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[Fanfiction] Rage

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When Anger goes Cold


There was very little pain. It was more the shock of the impact than any pain that threw him down. He struggled to sit up, his Kraken pistol in hand blaring defiance, spewing bullets at the enemies that had overwhelmed his small team. The enemies that even now closed in, screaming their unintelligible battle cries.


All three of the others had fallen and would not rise. Aeron had seen Fran go down, a huge hole through the crest of her Saryn warframe. A Corpus sniper, far out of reach of her toxins, had taken advantage when a MOA had managed to drop her shields. When the others had tried to help her, since even such a terrible wound wasn't instantly fatal for a Tenno in a warframe, the Corpus had closed in.


Matt, their leader, had gone down to a shock prod despite his heavy armor. Ordinarily, a Frost would have been able to cover the team with a Snow Globe while they helped their sister, and the threat of the Corpus guns would have been laughable. But the running battle since being discovered while stealing the Orokin artifact from the holding facility it had been secured in aboard the Corpus ship had taken it's toll on all of them. None of them had a lot of power. Matt hadn't had the power to protect them. And it had cost them all when the Corpus had downed Fran.


No one had wanted to leave her to the nonexistent mercy of the religious nutcases. Joe had done his best, whirling and slicing, dashing when his Excalibur frame had recharged enough. But the enemies had been endless. When Matt went down, Joe had yelled for Aeron to run. But Aeron wasn't about to leave his brothers either. Then Joe had gone down, a steaming hole through his warframe and it had been Aeron's turn.


Aeron had tried. He was no coward and anger had burned in his veins. Now, something else did. He felt power come from somewhere and suddenly he was on his feet again, somehow. He jumped up and threw his arms wide. The Corpus goons screamed, but it was too late, and they were too close. His Overload fried every electrical device within range, including the Corpus robots. Each small explosion of electrical power fed the overload and Aeron's anger. No. This wasn't anger. This was something else. Anger was hot. This was cold. He... was cold.


"Die, you bastards!" Aeron screamed as power flared from him in unstoppable waves. Then everything went silent as the power he had been putting out stopped. He collapsed to his knees, his Volt warframe taking the impact easily. Aeron was panting as he slowly raised his head to look around.


All around the Volt, scattered in an almost perfect circle, still forms cooled. Robotic forms sizzled with residual energy and the organic one twitched. Aeron shook his head and went to his fallen kin. Fran was dead. Joe likewise. When the Volt went to his knees beside the Frost however, the battered ice using warframe twitched. Aeron scanned and found faint life!


"Matt!" Aeron said sharply. "Can you hear me?" He said urgently. He grabbed the other warframe's hand and then went still as a jolt of power surged into his own. A familiar power. Matt had put the artifact they had recovered into Aeron's warframe. "Come on, Matt." Aeron begged. "We have got to get out of here." The hand gave his a squeeze and then... fell slack. "No." Aeron said, his tone stunned. "No..." He begged. But the Frost didn't move. Indeed, the other Tenno's life signs faded.


I... I can't leave them... Aeron said to himself numbly. They are the only kin I have left...had left... His head shook from side to side and he laid a hand on the still Frost. Then he froze as the lights flickered.


Aeron, you cannot run from your past...


Any other day, those words would have chilled the Volt. Not today. The warframe rose from his kneeling position and then, bent down and laid a hand on the still warframe of his brother. Energy pulsed and the fallen Tenno vanished, the energy still contained in the Frost warframe seeping into Aeron's outstretched hand. He did the same to the torn and battered Excalibur before Stalker taunted him again.


There is no salvation for your crime against Ambulas.


Aeron ignored the taunts, moving to where the Saryn frame lay. He ignored the mess, laying his hand against the fallen Tenno's cheek, and then drew the pitiful remnants of her warframe's power into his warframe. Her body vanished as well.


"I am sorry, Fran." Aeron said, tears starting to fall inside his helmet. "I wasn't good enough. I wasn't strong enough. But I will be." He promised, the tears fading as another emotion replaced the sadness. The new one. A white hot, yet cold thing inside his heart and soul. No tears now. Nothing but white. "I will be."


You will not leave this place! Stalker declared as the black mist that heralded his arrival appeared nearby. Stalker appeared, and moved to attack, but paused as Aeron didn't move.


Aeron heard a voice. "One chance, whoever you are. Whatever you are." It seemed to be coming from him, but it wasn't his. Or... It was. But... Not. "Run away. Now." The Stalker's bow drew to full extension and Aeron felt a huge calm descend over him. "So be it." He said quietly. Stalker fired, but Aeron wasn't where he had been.  Indeed, Aeron was charging at enhanced speed.


Apparent disbelief had the Stalker freezing in place as the Volt closed the distance between them in a few heartbeats. The Volt didn't throw power, no. His Amphis was in hand. It had been a gift from Fran, that staff. Before Stalker could sling his bow and ready his own melee weapon, Aeron was on him.


"You!" The Volt swung and Stalker dodged, but got caught in the electrical area of effect and his shields flared. The red armored form's red scythe went flying. "Do!" Aeron recovered from his stroke and fast as lightning, slammed the end of the staff into the apparently dazed Stalker. "Not!" Stalker tried to roll away, but infuriated Volt was not to be stopped.  "Scare!" Aeron screamed in rage and pain as he hit the red armored form again and again. Finally the red armored form fell, the body language of the ambusher shocked. "Me!" The Volt battered the now still form, pummeling the hapless assassin every time the enemy tried to defend himself or even move. "Die!" Aeron screamed the final word as he swung the staff two handed and connected with the other's head. A wet crunch sounded and then Stalker lay still, the ghastly ruin of his head showing he would not rise again.


What... What have you done? The voice in Aeron's head was dazed.


"Just shut up and fade out already, you piece of trash!" Aeron snapped. The body vanished, but... The scythe did not. Aeron shook his head, his rage fading slightly. He slung the Amphis and stepped to where the scythe lay gleaming. He picked it up and examined it. A word was inscribed either side of the main blade. 'Hate'


"Works for me." Aeron said with a snarl as he started off for the airlock where his tiny clan's ship waited, the scythe in hand. "Come back anytime, you lousy excuse for an assassin." Aeron jeered into the stillness. Stalker would be back, killing him never worked to stop him for long. But Aeron hoped it would be soon so he could hurt the scum again. Part of Aeron recoiled. He wasn't loud. He wasn't vicious. Was he?


A shout from ahead brought Aeron's attention back to the here and now. A Corpus crewman stood at across corridor nearby, his laser rifle coming up. Then he screamed as Aeron leveled his arm and hit him with a powerful jolt of electricity. The scream lasted just long enough for Aeron to take three steps forward and swing the scythe. The brainwashed human did not even have the chance to scream again as the sharp edge of the weapon but deep, slicing through the heavy armor plated helmet as if it were made of tissue paper.


"You have cool toys, Stalker." Aeron barely recognized his voice. It was so... dead. "Feel free to come back and see me anytime."


Aeron did not draw his Braton as he walked, despite the growing numbers of Corpus that charged him. He could feel energy surging through him, from the scythe. It had some kind of energy recharge system attached. It felt...good. His right hand held the scythe. His left hand was raised, every time a Corpus troop or robot showed itself, he hit it with electricity. Sometimes that was enough to drop the target. Sometimes he stepped forward and swung, his rage finding temporary release in the blood and gore that flew from the insanely sharp blades of the scythe. Killing them felt...good.


Before he knew it, Aeron was back at the airlock. He paused at the hatch.


There are more of them on this ship... The Volt thought to himself. He felt... The white was still there. The rage was still there. It felt so good to kill the scum. To murder the Corpus who had killed his sister and brothers. To end their lousy, good for nothing, useless existences. Then he shook his head savagely.


"No..." Aeron said in a dazed voice. "No... They trusted me. Matt..." He gave a soft sob. "Matt trusted me to complete the mission." He shook himself hard and stepped to the warframe sized alcove that led to his ship.


You have done well, Tenno The voice of the Lotus came. You will be rewarded. Then it was gone.


It won't bring my kin back. Aeron said with a snap. He paused. That was wrong. Talking back to the Lotus? What was wrong with him? He shook his head as the ship took off, letting the automated systems pull him into the middle of the thing that had been his and his clan's home for a long, long time. He stepped to his usual spot and stopped short.


The ship was small, but it had been all that the four Tenno needed. They had each other and that was all, but again, they hadn't needed much more. Aeron's warframe sensors lingered over the weapons, the few trophies that they had taken over the centuries. Then they lit on the empty spaces and he...shut down. He wasn't crying.   Indeed, while his warframe was shaking a little, it was not grief that caused it. It was rage.


The ship's AI queried Aeron, and he did not respond. It scanned him and froze in electronic shock. Aeron was wounded, badly. He hadn't even noticed how many times he had been shot. But he wasn't moving to the medical center! If he did not get to the medical center, the AI couldn't help him! It spoke aloud.


"Tenno Aeron, you are wounded." It said quietly. "Please move to the medical center." He ignored it.


The AI had a quandary now. It was supposed to obey the orders of Tenno, but Aeron wasn't giving any orders. The wounds were serious, if not immediately life threatening.


"Tenno." The Ai tried again. "You are wounded. Please move to the medical center to receive aid." Aeron might have been a statue for all the response he gave.


Essentially, the ship AI was a simple thing. It existed for one purpose and one purpose only. It existed to get Tenno to their targets and retrieve them after their missions were done. But it also was meant to provide support for Tenno, medical support in particular. Tenno were mortal despite their gear, as had just been demonstrated. The AI's most basic imperative was to aid it's assigned Tenno of which Aeron was the sole remaining. It tried one more time.


"Tenno Aeron, you are injured." The AI sent the message both verbally and over the neural link that Aeron had to the ship. "You require aid." Instead of responding, Aeron shut down the link.


If the AI had been human, it likely would have sighed or sworn in exasperation. As it was not human, it searched it's databanks for orders in such situations. Aeron was injured. Without medical aid, he would die. He was not responding. He was conscious, but not responding. This made his problem something psychological. Something that was well beyond the AI's ability to help. Aeron needed assistance, and the AI could not provide it, so...


The AI sent out a short very weak omni-directional pulse of energy. Any Corpus or Grineer sensors would read it as minor momentary increase in cosmic radiation. Any other human sensors likely wouldn't pick it up at all. It wasn't directed at any of them. It was a call for help.


Tenno very rarely called for help. They were self sufficient. The warfames were self contained and self sustaining. But, nothing was perfect. So Tenno had support facilities in various hidden places. A shipyard to build the tiny spacecraft that ferried Tenno from their missions. A few extremely well hidden colonies where Tenno who did not wear warframes lived, worked, loved and eventually passed on. These colonies provided many kinds of support, including medical personnel for the odd problems that the Tenno themselves or the ships' AIs could not handle. Like this.


Since Tenno distress calls were so rare, when it did happen, the responses were nearly instantaneous. Not all Tenno were selfless paragons of virtue, but all knew that their own lives someday might require such a response, so very, very few stinted. Like ancient highway drivers clearing the way for an ambulance despite their impatience and consternation at the delay. Five Tenno ships were in easy com range and replied immediately. Each of them queried their Tenno but none of them had a good solution.


Finally one of the ships approached the one Aeron was one. It matched courses and speeds. Their airlocks mated and a Tenno in a Vauban warframe entered to scrutinize Aeron. The male Tenno sighed and spoke to the AI.


"If we try to force him into the medical bay, we will hurt him further. Let me try to guide him. He does need help." The Vauban took the Volt's limp arm and gave a pull. "Aeron..." The male Tenno said gently. "Aeron, can you hear me?" There was no response. "Dang it." The newcomer Tenno swore softly. "Come on, Aeron. You need help. Come on..." He encouraged, pulling the stupefied Volt towards the medical alcove. Then he jerked back as the Volt suddenly surged with power.  "Aeron!" He shouted as electricity snapped from the Volt's fingers.


The current died as the ship's AI, acting under another long disused protocol, deactivate Aeron's warframe, the simple expedient knocking him all the way out. The Vauban caught the Volt as Aeron crumpled and hefted him easily, lifting him and carrying him to the waiting  medical center. Once Aeron was ensconced within, the Vauban stood back and sighed, knowing his words would go to all the now listening Tenno.


"That wasn't Aeron." The male Tenno said slowly. "There were no conscious thought patterns detected on any of his warframe systems. He is either asleep... or worse. We can't handle this. We need to get him to better psychological help. I will take him home, ride with him. Keep him from hurting himself or anyone else."


A wordless 'Thank You' came from the ship's AI and the other Tenno who had been watching anxiously.


"Least we can do for a brother who just lost his closest kin." The Vauban said sadly as he sat in one of the chairs. "I just hope the medics can help him. We don't have enough kin as it is. And now... three less..."

Edited by Kalenath
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at least add a tl;dr


To a fanfiction? O.O


Oh, I see. People click on the new posted thread notification thinking it's a hate spam. Fixed.


Wouldn't want to confuse haters who are VERY easily confused. Wouldn't want to make people actually READ what I wrote.


Sorry, I don't have Cliff Notes for these.

Edited by Kalenath
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Aeron was floating. Nothing hurt. Everything was...calm, serene.


"He is waking." The worried female voice came from somewhere, but the calmness that surrounded Aeron was too pervasive to fight. He didn't try. "Everybody out." Sounds of movement came to Aeron's ears, but it didn't matter. Nothing did. He was...calm. Everything was calm and peaceful. "Aeron? Can you hear me?"


"I can hear you." Aeron replied. He tried opening his eyes, but they wouldn't. But the voice wasn't his. It was the same odd thing that had screamed at Stalker on the Corpus ship. It was his voice, but... it wasn't. "Where am I?"


"You in a medical center in our dojo." The female voice was calm and gentle. "We were the closest medical care. Currently you are floating in a tank filled with nutrient fluid. A mask is over your nose and mouth so we can talk. Your injuries have been tended. How do you feel?"


"Strange." Aeron said slowly, not that he could seem to focus to speak faster. "My voice is...wrong..."


"Yeah." The female voice sighed. "You took damage to your throat and then screamed loud enough to damage your healing vocal cords. We think we can fix it." From her tone, she wasn't sure. "it is not life threatening."


"How long?" Aeron asked after a moment.


"It's been eighteen hours since you left the Corpus ship." The voice paused. "Since you..." She broke off.


"I accomplished my mission." Aeron said simply. "Thank you for your care, healer. I was... out of it."


"You were." The voice -it had to be a doc- agreed. "Now?" She pressed.


"I don't understand." Aeron said slowly." What do you mean?"


"Aeron, you just went through hell." The voice said sadly. "We are here to help. Talk to me, Aeron. What are you feeling?"


"I don't understand." Aeron repeated, confused. "I feel fine."


"Aeron, we have you on several mild sedatives to help you stay calm." The doc said calmly. "You resisted our attempts to help you, violently. We had to sedate you heavily to get you out of your warframe."


"Did I hurt anyone?" Aeron asked, mildly concerned.


"No." The doc reassured him. "We were careful. But we are very worried about you, Aeron." Something rubbed his forehead, a gentle touch. "I am sorry for your losses, Aeron. I know they were your kin." Aeron felt pain, but... it was minor. The ache that should have come from the remembrance of his dead kin was...not there. Or it was, but...muted.


"They died fighting." Aeron said flatly. "And I avenged them."


"That particular Corpus ship will never reach a base." The doc agreed. "The Tenno who responded to your ship's distress call were upset by what happened."


"Couldn't happen to nicer people." Aeron said savagely. He felt a trickle of anger come but it didn't touch him. Something stopped it. Something...white.


"Let it out, Aeron." The female doc said gently. "You can't hurt me, or anyone else. Let your anger out. We can help you. Pull it out and we can deal with it."


"I don't need your help, doc." Aeron said, relaxing slowly. "I need to get back to work."


"Yes, you do need help." The doc disagreed. "Aeron, you just had massive trauma to your psyche. I cannot let you out until we deal with it. It is not safe for you or others."


"I don't need your help, doc." Aeron repeated firmly, forcing himself to relax.


"Aeron, listen to yourself." The doc pleaded. "Please... You are hurting, I know you are hurting. I can help." She begged.


"I don't need your help." Aeron declared and sank into a meditation. Instead of cool images though, his meditation was filled with white.  It was...wrong. But it felt good. He became aware of conversation and snapped out of his meditation to listen.


"They are wrong." The female doctor said quietly but with force. Was she crying?


"Amelia..." A deep male voice said just as quietly. "Did he go berserk?"


"I..." The female doctor sounded defeated. "I don't know." She admitted. "The brain waves readings flat lined, Sensei. They had to be blocked somehow. No one alive is that flat line."


"I know of ways to block them from recorders, doctor." The deep voice of the one called 'Sensei' sounded mild, but underneath lay worry. His voice turned kind." Get some rest, Amelia. You did well."


"Not well enough." The doctor said, dejected. "His physical injuries have healed. But... Sensei..." She begged.


"It is out of our hands, Amelia." Sensei replied with equal sadness. "It's in his. I will talk to him. Two should be back in an hour or so, she will likely be exhausted. Do not exhaust her further until she has had a chance to rest." He warned.


"I won't." Amelia promised. "I don't think I thanked you properly..."


"We needed you, Amelia." Sensei's voice was kind."'Get some rest. You did well." Then the voice hardened. "I know you can hear me, Aeron."


"So?" Aeron asked, still caught in the haze of drugs and white.


"Do you seek death?" The voice of the male was hard now. Adamant. No give at all, but there... an odd undercurrent. Understanding? "Who do you want to kill?"


Aeron thought for a  moment before replying.  He didn't want to die. He didn't want to kill anyone except his enemies. He certainly didn't want to kill kin. That thought...hurt and he retreated a bit from it. No. He didn't want to die. He wanted the white again. The rush. The feeling of power, of invincibility.


"No." Aeron said quietly. "I do not want to die. I want to fight, but... Enemies. Not kin."


"Glad to hear it." The voice said with a sigh. "You are a mess, Aeron. If we were not in such dire straits, we would lock you up until we could get through the blocks you have in place to fool the machinery." Aeron must have made a noise of confusion because the voice laughed mirthlessly. "Don't lie to me, boy. I have seen vengeance crazed before. Amelia hasn't. But..."


"But?" Aeron pressed when the voice didn't continue.


"If you are not a threat to kin, then you are a powerful weapon, Aeron." Sensei said frankly. "If you are..." He trailed off and Aeron felt a chill. If this 'Sensei' decided Aeron was a threat, Aeron would never leave this room alive. "Tell me..." Sensei said after a moment. "Is it red or white?"


"How do you...?" Aeron clamped his mouth shut.


"You think you are the only one who has ever felt that rush, Aeron?" Old pain sounded in Sensei's voice, but then vanished.  "It's important, Aeron. Red or white?"


