Imperial Needle

Honor among foes. Glory to the vanquished.

New Guardians tend to know two things: gun and shoot. You pick the rest up along the way, and every Guardian's experience tends to be different. Let's just say the onboarding process could use a little streamlining. But as for our enemies, two points are drilled into us from day 1: the Cabal are big, horrible brutes, and the Fallen are untrustworthy scavengers.

What they don't tell you right away is how that is such complete garbage.

I've seen Cabal who might as well have had rocks in their heads instead of brains. The kind who'll crash a tank, killing themselves, rather than stop to reload munitions in a turret. But I've known just as many Cabal who will stalk you across the Martian dunes for two days straight—no sleep, never revealing themselves.

That's how I was introduced to Bracus Dra'usk.

As for the Fallen—sorry, the Eliksni—everyone tells the story of the battle of Twilight Gap, of the Eliksni Houses sending in Dregs to eat babies and other charming bedtime stories. But nobody prepares you for an Eliksni so scared out of her wits that she tries praying to you because she thinks the "Great Machine" will listen through you. An Eliksni so inured in the old ways that she leaves an offering to you—like you're some sort of saint to a lesser god.

That was how I met Chirrih.

A few months before the Red War, I was two days in to a long patrol on Mars tracking a limping Skyburner tank back to a carrier rendezvous location. I got sloppy. Didn't realize that the Skyburners had a rear guard because I believed the Cabal were utter morons with the tactical acumen of a boulder. Because that's what I was taught. Not that they're a proud people with a storied history.

No, I got that driven 12 inches into my abdomen when Bracus Dra'usk, leader of the Skyburner's rear guard, ran me through with a ceremonial knife.

Normally that would just be a minor inconvenience, except that during the Collapse, the Darkness chewed up large reaches of Mars so bad that Light can't burn there, in the same way that fire can't burn in space. So here I am in a Darkness Zone, bleeding out, my Ghost panicking because he can't do anything to save me, and five angry Cabal ready to throw down.

Now, I killed all four of Dra'usk's honor guard without needing to reload, but Dra'usk wasn't a pushover. We went a few rounds, me bleeding everywhere, him coming at me with a Sword as long as I am tall.

That's when I saw movement in my periphery, like a heat mirage. I knew what it was, but didn't have time to react until the electrostatic sheath was already coming off. But then I realized that the Eliksni Vandal coming out of cloak wasn't coming for me—it was coming for Dra'usk.

You see, what they don't teach you about Eliksni is that they're fiercely loyal when it comes to family. And Dra'usk had kidnapped and killed some of this Eliksni's kin. So here we were, two would-be enemies, taking down a Cabal Bracus like a pair of wolves. At least until I passed out from blood loss.

To my surprise, I woke up bandaged and alive. The Vandal had left a trail of scrap metal taken from Dra'usk's armor for me to follow like breadcrumbs once I was strong enough to move. My Ghost explained the Eliksni likely spared me for helping defeat a common enemy, but Ghosts aren't omniscient—they're just little nerds who read a lot. Some stuff isn't written down.

At the end of the trail outside the Darkness Zone, I found the Vandal waiting for me. She introduced herself as Chirrih. I understood her, but barely—she spoke in circular idioms interspersed with Eliksni words. She set down on the sand a trophy she'd crafted from Dra'usk's helmet: a Bow with enough draw strength to penetrate a tank at 100 yards. Then she sang at me—some kind of mandible-clicking prayer—and left. No gunfight, no bloodshed.

New Guardians tend to know two things: gun and shoot. You pick the rest up along the way, and every Guardian's experience tends to be different.

Mine sure was.

Illuminus Vest (Majestic)

Category: Eliksni

Infiltrator Shell

I: Eggcloth

Category: Battle of Twilight Gap

I. The Prisoner