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Miles To Go Before I Sleep

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Everyone, minus Kallo and Suvi, was standing around the meeting table. Any trace of the lightheartedness from the night before was gone. Emma was standing between Scott and Jaal. All eyes were focused on Scott as he contemplated where they would start. Emma could tell he was afraid. From the look in his eyes to the way his hands shook until he gripped the edge of the table. Without thinking twice, she rested her hand on top of his. Kadara could wait and she could stand to return some of the comfort he had provided her. His eyes strayed to her hand before he stood up straight and squared his shoulders.

“I’ll be taking Drack and Jaal.” He announced.

Both men nodded, looking ready to fuck up the Archon’s whole day.

“Liam, Cora, and Vetra will be ready to provide any backup support if necessary. If not, then you are to hold position on the Tempest and be ready to assist with extraction.”

Cora didn’t look happy about it, but she nodded. Liam and Vetra were already putting their heads together about contingency plans and what they would need ready.

Scott turned to Emma, “I’d like you to come with us.”

She gaped at him, “You can’t be serious.”

“Of course he isn’t,” Cora intervened, “She isn’t even a part of the crew.”

“That’s a little harsh.” Peebee muttered.

“She is a part of this crew until she leaves this ship permanently.” Scott’s tone left no room for argument.

Cora’s mouth twisted and she turned from the group and went down the ramp. Everyone watched her back until she was out of sight. Emma turned back to Scott, not quite sure that she had heard him right the first time.

“Why?”

“I trust you. You’re a quick thinker and I know what you’re capable of.”

“I understand that but,” She leaned closer to murmur, “if leadership finds out what I am and that you’re letting me run missions, you will be in big trouble.”

“It’s a risk I’m willing to take.”

“Are they?” She gestured to the crew that was still gathered around the table.

“I don’t give a damn about the leadership.” Drack grunted.

Peebee and Vetra shrugged, both of them deferring to the Pathfinder. Emma felt a large hand grip her shoulder and she looked up into Jaal’s calm gaze. He smiled softly at her making her heart thump in her chest. Just one, just one thump. Or maybe not. She turned back to Scott, feeling her cheeks turn pink. Her lips twisted in a frown at his shit-eating grin. He knew exactly what he was doing. Damn it.

She sighed, “I need my bow.”

His grin grew wider, “It’s in the weapons locker. Suit up and meet me at the bridge in an hour.”

He turned to leave the meeting room, either to hype himself up or deal with Cora. He needed her on board for this. Emma leaned over the railing as he walked down the ramp towards the bio lab.

“If I die I’m going to be pissed.” She shouted after him.

“I’ll never let it happen.” He gave her a quick thumbs-up.

She rolled her eyes, but smirked all the same. Of course, she was nervous. When was the last time she actually went on a mission? That she could remember. The others slowly left the meeting table to get ready. All except for Jaal. He lingered behind, looking like he wanted to say something. Emma sat down on one of the couches and patted the empty space beside her. He looked unsure for a moment, as if he didn’t know if it was really alright, but he settled down beside her anyways. Emma pulled her music player from her back pocket and unraveled the ear phones. Putting on ear bud in her ear she handed the other to Jaal. He stared at it a moment, perplexed, before he put it in his ear.

Emma flipped through her playlists before finally settling on a song. Just one was all she needed. She turned the volume down low, unsure of how sensitive Jaal’s ears would be. He was quiet as the sound of a guitar riff and Stevie Nick’s voice came through the ear phones.

Just like the white winged dove

Sings a song

Sounds like she's singing

Who who who

Emma closed her eyes and leaned her head back on the couch. She could feel Jaal’s eyes on her as she relaxed. She mouthed the lyrics, just letting herself slip into the song entirely. It was a needed moment before she leaped into danger. She was surprised at herself. There had been minimal hesitation before she agreed to help. Even her argument about the leadership fell flat. She was starting to give a damn and that was more dangerous than any mission she agreed to. It made her want to stay. They made her want to stay. Even Cora with her sour ass attitude, but hilarious drunken jokes. Damn Scott, he was good.

And the days go by

Like a strand in the wind

In the web that is my own

I begin again

She opened her eyes to catch Jaal bobbing his head along to the music. His eyes were closed and his fingers tapped against his thigh. Freckles stretched across his skin like stars and by god she was fascinated. The song continued in her ears, but she wasn’t paying attention to the lyrics anymore. She was staring at the flatness of his nose, and the darkened marks that spread across his forehead, and the scar that cut into his cowl. The song ended during her scrutiny and his eyes opened to meet hers. He didn’t look surprised that she was staring at him. He had done his fair share of staring ever since she boarded the ship. Her face flushed an even darker pink than before and she cleared her throat.

