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[Fanfiction] Rites Of Passage


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Flotsam

 

<Fifteen hours after the end of Enemies>

 

She knelt alone in a garden of stone. It was quiet, peaceful, but she could not meditate. She could not get her mind to cooperate. Her mind was bouncing from place to place, settling here, settling there, going every which way. Try as she might, she could not get…

 

“Hello.” The voice came from in front of her and she stiffened as she looked up to see another Tenno scrutinizing her. The Mag Prime warframe was easy to recognize. But then the kneeling Tenno went still, she wasn’t in the garden anymore. She knelt on grass, a single tree overhead and wind was brushing her face. Her warframe had vanished. A dream or vision! This wasn’t real! She tensed, but the Mag shook her head. “We are not enemies, girl.”

 

“I don’t know you.” The kneeling Tenno said slowly. “Therefore, I do not know if you are an enemy or not. I have been attacked by Tenno before.”

 

“Misguided Tenno.” The Mag Prime agreed. “I am not your enemy, Karen.” She knelt down in seiza facing the other. “I can’t stay long. I need your help, Karen.” Karen’s eyes went wide as the form changed. Suddenly it was transparent and composed of golden energy.

 

“What can a single pseudo-Tenno do to help one such as you?” Karen asked softly, scared out of her mind. She had faced energy form Tenno before. It… hadn’t been fun, what little she remembered of it.

 

“I think you are the only one who can.” The specter of the first Mag said softly. “There is nothing fake about you. Karen, the only one holding you back is you. You need to let go of this doubt. It is crippling you. Your kin can help.”

 

“I can’t… I can’t see what they are trying to teach me.” Karen said sadly. “The swords, the guns… I get those. But the other… I just can’t get it. Maybe… Maybe I am too broken.”

 

“Broken things can be reformed, Karen. Iron is heated until it melts before being reformed into steel. It will take as long as it takes.” Mag replied. “That is actually why I am here and trying to be nice.” Karen’s eyes went wide and Mag chuckled a bit sourly. “I am not, normally. I have a reputation, you see.”

 

“No, but… I will take your word for it.” Karen swallowed hard. “What do you need?”

 

“Miguel is in trouble.” Mag said sadly. “I…feel a kinship with him that has nothing to do with the Tenno. He needs help and he will not ask for it.”

 

Miguel?” Karen asked, incredulous. “That man is solid rock. He took everything Nicholas did to him and spit in the traitor’s face. He is a great man.”

 

“I agree.” Mag’s voice was soft now. “But rock can break, given time and persistence. Miguel is about to break, Karen. He needs you. He needs you now more than ever. You are the only other person who knows what it felt like. To not be in control of yourself.” Karen inhaled sharply and Mag nodded. “He has been a rock, for so long. But when the clock changes to the 10th of November…” She bowed her head. “He needs you.” Karen stared at the other. What did the old calendar have to do with anything? Yes, the survivors in Avalon had preserved the old time keeping, but still…

 

“What can I do?” Karen asked. “If he won’t talk to me?”

 

Make him talk to you.” Mag’s voice took on a stern note. “And hurry…” Karen stared, the Mag was fading, or Karen was…

 

Karen jerked awake. She had fallen asleep in her meditation again! She glanced at the chronometer in her warframe and sighed. 2355 hours. She had slept for ten minutes. She still had…

 

Wait. Why did that number send a chill through Karen? She shook her head.

 

“Might as well get an early start.” Karen said as she rose from seiza. She tapped her com. “Miguel, I am on my way to the armory.” There was no response and Karen stiffened. Then she was walking fast without even realizing she had started. “Miguel?” Her heart lightened as her com responded, but… something was wrong.

 

“Wha’ssup, girl?” Miguel sounded…wrong. Drunk? He never drank to excess!

 

“Can’t get the meditation to work, Miguel.” Karen said as he walked very quickly. “On my way to the armory to start cleaning again. Which ones?”

 

“Don’t bother.” Miguel slurred. “No point…” That too was wrong. Miguel was so fanatic about the cleanliness of his weapons that he literally used a white glove to check for dust on occasion. Karen felt a sick feeling start to come into her gut. He sounded… Like she had once. When she had been suicidal.

 

“Miguel?” Karen asked as she darted into the elevator and started it down to the deck that held the armory and range. “What’s wrong?”

 

“Nothing is wrong.” Miguel reassured her. “Celebrating a birthday. I am at the range. Come on by if you want.” The com clicked off. Karen left the elevator at a run and keyed her com as she ran.

 

“Alert! This is Karen.” The Mag warframe felt like a suit of clothes as she ran. She barely noticed as she took a corner by running along a wall and jumping to another wall, something that had always eluded her in training. “Something is wrong with Miguel!”

 

“Karen?” Alicia’s calm voice came over the com. “Situation?”

 

“I don’t know.” Karen said quickly. “I just commed him and he sounded drunk! He said he is in the range!” She was almost to the range when Alicia replied.

 

“Karen!” The medic’s voice was taught with fear now. “He is inside. And yes, he is drunk. Very drunk. Karen! He has live weapons! Stay out of there!”

 

“He is going to kill himself!” Karen snapped as she slid to a stop at the door to the range. She hit the intercom. “Permission to enter, range master?” She called.

 

“Come on in, Karen…” Miguel sounded even worse than he had before.

 

Karen entered the room cautiously. Miguel was sitting at a table near one wall, a table covered in guns. He had a half filled bottle of something in his lap. He wore a blue uniform and a white hat sat upside down on top of the guns. Karen’s eyes bulged under her helmet as she saw the hilt of a sword at his hip! He never wore a sword! Called them ‘effete’ when he was being nice.

 

“Just in time, girl…” Miguel slurred, waving the bottle at her. He smiled a bit as he stared at the clock. It changed from 2359 to 0000 and he gave a loud belch. “Happy birthday!” He called as he took a long drink.

 

“Whose birthday?” Karen asked, not moving.

 

“Ah… Had to pick a day. They picked this one.” Miguel set the bottle down and leaned back in his chair. “On this day -November 10- in the year 1775 pre-Orokin, the Continental Congress of the United States of America decreed the raising of two battalions of marines to serve as landing parties for the Continental Navy. After the first Empress started her quest to unite humanity, various services joined forces. The various Marine of the various countries chose to remain Marines… Despite all kinds of pressure, they stayed as they were, amalgamated, but still Marines. Stubborn…the lot of us.” Karen stared at the man she admired as he rose to his feet, braced to attention and started to sing.

 

((tune Marine Corps hymn http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Jh5OlT-cslQ))

 

From the Hills of Applodorus

To freezing wastes on Xini;

We fight our Empire's battles

In the air, land, space and sea;

First to fight for right and freedom

And to keep our honor clean;

We are proud to claim the title

Of Orokin Marines.

