Grimoire: Book - The Governor of Earth

"I - An Introduction"

It's been over twenty years since the Battle of Saturn, where the Second Cataclysm came to an end, and old enemies were no longer so.

Less than two years after the War of Unification, where Umun'arath and her Separatists tried to crush us, yet failed; where bonds between former foes became as iron from the forge.

We Guardians have always aspired to an ideal, to protect something precious. For myself, for the longest time, it was the Last City.

Now, the City is but the First of a new Golden Age, an Age of Triumph. Yet we did not reach this stage alone.

Our long-separated kin of the Reef? Expected allies, I would have said, given that we stem from the same world.

Yet not in my strangest nightmares or wildest dreams would I have looked at the Fallen, and counted them as future comrades.

Nor the Cabal, after the Threefold Invasion, or Ghaul's devastation. Nor the Vex, after the carnage they wrought during the Second Cataclysm, or their cold machinations with Ayanami.

Yet here I stand, in a world far stranger than I would have ever dared to hope for: a world where we stand alongside the Reefborn, the Eliksni, two separate factions of Cabal, and Vex that have been empowered by the Light.

It is also messy, and tense, and complicated. As Lady Katsuragi would often say, life was a lot simpler when it was just us - mankind - against a hostile universe. And indeed it was.

I would not go back to those days for anything. Even with the pain and headaches my position comes with, a mere glance at a City grown beyond its formidable walls is enough to make it all worth it.

I am not foolish or naive enough to believe that there will be no conflict in the future amongst our Sixfold Alliance. We are too different for there not to be, and our shared history comes with too much bitterness for it to be otherwise.

Yet we have come this far in spite of our differences, in spite of our bloody history. Or, perhaps, because of them.

So long as I draw breath, I will protect this new world from whatever may threaten it.

That is my ideal.

-Zavala

xxxx

/~22 ABS (Approximately 22 Years after the Battle of Saturn/

/The Tower of the Consensus, the Reborn City/

"So...mind telling us how it happened?" asked Cayde-7, blue eyes narrowed out of anxiety and undeniable curiosity.

There was a weary sigh from the subject of this wretched meeting. "Well, it's why I'm here, isn't it?" said Shin Malphur.

xxxx

/Two Weeks Ago/

/The Fatherworld of the Cabal Empire/

"Shin? Shin?!"

The Light washed over the Hunter, bringing him back to life with a gasp. That was always the hardest part, in his mind; Jaren Ward had never adequately explained the overall intricacies, about how you tended to fade away too quickly for the death to stick, but it was upon rising again that the mind seemed to catch up with the fact that you did die...

"Focus Shin!"

Shin Malphur, the vaunted Gunslinger, slowly looked up at his Ghost, blinking wearily. "Susan...?" He had tracked down a group of Separatists, preparing to attack a diplomatic meeting, and then...there had been a flash, and heat, and then death. "What happened?"

His Ghost, bearing a crimson-colored Frontier Shell, briefly scanned the devastation around them. "

Well, judging by the overall energy profile, it was a Javelin Strike."

"...that...that can't be right." It was one of the signature weapons of the Warminds. "Was there a declaration of war?" After everything-?

"I don't think so. I've not received any messages confirming that. Judging by the overall comms chatter I'm picking up, no one saw this coming. Otherwise, the Psion Shield System in the upper atmosphere would have activated."

"Then...why...?" Was it sabotage? Had the MAGI controlling the local Warmind gone rogue? Was it a plot of the remaining Separatists? Too many questions and possibilities, not enough concrete answers.

Just focus on getting yourself together. Thus did the Gunslinger rise, looking around as the wind kicked up at his dusty clothes and cloak; what had once been a military processing station upon the Cabal's free-roaming homeworld had been reduced to a blasted husk. Everything for miles around had been obliterated. He trudged towards the main complex, trudging past the corpses of the Separatists he had been tailing. "Well...mission accomplished," he muttered, bitterly kicking the leg of one of the Separatist Legionnaires. Its leg crumbled into ash. "Guess they got what they wanted."

"We don't know that yet," cautioned Susan. "We can't afford to jump to conclusions."

"Pissed and ornery after getting their tails whipped, without the decency to handle defeat and let bygones be bygones." He was simply venting now; little wonder, given the VIPs that had been using this processing station for an important meeting. He walked past the dead security detail, and gazed upon the bodies of the representatives from the Cabal Empire and the Reef. He didn't know why they had been having this meeting to begin with, but the fact that it was occurring at all had been enough to catch his attention as a possible Separatist target.

Little wonder, given that the leading rep from the Reef was none other than Prince Uldren Sov.

A Prince who was now very very dead. Burnt to a crisp, more like. "...well. Shit."

"That's putting it mildly." Susan gazed at the clear horizon, muttering to herself as various vessels of Cabal make began making their way to their general location. "We're about to have company."

"Think they'll shoot first and ask questions later?"

