Prison wasn’t so bad once you learned to ignore everything about it. Kvioh had lost track of the number of months she’d been locked in this same metal bubble. After the first three months, she’d just stopped keeping track and found other ways to pass the time. Her cell was only about two meters across. Strips of lights across the ceiling turned on and off at regular intervals, approximating a day/night cycle.
The curving walls boasted everything a crazed killer like herself might want: a toilet, a sink, a bed which doubled as a seat. Capsules about the size of a football regularly popped out of a tiny door in the floor. Four capsules arrived every day. The first capsule of the day always contained clean clothes and a cloth to wash with. She stuffed her clothing from the previous day as well as the used washcloth into the capsule and it was accepted back into the door from whence it came. The other three capsules contained food. Well, “food” might be too generous a description. They contained nutritious, filling substances that didn’t taste like much.
She’d pounded the walls at first, even managed to break the sink and start water jetting into the cell. She’d been pleased with that result, until the cell had filled to the point where she was standing on her toes, breathing in a space about the width of a deck of playing cards. They’d left her like that for a long time, just bobbing and catching the occasional unintentional mouthful of water, with nothing to do except stare at the LED light strips set into the ceiling. Then they’d turned out the lights.
Eventually, she’d been rendered unconscious by some painless means and woken up in a new cell. Or perhaps it was the same cell, except with the sink repaired exactly as it had been. She found other ways to amuse herself after that.
Singing to herself, doing yoga, meditating and having imaginary conversations with Giovanni all lost their charm in month two. Month three she spent perfecting turning a backflip without bumping into the wall or ceiling. A few days after the beginning of month four (she’d stopped counting the days at that point), a tablet and a keyboard came out of the little door in the floor.
She checked the items out thoroughly. No outside connection whatsoever. No news feeds or ability to communicate with the outside world. She could save written documents and she could draw pictures with her finger. After a few more light and dark cycles, she started writing about her life. She remembered little of her experiences before being resurrected, but she remembered almost everything about what she’d seen and done after she came back from the dead. Hundreds of years worth of stories, memories, insights and experiences. So she started to catalogue them.
Sometimes it was hard and sometimes it was easy. Some of what she dredged out of her memory brought her to tears. She didn’t think anything had the power to do that anymore. The battles were fun to recount, even that mess on the moon when Crota eviscerated the Vanguard. A lot of Guardians gave their all that day. She’d never seen that depth of determination, tactical brilliance, and strategic foolishness since.
She didn’t write in chronological order, but instead as memories came to her. The mess that landed her in prison was foremost on her mind so she wrote about that at first. As she wrote about her concerns about Traveler Worship, about why it was dangerous and why she and Giovanni had killed all those people, her passion for the subject started to collapse. Maybe it was that Giovanni was dead now, or that she had never actually set out her thoughts in writing. Whatever the reason, the mental foundation she’d used as the basis for her decision to kill men, women, children and a fellow Guardian collapsed. Once, the threat posed by Traveler worship had felt shiny, bright and sharp in her mind. Now, when she lay all of her arguments out on the page they seemed drab, unconnected and meaningless. She tried to rekindle the rage she’d felt, didn’t want all that she’d done to be for nothing. But when she looked up from the screen and surveyed the blank gray curving wall around her, she just couldn’t find that ember of righteous fury that had motivated her to kill so many.
Months went by that way, with her just pouring out her thoughts and experiences into a little tablet that swallowed it all up without comment or complaint. Some days after she had ceased writing for the day, she actually felt at peace. That didn’t happen every day, but when it happened, she slept like the dead that night.
Then one day, the door to her cell opened and Cayde-6 stepped in. She was sitting on the floor, her keyboard and tablet off to the side for the moment. Fear, hope, and anger all coursed through her. The only thing that came out of her mouth, to her everlasting shame, was, “Please, don’t take the tablet. I…need it.” The last two words trailed off into mumbling. She didn’t realize how weak and afraid she’d become, and despised herself for it.
Cayde shook his head. “I’m not here to take anything from you, Kvioh. I’m going to tell you a story and then I’m going to ask you a question.”
Kvioh looked up from the floor where she’d dropped her gaze in embarrassment. She nodded, not trusting herself to speak again yet. Cayde filled the silence instead. “You’ve been in here eighteen months as of a few days ago. Something unprecedented has happened in that time. The story I’m going to tell you begins with a Warlock named Jale.”
