“The Fallen have set up significant anti-air defenses within Arkhangelsk,” Tesni Jarmila’s Ghost briefed her enroute. “We lost one Jumpship already, though its pilot survived, and another two Guardians are currently pinned somewhere within the city ruins. Whatever Nordavia was doing there it clearly has the Fallen interested,”
“Any more reinforcements coming or is it just me?” Tesni asked.
“Several other Guardians have responded. We are the closest however, by at least an hour.”
“And that anti-air?”
“We have a good read on it now, but getting in won’t be easy…” her Ghost replied.
“I’m ready. Drop us in as close as you can,” she ordered.
Two minutes later, Tesni completed her transmat on one knee, pulse rifle at the ready. She’d long since learned to be prepared for anything. Fortunately, the only thing moving, at the moment, was the rapidly shrinking glint of her Jumpship, the Anastasia, as it arced its way back into a safe orbit. Tesni quickly took in her surroundings. It was the usual. Broken buildings, smashed streets, unreadable Russian signs. She did a second sweep to be sure then confidently moved forward into the city’s interior. She wasn’t the same woman she’d been twenty years before, when her Ghost had found her dead on a long forgotten beach. Back then, and for months afterward, she’d been reeling, trying to cope with everything. Now, she was one of the few Guardians of The City to have survived the ill-fated campaign against Crota, and one of the fewer still who had set foot on both Mars and Venus. She was, despite her insistence to the contrary, fast becoming a legend.
A patrol of Dreg and Vandals guarding a collapsed parking garage fell to her not even knowing what had hit them. Even the large Fallen squad she encountered next was easily pushed aside, and it had been lead by an experienced Captain. Tesni was moving fast through the empty streets, maybe faster than even she should have been, but it was necessary. Time was running out. Of the three guardians who had been alive when she landed, one, Mitya Durst, a friend of hers, was dead. Permanently dead, his indicator having blinked off minutes before. The second, identified as ‘xXHacker_NameXx’ had been taken down as well. His indicator was still active, but it marked him as revivable… a status that wouldn’t last long in the field without backup. And it didn’t. By the time Tesni finished fighting her way through another group, this one armed with a pair of Pikes, his indicator had blinked off as well.
That left one, a ‘Natela Murk.’ A name that seemed oddly familiar for some reason. Tesni was still a kilometer away, but at least now, armed with a Pike, she was hopeful she could reach the other woman in time. Racing along the abandoned streets wasn’t simple, but the long idle traffic was nothing compared to gridlock of Moscow. At five hundred meters out, Tesni keyed her mic.
“Natela, this is Tesni Jarmila. I’m inbound from the East, eta two minutes. What are you facing?” There was no substantive reply. The comlink was open and active, but all Tesni could make out was heavy breathing and Fallen gunfire. She tried again. “Natela, what is your situation? I’m one minute out, and I could use some help helping you…”
“I don’t know… I can’t move…” the other Guardian replied. Her young voice was pained and weak, but at least she was alive.
“Snipers then? Artillery?” Tesni asked.
“I don’t know!” the other voice insisted fearfully. “I can’t move my legs!”
“You can’t what?” Tesni asked, confused. The girl’s statement didn’t make any sense.
Tesni rocketed over the final hill between herself and her fellow Guardian. At the bottom of the downslope, the roadway she’d been following split to curve around a large, long-dormant fountain. The plaza was flanked on the left by some sort of three story office complex and to the right by what looked to be a courthouse or administrative building. By the way the Fallen, both living and dead, were clustered, the building on the right was the one of interest. Tesni gunned her Pike’s engine and charged through as much of the small crowd as the could, guns blazing all the way. She mowed down three or four of them as she passed through, a decent accomplishment vs. the usually agile aliens. The rest turned to fire at her, bunching up as they did so. Tesni smiled. Their actions were as predictable as they were perfect. Perfect for her, that is. She leapt clear of her Pike, held herself aloft briefly with a burst of Light, then charged back into their midst, unleashing a devastating explosion of Arc Light as she impacted among them. All but one of the Fallen attackers died instantly in the blast with the final one dropping to her rifle a moment later.
“Natela, are there any snipers?” Tesni called out as she began scanning the windows of the office building. There were dozens if not hundred of dark spaces to check, and searching each one visually was going to take time. She got her answer sooner than she’d wanted, as the tell tale glows of charging beam rifles made themselves known. The first was up high and to the right on the building’s roof, the second, low and to the left. Tesni did the only thing she could do when faced with so much firepower spread so far apart. She turned and dashed towards the open door of the administration building. The first shot missed high, streaking by her head as one of the snipers overcompensated, but the other caught her in the back as she passed through the smashed doorway to safety. Tesni grimaced for a moment as she hid behind the wall nearest the entrance. Most Fallen weapons could barely scratch her armor, but those beam rifles… they hurt. Bad. She took in a few pained, shaky breaths but then clenched her fist and channeled some of The Traveler’s immense power to heal the damage the sniper had caused. Another second and she was fine, the only lingering effect being a slight numbness in her back as her brain tried to cope with the fact that she was no longer injured.
