For the past year, I’ve been joining Discord communities during Covid times for… obvious reasons of supplemental socialization. Of these communities, I’ve had the most fun and success in writing and RP servers, and now have one of my own that I like to call home.
As an admin, I’ve been organizing writing challenges, and I’ve been having a lot of fun with it. This wasn’t our first writing challenge in the Project Exodus writing Discord, but it was the first with these constraints and flavors.
Basically, we decided to choose five prompts, and were given just a little over five days to write pieces for each prompt. These were hard capped at a 500-word limit, and interpretation of the prompt was very loose and open to interpretation. You could write about your own Destiny OCs, or you could write utilizing NPCs. I chose a mix of both.
The prompts for this first challenge were:
Which felt like a great and visceral set of words. Much you could do with these.
So without further ado, here’s what I came up with for this project.
“Don’t come any closer!” He sounded far braver than he felt, but any worthwhile Titan knew that was half the battle. “I swear, if you try to turn me into one of those damn crystals, the next fireteam will burn your miserable, worm-sucking race to the ground!”
The little Hunter was cornered, senselessly pleading with the Wizard that swooped toward him. “No! No—you already took my Ghost— please —”
Thrall clustered around him, swiping, burying him. The Titan roared, diving after the Hunter, punching his way out, fists cracking chitin and bursting through dry sinew.
When he surfaced, the New Light was nowhere to be seen. There was only a glittering purple crystal.
It didn’t make sense. He could feel him there, feel the weight of his Light, the same as before, the same as a Ghost—
And then, he understood.
The Hunter would never get to take in the beauty of the Tower. Never feel the swell of custodial pride as he looked out over the foggy reaches of the Last City. Never find a fireteam of his own to grow with and call family. His brief and violent second life would amount to nothing more than a passing nightmare.
“I’m sorry,” the Titan whispered, hoping the message would carry somehow, to the place where words couldn’t reach. “It wasn’t supposed to be like this.”
He raised his rifle.
No. He still had his fists. He’d shatter it himself. He’d tear this entire Arcology apart if it meant denying the Hunter’s Light from being used by the Hive.
But without Nightingale, his strength was sapped from him. With each strike, the Light left in him drained into the crystal. A crack he thought he’d made on one hit healed itself with the next.
In his determination, the Titan didn’t notice the grinning specter encroaching silently on him. He paused, seeming to hear something, and she struck. The Wizard’s claw curled around something deep inside him, something as old and bright as the stars—and pulled.
The Titan’s Light burst from him like moisture boiling in the vacuum of space. His last brief thought was that he could have swore he heard a little voice in his helmet—digitized, like an incoming transmission from a Ghost.
“That must be one of the missing Guardians,” the voice had said. “Tracing his broadcast now.”
The freight elevator clinches shut and rumbles to life, breaking the businesslike silence between the Hunter and the Warlock.
“It’s running,” Ezra Fletcher crackles over comms. Long pause. “…You guys are on it, right?”
“Really, Fletcher?” both groan at the same time.
And just like that, the tension is broken. Rhiannon Bell takes off her helmet, holding it on her hip as if the job’s done already. Jin draws back his hood and does the same.
“Let’s start a working relationship, you and me,” Rhi says, picking up the end of a conversation that they haven’t had. She nods decisively, as if they’ve already mutually agreed to it. Must be used to getting what she wants, being a pinnacle of Golden Age beauty and all that. Probably how she talked Fletcher into this crazy job in the first place. “I’ve read your file. I think I could use a skillset like yours.”
My file? “I’m not–” He clears his throat. “Look, whatever you heard about the Concordat, those days are behind me.”
“I’m not talking about that,” she says. “I know how versatile you can be.” She raises an eyebrow. “And I’d like to commission you.”
“For a sword?” That relaxes him a bit. “Happy to talk prices. What sort of material were you thinking?”
A shared look tells him all he needs to know. Jin laughs nervously, hopes she’s joking, but that intense green stare says otherwise.
“I don’t even know where I’d get–”
“Let me worry about that.”
“Then what are you planning to–”
“Who cares?” She laughs. “For all you know, it’s just some vanity piece that’s going to sit in my vault and only come out at parties. For you, it’s a once-in-a-lifetime work.” He doesn’t bother correcting her. She takes a step closer to him, and Jin feels like he’s about to be made into a meal. “I’ll supply the materials. You name your price.”
