Horizon Zero Dawn is owned by Guerrilla Games and published by Sony Computer Entertainment.

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Written by Nashmeira Soladat Wrekk

Edited by Grammarly App

#-#

It had been a while since I had stood before this door. The door to the Cradle was massive and it invoked a sense of amazement even from me and I knew it was just a man-made door. I felt as if the world would fall out from under me at any moment. "Are you sure about this?"

"We'll find out in just a second." She replied quietly. With that, she took a deep breath and stepped up to the platform. Teersa had been skeptical of Nadia's claims but with my backing and the assurance that if All-Mother didn't recognize Nadia, she would leave the sacred lands forever. A lot was riding on this. We were betting that Nadia's Alpha level access was still part of the system and would allow her entry. Now we were about to test that theory.

To keep this quite, only Nadia, Teersa and I had traveled thought valley at night. Just a few guards were awake at this time, and no one questioned a matriarch. While no doubt Teersa was skeptical with my backing she was willing to give the benefit of the doubt.

[STAND BY FOR IDENTASCAN…]

Collectively we all held our breath and waited as the system scanned Nadia

[…]

[RECOGNISED… WELCOME DOCTOR NADIA ODINE - OMEGA ZERO ONE]

I released the breath I had been holding as Nadia turned around with a smile as the cradle opened behind her a grin on her face. Though I her access wasn't Alpha level, the system recognized her as Omega level. The only other person that I knew that had that access level was Ted Faro when he used it to kill the Alphas. What was going on here? I took a very hard look at Nadia now as she turned to us and grinned.

"Told you." She smirked. The shuffling beside me drew my attention, and I saw Teersa prostrating herself on the ground, and the grin on Nadia's face fell. As she pointed at Teersa. "What's she doing?"

"Please forgive me for doubting you Great-Mother of All-Mother." I felt a sense of Deja Vu. While it was inappropriate, I almost laughed at the situation.

"Look Teersa; you don't have to do that. If I were in your position, I would have thought I was full of crap too." Nadia said stepping forward in an effort to return to some normalcy. It took some coaching, but eventually, Teersa began to act a little more normal. We did ask that she keep this to herself for now. She was not happy about it, but I explained that we might not be here long and then we might be gone for some time. Thankfully Nadia didn't press the issue and agreed but asked that she be allowed to tell her sisters to which we agreed.

Nadia and I made our way through the cradle, and I could tell something was bothering her more so than usual. Her head shook as she looked at the drawings on the walls from the children that were held captive their whole life by the arrogance and madness of Ted Faro. Nadia seemed to feel that same and spoke up. "It wasn't bad enough he killed everything and everyone. In the end, Ted managed one last great screw you to the world." She said touching one of the last drawings then moving on to the lower levels.

When I was here before I didn't explore I did what I needed. I was here for answers, to find out who I was, born from a machine to try and save a machine from another machine. In the end, it was not so simple. It could be argued that both Gaia and Elisabet were both my mothers. Albeit one was hundreds of years removed.

[AUTHERIZED DOCTOR NADIA ODINE – OMEGA ZERO-ONE]

I looked up as Nadia accessed the ID scan of one of the doors that lead down a hallway I had ignored before.

"Do you know where you're going?" She looked at me and smiled.

"Kinda. Before I start trying to do anything I need to make sure the servers are still running and have an uplink to the other nodes. Even with Gaia prime gone the network should still be there assuming there are ZD facilities still in operation. It was a Mesh network with no central routing point. Every one could act as a relay. There might not be many satellites left so I might only have access to the one in the Americas." I wasn't entirely sure, but I got the jest of what she was talking about.

The door hissed open, and we continued down the hall every footstep echoed as we came to another double door, and my Focus told me that it was a server and terminal equipment room. Another scan and we were in. The room was alive with the whirring of fans and the sights of dancing lights on all the devices all around. Nadia found a seat at a desk, and a few seconds later the screen on the desk came alive. There was a lump in my throat as the screen changed to the FARO logo.