She pulled the earbud from her ear, “We should probably get ready.”

He handed her the other earbud, but neither of them moved just yet. She was steadily staring everywhere except his face now and that pleased him more than anything. The first few days she was standoffish and refused to speak or interact with anyone. It was more than just a dislike for people. He could feel the fear emanating from her. She was afraid to be close to others. To allow herself to feel for them. It wasn’t unlike how he felt after Allia, but Emma’s hurt ran so much deeper.

Finally, he stood from the couch and offered his hand. She stared at it for a moment as if it might bite her, but she eventually took it. He helped her stand up from the couch, not that she really needed it, he just wanted an excuse to touch her hand.

“I would like to do this again.”

She nodded, still not looking at him, “Yeah, I can’t imagine the music selection at the Nexus is all that great.”

“That is not what I meant.” He chuckled.

She looked up at him then. He was still holding her hand and she had yet to remove it from his grasp. Maybe after this mission they could actually talk for more than just a few moments. Maybe she would stay.

She nodded, “Sure. We can do this again.”

He smiled at her, and she felt like she had been pushed off a cliff. Every time he smiled at her, was nice to her, stood up for her she felt caught off-guard. Why was he so damn nice to her? She wasn’t used to it and she didn’t know if she liked it or not. I like it. She was going to keep lying to herself. Jaal let go of her hand and only then did she start walking towards the weapons locker to put on her armor and get her bow. He fell into step beside her. They had once again lapsed into their usual silence.

The doors to bridge opened and they both veered to the left. Drack was already armored up, he always was, and had probably already grabbed his weapon. If he didn’t sleep with it of course. One of the lockers even had her name on it. Dammit Scott. She pulled her scavenger armor from inside and her body suit. Emma shimmied out of her pants and kicked them into the locker. Her shirt soon followed. It was difficult to not be aware of how Jaal stared at her. He was going for subtle, but it wasn’t working out for him. Emma zipped up her body suit.

They both continued to put on their armor in silence. It wasn’t until Emma pulled her hair free from its ponytail and shook it out that Jaal let out a breath. Trying to fit a ponytail in her helmet just wasn’t practical. Quickly and deftly, Emma braided her hair and tucked it into her suit. Her crate of arrows was sitting in the bottom of locker, her carnifex sitting on top, and her bow tucked into the back of the locker. At least they were careful with it. There wasn’t another one like it in any galaxy. Emma strapped her carnifex to her hip and pulled out the crate.

Thankfully, Ruvea had marked the arrow prototypes appropriately and left notes to remind Emma which was which. Emma placed them carefully in her quiver and slung it over her shoulder to buckle it across her chest. She shoved the crate back in the locker and grabbed her bow. Testing it, she clicked the button to make sure the knives at the ends were still working. The string was still the right tension. It was the same since the last time she used it.

“Why do you use such a primitive weapon.” Jaal pulled his rifle from his locker.

She smirked, “Primitive?”

“I had asked Scott about it when I first saw it. He sent me articles about archery. It hasn’t been used in the field in a long time.”

She nodded, “That’s fair. I learned archery as a hobby, a way to learn how to focus and learn precision, as Alec put it. I fell in love with it.”

“Did you have problems focusing?”

“I had…anger issues. I often took it out on others. Alec wanted me to learn how to make my anger more productive and less destructive.”

“It was that bad?”

“It could be. Sometimes it was. And any wrong moves meant the Citadel could consider me dangerous enough to lock up.”

“Why would they?”

She nodded and grabbed her helmet from her locker before shutting it, “Not only am I an illegal human experiment, I am a powerful one. Alec Ryder saw me as a child, but not everyone felt the same. I was a weapon. Something that could turn on them and destroy them.”

“They were afraid of you.” It was a statement, not a question.

“Fear makes people do shitty things.”

Jaal shut his locker, “It is true of all species.”

“It’s a shame. People could do amazing things, if they stopped being so afraid.” Emma leaned against her locker.

“Even you?” Jaal was closer to her.

Emma smiled gently and sadly, “Especially me.”

Scott interrupted them by poking his head into the room. He smirked at the two of them just casually talking. As if it was such a surprise that she could hold a civil conversation. She rolled her eyes at his expression.

“Pathfinder requests you on the bridge.” He grinned, a ploy to hide his nerves.

