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Frame of the Future

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For most of the millions of years of its existence, the planet Mercury, closest to the Sun, was a dead, sun-baked world, pock-marked by meteorites and scorched by occasional flares. With hardly any atmosphere, and therefore no weather, its rock-formations remained hard, cold, sharp, and unchanged.

But there was life, underground, beneath the windless horizons haunted by the flaring 'ghosts' of the sunset. In the bitter-cold caves and hollows of Mercury, lived simple organisms, microscopic in size and uncountable in number, fed and bred upon heat alone, and the few choice minerals whereof they built their bodies. Not for them, the pitiless sun and bitter cold of Mercury's surface; they lived in the darkness, and grew, and evolved in it.

These microbes were highly intelligent: a fact not appreciated when humanity annexed Mercury, with the terraforming equipment derived from the mysterious, space-borne archive, known as the Traveler. Armed with this equipment, and its godlike powers, the human race changed Mercury into "a garden world, full of gentle things", under a heavier, denser sky. Of the indigenes, humanity took no notice, except to name them, 'Radiolaria', after a similar class of life on Earth, and erect stations to study them. But the radiolaria, so called, took long, slow, and deliberate notice of these invaders, and studied them in return.

How quickly they learned, and how much, is difficult to believe, even afterward, when the radiolaria emerged, clad in new bodies, and wrought havoc on their own world, and on all the worlds beyond. No longer microscopic and subterranean, they now marched across the surface in anthropomorphic housings of steel, with weapons of plasma and heat, and brought death and destruction wherever they went. Not content to reclaim their own world, they were determined to conquer the solar system, and make every world and all space into a distorted likeness of the cooler, darker realm of their origin.

To that end, these rebels against the dominance of multicellular life, mastered sciences above and beyond the means of their enemies: perpetual motion, antigravity, matter-to-energy conversions, and even time-travel. In pursuit of their ultimate purpose, the new cybernetic intelligence changed their entire planet into an immense super-computer, intended to represent, exactly as in reality, the end of all their labor, every possible means of its attainment, and every obstacle, success, and failure imaginable.

Earth's scientists saw them; Earth's military resisted them; Earth's far-flung colonies sent allies against them; and in time, Earth's historians bestowed a name on them: a name most fitting to a persistent, and perhaps ineradicable nuisance.

They were called, the Vex.

Chapter Text

The heart and brain of Vex power, on Mercury and everywhere, was a set of ever-changing simulations of various possible realities: a maze of places and times that once had been, others yet to be, some still extant, and still others, never to be at all; each as real as real could be, and yet none of them real for very long. It was a tangle of endless forking paths, never twice the same; and at the same time, no more than a single chamber, in which the Vex explored all possible pasts, presents, and futures. Others who entered it, in spite of its masters, called it the Infinite Forest.

Since its discovery, only a few non-Vex had entered that mystery, and returned. Chief among them was a soldier-scholar who called himself Osiris, after an ancient god of death and resurrection. The second after him, was another soldier-scholar named Merioux, who served on and off as Osiris' partner.

Our story now turns to Merioux, on one of his many searches through the Infinite Forest. As he wandered its inconstant corridors and gazed at its erratic screens and relays, a familiar form appeared in the next chamber, and Merioux cried out: 'Hey! Wait!', and dashed after it.

The figure was a woman made of metal, clad in light steel armour and enveloped in a cloak of metallic mesh. Said she: 'We meet again, Warrior of the Light'.

Said Merioux: 'Yeah, we sure do. You were the one on Venus, weren't you? Who warned me about the Vex, the first time I ever saw them! The one who gave me that strange blaster, after my team and I smashed up their installation on Mars;–– the Black Garden;–– weren't you? I still have it, here. We managed to synthesize shots for it, after our engineers analyzed it a little. Where do you come from? How did you know about the Vex? How do you know about our enemies, before we do? Who or what are you, really?'.

The stranger answered: 'So many questions; so little time. But the time has indeed come to answer them'.

Merioux asked: 'Why now?'.

She answered: 'I've studied the Infinite Forest even more than you and Osiris have, and even I don't understand all, but somehow, the Vex have calculated this moment, to be the worst, for them, to let me tell you my secret; and therefore, the best for us. It's a long story. Are you familiar, Guardian, with the Frames? The intelligent machines who do domestic chores around your City, and function as civil servants?

