2. Or That Time Nicole Actually Slaps Aydin
Nicole woke up in a red cloak kind of mood. She had several to choose from of course, but the one she went with was the most vibrant one she could find. Why? Because all her previous experiences with working with warlocks that were not newborn (because for some reason, when they were first born their predestined warlock stupidity had not yet set in), it always turned into a pissing contest over who looked better in their gear.
So she went with bright vibrant reds and deep solid blacks for her armor shader today, using perhaps not her best quality gear, but stuff she knew would look good. She couldn't imagine the vanguard would send them on a task that was too difficult.
She hadn't gotten any word from the warlock by the time she left her quarters in the midmorning. Her ghost sent a transmission and for a while didn't get anything back so she assumed he was still asleep or something. Lazy warlock.
She got her assignment off the board. A little note on a square piece of paper with coordinates and a database serial number for the ghost to look up their target. Depending on where on the local galactic map it was posted, would tell you which planet. Red or green colored pieces were for specific groups, having their name printed on the outside. Blue notes were for full teams of three and yellow for six but were generally for anyone to tackle. White notes were open bounties. Mostly hunters took those notes, as they were reconnaissance or exploration missions. Warlocks rarely had the attention span and titans just weren't interested if there wasn't anything to punch.
Nicole found their assignment and looked over the white notes, finding a patrol request on Venus. She would decide later if she wanted to drag the warlock with her or not. She wasn't the one on probation, and in all honesty, if he was a jerk, then she wouldn't feel at all bad leaving him stranded while she went out for a day or two.
By that point, her ghost had gotten a response from the warlock. "He's in the hanger using the communication switchboard," her ghost told her from inside her head.
She tilted her head a little. Guess he wasn't asleep. Did he say he who he was trying to contact?
"No, but his ghost seems awfully terse. I'm not sure I like them too much."
Wouldn't you be pretty mad if I was being accused of treason?
"I suppose so. Still very rude."
We'll go find them. Who's our target, anyway?
"Oh right," her ghost blipped out for a second, probably concentrating on finding the intel they needed. She started toward the Tower hanger. He came back a second later. "Okay, looks like we have just a big cabal. One of the contenders for a Valus another guardian took out a few months ago. Created quite a power vacuum and this guy managed to score himself a tank and has been creeping in on our safe zones on Mars. Trying really hard to prove himself to the cabal higher ups. Vanguard wants him shut down, one to make him stop bugging our safe zones, but they also want us make a show out of it. Big explosions. Leave us alone, in other words. Bug us and we blow your crap to pieces and shit on your face, as Cayde put it."
Nicole snorted. While she wasn't one for big showy kills, she supposed it would be easier than trying to get a warlock to be stealthy.
The communication switchboard was nestled down below the hangar itself, behind a usually locked door. Nicole knew that guardians were allowed access to it, but they rarely had a need to use it. Usually it was employed by the factions. She found him leaning over the board, typing rapidly away at the holokeys, his ghost floating at his shoulder. It noticed her approach first, making a sharp noise to get the warlock's attention.
He looked over his shoulder at her and gave a short nod of acknowledgement before going back to typing. She paused in the door for a second. He was curt but the general foulness of the last time she'd seen him was gone.
At least he's in a better mood now.
Her ghost buzzed softly in agreement. His ghost however would not stop watching her. Its optic followed her sharply as she came closer, never once looking away. It assessed her acutely and she felt almost naked beneath it's pale blue gaze. She approached more warily after a short pause, getting closer only because she couldn't see the screen.
She raised on her tiptoes so she could see around his shoulders without having to get too close. What's he typing?
Her ghost was quiet for a minute. "It's all gobbledygook," he commented from inside her head. "It looks like a code of some kind. Wait, what language is that? That can't just be a single dialect…?"
Her ghost appeared at her shoulder a second later. "Are you working on an encryption?"
The warlock paused for a second to look over his shoulder at her. He then took his gaze to his ghost before looking back at the screen and continuing without answering.
"Yes, what's it to you," his ghost replied for him, sounding irritated.
She glared at the little orb. Her ghost was right. What a rude little ghost.
"You don't have to be rude," her ghost spoke for her, reading her emotions as easily as she breathed. "We were just curious."
"I'm not being rude, I just think you shouldn't just barge in here and start asking questions. I told you where we were because we're almost done but you're just going to have to wait a few more minutes."
Nicole heard the warlock snort but he made no effort to join the conversation. She kind of wanted to slap him. Sure he wasn't being as foul as he had been last night, but by the Traveler she hoped this uppity warlock-better-than-you attitude didn't persist because otherwise he was going to end up fried crispy in a ditch somewhere. She took a breath. Kind of suspicious isn't it, that he's sending encrypted messages off world.
