Disclaimer: I in no way hold any claim over the series RWBY, Horizon: Zero Dawn, Horizon: Forbidden West, or Monster Hunter. Each respective series is owned by their respective creators/producers.

Monsters Among Us

Prologue Part 2: The Huntress Displaced

Tenakth Low Lands, 3035 –

Cauldron GEMINI

It had been going well for so long that they'd come to think themselves invincible. Back when their worries – when her worries, had only consisted of HADES and The Eclipse. The stakes then had been high, they always were of course, but she had never faced any challenge that seemed insurmountable. Many trials had been placed at her feet and she had risen above each and every one of them. Travelling through the Nora's Sacred Lands to The Carja Sundom, coming face to face with Corruptors and Deathbringers and a seemingly endless horde of corrupted machines. Red Maw had been a challenge – somewhat – but with Talanah's aid the savage machine had been culled and the new Sun Hawk had avenged the early deaths of her brother and father.

Even when she's been captured by Helis and dropped into the Sun Ring to be trampled to death by a corrupted Behemoth for their sick form of entertainment. They had, of course, stripped her of her weapons and armor but even then she managed to bait the massive machine into destroying the pillars suspending that massive platform which held all her gear. With her belongings retrieved she had killed the machine that had been trapped with her before a wall of the ring had been destroyed and she had escaped on the back of a Strider with Sylens at her side atop his own mount. For that matter, Sylens had been her largest irritation throughout her entire journey. Finding out that her supposed ally had directly caused the crisis with HADES had been somewhat of a shock.

She shouldn't have been surprised, by his own admission he would pursue knowledge at any cost. He would gladly betray and backstab any one to learn just a sliver of what the Old Ones knew 1000 years ago, he'd done so before and would and doubtless do so again with no remorse. When HADES had assaulted Meridian, the Carja capital, in its bid to reach MINERVA's spire she'd stood with the other defenders in a day long battle and by the end she had reached that which contained HADES itself and drove Sylens lance through its core. HADES should have been destroyed, the crisis it caused had ended yes, but Sylens would never allow such a veritable well of knowledge to be destroyed. She should have known that it wasn't so simple but days later, when the first signs of the Red Blight had appeared, she'd set out searching for the cause and a way to stop it. It was only upon her return six months later that she would discover Sylens deception.

The lance Sylens had built had been designed to retrieve HADES code and transmit it to his location. HE had appeared to her over the Focus Network with a condescending and belittling speech about how she'd wasted these past six months scrounging in the dirt chasing dead ends to proposed GAIA backups. It wasn't as if he couldn't have reached out to her at any time, he made it no secret that he had been spying on her for years through that first focus she had gotten as a child. But no; he'd never sink so low as to actually ask someone for any help, or to freely offer his own, no matter what may be at stake. He'd much rather offer you his oh-so-generous assistance when you feel as if you've exhausted every other option. In any case, she pursued him deep into The Forbidden West, only to find that he'd willfully started up a rebellion among the Tenakth that she was suddenly dropped into the middle of and had attempted to contact the signal which had originally released all of GAIA's subordinate functions nearly two decades ago.

Over the next month she had ventured throughout the Tenakth lands in the Forbidden West. Every settlement, every single piece of land past the mountains west of Plainsong belonged to the Tenakth. She pursued Sylens to the rusting carcass of a Metal Devil, he'd set up there at one point to interrogate and torture HADES for the information it may have held. He'd then utilized a pair of chargers to drag the large device housing the malicious AI to what had once been the HADES proving lab. It was here where she had first met the Zeniths, and a second clone of Elisabet Sobek along with them. Having finally retrieved a working backup of GAIA she tried to hide somewhere in the near barren room. It was to no avail of course, the only place to hide was behind the panels she had originally lowered and once the Zeniths own clone of Elisabet had retrieved the second GAIA backup they rose back up to reveal her.

As most people she meets seem to do they immediately tried to kill her, and Sylens wanted her to play nice with these people. She tried fighting back against the man ordered to kill her, really she did, but whatever sort of shield he had was entirely impenetrable to her. Nothing she did even seemed to do more than amuse him, it was only by dropping the massive structure that was the proving lab that she was able to escape him.

From then on, she had acted mostly alone as she worked her way through the Utaru and Tenakth lands. Varl and Erend accompanied her at times, as did Zo and Kotallo, but they primarily spent their time training and researching different aspects of the old ones world. She'd managed to locate MINERVA, another of GAIA's rouge subordinate functions, and re-merge it with the backup of GAIA she had escaped with. With GAIA once more operational, together they formulated a plan to confront the Zeniths at their base. DEMETER, AETHER, and POSEIDON were three of the subordinate functions within reach for her to retrieve and reintegrate with GAIA. With the three of them recovered GAIA would then have enough processing power accumulated for her to capture and reclaim HEPHAESTUS, who had evolved far more than the other subordinate functions in the past two decades.