"Let's not tempt our former enemies, please."

Fortunately, it seemed they had a brief stretch of good luck; for running towards them from the direction of Torobatl, the Imperial capital of the Cabal homeworld, was a red Giant, moving with far more grace and agility than anything that size had any business doing. "...the hell is Unit-02 doing here?" For an Evangelion to be on the Fatherworld would mean that its Pilot had to be here as well. Why would the Crimson Exo be here-?

Susan interrupted his thoughts. "Don't you remember? The Fourfold Classic Tournament was having a bunch of matches held today. She was there to serve as the...guest motivational speaker, on behalf of the Eliksni competing today. I think I can find a video on the solarnet if you'd like."

"You know I don't much keep up with that stuff." Not anymore, at least. Not since Palamon. "Well, at least we'll have an eighty-meter meat shield if the shooting starts."

"You know, if Jaren were still alive, he'd give you a knuckle sandwich for jinxing us."

"Yeah, well he ain't here." Hard to be anywhere but six feet under, when you were permanently dead.

The four-eyed Evangelion slowed about a kilometer away, going from a run to a measured stride; with poise and control, the titanic Giant knelt down, allowing the voice of Asuka-3 to echo out of its external speakers. "...why in the world are you here?" No nonsense, straight to the point.

"Was chasing a rumor. Tracked down some Seps to this installation...and then apparently got blasted by a Warmind." He pointed towards the corpse of the Awoken Prince. "Uldren didn't come off as well. Neither did anyone else for that matter."

Asuka-3's response was fitting. "...well. Scheiße."

Yeah, that about summed it up.

xxxx

"Okay, time out."

Shin Malphur blinked at the interruption. "What is it, Cayde?"

The Hunter Vanguard huffed, gesturing at the other members of the Consensus gathered at the circular table. "I kinda get that you're trying to do a proper Hunter story and all, but we were kinda hoping for you to actually start a little further back."

"We've already established that the MAGI MELCHIOR initiated an attack on the Fatherworld, though we've yet to ascertain why," said Ikora Rey, the Warlock Vanguard. She rubbed the dark skin on the bridge of her nose, adding, "The point of this debriefing is to try and obtain additional information about the events prior."

"The future has been somewhat...murky, as of late," remarked Lakshmi-2, a horned Exo bearing the scarlet, white, yellow, and ultramarine colors of the Future War Cult. "We must understand the immediate past if we are to gain answers."

"And let's be quick about it," grumbled Suraya Hawthorne, Representative of the Concordat. Her face - indicating a Persian heritage, with a fair complexion - was narrowed down into a fierce scowl. "I've got a bunch of people to try and reassure, because they're thinking we might be headed for another war. I'd rather not have communities living beyond the City's borders take matters into their own hands." After all, the Cabal Empire still maintained a sizable military regiment on Earth, years after the Second Cataclysm had concluded; it wouldn't do them any good to have some hothead make a scene.

"Patience," cautioned a gray-skinned Awoken with dark hair and red eyes, clad in dark clothes with his Faction's symbol - an upside-down white triangle with seven eyes - embroidered over his chest. "Let's not intimidate Mr. Malphur before he can finish his story," said Kaworu Nagisa, Representative of Seele.

Hawthorne huffed. "I'm sure he's seen scarier things than a mortal woman."

"Ha!" barked the Titan Vanguard, bearing a distinctive color scheme of white and orange, with brown fur over his pauldrons. A golden horn, evoking the image of a bull, curved out of his helmet's right side; the left one was missing. Embedded into his breastplate was a bronze token that seemed to burn with an inner fire, bearing the distinctive sigils of the Iron Lords. "After the shots I've seen you make? You sell yourself short, Suraya!" boasted Lord Shaxx, the Vanguard Commander.

There was the clearing of a man's throat, cutting through all of the chatter. "Focus." At the other end of the table, an Awoken man - bald, clad in sim, silvery armor with a design that seemed a compromise between the wishes of a warrior and the practical demands that came with being head of state - leaned forward, resting his chin on his hands. "Start with what brought you to the Fatherworld to begin with," said Lord Zavala, Governor of Earth.

"...all right then," said the Gunslinger, inhaling deeply. "It all started with a helpful tip..." He briefly paused, gathering his thoughts. Or himself. Either-or. "I've been in a real bad place since the War of Unification...since the Stomp. If I could control an Evangelion myself, I would've unleashed hell for what they did to Palamon. Were it not for my Ghost...well, I'm sure you've seen plenty of Guardians in your time who've gone overboard, who've lost themselves. The Shadows of Yor come to mind...though Vale came back to himself by the end, at least. Point is, I've made no secret about my enmity for the Separatists. I know it's not something you like, and I get that. Vanguard has a purpose and an image of its own, and it's a good one. But that gray in-between is a place for renegades and lone wolves.

"Besides, the Empress and her father appreciate me. They hate the Seps even more than I do.

