Let me just say that I was inspired to write this and put pen to paper all because of one Writer's work. I will give them an Honorable Mention as soon as I explain what's going on. There will be many references to Z.O.E. game One and Two, and there will also be references to the animated series Idolo and Dolores, I. I do not own any of those mentioned, nor did I get permission to use the names, places, or events to be mentioned in this story. This story takes place near the end of the century, long after the final incident in The 2nd Runner between Nohman and Dingo.
Those not interested in reading at this point, turn back now.
For all those who are interested in reading, Here begins the journey of two people whose lives are no longer their own.
Honorable Mention goes out to RyuDraconis. Reading your work of art gave me the idea to write this. I do not mean to offend with this work of art and if I have copied this idea from soneone else, someone please say so.
Zone of the Enders
Beginning Signal Initiation…
Searching for Signal…
Hyperlink Data Transmission proceeding…
The year was 2199, near the end of the latest and greatest century of mankind.
Actually, it was just another year and another bygone century fading into the backdrop of history. The many skirmishes between Bahram and the Earth forces had forced humanity to spread further outward in hopes of escaping the infighting between the latest manmade weaponry and scientific ingenuity. It was all legitimate on paper that mankind needed to have outposts stretching away from the fighting in hopes of calming the rage in the human heart and the war propaganda being placed in the hearts of the newest children born under the flag of battle, but the truth was far different.
Saturn's moons had a few outposts on them, though the ice on Rhea and Iapetus was like digging through the harder substances on Earth. It was all for the better since the outposts were built along the idea of igloos. Only the tubing connecting the docking ladders on the surface of the planet led up and down, keeping the pressure intact under the ice and the city's warm enough to survive. Five years had passed and only now was the idea of traveling out from the primary planets of the solar system catching on with the populace.
Before, Rhea and Iapetus had been used for military mining and commercial mining to establish the city and the less known weapons of war. It was on Rhea that the true testing of war weaponry was still going on…
Head scientist and God of all things orbital, Professor Genjiki Folston sat and watched the test flight of the latest Orbital Frame in development. It was a bit of a joke for those who worked with him, Japanese ancestry with some off world for a last name. Mutts of the Universe, there had been a lack of selection between people and his father had found a woman who would at least pronounce his name right.
He had wanted to be on the forefront of technology and wars tended to make or break people in history's big book of know it alls. He spent the better part of his time in university after university learning everything he could on earth, then transferred out from there to Mars.
To say he was liked would have been an outright lie.
With the war between the Bahram forces and Earth defense forces that had gone on for almost two generations, prejudice was high amongst everyone. He spent all his time in the greatest of learning centers he could find, and even a few of those that were on the back half of the militaries paid coat heels for the best science he could fabricate. A lot of times he had been threatened with death if he was a spy, but there was never anyone he knew that was high up a political/military ladder, so they slapped him around some and forgot about him.
It was only when he made it to Antilia that he had some place he could put his technology and science to use. Rachel Links had begun testing the first practical application to new weaponry when he had left Mars for the Jupiter spacestation, probably fate telling him to get out now before someone actually did put a bullet into all that hard learned science. He started gathering everything he could on Rachel Links technology and with a few connections in the Ethernet, he was able to gather at least a rough blueprint on the production model of Idolo, the test model of a weapon called an 'orbital frame'.
He had been caught quickly afterwards. The charges were espionage and terrorism.
Although never truly imprisoned, his life was never his own afterwards. He had been forced to work on the next generation of Orbital frame by the military on Antilia. Oh, they never said who they were factioned with, but it was pretty obvious. If he needed money or parts, he'd have them 'next day or sooner'. Only a few people have that kind of power, money, and coercion to get a judge to 'lock you up and throw away the key' in the deepest pit of hell.
He was almost ready with his model of an orbital frame when they sent him Jehuty. After that, they sent him and his toy very far away. Saturn was the next best place to the back ass of the universe, uncolonized, unlivable, and definitely way too far out for anyone to seriously think of looking for him, if they even wanted him. Once again, given the barest of facilities to work with, he was ordered to work on his model as fast as he could.
