferocity, and coordination.

More Minotaurs transmatted into view as the Daughters fell back toward the Vault itself.  Sweet Susie didn’t think they were being herded. The Vex just seemed to be following the team—more of them all the time.

Crackling knots of electricity stirred the air above them. All three Guardians looked up and then at each other. “Something big coming in,” Sweet Susie said redundantly. The group backed up, still trading potshots with the Minotaurs. Two large shapes, looking like inverted scorpions, appeared in the air above them. Hydras, bearing impregnable shields and weapons that could knock down Guardian shields and kill in bare seconds.

“Run,” Jale breathed, and the trio fled further back into the Vault.

Sweet Susie spared a glance behind them as thundering blasts began landing around them. An army was appearing from thin air at the entrance of the Vault. Goblins, Hobgoblins, Harpies and Minotaurs were massing to support the Hydras. The Vault was like any other vault in one respect: it was a dead end. Once they were inside, there was nowhere else to go. The entrance itself would act as a bottleneck, but after the Vex pushed through, or started transmatting in on their flanks or behind them, that would be the end. They could revive each other, but if all three of them were killed there would be no one left to revive.  Eventually their ghosts would be destroyed and the team would truly and finally be killed.

When the Daughters entered the Vault itself, Atheon did not appear. It seemed that whatever it had actually been, the creature was truly dead. A Hydra tried to follow them through the door, but without support from other units, they simply bombarded it with grenades. The explosives had to be slung very precisely under and over the Hydra’s curved and spinning shield, but the Guardians had practiced tactics for taking down every type of Vex unit until the motions were second nature.

Goblins pushed in through the doorway next, two at a time. They went down quickly, but there were so many to replace each one the fell that the Daughters couldn’t stop the flow. Then the Hobgoblins began landing sniper shots from a distance through the gaps between the Goblins.  Jale’s shield failed when she took two hits from long distance that left her ears temporarily ringing. She had to fall back to recover, leaving Christina and Sweet Susie to stem the tide.

“I’m going to use my Void Beam again!” Christina yelled. “Get behind me!”

Sweet Susie fell back, shooting steadily, while Christina positioned herself. Enemy fire poured in through the doorway, smashing into the stone all around them. The heat was massive and the Guardians could feel it even through their shields and armor. Rattling blasts of fire cascaded off their shields. Jale was still trying to catch her breath when Christina cut loose.

The enemy assault had been a withering, burning rain, but Christina’s return blast was a searing branding iron that offended the eyes and evaporated armor. When the Void warlock dropped to the ground, drained to the point of speechlessness, globs of liquid metal jumped and popped on the ground and walls like water droplets on a hot stove.

Jale did the math, arriving at an astonishing number of mega-joules Christina had just unleashed. Then a Minotaur, glowing with dissipating heat, trudged through the doorway, followed by a trio of Hobgoblins. Christina’s unbelievable Void Beam attack had bought them a reprieve of perhaps three seconds.

Sweet Susie and Jale ran to Christina an scooped her up, their arms circling under her shoulders. “I’m alrih,” she mumbled, head lolling. Without a word, they started dragging Christina backward, both of them firing from the hip as they went. A stumbling run brought the trio behind the cover of a pillar.

For the first time, Jale really examined the interior of the Vault of Glass. This was it: Atheon’s home and now its tomb. A crystalline structure that looked like nothing so much as a cathedral ceiling dominated most of the Vault and immediately drew the eye. Rectangular stone platforms were set at three different locations, the two on the sides higher than the one in the center. Squared off stone pillars rose from these platforms at seemingly random intervals. Semi-circular constructs that Jale knew to be Vex gateways were anchored onto the two side structures, one on each platform. She wondered what this place looked like to Atheon. Jale knew her own viewpoint, mired in three dimensions and limited to a linear perception of time, would be pitifully inadequate compared to what Atheon must have been able to see.

One of the portals erupted to life as Jale looked at it. Threads of white light spiraled in from the edges of the circular frame and shot toward the center of the structure, forming a shimmering white vertical plane. “I think we have more about to come in from behind us. One of the portals just activated.” Jale’s voice was calm as she relayed this news to her friends, but inside she’d begun to slide toward a black acceptance that the Daughters of Praedyth were all about to die without having discovered a damn thing.

