The slim awoken hunter danced across the forest landscape like she had lived there all her life, easily sprinting across the high branches of the Venus forest canopy and jumping from tree to tree like a fabled Old Earth monkey. Her pale green ghost floated by her side, never falling behind or going ahead of his companion. Fate slid under a branch then jumped as she passed under the other side, sending herself flying across a large break in the intricately woven web of branches that surrounded her. Her hand glided to the hilt of her knife, a movement that seemed almost programed to the hunters mind, and she drew the silver blade with a metallic ring that filled her heart with excitement. As gravity began to take hold once more on the hunter, she began to fall towards the thick trunk of a massive tree. Before striking the tree with her full momentum she lashed outward with the knife, digging it deep into the hard outer bark of the tree, stopping her descent instantly. Fate held onto the knife with one hand, confident it's blade would not slip from the bark in which it rested, while the other hand flipped down the visor that was strapped to the top of her helmet.
"Do you see them?" She asked her Ghost through a mental link that few Guardians had with their small floating companions.
"I can sense movement but I don't see anything, this is weird, even for the Vex." He replied with a confused tone.
"You said they took the bait." She turned and looked at the Ghost through the heavily magnified visor.
"You do know how hard it is to bait the Vex, right?" He asked with a heavily sarcastic tone that was reflected by the stern look his singular red optic gave her.
"I know, I know. Since we can't see them but we can sense them, is it possible the Vex are using cloaking technology? That's something they would easily be able to access or create." She noted.
"It's possible. We're dealing with the Vex so best not to leave any possibility out." The small floating light said in response.
"Well if they are using cloaking technology-"
"There's only one way to find out." Her Ghost finished for her which elicited a chuckle from the Hunter.
"You know me too well Aspen." She said fondly as she pulled her knife from the bark with one hard yank and began to slide down the slightly sloped trunk.
"Sometimes I wonder if that's a bad thing or a good." He sighed before merging with his guardian's helmet.
As Fate slid down the tree she drew her large sniper rifle from her back and began to fire at the approximate location of the Vex, the thermal scope of the Tamar-D model Häkke rifle proving to be useless against the cloaked machines. One of her five shots hit the shield of a large Minotaur and disrupted the cloaking of the hulking machine beast causing it to let out a electronic roar of anger. Large purple shots exploded on the tree behind her as she rolled, switching to her trusty hand cannon as she tumbled across the muddy ground. Fate stood and fired three quick shots into the chassis of the Minotaur, causing the white center of its chest to explode with a blinding flash of light that caused the other, smaller Vex around it to be blinded.
The hunter took her opportunity opened up by the special rounds her gun fired to riddle the staggering Vex with fist sized holes, earning shrieks of anger and confusion from the uncloaked beings. A Hobgoblin fired a potshot at her with surprisingly uncalculated aim. The red streak zoomed past her head and struck the ground with a loud sizzling sound as the wet ground was cooked by the heat. Fate turned her attention from the Goblins to the delusional Hobgoblin that thought it could take her life today. With two precise shots, one to its T shaped head and the other to its exposed white core, the sniper lay in pieces on the ground, leaving behind a mess of Vex milk. Now Fate returned her fire to the remaining Vex, easily slaughtering the majority of the machines before she took cover and hid from the last Goblin, using the brief respite to reload her weapons.
"Remember if you want to retrieve data from this one, shoot it in the legs! You do know what legs are right?" Aspen reminded her with emphasis on the legs. He and Fate had been on Venus for almost a month because she would always kill the Vex without leaving any alive and while it was a service to the solar system and all of humanity, no information could be recovered from an inactive Vex brain.
"Fine! But only this one!" She yelled over the slap rifle rounds blasting away at her cover.
Fate held her and out and waited for Aspen to materialize a smoke grenade for her to use. Once the black grenade appeared in her hand she smiled and pressed its center down, activating the device. Black smoke rushed out of her hand and soon filled the air around her and the single Vex Goblin. Swiftly, she ran from her cover and circled around to the backside of her target. Fate holstered her gun and drew her knife once more, this time slow enough for it to be unsheathed silently. After a moment of waiting, she lunged forward and slammed the metal robot to the muddy surface before she drove the knife in between the sockets that connected it's limbs to its body. One by one she removed the Vex's arms and legs, starting with it's right arm that contained it's slap rifle. After she was done she stood and looked down at her accomplishment, letting the smoke clear before she reached down and grabbed the beast by it's large semicircular head.
