Mercury’s Vault of Questions

This story was originally posted in the DBO Challenge Week 5 thread but it seemed good enough to submit here so as to be better preserved. 

Ragashingo led his five man team through the pitch black caverns. The underground passageways were dark and claustrophobic, and were only lit by the team’s small illuminations systems. Still, it was better than being on the vastly over exposed surface, face to face with the Sun. Mercury may have once somehow supported life, that’s what the ruins up above would suggest, but it certainly didn’t now. Being up there was like being in an oven. Down here, at least, it was only like being stranded in a narrow walled, low ceilinged desert.

“Contact. Silver reflective object around the next turn,” Ragashingo’s second in command reported over their comm channel. “It’s the door.”

“So the scouting team was right. There is a vault down here,” Ragashingo replied.

Accessing the vault was simple. The large number of shaped charges they used on the door made sure of that. Inside, the curved black rock walls of the cavern were replaced by silver-gray metallic walls lit by light panels mounted in the ceiling. The company’s boots clanked on the metal floor as they proceeded inside, but otherwise the vault appeared empty. There were no directional signs or markers, but the metal work, the way the seams and panels were evenly placed, felt Human. They were Human as far as Ragashingo was concerned.

Traveling through the Vault’s corridors was a slow process. Each curving hallway had to be mapped, each door at the end had to be marked, all before protocol allowed them to start digging into the riches they had potentially secured. Though secured was, perhaps, too strong of a word…

“Contacts! Contacts! Five light Vex units advancing. One survey unit at the rear,” Ragashingo’s second evenly reported.

They’d all been in combat before. A few low end Vex units would hardly slow them down. The team of Guardians handled the enemies by the numbers. One Titan at the front provided heavy fire and shielding while the other covered the rear. Ragashingo and his second, the group’s two hunters chipped away with their more accurate, longer ranged guns leaving the unit’s lone Warlock free to pound the enemy robots with powerful blasts, and debilitating distortions. Barely two minutes elapsed before the final Vex unit went down.

“It looks like they were guarding a room seventy meters ahead,” Ragashingo’s second reported a short time later as he continued scouting.

A door, cut open in the Vex’s usual oddly geometric breaching pattern, marked the location. With careful precision the team checked the entrance for more enemies, then one by one proceeded inside, with Ragashingo bringing up the rear. From the doorway the unlit, higher ceilinged room appeared to house assorted machinery, but everything changed the moment Ragashingo crossed the threshold.

Out of nowhere four armor clad figures, humans by the looks of them, appeared and took aim. The room was lit by crisscrossing exchanges of gunfire and energy, but it wasn’t until Ragashingo watched what seemed to be large caliber rounds pass harmlessly through his arm and chest that he realized what he was seeing wasn’t real. He turned and watched more of the enemy’s fire pass through him and spark and ricochet off the wall behind him. He had to admit that it was very convincing. Amazingly, his own team’s shots appeared to be hitting the enemy, but none of the newly appeared soldiers seemed to notice.

“Hold fire! They’re just holograms!” Ragashingo ordered. A moment later his team obeyed.

“Some sort of defensive program? To scare away unwanted guests?” Ragashingo’s second guessed, even as virtual bullets whizzed around him. But even as he said it, their make believe enemies obeyed a quick hand signal from what was obviously their leader and ceased fire as well.

“No… I don’t think so…” Ragashingo replied, “There’s something else going on here… I think.”

The leader of the mysterious soldiers approached Ragashingo and then, quite unexpectedly, snapped off a salute, which he held until Ragashingo hesitantly reciprocated. The soldier, by all appearances, seemed to be a human wearing some sort of advanced combat armor. The armor’s various hardened plates glowed a gently pulsing white that somehow spoke to Ragashingo of intense power. Something about the armor seemed familiar somehow, but the familiarity of it danced at the back of Ragashingo’s mind, unwilling to reveal itself.

“Can you hear me? Understand me?” Ragashingo asked, putting the odd feeling aside.

The soldier nodded his helmet yes.

“Can you speak? Who are you? What is this place?”

This time the unspoken answer was no. Instead the soldier turned and gestured for Ragashingo to follow. Another hand signal had the rest of the soldiers forming up. They marched deeper into the room while their commander lingered behind, waiting.

“What is this?” One of the Guardians asked over comm, but nobody had a good answer.