“I’d–” He shakes his head. Longing presses somewhere deep inside him, soft and bruised like the skin of some rotting fruit. He can almost hear the distant whispers. He shouldn’t want this. He should know better. He should turn her down now, thanks but no thanks, tell her he has a moratorium on that type of material.
“I’d have to think about it. The risks–”
“Name,” Rhiannon says, her voice deadly soft, “your price.”
Backed into a corner, Jin blurts out, “Seven million.”
Rhiannon blinks. It’s an insane figure, and he knows she’s insane for even considering it. She’s just approaching an answer that looks more like an agreement than not when the elevator grumbles to a halt.
“Finally!” Ezra Fletcher bounds into view. “Whatcha talking about?”
“Nothing,” both say at the same time. Rhiannon already has her helmet back on. Fletcher narrows her eyes, but doesn’t push it.
The businesslike silence returns between them, except this time Jin swears it’s woven with whispers.
Talis, ever late, ducks her head as she boards the Skiff. The engines burn to life; Ibiks feels the plunging shift in his lymph vessels as the clustered refugees are airborne, departing from Riis-Reborn.
Ibiks has his hands full and isn’t quick enough to grab Yarax before she delivers a nearly chitin-cracking blow to Talis’ head. Trinkets spill across the floor, and Ibiks recognizes them as his: things from the Old World, from across the universe that he and his mate had decided to finally, finally leave behind. By going back for them, Talis had nearly jeopardized everything.
“The privilege of four arms, and the stupidity of using three of them to salvage this useless collection!” Yarax spits. “Do you know how many you were putting at risk as we waited for you?”
In all his years, Ibiks has never seen his mate this angry. Talis looks up with spiteful eyes. Ibiks’ heart is soft for her. Save the hatchlings, she’s the youngest among the refugees. She could have fled for the House of Light in a much earlier vessel, but insisted on waiting to bring Ibiks and Yarax with her. She does not accept that her parents have chosen to let what was left of Riis stay buried in Riis-Reborn.
“You’ll wake the hatchlings,” Ibiks says, passing the one he’s holding back to its mother. He points to a bone flute on the ground. “Talis. Give that here.” It is one he used to play while Yarax sang warbled Old World lullabies over their fostered broods. If he can get her to sing now, it will stave off the ensuing argument between mother and daughter.
Talis hands up the flute. Yarax reaches for it. Talis flinches. Yarax shoves it to Ibiks, then folds her daughter into her two arms. Talis is still. After a moment, four arms curl around Yarax’s carapace, clinging to her mother like a new-molt.
Ibiks brings the flute to his mandibles.
Before he can play a single note, a missile strikes the ship.
The Skiff pitches forward without warning. Alarms blare. Smoke chokes them. Everyone moves to protect the young.
When Ibiks wakes, bodies and belongings are strewn about the cabin.
Yarax has been with him since before the Whirlwind. He grabs her first.
His Arc spear has been with him for nearly as long. He grabs that second.
His vision swims as he wedges his spear in the emergency hatch. Yarax helps. They feel the hull bend and finally give way. Smoke pours out, and so do the survivors.
They fall. Further than expected. Powder snow cushions their impact, but not much. They hold one another, quiet, testing old bones for breakage. Above them, the Skiff is burning, wedged between two walls of a canyon beyond the Asterion Abyss.
“Talis!” Yarax cries, coming around. “The hatchlings…”
A claw reaches down. With one arm, Talis pulls up her mother.
Her other three arms cradle the hatchlings.
“I have some questions.”
“It’s really not a big deal.”
“But I just… died. And you brought me back.”
“Y…es… That’s how it works.” He isn’t sure if she’s more surprised at the ability, or that she expected him not to. “You died before, remember?”
“Twice.” She blinks. “Hard to believe we had the time. Y’know, before the…”
“Yeah.” He spins, anxious. It’s the most they’ve talked since they made it out of the Reef after the Light came back. He can tell she realizes it, too. “You said you had some questions?”
The Warlock brightens. “Any limitations? On the whole… resurrection thing.”
“Well, sure. Darkness zones, event horizons, nuclear…” He trails off. “You don’t need to write that down.”
“I remember better when I write things down. Nuclear…?”
“Widespread irreversible nuclear damage.”
“How do I know when it’s irreversible?”
“I’ll tell you.”