“Oh gee, I never would have guessed.” Emma answered sarcastically, and moved to follow him out the room.

Jaal followed her out of the room to stand beside Scott on the bridge. The others were gathered as well, waiting to catch their first glimpse at the Archon’s ship. The space radiated with nervous energy. Even Emma felt nervous as they neared the navpoint.

“We’re getting a lot of Kett comm chatter.” Suvi spoke to Scott.

Scott nodded, “Keep us stealth Kallo. No sense picking a fight yet.”

“Pathfinder, sensors confirm the presence of the Archon’s ship.” SAM’s announcement only made the tension in the room skyrocket.

Scott sighed, “I’ll be damned, it worked.”

“But there’s something else,” Kallo leaned forward staring at his console, “That’s an Initiative ship tethered to it.

They drew closer and everyone crowded close to the windows.

“That’s Ark Paarchero!” He exclaimed.

“Confirmed. It matches the Salarian Ark. Readings suggest it has been here for some time.” SAM replied.

Emma was unable to tear her eyes from the Ark, “Oh…fuck.”

~

They had hoped for a quick in and out situation, but it was a firefight the moment they walked through the doors to the Archon’s ship. The kett were terrifying, but they were tangible, and killable. They weren’t some ghosts that lurked in the background. They were here and Emma was going to fuck them up.

It was strange having people to watch her back. Jaal kept kett off her back when her and Scott got close enough to engage in close combat. Drack was right there with them like he was bowling for kett. Room after room full of them. Drack was in heaven. Emma had been prepared to fight. It was even fun. Her and Scott fought together like they had done it before. Maybe they had. Maybe he would tell her about it later. She believed in them. They could find the artifact. They could save the salarians.

Nothing prepared her for finding the missing salarians.

The kett didn’t even have the decency to hide what they had done. Salarian bodies were left on stretchers on the floor. They were just left there like yesterday’s garbage. Emma heard SAM through a fog as he told the group that they had died after being operated on. Operated on was such a nice term. They were dissected, harvested. The kett used them as their science experiments.

“They were alive while it happened? Kett butchers. They don’t know the word mercy.” Jaal spat.

Scott was quiet as he scanned all the bodies and asked SAM to update their files. They couldn’t be saved, but the salarians would still know what happened to their fallen comrades. Emma couldn’t stop staring at them. Their eyes weren’t even closed. They were just glassy and staring up at the ceiling. The cold bite of metal. Screams. So many screams. Were they hers? She couldn’t breathe. Blood. Bright red, viscose. It pooled underneath her hand. If you would just listen to me. I don’t want to hurt you. Just obey. Her hands shook. No. No more. Please. It hurts. Her chest felt like it would collapse in on itself.  More screams. Not just hers. There were others. Others. More. Help us. Someone called her name. A gun. Pointed right at her. No. Don’t shoot. Sharp teeth bared at her. Please. Please save me.

Stop.

Hands reached for her.

Stop.

They removed her helmet.

STOP!

 

 

You won’t take me.

“Emma!”

A forehead pressed against hers. Scott was inches from her face. His eyes were wide, breaths coming in ragged gasps. She focused on him. She was here. She was fine. She was safe. He pulled back from her. Not just looking concerned. There was a touch of fear and awe. He stepped back and that’s when she saw it.

Jaal and Drack were standing together in the middle of the room. Drack was looking up around the room, but Jaal was looking at her. The salarians remained where they had been left, but everything else, everything that wasn’t nailed down was not. It was hovering, or floating, or however you would want to describe a bunch of shit just chilling in the air as if it was meant to be there.

“Emma.” Scott’s voice was soft and drew her attention back to him.

“Breathe.”

He took in an exaggerated breath and let it out. Her eyes didn’t leave his as his chest rose and fell in time with the breaths. It took her a moment to realize she was breathing in time with him. Tension slowly drained from her as she focused on him and breathing.

“You’re safe.

You’re here.

I won’t let them take you.”

Her eyes closed as he spoke. He was trying to bring her back to the present and surprisingly enough, it was working. His hands didn’t leave her arms, he anchored her to the spot. The others were quiet, and patient, neither of them interrupting. Emma let out another breath and everything fell. Crates exploded open as they hit the ground, anything sharp embedded itself into the floor. Scott handed Emma’s helmet back and she held it loosely in her fingers. Just a minute. She just needed a minute and she would be ready to go.

