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Orokin Embers (Part 1) (Nov 25Th, 2013. Chp 12-14)


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Part 1 of my Orokin Embers story was something I started writing just after i started playing. The prolog chapter was writen while my first new frame was cooking in the foundry: Ember. (lets not dwell on all the solo grind i did to get the pieces... *shudder*)

 

A note on the lore used: All content I have used is an artistic interpretation of things that are either already in the game, are heavily implied within the game, or were established in Dark Sector. my take the Tenno is taken from the aesthetics of their creations; my take on HOW the frames are made is based heavily around the content of both Warframe, Dark Sector, and general understanding of cellular biology.  My Ember is E428, meaning that she is only one of a large number of original Embers; she has a real name, but cannot remember it. as of P4 there has been only a single hint of what her real name is, but it is only an initial. the rest MAY come out later.

 

a last comment: this story is actually fairly long. in standard page format, part 1 (chapters 1-6) is 28 pages long. Enjoy as much as you want, but dont worry if long stories arent your thing. :)

 

Hope you all enjoy! =^^=

 

Nov 25th, 2013: And there's part four, with the Gradivus events! (also finally got a Lanka, so blam =^^= ) This is technically the end of the initial story, but dont worry, there will be more to come. I'm already poking away at chapter 15... i cant seem to help it XD

 

Nov 22nd, 2013: Part three is actually pretty short. its set just after another team stomped the infested hydra, so yeah, Ember missed the big fight, but it just worked better this way. :)   ...i think i may have misspelled Corpus a few times in here... need to keep a closer eye on that in the future, but if i failed to correct any instances of "corprus" i aporogize.

 

Nov 20th, 2013:  Posted part two (aka: chapters seven and eight).  if anybody can tell me how to create links to specific posts in a thread i'll turn post 1 into an index. XD  (please?)

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Prolog

I am ashamed to admit that I screamed as I awoke. I was so cold that it felt near to having a thousand knives driven into my flesh all at once, but that I gave voice to my pain was an embarrassment and a telling reminder that my training was not yet finished.

Those standing around me did not react to my voice. They were prepared and professional.

The first sight to greet my pain reddened eyes was a sky of sickly green and blue. All around the edges, as the blackness withdrew, I saw stone and snow. Closer, there were bands of metal encasing me; so near that it was hard to see them at first.

Directly before my eyes was one of the Brothers. He was well armored and wearing white; his arms cradled a weapon that I could not place, but it was with the familiar stance of long use. His suit gleamed, and even the old scars in its flesh were well enough tended that it spoke well of him. Even as I saw him the weapon in his hands began to quiver and rattle. I heard the rounds striking not far away with the rattle of spilled bolts on a deck plate.

To my right was another Brother. His armor was dark blue, and had he not been hunched over some he would have been taller. His own weapon was simple, but screamed out a stream of fire with little of the bucking that would have spoiled its aim. The helmet had wide beams that were studded with sensors, so it was a scouting suit of some kind.

Even as I took it all in, a third Brother leaned low over me. His suit was big, bulky, orange, and brutal in its simplicity. This was an armored unit, and meant to soak up the enemies’ ammunition. The claws of his suit dug into the metal framework over me and tore it aside.

“What are you doing?” snapped the one in white.

The big one grunted, “Not getting’ this place secure. Easier t’ carry wit’out the pod.”

“You have a point.”

The Blue Brother dipped a little to one side and light flashed through harmlessly where he had been. His weapon screamed again. “Lotus, redirect the ship. It cannot land here.”

I didn’t hear the response; my suit was only geared for primary channels.

Another stream of light cut through and struck White in the back. His barrier faltered and he let out a ‘humph’, but he straightened and kept to his job. He trusted his men, and watching Blue dispatching whatever was shooting, I could see why.

The big Brother dug his claws into the pod I was in and heaved me up onto his shoulder like a sack of rice. Outside my sleep pod the atmosphere actually felt a little colder and my suit indicators all dipped into the red as it fought to cope with the air. Toxic, then. This planet was not fully terraformed.

Or maybe it had never started.

I bounced limp over the Oranges shoulder as the trio broke into a dead run across the frozen stone. More light seared across the line of my vision, but I did not manage to see the source. Weapons roared, I bounced, and cold wind lashed at my thin suit.

Abruptly, metal appeared and I heard machinery moving. We raced into a building and I had brief glimpses of computers, floor gratings, and power cables. Shots were fired, and sometimes I saw heaps of ruined metal, but the fighting was before us, and all I saw at our backs were closing doors. My muscles yearned to drop down and run on my own two feet, but yearning and doing are very different things.

White shouted “Other side!” and I heard a sharp buzzing sound. It was familiar, but something sounded wrong about it. More shooting picked up off to the left.

My left.

Their right.

Another buzz sounded as soon as the shooting ended. A teleporter unit, then. That would be Blue. The power drain of the transit system would degrade barrier capacity and would run through too much of the superstructure to allow for full armoring.

A door opened with a hiss and more of the insidious, cold air rasped against my suit filters.

Orange grunted loudly. “Long way down to the dock. Why that far?”

White replied calmly, “Minimal exposure to ground batteries. Can you move?”

I tried. My legs were shaking badly, but I nodded. “Some.”

“Stay down, and stay between us.”

I did. I stumbled over and over, but I did. Blue light bloomed around us, and weapons roared, but I kept my head down and fought the uneven ground and the slippery ice until a metal ridge blurred into my vision and caught my foot. I tumbled, and then Orange was hunching over me, using his barrier and armor to block an immense barrage of weaponfire.

The floor lurched sullenly and I was pressed closer to the frigid metal. The heat leeched from my flesh through my suit and left me trembling. There was a dull thud, and the motion stopped.

Weapons still screamed and roared, but the platform we seemed to be on provided just enough protection that we were effectively safe. Orange wrapped one arm around me and hauled me up. For a few seconds I had a hazy impression of a long, snowy slope of canyon seething with running shapes and bursts of light. Something rumbled and roared and whatever it was it struck a little sliver of hope into my heart.

I found myself being lifted further and pressed into a body shaped cavity. I had to reach a little to grab onto the handles, but I managed. The Brothers waited until the metal panels of the ship were already closing over me to press themselves into the other spaces. There were four spaces aboard.

I closed my eyes and tried to relax as the ship started to move. There was rocking from weapon fire, but the acceleration was uninterrupted. The compact space was oddly comforting. I didn’t have long to sort through my jumbled memories before I drifted to sleep.

 

I woke with a start and sat up. Everything around me was vivid white to the point where I was unsure how big the room was. It was familiar, but I could not place it.

“Tenno.”

My body moved faster than my mind and whipped up into a smooth kneeling position.

“You are awake. Good. You have been asleep for a long time.”

My mouth felt thick. “How long?”

As if she were not listening, the voice continued. “I am Lotus. You are needed, Tenno.”

That wasn’t right… I hadn’t completed my training. I opened my mouth to speak, but the white room faded and I found that I was kneeling in a dusty chamber. The architecture was familiar, but the place was so very old; every surface was pitted and scored by countless cycles around the sun, and the narrow windows had been baked to opaque sheets by the suns radiation. I forced myself to my feet and did my best to ignore my aching muscles and drooping eyelids. Sleep would have to wait.

The chamber was small, and quite plain. One corner held a small pallet with a blanket and pillow; another held a small box for clothing. One entire wall was lined with racks for weaponry, though now it was empty. Beside the door were a heavy worktable and some age worn tools.

Whoever had brought me had stripped off my stasis suit and my skin was pale and blotchy under the harsh light fixture. I wobbled to the shower and cringed under the cold water that erupted over me. It occurred to me as I tried to scrub myself clean – and dislodged disturbing amounts of old, dead skin – that I never wanted to be cold again.

There was a single, simple robe in my locker. It was grey and fell down to mid thigh; the sleeves hung in loose folds to my wrists. I slid my feet into thick sandals and pulled the robe sash tight.

A beeping sound drew my attention to a slight weight on my collar. There was a simple cord with a communication tab attached dangling there. I touched the tab.

The woman’s voice came again, softly, but clearly. “Greetings Tenno.”

“Who are you?” I asked.

“There is a situation in orbit. A suit is being synchronized to your DNA now. Please proceed to the foundry, four two eight. You are needed. Tenno.”

Edited by niekitty
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One

Tenno

The Tower still seemed familiar as I made my way through its rotting halls. Most of it still held the same brilliant light that the half-frozen remainder of my mind told me that it should, but in some few places the luminant panels had failed; in the same places the dense data bundles had darkened as well, turning into dark blue shades of their former glory – the bubbles of blue light along them seemed almost like accusing eyes of those long dead.

My legs still faltered some as I walked and the air was cold enough that it bit at my bare skin; the robe was far from adequate to cover me. I wondered where the tower was as I stumbled onto an elevator platform.

The elevator glowed with light. I touched controls out of instinct more than conscious effort and almost fell as the plate of alloy lurched upward. The draft of moving air set my body to shivering and created fresh dimples in my tightly wound robe. Finally I was deposited on another floor, and I was only too glad to step out, dodging weakly out of the way as two fully equipped brothers rushed by in glistening Excalibur frameworks.

