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Project Ember (5)

1 .

A story that digs into the early years of Team Fortress, explaining the origins of the mysterious Pyro. Some scenes are rather gruesome. More to come after this, (hopefully,) so enjoy.
~ilymandias / Mumbles




They seemed to be at the height of human ingenuity. Two companies, spread internationally by the end of the 1960s, providing every man, woman, and child with state-of-the-art technology and services. It appeared to be the first true, shining example of worldwide unification in the modern age, in which the two color-coded logos could be viewed from nearly any corner of the globe. From the streets and household kitchens of Germany, France, Egypt, America, the USSR, and onward, Reliable Excavation and Demolition and the Builder's League United were a part of everyday life. Bread, electricity, transportation, construction - Nearly every aspect of existence could be provided by either company.

It was generally up to the consumer to decide which brand to buy from, in a true sense of free enterprise. However, depending on where said individual was located, usually there was a surplus of availability of one brand or the other. Oddly enough, however, the market control of RED and BLU products seemed to fluctuate in the extremes. An entire city could be pasted-over with RED advertisements, while the following month would show the same walls to be covered over with BLU billboards instead.

The common man marked it up to healthy business competition. Away from bustling cities and neighborhood roads, however, in the most isolated of ghost towns and shipping bays, a far different kind of competition raged between the two companies. Secret wars between RED and BLU, fought by select classes of killers hired by mysterious higher-ups, waged endlessly. It was here that the two companies existed as what they truly were - not really companies at all, but rather, two warring governments with a grip around every nation of the globe, perpetually fighting for control over one another. Even though the wars had been in effect for many years prior, little progress could be seen from either of the organizations, aside from the constant fluctuation of products presented to the consumer.

There was a malevolent tension between the two sides, which was only truly revealed when the color-coded mercenaries assembled. Like the Cold War that was so prevalent in the news of the day, the two sides scrambled undercover to produce bigger and better arsenals to use against the opposing side. In the year of 1959, the two sides were furiously busy upholding this arms race, as a sudden great need came to the attention of their leaders. What were once state-of-the-art tactics began to wear thin. Something new and incredible was necessary, and so a great call rang out for what was to be the next great super weapon in the Fortress wars –

The Pyro.

---

It was possibly the most significant product TF Industries had ever worked on. Commissioned by the mysterious Announcer herself, the project immediately carried with it a heightened level of magnitude by that fact alone.

"We need a better weapon," her disembodied voice had snarled through the receiving-end of the transmission radio, directing her wishes to the TF Industries CEO. "Something incredibly powerful, built for the front lines, able to wreak massive destruction. Make it work, and you'll be rewarded quite lucratively."

With those few sentences, the transmission had cut off before the CEO could even stammer out his reply. In less than five hours, every department of TF Industries had fully switched gears, working furiously on the Announcer's new wishes. The CEO was left in a complete flurry, marching through the halls as he consulted with countless scientists, engineers, and designers, running through hundreds of weaponry concepts. At least an entire wing of employees was fired on the spot as the CEO continued his fevered work.

"No, that's ridiculous! You can't just give EVERYONE personalized grenades, are you daft? Those classes don't know how to handle those things; it would be a nightmare!" The CEO all but screamed at the frail-looking scientist quivering before him in his desk, stuffing the manila folder back together as he tossed it at the bespectacled man. "Get out!" Jabbing an intercom button on his desk's surface, the CEO barked into the microphone as the panicky scientist fled from his office. "Irene! Send the next one in!"

Pulling away from the button with a heavy sigh, the CEO slumped back in his padded chair, rubbing at his temples with his index and middle fingers. Eyes squeezed shut from a severe migraine's ache, the man flinched as his office door clicked open loudly. He looked up to inspect yet another male scientist, this one fair-skinned and dark-haired.

"Sir?" the scientist stated clearly, looking oddly confident before the raging ogre that was his company's CEO. "I believe I have your weapon."

He slipped a worn-looking manila folder onto the man's desk, watching quietly as the CEO tore through the papers and diagrams within.

"What is all this?" the CEO scowled at the scientist, his eyes fixed on the documents in his hands. "Medical diagrams, napalm chem tests? Contacts with Romanian surgeons? I asked for a weapon, man, not some... mad scientist's wet dream."