"White." Aeron said in an undertone. "Do you know what it is?"


"I have heard various theories." Sensei said with a sigh. "But I think... It's kind of a mental bandage. One that blocks a lot things from affecting the brain. As a side effect, if keeps machinery from reading neural activity. You probably never even heard your AI begging you to get into the medical center before you bled out. White is a bandage thing anyway." His tone hardened. "If you ever see red, Aeron, if you have a gun, take it and blow your brains out. Fast."


"That bad?" Aeron said, fear trickling through whatever was holding him. It vanished quickly.


"It took nine Tenno to stop the last one I know of who completely lost it, Aeron." Sensei said heavily. "Who gave in to her bloodlust. Four of them died doing it. I was there."


"My god..." Aeron said slowly, dazed. "Why tell me?"


"Because you are not completely gone." Sensei said with a snort. "There is still hope for you. You do not have to face this alone, Aeron. I understand what you are facing. I understand it very well. Locking you up is not the answer. But letting you out, on your own, such as you are, is also not an good answer. You are teetering on the edge. And you have cause."


"I don't want your pity." Aeron said with a trace of heat. He was not expecting Sensei to laugh.


"Good because you do not have it." The other Tenno said with another booming laugh. "You are dangerous, boy." His voice turned serious. "Pity? Oh, we don't pity you. We will be watching. If you do go off, we will stop you. No matter the cost." There was no give in the other Tenno's voice now.


"I don't want to hurt kin." Aeron said slowly. A spasm ran up his spine, but the white seemed to absorb it. "What is this? This white? A bandage? In my mind?"


"Ah..." Sensei seemed to relax a bit. "A bandage is the best analogy those of us who have seen it have come up with. We think it is a reaction to the neural interface tot he warframes. You know Tenno evolved from humans."  Aeron nodded a little, his motions slowed by the fluid he was lying in. "There were always humans who... embraced the less than stable sides of their emotions."


"Yes." Aeron said slowly. "Berserkers from the northern part of the European continent?" He asked.


"What were called the 'Northmen', yes." Sensei replied. "But there were others. Almost every society that survived past infancy had stories of warriors who ignored pain, fought overwhelming odds with no sense of survival. It was not an isolated occurrence, nor particular to any one region or group. Many Tenno, myself included, believe that the particular genetic anomaly that caused it passed on to Tenno. That all of us have the chance to have it happen."


"That would be..." Aeron swallowed. "...bad."


"You have a talent for understatement." Sensei said seriously. He took a deep breath. "So... Will you allow us to try to help? Try to aid you? I guarantee that you will not enjoy all of it. But we will also not lock you up. We will not do anything without your permission. We will let you fight, but not alone."


"I..." Aeron thought about that for a moment. What choice did he have? Stay locked up or in this tank or fight? He didn't feel that he needed help, but... He wasn't clear. Nothing was. Everything was shades of white. "I don't know how I  feel. I want to fight... The rush..."


"It felt good. Beyond good." Sensei said in an odd tone. One that Aeron suddenly realized was complete understanding. "Nothing could touch you. I saw your video records. You startled the hell out of Stalker." Sensei snorted. "Served the bastard right, underestimating you opponent is never a good idea." Aeron jerked as something he couldn't define hit him hard. "Aeron?" Sensei asked, worried.


"I felt something... odd."Aeron was trying to understand, and understanding eluded him. "It wasn't anger... I don't...I don't know what it was..."


"Still white?" Sensei asked carefully.


"Yeah." Aeron said, shaking. "That was...not fun..."


"I bet. Nothing showed up on the machinery." Sensei said after a moment. "Whatever it is, it is deep. Very deep in your mind, Aeron. We can help you. If you let us."


"This happened to you?" Aeron asked softly. "Not just the one who lost control? But to you?"


"I know the white, Aeron." Sensei said quietly. "I faced it when I had to kill kin who went rogue. I saw the white and I retreated from it. It took years, Aeron. But I did stop craving it. We can help you."


"You are Karl." Aeron said slowly. "I heard...some..."


"Truth and fiction both, I bet." Karl agreed. "That is the way of things." He became businesslike. "Now, I will not ask you to swear to my clan, but can you swear not to harm any in this dojo? We have humans and others as support staff."


"Others?" Aeron asked. Just having humans in a Tenno dojo was odd enough. "What others?"


"We have a cyborg medic and a former Grineer who is learning Bushido." Karl said calmly as if that were perfectly normal. "Four humans, including the doctor who treated your injuries. None of them would have a chance against you if you turn violent."


"Good point." Aeron said, thinking. "A restraint implant?"


"I would rather not." Karl said heavily. "I don't like them to begin with, and several of our staff had... similar objects forced on them."


"I see." Aeron said slowly. "Then the rumors that he, um..." Aeron did not name the one who had been Karl's brother. He wasn't that stupid. "That he did have slaves..."


"Were true." Karl said heavily. "We will not treat you as a slave You are a brother. One who has been grievously injured. We will help you. If you let us."


"And if I say no?" Aeron asked softly.


"Then you will go to sleep here and wake up in a medical facility at one of the colonies." Karl said in a similar voice. "And since this 'white' is not something they can fix or even detect... They will rule you unstable, a threat to all."


"And I spend the rest of my life confined." Aeron expected to be bitter, but... it didn't come. He wasn't numb, but...he was. This was very strange. "I feel...detached."


"Part of that is the sedatives." Karl agreed. "We wanted you calm while your body healed. Well? What say you, Aeron?"


"I don't..." Aeron paused, baffled. "This is so strange. It's like every emotion is behind walls of fuzz, not just the bad ones. Is that what it felt like for you?" He asked, worried.


"Yeah." Karl agreed. "That is what it felt like. Aeron, we can help you. You do need help, not to be locked away." The sympathy in the other Tenno's voice was heartfelt.


"I don't feel...bad." Aeron said softly. "But, I don't feel at all. I can see the danger, Tenno Karl. This is addictive."


"Very." Karl agreed.


"I will harm none in your dojo." Aeron said formally. "If I do...go worse, or whatever. Can you stop me?"


"Yes." Karl's voice was flat.


"I swear by my sword and by my service that I will harm none in your dojo, Karl of the Tenno." Aeron said quietly but with force. "I submit to whatever restraint or surveillance you decree. Do... Do not let me harm kin. Please." A trickle of fear shot through Aeron and then it was gone.


"I swear to you, Aeron of the Tenno..." Karl replied with equal formality. "..we will aid you to the best of our ability. And... If it comes to it... You will not harm kin. I swear it. By blood and by steel, I swear it."


"I accept your oath, Karl of the Tenno."Aeron said simply. "Now what?"


"now we get you out of there." Karl said with a smile in his voice. "You will sleep through that. And be thankful. They had put some tubes in very odd places. You will be assigned quarters and duties. We do not have a lot of staff and no one, not even me, is allowed to shirk."


"I understand." Aeron said with a slow nod that was all the fluid allowed. "Might want a shower too." He paused as he did not feel a smile come. "I can't even laugh?"


"All emotion is dampened, Aeron." Now Karl's voice had sympathy. "I think... I think when I faced the white was when I lost the ability to love... Only recently, have I felt that emotion again."


"I see." Aeron said, feeling faint.


"We will help you, Aeron." Karl promised. "But for now, sleep. You have class when you wake."


"Class?" Aeron asked, hint of incredulity sounding before it was subsumed.


"You will like it." Karl promised him as Aeron slid into slumber, the white crackling around him.

Edited by Kalenath
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To his surprise, Aeron did enjoy it.


He was still numb. The white that seemed to be suffusing his entire being was everywhere. As soon as the sedatives had worn off, the fuzz had come back. It was so much that Aeron had to focus heavily on what was happening around him. But everyone around him knew it.


When he had woken, he had been in a standard set of dojo quarters. Basically a small bed, a locker and a bathroom with shower cubicle. Nothing else. A robe had been waiting for him, his size of course. A shower later, he had felt alive again, despite the fuzz in his mind. As soon as he had finished, a female human who introduced herself as 'Mari' had announced herself and led him...here.


When Karl had said 'Class', Aeron had immediately thought of classrooms, lectures, that kind of thing. Close in, easy to hear and see whatever the teacher was saying or doing.  Nothing could have been further from the huge open room that greeted him and his guide. The female human led him to where a Tenno in a Rhino warframe was standing in the middle of a circle of... well, calling them eclectic was probably the best way to describe them.


Three other Tenno, easy to tell from their bodysuits and general demeanor and physiques, sat around the circle. One male Tenno and two female. One of the female Tenno sat very close to a female human whose eyes strayed to that Tenno often. They were far enough apart that they could not touch and Aeron realized that was intentional. The other two Tenno seemed to be sitting apart intentionally. They never actually looked at one another, but there was obviously some kind of bond between them.


One female human sat in an automated chair of some kind, her arms were free but her neck and lower body were immobilized. A male human sat beside her, his eyes flicking this way and that, but no other motion showed. Then there was what had to be a female Grineer, sitting quietly, listening to the Sensei. A very odd group indeed.


Mari led Aeron to a cleared space in the circle and sat gracefully. He knelt in place slowly, carefully. He noted that each of the sitting people was just far enough away from the others that they would not be able to reach with hands without moving. A sensible precaution. He had knelt and waited. He hadn't had to wait long.


"Cora." The Rhino's voice was familiar. Karl was standing easily, legs apart and arms folded. "Have you thought on the passage I assigned?"


"Yes, Sensei." The female Grineer replied, her tone easy, but it held the hint of confusion. "I studied it, but...I don't understand it." She admitted sheepishly. Aeron stared at her, amazed. First that a Grineer wasn't hostile, then that she seemed so comfortable here as to admit lack of knowledge.


"No one ever said it was going to be easy, Cora." Karl said gently. "What don't you understand?"


"How can 'nothing' be 'everything', Sensei?" Cora asked, her voice almost plaintive. "That is a flat contradiction. I thought..." She slumped a bit.


Aeron paused in his clandestine scrutiny of the group. They were learning Zen? Here? He had heard a bit about Karl's fascination with the philosophy of Bushido. Indeed, Matt... Aeron paused and took a breath, but no emotional pain came. He felt... odd. Aeron looked up to see the Rhino looking at him, but when the Rhino spoke it was directed at Cora.


"It is contradictory, Cora." Karl said quietly. "And therein lies the core of Zen. To be everything you wish to be, you have to be nothing. You have to embrace nothing."


"But..." Cora was shaking her head, utterly baffled. "How can you be 'nothing'?" She asked, her query heartfelt. "Just being makes you 'something'. I understand that the sound of one hand clapping is silence, nothing. But..."  She shook her head again, dejected.


"This is not easy, Cora." Karl encouraged her. "People have been struggling with this concept since it was first developed, many centuries ago. I have known people who got it right off, and others who took years, decades even. Keep at it." Cora stared at him.


"Decades?" The former female Grineer asked weakly.


"Yes, Cora." Karl said gently. "Decades. But you are well on your way. Just keep thinking about it. It will come. " He looked around and nodded. "Good, everyone is here. We can start. Two?" He nodded to the female Tenno who sat with the female human and she nodded and rose.


"Karen?" She asked the chair bound woman. "Has Amelia cleared you for exercise?"


"My arms work now." The woman in the chair said with a sigh. "But I need to work them up to strength again."


"Karen." A growl came from a familiar voice and Aeron looked at the human female who had been sitting beside this Two person. The voice was the doctor who had been there when he had woken. She looked at him, nodded and then at the chair bound woman who flinched. "That is not what I told you." She said quietly. The chair bound woman jerked and then sighed.


"No, Two." Karen said softly. "I am not cleared for exercise."


"I know you are chafing, Karen." Two said, kneeling down beside the chair bound woman. "I know being stuck in a chair sucks. But you are not a burden to us. You help us all." She lifted the woman's chin with a gentle finger so she looked Karen in the eyes. "Don't hurt yourself, please?" She pleaded. "You are already better. Let Amelia and Jimmy do their magic. You will be walking and running with us in next to no time. If..." She cautioned the human woman. "If you listen to them."


"I didn't..." Karen stammered. "I don't...I mean..." She snarled at herself and spoke evenly. "I will obey the doctor's orders."


"Good girl." Two smiled, bent down and gave Karen a kiss on the cheek. "Now, roll back. I need you to be our spotter and counter. Can you do that?"


"Yes, Two." Karen said with a nod. "I can do that." She smiled. "Nothing wrong with my eyes or lungs." She hit a control and the chair hummed back until it was flush against the wall, the woman's eyes flitting here and there.


Two nodded to the chair bound woman and then looked at the others. All rose quietly to their feet and Aeron followed suit. Two stepped to his side and spoke quietly.


"We start with basic calisthenics, and then move on to stretches and such. Then we spar." Two said as the group started doing slow movements that Aeron recognized as preliminaries to an ancient exercise called 'jacking jumps'. "While we are doing that, Sensei talks about Bushido. I don't know if you follow it..." Aeron shook his head and Two nodded as she slotted in beside him, both Tenno starting the slow movements to match the others. "No problem. Amelia has cleared you for exercise, but wants me to watch closely. She is worried a few of your wounds may open."


"She shouldn't." Aeron said calmly as he jumped, his legs spreading wide to land apart and his hands coming together over his head.  "She does good work."


"She is a worry wart." Two said with a fond smile at the human woman who was now mimicking all the others, their slow movements picking up speed. She nodded to the woman at the wall. "Now, Karen."


Karen started speaking slowly and clearly, enunciating each number carefully and the group quickly meshed their motions to her count. While they did, Sensei spoke.


"The Way of the Warrior is found in Death." Sensei said quietly, his warframe doing the same motions effortlessly. And silently. Aeron was impressed. Rhino warframes were heavy, bulky things. Like all warframes, they allowed the wearer to act as if they were unencumbered, but Rhino warframes were known for being blocky, chunky. Not for being graceful. Then again, Karl had worn them for a very long time. "Seven tenets, seven core principles. Karen..." He called and she spoke again, each word measured in time as the numbers had been.


"Justice." Karen said clearly and all the others repeated the word. Aeron did not, but he felt something stir within him before being stifled by the white that still fuzzed his brain. The seated woman continued in that same measured voice. "Bravery. Benevolence. Politeness. Veracity. Honor. Loyalty." When Karen spoke the word 'Loyalty', Two nodded to Aeron as she repeated it. He stopped his motions as everyone else did.


"Everyone warmed up?" Sensei asked, his gaze going around. All bowed their heads, including Aeron. "Good. Sparring next. Keep it slow, keep it simple. We don't want anyone hurt. Karen, you are the spotter. Call out if you see anything happen. Aeron..." Sensei said calmly as Aeron jerked a bit. "You are with me." That made sense. Since Aeron wasn't totally stable, it made sense for Sensei to be in a warframe, just in case. There was no way Aeron could... He froze as Sensei nodded to a rack of weapons nearby. "Choose."


"Should I be armed?" Aeron asked slowly, not moving.


"I am not going to make you punch my warframe with bare fists, Aeron." Despite himself, Aeron had to grin at Sensei's wry words. "All the weapons there are live. You need the exercise. So do I." Sensei said, stepping to the rack. Aeron noticed others moving to similar racks spread around the hall and then pairing up. Two went with the female Grineer. The male Tenno picked up a skana and moved to the center, the male human pickign up a similar sword to match him. The other Tenno moved to partner with Mari. They bowed to each other and started basic drills. "Staff?"


"Sure." Aeron said, bemused. He flinched as a Bo came flying through the air at him. He caught it instinctively and twirled it, checking it's balance. It was solid and felt good in his hands. The white within him surged as soon as the weapon touched his hands and he grimaced a little. "I don't know if this is a good idea..."


"You need to know your limits, Aeron." Sensei said, a staff identical to Aeron's spinning in his own hands. The Rhino jerked his head at a barely visible circle on the deck plates and started walking towards it. Aeron followed. Sensei strode to the far side of the circle and grounded his staff, waiting on Aeron, who had paused at the edge of the circle. "Problem?" The Rhino inquired calmly.


"This weapon is blunt." Aeron said slowly, staring at the staff in his hand and then looking up at the Rhino. "The damage it does will be transmitted right through your armor via the shock vibrations. I could hurt you." He said slowly.


"You could." Sensei agreed. "What makes you think I will let you?" Aeron just stared at the Rhino and Sensei nodded. "Your caution is admirable, Aeron. But not needed. We are going to spar, but not all out. Basic drills only. Can you handle that?"


"I don't know." Aeron admitted. "I need to find out how far this...bandage will hold. If it does go red... Can you recognize it? Stop me?" He asked.


"That is why I am in my warframe, Aeron." Sensei said calmly. "I can and I will. But this will be basic drills, no actual..." He paused and snarled something under his breath. "Will!" He called, his voice calm, but authoritative. The Tenno in question nodded and moved to where Two had switched opponents. She was engaged with a human who was obviously losing her temper at not being able to connect with the agile Tenno's blade. The male Tenno immediately stopped his bout with the male human, who stepped back.


"Mari!" The Tenno with the Skana strode to where a female human was swinging her sword wildly. "Stop." He commanded. The woman froze in place. His skana came down, rapping the frozen woman's sword to the side. "Slow." He commanded. "This is not a battle. Not a fight for your life." He moved to stand beside her. "With me." He said quietly. He waved his blade and the male human stepped up to him.


Aeron watched as the Tenno ran through the basic sword drills, Two matching his motions opposite. After a moment Mari and the male human matched them as well, all four dancing slowly in the ancient patterns of swordplay.


"She is angry." Aeron said slowly as he stepped into the circle with Sensei, his staff grounding as well.


"She has cause." Sensei said heavily. "The training helps."


"Yeah." Aeron said quietly. "It does. Ready?" He asked. Sensei nodded and Aeron brought his staff up to guard position. "Which drill?"


"1" Sensei replied, his own staff coming up to guard. Both bowed and then began. His staff began to move in slow, deliberate arcs, each one balanced.


Aeron matched them, move for move, from the other side of the circle and the white...retreated.


"What the-?" Aeron said slowly, not pausing his staff's movement. "It... backed off... Or something..."


"Careful, Aeron." Sensei said calmly, but urgency lay underneath. "That is not good. You are probably used to it by now. Used to it warding you."


"So if I get angry...I can lose control far faster. Not good." Aeron swallowed but managed to keep his mind still by focusing his mind on the swirling staff.  Block, strike, turn, spin, strike. The motions soothed him until the white returned. "It's back." He said, a little relieved, but also perturbed.


"Does it feel the same?" Sensei asked. Aeron nodded and Sensei sighed. "Okay. I am going to start basic attacks. Defend yourself. I will not hurt you." He promised.