"See, ever since the War ended, the Cabal Empire under Caiatl and the Loyalists under Calus have been trying to hash things out. They both have quite a bit of ego between them, and with Umun'arath dead, the issue regarding the Cabal's extended territory throughout the galaxy is an open question in terms of management. They both want it to be all under their own thumb, but they also know they can't just blast their way to victory like usual. Or Caital, at least. Calus was smart, like that; his Champions include members of every single faction within this grand Alliance of ours, so he's got an in with everyone. However, Caiatl has the advantage in terms of manpower, so he can't simply ignore her, either. It's been real strange, seeing two Cabal factions trying to be...reasonably diplomatic.

"And of course, the Separatists that survived the war, that went to ground instead of surrendering or fleeing for the Frontier? They would love the opportunity to muck things up between the two. That's what really gets me about them; they took their shot. It was a hell of a shot, too; yet a shot it was, and it wasn't enough to take us down. Instead of accepting their defeat, instead of trying to make the best of things, they've settled for trying to make the whole system burn. It's petty.

"So if I've volunteered to take care of any lingering Separatists, neither the Empire nor the Loyalists will complain. And to be honest, I don't think you care either.

"I get your concerns. Truly. There's been too many legends of heroes lost to unpleasant pursuits, who've fallen to a murky path. It's not one I tread lightly. But even though I've not been a Guardian for as long as anyone else in this room, even if my 'rise' was a bit...unorthodox..."

"That's putting it mildly," muttered Cayde-7.

Shin ignored him. "...even in spite of all that, I've come to the conclusion that some beasts don't need to be indulged or entertained or locked away; they just need to be killed, for the good of everyone else. I doubt Jaren would have disagreed."

"There were some who had their own disagreements with the way Jaren Ward behaved in his later years, but that's neither here nor there," reminded Governor Zavala. "Please, continue: what transpired to get you on the Fatherworld that day?"

"Well, I'd been trying to track down a Centurion by the name of Kuskan. Former Red Legion, outstanding bounty on his head, wanted for sabotage. Surprisingly slippery, for a Cabal. So I decided to see if the Pax had any information for me."

xxxx

A few weeks ago, within Old Nevada, in what had once been the North American Anomalous Zone, Shin Malphur found himself visiting the site of what used to be the Black Garden.

Now, it was the homeland - if such a thing even applied to machines like the Vex - of the machine collective governed by Panoptes, formerly known as the Infinite Mind. After becoming empowered by the Light in the years following the Second Cataclysm, the Axis Mind had been more...personable, so to speak, taking on the demeanor of a nervous little girl.

It was downright bizarre and disarming, but it certainly did the trick. Her aid had been very timely during the War of Unification; by the end of it, Panoptes and her subunit had officially adopted the moniker of the Pax, to differentiate themselves from their former brethren that had long since abandoned the Solar System in the wake of the Second Cataclysm...and when it came to information, their manner of looking at the universe was very useful.

"Given the parameters you have provided, our simulations place Kuskan's most likely position to be within a thirty-kilometer radius of Torobatl," helpfully explained a Light-empowered Goblin, its tool interfacing with the glowing lines of a conflux. "Additional data will be required for greater precision."

"That's enough for me. Thank you."

"Please be sure to support the Pax in our upcoming Crucible debut. We intend to-"

Shin Malphur had already left.

xxxx

"After sending out a couple of feelers through Owl Sector and your Hidden..." Ikora Rey briefly scowled, which Shin ignored. "...I realized why Torobatl got so much weight in those simulations. Apparently, they'd somehow caught wind that the Reef and the Empire were going to settle certain matters regarding the Psion Rebellion."

A disappointed sigh came from Governor Zavala. "I had hoped that the War of Unification would have ended this matter. It's been over ten years."

"Ten years is merely a blink of an eye for many us," remarked Kaworu Nagisa, smiling cryptically. "The average human lifespan is well over two centuries. The Awoken's average lifespan is nearly twice that, by the Reef's reckoning. Exos have no theoretical endpoint, so long as their bodies, minds, and souls maintain a sufficient level of integrity. The longest-living Eliksni were present at the Whirlwind; the Cabal have average lifespans spanning well over two millennia, and I don't think lifespans are applicable to the Vex, Light-empowered or otherwise." His red eyes twinkled with ambient light, a distinctive feature of the Awoken in general. "As for you Guardians...so long as you have your Ghost and your Light, you will live forever. Is it any surprise that the issue regarding the Psions would linger, among those who have lived so long?"

"A fair point. Sometimes, I can't believe how quickly time flies. Feels like just yesterday I got saddled with this gig." Cayde-7 briefly paused to glare at everyone. "A gig that no one else wants to take from me."

"You could always die," calmly said Lakshmi-2. "Then you would no longer have 'this gig'." She added air-quotes to her words.

"But that would defeat the whole point!"