"It is a weapon, sir - Possibly the most influential weapon the 20th century has ever seen. My research team has studied extensively, and found all listed proposals completely achievable, given the listed contacts are drafted into the operation. The data is all present, sir. This is more than some fragile gun or explosive, what we have here is pyrotechnical perfection."

"And you actually.... You actually want to make this thing? You do realize the kinds of legal liabilities we could get into with this?"

"That hasn't stopped the Announcer before," the scientist stated quietly, his posture faltering somewhat. "You know she doesn't play by the world's conventionalities."

The CEO looked up from gazing at the papers, scrutinizing the scientist before him. His face, suddenly furrowed into an incredulous frown, snapped back to the papers in his hands, reading over the documents far more closely. After a few moments of silence, broken only by murmurs and grunts uttered by the CEO, the scientist finally spoke.

"Sir?"

Startled, as if he had forgotten that the other man was in the room at all, the CEO snapped his gaze back to the scientist.

"Alright," he replied, suddenly appearing curt and determined. "I'm sending this to the Announcer. We'll let her decide."

---

It was a drastic move handing the plans over to the Announcer, as the CEO knew that any acts of stupidity or disobedience towards her wishes could leave her highly disappointed, which only resulted in the most terrifying varieties of punishments. Nevertheless, the operation proposal seemed to be exactly what the Announcer had asked for, despite the heavy consequences the project could carry alongside it.

He didn't have many alternatives to give her, however. Thousands of proposals, and this was the only one that seemed to hold the slightest chance of pleasing the Announcer with her weighty demand. The files were sent out with the highest of security, and as the CEO finally met again with the Announcer on the transmission radio, he listened to her decision with the composure of a deer in headlights.

"I must say... I am pleased," the crooning voice spoke from the mesh face of the radio, the CEO feeling as if his heart had stopped. "This is exactly what I wanted. Now make it work." As concise as a car collision, the Announcer cut the transmission once again before the CEO could reply, leaving the flushed man all but gasping in his desk's chair, still staring incredulously at the speaker.

So, apparently that was it. Perhaps he hadn't bothered to fully process the information prior to sending files, or maybe it was that he was so caught in the dire need to fulfill the Announcer's wishes, but the CEO suddenly found himself completely terrified. It struck him then that while he may have provided the perfect weapon to his ultimate overseer, actually completing the plans was far more daunting of a task than his original duty was.

"Christ," he murmured as he rose from his seat, walking slowly from his office. He allowed himself only a few brief minutes more to dwell at that slowed pace, as he was sure his life would become violently treacherous from after that moment onward.

---

Project Ember was established within the following days, a base of operations provided, mysteriously, by nameless TF Industries higher-ups. The underground buildings were located beneath an uninhabited village in Romania, mirroring the same style of false façade the BLU and RED bases claimed in the western ghost towns. An eclectic staff of scientists, surgeons, pyrotechnicians, and engineers were shipped into the desolate village, employed to work virtually around the clock on the new project.

The underground halls always reeked of a nauseating mixture of formaldehyde and napalm. Crammed into the claustrophobic quarters, doctors worked directly alongside weapon designers, as a bizarre amalgam of sciences melded together. Leading the project was Dr. Vasile, a callous Romanian surgeon with an expertise in reconstructing dying tissue and maimed war patients.

The project truly began on a dark morning, the village above chilled with the onset of autumn. Every doctor on staff was gathered around a vacant operation table in the medical wing, clad in sterilized white uniforms, their faces obscured by fabric masks. All eyes fixed to the double doors as they abruptly swung open, Dr. Vasile, flanked by three armed military officers, hurriedly wheeling in a stretcher with a gruesome subject sprawled atop it. Each limb was mangled nearly beyond recognition, his arms and legs reduced to bloody stumps of meat, shrapnel imbedded into his torso, neck, and face. It was a miracle that the man was even alive, as small, pained noises emanating from him proved to be the only sign that he was still conscious. A multitude of tubes and wires were fixed to his mangled body, an oxygen mask strapped to his gaping mouth. It was clear that the devices rooted into his body were the only things keeping the man alive.

