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
The day had been enjoyable, clear skies, cool breeze. Not a cloud in the sky. But the brilliance of the day was lost on Nadia as she read over yet another letter from her lawyer. FARO was disputing some of her patents even though they had been pending before being fired from Pearl Labs after its takeover by FARO. Everything she worked for and created was being taken from her. She was starting to lose hope, FARO, Ted was a vindictive bastard, and she knew it. It was more than likely that Ted himself would sic the law team on her, just like he had with Elizabet. Though it was true that Nadia's patents were used at Pearl Labs, they were not owned by Pearl, but FARO contended that since all the money spent on the projects related to the patents they were also their property.
The tablet was set aside as Nadia took off her glasses and placed them on her tablet. Pinched the bridge of her nose. When she opened her eyes, she saw that Hannah was still playing Frisbee with Buck. The golden retriever ran out after the flying plastic disk, catching it before it hit the ground. The thought that it was time to move on was at the forefront of her mind. She took a ragged breath to expel the anger and frustration.
'First mom, now I'm blackballed. The world knows just how to pour it on.'
Hannah's face brightened, and her arm waved at her and Nadia gave her a small smile and wave. Hannah's chair turned more toward her, but her gaze was on something to the side of the house.
"Hiya Elizabet!" She exclaimed as the golden Labrador returned the frisbee to her lap. With that she repositioned the electric wheelchair turned back, and she threw the Frisbee again.
"Hello, Hannah," Elizabet said half-heartedly making her way to Nadia. Her expression was somewhat severed, and Nadia was slightly taken aback.
"I have some questions for you. Here, take a look at this." Elizabet said handing over a table. Nadia took it and retreated her glasses. Adjusting them, she began to glance over the tablet she was given. Glancing over the code on the tablet Nadia began to recognize it. She looked over the top of the tablet at Elizabet then back to the tablet.
Nadia sat the tablet down as she looked to Elizabet. "Where did you get this?"
"That code is an encryption algorithm, one of the most complex algorithms I have ever seen. Is there a way to break it?" Nadia gave her an incredulous look.
"This is ARS42, this is one of the many projects I had at Pearl Labs before FARO bought it and subsequently fired me. Also, I'm pretty much blackballed in the industry of biotech and computer science."
"Nadia, focus. Is there a way to get through it, a backdoor?" Elizabet asked, almost pleading.
"No, there is no back door. There is no quick way to crack it. You have to use the long way, and that would take years. That's the point. The only way to decrypt it is from the inside, so only what's encrypted can unencrypt it. Again, the point." Nadia looked at older women, Elizabet looked tired and like she hadn't slept in a few days. It had only been three days ago that she had been invited to FARO by Ted.
"Damn it…" Elizabet muttered. "Why would you create something that only the program on the inside could decide to unencrypt itself, it," Elizabet pulled back from the table for a moment. "You were creating an AI." Nadia just nodded.
"Yes, it was for an AI, but we never got past the planning stage, well not really."
"Well due to recent events I can tell you encrypting anything with that algorithm is a bad idea, even one that has limited intelligence." Elizabet's head was in her hands in an instant, shaking back and forth. Elizabet took out a folder of papers and handed them to Nadia. "Read that, and you'll understand."
There was a cover letter, and Nadia gave it a glance before opening the folder. "Operations Proposal – Project Zero Dawn that sounds ominous," Nadia commented offhandedly as she flipped to the next page and began to read.
I was upright within seconds of the scream. Instinctively my hand went to for my bow and knocking an arrow a second later. A room, low lighting, I had been laying on a bedroll. Mothers-Heart, my mind supplied. I looked across the room to the frantic looking women in front of me. The matriarch Jezza was at there with her, Nadia's eyes looked around frantically as she held on to the older women for dear life.
Two days Nadia had been in an out of consciousness each time she woke it wasn't from a restful sleep it was with her gasping for air like she couldn't breathe.
Jezza comforted Nadia as best she could, but soothing words would only go so far. I returned the bow back to its rest beside my bedroll and leaned back to try for a little more sleep.
Whatever that strange machine was it wasn't like any machine that I had ever seen. Two braves had died in the attack, and an unknown person, Nadia, had been allowed into Mothers-Heart. Something that was not sitting well with many of the Nora. It also didn't help that no one but Teersa had know who Nadia was. Teersa had been able to handle her sisters, Lanzra was still apprehensive, but right now it didn't matter. Nadia had hit her head and would more than likely have a scar on the left side of her head starting above her ear down to her left shoulder.
All I knew was that it was all happening again. Only this time it was not happening to me but the only person that might bridge the present and past. I tried to clear my head, just a few more hours of sleep. Who knew when I would get more. Jezza was laying a silent Nadia back down the bedroll and wiping the sweat from her brow.
Just a few more hours of sleep… please.
I woke up again sometime later, there was no sunlight, so I didn't know the hour until I consulted my Focus. It was mid morning, I looked across from me only to find that the room was empty. Nadia was gone.
I was not too worried, but still, I didn't want to take any chances. Making my way to the main hall, there were a few braves here, but the focal point of the group was Sona, Teersa and Resh. They seemed to be in a heated conversation as I made my way to the group. I had only taken a few steps before a Jezza came over to me.
"Aloy you're awake," Jezza said with a respectful nod. "It might be best to let the three of them finish their conversation. Resh has been causing a bit of a stir, thought Teersa and Sona are handling it."
"I could care less about Resh, where is Nadia?" Jezza face became serious.
"The Great-Mother of All-Mother passed through into the mountain. She was up early this morning, but she seemed to be better. We attempted to dissuade her, but she felt it would be better for her to be with All-Mother." I nodded to Jezza. "Resh was here when she first came through to enter, but he has been so full of anger he can not see correctly."
"I had better go check on Nadia." I didn't wait for a reply and made a b-line to the Cradle entrance. I ignored the three arguing, and the system began the scan.
"So, the outcast returned and brings an outsider here, do you have no shame girl!?"
[…WELCOME DOCTOR SOBECK] Came the monotone voice.
I looked back for just a moment. "Oh, Resh your still here. Sorry can't talk, things to do that actually matter." I said stepping forward and ignored the insults he threw. Teersa and Sona began to speak warning him off, but I just ignored him. Between Nora politics, being their anointed and knowing the truth about the world I was finding it very hard to convince myself that when this was all over, I would come back.
I stepped into the doorway of the office to see Nadia typing away. The look of intense concentration on her face as she worked. There was still a bandage around her head, but I could see the ragged red mark running down the left side to her shoulder. "You're up early." Nadia's reply was just nod of her head and grunt.
"You should still be in bed, taking it easy." Again, a shrug. "Have you eaten today?" She shook her head no.
"Nadia," I spoke lightly as I entered and sat on the chair nearest the door. "Is something the matter." Her typing halted, and she gave me the most incredulous look that I thought ice might start forming.
"Really? Is something the matter?" I felt a bit like a hunter caught in a watch light. "I almost died! I know that's a daily thing for you, but it's a new experience for me! So, yes Aloy there is a hell of a lot wrong!" I reached a hand forward, but she pulled away and pulling her legs up into the chair with her. I tried to find words that might help but what do you say when a machine almost kills you?
"It's okay, you're okay. After all, it's not the first time a machine tried to get you, remember the Sawber-Tooth?" I used a pun she had used later to describe the odd cat-like machine. "You survived that, but where we're going Nadia there are going to be more machines, it's going to be dangerous. We got lucky making it here without running into any trouble." Her eyes peaked over her folded legs, and her head shook.
