TIMELINE

The Event: Throughout the Origin system, a massive increase in Infested activity causes untold casualties. The sudden assault rips into the Grineer and Corpus, fragmenting the two empires.

E+1: The Tenno become abruptly involved in the conflict when several Grineer and Corpus fragments align into the Common Defence Alliance, or CDA, and offer a truce with the Tenno.

E+3: The Corpus battleship serving as the CDA's headquarters is destroyed by a rival faction of the Corpus. In retaliation the Tenno sabotage the engines of their vessels and set the power cores to overload, killing both the crews of the vessels and the Infested galleons sent to board them. This event prompts the rapidly disintegrating CDA to reform under the Lotus's leadership.

E+5: A high-ranking Corpus scientist and his entire research team defect to the CDA and are immediately put to work reversing the effects of Grineer genetic manipulation and Corpus brainwashing among CDA personnel.

E+9: The remnants of the Corpus fleet score a major victory against Infested ships over Neptune. Intimidated by their victory what little remains of the Grineer Empire aligns with the CDA.

E+11: The Infested destroy a Tenno colony on one of Saturn's moons. The attack convinces the CDA that no planet is safe from the Infested and begin looking into alternate solutions.

E+12: A breakthrough in the stealth technology used in Tenno boarding shuttles allows for the construction of far larger ships that are completely undetectable. In secret, the construction of several of these ships is approved.

E+14: The genetic reversal project successfully manages to bring a former Grineer marine in line with Tenno genetics and integrates him with a Warframe. The procedure is quickly replicated for former Grineer and Corpus. In order to prevent discrimination against former Grineer or Corpus census records are deliberately scrambled. In order to arm the rapid influx of new Tenno, many weapons and warframes are slated for mass production.

E+17: The Corpus remnant pull all their forces out of their fortifications at Neptune, abandoning a superior defensive position to concentrate their entire force around Charon. CDA recon teams are unable to ascertain what has fascinated the Corpus with the icy moon.

E+20: Recon probes show several Corpus vessels with battle damage inflicted by unknown ship-to-ship weapons. The CDA is unable to determine the source of these weapons.

E+26: The Lotus receives intel that suggests the Corpus are keeping a number of hostages on a cruiser orbiting Pluto and dispatches a Tenno strike team to recover them.

PROLOGUE

There had been twenty three Quarians aboard the Cyniad when it had been captured. As far as she knew, she was the only one left. It had taken her captors six Quarians to work out that they died if exposed to unfiltered air. The next eight had been dissected. Five had been vivisected. Two of them had been beaten to a pulp then raped to death, apparently for the amusement of the scientists. That left her.

From her cell, she could peer through the slit in the door and quite clearly see the table. She lived in fear of the table. It was surrounded by an enormous steel ring, the inside of which was coated in drills, saws and manipulative arms. She had watched twenty two Quarians die on that table over the past ... how long ago had her ship been captured? Three weeks? A month? She didn't know.

The Cyniad had made the foolish mistake of wandering into the warzone where the Turian Hierarchy and their Council allies were hard pressed to fight the Corpus, as these new aliens called themselves. Their vessel had been disabled and boarded by a small army of MOA. Tali reserved a special hatred for the MOA proxies. They reminded her too much of the Geth. Four of them were stationed around the prison/lab she was trapped in, completely oblivious to the litanies of abuse she intermittently directed at them.

She squeaked in terror as the door to the lab opened, three doctors walking through. She recognised them as the ones responsible for dissecting her friends. They were dragging what looked like an armoured man behind them, a nerve pulsar attached to his chest. Tali gulped as she fingered the device attached to her own chest. The small disc shaped device could create crippling pain at the touch of a button. She had learned that the hard way.

They hoisted the armoured man up, strapping her onto the table which activated with an ominous hum. Straining her ears, Tali caught a snatch of the words being spoken by the doctors.

"Zuta venti tré. Voor see gah, mo zukut tré mahàck."