Each subordinate function successfully reclaimed by GAIA would in turn give her control over their respective aspects of the Zero Dawn terraforming systems. AETHER would allow GAIA to begin slowly cleansing the Earths atmosphere, POSEIDON would help her to clean the worlds oceans, lakes, and rivers while DEMETER would cleanse the natural plant life. With these three subordinate functions back under GAIA's control she could at the very least, temporarily, delay the collapse of the Earth's Biosphere. With that imminent threat at least stalled they could then focus on how to defeat a seemingly invincible foe like the Zeniths. She had only just returned DEMETER to GAIA when the AI alerted her a distress signal coming from a buried facility far north of their claimed base.

With Erend and Varl at her side she set out to hopefully retrieve a surprising fourth subordinate function only to reach the defunct Zenith facility and come to find the other clone of Elisabet Sobek in a first generation proto-type cryo-stasis and very near to death. The clone, Beta they would later learn, had left an audio log for them to find in which she introduced herself and spoke what she clearly thought could very well be her last words. She told of who she was to Zeniths, who exactly the Zeniths were and why she ran from them and was now seeking protection from their inevitable retaliation. When the Zeniths sent a pair of Specter's to reclaim Beta for their use Aloy and her companions were sensibly less than willing to hand the girl over to her former captors. While Varl stood guard over Beta's unconscious form she worked to dispatch the first Zenith combat machine. It was a challenge but still a surmountable one for a huntress of her skill and with the first felled she ascended to the surface where Erend assisted her in dismantling the second. After the three of them brought Beta back to base and she had finally awoken the relationship between the two clones was rather . . . strained, to say the least.

Despite the both of them being near perfect genetic clones of the same incredible woman it would've been extraordinarily difficult for them to be any more different from one another. Beta was always just so much of a defeatist, she just had to whine and complain about every facet of their supposedly sub-par operation and nothing they did was every good enough to meet the former prisoners standards. The first several weeks that she was here she could only go on about how hopeless our situation was. Now, granted, they most certainly faced daunting odds, the Zeniths held within their grasp technology that far outclassed anything they had available to them. Even with their astronomic advantage over them they had already seen proof that the Zeniths could be killed and the rag-tag team remained confident in their chances to beat them when the time came, and over time Beta came to believe in them as well. Aloy's own relationship with Beta improved over the past months, they grew close as possible sisters and thought that together they could actually defeat the Zeniths and preserve their world.

It had started off well enough she thought. The only hiccup in the plan had been obtaining Omega level clearance from Faro's Tomb, Thebes. She had met Alva of the Quen when retrieving DEMETER for GAIA and with the of the Quen diviner locating Thebes proved to be a simple affair. There were some minor complications when actually obtaining Ted Faro's Omega level but with it now in hand they were ready to trap HEPHAESTUS.

Reaching Cauldron GEMINI with GAIA safely in her new custom-made housing, courtesy of Beta, was easy to do. HEPHAESTUS had been successfully lured to the cauldron and Aloy had quickly destroyed the machines the hostile AI had sent to stop them. From there all their hard work and careful planning fell apart.

They knew, or at least theorized, that using the Cauldron to trap and reintegrate HEPHAESTUS with GAIA would generate a monumental surge of power that would immediately alert the Zeniths to their location. They had thought to try masking their actions by sending someone from their small group to each of the other Cauldrons throughout the region to deploy a makeshift pulse generator as a distraction to divert the Zeniths but they saw through the ruse, or were never even fooled to begin with.

An explosion ripped through the ceiling of Cauldron GEMINI bringing down tons worth of scrapped metal. Her and Varl tried to fight back, to protect Beta, but they may as well have been ants striking machine for all the good it did them. Varl tried valiantly to run through the Zenith that came forward to deal with them but that damned shielding of theirs stopped every thrust of his spear dead in its tracks. The Zenith surged forward and lifted Varl by his throat before stabbing him through the chest with a silver-gold blade which formed over his arm. He dropped Varl, leaving him to die on the ground, and then turned to Beta.

"Now, for the runaway." He stalked towards her with that shinning blade still over his wrist. Aloy drew her spear from her back and desperately charged him in an attempt to save Beta either from death or a life in servitude to these monsters. It didn't matter what she did though, the Zenith man extended his free hand and Aloy could just barely make out the distortion in the air as a massive slab of metal was ripped from the floor by invisible hands and with a flick of his wrist it was sent flying at her. She tried leaping to avoid it but found her legs caught as it passed under her. She fell to the ground with the wind knocked from her chest only to roll onto her back in time to see a twisted metal pillar fall across her. She could feel her arm break along with several other bones and she screamed out in pain. Craning her neck back she could barely see the Zenith man approaching Beta and could only just hear him mocking her.

"Beta! Run!" Aloy tried screaming for her surrogate sister to flee the man but the massive pillar laying over her the scream was really more of a pained wheeze. Beta must have somehow heard her though as she tried in vain to escape.