"No Aloy it's not okay. The machine that attacked me. Have you ever seen one like it before?" She asked. It didn't take long for me to answer that I had never seen one before. Most of the machines looked like different kinds of animal, this one… well, it didn't look like an animal that I had ever seen. "That's what I was afraid of. Aloy that's not one of GAIA's machines. That was a Chimera Assault Drone, those things are death dealers. They don't serve any other function than to kill the shit out of people or places. Someone had to be relaying orders to that thing, they don't just decide to act on their own."
Well, that changed things. Up until now all the machines I had faced had, for the most part, an animalistic nature to them.
"What does that mean, was there a person controlling this Chimera?"
"I don't know. Before the Chariot line from FARO, they saw a lot of use in wars and other conflicts. They could be piloted remotely by a human being but most of the time they were controlled by a system called a Tactical Analytical AI. I don't know. If it was TAAI then someone had to have ordered it to act, they think, but only once they have been given orders by humans. Then they come up with the best tactical ways to execute the orders. In this case, I can only assume the best course here was blowing me the hell up with a missile."
So, someone wanted to kill Nadia. I was almost refreshing for once not being the target of a madman or AI. Now, however, was not the time to voice the feeling. Who would want to kill Nadia? Better yet who even knew she existed? Eared sure but he wouldn't tell anyone. None of the Nora except Teersa and Jezza had said more than ten words to her. This was frustrating, it seemed no matter what happened there were always more questions and never any answers.
"I found it." She laughed but it a was still hollow. I couldn't help but smile. "I know where it is, I can find Ted Bunker." There was a fire in her eyes now, and a determination that I thought she might have lost after what happened.
For the past few days, bio-containment lab-14 had seen a lot of use. Orders had come down from on high that work was now going at double time rate to make up for lost time. Meaning that all units assigned to the lab were working twenty-four seven. The lab was home to High-Risk Microbes that were not natural, many man-made. Since they were not natural, a new classification was needed. Whereas the original microbe classification topped out at BSL-4 the classification for none naturally occurring microbes raised to BSL-5.
Due to the high level of possible exposure, anyone and everyone that was susceptible to being infected would have to wear a bio-containment suite capable of protecting from the chance of exposure.
Menially, however, didn't have time to worry about that pesky risk.
The teenage scientist was currently looking over the report for a viral agent she termed FEV-102. She had discovered long ago that the best way to improve the biological design of a living being was to use a virus. In most cases contracting a virus was not a good thing. However, if that virus was engineered in such a way that its effects could be beneficial, then the possibilities could be limitless. Other projects were continuing all around the lab, but FEV-102 was the only one that Menially was personally overseeing.
All around here there was severely vaguely humanoid like wire frame robots going about working on various projects they had been assigned. On the chest of each was a small plate with a destination. The units were not inherently intelligent more than the knowledge needed to perform the tasks they were given. All analysis of the data was handled by the lab management system.
Menially looked up from her work as a message appeared in her L.E.N.S. opening the incoming connection MB's digital visage appeared before Menially.
"MB?" She asked.
"Lady Menially you asked that I inform you should anything happened to Nadia or Aloy. There has been an incident." He stated in his usual monotone voice. "It would seem that they, or rather Nadia was attacked just a few minutes ago. I have been unable to ascertain the identity of the attacker."
Menially gritted her teeth as her mind swirled with possibilities. "Silence." She seethed. "What of designation Silence? Was it him or that upstart AI."
"That has yet to be determined, my Lady."
"Damn it!" Her fist slammed into the table she had been working at. One of the wire frame robots walking by reacted to her outburst, dropping a small stack of Petri dishes it had been holding. Time seemed to stop as all work in the room ceased and all eyes, and sensors looked to the offending unit. Menially just looked at the now ruined experiments that were on the ground and slowly her eye scanned up the unit.
The unit's ID was CZ709, but Menially just referred to all the units as CZ. It merely stood in its spot unmoving. "What, pray-tell, was that you just dropped?" As if to answer her a klaxon of sound ragout in the lab, complemented by flashing red lights.
'ATTENTION ALL PERSONNEL A BIOHAZARD CONTAMINATE HAS BEEN DETECTED! ALL PERSONNEL REPORT TO DECONTAMINATION IMMEDIATELY'
Menially reached down and picked up one of the top dishes looking at the label. Her LENS reading the QR code and informing her its contents had been EVH-7, Ebola hemorrhagic fever v7.
Her eyes narrowed at the lab tech bot. "Do you realize what you have done!" She seethed. "That version is airborne! You know what that means right!" Menially lashed out throwing the petri dish across the room. "All of the experiments in the room are now compromised! All of them! Weeks of work lost because of your butterfingers. What the hell is wrong with you! Son of b…"
"Lady Menially!" MB's tone for once raised slightly above his usual monotone as he spoke up. "That language is unbecoming of a lady." She took a deep breath, removing her glasses she pinched the bridge of her nose in an attempt to clear away her frustration.
Putting her glasses back on Menially sighed. Her hand shot forward and her index finger presses against the wire mesh that was the CZ units chest. "You are going to clean this up. You are going to rework all of the current projects, and you are going to have it done in 24 hours because if you do not! Then you don't have to worry about recharging because I'll melt you down into my new coffee cup! Go, now! Get to it." The CZ unit moved off to begin its task, uncaring one way or the other if it lived to see another day. Menially knew that the units had no self-preservation or any real feelings at all but the outburst made her feel better.
"Everyone else, you're done for the day. Close out your projects and head to recharge. I have to go and scrub my skin till its red and take a big honking needle in the neck." She walked briskly to the door to begin decontamination. Her hair and lab coat billowing behind her from the brisk paces she was making. "MB track down designation Silence, see if you can find out if he is the one that attacked them. Ascertain any and all information you can on the status of Nadia and Aloy. I will be delayed by two hours since I'm now infected EVH-7." As she entered the decontamination area, there was a CZ unit standing there waiting for her a small tray in its hand and on it was a small plastic cylinder.
"I have taken the liberty of having the anti-virus brought from storage." Menially didn't answer and took the cylinder and placed it firmly to the right side of her neck and pressed the green button at the opposite end. There was a click-snap, and a hiss as the liquid inside the auto-injector delivered its payload. She gritted her teeth and winced as the fine needle broke through the soft skin of her neck and the area reddened slightly as the liquid entered her system. Only seconds later there was a click, and the plastic cylinder was dropped to the ground forgotten as she Menially rolled her neck as, a burning spread through her system.
"Thank you, MB. Please keep me posted of operations while I'm in decontamination." She said as she begins to strip her clothes off letting them drop to the floor. They would have to be incinerated. Now naked of all her clothes and even her L.E.N.S. Menially stepped forward into the next room to begin the grueling process of decontamination.
Sylance was again staring into the polish surface of the metal that had once been part of a machine, but now it was used as a mirror. He was not a man that worried much for his looks, his goal in like was knowledge and knowledge didn't care what you looked like. After the incident with the girl, he had kept his distance from Aloy even though it irked him greatly. She was a prize unlike any other and how there was some else that had their eyes on her and her new friend, the old one. The girl was unlike anything he had seen. Her knowledge of the Focus and her ability to weaponize it was ingenious.
The hand in the mirror touched the burn and scared remnants of where once was his ear. He had been outplayed and that stung. Conceding achievements to Aloy was one thing, she had advantages that he did not. Not only that the girl apparently had resources available to her that far surpassed his own.
