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[Fanfiction] Children


Kalenath
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I'm sorry, did Nikis just go full-on cowboy and tear through an army with a Tigris and a Magnus?

 

Indeed he did. DO NOT break Nikis' toys.

 

As for Horatius' parentage? Tomorrow.

 

 

And people WONDERED why Nikis was involved? Or so angry?

 

He has CAUSE.

 

Edited by Kalenath
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Not the end

 

Horatius woke, aware of several things. He was lying on something soft. He was not bound. Nothing hurt. He cracked his eyes and froze. His helmet was gone. His eyes flicked her ad there. The room was... It looked... odd. Archaic, but fully functional. He didn't know this style, did he? He went still as a hologram appeared nearby. The human woman had been crying, but now she saw him and smiled.

 

"Good morning." The woman said in a soft and kind voice. "How do you feel?"

 

"I am... okay." Horatius said slowly. "I feel... okay?" It was half statement, half query. "What happened?"

 

"The MOA you called Susan died, her systems failed." The woman said sadly. "But before they failed completely, the Tenno did as your plan had specified. They destroyed the AI. There was a problem though. Without guidance, the tower systems would fail, swiftly and spectacularly. The tower would implode. Your plan always called for Susan to do what she did. You had hoped to explain to her, get her cooperation. We did that. You showed her what true courage was. How could she do anything less?"

 

"Susan died?" Horatius wasn't that surprised. The MOA had been hit hard. He had...missed a step. He hadn't wanted to shoot Simon and it had cost them all.

 

"Her MOA form did." The woman said quietly. "But she is not gone."

 

"I do not understand." Horatius said weakly.

 

"I know." The other said softly. "Tower? Status?" She inquired.

 

-Tower systems online, Lady Kalina.- The voice was familiar. Susan! But... not. -Shift completed. All systems operational.-

 

"Susan?" Horatius felt faint. "She... She is the Tower? But... it was mad..."

 

-The being you knew as Susan is no more.- Was the tower sounding...kind? -But she is remembered. Her memories are part of us. We... remember. We will aid.- Horatius sat, stunned and the tower intercom clicked off.

 

"If the Tower had failed, if nothing had taken the place of the neural sentry..." The woman -Kalina?- said sadly. "It would have self destructed. That was the original plan. Your team hits the facility, gets the non-combatants out, then the Tenno hit the tower and blow it to hell. Then you found out about the MOA..." She bowed her head. "Poor girl."

 

"Yeah." Horatius still didn't understand this. Not at all. "How can you say it was my plan? I don't remember any of this."

 

"You were captured by Orokin Marines on Mars." Kalina said kindly. "They took you back to their base and interrogated you. In the course of that interrogation... you were given information that shifted your worldview significantly." Horatius was shaking his head. "They wanted you to stay. You refused. You said that if Bek was doing the horror again, it had to be stopped. But there was a problem."

 

"So many backups of the pertinent data." Horatius said slowly. "Even a C&C MOA despite the best efforts of the Clergy."

 

"For what it is worth..." Kalina said with a sigh. "They had to reengineer everything. Start from scratch. If they do it again, they will have to do it all over again. And even if they do? It won't help."

 

"The tower said 'shift'..." Horatius said slowly. "You moved the entrance, didn't you?" Kalina smiled and nodded. "You... That whole mess... to move the entrance?"

 

"No." Kalina said softly. "That whole mess to destroy the insane neural sentry, put in a new artificial intelligence -one that will be monitored and aided in every way-, get the non-combatants out of the way, and deny Bek the means of ever doing this again. He may be able to make more Command and Control MOAs. He cannot access the Tower. And if he does make more C&C MOAs? The Clergy and the Special Forces, let alone the Tenno... will not be happy."

 

"Oh." Horatius said slowly. "I see."

 

"You are very good." Kalina said with a fond smile. "You were given access to every scrap of intel available and you came up with the plan in a matter of hours." Horatius shifted uncomfortably.

 

"It is what I do." Horatius said with a grunt. "So... now what?"

 

"The plan stated you and any survivors of your team would return to the Corpus." Kalina said quietly. "Bek will not be happy."

 

"Bek can go... fondle himself." Horatius corrected himself in mid-sentence. "Pardon, Ma'am."

 

"Oh I agree." The transparent woman said with a chuckle. "He will suspect, but there is no evidence. He will plot. He will plan. But in the end? He cannot outthink the Reverend Mother and Special Forces are too useful to the Board to simply downsize." Her smile turned vicious. "Mission accomplished and you were never there. Well done soldier."