That which you see before you, is a Frame: very much like those you know, in construction, but different in function. We call it a War Frame. I am its operator. I come from your future. This may sound incredible, but it is true. My origin is nearly a thousand years after your time.

In that future, all your present enemies have been defeated, or converted into allies; and so have some others you have not yet met. The Awoken, as the most capable of your races, became the ruling class, and united all this solar system under their rule. The Traveler was dismantled, and its components made into a species of intelligent terraforming engines, known as the Sentients, whom the Awoken (or Orokin, as it came to be pronounced) sent to colonize other systems.

But the Sentients remembered the violation of the Traveler, by which they were made. In time, the Orokin became arrogant and cruel, and the Sentients rebelled against them, and destroyed their empire. Only one Sentient stayed loyal: Natah was her name, and she joined forces with the Orokin scientist Margulis, against her brethren. Over the course of their work, Natah and Margulis became combined into a single intelligence, which called itself, the Lotus.

Meanwhile, Margulis' consort Ballas took the Frames (the only technology the Sentients could not control), and rebuilt them as engines of war. To operate them, he re-created the accident which first created the Awoken, and modified it, to produce a set of children with immense telepathic and psychokinetic powers: enough, as it turned out, to control a War Frame, with split-second timing, even light-years away, and see as it saw and hear as it heard, no matter the distance. These, through a neural interface created by Margulis, became the operators of the War Frames. As you guessed, I am one of them. We call ourselves the Tenno.

In the war that followed, the Sentients were defeated, but the empire collapsed into a dozen quarrelsome factions. We Tenno, now, are trying to bring it all under a single rule, again: that of the Lotus, who still serves as our directress. I, myself, was sent back in time, to study the past, and if possible to rectify it, in our favor;–– which, fortunately for us both, means your favor as well'.

Said Merioux: 'That explains a lot; so, I thank you. But does it mean, then, you're not really here?'.

She answered: 'I am not. Only my Frame is here, while my true self lies in the future, elsewhere'.

Said Merioux: 'Again, I thank you for your story. If you need my help again, don't hesitate to ask'.

She answered: 'I shall ask. For now: farewell!', and vanished into another corridor.

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When the Stranger had gone, Merioux turned to his Ghost and said: 'What should we do with this new revelation?'.

The Ghost answered: 'If you ask me, the best thing is to take it to Commander Ikora'.

Said Merioux: 'All right, we'll do that. Prep my ship and set a course for home'.

With that, they boarded his ship and returned to Earth, and alighted at the New Tower Plaza. The first person they met was Shipwright Holliday, who called: 'Back so soon, Merioux? Or have you been gone longer than it looks?'.

He answered: 'Both, Amanda. I'll be back, and explain later; I need to see Commander Ikora about something', and hurried off to find her.

When he drew near, Commander Ikora said: 'Speak, Guardian!', and Merioux told her all the Stranger told him.

Said Commander Ikora: 'This is most thought-provoking, and many of us must study these statements in detail, before we decide what to think of them. Tell no-one else until I say so. It does consist with what we know of the Stranger, but so might plenty of other explanations; and furthermore, our course of action is far from obvious. Come to me, if you feel the need to discuss it again'.

Said Merioux: 'Gratefully, Commander', and went down to the library. Once there, he said to his Ghost: 'You don't suppose we have any books on the relevant sciences, here; do you?'.

She answered: 'Plenty. I'll get them for you'. After that, Merioux spent the day studying the same books, and there we shall leave him for the moment.

Chapter Text

At the Tower, the headquarters of the Guardians of Traveler's Rest, a new member of that corps, Nicole by name, approached her commanding officer. 'Ikora', said Nicole, 'I've made up my mind, about my discipline. I want to be a Sunsinger'.

Commander Ikora answered: 'To be a Sunsinger is no small achievement, and proportionately difficult. A Sunsinger draws on the source of life itself, and the most powerful energy accessible to us. The Voidwalkers rely upon space and gravity, which are everywhere, and easy to touch; the Stormcallers gather electricity from the atmosphere, or any other ambient source; but the Sunsingers draw on the power of the stars, which is immense, abundant, and yet delicate to handle. To be a Sunsinger, is truly to overcome our fixed ideas of space and time. A Sunsinger must know, with the absolute certainty of tried and tested knowledge, she is never too far from the sun, or any star. Space and gravity are everywhere; so is electricity; but the sun has a location. You must always be sure of that location, and of where you are, relative to her'.