"One disabled Vex ready to serve!" She cheered as her Ghost materialized beside her, scanning the Vex before he looked to her with a single approving nod.
"Good work Fate, now we need to take it back to our camp and extract its knowledge." Aspen said with disdain as he spun the back section of his shell thoughtfully.
"After that we can go back to the Tower and get some real food right?" She asked hopefully. In the month that she'd been out in the Venus wilderness, Fate had only eaten whatever her Ghost could determine was safe for consumption, mainly spirit blooms with tree pulp which never tasted even close to food.
"You don't like my cooking?" Aspen asked with sarcastic hurt in his voice.
"No offense or anything but, not even a Thrall would eat what you call food." Fate replied with a soft giggle.
"I'll pretend like that didn't hurt. Come on, we've got a lot of ground to cover before we get to camp." He said as he dematerialized into her helmet.
"How am I going to carry this hunk of scrap?"
The Vex let out a high pitched screech as the female hunter called it a hunk of scrap wich only earned a laugh from his captors.
"He didn't like that." Aspen laughed. "You do know you have a sparrow right?"
"I thought the Vex had no emotion." She noted, "I guess we can use the sparrow, it's not as much fun as the trees though." Fate said with a disappointed groan as the vehicle appeared before her.
"They don't but that doesn't mean they don't feel insults. The collective mind probably heard what you said. You know what's surprising, Osiris believes the collective mind for each collective has the ability to process emotion and formulate the proper response to them. He says it's beca-" The ghost was cut off by Fate holding up her hand to silence the little light.
"You're worse than Brother Vance." She teased as she tied the Goblin to the front of her black and white sparrow. Due to wear and tear of guardian life, the colors of the sparrow had changed from once pristine white and deep black, to a green and mud stained mess and now a Vex Goblin was leaking Radiolarian fluid all over the floating vehicle.
"Hey! Don't compare me to-" Once again Aspen was cut off.
"Come on, lets head back to camp. You can defend your Osiris fan-ghosting there." She said with a chuckle as she climbed onto the sparrow and revved it twice letting the roar of the engine fill the air around her.
Aspen groaned with annoyance and dematerialized into Fate's worn and dirty helmet that had been given to her by the Vanguard along with the armor set she wore called Road Complex AA1. Fate had heavily modified her armor over the short time she'd had it. In a little under four months, Fate had added a magnifying visor with adjustable zoom levels, an extra knife sheath onto her chest piece as well as extra ammo pockets, the arms contained a data interface that she often used to check her inventory and bounties as well as interfacing with any technology her Ghost couldn't activate. Her boots, however, remained untouched, preferring their original state to any she could think of. Once belonging to a hunter she had known, the boots had fallen into her possession after the untimely passing of her dear friend. Now The St0mp-335, as Marcus had called them, belonged to her. He had created them from an idea he had in his mind since the day he became a guardian.
The boots contained a hydraulic booster on each leg that greatly improved the speed at which a person could run. They also increased the height a guardian could jump by an extreme amount and when paired with a Hunters ability to jump a second time in mid air, the distance once could achieve with the boots was impressive. Twice during the testing of the boots, Marcus had jumped with so much force his legs were removed from his body and twice, Fate had to kill him so his ghost could revive him. Marcus and Fate had been part of the same fireteam for years until he descended into the Hellmouth without her. Fate was the one to find his remains encased in a Hive crystal within the Temple of Crota along with several other guardians who were presumed to be missing. Losing him was hard on her, after several tries to pair Fate with other teams the Vanguard gave up, letting her choose where she wanted to go and assigning her very long missions that often would keep her from the tower for several months.
To Fate this choice was a hunter's dream come true. To be allowed into the wilderness with nothing but her guns and ghost, letting the Light guide her way and killing any minion of the darkness, it was all she longed for. Her trip to Venus was the fourth assignment the Vanguard had given her in two years due to her extended stays wherever she was ordered to go. Now she was on Venus to investigate an large increase in Vex activity in the previously untouched, lush forest that occupied the edges of the Ishtar region. Now the Vex's geometrical shapes sprung up from the ground all throughout the heavily patrolled forest. Luckily for her, the canopy of the trees remained untouched by the Vex's mechanical infestation.
