Chapter 4

Arach Jalaal narrowed his eyes with impatience as Dead Orbit's head of logistics struggled to satisfactorily account for the faction's supply caches. The pair had been wandering around the massive Hangar for an hour while an enormous ship was being loaded in the background.

Jalaal had seen the celestial disappearances and the encroachment of the Black Fleet as clear signs that Dead Orbit's final exodus must soon begin. He had ordered a redoubling of departure preparations, but found the faction's rank-and-file struggling to keep pace.

Jalaal cut off his subordinate's bumbling presentation. "This is insufficient. Earth will soon be behind us, and Dead Orbit will have to survive on the supplies that we provide." His mild tone and half-lidded gaze underscored the gravity of his words. "Supplies that you are in charge of tracking. You do understand that, don't you?"

A furious blush spread across the administrator's face. He bowed his head and scuttled away as Jalaal crooked his head in annoyance.

Behind him, a raspy voice floated up from the maze of towering crates: "Leaving us so soon, Jalaal?"

He turned to find Lakshmi-2 and Executor Hideo. The Future War Cult leader stood formally, hands clasped before her, while the head of New Monarchy browsed the shipping crates with casual interest.

"This is an impressive collection. I had no idea Dead Orbit was so well funded." Hideo gestured broadly to the crates.

Jalaal shrugged. "It's a life's work, Hideo. Everything we'll need to re-seed the Human species elsewhere. You should join us."

"We're fine where we are, thank you," Lakshmi interjected. "As a matter of fact, that's why we've come."

Jalaal bowed his head and gestured toward the Hangar exit. The trio ambled outside.

"Hideo and I are concerned about the current Vanguard leadership," Lakshmi began carefully.

Jalaal allowed himself a mirthless chuckle. "Yes, I've heard your open editorials. You're becoming quite the demagogue. I never knew you held such strong feelings about the Fallen."

"If it's incitement to speak the truth, then so be it," Lakshmi fired back, sharper than intended. "The Fallen have been a useful catalyst, but that doesn't mean we are wrong."

"Perhaps not about the Vanguard," Jalaal replied, "but the Cult is hemorrhaging members. And I doubt it's your best and brightest remaining."

"Those who wish to leave are free to do so," Lakshmi said with a pointed glance toward the Dead Orbit ship. "We'll be stronger without them."

"Zavala and Ikora have been ineffective since the Speaker died," Executor Hideo cut in. "The disappearance of the planets caught them unprepared. They're allowing Guardians to use the Darkness. And now they've cut a deal with the Cabal? It's just too much."

"We must have leadership whose point of view is more closely aligned to that of the people," Lakshmi said.

"And who do you propose, exactly?" Jalaal stopped the trio at the corner of a broad thoroughfare, where the rumble of cargo movers masked their conversation.

"Saladin was our first choice," Hideo added with an ill-concealed smirk, "but he's not as cutthroat as he seems. Appears the Iron Lord has a soft spot for Commander Zavala."

Lakshmi gave Hideo a look, as though he had revealed too much. "We are now considering Saint-14," she said, pointedly bringing the conversation back to the present.

Jalaal raised an eyebrow. "Who else is committed to your little coup?"

"We have somebody in a position of influence. Someone who can ensure an orderly transfer of power," Lakshmi answered.

"That person would have to be very clever indeed," Jalaal said gravely. "For your sake. Ikora Rey is not a target to miss."

The moment stretched as Jalaal measured the situation. He had long considered what a change of leadership might mean for Dead Orbit; for the resettlement and survival of the Human species. And as always, the allure of personal power—a position of eminence in a dying society—was a constant temptation.