I. A Path's End

Ada-1 heard the chirp of a comm channel opening before a distorted voice spoke. "I've got eyes on entries and exits. Looks clear."

She stepped through a rusted doorway into a courtyard—the wind whistled through the torn seams of decrepit structures and raindrops crackled on loose metal plating. She walked through the muddy soil and stopped where the Bergusia Forge used to stand.

"Curses," Ada spat.

Her hands fidgeted as her gaze wandered aimlessly around the nearly barren landscape. Artemis-5 perched on a broken pillar, her scope methodically rotating through doorways and windows while her Ghost floated patiently overhead; the other two members of Ada's escort lounged against a broken wall to the rear, silently watching the Black Armorer. She looked back, studying their featureless helmet plates, then quickly turned away. Her foot clanked against something hard and metallic—she stooped down and picked up a forgotten slab of Black Armory alloy, a remnant of the lost forge.

Artemis kicked into the comms again. "That Forge tech? Any clues of what happened here?"

Ada sighed as she studied it. "Scorch cannon sears, wire rifle cuts, kinetic ricochet marks."

"Almost like there's been years of combat here," Artemis quipped sarcastically.

"How astute," Ada said dryly. "There's nothing more to glean here." She took a deep breath, a useless gesture in her Exo body but a compulsion nonetheless.

"Sun's fading, "Artemis said. "Devrim's got eyes on a Fallen raiding party. Not headed our way yet, but I'd rather not take chances. You have what you need?"

"Hardly," Ada said. "But we won't find much else—this area has been thoroughly scavenged, same as the others."

"Fallen?" Artemis asked.

"With no Guardians bothering to stop them? Could have been anyone."

Artemis winced. "I can only imagine how you must feel. The Vanguard had a tough call to make… planetary evacs came first."

"And now they're on to exciting new frontiers, while I'm left with nothing but rubbish," Ada said, her voice full of false cheerfulness.

Artemis leapt down from her vantage point and placed a hand on Ada's arm.

Ada's shoulders slumped. "I am glad for the evacuations. I shouldn't have—"

A howl echoed from somewhere in the complex. Artemis readied her rifle, and one of the escort squad entered the comm channel. "Pikes changed heading. We should get her out."

"Are you ready?" Artemis asked.

Ada studied the broken slab of metal in her hand, turning it over and tracing its jagged edges. "I'm not sure," she said, tightly clutching the piece of debris. "But what choice do I have?"

Category: Book: Pathfinding

II. Lost