The foundry was much as it seemed it should be: a long, low room full of throbbing pools and columns of instrumentation. The data cords dipped from pool to pool. The brothers and sisters in the room seemed to be tending the pools themselves, which vaguely bothered me, but the voice chimed from my comm tab and directed me to one of the pools.

There was a shape beneath the surface. Humanoid in general form, with a crest of rigid fur around the skullcap. She looked more organic that I would have expected.

“Enter to establish bonding.”

The pool glowed white until I could barely make out the frame, but I did as I was instructed and swung my trembling legs into the pool. The forge fluid was so cold it burned and I was loathe to dip myself deeper, but I did until I was kneeling. Slowly, feeling almost sick with the chill, I bent backward until my hair dipped into the fluid; after a few more moments my scalp touched and I felt the internal systems of the frame helmet reach up and grasp my head.

It drew itself up to me faster than I expected, sharp, vicious connectors biting through my flesh and into my nerves. My vision went white. I could still feel it pulling itself up onto me. My memories were still mostly blank, but I knew this was not how it had once been done: there should have been squires and the frames should have waited to be put on.

This was different.

The frame climbed me, sluicing ice cold forge fluid over my entire body, and where it found my robe it gripped and tore with its’ fasteners until the soaking fabric was removed. Somewhere a voice chimed, “Minor mutation detected. Stabilizing,” but I was in no state to pay attention to that. The helmet settled into place and clenched around my face; for an instant I could not breathe, and then air rushed into my lungs with a faintly spicy flavor to it. The neckpiece clenched shut, and then one shoulder. For my part, I held as still as I could and let the frame work: it hurt, but that was to be expected as it learned to interface with my nervous system. The suits hips grabbed me and held, digging in slightly. With those secure it moved to the legs and finally the sandals were torn from my feet and tickling tendrils of organic matter coiled and settled into place around my toes.

“Relax, Tenno. Your suit is calibrating,” said Lotus.

I wondered if there was a way to turn off her channel; I knew perfectly well what was happening.

Heat bloomed around me and I relaxed. Cold air and fluid still dripped down my skin, and my nipples were so hard that they hurt, but the frame was done with its frantic assault. My vision started to clear and I had to quickly adapt to having eight points of view at once.

“Mutations have been stabilized,” droned a voice.

I settled into a kneeling position again and waited for the rest of the frame to finish synchronizing itself with me. New information slowly appeared in my vision; vital statistics of both myself and the frame, empty displays for various other bits of data, and the jittery beginnings of a mapping feature.

No one was paying much attention to me, which was a relief. Two others were adapting their own frames and most of the rest were busy arranging data at their respective pools. As soon as my legs were steady enough I pushed myself upright out of the fluid and stepped back out onto solid ground. I could feel the cold alloy floor beneath my frames’ feet, but the ice cold pain of it was muted.

My fingers were still shaking some as I drew the purely inanimate portions of the suit up over my skin. The frigid fluid of the forge trickled down it, but evaporated quickly and my frame was producing a lot of its own heat. I closed the last clasp and felt the suit constrict slightly around me. It was a safe feeling.

Warm and safe.

Edited by niekitty
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Two

428

My frame and I had far too little time to get to know one another. She was still settling in around my bare skin when the communication frequency chirped. “You are needed, Tenno.”

I dragged myself upright, but found the frame moving with me far more than my distantly recalled training suggested it should. The forge seemed to have gone a little overboard on the organic components. Something inside the suit tensed as I straightened and I barely held in a gasp as it drew tight.

“Please proceed to the indicated weapons locker.”

An icon appeared on the map floating in my vision. It bothered me that this stranger had so much access to my systems, but so far they seemed to have been helpful. I started toward the flickering indicator and stumbled a little; the stray tendon inside the suit was moving and pulling with every step. It was going to take a little getting used to. I hesitated long enough to catch my breath before continuing.

The locker was near another elevator access. I did not recognize any of the weapons, but they were simple enough that I could operate them with ease. The rifle was bulky and angular, clearly not handcrafted, and hung around me by a shoulder strap. The sidearm was slightly less offensive to the eyes, but there was no holster.

I glanced down for somewhere to place it and was startled when some of the thick, muscular webbing around my frames’ hip puffed out into a bunch of strap loops. I settled the pistol into one and felt the net contract back shut to hold it. Spare ammunition went into the other side, and there was a very simple blade to be strapped back with the rifle – the blade was thin and curved with a single cutting edge, but still showed some of the telltale markings of having been mass produced.

“Tenno, please proceed to the tower roof.”

I worked a shoulder, trying to ease a cramp in my suit, and walked into the elevator shaft.

 

My frame squirmed around me as we walked out into searing heat. The roof of the tower was protected by hulking blast shields, but the atmosphere of the planet was still too hot to stay in for long. A blue flicker at the edges of our vision told me that our barrier was taking damage and above us I could see the immense curve of the sun shining over the shielding. Mercury, my hazy thoughts supplied, was the closest planet to the sun, and cooked to a crisp; it made a good fortification if you had the necessary protections.

Rows of snub fighters sat waiting, noses pointing to the sky. One was landing, and a pair more were launching, but around me were two whole cells and a trio more brothers who were going with me. None of them seemed interested in talking.

The Lotus chimed into my communicator (again. She must really like the sound of her voice). “The Grineer are sweeping the surface looking for our remaining tower. The sweeper teams are supported with fuel and protection by the capitol ship currently occupying LaGrange Terminus.”

One of my partners, packed into an Excalibur, asked the question my voice seemed slow to bring up, “Who are the Grineer?”

As if she had not heard, the voice continued, “Taking out the reactors should destroy the capitol ship. There are three reactors at separate points within the hull. You must destroy these reactors, and exfiltrate. Without the support of the capitol ship, the sweepers will be forced to withdraw.”

“Fantastic,” snorted somebody from another cell.

My frame shivered again and a flicker of light informed me that my barrier was almost down. Its internal muscles clenched all around me. The forge had definitely gone heavy on the organic components. I took intentionally slow, deep breaths and worked to keep my heart rate down; it seemed best to keep the frame calm.

Lotus started to blather again, “I will now engage the transports so that you may embark.”

I fought the urge to snap at her for endangering our shields by making us wait and hurried forward with the rest of my cell to climb into the slender compartments.

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Three

Terminus

Snub fighters are quite small, and not very durable with regard to sustained fire, but they are damn sneaky. Every fighter is equipped with a sensor interdiction package that prevents it from showing up to most conventional methods of detection, and since they are small and black, it’s hard to see them against the starfield. The size limitations can be problematic: it means you can’t carry too much gear along, and the things only have slots enough for 4 people.

Five if you cram someone in with an oxygen processor into the cargo pod.

The casings which contain the crew are human-shaped, and large enough to hold even the bulkiest of frames, but systemry built into them compacts them around smaller shapes and my frame got nervous then, tugging and twitching around me. I did my best to keep myself calm despite the mounting frustration caused by the shifting flesh encasing me, and my slow breathing seemed to help the frame as well.

That stood to reason since the frames were tied to our nervous systems.

Launch pressed my weight down toward my feet along with much of my blood and both I and my frame tensed to compensate. Passing out on take-off was neither fun, nor safe, and if I was to be a proper Tenno, I knew, I would have to be able to fly a snub fighter alone if it came to it.

Part of the casing had interfaced with my frame, and as soon as the launch acceleration was over with I mentally placed the proper commands to get access to the ships’ visuals. Thankful that I had remembered the proper codes I relaxed and imagined that I was flying through the void unaided, and that the ship was me.

The tower fell away below us, not truly on the barren, scorched and melted surface, but not in full orbit either. Its’ engines held it locked in place well enough, and the coloring had been worn and eroded until it blended in with the stone hundreds of feet beneath it. It would be easy enough to see if one got close enough, but from orbit…

West I spotted something huge, ugly, and green. It was reminiscent of a slug, but it crawled through the planets’ empty sky on a trail of fire instead of mucus. I supposed it was one of the searching ships and watched until it was too far away to see easily.

We were still climbing then. I could soon see more bright spots trawling along in low orbit and dipping down toward the surface. There were perhaps a score or more of them. I looked ahead and saw something far larger; it was shaped much the same, but bristled with cannons enough to look like fur and legs. I could not see the other fighters, but I knew they were out there.

The huge, green mass loomed closer and I felt the retrograde engines kick in. blood rushed to my head and gave me a momentary headache. We swung sideways and I felt the faint impact of our ship against the other. There was warmth in the metal, and then a soft hissing sound as the compartment unfolded. I dropped forward and twisted, landing heavily on my side but rolling and coming up behind something.

 

The inside of the ship was much like the outside: ugly and green. Bulbous metal machinery abounded, and the decks were filthy. The rest of my cell seemed to take little interest in the surroundings and rushed forward through the next hatch as soon as they had regained their footing. I followed at a slower pace, checking the balance of my pistol.