 

"Thank you." Horatius said with a nod. "So... now what? Obmar and I... are we prisoners?"

 

"No." Kalina said with a shrug. "Guests. Not prisoners. Your compatriot was hurt. So were you." Horatius jerked. "You never felt it. The augmentation kept your pain at bay. Then the neural trauma from the portal. Humans... do not react well to shifts in reality. But you were protected. You are alive and sane. Both of you have healed."

 

"I..." Horatius swallowed and stared down at himself. He wore some kind of golden hospital type gown. Then he shook his head. "Who are you?"

 

"I..." The woman seemed to wilt. "Your earliest memories. Your father and your mother... the teaching, training." Horatius stilled but then nodded. They had interrogated him. They likely knew everything he did. "They are false."

 

"False?" Horatius demanded, sitting up. The gown... did not cover him much. "What do you mean?"

 

"I am not saying that what the Clergy did was wrong." Kalina said softly. "They gave you a life. They took you in, made you welcome. Gave you a home and something to believe in." She shrugged. "There are worse things to believe in than the survival of humanity."

 

"Okay." Horatius said slowly. "My memories have been edited... I get that. I have had it done before."

 

"Many times." Kalina said sadly. "We didn't know, Horatius. None of us knew. You have to believe that. If you believe nothing else we say, please believe that. We didn't know. We wouldn't have left you. Nikis at his worst wouldn't have left you if he had known!" She was crying now.

 

"Left me where?" Horatius asked, stunned.

 

He went still as two more forms appeared nearby. More holograms, a sad faced human woman whose visible body was covered in burn dressings and a... no, this man wasn't human. He looked human, but his eyes... they were old. Old and scary. The burnt woman took the crying human in her arms and held her tight. Her eyes were alight with compassion and sorrow as she gazed from the not-quite-human beside her to Horatius.

 

"My name is Nikis." The newcomer said quietly. It was the voice from the Nekros. But... not as insane. Calmer, sadder. "As you have no doubt guessed, I am Tenno."

 

"You made a hell of an impression." Horatius said with a gulp. "You and that monster gun of yours."

 

"Man's gotta have a hobby." Nikis said with a shrug. "Mine is things that go 'boom'." The woman holding Kalina made a sour noise and he smiled at her fondly. "You hush." But it was joking. Not scary.

 

"From your words... we are related." Horatius said slowly. "But that is impossible if you are Tenno."

 

"Not impossible." Nikis said with a deep sigh. "Just improbably hard." He shook himself. "This story starts about hundred years before the Collapse. Kalina here had vanished. I went looking for her." Horatius did not move, didn't dare speak. The Tenno nodded slowly. "I found her. But...the insane scientists who had her... They trapped me. They were trying to clone Tenno. It didn't work. None of the clones they made were infected. Or they were completely infected. Not the middle ground that Tenno were and are."

 

"I was... lost." Kalina spoke through her tears. "I... was so lost. I didn't know what was happening. It was all gray."

 

"You were brain dead, Kalina." The other woman said with a sigh. Horatius stared at her and then nodded. "Yes. Like Lis F-43 was."

 

"She got better?" Horatius wasn't sure about this at all.

 

"No." Kalina said sadly. "Nikis freed me."

 

"I killed her." Nikis corrected the other sadly. Horatius went still and Nikis nodded. "I was... upset. The insane scientists had mutilated her. Worse than what the facility staff did to the girl you called Susan. I tried to save her and I couldn't."

 

"You freed me." Kalina said sharply. "Stop beating yourself up, or I will get Janet to beat you. Clear?" Despite everything, Horatius had to smile at the comical look of fear that crossed the man's face. Kalina smiled at him, but then that smile fell. "The thing is... they did succeed. But only once. There were lots of what they called failures. Clones who were completely infected, clones whose growth was stunted..." Horatius inhaled, remembering the tiny warframes and Kalina nodded. "Or..." She took a deep breath. "Clones that were full human." Horatius felt himself still. "We... I..." Kalina broke off, overcome and Nikis nodded.

 

"We thought they had destroyed all of their 'failures'." Nikis said quietly. "We were wrong. No one knew until the people who had you did a series of gene scans. What they found..." He shook his head. "I am not... a good man, Horatius."

