Cayde-6 was quiet for so long that Kvioh finally asked him: “So, is that the end of the story? What’s the question you wanted to ask me?”
Kvioh was looking at him, but Cayde could see the forefinger of her right hand tracing a shape on the floor of her cell. As he watched her finger move, he recognized the shape. It was the smoothly lethal shape of the Hunter’s knife. When she saw him looking, she closed her hand on the imaginary knife, as if to pluck it up.
Cayde met her eyes and she could hear the smile in his voice. “I don’t get out of the Tower much these days, but when I did, I was eager for death. Impatient. Because death isn’t permanent. It’s like taking a nap. Or at worst, like some kind of a timeout. I always wanted to get back in the fight as quickly as possible. Death, real death, is patient.
“It’s that impatience that gets so many Guardians killed. We have no respect for death anymore and that’s often the reason we end up getting ourselves really, permanently killed. If we were more patient, like death, maybe we could avoid it all together. Is that ironic, or just annoying? I’ve never been able to decide.”
“Is that the question? You want to know if that’s ironic?”
Cayde shook his head. “Sorry. That’s me being philosophical. Not my strong suit, in case you couldn’t tell.
“No, that’s not the end of the story. Death may be coming for us all, but the Daughters of Praedyth were apparently harder to kill than even they knew.”
Dying was not like going to sleep, or flashing pain and then a descent into cool darkness. Dying, for Jale, Sweet Susie and Christina, was like burning so intensely that your bones cracked from the heat inside your living flesh, and then falling, smashing down through the floor bathed in a cascading welter of torment.
They fell together, so they reached for the only thing they had left: each other. The Daughters of Praedyth reached out to each other and found that almost everything had been stripped from them; their ghosts, their armor, their weapons, even their bodies.
The relics were still there. Jale watched the three relics overlap each other as they reached out to each other. When they collapsed into themselves, all Jale could see at first was a line of light, finite and limited by two points. Then, the line turned over and Jale saw that it was not a line but a square, blue against black. Her perspective shifted again, or perhaps the square flipped on its axis and she knew that it was a not a square but a cube. Finally, the cube unfolded, as did Jale’s perception, and the cube showed its true nature. It was a tesseract.
The Guardians pulled each other into the tesseract and found refuge in it. It was their fortress. They no longer burned and for a time they simply embraced each other, sharing company and comfort after what they had just endured. There was still a world outside the fortress, but it didn’t mean anything to them. They were safe and whole and that was all that mattered.
“I miss my ghost,” Jale thought. “He was my friend, and now he’s dead.”
When they remembered how to communicate, Sweet Susie pointed out that something else had come with them. “What is that thing? It’s not part of you.”
Jale looked at the thing and wondered at it. She knew what it was, or she recognized part of the form that she’d known before. Now she could see that it arrowed off in strange directions. She could see what it was intended to do and how it worked. Jale laughed.
“It’s the transmitter! The one that Lakshmi-2 gave me. You were right, Sweet, it does call the Vex. It’s like a ringing dinner bell to them, but that’s not all it does. See?”
Jale turned the transmitter and showed her friends that it was indeed intended to send a message when it was activated. “She wasn’t sure that we would use it, and knew we wouldn’t trust her if she just asked us to go into the Vault and turn it on, so she tricked me. It calls the Vex, all the time. She wanted the Vex to descend on us and for us to become so desperate that we would have no choice but to take a chance and use this thing.”
“What happens when you turn it on?” Christina asked. “I can see the action it describes, or would describe, but I can’t see what it would do.”
“It won’t work in here, not inside our fortress. We’ll have to go out to turn it on and see what it does,” Jale answered.
Sweet Susie was fearful. “Should we do that? What if it calls the Vex again and they come get us here? I think they could do that.”
“If that happens, then we’ll just come back inside the tesseract,” Jale said.
“What if they break our fortress and come inside for us?”
Jale shook her head in negation. “Look at it. Look at all its facets. No one and nothing can get in here, not without our permission. This fortress, this tesseract, is Kabr. He doesn’t speak anymore, but he can act. He will protect us, he doesn’t fear the Vex.”
Sweet Susie stretched herself out and realized more about what she was. Then she nodded. “Yes. I believe we can protect ourselves as well.”