"i have Been Unable To make conTact or otHerwise interact with the foreign entity that compromised yoUr person. heR resources To keep we out are substantially greater than our own. Suggest locating and acquiring her and her resources." Silences scowled at the AI if he did not need it so badly he would have been happy to do away with it. While true it was a miracle of technology by today's standers, Hades was still out to destroy all of the planets as per its prime directive.
"I can't disagree with your assessment, but we will need to proceed carefully. There is more to that girl than you or I know. Coupled with this is the fact she seemed to want both Aloy and Doctor Odine to herself. Something I cannot allow. Aloy is the key to unlocking more knowledge of the old ones. Now that she has made contact and befriended an old one she is more useful than ever. I would speak with Aloy, but it's obvious that our direct transmissions are monitored." The bald man paused as a thought occurred to him. "Perhaps there is a way. We may not be able to contact her directly, but maybe there is a more indirect way."
I should have known that good news couldn't last long. Not around me anyway. The minute we stepped out of the cradle we were ambushed. Normally I would not hesitate to fight my way out but this was different, this was the Nora war chief Sona. Beside here was a nerves Teresa followed by Jezza and Lanzra. The later had not been my biggest fan, that had changed since I had become the anointed and now I was beginning to find out that she was somewhat afraid of me like I would lash out at her at any moment. The final person of the group was one that I had very little interaction with and what little I had it was almost always negative, Resh.
"Aloy." Said a nervous Teresa. "We must speak."
"…and here we go." Said Nadia. This was not going to be good.
"What!" Exclaimed the redhead.
Nadia looked away from Aloy and out to the lake in front of them. "I just wanted to know if you might want to talk about our exit from Nora-town."
The lake was beautiful, and after Nadia had gained access to the mesh-net as she had taken to calling it the map had confirmed that it was indeed Lake Powell. After the talk with the leaders of the Nora, it was decided that having Nadia who seemed to be the target of the attack and Aloy who seemed to be a trouble magnet would leave the sacred lands. They had asked for a further few days to prepare and were granted two days before being forced out. Something that the matriarchs did not want to do, though Lanzra took exception with Nadia no matter how much Teresa argued in her favor.
"You mean how we were kicked out? Again."
"Aloy I don't think they were kicking you out, it was more than they were kicking me out. Its just in this instant we're a package deal." Nadia answered with a huff. It was true. They wanted the person that was a liability to the Nora people to leave until the danger was over. Aloy just happened to need said liability, namely Nadia.
"They basically said don't come back, Nadia. It might have been directed at you, but they knew it was a package deal."
"And they had a point. We have no idea who sent that drone. Hell, I'm kind of paranoid right now being so out in the open. But I'm willing to see this through no matter the what. I never thought I would say something like this, but I think what we're doing is worth my life." Nadia looked to her feet as the weight of what they were doing hit her. It was just like the day that Elizabet came to her before meeting at US Robot Command. "We got what we needed from there Aloy. It's fine, and since we left, I have gotten better with the bow." Aloy chuckled, and Nadia's eyes cut to her.
"Better is a relative term."
"Better than when I started. I do fine with a slingshot so far, so I'm a good step or two above useless now. I doubt I would ever really go back there anyway." Aloy looked curiously at Nadia. The questioning look letting her know she needed to elaborate. "Aloy, while it was nice to visit the Nora and Teresa, is a great person I could never live there. God willing if I live through this craziness, I don't intend to stay in the Sacred Lands. I was thinking more about Meridian. It's not as technically advanced as I would like but better then Nora-town. Might even see if Erend to introduce me to some of his people, they seem very techno forward. Maybe I can help them get a better grasp of technology then they have. It's a brave new world, and I'll have to get my own feet under me sometime."
Aloy did not try and hide her surprise, sure she knew that Nadia would have to be on her own but what she said really hit home with her own feelings about Nora. She claimed to be from the Sacred lands but what she had once said was very accurate, she had never been a Nora, she just happened to be raised by one. Even now being the anointed one she wasn't one of them. They treated her more like a god walking among them. No matter how she rationalized it, she would always be just Aloy the outcast ether by the machinations of others or by her own choice.
Aloy laughed. Unbeknownst to her, she grinned at the same time, and Nadia felt as she was looking at her old friend rather than the girl that was effectively her daughter. "You think more about the future then I do. I pretty well single-minded point A to point B these days. I guess I knew you would never really stay there. I don't think I ever really expected you to stay there because I doubt I could ever stay there for too long. So, when we save the world what do you want to do."
Nadia smiled. "I have no idea. I the top of my field, know anyone that is looking for a computer and biotech engineer? I've been out of work for a while so my credentials might be a little dated." She chuckled along with Aloy. "This Sunfall place were going to in the morning. You said it built on top of Zero Dawn right. Anything I need to know?"
Aloy grumbled and looked dejected. "Well, I'm going to have to go incognito. It's the home of the Shadow Carja."
"You mean the cult bunch that wanted to kill you?" Nadia asked incredulously.
"Oh… well then. I'm sure this will go just great." Nadia said sarcastically.
"Once we're down below I think we'll be okay. Without the access you and I have the Eclipse won't get too far. I hope." She finished softly.
"Yeah, I hope so too…"
Nadia blinked as she and Aloy passed a Shadow Carja guard. She looked her traveling companion over again in her Shadow Carja uniform. She had pulled her flaming mane of hair back into a tight bun before dawning her Carja mask. The two had set out in the early morning when hopefully there would not be so many guard wandering around Sunfall.
Though Aloy did not say it aloud the number of parishioners and guards had dropped dramatically since she was here last. Finally, Aloy helped Nadia down to the ground from the platform. Nadia just stared at her for a moment once they were off the walkway and near the entrance to Zero Dawn.
"What?" Aloy asked, now feeling unnerved by Nadia constant stair.
"Your disguise, if you can really call it that, it's like something out of Scooby-Doo and Shaggy would come up with. How do these people not see through it?" She said shaking her head as Aloy pulled back the planks covering the hatch.
In answer, Aloy just shrugged. "Who are Scooby-Doo and Shaggy?"
"Two characters from a dumb TV show, Hannah liked it, but I just could not set aside the dumb stuff they did. One of the running jokes was the two would outwit the bad guy with bad disguises." Nadia said as she stared down the shaft leading to the Zero Dawn facility. She swallowed hard as Aloy motioned for her to enter. At that moment it the weight of where she was going started to sink in. Her lips felt very dry suddenly.
"Are you okay you look like you just saw a Stalker uncloak?" Asked Aloy. Nadia just bobbed her head as she stepped inside.
"I guess it all just seemed surreal till just now. Last time I was here, it was a bustle of activity and people working none stop. Now I just feel like a tomb raider. That's really all this is to most people now. Just something left over from a time no one remembers. Their story, my story, unless we pass on what happened no one will ever know the truth." Nadia gritted her teeth. Her mind again blaming Ted. But only for a moment before shaking off her apprehension and grief. "Sorry let's go. We have a lot to do."
Aloy just nodded. Now wasn't the time for overly emotional breakdowns. They had a job to do, and the faster they did it, the better chance they could get out of here alive. The two walked in silence then till they reached the main entrance.
'ZD_0_1 data intact. Initiating playback.'
The hollow video in front of both Aloy and Nadia flashed to life as the left the waiting area. It was the first time that Nadia had actually seen the video or come in through the intake entrance so, in reality, this was all new to her.
