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Warframe: Just Another Number

(XBOX)Katsuhiro 1139

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The hold was clammy and dark, as armoured panels rattled and the very hull itself trembled and shook.

Grahk could only see the back of the lancer in front of him. A dozen more shared the cramped hold either side of him. They were jostled by the shake and bump of the ship, shoulder pauldrons kissing one another with metallic clacks. A single baleful red light lit the hold, bathing them in crimson.

A hundred pairs of yellow eyes glittered in the dark.

They were Grineer, oath-sworn to enforce the will of the Twin Queens. Desiccated gene-rot wrapped in shell-like carapaces of dense alloy plating. Brutal and relentless in their martial discipline, legion in number. There were many tiers and hierarchies within the Grineer Empire, and as a male field trooper Grahk was firmly placed at the bottom of the pecking order. His armour lacked the oil stains and dents that will surely come with time. He was Fresh Flesh. New meat.

"Ready weapons." Commandant Seena rasped, surveying them with hardened yellow eyes.

There was a rattling chorus of yanked charge handles and snapping safeties.

The Commandant exchanged a nod with Brakarr. The largest of them by a significant margin, Brakarr towered over the boarding team, his war-rig criss-crossed with old burn marks and chipped craters that flaked to the touch. Bombard class Grineer were freaks, marauding bruisers augmented with crude cybernetics that enabled them to heft the largest weapons Grineer manufactories could muster. Where Brakarr was a hulking brute, Seena was slim and slender, favouring a needle like sniper rifle of a sophistication that far out-stripped the humble rifle Grahk had been issued. By contrast his own weapon was a ramshackle thing, a sorry hand-me down assault rifle whose serial number was all but unrecognisable beneath the layer of scoring.

This was no unexpected. Grineer society was matriarchal in nature. The Queens had uplifted the Grineer, freeing them from Orokin rule and leading them on a glorious crusade which had fully conquered half of known space. The Grineer would give their lives to see that other half conquered.

The fresh Lancers listened to the sound of their own breathing in the dark echoing confines of their armoured shells. For all their gene-encoding and hypnotherapy, they were nervous. For many of them, this would be their first taste of combat. For many of them, it would be their last. Pulse rates spiked. The squad-interlink warbled with static as Commandant Seena checked her wrist-chron.

"Thirty seconds."




Alone with his own thoughts, Grahk closed his eyes.

And remembered.

They had read Grahk his serial number, when he first snapped awake, naked and gasping on the deck grille; still slick and sticky with the amniotic fluids of the gene tank. He had not known his name then.

"On your feet, maggots!" An echoing voice thrummed from unseen speakers, as Grahk found himself working limbs that had never been worked before.

Blinking, Grahk absorbed his surroundings through watering eyes. The gene tanks formed row upon endless row of upended capsules, lining a seemingly endless vastness. The air was smoke and charcoal. Beneath the walkway was a rolling sea of chemical fire and churning pollutant.

Overseeing the chamber was a glass observation window, entirely opaque.

Grahk was not alone. There were a dozen other shivering wretches on his platform, and hundreds more on identical walkways stretching as far as the eye could see. Uniformly male. Uniformly shaking. Sensor drones flitted by, probing them with scanning beams, chiming and chittering to themselves with each subject inspected.

Floating display drones drifted through the air above, booming marching music and proclaiming announcements that were all but lost to the sheer vastness of the chamber.

Grahk only caught snatches. It told him enough. He was Grineer. He would serve. He would fight, and die, in glorious tribute to the Queens, as countless others had before.

In unison the rows of new-born turned to face the screens, unconsciously straightening as mental encoding took over.

All except one. The man beside him doubled over, retching and heaving. He would not stop. The sensor drones descended at once, warbling as their scanning beams flared an angry red.

Grahk moved to help. One of the drones rounded on him, bristling as it shrieked noise-code. Grahk backed away, alarmed.

"Leave him, Fresh Flesh. He's done." A voice behind him hissed. "No need to get yourself slagged."

Grahk turned around. The man on the same side of him seemed older and more grizzled than many of the wretches on the assembly line. Broader too. The flesh of his arms and right leg was pink and new, but the rest of his skin was a mottled mess of scar tissue. His ears were little more than nubs of gristle.

"Name's Venk." The older Grineer nodded, chuckling at the blank expression on Grahk's face. "Don't worry. Make it far enough, they'll give you a name yet."

Grahk glanced back at the fallen wretch. He lay face-down and still. The sluice valves in the walkway gurgled as fluids leaked freely through the vent-work.

Grahk could not tear his eyes away, even as the imprinting caused him to shakily fold his fist across his breast in an obedient salute.

"Bad Batch. It happens." Venk shrugged nonchalantly, as he snapped his own salute with weary resignation. "Welcome to the Empire."