 

"Neither am I." The Special Forces soldier said automatically. "So..."

 

"Best we can determine..." Nikis said softly. "A Clergy team was excavating some ruins and found a vault filled with broken Orokin tech. They also found one working piece of Orokin tech. A tiny stasis module with an embryo in it. The systems were failing. By some miracle, one of the techs was compatible. She took you into herself. But when she returned to the Corpus... they... They removed the embryo and mindwiped her to forget. Her whole team... to forget.."

 

"How do you know this?" Horatius was begging.

 

"Because I told him." Horatius went totally still as a holo of the Reverend Mother of the Corpus Clergy appeared beside the trio. "The two people who raised you... my predecessor had them programmed to raise you. I think what she did was wrong. But that is neither here nor there. She did it. We raised you. You turned out marvelous. But..." She slumped. "It isn't your fault, Horatius. It never was."

 

"So the reason I was always sterile..." Horatius said to no one and everyone. He had always said it was injuries. It hadn't been. He simply... hadn't been capable.

 

"Was because you were...made." Kalina agreed. "Made and then thrown away as useless. Miserable benighted Orokin fools!" She said angrily. The other woman hugged her tight as Kalina cried. "I am sorry, Horatius. I am so, so sorry."

 

"Not your fault... Mother..." Horatius said slowly, Kalina gave a small noise of grief and he shook his head. "Not your fault." He said to Nikis.

 

"Maybe not." Nikis said heavily. "But that does leave us with a quandary. You have chosen a dangerous life. A very dangerous path. I know war, Horatius. I have seen it. For a long, long time, I have seen wars come and go. I have fought in more wars than I want to remember. Killed more people than anyone should ever have to. It was needed, so I did it."

 

"I know the feeling." Horatius said softly. "I want humanity to survive. I always have."

 

"I know." The Reverend Mother said with small, sad smile. "Whatever you choose, dear boy... You have a home. Mercedes would love to see you. So would I." She bowed her head and vanished.

 

"She... knows?" Horatius said slowly. He stared at the human looking Tenno and then around, The room was golds and whites. Orokin. "I am in... the tower... and she knows..."

 

"She knows a lot." Nikis said quietly. "Not everything. No one knows everything. But she does have a point. I don't like her or trust her. But she does want humanity to survive. That is her goal. A noble one."

 

"She is pragmatism personified." Horatius said firmly. "If she can find  way to use this... this..." He waved a slow hand to encompass the room. "This miracle..."

 

"No miracle." Nikis said quietly. "Just old fashioned guts and stubbornness." He snorted with dark humor. "And a well apportioned dose of high velocity lead." He sighed. "I am no good with this mushy stuff. Whatever you choose is your choice. None of us have the right to dictate to you what to do." He bowed his head to Horatius and vanished. The woman who had come in with him nodded to Horatius and vanished as well.

 

"So... what do I do?" Horatius had never thought to hear his voice so small, so timid.

 

"Ah boy..." Kalina moved to sit on the bed beside him. He tried to touch her hand but his went right through hers. "I am not really here." She said sadly. "I want to embrace you. To make it all better. And I can't. All I can do is be here at times. Not often." She slumped. "Not nearly often enough."

 

"I..." Horatius shook himself and focused. "What are my options?"

 

"Option one? Keep working for the Corpus." Kalina said quietly. "You will wake up on your ship with the survivors and the non-combatants you escaped with. None of you will remember what happened no matter how hard the Board or anyone else tries to make you remember."

 

"I don't like the Corpus." Horatius said weakly. "Not even the Clergy. I do the job... but..."

 

"I know." Kalina said quietly. "Option two? You, the survivors of your team and the non-combatants you took disappear. Simply vanish and are never seen again. We will find something for you to do. I hear the Marines are looking for recruits." Horatius had to laugh at the dry humor in her voice.

 

"Would they take me?" Horatius asked, caught between worry and humor.

 

"Oh yeah." Kalina said with a smirk. "Someone... I have no idea who... provided them with the holos of what you did to recue Mercedes. They... acted nonchalant. But I could tell they were impressed. Someone called it a 'Space Jam' assault. Something about jumping impossible distances. I think." She sounded a bit dubious.

 

"Cass, Violet, Obmar?" Horatius said softly.

 

"We would find things for them to do as well." Kalina promised. "But probably non-combat. The brainwashing runs deep in most. We can undo it. But it takes time. You and Obmar are just about free. Ona is thorough."

