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7 months ago…

Sylus stood at the Tower Walk by himself; the events of Twilight Gap were still fresh in his mind, despite happening so long ago. Sylus wondered what would have happened, had things progressed differently. He knew it to be true that no one could consider it to be something of a victory; it was more so a loss for everyone. He gazed out over the mountainous region beyond the Tower, beholden to the natural beauty of the landscape. In a way, it reminded him of what he was fighting for. Even after the Collapse, humanity continued to thrive in some aspect. The City represented the last, true bastion of that ideal, that freedom away from the Darkness.

“I had suspected you would be up here.” A voice called out from behind Sylus. It was all too familiar to him; with the deep, commanding tone and a hint of compassion. The Vanguard Commander stood tall and walked with pride, joining Sylus upon the Tower Walk.

“I’m always up here; contemplating. Better to think while the hustle and bustle of the City remains below me.” Sylus responded. His gaze and his attention turned towards the presence of his fellow Titan and mentor.

Zavala held his arms behind his back, standing at ease. He nodded his head, somewhat agreeing to the statement that Sylus had offered. Often, it was hard to believe that they had been chosen by the Traveler; now they represented humanity’s elite. A long pause came forth, where neither of them spoke. Eventually, Zavala broke that silence. “Sylus, do you remember why I recommended you for the Titan Order?”

“Yes sir. I remember that you chose me because I was the best of my class.” Sylus replied.

“Not entirely. You best represented our ideals: a strong will, a sundering fist and a virtuous heart. You had compassion; sympathy. I knew that you would do the right thing, no matter what the cost might be.”

“I always try my best, sir.” Sylus turned his gaze back out towards the valley; rolling hills and distant mountains scattered the landscape.

“You go above and beyond, Sylus. Believe me when I say that it is an honor to work alongside a Titan so dedicated as I am.”

“Thank you, sir.”

“There is a storm coming. And I fear that we will need all the help we can get.” Zavala responded. As usual, he had this stern expression on his face that never left. In a way, he was like a concerned father, watching over all of his children. In a way, all the Vanguard were like that.

“You will have me at your side, Commander; for better or worse. I would not miss it for the world.”

“I believe you.” Zavala briefly looked away, having received a brief, inaudible message from his Ghost. “Yes?” He turned away fully. “I am aware that they were to arrive soon… I had not been aware that it was to be that soon. Delay them. I will be down shortly.” He turned back a few seconds later. “It seems we have new arrivals at the Tower.”

Sylus smiled softly. “The recruits, yes.”

“Would you care to join me in inspecting the recruits, Mr. Marx? I am sure that your knowledge would be invaluable.”

“I would be happy to, Commander.”

Sylus joined Zavala’s company, and the two parted from the Tower Walk. They would both descend down into the Hall of Vanguards, where the new recruits were to be inspected. When a Guardian was brought into the world, their class was dictated for them on the spot. Some would say it was the Traveler choosing them for that role, based on how they were in life. The strong and the brave became the Titans, the wall against which the Darkness broke. The adventurous and those consumed by wanderlust became the Hunters, scouts of the new frontier. The scholarly and the intellectuals became the Warlocks, scientists and students of the new world. Every single day, more and more Guardians found their way to the Last City. Some never made it, perishing due to the perils of the old world. For those who did, they were taught in the ways of the Guardian.

Within the Hall of Vanguards, a line-up of new recruits stood at attention, facing the Vanguard. They were of various classes; three Titans, two Hunters and two Warlocks.

“You all look like you would make fine scholars.” Ikora could be heard speaking.

“We must see if they will make fine Guardians, Rey.” Zavala retorted, as he personally inspected each and every Guardian there. It was the Vanguard’s duty not only to coordinate all the efforts of the Guardians, but to train the new recruits and guide them to being their very best.

“Of course.” Ikora responded.

“Sylus, what do you think?” Zavala asked his fellow Titan.

