dusty pipes

[Destiny] Home is in the Ground

Shin dies for the first time when a Guardian puts an armour-piercing round through his chest. It enters below his right collarbone and rips out the other side above his left hip, and he hits the ground so fast that the following mercy shot wastes its courtesy on a concrete piling instead.

He comes to shaking, wedged up the far end of a cracked and dusty drain pipe with his murderer crouched at the mouth. Her helmet is tucked under one arm, and he can see the pursed lips, the concerned frown, the shake of her head as she looks over her shoulder to say something to a pair of legs standing behind her, voice low and indignant. Jaren’s Ghost hovers too close, her soft glow reflecting dully off the still-wet streaks painted broad and puddling in the cracks. A plain trail to his position, but his blood no longer. No telling what has taken its place.

He is two years after Palamon. He is four months after Jaren.

“Why did you drag it out so long?” the Guardian calls up to him, baffled and defensive. He has made her an unwilling perpetrator with his pain. “Nobody’ll pick your Ghost off in a match, kid, it’s safe to let go.”

He is not dead.

He is not dead.

He is not dead.

“Dead is relative,” the Vanguard tells him: the smiling Hunter, the stern-faced woman, the man with glossy blue skin and the token features of a Bright-Eyes. Three speaking for thousands. He supposes, doubtfully, that it could be better than one speaking for a hundred.

“Dead is a simplification,” the Speaker tells him, the clean white of his mask so sharp that Shin can only look at it sidelong. They give him a room with a window, and all windows point towards the Traveler; he tries to see it the way the Guardians do – sleeping, dormant, wounded – and keeps thinking empty.

“Dead is inevitable,” the old woman says, most truthful of all, and lets him doze in the shadows of her stall behind the stacks of feather-bright fabrics.

A hard truth: only the dead go looking for a fight.

Shin sits alone in front of a fire for the first time as the last of nine seekers, and burns.

The weather is turning chill, yesterday’s wind a whistled warning of winter from across the river, but he cannot tell if he is keeping it at bay; he shivers, he sweats, he wipes a hand across his face and flinches from the ice-hot sting. The Light running through him has set hearts beating in hollow-chested corpses, and now he fears he will open his mouth and choke on ash.

He is two years after Palamon. He is one day, two hours, and forty-three minutes after Jaren.

“I feel wrong,” he says, teeth chattering. “I feel wrong all through. Am I dying?”

Jaren’s Ghost is a glint of silver on the other side of the fire, made hazy by the heat. He can feel the turn of its attention like a physical movement inside his head.

“Not anymore,” it says.

Maintenance Required

His hearts consists of bolts and springs

and his soul it never sings

it merely mumbles the words

about as well as beakless birds

his gears turn inconsistently

and he’s a robot evidently?

or is it not so evident?

his words just circumvent

he drinks his morning coffee

but it’s really gasoline you see

fueling his mechanical complexity

it’s truly a perplexity

but how long before he is out of date?

before he must recalibrate?

surely time must be running out

for this robot with a whole lot of doubt

his pipes are dusty

and his joints quite rusty

yet he keeps on spinning

falling apart and grinning

his mind consists of nuts and things

whilst his left ear constantly rings

he’s a work in progress robot

but his future an afterthought