"Okay." Aeron had his staff up guarding, but the impact of Sensei's staff nearly threw Aeron's from his hands.  He spun, keeping to the drill as Sensei's staff came in, slow, but the impacts were devastatingly powerful. Each one rocked Aeron back despite his stance and readiness. Suddenly the white surged and Aeron jumped back. "I..."


"Enough." Sensei said sharply, his staff going back to ready position. "How bad?" He asked carefully.


"I don't know." Aeron said softly. "It...surged. I think..." He shook his head. "I don't feel... anything, but... I should..." He slumped a bit. "What do I do?"


"For now..." Sensei said kindly. "Finish your drill solo. I will match your motions, but not attack." He started the drill again and Aeron matched the motions, glad for something to use the energy that he had suddenly acquired somehow.


"Is this going to happen every time I get into a fight?" Aeron asked when they had finished and both had grounded their staves.


"It's not the same as what I experienced, Aeron." Sensei said with  a sigh as he racked his staff. Aeron tossed his to the dojo master and Sensei caught it easily. "Every mind is different. Every person, be they Tenno or human, or Grineer, is different. But to answer your question: I don't know."


"Maybe..." Aeron swallowed heavily, but continued. "Maybe you should lock me up."


"No." Sensei said in a milder tone. "You are hurt. Your are grieving. Even if you cannot feel it currently, you are grieving. You need help, not to be locked up. We will help you."


"I don't see how." Aeron said sadly.


"Aeron..." Sensei stepped close and held out a hand, which Aeron took. "We will help you one way or another. Amelia and Alicia have some ideas. But to find out if they are correct, they are going to have to poke and prod you."


"Joy." Aeron said with a sigh. He wanted to feel exasperated, but it didn't come. He shook himself. "Chores?"


"We are still cleaning up the mess I left when I came here." Sensei said with a sigh. "And we will for some time. You heard?" Sensei asked.


"Sentients." Aeron said with a snap. The white surged at him, but he didn't feel the anger and fear he had before. When he had fought them with other Tenno. "You got the controller."


"We are finding dormant drones in odd places." Sensei agreed. "You are small enough to get into places that others cannot. And you know what to do if you find one."


"I will help." Aeron said simply. "As repayment for your hospitality at the very least." He paused as Sensei raised  a hand. "Yes?"


"I have an ulterior motive." Sensei said with a nod as Aeron froze. "I want you in my clan."


"Me?" Aeron said, stiffening further. "Why me?"


"Because you are a powerful weapon, Aeron. And because I know what it is to be alone, Aeron." Sensei said sadly. "You do not need to be."


"I..." Aeron shook his head. "I can't. Not... Not now."


"I know." Sensei said calmly. "I didn't want it hitting you by surprise. We would welcome you, even if you cannot follow the ways of Bushido, we would welcome you."


"I will think about it." Aeron said as the pair of mismatched Tenno strode back to the reforming group.


"That is all I ask." Sensei said with a nod. "You are welcome in our class anytime."


"I..." Aeron paused and then bowed formally to the Sensei. "I am honored."


"The honor is ours." Sensei said as he took his place at the front of the group. "Okay, lets debrief. Mari..." He said sourly. "You promised to stick to the drill this time."


"Yes, Sensei. No excuse, Sensei. " Mari said, her face flushed from the embarrassment and the exercise. Sensei made a gesture and she dropped to the floor and started to crack out pushups, counting each one clearly. Aeron looked at her and then at Sensei who nodded.


"She will be awhile." Sensei said calmly. "Five hundred pushups take a while." Aeron's eyes went wide and then he nodded. "Okay, Two, what was that odd flourish at the end of kata six?"


"Ah..." Two jerked and blushed. "I nearly dropped my sword." Sensei shook his head and made a similar gesture at Two who nodded and started doing pushups as well.


"Two hundred." Sensei commanded and Two nodded in the midst of her pushups. "The rest, well done. We search the living quarters today. Same as before, if you find a drone, call for a Fragor. Do not touch it." Aeron felt as if he should have shivered in memory, but the fear didn't come. Or it was blocked. Sensei nodded to him. "When we are done with the search, Aeron, you go see Amelia and Alicia in medical. Jimmy is there too."


"Yes Sensei." All of the, including Aeron, chorused.

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The gentle voice of the human doctor pulled Aeron out of his doze. He looked up from the bed on which he had laid down, the one with all the scanner equipment arrayed around it. It was fairly comfortable, but he hadn't slept well. The white kept drowning out his dreams. He wasn't entirely sure that was a bad thing.


"Yes doctor?" Aeron asked, stifling a yawn.


"We have finished the first set of scans." Amelia said with a smile. "You can take a break while we look over the data we got."


"What would I do?" Aeron asked quietly, laying his head back down.


"Come on, Aeron." Another voice sounded from nearby. He looked up to see  the other non-cyborg medical person mock glaring at him. "All work and no play make Tenno grumpy." Alicia shook her head, but maintained her glare until he sighed.


"I don't see the point, Alicia." Aeron admitted as he sat up. "If I do anything stressful, I may lose control."


"Who said anything about stressful?" Alicia demanded, still playing. "I said 'fun', Aeron. That doesn't necessarily mean stressful. What did you do for fun before?" Aeron just looked at her and she sighed. "Aeron, please?" She asked, her tone turning serious.


"I don't want to think  about it, Alicia." Aeron said slowly. "I am worried that if I do, it will make things worse."


"It might." Alicia agreed. "Aeron, we have at least six hours worth of data to go through." Aeron's eyes widened and Alicia nodded. "No matter what else they may have been, the former occupants of this dojo did not scrimp on medical gear."


"Not when they could steal it." Amelia said with a glower. She subsided at Alicia's look.


"We have a lot of work to do, Aeron, but you will be bored out of your mind listening to us bandy medical gobbledy-gook back and forth." Alicia said with a sigh. "So... Hmmm." She mused for a moment. "What was your preferred weapon?" She asked after a moment.


"Amphis." Aeron said slowly, not understanding. "Why?"


"You were up close and personal?" Alicia asked, curious.


"I preferred to stay at range." Aeron admitted. "But the way we fought, I usually wound up at close quarters most of the time."


"Well..." Alicia said with a nod. "Sensei has refurbished the firing range here. It's sweet." She said with a grin.


"You would trust me with a loaded weapon?" Aeron asked, incredulous. The feeling vanished into the white. Alicia shook her head. "What then?"


"Miguel runs the range, don't try to take anything out of it without permission. I did and... um..." She blushed. "I wound up here." She waved at the medical ward. At that, Aeron's eyes went very wide and she hastened to explain. "I forgot it wasn't my Lato... It felt natural on my hip... I didn't think about it..." She said, embarrassed.


"Will was not happy." Amelia said with a nod.


"What happened?" Aeron asked, mildly concerned. He should have felt worried, but it didn't come.


"As I say, I screwed up." Alicia said with a sigh. "Security systems are set to knock out any personnel carrying unauthorized weapons. They do it without warning. It is automated and I was warned when I used the range. I deserved what happened, I messed up." She said with a shrug. "But you can try the range. It's the best therapy I know anyway, to make things go boom."


"I don't like what I do."Aeron said softly. "But someone has to do it."


"Neither do I." Alicia agreed. "But being the best we can be at whatever we try, that is an admirable goal. And we don't have to like what a firearm does to appreciate the precision and artistry that goes into making one, or making it do it's best."


"I can see that." Aeron said after a moment. "I can give it a try. But if I have problems..." He trailed off as Alicia nodded.


"You are under full time surveillance, Aeron." Alicia said gently. "It's not that we don't trust you." She said sadly.


"I can't trust myself." Aeron agreed as he swung his legs off the bed. He sighed as he looked over his bodysuit. The robes he had worn for class had been exchanged for a neutral color neck to toe covering. It provided warmth and was transparent to most forms of scans, so it made sense for what he had been sent to Medical for. He put his feet to the floor, grateful for the boots that made up part of the bodysuit and stood carefully. "Do I need a guide?"


"Karen..." Alicia paused and looked to the side, at another monitor. "Yes, Jimmy is done with Karen. She is scheduled for a run at the range."


"Karen." Aeron said slowly. "The girl in the chair?" Alicia looked at him and he shrugged. "I mean no offense, but that is the most memorable thing about her on first glance."


"She is a lot more than a chair, Aeron." Alicia said with a grimace. "She is recovering, just not as fast as we had hoped."


"A sliced spinal cord is not a minor injury." Amelia said with a glower of her own from nearby where she stood by  set of medical computers. "She is doing very well."


"I don't know her." The male Tenno said with a shrug. "I meant no insult, but I do not know her except what I saw at the class. She seemed...enthusiastic." Both female snorted in laughter at his dry words.


"One way to put it." Alicia agreed. "Obstinate is probably closer. Girl has no quit in her at all. She wants her body to work now instead of at it's own speed." Aeron's eyes narrowed and Alicia nodded. "She keeps hurting herself."


"That is... not good."Aeron said slowly. "I am no medic myself, but won't that slow her recovery?"


"It does." Amelia agreed without turning. "Maybe you can distract her a bit?"


"Me?" Aeron asked as he took a few careful steps, glad for the break. His body had been inactive for a bit and was taking longer than he was used to for it to acclimatize. "What can I do?" He asked after a moment.


"You are a new face." Alicia said with a nod. "A Tenno who is not one of the ones who abused her." For a moment, her face was very hard.


"Do I want to know?" Aeron asked carefully.


"Let's just say..." Alicia said slowly. "She wasn't enthralled until after she had been here for a while. After being kidnapped." Aeron's eyes went very wide as he digested her meaning. "And I had cause to hate Nicholas before I found out what he did to that poor girl..."


"I..." Aeron shook his head slowly. Then he slumped a bit. "You know, whatever this 'white' thing is... I think it is a good thing I have it right now or I would be furious for her sake." Alicia nodded. "But... Since I am male... Is that a problem?"


"I...don't think so." Alicia said slowly. "The ones who did it to her are all dead or not coming back. Karen doesn't have a problem with Sensei, or Will. She and Miguel have bonded a bit, sharing a horrific experience can do that. Miguel is teaching her how to shoot and she is going to be scary when she is done learning the basics."


"So..." Aeron took a deep breath. "What should I do? Or not do?"


"Don't treat her any different." Alicia said with a nod. "She is determined to keep up and-" She broke off as a door nearby opened. "Karen!" Alicia said brightly. "All done?"


"Telling people stories about me, Alicia?" The woman in the chair asked with a grin as she rolled it into the room. Her neck was no longer immobilized, but her lower body was. "I could tell some about you."


"I am trying to be nice." Alicia said with a matching grin. "Doesn't come naturally. Karen..." She waved at the chair bound woman with a slow hand. "This is Aeron. Aeron, Karen." Aeron gave Karen a nod.


"Pleased to meet you, Tenno." Karen said formally.


"And I you." Aeron replied politely. "Alicia says you know where the firing range is?"


"Oh, Alicia. You have been telling stories behind my back." Karen said with a snort as Alicia maintained blank face. Karen smiled at Aeron. "Yes, I do and I am on my way there now. Want to come?"


"Sure." Aeron strode to stand beside the chair and followed as Karen started the wheeled contrivance off. Once the door to the medical ward closed behind them, he spoke for her ears only. "She wasn't telling stories."


"I know." Karen said with a grin as she led the way. "But Alicia is a worrier. I am tough."


"That you are." Aeron agreed. She looked sidelong at him and he shrugged. "Nothing but the truth."


"Well, at least you are not getting all emotional about this..." Karen said with a sigh as she waved hand at her chair.


"If I do..." Aeron said softly. "Run." Karen glanced at him and then nodded slowly.


"Even when the docs are done poking and prodding me, I am not going to run fast." Karen said with a sigh that faded as Aeron looked at her. "But I roll very fast." She said with a  grin.


"Good for you." Aeron said with a nod. "Don't let it win." Karen's chair stopped in mid-corridor as she turned to stare at him. He shrugged. "I may not be able to feel now, but I do remember the emotional roller coaster of being seriously injured. Volt warframes have power but not a lot of protection."


"I...see..." Karen said slowly. "I..." She shook herself. "Would you be offended if I asked to hold your hand?"


"Why?" Aeron asked, curious.


"Because you are a lot stronger than I am." Karen said, her brave front suddenly collapsing and grief peering out from her eyes. "Maybe I can get some help via osmosis?" She flinched as Aeron turned to face her, his posture even.


"You do yourself a disservice, Ma'am." Aeron said quietly and formally. "You don't need help. I do understand, if not your exact situation..." He waved at the chair and Karen flinched. "I don't see what help a broken Tenno can be, but if you wish..." He held out  hand to Karen who took it in both of hers. She held it tight for a moment and then released it.


"Thank you." Karen said with feeling.


"For?" Aeron asked, curious.


"For not looking at me and seeing the chair." Karen said slowly. "I know, I know..." She said as Aeron made a  noise of protest. "None of the others do. But I was worried you would."


"Without Alicia speaking to me, I might have." Aeron said with a small frown that vanished as the feeling of disquiet that caused it vanished into the white in his head. "But it would have been wrong. You are more than a chair."


"You are nice. And cute." Karen said and then  froze, her face turning bright red. "No... No, I did not just say that!" She exclaimed as she recoiled a bit in her chair. Aeron looked at her and a whisper of a grin quirked his mouth before vanishing.


"Say what?" Aeron asked quietly. "Did you say something?"


"No." Karen said, slowly relaxing. "Yes... I ... I shouldn't have said that. I am sorry. The therapy is helping, but I... The..." She swallowed heavily. "I still get...urges..." She shook herself savagely. "And my brain to mouth filter needs adjustment again..."


"After what you endured..." Aeron said kindly. "Anyone might have a few off moments. I took no offense, Ma'am."


"Thank you." Karen said with feeling. "But... Can you call me Karen? Ma'am seems... too formal."


"I am not one of your clanmates, Ma'am." Aeron protested softly. "Too much informality can be a hindrance at times. How about Ms Karen?"


"Technically, it was Mrs." Karen said, her face going wooden. "But... They all died in the War." Aeron froze and stared at her and she slowly nodded. "I answered an advertisement for a job. Low pay, horrid hours, but something to do besides sit and weep. I went to the interview location and it all went black. Next thing I knew, I woke up here."


"I am sorry..." Aeron said, feeling a stab of pain through him at the sheer anguish this woman had to be feeling. Then it was gone. "...Karen."


"No hope of escape." Karen mumbled. "Nothing but..." She curled in on herself and Aeron laid hand on her shaking shoulder.


"It's over, Karen." Aeron said quietly. "You survived. The ones who hurt you are dead. You will recover." He did not move as both her hands covered his and gave a squeeze. "Don't let the ones who abused you win, Karen."


"I won't." Karen said after a moment. When she looked up, her eyes were dry. "Thank you. For understanding."


"It...hasn't hit me yet." Aeron said slowly. "I don't know if it will through this white. When I finally on an emotional level realize my family..." He broke off as Karen made a small noise of understanding.


"...aren't coming back." Karen said, her eyes now glistening. "I am sorry, Aeron. My pain is old. Yours is fresh. I wasn't thinking."


"Karen..." Aeron said as gently as he could. "Its okay. I am not... well, fully functional. But I am functional. That said, shall we?"


"Let's." Karen said, giving his hand another squeeze before letting go and situating herself again. "Thanks. And Aeron?"


"Hmm?" He asked as she started off again. He matched her pace easily.


"You are cute." She said, her grin impish.


"I don't think that is appropriate at the moment, Karen." Aeron said with a small smile. "But the compliment is appreciated." They continued in silence for a moment and then Aeron broke it. "What is your preferred weapon?"


"Miguel has me learning on a Lato." Karen said with a nod. "Basic steps for beginners. Haven't got the arm strength currently for a rifle."


"Could rig some kind of support." Aeron said musing. She looked at him and he shrugged. "A tripod mount or something similar. If all you have to do is aim..."


"That is a thought." Karen replied, her tome bemused. "But wouldn't the recoil of the heavier weapons throw off the aim?"


"Depends on the weapon." Aeron said with another shrug. "I have seen it done. I once saw a little human boy fire a...heavy..." He trailed off.


"A heavy what?" Karen asked after a moment.


"I..." Aeron shook his head. "I don't know. "I have a memory of a small human boy. He was holding the grips of a heavy weapon, one that was mounted on a gimbal. He was...firing at something." He shook his head and nodded as Karen's baffled look. "Most of us lost memory, Karen." He paused as she inhaled sharply.


"A side effect of the cryopods?" Karen asked, her voice somewhere between wonder and horror. Aeron nodded and then froze as she gave a cry and burst into tears. "I thought it was just me..." She wailed.


"Karen?" Aeron asked, his hand coming up to lay on her shoulder. He was not prepared for her to pull him close, but he did not resist. Indeed, he knelt down to let her weep into his arm.


"I can't remember their faces. Or their names!" Karen cried. "It's all a blur now. I thought he took it when he put that thing in my head. After... After..." She swallowed heavily.


"The side effects of cryo are known, Karen." Aeron said sadly. The sadness vanished like all his other emotions. "I am sorry for your loss."


"Will it...come back?" Karen begged, her tear streaked face looking up at him. Aeron bowed his head and shook it.


"We...relearn much of what we lost, Karen." The male Tenno said after a moment. "But it never comes back."


"He wanted to make me forget." Karen said, her voice turning into a snarl. "He wanted me to serve him alone, not my memories. I will! I will remember! I will find out who they were if it takes me an eternity! I will!"


"If I can help..." Aeron said simply. "I will." Karen looked up, her arm scrubbing her face clear of tears that had stopped falling.


"You have." Karen said, her tone moderating. "Thank you, Aeron. Now, I need to get rid of some stress. Coming?" She said as he retreated a step, rising to follow as she started off again.


"Just point it at the targets please." Aeron said with a nod.


"Hey!" Karen said with a snap. "I am not Mari. That girl really needs to lighten up a bit..."


"Problem?" Aeron asked slowly. Mari was the girl who had been off the drill in class.


"Mari is... a little chaotic at times." Karen said with a wince. "I do her a disservice, but she was the first one of us...enthralled. I know she had no choice but to put that thing in my head, but I don't know if I can forgive her."


"No one is asking you to." Aeron said softly. "The only one who can choose to forgive, is you."


"Would you?" Karen asked as they neared an elevator.


"I am not you, Karen." Aeron froze as a red beam played out from the wall nearby, playing over him.  A modulated voice sounded.


"Unauthorized access. Identify." The computerized voice was not hostile, but neither was it friendly.


"Tenno Aeron and Initiate Karen to use the range." Karen said quietly. The beam clicked off and the elevator door opened. She smiled at his expression. "Is it paranoia when they are all out to get us?"


"No." Aeron said with a smile as he followed her into the elevator.


Hidden scanners. I think I will take Alicia's warning about unauthorized weapons very seriously...