"...I believe I understand the matter you found out about," remarked Zavala. "Certain Psions have achieved high ranks within the Reef; not a few of them have joined Uldren's Crows, and one Flayer has become the personal assistant to the Queen's Wrath, Petra."

Shin nodded. "Apparently, some of them wanted to make some overtures, offer an olive branch of sorts; they've got family who either remained loyal to the Empire or who defected to the Loyalists. They wanted a reunion...but many of the ones we're talking about were previously oathsworn to a Legion, which makes them subject to the whole 'kill-on-sight' order."

Suraya huffed with annoyance. "No chance of the Empire slacking off on that, huh?"

"...no," admitted Zavala. "The Empress will not budge on a matter regarding oaths, and neither will her military. From my understanding of the situation, there are many Psions who remained with the Empire that feel the same." There was a measure of surprise on the faces of others, prompting Zavala to add: "Is it any surprise? There are doubtless many who had their own reasons for remaining loyal to the Cabal Empire, but loyal they remained; they would likely view the defectors as naught but traitors."

"A complicated situation," murmured Ikora. "One with no easy solutions."

"Which is why Queen Mara has been personally involved in so many direct negotiations with Caital and Calus," continued Zavala. "Although Calus desires the end of the kill-on-sight orders like we do, Caiatl suspects that there is a power play involved."

"Not an unreasonable assumption," added Cayde.

"Indeed. But there had been a promising development, and she was initially slated to have a private audience with Caiatl and with Xûr..." Zavala scowled, briefly glaring at Lord Shaxx. "...until certain individuals conspired to force Mara and I to have a honeymoon."

"I make no apologies," boasted Shaxx.

"Governor, with the exception of an interrupted wedding, you and the Queen haven't exactly had a moment to yourselves," said Kaworu. "It was the opinion of many that you two needed a break."

"As if we never have breaks at all. I take plenty of opportunities to maintain my skills in the Crucible," retorted the Awoken Titan.

"Uhp-uhp-uhp, stop right there," interrupted Cayde. "Lord Shaxx considers the Crucible to be a break. You, on the other hand, consider it work. Big difference there."

"A MONUMENTAL one!" Shaxx briefly huffed, loudly muttering about the character of those who consider the Crucible to be work.

"I had heard of similar stories involving the Queen's own work schedule." Kaworu smiled. "Mara Sov is well aware that her subordinates are not so incompetent that the Reef would fall apart without her guidance, yet she lives for her duties; it took a great deal of convincing to get her to...acquiesce."

"So I was told," muttered Zavala.

xxxx

/Several Weeks Ago/

/The Reef/

Within the depths of the great asteroid called Sovereign, host to significant portion of the Reefborn Awoken, a secretive chamber contained MAGI-Ω: MAYA. Due to her unorthodox construction and great importance to the Awoken in general, MAYA was the lone MAGI in the Solar System to not become a roaming Warmind; instead, she served as a keystone of sorts, maintaining the integrity of the Warmind network with the standard MAGI network in base reality.

That, and the mind that served as the base for MAYA was unwilling to depart the place she had called home for generations.

Said mind was now projecting the image of her queenly persona: not the mousy and demure Maya Ibuki, Lieutenant of NERV in the Time Before...but rather, the surprisingly imposing Awoken Maya who had been the First Queen of the Awoken.

Said projection had her arms crossed, glaring with disappointment at her descendant. "You've put off your honeymoon for how long now?"

Mara Sov frowned. "We are of like minds when it comes to our duties. We understand that such things are unnecessary, in the face of-"

"I am going to stop you right there, " admonished the mind of the First Queen. "Even in the face of potential extinction following the Collapse, I still managed to make at least some time with Shigeru."

Mara knew this, for as a child, she had read many of the stories involving Queen Maya and her Lord Consort, Shigeru Aoba. Because of this, she knew that trying to make a point about the Solar System's complicated political situation would be ill-received. "Neither of us need one."

"Oh, my dearest, sweetest, most incorrigible descendant...go on your honeymoon or I will find a way to have one of the Harbingers make you go."

It was not a request. "...I will take your guidance and wisdom into consideration, beloved Protector of the Reef."

xxxx

Zavala huffed. "Mara does not appreciate overt attempts at strong-arming her."

"Even if it's for her own good?" quipped Cayde. "Besides, you two are alike in that way too."

"I haven't forgotten," tersely replied the Governor.

xxxx

/Several Weeks Ago/

/The Tower of the Consensus, the Reborn City/

Somehow, Zavala knew it was all Cayde's fault.

After a brisk four hours of sleep, he entered his office only to find a certain Hunter sitting in front of his desk, arms crossed out of irritation. He ignored the Hunter's presence, simply settling into his desk to begin his work for the day-

"Zavala-kun."