Edited by (XB1)Katsuhiro 1139
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Author's Note: the memories detailed in this transcription are, for want of a better expression, compromised. Certain phrases or idioms have been repacked, for the purposes of concise translation and clarity of expression.

Furthermore, the values and sensibilities depicted are those of the subject, and not endorsed or condoned by the author in any way. You asked me to translate the memory file as it was originally relayed, in language you and the other Tenno could understand, Operator. I did precisely that.

If you have a problem with any of it, well, just keep killing them.

- Cephalon Fero




The clock hit zero.

The Boarding Barge impacted with a jolting crunch. Grineer slammed forward into each-other, rattling like shells in a munitions hopper. Primed, ready for war. This is what they had been grown to do. They could hear the squeal of tortured metal as the boring saws chewed through steel plating. The red warning light flickered thrice, then cut out altogether. Darkness reigned.

The Grineer grabbed each-other in unison, steadying themselves with practiced coordination in the dark. The boring drills ground to a halt. There was a slow, dreadful pause. A final, lingering stillness.

The go-light pinged green. The breaching charges detonated. The assault ramp slammed down. Smoke washed through the hold, carrying with it foreign smells and alien sounds. And death.

A blizzard of shots cut through the mist, ripping into the front-line. All manner of improvised hell. Energy weapons, ramshackle kit-guns and crude slug throwers not unlike the rifles the Grineer themselves carried. The shooting was frenzied: ill-disciplined, but determined. Grineer lancers toppled left and right. Those behind drove through, doggedly stepping over the fallen. There was no panic or hurry to the murderous assault. Just a relentless, plodding march forward into the coming storm. The Grineer were inexorable. They stormed forward, weapons spitting.

Grahk couldn't see a damn thing. Twice he almost tripped on the smoking bodies of his gene-kin. To his left a beam projector flashed once, lancing clean through a clutch of his brethren. They neatly toppled, rendered in gruesome cross-section. Brakarr roared a challenge and stormed through the gap, shoving his way to the front and dipping as loose shots clipped and spanked against his war-rig. His launcher sounded twice in return: dry, angry coughs. The energy projector abruptly silenced.

The lancer in front of Grahk toppled without a word, a harpoon jutting clean through the small of his back. Grahk did not stop, as he trudged stubbornly forward, sighting his rifle as he stepped past.

At last he could see. The Boarding Barge had T-boned the target ship somewhere in its mid-section. A refugee ship, fleeing yet another meddlesome colony. Grahk was a rank trooper, they spared him the details. It only mattered that the target was unsanctioned, worthy of the strictest censure.

As the pall of smoke cleared, Grahk's visor flooded with detail. Some kind of mess hall, overlooked by a skeletal walkway. Tables and chairs were haphazardly strewn about the room; hastily overturned the moment the boring drills announced their presence.

He saw a human-standard male running for the exit. The conditioning took over. Grahk dropped to one knee, sighting his rifle, and felt the dull kick of the stock against his chassis. His target flopped against a bulkhead, and slid down clumsily, a red smear describing his descent.

Good grouping, solid discipline. The instructors would be proud. The Queens would be pleased.

Grahk felt nothing. If anything, he was pleased to have performed his service well. He sighted for the next target.

For a makeshift defence, it held reasonably well. The carpet of broken Grineer marines that paved the entryway stood testament to that.

But this was the Grineer Empire. They would not be denied by mere casualties.

The storm of fire changed pitched and became a roar of Grineer hard rounds. Broken, the defenders twisted and fell, cut down as they tried to flee; all semblance of discipline vanishing. Brakarr stood proud in the smoking ruin of the mess hall, freely unloading with his launcher.

Seena stepped through, surveying the destruction. She raised a clenched fist.

The Grineer fire abruptly ceased. Gunsmoke filled the air, and the hold was silent but for the gurgled pleas of the dying and the tinkle of settling shell casings. Elsewhere they could hear distant screams as smaller Grineer boarding tubes made entry throughout the ship.

"Sergeant Fuln, report."

"Fuln has fallen, Commandant." Another Grineer stepped forward. Half of his carapace had been scorched an ugly black from where a flaming glass bottle had smashed down across his helmet.

"Your name?"

"Tarn, Commandant."

"Good. Squad Two is yours now, Tarn. Casualties?"

Tarn glanced around, surveying the carnage.

"Thirty percent?" Tarn ventured. Numbers were not his strong suit.

"Acceptable." Seena nodded, coming to a similar conclusion. "Brakarr, secure the engine room with Squads Three and Four." She pointed aft, then looked directly at the mob Grahk formed part of. "Squad Five, the lower decks. Move."

The Grineer marines snapped a salute. Seena surveyed the newly blooded troops, her yellow eyes fiercely proud.

