How is she? I have been worried. I wanted to e-mail her, but I didn’t want to make her uncomfortable.
Akksul stayed behind and we finished clearing the debris from the lab. Any biomedical samples were sent to your doctor. I am awaiting a response from the Pathfinder on what to do with the bodies. We would be more than happy to give them a proper burial. The family and Akksul have agreed to keep this a secret for now. But I would consider telling Evfra. It is alarming, and quite unprecedented, that a facility was placed on an Angaran planet.
Your siblings keep asking about her. Teviint wanted to e-mail her. I told her to be patient. She has as much patience as you do. Ahvfi asks for her as well. I would send a video, but I don’t want to overwhelm Emma.
How are you?
Stay strong and Clear
Jaal stared at the e-mail. What was he supposed to say? That the moment they got back to the ship, Emma locked herself in the med bay and hasn’t come out in two days. That he could feel how much she was hurting and grieving and there was nothing he could do about but wait for her to be ready to come out. He wanted to be there for her. But he didn’t want to push her. She hadn’t told any of them what had happened. Lexi was with her, but she wasn’t saying anything either. Then there was Scott. Who was happy that she had remembered him and Sara, and then stricken that she had remembered everything. How was it possible? And then did everything really mean everything or just her life with the Ryder family. Jaal wanted to talk to her. To know and comfort. He couldn’t do anything of those things right now. Not until she was ready for them. He typed a quick response to his mother, leaving out most of the details, but telling her that Lexi was looking over her and the moment he knew something more he would let her know. His mother wouldn’t be satisfied by that answer. It was all he had right now. He agreed that they should tell Evfra, but his primary concern was Emma.
He wasn’t sure how he felt about Akksul being around his family. Or the fact that he had even been at the lab in the first place. He had taken the bombs from there. It meant he had known about it. Was the existence of the lab the reason why he decided to attack the Forge? He would ask, but he really didn’t want to speak to him. It was too soon. He could still see Akksul aiming his gun at Emma and it angered him all over again. Maybe he wasn’t really angry at him, but Jaal didn’t have the emotional outlets he was used to having. It was the downside of being on a ship full of aliens. They weren’t as open as his people. He wanted to talk to them. He wanted to talk to Emma.
His omnitool beeped with another e-mail. It was probably his mother again. He wasn’t sure he wanted to look at it right now. It was probably full of more questions he couldn’t really answer right now.
There was a knock at the tech lab door. He looked up to see Liam standing in the doorway.
“Ryder wants us geared up and ready in twenty.”
Jaal didn’t understand why Ryder insisted on taking him to hot, shitty planets that he hated. First, it was Kadara. Now it was Elaaden. Drack would probably be better suited for this type of environment. Jaal hated cleaning all the sand out his armor. He grumbled an acknowledgment. But Liam didn’t leave.
“You doing okay?” he asked.
“No, not really,” Jaal admitted.
Liam nodded. “She’ll come out. If she remembered everything then she has a lot to process.”
“I know.” Jaal sighed. “I just want to be there for her.”
Liam chuckled. “You are. We all are. But I bet you’ll the first person she goes to.”
He knew Liam was trying to make him feel better, and it was working. Emma would come out and he would be for there for when she did.
Emma stretched out on the med bay bed. Lexi was sitting at the console a few feet from her. It had been a few hours since either had said anything. And that was because Lexi had checked her levels again. Emma’s gamma wave production had bottomed out after the incident. She had tried to replicate the lights, the barrier, anything really. But the nanites were back to doing their job of suppressing her. The potential was inside of her, but she couldn’t reach any of it. Lexi was researching nanotech and how to remove it. Of course, with it technically being illegal there was nothing more than theories and limited journals had been added to the cloud for the journey to Andromeda. In short, Lexi didn’t have much to go on.
Emma was lying half-asleep on the bed, listening to her music. Lexi had told her it had been two days and she really should go back to the tech lab. But she hadn’t. In fact, she hadn’t left the med bay at all. She didn’t want to face any of them right now. So, she had snuck out in the late hours to shower and use the bathroom, and then slipped right back into the med bay. Nobody was bothering her. Either they understood, or they were now all afraid of her and she was going to be shoved off the ship when they reached the next planet. She didn’t want to go.
