Destiny 2 Short Story: Further Observation

Author’s note

Cross save for Destiny 2 launched a couple months ago. My husband and friends who all played on PS4 decided to cowboy up and cross save to Xbox so they could finally play with lil ol me! It’s been a blast. 

This, in conjunction with my new job where I make my own schedule and can work from home, means I’ve been playing an unprecedented amount of D2. It’s great to get addicted to something just before the launch of a major expansion, and I was about six weeks early to the launch of Shadowkeep. I had plenty of content to work through from my brief introduction to D2 at launch.

Surprising nobody, Asher Mir remains one of my favorite characters from vanilla D2. He’s a crusty bastard with such a distinct voice that once I discovered r/DestinyJournals, I knew I had to write a story about him. I needed something to keep me sane this week while awaiting feedback on a project for work, so this is what I sunk my efforts into. And as fortune would have it, the Pyramidion is this week’s Nightfall: Ordeal strike. Huzzah for timeliness! 

Enjoy! 


Further Observation

The Guardian didn’t stare at his arm. And not in the “don’t stare” way that others didn’t stare. The Guardian’s helmeted gaze passed over the twitching anomaly as easily as any other part of him. Like it had lost all strangeness to his figure. Yes, he was changing at the cellular level, becoming more a part of it with every breath. But the Guardian’s simple acceptance of his affliction chilled every part of him that hadn’t been converted yet. Asher Mir tried to shake the feeling. More than likely someone had forewarned the Guardian to his temperament—that’s what the ones like Ikora called it anyway, his temperament—and told them to tread carefully around him.

The Guardian and Ghost wanted to help on Io. The Guardian accepted Asher’s answers with silent, endless patience—whether he snapped at them or not. (The Ghost was not so passive. It reminded Asher of his own Ghost—except his had learned to never do any talking on Asher’s behalf. And now, his ghost did not talk at all.)

They did what he asked—most of the time. They harvested phaseglass needles, much needed for Asher’s endless experiments. They took initiative on unanticipated threats in the field. Their efforts were a better cure for his radiolaria-induced pressure headaches than anything else he’d tried so far.

Not one to so easily mistake persistence for competence, Asher had eventually given this Guardian the honorific of “Assistant.” It was a title meant to be grown into. Of all the guardians that burdened him with their presence, this was the only one he’d cared to nickname. And no matter how acrid he was when they parted, his Assistant returned on a semi-regular basis.

After his Assistant had skillfully dispatched the Tongue of Quria, Asher had admitted—in person, off communications, and off-record, of course—that this Guardian warranted further observation. An unwarranted display of admiration that surprised even him. 

Asher often thought back to what he’d said before the Guardian left him at his little nook in the Rupture: Assistant. Don’t die.

Perhaps this conversion process was making him overly sentimental. This, too, would warrant further observation.

Once, he’d looked to the sky at just the right time to see his Assistant’s dropship break atmosphere. Relief washed through him, uncoiling the persistent tightness in his chest. Strange. Not even the thought of seeing Eris again provoked such a response. It was something he hadn’t felt since before he’d lost his arm.

His arm. It always came back to that. Asher had never quite gotten over that.

How could he not? He and his fireteam hadn’t escaped, they’d been released. For further observation. Nobody understood this. After the coma, after Eris had departed for Luna, Asher had planted himself firmly in the shadow of the Pyramidion. The Vex had converted his ghost and were in the process of converting him. Assimilation in vivo. Asher was certain it had been done with the sole intention to study Guardians. Always collecting information, the Vex were. That had to be it. This suffering, the twitches and aches and agony—it had to be for something. And he’d be damned if he let them observe anything beyond the Pyramidion’s doorstep after what had been done to him.

Not that anyone else cared where he was. The infrequency of check-ins and patrol support showed him just how little he was missed at the Tower. Well, all the better! Spare him the torture of collaboration, and leave him to his experiments. It was all research, Asher was certain, that would go unappreciated during his time. And possibly after his time. (Which may, in fact, be very soon.)

Case in point: ages ago, not long after he’d quarantined himself in the Rupture, Asher Mir had sent a strike request to the Vanguard calling for the demise of his nemesis: Brakion, Genesis Mind. He’d spared no detail of his fireteam’s experiences, and made no secret of his desire for revenge. 

Ah, the basest of human desires: revenge. And why hide his feelings? Commander Zavala, in his infinite thick-headed wisdom, would never approve such a venture anyway. Ikora, even if she comprehended Asher’s extensive analysis, would more than likely decline out of spite. (He would not hold it against her: disagreement with one’s theories was a professional courtesy among Warlocks.) And the third one—Asher could never remember his name—well, there was nothing shiny enough in Brakion’s lair to appeal to the likes of the Hunter Vanguard. He would not care enough to vote either way. More likely than not, Asher’s three-hundred-and-forty-three-page missive had been archived without so much as a passing glance.

