But They Didn’t
As tired as she was, Raala lay awake in bed. The cool colors of night filtered through the large cave opening and made it through the bedroom window. Raala turned on her side, her eyes wandering around the room. The villa was beautiful, built on the richer level and surrounded by wealth. Even around the other upper class buildings the villa stood out.
Each house was carved out of the rock, sanded and smoothed. Every wall, pillar, stair was carefully formed over many years. The tables, couches and chairs were made out of wood. A rare commodity on the desert planet. Raala lay on a raised stone slab with a mattress. She was covered with a light white blanket. It was just enough to keep her warm in the cool cave.
Raala sat up. She’d given up trying to rest. A draft wafted into the room through a window, blowing the nearly see-through drapes. Raala looked out over the city. Flickering lights danced in a few of the windows. Bathed in the reflected moonlight, the houses appeared to glow. Absentmindedly, she reached into her pocket.
She rolled the stone over in the palm of her hand. She thought of her parents, the Flotilla, her home, and how far away everything seemed now. A loud crash echoed through the villa. Curious, Raala ventured out to the rest of the house.
Vicia was crouched down over broken pieces of pottery. She carefully placed the larger pieces into her hand. The broken jar’s partner stood silently on the other side of the room. Vicia muttered violently to herself unaware of Raala’s presence in the room.
“Couldn’t sleep?” Raala asked.
Startled, Vicia looked up. Her hand brushed against a sharp piece of clay. She winced as blue blood flowed from the small cut on her finger. Again, Vicia swore, more loudly that time. Raala approached to help pick up the remaining pieces while the turian went off to find a bandage.
Behind her, Raala heard the unmistakable sound of fabric ripping. A glance over her shoulder identified the cause. Apparently, Vicia didn’t approve of their forced confinement and decided to show by using part of the cloth curtains by the windows. Vivia returned, white cloth wrapped around her hand as she helped pick up the remaining pieces.
“Do you want to talk?” Raala attempted to start a conversation.
“About what?” Vicia’s tone was hostile, “About how we’re stranded on a planet with no one to contact because it would take about 5 million light years to get a response back from our own galaxy? That is, if they were even alive still at that point and the Reapers didn’t wipe them out. Or about the fact that there are Reaper forces on this planet? Which means that somewhere, there is a Reaper. Not to mention that there is a strong possibility that there might be more on the way. How about the part that we are under house arrest? That’s a problem. You really have to be more specific on what topic we should talk about.”
“Don’t forget the fact that Widow seems to be some kind of an Alliance experiment,” Raala said quietly. Vicia looked up at her, confused. Raala explained, “She’s a husk. I saw her face when Consensus took off her mask.”
“A husk walking around as a human?” Vicia shook her head in disbelief, “You have got to be kidding me! Things just keep getting better. Another thing that I have to deal with. But for now, let’s talk about the rouge AI you set loose on my ship.”
Raala placed the broken shards in a pile. She was silent a few moments before speaking, “It didn’t start as an AI. I did what my ancestors did when they built the geth: I got curious. KIDD, short for combat, information, and defence database, started out as just as a holographic interface droid. It was a virtual intelligence to be used out in the field, providing intel, dispensing medi-gel, and even providing cover fire in combat situations.”
“That’s ambitions for a nine-year-old,” Vicia stated.
Raala shrugged, “On the Flotilla, or the Migrant Fleet, you need to be useful. There’s no room for slackers. I was eager to get ahead, make myself useful so that I could join a good ship after my Pilgrimage. That’s why I wanted my VI to be smarter, faster, stronger than any other on my parent ship. I don’t even know when it grew a consciousness. It just happened over time. My parents were furious. ‘That’s why we can’t live on the homeworld!’ they said. ‘Destroy it before it kills the fleet!’”
The quarian was silent for a few moments. She looked down at her hands, “But I didn’t. I deleted most of it just to prove to my parents that I did. But I kept its core being, it’s “blue box”; a modified quantum computer.”
“And you downloaded that in place of the old ship’s VI?” Vicia asked.
Raala nodded, “It would have taken weeks to build a comprehensive VI and I didn’t even know what half the ship could do. As cautious as I was, KIDD was the only viable option. It could scan through the system files much faster and figure out the necessary tasks. If I used a VI, I would have to program everything that it would need to know and do. But KIDD, an AI, just learns it.”