 

"She seemed a good sort." Horatius said quietly, his mind whirring. "That seems a waste of your time and our talents."

 

"I was afraid you would say that." Kalina said quietly. Horatius looked at her. "I don't want this. I don't. You have suffered enough!" Horatius just looked at her and she sighed. "All right... option three..."

 

Horatius froze as two holos appeared in the middle of the room. One he knew., The Reverend Mother looked just about in tears. The other? He couldn't see most of her face. But he knew who she was. What she was.

 

"The Lotus...?" Horatius said, dumbfounded. "You... and her..." He stared from the Reverend Mother to the Lotus and back.

 

"We are allies, Horatius." The Reverend Mother said softly. "Uncomfortable allies, but allies. We were not always such. Once I hated her as much as any brainwashed worker does. But the more I dug, the more I learned... The more I feared. The more I realized... My duty is to humanity, Horatius. We need her. She needs us. She needs agents inside the highest echelons of the Board. The Board may say they are neutral, but we both know they are not. Profits mean nothing if everyone dies, but many are blinded by their greed. Not all. But enough."

 

"Too many." Horatius agreed, remembering Mike O-12. "So... what would I do?"

 

What you have been. The voice of the Lotus was odd, but calm and gentle. Protect humanity, serve the Clergy and the Board. You may be called on to take... other missions that seem odd. But that is nothing new for you, is it? Was she joking?

 

"No." Horatius said with a sigh.

 

"Special Forces have been a thorn in the side of the Board." The Reverend Mother said softly. "But they are very useful. They will continue to be. And now? If you wish... We can all be useful."

 

"You are asking me to lie to my people." Horatius said slowly. "I can't do that."

 

No, we are not. The Lotus said quietly. We are asking you to tell them the truth. Horatius went still. Just the thought was preposterous. Wasn't it? To find them. To train them. To use them. To lead them. Not to serve the Board. To serve humanity.

 

"Just like that?" Horatius couldn't keep the scorn out of his voice and truth be told, he didn't try hard.

 

"It won't be easy, Horatius." The Reverend Mother said calmly. "But you don't like easy, remember?"

 

"Before this... yes." Horatius said quietly. "Now? I don't know."

 

You have time. The Lotus' voice was still that soft and gentle thing. If anyone has earned a vacation, your team has. The Reverend Mother nodded. You and your team may leave that tower when you or they wish. They will not remember what happened. The others... we will have to find a place for them. They cannot resurface or...

 

"Bek will kill them." Horatius finished the thought. "Doesn't matter if they are innocent or not. They were involved in something that blew up in his face. Literally. He will want to make examples of them." He sighed. "I need some time."

 

"We will give you time." The Reverend Mother promised. The Lotus nodded and both vanished.

 

"I..." Horatius slumped on the bed. "I don't know what to do..."

 

"There is another thing." The shade of his mother said gently. Horatius stiffened, but Kalina smiled. "Not bad this time. You know all those scans that the ones who took you did? They determined the cause for your sterility."

 

"They can cure it."

 

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Awww.  Sweet ending, Kal.  Not sure if it's a proper ending, but still, sweet.

 

And I see our merry coalition of interest-aligned badasses has a new member.  I would say that nothing short of a Sentient invasion can stop them now, but...

 

Yeah, that would just be begging for trouble.

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Awww.  Sweet ending, Kal.  Not sure if it's a proper ending, but still, sweet.

 

And I see our merry coalition of interest-aligned badasses has a new member.  I would say that nothing short of a Sentient invasion can stop them now, but...

 

Yeah, that would just be begging for trouble.

 

Oh, it's not -quite- over yet.

 

Just a FEW loose ends left to tie up.

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Ohoho.......crouching tiger, don't hide that rising dragon! 

 

 

 

 

 

Oh S#&$, he's gonna kill me

 

No... Horatius won't. He is too busy coming to grips with this.

 

Now... Kalina, Nikis and MERCEDES... they might...

Edited by Kalenath
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Mercedes? Is she a badass too?

 

Not Tenno or Special Forces level. But you disrespect the man she loves? You better RUN.

 

 

You DO NOT get to be a Corpus Executive's main assistant/partner by being NICE.

 

She is:

 

Kind. Yes. Gentle. Yes.

 

NICE to people who hurt her loved ones? Not so much.

 

 

LOTS of contacts, LOTS of money. LOTS of people who WOULD do virtually ANYTHING she asks BECAUSE she is nice most of the time. You do the math.