Thrusting his free hand forward again the same distortion in the air she noticed before appeared and surged towards Beta till she suddenly found herself frozen in place. "No no no Beta, no more running for you!" The man was practically giddy as he spoke, as if casual murder were a favorite hobby of his. Whatever force he used to hold Beta in place slowly lifted the terrified girl off the ground and turned her to face her captor as she was drawn closer. "Did you really think we'd never find you? You stupid girl, I bet you actually thought that these pathetic little savages could actually do something against us didn't you?!" The man was in her face, taunting her as she was helpless to do anything more than look on in terror.

"Erik! Hurry and retrieve GAIA, the primitives have already done all the work for us." Two more of the Zeniths were high above floating about near the hole they'd recently blasted into the Cauldron. Both, a man and a woman, looking utterly bored with the situation playing out below.

Erik snorted and glared back down on Beta as he thrust that shinning blade through her heart. "I bet you thought yourself so important, almost irreplaceable didn't you?" He sneered at her shocked, wide-eyed face. "But you forget; we created you once, and we can do so again just as easy! You've become more trouble than your worth. Fortunately, just like Earth, you've already served your purpose!" With that he threw her aside, releasing whatever hold he had on her, where she tumbled and rolled till she came to lie just out of Aloy's reach taking shallow breaths. The Cauldron was suddenly rocked violently as the muffled sounds of explosions filled the air.

"Let us leave Erik, we have what we came for." The second man spoke as he held GAIA's container in the same distorted field Erik had used on Beta.

"Erik lifted up off the ground, approaching the other two he asked "What about the other clone?"

The other man hardly spared Aloy more than a brief glance as she struggled desperately to both escape that which held her pinned and to reach Beta. "Leave her, she's no longer of any consequence." Together they rose through the sky and out of Cauldron with GAIA's housing floating along behind them as the Cauldron shook harder and the blast grew closer.

And that finally brings us to the present. With Varl either dead or dying alone in the center of the self-destructing Cauldron far out of reach of his two companions. Aloy, still laying trapped beneath the metal beam with Beta lying close to her as she slowly bled to death. She tried to escape with everything she had but even if she had the use of both arms she'd never be able to lift herself free. From beside her she heard Beta's whisper clear as day. "Aloy, I – I'm scared." Her breaths were still shallow and uneven.

"Its . . . its okay Beta. I'll get us out . . . of here." Aloy replied as she pushed and pulled the best she could until another explosion ripped a panel of the ceiling free that fell straight down to land on the beam already trapping her. Aloy could feel herself being compressed beneath the weight and she was finding it difficult to breath.

"We're gonna die . . . aren't we?" Beta's voice was softer and turning to face her Aloy could see one arm reaching for her as tears rolled down her face. They'd both die here, soon as well if she were to guess, she – they both knew that. Varl was dead, GAIA captured and taken by the Zeniths, Beta lay dying next to her and even if she could somehow miraculously get free she had no way to heal her sister. Beta would still die, no matter what she did. So would she for that matter, with all of their other companions at the various other Cauldrons spread throughout the Tenakth lands they were to far to be able to save either Beta or herself before Cauldron GEMINI collapsed around them. They failed; with GAIA in their control they would take over the terraforming system and remake the Earth in their own twisted image, killing all life in the process. Beta was right, they would die here and the rest of the world would follow them to an early grave.

"I'm – I'm sorry Beta." Speaking was difficult, it seemed as if every word she spoke made the weight covering her only press down harder. With only one arm free Aloy reached for Beta's outstretched hand, both of them seeking some kind of comfort from the other in their last moments. Cauldron GEMINI shook violently, the sounds of explosions grew ever closer. Neither of them had any doubt that the Zeniths had done something to cause the Cauldrons destruction.

"I'm . . . glad . . . we met." Why would Beta be happy about any of this? If she'd never ran, if she'd stayed with the Zeniths she wouldn't be dying right now. She be healthy, safe and provided for and – "It's nice . . . having a sister." – she'd be alone, completely isolated by the Zeniths, no more than a slave to their will. Aloy had at least had Rost as she grew, but Beta had no one to guide her or care for her. Completely alone among people who only saw her as a tool, another means to an end. Only seconds later, as an explosion ripped apart the cauldron floor behind her, she was gone. Beta's hand had gone limp in her own, her eyes had closed though the last of her tears still rolled down her face. From the newly formed hole in the floor rose a massive fireball, explosions from deep below rocking the entire structure. . Walls collapsed, pieces of the roof fell and more and more of the cauldron floor was ripped apart. Aloy could see multiple fiery explosions detonate around her and she knew that her time had come. At least what ever deity there was had granted Beta the less painful death . . . at least she hoped it had been less painful. She had never believed in life after death but if there was one maybe Beta would be waiting for her on the other side? Would she see Rost again? Would she finally get to meet Elisabet? With the fire rushing to consume her Aloy shut her eyes tightly, only hoping that her death be quick, that she wouldn't suffer too long.

Monsters Among Us –

Unknown Location

Unknown Perspective

In The Realm Between All Realms many seemingly impossible things were commonplace. Though, perhaps claiming any given thing 'impossible' was only a little misleading. Afterall; what one world would consider to be impossible or no more than mere myth, another world would find to be completely normal and a part of common everyday life. The Realm Between did, however, hold one wholly unique aspect to its lands, or rather, to the spaces above its never-ending lands.