As the Awoken zipped across the forest floor towards the large tree she had set up camp in, she noticed a startling lack of wildlife that normally chittered to her in their strange animalistic tones as she went past. Looking around with confusion, she slowly brought the sparrow to a halt under the dark shade of a few trees. From there she disembarked the vehicle and drew her Tamar and lifted her visor, scanning the area through the thermal scope which normally would have been glowing with orange from all the birds that occupied the canopy and the smaller animals that occupied the forest floor. Now the scope was showing no signs of life anywhere near her. Worry began to rise up in her mind as she tried to figure out what would cause the animals to flee, all of her thoughts fell on one answer, the Vex were here.
"Aspen, what is wrong with this picture?" She asked her companion mentally.
"You mean other than a whole forest suddenly falling silent after we capture a Vex Goblin?" He paused and thought for a moment. "They're watching us, they have to be." He added.
"So why aren't they attacking?"
"I have no idea. Should I prepare for resurrection?" He asked with a slightly hopeful tone.
"You know me Aspen, when's the last time you had to bring me back?" She asked with a serious tone.
"One year and fifty days ago. You know being resurrected is actually good for your body?" He chided.
"Let's talk about what's good and what's not later. We should get moving before they decide to attack us." She said quickly before hopping back onto the sparrow and speeding off faster than she had been going before.
After two hours of dodging and weaving through the dense rainforest tree trunks, Fate and Aspen finally arrived at their camp. This was the tallest tree in the forest and also the widest she could find, its diameter stretching seventy feet according to Aspen's calculations. At the middle of the tree was a large, flat branch that had likely snapped early on in its life due to its heavy weight. Where the flat branch joined the trunk was a large opening that led into the inside of the wide trunk. There was a large chamber on the inside of the trunk that looked like it once belonged as the nest of some large feathered creature that Aspen could not identify.
Once at the base of the immensely tall tree, Fate stopped and looked up with silent awe at the extreme height of the natural growth. No matter how many times she had looked up at the tree from this angle, it still always managed to impress her with its height and width.
"What's the matter Fate, wish you were taller?" Aspen joked.
"Shut up, little light." She replied equally as teasing.
"Hey! That's just rude." He groaned.
"Yeah, yeah. Aspen can you get me and our friend up to the branch please?"
"Sheesh, I swear you think I'm some sort of elevator." He said to her as she dematerialized and rematerialized up on the branch.
"You're not an elevator?" She said with mock surprise.
"You know I could have made you walk. Let's get the Goblin up here." Aspen said before the goblin materialized on the branch in front of Fate.
Fate reached down and grunted as she began to drag the limbless Vex into the opening of the large tree. After she leaned it against the far wall of the opening, the young Awoken girl removed her helmet with a sigh of relief as her dark blue hair fell around her face like a veil. She brushed it aside and made her way to a crate that had a lamp set up on its surface as well as odds and ends to things she had been working on since they arrived on the lush world. Fate cleared off a space and set her helmet down before she looked over to the Goblin who's red optic never moved from her. For a moment she stared back at it before eventually finding it's cold and calculating gaze to be unselling. She stood and grabbed a tarp that she had used to cover her now gone food supplies and walked over to the Goblin before kneeling down in front of the metal creature.
"How many ways do you think you can kill me?" She asked it, unexpectant to a reply.
The Goblin kept its cold and lifeless gaze locked onto Fate as if it were trying to smother her light with just its gaze alone. Fate sighed and stood before she covered the Goblin with the tarp and walked back to the crate. The sound of thunder booming over head caused her to look up at the natural ceiling the tree had created with slight wonder. After a moment the relaxing sound of rain pelting down upon the large leaves that made up the canopy began to echo through the tree, the sound coming from above her head and being amplified by the shape of the room she was in. Aspen materialized in front of her and flew over to the makeshift table before she could get there. He hovered above the table and spun his shell as he watched his guardian closely, easily understanding that something was wrong with her.