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On Target


Aeron and Karen exited the elevator into a short corridor. A door ahead was marked 'Range' and Karen headed for it. She paused at a locker by the door and looked at Aeron.


"Hearing protection?" She asked as she opened the locker and pulled out a set of ear protectors.


Aeron nodded, silent. Aeron examined the set she handed him. They hadn't changed much over the centuries since humans first realized that being in the vicinity of multiple repeated loud things was bad for the hearing. They were still cup like things that covered the ears of a humanoid being. He nodded in approval as Karen slid hers around her neck and placed a set of safety glasses over her face. He held out  a hand and she handed him a set of those as well. Firing ranges, by definition, were not safe places. He slid the glasses on and then pulled the ear covers over his ears.


"Check, check." Aeron heard Karen's voice clearly in his ears as she spoke.


"Reading you clearly," Aeron replied evenly. "You?"


"Five by five." Karen replied, then paused. "Do you have any idea what that means? I don't and no one I have talked to does either. Miguel uses it, but he was a soldier and well... He knows what he is doing, so we copy him." She admitted a bit sheepishly.


"No." Aeron admitted. "It's just what people say when they are testing reception if they can hear properly. No idea what the people who coined it meant by it. Was a long time ago."


"True." Karen said with a shrug. "Ready?" She paused. "Ah, Miguel can be a bit... brusque..." She started only to pause as Aeron nodded.


"Considering the hell all of you went through, I am not surprised." Aeron said with a nod. "Do you know why he... Um..." He paused, looking for a polite way to say 'He was kidnapped'.


"I am not entirely sure." Karen said softly, her face squinching up as she grimaced. "They used him for research and development of weapons as well as manufacture. I know he was a soldier, and a weapons tech. Beyond that, he doesn't talk about what he did, before."


"Fair enough." Aeron said with a nod. "You trust him?"


"With my life." Karen said quietly. "He was always kind to me. He didn't need to be. He could have been rough, hurt me like some of the others... But he didn't. He was always gentle." Aeron froze and Karen hastened to speak. "No! No, not like that. After... After they..." She swallowed and Aeron nodded slowly. "He was always there for me, helping me, cleaning me up. I always got the feeling he wasn't a nice man. But he is a good one." She said with feeling. "A good friend."


"A good friend is a treasure." Aeron replied evenly. "One to be cherished." Karen nodded her agreement.


"Ready?" Karen asked again. Aeron nodded and she keyed the door open and rolled through. Aeron followed her in and moved with her to stand by a wall, out of the way.


The room was huge and segmented. Lockers dotted the walls and narrow tables ran along the walls in places as well. One segment was obviously a static shooting range. The woman called Cora was kneeling at one of the four lane stations there, a Burston rifle in hand spitting fire downrange. She was focused tightly on her targets and paid no attention to the pair entering. Another side of the room had a large blocky structure with a single door. Aeron figured that for some kind of holographic shoot house. Tenno were masters of Close Quarters Battle, but practice was always a good thing, in or  out of a warframe. Another large segment was empty, but from the scorch marks on the floor and heavy duty walls, it was used for heavy weapon or explosives training. The final segment was a transparent walled enclosure where a male human wearing unpowered body armor was sitting at a desk. His eyes were sharp as they scrutinized Karen and Aeron, but then he focused on Cora.


"Time." A calm male voice sounded in Aeron's ears and Cora immediately stopped firing, her rifle moving to a safe posture and her hand clicking the safety on. "Let's see how you did, Cora."


"This isn't comfortable for me, Range Master Miguel." Cora said with a wince as she rose. "The handle is too small."


"Once we find something you are comfortable with, we can resize it to fit you specifically, Cora." The human said as he rose from his desk and exited what was obviously a control booth. "You do well with the Vulkar."


"Yeah." Cora agreed half heartedly. "Then again, the Vulkar was designed for people my size." She waited while the range master stepped up beside her and then visibly winced as he activated a hologram that showed her target. Holes showed all over it. She groaned. "I hate this. I thought I knew how to shoot."


"You do." Miguel said with a nod. "But you learned some very bad habits. All of your rounds hit the target." He indicated the holo and Cora nodded, obviously against her will.


"And how many would have actually done damage?" Cora asked sadly. The holographic humanoid shape was peppered with holes, but few were in vital spots. "I will get better." She promised.


"Yes, you will, Cora. Give me a couple of months to set you straight and you will be poking the eyes out of any of the targets with any weapon here. " Miguel said with a nod. "Especially when we find a weapon that suits you. The Grineer weapons are almost all mass produced junk." He said with a snap.


"No argument there. No need to waste good stuff on cannon fodder anyway." Cora said with a nod. "Pistol?" Miguel nodded to her.


"Lane one is set up for you. Pick a different one this time. Not the Lato." He growled at her as she slumped. "You need to learn the ins and outs of all of the weapons we have, Cora."


"Right." Cora said with a nod. "I'll try the Sicarus. For a Grineer weapon, it's not half bad."


"Good choice." Miguel agreed. "Secure the rifle, then pick up your pistol and three boxes of ammo while I get Karen and her friend set up." Cora nodded and unloaded her rifle carefully before starting to disassemble it for eventual cleaning. When Miguel was sure she was well on her way, he strode to where Karen was sitting. "Karen? Here for your daily quota of rounds?"


"Yeah." Karen agreed. "This is Aeron, the docs wanted him out from underfoot and suggested the range."


"Lane two, Karen." Miguel said with a nod. "Your Lato is there and two boxes of ammo. You will want to check it. You know how to set up the targets for yourself. I'll be by to check. Do not load until I come by." Karen nodded soberly.


"Right. Did you take the firing pin out this time?" Karen asked with a smile as she started off towards the indicated lane. But Miguel was looking at Aeron who looked back evenly.


"You are a full Tenno." Miguel said finally. "So you know your weapons."


"Some." Aeron agreed. "Practice rarely hurts."


"Preferred weapon?" Miguel asked, still scrutinizing the Tenno.


"Let's keep it simple." Aeron said quietly. "You got a spare Braton?"


"I do." Miguel said with a nod. "Come on..." He led the way to a wall locker and opened it. Inside was a variety of rifles. Aeron's eyes lingered on a few, but he waited until Miguel removed a rifle and extended it to him. Aeron checked that the weapon was on safe before visually checking that the magazine well was empty and no round was in the chamber. When he looked up, Miguel was nodding. "You do know your weapons."


"Usually you only get one mistake with a loaded weapon." Aeron said with a nod. "Magazine?" Miguel handed him one and Aeron smiled thinly as he examined it. He handed it back. "Magazine with intact feeder mechanism, please?"


"Good eyes." Miguel said, pocketing the defective magazine and pulling one out of the locker. "That got about three quarters of the recruits I saw. And some of the regular troops."


"When your life depends on the magazine that feeds the ammunition into your rifle, you take very good care to make sure it works." Aeron said with a nod. "May I?" He asked, indicating the rifle in his hands with a nod.


"Go ahead." Miguel said and then his eyes widened slightly as Aeron's eyes never left his, but the Tenno's hands swiftly disassembled the rifle in hand by touch. In seconds, pieces of the rifle were laid out on a table that was conveniently nearby. "You are good." Miguel admitted.


"Lots of practice." Aeron said noncommittally.  He looked down at the rifle and blinked. "The feeder assembly is not the norm? Specialty work?" He asked, curious.


"An innovation." Miguel said with a curt nod. "One reason they grabbed me. Feeds ammo faster." Aeron nodded absently as he scrutinized the disassembled rifle. "What?" Miguel demanded.


"I would have thought this bolt modification would slow the cycling." Aeron said, curiosity peaking before vanishing into the white in his mind. Then he nodded. "Ah, a refurbished retaining pin on the separator assembly? It couldn't have been that simple." He said with a shake of his head. "What else?" He asked, looking up to see Miguel gaping at him. "What?"


"They only wanted it firing faster." Miguel said slowly. "They didn't care how I did it."


"Then they were complete freaking idiots. Sergeant?" Aeron asked. Miguel nodded, his eyes still on the pieces of the rifle. "Some of us have to rely on our tools to survive. It only makes sense to have the best available and to know the 'ins and outs' as you say." He started reassembling it, still by touch.


"I think I am going to like working with you, Tenno Aeron." Miguel said with a slow smile crossing his features. It was not a nice smile, more a feral promise. Aeron nodded. He understood this man just fine.


"If I make a mistake, correct me." Aeron said quietly. "And... If I go off, stop me." He said slowly as he finished reassembling the rifle and slung it. Miguel paused and then nodded slowly.


"I will." Miguel said softly. "Ammo." He pulled three boxes of rifle ammunition from the locker. Aeron looked at the boxes and Miguel snorted a laugh. "No tricks now. One professional to another."


"Begging your pardon, Sergeant." Aeron said with a small smile that vanished as his amusement did. "I am going to check them."


"How would I rig a box of ammo?" Miguel asked with another snort. "They are sealed deals."


"Repaint a box of pistol ammo?" Aeron asked with a shrug as he pointed to the box on top. Miguel looked down and indeed, while the box was blue like rifle ammunition, it was marked with a 'P' for pistol.


"Wha-? I didn't do that." Miguel said, perplexed as he checked the others. "I wonder... " He replaced the wrong box with a real box of rifle ammunition. Then he slumped a bit as he checked the logs. "Ah...Mari was lat to use this locker. I might have known. She probably thought it was funny. That girl..."


"Might be a good test, Sergeant. Lots of people go by color instead of reading, especially when the excrement hits the air circulation system." Aeron said diffidently. "But you will want to talk to her about monkeying with ammunition. Not a good prank."


"Good test." Miguel agreed as he put the three boxes of ammo into a pouch with a sling. Then he held the ouch out for Aeron to take. Aeron took the pouch and examined the boxes inside with practiced speed before nodding. "But you are right. Not a good prank. Static targets?"


"To start." Aeron agreed. "I am likely rusty."


"Why do I get the feeling that your 'rusty' and mine are two completely different things?" Miguel asked with another snorted laugh. "I will set lane three up for you. Do not load or fire until the others are set." He cautioned. "For all her spunk, Karen is a raw beginner and startles easily. Cora needs reassurance, not surprises. Especially loud ones."


"Readback. Take up station at lane three. Do not load or fire until commanded." Aeron acknowledged with a nod as Miguel started off towards the enclosure again. The Tenno strode to the indicated lane and pulled each box of ammunition out of the pouch to set on the flat firing surface. He unslung his rifle and watched as holographic targets appeared in the distance in his lane. "Lane three standing by, weapon unloaded and on safe." He said quietly.


"Lane one, standing by." Cora's calm voice sounded in Aeron's ears. He looked to see her standing, the pistol held professionally, barrel to the floor, finger off the trigger. "Weapon unloaded and on safe."


"Lane two." Karen's voice was flat. "Did you have to block the barrel, Miguel? I knew the moment I saw the extra barrel that you had done something. But clearing this is going to be a pain in the butt."


"Don't bother, Karen." Aeron could hear the amusement in the Miguel's voice, but when he looked the man was not smiling. "It's a teaching tool. A Lato won't fire with a plugged barrel. But it has surprised the heck out of a few people over the years. Did you change the barrel?"


"Of course I changed it." Karen snapped, her ire up. "What kind of an idiot-?"

"Karen." Miguel's voice was soft, but held command and Aeron saw Karen jerk out of the corner of his eye. "Calm down."


"Right." Karen said with a gulp. "Lane two, Lato functional, unloaded and on safe."


"All lanes, you may load." Miguel said quietly. Aeron did as instructed, the magazine clicking into the Braton easily. He slid the first box of ammo into it and nodded as the digital readout on the side changed from '0' to '585'. "Call off when charged."


Aeron slid the charging handle on the Braton and nodded as another counter appeared above the main one. This one read '45', the normal magazine load for a Braton. The lower readout changed to '540'.


"Lane 3, charged, on safe." Aeron said, pointing the Braton downrange just to be sure.


"Lane 1, charged, on safe." Aeron heard Cora say.


"Lane 2 is charged and on safe." Karen sounded a bit upset still, but Aeron approved of her control.


"Ready on the right." Aeron heard Miguel say. The Tenno did not respond, knowing it was formality. "Ready on the left." Then came the command they had been waiting for. "Range clear. You may commence firing."


Aeron tracked onto the first target, his thumb finding the safety and clicking it off as the rifle came up in a trained sinuous motion. The first shot was as surprise as always. He fired five rounds semi-auto as quickly as he could pull the trigger, and then paused as a beep sounded. Cora and Karen continued firing s it was a private transmission to Aeron alone. He safetied his weapon and waited.


"Tenno Aeron..." Miguel's voice was respectful. "Did you just put all five of your rounds through the leftmost target's left eye?"


"Yes." Aeron said simply. "Problem?"


"No." Miguel said, bemused. "No problem. Should have known. I must be getting old."


"Hmmm?" Aeron asked, curious.


"Don't tell me you are not a sniper, Tenno Aeron." Miguel said with a snort. "Don't even try."


"Haven't done long range work in a long time." Aeron said, neither confirming nor denying. "I did see those sniper rifles in the locker. Could I try one if we have time?"


"I think I am going to make time." Miguel said with a smile in his voice. "Been awhile since I dealt with another true professional. No offense, but most Tenno seem to go for blades."


"Most." Aeron said, still non-committal. "Not all. Long range engagement has it's uses."


"I do like you, Tenno Aeron." Miguel said with a real laugh this time. Then he became professional again. "Continue firing."


Aeron had a small smile on his face as he readied his weapon again and did as instructed.

Edited by Kalenath
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Sniper Time




Cora cursed softly as both she and Karen stared in awe at the set of holographic targets that shone in front of them. One set was hers, one set Karens, and the third set was Aeron's. Everyone was looking at Aeron's. On his, every single hole was in the middle of the head, even the ones that had been sized to match a target at 200 meters. Aeron just shook his head and focused on cleaning his Braton. Cora  looked at him and shook her head.


"You don't think 99% accuracy is good?" She asked incredulous.


They had all finished up their firing and had assembled around a table to clean their weapons and discuss their firing. Until Aeron's targets had appeared with theirs anyway. All still wore their safety glasses, but with no firing, Miguel had loosened the hearing protection decree and all three had the ear covering dangling around their necks.


"It's good. But there is always room for improvement." Aeron said quietly, finishing up his detail cleaning. Luckily modern weapons were virtually self cleaning. Otherwise putting just over 1500 rounds through a weapon would have made a heck of a mess of said weapon. The Braton just needed a little bit of work. Karen and Cora had finished cleaning their pistols before he had finished his rifle, then turned to the targets to analyze.


"I have got a long way to go..." Karen's voice was faint as she stared at the targets. She looked at hers, the holes all over it, some not even scratching the holographic representation of the humanoid that was the main target and winced. "A long, long way."


"Karen." Aeron said in a mild voice. "I am a lot older than you. I have been practicing for a long, long time." She looked at him and he shrugged. "It stands to reason I am going to be better than you at this. You will get better. Miguel knows what he is doing." He promised her.


"I half expected you two to butt heads." Karen said with a smile.


"He is a professional, so am I." Aeron said with a nod. "We likely won't always agree on everything, we are mortal after all. But he has experience that I lack, and I have experience he lacks. So we can work together."


"Well said, Tenno Aeron." Miguel said with a smile as he came from where he had been looking into at locker, a set of long objects in hand. "Care to try some real targets?"


"I would like that." Aeron said quietly. "But don't Cora and Karen have things to do? Matter of fact..." He paused. "Don't I?"


"Sensei, Will and Two are out on some kind of urgent drone hunt." Cora said with a shrug. "All classes are on hold until they get back. My chores are done. Karen?" Karen shook her head and Cora nodded. "Jimmy is stuck in Medical. Alicia and Amelia are the only other ones here and they are busy. Well, and Mari..."


"Probably need to find out what deviltry that girl is getting up to." Miguel said with a sigh. "And I need to talk to her about tampering with ammunition."


"She is doing the best she can." Karen rose to Mari's defense.


"I know that, Karen." Miguel said heavily. "I also know that she was hurt the worst of all of us by the cryo process." Aeron looked askance at him and Miguel frowned. "The thrall devices were not totally insulated against the cold of the cryopods. All of us took brain damage that Alicia, Amelia and Jimmy have been working overtime to heal." Aeron nodded soberly and Miguel continued. "But Karen,... We cut her some slack, but there are limits. We cannot have her acting off. Not in an enclosed environment with others who are vulnerable." Karen looked at him and then at her chair and swallowed heavily. "But don't fret, girl. We will figure something out." Cora nodded emphatically to Miguel's words. The former soldier laid three sniper rifles down on the table and nodded to Aeron. "See what fits you."


Aeron nodded absently, he was scrutinizing the rifles. One was a Vulkar, the standard Grineer long range death dealer. It hit hard and accurately, but didn't have a lot of spare room for ammo and it's recoil was atrocious. The next... Aeron did not wince as he looked at the Lanka although a stab of pain surged through him. A Corpus goon had used a Lanka to kill Fran, his sister in arms. The Lanka was a railgun. It's range and damage were essentially unparalleled, but it took time to charge up each shot. Time that could mean the difference between life and death on the battlefield. The pain faded into the white in his brain as he shook his head minutely. The final one...


"Where did you get a Snipetron?" Aeron asked, his voice nearly reverent. "The Corpus stopped making them before I could get one." He looked at Miguel who smiled and nodded permission. Clearance received, Aeron picked up the long rifle and examined it carefully. It had been well maintained, loved even.


"One of the...um... former residents here...collected oddball weapons. That was in his collection."Miguel tactfully omitted the fact that said resident was dead. "He never used it. It just collected dust in a locker."


"That is a shame." Aeron said, his eyes lingering on the scope, the magazine well and then running the length of the barrel. "I hated when the Corpus went to the Lanka. There was no way my clan was ever going to be able to afford the costs to reverse engineer one. I did try one once. The charging time hurts."


"Why did they go to the Lanka?" Cora asked, staring that the long weapon with a mix of awe and envy. "All I knew was one day they were hitting my comrades with electrical energy instead of bullets."


"Basic logistics." Miguel said with a shrug. "If you have a huge personnel base, then making weapons standardized saves a lot of headaches when you have to supply them. Snipetrons were only for very specialized forces even when they were widespread, but still... It was a different ammunition type. They had to produce a lot of different ammunition. I am surprised it took them as long as it did to phase them out."


"Is that like ' Amateurs speak of tactics, professionals speak of logistics'?" Karen asked, her eyes also on the long firearm.


"Yes and no. Both tactics and logistics have their place. Both are equally important." Miguel said as Aeron started slowly field stripping the rifle. "Didn't think you could do that one blindfolded yet. I give you..." He paused in thought and then grinned. "Three hours."


