Mass Effect: Thadus
The Long Walk
Their transport ship sailed quickly across the sands heading in a northern direction. Ral came up from below deck. She looked up at the starry sky as light started peaking above the horizon in the east, witnessing the change of the guard. Ral walked over to the railing, taking in the view. Even the dry cracked flat lands were a welcomed sight after being stuck in a cave.
“It’s a nice view,” a voice said beside her. Ral looked. Ranik stood beside her. He turned and smiled, “Reminds me of home. Dry and arid, but beautiful.”
Ral nodded, “They say Rannoch is very similar away from the rivers.”
As’sha leaned against the railing and shrugged, “It looks like a dump.”
“Ral!” Vicia called out. Ral turned and approached the turian. Vicia looked suspiciously behind her, “Who were you talking too?”
Ral looked over her shoulder. The unchanging landscape stretched on as far as she could see. “No one,” she answered. “Just thinking out loud.”
Vicia shrugged it off, “Get your things ready. We’re approaching our destination and don’t have a long time to be hanging around. They’ll want to get in and out as quickly as possible.”
“Understood,” Ral said. She patted on a bag attached to her belt, “I got the tools I need. Apparently, these are assigned to all the zha’kril engineers. I should be able to fix up any electronics damaged by all the sand.”
Vicia smiled. She placed an arm on Ral’s shoulder. The turian looked Ral in the eyes, “Great work. Just hang in there, alright. We’ll get home before you know it.”
With that, she disappeared below deck to get the others ready for their journey. Ral took in a deep breath and exhaled slowly. She turned her head and saw the princess. Nych stood beside the tiller as her second in command, Xarot, manually steered the ship. The princess stared at her with arms crossed. Her black eyes narrowed. Not wanting a confrontation, Ral looked away.
The doors sectioning off the lower decks opened. Consensus ducked through the six-foot door. It looked over at Ral and approached her.
“Creator-Sima,” it spoke. “Are you feeling alright?”
“I’m fine,” Ral stated.
Khal pushed his way through the door, “Good. With that attitude and any luck, we’ll run into a patrol. I’ve been itching to hit something.”
Vicia rolled her eyes, “We aren’t going out looking for a fight, Khal. The whole point is to get in and out unnoticed.”
Khal looked at her and shrugged, “But where’s the fun in that?”
“I happen to agree with the turian,” Pas stated. He stayed relatively close to Vicia.
Khal muttered, “Of course you would.”
“That’s enough!” Vicia ended the argument before it began. She looked around, visually counting heads. Widow and Urz stood a few feet away. Satisfied that everyone was accounted for, she nodded.
Nych approached their group. Two crew members carried a box between them and set in down on the deck. They opened them revealing the confiscated weapons. Nych motioned to them.
“I am instructed to return these to you,” Nych said. She stepped to one side as the others started to arm themselves, “You won’t last long out here without them. And I’m not dying because you all are unarmed.”
Vicia stopped halfway through securing her gauntlets. She looked up at Nych with a cold stare, “What do you mean?”
Nych smiled devilishly, “Do you really think I’m going to let you access our most advanced ship and just sail off into the sunset? Besides, someone needs to make it back and tell of your failures.”
Consensus seemed to analyze the situation, “Having an extra unit increases the odds of success.”
“Well,” Nych looked somewhat impressed, “To think that the most likable out of all of you is the robot.”
Vicia secured her gauntlets in place, “Does the queen know about this?”
“Of course not,” Nych spoke with confidence. “But I doubt she would see a flaw in my wanting to secure your safety. And like your robot said, there’s nothing wrong with an extra gun.”
Vicia looked over at Ral. The quarian didn’t move though she wished she could push the princess off the metal railing. But she didn’t. Vicia turned her attention to Nych.
“Fine,” she said. She offered a three fingered hand, “but in the field, you take orders from me.”
Nych gripped the hand extend towards her, “Fine.”
“Nych! We’re almost at the boarder!” Xarot called from the tiller. He brought his hand up and shouted, “Starboard tilt!”
He stood on the left side of the tiller and pulled it toward his body. Up above, the rear sail turned right turning the ship in that direction. They sailed parallel with the boarder heading west. Their speed slowed dramatically and the starboard side dipped close to the ground.