 

The old man was crying as he finished the song. Karen shook her head, stunned.

 

“You were a Marine…” Karen said slowly. “I… I didn’t know…”

 

“Once a Marine, always a Marine. Didn’t exactly cover myself in honor… being captured and all…” Miguel slurred as he sat back down. “Buried it. Buried it all. Buried them all. But… they wanted Class ‘A’… I gave em… Class ‘A’…” He belched again and Karen went cold as he reached for the table and pulled out a gleaming pistol. Ancient, but well cared for. Not a weapon she knew.

 

“What pistol is that?” Karen asked, scared and confused.

 

“Sawn Mark 15A.” Miguel said with a smile that faltered. “Standard sidearm. Ten millimeter automatic pistol. Fifteen round clip.” His shoulders drooped. “Had this… when they took me… One of the bastards took it as a souvenir. Found it…” He stared at the pistol in his hand. Karne shook her head. She knew Miguel had been captured and enslaved by Nicholas’ renegade Tenno just as she had been, but…

 

“Miguel.” Karen said weakly. “I am sorry. I… didn’t know. I never asked.”

 

“You were a civilian.” Miguel said softly. “How could you know? We knew the risks. We signed up and trained. Took the oath and… did what we were ordered. Possible or not, we did it. Semper ****ing Fidelis… we did it… Every… single… time...” With each heartfelt word, his head sank lower until his chin sat against his chest. She saw tears falling again.

 

“Miguel, you are scaring me.” Karen shook her head. Bu then… “No. No you are not scaring me. You disgust me!” Miguel’s head jerked up and he stared at her. She snarled at him, a first. “All this time, I looked up to you. All this time I believed you were the sole solid thing in this whole crazy existence. And what do I find? You are just a drunk.” Miguel opened his mouth, but cut off as Karen screamed at him. “Are you the only one they hurt?”

 

“It’s not like that girl.” Miguel said slowly. “It’s not. Karen… I… I buried this for a reason… I am a danger…”

 

So am I!” Karen screamed. “Don’t you dare leave me!” She shouted. “Not now. Not after all of this!”

 

“I am sorry, Karen.” Miguel aimed the pistol at his head but went still as Karen pulled it away from him. It flew across the room to land against the wall. At least it didn’t discharge. “Karen!”

 

“Get away from those weapons!” Karen snapped. “Now, Marine! No one gave you permission to die! Not yet!” Where had that come from? She had no idea. Miguel stared at her.

 

“Karen…” Miguel shook his head and reached for the table, only to stare as the whole table flew across the range to crash to the floor. Firearms fell everywhere. “Now you done it…”

 

“You don’t have my permission to die, Marine.” Karen felt herself say. “On your feet! Now!” The voice that was and was not hers simply oozed command and Miguel lurched to his feet. “Disgraceful… So utterly disgraceful… Of all the lousy, good for nothing…” She fought whatever was controlling her and the presence pushed back. You want him dead, girl? Shut up and let me handle this!

 

“Who the hell…?” Miguel was staring at Karen but… not at her. “Karen… what…?”

 

“No, not Karen! Karen is scared out of her mind, with reason, you fool!” The presence within Karen said sourly. “I am so glad that my own squad mates didn’t live to see this. The last Gunnery Sergeant… One of the pride of the Marines. The epitome of what a Marine should be… Is a stinking drunk!” The derision in her tone could have cut steel.

 

“It ain’t like that…” Miguel protested.

 

“Did I say you could speak, Marine?” The voice said softly, slowly and to Karen’s utter amazement, Miguel braced to attention.

 

“No, Ma’am.” The sergeant said quickly.

 

“Like I said… Disgraceful.” Karen was shaking in fear, but a gentle touch to her psyche had her relaxing a little as her voice spoke again. “I don’t remember anything in the oath about feeling sorry for yourself.” Miguel jerked but did not respond. “Shape up, Marine. Now.” The other presence in Karen snapped.

 

“Permission to speak.” Miguel said, not moving from where he was braced.

 

“Denied.” The presence within Karen snapped. “Suck it up, Marine. You still have work to do!” With that, the presence was gone and Karen fell to her knees, feeling faint.

 

“Karen…?” The new Tenno had never heard Miguel speak like that, so… timidly.

 

“She… she is gone…” Karen said weakly as she collapsed. “I hope she is gone… god… that was… I…” She curled up on the floor and started to cry as her own personal nightmares returned. “Someone else was in control of me… again… I…

 

“Oh Karen…” Karen heard his boots come close and then a hand was on her arm, turning her on her side despite the mass of her warframe. “I am sorry, girl.”

 

“Don’t… don’t go…” Karen begged him. “I need you. We need you… I… please…”

 

“Ah, Karen…” Miguel sat down beside her with a thump. “I put it all behind me, Karen. I buried it all. Seeing the uniform again… Wearing it… It hurt. It really did. I fell… so far…” He shook his head. “Karen…”

 

Karen swallowed hard and then snarled a bit. Tears were still falling as she focused her mind and her warframe spilt open. She slid out of it and the smell was awful. Miguel had been drinking for some time.

 

“You are not alone, Miguel.” Karen said as she reached for his shaking form. “I am not a Marine, but you are not alone.” She pulled him close and held him as he started to cry again. “Easy…. It’s okay.”

 

“No, it ain’t.” Miguel said heavily. “I am sorry, Karen. Got so wrapped up in my own misery… Never thought about you. Or the others… just the pain…” He bowed his head and then it came up. Karen recoiled from whatever it was she saw shining in his eyes. “Pain is weakness leaving the body.”

 

“Miguel…” Karen said slowly. “Don’t…” She couldn’t say what she was trying to verbalize.

 

“It’s all right, Karen.” Miguel’s voice was still slurred, but there was something else in it. Something new. Something Karen had never heard from her friend before. “I got a job to do now. And you need some downtime.”

 

“Miguel…” Karen was shaking as the old Marine stood, his arms coming down to scoop her up effortlessly. “No. Don’t…”

 

“It’s all right, Karen.” Miguel said as he started off, hefting her shivering form easily. “Time I got off my butt and started acting like a Marine again.”

 

“You are a Marine!” Karen protested. “No matter they did to you, they could not take that from you!”

 

“No, they couldn’t.” Miguel said with a small smile. “Thanks, girl.” The door hissed open before they got there and two warframes stood highlighted. Both had weapons ready. “Alicia, Aeron… Karen has had a hell of a shock. My fault.” Karen tried to speak, but she was shaking too hard.