"Fate, what's on your mind?" He asked with genuine concern.
Fate looked over at him with glowing azule eyes and sighed, letting her gaze fall to the floor. "Today marks the fifth year, since Marcus died…" She said bitterly.
Aspen floated off of the table and over to his guardian. He lowered himself so that he could look up at her and see her eyes. "I know. I'm sorry." He paused and rotated his front half. "If you want I can play the recording…" Aspen continued solemnly.
For a moment Fate was silent as she contemplated bringing the pain and grief she felt at his loss back up to the surface of her mind. Slowly she nodded, her long blue hair shifting atop her head as she moved her head. Part of her wanted to forget the sorrow she felt over her friend, while another part of her wanted to remember. Fate realized long ago that she would never be able to forget Marcus due to the immense impact he had in her life as a Guardian and as a protector of the City. She watched as her ghost dematerialized then turned and walked back to the crate. Her hands shook slightly as she picked up her helmet and put it on her head, the memories of what she found in the Hellmouth clawing at her mind like a ravenous Thrall attempting to eat the light.
The visor of her helmet grew dark as she sat down with her back against the crate. Soon a blue light appeared in the middle of the dark screen then faded as a video began to play. There was Marcus Ren, his soft features smiling at her through the recording sending a feeling of warmth and happiness through her body. Tears slowly began to roll down her soft blue cheeks as the recording continued. In the background Fate could make out the restaurant that the two used to eat at everytime they returned from a mission, no matter how long or short it was. She could tell the restaurant was empty due to the startling lack of background noise. Only recently had she discovered that the owner of the restaurant had let Marcus have the room to himself in order to record this message.
In the soft light of the room she could see the armor that he was wearing, the same armor she found him in on that dreaded ball of white dust and Hive corruption. The message was recorded a few days before the Vanguard lost contact with him. To her it was their fault he died that day, they let him go alone. They didn't have her accompany him for fear that it was too dangerous for a still inexperienced hunter. She watched as Marcus stepped back from his Ghost, Pine, who was recording the message.
"Are you recording?" He asked with a smile.
"No, I'm just watching very intently. Of course I am." Pine said sarcastically, eliciting a slight chuckle from the male hunter.
"Okay. So how do I do these things?" Marcus' face held a confused expression.
"Just talk to her like you normally would." Pine replied.
"Okay, okay." He paused and sighed for a moment. "Hey Fate, If you're watching this then I've probably already left for the moon. I know you are mad that you aren't coming with but it's not my choice this time. The Vanguard is right though, this place is not safe, even for someone as badass and handsome as me." He joked as he flipped his dark brown hair back, attempting to make himself look good.
Fate couldn't help but chuckle at this, a small smile splitting the frown that was on her face moments before. Though she never told him, she thought he always looked good, for a human. Her feelings about him were never spoken but she always knew he understood how she felt about him. They way he would speak to her was vastly different to how he would talk to others. When he spoke to her his voice was soft and gentle, but when he spoke to others he would take up a deep and threatening tone that was meant to keep people away from him, a trick that worked on almost everyone. Fate was an acception to that, when they first met he tried to scare her away with his intimidation but she wouldn't budge. She even told him he wasn't even remotely intimidating.
"But in all seriousness, after this mission I promise I won't go anywhere without you. You're my partner and I hate leaving without you. This mission is gonna be boring without you with me. It's okay though because when I get back we're gonna go someplace special, I want to give you something." Marcus paused and fiddled with something in his pocket then looked back up to the camera with a soft smile. "Anyway, I should probably get going. If anything should happen to me on this mission, just know that I lo-" The recording abruptly stopped and became nothing but a static filled screen.
Tears continued to pour down Fate's face despite the smile that pulled on the corners of her mouth. Reaching up with shaky hands, Fate removed her helmet and dropped it onto the ground beside her with little care. She wiped her tears away with the back of her gloved hand then stood up and began to walk towards the branch the formed a makeshift balcony. The rain fell down in a blanket despite the leaves above trying to capture all of the water their broad surfaces. Fate looked up and let the rain fall down on her like a warm shower, washing away her tears and pain. Her hair grew heavy as the warm water fell on her face and head.
"You know, this place isn't so bad, I mean it's not the tower or anything and the food here sucks, but it's nice." She said more so to herself than to anyone else.