High above any terrestrial creature; in the vast endless sky lay the homes to the elders of all existence. Second only to One these beings were the true arbiters of creation. Their dwellings could be found suspended several billion miles above the highest of this realms countless floating islands. The structures varied greatly both in size and in design, this particular facility was relatively comparable to a modest two-story suburban home. The exterior of this miraculous floating building was primarily formed from what seemed to be a continuous white marble-like wall. Sky blue double doors stood as the only entry way into the building, one foot away to either side was a chalky off-white pillar three feet by three feet and extending from floor to ceiling. These pillars were further placed uniformly around the buildings perimeter and were one to look closely they would come to notice that while some pillars, most of them really, were currently bare a fair few of them had complex and artistic designs carved into them which seemingly followed the tale of two young ones. As for the roof covering over the structure, it was only slightly angled and several shades darker than the walls, eventually flattening as it moved towards the center and forming a platform deceptively large which seemed to be accessible through a ladder at the rear.

Entering through the double doors one would find themselves in a large circular room that at first glance would be assumed to be all this irrational structure had to offer. After all, this single room easily encompassed all the space its size would recommend it had available and, to an extent, you would be correct. To The Creators of this room, and the countless others like it, they considered them to as hubs of a sort. The structure as a whole defied common logic and served many purposes from vast library to humble residence to scientific laboratory. Within the main center room of this particular structure were a total of five doors arranged in a half-circle opposite of the sole entry point. Hanging from the ceiling over the rooms center was an ornate crystal chandelier. The entire décor piece seemed to have been gradually carved into one complex continuous form and instead of holding a separate light source the feature itself glowed a soft white that illuminated the entirety of the room below. Back on ground level in the rooms center, directly below the extravagant light fixture, was a large interactable holographic display which was currently showing the semi-paused image of a familiar heroines final moments. Around the display were two seemingly human figures, discussing the event they had just witnessed play out over the projected image.

"No no no, how has this catastrophe happened?" This one spoke with a distinctly feminine voice as they paced a slow circuit around the floating display.

"It would appear that we have miscalculated at some juncture, Sister." The second spoke, this one with a masculine voice. They stood stationary before the display as their companion passed behind them.

"Brother;" the female began exasperatedly "you know, perfectly well, that we have not miscalculated! This – " she came to stop opposite the man gesturing grandly to the display before them. " – is not how fate was to play out in this realm!"

"Then what do you suggest Sister? Our hero's have failed in their purpose. This world has diverged, become removed from The Fates design." The male spoke calmly as his self-claimed sister resumed in her pacing. They had watched as Aloy and her companions entered into the depths of Cauldron GEMINI to reunite GAIA with her final remaining rogue subordinate function, HEPHAESTUS. Watched as Aloy pursued the malicious AI further into the Cauldrons depths. Watched her fight with a fearsome Slaughterspine after she had successfully forced HEPHAESTUS to flee back to the Cauldrons core. Till that point, events within this iteration of the world had played out, more or less, as they were meant to. Aloys journey thus far had been almost trivial in nature, while the stakes had surely set high no challenge placed before the girl had proven even slightly difficult. "The girl was not meant to die for, at the minimum, another year! All in this world was proceeding as pre-determined, but now? This world reeks of interference!"

The sister scoffed, stopped and rose her hand to the holo-display just as it showed Aloy trapped beneath rubble and seconds away from being consumed by the flames surrounding her. The scene shown before the two observers paused as she did, all sounds fell silent as the world they viewed slowed to a standstill. "What interference do you see Brother?" The presumed woman swiped one hand across the display as she began pacing once more, prompting the images shown to change with every repeated swipe. "There is nothing out of place that we can see, because there is nothing to be seen!" As she spoke the images slowly cycled from showing Aloy's almost death to showing an isolated chamber deep within the Cauldron, presumably where the Cauldron began self-destructing from. Another image change showed a distant view of Memorial Grove, then changed to show a top-down view of Barren Light, then Thorn Marsh was shown, Scalding Spear, The Bulwark and finally The Far Zenith Base. "No signs of outside interference can be found, we have both checked this thrice! At this point in time our options are severely limited and only becoming more so." The projection had once more changed to show Aloy, though preoccupied as the two observers were neither noticed that while time on the world remained frozen Aloy herself had begun moving once more.

"We could initiate a partial reset to the world?" The Brother began as he remained oblivious to the work his sister had begun. "But should we do so we shall need to allow the girl to retain her memories, less these events continue to play out as they already have." The sister, now firmly out of the brothers line of sight, continued to work as he spoke. A pair of smaller holo-graphic screens appeared floating before her; one showing many repeating lines of text in an unrecognizable language while the other showed an unfamiliar world that she contemplated for naught but a moment before dismissing the option presented and viewing the next available world.