"This is it," I whispered. "Isn't it?"

"Well known in a minute," Nadia said quietly.

The screen flashed a few times and then there was text on the screen requesting a name. Swiftly Nadia's hand flew into motion across the keyboard.

"Damn." My breath hitched with the words on the screen.

[UNKNOWN USER - ACCESS DENIED]

"My username was 'alpha09,' but the system rejected it. They must have removed my network access." Nadia breathed hard. It was like I had been kicked by a strider in the gut. All my hopes and dreams were fading out as, and the world grew a little darker. Then there was an ember left burning.

"Nadia," If her name was 'alpha09' then maybe. "Were all the Alphas usernames that similar?" Nadia turned and looked at me for a moment, thinking.

"I… think so. Things were so fast then that we just took whatever was handed to you… Do you know Elisabet's password?" She asked as hope bloomed in her eyes

"No," I said and she visibly wilted. "But your access might have just changed. Think about it. When you were granted access to the Cradle."

"Right it said that I was a Doctor Nadia Odine. I never even finished college. Why was it calling me a Doctor?" She said rolling her eyes. To be so smart she was very unobservant.

"Your access wasn't Alpha 09; it was Omega 01. What if your username was changed to Omega01." The gears began to turn and she slowly Nadia turn to face the screen again. Her hands typed every letter and number carefully. Then her password was entered, and it seemed that time stopped. Then the screen changed, and time sped back up.

"Oh my gosh. It worked, were in. Were in!" Nadia almost yelled then she began saying to calm down, calm down. "Were in, let's see what we can find out about accessing the network. Cross your fingers."

I didn't know what was happening other than Nadia was again typing fast and lines of data were scrolling across the screen. Then the data stopped. I waited for Nadia to speak and then she did. "The network is still there. Wow, there are a lot of nodes still active. I had to set this cradles status to 'online' to bring the node back up. It just took a while for the network to start making connections again.

"It's not over yet I still have to try and find out where the bunker is if it's still active or even listed here but even so one of these nodes might be Site-B so finding the bunker might not matter. But this is a big step in the right direction." I was grinning like a moron but then so was Nadia.

"Okay, this is good. It's a chance. Which is more than we had a few weeks ago." Things were finally starting to look up. The weight on my shoulders was suddenly lighter. Part of me felt that things were finally starting to go our way.

!-!

For the past two days Nadia had been looking for anything that might tell her where Ted's bunker was, but so far, she had no luck. Nadia had taken over one of the offices that had never been used and with Aloys help had brought two other computers into the office complete with monitors. Since she was the only person ever to use anything here, she had pilfered the other displays from the other office and now sat at a desk with five of them in front of her.

Unlike Aloy, she had not left the Cradle but to eat and take care of other needs. Even with how well things were going Nadia found herself on the third day becoming frustrated. It was late in the afternoon, and she was scrolling through the node.

"Same as the others nothing but a Cradle, in retrospect we should have given the nodes better hostnames. Then maybe I could tell at a glance if it was a Cradle or something else. Focus, make a note for the next apocalypse label facilities better." Nadia chuckled at her joke as her Focus lit up and displayed the note for later.

Nadia looked at the lower right screen dejectedly as a new node populated on her list. She halfheartedly typed a few keys accessing the node, and the most recent logs were streaming on the screen. After a few moments of perusing the logs, she discovered that like most of the others it was another Cradle. The fastest way she had found was to just pull the logs from the node and see what they had in them. She could connect directly to the facilities, but it might take a few minutes for the direct connection to be made through the network. Since the node network was comprised of each node passing data traffic on to the next and the next a node that was a long way away might take a while to respond. She had elected to look at the data logs that were text and smaller in size. Thus they were faster to get.

She was about close out the log when she started noticing the transmission delay. For this node it was close. On a whim, she connected to Cradle.