Her ghost got the hint, buzzing his own irritation for a second. "Aren't you trying to avoid suspicious behavior? What's the vanguard going to say when we report back that you're sending encrypted messages off to who knows where."
That made the warlock stop finally and turn to look at her. The ghost raised a little higher in the air so it was in his direct line of sight. "Aydin, don't-"
"Will you finish this for me, Verz?" It sounded like a threat, and the way he was looking at her like a hungry predator made Nicole unconsciously tense up. He took a step toward her, away from the console and she couldn't help the grab for her sidearm, resting her hand on the top of the holster. "First of all," the warlock started, glaring at her. "We invited you down here and you come in here and start asking question then call us rude. Second," he held up two fingers for emphasis. "The vanguard knows I'm sending encrypted messages, thank you very much. And third, how dare you. You don't know diddly-squat about me or my business but you come down here and start accusing me of doing something wrong? You barely know my name. I don't even get a hello, how you doing? Nothing, just 'that's suspicious!'. In the name of the Traveler, no wonder you got no fireteam." He turned back to the console in a huff.
Nicole glared at his back for several long moments. She would have felt bad for making the wrong assumptions about him, but then again, he was nothing but a filthy hypocrite himself. She didn't have a fireteam by choice. Not because she couldn't keep one, like him. No, she chose to go in alone. He knew nothing about her either. He had no idea what she had been through and he had no right to speak.
"And FYI, my order is very secretive and will not accept any messages unless they're encrypted in a specific way." He wasn't looking at her, his back turned to her as he started typing away again so he didn't know of the glare she was attempting to light his back on fire with.
Her ghost glared from her shoulder, and both were silent for a moment. She closed her eyes and sighed, crossing her arms across her chest. He knew nothing about her and had no right to make nasty assumptions about her. But if she stayed angry whenever everyone else did that, she would end up being in a perpetual fit of rage. So she let it go, like she did for everyone else. This warlock was no one special. Just another person too stupid or too caught up in their own crap to care about anything or anyone else.
She stepped closer until she was directly beside him. "What order are you with?" Her ghost asked, calming down himself as he fed off of her emotions.
Rest glanced over at her. "Ever heard of Osiris?"
"Crazy Darkness obsessed warlock who the vanguard exiled. What about him?"
"Well, he runs a cozy cult out in the Reef. Well, who knows where he is really, but many of his disciples live in the Dark and Light of the Reef. And the Queen doesn't mind him. Managed to convince them to let me join even though I'm still in active duty. And pretty young. Did you know that most warlocks don't have to fight to get into an order? Yeah, most orders clammer for any newborns to join them 'cause the bigger the better, right? Not so much the Order of Osiris. They like old men who hate the idiocracy that is the City politics."
"Guessing you already hate it?"
"Bloody stupid, it is."
"How did you get in if they're so exclusive?"
He stopped his typing for a second to raise a fist and shake it at the air. "So much ass kissing my face turned brown."
Between the gesture, the metaphor, and the disgusted look on his face, Nicole couldn't help the little laugh that escaped her. Just a little hiccup of a giggle, and barely audible in the noise outside the open the door behind them. But Rest heard her and suddenly she was the focus of a thousand watt stare. It lasted less than a second and his green eyes were back on the screen like he hadn't looked in her direction at all.
"So you can make noise. Why don't you talk?"
Ah, yes. That question. She frowned, and looked down and away. She caught him look back at her again from the corner of her eye and she threw a quick glare at him.
"That's none of your business," her ghost said rather firmly.
And it wasn't. He didn't need to know why she didn't (couldn't) speak. Why she chose (forced herself) to be silent. He didn't deserve to know her so well, to know her nightmares. No one should carry that curse. No one but her.
The warlock threw his arms up and exclaimed rather loudly, "Well excuuuuuuse me!" People all reacted differently to her. Hunters had the closest thing to understanding, they would usually ignore her. Titans would call her stupid for wasting a valuable asset. And warlocks usually pried. So she was a little surprised when he didn't. "Didn't mean to be rude, mysterious mute girl. My bad. I was just trying to get to know you a little better besides you thinking I was betraying the City by sending out messages."
"Yes, but now we know why-" Her ghost started.
"Exactly, and now I'm less suspicious, right? Well, you're a weird mute hunter and I was trying to make you less weird, but whatever floats your pretty little boat, okay."
If he planned to say more about it, it was cut off by his ghost perking up. "Got the ping, green light. Friendly on the other end."
Rest turned away from her. "Oh good. You got the package ready?"