“That’s our new chokepoint then,” Sweet Susie replied. “We go through that portal before anything has a chance to come out. Kill whatever’s over there and hold the portal from the other side.”

“We don’t know what’s on the other side,” Christina objected wearily, having recovered enough in the last few seconds to be able to speak as she sat with her back to the column. Jale crouched to Christina’s left, peeking out from behind their meager piece of cover. She had to duck back quickly from a spray of energy bolts.

“We know what’s on this side,” Susie said, “and we’re not going to survive here for much longer. Through the portal, now!”

They retreated in good order, refusing to become rattled by the increasing enemy numbers coming through the door. They fired in regular intervals, covering each other during reloads and throwing grenades in turn. Being Guardians, they were not limited to a single plane of engagement. They leapt and fired from the air as well as taking up positions on the tops of columns.

Still, the Vex pushed forward and the Daughters fell back. A Minotaur shoved aside a pile of destroyed Goblins and fired a blast that caught Sweet Susie full in the chest as she was reloading. Susie was thrown through the air and smacked bodily against a column. She recovered, but her temporary loss turned the retreat into a rout as the group’s left flank collapsed.

They stumbled, firing as they went, through the Vex gate. There was no transition, just a slight blurring of vision and hearing; then they were somewhere else. The room was small and dark, lit only by the light from the portal itself. Out of the darkness, a metal arm extended toward them, barbed with wicked looking prongs.

Jale smashed the arm away with the relic and looked for an enemy to shoot. As her vision adjusted to the strange lighting, she saw that the arm extended directly from the ceiling of the room. They were in a relatively small space. The room was no more than eight meters long and six meters wide. The walls, ceiling and floor, except for a small walkway up to and around the perimeter of the portal, were covered in regular pyramidal shapes that protruded out into the room. A mass of metal arms hung from the ceiling, each of them sporting odd looking mechanisms that had no obvious function.

The arm that Jale had smashed hung limply except for a few buzzing convulsions.  “Where the hell are we?” Jale asked no one in particular.

Her Ghost piped up. “I’m not picking up anything. I think this room is intended to be a very effective signal blocker. I can’t even detect the usual background radiation from the Big Bang that you get everywhere. I think this room is an electronic isolation tank. It must have been built specifically to monitor the portal.”

Part of the wall slowly cracked open and light streamed through revealing a doorway. The Daughters trained their weapons on the slowly opening breach. A short person in a silvery full body suit stepped into the room. The figure’s face was obscured by a darkly tinted oblong bubble. It raised a hand, somewhat awkwardly, in an aborted wave as if not sure of the appropriate etiquette for the situation. It didn’t appear to be armed, so the Guardians held their fire.

“Can you understand me?” The figure’s voice was male. His syllables were sharply enunciated and his tone somehow managed to convey equal parts awe and annoyance.

Jale looked at her friends. They nodded at her, intending for her to speak for the group.

“Yes, we can understand you.”

“Well, I’m Dr. Shim and this is my laboratory. What are you doing here?” The man in the silver suit was clearly annoyed at their intrusion.

A Minotaur came striding through the portal and the silver suited man made a frustrated sound. “Now, what’s this thing? This lab is designed for the examination of exotic waveform pattern analysis, not sentient survey!”

The Minotaur began firing, tearing holes in the walls and floor. Sweet Susie jumped to the silver suited figure, shoving him back out the door. Jale and Christina concentrated fire on the Minotaur, knocking it backward as Goblins began appearing out of the portal.

“Shut the portal down!” Sweet Susie ordered Dr. Shim.

“I…don’t know how. I didn’t turn it on, I just monitor it because bursts exotic particles come out of it every so often. I didn’t know it was even capable of turning on. I suppose we could cut the power.” The muffled whumpf of a grenade shook the walls and somewhere a siren began blaring.

“Listen, you have to take your robot out of here. It’s destroying my equipment. Who’s going to pay for all this?!” Dr. Shim was almost wailing now.