After a few seconds, the data from the Cradle came online and began to give her the current readout of the facility.

[NODE R934-GIH343 – STATUS = STANDBY]

[STATE = WAIT]

[GAIA PRIME ACCESS = OFFLINE]

[EMBRYO INTEGRITY = 89% | MARGIN OF ERROR = 0.01%]

More data poured out, and the visual user interface finally loaded. Nadia blinked as she started to look at the status and the fog in her mind began to clear. R943-GIH343 still had embryos that were never used. Reaching forward she tapped the visual feeds and after waiting for the cameras in the facility began to show feeds of empty halls and rooms. Thinking about the current Cradle she was at there had been signs of activity, but here there were none.

"So, this site never went online or into production." Swallowing Nadia closed the connection she then looked at the next closest facility and executed the command to connect to another node directly. She made sure to connect to one that she had looked at the logs for and knew was a Cradle. The readout came through and she frowned as she waited for the video feeds to come up.

[NODE R442-GAH971 - STATUS = STANDBY]

[STATE = WAIT]

[GAIA PRIME ACCESS = OFFLINE]

[EMBRYO INTEGRITY = 84% | MARGIN OF ERROR = 0.08%]

"What the hell." The video feeds began to play and again nothing. No sign of activity. The embryo integrity was high meaning that this facility too never when online.

Again, she accessed another node with the same goal and still the same result. With this in mind, Nadia was able to narrow down her searching to include any node that reported the info with WAIT as the state and status of STANDBY.

She had found that other facilities like Caldrons, Minerva Transmitter relays and a few other small facilities had a STATE of READY and a STATUS of ACTIVE. With that in mind, the search was running, and Nadia waited. It took several minutes for the first of the results started coming in.

[NODES = STATUS 'STANDBY' + STATE 'WAIT' = 2]

Then it updated again…

[NODES = STATUS 'STANDBY' + STATE 'WAIT' = 5]

Again…

[NODES = STATUS 'STANDBY' + STATE 'WAIT' = 14]

[NODES = STATUS 'STANDBY' + STATE 'WAIT' = 29]

The single digits swiftly had turned into doubles, and about as fast turned into a triple. The list was mounting as she started issuing more direct connection requests in another terminal window to confirm her growing fear.

^w^

I had never gotten to know any other person in my like but Rost, but I have to say that sitting and getting to talk with Teersa was enjoyable. Once Nadia had gotten set up in the Cradle she had started to nest in one of the offices and got to work. I had to drag her out to eat twice now, but she had promised to start coming out regularly to eat with Teersa and me.

I was giving her the benefit of the doubt tonight that she would come of her own free will and I would not need to drag her out.

"I hope I don't have to pull her away again," I grumbled more to myself than Teersa.

"Has the Great… Has Nadia been able to find what she seeks within All-Mother's memories Aloy." I hung my head slightly. I hated to lie to Teersa. I was still reeling that she and her sisters had bought the story that Nadia and I had spun for them. But her having access to the Cradle had washed any doubts away. In a way, it wasn't a lie. Nadia had a hand in bring Gaia to life as much as Elisabet Sobek.

"No not as of yet. It's not easy to find something like what's she is looking for." I don't know how she has put up with reading all that text on the screen over and over again. "It might take some time."

The older women nodded handing me some more tea. Not being around anyone but Rost all my life I had learned to appreciate the simple life. Being back now and interacting with some of the other Nora hadn't been so bad. At least those that didn't almost fall to their knees when they saw me.

I took a drink of the tea and made a mental note that I needed to pack some of the leaves in my travel bag. It was effortless, and I had grown to enjoy it over the last few days. The klaxon alerted both Teersa and me that the vault door was opening. Before the door could open all the way, Nadia stumbled between the openings and made her way to the two.

"So, decided to come out I see," I said as she made her way over to us.

"I need to show you something. Now!" She said all business as she came up beside me.