'Welcome to Project Zero Dawn. I'm General Herres, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff of the United States of America.' Several silverish stars and American flags blew in the wind behind the general. 'I'm sure you've heard the rumors. The Zero Dawn is a top-secret super weapons program. The technological miracle that will save us from the Faro Plague – if Operation Enduring Victory can hold off the robots long enough.' A flying orange V with wings for Enduring Victory appeared beside the general, on the opposite side was the purple daisy flower logo of Zero Dawn.
'The reason I'm sure you've heard the rumors is that I'm the one who spread them. And they are all lies. Zero Dawn is not a super weapons program, and it will not save us. Nothing will save us, and here's why. By the time the Glitch was noticed it was already too late. Nothing could stop the Faro Plague. Nothing can. Its robots will continue to replicate and devour the biosphere. Life on Earth will be destroyed.'
"Would you believe this is the first time I saw that message for the new recruits," Nadia spoke up over the holo-rendition of General Harres. "I got them only if they survived the truth."
Aloy was on edge for a moment as Nadia's last words. "What do you mean survived?" She asked incredulously.
"Well, people that joined the program were not always asked to join they were black bagged, take in the dead of night sometimes and brought here give the rundown of what was really happening. There was no turning back once you knew the truth. So, you either joined the program or you were euthanized." At that moment, Aloy could see the change in Nadia. The other girl had talked about how she could be pragmatic to a fault, cold even. Coming to Zero Dawn, someplace so familiar, was bringing out the more calculating person.
"Come on, we don't have time for the words of a dead man." Nadia said. Walking right through and ignored the rest of the recording and stepped through the hologram.
Aloy and Nadia made their way through the central labs, but Aloy saw that Nadia would stop ever so often especially when a hologram would play. By the time they made it Elizabet's lab Nadia was visibly shaking. Aloy looked to find Nadia's hands clenched so hard her knuckles were white.
"I'm fine the lift to the lab is just up ahead, Frankenstein's lab indeed," Nadia mumbled the late part. At the end of the hall they found where the lift was, but upon looking in the shaft, they found the elevator was stuck, the cabled broken from years of disrepair. Aloy turned back away from the shaft as Nadia looked down inspecting the remains.
"Well have to find another way down maybe…"
Aloy recoiled and slowly turned around to find Nadia looking back down below.
"I think that cleared it."
"What the hell Nadia someone is going to hear us." Nadia rolled her eyes at Aloy.
"Aloy as far down as we are if they can hear us then we deserve to be caught. It was also a good chance to try one of this explosive slingshot rounds," Nadia grinned. "They were just great." Nadia held up a small round sphere with a button and a light on it.
When they arrived at the next level, there was not much different from the other parts she had seen of Zero Dawn. On the floor, there were two faded lines. One looked green and the other red. The red Line went to the left, her focus was telling her that is led to the MB Lab. The green to something called Launch Base. Nadia headed to the left and Aloy followed. The lights flicked on as they walked the hall, some flickered once then blew out. At the end of the hall, they were stopped by a smaller version of one of the cradle facility door.
"HALT FOR IDENTA SCAN."
Nadia stood still as the optical eye scanned her and rewarded her with access. As soon as they walked in, they were in a small room. "This room is a sealed room, so we're going to get put in a wind tunnel." Just as Nadia finished speaking Aloy flinched as air began blowing through the small room. Her ears popped as the wind stopped and Nadia did likewise yawning to adjust the air pressure.
Then the forward door opened, and they entered the lab proper. The other labs had looked like any other old-world tech, but this lab was different from the first moment. To the right side of the room spread evenly were cylinders with clear fluid inside going from floor to ceiling. Lights in the room came on and illuminated the cylinders, inside was a small object in each a little smaller than a human head.
On the left-hand side of the room were three chairs that leaned all the way back as well as what looked like a silver metal helmet. Various wires and cables draped from the ceiling to each of the chairs and to Aloy there was a foreboding air about this room. Aloy shivered. In the center was a rounded desk with monitors all around it and a lot of small cylinder cans piled up.
Suddenly in front of them, a holoprojection appeared, and Aloy's eyebrow rosed at what she was seeing. Standing before her was a holographic image of Nadia Odine. Holo-Nadia was standing in a white unbuttoned lab coat, under the coat she wore a shit with lettering that read: There are no stupid questions. Just stupid people.
'Hello. My name is Nadia Odine. Some of you might remember me for my short stint in college, or many of the papers I published while at Pearl Labs in the area of biotech and cybernetics before FARO took them over. What you don't know was how close I was to achieve my goal before FARO bought us up. But nothing to do about that but wonder what if and that takes time we do not have. If you're squeamish if you have some ethical objections or some miss begotten religious objections you can turn your ass right around because I don't have time to deal with it. I already slapped the shit out Dr. Dilbert Hesting two days ago, and I'll do it again.'
There was another voice that came over the holo-projection for a moment in answer to Nadia admission of bringing physical harm to someone. Holo-Nadia turned to look at someone off camera and huffed.
'She not lying about what she did and it put things in perspective. We don't have time. I have everything ready to move on to phase-3 if you are Fearless Leader.'
Holo-Nadia nodded but cast a scowled to the side.
'Just a minute I have to finish this. You are some of the foremost biologist and genetic engineers in the world. Other are some of the greatest minds in the world of AI but what I was… am doing is beyond anything you have ever seen.
The AI that are around now do not feel, they do not imagine. They just exist, but what if we could make an A.I. that could feel, think for itself have compassion? The A.I. you have all programmed and worked on in the past are just fancy computers with a bunch of options. Giving them access to the world's vast information but they didn't learn the information. They took no joy in it, didn't understand it they just call up facts when asked or do a task you tell them.
GAIA has to be more than an AI, she has to care. What we are doing is not creating an AI we are working to being a new life, a child, into the world albeit in a digital form but also a biological structure as well. GAIA will have to be taught, have to learn, she will not merely be given the worlds knowledge but also appreciate it. Its one thing to know what the Monalisa is, what it looks like, but it is another thing to look at it and feel an emotion from doing so. Now, let's make a baby.'
If Aloy had any doubts about Nadia being part of Zero Dawn they were long gone. The last line of her speech ended, and Aloy audibly laughed. She noticed now for the first time that Nadia was across the lab looking at a console but looked up as Aloy laughed.
"What's so funny?" She asked.
"Really Nadia. Let's make a baby?"
"Why did everyone think that is so damn funny?"
"Really?" Aloy asked again not believing Nadia did not see the humor in her own words.
Nadia rolled her eyes as Aloy laughed. "Get over here help me. It takes two Alpha's to open the door."
Aloy, still chuckling, came over to where Nadia was. The door she was now standing in front of looked a bit more intimidating than the previous doors. This one had what looked like large bars across it the size of her leg.
"What we have to do it activate the scan. After that, we have to enter our passcode. In your case, I'm guessing that Elizabet used the same code as she did for everything else." Nadia rolled her eyes thinking about one of the smartest women she knew and how she used the same three passwords for everything. "Try 8675309. Okay, here we go."
The scan was complete in just a moment then both of them put in their respective codes for a moment nothing happened and then suddenly there was a klaxon of sound, and the bars across the door began to turn and retract into the floor and ceiling. Red lights were spinning above the door.
'PLEASE STAND CLEAR' A voice said.
With the door finally, open the inside looked like a long hallway on a steep slope. A red square metal plate for was waiting just inside. Nadia stepped forward without hesitation, Aloy, on the other hand, was a bit more apprehensive before joining her.