She interrupted her brothers musings as she browsed through the infinite possibilities present throughout the multi-verse. "Or, Brother, we can provide the girl with an . . . opportunity, of sorts. There are many 'Wild Realms' to which she can be sent. We send her to one and allow her to hone her natural skills, and in perhaps a decade we return her to a point in time only moments before her and her companions enter into Cauldron GEMINI." The Sister made her announcement with apparent glee as she seemed to find a world which would adequately serve such a purpose.

"I suppose that it is as reasonable a choice to make as any, and should the girl still fail we can then initiate a reset but . . ." He hummed to himself in thought, looking up to the larger display as Aloy could be seen looking around herself in confusion at the fire frozen in time. 'Very interesting, the girl is still active despite our power. What makes this version of her so unique she can ignore our influence?'

"But what?" The Sister asked, looking away from her own projected screens.

Turning away from his own inquiries the brother answered. "We still need discover what has interfered with our charge before allowing the girl to return." They were The Creators, there were extremely few entities in all of existence that they were unable to monitor and few still that could freely interfere with the realms under their purview. The prospect that some force had invaded a world under their watch undetected and so drastically thrown this world from its fate was . . . concerning to say the least. "We will need Master Seven's approval to proceed."

"I am aware, Brother dearest, " The Sister added a few final touches to their joint plans as she spoke. "I have already sent word that we require his guidance. He will be here shortly." The Brother nodded and turned back to face the main holo-display.

"Master Seven was the man who had claimed responsibility over the twin siblings training as Creators. Forging worlds from task was a daunting task after all, certainly not something one could just simply do. Training for young Creators could easily span the length of multiple eons, those who found themselves particularly unlucky or especially lacking could very easily have their training span for all of eternity. The Elders of their kind would accept nothing less than total devotion and near perfection; and no Creator, regardless of status or reputation, may be granted autonomy before reaching such a level.

Now; both siblings were well aware that while perfection may be their ultimate goal it was none-the-less an impossibility. As their most recent folly could attest to, they were by no means omniscient and thus were wholly incapable of predicting and thus preparing for every single eventuality. With every sentient being throughout the multi-verse granted free-will, only a truly omnipotent being could even begin to grasp the infinite iterations of infinite worlds. When the entryway to the siblings joint dwelling suddenly opened some time later both brother and sister immediately halted in their preparations to greet their master.

Master Seven appeared as a middle age man with greying hair and dressed in a formal looking black and grey suit. He strode forward to the rooms center and greeted the siblings like a father would greet children he were especially fond of. Both were very clearly happy to see him, the last time they'd been in his company had been more than a century ago. They were quick to brief him on what had occurred within the world they were charged and thoroughly explained to him the tentative plan that they'd come up with to hopefully resolve, or at least mitigate, the yet unknown problems they had discovered.

"And you say you've not been able to locate a source to this supposed interference?" Master Seven asked once the two had finished their tale. He spoke calmly in a softer voice with no hint of doubt tainting his words, he sought their confirmation. He knew that the two children had taken his past lessons seriously, both were near prodigies he would acknowledge to anyone that asked. As such; he had no reason to doubt their words, if there had been interference then it was likely they simply had not yet been fully granted the skills necessary to address such. With that in mind he approached the central holo-display and began working his own unique brand of Creators magic, all the while talking the two trainee's through his thought process. "The two of you have done exceedingly well under the circumstances, it is due to no fault of your own that you have been unable to locate the source of this interference." As he spoke half a dozen smaller screens appeared before him, each seeming to interact with the larger one in a different way. His eyes darted rapidly from one screen to the next as each one changed to show something new multiple times every second.

"So . . . something has interfered then?" The Sister asked curiously, somewhat in awe as she watched Master Seven summon an additional half dozen screens that he began monitoring in-sync with the other six.

"There is most certainly something present which normally shouldn't be, but whatever it may be actively hides from our gaze. The occurrence is rather . . . concerning . . ." The senior Creator trailed off as something among the multitude of screens to momentarily capture his attention.

Brother and Sister exchanged a wary glance before turning back to Master Seven. "But, Master, what is capable of avoiding our watch?" The Brother asked.

"Ah, many beings are free of our direct view. As for those who can actually hide from us? Perhaps a handful but no more, unfortunately each option is progressively worse than the last. The two of you are young, still in the beginning of your training. Under normal circumstances you'd not be made aware of these forces till the very end of your training but . . ?" The Elder suddenly vanished all but the largest holo-display. He turned to face the two apprentices and with a snap of his fingers the display behind him, which had been cycling through hundreds of images faster than one could track, froze on the now familiar scene of Aloy trapped beneath metal debris with the world around her frozen in time and the girl herself once more trying desperately to escape her confines. "This is the girl in question, correct?" When the siblings answered in the affirmative he nodded and proceeded to give the two their orders, this was a grand opportunity for them all. A valuable lesson for the two trainee's, a potential asset almost too good to pass-up, and if his suspicions were correct . . . well, he would need a closer look at the girl to say for sure but with luck perhaps there were several others who could benefit here. "Summon the girl to us then and listen close, were making some changes to your plan."

"I thought you approved of our plans Master?" The sister asked, clearly curious of her Masters plan but also just a little hurt by his declaration.

