Dawdling outside the entrance to a Gensym lab, the man tucked a green coin into a pocket of his newly-acquired duster, and then checked to make sure his Obsidian Mind was sealed shut. He fiddled with the clasps of the helmet as a technician carrying a clipboard hurried up to the door. She stepped inside, and he followed on her heels. The doors almost caught him as they slid shut, and the tech noticed, turning around to take stock of him.
“How you livin’?” The man said in a deep, modulated voice as he shouldered past her.
“Creep,” the tech muttered, and walked the other way.
The man stopped to check a listing of room schedules on a monitor at the front desk, then continued down the hall into the darkness of Lab 3.
Inside, the Praxic Warlock Aunor stood under a constellation of holographic projections anchored in the air around her.
She saw the man out of the corner of her eye, and nodded her head slightly.
“Warlock,” the man said in greeting.
“Warlock,” she returned, dragging a looping feed from a far corner into focus in front of her. “I won’t be long.”
“Take your time,” he said, leaning against the far wall. “I’ve always wanted to see a Praxic at work.”
“I assure you it’s glamorous,” she replied, throwing her arms wide and unfolding the feed into a three-dimensional space.
The lab flashed with light and became the shattered, burning husk of the Prison of Elders.
The man turned to his left and saw a familiar, weathered face staring up at the eight Barons of the Tangled Shore.
Cayde-6 stumbled forward and raised a hand. “Hey, help me out here, little buddy.” His Ghost appeared in a blazing burst of Light.
“Freeze playback,” Aunor said. Time stopped. “Confirm what I’m seeing.”
The Tower’s central processing unit spoke with an automated voice. “Ghost ‘Sundance’ audiovisual feed, third-person perspective; date of recording is roughly six months prior.”
“Scan the feed for soft light interposition.”
“None found. This Ghost feed is direct from the subject’s databanks and has not been tampered with.”
The high-pitched whine of the Rifleman’s weapon was the last sound on the feed. It was the last thing Cayde’s Ghost ever heard. The bullet shattered the holographic world around Aunor and the man, and Lab 3 reappeared in its place.
Aunor swept her coat back and clasped her armored hands behind her. “Why did the feed end?”
“Subject ‘Sundance’ suffered unrecoverable system failure and ceased recording.”
“Scorn guns can’t kill a Ghost,” the man said, taking a step away from the wall, and uncrossing his arms.
Aunor ignored him. “Cause of death?” she continued.
“’Sundance’ appears to be the victim of a single, catastrophic wound from a Devourer Bullet, modified to fire from a Scorn launcher. Projectile classified as ontological.”
“Define Devourer Bullet.”
“Payload matches the ballistics of a Weapon of Sorrow or a comparable Hive implement.”
“What do you think, Warlock?” Aunor asked the man without turning around.
“Didn’t the Mindbender build himself an Ascendant throne?”
“Crafting bullets sounds easy if you can manage that.”
“Sword Logic doesn’t work that way. The throne came after,” Aunor replied. “It was built on Cayde-6’s death. I didn’t catch your name.”
“Finch,” said the man.
“Finch,” Aunor echoed dryly.
He gestured at the holographic displays. “What’s all this for?”
The various HUDs and data streams reflected off Aunor’s polished black helmet. “I’m investigating the possible involvement of the Hero of the War in the death of Cayde-6.”
Finch chuckled. “Won’t they hang you for that?”
Aunor looked at the ground. “You’d be surprised what this City will let a Lightbearer get away with.”
“I hear that. So? Is the big hero actually the villain?”
“You can read the report once the Vanguard publishes it.”
Finch nodded. “Fair enough.” He turned to leave, then stopped himself. “And what actually happens if the saint turns out to be a sinner?”
Aunor still hadn’t turned around. “The Praxic Order doesn’t hesitate, doesn’t stop. If we can prove you’ve done demonstrable harm to humanity or the City, doesn’t matter how far or how fast you run. We’ll catch you. And you’ll face Praxic Fire.”
“You’re a scary sister.”
She turned to look directly at him. “You have no idea.”
Finch coughed and headed for the door. Behind him, Aunor called out, “Didn’t you need lab time?”
“Just remembered I’m busy,” he replied over his shoulder and disappeared.
The doors closed and Aunor stood in the half-darkness, a sea of data streams reflecting off her helmet.
“Restart the feed,” she said.