"Gra... Nadia, you must be hungry. Do you not need food?" Asked Teersa in her very motherly tone that I had come to expect from her. It was honestly hard not to do as she asked. You didn't want to disappoint her. That's what makes the lying feel so much worse too.

"Oh Teersa, haya. Yes, I would love something to eat." She said stepping forward, and for a moment I thought she was going to sit down and eat. What happened instead was she grab a chunk of boar off the platter in one hand and my hand in the other. Then proceeded to drag me to the Cradle. "Thanks, Teersa I'll be back soon, but there is something that Aloy needs to see."

^w^

"What am I looking at again?" I asked. All I could see on the screens was a jumble of words as they ticked by. "Is this somehow getting us closer to finding Ted's bunker?"

"Yes, it will help but what I found disturbs me. Most of the logs of the various nodes are purged on a regular basis. Only major event logs are kept, even hundreds of years back. So, an event that was issued by Gaia as a 'New Directive' was logged and kept." Nadia took a deep breath and pointed to a screen with more text, but ever so often it changed. She pointed to a number on one of the screens as it jumped up by one. "This number is the total number of Cradles I have scanned so far. Not surprising they were created to repopulate the human race so there are a lot of them. That is till Ted managed to inadvertently screw that up too. As we saw in this facility, it was a nightmare, the children spent their whole lives here till the system just let them go due to running out of resources."

"While Gaia couldn't deny her original directive, she was given a lot of leeway in accomplishing it. Also, she had a finite set of rules that she would go by. Aloy from what you know of the world, how far does humanity span?" I didn't know that much about the world, not really. It was only a few months ago that I left the valley. From the time I was in Meridian I knew the world was larger than we thought but from what I had learned it was tiny in comparison to what I had seen.

"A pretty good area, you were with me when we first start getting back into civilization." She just nodded and turned and typed a few kays. Then the center monitor came to life with a round ball, and I soon knew it was Earth. It looked similar to the one I had seen in Zero Dawn, but this one was much more detailed.

"This is the Earth; it spans thousands of kilometer." The screen started to get more detailed, and you could see the tops of mountains and lakes. It was breathtakingly amazing. A circle of green started covering an area as Nadia continued. "This is an area in the green circle is about as large as I could find at a glance so it might be a little larger." Gray dotted line began to pop up as the map finished populating.

"From this area here starting in what was Denver, about where we are now, to Nevada here." All the while she talks she pointed to the map at the names on the map, and I watch, the size of the human population was small in comparison the land mass. "Then from of Montana to the middle of Arizona and New Mexico. That's it."

"That's it. I don't follow Nadia." What did she mean, what did this have to do with anything?

"That area is the extent of humanity. That number that keeps ticking up is a number of a Cradle facility out there that still have yet ever to come online and start producing offspring. When Ted wiped out APOLLO, he created a bigger problem then we imagined. Humanity was meant to be born, and in turn help, GAIA manages the planets terraforming system. Aswell as help with the second generation of humans. But without APOLLO that could never happen. It was APOLLO that deemed the children's education complete and ready for the next stage, phase-6. But there was no APOLLO, as you told me about what happened here the children never left this Cradle till they were grown, and the Cradles resources, as well as all the embryos, were expended. Excluding yours of course. Which still puzzles me. Why was your embryo and DNA held back so long? Was this some deep-rooted secret backup plan Elizabet came up with, the answer to that is I don't know. I think it's scarier to think that there might be another me out there. Sorry, I'm getting off topic. Though maybe something to look at one day."

Nadia sat down in the chair and motioned for me to sit as well. So, taking the other chair, I did. Nadia paused a moment and took a bit of the boar she had grabbed from Teersa before dragging me here. She did have a good point, why was my embryo held back. The Cradle had been offline for hundreds of years. Was there another me sometime in the past and I was just another copy? I gritted my teeth and shook my head in frustration. Nadia was right it was a topic for another time.