 

“Karen?” Alicia asked, holstering her Bolto pistol as she stepped forward. “What happened?”

 

“I got stupid.” Miguel’s honesty was painful to hear. “Someone hijacked Karen’s body to send me a message.” Both Alicia and Aeron hissed at that, and the sniper lowered his Braton rifle. “Don’t.” Miguel cautioned Aeron. “I…ain’t… all here, Aeron.” He warned. “Haven’t drunk that much in a long, long time. Gonna feel it tomorrow.”

 

“You okay?” Aeron’s rifle came back up, but not quite aimed. Not that the sniper could miss at this range.

 

“No.” Miguel admitted. “Haven’t been dressed down like that in even longer. But I deserved it. Karen here didn’t.” He held the girl still as Alicia swept the shivering form with her scanners. “Whoever that was, if I ever find her, I am going to whup her &amp;#&#33;.” Karen stared up at the old man, her eyes scared and Miguel smiled a bit forlornly. “It’s okay, Karen. Let Alicia help.”
 

No!” Karen screamed as Alicia reached for her! “No! Not another Tenno! No!” She was blubbering and couldn’t stop as Alicia recoiled. “Filthy Tenno enslaving me, taking control of me! All of you…” She lashed out and connected. Miguel grunted, but didn’t release her as she fought. “Get away from me!”

 

“Doc!” Miguel begged and Alicia stepped forward, a hypo in hand.

 

No!” Karen screamed even louder, this time managing a solid strike that caught Miguel off guard. His training kicked in, he grabbed her wrist and twisted easily. Karen gave out an animal squeal as pain flared through her and there was sudden crack. Everything stopped as Karen sagged to the floor, her right arm twisted oddly.

 

“No!” Miguel released the girl whose arm he had just broken and recoiled away. “Oh god… No, Karen…”

 

“Get… away…” Karen slid along the floor as the Tenno stared at her. Before any of them could move, Karen had the fallen pistol in her left hand.

 

“Karen.” Miguel said softly as Karen trained the pistol, first at Alicia who didn’t move, then at Aeron, who also didn’t move. “Put the pistol down. What is the first rule of weapons, Karen?”

 

“Don’t aim at anything you don’t want to shoot?” Karen was heaving now, her breath coming in gasps. Her good hand was shaking badly, but she was backing up, away from the frozen Tenno and the ashen faced Marine. “The ones I want to shoot are dead…”

 

“Karen…” Alicia begged. “You are hurt and going into shock. You need help.”

 

Not yours!” Karen screamed. “I am not Tenno! I never will be! I… I can’t do this! I can’t…”

 

“Yes, you are, Daughter.” Aeron said softly as he slung his rifle. “You are Tenno.”

 

“It was Tenno who took control of me…“ Everything stopped as Miguel and Aeron both cursed, the exact same vile epithet. She felt wall behind her and slid along it, away from where Aeron was stepping in slowly. “I can’t do this. I try and try and try, but I can’t do this…” Pain was building in her wrist but she ignored it.

 

“Yes, you can.” Miguel had an oddly shaped weapon in hand now, but she focused on Aeron who was still moving closer with glacial speed. “You just need the right motivation.”

 

“Aeron…stay back…” Karen warned, the weapon moving.

 

A flash…

Edited by Kalenath
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Aaand that was mildly disturbing.

 

 So you broke Karen. Again. Ouch.

 

Well, technically Mag broke her. And no, lots of people are NOT happy about that.

 

Karen breaking again - Not cool

Mag getting some time again - Awwwww yeaaaaa

 

Dis gun' be good.

 

Good? I dunno.

 

It's going to be lively. Do NOT cross an Orokin Marine... BAD idea.

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Can stop breaking your characters for once?

 

How can you find your way back if you don't get lost every so often?

 

And...

 

How can you build something if there is something standing in the way?

 

Short answer: No. But... If you think Miguel is gonna give up on Karen, you don't know Marines.

Edited by Kalenath
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How can you find your way back if you don't get lost every so often?

 

And...

 

How can you build something if there is something standing in the way?

 

Short answer: No. But... If you think Miguel is gonna give up on Karen, you don't know Marines.

Whats to know other than the fact they are some of the most pig headed bad asses in all creation? i mean in utter seriousness i would put money on a US marine platoon wiping the floor with a tenno in a fair fight and yes i know its a platoon against one tenno but come on is tenno we are talking bout here

Edit.. that made more sense in my head than it does on screen oh well

Edited by evafan002
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Whats to know other than the fact they are some of the most pig headed bad asses in all creation? i mean in utter seriousness i would put money on a US marine platoon wiping the floor with a tenno in a fair fight and yes i know its a platoon against one tenno but come on is tenno we are talking bout here

Edit.. that made more sense in my head than it does on screen oh well

 

Best line I have EVER heard about US Marines was on the History Channel recently:

 

'The deadliest weapon in existence? A nineteen year old ****ed off Marine with a rifle. Madder than hell and full of that sense of immortality that teenagers have. Cocky, fearless and angry...'

 

Is there a scarier combination?

 

But as for Tenno FIGHTING Marines... wait for it...

Edited by Kalenath
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Best line I have EVER heard about US Marines was on the History Channel recently:

 

'The deadliest weapon in existence? A nineteen year old ****ed off Marine with a rifle. Madder than hell and full of that sense of immortality that teenagers have. Cocky, fearless and angry...'

 

Is there a scarier combination?

 

But as for Tenno FIGHTING Marines... wait for it...

oh sweet mother of all creation this is gonna be AWESOME!!! i would not like to be within a dozen lightyears of that mess without a warframe or maybe an evangelion unit to hide inside though

Edited by evafan002
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oh sweet mother of all creation this is gonna be AWESOME!!! i would not like to be within a dozen lightyears of that mess without a warframe or maybe an evangelion unit to hide inside though

 

Be careful what you wish for...

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Kale, i swear, if the marines have something like an eva unit im gonna bust a lung. Again.

If the marines have something like an eva unit the tenno should be hoping its not a eva 01 type deal. they would be far safer with a production model. Like unit 02 perhaps ? i say this only because 01 would kinda be overkill

Edited by evafan002
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Dross

 

“What the hell did you do?” Alicia nearly screamed as Miguel lowered the weapon he held. She darted to Karen’s side and relaxed as she saw the girl breathing.

 

“Stunned her.” The man shook himself and rose, brushing off his uniform. “She is gonna need help. I got this…” He nodded to the mess of the range. Aeron just looked at him from where the Loki warframe stood. “She was terrified, Aeron. She was going to pull the trigger. On us, or on herself… You know it. I know it.” Miguel’s words were not an excuse. Simply an explanation.

