Horizon Zero Dawn is owned by Guerrilla Games and published by Sony Computer Entertainment. Please support the official release.

Written by Nashmeira Soladat Wrekk

Edited by Grammarly App

We arrived in Meridian after dark, the city was still buzzing with people but after several days traveling both Nadia and me were too tired to care. As we made our way through the city I could see Nadia was interested as she took in all the sights and had the traveling not caught up to us I'm sure she would have wanted to see everything. We ate in silence Nadia's eyes would wander around to all the people as she chewed mechanically, still, the wonder was there under the fatigue. IT was well after most had gone to bed when we made it to Olins, now my house.

I gave Nadia the bed, and there were no protests I think she was out by the time her head hit the furs. I wasn't far behind as I made a pallet on the floor. After stocking the fire, I lay down and thought. We made it this far, and there was so far yet to go, but now I had a real hope that I might be able to do something. With Nadia's skills and know how we had a chance. I tried to run through a plan what to do next, but sleep was coming too fast, and soon I was out as well. My last thought was about having a goal again and how good it felt now that it might be attainable.

^w^

Mérida Odine was having a very nice quiet evening at home, however, that all came to a halt as her attention was drawn to the front door opening swiftly and then slamming shut as quickly. She looked up from her book to see her seventeen-year-old daughter dragging in her best friend Hannah and the girl look like she had been crying. She closed her book as Nadia's eyes zeroed in on her, she stomped into the living room, and Mérida just waited at her chair by the fire for an explanation of what was happening.

"Mom, Hannah will be living with us now." Her daughters cry caused the older women to blink a few times as the two teens walked in.

"Not that I don't like Hannah but why might I ask is she living with us now and what has you so upset dear? I can't see her parents allowing that." The two younger girls sat on the sofa and immediately Mérida saw the darkening bruise on the side of the young Hannah's face. "I think I should get some ice for Hannah's cheek and then you can tell me what this is about."

It was only a brief time later Hannah was holding a cold compress on her cheek at the instruction of Mérida. The girl looked like she was on the verge of tears and she kept a tight hold on Nadia right hand like it was a lifeline.

"Okay, Nadia, from the beginning please explain to me what happened." Said Mérida, taking a sitting back in her chair.

"As you know we went over to Hannah's parents for dinner. It was a mostly boring useless conversation, you know, how was your day, what a sunny day, you know that crap. Well, we had finished dinner, and Hanna took my hand," For effect, she held up there still joined hands. "When her mom went into the kitchen to get the desert, it was going to be ice-cream, vanilla bean probably not the best but the richness..." Mérida fingers snapped stopping Nadia.

"Sweetheart, focus, I'm sure the ice cream is a moot point." Nadia looked a bit embarrassed and nodded.

"Sorry, yes, so anyway while she was gone her father got this really funny look. He asked why we were holding hands at the table. Hannah turned all red-faced and looked away, and I just told him it was because I love her. Then for no reason he gets all mad, he starts ranting about heathens or something. I mean what does he think I am a *Luddite? I mean how does telling someone that you love someone make then so mad.

"Well, he finally got up and was mad, and he grabbed Hannah. He asked her if it was true and she answered him honestly. Then he slapped Hannah and called her a harlot. So, I dropped the shithead!"

"Nadia! What have I said about that language?" Mérida's eyes took on a hard stare and Nadia gulp before speaking.

"That it's unbecoming of someone with my level of intellect. Sorry, Mother. But he deserved what he got… Besides if anyone wants to know at the time, I feared for my life." Mérida looked at her daughter and sighed. She was covering her bases.

"What did you do to Warren?"

"Broke his arm. He won't be using it to backhand anyone for a while." At this Hannah couldn't take anymore and turned to Nadia and buried her face in the older girl's shoulder as sobs racked her the young blond. Nadia seemed surprised for a moment like she didn't know what to do, then she slowly snaked her arm around Hannah and just held her. She glanced from the girl clinging to her daughter for dear life to Mérida searching for the answer of what to do in this situation. Mérida simply nodded.

"After that Hannah's mom was back watching everything and was screaming when I wrenched Warrens arm backward. She was yelling at both of us to get out, and she didn't have a daughter that was some sexual deviant yadda-yadda, something-something crap-crap. That's when I took Hannah's hand and drove home. She almost didn't let go till we got here.

"He just took it the wrong way. He didn't mean too." Hannah said through sobs.

"Took what the wrong way?" Asked a perplexed Nadia.

"When you said you love me. I know it's not like that." Hannah said. The tears finally stopped as she tried to look at Nadia.