 

Not PERSONALLY a badass. She doesn't NEED to be.

 

 

Edited by Kalenath
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Back to work. Sort of.

 

"You know..." Violet actually sounded... happy for once. A first in Horatius' experience. "Part of me still wants to stick a fork in you."

 

"And the rest of you?" Horatius asked from where he sat, reading. The Tower had an incredible collection of media files of many kinds. Most history that Horatius had never heard of. This... George S. Patton guy he was reading about might have given a Grineer pause at times. Then again, the situation had been grim. He looked up from the book expectantly as Violet made a sour noise.

 

"Rest of me aches too much." Violet said, poking at the organic bandages on her side and leg. "This stuff is... odd. It should itch. Hurt... or something. Just an ache now."

 

"Would be inefficient." Cass was in heaven. Or as close to it as he was likely to get before dying anyway. He was literally inside a functional Orokin tower. This was any Corpus Tech's wet dream. He had a schematic in front of him. Some kind of power system. Horatius hadn't asked.

 

"You poke that and the doc will get annoyed again." Horatius said with a smile. Violet just sniffed, but it hadn't been a laughing matter when she had been evacuated from the ship that had arrived at the tower. Somehow. Horatius...hadn't asked how. Or why Cass had been unconscious at the time. From what the docs said, it had been touch and go. But she was on the mend, if a long way from recovered. "Listen to the docs, Violet. They don't have to be polite."

 

Obmar just shook his head from where he sat. He was doing something that looked remarkably like building a structure. But with some kind of thin things that looked like they were made of paper. Real honest to god wood pulp paper. They had some kind of pictures on them, but Horatius hadn't looked close.

 

They had...taken this better than he had expected. Waking in the tower had been a hell of a shock for Horatius. What had come after... He hadn't told them that. None of them had asked. Violet's injuries had been tended by a team of medics who had appeared out of nowhere and vanished just as  quickly. Violet had gotten up as soon as she had woken and the docs had been... a little irate. None of the team could miss the Orokin drone that hovered nearby, but... it didn't do anything. Just watched. All of them were creeped out by it, but the Tower systems had spoken, calmed everyone down and everything was still calm. For now.

 

"What is going on, Boss?" Violet said quietly, sinking back to her reclining position. The docs had wanted her in a bed, but she had flatly refused to stay down, so she was lying on her uninjured side on a couch of some kind. If it was anything like the chair Horatius was sitting it, it was firm but very comfortable. Cass sat in one of his own. Obmar was on the floor. "Obviously we are in a Tower and the AI..." She shook her head.

 

"The insane AI was destroyed and replaced." Horatius said quietly. "Susan's body failed. They took her mind and... somehow made a new AI for the tower from it." He shrugged and a twinge of pain lanced through his left shoulder. He couldn't see any remains of the injury he had taken. Apparently, he had been hit and only in books or bad entertainment holos did a shoulder wound do no damage. "Obmar and I carried the MOA through the portal. There were...some odd things."

 

"Considering what we know of Void energy, Boss." Cass had no humor in his voice now. "I am surprised you are sane." He paused. "Well, as sane as you ever get."

 

"Me too." Horatius agreed. "But we are. And... Now we have a choice." All three of the others looked at him. "The others can't go back. If they do, Bek will punish them. Likely downsize them. But we were never there."

 

"Boss, those Board members know we were there." Violet protested.

 

"Do they?" Obmar asked into the silence that fell. "And even if they do... Will they tell Bek?"

 

"We have to make the assumption that sooner or later it will be profitable for them to tell Bek." Horatius said with a sigh. "But..." He paused. "Tower?"

 

-Yes, Commander Horatius?- The tower replied. None of the other three jumped. This time.

 

"Have you gone over the data?" Horatius asked. The others looked at him and Horatius shrugged. "I asked the Tower to look over every scrap of data that Cass snagged. Not that you were supposed to steal anything."

 

Cass looked innocent, but Horatius wasn't fooled. Abigail might be an innocent who was forced to enter a life of crime to pay a debt. Cass had been a computer criminal willingly. For the fun of it. But he had made the mistake of hacking a Special Forces server. One clandestine snatch later, he had been given a choice. Work for Special Forces or die. He had chosen life. And truth be told? He hadn't looked back. Much.

