Chapter 3

Devrim heard the Skiff break through Earth's atmosphere before he saw it. From his elevated post in the church steeple, the whine of the Fallen engines was unmistakable.

The aging scout put down his thermos and turned off his datapad, which displayed the week's Crucible highlights. He sighted the Skiff through the scope of his Golden Age rifle and unmuted his comms.

"All parties, this is Devrim. I've just spotted a Skiff entering the atmosphere two klicks north of Trostland. Looks like Salvation colors. Do you copy?"

"Yeah, I see it." Crow's languid reply betrayed an exhaustion Devrim could relate to. "Looks like they're headed for what's left of the checkpoint."

The Guardian had dismantled a Shadow Legion blockade during a rescue mission earlier in the week, and the area was littered with armor, weapons, and scrap—all common targets for Fallen scavengers.

"Looks like a mid-sized scav crew," Crow continued. "What do you think?"

Devrim recognized a note of reluctance in the Hunter's voice.

"As long as they stick to scavenging, I say we leave them be," Devrim replied. "But let's keep eyes on. I don't want any more surprises."

"Copy that," Crow replied with audible relief. "I'm on recon. I'll keep you posted."


A half hour later, Devrim's comms squawked back to life. He roused himself from the anxious, semi-alert doze that pervaded his long days.

"Something strange here, Devrim." Crow sounded intrigued. "One of the scavs slipped away while the others weren't looking. A Dreg. He's headed your way."

"Roger that," Devrim replied. "I'm in position, awaiting contact. Standby."

Devrim nestled behind his scope, sighting the northern tree line. After a few minutes, he spotted rustling bushes.

"His crew just realized he's gone. The Vandal in charge is yelling his head off. Think I just learned some new Eliksni vocabulary," the Hunter chuckled.

Devrim watched the Dreg emerge from the tree line. He disengaged the safety on his rifle and sighted the scavenger's head. But something stayed his hand.

"Crow, this chap is… he's unarmed," Devrim whispered. "He's got his hands up, and he's walking right toward me."

"You always were a popular guy," Crow quipped. "Must be the accent."

Devrim squinted over the top of his rifle. The Dreg spotted him and started chittering. "He's shouting something. Listen."

Devrim went silent, allowing Crow to pick up the Dreg over comms.

"He's saying, 'I am Thrysiks. Peace to the Great Machine. Honor to the Kell of Light,'" Crow translated. "He's defecting."

The scrawny Dreg knelt in the rubble beneath the church tower, malnourished and frightened. Devrim felt a lump in his throat. The Dreg reminded him of the scared kids who had volunteered during the Red War. Devrim took his finger off the trigger.

"I'll be damned," he said to himself, voice thick with emotion. "Let's bring the poor bastard in."