With the Disciple in her hand, she Charged ahead. The Architect writhed and screeched as shot after shot impacted. “Go! Go! Go!” Ryder yelled, her hands moving automatically to reload her shotgun.
Why the hell is there an Architect here?
There was no time to consider the why, who or how, there was only the get the fuck out of here. The settlement was completely trashed with the sudden emergence of the Architect. The scientists and researchers scattered but there were still many hiding within the pre-fab buildings. “Liam!” Ryder shouted into her mic. “Clear this one, if there are any remaining people, get them clear of the site!”
“You got it, Ryder,” Liam said before taking off.
“Jaal, clear that one over there,” Ryder gestured at another building.
“Be careful, Ryder,” Jaal said before turning to his task.
Ryder eyed the Architect, it was still recovering from the blows they dealt it. There was just one other building that needed to be clear. Her legs pumped as she headed towards the last building nearest the Architect.
5 days ago, 6 months after the events of the Archon Arc.
Ryder stared at the console. The Benefactor? Reapers? Galactic destruction? She ran her hand through her hair. What am I supposed to do with this information? We’re 600 light years too late. She frowned. “SAM, will you activate the last memory again?”
“Activating now, Ryder.”
Her world lurched to the side for a moment before righting itself. It was a strange experience to view the world through her father’s eyes the first couple of times but she was used to it by now. “Years ago, you mentioned salvation for a lot of people. You knew this was coming,” her father’s voice boomed in her ears.
Reapers, can it really be true?
“We are going to be all that’s left of civilisation,” the Benefactor said.
I really don’t trust this faceless group, person, whatever.
“How’s Ellen?” Alec asked.
Mom, she should have been dead by this time.
“She remains in stasis. As you hoped, it has suspended the progress of her disease,” SAM answered.
Am I really hearing what I think I am hearing?
“Make sure her pod is on the Hyperion. Don’t use her real name. I’ll tell the kids when the time is right.”
The memory faded and Ryder became aware of her surroundings once more. She took a deep breath to steady herself. “Ryder,” SAM called. “Are you all right?”
“Yes, I think so.”
“You have reviewed this memory 5 times since you arrived in my node,” SAM pressed. “You never do that for any other memory. What’s different?”
“SAM,” Ryder said, pinching the bridge of her nose as a headache began to form at the base of her skull. “I don’t know if I should be hopeful that my mother is still alive, or be afraid that I am just hearing things I want to hear.”
Ryder sighed. “Did I hear it right? Mom is here on the Hyperion? She’s alive?”
“Yes, Ryder. She is here. She is a stasis pod under the name Elizabeth Reilly.”
Fucking hell. Why didn’t he just tell us?
“That’s why you were made Pathfinder to see this process through,” SAM continued.
Unshed tears stung her eyes as she choked back a sob. “Ryder, are you ok? Why are you crying?” SAM asked.
Ryder swallowed the lump that formed in her throat and wiped her eyes with the back of her hand. She laughed. “I was just getting emotional. It’s not every day someone comes back from the dead.”
I got to tell Scott!
Ryder sat with her head in her hands. The thumping music of Vortex was pounding her ears but her mind was swirling with the revelations. She leaned her head back and closed her eyes. Scott was due to meet her in 30 minutes and she couldn’t stand her thoughts chasing each other in her head. Ryder sighed. She used to keep a daily journal with a real dead tree journal and an old-timey fountain pen. The love of old analog equipment was something she picked up during her time deployed as the security detail for Prothean researchers. She knew she still had them stashed somewhere in Pa’s quarters. Not for the first time, she mused about getting back into the habit. By penning her thoughts down, Ryder had always been able to exorcise runway thoughts from her mind.
It has been 6 months since the grounding of the Hyperion and the victory at Meridian. She spent the first month mostly in physical therapy recovering from her 2 weeks coma. Then, 2 weeks following that with interviews with Keri T’Vessa and the HNS. By the end, Ryder was about to stage a jailbreak just to escape from the publicity tour. She had successfully pestered Tann to authorise her to actually do her job.
Scott on the other hand was loosely assigned to the Pathfinder team but actually spent most of his time bouncing around between the colonies, fixing things when he could, calling the Tempest or the other Pathfinder teams to help when he couldn’t. Technically, he worked directly for Addison and was her eyes and ears on the ground at the colonies. Ryder hadn’t seen him in the last month but he seemed happy with his assignment though he was kept very busy.