"Not like what? I don't get it? I didn't think love had dual meanings. To quote Doctor Seuss: I meant what I said, and I said what I meant. I love you. How could I not, you pretty, your fun to be with, you manage to put up with me, and most people seem to find me very… vexing other you, Mom and Elizabet. Dr. Roberts at the lab I think hates my guts but well I'm his boss so he can get over it."

"Nadia dear when you say you love Hannah her parents took it as you meant romantically, like dating, becoming interment one day." Nadia just blinked at Mérida assessment she seemed to be processing what her Mother was trying to convey to her then her eyes got wide as Mérida finished "Warren didn't handle the preserved news well. Something that he will have to live with when I call protective services. Do you understand?"

"Ohh. You mean like kissing and getting married one-day couple-stuff." Mérida nodded, it was an oversimplification of what she meant, but Nadia had the jest of it right.

"Then, in that case, he had it right. Because I do love you in that way, I would love to marry you one day. I mean not right now, she is still in school, and I only got the job at Pearl Labs a few weeks ago." Mérida blinked. Surprised at her daughter declaring that she did, in fact, LOVE the other girl.

Mérida didn't know what to say to that. She had no issue what so ever with her daughter marrying another woman. But Mérida knew it was not the form that Nadia loved it was the person. She loved Hannah, and so one day they would get married if Hannah reciprocated her daughters feeling. Mérida noted that Hannah was almost as dumbstruck as she was.

"You love me and would marry me?" Asked the timid girl.

"Um yeah, that's what I said. I love you; I would in fact like to marry you one day if that's what you want. Why are your two looking at me like a cow looks at an oncoming train."

Mérida watched as Hannah launched herself at Nadia and the two toppled on the couch as Hannah's lips landed on her daughters. Now it was Nadia's turn to look dumbstruck, Hannah had always been something of a follower and timid, a wallflower at heart. Nadia looked around not knowing what to do with the object of her affection's lips on hers. Hannah finally pulled back and smiled at Nadia below her.

"I love you too." She leaned in and kissed her again, and this time Nadia thought better of herself and met her halfway. The two smiled at each other as they broke apart.

"Well good, we love each other. Now we need to figure out rooming accommodations." This comment finally broke the mental fog that Mérida had been in as she watched her daughter basically propose to her girlfriend, who accepted.

Mérida cleared her thought to get the two girls attention. "Hannah your welcome to stay as long as you need, the guest room is yours. But I think we will still have to speak with your mother and father, who I will be reporting to the authorities. Oh! Bedroom doors are to remain open at all times!"

Nadia gave her an odd look, and her head tilted to the right ever so slightly. "Why would we shut them?" She asked innocently, as Hannah looked down blushing.

Mérida just smiled even more, for her daughter to be so brilliant, could be very dumb in other ways.

~w~

Nadia's eye shot open. She was in a room lite only by a few beams of sunlight flowing in through a high window. Her mind finished processing everything. They had made it to Meridian late last night, eaten something, it wasn't Turkey thank God, then preceded to Aloy's home.

After stretching, she removed the covering of pelts and rolled out of bed. She didn't remember stripping down to her underclothes but just shrugged it off. Thankfully her clothes were close by and after dressing made her way downstairs.

She expected to find Aloy but from what she could tell there was no one here. Being curious she prowled around the house finding a kitchen area. It was surprising to see how the blend of, to her anyway, ancient world technology meshed with that of more advanced technology. There was a cooking area, and it looked as if a Blaze container beside it like an old-style gas stove she realized. The biggest surprise she had was that there was running water, granted it was only cold water, but still, that was somewhat impressive to have running water from a tap.

After the perusing of the kitchen and other rooms, she was a little miffed that there was no bathtub but a vanity pump to draw water and what equated to be a toilet that too had functioning flushing like system thankfully. Nadia decided to go outside. She wouldn't go far from the house but sitting around in silence was not something she enjoyed.

When she left, she was surprised that the house did not let out to the main street but rather an ally way. Farther down she could hear the bustle of the early morning crowd, but once she was there and saw the crowd it almost took her breath away. There were so many people, and to Nadia, it was like being at one of the comic conventions Hannah had drug her to once. To her, it was like everyone was dressed in some ostentatious costume.

But they're not. These were real people going about their real daily lives. For some time, she was content to watch the people passing by; most just ignored her while some gave her odd looks.

Nadia appraised herself, the clothing she had were comfortable, they had been made from an All-Weather material, but it would make her stand out like a sore thumb. All-Weather was one of those products that were for form and function, not fashion because the material looked like puffy tinfoil. It didn't reflect light really, but it kept heat in.

As she stood there, a familiar red head came of out of the crowd carrying a bundle of furs as well as some other items. The redhead beamed as she walked up to Nadia.

"I see you're awake. Sleep well?"