She points her pen at him. “Maybe you should tell me before we get to irreversible.”
He rolls his eye. “Anything else?”
“What about it.”
“Is the cure for poison just waiting for me to die?”
“Why would you get poisoned?”
She shrugs. “Bad cooking, misidentified scavenging, irradiated rations… If I ingest a fatal dose of salt, is that something you can fix? And if so, how? And if not, why not?”
“Why would you DO that?”
“Accidental overdose, drinking seawater, ritualistic suicide…”
“Ritualistic–?! This is ridiculous.”
She raises her eyebrows, amused. “…Your salty attitude…”
Rodi blinks at her. “Wow. Wow. “
“What about bisection?” He gives her a look, and she clarifies: “Like, if I got cut in half.”
“Better idea: simply avoid that.”
“Do you pick a side to regen, or do you have to, like… stitch them back together?” Without waiting for an answer, she quickly adds: “Which half do you choose?”
“I’m more interested in facts.” Her next thought pummels him like a wave: “Say I’m sliced vertically down the middle.” Her eyes widen. “Could you make two of me?”
“I can barely handle ONE of you.”
“What about blood loss?”
“Yes!” He spins, confident. “That I can fix. I can stop the bleeding and get you back up in no time.”
“If done purposely for a transfusion, what then?”
He stares at her.
“Organs.” She taps a finger to her chin. “Can you grow back a surgically removed kidney? Two? A liver? Stem cells? Corneas?”
“If I died, would the organs from that life die too?” She jots it down.
“Please tell me there’s nothing else.”
“Well, you’re not really answering my questions.”
“It’s not like there’s a manual for this!”
“Maybe there should be…” She shakes her head. “A project for another day. In the meantime, we have some experimenting to do.” She looks down at her midsection. “You know? I think an autosplenectomy is going to be harder than I thought. ”
“You know? I really, really wish I’d raised a Titan instead.”
“I’m off, then. See ya, sisters. Been a pleasure working with you.”
The two of them turn around to look at him in surprise. Eris speaks first.
“You’re not leaving. You’re going to scrounge around that crash site,” she says, her accusation slow, unraveling with each word. “You want your own look inside the Deep Stone Crypt, don’t you?”
He gives a single laugh from deep in his gut. “And why the hell would I want that?”
It’s the first hint of a smile he’s seen from her in months, and it’s wry, mocking. Like the answer is so obvious. “Perhaps you wish to come out a new man.”
“No,” says the Stra– Elisabeth . Elsie? Whatever she was, she hadn’t been a Stranger to him for some time now. “He wouldn’t try that unless he was truly desperate. Operative word being try .” She fixes him with those blue LEDs, her gaze narrow and calculating–no, not calculating. He knows that look. She didn’t figure it out. She knows something.
“You just say something in my defense, sister?”
She regards him coldly, which isn’t at all different from how she usually regards him. Eris looks between the two of them. “Is she correct?”
Eris has her wok in one hand. Wrong answer, and he feels she might just gong him upside the head with it. Perks of working with someone for the better part of a year that he can tell that about her, just like she’s calling BS on his conversational sleight of hand. Hadn’t had that with someone in a while. Won’t miss it, he tells himself.
Eris prods him: “Answer, rat,” but gentler than usual. Maybe her heart’s finally thawing at the prospect of leaving this ice rock behind.
What’s he got to hide? He inclines his head in Elsie’s direction. “Desperate is the operative condition for me to, operative word, try . Yeah.”
“You’re known for your contingencies, exit strategies, what have you,” Eris says, and he hates that she knows that; worse that she’s saying it out loud to his face. “Why shy away from an option such as this?”
“Too much of a gamble in a place where the house always wins.” He looks at Elsie. She doesn’t react, so he says something just to try and rile her up. “Wouldn’t be any different from anyone else who handed over the lock and keys to old C.B., would I? Desperate enough to let him shuffle the deck?” He shakes his head. “Don’t think so. Not me. Not unless I’m at the end of my rope, and there’s nothing else I could do.”
Slowly, she crosses the tent, watching him. That look still makes him uneasy. She’s seen something he hasn’t. The end of that rope. Wherever she’s come from, she knows what happens if he, operative word, tries . He doesn’t want to think about that.
He suppresses a flinch as she holds out her hand. Her voice is soft.
“Let’s hope it doesn’t come to that.”