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The Chosen Dead pt. 16

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Tower Barracks, Two Months Later
“Think he’s here?”
Nemara pinched the bridge of her nose, in thought. “He is not in any of the mess halls, and flight records said that he hasn’t left the Tower. If he isn’t here, then...” She shrugged her shoulders. The chrome and yellow armored Titan accompanying her let out a small chuckle, and swapped his helmet to his other hip. He rubbed his buzzed cut blonde hair. Green eyes searched the name tag at the top of the room’s door frame.
“I’ve heard about this guy. Is it true he won his first very first Elimination game?”
Nemara scoffed. “Is that truly so special?” She pounded a black armored fist on the door.
The other Titan belly laughed and pushed her shoulder. “So he did beat your record.”
“Blythe, if Shaxx hadn’t barred us elite from the Crucible, I’d have put the cheeky little shit in his place.” She banged on the door harder. “MARROK!” She started to pace. She did that before she got angry. Or when she was angry. Or when she was best contemplating how to kill...
Actually, it was just something that she did.
Nemara marched up to the door for a third time when suddenly a little Ghost materialized in front of her face. She stepped back and crossed her arms. “Where is he?”
The robot’s eye swapped from Guardian to Guardian, it’s orbits twirled and flexed outward when it recognized Nemara. “Oh good you’re here!” It said cheerfully. “I was instructed to give you a message.”
“No. No.” Nemara interrupted, holding up a finger. “We do not have time for one of his hide-and-seek games today.” Her index finger poked the little Ghost. It spun its polygons and stabilized itself. “We’ve actually got an assignment today and his presence is required forthwith.”
I’ve never heard you use that word before,” the Titan whispered to her. Nemara elbowed him in the gut.
“Where is he?” She demanded. The Ghost angled down but looked up at her sheepishly. Her face dropped softly. “It is important I swear.” She cupped her hands underneath the little robot. “I’m sorry I poked you.”
It’s rear orbits twitched. “He’s right behind you.”
Blythe turned around and raised an arm, smiling as he lowered it across Marrok’s shoulders. “Hey! Look at that! I found him!”
“You’re losing your touch, Nemy,” the Hunter beamed.
“Don’t you ever call me that,” she threatened. Marrok patted Blythe on his shiny chest armor, and shook the Titan’s hand.
“Pleasure to meetcha.”
“Likewise, Guardian,” The chrome Titan spoke.
Nemara rolled her eyes and grabbed Marrok by the collar of his cloak and pulled him down the hallway. “Come, we’re late.” Blythe put his helmet on, the top of which was adorned with a blood red crest made of horse hair. The face mask was a black t-shape visor that was rounded at the eyes in the style of ancient Roman or Greek warriors. He wore a blue badge with wonderful white flourishes of white silk floral patterns that hung down from his waist to the back of his knee.
“What does she mean, hide-and-seek games?” He asked Marrok as they walked.
The Hunter shook off Nemara’s grip and brushed off his red collar. After he had returned Lokir-43’s kit to Marcus the Warlock, Marrok decided to look into New Monarchy, the faction dedicated to the defense of the City, and to the return of the Golden Age. In his free time, Marrok would often have meals with the soldiers of the Royal Protectorate. He loved listening to their stories as much as he loved learning from Veteran Guardians. One time Cayde-6 joined him and the soldiers of Whiskey two-nine in one of the mess halls, and the Hunter Vanguard challenged Sergeant Hillock to a game of Five Finger Fillet. The Exo lost two hundred glimmer.
After giving up his previous matte-black outfit a month ago, Marrok now wore his kit in the style of New Monarchy, white armor trimmed in gold with a small amount of red markings. The kit set was named ORDER and it's color shader was called Bloodpact. Although Marcus had told him to keep Lokir-43’s black cloak, he didn’t feel comfortable wearing the story of another dead Guardian whom he had never known. Instead, Marrok opted for a simple red full sized cloak adorned with the badge of New Monarchy and the chevrons of the Hunter’s Guild. A large comm-radio sat behind his left shoulder. He looked up at Blythe.
