Disclaimer: I do not own Warframe

One star shines more brightly than the others, from where I watch the eternal night sky. Sol, or the Sun – by whatever name I call it, I can't help but feel that it's mine. Maybe that's why I haven't left it yet.

A dark titan looms above my station. Telisto doesn't really have 'days' in the way that the other planets of the Origin System do. She rotates, of course, but the light of the Sun doesn't reach her. Far beyond the reaches of the Kuiper Belt, the ice giant is a lonesome, roaming thing.

Kindred spirits, she and I.

"Brooding again?" Kit asks, hopping onto the windowsill.

"It passes the time," I mutter in return.

The dark-furred faux cat tilts his head at me, amber eyes slowly blinking. When those eyes are open so wide, I can see the shiny metal behind their deceptive surfaces. I often wonder what goes through Kit's mind when he's quiet like this, but he's not exactly a forthcoming sort.

"Do you–" I start to say, but then think the better of it.


"Never mind."

"Please," Kit rubs up against my arm, purring, "If you're concerned about something, don't withhold it."

Nice to meet you too, kettle, I think. Still, I give in, "Do you mind that I installed you in that body?"

Kit freezes.

I cringe as the question hovers in the air, regretting it immediately. I've never brought it up before, but it's started to bother me lately. Even though Kit is hardly standard issue, he's still a Cephalon – they aren't designed for physical interfacing like this. I did what I could to patch the holes – very minor holes, in the grand scheme of things – but there was still a level of separation between what Kit was and what he was meant to be.

(I'd do it again if I had to. The isolation constricts my ribcage, crawls beneath my fingernails. I need another living creature, something that at least appears biological. I'd shred Kit to pieces and rebuild him again and again and again if I had to.)

I wish I knew if that bothered him.

At length, Kit says, "My first and foremost priority is to aid you. That goes beyond merely maintaining life support. If it is crucial to your mental health to have a… cat… then I cannot complain."

Mental health. I chuckle wistfully at the notion, "Good. I was worried you might resent me, given how much you screamed during the transfer."

"… It is in the past."

Oh, what a relief. The past doesn't exist. The past is nothing more than a dream.

Kit's tail slowly shifts behind him, "It's been some time since you've been away from the station."

Fire and pain stab through my head, and I squeeze my eyes shut, reminding myself that I can breathe. I'm still alive. It was just a dream that died.

(War and death, always and forever. New weapons, bigger and stronger, built to leave nothing in their wake. Why why why does it never end?)

"If you don't wish to leave," Kit says tentatively, "Perhaps you could give me access to the vault. I'm sure it contains everything we need to survive here indefinitely."

I shake my head, "No, I can go. What do we need?"

Normally I'd keep track of what parts of the ship needed upkeep, but I've been… out of commission for a little while. Who would have thought that standing in a relay, unable to do anything but watch your inevitable death approach, would make it hard to function in daily life?

And I'm the lucky one – no one else in that relay is going to wake up from the nightmare.

"–And there's some sort of glitch in the void transmission," Kit says. Crap.

"I'll run a full diagnostic," I say, hoping Kit doesn't realize that I'd completely checked out while he was talking. I'll need my wings to traverse the station, though I'm not sure where I last left them… "Start growing a new Corpus, Kit."

Telisto fills my view, growing slowly closer as I hang suspended in empty space. My woven gold mask is a familiar weight against my head, enough so that I can feel its weight in spite of the pressureless, weightless nothingness around me. From here, I can begin to see layers of clouds in spite of the darkness. Though my station is still visible on sensors, I've completely lost sight of it. The Sun shines distantly, and I begin to feel the pull of Telisto's gravity. My wings snap out to counter it.

The diagnostic revealed a whole host of problems with the ship. Its patchwork machinery is fickle at the best of times, having an order of magnitude more problem points than any single system. Having ignored it for the better part of a month, I'm actually surprised there hasn't been a catastrophic failure yet, although to be fair, life support has been running on fumes for a few days now.

I drift into Telisto's upper atmosphere, carefully going lower until the gases are thick around me, blocking out the sky. Crystalline light from my suit flows like liquid on the fog, and the empty canisters on my belt clash against each other, jostled by the wind. I retrieve one, attaching my converter to its lid and fiddling with the settings.

(This little piece of equipment never did see the light of day. It was my own project, in another life. Just finished when the world was destroyed. It's the only thing in my life that's whole.)

Using the converter, I can change any simple, raw material into any other. Telisto is the perfect resource for me, as a nigh-inexhaustible source of matter that the system has long forgotten. Unfortunately, I can't make food or mechanical parts directly, and the construction systems on my ship don't have access to any blueprint data.

Yeah, the construction systems don't actually construct anything. Rather, I modified them to automatically maintain the ship's hull.

I'm probably out of touch with the recent trading scene, but oxium has pretty steady value. It takes a few minutes for the canister to fill with the valuable material. Under my fingers, thin lines on the converter's face glow pale green, indicating that a heavy amount of radiation is being generated by the conversion – nothing my suit can't handle.

Just for some variety, I fill a couple of canisters with rubedo and steel. Carrying too much oxium tends to draw eyes that I don't care to meet, though I'm also interested in checking the current value of these materials at market.

Actually, I should probably bring some gallium as well.

It's been a few days since Kit confronted me about my isolation and I resolved to go to a relay, but the thought still makes me queasy. Even without the Formorian nightmare, relays are ultimately Tenno hubs.

I really, really don't like being near warframes.

