A Hunter’s Journey, Pt. 2

Short note: I read the feedback, and I’m really glad y’all appreciate what I’m doing. The colors are a conscious choice; I’m currently trying to incorporate them more strongly into the plot. Honestly, directly after I wrote part 1, I fell asleep, woke up the next day, and started writing like crazy. Right now, I’m trying to finish up the storyline and create an open window for another Guardian’s story. Here’s part 2- enjoy!

# # #

“I’m not saying an argument couldn’t be made for the contrary. Just that said argument would be entirely ridiculous.”

Caren rolled her eyes at her companion, a fellow Warlock who stood a good two feet above her- she swore, Jay should have been a Titan- before she responded.

“I wouldn’t be so skeptical. The Traveler’s power seems to have certain “hotspots”, and maybe they could have useful i-”

“Then it’s a good thing you’re not me, isn’t it? All evidence stands to show that these are just residuals from when it swept in and saved us all. There’s no pattern, no similarities in any of these. And if you’re going to show them to the Council, you’ll need more evidence.”

“I think the Council would agree with me, actually. Warlocks are the most privy to The Traveler, and ergo, we should also be the most eager to seek out its mysteries, the better to solve them and help our cause.”

Jay raised his hands, palms facing Caren, in a gesture of surrender. “Fine. If you want to be stubborn, then be stubborn. But if you look here…”

The tall Warlock bent over a three-by three pedestal in the center of the room the two were in, tapping a few controls before a display of the Earth popped into existence. Jay pulled up a small overlay of hotspots that were dotted across the surface, pointing at one deep in the jungles of what had been Southern America.

“That one right there. It’s, A: in the middle of Vex territory, and B: the place of an old nuclear detonation. Whatever The Traveler did, it was probably a wave-like particle transformation effect, something like our Nova bomb. Some spots… just absorbed it better than others, and besides, this is relatively new information. We can’t trust it until we actually get more scouts out there.”

Caren shoved her index finger at Jay’s chest, which was on level with her forehead, before she made her reply. “Then explain why there’s been an increased level of Vex activity since the hotspots came on sensor. Even if I’m wrong, it’s something worth checking out.”

Jay stared down at her, his boy-like face slightly concerned. “We don’t have the time or troops necessary, and like I literally just said, that’s Vex territory- actually, let me see, they all are. It would take our best operatives, and at least an army. Maybe later.”

“There won’t be a later if I’m right, and you know that just as well as I do.”

Jay spoke his next words with care, raising a hand and flicking a strand of Caren’s midnight black hair from her green eyes. “For once… I hope you’re wrong. Are you really going to take this before the Council of Guardians?”

“I have to. It might mean the future of The City.”

Caren strode from the room, arms crossed. Jay groaned before he jogged after her, half-yelling, “You’re wrong! Nobody would even be stupid enough to go into those deathtraps in the first place!”

# # #

Aaren made a living by entering deathtraps, surviving whatever was there, and then looting them. It was tough. It was also against standard Guardian rules, but Talon thought of rules more as general guidelines than actual pillars to adhere to. However, this one was different- it wasn’t the run-of-the-mill situation, and he’d approached it with some care.

Of course, in this case, care was all relative. Funny, really. How little one can care after all this.

The Hunter crouch-walked carefully through the underbrush of the ancient forest, moving in the shadows and revealing himself only when necessary. The chrono in his helmet told him he’d been moving along like this for forty three minutes, fifty two seconds. To his right, he heard a noise, the sharp “snap” of a twig. Aaren froze, not daring to look at the source of movement. As his mentor had taught him, staying still was often the best defense- when hiding, movement most easily roots out the target.

But he’s dead now, isn’t he.

The Guardian gritted his teeth and slowly, ever so slowly, turned his head to the right. Nothing. Talon relinquished the death grip on his hand cannon before he moved again.

This isn’t something I need. Not now.

He’d led a fireteam, once; commanded a small crew aboard his ship, back when he’d been a proper Guardian. But then he’d been rooted out, and…

One of his own squirmed in his grip. His left hand held the traitor steady, his right leveled the hand cannon at the man’s head. Aaren felt the blood trickle from his mouth, down the side of his jaw.

            “You betrayed us all!”

            “There was money! So much left! Please, Talon, don’t shoo-!”

            The next second, there was only red. Red tinting his vision, red blood flying through the air, red brains splattering the walls of his ship. The man’s entire upper head was gone, the facial region from the mouth up obliterated. Aaren released the corpse, ears ringing and eyes wide.