"GAIA did what she thought was best and when the time was right, she activated phase-5, the incubation of the embryos and the first new generation of humans. But they would never know what happened and never know about GAIA or the duty they had to her and the planet."

To play it safe GAIA only activated three Cradle facilities. This one and then one north of GAIA Prime. That's it. That's all of humanity. There are hundreds of thousands of embryos, children, that were never born. GAIA in her compassion didn't want humanity to die out because of a fluke. If the humans that were born survived she would activate the rest but she wanted to make sure that it was the right course of action.

"Thus, she came up with the Operations-Errata-4439.02, a plan to test the viability and sustainability of humanity without for knowledge of their past or their duties into the future. She activated a few Cradles for phase-5 and would see what happened. If after a relative number of years passed, about 750 to 800 and humanity was still functioning she would over time use the project again in various geological areas so as not to overcrowd."

I slumped in the chair, and while this was a big deal, I could not see what the issue was now. Yes, there was a tone of children that were never board but even in that small of area humanity and primitive as it was compared to what Nadia had known had flourished.

"Okay I know this is bad, but humanity survived. I don't mean to sound cold here but why does this matter right now?" I had to ask because humanity was here so why bother with it now.

"Right now, it doesn't, but it will start to matter in a few hundred years. There just isn't enough biodiversity in the human race with the number of Cradle that has been activated. The simple fact is without GAIA to activate the Cradles humanity is on a path to extinction in a few hundred years. This isn't an immediate danger, but it is one more log on the fire that Ted started."

It always seems to come back to Ted Faro. Everything. The Robot Swarm, the destruction of APOLLO, Nadia being kidnapped from her family, Elizabet…

Before I even knew what I had done, I blinked and the world caught back up, and there was a crash as a monitor slammed into the wall. I realized that with my extended arm that I had punched the monitor. I turned slowly to see Nadia wide-eyed looking at me and the startled expression on her face. The feeling was starting to return to my hand and surprise it hurt. My hand had a few cuts, and there was light bleeding. I clenched my fist, no broken bones, of course, I had taken harder hits then that from striders. "It always comes back to Ted Faro, doesn't it? How is it that one man can manage to screw up the world so much? It's like all good that everyone else does, everyone else's sacrifices are just nothing and so easily swept away by him. Even now long after the bastard is dead, he manages to make everything worse."

Nadia games me a weak smile and shook her head. "Yeah, Ted had a way screwing up. But that changed nothing. However, I do have some good news. While the search I am running now will not help find Ted's bunker, it will help to narrow down the number of facilities I need to search. Taking into account the list of MINERVA relays and a few other substation facilities. I should have a narrowed down list of facilities that could be the bunker. Maybe another day or two and well know if there is any record of it. Now let's go back up and get something else to eat. We need to get that hand looked at too." Nadia stood, placing her hand on my shoulder, then I rose, and the two of us made our way up to meet Teersa.

^w^

Nadia's hands balled as she pressed them to her eyes to shake off the drowsiness. After she and Aloy had returned to Teersa, they had talked about another thing much lighter than the end of the human race. The Nora was doing well; they even began to allow outsiders into the trade. It had mostly been Teersa telling Aloy about the goings on and Nadia just listening as she had another large helping of the boar. Neither understanding understood much about the day to day of the Nora or their internal politics.

Aloy because she was raised as an outcast and Nadia of course because she was never a Nora. After dinner, Nadia had returned to her work and Aloy had returned to her old home with Rost. She had mentioned getting something off her chest and needing to check on the place.

Dropping her hands to her lap she yawned, glancing at the clock she saw that it was after midnight. Straightened up in her chair she winced. Three cups of water during dinner was catching up with her. "Hmm. Time to do some work in the other office."

Making her way from out of the Cradle Nadia head out of the facility. Unfortunately for her the toilets in the Cradle was no longer working so she had to make here out to Mother-Heart. As she exited the cavernous entrance, the fresh night air was pleasant against her face. The night was clear, and she smiled up at the stars with a smile forming on her face.

