The Sundial

Some time after the death of Panoptes, Infinite Mind and the City’s venture to the Infinite Forest:

Osiris stepped back to look upon his work. It towered stories above him.

The Sundial was complete, a shining beacon in Mercury’s sky. He needed only to seal the chronometric core, which lay bare at the center of the spire, and activate the Arc conduits that ran for miles under the planet’s surface.

Sagira circled the superstructure, scanning every inch of it.

“I don’t know about this,” she said.

“I have full confidence. It’s your design.”

“That work was theoretical! If the Vanguard find out what you did to build it—“

“If this works, the Vanguard will find out either way.”

Sagira darted down as if to dive bomb her chosen, but stopped just short and met him eye to eyes.

“I know you feel guilty, but there’s no telling what will happen if you turn this thing on.”

“He’s dead because of me. I’ve made every precaution. I’ve had my Echoes check against trillions of disaster scenarios.” He turned to look at the fluctuating glow of the exposed chronometric core. “Mercury is the only planet that will be affected. Because that’s where he died.”

“Where will this stop? Who else will you decide deserves a second chance?”

“You know I can’t make another bargain like this one.”

“I just want to make sure you know that.”

Osiris blinked. She rarely spoke this bluntly, and without irony.

“Hey, hey, hey!” came a far-off, echoing shout. “No! That ain’t right!”
The Drifter came into view from behind one of the Sundial’s auxiliary pylons, pointing a jabbing finger at Osiris’s machine.

Sagira narrowed her eye at the rogue Lightbearer and lowered herself to Osiris’s shoulder. “Why’s he here?” she asked quietly.

“I asked him to consult on the engineering work,” Osiris replied, crossing his arms.

“You sicko,” the other man declared, walking a circle around the Warlock, his eyes darting along every surface of the Sundial around them.

As the Drifter rapped his knuckles on the north pylon, he mumbled, “Ghost, do the numbers.” An armored Ghost with a red eye unfolded out of transmat and began a scan pattern on each Sundial spire.

Drifter walked to the central spire and put his ear up against it. “This core…” he said, leaning close. His eyes darted back to Osiris. “It’s whispering.”

Osiris’s expression didn’t change; his arms didn’t uncross. “We’ll seal the core away. I understand the ramifications.”

“Good luck keeping that contained. Not something I would bargain with, hotshot.” Drifter stood up and beckoned his Ghost with two fingers. It floated earthward and unleashed a holographic array of statistics along the Sundial deck.

The red light reflected off the Drifter’s eyes as he drank the numbers in.
“Your math checks out,” he said, finally, as his Ghost folded away. “It’ll work. But will you find him? At the exact moment that you need? No guarantees.”

“Let me worry about that,” Osiris said.

“Just one more question, then. Why all the fuss?”

“I owe him.”

“I owe a lotta people, Warlock. You’re opening the gates of hell with a Vex key.”

“When the Traveler brought me back, I had no friends. No family—”

“No one had anything in the Dark Age.”

“But Saint was always there. And I saw him grow from neophyte to demigod.”

Drifter shrugged. “We’ve all had to flex a little. Win a gun fight or two. It’s why we’re still here.”

“We all gain strength. But some Lightbearers never grasp a wider view of the world. They’re happy to stick to their ways… languish. When they could be so much more.”

Drifter chuckled and spat, saluting Osiris with a single finger. “I get by.”

“Of course you do. I’m like you.”

Drifter smirked.

“But Saint faced his fears and failure better than any of us, and never strayed from his path. He should get a chance to walk to the end.”

“He already did. But I’ll leave you to your devices. You lunatic.” The Drifter turned, hands in his pockets, to leave. “If you short-circuit the universe, you’re on your own.”

“If I make a mistake here, you might cease to exist,” Osiris replied.

“Maybe that wouldn’t be so bad.”

“We haven’t talked about payment.”

“If you live through this little experiment, you can be sure I’ll be back to collect.”

“Go home. There’s a Guardian you should meet,” Osiris said.

“Yeah, yeah. Hero. Red War. Can’t wait.”

❖❖❖

A dozen Echoes flanked Osiris.