"Just down below and through one more door," Nadia said as she pressed a button on the console. The klaxon returned, and there were small blinking lights on the platform. Handrails rose from the edges and then the platform gave a gone before slowly moving down the long-slanted hallway.
The ride on the incline life was smooth, and Aloy was surprised when Nadia told her to settle in it would take them about 15 minutes to reach the ground floor. The actual vault was build inside a naturally occurring cavern. It was there they would find the hard copy data core of GAIA.
Aloy looked at the other girl and her hands gripping the railing. She felt like she should say something but words for a situation like this failed her. She had never met another person that had lost people. Sure, Rost had lost his wife and daughter, but Aloy only found out about that after Rost was gone. The wound he had no doubt already healed over albeit with a scar. A scar like Rost had defined you, it was the only version of Rost she had ever known, to her it was just Rost.
But here and now she was watching someone with a wound she didn't know how to treat. So, she fell back on her naïve questions of a past she could only see in ruins.
"Since the entrance to this vault was through your lab you must have to come here a lot? The funny shirt you had on in the holo by the way." Nadia huffed and turned to Aloy. She crossed her arms over her as she leaned back on the railing.
"I didn't even know they were going to record those dumb videos. Not really sure what the point was, I mean I was in that labs almost all the time. I could introduce myself." Nadia shook her head. She flexed her hand a few times. "Yeah, I really hated the generic gray clothes they brought in. The pants were okay, but the clothes were thicker, that way they didn't have to heat everything as much. It was efficient but even still. I really liked all those dumb shirts I had back then." The dark-haired scientist smiled fondly.
"And the vault?" Aloy asked directing the conversation back to her original question.
"It wasn't because I used it was because my lab was one that was preexisting before Zero Dawn took over this facility. It was the only lab that met any of the biotech needs."
"What do you mean biotech, what exactly that?" Aloy knew about biology and understood that it had something to do with that, but it was still a bit of a gray area.
"Biotech is more of an all-encompassing term. We just passed through the main part of the lab, there were several more rooms we didn't see. Like Holo-Nadia said we were creating a merger of human life in a technological body, an AI unlike any other. Just like children, it would be raised, it would have to grow up. Know right from wrong and how to do its job. Just because we gave GAIA the accumulation of all the worlds knowledge didn't mean she would know what it all meant, she had to learn to be who she was."
Aloy knew the complexities of GAIA had to be vast, far more then she could imagine. But to see Nadia talk about GAIA it wasn't like she was talking about a new bow she had finished, no to her GAIA had been more than an AI she a person, maybe even family. "So, it was almost like you were a mother."
Nadia snorted. "Well saying it like that she had three mothers. Like I mentioned we used an imprint of the human mind to create the basis for her. Basically, we copied someone's brain and took out the personal stuff. I would like to think that I took the best part of all three of us."
"Myself, Elizabet and Hannah. Hannah always wanted children, but since her accident, she would be unable to carry children. So, we had planned to use her egg with donor sperm, and I would carry the little monster. Then when if, when knowing how insistent Hannah was, our second would come from my egg. Isn't that scary? But as you know that never happened thanks to Ted'f-ing Faro. When this all came about Elizabet approached me about work I had done in the past and asked if I could recreate the project. I did so from the ground up and took imprints from the three of us. Then copied a conceptional aspect of each of us. It was like endowing GAIA with the best part of ourselves. I took the Aspect of me as a Scientist."
"Wasn't Elizabet just as much of a scientist as you?"
"Yes, but she personified something that I never really was more. I took from her the aspect of a Women."
Aloy nodded. Seeing her rationale. Gender, femininity were not things that Aloy saw Nadia put much stock in. She was just a person that happens to be a woman, and dare she say she could have been a man with the same results in her life. "And Hannah?"
Naida became visibly uncomfortable and fidgeted. "A Mother." It was another moment before she spoke again wrestling with the feelings that for any other human being would have been commonplace. To Nadia, they were rare and far between. "Neither Elizabet or I ever expected to have children. We were not motherly. I wished I could have been in some way, but it just was not me. Oh, look we're at the bottom." Nadia said quickly turning around forward as the platform slowed down.
I blue lite runway flickered to life on the flood like a runway as they exited the lift. From all the modern spectacles of building and technology Aloy had prepared herself for anything, but once in front of the vault, she was a little underwhelmed. Before them was a large cavern, just Nadia had described. In the center of the room from floor to ceiling was a solid round pillar wide enough to accommodate a Behemoth. At the base was a visible steel door that would slide out of the way to allow access.
'HALT FOR IDENTA SCAN'
"This gets old really fast." Nadia commented.
'ID CONFIRMED DIRECTOR OF AI DEVELOPMENT, NADIA ODINE. PLEASE ENTER VOCAL AUTHORIZATION PHRASE.'
Aloy looked at Nadia questioningly. Nadia held up her hand stopping the question on Aloy's lips.
"Authorize Nadia Odine, Alpha clearance. Victor, Echo, November, Serra, Whisky, Tango, Foxtrot" There was a chime noise, and suddenly the door moved away from the cylinder and opened.
Both Aloy and Nadia stepped inside as light around them illuminated the room, a rich white light lite the floor and the hexagon patters everywhere the two of them stepped. Aloy grind childishly as she tested it and stepped on several a small giggle leaving her voice.
In the center of the room was a glass cylinder and beside it was a small desk and terminal. This terminal unlike other looked very simple with only a monitor and keyboard. Nadia sat down at the desk and began to type.
"Nadia, where exactly are all the hard copies, I thought there would be something, you know, physical here." She looked around the glass pillar, but there was nothing in the room, just the desk, chair, and terminal. Nadia looked back over her shoulder, and her right hand came up and pointed upwards just as blue light started turning on in tracks up the wall. About 15ft off the ground was a glass ceiling, and beyond that were Rows of different colored container lining the walls.
"There inside there, is there water in there?" She asked excitedly, but Nadia shook her head.
"I don't recall what the stuff is called it was developed a year or so into the ZD program. It only covers a few feet. But all those containers you see up there are the blood sweat and tears of Zero Dawn… The only real records left I guess."
A few buttons press's later, and a mechanical arm descended from the very top of the vault and grabbed a green container and placed it on a platform just above the glass cylinder. Then it retreated a red, then a blue, at yellow. Nadia halted for a moment before scrolling down a list, and her hands hesitated for a moment before highlighting the three items on the line, and soon the arm was retrieving three more cases, these in black.
The case slowly lowered down from where the mechanical arm placed them, and the glass cylinder turned and opened before them. The first human being in almost a thousand years to see them, the information contained in each the fruit and hopes of every man and women of a planet that was condemned to death.
The case was rectangular in shape and looked metal of some kind that Aloy had never seen a metal like it. Nadia picked up the first green case and press a small switch and the top slit open and inside was what looked like green glass. Five sheets in all about the width of an arrow shaft.
Nadia closed the case and grinned handing the green case to Aloy. To her surprise, it wasn't very heavy, a little awkward.
"What you have there is a inscripted hard copy of GAIA, looking like it was taken a few days before GAIA was moved to Prime." After everything she had been through, all the times she had hope in her hands just to have it fall through them like sand to finally hold hope. She was almost speechless.
"This is really GAIA," Aloy said looking at the small container with almost reverence. In a way, GAIA was her mother, one of them. The other being Elizabet by way of her genetic material. So GAIA and Elizabet were her mothers.