 

“I do.” Aeron did not move. “But I am not leaving you here alone.” He did not move as Alicia scooped Karen’s still form up and departed at a run.

 

“I was… stressed…” Miguel slumped a bit. “Seeing it all again. Hearing it all again… It hurts, you know.” Aeron nodded slightly and the old Marine sighed. “Of course you do. You have seen it before.”

 

“What I remember.” Aeron’s voice was neutral. “I thought you were Army.”

 

“Yeah… Well…” Miguel shook his head as he righted the table that Karen had pulled and started laying some of the scattered weapons on it. “Wasn’t very proud of how I wound up here, you know?”

 

“What specialty?” Aeron asked as he bent down to pick up a pair of rifles that had fallen quite a ways from the table. “I mean… All Marines were riflemen, and you were obviously an armorer.”

 

“All Marines are riflemen.” Miguel corrected the Tenno absently as he straightened the rifles on the table. “’This is my rifle. There are many like it, but this one is mine. It is my life. I must master it as I must master my life. Without me my rifle is useless. Without my rifle, I am useless’.”

 

“Marine Corps Rifleman’s Creed.” Aeron’s voice was very quiet.

 

“Originally US Marines. We took it for our own.” Miguel’s eyes were far away. “Because it is true.”

 

“Yeah, that it is.” The Loki warframe didn’t move and Miguel sighed.

 

“They all wanted to know, Aeron.” Miguel said softly. “I couldn’t say it. I couldn’t tell them what happened. The… Um… Eliza and Michelle..." –even here he wouldn’t break security if he could help it-, "...they didn’t ask, but everyone else did.”

 

“Mitchell and Anne didn’t, did they?” The Loki could have been carved from stone.

 

“No.” Miguel had to admit. “They were overwhelmed. Can’t say I blame them. Class ‘A’s… Been a while since I last wore these…” He brushed his pants and grimaced at a stain on them. “Geez, I am an idiot. But adrenaline still clears alcohol like nobody’s business.”

 

“You didn’t kill Karen, Miguel.” Aeron’s voice was calm and assured.

 

“Could have.” The old Marine said soberly. “Pull and twist, you know? Figured the muscle memory would be gone by now. It ain’t.”

 

“Miguel, you know what they did to you.” Aeron hadn’t moved at all. The sniper was downright scary at time. “I know Alicia told you.”

 

“I know I ain’t human anymore.” Miguel did not look at the Loki as he picked rifles and pistols up from the deck to place them on the table. “But I ain’t Tenno neither.”

 

“You could be.” Aeron recoiled as the Marine turned, his face incandescent.

 

“Back the frack off, Tenno.” Miguel’s voice was even, but menace sang in it. “I am what I am. Folded, spindled and mutilated, but I am still a Marine. Now and always.”

 

“I am making a mess of this, Miguel.” Aeron’s voice held deep sadness now. “I have to stay, I can’t leave you alone until Sensei gets back. We are not pushing you, Miguel.” He stepped back to the door, beside it, but able to block it. “You earned my respect, Miguel. You know how hard that is to do.”

 

“Yeah.” Miguel’s sudden burst of anger vanished as quickly as it had come. “Yeah, I do.” He slumped a bit and then sighed. “I ain’t going to do anything else dumb.” His voice was sad as he placed the last rifle on the table and started unloading the ones that had ammunition. The pistol lay where it had fallen. Aeron looked at it and Miguel shook his head. “It can sit there. I ain’t touching that. If I do…” He took a deep breath. “Karen’s right. I was only thinking about myself. That ends now.” He straightened a bit as he worked the rifles on the table, unloading each carefully.

 

“What specialty?” Aeron repeated after a moment. “As a Marine?”

 

“MOS 1812.” Miguel replied, his focus on the weapons. “Armor. At least, that was my last designation.”

 

“Tank commander.” Aeron’s words were not a question. “And Nicholas’ people…”

 

“We got word they were going to hit a munitions store.” Miguel’s voice was low and his eyes were far away. “’Special munitions’.” Aeron tensed and Miguel nodded. “Renegades were bad enough.”

 

“Renegades with nukes?” Aeron actually winced. “Ouch…”

 

“Yeah.” Miguel slumped a bit. “We couldn’t stop ‘em. There as just no way. We knew it, they knew it. They tried to go around us. Only one entrance to the bunker. We pounded the crap out of them. But they kept coming. We did the job. We held them long enough that the techs got the munitions deactivated.”

 

“How many tracks?” The Loki’s voice was gentle now.

 

“A platoon.” Miguel said softly. “Nine M402s. Forty four of the bravest people I had the privilege of knowing. I…”

 

“Miguel?” Aeron asked, but Miguel barely heard him…

 

***

 

“They are coming in again!” The forward gunner called. Corporal Melinda Carver’s twin .50 caliber machine guns chattered, tearing up the Martian landscape in front of the huge mass of metal that was affectionately called ‘Mean Streak’ by her crew of five. “I count three!”

 

“How much longer can we keep this up, Gunny?” Private Ernie North asked as he laid his sights in, the two turrets that carried the main battle tank’s main armament tracking his slaved gunsight. “Identified!”

 

“As long as we have to! Fire!” Gunnery Sergeant Miguel Smith didn’t need to look through the periscope to see that the gunner’s shot had flown true. It didn’t matter. Milliseconds before Mean Streak had fired, a huge white globe had appeared in between the tank and her target. “Damn it! Not again!” He cursed. “Load HE! Target landscape! Tear that thing up before… No…”

 

Another of the tanks of Task Force 73 Bravo was suddenly outlined by lines of blue. Lightning. A growl went around the fighting compartment as Track Four -called ‘Big Bad Mama’ by her crew- shuddered and then exploded, her internal ammunition cooking off in the aftermath of a lightning strike. Heavy armor was good against a lot of things. Swords, and bullets couldn’t get to most of the vitals. Corrosive acids? Um, yeah, they could handle that for a while. The armor was designed to defeat Sentient acid attacks. Cold? Ha! They were designed to fight in all environments, including space. Electricity of that intensity? Not so much. That damn Volt had killed most of the tanks of his platoon. A burning body flew from one of the hatches, one of the crew had been trying to egress. The flaming Marine fell to the ground and lay still.

 

“HE up!” Private Jacques reported as he checked his systems. One name was all that uncommon in the middle of such a horrific war. Too many had lost too much. The loader/munitions specialist actually had the least to do, which was why Miguel had put the brand new private in that role.