Startled voices drew her attention. A group of kett scientists were staring at her through the glass. Fascination in their greedy little expressions. Oh no. Cowards. They dissected their people and cowered behind a thin veneer. The objects in the air wobbled unsteadily around her. They weren’t running again.

“Bastards.” She whispered.

Jaal turned to look at the scientists that gaped at her through the glass, “You! I’m going to kill you.” He shouted.

Emma shoved her helmet back on, if only to hide her still slightly panicked expression, and followed the others through the room. The scientists scattered, trying to get away. Emma managed to pin a few with arrows as they ran. It didn’t kill them, but it prevented them from escaping. The others managed to get away as more kett raced through the hallways to keep the crew from getting any further. It was just more and more to get through. The fight didn’t have the enthusiasm that was present before. It died when they found the salarians. Now they were tired, and numb, and just needed to finish the mission. Find this relic, save the salarians, stop the Archon. Stop this from happening again.

Emma pulled an acid bolt from her quiver and shot it into the leg of a chosen. He howled as he went down and Jaal finished him off with one shot. He looked to her, to share in triumph, but worry flashed across his face. Emma looked away. He could worry about her later. She could do this. Just a little longer. She would make it. Jaal reached for her, but she shrugged him off, trying not to flinch at his hurt expression. She followed Scott down the hallway until SAM gave them directions to the Archon’s chamber.

They took the new path that SAM had indicated. They walked across the floor, determined, ready for this to end.

“Ryder, caution-“

Gravity seemed to disappear and they froze in place, inches away from the floor. They all struggled uselessly against stasis field. Emma couldn’t even move a finger. It was just more bullshit.

“Oh, for fucks sake.” Emma muttered.

“Some kind of immobilizing field.” Scott grunted.

Emma opened her mouth to reply with a sarcastic retort. It was unnecessary and wouldn’t be appreciated, but dammit it might make her feel better. The words died on her tongue as two kett walked into the room. They were different. Not just mindless soldiers. One’s milky white eyes looked over each of them before they settled on Scott. It was probably the Archon.

“It’s useless to struggle.” He spoke as he neared the group.

Yep, that was the pompous asshat they were going to steal from.

“I’ve been in this forsaken cluster for decades, surrounded by amoeba. Then you arrived- a human able to do the unthinkable. You even evaded me.” He walked around the group as he spoke, pausing every so often to stare at each one like the science experiments he considered them to be.

It made Emma’s skin crawl.

He stopped in front of Scott, “Such an unlikely rival. It was almost invigorating to have one. And yet it’s a fitting end.”

Scott sneered at him, “I bested you. Die mad about it.”

The Archon wrapped his hand around Scott’s throat and squeezed. Not enough to kill, just enough to make Scott struggle to breathe.

“Get your hands off of him!” Emma shouted.

The Archon ignored her and turned Scott’s head back and forth. It was if he was looking for something. There was a moment’s hesitation, a moment where Emma thought he would let Scott go. That moment disappeared when the Archon stabbed a needle into Scott’s neck. Jaal looked horrified enough it made Emma struggle harder.

They couldn’t take Scott. Alec was enough. No more. Please, no more. None of them could have any more of her life or her…family. She had to be able to move something, anything. So much for being telekinetic. Where the hell is it when it’s needed?

“A first sample. Your testing begins now. I will learn your secret soon enough.” The Archon stepped away, looking seemingly uninterested in the others.

His gaze stopped at Emma. He stepped forward, his hands reaching to take her helmet from her head. An explosion from another part of the ship drew his attention away from her. Emma breathed out a small sigh of relief. The Archon looked to the side as if he were listening for something.

“Report.” The Archon paused, “Await my arrival.”

Scott glared as the Archon got close to him again, “Save your strength human.”

The Archon turned on his heel and left the room. He was not afraid that they would manage to escape. It made Emma angry. He expected they would just stay like sitting ducks.

“Raeka must be in trouble.” Scott spoke when the Archon was gone.

“So are we kid.” Drack grumbled.

“SAM, what can you tell me.” Scott pointedly ignored Drack.

“I’m sensing a biological transmitter in your bloodstream now. Attempting to neutralize it.”

“Okay, that’s priority two for sure. Any idea how to break out of this?”

“The containment fields only interact with living matter. If you expire, the field around you will extinguish until manually reset.

As you know, my access to your physiology allows me to enhance your vital signs when required. I can also do the opposite.”

“You have got to be kidding me.” Emma spoke up.

“I’m not really keen on dying again SAM.”

“The one holding you yes. Then I would attempt to resuscitate.”