GAIA was created, born, from the mental composition of Elizabet, Nadia, and Hannah. "You know if you think about it. You are one of GAIA's mothers, in a way." Nadia looked quizzically at Aloy, not getting where she was going with this line of conversation. "So if you think about it were family. I mean I was born because of GAIA created me, and Elizabet's genes. I know its not a typical family, but I think there is something to it."
Aloy looked up at Nadia to see her smile. "I… I can see what you're trying for, confusing as it would be to anyone but us." Nadia chuckled and smiled as she picked up one of the black boxes and held it much the same way Aloy held GAIA. "An old saying my mother told me when she explained to me I was adopted was: We have two families in life. One we're born with that shares our blood. Another we meet along the way that we chose for ourselves." Nadia chuckled. "Thank for that Aloy. It is nice to have a family, but do get any idea's about calling me, grandma." Both of them chuckled then at Nadia's jest at being a grandmother.
With their precious cargo in hand, the two would be saviors of GAIA made to leave the remains of Zero Dawn. Hopefully for the last time. They had made a quick stop in Nadia's lab. While Nadia rummaged, Aloy took a closer look at the large tubes in the room.
Whatever the object was in the tubes was Aloy had never seen anything like it. If she tried to compare it to anything the closest thing she could think of would be a gray, wrinkled fungus. But with added technology, there were wires and small metallic silver lines running through it.
"Found it!" Aloy turned back to Nadia as she walked over to a table and pulled out one of the red cases. Aloy had found that there were engraved labels on the of the case. This one, in particular, was labeled HADES-R17-FINAL. Aloy gasped as Nadia flicked the lock and unceremoniously pulled the red glass plates from the case and dropped all five on the table. Then Nadia handed a pick like a hammer to Aloy. "Here, want to break it? I don't really think we are going to need a tabula rasa event anymore, so I don't think we'll be needing HADES anymore."
Aloy just looked at the red plates. All the pain that HADES had caused, the lives taken by him, it, and the Shadow Carja. Aloy wordlessly took the hammer and before she knew it the first plate was cracked. Another slam of the hammer and the plate shattered, one after the other until finally the last plate was broken.
Aloy released a breath she didn't realize she was holding.
"Thanks… That felt really good."
"I thought you might enjoy that." Nadia smiled.
"It was very satisfying," Aloy said laying the hammer on the remains of red plates, not shattered. The two started to leave the lab when Aloy looked back at the tubes and the gray blobs. Something about them gave Aloy the creeps. "Nadia, what are those things in the tubes?"
"BODU, Bio-Organic Data Unit. That's a fancy way of saying I created a computer interface and grew a brain around it. The final product was encased in a housing unit. GAIA's core for instance. The entire brain and data were meant to be secured with a Polyphasic Entangled Waveforms algorithm, similar to the one General Harras described. PES-2048K, to be exact." Nadia walked over to one of the tubes and placed a hand on the glass. "They used my encryption algorithm, it took MINERVA 132 years to crack it. It was never meant to be used for weapons. It was meant to protect the new life we created. They weren't a computer, no one had the right to go poking around in their mine."
Nadia shook off her train of thought. Aloy just watched Nadia, not sure how to take the new information. "Let's see if we can exit out the rear entrance…" Nadia trailed off for a moment thinking. "Actually, there is one more place I would like to stop by before we leave.
Aloy jammed her spear into the door, and after a few minutes, she was able to slide it open. Nadia stood a few feet away watching Aloy, the moment the door sled open she hugged herself. Aloy looked inside her face emotionless and nodded. Aloy walked up to Nadia and place her hands on her shoulders. Nadia looked into Aloy's eyes. The redhead gave her an encouraging smile.
"You don't have to do this if you're not up to it. There is no one in there."
A nod. "No, I do need to do this…"
Aloy let her hands fall. "Okay, well I'll be just down the hall if you need me."
It took Nadia several minutes before she moved from the stop Aloy left her. Finally standing in the doorway, Nadia looked around the room, immaculate as always. The studio apartment was as clean as it could be after several hundred years. There were little to no rock formations in most of the dormitory area due to it being sealed shortly after the last human gone.
She shuffled to the small bed area of the studio apartment, the mattress had long since rotted away, but the base was still there. When she had asked Aloy to make this stop she had been silently praying that she would not find her departed lover in their old room. But it would be as close as she got to see her again.
Sitting down Nadia felt that her resolve was on the verge of failing. When her mother had died, she had felt a profound sense of loss, but even still she never cried. She didn't want her to die, but she did, that sort of thing happened. There was a part of her that was missing after that, even still she never cried. But as she sat there looking over the remains of what might have been the rest of her life she felt a sadness she had never before experienced. Still, there were no tears.
Then her eyes landed on a data-tablet on the table beside the bed. Beside it was a small round object that was dusty. Nadia's hand slowly reached forward, and her finger picked up the object, there was a noticeable weight to it, not much but enough to tell. On the inside of the metal ring, Nadia saw the letters N.O. Love you. :3
Her breath hitched. It was her wedding ring.
Her focus blinked alerting her that it was extracting a recovered file from the tablet. It was a recording. She initiated playback of the partially recovered file.
Instantly a holo image of her self in a white knee-high suite, she was smiling. In front of her was Hannah in her wheelchair in a white dress, around her head was a crown of small white flowers. A disembodied voice was head as the two smiled at each other.
'Do you Nadia take Hannah to be your wedded wife, to have and to hold for all the days you live.'
''Yes, I do.' Holo-Nadia with a shake of her head.
"Hannah, do you take Nadia to have and to hold for all the days you live?"
"I do." She said, her eyes never leaving Nadia's.
"Now both of you have a few words you would like to say."
Hannah spoke up first. "I never thought I would meet anyone like you, Nadia. I mean you're so smart and caring. Even if you don't realize it all the time. You don't overthink love it just is to you. I admit there were many times I didn't understand you, but I think after the last few years I do. So, thank you for loving me.'
Nadia watched as her Holo-self rolled Hannah's words around in her head. She knew what her younger counterpart was thinking. 'Is what I'm about to say going to get me in trouble?'
'Umm, did you just call me love-dumb?' Halo-Nadia asked.
Hannah thought for a moment looking around and going back over her words. 'No, I was going for idiot savant of love.'
'Oh okay… You there is something of a functional process to love right I do put forth effort to achieve…'
Another female disembody voice spoke up. 'Nadia, deliver your vows and move this along, we all know you're obliviousness to social interaction.' Nadia looked around and had the forethought to being embarrassed.
'Sorry mother,' Then she turned back to Hannah. 'You're more than likely right. I don't know the in an outs of love in the way everyone else thinks about it, but I know that being with you makes my day a little brighter, the air a little fresher. I can't come up with an equation to quantify love, I mean I could, but the parameters would be really vast, and there would be really no point to the data.'
'Nadia!' Shouted the same voice as before.
'But. I think I already solve the problem without even trying. You are the answer to the equation, one. You are my one. Thank you for putting up with me, thank you for making me your one. I love you.'
The holo cut out and the room as silent again. It was the same week that Hannah had graduated high school, she planned to go to college to be a teacher, and later majored in elementary education. Nadia only then realized that tears were streaking down her face, it was now all too real to her. The hole left from her mother dying had grown now that her love was gone. To Nadia wasn't that she loved Hannah, to her then, and now to Nadia Hannah had been love. A literal, physical thing in human form and she would never have it/her back.
"Another file was recovered." Came the voice of her focus. Nadia queued it up, and it too plays, the message that said the video was not available.
'Elizabet, Mr. Faro what's going on. No one will tell me where Nadia is, and she has been missing for two days now.'