Jale opened her eyes, even though she knew everything she saw was just a projection of truth. Nothing any of her sense could perceive was actually true. It was a frustrating way to live, but she was going to fix that.
She looked around and remembered she was supposed to be saying something, or doing something. People were gathered around her on a street corner. Sweet Susie, her friend and fellow Daughter, was there to her left, looking bemused. Susie cleared her throat, flicked a quick glance at the crowd, and said, “I repeat: And what are its relations to other things? Is it or does it become older or younger than they?”
Jale’s mind finally caught back up with where it was supposed to be and she answered, “I cannot tell you.”
Jale and Sweet Susie joined hands and gave a quick bow to the audience. “That was our rendition of the dialogue between Zeno and Aristotle in Plato’s Parmenides. Thank you for watching.” Jale gave another quick bow to the smattering of applause from the crowd (if you could call five people a crowd), and turned back to her companion.
“What the hell, Jale? You completely blanked. What happened? I’ve got better things to do, you know. Getting blown to bits in one of Shaxx’s absurd Crucible exercises would be more enjoyable than memorizing all this stuff and standing out here reciting on the street for people who have no idea what we’re doing. Other than making fools of ourselves, that is. And then during the performance you blank out like some kind of brain dead stoner? I should have told you to shove it, just like Christina did.”
“I think I got lost. Not lost, I got closer to the truth. Plato was right. The Forms are real. Not just real, they’re what reality is. When we were reciting that dialogue, some part of my brain went back to trying to reconcile the Forms with what we know about quantum physics and the Vex. It’s the Vault, Sweet Susie. We have to get into the Vault of Glass.”
Jale picked up the thick piece of chalk she’d used to write the name of the performance onto the sidewalk and stuffed it into one of the many interior pockets of her robes. Her clothing was yellow, accented with red, and bore the device of the Praxic Order on the left shoulder. Sweet Susie’s robes were mostly black, with only a few hints of dark blue. The colors complimented her short, dark auburn hair. She thought Jale’s choice of clothing washed her out, given her extremely pale skin and almost translucently blond, permanently pony-tailed hair. Jale wouldn’t wear anything else, though. She said the colors projected her devotion to study as a Sunsinger.
Sweet Susie sighed. “First we’re going to a bar and you’re going to buy me several drinks to make up for what just happened. Plato and the Vex. And I thought the Thanatonauts were weird. Stop talking for a while, Jale, you’re giving me a headache.”
Jale didn’t stop, though. As usual, her stream of consciousness manner of speaking burbled out in a steady flow. She would circle back around to the same idea several times until Susie made some acknowledgement of it; only then would she continue. Sweet Susie let it wash over her ears, dipping into the stream only very occasionally to see where Jale was in her now-very-familiar explanation of her theory of existence.
Sweet Susie wasn’t a historian and philosopher like Jale. She studied strategy, tactics, combat psychology, and weapons technology. The Vault of Glass’s purpose was obvious to her. It was an enemy fortress. One that they had somehow invaded and conquered, yet it remained enemy territory. It wasn’t some existential answer rendered into physical form, like Jale seemed to think it was.
Jale had never been in the Vault. Sweet Susie had. She’d been through those frigid caverns and been shot to pieces with her team time and again until they figured out how to use the Aegis relic. Her memories of creeping, lungs about to burst with held breath, past the Gorgons as they chittered and chirped still woke her in a cold sweat sometimes. Killing Atheon had been a confusing, terrifying, and exhilarating experience. It had been a fight unlike anything she’d seen before. Like picking a lock the size of a mountain while fire rained down on you. Jale was a genius, but she didn’t know what she was talking about when it came to the Vault. Sweet Susie had been there and she knew what it was.
The bar had no name, or rather, it had a symbol instead of a name: ♫. It was a Warlock bar, so the name tried hard to be a really clever joke. The joke in this name was that while the bar was known by a musical symbol, music was forbidden in the bar. Even conversation above a muted whisper was frowned upon. It was more like a library than a bar, except that you could get stunningly strong drinks instead of books. The quality of the mojito made up for ridiculous noise restrictions.
The bar was three narrow stories, and many small interior dividing walls had been put up to allow for private conversations or very solitary drinking. Sweet Susie could appreciate the peace and quiet, though she more often preferred to hit a club playing music so loud she couldn’t think. Jale loved the place and wouldn’t go to any other bar.