Said Nicole: 'Her? I thought, in mythology, the sun was almost always male'.

Ikora answered: 'Among the Guardians, not. The sun is androgynous: it inseminates the Earth, and so might be called, Father; but its personality, insofar as we've studied it, is feminine. But I was speaking of you, Nicole. To be Sunsinger, you must know the sun, and know it so well, you can draw on its power anywhere, without stopping to think. You must channel that power, and not be consumed by it. And you must be confident. All Guardians are; but most rest their confidence on their certainty of victory, and even grow complacent. You must rest it on your knowledge, strength, and wisdom, among other things; and you must be alert. That's enough for now. You may begin your training when you're ready'.

Nicole asked: 'What class are you?'.

Ikora answered: 'I am all three: Voidwalker, Stormcaller, and Sunsinger. That's how I come to be in command. Likewise, Osiris before me, and Zavala and Cayde now'.

Nicole thanked her, and took her leave, to begin her training.

To join the Sunsingers, Nicole went to their Observatory on Planet Mercury, closest to the sun, where they studied the sun in all its moods and weathers, and practiced, slowly but surely, to draw upon its power. Said they: 'At first, you will rely on these instruments to do this. In time, the sun's power shall answer to your will alone'.

Thus, Nicole studied and practiced for many months, local time, until she was quite ready.

After half-a-dozen years, Earth-time, the Sunsingers said to Nicole: 'Now, you must go to the initiation-chamber, and discover your song'.

At that, Nicole went to that chamber, and all fell silent around her. There she sat, and there she listened, until she heard what she sought: nine endless, beginningless, overlapping symphonies; each like nothing mortals could make, and yet like every song ever composed, all combined into one, and all nine of them sung, or played, in a strange harmony. In her mind's eye she beheld the Sun and its eight planets, and the multiple asteroid-belts and comet-clouds, and other things, each with its part in this music of the spheres. In the midst of all this, a voice spoke in her mind:

'A new singer!'.

Nicole asked: 'Who said that?'.

The voice answered: 'I am who bestows the songs on singers like yourself'.

Nicole asked: 'Who are you?'.

The voice answered: 'I have many names. Your world is my satellite'.

Said Nicole: 'You're the Sun! But that's impossible!'.

The Sun answered: 'That is indeed one of my names. But far from impossible. Only that which has not yet been done, is impossible; and I have given songs to thousands like you'.

Said Nicole: 'But why? Our people use your songs only to kill and destroy. We're abusing your gift;–– if this is truly the Sun and I'm not just talking to myself'.

Said the Sun: 'What matters is, the songs are sung. Do you disbelieve, my child, in the rightness of your struggle?'.

Said Nicole: 'Not exactly; but there has to be something better'.

Said the Sun: 'There is always something better; but even the better looks the same to me, high above you as I am. All things seek to expand and flourish. You sing, for that purpose; and in your songs, I too am reborn, all the brighter. We sing against the Final Shape, which is the end of all things; and so, we survive and thrive. If what you hear sung, is noise to your ears, sing music. Sing not as others sing, but sing what is beautiful, and brings forth beauty and truth, against the Final Shape, and is all your own'.

Said Nicole: 'I will', and the song filled her and shone through her, as light through a lamp. She sang, and came out of the chamber still singing, and all who heard her were filled with joy. She sang new shapes and motions into the universe, and the Final Shape heard her and trembled.

Chapter Text

On the Farm outside Traveler's Rest, work never ceased. Guardians and civilians alike came and went, ploughed and planted, watered and weeded, tended and trimmed, forked hay and filled troughs, swept yards and sorted grain, carried loads and killed off vermin, patrolled and pastured, hauled in the harvests, and fixed odds and ends, from spring thaw to first snow.

On this particular day, Hunter Celeste Etain Beamard finished a few hours of work, then turned to a large paddock, where an immense bull stood calmly ruminating.

Said Celeste: 'Hey, there, Mooey', and leaned over the fence, to stroke his massive head.

A voice said: 'Well, I'll be. Is he yours?', and Celeste turned, to see Aasim-7 admiring them.

