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Notes: Project Praetorian is an unfinished story meant to cover the background of one of my more complicated characters of mine in an entertaining way. While I'm unsure if I'm ever going to finish this, you're absolutely welcome to leave commentary and feedback.
Vexalyn is under pressure to make Project Praetorian a success. She’s been working on the project for 30 years, trying to hone youth into trained, obedient supersoldiers that cannot think without their similarly trained, obedient handlers in their secret facility. She’s argued this makes them easier to control and manage, while making them as effective as an entire squadron as simple, two-man teams. After a series of unfortunate failures and the discovery of Aurin with their latent espernetic abilities, she’s branching out to augment several of them with technology interfacing capabilities to make them more efficient handlers. Her project funders have been displeased with the recent events and if she cannot provide any good news, they intend on cancelling the project- and her.
102-A3R is one of the Aurin designated handlers, abducted from the Gladesinger clan in the heat of the attack on Arboria. Raised in the facility, he was paired with Praetorian 098-C4F who had lost his original handler. Together, they raised through the ranks and are geared to be one of the top Praetorian teams. It's only a matter of time if they can prove the project was worth the gamble.
A lone Mechari sits in an office, her chassis impeccably dressed and polished, and her brilliant crimson eyes fixed on the concerned face on the holodisplay.
“Are you sure he’s ready?” The figure asks.
“Of course I am,” she assures smoothly. “Aurin are pliable creatures, and this one has shown remarkable progress of the ones we’ve acquired. The others are progressing and will be ready soon.”
“This is a huge risk, you know. They’re a liability.”
The figure on the screen frowns, watching the mechari. “Very well,” he says, resigned. “I trust I’ll hear a good report of the Praetorian Project in a month.”
The screen flickers out, and the mechari leans back in her chair with a sigh and stares tiredly at the display beneath: a list of the project participants. Roughly a hundred in all, given designations of letters and numbers to neatly organize them. Over half were already marked as dead.
She ran a hand over the flexible metal of her face as the other hand scrolled the list to one pair in particular: a Handler designated as 102-A3R, and a Praetorian designated 098-C4F.
“You’d best perform as well as I hope you will,” she says aloud. “For the good of all of us.”
The morning alarm goes off- a blaring sound precisely engineered to drill into the skull, and he blearily pushes himself up from his cot to sit. The room is small, metal; enough room for a bathroom and a bed stand. Sometimes he remembered living somewhere with a lot more colour. He’d been trained not to dwell on it for long.
The shower, as usual, is a 5-minute experience comparable to being dipped in a vat of ice that seeps all the way to his bones. He towels off and avoids the mirror as he tugs his shirt over his head. He didn’t need to look to know it wasn’t anything he wanted to see. Dressed and ready, he grabs his morning ration bar from the mess hall and makes a beeline for his observation room.
Screens loomed in front of a small chair, casting a cold light on the cramped room. He hops into the seat and fires up the interface as he takes a bite of the tasteless bar.
“Good morning, Praetorian,” he said as the main screen lit up, showing the view from a human’s eyes. The other screens surrounding it displayed a myriad of informational feeds pertaining to said human. It looked like he was already at the arena- the view flicked around with the Praetorian’s gaze, taking in the massive room. Fake grass coated the floors, and giant, sporadically-placed cement blocks provided obstacles and cover to work with.
“Good morning, Handler,” came the bland reply over the speakers. It wasn’t boredom, he knew; the deep voice just seemed incapable of expression.
“Training without me, hm?” He teases, idly watching the Praetorian give his sword a couple experimental swings. With a spin and a flourish, it goes onto his back securely with a recognisable click.
“I am not, Handler. I was preparing for your arrival.”
“Well then, I hope you’re ready. The schedule requires us to do an entire rep before the mission at 800.” The schedule was to be followed perfectly. Deviation meant a mark on your score. A low score meant things he didn’t want to consider for either of them.
“I am ready, Handler. I will begin the simulation when you are.” The rest of the bar disappears with a few hurried bites.
“Of course I’m ready.” He pulls up another interface with thermal sensors right as the Praetorian presses the button on the wall. The display flares to life with coloured blips in the arena, and the handler grins. “Let’s get to it, then. Go to position.”
The soldier’s eyes flick between the targets even as his feet begin carrying him towards the cement block the handler had marked on his vision. Simple holograms, but the damage they could do was very real. The two furthest open fire and bullets pepper the grass, fizzling into blue fragments where they make contact. He dives behind cover in a graceful roll, pulling out his sword.
“One approaching in stealth to the left of you. Raise your shield in three, two-” The soldier obeys, and the shield powers just in time to blaze brightly with the impact of stalker blades. The target staggers backwards in surprise, leaving the Praetorian just enough of an opening to cleave the hologram in two.