Dr. Vasile began barking out orders directed at the other surgeons, as the military officers backed their way to the entrance, standing sentinel over the procedures within the room. Moving like hive-minded insects at work, the surgeons skillfully moved the body onto the operation table, clustering around it as they began their task.

Minutes turned into hours as the surgery wore on, all attention in the room focused around the operation table. A fleet of assistants and doctors buzzed around the lead surgeons, swapping out instruments, wheeling in new supplies and hacked body parts from unknown sources, and mopping up puddles of blood as it pooled around the operation.

As the doctors were all on the brink of exhaustion, the bloodied Dr. Vasile motioned at two of the nearby assistants, speaking to them hoarsely.

"Bring me the suit."

The two assistants snapped to attention as they sped from the room, the double doors left swinging behind them. The Doctor breathed heavily as he wiped his brow with his forearm, inspecting the creature before him. What he had created was no longer a man. The limbs had been reconstructed entirely, sections of parts from multiple victims grafted together and sculpted into their current form. The body was now composed entirely of patchwork flesh, sections held together with oversized sutures, bands of black, silicone-like material wrapped about the arms, legs, and torso. Clusters of thin, needle-ended tubes were imbedded along the length of the body, a myriad of chemicals flowing steadily into the pale, bloodless flesh. The entire shape of the figure had been simplified by the procedure, the body left smooth and void of definition, all qualities of gender completely removed and sewn over.

The head was unsettlingly altered, as a filter-like apparatus had been permanently grafted over the mouth and nose, secured by metal fixtures imbedded through the skin and into the jaw. A singular tube was currently fixed to the filter, a stream of oxygen flowing through it as the creature's bare chest rose and fell, a small sign of life in the creation.

As Vasile was beholding this monstrosity, the two assistants returned hurriedly through the double doors, each wheeling an aluminum cart before them. The carts were rolled to the doctor as he delicately lifted a black object from the first, studying it in his hands. It was a form of gasmask, black as jet, eye lenses gleaming under the florescent light, the air filter below causing its structure to appear more insectoid than human.

Vasile clenched his jaw as he moved to handle the face of the creature, slipping the mask carefully over the top of its head. He nodded to the other surgeons in signal, gripping the mask in one hand, the oxygen tube in the other. The tube hissed as one surgeon turned off the oxygen flow, Vasile immediately unfastening it and working deftly to slide the remainder of the mask over the subject's head. It was a snug fit, placing all of the surgeons on edge as they gazed at Vasile doing his work, the breath of the patient slowing with every passing second, until it ceased entirely. With a final tug, Dr. Vasile slipped the mask's respirator over the filter on the being's face, as it fell into position with a click. The mask, activated as it connected to the filter, hissed once as air flow returned to the subject, causing the altered body to shudder once, and then fall still.

A moment of silence, and the slow rise and fall of the pale chest began anew. The surgeons immediately reacted to the vital sign, a flurry of movement as they checked each machine hooked to the subject, monitoring its breathing and intake of chemicals, listening at his chest and throat with stethoscopes, chattering information at one another as quickly as they could.

Dr. Vasile merely smiled. The corners of his lips twisted into a triumphant grin, as he let his eyes drift over the amalgamated form, clenching his blood-soaked, gloved hands against the edge of the operation table. He knew what he had created was perfect. What lay before him was essential immortality, a body embalmed while still alive, treated with chemicals that dulled pain and allowed tolerance of extreme levels of temperature change. The nearly ceased bodily functions would allow it survive in the most extreme conditions, never requiring food or sleep, the respirator attached to its face acting as the only necessary life function. What was once a human now existed as the perfect tool and weapon, the chemicals of the brain altered to lack regret or fear, imbedded with a firm devotion to its creators and masters.

It was all a waiting game now. The subject, still unconscious, would have to be monitored extensively as it was pulled from the brink of death. His work complete, Dr. Vasile strode from the operation table, thoroughly exhausted as he pulled the stained gloves from his hands. As soon as the subject had awakened, Project Ember would continue, but until then, the doctor would rest.

---

"Vital signs are stable. Respiration controlled. Brain activity peaking. It's conscious, doctor."

"Good. You may leave."

