The Reef: The last place the light touches.
“You know… hunting Wolves only gets us so much credit with the Awoken here. What makes you think they’re willing to give you information about a possibly defective Titan?” Apollo’s mechanical voice came through, breaking Vieru’s thoughts as they exited the warp space.
The Titan sighed, glancing up to notice Ladia’s ship; a Visible Hand, “Truth be told, I don’t know. But cute girls can be persuasive, can’t they?” He responded. The Ghost remained silent for a few moments before finally stating, “Oh, dear…”
“Vieru!” Ladia’s voice broke through the communication channel opened between the ships. The timing was too perfect, Vieru thought he may have turned on his microphone without noticing, “This is the Reef?! It’s… sad looking…” She stated.
Vieru sighed in relief and opened up the communication channel on his end to speak to her, “Yes. It’s not so bad. Think of it as an embodiment of their will. All this wreckage and yet they still survive.”
Soon enough, the Guardian duo found themselves in the hollowed out Ketch now known as the Vestian Outpost. They went directly to Variks and after trading in the extra Armor Cores Vieru had, Ladia was in brand new armor. While Ladia was trying on the new armor, however, Vieru was discussing information with one of the citizens of the Reef.
“I’m sorry, but I couldn’t help overhear your conversation.” A man’s voice broke through the conversation that Vieru was having, grabbing his attention, “Did you say you were exploring ruins in the remains of old Rome?”
Vieru turned to look at the new man; an Awoken, a Titan, if the armor properly spoke for him. He had bright yellow eyes and gray, dull flesh. He was a bit taller than Vieru and had white hair just like him, “Yes. Do you know anything about the area?” The Human Titan asked.
The Awoken man chuckled and nodded, “You don’t have to beat around the bush, Guardian. You saw him, didn’t you? The Golden Titan?” He asked, his eyes almost glowing in interest.
Vieru nodded slowly, but before he could respond, Ladia’s voice came through as she approached the group in her new armor, “Oh?! Someone else knows about it!?” She asked. Vieru sighed a bit and nodded.
“Both of you saw him?! Everyone I talk to about that Titan, is usually the last one left in a group of people who saw him… did you lose a friend to him?” The Awoken man asked.
Vieru shook his head, “No, we both survived the interaction. It was short. I was hoping I could get information on him here. He’s obviously up to no good.” He responded, eyeing the Awoken man suspiciously.
The other man nodded slowly and rubbed at his chin before offering his hand out, “Kaldius Di Monique, Fully equipped Defender Titan at your service!” Vieru refused to shake his hand, simply raising a brow. Ladia blinked a bit at Vieru, then smiled to Kaldius, taking his hand, “A pleasure.”
“At our service?” Vieru questioned.
Kaldius nodded after smiling to Ladia, “I have heard other people talk about this Titan, though they’re always traumatized. You not only both survived your encounter, but aren’t afraid of him… I want to help you find him and bring him down! He’s been taking down quite a few Guardians lately. Working with the House of Kings, right?”
Vieru simply stared at the man before finally sighing and nodded, “That’s the one… let’s go, then.” He said, beginning to walk towards the ships.
Kaldius chuckled, following along, “Don’t like to wait, do you? I have to go visit the Vault first, so I’ll catch up.” He said before walking in another direction.
As Vieru and Ladia continued walking, she was staring at the Red Hand on his hip, “Vieru… you like carrying Hand Cannons, don’t you? I looked up your statistics, you have more kills documented on your Hand Cannon than the other types put together. Why is that?” She asked.
Vieru raised a brow and glanced back to her, “Hmm, I suppose as a person who prefers to stick to the shadows, it wouldn’t make sense… truth be told, the reason I use Hand Cannons is almost… superstitious.”
Ladia raised her own brow in return and Vieru grinned a bit, “Many, many years ago, long before the Golden Age, weapons only shot one bullet at a time. Pistols and Muskets. Pistols were small and easy to load, but they didn’t have much range. Muskets could shoot far, but they took too long to reload. Infantrymen in the military were often equipped with Muskets, while the officers were equipped with Pistols. I use my Hand Cannon for the same reason officers had Pistols.”