The Governor sighed, raising his eyes to look upon the face of the Iron Lady herself, the last survivor of the original Iron Lords. "Lady Katsuragi-"

Misato Katsuragi's gaze could have curdled milk with the sheer acidity of its exasperation and disappointment. "Go on your damn honeymoon already. We've got you covered."

Even if Zavala outranked Misato politically, she was his senior as an Iron Lord, and as a Guardian. More to the point, she had been Lord Saladin's peer.

Thus, in the face of that gaze, Zavala - Governor of Earth, the Unyielding Wall, the former Lord of the Iron Banner - exhaled deeply, acquiescing to her demand. "Very well."

"Good boy."

xxxx

"You're welcome," remarked Cayde-7.

Zavala resisted the urge to sigh; it was common knowledge that the Governor and the Queen were the Solar System's proverbial 'Power Couple', subject to much tabloid speculation amongst the natives of Earth and the Reef. The Eliksni were - to various degrees - rather disinterested in the romantic aspects of their relationship, preferring instead to focus on the political ramifications of their union. The Pax simply catalogued all observations, as per usual. The Cabal, by most respects, simply wanted to be present if they ever started fighting each other, to offer pointers if nothing else. Calus's opinions didn't matter, since he was the one who had originally crashed their wedding to begin with. "Please, Shin; continue?"

The Gunslinger nodded. "With the Queen...sidelined...the original meeting had to be changed. It was deemed to be more appropriate, to kind of hash things out in a more private setting compared to the show it would have been if the heads of state had met. So instead of Mara and Caiatl and Xûr, you've got Uldren and some reps from the Red Legion and the Loyalists. Never found out the names of the others. Landed on Mars, went through the normal security routine, and I crossed the Lelielim bridge to the Fatherworld." Truly, one of the greatest contributions of the House of Leliel, to enable travel by foot from planet to planet. "Found my contact in Torobatl, and in return for a small gift, he gave me the location of the meeting."

Ikora leaned in. "Who was your contact?"

"A simple Psion, not affiliated within any particular Legion; makes his living as an information broker. Sort of a necessary evil, in the Empire's eyes; they think that information will slip out one way or another, so they settle for monitoring 'approved' brokers and cracking down on any black market types. When you've got a massive military state, surveillance ain't much of an issue, but they prefer to have an outlet that doesn't run the risk of any party violating their oaths."

"And information brokers don't?"

"Depends on the information and what the buyer does with it."

"What was your gift?" inquired Shaxx.

Shin shrugged. "Nothing major."

xxxx

/Two Weeks Ago/

/Torobatl, the Fatherworld/

Deep within the sprawling yet grandiose Imperial Capital, inside a district rife with museums and server farms, Shin Malphur quietly synchronized the coordinates with his Ghost, creating a directional marker on his HUD. "Done." It was miles away, beyond the borders of Torobatl.

The cycloptic Psion nodded, unfurling a tridactyl hand towards him. "My pa~yme~nt," he hissed, pale lips rounding oddly around the human vowels that he spoke.

Shin quietly reached behind his cloak, providing a small and weathered booklet titled 'Riddles of Pre-Collapse Antiquity (with a few Dark Age ones for good measure)', authored by a man named Pahanin. "Here."

"A~h, tha~nk you~!" The Psion promptly flipped it open to the first page, sounding a riddle out loud. "Whi~ch crea~tu~re has one voi~ce and ye~t beco~mes four-foo~ted and two-foo~ted and three-foo~ted? Hmm..."

Shin left him to it. He had a military outpost to get to.

xxxx

Cayde-7 blinked.

"So there's truth to those rumors, huh?" murmured Suraya. "Been hearing from folks about how some Psions prefer to barter for intellectually-stimulating material instead of using Glimmer or currency."

Cayde-7 blinked again. "...gonna have to make a note of that. I wonder if they would consider a joke book...?"

"Moving on," interrupted Zavala, keeping his eyes on Shin. "What then?"

"Nothing much that you don't already know; I hitched a ride on top of a Harvester, jumped off once its patrol route got within a mile of the processing station that the meeting was gonna be at. Tried to be discreet and sneaky on the way to the base, but then I saw that the perimeter walls weren't manned."

"That's unusual," remarked Kaworu.

"Hard to man anything when you were dead. The Seps had managed to make it there already; probably some elite saboteur unit, judging by the fact there weren't any alarms going off. Managed to track them down, planting explosives..."

xxxx

Shin Malphur peered around a corner, glaring furiously at a group of Psions planting explosive charges at a support strut; they had managed to keep quiet so far, avoiding other patrols and security. But if they blew enough of those charges, the entire facility might implode.

Not today, thought the Hunter with a barely-restrained snarl as he withdrew the Last Word.

He stepped around the barricade - at least thirteen targets in view, not too difficult to deal with, but there had to be
more, there were ALWAYS more - and took aim.

Then the dusty sky above flashed orange, and then something struck like lightning, and everything went white-

xxxx

"...and next thing I know, I'm rising up with a bunch of flash-fried corpses, including one dead Prince." Shin Malphur stared intently at Cayde-7. "That far enough back for you?"