            Behind him, four bodies were splayed out on the floor, heads twisted at awkward angles or wounds to the chest and stomach still seeping dark red, almost black liquid. The whole corridor stank of iron.

            On that day, he’d renamed his ship. The Fireblade was no more, and Aaren could only think of the color red. The Crimson had taken its place. How fitting, that the color red should re-define him, that his chosen color’s antithesis should-

            Aaren growled, the sound coming from low in his throat. Don’t think about that. There’s only the mission now. The Hunter continued to move forwards, raising himself slightly from where he’d frozen, leaning in silent pain on a tree. Another ten minutes passed. Then fifteen, then thirty, and Aaren suddenly halted, pulling the butt of his rifle into his shoulder and aiming down the sights. In front of him, a creature of bronzed metal, one gleaming red eye set in a large, fan-like protrusion that served as a head- a Vex. The hands held an alien rifle, one pointed directly… not at him. It had stopped only to turn around again and walk back the other way.

The Guardian had been holding his breath without realizing it, and heaved a sigh of relief. It’s only on patrol, Aaren realized, but it’ll be back.

            Talon prepared himself to burst out of cover and begin to run, but as he poked his head around the tree he stood behind, he saw a problem. The forest had thinned out a half-mile back, causing Aaren to move a bit faster, but still provided sufficient cover for the Hunter in which to move. However, here was a dilemma- the last fifty meters of space between him and a large stone structure were completely open, no cover to hide behind. All trees of any sort had been burned down, and the large clearing boasted no small amount of Vex, walking back and forth on the black soil. Overhead, a heavily armed Vex dropship roared across the clearing, deafening Aaren for a few moments.

The Hunter held his position, his rifle still tracking the Vex in front of him. The single word ingrained on the lower receiver glinted in the afternoon sun. Fireblaze. Talon considered both his position and the rifle’s unique talents for a moment, formulating a plan of action. Stealth, more obviously than not, was out of the question. However, taking on a whole army of Vex, followed by a gunship, was not a particularly intelligent idea.

So Tarek was right…

            About a month and a half ago, Aaren had taken a call from an old friend- turned informant. Tarek had rambled on about increased Vex activity in South America, the possibility of some “great and powerful” artifact, and then abruptly ceased transmission. While the Hunter didn’t like the idea of going into what could have been a trap, he’d taken the job- accidentally “forgetting” to notify the Council of Guardians, much like he usually did.

As long as it’s done, they gain something, and I survive, I doubt they could care less about what I do. Besides, after this is all over, I’ll make up some story and carry on my way.

            Aaren turned his mind back to the scene at hand, examining the Vex from his position on his stomach. A newly christened Guardian would attack at night, he knew- but the Vex were machines, and regardless of their circuitry, their single eye did not have the same faults as those of a human’s, which effectively ruled out any advantage to be gained by darkness.

I’m no exo, either. Can’t afford to take any hits. Could possibly pull back, try to pick them off… no, not an option. Too many of them. They’ve got air support, as well. Which means…

            Behind the faceless anonymity of his helmet, Aaren winced. The Hunter took a few seconds to retreat, pushing himself backwards on his elbows before he took the opportunity to move back into his crouched position, backtracking further into the cover of the forest. From there, the Guardian keyed in his helmet mic and muttered a few words, making a single call.

# # #

Allan Griffost had no particular love for the man named Aaren Talon. In fact, he had no love at all. However, he owed the Hunter a certain debt, and was honor bound to repay it. The Awoken in the pilot’s seat of the Gunslinger Fate allowed a grimace to distort his otherwise perfect features- features which were characteristic of the alien race humans called ‘The Awoken’- as he saw the name on the display readout of his shipboard comms system. Allan debated upon the pros and cons of ignoring the call entirely- Traveler take the debts- but decided against it, eventually relenting and rapping the “accept transmissions” key.

“What do you want, Talon?”

The voice on the other end had changed little since the Awoken had last heard it, retaining the calm depth often characteristic of men who daily gambled their life. Yet here, it seemed tired, almost raspy.

“Allan Griffost. Wasn’t sure if you’d pick up. I want your help.”

“Why should I give it to you?” Allan hissed, knowing perfectly well that he was obliged to fulfill his debt.

“Because I didn’t kill you the last time you betrayed me. Could have, you know. Considered it.”

“…You should get somebody else. I’m sure I’m not your first pick.”

A slight silence before Aaren’s next sentence marked his hesitation… or, as the Awoken was want to believe, his wry amusement.