"You have your orders. Secure the vessel. No survivors. Glory to the Queens!"

The vehemence in Grahk's voice surprised even him.

"Glory to the Queens!"





Venk's voice drifted through the ashen-smoke as they marched through the bowels of Processing and Enrollment.

"What's the matter, Fresh Flesh; that tongue of yours not work?"

Grahk didn't reply. Was he allowed to reply? Was this a test of some kind? Venk seemed to know what was what. Seemed to be enjoying the whole disorientating process too.

Venk was still chatting away.

"I mean if it doesn't work that's fine. Nub-Tongues have their place too. But you're infantry tagged. Means you can talk. Can't report if you can't talk."

Grahk coughed, working his tongue and massaging his throat. His eyes stung and wept openly. His nose was running. His voice was a rasp as it finally emerged.

"It works. Are we allowed talk?"

Venk kept one eye on the observation platform, a wry smile on his face.

"There are plenty of times to keep your eyes front and your mouth shut, Fresh Flesh. This is not one of them. Fresh." Venk spared a glance over his shoulder. "So what are we going to call you, eh?"

Grahk began to recite his serial number.

"No, no. Not that. Your name." Venk shook his head vehemently, before deciding: "Grahk, I'm going to call you Grahk."

"Why Grahk?" Grahk asked.

"I knew a Grahk once. Had that same exact bewildered look you have now. You look just like him, right before he stepped on a landmine." Venk chuckled to himself. "Here's hoping it ends better for you."

With that ominous aside Venk chortled again and stepped through the next doorway. Grahk followed.

There was little choice. The intake were routed through the installation in one seemingly endless procession. Grahk could only study the back of Venk's head and put one foot in front of the other.

They were deep below the surface, that was as far as Grahk could sense. The halls were tight channels, harshly lit by halogen spot lamps that glowed sickly white in the smoky air high above. Heavy armoured boots clanked along the observation walkways, as spray jets filmed the naked recruits in a fine powdery mist. They were watched by seasoned Grineer sentries holding shock staves, impassive behind their grubby face masks. The staves sizzled and cooked whenever the rising spray caught them.

The narrow pathway opened up into a vast circular chamber. Hunched at its centre were the requisitions officers: rotten, malformed figures seemingly held together entirely by prosthesis. They pointed guidance wands, crowing orders as they herded the recruits into different groups.

Navy staffers, hulking bombards immense and broad-shouldered. Every Grineer had a stencil on their neck, depicting their intended service line. Transportation, infantry, logistics. Each had a role to play. Even those gifted with talents of science and learning could play their part; their frail bodies cannibalised in favour of prolonging their short lifespans through direct cyberisation.

Infantry, Grahk's read.

Each processing conversation went the same way. Grahk's was no different. He had to bend down to catch the willowy voice of the assignment officer, who scrutinised him with a single cyclopean processing lens where his eyes would have been, had they not been so crudely replaced.

"Serial number?" The officer looked like he was smiling, until Grahk realised his lips had rotted away.

Grahk supplied it, rattling it off automatically. It was ingrained by this point. His own skin was comparatively flawless. That would change, as time wore on and the campaigns took their toll.

"Are you experiencing any severe discomfort that might affect your service to The Queens? Aches, physical pain? Accelerated decomposition?"

Grahk shook his head. He didn't want to think of what the outcome would be if he admitted otherwise.

"Are you ready to give your life for the Empire?"

"Without question or hesitation." Grahk saluted.

"Good." The assignment officer nodded, entirely bored, then pointed to the left. "Infantry. Space Corps. Go."

A Grineer trooper shoved something into his arms as he moved to join the largest assembly of troopers. An underclothing of sorts; as scabrous and frayed as the face of the officer who gave it to him. Still, it was better than naked skin. Grahk pulled it on, hopping from one foot to the next awkwardly.

Grahk chafed in the bodysuit, rolling his neck and shoulders as he adjusted to it. It sealed him right up to the neck. One size fit all. The only gaps in the suit were access ports which accommodated the itching dermal ports inset into his skin. For all its patch-worn seams, the suit was as new as he was.

It would become his second skin in the years ahead, all but indistinguishable from the flesh beneath.

He spotted Venk across the assembly yard. He stood apart from the other recruits, in line with six or so other Grineer. Like Venk their body suits were different. Pristine, jet black: layered with an exo-skeleton of slim plating that lent them a broad physique. They carried themselves differently too; with a confidence borne from experience. They had been here before. Circumstances and good fortune permitting, they would be here again. They exchanged a private word with one of the attending sentries, and were promptly escorted from the chamber.

Grahk realised the guards escorting them were entirely deferential.