"Sure, we'll go with that," replied the Hunter Vanguard. "So, what exactly do we do now?" Cayde-7 looked at everyone. "Because I know I'm great at defusing tension, don't get me wrong, but I need to know where I'm gonna be aimed at."

"We need to focus on keeping the public in a state of ease," cautioned Zavala, slowly standing. "I have a meeting soon with the other leaders of the Sixfold Alliance. We need to get to the bottom of this as soon as possible, before tempers begin to fray."

"I'll get to work on that," muttered Suraya, rubbing at her forehead irritably. "One thing after another..."

Shin Malphur slowly rose. "If I'm done here, I'll be off."

"And where are you going?" asked Ikora.

"Ain't it obvious? One thing that Jaren taught me: find out who benefits most, to see the angle. Right now, I wager the Separatists have somehow found a way to hack into the MAGI, because who else would want to turn all of us against each other, after everything we've been through?"

"It is a vast universe, with many belligerents," warned Lakshmi-2. "You should not be surprised if it turns out to be someone new, or perhaps someone we know yet will not consider." At Zavala's warning glare, the Exo went silent, yet was not abashed in the least; as far as the Consensus went, her viewpoint was a common one, even in these times of relative peace. Such was the ethos and philosophy of the Future War Cult. "I will simply advise you to not...narrow down the possibilities so soon."

The Gunslinger huffed. "That may be, but the Seps still need to be stopped." And with that said, the Hunter turned to depart. "I'll be on the hunt." Then he teleported away in a transmatted flash.

Cayde shook his head. "Man, talk about intense. He really needs to get back in a fireteam; it'll do him some good."

"I will endeavor to keep Seele's joint projects in the Jovians ongoing," said Kaworu Nagisa. "The Houses of Ramiel and Matarael have been wonderful partners in appropriating the previously terraformed moons of the Nine, and the Skyburners have provided tremendous logistical support."

"Good." Cooperative works would help maintain the status quo, and reduce pressure. The Governor glanced towards his old friend. "Shaxx?"

"I believe I'll announce a new round of authorizations for participating in the Trials of the Emperor," said the Vanguard Commander. "Give our Guardians something to chew at...and possibly get some new intel."

"Intel?"

"Certain rumors about a new style of Trial that's been unveiled. Very secretive, yet very daring, from what I've been able to glean." The Titan Vanguard chuckled deeply. "We'll have to see what comes of it."

Zavala nodded; even now, after so many years, the Trials had yet to plumb the depths of the Nine's riches amongst the Jovians. It didn't help that sheer volume of planetoids that they had claimed were so many; even with all those that had been destroyed during the Second Cataclysm, plucky explorers were still finding new things, and Calus was still setting up Trials at brand new locations. "Keep me posted. Ikora...have you heard anything from Dr. Akagi?"

Ikora shook her head. "This recent episode has spurred Ritsuko to try and find any scrap of material that her mother left behind regarding the construction of the MAGI." The Warlock Vanguard's lip curled into an irritated grimace. "If only the Sage hadn't perished during that mission to Old Japan...her knowledge would have been useful."

Now there was a title that Zavala hadn't heard in a while: the Sage, or less commonly known as Naoko Akagi. It was because of that secretive Warlock that advanced knowledge of A.T. Field manipulation had been brought back to the City, courtesy of Sakura Suzuhara and Eris Morn's fireteam in the wake of the Threefold Invasion and Crota's Awakening. Her overall fate was unknown to the public at large, left to wonder at just who had been the one to teach Sakura so many things. A shame that Praedyth had to kill her...no, it was probably for the best. By his account, that woman had been fully cooperative with Rei Ayanami, and that just could not be countenanced. "If there are any lingering Hive arcana impeding Dr. Akagi's access to NERV-Japan, you have my authorization to dispatch any Warlocks of your choice."

"Already done," remarked Ikora. "She's also getting consultation from Eris Morn."

Zavala frowned. "She is strictly forbidden from mission work while her condition persists."

Ikora rolled her eyes. "I'm not a fool, Governor; it's all being provided remotely. Eris is in no danger."

"...very well." The Governor knew he was probably being paranoid, but there were so many things that could go wrong. Once he had learned that Eris Morn was with child...the child of arguably the most powerful demigod (or, perhaps, a true god) that they currently knew of...he had done everything within his power to keep her secret, to keep her safe. Anything to keep from potentially drawing the ire of Shinji Ikari, as unlikely as that was. "We shall adjourn for now," muttered the Awoken Titan, blue eyes heavy with the weight of knowledge and authority and secrets. "Do what you can within your spheres of influence to keep people from pointing fingers. Although the Warmind attack was unexpected, and the deaths it caused are a tragedy...we can't allow anyone to jump the gun and pin the blame on anyone within our Alliance. Not without more information." Hopefully, his upcoming call with Clovis-9 of Wille would provide more answers on that topic.