“How are you going to convince the Vanguard to let us raid the Vault?” Susie asked, after they’d gotten their drinks (mojito for Susie, red wine for Jale) and found a table.
Jale tapped the base of her wine glass with alternating fingers before answering. “Ikora Rey already knows that the Vault is important. She just doesn’t know why. I’ve just got to convince her that I do know why. Or, maybe, I could get her to believe that it’s rescue mission. It is, sort of.”
“Praedyth,” Sweet Susie said.
“We know he’s still there. Still alive somewhere,” Jale said, nodding.
“They did find his body, Jale.”
“They found bones, Sweet Susie. Everybody has bones. They also found recordings where he says that he lived.”
“Yeah, lived. Past tense.”
Jale shook her head in annoyance. “Why are you saying these things? We’ve been over this—you and Christina both agree with me. Past tense language doesn’t mean anything in the context of the Vex. Also, I’ve analyzed the metadata on that message. There are strong indications it was recorded after the date it was actually found and retrieved!”
A disembodied “Shhh!” came from somewhere behind them. Jale’s voice had risen to normal conversational level, which was unacceptable for this particular Warlock bar. Sweet Susie smirked. “I was giving you some practice at responding to arguments Ikora might put to you. Also, it’s amusing to get you wound up sometimes.”
Jale took a deep breath. Sweet Susie was joking with her. She missed other people’s humor quite a lot, and often things she found funny didn’t make sense to other people. Also, she sometimes had difficulty telling what was real and what wasn’t. That didn’t happen often, and never in combat. Someday it would, she supposed. That’s one of the reasons it was so important to her to find Praedyth and learn what he could teach her about the nature of reality. Maybe then she could be at peace. Until then, the wine helped.
“What is Christina working on that she couldn’t leave to come help me?” Jale asked.
“Well, she’s been studying ultra-dense Void constructs for a while. I suppose she’s trying to dial in the best ratio of energy input/output for her Void bolt. More importantly though, Gilbert is back in town, and for some reason she wanted to spend the day with him rather than reciting ancient Greek philosophical texts to an uncaring public with you.” Sweet Susie downed the rest of her drink and peered around the corner for a Frame waiter to signal for another.
Jale just grunted. To her, nothing was important as the Vault and what lay inside. She knew that not everyone felt the same. “If she had to choose, between staying with Gilbert and going with us into the Vault, which do you think she would choose?”
The question caught Sweet Susie short. The three of them had been friends and roommates for years now. Their apartment in the City was a monument to study of the Vault of Glass first and a living place second. They each had their own beliefs about what the Vault was and why it was important, but all three of them believed it was important.
“Gilbert’s only around once every three months or so. He’s a Hunter. He’s solitary by nature and likes to roam. Christina is always excited to see him, but she’s just as obsessed with Praedyth and the Vault as you and I are. You just get the Vanguard to greenlight the raid. We’ll be with you.”
“I still don’t see why I have to be the one to convince Ikora. You and Christina should both come with me.”
Sweet Susie shook her head. “This also territory we’ve been over. When you’re focused, you can talk like nobody I know. You don’t just understand these things—things about philosophy and consciousness—you can make other people understand them. I’m good at killing things and breaking stuff. Really, really good. I can come up with three different ways to breach and occupy a building, but when it comes to trying to convince someone of something, I get stuck on a direct frontal assault. We need to go, because it’s important. What more do you need to know? I’d rather face incoming cannon fire than have to deal with persistent questioning by someone like Ikora Rey. I’d get frustrated and angry and fall apart.
“As for Christina, she can draw you a diagram of anything, but forget trying to get her to actually explain what it is. Do you remember that time you asked her how she’d made the pasta taste so good and she ended up rambling about the molecular structure of quartz? No, darling. It’s got to be you.”
Jale knew all the things Sweet Susie was telling her, but hearing her friend say them in her soft rolling Irish brogue calmed the nerves in a way no other preparation could have. The Sunsinger took a deep breath and then finished her remaining half-glass of wine. “Okay. I’m off to see the Warlock. I’ll meet you at the apartment after I finish at the Tower.”
The Warlock women stood, and for a moment, Sweet Susie felt tempted to give Jale a hug. Instead, she just smiled at her friend and patted her on the arm. They walked out of the bar together. As they parted ways, Sweet Susie called out, “Good luck, Jale!”
“Luck is not a factor.”
“You’re a pain in the arse!”