Chapter 4

Ada worked to keep pace with her Eliksni guide weaving through the dimly lit and angular maze of the Last City's Eliksni Quarter. The blur of open windows and doors provided brief glimpses into their new guests' lives: Strips of purple fabric filled wash basins. Jars of unknown food clinked against each other as they boiled in oversized pots while parents softly clacked their mandibles and watched their infants nestled in gently used blankets. In the distance, attendants surrounded a humming Servitor.

The guide entered a basement-level dwelling. Ada followed as they pushed through a rough cotton curtain and stood in a warm and humid room laden with myriad rugs and carpet swatches. The City's ambient glow slipped in through a singular small window while candles flickered in a pastiche of glass vessels. A series of futons had been arranged in a semi-circle in the middle of the room; there, a band of Eliksni lounged on and against the furniture, all listening to the words of a single speaker seated on the floor. The air filled with guttural clicks and low growls that Ada could make no sense of. She finally understood the performance to be over when the audience dispersed and her guide led her to sit beside the scribe.

"You're the one asking questions about Europa, are you not? About Salvation?" the scribe said.

Ada frowned. "You speak our language remarkably well."

"I had an unusual upbringing," the Eliksni replied. "I am Eido. What do you seek, Black Armorer?"

Ada sat on a futon, keeping a healthy distance from the Eliksni. "I'm searching for information from the BrayTech facilities on Europa."

"And you believe we have this?"

"I know some of your people defected from House Salvation. They may have seen something."

Eido nodded. "They have seen many things."

"One of my forebearers, a great weaponsmith, worked at the Bray facilities on Europa… but I only know a fraction of what she was doing there."

"Ah," Eido said. "Always about guns."

Ada frowned. "Your people are no strangers to weaponsmithing."

Eido inhaled. "True. And now, improbably, both our arsenals stand together in the shadow of the Great Machine."

"An alliance that makes it all the more logical for you to help me," Ada said.

Eido placed her claws together. "I will not help, because I cannot. No mentions have been made of anything related to your Armory founders."

Ada's gaze dropped to the floor.

Eido cocked her head and observed the Exo. "Such despair. Maybe this is about more than guns after all?"

Ada paused briefly. "I lost something. A part of me."

Eido nodded solemnly. "Your forges, yes?"

"My whole existence was tied to the Armory. To those forges. Without them, I feel…"

"Without purpose?" Eido finished the thought.

Ada shook her head. "This isn't— I'm not sure you could understand."

Eido chuckled—a guttural grunt combined with clicking teeth. "Our history is littered with the banners of lost Houses. Most of us have worn more than one color, knelt before Kell after Kell, hoping that they would be the last." She leaned closer to Ada. "Eliksni understand the fluidity of purpose very well."

"Fluidity implies a continuation," Ada replied. She sighed heavily. "But it seems my path is coming to an end."

Clicks resonated in Eido's jaw. "Devils was a dead House, until Eramis made it new. Mithrax was Dusk, and now, he is Light. Paths only end when we stop walking."

Ada studied the Eliksni. "This is not the conversation I was expecting."

"If this settlement is going to work, it's probably best to break from old expectations," Eido said.

Ada nodded and looked at the light softly radiating through the window. "I've taken enough of your time. Thank you," she said and confidently extended her arm with sincere gratitude.

A clawed hand landed softly on her shoulder as the Eliksni instead thrust her datapad into Ada's outstretched hand. The befuddled Exo quickly parsed the screen.

"This is something we found in the Bray archives. It is not what you were looking for, but it may help you decide where to walk next," Eido said.

"I—I'll look into it, I suppose."

"Good," Eido replied as Ada stood and slid the datapad under her arm. She hesitated.

"Are you sure it's a good idea to give me this? How… how will it look to your allies—you helping me like this?"

Eido chittered. "It will look like unity."