“One down,” the Praetorian says simply, ducking back behind cover and powering off his shield to let it regenerate.
“Good job. The two remaining are close-range combatants: one with a sword, one with a staff, both shielded. When I give the signal, you will rush the closer before they can respond, and use the other as a shield to close distance with the gunners.” The handler leans back in his chair comfortably. Target practice was easy. The AI, while advanced, was still predictable, and he didn’t mind taking shortcuts with training if it meant they’d be early.
The Praetorian does exactly as he asked, and the entire fight goes exactly as he expected. The one with the sword crumples with a swing that pierces the shielding module, and the staff-wielder is exactly in the right place at the right time to use as a convenient sponge for the bullets. They whittle down its shield as the soldier closes the distance, and he throws the holographic body at one as he cleaves the other. The battle ends with a single stab to the fallen hologram’s head. Simple.
A robotic voice echoes out: Training Complete.
Little bolts of flame and frost bounce harmlessly off of the massive riot shields the Praetorians bore as they press into the ship hallway, forcing the Exiles to retreat further in. He comes in behind them as part of the second wave, after the chaos had already been forced into rooms and hallways to hide from their impending deaths.
“They don’t stand a chance,” the handler says confidently. The soldier hears that smooth voice so clearly over the panicked shouting of their enemies- a reassuring certainty in an otherwise chaotic environment. Other Praetorians split off into the rooms to finish off the traitors. He could tell by the horrified crescendo of the enemy voices before a sudden silence. He never liked the fear in their eyes.
“Keep going.” The voice brings him back to the present, and he shakes his head to clear it.
“Yes, Handler,” he replies, pressing on. According to his handler’s predictions, the resistance wouldn’t be anything worth worrying about. His handler was never wrong. His was probably the best one out of all of them- but then, all the other Praetorians probably thought that about their own, too.
“Our job is to clean out this entire ship of traitorous filth, and then the Dominion can take it as their own,” the handler reminds. “Turn right here. The thermals indicate there’s one in this room.” He does.
The room was meant to be a barracks, the soldier mentally notes. Cots hang from the walls, decorated with personal effects on and around them. They didn’t let Praetorians keep anything in their rooms aside from pre-approved items. He only had one.
“I don’t see them,” he says aloud, knowing it would prompt a response.
“Checking… That locker, there.” It highlights in his vision, as the concrete block had before. “Run it through. Don’t give them a chance to respond.” The blade pierces the flimsy locker’s metal with a single stab, and he hears the choking gasps through the slits in the door.
The sword comes back coated in blood and glowing fluid.
“Vitalus,” the handler explains. “Another spook dead before it can kill anyone.”
“Would it have?” He asks. The type of being who would hide in a locker didn’t strike him as particularly dangerous in any sense.
“Yes. Mordesh will always go feral without their precious fluid. They are a ticking time bomb, even if they seem harmless.” The handler was never wrong. “Thermals fading. Let’s continue.”
He pulls his gaze away from the gurgling in the locker just as a demonic scream echoes from the hallway. His feet carry him towards the source before he even realises, and his eyes settle on a colleague, impaled to the wall on the massive sword of a Granok and desperately struggling to pull it out.
“You’re slaggin’ monsters!” She snarls, a craggy fist slamming into the hapless Praetorian’s skull. The contents splatter on the wall and the body droops, lifeless. She removes the sword from layers of metal and flesh as if it were nothing, and stalks towards him with smoldering fury in her topaz stare. “I’m gonna kill all ‘a you little shits. This data’s reachin’ the compound whether you want it to or not.”
“Be careful, C4F,” the voice warns. “You know how powerful a rock beast can be.”
Her slow, menacing pace breaks into a sprint, and her sword surges upwards in a swing intended to cleave him in two. His own sword raises to meet hers- the clash of plasma fills the hallway a flash of blinding light, leaving him in utter darkness. He only hears a second of his handler wincing before a boot catches him in the gut, sending him staggering back towards the wall by the door.
“Adjusting,” his handler says anxiously. The darkness begins to fade, all too slowly. A blur in his view gave him just enough notice to jerk his blade up and catch the blow aimed straight for his head. The crossed blades hiss violently under the contact, and he strains against a full ton of furious rock urging that plasma edge towards his face. He could feel the heat as it neared.
Security Override Engaged.
“Direct her towards- towards your left! Now!” Obediently, he tilts his blade and forces his weight at an angle, driving her sword towards the ground to his left. The granok follows its momentum and stumbles forward into the doorway just beside him. The thick metal door drops like a guillotine and catches her in the back, knocking her down and pinning her to the floor. She roars in pain and fury, punctuated by the cracking of her stony shell under the pressure.
“Th… there. You can kill her now,” the handler says over her increasingly agonized screams. His voice trembled with the adrenaline of the moment, but the threat seemed to be over.