"You are on." Aeron said absently, most of his focus on the rifle as he slid parts out of it carefully.  "Actual bet or bragging rights?"


"Let's go with bragging rights." Miguel said a bit sheepishly. "Not a lot of money or need of it here."


"Good point." Aeron said as he slowly started reassembling the rifle. "Did you work on this?"


"No." Miguel said, making a face. "Like I said, it sat in a locker. Such sacrilege." He said, shaking his head. "A fine piece of engineering and it just sat."


"Well... With your permission, range master..." Aeron said with a nod. "I won't let it just sit."


"Can we watch?" Cora asked just as Karen said the same thing. They looked at each other and shared a chuckle, but waited for Miguel to speak.


"Aeron? You mind?" Miguel asked carefully.


"No." Aeron said as he finished putting the rifle back together. "Where?"


"Lane 4 is set up for sniping." Miguel said with a smile. "I had the thought you might want something a bit more challenging."


"I will need to zero." Aeron replied.


"Can do. Will you need a spotter?" Miguel asked after a moment. "Or can you solo? I can spot. Haven't done it for a while, but I hear it's like riding a hoverbike. You never forget how."


"I have done both." Aeron admitted. "But it has been a long time." He shook his head. "You spot? You are range master."


"If you are the only one firing, I can handle it." Miguel said with a frown. "But... good point. Karen!" The chair bound woman jerked. "You remember what I taught you about spotting scopes?"


"I do." Karen admitted. "But wouldn't Cora..." She trailed off as he glared at her. "Yes, Range Master Miguel, I do."


"Cora, Locker 3-A, get a level twenty scope and bring it here." Cora dashed to obey Miguel's command as he turned to another nearby locker. "Mounts... Mounts... I know I have a tripod in here somewhere." He mused as he looked through the locker..


"I don't understand." Karen said faintly.


"Snipers usually work in pairs, Karen." Aeron said with a nod. "A shooter and a spotter. Technically, since I am the more experienced shooter, I should be spotting."


"There is no way I can heft that thing." Karen declared, staring at the long and unwieldy looking Snipetron. "Let alone shoot it and pray to hit anything."


"Wanna bet?" Aeron asked, his smile turning sly before vanishing as his mood was eaten by the mess in his head. "Miguel, would you have a mount that works for a sniper rifle in there?"


"Matter of fact... I do." Miguel said with a wide grin. "Would work for a heavy scope or a Snipetron."


"Mind if I zero while you are rigging the mount?"Aeron asked, not moving. He knew better than to do anything on a firing range without permission of the range master.


"Ears!" Miguel commanded, setting his own hearing protection in place. Karen fumbled hers in place while Cora juggled the case she held while she did the same. Aeron slid his over his ears and caught Miguel's next words. "...you can zero on lane two.  How many rounds?"


"Five was usual." Aeron said with a nod. "Might need six or seven since I don't know the weapon."


"I highly doubt that. But just in case, here is ten." Miguel extended a magazine to Aeron who took it in one hand and the rifle in the other. "Need a tool?"


"Oh. Yeah." Aeron said a bit sheepishly. "Used to doing this in my warframe, no need to adjust things manually there."


"Those of us who are mere mortals can usually muddle through just fine." Miguel said with a self deprecating tone. He waited until Aeron strode to the lane station and set the rifle down with the barrel carefully facing downrange before holding out a small tool to the Tenno. Aeron walked back and took it.


"Thanks." The Tenno said quietly. "I will be quick." He strode back to the station and paused. "Permission to zero, range master?"


"Granted." Miguel said with smile in his voice that Aeron didn't see because he was focused on the rifle. "Human sized target set at 200 meters. Load and fire at your discretion."


"Roger that." Aeron said with a nod as he took up the rifle and knelt.


He would have preferred to go prone, -maybe even steady the rifle with a mount or something- but the range wasn't currently set up for that. And the Snipetron was good out to 3000 meters, so 200 was a joke. Instead, he laid the rifle on the ledge that separated the station from the range lane itself and steadied it carefully. He loaded the rifle swiftly and efficiently and then took aim and fired at the target that met his sights. He scanned the target with the rifle's scope and nodded. High and right. He corrected the scope with the ease of long practice, then fired again. He did that three times before he was satisfied. Then he checked the weapon, ensuring it was unloaded, and on safe before turning back to see the others ready for him. Karen looked... nervous.


"I don't know about this." Karen said, fingering the large metal brackets that were now fixed to the side of her chair. "Maybe I should just use the scope. That is a big gun."


"It's a rifle, not a gun, Karen." Aeron said before Miguel could. Both shared a wry glance. "And you can do it. With your permission, range master?"


"Ready on four at your discretion." Miguel said with a nod as he moved back to his station.


"I really don't think this is a good idea." Karen said as Aeron picked up the rifle and stepped to lane four.


"One way to find out." Aeron said as he beckoned her close. Cora had the spotting scope case in hand and a small scope hanging around her neck. "Come on, Karen. It won't bite." He gently teased her.


"Just scared I am going to drop it and break it." Karen mumbled as she eased her chair close to the lane and stopped it so the mount faced towards the targets. Aeron clamped the profile onto the mount and nodded to Karen before turning to take the spotting scope from Cora who had come up,. The Grineer withdrew without a sound but her smile was wide.


"Okay, Karen." The male Tenno said quietly. "The rifle is set. Look through the scope and put the central dot on the head of the target that you see."


"Don't I have to lead, or adjust or something?" Karen asked as she did as instructed.


"Yes." Aeron said calmly. "But my job is to tell you how much. You will see small hash marks underneath the dot. Simulated range is one thousand three hundred and six meters. Gravity is negligible. There is no atmospheric distortion, weather or anything else. Raise the rifle until the third hash mark under the center dot is on the target's head.  Range master?" He asked when Karen had done as instructed.


"Your discretion." Miguel repeated calmly.


"Okay, Karen, squeeze the trigger, slow and gentle." Aeron said quietly. "It will be a surprise..." Karen gave a squeak as the Snipetron fired. "Just like that." He smiled as he looked through the spotting scope. "And you said you couldn't hit it..."


"I..." Karen stared through her scope, dumbfounded at the half of the holographic target's head which was gone. "How... far...?"


"One thousand, three hundred and six meters. Good shot." Aeron said as he reclaimed the Snipetron and placed the scope on the brackets.


"Good rifle." Karen said, dazed. Then she shook herself. "I am betting you can do better."


"Of course I can, Karen." Aeron's tone was mild. "I have done this for a long time. If you lived and fought as long as I have, you would be just as good, if not better. I am out of practice. Range Master?"


"Ready for a challenge, Tenno Aeron?" Miguel asked in a cocky voice.


"Twenty rounds. Moving pop-ups." Aeron said with a nod. "You are not going to be able to keep up with my shooting, Karen, so don't try. I just want you to see how many you can spot and try to get the ranges. Don't worry about all the other information scrolling along the sides of your vision, just get the targets and ranges. That is the single most important bit of long range shooting, knowing where the targets are and how far away they are. Ready?"


"Yeah." Karen said, her eyes glued to the binocular scope.


"Range master. Reloading. " Aeron said as he reloaded the spent round. Then he raised the rifle but did not aim yet. "Ready. 4 shots remaining."


"Go." Miguel's calm voice came and Aeron had his rifle up before the sound of the word faded.


He tracked a barely seen image and fired, aware that he had hit, but missed a clean kill shot even as Karen exclaimed. He aimed and  fired, then did it again, again and again, then reloaded automatically. While he reloaded, he took note of targets popping up and falling. There was no pattern he could see, so he just fell into mode and serviced targets as he had been taught so long ago. Robotically, mercilessly. Firing and reloading so fast that it seemed that the metronome precise shots never faltered. Then his rifle clicked empty and he was out of ammunition. Twenty rounds. He remembered missing exactly twice. Aeron shook himself out of the combat trance he had been in and nodded to himself. Not too bad for a rusty sniper.


"Holy shi- Sugar..." Miguel quickly corrected himself, his voice dazed. Then the range master's voice was awed. "One shot, one kill indeed. Dang, if we had even  a couple like you, we never would have lost a battle."


"I have lost my share of battles." Aeron said quietly as he safetied his rifle and laid it down. " I didn't hit all the targets."


"No." Miguel admitted. "But you hit almost everything you aimed at. Not all clean, but... wow."


"Don't start, sergeant." Aeron heard himself say. "I put my pants on one leg at a time, just like any. I am not perfect." He felt faint suddenly and held the station ledge until he steadied.


"Eighteen hits." Karen said, her voice small. "Sixteen of those headshots. Those would have been instant kills no matter what armor the target was wearing. That was... scary." Then she paused. "Aeron, you okay?"


"I..." Aeron shook his head. "I dunno... I feel... strange." He shook himself. "I am all right. It's just been a  long time. Felt good. Need to clean up."


"You are pale." Miguel's voice sounded from nearby. "Don't pass out on me."


"Nope." Aeron took a few deep breaths and nodded slowly. "Takes a lot out of you. But it was good to do it again. Like I said, long time."


"Just for letting me see that..." Miguel said slowly. "I got this. Get your butt to medical, let them check you out."


"Gotta... clean the weapons, sergeant..." Aeron barely recognized his own voice. "I messed 'em, gotta clean 'em." Why was his voice slurring? Why was his vision suddenly dark?


"Aeron, come on..." A gentle hand was on his arm and guiding him. That was wrong, wasn't it? He wasn't sure. Nothing made a lot of sense. "Come on, Aeron. You will make Karen cry if you pass out." Cora. That  was her name, wasn't it?


"I am fine..." Aeron protested, but couldn't muster the strength to struggle as the hand guided him on, gently but inexorably. "Just tired..."


"If you can say that without slurring I will..." Her voice trailed off and then she exclaimed in surprise. "Ah, Alicia! Help!" Another hand was on his other arm and both were guiding him.


"I got the call." Alicia's voice was sharp with worry. "What happened?"


"Aeron did something amazing, but I think it took too much out of him. He is dazed and not seeing clearly if at all." Cora's voice was worried, but clear. "He hasn't lost consciousness and he is still coherent. Mostly."


"Come on, Aeron." Alicia said softly. "Back to Medical."


"Gotta...clean up..." Aeron protested, but the arms that guided him were relentless and he relaxed as he realized they were not going to let him do anything but what they ordered.


"What you 'gotta' do, Aeron..." Alicia said sourly. "...is lie down and let us figure out what is wrong in your head. Or I will sedate you stubborn Tenno hide. Clear?"


"Clear." Aeron said with a grimace.


"Go on, Cora." Alicia said kindly. "I got him. Wait...? What did he do?"


"It was amazing, Alicia." Cora almost gushed. "You need to see the video when Miguel clears it. Eighteen hits out of twenty shots fired from a sniper rifle  at a simulated range of a thousand meters and more. Pop up targets. In maybe two minutes."


"A thousand meters?" Alicia said softly. "Outside of a warframe?" She asked dubiously.


"Focused on movement..." Aeron said as clearly as he could. "Used the scope on wide field view. Not hard..."


"For you." Alicia said with force. "Come on, Aeron. Let's get you back so we can figure this out." Aeron grumbled but did not resist. Fighting the docs didn't help.

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Aeron came awake suddenly, aware of something different. Alicia had brought him back to Medical and put him in a bed with orders to 'rest'. She had checked his eyes and reassured him that they were fine, he was just exhausted. He didn't think she had slipped him anything, but wasn't going to put it past the sneaky medic. He had collapsed onto the bed and been out like a light. But now... Something had changed, but he wasn't sure what. Then he tried to move and couldn't. He looked down and he was restrained to the bed.


"Great." Aeron said sourly, looking around. "Who did I scare?" Why would Alicia nave restrained him? What did he do?


"Volt." The soft female voice was worried. "You are awake."


"Volt?" Aeron asked slowly. "Wha-?" He looked up to see a female wearing a Saryn warframe sitting nearby. It was a Saryn, but... different. It had gold in places and odd gold hoops on her head. "What is going on?"


"You don't remember?" The female Tenno asked sadly. "You went berserk. You were firing in every direction. Excalibur had to knock you out, or you might have hurt us. As it was, you hit a few of us."


"Friendly fire? But... I don't understand. I don't know you, do I?" Aeron asked slowly. "Who are you?"


"You don't remember me?" The Saryn asked, dumbfounded. "Aw crap. What do you remember?" She asked carefully.


"I had tired myself out." Aeron said slowly. "I was... in Medical... They told me to get some sleep. This..." He tried the restraints and they didn't budge.


"Great, delusions... Don't make me sedate you, brother." The Saryn said in a tone one step removed from tears. "I will."


"Look,..." Aeron said slowly. "I don't know what is going on here. My name is Aeron. Not Volt. I wear a Volt Warframe. That is not my name."


"You are not making any sense, brother." The Saryn said quietly. "You obviously need more rest." She reached down and came up with an old style syringe. "A little stick and everything will be better."


"Don't you touch me with that!" Aeron said sharply, struggling to stay away from the needle. He jerked away from her as she came close. "Stay away!" He felt pain as his flesh tore on the restraints, but he was beyond caring. He tensed up every muscle.


"Brother, please..." The Saryn begged. "I am begging you, for the love we shared. Let us help you! Just relax." She came closer but Aeron had seen enough, no hope of escape from whatever this was. He focused his mind on oblivion.


"Saryn! Back off! He is trying to suicide!" Another voice, this one male, sounded and the Saryn jumped back. "Idiot boy! Don't do that! We are not your enemies!" A Frost Prime warframe stepped into view, his hand outstretched. "Volt, please... Don't. I don't know what is going on in your head, but we can help. We are your family."


"Volt, please!" Saryn sounded in tears. "Frost! He won't hear us! What do we do?"


"My family is dead." Aeron said softly as he slumped in place. He focused on his heart and darkness crowded around him. Darkness that was suddenly shattered by the crackle of electricity.


"Stand clear!" Someone shouted and agonizing pain arced through Aeron's chest. "That's it, his heart is going again. Dose him! Fast!" Aeron tried to struggle, but many hands held him and a stick in his arm had him falling.




When Aeron could see again, he found himself lying on the floor in a small room. No, a cell. It had no obvious door. The walls were padded. But it was the straitjacket that held him that focused his ire. He had to be under observation and he didn't care.


"I don't care who you people are." Aeron said slowly and carefully. "When I get out of this, you are all dead. You hear me? Dead!" The white rose in his mind and he snarled, but it was inexorable and he found himself relaxing against his will. Something clicked nearby and a narrow hole appeared in the padding.


"You ready to talk?" The Frost Prime from before asked from the slot in the wall. "Or are you just going to be a jerk and scream some more?"


"I don't talk to dead people." Aeron said with a snarl and lay back against the wall.


"Volt, please. Saryn is despondent." The Frost said heavily. "She loves you although I have no idea why at the moment, the way you are treating her."


"My name is Aeron." The restrained man said sharply. "And I have nothing to say to my captors." He tried to focus on oblivion as before, but something clicked and he couldn't.


"Look. We are not going to let you suicide. The projector will keep you from focusing enough." The Frost said just as sharply. "You name wasn't Aeron before you gave it up, when you assumed the mantle, took the warframe." He sighed. "I have no idea where you are getting this delusion from. You are Volt, of the Tenno."


"I am Aeron of the Tenno." Aeron said quietly. "And I do not know you. You will not hold me forever."


"Great." The Frost said with a snarl. "Of all the stubborn, obstinate..." A murmur sounded and the Frost paused. "Sir... I..."


"Your dislike of him is shading your view. Let me talk to him." This voice was older, more experienced. "Go get something to eat, Frost."


"Yes sir." The Frost said slowly, before turning a back to look at Aeron. "You do anything more dishonorable and I will carve your heart out with a dull knife. And enjoy it."


"Frost!" The older voice snapped and the Frost vanished from the slot. Aeron stiffened as a door opened on the wall and a Tenno wearing an odd warframe stepped into the room. It was an Excalibur, but it wasn't. And was that a glaive on the man's forearm? He bore no other obvious weapons. The older Tenno shook his head. "Well, this is a mess."


"Come to gloat or kill?" Aeron asked sourly.


"Neither." The other Tenno shut the door and sat across the room from Aeron. Then he shook his armored head. "Talk only. What did you mean, when you said your name was Aeron? All of the kin here gave up their names when they took up their warframes. It was part of the ritual, a ceremonial severing with their pasts. A new beginning."


"My name is Aeron." Aeron said in a slow tone as if her were dealing with a not quite bright child. "Not Volt."


"Okay... Aeron..." The other Tenno said slowly. "Do you know where you are?"


"I am in a padded cell." Aeron said in a tone that said 'get on with it' quite clearly. "Where else would I be?"


"Fair enough." The man said with a ghost of a chuckle. "Do you know where the cell is?"


"No clue." Aeron said with a snap. "I fell asleep in a medical facility in a dojo and woke up here. Wherever the hell here is. If I am still where I woke up first, which I don't know."


"Which dojo?" The man asked calmly.


"If you don't know then I am not giving up secrets." Aeron said with a snarl.


"Look, Aeron..."T he man emphasized the name. "You are not telling us anything except that you believe you are not who we believe you are. That doesn't help matters and your antagonism isn't helping either. Calm down, boy." He said sharply, then the other Tenno paused as Aeron felt rage come, but it was immediately subsumed by the white. "What the hell...?" The man demanded. "What was that?"


"What was what?" Aeron replied, bouyed by the numbness in his mind.


"That was not normal." The older Tenno said, his posture intent. "Whatever it was. Your vitals spiked when you got mad. Then you... flatlined... That is not possible. You would be dead. And since you are not..."


"Go to hell." Aeron said laying back against the wall.


"All right." The old Tenno said softly. "The hard way. Nyx..." Aeron went stiff as the door opened again and a Nyx warframe entered the cell. It too, was odd. Like the Saryn from before, it had gold in strange places and was not like the Nyx warframes that Aeron had seen and worked with.


"I don't like this, Master." The female Tenno said softly, worried. "Using my powers on one of our kin? It feels...wrong."


"I know, Nyx." The older Tenno said sadly. "But please. We need to know what is going on in his head."


"All right..." The Nyx said as she looked at Aeron. "Please relax, brother.  I won't hurt you. "Aeron focused his mind, trying to summon every ounce of control he had to keep her from reading his mind, but the white overrode it all. She stared at him and then she gave a gasp as she shook her head as if to shake something off it. Or out of it. "My god... That.. That isn't Volt! It... Master! There is something in his mind! Something... white..." She gave a short, shrill scream and collapsed.


"Nyx!" The older Tenno jumped to his feet and caught her as she fell. "What did you do to her?" He demanded of Aeron as he cradled the limp form.


"Me?" Aeron demanded, just as irate. "I am lying here all trussed up. You told her to violate my mind." He rolled upright, ready to defend himself as best he could as the older Tenno laid the unconscious Nyx down and rose, his glaive coming to hand.