 

“Find that damn Volt! Got to be within visual range!” Miguel called as the tanks guns fired again, blowing huge holes in the landscape and tearing down the Snow Globe that had kept it’s fire from hitting the three renegade Tenno who had been acting as a diversion. The forward guns fired again and Miguel added his commander’s 20mm chaingun and grenade launcher to the firestorm. The three renegades fell back, darting from cover to cover as Mean Streak’s secondary guns tore their cover to shreds. But the guns couldn’t track fast enough as the Tenno fled.

 

Everyone had known as soon as the mission brief had come down that this was going to be bad. Nine heavy tanks versus five or six Tenno was nowhere even close to an even match. Tenno were beyond scary. The thought of Tenno going renegade just increased the pucker factor. Then what the target was… Retreat was not an option, not that any of Miguel’s platoon would have even considered it.

 

Orokin Marines, contrary to popular belief, did retreat on occasion. Most of them were not stupid and getting killed for no gain was generally stupid. But there were times when there simply wasn’t any other option. Such as when murderous renegades threatened to steal nuclear weapons. So, the order had come down. Hold them off until a team of techs could render the weapons inert. And that was what they were doing.

 

The M402 ‘Kursk’ heavy battle tank was in many ways a throwback to earlier days. Technology had improved greatly since the days of the First World War and the belching monstrosities that had crossed no man’s land bristling with machine guns to take enemy trenches. At the height of Orokin power, the main battle tanks used by the Orokin Marines could hover up to a meter off the ground, had a crew of two –a commander and a driver- and could engage and destroy targets as far away as orbit with pinpoint precision. But…

 

When the Sentients had come, that ultra tech had become at best a hindrance and at worse, deadly. Horror stories abounded of troops whose automated weapons turned on them in the middle of battle. Whose weapons stopped firing at enemies and opened fire if friendlies crossed this muzzles. Entire units wiped out when munitions had activated in transit. So… As always, the Marines had learned their lessons well.

 

The M402 had exactly one not hardwired computer aboard to help in targeting the two main guns. Said computer was the best early twentieth century tech available. Not all that great at doing things fast, but essentially unhackable. The other computers were dedicated systems that ran the reactors. No outside links. But then that left other things that had to be done and the Orokin Marines had done as they had throughout their history. Improvised, adapted and overcame. Highly trained manpower took the place of computer power. A driver, a forward gunner, a main gunner, a loader/munitions specialist and the commander. Five people to crew a vehicle the size of a large family dwelling. Heavy armor, reasonable speed and insane firepower. When the Kursks rolled in, the Sentients ran. But this time… They were not fighting Sentients. At least they hadn’t brought infantry. That would have just been a slaughter. And not of the enemy.

 

“Damage to track four!” Private First Class Curtis Nickols called from his driver’s seat. “I think that Ash got around behind us again.”

 

“Status?” Miguel snapped off a flurry of round at something he could barely see and growled as a form darted away from the tank. He fired and missed. “Ash identified. Corporal Carver… See if you can singe his tail feathers…” The dual 50s forward chattered but the Ash teleported away before the shots could connect. “Dang! Stations call off!”

 

“Driver, Reactor at 100%, tracks at 40%.” Nikols reported. He hadn’t had much to do. This was a holding action. As long as the tanks held the entrance, the renegades could not get to the nukes. If they tried, the tanks had a clear shot at anyone trying to get in the huge armored hatch. The Ash had tried it once. Once. The Martian sand made for great footprints…

 

“Forward guns, ammo at 30% Guns fully operational.” Carver replied. Kursks carried a lot of ammo, but this had been a long battle.

 

“Main guns up. HE in both barrels.” North reported. “Coaxial guns loaded and off safe.” Miguel nodded the gatlings that sat beside the main guns ate ammo like nobody’s business and if he couldn’t find a clear target… well… He would find a suitable target at some point. “Minor damage to gunsights. Operational… Target identified!” He called and Miguel snarled.

 

“Fire!” The commander called and the tank rocked as both 200mm cannon spit simultaneous shells at the barely visible figure in the distance. “Target!” He caroled as the shells hit and a Frost warframe went flying. Not disabled probably, but almost certainly surprised as hell. Tenno were ungodly tough and regenerated wounds that would kill anything else, human or Sentient like. “Good shot!”

 

“HE loading. Main gun loadout at 40%” Jaques reported. “Coax at 100%.” That sounded like a lot, but the gatlings would go through their full load in about ten seconds of sustained fire. Admittedly, anything they shot would know it had been touched, but still…

 

“Keep it up, people.” Miguel said grimly as another icon of a friendly tank vanished from his display. They had started the fight with nine. Now he saw three and all three had red marks on their displays of heavy damage. But none of the enemy had gotten past them. Mean Streak’s turret had a full 360 degree arc of fire. Two main guns, two coax 10mm Gatlings. Each tank also had a set of indirect fire support rockets. The Marines had learned their lesson about fully automated guided weapons against Sentients. It had been a costly lesson. “Find me that Volt!”

 

“No joy.” Carver said as the fifties chattered again. “Got a piece of an Excalibur though.”

 

Miguel winced. The whole thing about Tenno really, really bothered him. Some of them were okay. The old ones. The ones who stayed away from humanity and just protected it from the Technocyte virus. They had a duty and they did it. He could understand and even admire that. Just the holos of that history made him want to puke. But it was the new ones, the ones that some bright boy in high command had ordered ‘made’ that turned his stomach. Tossing unprepared people into the Void and then fishing them out… changed…was sick. Desperate times called for desperate measures, but still…

 

“Marine Lead, this is Tech Team.” The call came and Miguel had to think for a moment before he realized he was in charge after the lieutenant’s track had been hit by the Volt earlier in the fight. One hit and Zzzzt. No survivors.

 

“Tech Team, Marine Lead. Go.” Miguel said sharply as the forward guns fired again.

 

“Mission accomplished, Marine Lead.” The tech said quickly. “We are bugging out. Munitions disabled.”

 

“Best news I have heard all day, tech!” Miguel said with a wide smile. “Get out of here, we will…”

 

“Volt, Three o’clock!” Carver screamed. “He is throwing!”

 

Miguel spun his turret and fired before he even had a clear sight picture…

 

***

 

“Nothing?” The irate voice pulled Miguel out of unconsciousness into pain. “None of them?”

 

“The radioactives are gone.” Another voice sounded tired or wounded. “Dunno where, but gone. We have the warhead casings, but without the radioactive materials… they are useless. Nicholas, they will have sent more support. We have to get out of here. We took too long. You said they would run! That they wouldn’t fight!”

 

Miguel forced his eyes open and then wished he hadn’t. He lay on his side, unable to move. Mean Streak burned in front of him. His eyes flickered and he saw other pyres. He didn’t need his light combat armor’s HUD to know that all of the tanks were burning. All of the other crew dead. He looked over and yep, it was the head honcho himself, resplendent in his gold hooped helmet.

