Specimen VK-7

Kavat concept art, DevStream 53

[1] Devourer:
Every living thing longs to be whole. Every living thing yearns to defy death. If from death you returned, yet the part you loved best did not… what then?

[2] Augur:
My name is Sigor Savah, morphology specialist with Nef Anyo's Venusian terraforming expedition. I was tasked with decoding the Orokin gene record of what had once been a preserve, and reviving select specimens for study. This is an account of my encounter with lifeform VK-7, a larger-than-average kavat specimen possessed of… atypical behavioural characteristics.

Specimen VK-7, unlike the others, did not come from a gene record. She was found, frozen, in a sealed closet close to the environmental control station. Her unassuming tomb for millennia. Here, then, was an intact example of Orokin-era fauna.

I was Corpus: a scientist second and a businessman first. VK-7 – an Orokin-strain kavat of unusual size and patterning… well… I could think of several members of the nobility who would pay a fortune for such a thing. Enough to buy a handsome slice of any planetoid of my choosing.

[3] The Expired:
I had the corpse lain on a dissection rack, ready for a full surgical examination. Then, like any animal dreaming, the paw… twitched. I glanced at the vitals scanner, expecting to see some anomalous electrical reaction taking place, contracting ancient muscles, but… no. What I saw, there, was a beating heart.

I did not revive specimen VK-7. Before my eyes she willed herself back to life. It was… the most… beautiful thing I had ever seen.

Some speak of feeling a connection to something greater than themselves, to which I laughed, as any right-thinking Corpus would. Life is profit, profit is life. But, in that moment… watching that animal claw her way out of death's dark pit… though I did not admit it to myself… something in me was forever changed.

[4] Rictus:
I found her sharp gaze unsettling. The way she would watch my every move from her cage unnerved me. When a visitor came I would watch VK-7 studying their habits. In time she came to anticipate regular arrivals, having memorised their schedules. On the morning of my fourth shift I entered my laboratory to find her cage door open, and VK-7 gone.

One consequence of breathing life back into a world is unintentionally resurrecting lifeforms and viruses one finds less desirable. The Infestation is both of those things. Reports returned of some hive sites found destroyed… and then of a large beast found at others. An animal intelligent enough to learn and react to Corpus behaviours and patterns. Some claimed it had learned to measure ammunition expenditure to better attack when a target was most vulnerable. Needless to say, almost none who attacked the beast survived. This had to be Specimen VK-7.

[5] Ghouls:
I left to join with a flamer team already deployed to a nearby hive. Both team and hive were dead when I arrived: killed by tooth and claw. Fearing for my life, I made to leave, and was apprehended by the sight of a low figure blocking my egress: Specimen VK-7. She prowled forward from the shadow of a shattered, snow-blown hive, her pawprints red with blood. I made to open a comm channel, to request assistance. VK-7 growled, low, and… I swear this to be true… slowly shook her head.

I did not make that call. She padded closer, and I saw the wound on her side. She turned that side toward me: an act of trust… and a request for aid. I unpacked my field kit, and, carefully, went to work.

[6] Overwhelming Numbers:
I did not report my experience with Specimen VK-7. I could not admit why, then, but now I can tell you. I felt it would have violated a trust.

There I was: a morphology specialist, sworn to the Corpus Empire and yet, for reasons entirely illogical, I placed loyalty to a wild animal above my life oath, and every doctrine that values self-interest above… 'charity'. But keep that confidence I did.

I think that is why VK-7 brought me the hand.

[7] A Tide of Claws and Flesh:
Somehow she had managed to infiltrate the facility, bypass two different security gates, and had gained entry to my laboratory without raising an alarm… or my awareness. She held in her jaws a severed hand. Blackened. Fossilised. Gently, she laid it before me and, with a meaningful glance, turned, padded away into the shadows, and was gone.

I analysed the hand. What I learned that night, alone, in my laboratory, would become an obsession to focus the remainder of my life.

[8] Doctor Tengus:
The hand was of Orokin construction. Emphasis on that last word. Whoever the original possessor had been, they were born of no mother. In the past I had been privileged to read some of Alad V's treatises of warframes, and there could be no mistake: what I held was the hand of one of those very… creatures – and one Anyo Corp had no record of.

Therefore my first task was to extract a working blueprint – or as near as possible – from the sample's cellular makeup. One word recurred again and again, the word that had once been her name: Khora.