“You’re right about that. In fact,” the Hunter said, voice suddenly muffled, “you were my last. But nobody else would be stupid enough to follow me down here, not unless they owed a life debt. If it makes you feel any better, I really will blow your brains onto the floor if you double cross me again.”

Allan leaned back, silently cursing his luck as his right hand uncurled and curled in the darkness of the Gunslinger of Fate, wishing he had the option of clicking the transmission off and forgetting about the Hunter. Meanwhile, he stared silently down at a horribly massacred left hand, one which had some functionality, but was scarred in multiple places, missing the smallest finger, and missing large chunks of flesh.

However, he didn’t. And that complicated things somewhat more. Aaren’s voice cut through the silence around him again.

“Captain Griffost. There’s one more reason- and that’s because you’re good. Not the best. But good.”

Allan’s upper lip twisted in a sneer. “If you think flattery will help, Talon, you’re wrong. But I’m listening. Only because I owe you; nothing more.”

“Good. Here’s what I need.”

The next several minutes were spent in a hushed conversation. At its end, the Gunslinger’s pilot cursed for an uninterrupted ten seconds.

“Talon, you’re mad. I’m not risking my ship.”

“You’ll risk your ship if I ask you to, because you owe me a life-debt.”

“I swear by The Traveler, if you in any way damage my ship, I will kill you.”

Aaren gave the barest of laughs before saying, “You already want to. Already tried, already failed. See you soon.”

The Hunter disconnected, and Allan’s next curse fell upon the deaf air. Suddenly, the Awoken stood, pacing the length of his bridge as he considered his options. When he halted once more, Allan smiled.

“Fine then, old friend. We’ll see.”

# # #

Aaren glanced at his chrono as he flicked a bug off his shoulder, then looked up at the sky. It’s been five minutes. Patience is a virtue. Although it’s not as if he’s halfway across the system…

            When he’d last checked, at least. From his knowledge, Allan had been docked at a bay near Saturn, but for all he knew, the Awoken pilot could have flown as far away as possible from Aaren and let him rot.

It occurred to Aaren that perhaps he was not as confident in his one-time ally’s reliability as he had let on. However, the man did owe him a life-debt, and in this case, Aaren hoped his judgment had been correct. Because the Hunter distinctly remembered the first time Allan had betrayed him.

# # #

“Talon. Why don’t we just back away and get out of here? You’re a Hunter, not some ch’katla Titan!”

            Aaren glared at his companion before he looked back at the door in front of him, his weapon’s sights trained at its center. It led into a ruined stone building, which looked about large enough for two- possibly three- rooms. All around them, the same buildings were scattered through what had been a human settlement. Fallen bodies were splayed across the ground.

            “Because I have the lock to the Crimson, your ship is off-world and being repaired, and these people need our help.”

            Griffost cursed the Hunter under his breath, watching the Guardian carefully as he stood with his back to the Awoken pilot. Suddenly, the barest of ideas began to form in his head. On the other side of the door, he knew that three civilians were waiting, being guarded by a large amount of Fallen. What the aliens wanted with them, Allen didn’t know… nor did he particularly care, as charging in would most likely cause the death of both himself and Aaren.

            But then again… the Awoken hadn’t been on good terms with the Guardian for a while- not since the human had grown so oversentimental after changing his ship’s name. And because he knew that more Fallen were on the way, because he could almost see his corpse’s bones whitening under the sun of the God-forsaken planet they were on, he did what he saw fit. What he had to. Something that had been in the makings a very long time.


Aaren froze. “Allan…”

            “You can try and save these people if you want,” he hissed, “but you should know that it’s a useless endeavor. So instead, you’re going to give me the lock for the Crimson, and I’m going to leave. Turn around slowly and drop your rifle.”

            The Hunter did as he was told, carefully putting his weapon down. When he looked back up, he saw the exact nature of the threat. The Awoken held a small hold-out pistol in his left hand at Aaren’s head, easily concealable and carried by many pilots.

            “Now the lock. Slowly.”

            In the distance, Aaren could barely hear the hunting calls of more Fallen. Time was not on the side of the Guardian. But more disturbingly, behind him, through the door, he heard the screaming of three civilians, sharp and grating, followed by a sudden silence. Then it started again, slightly weaker. Somebody had died- the Hunter could feel it. Aaren gritted his teeth.

            Too late again.

The Awoken jabbed the gun forwards. “I said, give me the lock.”

            Aaren spat out a curse as he reached behind his back with his left arm, gripping the electronic device that would provide the signature to automatically unlock the Crimson’s controls. Every ship in the galaxy had one, each completely unique, and it was the only way to grant control of a ship- at least for the first time- to another captain, or in some cases, even remotely pilot a ship.

