Mass Effect: Thadus
Not in Tatooine
“You will return,” Ranik said as he sat across from Ral in the SSV Kolkata cafeteria.
Startled, Ral stuffed the rock back in her pocked, “What?”
The drell smiled and started mixing his food, “The rock is from Rannoch, am I right? I’m sure you will return one day. Preferably when all this is over.” Ranik paused a moment, “Were you able to pick it up planet side before volunteering for the Crucible Project?”
Ral remained silent.
Ranik raised his hands reassuringly, “It’s alright. You don’t have to tell me. I’ve just seen you looking at it often. It must be incredibly special to you.”
“It is,” Ral tried smiling under her helmet. “It’s a family heirloom, passed down from generation to generation since we lost our homeworld.”
“I can understand,” Ranik bowed his head out of respect. “One’s homeworld is very important to oneself. The drell too have lost our homeworld. Though it was due to our overpopulation and war over scares resources. Did you’re parents give it to you?”
“My brother, Yael’Sima vas Qwib-Qwib, left it for me. Our parents left it to him. He was the oldest,” Ral explained.
“Was?” Ranik voice softened.
“The Qwib-Qwib, the ship he was under, was shot down during the war to retake the homeworld while trying to destroy a geth planetary cannon on Rannoch. Commander Shepard was sent to rescue the captain, Admiral Zaal’Koris of the civilian fleets. During the rescue, the Commander came across my brother. He was seriously wounded; there was no way he was going to make it. His last request was for the Commander to pass the rock along to me.” Ral struggled to hold back tears.
Ranik allowed a moment of silence to pass, “At least he found peace under the skies of his homeworld.”
Ral nodded, “I couldn’t stand sitting around and doing nothing. So I volunteered to work on the Crucible.”
“You will return when you’re ready,” Ranik smiled. “We’ll finish the Crucible, destroy the Reapers. Then you can return, grieve, and make a home for yourself.”
Ral shrugged, “Maybe. Well, see.”
Suddenly the ship shook violently. The lights shut off replaced by red flashing lights.
“What’s happening?” Ral stood up from the table.
Across from the table she heard a gurgling sound. Blood started to flow from Ranik’s mouth and a hole in his chest. He slumped over into the floor.
“No!” Ral ran around the table.
She pressed hard on Ranik’s wound in an attempted to stop the bleeding. Green blood seeped between her fingers. She noticed another body, the asari As’sha, lying lifeless a few feet away. The signature sputtering sound of a geth startled her. She looked up. In an instant, she was surrounded by a ring of geth. They raised their weapons and lined their shots. Ral held her breath and closed her eyes, waiting for the end.
Ral woke from her fever dream lying on the floor of the escape pod. A large hole was in the ceiling allowing warm sunlight to fall on her. Wires and insulation hung from panels on the wall and ceiling.
She heard a sound near the entrance and looked into a frightening mask. The human stood in the entrance. With her hood off it was easy to see her face, or what passed for one. Like Ral, the human’s head was encased in a metal helmet. Large red eyes stared unblinking at her. A red hourglass decorated the human’s sleek black metal forehead. The area around her mouth was red with black lines descending down toward her chin like the legs of a spider. On either side of her of her face were small air filters. Ral could hear her amplified breathing from where she was.
The human stared at her a few moments before motioning to Ral to follow her. She threw on her hood and walked away. Raised voices could be heard outside. Curious, Ral stood up and made her way toward the entrance. She squinted her eyes as she stepped out into the light.
The first thing she saw was the vast horizon, parched and cracked earth stretched as far as the eye could see. Large mesas rose and fell in the contrast of the piercing blue sky. She could feel the ground crunch beneath her boots as she walked down a slope and into the plain. The thick black cracks descended into the earth, separating the soil into little islands.
Twin suns hung in the sky, one was a medium sized yellow disk and the other a smaller orange. Their joint heat beat down on her dark colored enviro-suit. The air was arid, even through multiple filters she could almost breathe in dust and sand. Of all the places the pod could land, it landed in the middle of a vast desert. There wasn’t any sign of vegetation or water for miles.
She walked up to the human biotic. The woman raised a hand, signaling Ral to wait then pointed to the heated argument.
The salarian was pointing a finger at the krogan, “I want assurance that this dimwitted buffoon will stay away from me! There’s no telling when this beast will give in to its primal instincts of violence and destruction! I want my safety ensured from this inferior species!” The salarian doctor spoke quickly.
The krogan towering over him mumbled threateningly, “Inferior species? Should have thought of that before you spineless salarians uplifted our species to fight your wars.”
“Enough!” Vicia spoke up. She stood between both species, “No one is hurting anyone on my watch!”
“Come on,” the krogan said, “Just a punch in the face with the butt of my gun. After what they did to my species with the genophage, he’s practically asking for it.”
The doctor took a few shaky steps back, “I will have you know, I am a special agent with the Salarian Special Tasks Group. You will not lay a finger on me!”
The krogan laughed, “Wanna bet?” The krogan pulled out his shotgun. Vicia kept herself between the two species, meeting the krogan’s gaze. She stood firm, refusing to move. The krogan leaned in until he was inches from her face, “I suggest you get out of my way.”
“Stand down, krogan,” Vicia stared back at him, not giving him an inch. “If we’re going to get out of this alive, we’re going to need to all work together. That means not killing another. Understood?”
Seconds passed and tension filled the air. After a while the krogan nodded, “Humph, you’ve got balls. More than that coward behind you, I’ll give you that.” The krogan shrugged, “Have it your way. The salarian is safe.” The krogan backed down, “For now.”
