Emma sat on the couch in the conference room, one leg tucked underneath the other, and a mug of steaming hot coffee in her hand. The Tempest still had the night lights on and most of the crew were still sleeping. Except for Emma. No matter what she had tried, the small naps she had managed to get were fraught with nightmares. It made her restless. Apparently, it did not matter if she slept in a tin box or the largest room known to man, she still had to contend with nightmares. A sigh escaped her mouth as she wrapped the blanket, courtesy of Vetra, tightly around her shoulders. Loud snores from the tech lab echoed up the ramp. There was no question why Jaal did not sleep in the crew quarters if he snored like a freight train.
“Seriously, is he chopping down redwoods in there?” She whispered between her teeth to her coffee.
Her omnitool pinged and Emma set down the coffee on the floor to open the message. Thankfully, Hedrak hadn’t taken a long time reply back to her. He was sending her coordinates to a weapons dealer on Elaaden. Emma wasn’t very fond of the hotter than the devil’s nutsack planet, but Scott had informed everyone that they would be making a stop at Drack’s request. He had requested her to join him, but she declined. He tried his best to hide his forlorn expression when he instead chose Cora and Vetra to accompany him.
For once, she wasn’t being mean, she just had actual business to attend to. She had submitted an order for more arrows weeks ago, but had been dodged every time she tried to inquire after it. With the coordinates now in hand it was the perfect time to pay a visit and get her money’s worth in either weapons or broken bones. Scott would not approve and it was why she hadn’t told him. For the last three days he had followed her around, mother henning her until she snapped at him that she could indeed eat, sleep, and take a piss without assistance. He was trying to bond, to get her to remember, but as much as his efforts frustrated her they also made her feel shitty.
She sent a quick reply back to Hedrak and picked up her coffee.
“Good morning Emma.” SAM spoke as she took a sip.
“I’ve been up for hours, I’m surprised you didn’t speak to me sooner.”
“I was waiting. I know my presence irritates you, more so when you are not well rested.”
She hummed in response, “You’ve been learning manners.”
“Being connected to Scott has taught me many things. It is an honor to learn so much.”
Emma paused as it sounded as if SAM was almost proud of Scott, it was strange for an AI to be so wholly invested in someone.
“Why him?” She blurted out.
“I don’t understand what you are asking.”
“Why did Alec make him the Pathfinder? Cora was his second and yet he transferred your protocols to his son instead. Why?”
“I do not know, but it seems Alec had intended to select Scott despite protocol. I believe the reason will be revealed when Scott finds enough memory triggers.”
“Yes. Alec hid away certain memories until Scott finds enough triggers to unlock them. There are secrets Alec wanted to keep from his children. All of his children.”
Emma ignored the inflection in his last statement, “Why would Alec want to hide secrets?”
“Possibly for the same reason you do. You did not tell Scott about your own memory loss. Why?”
“There’s no reason to.”
“They would want to know.” SAM persisted.
“No. I don’t need pity. I got enough of that from Alec.” She cupped her had around the mug to keep it steady as her hands started to shake.
“Alec did not pity you Emma. He did feel bad that he pushed you into the military. When you received the head injury while clearing out pirates in Amaranthine he blamed himself. He knew that the injury caused the nanites to become more aggressive when replicating your cells.”
“And yet in the end I just ended up being a guinea pig for you SAM.” She didn’t bother hiding the bitterness in her voice.
“My apologies. I have upset you. That was not my intention, but it is important that you know, I was created to benefit you as much as I was created to benefit Alec.”
Emma didn’t respond, her grip tight on the now cold mug. She let out a breath and swiped away an angry tear that dared escape, and stood. It was time for a new cup of coffee before she suited up and ventured out into Elaaden. Of course, she would have to wait till Scott left, but she was nothing if not patient. The tech lab was finally quiet as she proceeded down the ramp. Either he stopped breathing in his sleep or he was awake. Emma got her answer when the door to the tech lab opened and Jaal filled out the doorway. He rubbed his eyes, still sleepy-looking, but he cracked a smile when seeing her.
No matter when he saw her he was always smiling at her. For some reason, he genuinely like her company and she was too taken aback to be nasty. Over the past few days he had managed to find out some of her history, her favorite color (purple), and how fond she was of cats. When she told him how much she liked cats, his chest seemed to swell with some sort of pride. Liam told her later that he was flattered, because she had called him a cat. Then he had a laughed because she blushed and stammered out that she had not meant it like that.
It didn’t matter. Jaal had made it his personal mission to crack Emma.
“Good morning Emma!”
She squinted at him until her ears stopped ringing from how loud his voice was, “Morning Jaal.”
He immediately fell into step beside her as they walked towards the kitchen. The silence stretched between them, but it didn’t feel awkward, at least, not for Emma. His arm brushed against her own and she did her best not to flinch. She could feel his eyes on her, analyzing her as if staring at the right side of her face would somehow make her easier to understand. She cleared her throat awkwardly until he looked away.
“Will you be staying on the Tempest today?” He still shot her glances from the corner of his eyes.
“Uh yeah, I suppose. I’m not very fond of the heat.”
“Yet you lived on Kadara.”
“There wasn’t really any other place to go.” Emma sipped her cold coffee and made a small face.
“You could have stayed on the Nexus. You were not exiled.” Jaal hummed thoughtfully.
“I’m not partial to floating tin cans.”