“Her head is on the other side of the door, Handler,” he manages, giving himself the brief reprieve to recover. His vision was back to normal, at least.
The handler exhales slowly, his tone more stable. “Stab her in the chest. That’s where their brain is.”
He positions the sword above the twitching granok’s back, and plunges it through her stone carapace with only minimal force needed, thanks to the plasma. Her screaming quickly dies down until only the mechanical whirring of the door and the cracking of her shell remain. He can hear shouts and the characteristic fizzles of magic in the distance, closer towards the bridge.
“Our allies aren’t doing so well. Catch your breath and let’s hurry.”
You can write too?! Dang, I really love the premise and what you've got so far.
Are we allowed to leave comments on stories? If not I will totally remove this ASAP. Or when I realize I gotta do it.
Oh jeez, thank you! Writing definitely isn't something I'd consider a forte, so that means a lot to hear.
And I don't mind if you leave comments at all! There might be a cleaner way for it, but I'm not worried about it.
Well, until there's some other place for comments, I'll just leave this here: that was freaking awesome! It vaguely reminded me of a book I can't remember the name of right now, but damn... I'm looking forward to whichever part comes next!
Bruh. Can there please be more? This is freaking awesome and I wanna read a continuance.
Thanks! Let me know if you remember which book- I'd love to take a look at it.
BRUH, I wasn't actually expecting people to like this! I'm still playing the character (since he's my only 50) and working on him, so I'll see about adding more!
(I think I did the pinging right.)
this is only like 6 months late but you know whatever
Alarms wail around C4F as he barrels down the hallway, bounding over bodies and blood-slick floors. The ship had been better armed than originally anticipated, though their crew count dwindled quickly from the Dominion assault all the same.
“They’re initiating a lockdown- I need you to get to the bridge.” The Praetorian’s view flickers with an image of the ship’s layout, with the indicated room highlighted red and circled. He nearly skids to a stop at an intersection, but the handler chimes in before he could even refer to the map. “Left.” Left it was.
“Handler, this does not match the floor plan. There is no door this way.” Even as he runs, the sounds of fighting begin to die in the corridors.
“You’re correct, Praetorian,” the handler hums musically. “I have a plan of my own.” Further elaboration comes in the form of an arrow on the floor to guide him, vividly yellow in contrast to the blood and dinge that surround him. He follows it religiously, down one hall and another, until he comes to a halt at the highlighted wall. He stares.
“This is a wall.”
“It certainly is. They’ve locked down the bridge. You’re going to take your blade and ‘loosen’ the wall a little bit-” puncture spots flash on the wall to mark exactly where to stab- “and you’re going to use a mine. Work quickly, they’re probably blockading the door. Idiots.”
He draws his sword from his back and promptly plunges it into the wall. The violent hissing is barely louder than the alarms as the blade sinks into the thick metal. He diligently continues stabbing until it’s cleanly perforated, and the indicator flicks to a little yellow circle towards the top where he places the charge.
“Get in the room across the hall. I don’t want you wasting shield on this.”
The blast thunders through the corridor the instant that he ducks into the room, and shrapnel sprays the walls in a deadly shower.
“What in tarn-” The first pair of Exiles only hear the boom and the rapidly approaching thumping of footsteps before a streak of plasma cleaves through the smoke and an unfortunate victim’s neck. His friend finds the sizzling blade in her gut before his headless body even hits the ground. He plunges the sword downwards, her body crumpling to the floor with it as he takes cover behind the console. They’d clearly intended on hiding behind it from the Praetorians pounding on the sealed door. The Exiles across the bridge open fire, finally realising what was happening. Sparks fly as the bullets rip into the flimsy cover.
“How the fuck did it get in?!”
“J-just shoot it!”
They called him ‘it.’ The word burns like their traitorous bullets never could, though before he could even attempt to fathom a feeling, the handler laughs melodious and warm over the survivors’ yells. “They’re always so panicked, aren’t they?” Yellow outlines of humanoids appear through the counter, two of them in total, and marked accordingly with numbers. Their shaking stances betray their fear. “Shield up long enough to close distance. One, and then Two. Go.”
Without hesitation, he bounds over the console into another charge, energy shield rippling with blue light where the bullets ping uselessly against it. With a broad backwards whip of his arm, he sends One flying into the wall paneling hard enough to dent the metal. She collapses into an unmoving heap. Two backpedals in mounting horror as the Praetorian approaches with casually brisk steps, and his hand lashes out to grab their neck.
“Now where is our dear Captain?” The handler muses aloud. The terrified Exile’s struggles die down as C4F’s hand tightens. “Thermals indicate-”
A shot sizzles against his gauntlet. He drops the limp crewman in surprise, and his quick shielding blocks the second shot aimed for his head.