Vicia spoke louder for the others to hear, “That goes for all the rest of you! Bring all concerns and arguments to me!”
“Who put you in charge? That should be put to a vote, an election,” the doctor stated.
“No one wants a weakling coward like you as a leader,” the krogan murmured. “Thinking only of yourself. Pushing the quarian to save your own skin. Bet you’d have launched the pod without us given half the chance.”
The doctor looked insulted, “I will not dignify that statement with a response.”
Vicia extended her arms and addressed the crowd, “Anyone object to my command?” Her statement was met with silence. The doctor opened his mouth to respond when Vicia cut him off, “Then that’s the end of it. Now that everyone is here, I think introductions are to be made.” Vicia continued. “Vicia Bellanis. Military rank: Cabal.”
Ral had heard rumors of the turian Cabal’s. They were said to be an entire team of turians capable to use biotics, a rare occurrence among the turian race. She carried herself like someone in charge, natural for someone being raised since the age of 15. Ral noticed Vicia didn’t have the face tattoos associated with her people. Her skin and carapace were beautiful shades of grey, cream and brown. Like gems, her green eyes stood out matching her jade armor.
“Khal of clan Tevrak,” the large seven foot krogan spoke. In the sunlight, Ral could see his black frontal plate riddled with notches and scars. He rolled his shoulders, “No fancy titles. I fight who and where I’m paid too. Freelancer. The varren’s Urz.”
Ral felt something rub against her leg and looked down. The varren eyed her with marble blue eyes. Its tongue hung out as it panted like a dog. Urz’s hide was tough and grey in color with faded light blue stripes running across its dorsal side. Even with its razor sharp teeth it looked fairly harmless.
The grey salarian cleared his throat before rattling off his name, “Hello, I am Doctor Nasurn Vaeraji Aegohr Nalso Waerlann Pazor with the STG. Pleasure to meet you.” He paused as if they should be impressed. But even the towering geth stood in silence.
“Very well Paz,” Vicia shortened the name. Paz crossed his arms, obviously displeased.
“I’m Ral’Sima vas Xaewan,” Ral introduced herself.
The geth spoke in a deep garbled robotic voice, “This unit’s identification: Mobile-Platform-87b-224x-001a. As of geth participation in the war and working alongside organics, this unit adopted the identification of Consensus.”
“Hmm, Consensus,” the doctor paced a finger to his lips in thought, “General agreement, group solidarity in sentiment and belief referring to the way geth have hundreds to thousands of VI programs running simultaneously.”
“Can we trust it?” Khal glared at the geth.
Vicia nodded, “It had my back on the SSV Kolkata. If you have a problem with him, you go through me.” Her tone of voice signaled the end of the discussion. Ral kept the geth in her sight at all times.
“What about the human?” Khal said. “She hasn’t said a word even before we landed on this rock. Using her hands or something to communicate.”
“Sign language,” Paz corrected him.
The human turned her head slightly as she was being addressed. Everyone was quiet, waiting for her to say something. She placed her hands over each other and wiggled her fingers like the legs of a spider.
“I presume she name, or at least her code name, is Widow,” Paz stated confidently. “Judging by her signage and the hourglass on her forehead. The symbol represents the human spider known as the latrodectus, or the black widow. These arthropods known for their venomous neurotoxin latrotoxin, causing the condition known as latrodectism—”
“So it’s Widow, then?” Vicia asked. Widow nodded. Vicia pointed to a patch on Widow’s suit. It read N8. Vicia continued, “There isn’t an N8 rank in the Alliance Navy. What does your rank mean?”
Widow pressed the back of her thumb against her lips.
“It’s classified,” Paz translated.
Ral knew about the human N7 program. The ‘N’ stood for Special Forces while the number following are in regard to levels in proficiency with the highest rank being 7. At least it was the last time she checked. She had never heard of N8 agents. It could be a special rank reserved for war.
“She doesn’t talk much, does she?” Khal muttered.
Widow stared blankly at the krogan. It was impossible to tell what she was thinking behind her mask and she gave nothing away through her body language.
Vicia clapped her hands together. “Now first things first. We have to lock this place down, defend it as best as we can. There’s no telling what might be on this planet. We need to establish a perimeter and set up eagles nest on top of the pod. If there’s hostile life on this planet they had to see us touchdown. Secondary objective: inventory all food and water we have and set up rations. Thirdly, we need to get a beacon working if we have any hope to be rescued. Let’s go!”
“Bellanis-Commander,” Consensus looked to be scanning the horizon. “Visual anomaly detected to the north and south-west. Suggest immediate action.”
All eyes looked in those directions. Dust clouds hovered on the horizon. The possibility of the dust clouds being natural was unlikely with the clouds moving in two different directions. Ral squinted, looking into the clouds of dust. To the north, four structures hovered over the parched ground with one looking larger than the others. To the south-west, were four other structures cursing across the ground. The two in the center were larger with majestic sails. The occasional glint of sun reflecting off metal caught her eye.
“Widow, what do you see?” Vicia asked.
The human reached over her shoulder and reached for her weapon; a sniper rifle. It extended to its full length as she brought the scope to her eye. She stayed perfectly still before quickly returning the rifle to its place on her back. She then touched her pointer fingers together, facing them head on with one another and pulled them away from each other before straightening out her hands and moving them downward on either side of her body.
“She presumes they are enemies and appear armed,” Pas said.
“Everyone get ready!” Vicia called, “Set up a barrier and put up defenses! We’ve got company!”
Way to almost kill off a character and then tell us she was only dreaming! You have some great descriptions here, Aplabw!
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Aw! Thank You! ^^,