[9] Strength in Numbers:
I was convinced: Specimen VK-7 wanted Khora resurrected. Why else bring the hand to me? Why trust me with this sole remaining piece of a lost Orokin warrior? The evidence of such rich, nuanced cognition on the part of an animal… that was the real treasure here – the value of which, I knew, would be lost on my superiors.

VK-7 would be hunted down, and, at best, captured for testing. At worst… well. Therefore, I told them none of this.

To no avail.

[10] Shock Troops:
Specimen VK-7 was tracked to a box canyon 4.3 klicks south-southwest of the atmosphere processing station. The Horror of the Hives, as she had come to be known, had been deemed unworthy of study – and was to be destroyed in her lair.

I positioned myself at the entrance to her cave-home and waited to doom myself in the name of some imagined ideal. My own voice screamed in my head: "What are you doing? What are you doing?" Once, not so long before, I was a man who would have sold this animal for profit. Now I stood in the freezing cold, surrendering all I had for… some would say nothing. I would say… [self-deprecating scoff]. Something greater than myself.

They came, picking their way through the snow, heads bowed, pushing against a numbing, slashing wind that froze skin and… carried my voice to them. I begged them to stop, pleading VK-7's case with a bomb in my hand. It went about as well as you'd expect. They did not listen.

Numsol is employed, traditionally, as an animal tranquiliser… but converts to an aerosol easily enough. The canister rolled from my fingers, into the canyon, puffed through four inches of frost, and erupted in a geyser of brown-green gas – thrown toward the hunters by the roaring wind. Bathing them.

I am a better scientist than saboteur. Their respirators dealt with the Numsol as handily as every other contaminant, and I was promptly arrested. But VK-7 did escape. I achieved that much.

[11] Born to Die:
The atmosphere processor wasn't made for imprisonment, or interrogations, but the lack of facilities did not prevent them performing both. Bound and beaten in maintenance closet A-5, I told them everything. It doomed me.

Zyl, the oxygen tech from Reclamation 3, had a previous career in psychological operations for some branch of the military. Therefore, he had been selected to administer to me, to interview me, and ultimately, to execute me.

Barrel pressed to my forehead, Zyl said he would prefer it if I did not look at him. Obliging as ever, I closed my eyes. There was a sharp crack, then nothing more. I opened my eyes. Zyl lay dead at my feet, limp, throat clasped in VK-7's jaws.

I was Corpus no longer. Remaining on Venus would be death for both of us. We had to escape.

[12] Unstoppable:
Together we made for an automated cargo relay, one that would ferry us anonymously to the hold of a Solaris Rail tractor in geosynchronous orbit, and away from Venus. How well she guided me, circumnavigating patrol and security cameras. But, inevitably, my former comrades calculated our likely destination and closed in rapidly.

Plasma blasts lanced the air from both sides of the hangar. I bundled myself into the nearest open conveyor, bound for orbit – a waste of time, I knew. We had reached our means of escape, but had no hope of achieving it. Troopers and Moas closed in, in a classic pincer movement. Sparks and near-misses flashed hot against my face. In moments our conveyance would be destroyed, and us along with it – and my only thought was heartbreak for how badly I had failed her.

In that final movement VK-7 did something that will stay with me for the rest of my days. With one of her meaningful glances – the last we would ever share – she reared up and activated the conveyor. My pod's door slammed shut and, outside my viewport, she leapt toward the enemy. Before I could slap the release and free myself, the magrails activated and I was hauled out of the complex, skyward, and into orbit.

[sniff] Saved. Leaving her behind.

[13] A New Phase:
That was… well, many years ago now. I have spent my life attempting to locate Khora's remains. Contacts inform me she was found, fused but intact, within the Orokin terraforming complex itself and shipped offworld via a notorious Solaris Rail agent – who subsequently vanished.

I now believe, firmly, that her remains are to be found on the Eidolon Plains. I go there now, entrusting these encrypted logs to my old friend, Konzu, for safekeeping. There I shall put a lifetime of searching to rest.

I have never doubted that VK-7 survived Venus. And to this day I still believe that, before I leave this life forever, I shall one day look up from my writings to find a familiar figure standing in my doorway… alongside her kavat.

I am Sigor Savah. A better man, as it turns out, than a scientist.

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