It hadn’t felt like two days. Especially when she had spent most of the time after leaving Havarl in a fog. Sure, she had remembered, but that didn’t mean she knew what to do with all of her memories. There could be no justice for her mother. The years had long since passed for that. The scientist that implemented the Olympus project was her own father. A man that had remained faceless for so long. Now she regretted knowing who he was. Then there was Kennedy, which was not his real name. Her own brother who routinely messed with her memories in the program, shot her on Amaranthine and manipulated her memories again on Kadara so she wouldn’t remember running into him. It was ridiculous. It was too much.
Then there were her memories of Scott and Sara. Now she felt twice as bad that she had forgotten them. She didn’t want to face Scott now. It was doubtful that he would be angry. But why risk it? Especially with the way she had treated him in the first couple weeks of being on the Tempest. She wouldn’t blame him if he was angry. They had been close as kids. It would also explain why she would always wander to his quarters when she was upset. Or when she would blurt out her problems despite not wanting too. A part of her had remembered their relationship.
Emma rolled over so she was facing away from Lexi and sighed. The last couple of days weren’t just hard on her. She could feel Jaal across the ship. He was hurting too. Mostly because she was. Part of her wanted to go to him. Well most of her was more accurate. He wasn’t scared of her. She knew that without a doubt. She would be able to feel if he was. But what about his family? Maybe they were now. Maybe they didn’t want him to have anything to do with her. It would break her heart if that was true.
“We’ve landed on Elaaden,” Lexi spoke loud enough to be heard over Emma’s music. “Scott took Jaal and Liam with him. I won’t throw you out today, but you do need to stretch your legs.”
“I can’t do that here?” Emma grumbled her question.
Lexi sighed. “You need to go get fresh clothes and shower and eat. I’m not doing it for you.”
Emma pulled her earbuds out of her ears and rolled over to glare balefully at Lexi. She said she wasn’t throwing Emma out of the medbay, but she wasn’t allowing Emma much room for arguing. If they were on Elaaden then the others were probably doing other things than lingering on the ship. She could probably avoid the few that would be. And Lexi was right. Emma still needed to care for herself. Even though she really didn’t want to. Leaving her music player on the bed, she stood up and stretched. Lexi turned back to the console as Emma left the medbay.
The hallway was quiet and empty. She didn’t hear anyone in the crew quarters or in the kitchen. Drack would probably be with the krogan colony today anyways. Emma climbed the ladder to get to the next level. Kallo was probably in the pilot’s seat, but he didn’t talk to her much anyways. No one interrupted her on the way to the tech lab.
She didn’t know why, but when the door opened she half-expected Jaal to be there. Lexi had told her had gone with Scott, yet she still expected his smiling face to greet her as she walked in. It was stupid. She was the one who had locked herself away, the one who had cut herself off from him. Why was that her default? She fought so hard against the council, so she wouldn’t be locked away, but every time things became hard or she was scared, it was what she did to herself.
Emma walked into the lab to get a change of clothes. Her duffel bag from Havarl was sitting on the floor by her side of the bed. It hadn’t been opened or unpacked. She should probably do that. There was a lot of laundry in it. Emma quickly picked up her dirty clothes to throw down the chute. Something in the corner of her eyes made her pause. The lockbox was sitting on the desk.
Wake the others.
Did her mother mean the other experiments? Why? Would Emma even know who they were? Emma dropped her clothes to the floor and put in the code to open the box. She hadn’t looked at the datapads in a while. Before now she hadn’t really wanted to. There wasn’t much of a choice now was there? Cerberus was here. She couldn’t run from them again. There was nowhere to go. She grabbed the datapads and her clothes and made her way back to the medbay. Emma stopped only to throw her clothes down the chute.
Lexi was still sitting at the console. She sighed in exasperation when Emma reentered the med bay. “I know you didn’t shower and eat.” She turned to chastise Emma but stopped when she saw what Emma was holding. “Is that the research?” she asked.
Emma nodded. If there was anyone she could trust with this, it was Lexi. She set the datapads down on the desk. Lexi just stared down at them. There was no doubting the excitement in her eyes. Lexi did care about Emma, but she was a scientist at heart. This was a chance for her start cracking the code.
“Right. You shower and grab something to eat first. Then we’ll start going through it.” Lexi sounded like she was having trouble displaying that kind of restraint.
Emma raised an eyebrow. “Are you sure?”
“Shower. Now.” Lexi ordered.