But now, the Red War was over. Heroes of the system with light and godlike powers restored were left with precious little to do that wasn’t leagues beneath them. And today, at the top of Asher’s inbox, was a response.

He recognized patterns of Ikora’s clipped, formal prose before the words coalesced into comprehension. Asher Mir: Your request for an offensive strike against the Axis Mind Brakion has been granted.

Asher blinked. Yes, he’d read that right. Granted.

You are requested to serve as point on this mission.

Hmph! Obviously.

Your previous experience and invaluable reconnaissance—

Blah, blah, blah, vague and repetitive flatteries. Next!

Designate Fireteam Intrepid is comprised of the following individuals:

He scanned down the page. Two names he did not recognize, and—

Assistant!

Nerve pulses burned through his Vex arm. His breathing hissed. Despite the sudden pain, he could not tear away his focus from—what feeling was this?

Feeling? Feelings! Dozens of them! Frustration that it had taken so long for them to finally listen? Certainly! Annoyance that they’d given so little warning? Of course! Helpless, impotent rage at being confined to mission support? Always!

Fear—for his Assistant? That they would end up dead for good, or worse—exactly like him?

Now that was something new. That would warrant further observation.

It was imperative that he contact Ikora. It was one thing to send his Assistant in the Pyramidion to fight the Taken. Seriously attempting to cross the synthoneural terminus and engage an Axis Mind in its own domain… This was illogical! This had to be some ploy against him. When Fireteam Intrepid failed, and their Red War Hero was assimilated in whole or in part by the Vex, humanity itself would be without its great hero and the finger of blame would point to Asher Mir. He was already a dead man walking. Did he really need three more to accompany him?

He boosted his signal to urgently hail Ikora.

Underneath it all, under the tightness in his chest where radiolaria now cultured within his pleural cavity, Asher felt the ice-hot, ever-present desire for revenge. Irrational. He knew that destroying Brakion, even if he’d had the chance to do it himself, would not undo what had been done to him. Revenge would not revert or even halt the complete conversion of his body into one more tendril of an infinite collective machine. Revenge was the basest, most illogical of human desires—and yet—and yet—

Asher gasped again. The pain had been fading until he’d allowed himself that little slip. And yet. The thought struck him suddenly that—

“Aagh!”

“Asher? Why did you hail me? What’s going on?”

Asher clutched his good arm across his chest. He hunched over his terminal, fighting for breath. Perhaps if he just told her to—

No. No. Asher Mir, go back on his missive? That wouldn’t do. Somebody in this system had to maintain a shred of integrity. It was the Warlock way. 

“Asher…?”

“Give me a moment, Ikora. My affliction…”

“Fireteam Intrepid is nearly to their drop point. I’m going to send them your way—”

“Don’t be ridiculous,” he snapped. “What could they possibly do? Don’t distract from the mission, Ikora. I just need a moment.”

He took a deep breath, focusing on the pain. He could see the Exo hunter, still twitching as his body fell in two halves. The Nightstalker, ambushed and overcome by teleporting minotaurs. Brakion’s red eye, observing Asher’s brachiotomy with cold fascination. The horrors of the Pyramidion swam clearly in his mind, rising like the tide. Any other day, the memories might have drowned him, but today—

Perfect. He’d need to recall his own mission in utter clarity if he was going to provide support to Fireteam… Whatever-it-was.

The pain persisted. As did Asher.

“So,” he barked, “you finally read my missive, did you? Tell me, did you all take turns reading it aloud, or did you have to make a nice slide presentation for the rest of the Vanguard?” 

“I summarized, of course. Learned my lesson after the last book of yours I tried to read.” He could hear the wry smile in her voice. “Concision, Asher—you should really try it sometime.”

“Hmph. Well, I hope your slide show had lots of pretty pictures.”

There was a pause on the other end. He pictured her in the strike command room, standing primly behind that glassy black table, a cup of tea in reach—

His vision was all wrong, he realized. The Red Legion had destroyed the old Tower months ago. Ikora was in a room he’d never been to, in a Tower he wouldn’t recognize, watching over a city he’d never see again. 

Just as well! He’d never cared for the crowds at the Tower anyway. 

“Are you sure you’re alright, Asher?” He did not respond right away. “I was a little worried when I read your strike request, to be honest.”

“Worried? About what?”

“Despite the length, I read every word of your request. You sounded obsessed. I worried that this revenge kick against the Brakion Mind was… overtaking you.”

“Overtaking me?” He looked up to the sky just as three dropships broke atmosphere. Asher’s terminal signaled the arrival of his Assistant and two unknown guardians. He was no longer worried for their demise. Asher wondered if they understood, as he did, the singular capability of the Guardian that accompanied them. Probably not. “So what if it has? My desire for revenge may very well be the last thing keeping me human.”

The pain that spiderwebbed from his arm was data, information. Perhaps in his own way, Asher had discovered a method of fighting back against his affliction.

It would warrant further observation.

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