Out of the Shadows
By: Cal Boros
A man sits in a bar on a stool in front of a burly bartender cleaning glasses. In front of him sits a golden liquid in a glass with ice. The glass is about 9 inches tall and filled about half way with the drink. The man has his hand on the top of the glass fingers gripping a little below the rim. Behind the bar is many shelves of liquor, wine, and other beverages. On the other side of the counter there is a beer dispenser. The man drinks his glass and monotonously asks for another. The bartender takes the glass and the man shifts in his cloak. The bartender slides him a new glass and the man runs his finger along the rim. The bar is empty aside from the two and a drunk old man in the corner. The bartender finally speaks up. “So what’s your story stranger?” The man does not look up from the glass as he watches the contents ripple as he taps it. Not speaking for a long moment.
“Do you know of the age old tale of Light and Dark?” He asks quizzically, speaking softly and quietly. The bartender grabs a stool and sits across from the man. He leans in to hear what the mysterious stranger has to say.
“Yeah, most well known type of story,” The bartender replies with a chuckle his deep voice like an ensemble of Cello and Double Basses, “I have seen it done millions of times.” The man smirks from under the shadow of his hood, his cloak ripples in a windless air. The bartender finds it odd but thinks nothing of it. He’s seen stranger things.
“I suppose it is cliche. But you would be surprised.” The man looks up his hood falling down. The bartender is stricken by the scarred face and the raw power his gaze emanates, but he has not yet finished, continuing. “The world is such a fragile thing, isn’t it? Life and death are simply two sides of the same coin.” The man produces a coin from seeming thin air. On one side an odd geometric shape with a circle in the middle, the outer part looks like some sort of crown. He flips the coin in his fingers, the other side bears a symbol of sorts, what seems to be a worm but it looks like a demon had designed it. He pauses as he looks at the coin before continuing. “You would be surprised to find out that the light and dark are not so different.”
The bartender scratches his chin, pondering that. “I don’t get it. How can polar opposites be similar?” He tilts his head, his voice more cautious. The man looks at him with brilliant blue eyes, his hair pure white despite looking of middle age. His face bears the scars of millions of battles, large and small, but all give him an intimidating look. His gaze seems to tell any one he looks at that he is going to tear them to shreds if they step out of line. His expressions soft but it is difficult for anyone to be calm with him. The man sighs.
“Yes yes. It makes no sense right? But not all is black and white, good and evil. There are gray areas. And as you learn more the gray areas just grow more gray. Until you see that eventually… even the purest of lights and blackest of darks can be one in the same.” He speaks slowly and calmly. placing the coin on the table with the crown thing facing up. He takes a sip from his drink as the bartender thinks. The bartender taps the side of his head and periodically scratches it.
“I still don’t understand. How can that be possible. Black is the absence of color where as white is all colors combined, thus black and the dark are the opposite of white and the light…”
“You aren’t getting it, I am saying that everything changes based on what story you are given. Based on where your allegiance lies. Or based on who you are. For example. A woman murders a man. She is taken to court and asked why. She claims that she was doing the right thing.”
“Well then that woman’s batty! Lock her up!”
“But what if I told you that she had seen that man planning to shoot up an airport with a light machine gun he illegally acquired after killing her and the rest of the people in his neighborhood?”
“Well… then she did the right thing!”
“Precisely. I could continue to elaborate all night but I think you understand what I am getting at, right?” The man says, smiling once the bartender nods his head. “Everyone’s opinion changes based on what story they are given. Once you see both sides of the coin. Or arguement. Or whatever you may have. Everything becomes more gray. Now you can define two different races as pure good and pure evil. But each person on either side believes different things and each side believes they are doing the right thing. But if you saw things the way everyone does, then you can make a judgement.”
“So… what you are sayin’… is that everyone does what they do because they think everyone else is at fault. Not them?” The bartender slowly works out. The man nods as he says this. Flipping the coin as he talks.
“Yeup. Notice why in most of these kinds of tales you see the villains always thinking of law enforcement as “party poopers” and “buzz kills?” Well that’s because they believe that they are the ones that are right.” He speaks in a quizzical tone. Taking another sip of his drink.