Her omni tool chimed, she tapped at it thinking it might be Scott letting her know that he was early. No suck luck, it was a news bulletin pushed to her omni tool from the HNS. It wasn’t the first time she had random notifications popping up, sometimes she regretted helping the Heleus News Service setting up all those receivers. It seemed she couldn’t escape these news bulletins now. Her finger tapped to open the story since she had time to kill anyway. Her eyes skimmed the report, then she frowned.
23 hurt by rouge VI after hacking attack on Prodromos.
Ryder didn’t remember anything about this particular event. Maybe Scott got someone else to check it out? It seemed like these hacking attacks are on the rise. Another chime broke through her thoughts. Ryder glanced back at her omni tool, it was Scott.
“What’s up, Sara?” Scott greeted. “Why are we meeting here?”
“Erm…” Ryder stood wringing her hands. “Don’t freak out, ok?”
“Why?” Scott asked. “Why would I freak out? Is this some horrible surprise you’ve planned?”
“Look,” Ryder said. “Just check out this pod.”
Scott flinched away from the pod Ryder indicated as if it was going to open and a mummy was going to stagger after him. “Why? Is there something in there?”
“Someone, not something,” Ryder corrected. “Just look, will you?”
Scott looked at the pod, then at Ryder suspiciously, He inched his way closer and peered through the clear window. There was a familiar face there. “Holy shit! That’s… that’s Ma!”
“No shit,” Ryder replied, deadpan.
After Scott calmed down, Ryder explained and showed him their father’s memories. She was surprised how accepting he was of all the information, she didn’t think she handled it as well as he did. I guess Scott had always been closer to Pa. “So what’s the plan,” Scott asked. “Are we getting Ma out of cryo now?”
“No,” Ryder shook her head. “We don’t have the cure for her disease. If we revive her now, we will just watch her die all over again.”
Scott nodded, his lips made a grim line on his face. “What about the man behind the curtain? Or the Repears?”
She shrugged. “What can I do?” she asked. “I guess I could keep an eye out for information about the Benefactor. Fuck if I know it’s a man, woman or a whole cabal of shadowy elcors.”
Laughter rang out in the vast cryo chamber where they stood. His amusement was infectious and it wasn’t long before the Ryder twins were hugging their sides at the mental image of elcors cloaked in shadow. “I guess you are right,” Scott said. “I know some scientists that I think I can nudge them to get started on some research that could help Ma.”
Wiping tears with the back of her hand, Ryder straightened and said, “Yeah, I’ll reach out to who I can as well.”
Ryder stretched, her spine popping as she arched her back, after she clicked the send button. The mails were out and on the way to relevant people. Now all she could do was wait. It’s entirely out of my hands. I just hope we can get Ma out before we get to her age. It will just be too weird if we are all the same age. It was at least two weeks since the revelation back on the Hyperion. The Ryder twins decided that they couldn’t do much if they kept the secret to themselves. At the same time they didn’t want to publicise that Alec Ryder was big on nepotism not just in terms of his kids but his wife as well. The decision was made to get the Tempest crew in on the secret. Ryder also thought Cora should know why Pathfinder authority was passed to her instead.
Her stomach growled. Ryder didn’t have to check the chronometer on her omni tool to know she had worked past dinner time again. She left her quarters and headed to the galley. She peered in and saw the galley empty but there was a covered dish on the table with her name on it. Hmmm… Who is the kind soul who decided to feed me? She lifted the cover and pushed her nose just shy of burying it before taking a deep breath. Her mouth watered. One look at the handwriting she knew it was Jaal’s. His Galactic Standard is improving. She picked up the plate and heading off to the tech lab.
She found Jaal seated at his table with yet another Kett weapon disassembled in front of him. The components were all neatly placed in a grid pattern, where like was arranged with like. “Mind if I join you?” she asked.
Jaal smiled when she entered, familiar with her need to check in on him daily just as she had done with everyone on her crew. “You never need to ask that, darling one,” he replied.
Ryder perched on a stool and ate as she watched him experimented with different mods on the Kett weapon. “Hmmmm,” she hummed as she swallowed the last mouthful. “This is the best dinner I had in a while.”
Jaal stood and slide his arm around her waist. “That’s not a high bar if you were just sustaining on ration bars most of the time.”