The others piloted two Excaliburs, and a Mag. The former were shining and new, one still with the slick, wet look like mine that indicated a newly bound frame. The Mag stumbled a lot, stuttering badly as if it suffered from a bad interface.

The ship (Grineer: Still not familiar) seemed mostly empty as we jogged through it. It was enormous, so obviously there were limits on just how much of it could be monitored at once by the crew, but the desolation was only compounded by the grime that had built up in the corners. We passed a machine that was drooling oil across the deck in a slow, black pool, and the stains suggested that this was not the first time.

Our communication channel chirped suddenly, and I jumped.

“You are nearing your objective, keep going,” said Lotus.

I rolled my eyes, or tried, and all eight views swiveled in their sockets.

Another round hatch cycled and the two white frames pounded out into the next room. The Mag was just behind them. I heard shouting and saw all three of them open fire as I came through the doorway. We were on a thin balcony above a room that hissed and puffed green smog from vents. In the middle of the room was a towering cylinder of armor.

More importantly: the room was packed full of marines.

They were almost comical looking: masses of bulky armor rose from their shoulders and backs, and their bodies were swathed in layers of plated pads. In comparison their limbs looked spindly, and their faces were small pale spots in the middle of the metal hills. I did not recognize their language, but for as desiccated as they appeared, these Grineer seemed human. Their weapons were like everything else: bulbous with thin stems, and their accuracy was pathetic, but what they lacked in precision they made up for in raw firepower and numbers.

My cell had caught them off guard coming in above them, and the floor was already strewn with corpses, but as soon as my team members paused to reload the Grineer returned fire. Projectiles rattled off of everything and the Mag had to dive for cover as her barrier collapsed.

The instant some of the enemy began running dry I stepped out, aimed, and fired twice. The first shot caught one of them in the shoulder and spun him, but I doubted it did any significant harm. The second shot struck through another one in the knee and he dropped, howling.

I stepped back behind a crate and turned to check on the Mag.

She was dead.

I stared at the spinning, metal thing projecting from her ribcage, and as I watched she slid back down over the blades, being torn apart even worse as she tumbled to the floor. The Grineer standing there looked horrific; almost skeletal in places where metal struts replaced limbs. He grinned in a deathly rictus and lurched toward me.

My hands moved on ingrained instinct and I swept my blade out, catching his saw and driving it aside. He collided with me and I pushed my pistol into his face so hard I felt cartilage break before pulling the trigger. His skull came apart and my frame joined my stomach in a brief, disgusted squirm before I shouldered the corpse away and turned back to the fighting.

One Excalibur was at the railing with a boot up emptying clip after clip into the Grineer and their cover while the other struggled around in the midst of them with his sword alone. Even as I watched another saw wielder rushed out of a hatchway. I fired and caught him short.

Lotus spoke, voice only adding to the noise level in the room. “There are marines on the way… It looks like the Grineer.”

“MORE GRINEER!!” Cheered my team member on the lower deck.

“Were we expecting someone else?” I asked. My voice was dry and hurt a little.

The hatches boiled over with more marines and I groaned; this was not how this was supposed to happen. We were Tenno. We should be deadly ghost warriors. If we kept fighting toe to toe we would run out of bullets before the ship ran out of defenders.

Somewhere an alarm started to blare and the lights flickered.

My suit twitched almost irritably. “I agree,” I told it. I tucked the pistol back into the hip webbing and swung the rifle off my back. I leaned out just enough to see the column of armor. In the ceiling there were gratings and heavy hydraulics. I fired a short burst into the hydraulic lines.

The lights went red and the distant sirens were joined by much louder, closer ones as the armored cylinder swung open. My cell were still enjoying the target rich environment, so I unloaded an entire clip straight into the pulsing heart of the reactor.

The lights went out.

A grunt came through the net and one of the two remaining green icons on my map display went out.

Some of the lights came back on, but the alarms had changed their tone and a subtle vibration was gone from the deck. The surviving Excalibur sprinted toward me, pointing at the hatch, “Go! Let’s get out of here!”

He stepped on the Mag on his way out the door.

I followed, feeling my suit grow hot around me at the brothers’ lack of respect.

Edited by niekitty
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Four

A New Objective

If we had been quieter, or more careful, things might have gone much differently. Our flight back through the narrow passages and cavernous rooms was a blur of sparks, bullets, and confusion. My barrier held, but only barely. If I had been thinking ahead I might have guessed that they would try to cut us off, too.

The Brother got ahead in one of the last hallways, a downhill ramp, by sliding down it on the armored plates over his shins. I tried to do the same, but snagged on the lip of the ramp and sprawled. I was up and running a second later, but he was already well ahead of me, so I had a good view as he raced into the airlock.

And started it cycling.

I shouted into the comm then, yelling for him to wait, but even as I did the Grineer marines that had been hiding behind the cargo in the lock stepped out shooting. By some miracle the Excalibur held together long enough to reach the snub fighter, though I doubted that its’ pilot would survive long.

My gauntlets slammed against the hatch as it closed, and I heard the rush of air as our ship disengaged from the hull. In the brief moment while there was still air on the other side of the hatch I heard the marines screaming.

As I stumbled back from the hatch I heard heavy boots hammering along the hallways. I sent a signal back along the frequency Lotus had been using. “I need another way out of this ship!”

Whoever the Lotus was, she remained obstinately silent.

With nothing left to do I dove over a crate and pressed myself down into the small gap behind it, weapon ready.

The Grineer poured into the room.

I waited to die.

Nothing happened.

Finally I twisted and peeked out around the bottom edge of the crate.

The marines were thick in the room, but none of them were looking at the crates. I watched in stunned silence as they started the lock cycling back around; they thought that both of us had escaped. One of them, an officer judging by his oddly shaped helmet, turned and started issuing terse, guttural orders. He was in a rush, and no one else seemed interested in hanging around. Within a matter of minutes I was alone again.

It took me a little time to calm myself down and accept the fact that it was all over. No one shot at me when I stood up. I was at the hatch, trying to decide what to do next, when the Lotus finally piped up. “There is a new objective.”

I waited.

“The cargo vessel Caloris is docked for refueling. You must reprogram its’ navigational controls.”

Artificial intelligence, I supposed, and checked the map display in the corner of my vision. The indicator was close.

 

I kept carefully to ventilation tunnels and maintenance sections as I made my way through the ship. There was an ominous quiver in the deck plates now and the internal gravity was starting to fail; normally that should have meant that no gravity at all, but in those increasingly common stutters I found myself suddenly falling sideways or sliding down the decking.

The hatch to the cargo deck was blocked and I had to find a way around through a vent, but inside was a massive structure; part of the exterior of another ship. There were marines racing along the deck into one of the exposed hatches, and a couple of unarmored technicians were frantically trying to disengage hoses and pipes from the hull of their ship.

I grabbed onto a cable and swung out over the whole scene, fully expecting to be shot at any second. My gauntlets hissed as they slid. The cargo ship loomed and I let go of the cable, rolling as soon as I hit. Ahead was a hatch and I raced for it, sliding by on my hip behind a mechanic as he fought with a control valve.

Gravity shifted again as I grabbed onto the inside of the hatch, and this time the slant remained. Below me there were screams as the marines started to tumble down the floor. Atmosphere started to hiss around the edges of the panels holding the cargo ship in place, and then the hiss became a roar. I felt the drag of air scouring across my frame as I hauled myself inside and kicked the hatch shut.

After only seconds there was a violent jerk that pressed me into the deck, and then bounced me off the ceiling. My frame jittered and twitched around me, but held itself steady when it landed again. The deck was the right orientation now.

I heard a startled grunt and looked up. There was a Grineer soldier standing at the interior hatch of the lock. I grabbed for my pistol and fired, but saw only a faint burst of sparks as the round caught the trailing edges of his barrier.

Barrier.

They had barriers too.

He grinned at me with decaying teeth and held up a stick that sparked and buzzed.

And then in a faint flicker of energy he vanished.

I had enough time to register a moment of shock at the secondary realization that they had some kind of teleportation technology before something heavy slammed into the base of my skull and the world went white…

Edited by niekitty
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Five

The Caloris

I had woken in pain before, but that had usually been external. Now as I stirred, my body cramped with pain and I rolled onto my side wretching. It reminded me painfully that my stomach was still empty. My head hurt too, and it was a deep, shooting pain that seemed to transcend physical nerve endings. My eyes jittered independent of one another for a few seconds until I clamped my lids shut and forced myself to breath.

I had two eyes, and I was cold. The air felt too thick, and far too damp. I was probably not in my frame anymore. The overwhelming pain was likely from a forced separation; my nervous system was trying to react with parts that were missing. I breathed slowly. The pain took its’ time, but receded. At least I was able to open my eyes (they seemed woefully limited on their own) and sat up.

The room was shallow, with a heavily armored hatch on one side. The ventilation shaft was too narrow for even me to squeeze into and was also heavily armored. There was a single bar light hanging on a tube just below the ceiling. The floor was made of sharp edged grating, but there was one panel not quite large enough to lie on that was smooth for lying on.