"Pretty well kind of nice sleeping in a bed," Nadia said as she fell in line behind her.

"I picked you up some new clothes; I'm sure in your time those were great but here they stand out a little bit." She grinned as the two entered the living room.

"I got that impression while I was people watching. Today's attire is interesting." She chuckled.

Aloy just nodded before handing the new clothes to Nadia and explained what some of the items were after the bewildered look Nadia gave her. When Nadia returned from the dress, Aloy looked her over and grinned.

"Okay, what did I screw up?"

"Nothing I didn't consider that you are a little shorter than I expected. Here we can tighten up these straps, and it will be fine." She said helping the other girl to adjust the fur-lined tunic.

Nadia was not a fan of some of the outfits she had seen some people wearing, but Aloy's choice of clothing seemed to have work in her favor. There was an elbow undershirt that went on first and on top of it was a fur-lined jacket of sorts with the collar flared out, so the fur was more visible around the neck.

Aloy had to take the pants legs up since the length was too long. Woven into them were small triangular plates from some machine she could not identify. Aloy also had the foresight to get a belt that was more utility with various pouches that hid under a few of the thick Kevlar plats on the side.

All in all, Nadia looked like anyone else that might have been walking down the street she had just been watching.

"It's not as Nora looking as I would like but it will do." Aloy said.

"What do you mean?" The way Aloy said it it sounded like a bad thing.

"Well," Aloy explained sheepishly. "The Nora are not as welcoming to outsiders as much as people here. In fact, for the longest time, the Nora wouldn't let anyone on their lands. Not to mention your defiantly not Nora but in fact an Old One."

Nadia gave Aloy a perplexed look. "What does being an Old One have to do with the Nora?"

"Well, the Nora believe that the reason the Old Ones died out was that they were punished…" She finished biting her lip, and Nadia's eyes narrowed.

"Punished? How so?"

"That the Metal Devil rose up and destroyed them because they turned their back on All-Mother, Gaia in a way. Blasphemers in the eyes of their Goddess." Nadia for her part just blinked.

"Let me get this straight." She said taking a deep breath. "In their eyes, I'm a heathen that turned my back on their Goddess, All-Mother, Gaia."

"Yes."

"So, it's probably for the best that they don't find out that I'm one of their heretics."

"Yep."

"Add to the place we have to go to access the Terminal interface is one the holiest places they have. I miss anything?"

"You forgot that just as a matter of principle you're an Outsider, and they will not be very friendly because of that alone." Nadia's head slowly moved up and down. "But look on the bright side I have a surprise for you. You're not very good with a bow yet, and that seems more like something that will take some time but this." She said taking out a device that looked to have a handle like a gun but on top was a forked piece of metal with some straps attached to them.

"I figured this might be useful for the time being. It's a sling-shot, you won't get the range as you would with a bow, but a slingshot can come in very handy. Also picked up some Blaze, and Chillwater while I was out so we can craft up some shots for it." Nadia took the contraption and looked it over.

"You're deflecting the question. But thank you." Nadia had never used a slingshot in her life, but the concepts seemed simple enough. Pull back object you wanted to shoot at something.

"I also got you a knife. Never know when you might need one in the wilds." Nadia gave the grinning girl an incredulous look.

"You're still deflecting from the issue here." She said.

"Okay fine I don't know! I mean it's not like you have a sign on your forehead that says Old One. I'm hoping my status as All-Mother's Anointed will just let us go in with no questions. Maybe I can tell them that All-Mother told me to bring you. I'm taking this one step at a time." She said in frustration. Then slumped down on the couch. "It's the best I can do. It's amazing we're all still here after what Hades and the Eclipse were trying to do. I'm not Elizabet, do you have any idea what luck it was that I stumbled on to the clues I did and managed to stop an AI. That I could figure out how your worlds tech works enough to get by? More than half of the technology you probably used every day would seem like garble to me."

Nadia stepped forward and sat down beside Aloy; she reminded her of her friend and occasional mentor. But at the same time, not her, she was not Elizabet, and in this day and age, she didn't need to be.

"Aloy with the resources you had at your disposal you did a fantastic job. No, you are not as smart in the same way as Elizabet was but that in no way means you're not smart. She grew up in a different time and place then you did. She was a different person you are." Nadia leaned back looking up at the ceiling. "You're not Elizabet; sure there are similarities, your looks being chief among them, your mannerisms and your drive to accomplish in the overwhelming face of adversity. Sure, there the same qualities she had, but those are traits that any parent would be proud to have passed on to their child. I can't imagine what a duo you two would have made, its damn scary to think about. She would be proud of you, and I know if she is looking down at you and smiling." She finished turning to see Aloy looking back at her, and a single tear fell down her face, but then another and another.