Emma sighed and backtracked to the showers. For once, she really wanted to look through the files. She wanted to know what and who she could possibly be dealing with. And she needed to know the kind of danger she could be putting the crew in. They had seen first hand in the lab what lengths Cerberus would go to continue their research. The dead woman was a big indicator. And it was no coincidence that the bodies were all people that had been in line for leadership. Cerberus found someone with an agenda and used them to further their own means. It would also explain why Emma never really trusted Tann, number 8. But she couldn’t do anything without any proof. Proof would be hard to obtain while on the Tempest. Maybe she should leave. It wouldn’t certainly keep the crew out of danger. Especially Scott and Jaal. It was a hard decision to make.
But she needed to make one soon.
Emma hadn’t really slept in the past few days. Honestly, she was scared to. She was afraid she would go back to that place. And then going through the research with data with Lexi didn’t give her much time to sleep. They had spent eight hours getting through everything. Cerberus was nothing if not thorough with their research. Not to mention the other programs they had opened under Project Olympus that had been hidden under different names. There had been several different facilities on Earth. Her and Lexi had gone through the other’s files several times. They had to mark down the deceased. Then try to narrow down who Alec had helped get to Andromeda. That included aliases and some of them had fake backgrounds. It was like a matching game from hell. She was exhausted. But she couldn’t stop. Was she obsessing? Probably.
“Doctor T’Perro, Ryder has called a meeting.” SAM broke the silence in the lab.
“Be right there SAM,” Lexi responded automatically. They had gone through everything, so they weren’t interrupted.
SAM didn’t say anything to her. It meant Scott had told him not to call her too. It was either because they were voting to oust her, or because he was giving her space. She knew him. She knew it was the second one. Her fear of being thrown off the ship by Scott was irrational. Knowing that didn’t stop the quickening of her breath or the tears that filled her eyes. She turned her back to Lexi, so Lexi wouldn’t see. It was so stupid to be upset over something that wouldn’t happen. She just couldn’t help it right now. Everything still felt so raw.
The door closed behind Lexi leaving her alone once again. Is this how she wanted to spend her time now? Did she really want to lock herself away? Yes, the memories hurt, but she had them now. Now she knew exactly who she was going up against. But did she want to do it alone?
Emma leaned back in the chair, crossing her arms over her chest. She stared at all of the data in front of her. There were the others, but there was no guarantee they would want to help. Emma pulled the datapads from the interface and tucked them under her arm. This was too big of a decision to make on her own. She just hoped the others wanted her around as much as she wanted to stay.
Emma climbed the ladder after exiting the med bay and booked it to the meeting room. It would be easier to do this with everyone gathered together in one spot. She heard them discussing something. It sounded like it had to do with the Turian ark. Hopefully, that ark was in better shape than the Salarian ark. Emma wasn’t sure if she had to stomach to do all that again.
“How is she?” She heard Scott ask as she began walking up the ramp.
Lexi sighed. “She is—”
“It’s not nice to talk about people when they’re not in the room,” Emma answered, trying and failing a bit at being humorous about her reemergence.
Jaal perked up instantly at the sound of her voice. She was already making her way over to the table. Two datapads were clutched in her hands. She looked determined, but she also wasn’t looking anyone in the face. Especially not Jaal. She couldn’t. If she did, she might fall apart, and she had already done so much of that. Emma set the datapads down on the table and looked up.
“How are you doing?” Scott asked.
Emma pursed her lips. “Not great,” she admitted. “Did Lexi tell you anything about what happened on Havarl?”
Scott nodded. “They used sound waves to make you uncontrollably produce gamma waves. I don’t know how that made you remember though.”
“Yeah. I don’t know either.” She frowned. “But that’s not important right now.”
Scott scoffed. “I beg to differ—”
Emma reached out to clap her hand over his mouth. “As I was saying” –Scott pulled her hand off his mouth but didn’t interrupt her— “I can’t let Cerberus continue in any capacity. They aren’t allowed to get away with the things they’ve done to me, and the others. I know the Archon is the greater priority now, but I am going to stop Cerberus.” She finally looked at all of them, her gaze lingering on Jaal a few seconds longer. “Me doing this puts everyone here in danger. I’m willing to leave if you don’t want to deal with this too.”
It was quiet for a few seconds before the room exploded in noise. Nobody was happy with that idea. She was surprised and relieved at their response. Did she really think that they were going to ask her to leave? Of course, they were willing to help her stop Cerberus. How could she have doubted them?
Emma used a USB to plug the datapads into the table’s interface. “Then let’s talk about what I’m getting you into.” She scrolled through the files on the datapad until she found what she was looking for. When she selected it, the table projected it so everyone could see. Her…the project’s head scientist stared at them. She rattled off his name, trying not to allow her voice to crack as she did, and his credentials. Emma didn’t want to linger on him too long. It almost felt like he was staring right at her. Emma went to swipe to another file.