 

-The facility was not operating under the orders of Board Member Frohd Bek.- The Tower replied. -An Underexecutive named Clem found the records and started the madness again. According to available source as, Board Member Bek is... unhappy with Underexecutive Clem, who has fled.-

 

"Another renegade..." Violet said with a snarl. "Just what we needed."

 

"Well..." Horatius said with a sigh.

 

"Don't say it!" Vioelt snapped and tried to sit up. She hissed and the drone hovered closer. "Shoo!" She waved at the thing and it backed off a bit. "I get that it is a medical drone, but it creeps me out!"

 

"Ma'am." Horatius went still as the head doctor from before stepped into view, his face stern. "We let you out of the bed with your promise that you would rest. You are not resting."

 

"I..." Violet sighed and slumped back to the couch. "Fine." She said sourly as she lay back. "There." She snapped. "Happy?"

 

"No." The doc said in a matching tone. "But this is about as good as I am likely to get with you crazy Special Forces people." Horatius bit back a chuckle. From their expressions, Obmar and Cass both wanted to laugh, but knew what Violet would do if they did. It wouldn't end well. "The drone has medical sensors and monitors only. If you break it, you will pay for it. Clear?"

 

"Clear." Violet said with sigh. "Bunch of fracking tyrants..."

 

"Wait until you meet your therapist." The doc said with a smile, then he was gone.

 

"I can't wait." Violet said sourly. Then...everything stopped as a door opened nearby and a woman stepped out into view, a small form in her hands. Horatius went still. He knew both of them! Violet and the others froze. Violet finally managed to find her tongue. "Lacey?"

 

"You always were impatient, Violet." Lacey, the former team sniper, said quietly. She had the tiny form cradled in her arms. "Really guys..." Lacey said as she moved to the couch and sat down beside Violet. "You look like you have seen a ghost." She said with a smile.

 

"We... we thought you died..." Horatius said slowly. "I... they took... your body... I..."

 

"I wasn't quite dead, boss." Lacey said quietly. "Close, but not quite. But Boss... I can't go back. They had to take out my augmentation to save my life. I..." She bowed her head.

 

"Lacey..." Violet held out  a hand that the other woman took. "And who is this? Wait..." Horatius smiled as he saw the face. The arm...was a golden prosthesis.

 

"You knew him as Mike O-12." Lacey said quietly. "I just call him 'Mikey'." The other Special Forces soldiers rose and stepped close. "He has a long way to go to recover, but I will help him get there." Her face was tender as she held the tiny boy close and rocked him. He smiled in his sleep. "They have asked me to be a liaison of sorts. I didn't think it was a good idea. But she won me over. They all did."

 

"Who?" Violet asked.

 

"Her name is Eliza, but... For now, her role and location must remain secret." Lacey said quietly. "I will stay here. In the tower. I don't want to fight anymore. This one needs me. The others... need me."

 

"I see." Horatius said quietly. "So..." Violet, Cass and Obmar all looked at him. "That explanation... It started on Mars..."

 

***

 

When Horatius finished there was dead silence. Lacy sat, her adopted son in her arms. Violet looked poleaxed. Cass was muttering something under his breath. Obmar...was just still. Horatius looked at the former Prodman and Obmar shrugged.

 

"I didn't want to fight that Nekros even without that BFG of his." The normally stoic and stern Prodman said calmly. "But if he actually is your dad? No way in hell."

 

"I can't interpret genetic scans." Horatius said quietly. "Wouldn't know where to start." Lacy made a soft noise and Horatius turned to her. "Yes?"

 

"Not a major skill set for me either." Lacy said with a nod. "But... I do know how to interpret scanners. They showed me everything they had. Every reading. They were pretty persuasive. They showed me every trace of data. Every scan. Nothing was faked, Boss. I know the signs. There were not any. You are not Tenno, but you are related to one, Boss."

 

"Am I still your boss?" Horatius asked, and he was stunned when a tear fell from Lacey's eye. "Lacy?"

 

"You found me, a broken beaten wreck after the executives men had worked me over. They broke my legs and left me for a bit. They said they were going to have their way with me and then kill me when they returned." Lacy said softly. "I was in your way. I messed up your mission." Horatius shrugged. "No." Lacy said fiercely but quietly to keep from disturbing the tiny bundle in her arms. "You saved me. You took me somewhere safe. Got me healed. Gave me a place. Taught me how to fight, and when to. How to think, not just obey. You will always be 'Boss' to me, Commander Horatius. Always."