Ryder sighed and leaned against his chest. “Now, if you could possibly cook every single meal for me, I’ll be the luckiest woman in the whole of Heleus.”
Jaal pulled the empty plate out of her hands and placed it on the table behind him. His hand returned to snake its way up under her untucked shirt. She smiled as it travelled up her chest, her hands were busy exploring his body as well. Then SAM’s voice came through the overhead speakers. “Ryder,” he said, sounded a little apologetic for interrupting. “Liam has requested you meet him in his room at your earliest convenience.”
Ryder sighed as she pulled her hands back reluctantly. “Rain check?”
Jaal sighed, his disappointment clear. “Count on it,” he growled.
She chuckled as she left his little domain. She enjoyed her little walks on the Tempest visiting each member of the crew. Chatting with them about their lives and experiences was all part of the point. The fight at Meridian had bonded them stronger than she ever thought possible. To think they were all strangers when they started after all.
Ryder was so sure Peebee would have requested to be withdrawn from the Pathfinder crew after Meridian. She remembered asking her about it. “Are you sure?” she asked. “Merdian should be your dream come true, isn’t it? All that Remnant tech and structure to explore and discover.”
Peebee pursed her lips and tapped her finger on her temple, making a big show of thinking about it. “Nah,” she said finally.
“Yeah, nah. Ryder, you are the Pathfinder! If I want to be on the bleeding edge, I should be your shadow. You are constantly going to some place new, discovering obscure, out of the way Remnant tech,” Peebee explained. “Where can I find that? Plus you let me do what I need to. You don’t boss me around. Can you imagine me joining those Nexus researchers?”
Ryder tapped her finger on her temple in a clear attempt to mock Peebee’s show just a moment ago. Peebee scowled and gave Ryder a push. “That’s not nice,” she pouted.
Laughing, Ryder threw her arm around Peebee and hugged her. “Don’t ever change, Peebee.”
“What about you, Drack?” Ryder asked. “Are you heading off to New Tuchanka?”
Drack raised a brow at her. “Now why would I do that, kid?”
Ryder shrugged. “I just thought now that the Archon is dead, you would want to help the krogans at New Tuchanka.”
“Ha!” Drack snorted. “They don’t need me but you on the other hand do. You are barely weaned from your mother’s tits.”
“Come on, Drack. I did defeat the Archon you know. I’m not THAT bad.”
“I’ll admit you are not completely hopeless,” Drack laughed. “And you always bring me to such nice places.”
“So is it back to the smuggler’s life for you?” Ryder asked.
Vetra lifted her head to stare at Ryder. “Come on, Ryder. I’m not a smuggler. I’m a very good, excellent if I say so myself, requisition officer.”
“Oh? Requisition officer huh, is that what you called it?”
“That’s what it is,” Vetra said, flaring her mandibles in an expression Ryder could only classify as pride.
“I must admit you are very good at your job.”
“I’m the best of course. Which other ship allows me the freedom of travel? Or the access to people?”
“So the Tempest is just a nice convenience for you?” Ryder asked in mock outrage.
“Ryder, you wound me.” Vetra’s hand flew to her chest. “You’re not getting rid of me that easily.”
“So…” Ryder said, dragging the word out, her shoulders tense.
“So?” Jaal repeated, his eyes wide in confusion. Why is Sara acting like this?
“So…” Ryder swallowed. “What are your plans now that the Archon threat is gone?”
“Oh. That.” Jaal replied, comprehension relaxing his feature. “Evfra had offered me an advancement in the Resistance and my own command.”
Ryder hummed non-committedly but her hands were pulled tight behind her back. “That’s great, Jaal. You deserved it.” she said, her voice tight. “I’m happy for you.”
“Hmmm, but you don’t sound very happy,” Jaal said, reaching out towards Ryder.
“When are you leaving the Tempest?” Ryder asked in a small voice. “We could drop you off at Aya or any of the angara worlds you want. Or actually anywhere you want, really."
He reached over to Ryder and pressed a finger over her mouth. “Shhh...,” Jaal said. “Sara, I'm not going anywhere.”
“What?” Ryder frowned. “I thought this is something you wanted? You told me how you weren't happy about your position in the Resistance. Now, Evfra is offering you the thing you always wanted - recognition and your own command. Why?”
“Because, darling one.” Jaal pulled her closer, “I found something else I want more.”
“I hear you have been going around offering some of the team an out from the Tempest," Liam said. “What's that about?”