“Now what aren’t you telling us, kid?” Drack asked, not missing the way her voice shook or the way her hands had gripped the table too tightly.
Damn that old man for playing way too close attention to her. Emma’s gaze stayed on datapads near her hands. “He’s…” He’s my father. My own fucking father did this to me. I’m already fucking pathetic, let’s make it worse.
“Emma?” Jaal asked, looking like he wanted to reach out to her, but he was stopping himself.
She made him feel like that. Fuck.
“I was projecting again?” she asked, not really needing him to answer. She was projecting her shitty feelings and he was the only one who could feel them and know what they were.
Emma sighed and wrapped her arms around herself. She might as well just rip this band-aid off now. “He’s my…” Emma’s nose began to burn and itch. No. Fuck that. She was not crying again. “He’smyrealfather.”
The room grew quiet again and she hated it.
“What the fuck?” Peebee was the first to break it.
No one else looked like they knew what to say. And Scott…Scott just looked devastated by the revelation. Like grappling with Alec being her dad was hard enough, but she had forgotten to question who her real father was. Now she wished she had never found out. It was one thing to believe that a total stranger had done this. Now she had to process that someone who was supposed to protect her, killed her mother just so he could have her. So he could use her and twist her to fit his own agenda.
Emma didn’t say anything about it. There really wasn’t anything to say and she honestly didn’t want to dwell right now. She tapped another file and Kennedy’s face was on the screen now. A flash of anger burned in her chest at his face. But she didn’t have time for it. She would just have to squash it for now.
“That’s the man from the vid,” Scott said, looking as angry as she felt.
Just wait. It gets worse.
“This is Kennedy. And this isn’t the first time I’ve dealt with him,” Emma continued on like the revelation about her father had never happened.
“What do you mean?” Scott asked.
“He was on Amaranthine, and before that, he was at the facility when I was.”
“So he…?” he trailed off.
She nodded. “He shot me.” He’s also my brother. But she didn’t say that. That could stay her secret for right now.
In the corner of her eye, she could see Jaal clenching his hand into a fist. His anger brushed against her own.
“So what do we do if we see him?” Cora asked.
Emma shook her head. “Nothing.”
“I’ll shoot him!”
Almost everyone spoke up at once. She was happy they would want to help her, but she had to make them understand why they couldn’t. No. Kennedy was her burden to handle. And honestly, she wasn’t sure what she was going to do yet. Yes. He had done those things. But he had grown up with only their father. He had been too young to remember their mother. Maybe she could convince him to leave. Maybe there was something salvageable in him. But maybe it was stupid to hope for such a thing. Emma held up her hand to stop them from saying anything more.
“If you see Kennedy, it is imperative that you don’t let him touch you,” she pleaded. “He can manipulate and control your thoughts through touch. If you see him, you let me know.” She took a breath. “In fact, if you see anyone you think might be an experiment you tell me.”
“How many are we talking?” Cora asked, her voice hushed.
Emma shrugged. “I don’t know. Maybe twenty. Maybe more. I can’t know for sure who Alec helped come to Andromeda. And if there were people who figured it out on their own. I have their real identities, but not any of their aliases.” Emma ran her fingers through her hair to pull it away from her face. “These people are dangerous, and their powers can be very different than mine.”
“Like?” It was Liam asking this time.
“Super strength, invisibility, pyrokinesis are a few examples. I don’t know who will be on our side and who won’t. It’s better to let me handle it. Even though I’m not at full strength,” she murmured the last bit. She hoped Lexi found a way to deactivate the nanites soon. As long as she was powerless, she was vulnerable.
Emma unplugged the datapads and handed them back over to Lexi. That was really all she had to say for now. If she stayed much longer then she would be bombarded with more questions. Most of them she definitely would not want to answer right now. So before anyone could say anything she turned on her heel and left. It was awkward to say the least. She was happy they said she could stay, but now she had to push to be steps ahead of the project to keep them safe.
Emma veered into the tech lab to grab her boots. The sound of footsteps wasn’t the only indicator that she had been followed. It was the feeling of concerned energy at her back as well. Jaal was right behind her as she stepped into the tech lab. But she didn’t look back at him. She couldn’t. If she saw the concerned look on his face she would lose it…again.