“Oh it’s just fun to see how flustered she can get,” he answered.
“Be careful then.”
Marrok blew air out through his lips. “Oh I’ve been dead a time or two before.” Blythe laughed and patted the Hunter on the back.
After an awkward, quiet walk down the hall and an equally awkward, quiet elevator ride (Marrok and Blythe tried their best not to giggle like children) to the Plaza, the trio stepped out into a bright late morning. Nemara shaded her eyes with her hand as they marched to the hangar.
“Nemara, are you well?” Marrok finally spoke.
“I am fine.”
Marrok shrugged at Blythe, and called forth his Ghost. “Gabriel.”
“I assume you have the details for today.”
“I do. Here they are.” The Ghost brought forth a large holographic briefing. Blythe leaned in to read along.
“Yes, I understand now,” said Blythe. They were going to Venus. Reconnaissance mission. They were to gather intel about the Vex Citadel in the Ishtar Sink. They would also rendezvous with another Guardian Fireteam already on the ground. “Are you going to be all right, Nemara?”
“I said I’m fine, dammit” She pounded the wall of the Tower Hangar’s corridor. Marrok furrowed his brow in sympathy. He knew she didn’t like going to Venus. There she had lost some connection in her first life that was so strong it haunted her daily in her second.
Blythe made a grunt. “It was bound to happen sooner or later. You know that.”
Nemara spun on her heel, and nearly pressed her nose against Blythe’s visor. The large man looked down and put a hand on her shoulder. “You also know I meant no disrespect, Nemara.”
She blinked, looked to Marrok and back up at Blythe, and then searched the floor before turning back to the Hangar’s elevator leading to the bottom floor where they would board their jumpships. Once they arrived, Nemara’s Spindle Demon and Marrok’s Arcadia rose from the elevator pit. Blythe’s Kestrel lowered from the ceiling rack of ships. Nemara turned to the others. “When we arrive, you two will immediately drop planet-side and rendezvous with Alpha team. Further details when we reach high orbit.”
“Nemara...” Blythe’s voice fell.
“I will be your eagle eyes. This will not be debated.” She breathed heavily through her nose. “Man your stations.”
Marrok scoffed and put on his armored gas mask helmet. Gold visor with the New Monarchy logo painted on the left side, white frame, red mask filter. Order's Mask, it was called. He pulled his red shroud over the top and popped the edges at the synch as he walked past Nemara, calling someone on his comm. Blythe just sighed. “It has to end, little Phoenix.”
“Don’t you ever call me that.
Blythe turned and marched aft to his Kestrel. She didn’t turn to follow. Her Ghost appeared, and sat upon the crest of her head. She frowned the corner of her mouth, and reached up to pat her guide before finally turning to board her Spindle Daemon.
The Venus Exosphere
Hours later the gloomy, yellow, foggy, sphere of Venus sat lonely in the ether of space. Sol shone brightly in the HUD’s of the three jumpships dropping out of FTL. They rocketed towards the Earthly Sister with Nemara at the head of the v-formation.
“Alpha is holding position near the Cinders and are working their way south. You will approach the Citadel northbound. Your rendezvous point lies underneath the structure. Delta Zulu designate: Headlands. Extraction point is the Ishtar Academy. Plenty of cover inside. Questions?”
No immediate response.
“I’ll be standing by for air support.”
“Very well,” Blythe breathed.
Nemara’s Spindle Demon pulled back and settled into low orbit. The other two hulls glowed against Venus’s thick atmosphere as they sped towards the drop zone. Inside his Arcadia, Marrok held fast to the joystick. The rumbling and violent shaking of the craft as it dropped through Venus’s thick atmosphere made his stomach lurch. His Ghost, Gabriel, watched over Marrok's piloting, and hung inches above his lap, keeping close watch of the ship’s diagnostics and trajectory in case an emergency called for its assistance. Both ships settled smoothly into formation gliding high above lava rivers of burning blue sulfur, red acid lakes and oceans, green jungles set against the planet's dull yellow, rocky surface.