I was naked, and it didn’t take long to take inventory; I was covered in bruises, but the worst of the real pain was a burnt patch high on my neck. My elbow showed a distinct spot where blood had been drawn (and no bandage applied, it had dripped). There was more pain, and it was supported by a smudge of drying white stuff, but I put that out of my mind and forced my limbs to move.

Back on the smooth part of the floor I took my time shifting upright into a kneeling position. Meditation is not always the key, but I needed to clear my head, and had not had time yet since…

Since before I had gone into stasis, I supposed.

My lungs ached for cleaner, drier air, but I shut that out. I shut out the burn and the bruised feeling in my abdomen. Finally I shut out the pain in my temples.

If they could remove my frame, there was danger to it, and once they knew that I was clueless about the situation around me, my only use was as a key to my suit.

But they had my blood.

The faces… they were of varying degrees of decay, but the Grineer all seemed to have the same few faces. Clones.

If they had my blood and could clone me, then they would soon not NEED the original to access my frame. And as newly formed as she was, my frame likely would not be able to tell the difference between me and a copy.

I caught a gurgle in my belly and set that aside too.

Food later.

First: get out of the room.

Second: find my frame.

Third: escape enemy territory.

Fourth: food.

And maybe a really long, hot shower.

I looked around slowly, and then jumped up to the light. It was hard without the support of a frames’ muscles, but I made it on the fourth try and pulled myself up enough to swing. The bulb was hot in my grip, but I held on until I could swing and brace foot against the wall over the door.

Then the dangerous part. I braced myself better against the supporting pipe, and quickly lashed my free hand through the bulb. It took two tries, but finally the bulb shattered and I let out an involuntary scream as an arc of electricity caught my hand.

I clung there in the dark and waited.

It didn’t take long, maybe half a minute, and the door hissed open. The Grineer that stomped through was massively armored and this close I could see the sparkle on his armor that indicated a barrier.

I dropped and stabbed two fingers down into his throat.

He choked and grabbed at me, but I already had my fingers into one of his eye sockets and before his hands reached me he was collapsing to his knees. I dropped back, ripping a pistol off his belt; it was startlingly heavy, but not too heavy to hold, and I made sure the barrel was tucked deep into a crease in his armor before pulling the trigger. The gun thumped loudly, and I jerked it back, stepping backward before the door could close.

There were no alarms. The control panel beside the door was blinking orange. I eyed the symbols, but they were simple pictograms; it was easy enough to set the door back into its’ locked state and clear the minor alert it was sending.

The rest of the cells were empty, and although I found a few lockers with ammunition, there was no sign of any clothing. Not even a spare pressure suit. Finally I gave up and started looking for any legible indications of where to go.

There were none.

I gave up on that too after a while and hauled myself up into a vent. The sickly, wet air blowing over me did little to make me feel cleaner or cooler. Twice I came upon patches of the tunnels that had strange, wet, fleshy looking growths weaving on the walls; they were vaguely familiar, but I avoided them and kept moving.

 

I did not realize that the ship was not under way until I slide under a pipe and came out onto a maintenance walkway above what I took to be an engine. It was an enormous construction, and the first part of the ship I had seen that was even half clean. Some of the catwalks had fallen, but enough still remained sturdy that I found my way around it easily enough. More importantly, the slimy water I could see gathering around the bottom of the engine column told me that I was very close to the ventral hull; well below where most ship designs kept anything important.

A few decks up I found several Grineer in simple pressure suits. One had a mechanical arm, but they were clearly crew, rather than marines. I followed them until they split up and chose to continue on after the one with the fake arm for simplicity sake.

He was headed to his bunk.

Mentally kicking myself I went back the other way.

 

It took a while to find anything important, but I was helped by the ship being a cargo vessel: much of the interior was taken up by titanic cargo holds, rather than hallways. In one bay they had the gigantic hatchways open and were moving cargo in and out.

It was just after that when an alarm started to sound.

A garbled voice came across the ship-wide, and though I could not understand the language I did recognize one word: Tenno. I could see Marines rushing to secure the huge hatches from my vantage point in the pipes.

Would they keep my frame aboard a cargo ship long?

I didn’t know, but that question was all I had to go on. Staying or leaving the Caloris was a major risk, but without understanding the Grineer better I had no way to know where my frame was.

Feeling around I located a pipe that was not too hot to touch and crawled out over the hold. Halfway across I saw the crane coming to grab another container and dropped onto it. The rail hissed by a hand span from my head, but I jerked up fast enough not to get my hair caught in it. Then it became a waiting game; the crane slide around moving immense containers until after an eternity it found what it wanted and swung back toward the hatch.

They checked the container, but not the crane, and after a slow, shuddering transfer the machinery was outside of the Caloris and hissing along down a rail. Around me, metal meshed with stone, and the air was thinner, but much less wet. I knelt between two supports and let the wind of the cranes’ passage scour my skin clean.

As clean as it could get.

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Six

The Master of Tolstoj

It had been a mining base once. Most of the walls still bore the marks of the machinery that had hollowed out the natural crags and gaps to make a serviceable system of chambers. As it moved along the crane drew the last container up close and the tunnel got smaller; I remained on the crane, fearing checkpoints.

Not far into the facility the crane slowed to a stop. The room was tall and appeared to have heavily armored, overhead bunker structures. I could see the hulking shoulders of marines patrolling the walkways, but none seemed to be watching the lower deck. A crew of workmen came for the container and loaded it onto a slow, crawling transport. As soon as the lower deck seemed empty I dropped to the rails and made my way up into a side passage.

Unsure where else to go, I made my way inward, trying to find some central area where I might get a hint of where to go – or where to find something to wear. Ventilation shafts were everywhere, but seemed ill patrolled; there were only a few times that I had to pin myself behind a bit of supporting metal as some marine or another peered in through a grill.

I followed bundles of pipes for a while and found the mess hall. It was busy, full of identical grunts scarfing up their meager looking rations with desperate and decidedly unsanitary abandon. The food dispensary – I am loathe to refer to it as a kitchen – had only a single crewman in it, and there was enough of a lag that I was able to lean down through one of the vents and grab up a ration packet. The stuff was wet, but crumbly, and had no apparent taste.

Nearby I found a few more patches of weaving, fleshy growths, but these looked small, and the edges of the patches were scraped at, hinting that there had been efforts to clean the tunnel at some point. This time, still munching, I paused to poke one of the growths. It bent slowly and tried to curl around my finger, but I drew back and kept going.

A silent machine shop afforded me enough time and materials to cobble together a makeshift knife, but the lockers yielded nothing for clothing but a pair of heavy welding gloves that were too big for my hands. I heard the outer door his just after finding them and quickly retreated into the ventilation.

“Hey.”

I peeked back out of the grating.

Two of the Grineer workmen were crossing the room, but there was another man wearing a pressure suit and a strange, square helmet walking with them. a little light at the chin of his helmet flashed and he responded, “What?”

The closer Grineer – they were duplicates of one another – grunted and stumbled through his words, “Whuh… whud’s thuh big deal? Why more power?”

The suited man snorted. “Cloning heathen like you is simple. Analyzing the sample your Captain got his… ‘hands’ on will take more machinery, and more machinery means more power.”

“Huh. Wut do we do?”

Obviously irritated, the suited man jabbed a finger at a maintenance panel on the wall. “Open that. We will have to consecrate a new conduit all the way. I hate to get it near the conduit in there already, but the blessings should be strong enough for Vor’s purposes.”

I took several seconds to put together everything I had just heard, but finally got beyond the strange concept of consecrating machinery and started looking for a way around to the maintenance tunnel they had mentioned. There was an overhead beam that came close enough to a secondary hatch for me to get to, and I entered the cramped crawlway just before hearing the lower hatch being wrenched open.

 

Crawling through the tightly packed cables and wires would have been uncomfortable enough without the constant worry about the technicians crawling up behind me; it pushed me faster and I scraped myself enough to bleed a few times, but finally I came into an open space. It was a straight drop and I nearly fell out into empty air.

The room below was unusually well lit, and had a heavy platform in the middle. One side was overlooked by a tall platform with what I took for pumps, and the other end of the room had a deep pit in the rocks where I thought I saw the glint of water. I was a long way above the floor. On the central platform I saw machinery and a figure shuffling slowly around, but more clearly than anything was the deflated looking shape of my frame on a metal table in the middle of the work space.

Dropping was out of the question; I doubted I would have survived even a third the distance to the floor from where I was, but the cables gave me options and I fought fear enough to swing my legs out into space.

My arms trembled, but I clenched my fingers tighter and started easing myself down a sloping cable toward the center platform.

Below me a marine wandered by on a bridge on his patrol route.

By the time I was low enough to drop down into a gap between machines I was drenched in sweat and the air was sending chills through me. My fingers were shaking violently and it took an effort of sheer will to get the wire-wound grip of my knife out from between my cramping toes.

“Can you understand me, I wonder?”

I jumped and grabbed up the heavy pistol, but the wet, guttural voice was not talking to me. I finally lifted myself up enough to peer around the edge of one of a pair of glowing, opaque cylinders.