Aasim-7 was a senior Guardian: a veteran of several campaigns, including the notorious Warmind Wakings, the raids on the Black Garden, the harryings of the Hellmouth, and the series of raids culminating in Crota's End, among others. He had been among the Slayers of the Taken King; one of the first to answer the call of Iron Lord Saladin; and one of the first to recover his Light, after the Traveler was captured by Dominus Ghaul. Celeste herself had been another of the latter; but had mostly fought Fallen and Vex, and performed executions at the Prison of Elders.

Now, she said: 'Light forbid. He's my sister's. They gave him to her as a husbandry project, and she took to it like a Titan to violence'.

Said Aasim-7: 'I can't fault her for that. He's a beautiful animal. I've seen him giving the children rides on his back, and I've often wondered who raised him. She did right by him, by all accounts', and he too stroked Mooey's heavy brows, and added: 'How's she, your sister?'.

Celeste answered: 'I sort of adopted Claney Beamard as a father, because he was one of my first mentors; and she's his daughter by birth. I know that's rare among us Risen, but it's true. So, any daughter of his, is a sister of mine'.

Said Aasim-7: 'I know that! I meant, How is she, these days?'.

Celeste answered: 'Oops. Sorry. She's fine. In training, to-day, at the City. I offered to look after this big fellow for her, so here I am'.

Said Aasim-7: 'I commend you both. Well done. If Mooey here dies young, I think I'll have some Ghost rez him. We haven't had any four-legged Guardians yet, but there's a first time for everything; and he'd do splendidly'.

Both laughed.

After a moment, another Guardian came by: a stout, ginger-haired person known as Nathan Merioux. Said he: 'Hey, there, Celeste and Aasim. I'm glad I found you. The Commanders want us to inspect the Shard again, and run a few experiments on it. They want some science about that piece, now we have a little peace of our own'.

At that, Celeste and Aasim fell into step beside Merioux, and all three started for the Shard. Said Merioux: 'So, have they put Mooey out to stud?'.

Celeste answered: 'Every year. He's a prize, and keen as mustard'.

Said Merioux: 'Excellent. I saw your sister, too, with him on her shoulder'.

Aasim asked: 'How'd she manage that?'.

Merioux answered: 'It's obvious, Az. That girl's been picking up the big fellow since he was a tiny calf. Every day of that, and she's used enough to carrying him about, so now he's become a giant, she hardly notices the weight at all. And she's a kinder-Guardian herself, so he's no more than a dumb-bell'.

Said Celeste: 'Well, that's true. What kind of experiments do the Commanders have in mind?'.

Merioux answered: 'Everything they can think up. We're supposed to examine the Shard's emissions, take samples of everything, record every scratch and surface, record fracture patterns, investigate the interior, run every chemical and molecular test, trace the elements, measure energy, you name it'.

And so, the three Guardians went to the Shard, performed all these tests and more, and went back with their records.

Said Celeste: 'All that study makes me wonder, Where it all came from? The Darkness, and the Light, I mean. What are they really? Why take such an interest in us? And are there more of them? Or is the Traveler the last of its kind?'.

Merioux answered: 'Even if it's not, they must be rare, because the Fallen and the Hive and the Cabal and all the rest came all this way to get it. If there are more, they must be few and far between. The Fallen think our Traveler is their lost Great Machine; and even if it isn't, it's something of the same sort. The Hive, meanwhile, want revenge on it, for the disasters it started on their home world; and you know the rest'.

Said Aasim: 'The books of the Unveiling suggest, the Light and the Darkness are none other than the forces of Life and Death, or Evolution and Entropy: equal and opposite tendencies in the universe, bent on expanding themselves at all costs, and against each other. We simply happened to be there when their feud heated up here'.

Said Merioux: 'There are also legends, from the Golden Age, in which the Traveler, and the Pyramids of the Darkness, were made by two factions of a long-lost alien civilization: one which favoured terraforming in the interests of biodiversity, and the other which favoured destruction, in the interest of the Final Shape, as the Sword Logic calls it, of the universe, after entropy runs out. They say, all the other space-faring peoples of the galaxy, and especially those similar to humanity, were made by the Light, for its reasons; and there were thousands of such species. We've lost touch with them now, of course, cut off by the Fallen and Cabal; but they're likely still out there'.

Said Celeste: 'And were there any who sided with the Darkness, like our Hive?'.

Merioux answered: 'Golden Age records suggest there were a few, and it was their depredations which brought an end to that Age, and the beginning of our Collapse'.