Cayde-7 blinked. "Uh, not to be a killjoy, but the whole 'pointing fingers' thing has already begun. I mean, to the average Joe..." He briefly paused, muttering about yet another catchphrase, before adding, "well, to the everyday person who's out of the loop, it looks like we just up and launched an attack on the Cabal homeworld, and killed quite a few VIPs."

"You don't need to remind us," griped Suraya.

"Hey, I'm just saying."

"Everyone knows that the Warminds are jointly administered by the Earth and the Reef," countered Ikora. "Why, in their eyes, would the Reef agree to kill its own Prince?"

Lakshmi-2 sighed. "An obvious question with an obvious answer: consolidation of power, removing a potential claimant to Queen Mara's throne. It would not be a move without precedent, in the long and sordid history of the Royal Family."

Kaworu nodded. "That is a valid point, however improbable it is in this particular scenario. After all, in the wake of what happened to Princess Nula Sov...well, it would be simple for people to draw their own conclusions on this matter." Even if the likelihood of Prince Uldren being an iteration of Rei Ayanami, as their sister Nula had been, was nil.

"It's also a heavy-handed maneuver, lacking any subtlety," bit back Zavala, showing his displeasure at the concept with a furrowed brow. "If Mara were to ever assassinate Uldren, which she wouldn't, it would have been in a less explosive and obvious manner."

"Which is exactly why it's the perfect way for her to off him!" exclaimed Cayde-7. "See, I can play the conspiracy theorist turnaround game too."

"...just focus on keeping another war from starting." And with that said, the meeting of the Consensus concluded.

The joys of maintaining peace.

xxxx

Meanwhile...

xxxx

There was a certain sound. Repetitive. Filled with intent, as a cookie filled with creme.

Its origin was unknown. Its meaning was unknown. Yet it came through as a vague notion, trying to trigger a memory.

But all context was missing. She had no place for it.

And it was...muffled. Missing parts.

It said-

xxxx

Within the depths of Sovereign, a particular cycle of MAYA's cerebral matrix suffered a hard stop, as new data was received.

In human terms, it was akin to suddenly waking up from a dream.

The remnant mind of Maya Ibuki mentally cursed, even as she devoted more processing power to deciphering the information, even as she tried to get insight from the other MAGI on this matter. "Volundr and Gofannon bid a fond farewell to..." That's where it ended, irritatingly enough.

Who were Volundr and Gofannon?

And who were they bidding farewell to?

xxxx

Long ago, the discovery of the Traveler changed mankind forever. But our Golden Age was cut short, by the First Cataclysm, and the Collapse that followed.

Yet, through the Dark Age that came after, humanity managed to get back on its feet. Throughout the City Age, we endured against threats without and within, even as the Darkness seemed ready to swallow us whole.

The Fallen. The Vex. The Cabal. The Hive. The Nine. The Taken. And more.

So many forces, that it once seemed impossible that we would ever see a night sky without the threat of extinction hanging over our heads.

During the Second Cataclysm, our doom seemed assured.

Then, at the Battle of Saturn, all of destiny turned; Dominus Ghaul was vanquished; Oryx, the Taken King, was felled; and Rei Ayanami's apocalyptic machinations were thwarted.

A humble Guardian named Shinji Ikari, armed with Evangelion Unit-01, performed a great sacrifice, bringing that war to an end. Some say that he is still fighting for our sake in the far reaches of space.

But for those left behind, they had to pick up the pieces, and live on.

For every step forward we make, the memories and hatreds of times past still threaten to rear their ugly heads.

This is the story of a Past that has yet to have its say.

We shall see what Future it will entail.

DESTINY
2

Acts of an Old Exodus

The Sequel to an Evangelion/Destiny Fusion

xxxx

Author's Note: Here it is. If you're confused, than that means you didn't read Gospel of a New Genesis first. This world is...quite different from canon (Destiny and Evangelion), at this point (as you already can tell).

And what better way to demonstrate than by plunging feet first into the brink?

Now, that being said, for older readers: the overall pace of this story will be much slower than GONG was, due to my desire to have a tighter plot overall. I will strive to at least have an update every one to two weeks.

For newer readers, I will be providing brief snippets as we move forward (on top of the Grimoire we normally get to flesh out the world), to sort of summarize the overall major characters so that we can have a reference point of where the 'canon' characters are relative to how they've developed throughout GONG to the start of AOE. Speaking of Grimoire!

xxxx

Grimoire: Ghost Fragment - The Queen and the Governor

"Now shoo, you two, the MAGI will be watching to see if you deviate from the itinerary!"

One might've thought that Mara Sov and Zavala would be insulted by how things had proceeded. Alas, their stations required much in the way of temperance.