Venk caught Grahk's eye as he and the chosen few filed from the chamber. Venk offered him a single, reassuring nod. It was only then that Grahk spied the sigil on Venk's neck. It was no symbol he recognised.

Before Grahk could place it, Venk was gone, swallowed up by Ceres and the Grineer war machine.

Edited by (XB1)Katsuhiro 1139
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"You could assume that all Grineer are identical, and many would forgive you. They wear the same armour, wield the same weapons, even share the same face, in many cases. But to make this assumption is to ignore one of the most dangerous aspects of their Empire. They possess irregularities, peculiarities, and individual quirks. We often don't see it, as our operatives tear from one objective to the next, but the Grineer Empire could not sustain itself without The Queens' ability to recognise these individualistic traits and marshal them for their own perfidious designs.

What causes this? A cocktail of leftover genetic material from preceding batches? A flaw in the machinery itself? We can only speculate. What matters is that the Grineer Empire, as wasteful and monolithic as it may first appear, does not always squander its potential."

- An Observation of the Grineer Dominion, Tenno Doric




From there it was room to room. Tedious work, but necessary. The survivors were broken, but a cornered animal can be all the more dangerous for it. Grahk and the rest of Squad Five took each threshold in turn, plodding and methodical. Rifles roared. Grenades thumped.

The ship was dying. Brakarr's team had clearly found the engine core, and the ensuing firefight quickly caused the main life support systems to fail with a final juddering sigh. The lights went out. The exchanger unit built into Grahk's suit rasped to life, filling his labouring lungs with stale air. The low-light settings in his war-rig kicked in, bathing the deck in a greasy yellow hue.

"Lights." Telb grunted. Spot beams on rifles sprang to life, hunting through the gloom.

Each time the process was the same. Squad Leader Telb would give a nod, and the eight lancers would file down the corridor: unsealing doors and sweeping each space with their spot beams. Sporadic shots rang out from time to time, as those hiding were found and swiftly exterminated.

Grahk reached the end of the next section, still only a single kill to his tally. With a sigh he unsealed the next door. He played the light from left to right. Nothing but storage containers.

Somebody clapped him on the shoulder.

"Time to go." That was Mox, one of his gene-kin. "Big guy's done the heavy lifting for us."

"There are more rooms to search." Grahk ventured, gesturing ahead.

"Leave them." Telb replied, shouldering his rifle as he headed for the Retrieval Barge. "The void will do our job for us. Fall in."

Squad Five tromped back along the hall, the only sound the thumping of bloodied hands on walls, as the remaining survivors choked and retched, entombed in the endless dark.


They assembled in the cargo hold. A Retrieval Barge, hump-backed with scabrous plating, awaited them. So was the rest of the unit. Fully half of Squad One were missing. By all accounts the push for the bridge had been the bloodiest, as they endured all manner of booby traps: automated turrets, surprise airlock traps and improvised arc-mines. Brakarr and his team had already boarded the Retrieval Barge, their task complete.

Seena remained, as implacable as ever, waving them onto the ship; her face hidden behind a respirator. As he filed past, it occurred to Grahk that they had never told him what their purpose here was, or whether it had been accomplished. He decided it didn't matter. The defenders were broken. The Queens will had been done, their enemies prosecuted. That was enough for him.

Grahk took his seat, stowing his rifle and allowing the mag-locks to bolt onto his armour as the restraint cage clamped down around him. He craned his neck and studied the yawning rows of empty seeds that lined much of the hold. Something approaching sorrow threatened to overwhelm him.

He crushed it swiftly. The fallen had done their part. Now it was up to him.

The belly ramp groaned shut, sealing them in darkness. But for the shining lights of their yellow visors, there was no illumination in the hold. Grahk closed his eyes, as the adrenaline fled and exhaustion overwhelmed him. He murmured a private, almost selfish prayer of thanks to The Queens for allowing him to survive his first contact, and live to fight another day.





The Armourer's Yard was more cathedral than yard: as vast machines purred and thrummed, bedecked in the iconography of the Ceres Manufactories. A line of auto-walk tracks took each candidate in in turn, feeding them into the machines like morsels fed to some immense, ticking tongue.

The approach to the machines resembled a grease-stained locker room, the walls prefaced by row upon row of skeletal cages. Supervisors barked orders and herded the new recruits to their assigned lockers. Inside each cage was a mid-layer of armour that snapped snugly around the torso, forming a direct interface between a trooper's skin and the outer carapace that was to come. Like Grahk's bodysuit, the armour lacked all colour, and he was already pumping sweat by the time he was ushered forward onto the assembly line, and into the belly of the beast itself.

Grahk held very still as he was sealed into his armour, the thick plating of the humped life support unit interlocking with the front section. Connection points were spot-welded together by plasma torches that flitted and whirred as the servo-arms moved about with blinding speed, nipping and snapping at his new shell like vultures bickering over carrion. The shell was pristine. It was as clean as it was ever going to be, and yet staining rapidly from the acrid smoke that washed freely through the grilled floor. Below, dark machines churned ever-on; a droning, funereal dirge.