Before Nadia knew it, Aloy had thrown her arms around her and was sobbing on her shoulder. Nadia did what seemed natural and placed a comforting hand on her back and let her go. Much like herself, Aloy had never really cried about what had happened, nor for the mother that she lost before ever getting to know her.

The two both had pasts that were going to haunt them, and in many ways, their histories were unresolvable. Nadia could never get back the people and places she loved, and Aloy could never meet the women that she thought abandoned her.

Neither of them could ever cry on the shoulder of the person they wanted. For Aloy it was Elizabet, and for Nadia it was Hannah. Nadia didn't notice the tears that threatened to spill over as she thought about her lost love. But for now, she knew that Aloy needed this because just like her she needed to a shoulder to cry on.

^w^

Menially had neglected most of her current projects for the past week in favor of watching her new reality show, The Adventures of Nadia Odine and Aloy. The latter of which her systems identified as Elizabet Sobek. She had turned a blind eye to her projects and not being as meticulous had cost her. One was now three whole days behind. She had just pulled a fifty-hour shift to bring it all back up to standard.

While botany was not her favorite project, it still played into the larger scheme of things. A more robust plant made terraforming easier if it could withstand harsh environments. She also found that she enjoyed the blue flowers that blossomed on her newest creations. She had thought about going back to the drawing board and making them purple, but that would take weeks of careful DNA mapping and restructuring before even working to produce viable seeds. The flower's color was irrelevant it would provide the desired growth, pollinate others and the cycle of life would move on.

Menially heard the door to the room open but paid no mind to the person that entered. After all, there was no other sentient living being in the facility but herself. Her whorl wind day was now winding down, and she was taking a well-deserved break in a hot tub to wind it down.

"My Lady," Came the monotone voice of MB. "Do you require any assistance? You have been in the bath for some time."

"No MB, I'm fine. Have a meal prepared; I'll take it in the theater. I have a film to watch tonight as well as look at the updates of Aloy and Nadia. Has there been any more interference from the man called Silence?" She asked as she stood and left the bubbling water. She paid MB no mind as she walked over to a table and took first a towel and wrapped it around her head on her wet hair and then another to dry her body before exiting the bathing room.

"Very good my Lady. There has been no more interference or telemetry from, designation, Silence." He said following the girl.

After dressing and having MB assist with brushing her hair, Menially was seated in a large theatre that easily could hold several hundred people. Only one person was present as the highlight reel from Aloy and Nadia played. The two were not on their way to the Nora lands; located near what was once Colorado Springs.

From the additional information gathered the two were going there since it had presumably an active terminal that might allow Nadia to access the FARO network and find out where Ted Faro's bunker was or where the mythical Site-B was. It didn't matter to Menially whether they managed to find a backup of the GAIA Prime. But to restore GAIA, they would first have, access the vault inside of Zero Dawn to obtain the solid backups of GAIA and her subordinate programs.

Menially found everything over convoluted and in a way, pointless. The world was still spinning; humanity was still around. What more could they want? The answer to that question was a relative one, Aloy and Nadia wished to save GAIA and Menially wanted her fried chicken and waffles.

The rundown of Aloy and Nadia ended with them on their way to the Nora lands after a night of socializing with some mohawk guy named Errand. The three seemed to be in good company, and then the next day the two had left the city with none the wiser that Nadia was an Old One.

"Hope they don't kill her when they get to the Nora tribe." She said aloud. "That would be a downer." Menially amended as an afterthought.

Menially pondered that thought for a few minutes about that. Should she take precaution? No Nadia was close to Aloy, and the Nora seemed to think Aloy was the child of their Goddess or something. They would not be there for another two days, so she had time to think about the subject and scheme. Usually, she would never dream of interacting with the world at large, but more recently she had shot that policy to hell and no doubt made an enemy.

With the day's highlight reel of the traveling duo over Menially queued up the movie she had selected to the evening. Lightning day, it was a day that she and her Uncle had always stopped whatever they were doing and watched a movie together.

Now she sat in the large room alone none the worse for the lack of other people. A moment later MB entered the room making his way to his mistress tray and her evening meal in hand. She smiled as she looked down at the two waffles and the fried chicken breast that sat atop them, a light drizzle of a syrup glazed over the meal.

"Just in time MB, as always." She said before arraigning herself and preparing to eat. "Be sure to have some popcorn prepared in, let's say 45 minutes into the feature."

MB merely nodded and took his leave as the large screen flashed into motion. The screen showed a blue background with a golden relief of a lion on it. Soon it faded out to a black screen.