"Your plans are well thought out children but this girl – " He appeased them, gesturing back to the image of Aloy behind him. " – , she provides you both with a very unique opportunity. Come, let me tell you what we shall do."

Monsters Among Us –

Cauldron GEMINI

Aloy POV

Aloy had been ready to meet her fiery death, with no time and no way to free herself she would surely be burned alive. It was foolish of her to hope that such a death would be quick or painless, she'd seen many men die by fire. Some were caught unaware by machines, most met their unfortunate end by her hand and in every case they screamed in pain for what must have seemed like hours to them. Perhaps this was the fate that her own actions had earned her, but she had never believed in any sort of higher power before.

Aloy kept her eyes tightly shut as the fires closed in on her, Varl and Beta had already been consumed. Any moment now she would begin to burn, any moment she'd feel the searing pain across her body. Instead she found the world around her falling into silence mere seconds after closing her eyes. The sounds of crackling fire and distant explosions suddenly vanished and she could no longer feel the blistering heat of the burning metal around her.

Hesitantly she opened her eyes, assuming she would be greeted by whatever afterlife there was. The reality that greeted her though was possibly much more confusing than anything she could have expected. In every direction around her the fires appeared frozen in place, no heat came from their flames and peering tentatively around the room she could see no movement anywhere. Even parts of the Cauldron ceiling which had been falling only moments before were now left suspended in the sky with no support. The pain she'd been feeling from her broken bones and the tons worth of metal pinning her had suddenly changed into only a dull persistent numbness over her lower body.

Ignoring this new weirdness, if only for now, Aloy once more began her futile attempts to escape. The problem of her frozen surroundings could wait, who knew how long they would remain that way and she would obviously prefer to avoid immolation. Her only task right now was to somehow, someway free herself. There had to be someway to escape, whatever froze her surroundings had given her a chance to get free and she'd be damned if she wasted it. Aloy tried to peer through the fire, doing her best to remain calm, looking for anything which could help her to get free.

There, directly behind her on a piece of the Cauldrons rubble was a familiar yellow ring just barely visible over the flames. It was definitely within the range of her Pull Caster which luckily hadn't been damaged by the Zeniths but her position prone on her back would make it difficult to not only throw the pull caster but to aim it as well. Turning onto her side as little as she was able to Aloy released the caster hook into her hand and threw wildly towards the ring she had spotted. The first throw veered right by what seemed like a mile and the thrown hook was rapidly reeled back into her hand for another attempt. What followed was another dozen or more attempts where the hook didn't even get close or missed by what must have been no more than an inch. Aloy threw the pull casters hook once more in frustration, not bothering to properly aim this time. Of course the hook fell short of her intended target once more, she began reeling it in to try again when the line suddenly pulled tight and her arm was jerked up. Looking up in shock she could only see the pull casters line reaching through the frozen flames. She could only assume that the hook had luckily gotten caught on something and as she wasn't in a position to be especially picky she wouldn't complain of that good fortune. Looking down to where she remained pinned Aloy couldn't make out many details. She wouldn't be surprised to discover she had broken something else when she became trapped but she didn't recall feeling anything break other than her arm. Not that it would matter now as numbness was all she felt. Fortunately she was confident that nothing had impaled her so with that final thought she began reeling in the pull caster hook. With it now stuck wherever it had ended up she hoped that it would be strong enough to pull her free.

The pull caster slowly reeled in inch by inch, her arm was stretched to its limit but her body remained unmoving despite her efforts. She could feel the pull casters mechanisms on her wrist gradually heating up as she kept pulling in vain to finally free herself. With a loud snap the casters line suddenly went lose just as a white flash rapidly enveloped everything in sight leaving Aloy effectively blind.

All at once several things happened to and around her. To start with the metal debris trapping her vanished, one second it was there, the next it was simply gone as if it had never been there at all. Aloy felt herself tumbling up and out of the destroyed Cauldron as if something had grabbed hold of her and pulled. She felt as parts of her armor and all her weaponry and other equipment was pulled away leaving her defenseless. Then, just as suddenly as it all started, it all suddenly stopped and for a moment it felt as if she was just floating in the air, though still unable to visualize her surroundings.

Turns out that Aloy was floating as after only a short moment she found herself gracelessly deposited on the ground of where ever she had been taken. Around her she could hear muffled voices, one sounded like an older man and was much closer than the other more indistinct voices she could only just hear in the background. She didn't feel any more numbness or pain so carefully propped herself up a bit as her vision slowly began to return. The mans voice kept speaking and soon enough, as if cotton had been pulled from her ears, she could hear him clearly.

"Aloy; can you hear me child?" He spoke softly and slowly as he tried getting her attention. With her vision now fully returned she could see what looked like a middle aged man knelt down before her. His eyes were brown, his hair was primarily grey and he was clothed in a sharp looking black and grey outfit like what she imagined The Old Ones would wear to important events. Behind him were two younger people, a boy and girl who were watching her intently.