The Headlands, Venus
When they finally reached the landing zone, Marrok and Blythe appeared on the cliff edge a small distance away from what remained of a city. Their jumpships zoomed off into the sky.
“I’ll follow you,” Marrok breathed deep behind his mask. His HUD blinked a short systems check.
All green.
Blythe chinned his com. “Alpha team.”
A second's pause.
“Go for Alpha. What’s your twenty, Bravo?”
The pair mounted their sparrows and rocketed north east towards the city. Marrok’s red and white cloak and Blythe’s blue badge flapped in the rush of speed. “Bravo is dirt-side and en route to the rendezvous.”
“Copy that, Bravo. Is that Blythe?”
“Toph! Good to have Fireteam Blackburn on the job.”
“Likewise, my friend. We've heard some good things about Fireteam Nemesis. I'm sure you won't disappoint."
Blythe and Marrok exchanged glances.
"Be advised, the House of Winter is here. How copy?"
“Probably looking to loot the Academy here,” Marrok posited.
Blythe answered the others, “Good copy, we’ll keep an eye out.” The two sparrows raced through the city ruins. Once mighty behemoth towers standing tall and proud now leaned and crumbled with rust and age. Blythe tried to imagine what this place once was during the Golden Age, and his purpose became clear. He held up a fist, and the two Guardians parked their sparrows in a small alley way. They would be hoofing it the rest of the way.
The Hunter dismounted his sparrow, and stepped out into the lonely singular vestigial street. Cars piled upon each other, covered with the over growth of Venusian kudzu and orange ruined iron. He places a hand on the hood of one such ancient transport and shakes his head sorrowfully. “I bet this was a sweet ride back in the day.” Blythe just nodded his head and motioned to press onward. Marrok followed him, sniper rifle in hand. His eagle eye constantly searched the upcoming coastline and buildings, searching for any phantom of movement. In the distance, across the great red-orange lake of acid, a monstrous volcano still inked the thick cloudy sky with ash and smoke. A river of blue fire oozed down its side.
“There’s our extraction point.” Blythe pointed, before gripping his auto rifle. A statue of an angel lifting her arms to the sky, holding... something... as though it were an offering, stood several meters from the cliff edge.
Marrok noted the position and wiped small raindrops from his helmet’s metal visor. “Alpha team, what’s your twenty?” he asked. His radio crackled to life.
"A hell of a lot closer than you fellas. But there are a lot of Fallen Empire in the Ember Caves." Marrok heard a distinct sniper rifle crack behind Toph’s voice over the radio. He smiled.
“Copy that," said Blythe, "All’s clear on our end so far. The two of us should make decent time.”
"Say again, Bravo team. Two of you?"
Blythe’s exasperation was palpable across the entire frequency. “We have close air support standing by.”
"Nice. See you soon, Bravo team."
Blythe looked back over his shoulder to Marrok. The Gunslinger rolled his head slightly and looked out across the red sea.
In low orbit, Nemara sat staring at the live HUD feed from her team mates on her jumpship’s monitor. Her Ghost sat on her shoulder. She crossed her arms. “Bravo team, status?” She already knew the answer.
"Very bored, ma’am,” Marrok’s voice crackled back. "But hey, at least it’s pretty. I like the acid death lake. Adds a certain... je ne sais quoi.”
"Fireteam Blackburn says there’s lot’s of Fallen here. House of Winter. Negative contact so far."
“Stay sharp, Bravo. There’s definitely something going on down there and it isn’t Fallen. Be ready for Vex.”
"I thought that was a given?"
“There are never any givens, Marrok.”
"Copy that. We’ll be in touch. You just make sure you can bring the rain when we do the dance," said the Gunslinger.
Nemara ran a systems check. Weapons diagnostics. Guns and Missiles online. “I’m ready. Overwatch out.” She killed the channel, took off her helmet and placed her face in her hands. She looked out the view port one more time.
“Please let everything go smoothly.” She prayed.
She didn’t know to whom.
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