Menially took a bit of her meal and smiled to herself, MB had outdone himself. The screen of a planet was visible now lite by the sun rising behind it and shortly after that at the bottom of the screen the words 2001: A Space Odyssey appeared in white lettering. The plot had seemed appealing. An AI computer goes rogue and kills the crew of a space exploration ship. Add in chicken and waffles; it was the end of a perfect day.

^w^

Over the last few years, Jago had a hard time figuring himself out. He didn't want to be stuck in the clans claim forever. He was right in the forge, but he wanted more. He wanted to see the world, to find things from the metal world that no one ever had. When Barver his uncle had offered the chance to travel with him and learn to be a trader he jumped at the opportunity.

Just a few weeks ago he and his uncle had delved a facility that had been one of the largest he had ever been. It had had five levels, and the lower one still had power, mostly. The bodies of the Old Ones they found there were odd. They had been in some suites made of heavy yellow rubber, and the room had been sealed tight.

The two scavengers were finally able to force the door open, and there was a hissed as the air rushed out. They had not found very much, but it had been an experience. They had found several cylinders that had some power device on them. Neither Barver or his uncle had figured out what they were for yet. So Barver decided they would leave them as is until they were back at the claim and had better access to tools and other clan members that might have a better idea.

Right now, the two were entering Nora lands; the reclusive tribe had finally started letting outsiders enter their territory. The rumors had it that they had a sign from there goddess. Jago didn't believe in that, but the locals did, and one thing he had learned from his uncle was if the locals did then you smile and nod. Never question a customer boy, and you'll go far. If anything, play into it, and you might sell more.

Words to live by from what Jago could tell. They had traveled for twenty days toward the rising sun to the edge of life, and now they were on their way back. The Nora would be their last stop before the claim.

They hadn't gone far into the valley when Barver stopped suddenly. Slapping Jago in the chest stopping the boy.

"Barver? What is it?" As if to answer a young male wearing the furs and tribal garb that his uncle had told him was indicative of the Nora stepped around a rock outcropping and started walking toward them.

Barver for his part just raised a hand as the dark-skinned male came close enough.

"Do you know where you are? This is Nora land." Barver lowered his hand and stepped forward a few paces.

"Yes, I'm aware of that. My nephew and I are on our way back to the west, and we hoped we might find accommodations for a night and we trade and would be willing to barter for a night's stay." Barver said in his gruff tone. Even though the man looked like he could take down a saw-tooth with his bare hands, he was a soft-hearted fellow. He did have a temper at times if someone wronged him, but he was always far.

The Nora seemed to think about it for a moment sizing both other them up. Jago figured it was two on one so if this native did try anything he was confident that the two of them could handle him.

"We have shards as well if that is more to your liking." He offered up. They didn't have that many shards. The trading on the trip had been less than great. It was more for a delve into the old world than a trade, so they had not made as much as Barver though on what they found.

"I think it will be fine for a day, two at the most. Come I'll show you the way." With that Barver stepped forward and Jago followed. The youth noticed that some of the shrubs seemed to move with him and as if out of nowhere there were easy seven, no, nine people he could count at a glance. "I'm Varel."

Barver and this nit is my nephew, Jago." Jago only nodded dumbfounded that they had been so outmatched and had been at the mercy of the Nora the whole time. He had been a fool. He followed his uncle as he spoke to Varal. It seemed that Meridian had been in a dire straight a few weeks ago and that a girl from the Nora had been instrumental in saving the Sun King and indeed the whole Sundom.

He would later learn she was the Nora's anointed, the chosen of their Goddess. She saved them and more, to hear the Nora talk about her that first night it was like she was a goddess herself. They claimed that she could tame machines and ride them. She could bend them to her will.

That night trading went as well as could be expected. The two would be staying two days to gather their strength for the last hall back to the claim. But for now, Jago was glad not to be walking and just sitting, and the view of some of the local girls wasn't too bad either. He had to admit something was appealing about the backwater types to him.

;3

As much as I would have loved to stay longer, I couldn't help but be excited with the idea of what Nadia could do once we made it to the cradle facility. I still was not sure how I was going get Nadia inside Mothers Heart. I was hoping no one would question there anointed, but it was still a gamble.

The night before we had left Nadia had the pleasure of meeting Eared and how much he could drink. It was a lot. But he had been good about explaining the history of Meridian, his clan, and the surrounding area. Nadia was enraptured with finding out what had happened as far back as Eared could tell her. The unfortunate part was for every story there was a drink, and both Eared and Nadia had mirrored each other in drinks. This did not end well for Eared, but oddly enough Nadia could hold her alcohol. I had two, and I was done. Nadia and Eared had gone six mugs deep.