The man was hideous. Only his face still showed skin, and the withered caricature of human features was bent into a warped child’s smile. Metal pads jutted out on either side of his head like a bonnet and his slender, mechanized torso gave way to a pot belly of tubes and servos. Over the left lung was what looked like a more recent addition and set into it was…

I stifled a gasp; I knew what I was looking at: a null-space interlink. A Void Key. The access and interface beacons that connected to the massive star fortress towers set up in the Void. It was partially disassembled and integrated into the man’s suit, but it brought back a few fleeting shivers of memory.

And it meant that he would likely have at least some limited access to the energy of the Void.

I could hope that his suit would not be able to channel that energy into a manifestation, but I could not make that dangerous an assumption. He had to die fast.

He bent closer over my frame with his disgusting grin. “How intelligent are you, my dear? Do you understand that I am going to replace your pilot? Hmmm?”

Six shots. I slid the pistols chamber back shut carefully.

The man chuckled and turned away, toddling like an aging dotard toward a control panel.

With my frame I would have a better chance.

I tried to hurry forward. My legs shook violently and it was more of a stumble than a run. My toes caught on the decking just as I reached the table and I barely stopped myself from falling, my hand pressed against my frame’s shoulder.

The man tapped at a few keys and stepped back from the display.

I lifted my shaking pistol, and then there was a tiny pain in my hand and the exhaustion vanished. My hand steadied.

My frame heaved itself up, parts grabbing and wrapping around me as I sighted.

The man turned and his smile froze.

The startlingly hot interior of the frame swept down onto my hips and I pulled the trigger.

The man – Captain Vor – jerked back and blue light erupted around him; a barrier, but it was collapsing already.

My frame closed over my face and I felt it jerk my awareness over to its own eyes. I pulled the trigger again in the instant before my frame stuffed the other gauntlet onto my hand tossed the pistol up slightly. I knew where it would be when my fingers closed and ignored that long enough to heave my own barrier into action.

Vor was fast.

Too fast for the condition he seemed to be in.

A heavy pistol round slammed into my barrier almost before I knew he was drawing the weapon!

I grabbed my own stolen weapon and felt a strange surging feeling around my wrist; parts of the pistol casing bulged and I suddenly had another eye’s perspective, this one seemingly on the pistol, but I had no time to analyze that and fired again.

Vor’s barrier came down in a flash of blue light, but a bare moment later there was a swirl of void-yellow light and he jittered to one side, skipping the intervening space.

My frame was faster than me. Between us we had aimed and put a third round into the Grineer captain before he could fire again! His pistol jumped out of his hand and I saw metal plates shatter along the wrist.

His other hand came up and sent out a blaze of yellow light.

I dove sideways, but the beam caught my right arm, shattered my barrier, and sent a shock of pain through my body as it tore the pistol away from my grip. I saw Vor sneering at me as he held up a blaze of yellow power.

“Take it off, and I will let you live, Tenno.”

Heat boiled up around me, wiping away every trace of the chill I had been enduring. Without my command my frame tensed its left arm; I could FEEL power flooding through the systems and into the gauntlet. We lifted our arm and vivid, scarlet power erupted in a heavy bolt across the space between us and the Grineer.

I was not aiming at Vor’s hand.

The compact ball of heat slammed into the Void Key on his chest and the impact sent him backward through the platform railing and out into the deep crevasse in the cave floor.

I saw the stunned look on his face as he vanished out of sight.

It felt good.

Whoever he was, he had been my enemy, and I had just killed him. It was personal, and raw, and it was a victory.

I had defeated an enemy.

I was a Tenno.

And a bunch of clumsy clones had failed to stop me so far. They would fail again.

I turned and sprinted toward the nearest ventilation tunnel I could see as the bases intruder alarms started to blare.

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Interlude One

 

A display screen flickered with security footage. Two people were watching it. One of them, a hulking Grineer in heavy, ornate armor grunted loudly. “Idiot should have known better than to take a Tenno toe to toe like that without proper armor.”

A female Grineer stood beside him, her cybernetics all of a bland grey tone. She scowled at the display. “She was slow, tired, and still half out of her suit. He should have been able to take her while the suit’s onboard computer was still booting up. How did she get it running so fast?”

“Maybe the computer was already running?”

“That sounds like a mistake Vor would make. Childish old fool.” The woman pivoted on a steel heel.

“Huh.” The man leaned forward. “Look.”

On the display a few marines went running through the lab platform, but the two glowing cylinders were starting to vent fluids and gasses. After a few seconds they slid open.

Out of one a twisted shape tipped, stopping in a stooped, still posture; it sported strange edges and projections. The other cylinder disgorged a thin, slightly athletic woman with the beginnings of black hair on her scalp. She stood slowly and walked to the edged figure, and then climbed into it.

The fog shrouded Frame straightened as it folded shut and flexed long, smoking claws. After a moment it flickered and light warped through it as it started walking toward the nearest air vent…

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Thanks, Mach. :)

i've been debating whether to post subsequent parts of the story seperately or in here. if i can figure out how to link to individual posts, I'll probably post here and turn the first post into an index.

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  • 2 weeks later...

Seven

Cargo of the Linea

 

I liked the locker more than my frame did.

That probably seems like it would be obvious, but it takes on a new dimension when something organic has you encased from toes to scapula. She wriggled. It was more than a little distracting, but I forced my breathing to remain slow and even; after a few hours the movement eased and I was finally able to relax.

The locker was one of a bunch of identical ones packed into a shipping container I had melted the corner off of. The state of the Grineer ships, and their cargo bays, made the damage minor at best, so I was not concerned with discovery.

There was a little more weight at my hips now; I had liberated another pistol and some munitions from some Grineer marines. The confusion that wracked the mining base after Vor’s fall had been considerable, and it had been almost easy to find my way to the landing decks. My hopes for a small fighter or cargo ship that I could steal were dashed – the Grineer had an absolutely intolerable sense of design, but it lended to security somewhat – when I found that the only small ships required specific mechanical interfaces.

The square helmeted man had been my lifeline, oddly enough. There were more like him, although in tan suits, and they were milling around (and apparently praying to, of all things) a bulky, sharp edged box of a ship that was sitting in an enormous docking hanger. The distraction of their holy rites had kept them busy enough to miss me climbing down to the ship along a fuel line. They had taken on cargo, where I slipped in and stowed myself, and had then launched.

My vague memories of how things should be – sleek and beautiful – were beginning to clash with a very ugly reality. If my memories were right, then they had been a long time gone.

But, I thought, they had to be right. I had nothing else.

Something mechanical moved slowly by outside the crate, pausing to make a heavily digitized growling sound. I stayed as still as I could, and whatever was outside moved on.

Eventually, I was going to have to find out what was going on, where I was, and how to get back to mercury, but again: priorities.

Something thumped against the container and I stiffened; had the thing making the noise fooled me? Maybe it HAD heard me and was waiting for me to show myself.

“Can’t wait to get back.”

I slumped a little with relief, and my frame joined me, even easing the tendons that kept constricting around my hips and legs. It was just some of the crew taking a break.

A second voice laughed, but there was no mirth in it. “You’re lucky. You have an interior barracks, down where the rocks are still warm. I’m assigned to a bunk near the loading zones. Every time a ship takes off or lands, we all freeze half to death.”

Voice one asked, “Have you prayed over the heaters?”

Voice two groaned, “Of course I have. I prayed and performed the rites of maintenance. It didn’t help.”

“Just have faith.”

“I have faith. I would just like to have a better heater to go with it.” Voice two laughed again, but sounded more cheerful.

Voice one snorted. “I hear you, but don’t let the Vicar hear you talk like that. Between having to deal with that aberrant clone, the deal going south because of the Tenno, and him finding that damned Lotus spy aboard the ship? He isn’t in the most understanding mood.”

Lotus. I stiffened and focused more attention on the crewmen. My suit stiffened too, which was still damned distracting.

“What’d he do with the spy?”

“Damned if I know. He’s been busy.”

I fought down an urge to punch my fists through the container hull and drag the two men back in to question them; it would make too much noise.

“You need any more help?”

“Nah. If I run into anything I’ll just have the Moa help.”

Voice two grunted his understanding and now that I was paying attention I could faintly hear the mag-pads of his boots clicking away.

I eased the locker open and stepped out into the narrow gap between the two rows of lockers. Most of them glowed with little red lights that I had learned meant they were locked. At the corner of the container pod I waited. Outside, a pair of boots appeared and slowly tromped by the hole.

As soon as he was a step beyond the breach I slid through and stepped up behind him. It was easy enough to jam a hand up into the strange structure of his armor and I pulled him back against me, dragging him into the shadows of a larger pod. He struggled, but my frame bunched up more tendons until the grip was secure. I hissed, “Where is the holding bay?”

He made a choking noise and clawed at my wrist. My suit did not like that and let his fingers have a lick of fire that set his glove bubbling. He let out a wheezing cry, but my grip kept it from being loud. “The prison level. The… the brig. Where?”