Last was the facemask, which locked into place with a muted click. The air filters hissed to life, washing out the dirty air in favour of recirculating his own stale breath. Like all Grineer tech, the visual display was bare bones and crudely practical. Suit integrity, remaining life support: that was about it. Grahk would learn later that much of this could be woefully inaccurate, often with lethal consequences, but for now the mask kept the smoke out of his weeping eyes, and he was glad of it.

Grahk was still getting used to his newfound bulk when the Grineer behind him shoved him forward with a snarl. With a stumbling start Grahk trudged on, joining the long line of troopers marching toward the Armoury.

He considered his own appearance by examining the identical troopers ahead of him. Their carapace was the blue-green of the Space Marines, same as his own. Grahk found the sudden colour refreshing against so much yellow and brown. The armour was heavy, weighing on his shoulders but not to a point that it curtailed his movement. Not that such discomfort mattered.

Grahk was a Grineer Lancer. One of a countless many.

Grown to serve, born to die.

Edited by (XB1)Katsuhiro 1139
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"We took one Grineer Space Marine in for full-spectrum analysis. Post-mortem, of course. The mineral fibres ingrained in the recesses of the armour alone would surprise you. Martian sand, trace Venusian coolant gel. Even Lua moon dust. The Grineer Empire lacks finesse and subtlety, but its operational range is vast. As part of that, there is a pragmatism that belies their crude design. A certain stubborn practicality.

The terrain doesn't matter: Grineer will fight in all conditions, in all scenarios."

- Tenno Doric




Months passed. One boarding action blended into the next. Squad Five became a leaner, more organised fighting unit under Sergeant Telb. Grahk soon realised that the ferocity of their initial blooding had been in some ways intentional. A test of their resolve, to ensure that only the strong survived. Subsequent actions were more measured, by Grineer standards, almost surgical in their precision.

This time was different.

Surface fighting was entirely new to Grahk. Gone were the close confines of choke points and narrow hallways. The sun speared cruelly into his visor, casting long shadows across the open wasteland. The sky was a terrible vastness, that threatened to swallow him. Everything seemed so terribly, perilously open.

The Martian sand was compacted, this close to the facility: hard-baked earth that sounded roughly as they charged forward toward the beleaguered frontline. Support Dargyn thrummed overhead, projectors rasping as they strafed the enemy assault force. One swooping ship was savagely torn from the sky, streaming fire before it impacted in a column of sand and fire.

"Keep moving! Forward!" Seena's voice warbled over the com-link. "Move your sorry hides!"

Grahk's feet slapped the ground as they closed the gap. He could hear the Bolkor assault craft ignite its engines as it lifted away, the engine wash spraying a blinding mist of sand all around them.

As with most things of a strategic nature, Grahk's understanding of the nuances of the relationship between the Grineer and Corpus empires was limited. The Corpus had the technological means of controlling the Solar Rail, and the means of prolonging Grineer lifespans through more intricate and sophisticated means of augmentation. Beyond that, they kept to themselves in their isolated fiefdom around Jupiter and Neptune.

Occasionally, however, a rogue broker might try their hand at plunder from time to time, looking to exploit some of the ancient sites scattered across the Martian wastes. Seeking precious gemstones or ancient Orokin relics – their motives were often unclear. What mattered was that they were here, in force, and the planetary garrison were in dire need of assistance.

The Arid Lancers had held admirably against terrible odds. That was to be expected. This was their terrain, their specialty. Desert fighting was all too new to Grahk and his shell-brothers.

But a Corpus surface invasion of the facility had been wholly unexpected. The credit fiends and their gutless automatons had hit them hard. A sky of dropships and wave after wave of screeching MOA stormed the frontline. Teleportation drops slammed down entire squads of assault troops; their shield systems deflecting all manner of small arms fire.

Where once there had been nothing but open sand, there was now an army. Full scale planetary invasion. The battle raged in orbit, as countless thousands died in the silent void.

Grahk saw none of this, ensconced in a landing craft, packed in on all sides by his fellow gene-kin.

The terrestrial corps had endured horrific casualties. Charred bodies clogged the front trenches. Defending emplacements fired until their barrels smoked red hot. Grineer died in droves, as lupine Jackal units pounced amongst them, rending flesh and ferrite with cutting plasma-teeth.

Protocol was clear. The Grineer Space Corps could not stand idly by whilst their brothers bled.

The marines piled into the trenches alongside their desert kin, surging forward to plug the gaps in the line. Grakata, Karak, Hind: a chattering, snarling rattle of hard rounds filled the air. Machines shrieked as they died, blasted into component pieces across the approaching slope.