Ladia continued staring at him, “And… that reason is?”
“In the case of a mutiny, an officer could more quickly draw his weapon on the traitorous soldiers than they could.” He stated, “Which is why I’m definitely bringing it to this venture of ours.” He expected to see a concerned look on Ladia’s face when he glanced over to her, but all he saw was a smile.
She sighed a bit and put her hands behind her head, “I don’t trust him, either.” She muttered quietly, an innocent smile still on her face. Vieru could do nothing but smile.
Once the three regrouped, they quickly launched back to Earth. It wasn’t very long before they all found themselves in the wastelands of Rome.
Vieru had opted to bring his Judgement Shotgun this time, along with his Red Hand Hand Cannon. Ladia was using her own Violator Sniper Rifle and a Crusader Scout Rifle. Kaldius was carrying an Unwilling Soul-09 Auto Rifle and one of The Calming Fusion Rifles.
It didn’t take very long before the group encountered a handful of Fallen. The trio worked quickly and effectively together, dispatching all of the Kings they came across. Based on information Kaldius had gotten from other Guardians, the group moved on towards the abandoned bunker that was believed to be the Golden Titan’s base.
All three of them had their Ghosts out, working as lights as they wandered through the halls of the bunker. Vieru was paying close attention to the designs on the walls and it didn’t take long for him to realize, “Vieru…” Apollo’s voice spoke up.
“I know… this was a Helmets base.” Vieru responded.
“Guys! Look!” Ladia’s voice called out. Kaldius and Vieru rushed over to her and the three of them stared in awe, “Is… is she dead?” Kaldius questioned.
The group was staring at the body of a female EXO, “She’s completely intact…” Lucita spoke up as she floated closer to the EXO, “But, the Light left her long ago…” She added on, letting her voice trail off.
Apollo’s shell spun a bit before he spoke up, “Lucita, is something the matter?”
“She speaks to me…” The purple Ghost responded. Ladia froze for a second, “Wh…what?” Lucita almost instantly turned Ladia, “No! Not as loudly as you did!” She exclaimed. Ladia stared at her Ghost, then sighed with a smile, “… good.” She said, almost sadly.
“Is that a Ghost?” Vieru asked as he leaned down near the EXO Corpse, picking up what felt like a red, empty Ghost.
“No, it seems to simply be a shell… but that is strange, it doesn’t seem to be one of the shells you can find today…” Apollo explained, hovering over the ancient shell before flashing his light on it and scanning it, “Interesting… let’s take this with us, it has ancient, encrypted data in it, maybe Yulin can make something of it.”
“Guys, I hate to interrupt, but we may be closer than we thought…” Kaldius spoke up, leaning around a corner. Ladia and Vieru came closer and got a good view at six Vandals, nine Dregs, two Captains and a single Servitor, “This may be difficult…” Kaldius said.
Vieru simply let out a deep exhale, the sound of a growl almost seemed to come across. Ladia simply chuckled, “Going dark.” She muttered before her cloaking kicked in and she, along with Lucita, completely vanished from their sight.
Kaldius stared at Vieru, “Uh… we’re going in?” He asked.