Turning back to the older man she asked. "Where am I?" She stood slowly, stepping out of reach when the man tried to help her to her feet. "Who are you?" How she wished she had something, anything, to defend herself with. Her spear, her bow, she'd even take a lone arrow so long as she wasn't totally defenseless before these strangers.

The older man, seeing how tense Aloy was becoming, held his hands out in a placating gesture. "I am Master Seven, behind me are my two apprentices who, for simplicities sake, you may address as John and Jane respectively. We are watchers or curators, of a sort. Under normal circumstances you would never be made aware of our existence." Master Seven paused briefly then gestured out to the rooms center where a large holographic image of the Earth was floating. At the older mans prompting the image of Earth vanished and was replaced by a silent video of her recent encounter with the Zeniths in Cauldron GEMINI. Aloy watched the video play for a few moments and when it was paused as Varl approached Erik she was quietly grateful, she really didn't want to watch her friend and her sister die again. "Our job is to watch and observe the worlds under our domain, to ensure that they follow the paths fate intended for them. As you may guess by your presence here, your own world has not done so." Seven paused again, only continuing when he was certain he had Aloy's undivided attention. "You were not meant to die her, this – " He gestured to the screen before them as he spoke. " – was not meant to be your tomb. What happened here was soley due to some form of external interference." The elder paused again here, trying to gauge Aloy's reaction before continuing. "Because of this, because of your pre-mature death as well as other matters related to yourself we are able to offer you an . . . opportunity."

"How were you watching us?" Aloy asked looking back to the paused image of Varl. 'Of the hundreds of questions I have I guess that's as a good a place to start as any.'

"We are of a race known as Creators." The younger man, John apparently, began. "Explaining the full scope of our duties would take far more to long for us to cover in the time we have available. In general, as Creators, our purpose is ultimately to forge new universes and maintain stability throughout the multi-verse."

"So your, what – like Gods?" Aloy asked apprehensively, still keeping her distance from the rooms other occupants.

"The Gods, as you know of them, could be considered as our direct children. Humanity, and other such mortal life, would be akin to our grandchildren." The girl, Jane, explained. She opened her mouth to continue but was interrupted by Seven.

"Aloy; I'm sure this all must be . . . overwhelming." He paused a moment, awaiting a response from the mortal girl and continued again at her hesitant nod. "As this is your first visit here our time is extremely limited, will you hear out what we have to offer you?" Seven waited patiently as ALoy came to a decision.

She hesitated, unsure if this all was really happening or not. Maybe she really had died at some point and all this around her was only some sort of confusing purgatory. Could all this just be some kind of vivid dream she was having in her last moments as she burned to death? If that was the case Aloy thought that this was much better than feeling what must be unbearable pain. "How do I know this is real," She asked Seven, pointing to the paused image as she thought of her last moments. She was surprised to see the image rapidly fast forward till it once again paused on the image of her trapped and moments from being consumed by fire.

The rooms other occupants were equally surprised by this. "How did she . . ?" John began whispering, trailing off as Master Seven raised a hand requesting silence.

"how do I know I'm not already dead?" She finally asked, after looking from him to John, wondering what was strange about her actions.

Seven waited a moment, maintaining eye contact as he considered his response. "If your already dead," He began slowly. "what have you to lose by hearing our offer?"

'Hope' was what she wanted to say but discarding that, what did she have to lose? If she really was dead than hearing them out wouldn't change that, nothing would. But if all this was real, if they could help her fix things? "What's the offer?"

The elder man gave a small smile before waving an arm to the center of the room. The floating image suddenly blinked out of existence and in its place a set of four comfortable looking chairs rose from the ground. Seven gestured forward to the newly formed sitting area and once the four them were seated he began. "There are two courses of action we may take and you must choose between them. Firstly, we can do the bare minimum. We can send your consciousness back in time, you as you are now would effectively be replacing your younger self. Should you choose this option you'll awaken roughly one month before you went through the proving. You would retain your memories of everything save for our meeting here, another one of our laws I'm afraid." He waited a moment, allowing her to process the information before turning to Jane.

"Unfortunately, should you choose this path there will be no guarantees. You could of course save everyone, rectify any past mistakes, but there is an equal or perhaps even greater chance that everything could go much worse. There is still the matter of who or what has interfered in the first place, we've yet to identify it." Jane sighed, looking slightly disturbed by that fact. "Powerful we may be, but we are not omniscient."

"John picked up immediately after her. "Additionally, Fate does not generally take well to being meddled with and despite our good intentions we are still meddling in Fate's design."

"Her three host once more allowed her to consider their words before Seven began speaking again. "Secondly, you could become my apprentices Champion. Doing so would have many benefits both for you and for us, most importantly though is that it would allow us to send you into another realm. Once there you could train to hone your existing skill and work to attain new ones unique to that realm, after which you would of course be returned to your own world with all your skills and talents at your disposal."

John resumed Seven's explanation as he finished speaking. "However, as a Champion we would be able to call on you should any realm under our watch every require a more . . . personal touch. You would of course be able to save your own world first, but afterwards we may call on you at any time. After a period of 500 years, provided you've not been killed, your Championship would be considered complete, and you would be granted the freedom to traverse the multi-verse at your leisure. We would of course ensure you are able to do so safely."