"What are you?" The old Tenno demanded. "If you are not Volt, who or what are you?"


"Go ahead, hurt me!" Aeron snapped right back. "Be a good little bully! Anything you do, I have taken worse!"


"No..." The gasped word came from the Nyx and stopped both males in place. "Master... don't... He is Tenno, Master. But not.. of us... Not of... our time..." She collapsed back, limp.


"Not of our...?" The older Tenno froze. "No bloody way." He was obviously staring at Aeron now and his glaive hung forgotten in hand. "From the future?" He asked, incredulous.


"How the hell would I know?" Aeron demanded. "I just woke up here and people are telling me I am someone I am not! Then they want to drug me and restrain me and interrogate me. Well, to hell with all of you!" The white came again and he sank back.


"Look... Okay, we screwed up." The old Tenno said quietly as he sheathed his glaive. "We have been...upset..." He gave a deep sigh and sank back into a sitting position beside the still Nyx. "It hasn't been easy, what we are trying to do. I didn't have a choice about what happened to me. It was live or die once I was infected. All the others volunteered. But in the end, they are still kids... My kids... Adopted, but mine." His hand came down to stroke the Nyx's armored forehead. "We had a dream, one that many don't share. There are a lot of people, on a lot of sides, who think that world unity is a pipe dream. That we should just stay the way we are. Despoil the planet for ourselves and forget about the future."


"What planet?" Aeron asked after a moment. The man froze, staring at him.


"Earth..." The older Tenno said slowly, as if dazed. He shook himself. "I went through an ordeal and was granted extra human abilities as a result. It took decades of research to duplicate the effects safely. To build the warframes and find the right people to wear them, even if they do insist on calling themselves 'Tenno'. Without the others, I wouldn't have a chance of creating my dream. Of making Orokin a reality." Aeron went completely still at that and the older Tenno nodded. "You know the word."


"I don't believe this." Aeron said slowly. "I can't."


"I..." The old Tenno would have spoken further, but the female on the floor groaned. "Nyx?" He asked gently, his hand taking hold of her arm.


"No, Master Haydon." The Nyx said slowly. "You mustn't ask. Anything we ask can change what must be for Aeron to exist. I understand now..." She rolled to her knees and looked from Aeron who had gone still again at that name. "For us this is not a dream, Aeron. But for you, it is."


"I don't understand." Aeron said, not moving. Haydon? It couldn't be... Saryn? Frost? Nyx? Gold? Called by the warframes and not by name? Oh dear...Primes. All of them Primes.


"Your body is asleep. You are dreaming." Nyx, the Nyx -the first one- said gently. "I only touched your mind, Aeron of the Tenno. Enough to see that before the defense in it overwhelmed me. I apologize for the discourtesy, brother." She bowed her head in apology.


"Apology accepted but not needed, sister. You were ordered." Aeron said, bemused by this rapid turn of events. "Master Haydon?" He asked, awe coming but it was then eaten by the white. "Haydon Tenno?"


"Yes, Aeron, that is my name." The older Tenno said slowly. "Nyx? I have so many questions..." He nearly begged.


"Master, we can't." Nyx said sadly. "What little I felt is... bad. Only impressions, feelings. We would want to change it. And we can't."


"Says you." Haydon Tenno said sharply, but then sighed. "Dang. You are right, girl. That is why you got the warframe you did. Mind Control for the most ethical person I have ever met, even if it is infuriating at times."


"You all are the first..." Aeron said slowly. "The First Tenno..." He was dazed, but not by the white this time.


"Master Haydon put out a call. We answered." Nyx said gently, scooting so she was sitting beside Aeron, her hand coming down to undo the clasps on his straitjacket. "I am sorry, Aeron. We didn't understand. Please don't fight. We can help, put you back where you belong."


"I..." Aeron remained still when the straps fell loose. "I am not safe, Ma'am."


"Don't call me Ma'am." Nyx said with a grin in her voice. "I work for a living." Aeron surprised himself with a chuckle as Haydon chuckled as well at her wry tone. "Master, we will need to summon a lot of power to send Aeron back to himself. I don't think if any of us could do it alone, not even Nova."


"I will go explain it to them." Haydon said soberly. "I don't expect everyone to like it, but getting Volt back would be good." Aeron coughed and Haydon paused. "Yes?"


"If he did go berserk, be careful." Aeron said after a second. "He may not have target control when he comes back."


"Good point." Haydon said, his voice sick. "Even out of his warframe, he was always dangerous. Crazy Asatru."


"What?" Aeron asked curiously.


"Never mind." Haydon said with a sigh. "Not important now. Do I have your word to cooperate, Aeron of the Tenno? I will not leave Nyx alone with you otherwise."


"Sword and soul, blood and bone." Aeron said calmly, only to see both of the others recoil. "I swear not to harm any here as long as I am not attacked."


"You... That..." Nyx swallowed heavily. "Master, go." She commanded. Aeron opened his mouth and she hushed him. "Aeron, no. Say no more! Please!" She begged him. Haydon Tenno rose, bowed to Aeron and left the cell. "You are crazy, quoting them? Of all the..." Then she froze. "Wait..."


"Maybe you should take your own advice, Ma'am, er... Nyx..." Aeron said softly.


"What little I felt will bother me until the day I pass from this existence to the next." Nyx said soberly. "Our future is war and death." She slumped, abject. "Our great dream... dust and ashes." Aeron was moved to speak.


"Nyx... Ancient legends tell of a bird of surpassing beauty called a  Phoenix." Aeron said slowly. Nyx stiffened looking at him. "Every year, it would find a sheltered spot and burst into flame. The flames consumed it utterly. But from the ashes came a new bird, like the old one in every way. The phoenix obtained new life by arising from the ashes of its predecessor." Nyx was shaking her head, but Aeron was smiling gently."I do not know if Orokin is a phoenix, but where there is life, Sister Nyx, there is hope. And there is life. Even in my darkness, there is life."


"You shame me, brother." Nyx said, laying her head down on his shoulder. "You are so strong. So hurt and so strong. I... I will remember."


"Every strength has limits." Aeron said sadly. "I saw two brothers and a sister, my small clan, slaughtered in front of me. I could do nothing." Nyx gave a small cry and hugged him tight. "I am sorry I have been a problem for you. But Nyx, this is important... If Volt shares my...my affliction... This white..."


"It is...wrong... In your head..." Nyx said, a hand slowly touching his forehead and then withdrawing as if burned. "Just the feeling is...wrong. Let's get that straitjacket off you...You are not insane."


"Leave it on." Aeron said and Nyx stared at him. "The white doesn't hurt." Aeron said with a shake of his head. "But that makes it worse in some ways. If your brother shares this, he may lack target control. The straitjacket may help. Or at least slow him down so you can get a clear shot." Nyx froze, her arms still around the sitting Tenno. "Nyx..."


"I couldn't..." Nyx said slowly. "I couldn't kill him! I..." She broke off as a gasp sounded from the door which was still open. The Saryn from before stood there, her posture stiff.


"Nyx?" The Saryn, the first - asked, worried.


"Saryn, I need you to meet someone." Nyx said gently as she retreated a bit. "This is Aeron of the Tenno. Somehow he transferred into Volt's body."


"Ma'am." Aeron said, inclining his head politely. "I apologize for my earlier words. I was ...distressed."


"As are we all." Saryn said softly. "Do you know if Volt is...? I mean..." She shook herself.


"All I know is what happened to me." Aeron said, his voice quiet. "But if he does share the problem inside my skull... Then he is dangerous, Ma'am."


"He always was." Saryn said sadly. "But he wouldn't attack me!" Her words lacked conviction however.


"Ma'am, if he does love you, then if he comes back to himself standing over dead kin, over your corpse..." Aeron said softly and both female Tenno recoiled a bit. "If he is anything like me, then he wouldn't want that. He would fight to the death to keep it from happening."


"Out of his warframe, we can disable him without killing him, Saryn." Nyx reassured the other female. "But what then? If he has lost it..."


"I can help him!" Saryn pleaded. "He loves me!"


"I know." Nyx said, rising to go to her sister's side. "Easy, Saryn. It may not come to that."


"Ma'am... Saryn..." Aeron said softly and both females looked at him. He didn't move. "What would he want? If he lost it? Became a threat to kin?" Saryn crumpled and Nyx caught her. "Don't act precipitously, but...do not hesitate to act either." Saryn extricated herself from Nyx and moved to kneel beside Aeron. "He wouldn't want to hurt you."


"You are a good man, Aeron of the Tenno." Saryn said softly. "A good brother."


"No, I am not." Aeron disagreed softly. "Good men don't do what I do. Good men don't deal death from afar, from hiding. Good men don't enjoy doing that."


"Oh..." Saryn's voice held awe and sorrow in equal measure. "Oh, brother..." She was crying as she embraced him. " Do you trust me, Aeron of the Tenno?" She asked after a moment. He nodded silent. "I need to give you something. The wards around the main chamber will reject your passing, cause irreparable tissue damage if you are not in a warframe or properly prepared. What I will give you will make you fuzzy. It will not knock you out, but it will make everything blurry and indistinct. May I give it to you?" She asked. In answer, Aeron held out his shoulder and she nodded. "So like my love, and so unlike..." Aeron looked away as she injected him. It took effect immediately and he was weaving.


"Let's get you home, Aeron." Nyx said as she and Saryn helped Aeron to stand.


The two females led him through alls that were oddly familiar. Gold, white and all clean and fresh. Brand spanking new. They led him to a large circular chamber in which knelt Tenno in warframes, many Tenno. He couldn't tell how many through the fog of whatever Saryn had given him, but at least two dozen. All in gold chased warframes. All Primes. He let Saryn and Nyx lead him to the center of the circle and assist him into a kneeling position. He knelt and waited as Saryn and Nyx both assumed kneeling positions around the circle. A pulse of power erupted around him and...




Aeron woke, aware of the sounds of medical equipment.


"You have a good nap?" Alicia asked as she looked up from her computer and smiled at him. He nodded. "You thrashed a bit. Bad dream?" She asked, concerned.


"I don't remember." Aeron said trying to bring his dream to mind. But it faded as he tried. A hint of gold... But then it was gone. "How long was I out?"


"Long enough." Alicia said soberly. "We have some answers."


"From your tone, I am not going to like it, am I?" Aeron said, sinking back onto the bed.


"No, you are not." Alicia said with a sigh as she hit a control. "Okay... Use the facilities. We talk to Sensei and Amelia in twenty minutes."


"Amelia and Sensei?" Aeron said softly as he swung his legs off the bed. "I have a bad feeling about this..."

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The Hard Way


Aeron followed Alicia into one of the many small room that the dojo boasted for solitary meditations. He was calm, not that the white would let him be any other way. Sensei Karl stood inside, out of his warframe and Amelia stood near him, they had obviously been talking quietly before Alicia and Aeron entered. There was no furniture, so Aeron followed Alicia to one wall and stood beside her, waiting. He didn't have to wait long.


"Aeron?" Sensei asked quietly. "You okay?"


"Better." Aeron admitted. "Don't know what happened. I haven't been that exhausted in a long time."


"You were not in your warframe, Aeron. Your warframe would have buffered you, protected you from depleting so many vital resources so quickly." Amelia said quietly. "If you had been wearing it, you wouldn't have had any problems." Aeron nodded. That made sense. "The good news is that with Sensei's help, Alicia and I have managed to make sense of our data."


"And the bad news?" Aeron asked when she did not continue. Amelia looked at Sensei and he sighed.


"Aeron, you are not berserk." Sensei said softly. "If you were, it would be a fairly simple thing to fix, either with therapy of some kind or drugs. Time consuming and fraught with perils, but fairly simple. You are not."


"Then what is this?" Aeron asked slowly, trying to stay unemotional.


"You are like me, Aeron." Karl said gently. "The opposite of berserk." Aeron felt his eyes go wide and Sensei nodded. "I learned how to control myself because it was part and parcel to the Way I studied, Bushido. You learned control because of your unique talents that morphed into a very useful skill set." Aeron was shaking his head and Sensei raised a hand. "Hear me out?" He pleaded.


"Okay." Aeron said weakly. Alicia laid a hand on his arm and he took comfort from that.


"Amelia and Alicia did a lot of scans. Your eyes are sharper than normal Tenno." Sensei said quietly. "Your hearing, likewise. Your hand eye coordination is enough to make a Loki weep in envy. You have the patience of a rock, or the set of scans that Alicia and Amelia did on you would have driven you bonkers. You lay on that bed for almost five hours, Aeron. Without moving so much as a muscle." Aeron went still and Alicia gave his arm a squeeze.


"I..." Aeron shook himself. "I dozed. I don't see what this has to do with this white..."


"Snipers are in control at all times, Aeron." Sensei said calmly. "They have to be. In control of themselves and in control of their environments. Snipers are precision instruments. You were a sniper during the War. A reconnaissance and single target elimination specialist. Stealth was your primary weapon." Aeron was shaking his head again, but Sensei continued. "I got permission to look at the records that we have of you, Aeron." Now his voice turned kind. "Why did you join the clan you did? Any would have been happy to have you."


"I..." Aeron shook his head. "No..." He recoiled away from Alicia. "No! It is going to go red!"


"No, it's not." Sensei said softly. "I shouldn't have told you that. You are not a berserker, Aeron. You did not go berserk when all of your kin died. You went cold. You reverted. To what you had been, before. The white was what I said, a mental bandage."


"No!" Aeron shouted. The white rose up to subsume his grief and fear. "No..." He begged, slamming into the wall as he backed away from Sensei. Amelia and Alicia did not move.


"Aeron, listen to me." Sensei said in an iron voice. "You are not a monster. You have had to do monstrous thing, but you are not a monster. You are a soldier."


"I am a murderer!" Aeron screamed, then clutched his head as the white rose up and slammed into him with thunderous force.


"No, you are not." Sensei snapped. "Aeron. Look at me." Command sang in the other Tenno's voice and Aeron found his eyes meeting Karl's. "Who told you that?"


"No..." Aeron begged, backing up again. But this time, he wedged into a corner. "No..."


"Sensei..." Amelia's face was white. "It's too much, too soon..."


"I know." Sensei said quietly. "But I don't have a choice. I have to tell the Elders something or they will order me to turn Aeron over to them for 'review' by the end of the day. You know what they will find." Both Amelia and Alicia hissed at that and Sensei nodded. "I won't do that to you, Aeron. You are not insane."


"Yes, I am." Aeron said quickly, nearly babbling. "Yes, I am. Put me down. Make it quick!" Sensei ignored his pleas.


"Who told you that you were a murderer, Aeron?" Sensei asked implacably as he stepped forward. "You were a soldier. You fought enemies. You shot and killed enemies. You struck from ambush but it was war, Aeron. There is no fair in war. There is no nice in war. Who told you that?" He demanded. Aeron suddenly wilted, his legs giving out beneath him. He sat down, his back to the wall, shaking his head. Sensei's voice turned gentle. "Aeron...Who?"


"Fran." Aeron said in a monotone.


"Your sister Fran said you were a murderer?" Alicia blurted out and then flushed as Sensei looked at her. "That makes no sense. She was Tenno! She had to know better."


"She gave you that staff." Sensei said, his voice very gentle now. "Made you fight in close quarters instead of at range. Why?"


"She... She..." Aeron curled up on himself and Alicia, glaring at Sensei, went to kneel beside him.


"Aeron." The healer Tenno said sadly. "Oh, Aeron...I can guess." She pulled him close and hugged him tight. "She tried to change who and what you are." Alicia said sadly. "Because you disturbed her."


"She said I scared her." Aeron said quietly. "That I needed to change. I tried, Alicia... I really did..." He said, tears falling. "I did."


"What an idiotic witch." Alicia said with a snarl. "I don't like speaking ill of the dead, but... Geez, what an idiotic witch!" The healer said with a snarl as she hugged Aeron again. "You are who you are, Aeron. Never denigrate yourself or try to change to meet other's expectations. The only person you need to live up to, is you." She held Aeron as he broke down and cried, crooning at him softly. "It's okay, Aeron, it's okay."


"I wish I had time for you to recover fully, Aeron." Sensei said into the silence that fell as Aeron's sobs tapered off. "But I don't. The Elders are demanding that you be 'reviewed'."


"Sensei!" Amelia snapped. "He is not recovered! There is no way he would pass a psychological review in this state. They would lock him up in an electronic limbo for the rest of his life for something that isn't his fault." Outrage poured from the doctor.


"I know." Sensei replied calmly. "But with Serene's...escapades and everything, they are nervous. We cannot explain his problem in any way that they would understand either, Amelia." She sputtered a bit and he shook his head. "They are not medical people or warriors, Amelia. They don't understand how the brain works, especially the odd ways that Warrior brains tend to get rewired after so long in combat. They see an unstable Tenno and will react accordingly."


"Then I will make them understand." Amelia said fiercely.


"Amelia..." Sensei said mildly. "Getting yourself tossed into another cell won't help anyone."


"We can't just let them take him!" Amelia said sharply. "He isn't insane!"


"No, but we can't prove that in any way they would understand." Sensei said with a sigh. "Proving a negative is always a very hard proposition. But... We do have options...Aeron..." He said gently. "I am not going to kill you and I not going to let you suicide." Aeron gave a small cry and burrowed into Alicia's arms. She let him. "As I see it, there are three choices here, only two of which I will countenance. The Elders can go hang. They are not getting you."


"Sensei... Give him time..." Alicia said sadly, holding Aeron's sobbing form.


"I can't." Sensei said heavily. "I hate this job sometimes. I really do. Aeron is a good Tenno that someone has tried their best to destroy out of ignorance and fear. Aeron..." He said gently. "The white is not blocking you now. Not if you are crying."


"What?" Aeron asked, looking up at Sensei, then down at Alicia who was still holding him. "But... I..."


"What you did, Aeron, is tap into something unwittingly." Sensei said with a smile. "You never studied combat psychology, did you?"


"No." Aeron said, baffled. "Why?"


"There have been reams of papers written about human psychology and it's reaction to combat situations." Sensei said with a nod. "Too many for any sane person to sift through. But... After I dealt with it, I studied it. I was curious. The thing is, Tenno are not human. We evolved from them, yes. But we are not."


"I beg to differ." Amelia said sharply. "The fact that I could bear Sara says otherwise."


"Okay, sheesh..." Sensei rolled his eyes and Aeron surprised himself with a chuckle at the other male's wry tone. "You see what I have to put up with, Aeron? Luckily she is good at what she does or I would have to hurt her."


"Two might have something to say about that." Amelia said primly.


"She might." Sensei agreed equably. "Then again, she might help if you irritate her enough." Amelia suddenly looked a lot less confident. "Anyway... Aeron... Two options."


