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filling the void

Tuesday, October 23, 2018

Ember Prime

His hunger gnawed at him. He knew he should have eaten before the mission, but a chance like this doesn't come along very often. He crouched behind a box of mining equipment. Further in to the cave, he watched heavily armed and armored men and women pacing back and forth, their eyes darting around, looking for intruders in the shadows. He had made it this far without too many detections. Nothing he couldn't handle. He'd had to kill a couple of people, but so what? The value of what lay before him in that Orokin vault was just too good to pass up. Besides, they had been Grineer. They cared nothing for his kind, and would have returned the favor the first opportunity they got.
He had gotten the call 45 minutes ago. A vault believed to contain a prime blueprint had been discovered. A prime blueprint he needed. He had had to move immediately, taking his ship through the rail to Mars, dropping in unseen at the edge of the caves. The idea that those cloned meat bags would beat him to the price he'd sought after for so long was worse than the hunger he now felt. He had made his way in carefully, but not too carefully. He knew that at any moment, if it came down to it, he could set the world on fire. He was wearing his Ember warframe for this mission. Sure, it was a copy of copy of a reverse-engineered warframe, but it was his strongest frame. Today, he'd emerge with an even stronger one.
The blueprint in that vault was the final piece of the puzzle he needed to construct Ember Prime. A prime warframe. Made from original Orokin blueprints. Not many of those in existence. Fewer still available for sale. Buying wasn't his style, anyway. He'd pay for good information, but when it came to the acquisition, he prefered to do it himself. Less chance of failure. Less chance to get screwed.
This blueprint would allow him to finally manufacture the Ember Prime warframe that he had been collecting parts for for such a long time. While his current Ember has served him well, there's nothing like a Prime warframe to get that extra edge. Extra power, extra control. Everything just a little bit better. Everything just a little more fine tuned. The Prime warframes were what the Orokin has originally constructed. The Orokin would accept nothing less than perfection in all things. As a result, the Prime warframes were forces to be reckonned with.
Unlike the reverse-engineered warframe blueprints, the prime blueprints were physical devices. Nano-machines in gided housing that contained not only the instructions for how to build the parts, but also the machinery to do so. Sure, they needed to be connected to a foundry to source the raw materials, but the actual construction and control came from the device itself. This was why he had to be there in person. No downloading of copies of blueprints possible. The machine could produce a single device, then it was spent. The Orokin hadn't been around for a very long time, so there was no one around who could construct new ones.
Suddenly there was commotion ahead. Two solders had arrived, carrying a large wooden crate with rope handles between them. A decidedly low-tech carrying solution for such a high tech occasion, but then again it wasn't the box they carrier, but rather what was inside the box. Inside the box, he knew, was a Void key. Void keys, and only void keys, unlock Orokin vaults. How they had gotten the correct key for the correct vault, he didn't know nor care. All he knew was that the soldiers in front of him had just delivered the piece that he needed.
He checked his rifle. Fully loaded.
He checked his energy reserves. Fully charged.
Now was the time. Transference was holding steady.
He stepped out of the shadows.
The first guard, closest to him, its back turned, fell to his blade. The next fell in a hail of bullets.
Now the game was afoot. "Tenno skoom!", the cries went out. He had been seen.
This was his element.
He set the world on fire.
Small meteors dropped down from unseen places in the air, forced into existence by the warframe's combat nano-machines and the energy that fueled them. As the meteors struck the soldiers, he began firing. They were heavily armored, but they were also on fire. An armor is good against bullets, but it does nothing for you if you're on fire. The ones that had been hit with the fire dropped their weapons, clawing at what little exposed flesh they had, begging for the fire to go away. This made them easy targets. A couple of bullets each, and down they went. The ones that were not yet on fire returned fire. Bullets slammed in to his warframe, steadly depleting his shields. He had the upper hand for now, but unless he finished this engagement soon, his shields would be completely depleted, and the bullets would start to actually hurt. Not hurt him, of course. He was safely squared away in orbit, but he was damned if he was going to lose his warframe and the blueprint he had come for.
