GholaNamedHayt Posted July 13, 2014 Share Posted July 13, 2014 Part One "All servants have a place, a purpose, be it high or low. To know this purpose is his greatest joy, to excel at it and earn renown for it is his greatest pride, and the praise and approval of his master is his greatest reward." - The Orokin Antecedent, Anonymous The Void. It was always capitalized, always spoken in whispers full of both awe and fear. None knew quite how it had been shaped, whether it had been the Orokin who had done it, if it had simply always existed, or if it had been created by some far more ancient, far stranger, and far more powerful race. Naturally, being masters beyond reckoning at using every resource at their disposal, the Orokin had made fine use of it, building their towers there and much more. It was said that the Tenno had been born from the Void. Perhaps that was why Excalibur felt so very drawn to it, and yet so very afraid. It chilled him. Tenno were not supposed to feel fear, for they were the balance, acting without feeling or emotion, unswayed by the eternal tides of the psyche. And yet he, on some level, dreaded returning to that fell place. But it was necessary, and he was Tenno. He would not falter and he would not fail. Memories, crude and vague, like the worn and collapsed carvings on an ancient temple, gnawed at the back of his mind. Faces half-seen, voices half-heard. They were his, and yet not his. They had belonged to the Tenno he had been before darkness had consumed him for centuries untold and the great hibernation of biostasis had left him a blank slate. With practiced willpower, he pushed the muttering and whispers out of his mind. Footfalls sounded from the other side of the observatory behind them, and he could tell from their sound that they were forced. They are a polite gesture, for the one who made them naturally made no sound as he moved. It was a way of subtly announcing his presence. Slowly, Excalibur turned and looked across the slowly rotating holographic images of the Origin System to where Loki stood at the entrance, looking back at him. "Still ponderin' the stars?" Loki asked in his sing-song voice. "I have received word from the Lotus," Excalibur replied steadily. Loki cocked his head at this and combined with the already crouched way he carried himself he seemed very much an animal for a moment. "Bad news, then," Loki commented, with a jerking nod of his head, "Not that the Lotus ever calls up to ask how we're doin' and tell us everythin's goin' great in the universe." "You should not speak of the Lotus like that," Excalibur chastised, but he nodded his head all the same, "Very bad news. Assemble Avesta Cell." "Oh deary me," chortled Loki, and in a blink he was gone, nearly moving faster than Excalibur's trained eye could see. Quietly to himself, he wondered what would happen should he die. Not only was he the leader of Avesta Cell, but the de facto leader of all the Tenno, not counting the Lotus of course. Should he fall, Loki would take his place in both positions and Loki... Not even the hot-headed Valkyr could deny that Loki was the best at what he did. In fact, Loki seemed to love everything about it more than many deemed healthy. He could be a loose cannon, a trickster, and a troublemaker, and he never seemed to take things seriously. Could he lead the last vestiges of the Tenno? Excalibur did not know, but to replace Loki as his second would create undo strife and resentment among the Tenno and that had to be avoided at all costs. - Four figures stood around the center of the observatory, where the holoprojector lazily displayed planets, moons, asteroids and similar cosmic bodies serenely drifting through space. They all wore their warframe exo-armor, though they were unarmed for the moment. One of the figures stood tall and straight, another was lean and hunched. The third stood with her hip cocked to one side and a hand on it and the fourth towered above the rest, broad, like a stone golem. They were Avesta Cell, the best, and primarily the first, of the Tenno. None said anything, they simply stared at the holoprojector and waited. After a time is suddenly began to fizzle and the image they all knew so well, the earliest thing in any of their true memories, appeared and smiled at them, one after the other. "Greetings, Avesta Cell," the Lotus intoned cheerfully. They all inclined their heads towards the holoprojection. "You have performed previous missions within the confines of the Void, as I am sure you all know," she continued, "And are aware of the defenses built in to the various Orokin Towers. Recent investigations into the nature of these defenses indicate there is an intelligence behind them." "You mean... an Orokin survivor?" Mag gasped. The Lotus made a small motion with her head, similar to shaking it. "The nature of this intelligence is unknown, though it is believed to be artificial, or at least inorganic," she explained easily, "Though it hardly needs to be said that it surely has Orokin origins." "Well let me guess," chuckled Loki, "We get to go in, fight our way through a couple armies of mind controlled what have you's and do... stuff to the central core. Right?" "An overly simplistic description," the Lotus replied, perhaps the slightest hint of annoyance in her smooth cadence, "But ostensibly correct. Your mission is to upload a datamass to what has been dubbed the Neural Sentry, allow it to extract all the information it can, then make it to extraction with what we've learned." "With all due respect," Mag quipped, "This sounds like a big job, why only send one cell?" The Lotus' holographic image seemed to blink. "Any larger than normal force might alert the Neural Sentry to our intent and extra defenses may be activated. We cannot risk that," she explained coolly. Everyone exchanged glances, except of course Rhino. Just as he had been doing since even before the Lotus had appeared, he was simply staring straight ahead with his arms crossed over his chest. Finally, he broke the silence in his deep basso voice. "Right," he grunted, "Let's get going then." - Alone in her Liset, Mag paced back and forth across the decking. She had been to the Void many times before. In fact, technically speaking, through some marvel of technology the Lotus had not bothered to share, the interior of the Liset was in its own way a part of the Void. Yet something about the whole situation sat wrong with her, a sickly premonition that not all was as it seemed. In fact, the more she thought about it, the more she became convinced that the Lotus hadn't told them everything, that they were missing something important, something vital, something