 

"Mission was stupid." Horatius said quietly, reaching out to take her hand. "You were a godsend, Lacy. We always need more techs." Lacey started to cry and Violet took the boy from her as Horatius moved to the couch.

 

"You knew I was a plant." Lacey said, tears falling like rain. Horatius nodded. "You didn't care. You knew and took me in anyway. You knew they would try to get info on you through me. I..." She slumped. "I had no idea what family was. You covered for me, gave me a new home. A real one. A chance to be me instead of a liar and a thief."

 

"I have done some really dirty jobs, Lacey." Horatius said quietly. "I had to kill Jack..." He paused as Lacey shook her head. "What?"

 

"He was already dead, Boss." Lacey said quietly. "His heart was still going, but his brain was pulp. You know what he would have said. 'Mission first'." All four of the others nodded. "You accomplished the mission." She sighed and took Mikey back from Violet as the boy woke and gave a soft cry. He quieted in Lacey's arms. "I have to stay here. But the others... Some of them have dependents."

 

"Then we pull them out." Cass said with a nod. Horatius looked at him and Cass smiled wryly. "You know you will. Come on..." He held out  a fist. Lacy placed hers on top of his. Violet laid hers on top of Lacy's. Obmar put his on. Horatius sighed and then, smiled wryly and gave in to the inevitable.

 

"For humanity." The Commander o Corpus Special Forces said quietly as he put his own fist over everyone else's. "But... everyone here has a vacation coming." The others looked at him and he smirked. "Violet has to recover. Cass is in hog heaven. Obmar and I... we need to think on how to extract some people from Bek's dormitories. But it can be done." He paused as Obmar shook his head. "What?"

 

"You need a vacation too." Obmar said with a smirk. Horatius paused and then stared at his hand. At the drug patch on his hand. "I will handle it."

 

"You... sneaky..." Horatius felt several sets of hands on him as he fell.

 

"Well, duh." Obmar said with a snort. "Trained by the best. We got this, Boss. Have a good vacation."

 

Horatius was cursing as music soared up to greet him. He couldn't fight this. He tried, but it was too strong and... It soothed him into sleep.

 

***

 

"Easy." The voice was familiar. Horatius woke to find himself lying on grass. He knew where he was instantly. The Reverend Mother sat beside him and she smiled at his expression. "What is with the fork?" She asked, nodding to the side.

 

Horatius turned his head and saw a small utensil sitting beside him on a blanket. He wore his spacesuit, but no helmet and no weapons. Of course not. No weapons were allowed it the breeding colony. Anyone who tried to bring them in was killed on sight. Even his augmentation was deactivated when he returned. He was still dangerous, no question. But he was a well trained and highly disciplined instrument of death and destruction.

 

"A promise." Horatius said with a shrug. Then he shook his head as he glanced around.

 

As he expected, he lay on the portal platform of the breeding colony he had called home for the first seventeen years of his life. Then he had been called back occasionally to... help girls in their transition to women. It had... been good. But... it had never lasted. They had lives of their own. He... was a soldier. They had loves, families, duties. He had his own duty. He paused. He felt... different.

 

The old woman smiled and held out a note to him. On it in ancient flowing writing were three words.

 

'They cured it'

 

Horatius felt his world suddenly start to turn in circles and the Reverend Mother took his hand in hers.

 

"It has been far too long, my dear Horatius." The old woman sounded one step from tears. "I had despaired." He reached out and took her head.

 

They said yes. Horatius sent to the old woman. She was far too well trained to react. But a feeling of exultant joy flowed through her. Obmar is going after the dependants, he will need backup and...

 

Shut it. The old woman said sternly, but there was a twinkle in her eye as she spoke aloud. "Someone is waiting for you. Bay three. Room fifty seven. And no, you are now on vacation."

 

"Reverend Mother..." Horatius said with a sigh, but then gave up. The old woman could probably outstubborn anyone. Maybe not a Tenno, but anyone else. He sat up carefully, but everything worked. The Reverend Mother held his hand as he rose slowly to his feet. "You are my escort?"

 

"I don't want you mobbed." The old woman said with no trace in her voice of the slyness that sang in her mental tone. Horatius slumped and started off, the old woman keeping up despite her apparent age. "As soon as the girls realize who you are... you will be mobbed. You have...a bit of a following."

 

"Reverend Mother..." Horatius said weakly as she led him into a housing complex. "I am just a soldier."