 

“Sane people would have run.” The Frost Prime said, looking at Miguel. “Your people didn’t need to die.”

 

“F*** you, renegade.” Miguel managed before the pain curled his inside in knots again. “No way you scum could make Marines run. No way in hell. We stopped you.”

 

“Gunnery Sergeant Smith. Sole survivor.” The Frost Prime said with a sigh. “There was no need for this… this slaughter. We have no quarrel with you.”

 

“Right.” Miguel hawked and spat. “All good megalomaniacs never have a quarrel with the people they want to slaughter. Try again, you lying renegade scum.” A snarl sounded nearby, but the Frost Prime raised a hand. “Go ahead, slime. You know you want to. Kill people who cannot fight back. It’s what you terrorists do!”

 

“No.” Nicholas said calmly. “Protecting my kin is what I do and I think we can use you.”

 

“Won’t help you!” Miguel snapped. His pistol holster was still sealed and one hand was underneath him. He inched it towards the holster. If he could… just…

 

“Tenno ship on approach!” Another voice called. “It’s Karl!” The Frost Prime spun away as fear sang around the area and Miguel took his chance. He drew his pistol and aimed, squeezing the trigger. “Nicholas!” The voice called and the Frost Prime dove to the side as Miguel fired. He was tracking, his pistol bucking as a heavy weight hit him and he knew no more.

 

“Wake.” The cold voice of the leader of the renegades came and Miguel felt his eyes open. The Tenno stood in front of him, unarmored and Miguel reached out to strangle the traitor, but… his hands didn’t move. “Welcome home, Smith. We need munitions and weapons. You will construct both for this clan. From now until the day you die, you will serve this clan.”

 

What the…? Miguel tried to understand why his body was suddenly rising of it’s own accord. Then he saw what lay behind him and quailed. A Sentinel Controller. He had been enthralled!

 

“It’s poetic in a way.” Nicholas said as Miguel stood at attention before him. “You stopped us from getting the weapons we needed but we will use you to make weapons of our own. Not mass destruction weapons, but you will be useful. Get to work, slave.” He said coldly. Miguel was cursing non-stop in his mind as his body obeyed the arch traitor.

 

***

 

“Miguel?” Karl’s voice was careful as Miguel came back to himself. He was standing in the middle of the messed up rage. Aeron stood by the door, but Karl now stood at the door. Flashback. He hadn’t had one that bad in a long time. He could still smell the fear and sweat inside the turret… “Miguel, you back?”

 

“Yeah.” Miguel said softly. “I am back.”

 

“I think we need to talk.” Karl didn’t move from his spot, his warframe blocking the door.

 

“I… gotta clean up the mess…” Miguel said weakly, looking around. But then he paused. “But I got a date with the head first…” He said as his stomach started to turn.

 

“I got this, Miguel.” Aeron’s words were not –quite- a dismissal.

 

“Come on.” Karl’s words were not –quite- a command.

 

“Karen?” Miguel asked as he started for the closest bathroom. Karl fell in beside him.

 

“Still asleep.” Karl could have been discussing the weather for all the emotion he showed. “I didn’t know you were in the team on Mars. Part of the team that died to hold Nicholas off long enough for the nukes to be deactivated. I didn’t think there were any survivors, Miguel.”

 

“There weren’t.” Miguel said, fighting both his emotions and his stomach. “Begging your pardon, sir…” He ran into the facilities and lost what he had drunk. After a few fairly nasty minutes, he wiped his mouth and sighed as he looked down at his dress blues. “Crap…” His uniform was ruined.

 

“The uniform does not make the man.” Karl said with a shrug. “Come on.”

 

“With all due respect, Karl…” Miguel said with a snarl. “I quit.”

Edited by Kalenath
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Determination

 

“Okay.” Karl nodded. “Where do you want to go?” Miguel paused and Karl actually laughed. There was little humor in it. “Miguel, you are not a slave. You are not even an employee, really. You are a friend.” He slumped a bit. “I like to think you are one anyway.”

 

“You could have killed us.” Miguel said slowly. “You should have killed us. Every moment you spent disabling us, that monster grew stronger.” He swallowed hard. Remembering when Karl had come was a good memory, but the memory of setting traps for someone trying to rescue him was not. He hadn’t had a choice, but still…

 

“It would have been wrong.” Karl’s voice hadn’t changed, but suddenly, Miguel could hear tones in it. Sadness, worry, fear… It was as if Karl had just opened his armor, letting the old Marine hear the truth from him instead of the rock hard armor he normally showed the universe. “If you want to leave, Miguel, you have but to ask.”

 

“I have things to do.” Miguel said softly. “Things I just got reminded about.”

 

“This has been a bad day for a lot of people.” Karl was stone, but his voice was a feather. “I didn’t know, Miguel. Eliza insisted on full uniforms for military personnel. I don’t think she knew. She was just as shocked as the rest of us when you showed up in that uniform.” Miguel shrugged.

 

“Be that as it may, Karl…” The Marine straightened and stared straight at the huge warframe. “A Marine doesn’t stop being a Marine when he is captured by enemies.”

 

“Miguel…” Karl nodded slowly. “I understand. Just because there was no way to fight the enthrallment doesn’t absolve you, does it?” Miguel shook his head. “If you need anything, let me know.” Miguel tilted his head curiously and Karl shook his again. “My brother hurt you. I am clan leader now and you are a friend. You have had time here, to heal. To start to move on. If we can help in any way, we will, but this path is yours, not ours.”

 

“Thank you for understanding.” Miguel felt himself start to choke up. “I-“

 

“Sensei!” Amelia’s scared voice came from an intercom. “We need you in medical! Now!” Karl started off and Miguel followed.

 

“Sensei… If Karen woke up with Alicia tending her…” The old Marine winced and Karl snarled. “A Tenno took control of her to give me a boot to the butt.” At that, Karl actually cursed and Miguel nodded as he kept up with the Rhino. Karl couldn’t run flat out without tearing up the dojo floors so the human could pace him. “My responsibility.”

 

Our responsibility.” Karl disagreed. “I should have noticed you were having problems.” They didn’t say anything as they entered the elevator. The short trip up the shaft seemed to take hours, but as soon as the door opened…

 

“Stop her!” Alicia’s voice held terror, but…not for herself as a small form cannoned into Karl before bouncing off and out of the elevator. Miguel had a moment to see Karen’s anger filled face before the girl ran off, her bare feet sure on the deck. He took off after her, cursing his dress shoes. “She woke up and went berserk!”