So, the Daughters of Praedyth left their fortress and a strange thing happened. They became one. They were each of them the other, and together they were one. As they left the tesseract it went into them and became their beating heart.
She examined the transmitter and saw how to make it do what it was intended to do. After turning it on, she waited to see what would happen next. Confusingly, she had not moved from where she died. The clearing looked different from her new perspective. Every angle of every object was visible simultaneously. Looking behind her, toward the city and the horizon she discovered there was no such thing as a horizon. The planet stretched away around her as a hypersphere. She suspected the view would have been dangerously inexplicable to her before her death. A view to cause madness.
It didn’t take long before a familiar figure came striding toward her across the long angular bridge that was the Vex gate. He was a short man with very dark hair cropped close to his head. The expression on his face was one of interest mixed with impatience. The man came to a stop in front of her and gave her an appraising look.
“Hello, Dr. Shim.”
He didn’t seem surprised that she knew who he was even though he clearly had no idea who she was. As if it was expected that people would recognize him, even in outlandish surroundings such as these. “Hello. Do I know you? You seem familiar.”
“We meet, briefly, once on Mars. You get upset because your laboratory is destroyed by the Vex when I arrive.”
“Oh, yes!” he scowled. “That is a very aggravating day. It takes some getting used to, seeing all past and future events as occurring at the same time. The human mind isn’t used to it, but you seem to be coping well.”
“I have to admit, I didn’t expect to see you here. Why are you traveling around the Vex network?” she asked.
“That’s a very long story. Suffice to say, I’m not the same Dr. Shim that you meet that day on Mars. I have all his memories up to that point and beyond, but we diverge after a while. Due to the Vex, of course. I expect the original Dr. Shim is probably long dead. Well, shall we get down to it?”
“I’m sorry, I’m afraid I don’t know exactly why you’re here.”
“I’m here because you called me using the communications protocol devised when myself and my companions dispersed out into the Vex network. It was intended as a general hail for assistance.”
“I’m frankly not sure where to go or what to do next. I don’t know if I can go home, or how to get there.”
Dr. Shim nodded. This version of the man seemed to be somewhat more patient and considerate than the angry young scientist she’d met on Mars. “I don’t know why you were sent here, but I believe I know how you may do something good now that you’re here. My companions and I, we refer to ourselves as the Diaspora, we explore the Vex network. We visit the length and breadth of it. The Vex invade every possible timeline, scouting for the one that will make ‘The Pattern,’ as they refer to it, true. They seek a Universe where their triumph is the only possible outcome.”
He waited to see if she had questions. She didn’t, so he continued. “Something is happening that cuts across all timelines. An act of creation that is apparently unprecedented in the history of the Universe, which is quite saying something if you know anything about the size of the Universe.
“That event is the birth of the Guardians. The melding of the Traveler’s Light with conscious, self aware beings created a new sentient life form that is not slaved to causality. The Vex deal exclusively in causality. They are the masters of it. As you are not subject to causality, you are outside the control of the Vex. They can neither predict you nor eradicate you. They realize that and so they try instead to shape timelines around your interference with the Pattern so that you have as little effect on them as possible.”
She grew hopeful. “Doctor, are you saying that I can do something about the Vex? Something truly significant?”
“Yes. Based on the information we’ve got from all our travels and study, there are two points in spacetime where, given the application of enough power, the time streams can be joined and focused down to a singular sequence of events. One of your choosing. The first point on the line is the rebirth of the first Guardian on Earth. The end point is somewhere after Oryx is killed. There is a knot of potentiality centered on Europa. Something happens on Eupora not long after Oryx is killed. You can control which time stream will exist between those two points in spacetime, and eliminate all others.”
She was awed at the task in front of her, at the scope of what Dr. Shim was describing. “To generate power you need fuel. Even with this new perspective of mine, some rules still apply. Energy and matter can neither be created nor destroyed. So, the energy to fuel this task will have to be generated somehow. Do you know how I can do that?”
“Yes. The Diaspora knows of a potential fuel source.” Dr. Shim smiled for the first time. His grin was big and goofy on the infrequent occasions when he let it out. “The version of me you first met is dying to know what I am going to tell you now.”
He told her. Her laugh echoed out across the dying hypersphere of Earth.
“Let’s go,” he said. “I’ll show you how to make the Gates go where you want them to.”