“Huh. But what’s this got to do with you?” The bartender asks this mysterious man, who simply scoffs.
“Oh more than you could ever imagine. Let’s start with you. What has you doing this job. Who are you?” The man moves his glass in a circular motion in the air, making a tinkling sound as the ice collides and runs against the glass. The bartender shrugs, thinking what harm could it do? He sighs.
“Whelp, the names Hamish. I run this here pub if you didn’t know already. I have a wife an’ two kids. I have been here in Dublin for most of my life.” He begins. Slinging the towel over his back and sitting back. “I’ve run this here bar for years and know just about everyone in town. Some call me “Wolf” after my behavior when I get angry. So far not a soul has walked in that door that scared me. Tell me. How’d you get like this?”
The man nods respectfully as he talks. Then shifting and leaning back, the cloak coming back some to reveal some scuffed up armor. The bartender looks at it with curiosity. He sighs, “So you wanna know what made me the proclaimed, “Greatest Guardian to ever live” huh?” The bartender chuckles at the title but nods. “Well. It all starts with the first time I was revived…”
“Revived? Buddy I know full well this ain’t a video-” The bartender bellows, chuckling before the man glares at him. He shuts up instantly.
Pitch black. Complete nothingness. Then a light. Warmth. A field. I sit up, looking around, I stand up and look around, a golden field rolls as far as the eye can see. I feel a sharp pain in me chest. I look down and sees a massive splinter impaling me. I scream.
I bolt upright into sitting position, screaming. I clutch my chest where the splinter was, finding nothing there. I am breathing heavily and then see I am wearing an armor of some sort. “What the hell…?” I look up and see a small machine, it’s outer bits shift around a central core. I looks at it and tilt my head. The machine’s voice crackles in.
“Hello guardian.” The machine focuses it’s light blue display on my helmet, I look into the corner seeing various information, such as the time, year, and other things that I can’t come up with a description for along with a small circle in the corner with a few sections. Currently there is only two points, one perfectly in the middle, presumably myself, and one directly in front of me, presumably that machine, whatever it is.
“Wha- who in the fuck are you? Wait… who am I? Where am I?” I ask the machine frantically. Standing up and looking around, my movements completely unaffected despite the armor, I look around to see an annihilated city. In the streets are rusty cars, long since abandoned. Frozen tanks, overgrown walkways, and wrecked buildings are everywhere. I sit in a pile of concrete and mortar with some boards strewn about here and there. In front of me lies some kind of banner with a symbol I had never seen in my assumed previous 20 years of life judging by how the bits of me I could see looked.
“I am your Ghost Warlock. You are a Guardian, warrior of Light, spawn of the Traveler. You are in a Golden Age Russian city. Er- what’s left of it.” The little machine chidles, it’s display flashes as it speaks. It makes a small sound that is I think is a chuckle at the end. I look around, pulling myself from the rubble and brushing the dust off of my simplistic armor. My “Ghost” floats up to me as I hold my head.
“God… I can’t remember anything… am I supposed to know you?” I groan, turning my head to face the machine and it’s front spins again. As I stare back I see it’s display is some sort of circle with some kind of angled lines above and below it.
“Most Guardians don’t remember their lives before the were resurrected… it seems there are no exceptions based on the way you died.” The machine states as I mention remembering nothing then continuing as I ask if I know him(?), “No, you are not supposed to know me. Unless you do?” It says the last part with a hopeful tone. I shake my head and it sort of nods solemnly? I guess that is what it did. Then it suddenly vanishes, little bright particles are left. I look in awe, slowly edging towards the particles and running my hands through them. They disappear as I touch and I feel a twinge of guilt. What if that was all that’s left of the thing that resurrected… -wait!
“I DIED?!” I shout, realization dawning on me after this machine disappeared. A voice from inside my helmet responds.