The next day Nadia was right as rain. A skill I wish I had, I was still feeling a little cruddy after the two drinks. But now a few days later we were finally in Nora lands. Having striders had cut the time I use to have to travel almost in half. We were still making good time even with the snow starting to fall even here lightly. It occurred to me that for all the things we had talked about I had never really asked what Nadia did.

"Nadia, I never asked but what exactly did you do at Zero Dawn?" She looked at me quizzically for a moment; she looked to the sky before speaking.

"I don't guess we ever really covered that did we." She paused. "After all the facility was getting up to speed when I disappeared. Well, I was one of the Alphas on the project. Elizabet was, of course, Alpha 0. My number was Alpha 9. I asked for that number because I like it." She chuckled, and I rolled my eyes. "Elizabet just rolled her eyes when I told her to give me number 9 just because I liked it too. I had been at Zero Dawn for about eight months before, well you know. Anyway, my expertise was neurological dive systems; I practically pioneered the art of creating a true AIs."

"I thought Elizabet created AI's before?" I asked.

"Well yes, she did, but not like what we needed for the project. This was different before I was fired from FARO and Pearl Labs I had been working on a project to create an artificial consciousness. Until I got in the game, AI's were nothing more than fancy programs with excellent communication skills and enough random likes & dislikes to seem real. They had no personality. To put it a none scientific way, they had no soul. Sure, there were AI's that could learn but they couldn't feel. By taking a copy of human consciousness, you could get the beginnings of an AI thought would learn to be someone, not something. It was like having a child. You don't give a child all the knowledge in the world; you must teach them. By interacting with a person and teaching them values be good to people, don't kill people, you get the idea. You allow them to develop their sense of morals, feelings, likes, and dislikes."

Nadia was beaming. "It was the next best thing to having a child. No changing diapers or dealing with waking up in the middle of the night. We had gone so far as to make the base SEELE at Pearl Labs, think of it kind of like a child that was just born; it was a new soul. Ina manner of speaking, anyway we updated the originals once we started Zero Dawn since FARO was all of a sudden open to me and Elisabet again. If the world hadn't been coming to an end, it would have been great. I had hoped that the project I had been working on was still active, but it was… shelved." Nadia took on a far-off look ending the conversation.

*w*

"So, are there any things I shouldn't say to the Nora?" Nadia was still under the impression she was going to be a sacrifice to the Goddess, me or both.

"Be nice and if they don't ask then don't say anything. Don't worry Nadia it will all turn out fine." We were coming up in the valley when we ran into two travelers, Oserom from there looks, on the way from the sacred lands.

"Well, I'll be scrapped for parts." The larger of the two said. The younger one was staring with his mouth open.

"If you don't close your mouth kid you'll catch fly's," Nadia said dryly. She still had a bit of a habit I had learned of saying the first thing that came to mind. Though she told me she was much better than when she was a kid. This caused the larger man to chuckle jovially.

"Well Jago boy looks there, those Nora were telling the truth. I'm Barver, were coming from Mother-Something or another. You must be Aloy." This surprised me.

"Must I?" I asked incredulously.

"Them Nora talked you up perfect girl, savior of the Nora and Meridian. Some even boosted the world." Nadia chuckled from behind on her strider.

"Yes, I'm Aloy," I said nervously. I gestured behind me on the second strider. "and this Is Nadia."

"How?" The younger of the two finally said. "How do you ride them." This was one of the more complicated things to answer but being Oserum, it was a little easier.

"It's a long story. But suffice to say that it took a lot of delving in caldrons to figure it out." The larger man nodded seeming to accept the answer.

"Well, girl good for you. If only this lag-about were as hard a worker as you. Though that is odd, I didn't think you Nora cared for the old world?" He said eyeing me hard this time. "That armor your wearing isn't like anything I have ever seen before much less on a Nora."

"I'm not as Nora as the Nora would like." He chuckled good-naturedly slapping the younger boy on the shoulder. "Well, Aloy if you ever happen near the Ovu Beks Claim you look me up. I would love to pick your brain, but daylights burning. Come on Jago, yalms to go and all that. Aloy, Nadia it was a pleasure meeting you and finding out that our hosts were not billowing smoke." He said as the two began moving on. Both Nadia and I just watched them go for a few minutes, and she looked to me.

"So, the Nora want to get their poster child's name out in the world. They talked you up." I spurred my strider on and grumbled to myself. I just had to make it through a few days, and hopefully, we would have the location of Ted Faro's bunker.

"We have to find Ted's bunker, get the backup AI cores from Zero Dawn, bring back Gaia," I said. I was trying to re-assure myself there was no way it would be that easy. "Easy."

"Easy she says. I hope that I never found out what you think is hard." Nadia said grinning at her redhead friend.