“Are there literally, any other options.”

“None that I can determine.”

Scott paused, his eyes wandering to Emma’s, “All right, let’s do it.”

“Wait!” Emma shouted.

Scott looked at her in confusion.

“SAM, calculate the percentage of success if Scott does this.”

“There is a 45% chance that I can resuscitate the Pathfinder.”

“It’s a chance we have to take.” Scott tried to reassure her.

“Calculate the chances of success…if I do it instead.”

Scott scoffed, “You can’t, your implant isn’t-“

He stopped and stared at her as much as could. It wasn’t much considering he didn’t have the use of his body to turn fully and pin her with the disapproving dad glare.

“You activated your implant.” He accused, “That’s why you stayed on the Hyperion so long. Why wouldn’t you tell me.”

“Sorry, Pathfinder, I didn’t realize I had to clear everything with you.” She snapped.

“It isn’t even that Emma and you know it. You constantly push me away every time I try to reach you. You think you’re protecting me, but I can assure you, you’re not.”

She closed her mouth, her cheeks burning with a quiet shame. He was…right. She wasn’t protecting anyone. Not herself or anyone else. She was shoving him away. She was abandoning what they used to have and what they could have again. She could have a family again. She could be a Ryder. There could be someone to share in her grief. Instead of trying to embrace it, she was trying to shove it away.

“There is a 90% chance of success Emma.” SAM took advantage of the pause in their argument.

“No.” Scott’s voice was quiet.

Emma nodded, “Do it, SAM.”

“Nonononono, Emma!”

Emma closed her eyes. It was just dark now. It wasn’t what she expected of death. Maybe some pain, or prolonged suffering, but she was just here. She was sure she had heard them all yell her name. Even Jaal. Damn. She didn’t even say anything to him. Maybe she should have. What if it didn’t work?

Are you hiding again Emma?

A sliver of light made her raise her arm in front of her face. A face peeked around the curtain. Soft blue eyes and a soft smile. Emma just stared as the curtain opened a little further to allow a woman climb in to the darkness and sit with her. Short black hair ended at a sharp jaw. The eyes stared at her. Gentle hands pulled her into an embrace.

Did they bully you again?

Lips pressed against the top of her head. Sobs sounded in the dark, it was her and yet it wasn’t. Her cheeks felt wet, but she wasn’t crying.

You don’t have to fight them all alone.

Maybe she was crying. The woman was so comforting, so familiar. She closed her eyes and leaned into the embrace. A gentle prod made her open them again. The woman shook her head down at Emma. No sleeping. Fingers wiped the tears from her cheek, the same fingers that had wiped crumbs from her lips, and braided her hair until she learned to do it herself. A mother. Her mother. Ellen cupped her cheek, her soft eyes hardening with determination and ferocity.

You can’t run from everything.

~

Jaal watched in horror as the stasis field around Emma flickered and then finally disappeared. Her body hit the floor with a sound he doubted he would be able to forget. Scott was staring at her, his expression a mirror of Jaal’s own.

“No, not again. Please. SAM!” Scott watched as Emma just laid there.

“Stimulating the cardiovascular core.”

Emma’s body twitched as SAM tried to shock her heart back to life.

“Zero activity.”

“Dammit, dammit.” Scott spoke through gritted teeth.

“Emma!” Jaal yelled at her lifeless body.

“Stimulating the cardiovascular core.”

They watched and waited, all of them holding their breath. Even Drack looked upset and pissed off at the same time. There was nothing but their silent pleas. She had to wake up. Jaal wanted to know more about her. He had so many things to ask her, to tell her, to show her. He wanted to know everything about the woman whose smiles were seldom but blinding in their beauty.

Emma sucked in a breath and Scott looked like he was going to cry from the relief. She reached up and pulled off her helmet, resting her cheek against the cool floor. Jaal could see tears that had dried on her cheeks. Had she been crying when she agreed to this? She didn’t look at any of them.

“Let’s not do that again SAM.” She gasped.

“I agree.”

Emma stood up slowly and shakily, as if she were unsure what limbs were and how to use them. Her eyes wandered over to them, purposefully avoiding Scott’s.

“Well don’t you all look cozy.” Her tone was dripping with sarcasm.

“Get us down kid.” Drack growled.

Emma looked around the room, until she located the console. She pulled up the interface, searching for the command to disable the field. Scott was staring at her, not angry, just terrified. Like she was ghost now. Jaal could sympathize. He had lost friends and family to the kett. He wondered every time he killed a kett, was it his brother, his friends, Allia. But Emma was still here. She was alive. Brought back by SAM and the nanites that had been injected in her since childhood.