It was a week after he started again that Antilia had been attacked by insurgents. Apparently, Bahram had learned about Jehuty and had come for it. Once again, fate had seen fit to save him from death and keep its chosen child away from anything remotely dangerous, yet here he was building an engine of destruction.
He experimented with Metatron from the next 5 years, learning everything he could about it and the Pandora's box that Rachel Links had opened. Given that the better part of 10 years had been devoted to his involvement with the project, they started letting him get glimpses of the outside world and the real occurrences with the various orbital frames that had begun to spring up all throughout the war. As he gained more and more insight into Metatron and its practical application, he started finding out just how far his science could take him before he started having to make a whole new science.
It was in 2172 that the fourth orbital frame made itself into the history books. On her deathbed, Rachel Links who had been lost in the test frame fiasco had sent her husband a package that had taken five years to get ferried to him, an Orbital Frame with a fully functional Artificial Intelligence. It had spent months traveling from Earth back to Mars where it had been created at and eventually was classified terminated after a battle which involved as yet an unfinished Orbital Frame and the frame that came to be known as Dolores.
It was only when he had received what was left of the junked out scraps did he only then realize that Bahram had gotten hold of his own technology and intermingled it with that of the late Rachel Links technology. He had made the system viable only to the pilot and not for an A.I. to assist in piloting. In fact, A.I. incorporation was something he had never even considered. There was a fine line where science was supposed to dabble in, and he was a strict humanitarian in the concept that man before machine.
In 2173, Jehuty was confirmed on course for Mars from the moon Calisto. It's target was Auuman, Bahram's main base.
He only heard about what happened afterwards, but apparently Jehuty had gone through several modifications leading up to the war that ended the Bahram's chances of winning. In a battle of God like power, Anubis, the Bahram controlled frame, and Jehuty fought in trans-dimensional space. Jehuty won, but barely and possibly in some small part to the frame runner, a man named Dingo Egret.
The battle didn't mean much to him, but the fact that Bahram had recreated Nephtis meant everything to him.
Nephtis had been an Orbital Frame run by woman known only as Viola. Bahram had managed to imprint a working variation of Viola's mind into a free working A.I. was technology he was sure he could manage. He spent the next 26 years going through the personal files of millions of pilots that were to be used and then began creating a theoretical mock up of an A.I. program that could incorporate the persona it would become.
It was only when he tried to allow it to learn that he failed. As with the Bahram programming, he soon found that the set parameters of the A.I. persona could not expand beyond its recorded data. The computer was unable to formulate its own actions from the mindset if it never learned and was shot down by the targeting systems here on the base over and over again. It would get stuck on one set of actions over and over again, and the base computers would sometimes get it on the first pass, but nail it ninety eight percent of the time afterwards.
That was until yesterday…
"Doctor Folston." A staff sergeant stood at ease by the door he had just entered while Genjiki's nose was buried in his terminal.
"What?" came the terse reply. He never answered the military people that came to him with anything other than contempt. His white lab coat felt ten times heavier than what it needed to be, the green fatigue pants he had on were the only other clothing he had besides the tan button up of a shirt that was eras old.
"We brought you a new component for your Orbital Frame." The sergeant spoke crisply, yet never moved from where he stood.
Genjiki's brown eyes rose to meet that of the sergeant. He had not requested for any more parts for his Orbital Frame. Scratching at his graying hair, he wondered if this was some sort of joke that the men were playing on him.
"I've been ordered to bring you down to the testing area while the part is installed into the Frame, Sir." The sergeant didn't move but he physically tensed when Genjiki's hands slammed onto the desk and he stood up with a jerk. The chair he had been sitting in slammed into the wall and fell ungainly on its side.
"What part are they installing on my Frame?" His voice was near hysterics, yet he spat out the venom filled words in a barely audible hiss.
"I was not ordered to give you that information, Sir." The sergeant did move this time, coming to attention with a hand on his sidearm. "You need to come with me right now, Sir."
"Of course, I'm coming!" Genjiki did shout this time, rushing around his desk and out the door with the sergeant on his heels. "As if I'd allow you idiots to destroy a lifetime of work by installing junk!"