Heroes were made that day, and lost. Grahk saw one Arid Lancer operating a Rampart defence turret, alone on an isolated ridge. He spun the weapon on its axis, hosing the drones as they swarmed in for the kill. Right as they tore him apart, the lancer primed a grenade. The resulting explosion cooked off the ammo of the Rampart; a popping chorus of snaps and cracks, right as the fireball consumed all around it. The battle raged on, the brief moment of heroism one of countless many.

Telb was roaring instructions. Grahk could barely hear over the frenzied din. Mox was roaring laughing, his Hek sounding repeatedly with reverberating thuds.

Then the MOA were upon them, filling the horizon. Filling the sky as they descended. Now it was frenzied hand to hand. His Hind clacked empty so Grahk simply wielded it as a club as the drones flooded into the trench; battering it over a MOA's head again and again until its casing buckled and fizzling sparks sprayed freely.

Something mule kicked him from the side. Grahk went down hard, his machete tumbling from his grasp clumsily. The next MOA bore over him, one foot planted on his chest.

And then the drone was gone: torn clean in half like some ancient book. Brakarr cast its parts aside and moved on, hauling wounded Grineer back on their feet and bellowing incoherent encouragement as he shoved them back into position. Grahk scrabbled to his feet. His rifle was dented beyond repair. It didn't matter. There were plenty more laying on the ground amongst the carpeted dead.

The Karak he found was a heavier beast altogether, with a meaty recoil that threatened to jump out of his hands. He had to clamp it down against the lip of the trench-line to keep it on track. Not that there was a shortage of targets. Drones died by the hundreds. Still more came.

"All units, stand by!" Seena's voice clipped. "Hold firm!"

The sky fell. Close range bombardment. A torrential downpour of fire from the supporting Bolkor overhead. Mortar rounds from friendly Arid units scattered throughout the hills, now finally brought to bear, delivered their payload with a thundering deluge of fire. Autocannons chewed a swathe through the Corpus horde; pulping crewmen into little more than ashen smears.

Grahk looked around in disbelief, amazed that he was still alive. So choked were the Space Marine lancers in the dust, their armour resembled their Arid brethren. Together they cheered at the departing Corpus ships, roaring insults and slapping each other's war rigs, as thick plumes of smoke rose up in the desert sky.

It was the happiest moment in Grahk's life.

Edited by (XB1)Katsuhiro 1139
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10 minutes ago, Ocriel said:

My favourite summer read of last year returns? Hooray! Now I need to find where the Scavengers story went. 😄

It's been archived, but you can still find it on Katsuhiro's forum profile.

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"You've traveled the System since you awoke, Sara. You've walked the Rail, seen what it's like out there. The Grineer, for all their might and their limitless numbers, aren't the worst thing out there.

Not even close."

- Tenno conversation, intercepted by Cephalon Fero


Something was wrong, even as they stepped from the breaching pod into the empty hold. No shots greeted them. No roar of small arms fire, or panicked screams. Only silence.

There was no light beyond flickering emergency systems, long past their operational limits.

The bulky scanning unit Frehgor lugged about as part of his kit rasped a warning tone.

The air was bad.

"Keep your masks secure." Sergeant Telb instructed, waving them forward. Squad Five fanned out, armoured cleats ringing against steel decking. Probing searchlights pierced the gloom. Corpus prayer banners hung limply from the walls. Some kind of mould seemed to fleck the walls. All was deathly quiet.

Grahk watched his sector; Mox to his left, Frehgor and Zoln to his right.

The Corpus derelict had shown up on the edges of Grineer space seemingly without warning or fanfare, far removed from the numerous flashpoints that delineated the boundary between the two empires along the Solar Rail. The Corpus had listed the vessel as being missing six months prior, and had readily volunteered its transponder codes to the Grineer free of charge, ostensibly under the pretext of honouring their most recent ceasefire. That act alone had demanded an investigation team, and the Galleon Kril's Shield had been dispatched accordingly.

Six other Grineer boarding teams reported in. The reports were identical: no signs of life. Minimal power.

Zoln suddenly snapped about, his Hind up to bear.

"Heard something!" Zoln yelped.

"Calm yourself, Fresh Flesh." Telb scowled, slapping the junior trooper's rifle down. "Sweep your rifle like that again and I'll feed you to Seena myself."

"I heard it too." Mox growled quietly.

Telb looked at Mox sharply.

"You're sure?"

"Ears about the only part of me that still work, Sarge."

Grahk and Mox were the longest serving members of Squad Five. Casualties had been many. There had been the ground campaign on Mars, then three separate border clashes near the Phobos Junction. Where Zoln and the others were clean-shelled replacements, Mox and Grahk were comparatively battle hardened. They wore it on their carapace: the burn marks, the shrapnel scars and lines of scoring. Telb took them seriously.