Vicia sat down on one of the many chairs, “So you trust this AI but not Miru or Consensus?”
“I never said I trusted KIDD!” Raala shot back. “It was the only option at the time! I fully expected it to turn on us as soon as I uploaded it into the ships computers! Each time it learned something new, I trembled with fear! Each day I was ready to activate the emergency kill switch I programed! I fully expected it to betray us!” Raala paused, she seemed to calm down, “But it didn’t.”
“But where is it now?” Vicia asked. “Having an AI as a ship would have been very valuable while we were being raided. Why didn’t it do anything then?”
“To keep up appearances, I guess,” Raala speculated. “I also think we were hit with some sort of EMP during the attack, shutting down some of the Traveler’s and KIDDs functions. And after we were boarded, it could be that it couldn’t do much. I imagine that the zha are just as skeptical of AI’s as my people are because of their experience with the Reapers 50,000 years ago.”
Vicia nodded, “Your right, the ship did act strange; the system shut down the lights flickered. It wouldn’t be too surprising that they were equipped with some kind of electromagnetic pulse field. They are fighting Reapers.” Vicia sighed, “We have to get out of here. I’m not going to sit around without even trying to get back home. I don’t care if we’re on the other side of the universe.”
“In order to do that, we need to get out of here,” Raala said. “As much as I don’t trust AIs, KIDD is the only one who can make the nanosecond decisions required in space flight. If it has been hit with an EMP I would need time to reboot. Either way, we can’t do anything until we get to the ship. It’s impossible while we’re locked here under house arrest.”
A smile crept across the turian’s face, “So we’ll just have to take it back.”
As the sun rose, sunlight crept into the cave entrance slowly lighting the dark corners. The two women had stayed up all night, sitting across from each other talking. Naryxea came barging in from the bedrooms. Her arms were crossed and she had her usual attitude.
“So are we getting out of here or what?” she raised an eyebrow. Vicia and Raala glanced over at each other. When neither of them answered the asari’s question, Naryxea grew agitated, “Oh, so you’re just going to sit around with little cups of tea like nothing even needs fixing, is that it?”
Vicia shrugged, “We don’t have any tea.”
Naryxea clenched her fists, a blue aura around them. The smile from Vicia’s face disappeared. She stood up, her fists clenched yet showing restraint by not extending her claws from her gauntlets. Her frame also glowed a light blue though it wasn’t nearly as strong as Naryxea’s.
“You need to calm down,” Vicia commanded.
Naryxea smiled, “Or what? You’re going to zap me again? Where was all this when those bug creeps boarded our ship, huh?”
“I didn’t see you lighting up the place either,” Vicia took a step closer. “Besides, I don’t need to zap you in order to kick you into next week.”
The bets were off. Naryxea lifted the turian with her biotics and threw her into one of the walls. Before Vicia fell to the ground, she disappeared. Using her own abilities, she appeared behind the asari. With a firm punch to the abdomen, the asari was sent out an opened window. Vicia brushed her shoulder before turning around.
Behind her, the asari rose and hovered outside the window. Her entire figure glowed with power. With an angry scream, she darted forward. Quickly, the Cabal spun around. She grabbed Naryxea’s arm and slammed her into the floor. Vicia placed a knee on the asari’s back as she placed pressure on the restrained arm. Naryxea swore venomously as purple blood flowed down from her nose and mouth.
A deep hearty laughter echoed throughout the room, “That’s why you don’t announce yourself before you attack your enemy. You get thrown to the floor on your face. Ha! I’m liking you more and more turian!” He turned to the geth beside him, “What do you think?”
The geth paused a moment, “We do not understand the need for violence between crew members. It is essential for all to be in optimal functionality should the need arise.”
Vurtak mumbled, “Buzzkill.”
Urz barked excitedly as if enthusiastically agreeing with his owner. Vicia ignored the exchange. With Naryxea still on the ground, she formally addressed the group.
“If she had let me finish,” Vicia gradually let go of the asari’s arm. She nodded over to Raala, “The two of us think we know how to get out of here.”
“Heh, heh, heh,” Vurtak laughed as he cracked his knuckles. “What are we waiting for then? Let’s bring it.”
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