“M..midships… deck sikkthh…”

“Deck six?”

“Gluk!” he nodded.

I could lock him in a container. Knock him out. Threaten him. Any option left him alive and more than likely to attract attention and alert the ship. I tensed and my suit moved with me in a fluid motion punctuated only by the wet snap of bone.

It did not feel good like killing Captain Vor had, but it was necessary. I heaved the body into the cargo pod I had stowed away in and tucked it into an unused locker.

Once again, I traversed the ship, staying behind bulkheads, machinery, and cargo as often as possible. Finding deck six was as simple as taking an elevator up to the dorsal hull of the ship and traversing back down.

Not far along deck six I was sent diving for cover inside of a removed and partially disassembled computer system as an alarm started blaring. I stayed put, but the defenders that ran by did not see me. They had odd, two-legged machines following them, and each one mounted a wicked looking energy weapon.

I followed them, not wanting to be caught in an open hallway by another patrol, and came out into a wide, tall space. It was a thin point that connected one hulking cube of the ship to another, and was several stories tall, wide, and even more deep. The walls, ceiling, and the distant ‘floor’ were all transparent and I had a moment to stare at the stunning vision of a dull green planet with faintly blue smears.

Venus, my brain informed me; but the blue smudges looked too uniform to be natural. We seemed to be in a descending orbit over the equator.

Then something massive and green blocked my view.

I stared in momentary shock as a Grineer ship, at least as big as the Terminus, heaved alongside and started firing cables at the cleaner ship’s hull.

If one of those cables hit the connecting sections windows…

I broke into a dead run, my frame heaving its muscles around me to push us faster until my joints started to ache and the hooked toes of our boots tore the metal decking.

The crewmen and their robots were still staring when I slammed into them, shoving and kicking. More than a few were over the railings before they knew I was there, and then I was through.

A peripheral eye caught sight of one of the cable launchers straight outward from that section firing and I put on more speed, ignoring the energy bursts that splashed and endangered my barrier.

There was a horrifying sound of something shattering, promptly followed by an agonizingly loud roar of moving atmosphere! I lunged and grabbed the hatch just long enough to dig my claws in and heave my body through. The hatch slid shut slower than I would have liked.

 

The attack made no sense.

As I slipped through the (now somewhat darkened) hallways I could hear weaponfire all around me. energy weapons screamed and the all-too-familiar rattle of Grineer rifles mixed to form an ominous counterpoint to the silence around me. The lights flickered.

Just a little longer, I thought.

The entire ship shuddered and sent me sprawling. At the next hatch I paused. A pack of Grineer marines stormed by through a cross tunnel. They had seemed like allies, albeit grudging ones, so the entire situation made less and less sense to me.

I passed through a cargo handling room with vast overhead crane tracks. Still there was only the ominous silence and distant shooting. The lights faltered again, this time staying out longer.

Another hatch hissed open and I walked into a narrow, armored catwalk. There were stairs leading to 2 decks of doorways on either side, and I could see the security locks on every door. Most were open entirely.

The lights went out.

“Em…ber,” rasped a dry, spectral voice.

I brought both pistols up and pumped a little more power into my barrier.

“Em……..ber,” it repeated, “Four. Two. Eight.”

The lights came back on.

It was in front of me.

Right in front of me.

Between my pistols.

It was a frame… or looked like one. It had a strange crest of stiff fur on its head, and bulbous protrusions all over. Around the hips was a thick web of armored tendons… it was like my frame, only… wrong. It twisted to look at me with baleful red eyes, and then the helmet slowly folded back to reveal...

My face.

Her hair was too short, and there was a waxy sheen to her skin, but she had my face.

“Ember.” She said with a hollow smile. “Two… of one. And one… killed daddy.”

My frame reacted faster than I could, and jerked us back just in time; the other thing’s claws would have opened me up through my suit with ease. It pressed in fast, and as the helmet folded back shut, I saw that it had formed a secondary jaw, lined with tearing teeth around hers. One of my pistols roared and sent a spray of sparks from her barrier!

She lunged at me, clawed boots striking sparks from the floor, and I barely rolled aside in time to avoid those claws again. As I came up it pivoted and swung a long rifle toward me, the clip jutting far out below the body.

I grabbed the barrel, heaved it up and slammed my palm into the doppelgangers’ belly. Power flooded down around my arm and fire turned the area around us into a vivid lightshow of stark contrasts.

She screamed and doubled over, leaving me holding the rifle, but before I could reverse the thing, the lights went out again, even the eye-searing flames dimming until they could barely be seen. I jumped back a couple of steps, ready for more, but when the lights came back on, the doppelganger was gone, leaving only a few dribbles of melted flesh on the red hot deck plates.

There was still an ominous roaring sound in the air.

The ship creaked.

Atmosphere.

Swearing, I dove for the nearest door and wasted no time with the computer; swinging the rifle up onto my back and trusting my frame to hold it, I drew a pistol and shot the door twice. With the lock ruined, the hydraulics heaved the hatch back.

It took three more tries to find the right door.

There was a woman inside wearing most of a crewman’s uniform. She stared and jumped up. “Tenno?!”

I grabbed her wrist. “No time. I think we might be crashing!”

“What?!” she gaped at me, “What did you DO?!”

“I didn’t… Never mind!!!” I pulled her after me into the hallways, dodging fleeing Grineer and crew alike. Most of the robots had crumpled where they stood, but a few reacted. I shot them down as quickly as I could and we raced on.

A deck down and on the far side of the ship, she guided us into a small room lined with pressure suits and started pulling a helmet on. “The middle hatch opens into hard vacuum… or... well… atmosphere, I guess now. That side one is an escape pod.”

We wasted no extra time hauling the hatch open, and no one else showed up. After a few seconds of agonizing waiting, there was a sudden, violent jerking motion and we accelerated away from the dying hulk. My suit tensed and I gritted my teeth behind the surface of it, fighting to keep my head clear.

 

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Eight

The Conductor Sings Its Song Again

 

“The Corprus have inroads all over the system, and usually the Grineer are careful about provoking them.” The Agent brushed some soot off her shoulder. “I don’t know what triggered this, but it’s a good thing for the Empire that there won’t be much evidence left of what happened. We need this balance to continue to bleed them both dry.”

I looked at her and rubbed my eyes. Exhaustion was starting to catch up beyond what my frame could negate, and the brief nap I had managed before the escape pod slammed into the side of a mountain had only left me feeling worse. “Fascinating. How do we get out of here alive?” the dry scrape of my voice still kept catching me by surprise; I wanted a glass of water.

“I stay here, and get rescued. Without the ships’ records, there’s nothing to point out that I’m a spy for the Lotus.”

“Wait a second…”

She frowned at me. “Not much time, Tenno. You need to get moving before they show up.”

“WHERE?!” What I wanted to do was strangle the woman. I settled for a localized burst of fire that seared the bench and the wall.

“Relax.” She scowled. “I wish we didn’t need you lot. Impulsive. All you need to do is get to the solar rails. From there you can hijack one of the lines headed inwards and ride it to mercury space. The rest of your lot should be able to hear you from there.”

“The solar rails… are they even still working?”

“Of course they are! The Corprus worship machinery, and the Rails are a crowning achievement of technology. We work hard to keep what technology still functions functioning.”

“We?”

“Best to keep in practice for my role, Tenno.”

I sighed.

She frowned deeply. “If you do not go, they will kill us both. If we are lucky.”

“Could you at least let someone know where I’ll be?”

“I’ll be weeks avoiding suspicion, but if a chance comes up I’ll try.”

I fought my muscles and stood up. “Thanks for the gratitude.”

She wrinkled her nose. I thought it was too pointy to be pretty. “We aren’t in this for gratitude. Or glory. Or whatever it is most of you are out for. Likely money. Would you leave now, before they see you?!”

 

I left the hatch open. She closed it herself, but just making her do that much felt like a small victory. From the ridge I could see out across a vast vista of strange, splintered mountains. The odd sky overhead dissolved into sickly green on the horizon where the terraforming was faltering. Across a deep valley a rectangular tower reared up; a bridge spanned the valley.

Nothing moved anywhere in sight.

I slid and climbed along the rocks until I finally came out onto the cement ridge above a tunnel. The bridge stretched out ahead in a double span. Blowing snow, tainted with a sickly green from the atmosphere. With a few careful jumps I landed on the ground and froze, eying the causeway. The ground showed lumps I had not expected from above and I stayed near a supporting wall.

It took a few moments before the wind scoured enough snow away in one place to see an arm.

I pressed myself back farther and focused on the body lying in the snow. The shape was wrong to be a whole body. When everything still remained motionless on the bridge I worked up my nerve and darted out. The body was badly scorched and missing at the waist; there were large bullet holes and what remained was horribly beaten by some major impact.

He had been a Tenno.

My frame shivered around me and I agreed with it. I moved quickly to the nearest supporting pylon. From there I moved on from cover to cover toward the far end of the bridge. There were more bodies; it had been a killing field and no one had cleaned up.

Something made a horrific grating sound and I crouched low.

Whirring and thumping sounds started to echo in the breeze.