"I don't understand." Aeron said slowly. "The Elders are demanding me. You have to give me to them." Alicia snarled, a mama bear sound.


"No, I don't." Sensei disagreed calmly. "For good reasons. Not the least of which is that Alicia and Amelia know where I sleep." At that, Aeron actually laughed. It was a soggy laugh, but a laugh. "Better?" Sensei asked, his tone gentle.


"Yeah." Aeron said softly, then hugged Alicia back. "I tried to fit in. Alicia. I really did. I... I couldn't... I tried so hard..."


"It wasn't who you were -are-, Aeron." Alicia said gently as she rose and helped him to his feet. "Yes, you are scary. But I don't care." She said as she released him and stepped a bit away. "You are cute, but I am taken."


"You are not my type, Alicia." Aeron said quietly. "At least...before... Now? I dunno."


"None of our business as long as it doesn't impact the clan." Sensei said as the others stiffened. "It won't, will it?" He said sharply to Aeron who nodded. Both the females relaxed.


"No." Aeron promised. "Never did before. I won't let it now." He paused. "But... If the Elders demand me, I am clanless. You have to..." He broke off, comprehension dawning. "Wait a sec..."


"Yes, Aeron." Sensei said softly. "I want to offer you a place in our clan. Then the Elders can take a running jump out an airlock because you will be our responsibility.."


"You would have to show that I am under control." Aeron said, thinking hard. "What options did you mean?"


"The first is the easiest." Sensei said slowly. "We could use a ranged combat instructor, arsenal supervisor and range master. You won't need a warframe for that. Miguel is good, very good, but he is also our head fabricator, engineer and general go-fer when things break. We are running him ragged and it needs to stop."


"Teaching?" Aeron wasn't sure about this. "I... I dunno. I wouldn't be able to leave, would I?"


"Probably not." Sensei agreed. "But, why would you? Where would you go? I am not going to let you charge overwhelming odds, go out in a blaze of glory, Aeron. That is suicide just as surely as eating a bullet is." Amelia gagged a bit at that, but Alicia nodded. "I won't allow it." Sensei said with a glower.


"Worth a try." Aeron bowed his head with a sigh. "And option two?"


"Ah, yes, the hard way. Almost all of the Tenno in the clan currently are close combat specialists." Sensei said with a nod. "Two is really the only ranged or stealth specialty Tenno here at the moment." Alicia nodded, silent. "I am looking at options, a few small clans are interested in allying with us at the very least, but that does currently leave a hole in our lineup. A hole you would plug neatly."


"You want me to be a sniper again?" Aeron asked, bewildered. "What about the white?"


"Is it still there?" Sensei asked slowly. Aeron froze and Sensei nodded. "Well?"


"It is, but... back a ways..." Aeron chose his words carefully, thinking on what he felt. "I can... I can feel, but... It's...muted..." He smiled. "I can... I can feel... I am sad. I... Happy and... Angry. I can feel again." He stared at Karl. "How?"


"What you did, Aeron..." Sensei said quietly. "...is tap a very rarely used part of the mind. I didn't know much about it either when you came here. I have talked with Amelia and Alicia quite a bit since then. What we think happened to me, so long ago, and to you, on the Corpus ship, was that you needed to be clear headed. Part of you wanted to sit in a corner and weep. But the rest of you knew you couldn't. So... You divided."


"Divided?" Aeron asked slowly. "Like Serene and Two? I heard a bit about that. We watched when she spared the doc who shot her. Gutsy move. My mind spilt in two?" Sensei looked at Amelia who shook her head.


"No, Aeron, you didn't split." Amelia said gently. "There was no cognitive dissonance." Aeron stared at her and she sighed. "I am trying to make it as clear as I can."


"About as clear as mud." Alicia said with a grin. But then it faded."Aeron, what happened was that you needed time, and you didn't get it. You were attacked again before you could recover your equilibrium." She took a deep breath. "This put you into a trance like state. You did rage, but you were not berserk. there is a difference. You were in control. And your goal was to leave, not slaughter everything on the ship. You did."


"It's still here." Aeron said slowly, touching his forehead with a slow, careful finger. "I... It's still here..." He was nearly begging.


"Aeron..." Sensei said softly. "We don't know if it is going to go away." Aeron swallowed heavily. "I moved past it, but I don't know if you can. Nothing against you, but you are not me. You do not have the same experiences, the same training. We do not know if you are going to be able to move beyond it."


"Then I am a threat." Aeron said slowly, arms falling to his sides. "I..."


"Aeron. You have a temper. So do I." Sensei said slowly. "I am a threat. So is Alicia . Heck, so is Amelia." He waved at Amelia looked upset for a moment, but then sighed and nodded. "Every one of us could potentially be a threat. Are we?"


"I... I don't know." Aeron admitted.


"Potentially, yes, Aeron." Sensei said with a nod. "All of us are threats. You are no different from any of the others in that regard. You have different skills, a different way of looking at things. But you are a brother. One I would be honored to have join us."


"I don't follow Bushido..." Aeron said weakly.


"Ask me if I care, Aeron." Sensei said calmly. "The answer is no. We can use you. And we would."


"I... I need to think about this..." Aeron shook his head.


"There is no time, Aeron." Sensei said softly. "If you...cannot choose us, I will have no choice but to do what the Elders are demanding. I don't want to. If you choose option one, we can keep you here, use you. If you decide later to leave, we can reassess. No one in our clan is bound to it. If they decide to leave, they can."


"And if I choose option two?" Aeron asked slowly. "Would you rig me with a tracker? Explosives or something?"


"No." Sensei said calmly. "But you would never be alone."


"Sensei... I..." Aeron shook his head. "That is not safe for whoever you send with me."


"I don't remember the word 'safe' anywhere in our job description, Aeron. Do you, Alicia?" Sensei asked the healer. She shook her head, her face a mask. "What do you want, Aeron?" Sensei said quietly. Aeron bowed his head and then shook it.


"I want to fight, Sensei." Aeron said softly. "I want to do my part." When his head came up, his eyes were clear and his gaze steady. "If you have need of a sniper, I am your Tenno. Brother to brother..." He bowed his head again. "Yours in life and death."


"Brother to brother..." Sensei said with as smile. "Yours in life and death."


"Sister to brother." Alicia said, stepping close to Aeron, and taking his hand in both of hers. "Yours in life and death."


"Brother to sister." Aeron replied evenly. "Yours in life and death." He took a deep breath, gave Alicia's hand a squeeze and nodded to the other male Tenno. "Command me, Clan Leader."


"We have been refitting your warframe, just in case..." Sensei said with a nod. "Oh, and Aeron?" Aeron looked at him and Sensei smiled. "You were right, that Snipetron shouldn't just sit. It's yours."


"Thanks."Aeron said with a smile of his own. "I will prove myself worthy of it."


"I know you will, brother." Sensei said with a feral smile that Alicia and Aeron shared. "I know you will."

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"Yes, Aeron." Sensei said softly. "I want to offer you a place in our clan. Then the Elders can take a running jump out an airlock because you will be our responsibility.."




It is a rare story that can make me laugh hard enough to turn blue.


This one has.

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Sniper Work


"Eyes on." Aeron said quietly as he scrutinized the area through the scope of his Snipetron.


Miguel had done wonders. The normally responsive weapon was almost as much a part of Aeron now as his warframe was. It was...exhilarating, but he pushed that aside. He had a mission. His spotter took up position, prone at his side and whistled softly.


"How many do you think?" Two asked quietly, careful to keep her movements small and furtive.


Aeron scanned the area visually, his scope moving with glacial slowness as he took a rough count. Beneath the pair of Tenno was laid out a Corpus spaceport. Not the busiest on any of the habitats around the moon of Europa. Indeed, it was tiny by Corpus standards. The Tenno operatives were currently ensconced atop a towering building, hiding amongst a set of defunct communication antennae. Even the sophisticated scanners that the Corpus boasted would have difficulty picking up a pair of warframes from amongst the massive piles of junk, and they were well over a kilometer from the closest visible Corpus troops. Not that distance alone was much protection against Corpus as many Tenno had discovered to their chagrin.


"A pair of Hyenas patrolling the perimeter..." Aeron said slowly. "A squad of troops roving on patrols as well. That building..." He indicated one with a highlight that showed on her HUD. "...is almost certainly the security post from all the infrared signatures inside. At least one more platoon of troops in there. MOA fabricators all over as well."


"Two Hyenas? Tight security." Two said quietly.


"Yeah." Aeron agreed. "That bothers me too. Do they expect an attack?"


"Considering what they are bringing in, I would say 'yes'." Two said with a sigh. "Any sign of the ship yet?"


"No." Aeron shook his head. "None of the ships in sight are cargo lifters. Fighters, personnel shuttles, no cargo lifters. If the Lotus' information is correct, the ship will land here for shipment to the main base and the brainwashing centers." His voice was flat now.


"You okay?" Two asked. Aeron had lots of reasons to hate Corpus.


"Coping. Better with a mission, a clear line of sight and a full magazine." Aeron said with a shrug. "No sign of the others?"


"The Lotus would signal if there was a problem." Two reassured the sniper. "Will and Alicia are good at sneaking, if not quite as good as you and me. Sensei is also remarkably quiet at times. Much more so than most Rhinos I have worked with."


"Comes from being alone a lot." Aeron said with a nod. "You meet Ric?"


"In passing." Two said with a nod. "This mission came up just as he arrived. I don't know him, but they can ride herd on him if needed." She paused as Aeron hissed.


"Movement. Airborne." Aeron said and they both froze in place as a set of shadows flew by the building they were on. "Ospreys and...something else. Not sure what that was. Warframe databanks don't have a match."


"New kind of drone?" Two asked, keeping her voice down.


"Must be." Aeron said, tracking the airborne pack of machines as they moved away. "It's big, whatever it is. But their path doesn't look like a patrol pattern. Might be a test flight or shakedown."


"If they come back, we will have to handle them." Two said, checking her Boltor rifle.


"Hopefully, we will be gone by then." Aeron said with a nod. "If not? We deal."


"You know...?" Two said with a smile in her voice. "I much prefer this version of you." Aeron looked at her and she snorted. "You were a whiney little thing."


"Well... Yeah, I was." Aeron agreed with a sigh. "I make no excuses. I was...overwrought but yeah, I whined too much. Everything I knew or thought I knew was turned on it's head. I was sure I was  going crazy and all I could worry about was myself. I am glad Sensei offered me the place he did. I feel...right here. Now."


"Good." Two said with a smile in her voice then she became professional. "Movement. Green lights on the landing pad."


"I see them." Aeron said, his rifle tracking the small group of Corpus techs, five in all, who had left the building he had surmised was the security response team's. The powerful scope on his Snipetron coupled with the enhanced vision of his warfame allowed him to see every imperfection on the boxy helmets that the Corpus troops wore. He sighted in on one in the front of the group. "Range?"


"One thousand, two hundred and four meters." Two said calmly, her eyes on the own scope. "Wind is four from the north, visibility good. I am- Whoa..." She said in a bemused tone. "You see what I see?"


"Two cargo lifters moving into a landing pattern at the same time?" Aeron said, his tone as bemused as hers. "Corpus don't do that. If they foul each other, its inefficient. They may shave the landing times by seconds, but they never land more than one at once outside of combat." Then he realized something "Those techs don't look happy, do they?" Indeed, all five of them had drawn their Supra machine guns and had them at the ready.


"No." Two agreed, he posture tightening. "No alarms, so the others haven't been sighted yet."


"Or no one survived to sound the alarm." Aeron said, his focus on the ships that were landing.


The spaceport was large enough for multiple ships to land at once. But...it was odd. One ship was landing where green lights had been blinking. The other wasn't. It was moving to a disused landing grid and... Aeron went still as the spaceport defenses opened fire on the second ship. It took a series of blasts and fell out of the sky to smack into the ground with a loud bang that was clearly audible even to the distant sniper and his spotter.


"Okay..." Aeron said softly, shaking his head a little and then looking through his scope. "Unauthorized landing. Coincidence?"


"Is there such a beast?" Two asked, her eyes glued to her spotting scope. "MOAs. Forming up to search the wreck. But... no alarm?"


Indeed, it looked like all the fabricators around the spaceport had set out their cargos of robots. The green, brown, blue and white chicken legged proxies closed in on the severely damaged spacecraft in a concentric circle.


"Holy..." Aeron said softly as the ship that had landed safely opened it's cargo door and...yes. There it was. His face was hard as he looked through his scope. "Confirmed. Orokin cryopod. Intact. Occupied."


"Can you tell the manner of warframe?" Two asked softly, not that they needed to be quiet at a range of over a thousand meters. It was habit, a  good habit.


"Not from here." Aeron said after a moment. "Bad angle, they will be moving it out of the..." He paused as the wail of an alarm sounded from the distance and then he cursed. "We are detected."


"Are we? Look at the Techs." Two asked, her tone curious as she stared at the scene unfolding below. All five of the Corpus goons were aiming at the crashed ship now. Both Hyenas were moving to bracket the ship and the patrolling squad had sought cover as well. More Corpus troops poured out of the security building and all of them were aiming at the crashed ship. "You don't think-...?" She started to say and then choked it off as a horde of leaping forms swarmed out of the crashed ship.


"Infested." Aeron said calmly as he stared through his scope. "A lot of Infested." He watched as the horde of mutated beings ran into the sudden firestorm that the Corpus threw out and kept right on going. For every one that the Corpus troops killed, three or four more came out of the crashed ship. Then the tidal wave of monsters hit the Corpus troops and it was  free for all. The Hyenas charged the flank of the Infested assault, but in turn, they were charged by several much larger forms that appeared from the ship. Anti-personnel turrets unfolded on their perches and opened fire. More infested charged from the ship. "This is a full scale assault."


"They used the Corpus ship to get close enough that the biggest guns can't touch them." Two said, her tone almost admiring. "Nice."


"Complicates things." Aeron said with a scowl, watching the Techs sweep their laser fire over the line of chargers, only to get stunned when a  trio of runners made it into their midst and detonated. Then the leapers and chargers were on the Tech and it was a slaughter. All of the robots were down now, the MOAs swarmed under and the Hyenas being bludgeoned by multiple Ancients each. "No more MOAs?" He asked.


"Not a main base." Two said, her tone dubious. "Intel suggests they planned on it being a secret, them brining in a  cryopod so they could brainwash the occupant before he or she is fully awake. But... There should be more."


"Eyes." The soft voice startled both of them. "Report." Sensei was calm.


"Infested attacking the spaceport." Two replied as Aeron continued to survey the carnage below. "They used a Corpus ship to get close. No alarm."


"Alarms are currently offline. Turrets should deactivate momentarily." Sensei replied. "Long range sensors are spoofed for the moment as well. Keep the Infested away from the pod." Indeed, the automated guns suddenly stopped firing and closed back up. Aeron's eyes were cold and hard under his warframe helmet as the battle below became a massacre.


"No one is eating our kin while we are here, Sensei." Two said with a snarl. "Aeron! Corpus trying to sound the alarm again."


"I got him." Aeron said softly as he took careful aim at the Corpus who was frantically hitting buttons on a control panel. He fired and watched as the Corpus goon fell away from the panel, to fall to his knees and then the ground. He didn't move again. "Target. Should we displace?"


"Corpus are busy. Infested don't have a lot of long range hardware. We have altitude and concealment." Two said slowly. "Sensei?"


"Maintain position." Sensei ordered. "We need eyes on. Any rough idea on number of Infested?"


"Lots." Aeron said softly. "At least a hundred on site currently. They keep coming out of the ship. I don't think they are just here for the base, Sensei. This is a ploy to take the habitat. I would bet on more ships arriving shortly."


"We better be gone by then." Sensei agreed. "We are picking up the pace. ETA two minutes."


"Roger on two minutes." Aeron said. "ROE?" Rules of engagement.


"Keep them away from the pod. And try not to let the ship leave." Sensei said quietly. "Out."


"Two?" Aeron said dubiously. "Any idea where I can hit that ship to hurt it?"


"Hull is far too thick to shoot through. Not a lot showing external." Two said just as dubiously, sweeping her scope over the hull of the grounded spacecraft. "I see... power junctions, a few fuel ports... Could hoot one of those, but we need it to stay intact until the team gets there. Wait... nav beacon antennae. Weak spot pinpointed. Take that out and the automated systems won't let it lift. Safety feature."


"Thank you." Aeron said with a smile under his helmet as he took aim at the glowing dot in his scope. "Keep your eyes on the horde. I got this." He fell into the zone, augmented by the white. He felt everything fall away as he took careful aim and fired. He smirked as the nav beacon control panel erupted in a shower of sparks and the entire assembly went dark. "Target."


"Aeron... I am getting... Look out!" Two shouted as a bolt of energy passed overhead. "Sniper! Corpus sniper!"


"Tracking!" Aeron said as he looked back along the trajectory the bolt had come from. He shook his head. "Behind the security building, four o'clock. Sorry pal, the Lanka takes too long to charge." He said offhand as he took careful aim at the man who was aiming at him now.


"Quit jawing and kill the scum!" Two demanded just as Aeron fired. Aeron watched as the Corpus vanished. Or, well... His head did. "Good shot." Two said with a sigh. "They know we are here."


"Won't do them much good." Aeron said with a nod of acknowledgement as he watched the slaughter below. Corpus troops were brainwashed into total unthinking loyalty. They would obey orders that even Grineer might balk at, which was saying something. They held their positions, pouring fire into the bleeding ranks of Infested that slammed into them. They died in those positions. "Damn! Infested moving toward the pod."


"Not all of them." Two said quietly. "A squad maybe. But... chargers.." She said with a sigh. "They will tear it apart to get at the nice chilled Tenno steak inside."


"They don't eat people, Two." Aeron said mildly as he laid his sights on the charger closest to the pod. "They infect them. Not that the distinction matters much to us. Same as the Corpus or Grineer breaking the pod to kill the occupant; to keep them from waking and joining us. Either way we lose kin." He fired and tracked the next target. His first target literally evaporated when hit by the insanely high powered shot and he fired again terminating another charger. "We have their attention." All of the Infested that were not slowly savaging the few still screaming Corpus had turned towards the distant Tenno's hiding place. "What the...?" Aeron shook his head slowly. "Tell me I am not seeing this, Two."


"I wish I could." Two sounded as dazed as Aeron felt as the Infested in the distance vanished. They had all taken cover from his fire. All of them from Charger to Ancient were now hiding from Aeron's aim. "We know the Infested are smart, but... Geez..." She paused. "Aeron..." She said sharply.


"I see it, but I don't believe it. This is wrong." Aeron said, staring at the Ancient that had just picked up the fallen Corpus sniper's Lanka. "Infested don't use weapons!"


"I don't think anyone told him that!" Two said, flattening herself as the Ancient fired. The bolt didn't come anywhere near them, but... "Can you drop that thing?"