Seeing that Aloy was about to interrupt them, Jane quickly continued. "That brings us to the next point then. You would become semi-immortal; age would never claim your life and overtime you would develop a natural immunity to all poisons and venoms, though they would still have an effect on you it would never be fatal. You would still be killable, and you could even take your own life once the 500 years have passed." She paused, briefly hesitating before starting again. "You must consider that you could potentially live forever. Family, friends, everyone would die long before you should become so skilled." As Jane finished speaking her three hosts fell silent, allowing her to come to terms with their offers.

On one hand, if she just went back to the beginning and tried again she could certainly save everyone but . . . without her memories of this meeting she would probably never know that there was another problem besides the Zeniths. On the other hand, she could become John and Jane's Champion. Sure, 500 years sounded like along time but surely it was nothing for an immortal? At the same time though; Rost, Varl, Beta? Even if she saved them this time she would still have to inevitably watch them all grow old and die while she remained infinitely young. Even so, wasn't giving them full lives worth it in the end?

"Before you decide," Seven spoke up, interrupting her thoughts. "you should know that becoming a Champion involves far more than we've stated. We have no where near the time needed to cover everything but know that we've told of the most vital parts for now."

Aloy thought it good of the mythical beings to make her aware that there was still much more included with becoming a Champion but even so, could she in good conscience turn down that sort of opportunity? She could save so many people, not just in her world but in many others too. She may not really understand the whole multi-verse thing but surely that would come in time with these Creators guidance.

Even with everything that would come with it, it was crystal clear to Aloy what the best choice for her was. "Where would you be sending me?" She asked the God-Like beings before her.

"John stepped forward then. "Then you will become our Champion?" He asked the mortal girl to confirm. At her quick nod the elder man approached her to explain what was about to happen.

"You will be sent into a world known as 'Remnant'. This world is, in some ways, far more advanced than your own and more supernatural forces more common place here." Seven explained, gauging her reaction before continuing. "We will be sending you to a point in time roughly four years before the world reaches its next nexus point. We've taken care of your injuries the best we can, as you may have noticed, but your human physiology and our limited time severely limits what we can do for you. You will certainly remain sore upon your arrival but you will suffer no unforeseen side effects." As the elder finished the younger woman continued his explanations.

"There is of course more to be said for this specific realm. Most importantly though, is that this specific iteration of the realm has remained unobserved and untouched by Fate's hand. In short, this means you are free to act however you may wish." Jane told her.

Next to Jane, her brother held his hands out palms up and with a flash of near blinding white light he was holding a familiar bow and spear along with her quiver and a small burlap sack. Next, Jane snapped her fingers and in another blinding flash she found herself once more wearing her armor, though it remained slightly damaged from her previous fights. "Before you depart we return to you your preferred weapons. As there are no wild machines on Remnant I've taken the liberty of modifying your override device, I'll not ruin the surprise of its new capabilities but I'm certain you'll enjoy discovering its new features. Lastly; we provide you with 1000 Lien, the currency used upon Remnant."

"Once you arrive, Aloy, you will be on your own. You will receive no further assistance from us." Seven finished their joint explanation as John floated her equipment to her. Once it was close enough Aloy reached out to retrieve her belongings and carefully began re-equipping herself. "There is one last thing Aloy," Seven began, prompting her to turn to the older man. "this isn't a requirement of your Championship, only a request but I plead with you to consider it well." He paused a moment then, waiting for her response and continuing once she gave him a slow careful nod. "Your life will bill long, potentially endless, and you will doubtlessly see many of your companions deaths. I only ask that you not grow bitter; do not forsake yourself companionship. Whether they be friends, partners, students or even lovers . . . do not forget to Live." Seeing Aloy about to interrupt him he raised a hand and quickly continued before she could speak. "Your mission is important, yes, but this mission is not your only purpose in life and as you've recently discovered, you need not act alone any longer."

Aloy remained silent as she considered his words. He spoke passionately about the matter as well; while she may not yet know what to think she would at least seriously consider his council. As they were giving her a second chance to rectify her past mistakes, it was the very least she could do in return. She nodded to the elder then asked. "How am I getting to Remnant?"

Jane stepped forward then, "If your ready to depart?" she trailed off until Aloy gave her confirmation. "Then we'll send you now. I'm told that this experience is very disorienting to mortals, I'd recommend keeping your eyes closed." Without waiting any further Jane snapped her fingers one final time and in a similar fashion to she first arrived to this place a blinding white light rapidly covered the room. Aloy shut her eyes tightly, held tight to her bow and spear, and once more felt herself rapidly tumbling through the air.

Authors Note: As I do work a full-time job and have other projects I put my time into updates for this story, as well as 'Tales From The ARK: The Island', will be infrequent. My plan going forward is to write, edit and post a complete arc for one story all at once before moving on to work on the next arc for the other story. Please comment any questions or suggestions you may have; reviews are also greatly appreciated!