“Yes you did Guardian, it’s nothing much. You guys tend to die a lot.” The same voice echoes inside my helmet. I stumble around, confused and afraid. Die a lot?! What did I get into?! I pinch myself to make sure I am not in a nightmare, I don’t wake up, in fact I am not asleep. I stumble into a tank. I climb up it and inside removing my helmet once the hatch is shut. I pant, sweating heavily. I can hear my Ghost calling from inside my helmet. “Guardian! Guardian!” I put my hands over my ears and squeeze my eyes shut, curling up in a ball. I hear the muffled calls of that machine. It doesn’t understand does it? I already died once and now it tells me I was brought back to die again?! I sit there for awhile, trying to calm down and pull myself together. When I open my eyes and look up a pair of glowing blue eyes stare back.
“Hello?” I ask the eyes and whatever they belong to then another pair opens, one eye next to each of the last two, then a third. A blade lights up, crackling with electricity. I eye it with fear backing up and into something, the beast comes into light, a gun of sorts pointed directly at me. I turn to look if it’s another, seeing the skeleton of some long dead soldier, I see a gun in it’s hand and take it from the skeletal hands of this poor soul. Not bothering to aim and just blindly firing as the creature lunges in to kill me. I squeeze my eyes shut as ten gunshots ring out in the tank, ear splitting and a terrifying guttural scream follows. I then felt something flop onto me. For a moment I thought I died and, slowly, I opened up my eyes. I saw that… thing laying dead on my chest. I quickly pick up my helmet and put it on my head. “WHAT THE FUCK WAS THAT?!”
“That was a Fallen Dreg. Probably just a scavenger looking for parts in this tank. You did well.”
“DID WELL? DID WELL?! I NEARLY DIED! AGAIN!” I yell, this machine doesn’t understand doesn’t it?! The pure terror of being brought back to life to be told that you are meant to die again and they say it like they are saying “hello.” I sit back and try and recuperate, shoving the body off and taking the knife and gun. Then I notice a small white box on the ground. When I touch it it disappears and now I notice two small boxes next to two long rectangles in the corner of my helmet display, a miniature pure white version of the assault rifle and pistol I picked up are in the boxes and one large number followed by a smaller number is in each rectangle. I crawl out of the tank, leaving the dead soldier and “Dreg” in the tank. Shaking as I sit on top of the tank. My Ghost’s voice cuts in again.
“Hey, we need to find a ship, not to be offensive or anything but we’ll probably die out here. So I suggest you get on that.”
“Well, well, well. Looks like someone has feelings after all.” I growl, getting up and the little machine appears in front of me.
“You are being illogical. We both understand that we might die but-” it begins before I push it aside. Continuing to walk down the street, the cloth bits on my armor flap in the wind. The machine shifts and makes a sound like sighing. I look around seeing shadows creeping in the destroyed buildings. I squeeze my gun and raise it to my shoulder. I don’t know why but it was as if by instinct, like some unknown force or something in my mind told me this is what you do. I hear a shuffling of rubble and whip around firing three or four shots into the dark. I hear a few guttural screams and thuds before many figures leap up, the creatures bore weapons but the ones with two arm show little knowledge of what to bring to a gunfight because they showed to be wearing cloth and a basic helmet. The ones with four arms had more padding that I assume is armor and longer rifles. What happened next was a blur of pure instinct to me.
They shrieked something in a guttural alien language. But I whipped the weapon around and six shots ring out, six thuds and shrieking as their heads are torn from their necks, some sort of white whispy smoke leaves the opening. Bright blue spheres dart at me and I roll to the side and am hit by a stray corkscrewing shot I wince as I dart into the alleyway I shot some of my ambushers. As I wait for the pain to wash over me I feel surprisingly little, like a minor burn but nothing imperative. I poke my head out along with my assault rifle, the cracked sight oddly comforting. Shots whiz by and I return them with 5 more well placed shots, two of their heads erupt and the others stagger back as the bullets dig into their shoulders. I feel a sudden heat and wave of pain on my forehead and stagger back into the alleyway, noticing a bar that’s red now and there is a hole in my helmet and my skin feels charred. I wince as I touch it and retract my hand. “G-ghost you little shit what did you get me into?!”