“Emma,” he just said her name. He was several feet behind her to give her space. Part of her hated it. She wanted to be in his space right now. Honestly, she really wanted a fucking hug right now.
“Are you…” he trailed off.
“Okay?” she finished. She paused after grabbing her boots from beside her cot before shaking her head. “No. But I will be.” She sighed. “Eventually.”
She sat down on the bed to pull her boots on. The cot dipped beside her to indicate that he had sat down. He was close now. All she had to do was lean back. He would hold her. She knew that. But Emma kept herself stiff and focused on lacing up her boots. Maybe this is what she should do now. Keep him at arm’s length. That way if she had to leave it would be easier. Bullshit. It wouldn’t be, and she knew it. Realistically there was no way to keep him safe from this. Not unless he sent her away. And she didn’t want to think about how much that would hurt. What she had with Jaal was special. Sometimes it was beyond words.
“Are you sure?” She cut him off.
“About?” he answered, sounding baffled at her question.
“Me staying here…with you.”
“Why wouldn’t I be?”
She turned to look at him then. “My…these people will do whatever they can to get to me. That means your family is in danger. They’ve already been on Havarl undetected for nobody knows how long? And even if you’re okay with it, what if they’re not? What if your family wants nothing to do with me because of this? Would you be okay then?” She was aware she was ranting, but she couldn’t seem to stop.
“Do you want me to say no?”
That question shut her up. Did she? Is that what she was going for? He didn’t look like he was going to tell her she wanted to hear. Not that she even knew what she wanted to hear. All she knew was she wanted to keep Jaal safe. And she might not be able to do that.
“I know you’re scared, Emma. And I know you think being on your own will keep us all safe.” He reached up to tuck a piece of hair behind her ear. “But I will not push you away. I also won’t tell you that my family wants nothing to do with you because it isn’t true.”
Her nose burned. “How do you know?”
Jaal chuckled, “Because my mother hasn’t stopped e-mailing about you, and she is keeping the others from hassling you.”
She sniffed. “A part of me had hoped that they weren’t here. That I could just have a life.” Her voice wavered, and her eyes filled with tears again. “I just wanted them to leave me alone. Pretty stupid hope. They’ll never let me go.” She choked back a sob.
Jaal reached for her, but she stood up and wiped her eyes. It was hurting him that she wasn’t relying on him. There were pangs of it every time she pulled away or turned her back to him. It made her feel even worse. But she was trying to process 24 years of lost memories and moments she was never allowed to dwell or grieve. It was so much.
“We’re on Elaaden?” she asked but didn’t wait for an answer. “I need to pick up supplies from Ruvea while we’re here.”
“Emma.” His voice stopped her in her tracks. “When is the last time you slept?”
She shrugged. She hadn’t really.
“You need to sleep.”
“I don’t want to sleep,” she answered, quickly.
“I don’t want to get stuck again,” she cut him off.
He touched her hand, his fingers tentatively interlinking with her own. “You have to sleep. I can ask Vetra if she can pick up the supplies.”
Emma was stiff but allowed him gloved palm to press against hers. Everything was raw, but he didn’t seem to mind one bit. Why? Why was he so accepting of everything? What did she do to ever deserve that? He gently tugged her towards him. Emma could’ve fought it, but she didn’t want to. There was one person she had wanted constantly the past three days. Part of her had thought he would for sure push her away. But he hadn’t. He was always surprising her. Emma sat back down beside him.
His thumb brushed against hers. “I’ll stay right here as you sleep.”
Emma just watched as he pulled one of her legs into her lap to unlace her boots. Once he got one boot off, he reached for the other leg to take off her other boot. She didn’t stop him. She just stared at the side of his face, and the gentle expression on it.
“Why?” she blurted out. “I’ve given you every reason why you should be afraid of me, of being with me. Why aren’t you?”
He touched her cheek, his thumb pressing into her soft skin. “Fear is not even close to what I feel for you Emma.” He pulled away as fast as he had touched her. “But that’s not important right now. You need sleep.” Jaal moved her legs out of her lap so he could stand up.
Without even asking, he shifted her so he could pull the blanket out from underneath her. Emma should’ve argued. She didn’t want to sleep. It didn’t matter that she was exhausted. But she laid down and allowed him to pull the blanket over her. The tech lab was silent as he moved around the room before laying down beside her. Normally, this is where he would reach for her and tuck her into his side. Or she would reach for him. But he was allowing her to decide how close they slept. However, Emma was too preoccupied with what he had said.
What had he meant?