"Voor vol noor venti see masd akétin. Mok Tenno venti tubaf, zurr."

"Mozhae-sû."

"See zurr."

The surgical cutlery closed in, the whining of drill bits not quite masking the screams. Closing her eyes, she tried to distract herself from the screaming by reciting everything she knew about the Corpus.

First things first, they were engaged in a war with the entirety of the Council, a war that had become locked in a bitter stalemate. The only reason there was still a Council was because the omnicidal Corpus had made the mistake of pissing off everyone at the same time. The Treaty of Fairxen had been repealed, the technologically superior Corpus quickly losing the advantage that enabled them to grab huge swathes of territory as the combined Council fleet fought them to a standstill. At last count the Turians alone had ninety four of the new four kilometre long Palaven-class assault dreadnought engaged on the Corpus frontline, the Batarians and Quarians tying for the second highest number of superdreadnoughts at fifty six each. Nothing quite like a superior species hell bent on destroying everyone to unite people. There was even talk of recruiting Krogan shock troops to combat Corpus armies.

Secondly, the Corpus were effectively a nation run by insane scientists. She had heard rumours of Corpus scientists performing brutal experiments on captives but before she had witnessed it first hand she hadn't believed the worst of the stories. However, she did know what had happened on Illium. The Corpus had managed to seize control of the planet for three months before a Turian/Batarian liberation fleet kicked them out. When the state the inhabitants of the planet were in was discovered, the Council approved the Corpus Prisoner of War Negation Act, stating that any captured Corpus was to be assumed to have committed war crimes and summarily executed once they had outlived their usefulness.

Thirdly, the Corpus were a levo mammalian species, physiologically similar to both Quarians and Asari, but with extensive cybernetics throughout their bodies. All bore the signs of extensive mental reconditioning and exhibited a near fanatical obsession with uncovering new technology. That was about the sum of it.

The screaming only got louder, Tali reflexively clamping her hands over her ears even though the gesture had no effect in her exosuit. She couldn't fight the swell of panic she felt whenever she heard the table in use, knowing that soon it would be her on there. In some of her more morbid moments she briefly wondered what they would choose to do to her. Force her to inhale pure carbon dioxide then chop up her corpse? Cut her open and poke round her insides while she could still scream? Or perhaps just strap her down, rape and torture her for laughs? She knew they were equally capable of all three.

Mercifully, the screaming stopped. The doctors didn't seem too happy about it, their voices raised in anger.

"Voor mil krinné! Moch Tenno voor see gahrée zan chyà!"

"Vo torie, zurr. Vo ná mich tée."

"Gaska goch'tennérée!"

The first one, apparently the leader, heard her sniffles because he stormed over to the cell, slamming his hand on the door.

"See hu!"

She screamed and jerked away from the door, squeezing herself into the corner of the cell as the door opened, admitting the livid Corpus doctor.

"Graka vich!"

She screamed again as the Corpus doctor slammed a foot into her gut, then yanked on her hood and sent her sprawling on her back. She choked down vomit as a heavy boot stomped down on her left hand, a sickening crunch sound just discernable over the fresh wave of pain shooting up her arm. She rolled onto her side, curling around her shattered hand as the Corpus sent his foot sailing into her chest, another crunch heralding the snapping of ribs. A mixture of stomach acid and violet blood coated the inside of her mask, the auto-cleaning systems whisking the foul smelling stuff away and expelling it through her mask's venting chamber. She assumed a foetal position, screaming and sobbing as the savage scientist kept a steady rhythm with his boot, slamming her shins, her bottom, her back, even her head, making her vision swim and double.

She wasn't sure how long the beating went on, or exactly when the Corpus produced a shock stick, or how many times he broke a finger or toe in his frenzied assault. All she did know was that when the doctor calmed down and threw her back in her cell she was lucky to be alive. And she wished she was dead. She lay curled on the floor, sniffling and weeping as her broken body assaulted her equally broken mind with pain from her myriad broken bones and bruising flesh. Her suit VI crashed, meaning at one point she almost drowned in the blood she was coughing up, managing to manually vent her mask with a pained shriek as broken fingers scrabbled over the buttons.

