“Just breathe…” Zotti-12 repeated inside her head as she tried to regain her calm. Her mission lead her to roaming caves below the European Dead Zone. ‘Reconnaissance into the wild’ was an open objective often assigned to her. Seek out anything of note and report back to the tower. She’d been sent on these kinds of hunts a thousand times over it felt like. Nothing ever came of it. Nothing great ever came from her actions. This time felt different though. The darkness was thick here and whenever there seemed to finally be a dead end, another path would show itself. It was clear to her that panic was starting to creep in as the realization of the danger she might be in this time.

“You’re fine, don’t start doing that thing you do again” called out a voice from a few meters ahead. Her Ghost always managed to chime in when she began retreating inside. “It’ll be fine. We’ll just push forward a bit more and come out back into the wilds on the other side. You’ll see.” Zotti-12 hoped this was the case, but the sense of dread still loomed inside her mind.

“We’ve been at this for days. I wasn’t rebuilt for this level of endurance. The darkness presence here is beyond anything the tower’s documented on Earth before. Something isn’t right about this…” Continuing on by the light of her Ghost, they kept pushing forward with casual conversation directed by her Ghost. Zotti couldn’t shake the feeling that it knew something was wrong and it was just trying to keep it out of mind. Its times like this she missed working with other guardians. Sure they could be obnoxious or might constantly be second-guessing her methods… but the security from a fireteam was unbeatable. The light of her Ghost being the only illumination below the surface was a chilling reminder that it’s only them and her guns down here to keep her safe though.

Pressing on paths kept leading to deeper tunnels. At first the chill of the surface bled into the sun-deprived caves, but after days of traversal they’ve began to forget about it. Exos lack skin to feel the cold directly, but their sensory data simulated the response the best technology allowed. It’d been quite some time since Zotti was human, and after twelve wipes she hardly remembers any of it. Still, the temperature definitely seemed to be warming up. Maybe it’s her mind playing tricks on her, but the subterranean structure stopped looking natural as cutaways seemed to start being deliberate.

“Zotti, do you th…”

“SHH!” quickly interrupting the floating droid. “I think I hear something ahead” she quietly spoke to it. Zotti slipped into the shadows and began to prowl ahead for any potential threats. Her Ghost dimmed it’s light and kept pace yards behind her. The ceiling of the cave scaled upward from a couple of feet to easily high enough to fit a jumpship. Corners began to look sharp and formed. This was definitely a den of some sort. In the distance she could see a faint blue glow filling the sculpted hallways. Hand at the ready to the gun at her hip as she expected to start hearing the chatter of Fallen grunts. The best way to handle this is quickly while she still had an element of surprise. Zotti-12 crept towards the light until it opened to a giant corridor, bereft of any Fallen despite her worries.

The Ghost noticed she had stopped and slowly floated behind her. Once in the room with her he floated by her side, finally noticing in awe at her discovery. “Is that… This is big. That’s a Vex gateway. On Earth?! Blimey, this is the start of something very bad. It’s just like when it was reported that Wizards were coming from…” – again, Zotti cut it short as she placed her hand over what she always thought of as its face. Not that Ghosts have a face, or are human in any way. Awoken were once human before reaching the brink of darkness, and Exo were human before abandoning as much organic restraints as they could. Ghosts on the other hand were just powered by the Light of the Traveler. They weren’t quite human, but they weren’t inhuman exactly either. That light of theirs kept her alive either way. Shaking her trailing thoughts about why she still imagined a face on her companion to shush, it understood the intent none-the-less. She just wanted to take in the moment of discovery… The first Vex appearance on Earth. The implications were as endless as the tunnels that lead them here, nestled deep underneath the European Dead Zone. The glow of the portal called to her like a moth to the flame.

“I… we need to see where this goes. If my life was ever for any purpose, if I ever had any meaning – This is it.” Speaking those words brought a rush of emotions inside her. It’s hard to admit that up to this point she’s felt like a waste to the Tower. Guardians like Cayde-6, Gheleon, or even Eris Morn have ascended to greatness time after time. Ever since her Ghost has revived her she’s done nothing worth remembering… The thought that SHE wasn’t worth remembering choked her up. “Yes. This is my moment.”

“Wait a minute, Zotti. I know you could handle yourself regardless of what comes at us. You’ve proven that you’re plenty capable. If we could get out of the thick of this darkness we could reach out to the tower and get some support. Send in a full team of Guardians to check this out. It’d be irresponsible to just go charging into that portal, we have no clue where it’ll lead!” The Ghost knew the risks. It conveniently was leaving out the potential damage of leaving now. It was a labyrinth to get here after days of exploration. Finding their way out wouldn’t be easy. Leading another team in would waste too much time. Despite its warning she knew there wasn’t enough time to reach back to the tower. This was it.

“It’s active. We don’t know why or for how long either. By the Traveler’s Light, I will not let the last bastion of humanity fall. Now is the time, Ghost.”

As Zotti-12 approaches the cold iron gate, the pulsing blue portal fills her ears with a resonating hum. She can feel her heart racing each step she takes towards the unknown. The idea of an end never occurred to her but that’s the only thought she could think on in those steps. “If this is the only thing I do in my life, I want it to mean something. I may not be coming back from this one…” – Standing with her face inches from the crackling blue energy in front of her she grasped onto her hand cannon and drew it from her hip. As she took that step she carried on internally just as she always did at times like these.

“Just breathe…”

(part 2)

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