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  • Writer's pictureAaron Corcoran

02 : Malicious

“Mal,” Ace declared.


“What was that?” Ghost replied.


“Your name. Mal.”


“Mal,” Ace got the distinct impression of Ghost “tasting” the name, feeling it out. “Mal,” Ghost repeated. It was impressive how much effort Ghost could put into a single syllable.


“What do you think?” Ace asked.


“It doesn’t really matter what I think. I am your ghost, so you can call me whatever you like.”


“Come on, you must have some opinion. We have met plenty of ghosts in the City who have given themselves names.”


Ace could sense Ghost considering. Even though Ghost was currently in its incorporeal mode at the moment, hiding away somewhere within Ace, Ace could sense these things when they conversed. After a couple moments, Ghost finally asked, “Why ‘Mal’?”


“You’re pretty damned malicious,” Ace laughed, “Have you ever heard yourself talk about these invaders? You seem to have a vendetta of sorts against them.”


“And you got ‘Mal’ from that?”


Ace didn’t sense disapproval or dismissal. It felt like an honest curiosity in Ghost’s tone. “Well, you gave me such a simple name as ‘Ace’ from this serial number.” Ace absently rubbed the etched portion of his metallic arm as he mentioned it.


Ace hadn’t gotten to know many of the Exo warriors and citizens of the City, but none of the ones he had become acquainted with had any serial number. It seemed that only artificial intelligence Frames were given serial numbers. And yet, Ace knew that he was no mere robot.


“So, I am ‘Malicious’?”


“‘Malicious’ is a bit of a mouthful, but sure,” Ace laughed, “When you want to be formal, that’s your full name. Friends can call you ‘Mal’.”


“Ace Malicious,” Mal mused.


“Hmmm?”


“That is YOUR full name,” Mal declared, “A Guardian and their Ghost are an integrated pair, forever partnered in this union for however long as the Traveler and the Light deem fit. You are Us and so you are ‘Ace Malicious’.”


Ace laughed again, “So, Cayde’s full name should be Cayde Sundance?”


Without pause, Mal answered definitively, “Yes.”


“I wonder how many ghosts share your philosophy. Remember that one we ran into the other day who-“


“There’s a reason why we call him ‘Groucho’,” Mal cut in.


It felt good to laugh. “I am well aware!” Ace wished that there were more days like this where he spent more time laughing and smiling than he did ducking for cover and shooting enemies of mankind. Why does he need to take a breath to laugh, though? As an Exo, why does he feel like he is out of breath when he is running for cover while in the middle of a firefight?


“You did it again,” Mal said gently.


The ghost’s voice in his ear pulled Ace’s thoughts away from the track they had begun pursuing.


“There is no point in chasing those thoughts down that rabbit hole. It will only drive you to frustration,” Mal continued.


Ace merely grunted an acknowledgement. Mal was right, he knew. But the paradox of being an Exo was as fascinating as it was infuriatingly frustrating.


“Sorry.”


Mal chose to materialize so that he could nudge Ace’s shoulder affectionately, “Don’t worry about it. I just hate for you to be distracted from a moment that you could enjoy.”


Ace followed Mal’s one-eyed gaze to the panorama stretched out before them. Ace had hiked up Felwinter Peak. Rain clouds swept in from the east around the same time that they hit the halfway point, but a few minutes of climbing placed them above the clouds. Now they were sitting comfortably at a cliff edge, near an old, forgotten fire pit several hundred feet above the Crucible grounds that had taken over Saladin’s former solitary haunt.


The rain clouds were so thick that Ace couldn’t make out anything below. All that could be seen was the handful of other mountain peaks that dared reach high enough to pierce the cloud cover. It felt like he was sitting on the shore of a massive lake of clouds and the peaks were slender islands.


Suddenly a thunderous explosion from below drew Ace’s attention away from the panoramic view. Some Warlock must have dropped a Nova Bomb on an opponent. Ace was tempted to drop down and enter the next match, but his eyes returned to the peaceful scene stretching out before him.


A smile touched his lips.


“Hey, Mal, do we have any pressing contracts right now?”


“Only those two House of Wolves Captains that you promised to hunt for Petra,” Mal answered.


“Odds are that Petra has several other Guardians hunting them down as well,” Ace mused.


Mal’s shell whirled a little as it considered. “Yes, but then they will get the loot.”


Ace sighed heavily, “Mal, we already have more junk than we know what to do with.”


Mal spun around and dropped down to come face to face with Ace. “Do we? Did we have enough gear on our last sortie?”


This sobered Ace significantly.


“That was my fault. I went out unprepared and didn’t bring the recommended load out. But you have to admit that we have plenty of gear in our vault.”


“You have only one or two weapons that Banshee would deem ‘worthy’ of a Guardian’s time. And even those could definitely benefit from an upgrade if you had some Alkane dust for me to synthesize,” Mal admonished.


“I hear that Shaxx is offering some pretty nice gear for folks who do well in the Crucible,” Ace countered.


Mal didn’t bother to try and hide his disdain for the Crucible. “You don’t need any more ‘practice’. Besides,” Mal’s single eye briefly flashed red, “Petra is offering some really nice gear to kill enemies of humanity.”


There was no mistaking the maliciousness in his tone.


Ace Malicious stood up and prepared to depart.

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