I tucked my pistols back into the webs at my hips and drew the rifle out.

“Passengers will present valid identification,” rattled a mechanical voice above me.

I rolled over and stared up. It had four limbs, a wide, flat head, and the mechanisms of its body were heavily armored. The entire robot glowed with a heavy grade barrier.

“Intruder detected in Rail Station Annex. Initiating countermeasures.”

I pulled the trigger; at first there was a cough of a single bullet, then another and another, faster and faster until the robots barrier was like staring into a magnesium flare. It let out a high pitched metallic whine and tipped sideways.

I doubted it was ruined, but for a brief moment it hunched down and drew one leg in. I could see systemry behind the barrier repairing a damaged part.

I rolled over again and ran.

Behind me the robot grated loudly and stood up. There was a thump and whoosh of some sort of ordinance launch and I cut hard right behind a pillar! A split second later the world went red and sound ceased to have meaning as I was thrown violently forward across the snow!

Ears still ringing I trusted my instincts and turned the explosion assisted fall into a slide until one of my feet caught and brought me back upright into a run. I couldn’t hear, but I could see the bursts of stone and ice around me as well as the bursts of light as high caliber projectiles beat at my barrier! I threw myself through a door as it opened and scrambled to one side to clear the door sensors!

The door shuddered and dust rained from the ceiling.

It was the hardest thing I could remember having ever done – which didn’t speak to much at the time I suppose, but it gets the point across – but I got back up and started running again. Down a flight of wide stairs and then up a couple of steps and I came out into a wide open space. There was a central platform, and at the far end an open hatch into what I thought I remembered to be a solar rail carrier. My feet tore and skated on the deck plates as I ran, but I was only halfway across when I heard metal screeching above me.

The combat robot landed in the exact center of the chamber, nearly landing on me, and its guns flicked down toward me. I kept moving and leaned back until my balance went. My feet skidded and butt hit the deck hard, but I slide through under the thing and in that brief moment unloaded most of a second clip into the things belly.

It let out a metallic keening sound and stumbled again, crouching down, apparently to repair itself.

I let a foot catch and came upright again. My legs no longer hurt, but since I couldn’t feel anything else either I wasn’t sure that was a good thing. I strained, feeling my frame lapping up the sweat trickling down my skin, and then I was tumbling through the doors into the rail pod.

As I lifted my head the robot leaned in through the doors so close it nearly managed to grab my ankle!

I unloaded the rest of the clip, dropped the rifle, and sprayed as much flame as my frame and I could muster straight into the machines face.

Honking like a wounded delivery cart it toppled backward and the heavy cargo doors slid shut.

I lurched upright. Through the porthole I could see it rolling over and fumbling with the optical lenses of its face, replacing and repairing them already. My feet beat an unsteady pattern to the controls. The rail network appeared at the touch of my hand, but it was almost entirely red from damaged rails.

Not one fully functioning rail ran even close to going sunward. There was one line showing yellow instead of red that went that way, but yellow could mean almost anything in the current state of the system.

Outside, the robot grated loudly again and slammed into the pod doors. Everything shook.

I jabbed my finger into the nearest indicator to Mercury and as the pod heaved itself violently along its track and into Voidspace I wondered if there was anything that I should start praying to. If the yellow indicator was just a routine maintenance call, I would make it fine.

If it was rail damage, the ride was going to get a lot more interesting. 

 

Edited by niekitty
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Interlude Two

 

The machines had failed.

It watched the… Solar Rail Pod… yes, that was the term… leave the… station… and vanish into… Void Space. It knew where the Tenno would try to go. It could tell its progenitors, but they were inferior.

Defective.

Father had been defective too.

But it had been father.

In a way.

The machine said so.

It shoved a contempt driven claw into the center of the large machine and ripped the machines brain out, ignoring the falling device. It walked to the computer interface and leaned over, tapping controls slowly at first, but with gathering speed as it Remembered how everything worked.

Smiling inside its sister-skin it called up a second Rail Pod and walked toward the heavy pressure doors. Its belly still hurt, but that was simple damage. It would heal. There were more important things to be concerned with.

Edited by niekitty
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Well done!

 

I like your take on the Stalkers. Or at least I think that they are Stalkers.

 

I really like the idea that Warframes are Organic and (at least) semi self-aware.

 

Now I have ideas of a Tenno and their RhinoBro Warframe hanging out and facetanking everything together. 

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I like your take on the Stalkers. Or at least I think that they are Stalkers.

 

I really like the idea that Warframes are Organic and (at least) semi self-aware.

 

thanks! i figure there are more than just 1 kind of stalker. some different kinds of stalkers possible. the ember clone stalker fit the story best =^^=

 

the frames being organic actually was established in Dark Sector. the first Excalibur was a human that had been inoculated against the Technocyte plague and got infected anyway, and since frame construction requires some organic components i just extrapolated. =^^=

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You must continue this! :D It's so good! @_@ (I still feel sorry for that Mag by the way :< )

Thank you! =^^=

it WILL continue.. chapters 7 and 8 were 'part two'. parts 3 and 4 are done, just need cleaned up a bit before posting. 4 contains the mess at Gradivus.

 

a bit of info that shows up in the new Codex waffles my backstory just a LITTLE bit, but i can still run with it assuming the Tenno changed and sprouted their own culture after the Orokin first pulled them out of the void.

 

a lot of what i write into this is stuff that actually happens while im playing, and i DO (once in a great while when im feeling masochistic) find public teams. that's where the mess that got the Mag killed came from. :p

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Nine

EOL

 

The Rail Pod shuddered and woke me up out of a deep sleep. My hand went immediately to my hip and found only bare skin. It confused me for a moment, but then recent memory oozed into place. I reached over and felt the tendon web of my suit shift to give me access to one of my pistols. I didn’t need it, but holding the heavy weight of the sidearm felt good and gave me something to focus on.

I dragged my body into a proper rest posture and ignored the bone-deep ache in my knees as they pressed against the deck. The alloy was cold, but my frame was emitting enough heat that the air was tolerable.

She looked strange lying still like that, opened up like the carcass of some sort of beast. The inside was lined with tendrils of living matter that occasionally stirred, and I could see where prehensile muscle bundles were grown out into the inorganic suit that the frame was supposed to have been based on. A standard Ember model suit should have had some moderate ability to raise atmosphere temperatures.

How much had the sample strains mutated over the years?

The decades…

Centuries…

My head hurt.

I reached up and rubbed the oddly hard, calloused muscle bundle that had replaced my temple. My suit had been making changes to me so that it would fit better. Part of me said very definitively that they were not supposed to do that.

More changes.

A little root stretched out of the pistol grip and tickled my wrist. I sighed and set to cleaning the weapon out. There was little to work with, but some engineer – likely long dead now – had left a bundle of rags in a locker; they were coming in handy.

My suit shifted and a few of the roots from its hand plastered themselves against my stomach. I suppressed a giggle as it tickled and patted the gauntlet. “I know, just give me a moment.” My stomach agreed with my frame and growled at me.

The cargo pod contained a number of stasis crates, and I had found one that still had some edible protein packets. The paste was bright red and sickeningly tasteless, but it was food. I put the cleaning on hold long enough to chew my way through one of the packets.

The rail lurched again and chills crawled up my spine. Lost was one thing, lost adrift in space was another.

Lost in The Void was something that could give anyone a cold sweat. In space there was a possibility, however remote, of being detected and rescued.

Not out here.

Here there was nothing but chaotic emptiness.

If there was an upside to being lost in a stray Rail Pod, it was that I would not die of starvation.

I would more likely suffocate or freeze to death first.

The paste tasted momentarily vile on the back of my tongue.

I groaned and stood, stretching aching muscles, and started going through a slow, faltering series of half-forgotten exercises. My body knew them better than my mind did, so once I relaxed and stopped thinking about it the process went smoother. By the time I was finished I had worked up a sweat that I had no acceptable means of cleaning off me, but I felt more awake and capable than I had in days. The occasional shaking in the Pod was less worrisome; what happened happened.

I knelt back down beside my frame… Ember… Ember four hundred twenty-eight… and set to work cleaning the other pistol; it was the one I had picked up first and the strange eyeballs growing out of the front of the casing blinked slowly at me.

Mutating inorganic matter: something else my suit should have been incapable of.

Unless the controlling code in its genome had degraded.

Which would make it much more akin to the original technocyte strain than I cared to think about.

I wiped some chilling sweat off my forehead and let one of the gauntlets taste it. It liked it and before I knew it I was up to my shoulder in my frame. It slowed when I realized that it was climbing onto me, but I did not resist and within a few more seconds I was safely enclosed in the warm, fleshy surface. Oddly placed and frustrating growths aside, she was comfortable. I relaxed more as it wriggled and absorbed the sweat off my skin.

The Pod jolted and I barely kept my footing. It was slowing down.

Now the question was: had it detected a damaged rail, was it encountering resistance, or had the engine started to fail? I tucked both pistols into the tendon webs, checked the rifle to be sure it had a full clip, and waited.