The Sundial spun and sparked above them, around them.

His Echoes vanished in staccato bursts of chronometric Arc, stepping not elsewhere, but elsewhen, as the Sundial fell silent.

Osiris could still see and feel through them as twelve of him walked the corridors of time.

Where those halls were intersected by the Vex network, his Echoes hacked Hobgoblins and Minotaurs apart using Solar Swords powered by sheer will. They hid their shadows and stood still, unblinking, to avoid the Network Minds. Together, they pushed to corners that gave way to the Mercurian Dark Age.

From there, they separated, entering myriad moments of Saint’s visits to Mercury.

An Echo encounters a battle-hardened Saint at the mouth of Caloris Basin. Saint is a member of the Pilgrim Guard, and he and his fireteam descend on batteries of Vex Goblins, the bloom of heavy gunfire leading their way. This Saint is too early. The Echo does not approach.

Neither does the Echo who watches in a dark corner as Saint’s jumpship lands at a Lighthouse at the Caloris Spires. Its interior is cloaked in shadow. The Cult of Osiris’s retrofit of the structure isn’t due for another age. Saint comes here to keep it clear of Vex attempting to reclaim it. He lights the darkness as he tears Minotaurs apart with Solar fists.

An Echo crouches on a cliffside out of sight as, far below, Saint uses his Solar Light to cut through the armor-plated Mercurian soil. Solitary stones line a series of holes that stretch for a dozen meters to either side.

An Echo hides in burning light as Saint works shoulder to shoulder with the Sunbreakers to construct the Burning Forge. Their hammering and soldering with Solar knuckles and sledges draws a silent parade of Vex to the building site. The Sunbreakers take turns stepping away from construction to dismantle the intruders using the same Solar implements.

An Echo spies Saint from a vantage point on the high plains of the Fields of Glass. The Titan fights for his life against purple-bannered Fallen, bearing the same symbol as modern Dusk soldiers. They are the House of Rain, the lowest House. The burning camp around them is curiously absent of bodies—but Osiris has heard Saint tell this story before. One of Saint’s first missions for the Speaker brought him to Mercury in a failed attempt to “re-take” that planet for humanity. They had not known at the time that the Vex had already started to transform the “garden world” into a machine. House Rain followed Saint’s jumpship and waited ’til the expedition had made camp. Then the Fallen annihilated the colonists Saint was charged to protect and beat him to within an inch of his life. The Echo lives that story first-hand now, and finds himself looking away at the terraformed vegetation at his feet instead. It’s already half machine—grass and metal blades growing beside each other under his boots. A Ketch roars down from the sky and rains heavy munitions on the battlefield, and the Echo’s vantage point fills with rolling clouds of dust. The Echo takes his leave. He’s seen enough.

❖❖❖

Osiris’s Echoes scour Saint-14’s timeline on Mercury. But the corridors of time refuse to give way to the moment they need: Saint and the Martyr Mind in the depths of the Infinite Forest. The Echoes work tirelessly for weeks, then months in the space between moments. In desperation, he splits the dozen copies into many thousands more as the work continues fruitlessly.

*One Echo stays for years against Osiris’s orders. He has never lost control of one before; he didn’t think that was even possible. He and the Echoes are the same. He feels this aberrant copy lose his sense of self. Another few years in, he feels this Echo press the touch of cold metal to his head. *

*And then he feels nothing. *

Two Echoes wander into the corridors of time with orders not to stop. Brute force has worked for Osiris before. To this day, he can still feel them. Their search continues.

The rest eventually succumb to Vex security measures where the network intersects with the corridors of time. Even Osiris’s Light has limits.

None of the Echoes ever approaches a Saint. They never find the right one.

❖❖❖

Osiris sat quietly at the base of the Sundial. No time had passed since the machine’s activation, but he had just lived a multitude of lives.

Sagira hovered over his shoulder and asked, hopefully, “Did it work?”

The Warlock stood, and made his way to the southern border of the Sundial. “Shut it down. Wrap everything in a stealth skin. Let nothing, no one, find it.”

Osiris disappeared into an incandescent flame.

Sagira stared at the Sundial’s central spire.

“Dammit,” she whispered.