Ragashingo, seeing no better option, ordered his own men into formation and cautiously followed. The soldiers led them through an exit on the far side of the room and back into the narrower corridors. They proceeded through several intersections, sometimes continuing straight, and other times turning to the left or right. What seemed to be sealed doors, like the one at the vault’s entrance and the one the Vex had cut through, slid open as the commander approached them. The vault must have been truly enormous given the distance they traveled and the numerous pathways they simply walked past. Finally though, the commander led them into a small, dark room. In its center was a strange spherical object, a machine of some kind, surrounded by four curved metal humps or tubes that connected to the floor. As the four soldiers approached it rays of light streaked from the sphere to their bodies, distorting them slightly.

“That must be the holo-generator,” Ragashingo’s second said softly.

The commander pointed to the sphere then unsheathed a short combat knife and dropped to his knees. He plunged his knife into the spherical object, as if trying to kill it. He was still for a second but then repeated his stabbing action, again and again, each time with more desperation. Finally, he rested his helmet on the sphere in obvious despair, before looking back at Ragashingo.

“He wants me to stab it,” Ragashingo told his unit as he pulled out his own combat knife, one of two Traveler Blades he carried with him. Then it hit him! The way his blade glowed and shimmered when close to The Traveler, it was the same as the glow of the four soldier’s armor! “Be ready… for anything,” he ordered before stepping towards the sphere.

The commander stood clear, and nodded as the other three soldiers under his command moved so that each stood near one of the tubes. Ragashingo nodded in reply then thrust his knife into the sphere. The room around him exploded into chaos as the various panels making up the floor, ceiling, and walls began randomly fading, revealing the black rock tunnel just beyond, or blazing so white they were hard to look at. The effects alternated so rapidly among the panels that it cased the room to blink as if lit by powerful strobe lights. It was so intense that Ragashingo had to squint his eyes shut despite the active filtering performed by his visor. An instant later it stopped and everything was dark once more.

“What on Earth?” Ragashingo’s second wondered aloud. Ragashingo couldn’t believe it either. The metal room had vanished. Even back down the hallway the metal of the vault had been replaced by the dark rock of the cavern that contained it. The vault… the entire vault must have been a hologram! But that wasn’t the strangest part of it, not by a long shot. The odd sphere remained at the center of the underground room, but surrounding it floated four wispy, indistinct figures. Each was connected by dim, blue glowing filaments to what seemed to be the remains of the four armored soldiers. Each of them lay dead on the cavern floor, and each of them was arrayed around the sphere in place of the now vanished tubes.

“Thank you for releasing us,” came the … ghostly… that was the only way Ragashingo could think to describe it… voice of the figure who floated where the soldier’s commander had just been. “Leave us or burry us, it does not matter, but take our armor back with you. Though damaged, it will prove useful if what I suspect has happened… has happened. And do not put too much faith in The Traveler, it is not entirely what it appears… Just Be Brave… and… I wish I could tell you more, tell you everything but… “ he paused then yelled, “Attention!” Salute!”

The four wispy, translucent figures straightened and, in unison, proceeded to give one final salute before being sucked back down into their respective bodies like smoke and fire being vented from an airlock.

Each of the four Guardians under Ragashingo’s command carried a fallen soldier back through the caverns, back tracking along the twists and turns the long dead commander had led them down. Ragashingo, himself, carried the mysterious spherical device that… that what? Had it killed the four soldiers? Had they died defending it?

So much remained unclear.
Why had the soldiers died? How had their… spirits… remained?
Why had a human looking vault been projected deep beneath the surface of Mercury?
What were the Vex doing there and how had they even found it?

The only thing clear to Ragashingo was that his team had accomplished their objective. They’d found new, ancient technology, and would soon return with it to Earth.

As heroes.

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3 Responses to Mercury’s Vault of Questions

  1. Jim Stitzel May 14, 2013 at 3:16 pm #

    I love the kind of stories that raise a lot of questions — and don’t necessarily feel compelled to answer them. It creates a great air of mystery and expectation that can be fun to explore in future installments.

  2. Ragashingo May 20, 2013 at 3:50 am #

    Yep. It was a lot of fun. Once I hit on the idea to have actual ghosts and to provide the twist that they first seem to be holograms I knew that I didn’t really want to give a lot of answers. With so little known about Destiny so far I think it would be a bad idea to even try and think up too many answers!

    • Jim Stitzel May 20, 2013 at 10:54 am #

      Agreed. What little fiction I’ve written so far tries to makes use of what little we know without adding too many embellishments I’ll have to recon later.

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