Directed to a two-seater jumpship with hard-locked coordinates, they were now en route to the Plutonian Remnant. Although Pluto had been shattered and broken by the Cabal and the Hive during the Second Cataclysm, it had been a target for terraforming efforts by the Eliksni due to a desire to have some eyes peering out beyond the Solar System's inhabitable worlds. However, it had also been a passion project of sorts for the Houses of Ramiel and Bardiel, as their own histories spoke of beautiful landscapes cultivated on hostile worlds. By all accounts, the Plutonian Remnant bore fields of Ramielim structures, over which crawled sprawling Bardielim lichens of every shade of blue. A bizarre, yet strangely tranquil scenario.

Or so Variks had assured them.

Zavala quietly gazed out the window of their jumpship, a SIVA-enhanced number from the Nanophoenix class. The fluctuating light beyond interacted interestingly with the crimson glow of the nanites, giving off the appearance of rubies sailing through the cosmic seas.

At least we'll have sufficient armaments in the event of catastrophe, he mused. He wondered what particular scenarios would result in the hard-lock coming undone-

"You never stop worrying, do you?"

Zavala's answer was quick. "It is a dangerous universe, and an unpredictable one." As though that was sufficient enough, yet he continued on. "I don't think you are as calm as you appear to be." He turned to face his wife, regarding her as a willing partner in a necessary endeavor that, at the time, neither of them had considered optimal. "Am I wrong?"

Mara's expression was serene, bearing little of the cool superiority she bore in the face of those beneath her station. In private, they at least didn't have to settle for familiar pretenses. "To be Queen is to carry a certain image at all times. Even if my will is law, it is one that is informed by their own desires to some extent. In the Reef, to be Queen is to be dominant, and detached, and cool, unaffected and steadfast in the face of all challenges. To be otherwise is to be mortal, and a Queen is not allowed to suffer such a mundane reality."

Zavala frowned. It was one of the reasons why he had always been distasteful of the Reef in older times, before an alliance had been forged by Skolas's revolt, and hardened by the subsequent furies of the Second Cataclysm. "To be above everyone is to be a god, removed from their concerns. Eventually, you lose sight of what seem to be lesser worries, until you begin to regard people as mere tools." Such was the lesson of the Dark Age's worst Warlords.

"There have been prior rulers who fell to such thinking." Though the Reef had only had seven Queens in its long history, there had been certain periods where the line of succession had been...unclear, for reasons foul or pure. The number of queens later deemed to be false far outpaced seven. "It is the other end of that lonely trap, to become so unaffected that they could no longer recount what they were Queen of to begin with." As a certain old saying went, a king was nothing without his people. The Reef and their matriarchal dynasties were no different. "Thus did they become mortal in another sense, by becoming objects of servile hatred and base tyrannies. Such a mortal invites correction."

"Often by blood."

"Yes." There was a reason that the Royal Family's surname had drifted from Ibuki to Sov over the centuries. "To maintain a family bond, knowing it could be turned against you; to appear as an indomitable fortress, in the face of all challengers; it is what I was born to do."

"...knowing what you now know about Ayanami, would you have treated your sister any differently?" The topic of Nula Sov, the Reef's former Princess and Mistress of Secrets, had long been one he ignored out of courtesy. Yet it was one he wanted some insight on: would the Queen's bond of family have caused her to eventually relent in the face of Ayanami's infiltration? Would she have succumbed to ruthlessness immediately, severing her life in the proverbial crib?

"No. To speak of hypotheticals is pointless." Mara stared straight ahead into the shimmering tunnel of warped spacetime. "My cousin, Erika Sov, was to be the seventh Queen. She had been one of Ayanami's iterations, though I did not know this at the time; I only knew that the soul of one I adored and cherished was something false and untrue. In like manner, when Nula Sov was born, my Techeuns foresaw how she weighed upon the passage of fate, drawing in everything like a black hole. I prepared countermeasures, yet I loved her all the same, knowing the risks. To assume behavior based on information I would not have known is a fool's game, and would only introduce doubt in myself...and a Queen is not allowed to doubt, lest her people lose faith."

Silence. Finally, Zavala said, "It would seem that there are many things that a Queen is not allowed to do." He sighed, feeling oddly melancholy. "Do you ever wonder if you could have changed her?" To turn Ayanami against herself, to have such an entity become a true ally?

"Such an endeavor is a waste of time, to wonder what could have been. What's done is done, and there is no changing that."

"...true." At least that was one luxury the Queen could afford. "Guardians are always plagued by the burden of 'what if they had done this' or 'what if they hadn't done that', because we have the power to change our own fate. It is...expected, you could say."

"And it is an expectation that has driven many of your ilk to madness."

"Indeed." And yet, despite that, he couldn't claim to know whether the Queen envied or pitied them.

xxxx

Author's Note: Gotta have our Grimoire. There will be separate standalone chapters covering the informational stuff I mentioned above, along with sidestories separate from the main plot.

Now...let's do this.

See you soon, and please review!