“Go cut the power. Now!” Sweet Susie yelled and turned back to help her friends.

Goblins, Hobgoblins and Minotaurs had piled into the room. Jale and Christina were barely keeping them contained around the portal exit. Sweet Susie added her firepower to the mix and the trio began knocking enemies down as quickly as they came through the Vex doorway. Then a Hobgoblin activated its shield before it could be killed and that created a shield for several Vex units to get into the room undamaged.

Two Hobgoblin snipers hit Jale simultaneously, forcing her to fall back and recover. The force of the enemy advance once again began to overwhelm the Guardians. The portal gave off a blinding flash of light and a Hydra floated out into the room.

“Grenades! Keep them contained!” Sweet Susie yelled.

The Guardians threw simultaneously and explosions rocked the room. The once pristine and orderly chamber had been torn to pieces. One of the walls was actually burning and smoke was beginning to fill the room. Through the debris floating in the air they could see that the Hydra was the only Vex left operational.

The Hydra’s cannons lashed out with rapid fire blasts and its moving shield seemed to always be in just the right spot to block the worst of the damage coming from the Guardians.  Jale’s shields still weren’t up and Sweet Susie took the brunt of several blasts from the Hydra.  The trio had to fall back. Jale limped out the door followed by Susie. Before Christina followed she saw the white glow from the portal sputter out, cutting off the flow of murderous robots. She slammed the lab door shut and looked behind her.

The Daughters found themselves in a long narrow hallway. It was white and completely featureless except for a stairway leading up positioned on one side. A very solid looking metal door capped the hall about twenty meters away.

“That door isn’t going to hold for long. The portal turned off, so we don’t have worry about that anymore. We just have to deal with the Hydra,” Christina said.

As the words left Christina’s mouth, the lab door was blown off its hinges, landing in the hallway. The Hydra floated into their midst, its huge metal frame and rotating shield barely fitting into the hall. There was no getting past it. They were practically in the barrel of a gun standing in the hallway. The Hydra began firing.

The Daughters dodged and wove around each other and the energy bolts from the Hydra, firing back as often as they could. “If it gets out, there’s no telling what it will do,” Jale said, ducking as Sweet Susie jumped over her. “We need to stop it here.”

Christina went first. She pitched a grenade past the Hydra’s shield and then closed in to empty her fusion rifle into it at point blank range. Void fire raced up the Hydra’s flanks, melting armor where it landed. The Hydra screeched and smashed Christina into a wall. The Void warlock screamed in pain but managed to fire one more blast of Void energy into her enemy before she was smashed to death against the wall.

Sweet Susie went next. While the Hydra’s attention was concentrated on Christina, the Arc warlock managed to slip another grenade past its shields. Bolts of electrical energy arced through the Hydra and its curved form stiffened temporarily. It turned toward this new source of pain and began firing again. Sweet Susie ignored the bolts as they landed on her shield and then her body. She fired quickly and accurately into the central eye of the Hydra, pushing her pulse rifle as fast as it would cycle. Armor and components stripped away from the Hydra’s face, but it did not fall. Susie flung out her hand with a scream and another bolt of blue energy sizzled the air, striking the Hydra dead center. The Vex monster reeled backward, but Sweet Susie’s corpse fell to the floor.

Jale was ready. Power flowed through her and wings of fire ignited from her back. The solid concrete walls cracked and smoked from the flame. So much heat, so much energy. She had to get rid of it, or be burned herself. Her hands flung out again and again, raining solar grenades on the Hydra. The miniature suns coalesced on the robot’s metal skin and cooked it. Armor blackened, then turned red and ran. Radiant heat energy bombarded the Hydra from every direction. Its shield couldn’t block everything.

In the last instant before the Hydra collapsed, it somehow seemed to glare at Jale. The single red eye was baleful before it blinked out. The massive robot fell with a crash, glowed white hot, and exploded. The concussion deafened Jale and sent her flying down the hallway to smash into the metal door at the end. She gratefully slipped into unconsciousness.

Chet Kirkham

Been playing since Y1. Currently expanding the Universe with fiction.