She slipped into unconsciousness, her tormented mind filled with images of violet blood, enraged doctors and cold metal tables.

###

Four tiny little arrowheads approached the Corpus cruiser, vectoring in to latch onto the hull. Lasers scraped holes in the armour plate, four armoured figures dropping into the vessel. The Tenno moved silently, unslinging weapons, subconsciously moving to cover one another with their fire arcs.

The leader, a Nyx warframe, motioned with her hand, her other hand holding her Latron marksman rifle. Like the rest of her clan, her armour was coloured a deep black, her with acid green highlights, her eyeless mask tilting as she regarded her surroundings and companions. An Ember, a Volt and a Frost. Her hand gesture was clear.

Move up.

Nodding their assent, her assault team moved up in silence, weapons sweeping the area for any Corpus. Foolish in their overconfidence, the Corpus cruiser had been allowed to pass behind Pluto in its orbit. They had a window of about an hour in which the ship couldn't call for help, comms blocked by the icy planetoid. It was a window of opportunity the CDA were all too happy to take advantage of.

The Nyx slipped into the first room, signalling her companions to wait. Her Shade sentinel momentarily cloaked her, allowing her to roll invisible between two stacks of crates. She unsheathed her Ether Dagger, the Ether Sword it was twinned with staying on her back as she pounced on the nearest Corpus. The unfortunate crewman didn't even have time to react as she plunged her dagger into his spine, neatly severing it and instantly killing him. Dragging the body out of sight, she moved again, the Shade rendering both her and it invisible as she slid to another position, grabbing and executing another unsuspecting crewman as he passed her position. She wielded her Shade like an extension of her body, the little drone peeping round the corner and relaying the information to her mind. Three Corpus Crewmen and two MOA. She would have to take them all out before any one of them could reach the alarm panel on the far side of the room solo.

The thing about the Nyx was that solo wasn't a word in her vocabulary. Whenever she had enemies, she had allies. They just needed a little convincing. Summoning some of the energy stored in her Warframe's reactors, she mentally reached out and seized control of the crewman closest to the alarm panel. The comtrolled crewman turned his Dera plasma rifle on the MOA standing next to him as the Nyx stepped out of cover, sending her Ether Dagger spinning through the air to catch another crewman through the vision slit in his boxy helmet. Even as the first MOA and the first crewman fell, the remaining Corpus reacted, the other MOA turning its own plasma rifle on the controlled crewman as the other crewman rushed for the alarm console. The Nyx flicked her wrist almost contemptuously, sending a burst of psychic bolts at the crewman that ripped into his mind and scrambled it permanently and terminally. Even as the second MOA finished off the controlled crewman Nyx was in motion, her Ether Sword slashing upwards and cleaving one of the MOA's legs off, finishing it off with a stab through the CPU that killed the robot for good. She pinged her teammates, the other three warframes entering the room, completely silent as they examined her handiwork for a second, then moved on to the next room.

After breezing through a lone MOA that didn't even have time to turn around, Frost rolled his shoulders and gripped both sides of a wall panel, tearing the thing off and allowing the team to access the maintenance crawlways. The four Warframes squeezed through the narrow tunnels, bypassing several rooms, exiting the crawlways in a large, cavernous chamber crisscrossed by gantries. Several Corpus crewmen and a small army of MOA turned to face them.

Reflexes boosted by genetic modification, the Tenno reacted first. Ember and Frost charged, her wielding a Heat Sword and him with a Gram heavy sword as Nyx and Volt both took a knee and opened up with their Latron and Burston respectively. By the time the Corpus opened fire Ember was among them, quickly vanishing into a self-generated firestorm as Frost smashed into the flank, bisecting one or two crewmen with each swing as both Nyx and Volt crouched behind Volt's electric shield and put bullets in any Corpus that entered their sights. Nyx shifted her aim, putting two bullets in the head of a crewman going for an alarm panel, only to have alarms blare anyway as another Corpus was slightly more successful in alerting the others.