"Don't need to." Aeron said mildly. His point of aim shifted and he fired. The Lanka flew away from the Ancient, the bullet transforming the heavy duty weapon into slag.


"Show off." Two gave a small laugh. Then she hissed. "What are they doing?"


The Infested were moving in groups, all of them moving by bounds from cover to cover. All of them away from the ship that held the cryopod.


"Not a clue." Aeron said, shaking his head. His neural connection to the scope allowed him to do that while not moving his rifle. "If I didn't know better, I would say they are moving to deactivate the spaceport defenses while avoiding my direct line of fire. Not typical Infested behavior."

"Ya think?" Two asked sarcastically. "They can't reach us and we can reach them. But Sensei's team will be arriving any moment. When they do..." She paused. "They are on site." A group of Tenno shaped shadows had detached from a wall and were moving towards the open Corpus cargo ship and it's precious cargo.


"They can't carry the pod..." Aeron mused. "I can keep most of the infested at bay, but the Ancients will be a problem. I don't see any of the green ones, but...Aw crap!" He swore as a charger ran headlong into one of the shadows and was cut in half by a Gram. "Going hot!"


"Wait..." Two said, shaking her head. "What are they doing?" Aeron felt his eyes go wide under his warframe as the infested...retreated from the now visible Tenno team.


"Eyes..." Sensei sounded as dazed as the sniper team felt. "Are you seeing this too?"


"All of the Infested are retreating." Aeron replied slowly, confused. "That is totally atypical behavior. I have clear shots, but there are too many. Wait... Movement at the ship." He froze. "Sensei..."


"I see it." The Rhino far below had his Hek shotgun in hand and stood in place as a huge Infested appeared from the crashed Corpus ship the Infested had arrived on "Golem."


Golem was a huge Infested who normally was found around the Jupiter area. There had been some question as to how smart it was. Those questions were answered now.


"It is not attacking." Two said slowly. "And the other Infested are moving into the base."


Golem looked up and it's many eyes bored into Aeron even as far away as he was. Then it looked at Karl.


Not today Tenno. The voice was everywhere, and nowhere. Today we take what is ours. Take what is yours and go.


"Ýours?" Sensei said on an open link so that Aeron and Two could hear it, but the huge Infested just turned and headed towards the buildings in the distance. The Corpus brainwashing center.


"Sensei, not to a wet blanket or anything..." Aeron said as he tracked the huge form. "But... Um... Is this a good time to be asking it to stick around?"


"Good point." Sensei replied. "Keep eyes on. Ric is cracking the pod." Indeed, the Vauban warframe was kneeling beside the cryopod while the Excalibur Prime and Trinity kept a wary watch. Aeron maintained his vigil, watching as Golem strode into the Corpus bunker entrance and vanished within. Moments later, the Vauban was helping a warframe from it. "Easy, brother, we got you." Sensei said calmly.


"What? Where...?" A totally unexpected voice sounded from the com link that was still open. Aeron recoiled slightly and Two turned to stare at him.


"We in are danger here, brother. Can you walk?" Sensei asked.


"Yes." The Tenno in the Loki warframe replied as he rose. "I can. Who are you?"


"Names can wait." Sensei said with a sigh. "We have to get out here. Now."


"I don't know you." The Loki shook off Ric's arm with a snarl.


"Sensei, I know him. Is the link two way?" Aeron asked quietly. A light shone on his HUD showing that the Sensei had activated his external speakers. "Jac, don't be a fool." Aeron said coldly. "We are in the middle of enemy territory with a two way battle going on. When they finish up, they come after us. Shut up and do as he says or I am plinking your sorry excuse for brains to make them move faster."


"Aeron?" The Loki asked, dumbfounded. "I... Okay..." He nodded to Sensei. "If Aeron is with you, so am I."


"Follow." Sensei said as he started off, the others moving with fluid, trained grace. Aeron's link turned off and then an private channel opened. Sensei's voice was cautious. "Aeron? Anything you want to tell me?"


"Well..." Aeron maintained his vigil but nothing shone. He sighed. No distractions. "We were partners."


"Partners as in..." Sensei broke off as Aeron coughed.


"Partners." Aeron said flatly. "I...um... left when I went with Fran. We...argued. I left."


"Joy." Sensei said with a sigh.


"Yeah." Aeron said with a matching sigh. "It wasn't... It wasn't supposed to be.." He broke off. "Damn it, I am whining again." He said with a snarl.


"We will figure it out." Sensei said calmly. "Keep eyes on until we get to the ducts, then egress. Meet you at the ship in fifteen."


"Roger that." Aeron ignored the white that rose in the back of his mind. He knew his feelings were conflicted. But for now, he had a mission to focus on. He would worry about other things later.

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What trickery is this?




The soft voice pulled Aeron out of the middle of his work. He was reassembling the Snipetron after cleaning it. He was doing it slow and methodical, each move as carefully thought out as a Japanese tea master running a ceremony. He shook himself out of the half trance and looked up to see Alicia standing there. The Tenno still wore her warframe. Then again, they had only been back for a few minutes. Aeron still wore his, but for a different reason.


"Yes, Alicia?" Aeron asked calmly.


"You knew." She said flatly.


"Knew what?" Aeron asked carefully. "I have been busy."


"Our new 'guest' refuses to talk to us." Alicia said with a half sigh, half snarl. "I have had to scan remotely. But what I found... wasn't what I expected." Aeron bowed his head. "What is a woman doing in a Loki warframe, Aeron?"


"It's not my story to tell." Aeron said quietly. He bent back over the rifle, only to pause as Alicia stepped closer.


"Aeron, I have to tell Sensei what I found." The Trinity said slowly and carefully.


"You think he doesn't already know?" Aeron asked somewhat snidely. "I bet he knows."


"Aeron, she won't talk to us." Alicia said slowly. "Is she unstable?"


"She never was. No." Aeron shook his head. "She is angry. With me. She has cause." His words were clipped, precise.


"What did you do?" Alicia asked after a moment.


"We were a heck of a team." Aeron said slowly, his eyes on the rifle in front of him, but his gaze far away. "We were partners. She was my spotter and I was her sniper. How she got the Loki is her business. She altered the voice systems to sound masculine. She had reasons." Aeron said when Alicia shuddered.


"That probably permanently altered her voice. It had to hurt." Alicia said, shaking her head. "And you say she is not unstable."


"She had cause. She wasn't unstable when I knew her." Aeron sighed. "Now? I dunno. She didn't start cursing the moment she heard my voice, so... I dunno."


"What did you do?" Alicia's voice was quiet, but held command.


"I left." Alicia made a 'get on with it' gesture and Aeron sighed again. When he spoke it was a monotone. "We had been together for years, but.... I needed more. I needed to talk to other people. To socialize. It was stupid, I know, but when Fran asked if I would join her clan... I jumped at it. They offered Jac a place too, not knowing that Jac was female. I don't think they would have cared."


"And...she...?" Alicia asked slowly.


"We had a fight." Aeron said with a wince. "Verbal only. I told her about the offer and she went ballistic. Told me I couldn't go. She said I was 'abandoning her'. Maybe I was, I dunno. It...escalated enough that the guards were called." Alicia winced again and Aeron nodded. "They separated us. I left, and I didn't go back."


"So you did abandon her." Alicia slumped a bit.


"Yeah. Like I say, she has a right to her anger." Aeron said softly. "But she won't hurt anyone else." He looked behind Alicia and nodded. "Will you, Jac?" Alicia spun with an oath as the air behind her shimmered and a familiar form appeared out of an Invisibility field. The Loki was unarmed and it's posture was...odd. Alicia relaxed a bit.


"Always with the all seeing eyes, huh Aeron? Never could hide from you. You didn't come back." The masculine voice sounded from the Loki. "I wanted to apologize."


"I was angry." Aeron said softly. "I went straight to Fran's ship. I never left it, until they all died."


"I am sorry for your loss." The Loki said softly. "I looked for you at every gathering. Every group I joined for missions, I prayed to find you. To apologize for what I said, what I did. But I never did. I never found you."


"The four of us were a team." Aeron wasn't seeing the Loki now. He was staring at something only he could see. "We never worked with anyone else. Four of us were a good size for that. But...Fran didn't like snipers..." He jerked as the white surged forward and then he relaxed slowly.


"What?" The Loki asked softly, disturbed. "Aeron?" Jac pressed when he didn't speak. Then Jac turned to Alicia. "I apologize for ignoring you, following you. But I had to see him. What happened to him?"


"Losing all the others in his clan hurt him badly." Alicia said softly. "There is something in his mind that acts as a mental bandage. At times it won't let him feel at all."


"My god." The Loki said softly, then went stiff as Aeron shook his head. "Aeron..."


"You don't owe me anything, Jac." Aeron said softly. "You...wanted me to stay. And then you said why and I couldn't handle it. I... I couldn't..." He slumped. "Damn it, I am whining again." He shook himself.


"I don't care." The Loki said softly, and the helmet retracted to show a girl's face. Her eyes glistened and her voice was still masculine, rough and edgy. "Through time, space, war and death, I found you. I am not leaving or letting you leave me again."


"Jac..." Aeron sighed. "I don't feel that way for you. I never did. I never...felt for anyone..."


"So... What you told me..." Alicia mused. "About me not being your type..."


"No one was, Ma'am." Jac said softly. "As far as I know, he never has." Alicia's eyes went very wide at that. "Yeah."


"Ever?" Alicia had a blush in her voice now. "Oh... dear... Aeron? Didn't your clan inquire?"


"I convinced them not to press." Aeron said in a monotone. "Fran and Matt were an item. Joe was... well, he had a friend in another clan. They left me alone. I...convinced them that I had a girlfriend in another clan."


"Aeron." Jac said, her masculine voice disapproving. Aeron looked up as the door opened and then stilled in place.


"Jac, don't move." Aeron said with a gulp. "Sensei, this is Jac. Jac? Karl Sensei." Jac turned to see Sensei still in his Rhino warframe standing  in the door, his Hek shotgun leveled at her. At that angle, none of the pellets would hit Alicia or Aeron. A Loki would probably be able to dodge the first blast, but four...?  Jac froze and Aeron shook his head. "You still don't think things through. Do you, Jac? You are under full time surveillance here. It's not paranoia when they are all out to get us. You hitting Invisibility probably set off silent alarms throughout the facility." Sensei inclined his head slightly to Aeron, but the barrels of his Hek didn't waver.


"I mean no offense. I am not your enemy." The girl with the man's voice said slowly. "I will exit my warframe."


"You do that." Sensei said without inflection.


The Loki's helmet sealed and then a hissing noise sounded. The exo skeleton bio armor went stiff and a small lithe form struggled out of it. She wore the usual Tenno bodysuit but her face was clear. She looked at Sensei and her eyes were downcast. The shotgun didn't waver.


"For the insults, I apologize." Jac said, her tone still deep. "But I had to see him. I had to." She met the Rhino's gaze squarely. "I have forgotten much in my cryosleep, but I do remember that. I remember my love."


"And now?" Sensei said softly.


"Now?" Jac said slowly. "I don't know. I was always better at getting into problems than out of them. Aeron was always the planner, the methodical one. We were...a good team."


"The best." Aeron said under his breath.


"How old are you, Jac?" Alicia asked, her warframes built in med scanner whirring.


"I haven't aged since I put on the warframe. I was twenty one standard years old when I stole the Loki." Jac said softly. Aeron sighed, but did not comment.


"You what?" Alicia said with a snap. "How do you steal a warframe?"


"You can't anymore." Jac said quietly. "Way back when, if you waited until it is in maintenance cycle and keyed in a full reset of the systems, it accepted the next user as it's main user." Alicia was shaking her head and Sensei finally lowered his shotgun.


"Why?" Alicia asked softly. "Why this deception? It.. It had to be excruciating. The Loki warframe isn't designed for females."


"It conformed after a while." Jac said with a shrug. "It was going to be my brother's. He... He fell off an obstacle during a run, hurt his head. He wasn't going to recover. Indeed, he died in his sleep a week later. My father was old school Tenno." Alicia inhaled and Jac nodded. "We were given a chance at a Loki warframe, so no female was going to be 'right' for it." Old bitterness sounded but then vanished. "I showed him." She said with a small smile. "His face was a study when he found me in it."


"Look, Jac..." Alicia said with a wince. "There is a reason that warframes are geared for males and females. The anatomy is different." She finished her scan and shook her head. "That warframe hurt you when it bonded to you, maybe permanently."


"I am Tenno." Jac said calmly. "So I was raised and so I live. I serve." Alicia looked at her, then at Sensei who shrugged.


"Aeron?" The Rhino asked quietly.


"Jac is crazy but not unstable." Aeron said calmly. "We were a good team." Jac's eyes lit on him and he smiled a little. "I apologize formally, Jac. You deserved better than me just vanishing out of your life."


"And I apologize formally." Jac said with a nod. "I had no right to call you what I did. You are not a soulless piece of crap." Alicia looked from one to the other, her wonder apparent even through her warframe. But then Jac crumpled a bit.


"Jac?" Aeron asked. "You okay?"


"Dizzy." Jac said with a swallow. "Been a while since I was out of the warframe." Alicia scanned her again and sighed.


"You need fluids and electrolytes." Alicia said with authority. "Are you going to be a pain?" She asked sourly.


"No." Jac replied. "I do need to talk to Aeron, but it can wait. Aeron... I..."


"We will talk." Aeron promised her. "Let the docs tend you. They will anyway and they get upset when people don't do what they say. Don't get them upset, Jac." He warned her.


Jac smiled and stepped close. She ignored Sensei raising his shotgun again as she threw her arms around his warframe and hugged it tight. She released Aeron and stepped back, nodding to Alicia while ignoring Sensei. She followed Alicia from the room, the Trinity shaking her head in disbelief.


"Ah, Jac..." Aeron said fondly as the door hissed shut behind them. "Don't take it personal, Sensei. She is... well..." He shrugged. "She is Jac."


"She was always like that?" Sensei asked as he slung his shotgun.


"Yeah." Aeron said quietly. "I... I hurt her. It was some time before I realized how badly my vanishing would have hurt her. And then... The War... I looked for her too, but never found her."


"So... why the voice?" Sensei said after a moment.


"A female voice from a Loki?" Aeron asked with a shrug. "It would have bothered people. And then we had all kinds of problems with people trying to infiltrate us for various reasons. Many Tenno would have immediately assumed she was a spy and opened fire. She changed her voice herself before coming to join the ranks. She used the short of her name. Jac for Jaclyn." Sensei nodded at Aeron's explanation. "Bad times."


"That they were." Sensei agreed. "Can we trust her?"


"That I don't know." Aeron said with a frown. "It's been a long time. But, she can keep a secret. She  kept her identity and gender from me for almost two years until she was hit bad enough I had to open part of her warframe. Surprised the hell out of me, let me tell you."


"I believe it." Sensei said, examining the shed Loki warframe. "Can you work with her?"


"She obviously hasn't lost her crush on me." Aeron said with a sigh. "But yeah, I can."


"You okay?" Sensei asked.


"Truthfully?" Aeron asked. "I don't know. She is... I don't feel for her the way she feels for me. I never did. But... I do like her."


"We will give her a chance." Sensei said with a nod. "Good shooting by the way."


"Not up to my standards, but okay." Aeron disagreed calmly. "I will improve."


"You shot that Lanka out of that Ancient's tentacle and it's not up to your standards?" Sensei asked incredulous.


"I was aiming at the tentacle." Aeron admitted a bit sheepishly. Sensei stared at him and then started laughing. "Hey! I take misses very seriously."


"You shot the gun out of it's tentacle with a miss?" Sensei was chortling. "You blew the gun out of it's hand! And you are complaining?"


"I..." Aeron sighed and chuckled as well. "All right." Aeron said with a sigh. "I'll stop."


"Aeron..." Sensei said, his mirth subsiding. "I don't know if any of the rest of us could have hit the tentacle or the gun from that range. Either way, it was a heck of a shot."


"I will try not to whine." Aeron agreed. "I have always been a bit... down... Even since I was a kid."


"Fair enough." Sensei said, his mirth gone. "You are very good at what you do, Aeron. Don't ever deny that. Come on." He waved for Aeron to leave the half assembled rifle.


"What?" Aeron asked, unsure. "I have to finish."


"You need to relax." Sensei said with a sigh. "Geez, I am turning into a shrink."


"Sensei, I can't leave a weapon half done." Aeron said, his hands starting to fly as he reassembled the rifle quickly. In less than a minute, it lay gleaming on the table. He picked it up and carried it to a locker that he placed it in and sealed. Sensei was nodding. "Warframe?" Aeron asked.


"We are going to run the obstacle course." Sensei said with a nod. "All the Tenno but Alicia who is busy with Jac. She will run it later, she has no issues with socializing like some of us do. So, you, me, Will, Ric and Two." Aeron chuckled and Sensei looked at him. "What?"


"I was just wondering how stable Ric is." Aeron said with a snort. "Because between my problems, Will's amnesia, Alicia whose love for Will is sort of returned and she likely has problems with that, Two's existential quandary..." Sensei stopped in midstep and Aeron shrugged. "She started as a figment of Serene's imagination, right?"


"A little more than that." Sensei said but he was shaking his head. "And then the three humans who were thralls have issues -understandably- and Amelia who has issues of her own..." He sighed. "Is this a dojo or an asylum?" He asked sourly.


"A dojo." Aeron said with force. "You don't have to be crazy to what we do..."


"But it helps." The pair of Tenno chorused on the final words.


"Ric is remarkably stable." Sensei said with a nod. "A whiz with tech and explosives. Strange sense of humor, but stable."


"Most explosives experts I have known have been a bit...strange." Aeron said in a mild voice. "I look forward to working with him."


"Be warned." Sensei said quietly. "He is a history buff and found an old entertainment media called TV. Something called 'Monty Python'?  He liked the accent from the media and copied it."


"Do I want to know?" Aeron asked, only half humorous.


"He calls it 'Londonderry', whatever that means." Sensei said with a shrug. "He is stable, he just talks in an odd accent."


"Londonderry?" Aeron thought hard. "I...think that was someplace on the island of England or was it the island of... Scotland?" He shook his head. "Dang, it's been a long time since I studied ancient Earth geography."


"Northern European continent anyway." Sensei said with a nod. "Mostly gone since the Collapse. He is good with any kind of tech you can name. And he knows better than to tinker with Orokin tech without safeguards." He said as Aeron winced.


"Good." Aeron's voice held old fear. "So, a run and then I talk to Jac. You want to be there?"


"We better keep it formal." Sensei agreed. "I will be there."


"Okay." Aeron agreed. "So, full obstacles, parkour, all that?" Sensei nodded and Aeron grinned under his warframe. "Sounds like fun."

Edited by Kalenath
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