The conversation carried them into the kitchen, which was still blessedly empty. Emma poured her cold coffee down the sink and rinsed the cup before setting it down on the counter. Jaal watched her movements as she grabbed sweetener and dry creamer from the cabinet.
“You do not like small spaces?” He leaned against the small counter, his hulking form nearly taking it over.
“Who would after spending half their life in a cell.”
He frowned at the nonchalance in her tone. His eyes darted between her movements and various parts of her body. If he wasn’t staring at her hands, then he was staring at her hair, fascinated at how wisps of hair fell out of her bun. Emma’s heart thudded in her chest when he reached forward to touch the strands of hair. Her hand had stopped reaching for the coffee pot as she stared at his hand from the corner of her eye.
“You’re very beautiful.” His voice was gruff as his hand moved closer to brush the hair behind her ears.
The sound of someone clearing their throat in the entrance of the kitchen made Emma pull back and refocus back on her coffee. Jaal was left with his hand hovering in midair before he pulled his arm back to his side. Emma poured the coffee into her cup and grabbed it, nearly burning her fingers. Cora was standing in the door her eyes narrowed at Emma.
“You’ll be staying on the ship.” The way Cora said it, Emma was pretty sure it was more of a statement and less of question.
“I don’t see why I’d get off here.” Emma retorted moving towards the exit.
“Look Cora, I’m not on the Pathfinder’s team and I want to be off this ship as much as you want me off. As soon as we land in Kadara I will be slinking back to my hole and pretending like none of this ever happened.”
Emma moved around Cora, only looking back to see the disheartened look on Jaal’s face. This is the exact opposite of what needed to be happening. Maybe she should get off here and find a shuttle back to Kadara. A small part of her begged her to stay, but she squashed that part down. The last thing she needed was attachments. The last thing she needed was people to lose.
Emma slunk through the cargo hold, trying to be as quiet as possible. Scott had left with his ground team about an hour ago. That would be enough time to meet with his contact and run off to New Tuchanka. Suvi and Kallo were on the bridge and Gil was in the engine room. It had been awhile since she had seen Jaal and Liam, but maybe they had decided to hang out in the tech lab. Quietly, she made her way down the ramp and instantly regretted her choice. Even with her armor, the heat made her bodysuit stick to her in ways she could have never fathomed. She always had a love/hate relationship with Kadara, but it was nothing compared to Elaaden. A shower was going to be required after this.
Emma ignored the stares from the scavengers as they watched her disembark from the Pathfinder’s ship. She was uncomfortable with the amount of attention. Normally, no one ever noticed her and that always worked in her favor. At least she had worn the helmet when leaving or surprising her dealer would have been a no go. Emma followed the general population to small set of buildings. If the e-mail Hedrak had sent her was accurate, then her dealer was holed up in one of the smaller buildings. Thankfully, the stares died down as she continued until she was right outside the building. She stepped inside and was met with air that wasn’t as hot as outside, but she wouldn’t call it cool.
A turian with no markings looked up as Emma walked in. She was standing near a table filled with almost every weapon imaginable. Even some that didn’t look quite familiar, Emma assumed they were kett weapons.
“Can I help you?” The turian gestured to her wares.
Emma took off her helmet and sat it on a stool by the door. She stepped closer to the turian who was looking really unnerved.
“Arrows.” Emma clasped her hands behind her back, “I ordered them quite a while ago and it’s been nothing but radio silence since.”
Understanding dawned on the turian’s face before she held her hand up and turned to a small crate beside the table.
“I had a few ideas when crafting these. You ordered a few standard arrows and some more explosive bolts. Those were quick to complete, but I made a few prototypes I wanted you to try out. How often does one get the chance to make arrows? Until you asked for them, I had never heard of anyone even using a bow.” The turian rambled while she lifted the crate onto a nearby desk and popped it open.
She laid out Emma’s original order along with a few new arrows. She stared at Emma expectantly as Emma inspected the arrows. Emma picked up one of the prototypes and stared at it before looking at the turian expectantly.
“That’s an EMP bolt, it fries any circuit within a 100 feet radius. It might need a few tweaks so I’m hoping you’ll let me know how it works.”
“What about the others?” Emma asked, hardly containing her own excitement over trying them out.
“This one contains a concentration of acid that will discharge upon impact, this one is a smoke bomb, this one releases a high-pitched noise that will confuse your enemy, and this one is a flashbang.”
Emma nodded, “I’ll take them. How much do I owe you?”
“You already paid for the original order, the prototypes are no charge, I just to know how they work and what I can do to improve them. Who knows? It’s a new galaxy, I could have a whole new market.”
Emma snorted, “You’d at least have one customer.”
“I’m Ruvea by the way.” The turian held out her hand.
Emma reached out and clasped her hand firmly but quickly, “Emma.”
Ruvea smiled at her and wrapped the arrows before placing them back in the crate. She slid the crate across the desk to Emma who picked it up and balanced it on her hip. She wasn’t quite sure how she was going to sneak back onto the Tempest with her new cargo, but who cared. Part of her was almost tempted to run around Elaaden and test out the new weapons. Emma used her other hand to pick up her helmet and place it on her head. She held up a gloved hand to Ruvea as the woman waved her out the door. Emma stepped out onto the platform and turned to head back down the ramp.
The sound of her name made her stop in tracks. Jaal stood a few feet in front of her his arms crossed across his broad chest. Liam stood beside him in full Initiative armor smirking at her through the visor of his helmet. She shifted the crate on her hip and waved halfheartedly.
“Busted.” Liam grinned at her.