Instead of heading to the control room, Genjiki marched briskly down the halls and past terrified scientists out into the bay where the Orbital Frame had been laid on its back. They had removed the chest plate from the mecha and were placing something down into a recess no bigger than a casket as Genjiki started up the ladders toward the crew.
"What in the Gods names do you think you're doing to my work?!" Genjiki said as he began pushing people out of his way until he had two rifles pushed nearly into his nose.
"Ah, Doctor Folston." A man dressed as a civilian walked up to Genjiki behind the rifles. His hair was a rusty brown and his eyes were greenish blue, sure signs that he was from earth if ever the doctor had seen them, though the way he was built like a gladiator from some by gone era also helped. Martians lived in less gravity than Earthers did, which was a dead give away to their origins. "We've given you years to develop an A.I. system for our Orbital Frame. We're done waiting."
"So you're installing machinery into a Frame that may or may not be compatible?" Genjiki wanted to rip the man's face off, whether they shot him for it or not. "I told you that the Frame they salvaged from the Dolores incident was too incompatible to be used in this frame. Links technology and my own are too diversified to work well together."
"Our other scientists have devised a way to sidestep the problem." The man turned back toward the frame with a triumphant smile on his face. "We're installing wetware to the machine."
"Wetware?!?" Genjiki did try to come through the rifles, and had a few people not looped their arms around his neck and shoulders, he would have been shot. "Wetware is an archaic technology! No one uses wetware anymore!"
"That's why we reverse engineered it." The man said as he looked chidingly at the scientist. "Let him through, there's nothing the man can do about the process now that it's begun."
The rifles moved and the arms released him, yet he looked unsure at the riflemen anyways before adjusting his coat and brushing everyone to the side as he came over to the exposed chest section. Looking down into the machine, he was afraid of what he was going to see, yet nothing could prepare him for what they had actually done.
Coffin sized space was apparently all they needed when they had placed the man in there. Brown hair covered his brow and his face was the pallor of death, yet that was all the skin they could find. The man's body was covered in Metatron, from his neck downwards, his body had a growth of Metatron clinging to his body. With the crystalline substance covering him, it was impossible to tell if he was alive or not.
Metatron that was inside the machine had been mainlined into the feet and hands. His body looked to have been crucified with arms outstretched to either side of him. The trace elements that made up Metatron rippled through him like a light effect as it spread away from where his chest would be and flowed outward to the frame. It took only moments before the light effect playing over the man's body rippled throughout the frames.
"What have you done?" Genjiki could only mutter in shock as he watched.
"We fixed the problem of an A.I." the man said as he came up along side the Doctor. "Meet Zevran Bane, origins classified, approximately 28 years of age. He was a top hopeful for the war until a freak accident on Antilia put him like this."
"Accident?" The Doctor broke his eyes away from the man in the machine to look at the one beside him.
"We had a planned pilot for the Frame on Antilia, Jehuty." His face turned serious as he continued to watch over the process happening in the Frame. "He was one of the men who was supposed to get that man there, and if not able to get him there, to destroy the frame so it couldn't be captured. While transporting the man from his room to Jehuty, they were passing through a science station where they were testing Metatron for other applications. About that time, we assume that the base came under fire and an explosion turned the room into a death trap."
He looked the Doctor in the face. "Everyone else was lucky enough to die, this one didn't know he should be dead." Genjiki looked back down at the man as he was being incorporated into the machine. "He's technically as dead as a corpse, but his brain didn't die. Occasionally, because of the wound he took in the back, we get a sporadic spike in brain activity before it shuts down completely again. There were a lot of animals who wanted to study him and they all came to the conclusion that if they could keep his body long enough, the Metatron that had separated his spinal column in his neck would eventually keep his body alive and usable for more gruesome uses."
"That's…" The Doctor didn't know what it was. Inhumane came to mind, but the human vocabulary couldn't begin to describe what kind of travesty to life this was.
"I'm Marsden, by the by." The Doctor looked up into his face with a shocked surprise, being brought out of a daze he had fallen into. "Fredrick Marsden since you asked so nicely."
"I didn't ask you for your name." The Doctor pointedly ignored that offered hand.