The voice chidles from inside my helmet, “Give me a moment guardian I can fix this…” I pace my breathing as I pull out the clip and check it, five bullets left. If I make it out of this alive so help me I am going to kill that machine… I poke back out observing the survivors. Apparently these xenos have no sense of self preservation because they still have dogs coming at me, with the much closer targets the last five bullets kill five of them. I place the gun on my back forgetting I have no holster but it sticks to my back as if magnetized. I draw that one weapon I picked up from that one thing before. I poke out and am met with the scorn of their shots. I feel the sting on my shoulder and I fire, a burst of three shots ring out as I take ample aim, in quick succession and about seven pulls of the trigger, the final few are mopped up.
“Ghost… you better…” I groan, the pain lessens and I look to where my wounds were, “What the…?” The wounds miraculously are mending before my eyes. “Incredible…” I hold out my hand and watch as the wounds mend and close, the burns slowly disappear. The little machine materializes above my palm and looks at me.
“You called?” It asks, it’s forefront tilting a bit, as if it is cocking it’s head. I use my other hand to take my helmet off, I pant, sweating profusely. “Are you alright?” I look at it, a bit of a glare to my complexion.
“Ah yes. I am one hundred percent A-okay after nearly dying multiple times, being told I was brought back from the dead or woke up after getting buried under rubble with amnesia. Yeah! I am just doing fine and dandy!” I say exasperatedly with heavy sarcasm. The machine just blinks in response. It floats up closer to me.
“You don’t need to be so sarcastic. I can full well see your mental signatures. Calm down. You’ve made ruckus enough, stay quiet and follow these coordinates. And for the Traveler’s sake keep your helmet on!” The machine responds with a slight, tilted, edge to his voice. I sigh and put my helmet back on, a marker appears in my view, it is small and seems distant but I can get the idea.
“Okay but how do I get there?” I look up at the buildings. Then down at some sort of metal machine, much different than mine. I look at it and then my Ghost. “What the hell is that thing?”
“That would be a Shank Guardian. The Fallen’s robotic drones, meant as expendable cannon fodder.” It states, it’s outer parts shifting. I look at it, picking up it’s remains up. I inspect them for a second then place them down.
“So what exactly am I supposed to do? Punch the walls down?” I ask, looking around for a possible route. Having found none I look at the the little machine. It looks back and disappears, it’s voice echoes in my helmet. I listen closely for it’s solution.
“Of course not. The Light accentuates your physical properties but you still would need great physical training to reach the ability required. If you were a Titan then you may be able to manage it. But your strongest muscle is your brain Warlock.” He says, I nod in response, “Now, try jumping while in mid air.” My face contorts into utter confusion but I soon do so, suddenly I feel myself be lifted more, I soon reach a balcony ten or fifteen feet from the ground and stop rising, I grab hold of the railing and hoist myself up with relative ease. I try it again, this time jumping from the edge of the railing, this time I manage to clear the building. My feet gently touch the roof and I stand there, bewildered by the experience. Never before had I felt what it was like to fly first hand.
“That is… incredible…” I muse. I chuckle and run across the roof and then jump, activating my flight and I soar over the rooftops, not a care in the world as I leave the grim reality behind. Floating down gently and then bounding up once again. A small numerical value is next to the point, apparently the distance I need to cover because with every bound it grows smaller. “Hey, uh… Ghost. What should I call you?”
“What do you mean?” The machine questions.
"Well I think you should have a name. Also I have a name and it’s not “Warlock” or “Guardian.” I respond, looking around for the point. Soon arriving on the building, which is a large warehouse.
“And what would that be?” It asks as I peek in, seeing many of those creatures from before… damn it. I look around and notice another clip for my assault rifle. I take out the previous clip and put it where the new one was, putting the new one with a satisfying click. I pull back the pin. The sounds it makes are oddly comforting and satisfying.
“Uh… call me… Jubi. And I’ll call you… Argos? That sound good?” I ask, I figured I am or was a happy person, perhaps it’s still that high from flying? Argos seems to make a chuckle.