 

"Maybe." The old woman said with an enigmatic smile.

 

"What have you done?" Horatius asked, coming to a sudden stop.

 

"Horatius..." The old woman said carefully. "You are always kind, gentle and considerate. You think of the girls first. How many other men do you know who think of the girls first?"

 

"A couple..." Horatius temporized, unsure of where this was going.

 

"Everyone was scared of the mechanical systems, Horatius." The old woman said quietly. "All of the mothers to be wanted it natural and we couldn't handle the load. Security was going bonkers trying to vet enough men. It wasn't going to happen. We had to use the automated systems. So... On the recommendation of several people... we made some changes."

 

"What kinds of changes?" Horatius demanded, then he froze as a vision in white stepped out of the elevator and moved towards him. "I... Mercedes...?"

 

The executive assistant looked nothing like her usual self as she sauntered -there was really no other word for it- up to him. The gown covered her. Sort of. It... covered her enough for modesty purposes. Mostly. As long as she wasn't moving. Which she was...

 

"What did they do?" Mercedes asked in a soft tone as she pulled him close. "They made cheap copies." The Reverend Mother smiled, turned and left as Mercedes pulled Horatius unresisting form into the elevator. "You know the docs have done a lot of scans of you, right?" She keyed the elevator as Horatius hissed.

 

"They put fake bits on the pro-...?" He trailed off as Mercedes shook her head. "What then?"

 

"The machinery is now set to be soothing. To be gentle. To be... kind." Mercedes said softly as the elevator stopped. A pair of women, one pregnant and one not, stared at the pair. Both smiled and moved to the side as Mercedes half dragged the unresisting soldier out of the elevator. "They used a specific voice. Specific inputs. I was... consulted. I was ambivalent at first. But..." Her smile became a leer as she keyed a door open to show a small room. "They get the copies. I get the original. And... they told me... This will be our child, Commander Horatius." She pulled her lover close as he started to cry.

 

"Vina wants a girl. I don't care." Mercedes said as she turned him to the bed and sat him down. "I have everything I want. Everything."

 

Then she kissed him.

 

***

 

Well... that is that. The Lotus cut the feed. But what is...? She paused and then sighed. Oh.

 

"Bad idea girl."

 

The female voice came from nowhere and Abigail jerked from what she was doing. She had finished her normal daytime training cycle and was working on a special side project. She hadn't initially meant to hack that file, but Cass was an artist. His files were locked up tight.  A definite challenge. But now her entire system had frozen! But... not Security. Just a black screen.

 

"Who are you?" Abigal snapped. "I just wanted to pay that scum back! For the poor girl they turned into a MOA."

 

"Oh he will pay, but... you are leaving tracks." The voice said with a sigh. "An immediate giveaway. It is already done."

 

"I just want to see his face when he opens it." Abigail said sharply. "That girl didn't deserve that."

 

"Is that all?" The other asked. "Okay."

 

A line of code appeared on her monitor and she paused before clicking it. Her eyes went huge as her monitor reconfigured all by itself. She saw two figures in Executive garb. One wasn't familiar. Every Corpus employee knew the other.

 

"And what is the meaning of this?" Alad V demanded as the other cringed. "This...filth?" A holo appeared above his head. A female human in white. In chains. Blindfolded and gagged. Violet in her...disguise. "Twenty exobytes of this? This one image?"

 

"It was the C&C MOA file!" The other said desperately. "I can get it! I can!"

 

"Guards, take this fool out and dispose of him. Preferably out an airlock so his filth does not spread on... What?" Alad V demanded as every wall screen suddenly showed the same image! "A virus! You... You infected my ship with a virus! Get him out of here! And clean the systems! Now!"

 

Abigail stared as the screen went blank again. "Ummm..."

 

"You better clear your tracks before that image hits the net. Which it will. Humans are still human after all." The voice said quietly. "Because when Operative Violet find out...there will be hell to pay."

 

"Oh dear." Abigail was hitting keys fast and furiously as the Lotus cut the connection. The AI who had once been human chuckled.

 

Kids...

 

***

 

"CAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAASSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSS!"

 

Edited by Kalenath
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That ending is beautiful.

(I also noticed quit a few typos in the last chapter)

 

Yeah, posted too early. Not enough sleep. Working on it.

 

(edit) I THINK that is all of them. *sigh* Teach me to post too soon.

Edited by Kalenath
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