The field flickered and they all dropped to their feet. Scott wasted no time crossing the room and wrapping Emma in a hug. It was clear she wasn’t expecting it. It took her a moment to return the gesture. Her arms wrapping around Scott like an anchor.

“Don’t ever do something so stupid again.” Scott choked out.

“So, it’s brilliant if you do it, stupid if I do it.” She scoffed.

“It’s stupid no matter who does it.” Drack grumbled behind them.

Scott reluctantly let her go, “We’ll discuss this later.”

She nodded, “If we make it back to the Tempest. I’ll tell you,” she hesitated, “everything.”

Scott just gaped at her. Emma looked unsure as she said it, but nonetheless, determined to see it through. She rolled her eyes.

“Come on Pathfinder, we have a relic to find.”

~

It was just one thing after another. The Archon had been studying their species. His room filled with VI representations of each species and audio notes, made Emma sick. So did the audio logs filled with the tortured cries of the Salarians. Emma had collected the logs and the Archon’s notes to compile on a datapad. Maybe it could offer insight to others about the Archon and the Kett. For Emma, it just made her want to smash the Archon’s face in.

It got worse when they found the Salarian in the maintenance hatch. The victim of a cruel game of hide and seek with a wraith. More stasis pods that had been tossed aside. SAM managed to pull the assigned names from the pods. More to report missing and more than likely, dead. Then, of course, there were the holding tanks. Filled with salarians. Some had started to undergo the process of exaltation, but it had ultimately failed. Drack cursed as he neared the tank containing a krogan who had undergone exaltation.

“Is that a krogan?” Emma whispered.

“It was. Probably one of Drack’s missing scouts.” Jaal answered.

“The DNA is Krogan, but drastically altered. It’s clear the kett are closing in on successfully exalting the species.” SAM spoke.

“Fuckers.” Scott murmured.

They went through another door, weapons ready in case it was another trap, but the room was blessedly empty. The room was filled with remnant relics. Any one of them could be what they were looking for. Scott relayed the message to Hayjer that they were in the room. Once they had what they needed, it was time to get to get the hell off this ship. Scott starting scanning relics while everyone else walked around taking it all in. They could see the Salarian ark through the giant windows. With the guns pointed at the ark, Emma could only hope they could make a clean escape. The salarians deserved that much.

“Over here.” Scott called them over to the back the room.

They all crowded around a relic. Of course, it was the absolute last one that he had scanned. It just looked like a console.

SAM spoke up, “This is the relic the Moshae described. It does seem to be a map.”

Scott lifted his hand towards the console to interface with it. Light moved from his fingertips and the console reacted. It lifted up towards them.

“I’ll overlay the chart we uncovered in the vault on Eos.”

Light projected from the middle of the console, mapping out stars and clusters. In the middle was a tower looking object. It was not exactly what Emma was expecting to see. She expected a planet or maybe something like the Citadel floating in space. Of course, she didn’t know the scale, so maybe it was bigger than she imagined.

“Coordinates secured, Pathfinder.”

“So that’s what you’re after.” The Archon’s voice made them turn and raise their weapons, but it was only a hologram.

The hologram moved towards them, “There’s more to Meridian than you know. Changing the weather is only a fraction of its power-and I will not allow you to defile it.”

“Try and stop me.” Scott faced off to the hologram.

“You are cocky as long as you have an AI to explain everything to you.”

Scott stiffened.

“I’ve seen what transpired in the laboratory, and now I know what makes you…special.

“Meridian is mine. I’ve tolerated you long enough. Once your vessels are destroyed you will be stranded here.”

Scott raised his omnitool looking panicked, “Captain! Fire the EMP!”

“Done!” Hayjer confirmed.

It took less than a minute. All of the relics, once suspended by a field, dropped to the ground. The hologram of the Archon flickered and died out. The doors opened and alarms blared across the ship.  This was their only chance. They readied their weapons, but a loud roar and the sound of loud footsteps made them stop. It did not sound like kett footsteps.

“What the hell is that?” Emma whispered.

The answer to her question barreled into the room, grunting and looking around. It stopped as it noticed them. The krogan that had been in the tank was now standing in front of them. And he looked pissed.

“Shit.” Drack muttered, raising his gun.