'Maybe we should take a seat.' Came Ted's nerves tone. There was a giggle from Hannah.
'Christ Ted, really.' Came the indignant replay from Elizabet.
'Sorry, sorry I just, its been a long few days and well… Listen, Hannah, I'm sorry to be the one to have to tell you this, but there was an accident. We only recently found out that Nadia's convoy from GAIA prom was ambushed by a terrorist group. There were no survivors. We only found this ring, like the one you have there. I'm sorry. If there is….'
The file ended. Nadia looked at the small dark gray ring in her hand. It was made from Titanium. At the time they picked them out Nadia had insisted that it was the best metal that would last, apparently she had been right.
Another file was recovered, this one a text file.
/From E. Sobeck
/To: H. Odine
I need you to be ready in the next few minutes I'm on the way to get you now. Be ready.
At least, Hannah had Elizabet in the end. "I'm sorry I wasn't there for you, I'm sorry I didn't say goodbye, and I'm sorry I… I'm sorry. I'm going to help Aloy save GAIA, I'm going to make this right, one way or another Love. I'm going to take it all back, get back everything that we lost. I promise you that."
Nadia wiped the tears from her eyes her breath still shuddering as she tried to not sob openly. "I have to go now." Nadia stood and began to make her way out of the room but stopped for a moment when she looked and saw a small device on the kitchen table. Nadia smiled when she picked up the device, it was dead, but she guessed the data might still be there if she could rig a power cell for it. All the worlds knowledge might have been lost, but if she could get it to work again the world could at least have some good music from the past.
The exit from Zero Dawn was much more solemn for the two of us. Nadia did seem less tense and pleased with finding a device a music device. She also found a ring, it was obvious how she kept fidgeting with it that there was a story but now was not the time.
Upon Nadia's urging, we made out way to an exit to Zero Dawn that didn't involve walking through the heart of the Shadow Carja. Our time her was coming to an end, on an upbeat no less.
But someways the world just keeps piling it on.
We heard the footsteps before we saw them, we froze as the first of the men came around the far end of the hall. For a moment neither Nadia and I or the Hunters moved. Then came the expected exclamation.
"HA! Is that, it's the redhead! Guys, it's her, she's back!" Three more Carja joined the first two. There was nowhere to hide in the hallway, farther back there had been a branch off of it and at the same time the both of us took a step back. Automatically I pulled my bow and knocked an arrow. Nadia likewise pulled her sling and around. I hoped it wasn't an explosive, I wasn't so sure about some of these tunnels. I fired as they advanced but the group spread apart, and the arrow hit the wall behind them.
"Nadia, run," I whispered. She nodded and leash the slug she had readied in her sling as we both turned and ran. As we ran, I expected to hear an explosion, but none came. There was a whoomm sound, but that was all.
"Really Nadia I expected more," I said as two arrows skimmed past our feet.
"Wait for it," She said as she chanced a glance back. We were just about to pass the hall we passed only moments ago when from the other end of the hall three more Carja came around bows up and suddenly arrows unleashed. I pushed Nadia to the left as I ducked to the right, even still one of the arrows grazed me in my left leg. It hurt, but the arrow didn't hit home. Nadia righted herself and scrambled to double back. "The hall!" She shouted.
I followed suit I knocked another arrow and losing it before turning. The sound of footsteps and a thunk followed by a loud meaty smack came from behind me. The sound of my arrow hitting home in one of the Carja. I rounded the corner of the hall just a step behind Nadia, an arrow passed between the two of us and another right behind me. I felt another arrow zip through my hair and I yelped. Close wasn't even a good enough word. I felt it tear a few strands as it passed and clatter against the wall.
"Shit!" I said just as a bright flash and insanely loud bang went off down the hall.
"Told you!" Nadia called as we ran.
"I really hope this is a way out!" I said desperately as we ran. The flash bomb Nadia fired might have bought us a few minutes but not much.
We ran, then we started passing a few double doors. Then Nadia stopped, she changed direction and shoulder into the door. "Maybe it is, I hope. This was an Orbital Launch Platform staging area. We're in the test area." As soon as we were through the door Nadia looked around frantically, thinking fast she grabbed a broken pipe laying on the ground and shoved it through the door handles to block the door. We both backed away from the door, I reached in a back and pulled out two sling rounds, pressed the activator on them and tossed them a few feet from the door.
"Those are proximity round, don't go near them." I took in the room. It was large and cavernous. There were two large machines in the middle of the room, both were on rails and had seats on them, on the back was contraption that seemed familiar. Nadia went over to a console and began working. After a few minutes, red lights started flashing, and a klaxon when off. Large doors that closed over the tracks started to open, and there were runway lights flashing down the long tracks.
OPENING IGNITION TEST DOORS ONE THROUGH FOUR. MALFUNCTION! MALFUNCTION! DOOR FOUR JAMMED…. MALFUNCTION!
"Shit!" Nadia cursed. I can over to the terminal that was located behind, and L shaped high wall make into the wall. Nadia's eyes ran over the room, I could see she was taking everything and evaluating our options. "Got any more explosives on you, sling rounds, anything?" I quickly put started rutting around in my bag and produced four more explosive rounds, two proximity rounds. Nadia opened her pouch, and I added my lot to the three devices she had within. One of them larger than the others.
There was banging at the door, and we both looked at the same time. "Put this bag on the first sled. Strap it to a seat," Another bang, the wrenching sound of metal. "Hurry."
I nodded looking back where the Carja were working to get through the door and from the sound of it they were making headway. The sled had a shield glass in front of four seats. Each seat a metal harness big enough for a human passenger. Knowing this I had a horrible feeling.
SYSTEM OVERRIDE! WARNING DOOR 4 MALFUNCTION!
I fashioned the bag strap around one of the harnesses. I ran back over to Nadia behind the terminal, Nadia spared me a glance before typing a few keys.
SYSTEM TEST INITIATED 5… 4… 3… 2… 1… IGNITION!
"Whatever you are doing Nadia you should hurry because we're about to have a large audience from the sound of what's behind the door." As if to answer me there was an explosion from the doorway. Just then the sled I put the explosives on took off as the back part of the sled lite up in a blue flame fired off. The sled shot off like an arrow down the track. The blue fire from the back of the sled glowed brightly down the track just as more than ten Carja came around. I knew where I had seen the thing on the back of the sled, it was similar to the thrusters on a Thunderbird.
"Okay new plan, I hoped the door would hold longer…"
There was a large blue and red explosion down the long hall where the sled had traveled. The track was long, and I could only see a twinkling at the end where the fire was. "We'll never be able to make it down the tunnel without taking an arrow to the back."
"I know. Get ready to run for the sled." I suddenly had a bad feeling.
SYSTEM OVERRIDE! SYSTEM TEST INITIATED… 15… 14… 13… 12… 11…
"I have one flash left," Nadia said loading it into her sling. She then arched it up and let it fly. The flash went off, and I heard the groan of several men. "Go!"
10… 9… 8… 7… 6…
A few arrows flew at us, I felt, and arrow strikes the shielded platting on my shoulder. I heard another cry from behind me, but Nadia's footsteps didn't stop. I jumped the last few feet to the sled and turned to see Nadia right behind me. I reached forward, and she took my hand as I pulled her on with me.
"Strap in!" Nadia shouted as she sat and pulling a harness over her with a click.
I followed suit pulling the ancient harness down. "Is this going to work?"