Beneath her helmet, Nyx rolled her eyes as she shot the foot off a Shockwave MOA, unbalancing the unit and making it drop to the floor for Ember's heat sword. Things just got more interesting.

The last of the initial group fell to a triple tap from Volt as the Lotus came on the comm.

"Team One, keep moving. Team Two has intercepted the reinforcements."

Team Two consisted of a Rhino, a Banshee, a Loki and a Saryn. They were part of a different clan, their armour bright red instead of midnight black. It was rare for two clans to work together but the clan Nyx belonged to was far too small to take on the operation solo.

Waving them on, Nyx led the way into the lab area. The first thing she noticed were the bloodstains. The dark red Human ones were fresh. Under them, however, was a good deal of purplish bloodstains. The four Tenno exchanged glances. Their interest was piqued.

"Search the cells for any captives and get them to the extraction point. Also, hack the lab terminal and extract the datamass for analysis."

Nyx waved them to their individual tasks. Frost stood watch at the door while Volt accessed the Corpus databank. Ember combed the upper level of the cell block while Nyx herself took the lower level.

Pacing around the cell block, she hacked what doors she could and smashed in what doors she couldn't. She was about halfway through when a sound caught her ears. The sound of quiet sobbing, occasionally interrupted by a hacking cough that telegraphed that whoever was making the noise had suffered serious physical trauma. Following her ear, she tracked the sound to the central cell on the far side of the room.

One quick system hack later and the door slid open, allowing Nyx to cautiously step into the cell, twin Furis machine pistols in her hands. The source of the sobbing turned out to be huddled on the floor. Just looking at the young girl in the strange suit, she could see the Corpus had been to town. Her hands and feet had been hacked and mutilated into grotesque forms, the remaining fingers broken in several places, and her legs had been snapped into a shape resembling dog legs. Despite herself, Nyx felt bile rising in her stomach. She would never get over how callously brutal the Corpus could be.

Reaching out a hand, she touched the girl's shoulder, breaking the rule of silence to offer comforting words.

"Hey. Hey, can you hear me? We're going to get you out of here, just hold on."

The mutilated girl just curled in further on herself, making a low keening sound. Sighing, Nyx slid her arms under the girl, picking her up bridal style. The girl didn't even seem to be aware of what was going on.

Nyx emerged from the cell, the other three Warframes wordlessly sharing her anguish at the state of the girl in her arms. That anguish quickly hardened into anger.

A semi-conscious hostage in her arms, Nyx couldn't take part in any of the fighting on the way back, shadowing the other three Tenno as they made their way back to the extraction point. Frost in particular had worked up a good head of mad, unleashing flurries of bolts from his Boltor and staking Corpus to the walls then cleaving through them with his enormous Gram while Ember and Volt kept the heat off him with Braton and Burston respectively. Nyx rounded a corner to see her three compatriots bogged down in a large force of Corpus. She quickly analysed the odds. They'd be fine. She looked down at the strange purple suited girl cradled in her arms as with a crackle Volt sent a blast of electricity through the remaining Corpus, overloading their weapons and deep frying them in their rubber jumpsuits.

Frost signalled her to move up and she broke cover, sprinting towards the extraction point. Ember rattled off a burst on her Braton, blowing up a security camera as the warframe cradle of her shuttle came into view. Tapping in an override code, she loaded the girl into the cradle which revolved and deposited her in the body of the ship.

The four Tenno gathered, exchanging fist bumps as they stepped into their warframe cradles. A job well done.

Their boarding shuttles punched away from the cruiser, soaring away. Moments later Team Two extracted from the other side of the ship, heading off on a different vector. Moments after that the nuclear bomb Team Two had planted detonated, the Corpus Cruiser replaced by a rapidly expanding ball of debris. Looking at the mutilated girl lying on the cot in her ship, it wasn't nearly as satisfying as Nyx had expected.