"Yup, we're good. Running encryption now. Complete. Good to send."
"Please do. Keep a line in for a response."
The exchange happened so fast, Rest and the ghost speaking back and forth so quickly it was like one started talking before the other finished. She watched them for a couple more seconds before snorting and shaking her head. The warlock was definitely young. Using the telepathic bond with his ghost but not mindspeaking? What a weirdo. Or just seriously inexperienced.
He looked at her when she snorted, finally straightening after being bent over the console for so long. He smiled malevolently, curling his hands beneath his chin. "Oh I'm sorry, are you put off by being called weird. Well, you are just the prettiest little snowflake, princess." His voice was high with false sweetness and Nicole caught herself nearly laughing again.
Her ghost beat her to the punch, starring Rest dead in the eye. "You are so full of shit." His deadpan could have killed a cabal.
Rest dropped his arms and threw his head back in a rich, full body laugh that lasted several moments. It was almost enough for Nicole to crack a smile. But she decided she had gotten familiar enough as it was. She shook her head again and headed for the door.
"If you're done, can we get on with our mission?" Her ghost called from her shoulder as she walked away.
"Damn, I mean I know the intel said a tank and all but I was really hoping maybe we could catch him with it, I don't know, in the shop or something?"
Nicole rolled her eyes but didn't respond otherwise. Dumb warlock. She scanned the field below them again. It was obvious this battalion was not expecting a retaliation yet. The perimeter was sparsely patrolled, the tank that had Rest so concerned was sitting idle in a fuel station. The Bracus himself was nearby, at a console. She counted maybe three dozen troops in all. Mostly legionaries, a few packs of psions, and a colossus. Their target was standing out in the open, nearly a clear shot. It might take her two simply to break the console screen he was working at.
If they could kill the Bracus before he went into the tank, they could just leave and not have to deal with the heavy artillery. Then again, Nicole figured that the vanguard would want the tank destroyed. It had been noted in the report after all.
Her ghost appeared between them, hidden under the ridge of the dune they were all using for cover. "We could try sniping down our target from afar. Then destroying the tank without him to pilot it."
"Got enough bullets for that? 'Cause I don't carry snipers."
The ghost swiveled to look at him. "Not even one in your inventory?"
"Can't hit the broadside of a barn." He shrugged, completely unperturbed by his apparent lack of ability.
Nicole gave him a once over. He had a handcannon of questionable quality and a fusion rifle strapped to his back. Not a long range fighter. Hadn't he said he wasn't good at close quarters either? So what was he good at? Maybe he lied about the short range thing to get the titan off his back? The huntress wasn't sure but she was already starting to feel the heaviness of the 'I have to do everything myself' train of thought that usually came with working with incompetent guardians. They weren't all bad, and she knew that they mostly had their own strengths. But it made her miss the good days of working with a fireteam that matched her own skill level.
She sighed heavily and tried to shake the thoughts off. Now was really not the time. She caught the warlock turn to look at her and she could almost feel the face he made, but it was lost beneath his helmet.
"We can at least snipe down the target from here," her ghost relayed to the warlock. Nicole went back to watching the base below through her spyglass.
Rest made a noise beside her that managed to sound annoyed and oddly pained at the same time. "And what about the tank?"
"We'll deal with it once the Bracus is dead."
She could feel his gaze on her and she finally looked at him. The way he lay beside her in the sand, she could actually feel in the incredulous way he watched her. She tilted her head questioningly. Her ghost started to ask but Rest shook his head and looked away before he could.
"I'll run distraction. If the psions are too busy shooting at me, then maybe they won't think to hop in the tank before you can destroy it."
Oh right, the psions. She had actually forgotten about them. Usually the tanks were piloted by the higher positioned cabal. They only let the psions pilot their ships. Not so much the heavy artillery. Don't give the slave too much power, after all. But that didn't mean it was unheard of for psions to hop into unoccupied tanks and turn their fury against guardians.
He was already standing and brushing the sand off of his front before Nicole had a chance to agree with his course of action or not. She reached out lightning fast, grabbing his forearm in an iron grip. She did not like this at all. If she could have her way, no would ever have to run out into danger. She could just sneak them through everything; that's what she was good at. But she knew that nothing was ever that easy. Sure, she could snipe down the Bracus before he realized he was even being shot at, but the warlock was right about the tank. It was going to be a problem regardless of who they focused on. She could take out the target in under a minute. The tank would require more bullets, and more time. Someone needed to provide cover fire, and if the warlock couldn't do long range, he had to go down there.
"What?" he asked. She'd just grabbed his arm and froze, she realized. Her ghost was watching her too, confused as to what to relay from the swirl of her thoughts.