The krogan roared and charged them. The group scattered, bullets and arrows flying as they tried to get space between themselves and him. Scott was having a loud and brief conversation with Captain Hayjer. Emma shot an arrow that lodged between the krogan’s plates. His beady red eyes turned to her and she cursed. She barely dodged as he charged full speed at her. A shot to the side of his head drew his attention elsewhere. Emma crawled her way to cover quickly. It just so happened Jaal using this particular place to take pot shots at the krogan. It was a coincidence, okay? Okay. Emma took the moment to count her arrows left. She had plenty of the EMPs but they were useless at the moment, acid bolts were probably also useless, as were the smoke bombs. The flashbang might be useful.

“Are you alright?” Jaal shouted over the gunfire.

She nodded, “A bit overwhelmed,” she gestured to the krogan who was going head to head with Drack, “but I’m fine.”

Jaal took another shot before leaning back down, “I don’t mean with the krogan. Are you alright?”

Kett started to filter into the room, taking position, and firing. They were determined to keep them in this room.

“Probably not the best time to ask!” She shouted back.

“Why not?”

She looked down at him, “We’re a little busy.”

Emma pulled a flashbang bolt from her quiver. Emma signaled for Jaal to duck down and cover his ears. She fired at the feet of the largest group of Kett.

“Flashbang!” She shouted so the others could hear her.

Emma ducked down beside Jaal and covered her ears. The sound was loud enough for her to hear and she looked back up. The kett looked dazed. She nodded to Jaal and started to fire off into the group, striking kett wherever she could. Jaal was beside her, taking out the kett so the others could finish off the krogan. It was a perfect system. Her and Jaal took turns until the kett were thinned out to just a handful chosen and an anointed. Just a little more to go and they could get the hell out of here.

“Look out!” Scott shouted from the other side of the room.

Emma looked up to see the krogan gunning for her once more. He was too damn close. Using her shoulder, Emma shoved Jaal to the side right as the behemoth crashed through the platform and into her. With one swipe of his claws, she flew back and into the window, striking her head on the glass. She heard her name called, once, twice, three times. There was a ringing in her ears as she struggled to sit up. Reaching up, Emma undid her helmet and pulled it off. It slipped from her fingers. The whole room moved as she tried to focus, she needed to focus. She felt sluggish like she was moving through a fog. Her breaths sounded loud in her ears. She had to get up. Had to move.

The behemoth was coming for her again. Its footsteps vibrated the floor underneath her. There was more shouting. She couldn’t make it out. Bullets hit its back, but it was wholly focused on her. It raised its arms over its head. It was going to bludgeon her to death. Emma raised her arms in front of her face, trying to protect herself.

The blow didn’t come. Nothing happened. Emma looked up to see the behemoth still towering over her, but he wasn’t moving. He grunted and tried to move, but he couldn’t. That’s when she saw it. The blue light that glimmered around her hands and glimmered around his body. It was her. She was doing this. How?

“SAM, please tell me you’re seeing this.” She whispered.

“Yes, Emma, I am recording all activity to analyze.” He spoke in her head.

She was in awe. The behemoth struggled, but he couldn’t break free. A gunshot broke her out of her reverie and she flinched. The behemoth moved his arm a fraction.

“Uh-oh” She murmured.

The kett were still firing, having found their advantage. Scott and the others were trying to get to her through the gunfire. The more she focused on what was happening, the more the behemoth was able to move. She was going to lose him. Emma licked her lips nervously and glanced at the group of kett trying to advance into the room. Maybe just a little push. Emma concentrated, pushing the behemoth away from her and…holy shit it was working. The behemoth struggled, but it was too late. Emma pushed with all she had and he flew back right into the group of kett. He landed on them hard, giving the team enough time and leverage to push through and finish them off. Emma felt something wet and warm drip from her nose. She looked down to see droplets of blood splash down onto her armor. It was…a familiar feeling.

Emma struggled to sit up, her head still hurting from her collision. Large hands hooked underneath her arms and help her stand up. Jaal was holding her up, and holding her close until she regained her balance. Scott was in front of her, pulling a medigel pack from his armor and shoving it into hers. It took a moment for it to enter her system. The pain in her head dulled enough.

“Are you okay?” Scott’s face was close again.

She nodded, “That one was not my fault.”

He let out a sigh of relief and chuckled, “I know, I’m still going to blame you though.”

Jaal’s hands didn’t leave her. He kept them on her shoulders to keep her steady. She’d like to say she didn’t like it, but she did. Besides, it was better than her falling on her face. She looked down at her helmet that was laying on the floor. The back was cracked open.