 

Karen obviously couldn’t see where she was going, she was bouncing off walls and Miguel caught her quickly. He disdained subtlety and threw himself at her. A flying tackle brought the girl to the floor where she screamed as her wrist hit the deck.

 

“Don’t hurt her!” Alicia sounded as if she were crying. But at the sound of her voice, Karen went completely bonkers in Miguel’s hands.

 

“Stay back!” Miguel was grateful when the other Tenno who had come at the medic’s shout complied. “Karen… Karen…” He held her as she beat impotently at the ground. “Easy girl…”

 

“I… I have a sedative…” Miguel looked up to see Amelia approach slowly. His eyes went wide as he saw a large bruise on her face. “Not her fault.”

 

“Hurry, doc.” Miguel said as the girl tried to squirm out of his grip. She was hissing, flailing and trying to bite. Amelia bent down and injected the girl in a swift, smooth motion. Karen stiffened and then went limp in Miguel’s hands. Miguel waited a moment, but the girl was out like a light. He got off her and carefully gathered the still girl up. “What happened?”

 

“She woke up.” Amelia winced. “We were not sure how long your stunner thing would last so we had her in a regular room. Alicia went to check on her and… she did not react well.”

 

“A Tenno took control of her to send me a message.” Miguel walked back towards Medical, Amelia pacing him. “She either had a flashback, or a breakdown of some kind. Being out of control does that.”

 

“Damn.” Amelia was crying now. “She was doing so well. Who the hell did this to her?” She demanded.

 

“I dunno.” Miguel said softly. “Doc, if she wakes around Tenno again. Or Jimmy…” The cyborg medic gave Miguel the creeps. He had been tended more than once during his time among the renegades by the half human healer that was all the renegades had as a dedicated medic when theirs fled. “It won’t be good.”

 

“Can you stay with her?” Amelia asked slowly. “Brianna and I will need to help her, but… if she goes berserk, neither of us can stop her.”

 

“Doc, I hurt her once already.” Shame sounded in the old Marine’s voice as he looked down at Karen’s arm that had a temporary cast on it. “Didn’t mean to. It was instinct.” He carried her into Medical and was waved to a room by Brianna. He entered the room and saw restraints laid out on the bed. “Oh, hell no!” He said, stopping in mid stride.

 

“We can’t tend her if we are trying to keep her from hurting us.” Brianna’s voice was quiet from just behind him.

 

“And if she wakes up strapped down? Out of control again?” Miguel demanded. “You may be able to put her back together after, doc, but that is gonna be hard.” He shook his head. “If she wakes strapped down, it’s going to tear what little sanity she has left to shreds, doc.” He turned bleak eyes to her. “Trust me on that.”

 

“Miguel…” Brianna’s eyes were just as bleak. “We may not be able to help her.”

 

“Maybe you can’t.” Miguel said with a snarl. “I can.”

 

***

 

He knew when she woke. Despite being in the middle of a set of sit-ups, Miguel had kept most of his awareness on the bed that he had finally deposited Karen’s still form in. He did not miss the jerk and the suddenly open eyes. Or the confusion that came into them. He didn’t blame her. He hadn’t worn PT uniform in a long, long time. He was mildly surprised that the Tenno clothing fabricators had Marine uniform patterns, but then again, he knew that Cecelia in particular had dumped a lot of information into the systems. He had gone through his pushups and was in his third set of sit-ups when Karen gasped.

 

“Mornin’.” Miguel said as he sat up and paused. “Join me?”

 

“M…Miguel…?” Karen’s eyes flicked around wildly. She jerked from side to side, terror rising. Miguel nodded approval as she moved beyond it. “What happened?”

 

“I stunned you.” Miguel’s voice was flat. “You were losing it.”

 

“Yeah.” Karen swallowed hard. “I was… I did…” She pulled her knees up and hugged them tight. “I broke.” She was crying now and Miguel sighed.

 

“Yep, you did.” The Marine replied evenly. Karen’s head came up, her tear streaked eyes incredulous at his off handedness. “I ain’t saying that it is a good thing, cause it ain’t. If I find that lousy stinking Tenno, I am gonna whup her &amp;#&#33;.” His tone was matter of fact. He wasn’t making a threat. No, this was a promise.
 

“I’ll help.” Karen’s voice may have been small, but a smile crossed her face.

 

“That’s a girl.” Miguel said with a smile of his own. He beckoned to her. “Come on, some exercise will do you good.”

 

“But…” She paused, staring around. “Where are we? This isn’t Medical.”

 

“Too many Tenno in Medical.” Miguel said with a shrug. “You have had enough shocks for one day.”

 

“What?” Karen asked, then then blanched as memory returned. “Oh god no… Did I hit Amelia…?”

 

“Yeah.” Miguel said dryly. “Don’t hit people in the face unless you are wearing protection, girl.” Karen looked at him oddly and Miguel chuckled with no humor at all. “Teeth are sharp and the human mouth has lots of bacteria that just love open wounds.” He smiled at her expression as she stared from him to her hand, which was bandaged, and back. “You going to loaf all day? I don’t care, but I can’t leave you alone.” He started another set of sit-ups.

 

“Where are we?” Karen asked after a moment of watching him exercise.

 

“Guest quarters.” Miguel said with a grunt as he finished the set and sat up slowly. “Brianna and Amelia are monitoring, but everyone else is staying away. Karl’s orders.”

 

“What?” Karen asked weakly. “That isn’t procedure for a Tenno with sanity issues.”

 

“If you had woken strapped to the bed with Jimmy or Alicia bending over you, you would have lost it completely, Karen.” Miguel snarled. It was scary, but Karen…relaxed a bit. Somehow she knew he was protecting her. “I ain’t gonna let that happen. We got time.”

 

“I had a mission…” Karen said as she crumpled a bit.

 

“You are off the roster.” Miguel rose to stand by the bed with a sigh. “Sick leave.”

 

“I am not sick!” Karen protested.

 

“Yes, you are.” Miguel replied evenly. “May I?” He nodded to the bed and Karen waved a hand in assent. He sat down on one end, as far from her as he could be and still be on the bed. “If there is one thing I know about, Karen, it is being broken. Nicholas did the same thing to me.”

 

“He didn’t want to breed you…” Karen’s voice held hate now.

 

“You think that spared me their attention?” Miguel asked calmly although he was far from calm inside. She stared at him and he snarled. “Think about it. My team didn’t stop them, but we kept them from accomplishing their mission. I was handy. I was available. They didn’t do to me what they did to Olim, but…” He slumped a bit as Karen gasped in shock and fear. “They had all the time in the universe to abuse me. Abuse of POWs has been a time honored tradition amongst warriors since the dawn of human history. Why should Nicholas’ scum have been any different?” He fought to tamp down the hate in his voice. It was hard. “I spent as much time in Jimmy’s care as you did. So much easier to hurt someone who can’t fight back.”