He rolled sideways, into a corner, and returned fire. One by one they fell, but not fast enough. His shields were almost depleted. He was going to have to do something, and do it quickly. He threw out his reserves of fire accelerant, hoping that his enemies would be stunned. The ones that weren't would still be covered in highly flammable liquids, which, once the fiery meteors of death landed, would make quick work of them. The solders neares him were blinded, accelerant in their eyes. The stopped firing, trying to regain their eye-sight. This was the opening he needed. With the nearest solders out of the way momentarily, he could fire and maneuver, moving so that they were between him and the solders still firing. Bullets slammed in to the blinded solders, as the solders behind them tracked him with automatic fire. He fired into the remaining armed soldiers, taking them down one by one.
Just as quickly as it had begun, it was over. The soldiers lay dead on the ground before him. The only sound being heard in the silence of the cave was his warframe's shields charging back up.
As he approached the wooden crate on the ground, he drew his blade. Can't be too careful here. Can't just riddle the box with bullets to get it open. Can't risk harming the key.
He inserted his blade under the box's lid and levered it open. The nails creaked as they were pulled out of the wood that held them. As he opened the lid, he saw the key. It was a large thing. Large enough to require both hands to hold it. As he picked it up and carried it towards the vault door, it hummed in his hands. As he approached the vault, an iris opened, getting ready to accept the key. The vault had sensed that the correct key was near, and made itself ready to receive the key. To be opened again after all this time.
To the Orokin, this vault had probably been no more than a broom closet, but to this Tenno, it was a treasure chamber with value beyond measure.
He inserted the key, and waited. Waited in the darkness of the cave, lit only by the remaining work lights that had not perished in the fire fight, and the soft glow of the key. It felt like an eternity. Why wasn't the key working? Had he damaged it somehow? A million thoughts rushed through his head. Fear. Doubt. Disbelief. Having come this far only to be thwarted by his own carelessness, and that of the Grineer.
Suddenly, the key started turning. Circles and layers and patterns and lights on the key began to move and turn and slot into various configuration he neither understood nor cared about. As the last piece finally fell in place, he heard a satisfying click. The key had unlocked the vault.
He had to hurry now. Any time the Grineer commander would come, wanting to open the vault for themselves. To claim what lay inside for the so-called glory of the queens. That wasn't going to happen. Not today. Today he was going to emerge victorious. Today he was going to win. The vault door swung open, revealing a space large enough to fit one warframe, but not two. There it was. The gilded cube. No larger than a closed first. As he reached in to grab it, he heard voices behind him. He quickly snatched up the blueprint, elated at finally having the last piece of the puzzle.
"I have what I came for. Time to find extraction", he said to himself. He smiled, briefly. It mirrored something someone had said to him in the past. Someone who was no longer with him. He shook his head. No time for that now. Extracing with the blueprint safely was now his primary concern. As he didn't care, at this point, about being discovered, he decided that a fast exit approach would be the best.
He started running. Sliding where he could, jumping, and gliding. He soon encountered the source of the voices. A very surprised commander, with two soldiers flanking him. "Get clem!", he shouted, but it was too late. As he sped past the surprised Grineer soldiers, they fired after him, but to no avail. Taken by surprise as they were, their aim was not good, and not a single bullet found its mark.
As he was speeding through the twisting caves and corridors underground, he heard more exited voices and shouting. They were aware now that he was here, and what he had done. No matter. He would be out of here soon anyway.
Now more bullets. More Grineed soldiers. More shouting. There, the opening! The entrance to the cave. The way to his ship.
As he approachees the opening at full speed, a Grineer soldier steps into the opening, baring his way. He hears the wind-up of a machine gun, knowing that those bullets will soon slam in to his warframe, cutting this mission short. He pulls out his blade, picking up speed, and crouches down to the ground, into a slide. As he slides towards the surprised Grineer machine-gunner, he slashes out with blade, severing the soldiers legs, and effortlessly glides into the darkness. He's free. Now only the open air remains between him and his ship. He sprints towards the edge of the plateu on which the caves sit. He knows his ship is there. He knows that if he can just make it to the edge, he's home free.
He reaches the edge in a slide, and at the last moment jumps up and out. It's a powerful jump. Clean and clear. As he sails through the air, his arms outstretched, he turns. Now facing down, he sees his ship speeding up to meet him. At the apex of his arch, he makes contact with his ship. The rotating entrance to the ship is turning to receive him. In one fluid motion, he's on the entrance, and without stopping the momentum of the revolution, the entrance rotates shut, and he's in. He's safe.
As the ship accelerates up, out our the atmosphere, and towards the darkess of space, he is content. A successful mission today. A shiny new warframe tomorrow.

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