Approaching the gate that had killed her was odd and unnerving. But it looked different to her now, so She stepped through and traveled with Dr. Shim. The view became very strange, compressed and distorted, and she was glad Dr. Shim was there to guide her. He seemed to be able to find a path where she saw only chaotic noise.
“It’s difficult to learn at first, but you’ll see the how of it soon.” he assured her.
She was relieved when, after many turnings, they stepped out onto the surface of Deimos. It was another hypersphere, of course, much smaller than Earth. This moon was to be her fuel. The clay which she would mold into energy to collapse the time streams and trap the Vex in one sequence of causality. One where the Guardians had triumphed in the Black Garden. They’d broken Crota’s armies, knocked him to his knees and killed him. They’d beaten and captured Skolas, pretender Kell of Kells of the Fallen. And finally chased Oryx, the Taken King, into his throne world and put an end to him, casting his corpse down into the gravity well of Saturn. That was the reality she would shape. The victory of the Light over the Darkness, at least for a time, would be the only reality.
“How do I start, Dr. Shim?”
“The Diaspora, along with some others, are preparing this gate to assist you. It was made by the Vex, but now we have made it our own. Watch.”
The gate began to unfold and expand. It shot out of itself, ribboning around and around the hypersphere of Deimos. In three dimensions she would have seen no change, just a Vex gate sitting on a dusty little moon. From her new perspective, she watched as the gate wreathed itself around the hypersphere until it circled back around and connected with itself.
“Now it’s up to you. You have massive power at your disposal, I can see it. The work will take time, but for you time is only another lever to be pulled.”
Once she’d been dependent on the Traveler’s power to be with her in the same time and place to draw on its Light. Now She was unbound from the constraints of time. She stepped into the gate and was everywhere at all times. She drew the Light up from herself and burned Deimos.
The Christina part fed the Sweet Susie part and the Sweet Susie part fed the Jale part. Jale, in turn, fed Christina. When one Daughter was tired, she slept. When one Daughter was hungry, she drew from the Light. When one Daughter was lonely, she sang. One Daughter always burned. Turn and turn about, they did the great work.
Deimos came apart under her fingers, molecular and atomic bonds torn apart. The stored energy from those broken bonds shone out onto her face and warmed her. She sang the energy into the gate and into the fabric of spacetime. The Diaspora had built well. The gate was as a loom that wove energy into reality. She wove a net that constricted tighter and tighter, pulling eventualities into her, breaking bonds and reforging them into a shape of hope against Darkness.
For a thousand years she worked. From a third dimensional perspective, Deimos simply began slowly vanishing without explanation or cause. It was her great work and she was happy.
Dr. Shim visited her sometimes and they spoke of their lives before. Sometimes it was like remembering a dream. Other times that previous existence seemed so close she could smell the wet stone floor of the Tower after a rain.
At last the only thing left was Deimos’s gyrating core. She sliced it apart and the silken fire, the product of her work, shot away into the gate and was woven into her web. The last stricture pulled tight and She felt the click as the tumblers of the Universe settled into place. It must have been terrifying for the Vex to feel causality pulling tight around them, crushing the tunnels they’d bored into reality until only one path was left, and seeing the Guardians at the end of that path.
She gloried in Her victory and sang her name out across the void. A great dark eye turned and it saw her. Rumbling vibrations shook the web she’d fashioned and for a moment She was terrified that She’d awakened some hideous shadow thing that would destroy all her work. When she realized that the shaking of her web was the laughter of a beast, she fled back into herself. Her work of a thousand years spinning matter into energy, shaping spacetime and causality, was the amusing work of a child to that thing. She’d managed to attract a flicker of its attention, but not enough interest to require action. She didn’t want to know its name. She didn’t want to know such a thing existed.
Resting, she watched Dr. Shim and his companions disassembling the gate. It was bittersweet seeing her loom broken apart, but it was too dangerous a tool to leave lying around. After the gate had been reduced back to just being a bridge between places and times, someone stepped across it.
The man who came out greeted Dr. Shim and all the other members of the Diaspora as friends. Then he walked over to her and smiled. “Hello. I knew your names before. Jale and Sweet Susie and Christina. What are you called now?”
She thought of the shape beating at her heart. Her fortress, the changed form of the silent warrior Kabr. “Hello. You can call me Tess. It’s nice to finally meet you, Praedyth.”