“I’m th’ one you want, you damned monster.” The captain stands at the other end of the bridge, holstering his pistol with a shaking hand. “You’ll haveta get through me, an’ I ain’t goin' down without a fight.” The grip on his blade makes his knuckles a ghostly white.
“You’d think the Exiles would have bothered preparing them for their fates if they were escorting data like this,” the handler sighs into his mic.
“He is afraid.”
“He is. Let’s do everyone a favor and put him out of his fear so we can call this mission a success.” The handler pauses briefly before analyzing the figure ahead of them. “The weapon resembles a rapier. Expect him to rely on a lot of jabbing. The outfit is form-fitting, he’s likely got either a shielding module or some variety of woven armor underneath his jacket. If the Exiles gave a shit about him, likely both. He will try to use his speed as an advantage and hunt for weak spots in your armor.”
C4F practically hears his handler’s smile. “He’ll have to learn the hard way that you have none.”
The shielding module illuminates in the Praetorian’s vision, along with distance markers for the captain’s predicted range of movement. Experience told him these were always just a hair longer than the enemy’s actual range. His handler was nothing if not cautious.
He steps carefully as the captain does, and the two circle around each other to the music of alarms and the furious scrabbling of Praetorians against the sealed bridge door. The metal groans in protest against their blades and fists. Every placement of his feet offered a number of possibilities as the handler’s projections shifted accordingly. Possible routes for attack and defense flickered and shifted in his vision as the two paced endlessly around each other, neither willing to make the first move. Time was on his side. He could wait.
The captain caves first with a quick, careful jab, but the other blocks with his blade, intending to drive it off to his side for a better opening. He doesn’t realise the captain’s move is a feint until it’s too late- the pistol’s shot slams into his side, unprotected by the sword. With a quiet grunt, he staggers back a step. The captain gives him no reprieve, and his second jab catches the edge of the Praetorian’s pauldron with a metal-melting hiss. Before the captain can withdraw, the Praetorian’s arm lashes out to strike the pistol out of his hands.
He bounds back from C4F, quickly seeking to regain his distance, and the two begin circling once again. Another hit would break through the pauldron and pierce his shoulder, and the captain knew it. His moves only hasten with hopes to finish the job as he lashes out with nimble, probing stabs to test the Praetorian’s reflexes. The Praetorian knew nothing but fighting, and he would ensure the lapse in defense didn’t happen again. His side stung dully. The captain’s foot slid back infinitesimally, a telltale sign he was about to stab again.
“Hm, there’s minor movement on the thermals. It’s- no, it’s moving fast-- Praetorian!”
The captain springs at him, and it was as if time slowed.
Heavy footsteps behind him only barely sound above the continued wail of sirens, but the Praetorian reacts before it even registers to himself that he was. A single, twisting side-step carries him out of the offender’s charging path and turns him enough to see it was Two, conscious again. The hapless Exile with his bruised, darkened neck had planned on jabbing him with a simple knife. He keeps on with the spinning momentum, slamming a raised knee into Two’s back and sending him right into the captain’s attack mid-lunge.
The radiant tip of the rapier shines through the Exile’s back, flesh and armor alike melting and bubbling around it. He screams in agony as the wound catches fire and the blood boils into a fine pink steam, and the captain stares in horror. The moment of hesitation was all the Praetorian needed- he lashes out with another kick to Two that knocks them both to the ground, the flaming, dying Exile still writhing uselessly on the blazing blade on top of the captain.
“Nicely done, Praetorian. Let’s finish the job. Pick up that… thing. Ugh.” The little ‘thing’ highlights on the ground, and C4F reaches down to pick up the captain’s discarded pistol.
“What a stupid design,” the handler scoffs. “Twist the power capacitor to full. It’ll overload the battery and fry the circuits, but we won’t be using it again.”
Simple enough. He twisted as directed to set the capacitor to max, and he stepped around to point the pistol at their heads. The captain stares up with tired eyes, resigned to his fate. Traitors always lost.
The Praetorian pulls the trigger.
Despite the silence against the rumble of ship engines, the shuttle home carries the giddy excitement of a job well-done. Praetorians aren’t known for their emotional breadth.
His hands are coated with the blood and gore of traitors, now extinguished. They were never told the details of the mission- it was too dangerous for them to know, and they would never want to taint noble minds with the thoughts of the damned- but he knew it was a job well done, and one worth doing. The speakers in the shuttle crackle to life with sound.
“Congratulations on a successful mission. Thanks to your decisive work, the traitors’ ship and its cargo will go to its rightful owners. You are all heroes of the Dominion, Praetorians.”
“You have done well, Handler,” the Praetorian says.
“And you, Praetorian,” comes the handler’s voice, tinged with pride.
The connection severs abruptly, and 102-A3R is in the cold room once again - alone.
Ahhh. Yis. Want to read more <3