"Zoln, Pakhor; go with him." Telb instructed. "Grahk, take the left with Frehgor and Krint."

"On it." Grahk nodded to the two fresh-shells.

Not all of Squad Five's casualties had been the direct result of battlefield injury. Inconsistencies in the Grineer gene-mould often led to rapid decay in certain troopers. As a line unit, troopers of the Grineer Space Corps received as much augmentation as could be spared. Those that could be retained were, propped up by cybernetic prosthesis of varying complexity. It was said that the Grineer were better at fixing broken bodies than creating new ones. Many more were forcibly re-assigned: taking up roles where their rapid decay would not jeopardise combat operations.

Those were the lucky ones. Grahk had only heard stories of those renditioned for base organic material, as the scientists salvaged the few parts that worked, only to discard the rest.

Grahk's left knee was already fit for replacement. The mechanists had installed a crude patch-servo to keep it functional, but it was woefully inadequate. It buzzed whenever he walked, the sound maddening in the dark.

Grahk still carried the Karak he looted on Mars. Had been permitted to keep it, given his proficiency with it. It lent Squad Five a degree of firepower greater than what a traditional boarding team could normally expect, and Brakarr himself had put in a word with the requisitions officer. Grahk still chuckled at the memory: Mox and Grahk hovering nervously, as the Bombard towered over the diminutive clerk and explained, in no uncertain terms, that the more established troopers of Seena's platoon were to afforded the same special privileges a Bombard enjoyed.

Grahk shook himself, focusing on the task at hand.

Doorway ahead. Emergency bulkhead. It had been sealed tight. The welding work had been sloppy in its haste. Dribbling burn marks stained the floor. The welding unit itself had been cast aside. Grahk knelt down and examined it, brow knitting as it proved sticky to the touch. Again that mould. It seemed to be seeping in, festering through the sealing marks and bubbling up like some tumorous cancer. Not for the first time, Grahk was glad of the sealed environment his carapace provided.

"Sealed chamber ahead." Grahk reported as he re-sighted his rifle, waving the others into position. "Need to break a door. Requesting permission to proceed."

"Do it." Telb's voice crackled through the com-feed.

Grahk gave a nod.

The marine lancers went to work. Freghor and Krint dug electrified machetes into the central gap of the bulkhead, grunting as they worked the blades into the seam. With a groan of protesting steel, a narrow gap was made. A prying bar was produced. Krint looked back at Grahk, awaiting instruction. Grahk dropped to one knee, the Karak braced. He waved his hand forward twice.

Krint heaved on the prying bar with all of his considerable strength. Krint was Fresh-Flesh, new-kin; newly minted from the meat-presses of Ceres. There was talk that had he been any larger, he would have been elevated to Bombard status. He had been grown for this.

It was a surprise then, that the bulkhead barely moved an inch. A foul stench wafted through. The very air sweated.

Frehgor and Grahk threw their shoulders into the gap, heaving upward.

The emergency release locks kicked in, holding the gap in place. Grahk took point, stepping over the ledge and into the wall of heat beyond.

Grahk had been to the steaming jungles of Earth before, a temporary posting as their Galleon restocked in orbit.

This was different. Grahk saw what was arresting the far side of the bulkhead. Thick ropes of slime dripped across its surface, snaking across the floor and across the ceilings above.

Boots squelched as Krint and Frehgor joined him. Freghor's sensor unit warbled manically now. The two junior lancers looked to Grahk for guidance. Grahk ignored them, never taking his eyes off the flesh-caked walls ahead. They writhed and sweated, flexing and unflexing. Stirring.

Grahk opened his com line, the Karak sighted in his hands as he opened the com line, his voice a measured whisper.

"Sergeant, we have a problem."

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"There are few compacts made between the Grineer and Corpus Empires. Fewer still are honoured.

The operation of the Solar Rail is one of them, central as it is to the day to day logistical operations of their respective cultures. Troop movements, trade delegations - it doesn't matter. Cooperation is required, and cooperation is given, however grudgingly.

The Dark Sector quarantines are another. Eris and the surrounding grave sites are kept under strict isolation, and violating quarantine is punishable by death - or worse - permanent exile to the Dark Sectors.

The reason behind this agreement is clear: the Technocyte plague must not be allowed to spread.

And yet every once in a while, whether by fluke or happenstance or some other malevolent force of imperceptible design, a ship appears on the horizon. It has carries no life signs, it has no targeted destination. These ghost ships drift through the trade channels, harbouring all manner of nightmares for those unlucky enough to stumble across them."