Sylus stepped forward from the back of the room, holding his arms at his side and pride in his eyes. He overlooked the various Guardians in their line-up, knowing their pre-determined class from the rudimentary armor that they wore. Clearly, it was something that their Ghosts had cobbled together from field materials; spinmetal, relic iron and the like. One particular Titan caught his eye; he was this blue-eyed, black haired young man who looked like he had just came out of a fight. His left eye was bruised.

“Tell me your name.” Sylus asked.

“Essal.” The man spoke in a slight accent, but it was hard to say exactly what it was. Most of the world’s culture had been lost during the Collapse.

Sylus seemed to stay silent for a few seconds, before nodding. He placed his hand on Essal’s shoulder, and smiled. “You’ll make a fine Titan one day, Essal.”

“Thank you, sir. But you have to wake up, now.”

“Pardon, Essal?” Sylus asked.

“Wake up, Sylus!”

                                                                                                                                                                    

Present Day…

“Come on, boss! Wake up!” Arxus sounded stressed. He shook Sylus’ body, which had lain limp against a slab of rubble. The entire area had been leveled; debris and rubble everywhere and as far as the eye could see. The aftermath of Arkanz’s weapon had been devastating; it was a miracle that anyone survived at all. Smoke lifted high into the air.

Sylus gasped suddenly, as he started to breathe raggedly. Arxus sighed with relief. Sylus was heavily wounded; even with the simple task of him sitting up, his helmet fell to pieces, severely weakened from the blast. Shards of plasteel plated metal broke apart over his face, cascading off the contours of his visage, and dropping onto the ground. Blood trickled down from his forehead to his left cheek, and he was bruised. “… What happened? All I remember is a blue light, and then…”

“The Kell must have done something.” Arxus said, not looking much better than Sylus did. Bits and pieces of his armor were missing, some rendered down to basic components. It was a surprise that he was able to move at all, but something must have saved him or shielded him from the blast.

“That weapon… he used it while we were at the bank, too.” Sylus shuddered, cringing in pain as he discovered he had a broken rib. Arxus had to keep him steady so Sylus wouldn’t hurt himself too badly.

“Same one, yeah.” Arxus responded.

Sylus peered around the impact crater, looking to see the extent of the damage. The Needle had collapsed entirely, reduced to a smoldering pile of debris and ash. Surely, Sylus had only survived because he was a Guardian; that had to count for something. He came to a startling realization soon afterwards. “Where are the others?”

Arxus turned his head away, looking down with a sorrowful expression. “I… I couldn’t find them. There’s too much debris, we’d be here for days…”

“We’re not leaving them behind, Arxus.” Sylus replied.

“We can’t, but… it would take days to find them. By that time, Arkanz could already be enacting his plan.”

Sylus sighed shakily. Arxus was right. They couldn’t leave their fireteam behind, but if they lingered, Arkanz would likely use his weapon in his ultimate goal. Like Syrakis had said before, he wanted to destroy the Traveler. “I’ll go.”

“Boss?”

“I’ll go by myself. You stay here and look for the others.”

“Boss, I can’t let you go by yourself. You’re too injured to even stand.”

Out of defiance towards Arxus’ statement, Sylus struggled to stand, nearly yelping in pain from his injuries. It was clear now that he was more wounded than was visible. “That is an order, Guardian.”

“Damn it, Sylus. You can’t do this.” Arxus had a pained voice.

“I will. You knew the risk when you took this mission.” Sylus held out his hands, and Voidwatcher was transmatted into his possession. The void battery flared with void energies. Sylus carefully and warily stepped over the various piles of debris, heading off towards where he believed to be the location of Arkanz’ weapon. He remembered what direction it had fired from during their escape from the bank.

“Sylus, please.” Arxus said.

“Arxus. This has to end, one way or another.” Sylus replied, before stumbling off behind a building that was still standing.

With that, Arxus knew that he couldn’t leave his leader to his fate. He started frantically digging through the debris, hoping to find a body or a Ghost. “You bastards better still be alive… we’re not finished yet.”

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