Still, though I'd like nothing more than to curl up by the window and pretend everything is okay, I can't. I can't stay here, and I can't delay. In the past few days, I've finished compiling a list of things the ship needs, Kit has completed the transference clone, and I now have materials to trade with. And the life support system isn't going to wait.

The last canister is full. Time to go.

As I return to my station, I can't help but think that it looks more like a fortress. An empty, unwieldy zombie of a fortress, but a fortress nonetheless. Chunks of ancient ships spike out from the center disk, slashed to pieces and lashed together so that one third appears heavy and bulbous, another is little more than a web of string-like cables and pods, and the last is a series of long, thin protrusions that look like walkways on some days, or blades on others.

Inside, the halls might look inviting if they were ever more than half-lit. Built in a style long lost, their gold and white surfaces eagerly reflect every spark of light that comes their way. Sometimes that's my own personal illumination, but most of the time they must make do with only the stars.

(How many years has it been? I lost count so long ago.)

"Steel?" Kit asks as the airlock closes behind me, "Interesting choice."

"It may not be oxium," I reply, voice ringing slightly as it passes through the mask, "But the same rule applies – everyone always needs more."

"I suppose I can't fault your logic there."

"Of course. My logic is as perfect as laser traps."

"… What?"

I sigh, "One of the more tragic losses of the apocalypse. How is she?"

Kit leads me through cavernous, dark halls, "Hale and hearty, as always. If something had gone wrong, I would have told you."

"Is she the same as the last one?"

"Of course she's the same. That's the thing about clones."

I pinch the bridge of my nose, "Kit, she died. This isn't a Grineer. I can't just change my name and pretend to be a different person."

"Ah. I hadn't considered that."

"Well, I guess there aren't any witnesses. The only other survivors would have to be Tenno, and I'm sure none of them would remember me. Actually, maybe it's best to keep the same face – this way, I don't have to build a reputation from the ground up."

Kit angles his head to look at me, "I'm glad you approve."

When we reach the transference room, I have to duck under a tangle of exposed ductwork. Tubing and circuitry hang out of the walls like sinew and veins, not helped by the viscous, glowing fluids dripping out of some of them. The mess is natural side-effect of my diagnostic – communication between these two rooms has broken down, and I needed to break into the walls to figure out why. This area is currently a numb spot for Kit. I'll need some new tools to fix it.

Pods line the walls inside – only two are ever in use at the same time. In the gloom, those two spill luminescent dandelion light over the floor.

A Grineer woman floats in one. I think her name is Glen Dekei, but it changes so often that I'm not sure. Her DNA is much like this ship, all patchwork and splices. She has to have the exact appearance of a Grineer or she could never serve her purpose, but she also needs most of her genetic code to be identical to mine, or the transference would never hold. I'm no Tenno – though I was able to duplicate the transference process, the tech is far more delicate than a Tenno's natural capabilities.

Thankfully, I almost never use the splice-clone. I rarely have reason to pose as Grineer, particularly given my utter lack of combat capability. If I didn't limit my Grineer interactions to just a few minutes at a time, I probably would have…

Well. I would probably have several more bad memories.

Setting down my canisters, I look to the other pod, to a far more familiar face. Cai Tanya is her name. She's forty now, I think. She's a traveling trader, broken off from the Corpus, and neutral among the syndicates. She somehow has a steady supply of oxium at all times, though no one knows where it comes from. It's her most closely guarded secret.

I rest my fingers against the cool glass, lifting my mask. Cai Tanya doesn't look exactly like me – glowing eyes and hair would attract the worst kind of attention. Aside from that, however, we're nearly identical. Her body has a few years over mine, but only a few. I hope she'll grow to a good old age before I have to kill her for good – I don't often get to use my own face, and I really like her name.

With a hydraulic hiss, a different sort of pod drifts down from the ceiling. It opens shortly before reaching the ground – never quite touching the floor – and I take a deep breath before climbing inside.

A few hundred years ago, I thought I'd get used to this part someday.

As my eyes close, they open to dandelion light. An electric shock courses down my spine, and the liquid holding me suspended drains away in a roaring whirl. The respirator pops off, and I find my feet before the pod spins open, but still stumble on my way out.

Kit's eyes reflect an eerie silver-orange glow, "Good morning, Cai Tanya."

"Could we get some light in here?" I ask, "I can't see a thing."

With a distant click, the adjacent room lights up. I cringe and shut my eyes at the blast of searing white, waiting for them to adjust before I open them completely. There's a sound of something snapping, and half the lights go out. A moment later, I hear something crash to the floor. Hopefully nothing important.

Kit perches on my pod, nearly at eye level with me, "You have the list?"

"Right here." It's on the floor inside the doorway. I gather it up, along with the canisters and a civilian Corpus helmet lying nearby.

"Your taxi is in hangar three. I had to move it from one when the docking clamps broke."

"I was wondering about that." The shredded metal debris in two must have kept him from parking it there – the caretaker of this station will have to clean that up eventually.

The 'taxi', as Kit so eloquently put it, is a fairly standard small transport of Corpus design. Bright blue lights blink to life as we approach – unlike this animate junkyard, the ship is in perfect working order. Not exactly designed for a crew of one, but smaller transports can't bridge the distance from the Kuiper Belt out to Telisto.

(Not smaller transports of Corpus design, at least. Or Grineer. But I'm Cai Tanya, and I wouldn't know anything about that.)

"Safe journey," Kit says as I board.

I click my helmet into place as I reply, "Keep her together while I'm gone."