The silence engulfing Praxus was deep, heavy and filled with the kind of anticipation that was the twin of dread.
The guards in the hallways of the Palaise stood alert, holding their weapons in experienced servos, paint chipped off the fingers in joor long trainings. Their red optics darted into the deep shadows surrounding them, pooling within corners and beneath furniture, rising to the ceiling and covering it.
The silence was absolute and nothing moved.
One young guard in the hospital wing spread his doorwings, but received no additional data. He frowned and made a step forward, opening his mouth. After all, didn’t his two cohort mates that did their duty just around the corner always whisper with each other? Joking and laughing, flirting even as their fellow warframes turned away in near embarrassment?
He opened his mouth and all that came out was an odd, soft blubbering sound. White-opticed, his hand went to his throat, feeling wet – wet – wetness, the world was tilting, tumbling, falling…
Two arms caught him, gently settling him on the ground. Fearful, he looked into the stranger’s face, but the warframe was already turning away, disappearing until all that remained was another shadow in the night.
Oh, so silent.
A door opened and closed and an empty room wasn’t as empty anymore. A place that hadn't seen anything but sober expressions and sad sighs for 16 vorns was now witnessing five mechs appear, where none had been before.
None of them sounded the alarm as they walked over to the berth, past the softly peeping machines that were more part of the chorus of silence than interrupting it, the lowly lit screens that depicted vital functions and were the proof that they had found what they sought. Past it all, they marched towards the small frame on the berth, which didn't even twitch as they neared.
"Is that him, One?" asked one shadow, finally shattering the silence with a near casual disregard.
"Yes, this is the one we were sent for," was the calm answer, the disapproval of the needless question clear in every word. "Five, what is his condition?"
One of them stepped aside to examine the screens. "Stable. Better than our reports indicated even."
"Very good. Three and Four, take care of the equipment and any other security you might find."
Two of the shadows drifted over, looking at the machines, then carefully opening their ports and hacking them with advanced equipment and more advanced augmentations. They were fast, very fast, considering the circumstances and where they were.
"Hack complete," one of them announced monotonously.
His partner added with a hint of worry, "We have only two breems until the next check-in."
"We expected tight security," said One and carefully touched the small frame on the berth. He smiled. "Well, Prince Smokescreen, it seems we will get acquainted despite the strong objections of your brother."
They bundled up the prince in a blanket, securing him with straps they had brought. Then the leader put the bundle on his own back and went to the window, carefully opening it. "Ready?"
The shadows vanished, taking what wasn't theirs to take.
The silence remained behind, whispering furiously of blood on the floor, death in the shadows, and an empty berth where hope once recharged.