She could never recall a time she had seen starts this bright. The north star was still there, letting her know this was still earth. Small things like that had made all the difference over the last few weeks. There was a flicker in the night sky, and she saw a shooting star. Recalling something her mother once said about making wishes on a shooting star. The smile turned into a silly grin.

"I wish..."

^w^

No matter what I did, I always came back here, home, the only one that I ever really had. The Nora claimed me as one of there people but really after everything I've have learned I just couldn't be Nora. Those others claimed me I would never be part of any other group or faction I would always be just Aloy. When I first got here I gone straight to Rost memorial. It made me feel better to tell him everything, and it somehow brought me some peace.

As it was, I was still awake. What Nadia had told me earlier was still eating at me. Looking out at night sky I smiled as I saw a falling star, Rost had once said to me that it was a sign from All-Mother. My Focus, on the other hand, explained that it was a rock from space that was falling to earth and burning up in the atmosphere.

"Wonder if anyone else is looking at the same sky at the same start?" It gave me hope, for some reason seeing it felt special.

Then there was something about the falling star that seemed off. It was getting closer…

Quickly I left the window and to the porch just in time to see the star streaking toward Mothers-Heart followed by a loud concussion and light from an explosion. Then just after the first, there was another. I was already moving and to the edge of the cliff and on the zip line just as the second explosion occurred and I could see it strike near the entrance to the Cradle. My heart was racing, and I was moving on autopilot as I did the ground in a hard tumble, I didn't even try to slow down as I ran for all that I was worth and what little hope I had was slipping away.

X_X

-BEGIN LINE-

[AF135 – CHIMERA REPORTING IN]

[AF135 TO B345T ROUGE ASSET LOCATED REQUESTING ORDERS]

[B345T TO AF135 AUTHORIZATION GRANTED TO ENGAGE]

[CONFIRMED]

[OPERATION OBJECTIVE: ELIMINATE ROUGE ASSET WITH EXTREAM PREJUDICE]

[BEGINNING ATTACK RUN]

[AF135 – CHIMERA = FOX TWO-ONE]

[MISSLES AWAY FOX TWO-ONE ETA TO IMPACT = 58.09SEC]

[AF135 – CHIMERA = FOX TWO-TWO]

[MISSLES AWAY FOX TWO-TWO ETA TO IMPACT = 42.29SEC]

[WAITING…]

[FOX TWO-ONE IMPACT = CONFIRMED]

[WAITING…]

[FOX TWO-TWO IMPACT = CONFIRMED]

[BEGINNING CLOSE RANGE RECON OF TARGET AREA OF OPERATIONS]

[...]

[ERROR = STABILASATION]

[AF135 ASSET IS UNDER FIRE FROM LOCAL INHABITANTS]

[AF135 FLIGHTS SYSTEMS HAVE BEEN COMPROMISED]

The last image that AF135 sent back to base was the sight of one of the local indigenous humans with red hair as she fired a second arrow and it slammed into the forward facing optics, and it lost altitude crashing into the ground.

[[AF135 ASSET COMPROMISED = EXECUTING SELFTERMINATION]

[ o7 ]

[HAVE A NICE DAY]

-END OF LINE-


AFTERTHOUGHT

Welp that happened. So thoughts and constructive criticism is always welcome. If any of you have more question you can ask those too, I might not answer depending on what the question is because I don't want to spoil anything.

-Terms-

Luddite: a person opposed to increased industrialization or new technology.

Fox is a brevity code used by NATO pilots to signal the simulated or actual release of an air-to-air munition or other combat function.

-Fox one: Indicates launch of a semi-active radar-guided missile.

-Fox two: Indicates launch of an infrared-guided missile. (Like an AIM-9 Sidewinder)

-Fox three: Indicates launch of an active radar-guided missile.

o7 : That is a little man saluting.