Footsteps emanated through the room, then, silence. Everything was dark as the pyro awakened. Its body felt wholly numb, and as it drifted into consciousness, it tried to recall if the numbness was a good or a bad thing, or if that was how it had always felt. Its hands clenched involuntarily, which made it suddenly aware of their existence. It pressed its fingers into its palms several times, puzzling over the sensation. Its fingers felt unusually bulky, not seeming as sensitive as they should have been. Thoroughly puzzled at that point, the pyro focused its attention on its eyes, trying to get them to work, wondering why everything was so dark. Blurred light began filtering through the darkness, as the creature slowly was able to distinguish what was around him. Above, rectangular fluorescent lights glowed with a yellow-white harshness, deterring the pyro's gaze. He turned his heavy head to the side to avoid the lights, gazing into the distance as he slowly made out a white wall, several counters amid confusing objects, and a single, tall figure moving about.

"Wake up. Look at me."

The voice was harsh and startling, making the pyro flinch as his gaze shifted around the room. The figure stooped down to the pyro's eye level, a human face coming into focus as it continued to speak.

"I am Doctor Vasile. You are under my care, and you will do as I tell you. Sit up."

The pyro grunted as it groped at what it was lying upon, its hands pressing into a padded surface. It leaned against its palms for leverage as it sat up abruptly, its head lolling forward with the sudden movement. The weight of its head caught it off guard, making it sway dizzily as it pressed a hand to its forehead, emitting a muffled groan.

As it steadied itself, its eyes came into better focus, fixed on the lower half of its body. It studied the heavy material it was encased in, looking down further to observe two black-clad feet, which it wiggled side to side to test their functionality. Its hands dropped to its lap as it began to relax, causing it to notice them as well, lifting them up again to inspect them. They were wrapped in heavy rubber gloves, which it looked over as it twiddled its fingers. The entire makeup of its body seemed to amuse the creature incredibly, causing it to jump with surprise yet again as the doctor continued speaking.

"Your suit is both your protection from hazards as well as your life support system. While it is removable, you should never do so unless absolutely necessary, and you must put it back on within ten minutes, roughly. You are a Pyro now, creation of Project Ember and property of TF Industries. You have been created to fight obediently for either the RED or BLU governments, depending on which you are assigned to. You may recall how you got here, and where you came from, but you do not feel any desire to return to that life. Do you understand?"

The pyro shifted its gaze around the room as the doctor spoke, mentally piecing information together. As soon as its past was mentioned, it did recall; It had been fighting in some great battle, when, what was it... A bomb went off, it was nearly killed, left lying in the mud with its body hideously wounded. Men came to claim it; it was taken to a bright, cold room where its body was torn asunder by many men, and it screamed for death to claim it, but its voice no longer worked. Then suddenly, there is was, free of pain in that very room. Its body was now cocooned in pristine synthetic fabrics, and it felt warm and safe. No, it did not desire to return to where it came from. Not in the least.

"Mrrfhm," the creature mumbled, its voice obscured as it looked to Dr. Vasile. A curt nod from the pyro, and the doctor nodded back with acknowledgement, standing again to his feet.

"As such, you have been created to be a pyrotechnical living weapon, your body structured to withstand flame as you use it to your advantage. We will be reporting you to the Announcer shortly, in which she shall evaluate your current condition, and if you are accepted, you shall be drafted to either a RED or BLU league to which you shall belong. Understood?"

A sudden wave of obedience washed over the pyro as it listened to the doctor's words, its posture straightening as it received its orders. "Mrfhh!" it replied, nodding briskly at Dr. Vasile.

Without further hesitation, the doctor ordered the creature to stand, which it did, only faltering slightly as it focused all of its will into the task. The man and the monster strode from the room, Dr. Vasile flicking the light off as they exited.

For the first time in weeks, the halls of that underground building in deep Romania were left quiet, only the subdued sounds of autumn filling the air aboveground. Within the next few days, however, a strange breed of monster was to be released into the secret reaches of the world, resounding with its own cacophony of madness in its wake.

It sounded like burning.
Marked for deletion (old)

2 .

This... Is beautiful. There's no other word, this is an excellent fic. Please continue!

3 .

Awesome galvanism!

4 .

Freaky but awesome. Keep going.

5 .

Well now -there's- a different take on a character. Creative work.

6 .

I have enjoyed this take on the Pyro.
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