Nych walked to the right starboard side of the ship. She stood up on the railing and looked over her shoulder.
“Aren’t you coming?” with that she jumped off the railing.
Stunned, Ral looked at the others. They too had the same shocked looked on their faces. Vicia quickly recovered and not wanting to be outdone she jumped over the balcony. Paz shook his head, determined not to jump. Khal marched passed him, muttering something about salarians being spineless. He launched himself over the railing. Urz willingly leaped after him. Paz took a few steps back before Widow grabbed his arm and jumped over the railing pulling Paz after her. He screamed all the way down.
Consensus walked over to the railing, “Creator-Sima, try to roll with the fall.” It stepped off the boat casually.
Ral closed her eyes and took a deep breath. She took a few steps back and ran toward the railing. Ral jumped.
Wind rushed passed her as she fell. The ground quickly neared. She crouched as she hit the ground and rolled forward in the dust. When she stopped, Ral slowly got back up to her feet. She turned to look in the direction of where the ship was going. It sailed quickly, sailing in an arch back to the south. That was that. The ship wouldn’t becoming back until days later.
“Ral!” Vicia called. “Don’t stray too far behind!”
She looked out over the desert. The others walked ahead toward the north following a white robed figure. Ral jogged to catch up with the others. Vicia and Nych took point while Khal, Urz and Consensus kept a look out on either side of the group. Paz cowered in the middle. Ral helped Widow keep watch behind them.
The suns rose higher in the sky casting shadows on the parched ground. Heat rose from the soil meeting with heat in the air. Breathing was difficult. It hurt and burned. The soil crumbled under foot. Time was sluggish and fat, pulling itself along. In the distance were dunes of sand, always just ahead but never closer.
Only Nych seemed to withstand the heats effects the longest.
“Come on!” she’d shout. “We have to get as far as we can before the suns are high overhead. That is when the heat will be the worst. We’ll make camp then!”
Ral looked up at sky and shaded her eyes. Almost five hours had passed. It didn’t feel like they had made any progress. Ral reached for a water skin on her belt. There was still a bit left and she took sip.
A few moments later, they set up camp. Ral sat underneath her tent shared with the doctor. The white fabric sheltered them from the intense heat. After a while, the group got up and continued walking for another two hours. It took longer in the heat than they had earlier though.
Soon they crested a sand dune. Nych pointed toward the north. Ral crawled up the hill on all fours.
“There it is,” Nych said. “You can see the sails and half the ship in the distance.”
Ral struggled to stand up right.
Khal whistled, “Well, would you look at that.”
There was the downed ship right where it should have been. It sat at a slant, nose down. The front half was buried into a large mound of sand. Its rear and the massive sails were the only things above the sands. It looked mostly intact. The sails had holes torn through them from the reported sand storm. Other than that, it looked salvageable on the outside. But there was no telling what kind of damage was done on the inside. Ral touched the tools in her back. She hoped she could fix everything.
Vicia placed her hands on her hips, “It will be a lot of work.”
Khal rolled his shoulders, “It’s a lot of sand.”
“And we don’t have a lot of time,” Nych stated.
Vicia started down the sand dune, “Let’s start by getting down this hill and getting inside. We’ll discuss how to get the job done from there.”
Ral ran down the hill towards the ship. Urz ran enthusiastically beside her. With the head beating down on her back, she was looking forward to any kind of shade. But she suddenly stopped. Urz looked up at her curiously. Ral used her omni-tool to scan the area in front of her. She looked at her arm.
“What is it?” Vicia asked.
“There’s a sensor grid up,” Ral answered.
Nych walked up beside them, “So this is how the collectors knew we were here.”
Ral typed on her arm and adjusted the settings. She waved her arm around the area in front of her. A green grid line appeared on the sands around the ship. The grid flickered before shutting off.
Paz looked at her, “Won’t the collectors know that it has been deactivated?”
“No,” Ral shook her head. “To them, the grid is still active. It’s feeding back data on a five hour loop. I was able to construct an algorithm to change the feed slightly so they won’t notice the repetition…for the moment at least. I wouldn’t suggest staying here longer than necessary.”
“Then let’s get going,” Vicia walked toward the ship.