“Alright, ‘Jubi.’ I’ll be Argos. It feels… fitting. In a way…” Argos says, I nod in response. Aiming down the sights and looking to one with more ornate armor and what looks like large ears. Horns maybe?
“So what is it that you think we should do there’s… aliens, everywhere…” I whisper, just feeling it’s appropriate. The warehouse has a large ship suspended by cables. Those… bugs sit on it. Tearing into it. I growl and fire a shot into each of their heads. The shot alerts a few others I am soon met with a hellstorm of shots, and one or two strike my arms and shoulders, I pull back, tears forming in my eyes.
“Fallen, Jubi, and I suggest you- or not. That works too…” My ghost mutters, doing it’s equivalent of a sigh. “Just hold there a second, I can fix you up…” I nod and wait, gripping the gun as if it’s the only thing keeping me alive. Which if we’re being honest it is. I decide to take another peek and am met with a ball of blue energy inches from my face. My eyes widen as time dilates, I watch as it grows closer, my hour of life that I could remember flashes before my eyes and I think to myself. “What a shitty way to die.” Then a split second of sound before all goes black and silent. Like a flatline.
A Life Without Death
A light. Piercing blinding light. I look down to myself. I glow like a star and then to the light before me. All around me other than the light before me is pitch black. It feels warm, I go towards it. Suddenly I feel a force dragging me back. I look back and nothing it there, suddenly I am yanked back and find myself right back where I died. Standing as a pool of pure light dissipates around me, I stand there, bewildered, patting myself around to check that I am actually there. “Argos?”
“What just happened?”
“You died, so I simply resurrected you.” He responds, as if that is a normal thing that happens. My jaw drops to the floor, this entire time I was immortal and I didn’t know about it?! Well fuck! My face then twists into an evil smile, I draw that knife from earlier. I give it a few swipes before jumping down the hole I peeked out of. In one hand the knife, the other the rifle. I see that sniper that tagged me earlier, and I assume killed me. Time to return the favor, I fire off five shots, hitting it in the body then blowing it’s head up. The rest screech and I grin, letting out a guttural battle cry. Surprising myself at the sound I made. In a flash, there are four cuts in my armor, and I respond with a shot to two of them, stabbing the others. The one with big ears towers over my and slams me to the side, I shoot in the direction I was strike, hitting the wall.
“Damn-” I mutter before I leap up to my feet and go to strike it with my palm, lunging in. To my suprise energy erupts from it like a shotgun, what is visible of the force is whitish gray. The energy blossoms out and Big Ears is flung back, placing three of it’s four arms on the ground as he slides to a halt. In it’s fourth hand is a sort of shotgun I think. It looks like one but also like a normal rifle. It stands up to it’s full height once more, four glowing blue eyes glare at me. I dropped my rifle when I was striked and only have that “shock knife.” The arc energy whips about the blade, dancing as if it were a ballerina.
The monster before me brandishes what looks like a shotgun made of scrap, that fires superheated shards of metal. How do I know? Well the thing just shot me. And hot DAMN does it hurt. I lunge in and quickly plunge knife into it, then taking it out and plunging the knife into it again. And again. And again. I continue to until it stops moving. Then I collect it’s weapon, my assault rifle, and that sniper’s rifle.
“Once you’re done looting the corpses we should probably go…” Argos groans. I nod and hop onto the ship, then getting in. “I’ll handle this.” I nod and wait, soon enough the ship rises from the cables. We then rise from a large hole in the roof and fly into the horizon. I look to the small machine as it pilots the ship.
“Argos… what… am I? Who am I? Who are you?” I ask, confused as to this whole ordeal. The machine sighs, the ship apparently on auto pilot or something because he turns to me.
“I don’t know who you are or really anything about you other than this. In your past life you did something heroic enough to be deemed worthy in the Traveler’s eyes. What you are now is a warrior of Light. A Guardian. One of the only defenses against the forces of Darkness threatening to wipe out what’s left of humanity.” He says.