“Well my helmets fucked.” She sighed.

“We’ll get you a new one.” Jaal promised.

“We should move.” Drack reminded them.

As if on cue, SAM spoke, “Pathfinder, there is little time to waste. You need to leave this ship.”

“Alright, let’s move out.” Scott ordered.

Jaal handed Emma her bow, which was still one piece thankfully. He stayed by her side as they backtracked through the room, stepping over fallen kett. She was fine. The ringing in her ears had subsided considerably. She wasn’t good as new, but she was still able to fight. And something told her they were going to fight their way off.

“Pathfinder, a moment. I’m picking up krogan life signs onboard the ship. Several are being held captive not far from your location. They are scheduled for exaltation.” SAM interrupted their trek back.

“Could be the rest of Drack’s missing scouts.” Jaal said.

“SAM do we have the time to get there before the kett restore power?”

SAM was silent a moment, “If you act quickly.” He finally answered.

Scott turned to each of them to confirm they were onboard. They all nodded back at him.

Scott’s omnitool pinged, “Ryder, it’s Raeka. I’m pinned down. Don’t think I’m going to make it.”

“Where are you?” Scott asked.

“Near holding cells where they’re keeping several of my people. They’re still alive. I ordered Captain Hayjer back to the ark.”

“Dammit Raeka, you should be with him.”

“I couldn’t leave my people-I had to try. And now…I think it’s over. From one pathfinder to another. Farewell. Raeka out.”

“There isn’t time to save both. Once the kett restore power, you’ll be trapped.” SAM sounded almost regretful.

“Ryder, you have to save my men.” Drack stepped forward.

“If we do the salarians die too and another pathfinder.” Scott clenched and unclenched his fists.

“I know these kids Ryder! I sent them here. I have to get them out!” Drack shouted.

“Don’t act like this is an easy decision, especially when you’re not the one making it.” Scott shouted back.

Emma put her hand on Scott’s shoulder, “Let’s make it easy then.”

Scott looked at her.

She shrugged, “I’ll go get Raeka, you three go get Drack’s scouts.”

“Absolutely not.” Scott shook his head.

“Scott-“

“No, you are not in any condition to run off and fight by yourself.”

“I’m fine and I won’t be alone. Raeka and the salarians can back me up. It’s a sound decision and you know it.

“You saw what they did to the salarians down there. They’ll do it to the rest of them. I can’t let that happen.” She argued.

Scott sighed, “Fine, but hurry and get back to the Tempest in one piece.”

She nodded, “I will.”

Jaal’s hand clapped down on her shoulder, “Be careful Emma.”

She smirked, “Don’t worry big guy, I’ll see you later.”

~

The Tempest flew in to rescue them from the top deck. The krogans were in front, running full speed towards the ship, while Scott, Jaal, and Drack provided cover fire from the few kett that tried to come up after them. There was no sign or word from Emma and Scott was worried. She better make it here. She better make it. The ramp lowered and the krogan ran up and into the cargo bay. Scott and Jaal hunkered down on the ramp, firing at the kett. He had to hold them off. Just until she got here.

“Where is she?” Jaal shouted.

“I don’t know!” Scott shouted, hearing the desperation in his own voice.

“Scott!” Cora was coming down the ramp.

He ignored. He knew what she going to say and he was not having. Scott continued to shoot the never-ending kett that swarmed the top deck. Clear path. He had to clear a path.

“Scott, we have to go!” Cora shouted at him again.

“I’m not leaving without her!”

“Pathfinder-“

He saw it then. The sign he was fighting for. He could see signs of blue moving through the kett. Kett fell and slid across the deck as shots rang out. She was coming. Emma was supporting a limping Raeka, her pistol unholstered and firing through kett as she brought the salarians. Jaal let out a laugh beside him and clapped him on the back. He was just as excited to see her as Scott was. The salarians ran past Cora and into the Tempest. Cora took Raeka from Emma and brought her aboard the ship. She hunkered down in between Jaal and Scott to shoot any remaining kett while the others readied themselves for take-off. Scott noticed the tired look on her face and the fresh blood dripping from her nose. He would address it later.

The Tempest lurched as the ramp was lifted into the ship. Jaal wrapped his arm around Emma’s waist to keep her from moving. Scott noted the shared look between them and the slight blush on her cheeks. Finally, ammunition to tease her with later. The door closed shut. The three of them stood. Everyone was safe and accounted for. It was time to go.

“Alright Kallo, let’s get these people home.” Scott ordered.