I. Impact


The alert roused Failsafe from power-saving mode. She reflexively brought the lights up to full, engaged the warning system, and sent a request for complete Exodus Black system information.

"Generating status report, Captain," she said blearily as her optics flickered to life, displaying the empty catwalks and canted wreckage around her mainframe.

"Oh," she said. "Right."

Failsafe canceled the system information request and dismissed thousands of prompts to connect to a navigation network that hadn't existed for centuries. She took a deep draw of reserve power to clear her head—! LOW POWER ALERT: 4% ! —and activated her external optics.

She scanned the available channels. The hull integrity system remained linked to her mainframe, despite most of the Exodus Black itself being scattered over a vast debris field.


She ignored the centuries-old warning and focused her aperture on motion along her periphery: a group of Fallen Vandals was prying the plating from a distant section of her crumpled fuselage.

"Will my suffering never end?" Failsafe groaned halfheartedly to herself.

She scanned the nearby area for Guardian activity—nothing. She wasn't surprised; it had been a while since a Guardian had done much more than stop by to ask if she knew where Xûr was.

She would have to fend for herself. Failsafe scrolled through her available systems.

Defense Systems: ! OFFLINE !

Energy Shielding: ! OFFLINE !

Automated Turrets: ! OFFLINE ! (How long had it been since she had working turrets? 300 years? 400? She could barely remember.)

Magnetic Barrier: ! COMPROMISED !

Cargo Winch: ! COMPROMISED !

Communications: ONLINE

A handful of Fallen weren't worth a distress call to the Vanguard. If she called the Tower every time the locals scavenged nanotite tubing from her wreckage, they'd revoke her comms access…

The comms system!

Failsafe spun up a deep-space broadcast and prepared to send a message into the empty space 21… no, 23 degrees off from Ganymede. A communications dish on what was once the starboard side of the Exodus Black creaked into position, reflecting a hazy patch of light down onto the Vandals as it locked into place—a devious stratagem that would increase the ambient temperature by as much as 3 degrees Celsius over the next 20 minutes.

"Burn and die," Failsafe hissed quietly, while the Vandals did no such thing.

As she disabled the external optics with a defeated sigh, a small icon on her status feed grabbed her attention.

A new message!

Failsafe opened the communication ravenously, and it was only with moderate disappointment that she realized it was a text-free request: Ada-1 was seeking access to the Exodus Black's old shader archive.

She should at least reply, Failsafe figured. She sighed internally and routed power toward the dusty rack housing her array of socialization filters and etiquette protocols. She winced as currents crackled across the worn cables—! LOW POWER ALERT: 4% !—but soon an ancient platter drive whirred to life.

Failsafe initiated a response. "Hey," she dictated. "Yeah, if you want to help Guardians play dress-up, you can have some of my old stuff."

Her filter happily translated Failsafe's thoughts into a form it calculated was more acceptable to the recipient.

"Bonjour, Ada-unit!" the filter typed cheerfully. "Your dedication to Guardian aesthetics is quite commendable! Your request has been approved! ^_^"

As Failsafe reviewed the polished words, her processer made a dissatisfied grinding noise. She overrode the protocols and manually deleted the carets and underscore, then the exclamation points, then the patronizing greeting.

She paused, deleted the rest of the message, and instead approved Ada's request without comment. The bright 1 on her status feed changed to a gray 0, aligning perfectly with the burn-in on the screen.


The Vandals were doubtless going after another piece of plating. "Procreate!" Failsafe heard herself say brightly, and she realized she was still powering her protocol banks. She rerouted the energy toward her external optics.

The Vandals had indeed moved on to another fragment of her ruined hull. She saw them pull a piece of her ceramic insulation aside and begin savaging the wiring underneath. Suddenly they stopped, their gazes fixed on the sky.


A flash of bright light blinded Failsafe's feed—


An object struck Nessus's surface at incredible speed and a series of tremors rattled Failsafe's weathered stabilizers. The planet fell eerily quiet for a long moment.

Now this, Failsafe thought, might be something worth calling in.

I Am Alive

Category: The Nine


Category: Book: Polyphony

II. Isolated Incidents