Many Years Later…
I sit in a bar. My five closest friends sit with me at a table. We are playing a game of Capitalism, an old card game, dating back to before the Golden Age. Next to me is Saiki, my girlfriend. We met in this very bar during a fight between my next friend, Mason and some Dead Orbit Titans. Saiki is a hot headed Warlock with serious smarts, but the strength and mentalities of a Titan. She usually is more of a “we plan as we fight.” She twirls her white hair as she looks over the table, her skin that of a citizen from Old Japan. She is a Sunsinger like me but she used to be a powerful Voidwalker.
Mason on the other hand is very much a Warlock, his role model must be Osiris becuase one of his arms looks like it was put through a meat grinder and he attempted to put it back together with an ass load of Vex tech. Combined with his general ominus and “I know what comes next” self he is showing some similarities. He is rarely seen without his armor and his hair is a dark brown, what is seen of him is usually a patch work of scars and grotesque reminders of past battles. Along with Saiki, me and him are the humans of Fireteam Theta.
We also have Gjallar, an Awoken Titan and Iron Lord. He is our leader, proud and a good friend of Crux Lomar, a famous weapons creator. He is a very large man and it takes a certain kind of confidence (or stupidity) to stand up to him when he’s angry or defy his orders. His armor is stylized around wolves and around the top of the plating around his neck is some fur of an alpha wolf. The rest is a rusted bronze or copper plating, placed over a much more sturdy and worthy metal. On his left eye the claw marks of an Ahamkara make a pretty badass scar. His hair is a pure white and other than the scars he has no paint or markings on his face.
The final two are our Exos. Kate-17 and Ember-3. Kate is a nervous little hunter. Always staying back to snipe. She has a clear head, no scrap or horns. Just normal plating colored a periwinkle blue. She’s got a solid chest size -why they have breasts is still a mystery to me- and two emerald green eyes. Ember is a interesting exo, his eyes are a brilliant orange and his plating an ashen black. On his head is a chunk from when he died, apparently he was crushed by a building in Omaha, Nebraska. An elusive American guardian.
Word is they are hiding out on Europa or in the outskirts of the solar system, sitting pretty with Golden Age tech. Others think they were completely annihilated. But I think they’re still in the Old Americas. Hiding somewhere… ah well. None of that matters now.
In any case there we sat in Sweep’s bar. Drinking and playing cards, Gjallar smoking a long cigar. Everyone pretty damn happy, the Titans especially. Why was that? Well the battle of Six Fronts had just blown over, a huge victory against the House of Devils. That’s when a scout stumbled in, beaten to hell and back it seemed, his armor scuffed up and misshapen. He uses a nearby wall for support, everyone looks to him, he pants before speaking up.
“Fallen! Gathered in…the old… watch tower…” The hunter manages, “Planning… a atta…” his voice trails off before he can finish. But most everyone knows what he was gonna say. The room falls completely silent, a sort of heavy feeling to it. No one dares talk until Gjallar stands up, the sound of his chair scooting back cuts through the silence like a knife. He clears his throat.
“Brothers and sisters. After Six Fronts the City has proven to be able to last through a terrible onslaught of Fallen. After the downfall of the Devils, we have set a powerful example for the other houses. An attack? This soon after the previous one? It seems the Kings are getting cocky! Tell me! Could the Kings defeat us? Could the WOLVES defeat us? If we stand together as proper Guardians? No I tell you! No!” He pumps his fist in the air as his moving speech gives the rest of the guardians the boost of morale they need. I smile as he does this. “Now who’s with me?!” He shouts to finish. Everyone cheers, all but me and Mason. Both of us have studied much more than the others. We know that the Wolves are ruthless and powerful. Should they decide to attack… well we’d probably win, but not without a whole lot of bloodshed. But hell. We’ll let them have their moment.
“Why aren’t you cheering hun?” Saiki asks me. I look to her, a weak smile on my face, my mind racing with possibilities of our own demise, a bad habit but a habit nonetheless. She is smiling, her features soft and her snow white hair rippling as she tilts her head slightly.