- Tenno Doric


The walls unfurled. Twisted shapes emerged from the steaming heat, dropping from walls, ceilings; scrambling out from tunnels unseen. Where once there was a jungle of flesh and skin, dripping with menace but devoid of life, soon there was a shambling horde of nightmarish shapes, sprinting towards them with frightening speed.

So many targets. Too many to count.

Grahk didn't blink. Instead he opened fire in methodical bursts, methodically putting the Karak to work. Krint and Freghor added their Hinds to the din, dropping to one knee as they hastily formed a firing line.

Nightmares burst and fell, shredded and pulped. Still more came.

"Fall back, Formation Bravo!" Grahk rose to his feet, back-pedalling to the hatchway behind them. His shell-kin followed suit, alternating turns as they turned and addressed in bounding sequence. "Maintain fire rate!"

The magazine clacked empty. Months of training kicked in. Release, replace; lock and snap. Re-sight. Fire or die.

Then Freghor was gone. Snatched up and away into the ceiling with a muffled yelp. The scanning unit hit the floor, coated with slime. Its bleating swelled into a frenzied shrill as the infestation poured in through the chamber.

A tentacle lashed out around Grahk's ankle. He went down on his back, hard, the wind driven out of him. With monstrous force he was pulled toward the horde, leg-first. A wall of fangs and claws and broken things reached for him. His machete wouldn't reach. No time. No other options.

Grahk flicked the fire-select. Full cycle. The Karak was not known for its subtlety, nor its ammo economy. There was no time to debate. No time to think.

It sawed clean through the horde. The tentacle itself burst apart, shredded entirely. He was free. Grahk rolled onto his stomach and half clawed, half sprinted for the hatchway. Krint roared encouragement from the hatchway ahead, as he snapped shots that whickered into targets far closer than Grahk liked to hear.

There was no way he was going to make it. They were right on top of him.

"Down!" that was Mox. Grahk knew his gene-brother well enough not to argue. He threw himself flat.

The rest of Squad Five opened up as one. Sheets of hard rounds bit into flesh and skin and steel. The nightmares wailed but kept coming, falling in tumbling droves. Grahk scrambled his way forward in a hunched crouch, almost diving into the arms of Zoln and Pakhor, who hauled him clear.

"Back! Back!" That was Sergeant Telb, his voice a hoarse croak.

Specialist flame units were brought up. Seena and her command team were with them now, Brakarr too. Their weapons joined the cacophony. With them were mission specialists, a kill-team Grahk and the others had not known existed. Three Scorch operators went to work, fuel tanks gurgling and sloshing as they shuffled into position, pilot lights hissing in anticipation. They took up position at the yawning hatchway, raising their projectors in unison. They clamped their fingers on the trigger, right as the horde closed the gap and pounced for them.

There was a roaring whoosh and thick jets of liquid fire hosed the chamber of horrors, slamming the fiends back.

The screech was louder than any descending shell Grahk had ever heard. It pierced his mind, and yet as he lay there panting and exhausted, he could only stare numbly at the flames as they consumed the corruption beyond. The Scorch units seemed impassive to it all, their faces unreadable behind the monocular lenses of their facemasks.

Even so, above the belching hiss of their chemical spray, and the crackling heat of the flames, Grahk could hear them laughing.




Grahk spent a month in an isolation cell after that, closely monitored by the Galleon's crew; left with little in the way of company but his own (admittedly limited) thoughts.

The Scorch units were never far away, and he could hear them patrolling out in the corridor beyond, their voices muffled but the smell of their gasoline tanks ever-present. Was he infected? Could the infestation have penetrated his armour? There was no way to tell. It had been stripped of him, taken for decontamination. He felt oddly naked without his carapace, stripped as he was to his bare body-glove.

Two weeks in, any fears of infection gave way to boredom. Grahk passed the time as best he could. First by counting rivets on the walls, then by devising a workout routine of his own creation.

What little he learned was from Mox's occasional visitations, where they mumbled a conversation through the speaking grille inset into the reinforced doorway.

The outbreak on the derelict Corpus ship had been contained and – the threat to the Rail extinguished (in this case quite literally) - the ship was summarily scuttled. Squad Five received recognition for their part in discovering the infestation, with Telb in particular receiving a commendation for requesting specialist reinforcements so quickly.

It marked Squad Five as a trusted unit in Seena's command hierarchy. They were solid, dependable.

It was perhaps because of this reputation that they caught the eye of General Sargas Ruk, and his elite Artefact Retrieval Teams. But that was later.

When it was finally time to emerge, the entirety of Squad Five awaited him, clapping and cheering. Brakarr was there too, and the hulking Bombard slapped him on the back so hard Grahk's knees almost gave out.

Grahk remembered that time with a wistful fondness that was rare for a Grineer, particularly a line trooper.

This was fitting.

For what followed was only horror.

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