that might even mean the difference between life and death. At the same time, however, it had been the Lotus who had saved her from her eternal slumber in a cryopod. In some ways, the Lotus had even raised her. She had awoken with no memory, no knowledge, no sense of self. All she had had were her skills, abilities, and her warframe. Now she was so much more whole. She was an individual, not just a machine, not just a soldier or a weapon, but an individual, and not just any individual, she was a Tenno of Avesta Cell. As she paced, Herman, her Helios-class sentinel, buzzed along behind her, his servos whirring and lights blinking in concern. Mag could never be too sure just how smart the little drone was, but he seemed quite intelligent, at least in her eyes. Deciding to give the decking a rest, she sat down at the work station adjacent to her weapons locker and began stripping, cleaning, reassembling, and adjusting her twin viper pistols. After having done so three times, however, she realized she needed a bit of a better distraction to calm her nerves. - Rhino had long since lost track of just how many sets and reps he had done when the communications beacon near the front of his Liset began to chime and blink. He wandered over, breathing hard, and saw that the call was from Mag. He blinked and slowly activated the transceiver. "Rhino, it's Mag," came her hard-edged but upbeat voice. "I know that," Rhino rumbled, "It says so right on the display." "Yeah, I uh... sorry," Mag mumbled, "Listen, do you want to come over and spar for a bit? Get warmed up before the big mission?" Rhino didn't answer immediately. He was thinking. Sparring with Mag, or any of the other Tenno like her usually ended one of two ways. If they went hand-to-hand only, he would win in a matter of seconds, and then undoubtedly they would whine and make excuses. If they used their warframe and innate powers, he usually lost and then had to deal with the gloating. Normally he would have grunted and simply ended the transmission, but Mag was a friend, perhaps the only one he had, and something seemed to be troubling her. "Alright," he murmured, "But come to me. Your ship isn't equipped for sparring matches." And with that he cut the transmission. It was true what he had said. His personal Liset was designed, decorated, and modified for the sole purpose of training, either alone or with others. The other Tenno he knew liked to add cosmetic touches and other things, but not him. After only a few moments, as the four Liset had been flying in formation, Mag's vessel docked with his and she stepped in to the main room. As usual, her warframe was a muted blue, highlighted with soft purples and outlined in glowing cyan light. It was flowing, formfitting, and elegant, where as Rhino's, all a rusty brown, was purely utilitarian. He stood nearly two heads higher than her and likely weighed three to four times her weight, but he knew well from experience not to underestimate something just because it was smaller than him. In truth, it was usually such things that were by far the most dangerous. Herman, Mag's Helios-class sentinel floated in behind her and upon seeing Grim, Rhino's Dethcube-class sentinel, meandered over to him where the two drones began to circle each other, making a barely audible chittering noise, playfully swooping around, under, or over the other. By way of greeting, Mag crossed her forearms in front of her chest and long retractable claw blades deployed from her gauntlets. Rhino let out a low chuckle which seemed to reverberate around the small space. He lumbered over to a weapons rack secured to the wall and selected his massive Jat Kittag then gestured with it to an illuminated circle near the very center of the small craft's interior. "Any rules?" Mag asked confidently as she strode towards the small arena. "No contact of blade on body," Rhino intoned, as if he were well practiced in doing so, "You must stay within the ring or forfeit the match and..." He trailed off. "And?" Mag prodded him. Rhino shrugged. "Keep your power use to a minimum, but I will not tell you not to use your own gifts, for I shall certainly use mine," he explained. The two opponents squared off on opposite sides of the ring which, itself, was less than nine meters in diameter. Mag crouched low, adopting a balanced Malicious Raptor stance, her talons extended and fanned out before her. Rhino stood firmly, hammer held nearly behind him, pointing downwards in a classic Shattering Storm opening stance. Neither moved, they simply eyed each other, waiting for the other to move first. Suddenly, without warning, Rhino moved first. He was deceptively fast for his size, a blur of violent outburst aimed directly at Mag, but she was quicker. The smaller Tenno rolled to the side, feeling the impact of the heavy Grineer-make hammer crash into the decking where she had stood less than a second before, making her shields crackle from the shock wave. Not allowing Rhino a sense to recover, she repolarized her personal shields and watched in triumph as Rhino's crackled, fizzled, and died all together. Bellowing in rage, Rhino turned about to face his assailant, leaped slightly in the air, and came crashing down on one massive boot, the blow from which knocked Mag off her feet and sent her sliding across the ring. Without missing a beat, she retracted her claws and performed a backwards handspring, using the momentum to bring her back onto her feet. Already her claws he unsheathed themselves and she launched herself at Rhino, loosing a furious barrage of strikes at him. Many he managed to parry, but many more struck home, gouging and scoring his armor plating. Suddenly, the butt of Rhino's Jat Kittag came up and impacted her hard in the abdomen. She let out a small cry as she was flung across the arena. Mag turned and flipped in the air, but the outer border seemed to be coming on too fast. Finally the very tips of her toes touched the solid decking and she looked down to see that she was perched less than a centimeter from the outer ring. Slowly she looked up at Rhino and they both stared at each other for a moment before suddenly erupting into such hearty laughter they both nearly doubled over. Then the communications terminal chimed and Excalibur's voice came over the built in speakers. "We're approaching the breaching point, please all return to your respective craft and prepare for void breach in five minutes," he announced, and with that the communications cut out. Mag and Rhino shared a somber glance, then wordlessly parted ways. It was no longer the time for play, it was the time for war. 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