"They told me you'd be like this, so I'd be prepared for you." He dropped his hand and smiled with a cocky manner. "They didn't tell be you were an obstinate old man."
"Why are you telling me your name for, anyways?" The Doctor was getting a cold chill up his back, maybe from being too close to forbidden science. Anything that involved this kind of act to be given a go ahead meant trouble for him.
"I'm to be your Liaison for the next six months." Fredrick put his hands in his slacks as he looked down at the man in the machine.
"Six months?" Genjiki had a sudden fear what was coming next.
"If you can't get this working the way we want it in six months, We'll see how well you fly in space."
Programming a human mind had been simplicity, the equivalent to an organic computer dropped in his lap. They were also right about something being left in the poor boy's head or it wouldn't have been able to fool the computer as long as it had. He had thrown in a few virtual weapons that may exist in the near future and vectored in firing points, rotation time, time to fire, time to reload, everything you could possibly think of when it came to weaponry and then some stuff that was just flat out impossible.
The Zero Shift technology always kept the target just out of range of the weapons, not to mention its vector trap and vector cannon modifications which could finally be used to some degree of accuracy. The Metatron blades in the slots contained from wrist to elbow could sling up and up into the hands to cut away at in close weapons while brackets in the wrists themselves focused and shot short range energy bolts capable of melting the toughest LEV armor.
It was the highest point of his science, and he didn't like it in the least. He had finally sacrificed his morals to get to the point where he had become something important, and it had only cost him one human life. He could look everyone in the eye and tell them what a great success he was, if only he could look himself in the eye when he looked in the mirror.
Marsden had been his ever present ghost, though he wasn't here just yet. It would be soon enough though, and the guilt would begin all over again. He watched as the Frame finished its run on the course, series test fifty seven completed of a possible sixty. The transparent pane on the cockpit of the Orbital Frame mocking him that it was pilotless once more, it made him want to be sick.
"Which one has it finished?" Marsden asked as he walked through the silent doors that opened and closed for him. "Please tell me it's somewhere above Thirty this time."
"Three more tests and it will finish everything we've got." Genjiki spoke for Marsden and he reclined backwards into his chair. His neck hurt, but pain was something he gave up against a long time ago.
"Then it's nearly ready for a pilot." Marsden said as he stood next to the seated Genjiki. His hands were in his pockets while his slacks looked to have been slept in. Genjiki wondered if this was the only set of clothes the man had brought with him.
"It may not need a Pilot." Genjiki brought up the proficiency reports from all the tests. "In all of them, only two tests even got close to five percent targeting, the rest of them weren't even worth arming anything over."
"Machines are tools only, Doctor." Marsden reminded him. "Mankind has to take things into their own hands and make something out of itself."
"human error is usually the failing point of any great piece of machinery.' Genjiki threw back at him, looking out of the corner of his eye to Marsden. "A weapon in the hands of a man who breaks is a danger to everyone but the weilder. This weapon is too powerful for something like that to happen."
"If the machine isn't tested with a pilot, they what's to say that the machinery won't eventually go faulty as well?" Marsden came back with a valid point. "All the programming in the world can't keep up with something totally random jarring the machine into a psychopath. Someone needs to be inside of it to pull the plug, if necessary."
"Will it be tested here?" Genjiki asked, wondering if this place would be his grave instead of his prison.
"Once you're done, we'll be moving to Rhea." Marsden said as he looked down at the Doctor. "Hopefully, they'll have a bigger selection of clothes there than just military fatigues. I hate green."
"I'll miss this place." Genjiki ran his aged hands over the controls in front of him, initializing the next test.
"Not as much as I will." Marsden spoke sarcastically as he waved and headed for the doors.
He watched as the Frame took off again and begun its maneuvers, once again flying either out of range of the short range missiles before changing its course and flying downward at a steep dive only to pull out and skim the surface of the training room only feet above the ground. The vector trap around it would occasionally be used like a pocket of space, distorting energy shots around it or simply opening a space for the beams to pass into and disappear from conventional space.
His name would be up there among the greatest minds of the known universe, and all it had cost him was a human life.