A sound to her right caused Tesni to spin, gun at the ready, but it was only her fellow Guardian. Oddly, the much younger woman was sitting on the floor near a window with her back propped up against the wall. More oddly still, was the fact that her sniper rifle was laying on the ground more than a foot outside her reach. The girl had her helmet off, revealing her purple-dyed hair and making her face, and the intense pain she was in, quite clear even in the dark interior.
“Come on, let’s get you out of here,” Tesni said, offering her hand. The girl shook her head no.
“I can’t move…My legs or my arm…” she said once again.
It was obvious to Tesni what had happened. The girl had been pinned down and had been trying to snipe her way out when she’d been counter sniped in return. The large hole melted through the center of her light chest piece spoke to that. But why hadn’t she healed herself? That was the confusing part.
“Heal and let’s go,” Tesni all but commanded.
“You… don’t think… I’ve tried?” Natela replied, resting her head against the wall behind her. Her breathing was shallow now. Her voice, dangerously weak. “It… hurts…” the girl continued slowly.
“Damn rookie,” Tesni groaned. The girl was suffering needlessly against a wall when she should have been right as rain with only the slightest effort. Tesni readied her pulse rifle and took aim without waiting for permission.
“No! Wai…” the younger girl squawked pitifully before a three round burst silenced her. Her Ghost expanded, lighting the hallway as it caught her.
“Bring her back,” Tesni ordered it angrily. An instant later the shorter girl was standing again, sniper rifle in hand, helmet in place, body fully restored. “Whoever thinks they trained you didn’t do jack all,” Tesni snarled. “When we get back, me and you and them are going to have a long, long talk. And then me and you are going to spend some time in the Crucible where you can learn to deal with the pain without getting others killed.”
“I…” the younger girl began, but fell silent under Tesni’s glare. Tesni summoned her Ghost to her hand and asked, “Status on those guns?”
“Three of the guns have been successfully neutralized by other Guardians. I have the Anastasia standing by,” her Ghost replied.
“Bring it in. I’m taking this one back to the tower for a long debriefing,” Tesni responded.
The flight back didn’t take an hour, but it felt much longer to both of the Guardians. Tesni spent the time trying to cool her anger, while Natela worked on staying as far away as possible from her incensed rescuer. Their debriefing session, too, seemed to stretch on as Natela had each of her mistakes, and their resultant consequences, pointed out to her. Two Guardians had died, in part thanks to her. Their Ghosts had been permanently lost, not to mention one of The City’s few viable Jumpships. When it was all over Natela walked down the hallway, dejected, helmet in hand, unsure what she was going to do next. But then the Titan who’d all but dragged her into the debriefing called her name from the opposite end of the hall.
“I realized during the briefing that we had met before,” Tesni said calmly as she approached. “In one of the locker rooms. You were… having a tough time.”
Natela nodded. “I’d just died for the first time. It wasn’t fun,” she deadpanned.
“More or less fun than being hit by an anti-ship round and then drowning? That’s how I first died.”
“Um…” Natela answered, unsure of what to say. “Wait, why are you even talking to me?”
“Because I think I can help you stop having tough times,” Tesni replied. “I’ve been where you are and…”
“Help me? Why would you want to help me? You’re a legend. I’m just…I just…You were there. You heard all about my mistakes,” Natela said accusingly.
“Because I also realized who you were, Natela Tamaya Murk. You’re one of the ‘chosen living’, and a natural blade dancer. We haven’t seen one with your talent in years. You may not be a legend yet, but if you live long enough you will be. And I can make sure you do live long enough. And the first step to that is to get you better trained in the Crucible.”
“I never fought in the Crucible because I don’t want… I’ll look foolish and worse than I already do. I don’t want my sister to see that,” Natela said, voicing her worries.
“She won’t if you’re fighting beside me,” Tesni countered. “I don’t do this often, but I do outrank you. Meet me on the deck of The Tower tomorrow morning at 10:00 prepared for combat. That’s an order.”
“Yes ma’am…” Natela replied. It was tough, but she managed to hold a convincing frown until her new mentor disappeared around the corner. “I’m going to be trained by Tesni Jarmila?!” she said, laughing to herself once the coast was clear.
“I am going to be a legend!”