She sighed and let him go, her face hot beneath her helmet. "Be careful," her ghost finally said. She pulled up her sniper and aimed down the scope, getting the Bracus in her crosshairs.
The warlock snorted. She could almost hear him calling her a weirdo beneath his breath but she decided to ignore him. She risked a glance in his direction, seeing him poised to start his own assault the moment she fired the first shot. She watched him take a steadying breath and the lines of his shoulder grow hard and straight.
Right. He was ready. She steadied her aim, took a breath herself and pulled the trigger. The first shot punched through the console's glass screen and staggered the Bracus. The second shot shattered the glass completely. By the third there was a flurry of movement around him, but it didn't matter at all for the target. His helmet was punctured and the pressure inside became too much. It flew off like a rocket, followed by the gush of the black oil inside. He slumped over the console controls, dead.
She reloaded, watching the battle the warlock had started begin to unfold. He had made a beeline for the tank, sliding beneath it and using its bulk as cover from the colossus. He shot at any psions that dared to get to close, but had only managed to actually kill one. As soon as the rifle was ready she started unloading shots into the hover engines.
She destroyed three of the engines, but couldn't reach the fourth. Not that it mattered if she could. She holstered the now empty sniper and pulled the scout from her inventory in a fizzle of light. She scrambled to her feet and started the awkward leaping slide down the front side of the dune. The warlock had managed to keep the psions off until now but the colossus had lumbered right up to the tank. Either Rest's bullets did no damage to the giant's armor, or it just didn't care. Regardless, it was pissed that the warlock was using their own artillery as a turtle shell.
It physically pushed the tank away, uncovering the warlock lying beneath it taking potshots at its feet. Nicole was moving as fast as she could, arc energy snapping around her before she even pulled her blade. The colossus picked the warlock up in its massive hand and tossed him like a piece of trash into the wall of the temporary base with enough force that Nicole even heard his body hit over all the other noise in the claustrophobic space.
She wasted no more time, tossing a sticky grenade on the last engine and pulling her arc blade in nearly the same movement. She tore through the psions and legionaries, moving too fast for the colossus to get a bead on her with either his gatling gun or rockets. He was still too close to the tank so that when it finally blew apart the giant took much of the explosion, staggering him and at last damaging his armor. By the time he recovered Nicole was ripping her blade from the last psion, the arc energy dissipating around her. She turned and took a knee, the rocket launcher appearing on her shoulder in a snap of light particles, the blade dropping to the sand beside her. The colossus ate two rockets before his armor finally gave way, and the spray of black oil hitting the sand was the last sound in the temporary base.
The rocket launcher dissipated into light again as Nicole stood and took a glance around at the carnage. Cabal bodies littered the ground, the tank was in pieces, and the fuel pump it was connected to still burning. The Bracus was slumped over the console, glass sticking out from his bloated face. She took a breath again, her hammering heart finally beginning to calm.
She looked over in the direction the warlock had been tossed, seeing him struggling awkwardly to get out of the cluster of boxes he had landed in. He looked fine now, so if the colossus had done any damage, his ghost had already put him back together. She sighed quietly, in both relief that he was okay, and exasperation at his general presence.
"That was badass!" he yelled, still fighting to free himself. He almost had it, but got his leg caught in a crevice at the last second, plummeting him back down to the sand with a short yell. He promptly started to laugh at his own clumsiness and didn't immediately move to free himself.
Nicole couldn't help the snort. The vanguard thought this guy was a threat? He was no more than a bumbling idiot. It was a wonder that he was a warlock at all. She walked over and helped him get his leg loose.
"Really! That was so amazing! I never seen someone do anything like that! You were like woosh, bam, boom! Everything's dead! Holy crap, that was so cool!" He gushed at her while he climbed to his feet, using his arms for grander and grander gestures until he was nearly flailing in excitement. It was ridiculous and she wanted to slap him. While the flattery was kind of nice, there was something about they way he was so cheerful about it that rang false. "Where did you learn to do all that?"
She watched him for a long moment. Something was off about him now. Was he nervous about something? He was too friendly, too cheerful, too in her face. He had been mostly quiet and stuck to himself but now he seemed to babble without end.
"Absolutely amazing! Tarios wasn't a bad fighter either, but he could be kind of clumsy with his use of heavy weapons. You know one time he blew me up? Although in hindsight, I think it was on purpose. I was annoying him. But he had annoyed me. Started calling me Peaches 'cause I found a new chest piece that happened to be pink and I hadn't gotten any new shaders yet, so I was stuck being pink for a few days but it was such a nice chest piece. He called me Peaches which was really annoying…" he went on like that for nearly the whole walk up the hill, barely even pausing to get a breath between sentences.