There was a rumbling, then shouts from behind us. Then I felt the most intense force I had ever felt. Falling was one thing. But this was like nothing I had felt. I was being forced in the seat the light on the wall flew by so fast that I couldn't even count them. The blue and red flames of the first sled were swiftly getting bigger. The roaring of the engine was louder than a Thunderjaw. Then the roar stopped, but we kept moving, the force was not as bad, but we continued forward.
The rubble and flames and the broken remnants of the door banged and out sled hit it, and suddenly we were spinning. The sled tumbled, and I gritted my teeth, I head Nadia scream over the roar of crashing metal and the dust.
Then the world stopped spinning.
I chanced a glance around and saw stars. We made it out, I looked at Nadia and saw her looking around like a scared raccoon. "Alive… We're alive…" Nadia said through chattering teeth.
"Yep." Was my only reply. "That was a crazy plan."
"I miscalculated the timing. I thought we would come to a gentle stop before the track ran out." Nadia pressed the button on her harness, and it let go, and she tumbled two feet to the ground. I followed just after. It took a few minutes to get our barrings, Nadia tried to stand but tumbled sideways comically and rolled to her back and laughed. "Were Alive. I can't believe we lived."
I leaned on the sled and looked over my bag, everything was still there GAIA was still there. I smiled at Nadia. "Yeah. The hardest part is over right."
Nadia would later tell me that those were famous last words and never had they been truer.
Menially scowled as she read over another report. For the past week, she had laid in the medical wing in quarantine. It was miserable. Sure, she could take control of one of the servitor drones and keep working, but it just wasn't the same as getting her hands on something, really digging in. So, she sat adjusted timelines, revised projects, and updated project goals.
The screen in front of her was playing some show that she wasn't paying attention too. It was just white noise. Another report was finished and sent out. She finally reached a report from the night before regarding her newest past time. It seemed after a week of nothing Aloy and Nadia made it to the Zero Dawn facility, presumably to find the hard copies of GAIA. But it disturbed her as the report showed that they were completely off her radar for almost an hour.
One of the observation reports did say that Nadia had mentioned a vault, maybe it was cut off from the outside. That made rational sense to her, so it wasn't such a shock. Now the two were head north. Menially wasn't sure where the Site-B place was nor, did she know where Ted Faro's bunker was. But the direction they were headed did interest Menially, it had perplexed her for years what happened in that area. By her calculation, there should be heavy seismic and volcanic activity, but from what her satellites could find there was nothing even with a large amount of volcanic smoke that was constantly thrown into the air.
Several hot spots denoted civilization settings, but the volcanic activity was by far the most significant heat source. Overlays showed that the area was once a National Park called Yellow Stone. The images that she could pull up she found pleasing to the eye. Small pools of water here and there in some photos, yellows, and blues within the pools. Large lakes, a plateaus and mountain ranges. She perked up even more at seeing a large mammal in a few photos. Its large fuzzy head had horns on the left and right, and its back was massive and bulky.
"Aren't you a fuzzy thing… I bet your head is soft. Note to self-find out if we have Buffalo genome samples available. Side note, pet buffalo's head. It looks really fuzzy." Menially smiled. She was going to pet a buffalo sometime in the future.
Even after hundreds of years the remains of tall buildings still stood in the brain desert of what was once the state of Nevada. Where once thousands of people a day would walk the strip of buildings now there was nothing. Once the brightest city in the old world with billboards and lights advertising great attractions. Becoming those with wealth to burn to play the man games of chance. The glitz and glitter of its heyday long since passed. Lives remade and ruined in one toss of the dice.
Now it was barren, dead, the desert even now still working on reclaiming the man-made ruins and wash it completely away. No human had set foot here in hundreds of years, even those humans that prided themselves on being scavengers stayed clear. Those that had come to this desolate and forsaken territory told tales of a beast fiercer than any other they had seen.
However, FAS-B345T didn't know this, nor did the AF112 – CHIMERA as it came in for a landing on what was once the Las Vegas strip. For landing on the sand, it did an admirable job, and should the need arise it could again take off. Its payload, however, was not surface to air missiles per the usual payload package but rather a FAS-R4MSRT, better known to the humans that created as a Mass Spectrum Relay Transmitter. Upon landing the CHIMERA executed its next task, activating the Mass Relay so that it could then talk to the next Mass Relay and the next and the next until the signal it was transmitting reached it Mother Base. After 243.00394 seconds all the relays were synced and connecting back to Mother Base where B345T waited.
With a TTL, time till life, between Mother Base and CHIMERA112's relay it took a total of 1 minute and 21 seconds. Not a long time for a human but to B345T this was a long time. But B345T did not care, with its connection to the area is began the next phase of its operation.
[ASSET AF112-CHIMERA HAS REACHED PRIMARY OBJECTIVES AREA OF OPERATIONS]
[ASSESSING LOCAL ASSETS = PLEASE WAIT]
[144x STANDARD UNITS IN STANDBY]
[21x STANDARD UNITS USABLE]
[SEARCHING FOR NONSTANDARD UNITS = PLEASE WAIT]
[ONE ASSET AVAILABLE SYSID: MANTICORE]
[LOADING PANDORA PROGRAM]
[PANDORA ONLINE – SEIZE NETWORK CONTROL OF ALL VIABLE ASSETS = PLEASE WAIT]
[ESTABLIHING LINK WITH SITE-B MAINFRAME]
[ERROR SITE-B FACILITY IN CLASS 5 LOCKDOWN DIRECT ACCESS REQUIRED]
[PANDORA UPDATE – ALL VIABLE ASSETS ONLINE AND AWAITING ORDERS]
After almost one hundred years of life, the great beast that roamed what was once Las Vegas was not alone as the same Faro robots that once destroyed the world came back to life. Now given new names by the world inhabitance, names like death bringer, and corruptor. After several minutes and a very short wrestling match from a 3rd party AI that learned its place MANTICORE was placed in charge of the newly awakened robots. This pack now answered to only one master, casting off the chains of HEPHAESTUS it brought its new pack to task. Soon it would uncover the entrance of Site-B as per its first order of business. Then the direct access its master, B345T, would need to access the facility's systems.
[MANTICORE – EXECUTING ORDERS PER MASTERS INSTRUCTIONS NYAN!]
[OPERATIONS UPDATE = GOOD BOY]
[RETURNING TO NORMAL OPERATIONS]
[HAVE A NICE DAY ^w^]
-END OF LINE-
Any way I hope you all enjoyed. So now you know where Site-B is and oh look something horrible is there that Hephaestus made, and FAS-B345T took over. So now Manticore belongs to FAS-B345T along with a few other robots, I'm sure a few Death Bringers and Corruptors (less the corruption part because FAS-B345T doesn't need to corrupt it just hacks them and takes over.)
I always assumed that the corruption had a nanite element since it actually affected you, at least that's what I assume -shrug-
There were no questions for the last chapter so well more on to the note…
For the last few days I have been agenizing over this as well as my Twilight story. I had a really hard time with getting Aloy and Nadia out of Mothers Heart. I just never could figure out how I wanted to address it. Then I decided that leaving it kind of open was for the best just, so I could move the story along. I hope I'm not making the characters seem bi-polar I feel like there was a lot of emotion in this chapter and hopefully I have explained some of my science enough that it doesn't sound dumb.
While I do not want to take away from the games story I do want to note that with everything going on Elizabet would not have time to dedicate to creating and educating GAIA alone. So, while in the game you never see them I hope this might shine some idea that there was more than just here in the back ground bringing GAIA into the world.
Please let me know what you think I love hearing from you all.