            “Slowly now,” Allan said, “I don’t want to have to kill you, but I will.”

            Aaren began to pull the lock from behind his back, slowly as needed. However, he retained no illusions as to the Awoken’s intentions- he was needed out of the way. Any chance of survival, and Allan knew the Hunter would find him eventually.

            Another scream, another silence. Another start. The Fallen’s noise grew closer.

            Only one left.

Aaren dropped the lock, a small piece of equipment about four six inches in length and two in width, into the Awoken pilot’s hand, watching Griffost’s eyes as he gained remote control of the Crimson.


A slight waver, the smallest lapse of concentration. Aaren’s next movements were lightning-fast, and the Hunter knew from experience that he would have only two seconds to make his move, to make the deciding move.


            Aaren moved his head and neck to the right, simultaneously bringing his left hand up to push the Awoken’s gun hand in the opposite direction. His right reached for the hand cannon he kept in the holster at his side. At one time, he’d been the fastest draw there was. Was he still?


            Allan’s index finger spasmed in surprise as the Hunter took action, and the holdout fired a single shot before Aaren’s left forearm pushed the Awoken’s arm upwards and to Griffost’s right. As the gun dropped, Allan’s hand and arm spewed black blood into the air, cut by the jagged steel hooks on Aaren’s vambraces. A finger, severed from the hand, dropped to the ground as the hand opened and the gun fell with it. Aaren drew his head back, depending on the cold metal helmet to make a solid impact, and snapped it back downwards, headbutting the Awoken.

            The human stood over his betrayer, hand cannon pointed downwards and at Allan’s head. On the ground, the pilot stared up in shock and pain, holding his mangled hand. Aaren’s finger twitched on the trigger. He was tempted, so tempted, to fire. His resolve strengthened.

            And then, another scream. The last one. And deep, alien laughter.

            Aaren released the pressure on his gun’s trigger, suddenly holstering it. The Hunter reached up to his head, unclasped his hood, and removed his helmet. Allan could see the cold fury burning in his eyes.

            Aaren knelt, and then punched the Awoken. Then again. And again. And again, until Allan was only a huddled, bloodied, whimpering figure on the ground. The Fallen’s cries grew nearer. The Hunter hooked his helmet onto his belt, then used both hands to heft the Awoken pilot up, dragging him behind another stone ruin, this one slightly larger. As he did, Aaren heard the opening of a door behind him, and only seconds after, the arrival of more fallen.

            Allan moaned slightly, leading the Hunter to put the cool metal of his right vambrace into the pilot’s mouth, softly enough so as to not cause any permanent damage to the man’s face. The other, already dripping with the Awoken’s blood, was held ready at Griffost’s neck. Aaren leaned close, staring the man in the eyes. Allan saw the calculating gaze behind the unforgiving blue eyes, saw that the rage was no longer there. And that scared him more than anything.

            Aaren spent what had felt like a lifetime there, cloaking the two of them in the shadows with the dark blue of his cape, melding the two colors together and hiding both men. Eventually, the harsh clacking of alien tongues retreated into silence. Aaren waited for another thirty seconds before he drew the hand cannon again, stood, and aimed it downwards. Allan looked up, blood streaming from his face where Aaren had hit him. The Hunter pulled the hammer of the weapon back.

            “Just… kill me.”

            Aaren pushed a strand of brown hair out of his eyes as he smiled, a cold gesture that held no goodwill.

            “No, Allan. I’m going to do something so much worse than that.”

            The Awoken’s face suddenly twisted into a mix of absolute terror and anger.

            “No, Talon! NO! Don’t you do it, you son of a- NO!”

            The Hunter pushed the hammer back into its original position, ignoring the protests of the Awoken. Then, he re-holstered the weapon and intoned several words in a different language. Beneath him, the Awoken stilled, crying tears of absolute rage.

            “And now, Captain Griffost, you owe me a life debt. Isn’t it grand that I was raised by your people?” 

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One Response to A Hunter’s Journey, Pt. 2

  1. WM August 20, 2013 at 8:54 am #

    Well, first things first. That was a lot! I planned on reading this before I went to bed last night but upon seeing the sheer amount of story I decided against it. I really enjoyed reading this, I also liked the small details you made about the awoken culture. It may just be me but something about Aaren Talon reminds me of Roland Deschain from the dark tower series. Not sure if it’s the cold blue eyes and emotionless demeanor, also the seemingly lone wolf nature that’s present at the start of the dark tower. I’m looking forward to what else you do with this storyline. Keep up the good work :)

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