 

“Not all Tenno are like that.” Karen said weakly.

 

“I know that.” Miguel shrugged. “Not all Marines were straight up paragons of virtue.” He chuckled. “Now that I think about it, none of the Marines I knew were paragons of anything. Except maybe drunken singing…”

 

“What were they like?” Karen’s voice was barely audible. “Your people?”

 

My people?” Miguel asked sadly. “Ah… My team was a group of five. Myself and four others. We ran one track.” At Karen’s perplexed look, he smiled. “One tank. We called them ‘tracks’ because they had tracks. Big mean clanky things with guns all over the place…Beautiful.” He could see Mean Streak in his mind’s eye now. “And good people to run them.”

 

“Tell me about them?” Karen asked. “What were their names?”

 

“Why do you want to know?” Miguel didn’t mind, per say. But the pain was still raw. Pain was a fact of life for a Marine though. You didn’t get through Boot Camp without learning to handle pain. And fear. And loss. And…

 

“I just realized, I don’t know anything at all about you.” Karen said with a wince. “Everything I thought I knew… wasn’t true.”

 

“I am still your friend, Karen.” Miguel laid a hand on the bed and after a moment, Karen covered it with hers. “I never lied to you… I just… I wasn’t proud of what happened.”

 

“I know.” Karen said with a sigh. “What were your crew’s names?”

 

“Carver, North, Nikols, and Jacques.” Miguel replied. “North drove us, the rest of us fought the track. It was my job to coordinate them and keep them alive. I failed.”

 

“You were overmatched.” Karen gave his hand a squeeze. “But if it is any consolation, they screamed about what you did.” She said with a smile.

 

“They did?” Miguel was amazed. He had never heard any of that.

 

“I was… a bit out of it.” Karen said with a sigh. “But I remember them bringing damaged warframes into Medical for Jimmy to patch up. They talked as if I wasn’t there.” Her smile became a grin. “You scared them, Miguel. You scared them good.”

 

“Well, yeah.” Miguel said with a grin of his own. “Deadliest weapon in existence during Orokin? A nineteen year old Marine with a lost temper. Sure in his immortality and madder than hell.” He sighed. “We did the job. As always. Semper Fi all the way.”

 

“Semper Fi?” Karen asked after a moment. “You said that before. What does that mean?” For a moment, Miguel stared at her, slack jawed and then he nodded.

 

“It’s a short form of ‘Semper Fidelis’. It’s Old Earth Latin.” Miguel said quietly. “It means ‘Always Faithful’ or ‘Always Loyal’ depending on who you have translate it. Same difference.”

 

“Always Faithful?” Karen asked slowly. “Yeah, yeah I can see that.” She slumped a bit. “What am I going to do?” She begged.

 

“I don’t know, Karen.” Miguel gave her hand anther squeeze. “If anyone had a right to fall apart, you did. I mean, fighting, maybe dying was my job. Not yours. We had our training and each other. You were not prepared for anything that happened to you.”

 

“But you didn’t die.” Karen said after a moment.

 

“And to this day, I have no idea why.” Miguel shook his head. “My hatch was closed. Locked. We didn’t want Tenno getting into the tracks, dropping a grenade in or just shooting in. Not a lot of space to fight inside one of those, you see. And…” He winced and Karen looked at him. “Bouncers in an enclosed area are no fun at all.”

 

“Ouch.” Karen agreed. “I guess not.” She shook herself. “Now what?”

 

“Now I finish my exercise.” Miguel said with a nod. “I have some stuff I need to do. That ignorant witch who used you had one thing right. I wasn’t acting like a Marine. That stops now.” His tone could have bent iron.

 

“I guess… I need to talk to the docs…” Karen’s voice was so sad. “I… I thought I was doing well.”

 

“You are doing well, Karen.” Miguel reassured her. He gave her hand another squeeze. “The things that were done to you would have cracked anybody. Anybody.”

 

“Not a Marine.” Karen said sadly, but paused as Miguel shook his head. “Wha-?”

 

“Marines were human, Karen.” Miguel said softly. “Humans are fragile and fallible. The training helps with both, but in the end, we were… just human.” He shook his head. “We did the job. Nicholas was bad enough. Nicholas with a store of nuclear warheads?” Karen paled and Miguel nodded. “We paid in blood for it, but we stopped him.”

 

“This may be selfish for me to say, Miguel…” Karen’s voice was quiet, but clear. “But I am glad you survived.”

 

“Me too.” Miguel cracked a grin as Karen chuckled. “Want to exercise a bit?”

 

“Sure. Sit-ups?” She asked as she rose, Miguel followed.

 

“Fine by me.” The Marine said as he sat, slid his ankles under the bed and started doing crunches. Karen sat down beside him and did the same. After a while, Karen spoke again.

 

“Miguel?” Karen sounded a bit timid. Miguel couldn’t really blame her.

 

“I don’t bite Karen.” Miguel chuckled at that. Not much anyway. “What’s on your mind?”

 

“Would I have made a good Marine?” Karen asked as she repeated the exercise.

 

“From what I have seen?” Miguel was smiling as he matched her speed. “A very good one.”

 

“Could I do that? Become a Marine?” Karen asked, and froze as Miguel did, halfway through a crunch. “Ah…”

 

“Karen…” Miguel sat up straight and looked at her. “Do you know what you are saying? You are Tenno.”

 

I don’t want to be Tenno!” Karen screamed and then recoiled. “I… No… I… I…” Miguel looked at her for a moment, then he crossed his legs and waved for her to come close. She went down to her hands and knees, more like a beaten dog than a Tenno as he reached out and pulled her onto his lap.

 

He held her as she started crying, shuddering on his lap. It was wrong for the old Marine to do this with what was really someone else’s daughter. It didn’t matter. He rocked her as she cried, humming an old, old tune to keep her as calm as he could. Finally, she relaxed and he sighed.

 

“Karen… You are Tenno.” Miguel said softly. She tensed again, but relaxed as he stroked her arm. “Nothing can change that. If this were the old days, sure, we could get you enlisted, send you off to Boot Camp and get you trained up. It isn’t. I am no Drill Instructor. I know the basics and I remember what was done to me, but… that is all.”

 

“I don’t know what to do.” Karen sobbed.

 

“For now?” Miguel said with a smile. “We get you put back together. I will look into options, but Karen…” He chided her gently. “You don’t do anything without Aeron and Jac’s approval, okay?”

 

“You think they will say ‘No’?” Karen asked, her eyes wary.

 

“I am afraid they will say ‘Yes’.”

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