Nicole had had enough before they had even reached the top of the dune. So by the time she did, she spun on him, slapping the front of his helmet a few times. It was effective, stunning him into silence.
"Did you hit your head or something? What is wrong with you?" Her ghost relayed for her.
"Nothing is wrong, I've just decided I like you." He shrugged and walked past her. He finished telling her shortly about Tarios blowing him up, managing not to get sidetracked by telling her something else.
Nicole was too honestly shocked to be annoyed by him. He likes me? But… why? Because she had saved his life? No, that couldn't be it. It wasn't like she had really saved him. He hadn't even needed to be revived. People admired her, especially the younger guardians she sometimes mentored, but none of them had suddenly just… opened up like that.
She watched him mount his sparrow, still a bit shocked. "I'm going to get a head start, since my sparrow is slower and all." He took off, leaving her still standing there.
She wasn't sure how to feel. The turnaround was astounding. He had said so much all of a sudden. The sarcasm and general foulness of his attitude had vanished. Despite the babbling, he was more pleasant in the last fifteen minutes than he had been the entire time they had been spying on their target, which had taken hours. He liked her, and that made a warmth spread in her chest. Somebody liked her. Didn't care that she was mute or cold, but genuinely liked her.
Stay silent and hidden. Stay safe.
She shivered, the sudden cold in her body seizing her limbs and paralyzing her. What was she thinking? She hardly knew him. He hardly knew her. He was impressed by her ability. He didn't know anything. He was just another young guardian easily impressed. He didn't know enough to care.
She bit her lip, hard enough to feel it begin to split. The warlock was just another background light. He knew nothing and she couldn't trust him. Couldn't let herself get attached. She was a fool for even being moved by his words.
She still beat him to their ships. The ride had helped to clear her head. Her ghost had healed her lip. Everything was fine. She was fine. She was prepping her ship when he finally pulled up. She looked down on him from where she was standing on the hull of her ship, the cockpit glass open like a mouth.
"You need a faster sparrow," her ghost commented.
She almost caught his reaction but it was so short that she chalked it up to momentary irritation. "I know," he replied. "I need new weapons too, but hey. I don't actually do enough missions to have a steady source of glimmer."
She tilted her head curiously, but her ghost didn't get a chance to pose the question before Rest was answering.
"You saw me today," he said with a self-deprecating laugh. "I'm a mess of a fighter, but give me a project and you can bet I'll find out what you need." He took off his helmet so she could see his grin. "But anyway. I'll see you back at the Tower?" He walked over to his own ship, the engines coming to life as his ghost started the prep sequence. He turned back to watch her, like he was waiting for her to leave first.
There was something almost snake like in his gaze, and it made the hair on her neck stand up. He was watching her suddenly very carefully. She fought the urge to twitch. No, he was always watching her closely. That had been the second time he had answered something that her ghost had not relayed. No, the third time if she counted the time in the Tower when they first met. He'd been watching her way too closely. It made her tense, feeling almost naked beneath his emerald gaze now.
Concern flashed across his face for a moment, innocent curiosity that completely replaced the calculation that had been there not seconds before. "Are you okay? What's wrong?"
She didn't like him. She didn't trust him. Everything about him seemed false, and a part of her was trying to reason that she was being paranoid, but another part was screaming that something was wrong with him. He was hiding something.
She said nothing, told her ghost to remain silent and glared at him from beneath her mask. She wanted to go home; she wanted to get away from him. He was too confusing, too observant. No one should be able to speak directly to her like he was trying to. No one should be able to make her feel warm on the inside like he had. No one should make her feel anything ever again. No one should make her miss him like this stupid, foolish, idiotic warlock was.
She turned in a huff and climbed into her ship, closing the hatch and dunking herself into the cool, dark silence of her ship. She took off her helmet and ignored how he was still standing by his ship, looking like a lost puppy.
Afterword: So yeah, that update drop, man. All my bros want to play PoE. But its so easy i'm kind of disappointed. Guess I'd gotten so used to banging my head against dick face oryx several times a week for that 320 class item I never got... Anyway. The point is. I spent all week playing Destiny instead of writing for Destiny. Which was why nothing really happened. Shit was suppose to happen, besides Nicole being a badass and all.
It's actually kind of funny because I'm so used to writing things from Aydin's pov which mostly consists of "oh shit things are shooting at me, throw fire at it", coz he's a big baby half the time. But Nicole is a badass no matter what and I had fun.
Thank you to forrestfire21 for the review. Glad you enjoyed it!