Vieru didn’t say anything more before drawing his shotgun, “Apollo. I’ve got this.” He said before his Ghost dematerialized. The Fallen all turned to face the sound of a Lightning Grenade stuck to a wall near two of the Dregs, quickly cooking them in and out. He pumped his Shotgun and called out, “Knock, knock, Mother Fuckers!” Again, that growl came through, much more clearly now. By the time the startled Fallen had turned to see Vieru, he was already too close to one of the Vandals, whose head was completely blown off by Judgement. Two of the Dregs and Two of the Vandals roared out as they drew their swords and charged at Vieru. Two of the blades brushed against his armor, but he managed to manuver around the Dregs who attacked first, grabbing the arm of one and swinging him around as a weapon at the other. The rest of the Fallen were moving toward Vieru while the two Vandals closed in. One of them jumped into the air and let out a roar that was interrupted by Vieru’s own roar. He pivoted and before the Vandal’s blade could connect, time slowed down. At least, it seemed that way. There was an aura about Vieru, as if his bloodthirst was visibly emitting from him. Then came the sound, a low, gutteral tone. It grew in intensity, it was coming directly from Vieru, as if it was his own Barritus. He was in a full roar when he finished his turn and slammed his Arc-powered fist into the chest of the Vandal that had been foolish enough to jump. The instant it connected, Vieru’s roar and the thunderous sound of his released Arc energy combined and echoed through the dark halls of the abandoned bunker. His Arc energy spread from his body, frying right through the two original Dregs, the two Vandals nearby, and knocking out the shield of one of the Captains.
The Captain roared out when his shield was taken down and Vieru stared him down. He pulled the trigger of his Judgement, but seemed to have missed the Captain completely. Suddenly, the headless body of another Vandal came out of stealth, falling before Vieru. He nodded to the Captain and it began to charge at him, but all the Fallen Captain heard was a female voice say, “No, you don’t.” Before a blade slide in between the armor on his back and his helmet, severing his spine at the neck.
Kaldius was simply watching this unfold, his Ghost was still out for light. He couldn’t help but breath rapidly as he watched the two of them work together, as if they fed each other’s bloodlust. No… no, that wasn’t it. She was looking out for him. She was tactical. He; Vieru, “… he’s a monster.” Kaldius muttered.
As if on cue, Vieru let out a dark, vicious laughter, “COME ON!” He urged the Fallen. Suddenly, Apollo’s voice came through, “The Servitor!” Vieru turned to look at the floating, purple orb and quickly activated his jet pack, narrowly avoiding a smaller, more explosive purple orb of Void energy.
As another Vandal fell out of stealth dead, victim of the stealthed Ladia, the Hunter’s voice rang out, “Be careful, Vieru! Kaldius! Where’s our support!?”
Kaldius had just finished materializing an Admonisher, “Inbound.” He responded with a grin and launched a rocket directly at the Servitor. Vieru looked over at the rocket and Apollo spoke up, “MOVE!” Again, he narrowly dodged death as the rocket exploded near him, launching him into the air and frying three of the remaining Dregs, “Kaldius! Your rockets are equipped with Proximity Sensors! Be careful not to fire them near us!” Vieru roared out, rather unhappy about the possible friendly fire.
“I’m sorry! I just got this rocket launcher!” Kaldius cried out.
Vieru turned to find himself face to face with the remaining Captain and he grinned behind his helmet, “Yes…” He muttered in a growl before releasing a shell from his shotgun into the Captain. The first shot brought down his shield so quickly it sent the Captain reeling. He didn’t have time to recover before a large hole was made in his chest by the same shotgun.
“Incoming!” Kaldius called out and launched another rocket. This time, the rocket hit the Servitor directly and the explosion was much larger. Two shots were heard from a shotgun and two more shrieks came from the remaining Dregs. As the dust cleared, Ladia and Vieru stood over the pile of bodies. Kaldius walked up to them and sighed out, “You guys… are insane.”
“Can’t keep up?” Ladia teased.
Kaldius laughed a bit before looking around the room a bit. He then called out, “Look out!” Before he summoned a Ward of Dawn around the team. Ladia looked ahead and saw the Golden Titan standing before them, just outside of the Ward, “When…?”
Lucita spoke up while inside of Ladia’s armor, “Ladia… we need to get out of here. This Titan, he is far from a Guardian. The amount of Darkness coming from him…”
“Vieru…” Ladia spoke up. Vieru nodded in response, staring at the Golden Titan, “Yeah… Apollo just told me…” He said, backing away from the edge of the Ward, slowly. Bloodthirsty as he was, he could feel the suffocating Darkness of this Titan.