When the Pod stopped it was sudden enough to knock me off my knees.

There is such a thing as a surprise attack. A lot of warriors try for those. That’s why I ignored the fall and kept my rifle trained on the hatch rather than struggling to get up.

The hatch hissed open onto a dark, empty room.

The room was obviously Corprus construction: gleaming alloy and hard, angular surfaces, but around the hatch I could still see the architecture of something else. Orokin, I supposed, since it matched the cargo pod so cleanly.

I stood and crept out into the space; it was still silent and dark. There was no power to the control console, and the atmosphere processing was not active, but the air was good.

It was hot though, and almost feverish. My frame twitched nervously around me and I could feel it flexing its gills; she was filtering the air for me. So there was something hazardous in the air. We were still breathing, rather than re-processing, so it was not a toxic gas.

The door refused to function, and I could not find a manual control.

The ventilation system was what seemed typical for the Corprus. I used my makeshift knife and pried the grill off. On the far side, the vent exited onto a platform. There were maintenance supplies and machinery there on a platform, but outside the platform was a long, silent hall that my suit was unable to fully illuminate.

Edited by niekitty
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Ten

Derelict

 

Several stories tall, with sleek, curving supports, it could have been a grand hall in some cultures. Without clearly remembering, I knew that this was a maintenance station for the Solar Rails; a small station sitting in the void providing an anchor and the occasionally needed adjustments to the system.

The Corpus had added their own maintenance room to the place, but something bad had clearly happened here. The floor was black and crusty with old, dried blood. There were no bodies, but I did see a few bits of old pressure suit material and one of their box-shaped helmets lay discarded under a table.

I jumped the railing of the platform and landed waist deep in thick, black water. I could feel it clinging tackily to my frame, and the deck underfoot was coated in slime. It was a brief job to wade to one side and walk up onto a dry patch, but we were stained badly up to my ribcage. I swore under my breath and slogged my way toward a window. The floor, even where it was dry, was thick with squishy matter that sometimes caught at our feet.

The window was thick, armored, and scored by the years, but outside I could still see the harsh noise of the void. To one side I could see the twisted wreckage of the next section of rail, but more importantly, there was the bulk of a ship docked at the station. I could barely see any of it from there, but I could make out the familiar profile of the engines.

The maintenance tower should not be too big. I started picking my way through the tangled black mess on the floor.

Nothing moved in the dark.

The deeper I went into the tower the more I was awed by the pervasive spread of matter. The decorative trees and bloomed in thick, frightening bundles and massive trunks that climbed the walls and supports. The floor was coated in layers of vines and roots.

Some of the trees had glowing blue pustules that reminded me far too much of the decayed data bundles in the tower back on Mercury.

Technocyte.

My thoughts kicked in; the data bundles and trees were made from similar strains of the virus. The thing could make almost anything into almost anything else if handled properly, but if the DNA had enough time to mutate…

Like my frame…

I shivered and Ember shivered with me.

A light flickered on weakly ahead of me, illuminating an open hatch. There was something sprawled through the opening that had visible legs and arms. I brought my rifle up and crept forward. The body did not move, but I could see that it wore the square helmet of a Corpus by its silhouette.

“Tenno.”

I yelped and spun in a full circle, falling as I did and landing hard in the roots.

“There are scattered organic life signs present,” Said Lotus’ voice calmly, “You must cleanse this vessel.”

I kicked my way out of the roots and stomped a foot. It was a bit childish, but after so long without help I was angry. “Where am I?! I need a way out of here!”

Silence.

“LOTUS!”

More silence.

Swearing as loud as my voice could manage I strode toward the door and kicked the body over onto its back.

It was not a Corpus.

Not anymore.

Flesh had erupted out of the seams in its suit and spread in new muscles and strange, organic plates. One arm, withered and partially decayed away, had been torn free from the pressure suit and was fused to the thin organic coating over the helmet, making it look as if it were clutching its face. A new arm – limp and boneless – sprouted from the old arms shoulder joint.

It reminded me of the plague.

I remembered pictures of the victims; twisted and altered into horrors of living flesh. If I had seen the plague or not with my own eyes I was not sure, but this I knew: this ship had been infected by it.

And the body was fresh. The pool of thick, chunky blood on the roots was still wet. It had cooled, but it was still wet. The creature had a heat-seared hole through its neck and spine. I pressed myself against the wall and crept forward silently. The roots underfoot silenced what little noise our feet might have made.

A sharp pain in my skull heralded the return of the little display map to my vision, and now there was a somewhat nebulous marker on it. A number stuttered into sight below it.

“No alarms have been sounded. You are undetected, Tenno.”

If this Lotus had so much power over my system, why had she not helped out sooner?

And would she see the gesture I made?

I hoped so and started forward again.

Edited by niekitty
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Eleven

Hills Like White Lephantis

 

The lurching lower half of a Corpus died under my boot. The spatter of gore up our leg as the heavy pistol round blew open the twisted things skull was little concern next to the layers of thick sludge and other splatters of blood already gracing us with their presence. I felt mildly sick from the sticky, almost itchy feeling of the goo that covered my frame head to toe.

There had been far worse than just the Corprus on the old ship; here, old things that had been infected years ago – sometimes longer – were still alive and awake. Someone had blazed a trail of gore and death through the heart of the ancient cruiser, but they had not killed everything.

I stepped off of the corpse and got a running start before twisting and leaping. My frames muscles heaved and our feet hit the wall several times, digging into the crumbling old panels, before our momentum carried us through a shattered old vent. We tumbled down on the far side of a root jammed door and I took a moment to scan my surroundings

The first thing before my eyes was the partial remnant of an Excalibur frame, shredded and holed by far too many claws; some of them still locked in its outer casing. The pilots’ body was gone, but the state of the remaining suit parts told me that he did not leave under his own power; likely not still living either.

The room was awash in broken bodies and dripping gore – and a few scorches I was certain had been the work of another Ember – but nothing to match the immense mountain of infected flesh lying dead in the middle of the room; three leering heads twisted at sickly angles and speckled with dents from bullets and rent horribly by blades.

The pit seemed to have been infested by far more than trees and the very walls drooled blood from layer upon layer of torn and shredded infected flesh that had grown like a fungus across it. Patches of thick, waving, fleshy fronds graced some of the floor.

Whatever had happened here, I had missed it.

A last, five limbed thing stumbled out into sight and swayed its bulbous, armored head back and forth. I shot it through one of its blinking little eyes with a pistol round and ignore the corpse as it fell.

“That’s it, Tenno. No more life forms. Our job… is done here.” The communication line went dead.

“WHAT?! Wait a minute! Find me a way out of here!!!” Without realizing it, I had ignited the floor around me, but I ignored the wall of fire and sent an angry stab of data back at the source of the transmission. The data packets bounced back in error.

I took several deep, calming breaths.

They didn’t work.

I screamed again and this time the entire room glowed as the internal atmosphere grew hot enough for the more fragile tissues to ignite. Hot wind swirled up toward the mutilated ceiling and somewhere a fire alarm started an anemic bleating.

Watching the fire consuming some of the infected tissue was calming. I slumped slowly to my knees and tried to breathe evenly.

Finally I rose and started walking again, slowly and tiredly. I would get back out of the void, and back to some semblance of civilization if I had to learn how to fix the damned ship and pilot it back to Mercury myself.

Granted that wasn’t likely to work, but life was not presenting me with many options.

Edited by niekitty
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Interlude Three

 

The other Pod refused to budge away from the hatch to make room. It scowled at the control board for a long few moments before relaxing and pressing the proper keys to reverse course. The Corprus would likely have regained control of the Rail Station, but they were of less than minimal concern.

It would have to find another way to exact vengeance.

First, it would need to find a ship… then a void key…

Edited by niekitty
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Well done!

 

The Lotus in your version seems much more like an Orokin AI. (Personal best theory).

 

I liked how there was minimal action, but you could still tell that there was "off the page" action. Sometimes a author doesn't always describe it correctly and just simply expects the readers to make the jump in logic themselves. 

 

Off story question, have you thought of putting this story on Fanfiction.net?

Edited by MachFarcon
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The Lotus in your version seems much more like an Orokin AI. (Personal best theory).

 

I liked how there was minimal action, but you could still tell that there was "off the page" action. Sometimes a author doesn't always describe it correctly and just simply expects the readers to make the jump in logic themselves. 

 

Off story question, have you thought of putting this story on Fanfiction.net?

my theory is that there are actually multiples of a lot of things. different sources of tenno/warframe, different sources of stalker, and 3 different 'lotus'es. in the case of lotus i thought of it as an Orokin AI that handles basic alert function and small scale management, a group that handles interactions, and The Lotus who oversees the whole thing.

 

Thanks. :) i try to be professional about my writing. ...this all actually looks a lot better in its PDF format. XD  one of the biggest things ive noticed about the best writers is that they dont hold the readers hand ALL the time; the best writing leaves things for the reader to fill in. it keeps the brain engaged and interested.

 

actually, ive been posting chapters on my deviantart page, but ff.n might be a good place to post it too... :) thanks!

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