Making their way through ruins of a crumbling city, one that Nadia was starting to suspect it was what was once Colorado Springs and soon she was proven right as the two came upon a statue. While most of the artistic memorial had been eroded by time and damaged by the Faro robots, it was still recognizable. There were two horses, each with a rider on its back it was the Pikes Peak Range Riders memorial. She couldn't quite remember, but it was something about men that would gather and ride around Pikes Peak.

Nadia rained in her strider to a stop for a moment to take in the statue, Aloy noticed and followed suite turning and coming back. "Shard for your thoughts." She intoned. Nadia had commented the day before with the old saying, 'A penny for your thoughts' the saying when over her head, so I re-tooled it for this era.

"This statue, it was in a city called Colorado Springs." Nadia looked around as the ruins of the city with a sigh. "You said we should be there before sundown, right?"

"Yeah, we'll be staying at the lodge tonight, I don't think you're quite ready to go to my old home. There is some climbing involved that might be a little more than your ready for."

"Right, probably need to hold off on that for a bit if its anything like you've told me. Come on; we're burning daylight." Said Nadia spurred her strider gently the action resulting in the mechanical animal moving on. Over the last few days Aloy noted that Nadia had been doing better, even so, there were moments when she seemed more lost than ever.

O_o

We made it through Mother Cradle with little fan fair. There were one or two bows I noted as we passed and a few mutters of the anointed one returning. I expected it to be worse as we came upon Mother's Heart. Before we arrived, we set the striders free and gathered our packs to make the last of the trek on foot. I could tell Nadia was nervous. She kept a watchful eye on her own feet till we made it to the gate where we stopped.

The two guards stood a little straighter as we approached. "Nadia stop looking at the ground were here, and you are acting weird. Maybe I made it sound worse than it is." I regretted those words as it seemed like the world was making a concerted effort to prove me wrong.

"So, the outcast came back," I grimaced at hearing Resh's voice. The other guard at the gate gave him a disapproving look. "and you brought someone else to infest our lands as well."

"Oh, Resh," I said zoning in on the man. "Well, this is a surprise, your still here." I turned my attention to the other guard who was not wearing a slight grin and ignored the rest of whatever Resh was going to say. "Is Teersa around?"

"She is the Anointed," she said proudly, and I cringed a little, Nadia chuckled. "I'm sorry, yes Aloy she and the other Matriarchs are at the center lodge."

"That you would come back here…" Resh said as we started to pass, the smart thing to do was ignore the jerk, but I just could not leave him with the last word.

"Well you don't have to worry too much were here to get some answers and we'll be on our way," I said as I continued to walk. The rest of Resh's snide remarks were lots to us as we walked through the crowd. There was a lot of wide eyes and lots of people that still muttered about me being the anointed. Their reverence for me was too much, and I found myself having to stay my words from not lashing out.

"You weren't joking were you," Nadia said walking a little closer than usual.

"No, unfortunately. Come on its up here… I think. I haven't been here very much."

^w0

As the two travelers walked thought Mother's Heart Nadia was all but forgotten falling into the shadow of the anointed of the Nora. A few children ran up to us, well Aloy, and just stared. One little girl ran up and touched Aloy, and the group ran off. Other muttered there thanks to here for saving them. Other seem to go so far as to stop and pray as she passed.

Nadia was relieved at least the attention was on Aloy and not her. It was interesting coming from Meridian to here. The culture here was more primitive, other than bits and pieces of machine parts on armor the technology level here was nonexistent.

The two kinds of whether the people and finally made their way to what Nadia assumed was the central lodge. A few people were milling around, and a group of people were whispering, one even pointed but no soon then that happened the crowd spread to allow an older woman to come toward us. A broad smile graced her wrinkled face as she welcomed us.

"Aloy, you have finally returned." The elder said as she approached and took Aloy's right hand. "Come, come you must tell me of your travels." She said almost pulling Aloy.

"Teersa slow down," I said, I was happy seeing her again, but she could get very spirited for someone her age.

However, as the two entered the lodge, the guard stopped Nadia. "Aloy!" She said a little startled.

"Oh, yes, she is with me," I said to Teerse, a smile still on her face.

"Yes, let her in, she is welcome here. Come the both of you sit." Teersa when on to tell the guard to keep everyone else out of the lodge till she deemed otherwise. Finally, the three were alone. As Aloy and Nadia took a seat, the two younger women released a sigh finally making it to the end of their journey, at least the first leg. Now came the tough part and they both knew it.

*_o

As we sat down, Teersa went to work with a kettle and three cups producing tea for the three of us. I looked down the steaming cup trying to think of the best way to explain everything to her. I knew I couldn't explain everything, but at the same time, I didn't want to outright lie to her.