Aspen materialized once more and flew out to his guardian and under her cloak, using it as a shield from the rain. Her cloak was worn and old, several holes riddled the dirty, blood stained fabric of the experienced cloak. The cloak was the only thing she had that wasn't given to her, this was something she had made herself by hand. Marcus had given her the materials and even taught her how to sew a cloak without Ghost assistance.
"It's no but, food. Now I know I'm a fantastic cook but when all I have to work with is spirit blooms and tree pulp, nothing I can do will help that taste." Aspen said from under the cloak in an attempt to lighten her mood which worked slightly.
"Yeah that's true. Maybe we could get the recipe from Spicy Ramen if we ask." She joked as she lifted the cloak over her shoulder to give Aspen more cover and so he wasn't behind her back. "I wanna go back to the tower Aspen." She said softly as if she was unsure.
Aspen flew to her front and looked up at her from under the cloak, rotating his back half thoughtfully before he spoke. "Then let's get what we need from that Goblin and get out of here, I need a good washing and you do too." He noted
Fate scoffed and started to head back to the inside of the tree with a smile on her face. "Aspen are you saying I smell?" She joked.
"Well I'm not saying you don't." He teased.
"For one so small you are very rude." She quipped as she approached the Goblin.
Fate reached out and grabbed the black tarp before quickly pulling it off of the incapacitated Vex. For a moment it's optic was dark but it soon light up with its familiar red glow. The Goblin looked up to Fate and focused it's optic on her eyes once more as if it was searching for something hidden in her glowing blue iris. The hunter grabbed the Vex by the back of it's metal head and drug it over to the crate, laying it on the ground beside the box and grabbing the tools she'd need to open its exterior and expose it's alien insides.
After a few hours of struggling, the head was finally removed from it's body without damaging any of it's vital components. Fate set her tools down and wiped the sweat from her brow before sighing and pulling out a few retractable connectors from her wrist interface. The Awoken connected the wires to the semi organic processor and began to pull information from the creature whose singular optic began to flash as the data was ripped from it's mind.
"Aspen," She waited for the ghost to materialize before she continued. "Is the ship ready to go?" She asked curiously as she looked down at the wrist interface, seeing that the data was sixty-seven percent downloaded already.
"The engines are hot and transmat is ready when you are." He paused for a moment before continuing. "Are you okay Fate?" He asked with genuine concern.
Fate nodded her head and smiled to him, though it was somewhat forced. "Yes Aspen, I'm good now. Don't worry about me, worry about this Goblin. He was recording us ever since we brought him here." She said with a slight chuckle.
"I can't say I'm surprised. Vex love to record everything, it's how they learn so quickly. With infinite machine brains processing one thing, they learn things in microseconds. It's actually kind of fascinating. Osiris believes the Vex are only using half of their processing power for some reason." He stated.
"Why would they only want to use half of their available power? That's like giving themselves a handicap in universal conquest." She asked with genuine confusion and curiosity.
Before Aspen could answer, Fate's wrist emitted a beeping sound signifying the information download was complete. Fate pulled the wires from the Vex brain and let them be pulled back into the side panel of the interface. The Vex on the ground let out a low screech as it's optic began to glow with a dim light that flickered on and off. Fate stood and put her helmet on before grabbing her hand cannon from her waist and loading one shot into the chamber, aiming it at the glowing white core of the Goblin who seemed to nod it's head weakly up and down.
"Thank you for the information." She said somewhat sincerely before she squeezed the trigger. With a loud BANG!, Fate ended the Vex's suffering then holstered the gun once more.
"Let's go home Aspen." She said before being transmatted in a flash of blue light, appearing in the pilot's seat of her ship that was hidden in a cave not too far from the tree.
With a low groan the ship lifted off the ground and flew quickly into the air in an upward arc. Eventually the dark storm clouds that occupied the air above the forest gave way to star spotted space. The sun cast a blinding glow onto the cockpit of the ship that only lasted for a few moments before the space in front of the ship was stretched until all Fate could see was the blue and orange hues of hyperspace travel. Closing her eyes she let herself drift to sleep in the comfortable seat that made a better bed than the hard wood of the tree's interior.