Kaldius reached to his back, moving to draw his Auto Rifle, “Well, now wha–” Kaldius was interrupted by the sound of a Hand Cannon’s hammer clicking behind his head. Vieru was holding his Red Hand to the back of the Defender’s head, “Talk.”
Ladia looked to the Titans and sighed, setting her Crusader onto Kaldius’ head as she moved behind him. The Golden Titan was still standing outside of the Ward, simply watching the Guardians.
“Wha-what do you mean? Come on, Vieru. This isn’t the ti-“
“Enough shit, Kaldius!” Vieru snapped, “That proximity rocket was meant to disable my armor! You knew your way here too well, and if you’ve heard from so many Guardians about this Golden Titan, why have none of them reported it to the Speaker?! You’ve made sure no one else knew about the Golden Titan! Why?!” The Striker demanded.
Silence followed, silence so quiet one could hear a strange, almost Hive-like growling coming from the breathing of the Golden Titan just outside, waiting for his prey.
The silence broke finally with Kaldius laughing, “Fine… fine… Yes, I’ve known about the Golden Titan… he was once a friend of mine. A gaudy bastard. He was strong, though. One day…. he came across an ancient Hive artifact. We’re not sure how it ended up here, but when he touched it, it took over him. His Ghost stopped responding and at first, he was aware. He knew what he was doing… then… he became a monster. As if he could silently communicate with the minions of Darkness. But the power he has… I think I understand it. He wasn’t strong enough. But you… Vieru, you’re strong enough. I thought… if we killed him finally and took the power… someone like you… you could control it. You know you can, don’t you? You can feel it, too. The Darkness inside of you already.”
Ladia glanced up at the Ward and sighed, “Vieru…” She muttered, noticing it didn’t have much longer.
Vieru nodded and sighed, “You’re right, Kaldius… I do have darkness within me. That’s why Apollo chose me. The difference between you and me, however, is that I control my power. I’ll never let it control me.” One gunshot.
No response, no retort, not even a chuckle of disbelief. Kaldius wasn’t given any more last words. His body fell forward with a hole in the head and his Ghost materialized, “So, this is it…” The Ghost muttered, as if he wasn’t surprised, yet deeply saddened, “Go.” The Ghost urged the Guardians as the Ward fell. Instantly, the Golden Titan let out a roar and rushed at the Guardians. Vieru unloaded a shell of his Judgment to throw him off course and Kaldius’ Ghost floated over to the Golden Titan and began to annoy him with a blue laser while the other two got away. Ladia turned only to see the Ghost snagged out of the air and the Golden Titan’s helmet open to reveal a disgusting melding of Husk, Armor and Flesh; a hole to devour the Ghost and its Light all at once.
Distracted by its meal, the Golden Titan didn’t bother to chase the Guardians who were able to safely make it out of the bunker and onto their ships. Silence followed, Vieru and Ladia had no trust for Kaldius, nor any love for him, but the Ghost… the Ghost seemed to be burdened by its own Guardian, it sacrificed its own light for the sake of the people who shot his Guardian… how bad could that relationship have been?
“Why…. why are you doing that?” Lucita’s voice came through the comms.
“I don’t know! I just can’t stop thinking about how much pain that other Ghost must have been in knowing he was bound to Kaldius…” Ladia’s voice responded. Vieru simply stared at the comm speaker in his ship, quietly.
Ladia continued, “Lucita… that EXO in the ruins… you said she spoke to you. I don’t want to put you through any pain like that Ghost was in. If I was not meant to be your Guardian, please tell me now…” She urged, sadly.
Lucita beeped a bit before responding, “You’re being ridiculous, Ladia. You are my Guardian. Forever.” The Ghost replied, sternly, as if offended.
Ladia sighed, “Thank you…”
“Yes, now can you stop petting me?” Lucita requested.
Vieru couldn’t help but laugh at this point.
“Vieru?! Is the comm channel open?! How long have you been listening!?” Vieru was too busy laughing to respond to Ladia’s concerns, “Vieru! Stop laughing! Vieru! Answer me!”