"Aloy, tell me. Did you find what you were searching for?" She looked at me hope to gleam in her eyes. I simply nodded.

"Yes, and no. Teersa while I stopped the great evil, there is more I have to do. All-Mother is sleeping… The evil, Hades forced her into a deep deathlike sleep. She can't wake up, and there is a chance she may never wake again." I glanced over at Nadia she was calmly drinking her tea. Sneaking glances at me as I weaved a web truth in a thin veil of lies. "I need to go back to Mother-Heart, and I need Nadia here to come with me." Teersa might have been okay to let me go where I wanted, including the most sacred places the Nora had but asking to bring an outsider with me and she was a bit more apprehensive.

"Aloy, while I will do all in my power to aid you I feel that there is more to this and young Nadia's role. My sisters will no doubt wish to know why an outside was allowed in Mother-Heart, not to offend you, my dear."

"Understandable," Nadia said speaking up and taking another drink of her.

"If we could I would rather you not tell your sisters… Teersa…" I could see this suggestion was not something that she did not like. "Nadia is the only one that can look through All-Mothers memory's while she sleeps." Okay, I was stretching the truth.

"Not that I don't believe you Aloy but Nadia, how is it you can see the dreams of the Goddess? To my knowledge, this is the first meeting I have had with you. You are not Nora." The loving smile was there, but Teersa's eyes were now calculating as she took in Nadia. To Nadia's credit, she was impassive as she took another long drink of her tea.

"I know a lot about her, All-Mother you call her now, we called her Gaia when she was born." I was frozen as Nadia spoke, but she just kept on going. "Aloy found me sleeping, much like Gaia, All-Mother, the world has changed since my time." Nadia finished placing her tea down in a calm and very calculated move and fixed Teersa with a stare. Then she laughed.

"Aloy found me by accident or fate, maybe destiny... The man that destroyed the world, the one that turned the machines against humanity, that unleash the Metal Devil. He is the same one that put me into what should have been an eternal sleep. If not for Aloy I don't think I would have ever woken up. There is a way to awaken All-Mother, but so much has changed. I believe the answer to waking her might be in her memories. But the only way to know is if you allow me to the place you now called Mothers-Heart. Besides though she may be sleeping she will still recognize me and allow me entry into Mother-Heart. That said she picked up her cup and took another drink finishing it off. That was very good may I have another?"

I felt as though my blood was fully iced now. Nadia has not outright called herself a goddess, but she had said that she was the mother of All-Mother. I had no idea what to say, all my plans, thin as they were, was now up in smoke. Mechanically I turned to Teersa so was looking on impassively. In short, we were doomed.


AFTERTHOUGHTS

Did you see that coming… Ah brutal honesty with a gentle lie.

I really hope to hear your thoughts on how the story is developing and any ideas you might have about what's going to happen.

Q&A

Q Ilireanwri - This is a good story and a very interesting one. But I'm very curious who (or what) Menially is?

A That... is a secret. Well, be learning a little more about Menially as we go. She really likes her science. Someone PMed me and asked was she GLaDOS, though that is a funny thought, she is NOT GLaDOS. I would be curious to hear peoples thoughts on her. :3

Q StreetPiet - Hades was the Hacker that tried to gain access to Menially's system but instead gets tricked by a Honeypot?

A In computer terminology, a honeypot is a computer security mechanism set to detect, deflect, or, in some manner, counteract attempts at unauthorized use of information systems. Generally, a honeypot consists of data (for example, in a network site) that appears to be a legitimate part of the site, but is actually isolated and monitored, and that seems to contain information or a resource of value to attackers, who are then blocked. This is similar to police sting operations, colloquially known as "baiting," a suspect.

Q BenRG - I'm thinking that Ted realized that Elizabet and Nadia were potential threats to his plan to 'reset' humanity to the base condition.

A That's pretty spot on. I hope the amount of time between when Nadia went 'missing' till Zero Hour was enough to get that Ted did plan on Nadia as a backup plan, but he went crazy and... well you know. I will say there is much more to it that well find out latter the plan was far greater then what it seems.

NOTES...

It will not happen in the next chapter, but I do plan on using The Frozen Wilds setting for some of this story. You have to remember it has now been over a month that Aloy and Nadia have been traveling and training here and there.

I would not blatantly remind people of ow much time has passed but since fanfiction is not look getting a book when in you get the whole story all at once it might have been a while and people forget details like this.

Also, this cheaper is only half of what I have written so far. I cut this in half. The original before the split was around 14K words.

Again, sorry for any grammar issues. I have tried to improve, and I have been using Grammarly, so I think it might have helped to catch some of the more glaring issues that I just never noticed before.

Next Chapter will be up in a day or two since its written and edited to the best of my ability.

Later o/