Ryder looked up from the datapad she was reading. She pinched the bridge of her nose and blinked. “Hmmm? They were all not officially assigned to the Tempest by the Nexus leadership. Now that the Archon has been neutralised..."
"That's one way to put it," Gil interrupted.
Ryder rolled her eyes and continued without missing a beat. "They have a choice to stay or go. We recruited Peebee back on Eos because she was an expert on the Remnant. Vetra practically forced herself onto the Tempest. Jaal, well Evfra assigned him to us. Drack... well damn I don't even remember."
Ryder stared at the people assembled before her. She pointed at Liam, “You were originally already part of the Pathfinder team. There is no out for you unless you put in a request for transfer."
Liam shuffled a little on his feet. “Are you officially putting a transfer request?" Ryder asked without taking her finger away from Liam's chest.
"I'll take that as a no."
Shifting her finger to Kallo, "You worked on the Tempest and you are the best damn pilot around. You are not going anywhere."
Kallo's eyes formed crescent moons at the praise Ryder heaped on him. He even smirked at Gil. She dropped her finger and shifted her gaze to Suvi. "You are our science officer. I'm useless if I find paths but don't know what the hell I'm looking at. I need you on board the Tempest."
"You can count on me, Ryder."
Ryder nodded in satisfaction. “And Gil, I need you around because you are the only one that keeps my baby here." She patted the bulk head just behind her. "Singing like she is supposed to."
Gil grinned and jerked his head at Kallo in retaliation. "So anyone of you are here against your will?"
The three of them shook their heads
"Don't want to be on the Tempest anymore?"
Three shaking heads again.
"Has better things to do than to bug me?"
At that, they scattered and found plenty to be busy with. Ryder heard Cora's soft laughter behind her. The tall biotic joined Ryder at her table. “You handled that well," she said.
Ryder laughed. “I hope I've actually learnt something about handling them after so many months.”
Cora smiled and rested her head on her right hand. “You know I never figure you to be as good you are back when Alec passed Pathfinder authority to you." She said, lifting a hand to forestall Ryder'a interruption. "But you have done well, very well. More than what I can ever see myself doing. I'm proud of you."
“I'm far from the Pathfinder my father would be."
"You don't have to be the Pathfinder your father would have been. You are you, you are your own unique Pathfinder. You have met with adversity and setbacks. You have conquered and overcome all of them. Everyone has you to thank for the current state of affairs, Shield of Meridian."
"Gods, not you too..." Ryder groaned. "That title is hanging around me like a bad smell."
Cora just laughed wickedly. “You know I was meaning to speak to you. There was something I didn’t say during the de-brief,” Ryder said.
“You mean where you dropped the bomb about the murder of Jien Garson, the mysterious person or group funding the Andromeda Initiative, the galaxy ending threat of the reapers and the fact your mother is one of the sleepers?”
“What bombshell are you going to lay on for me now?” Cora asked raising an eyebrow.
“Well, my father passed the Pathfinder authority to me was to keep the secret of my mother. It wasn’t a judgement of your ability or anything of that sort.” Ryder explained.
“I thought so,” Cora replied.
“I can understand why he did that. That’s not to say I wasn’t angry and confused during those first couple of months. I’m sorry, I might have been too harsh on you then,” she gave Ryder a reassuring smile. “You are more than up for the job, Shield.”
All Ryder could do was to groan again.
“Get used to it, Ryder. That name is not going anywhere.”
Lexi exited the med bay to see Ryder as she was about to enter her quarters, her hands loaded with ration bars. “Ryder!” she called, about to admonish her for not eating proper meals.
“No, not you too,” Ryder interrupted. “I don’t want to hear it.”
When Ryder wanted to, she could move fast. Lexi just stared at the closed door. “What did I say?”
“The crew has been asking the Pathfinder…” SAM’s voice chimed up from the speakers.
Lexi turned on her heels and said, “SAM, I think I don’t want to know.”
“I hear you are looking for me?” Ryder said.
“Yeah, I’ve got something.”
“Something about the Benefactor,” Liam said, gesturing at the terminal he was staring at.
“Really?” Ryder said cocking her head to the side. “That’s a little fast isn’t it?”
“I thought so too but it looks legit,” Liam said. “I didn’t think we should be reaching out via regular channels but I did drop a few hints on the extranet. And I got a hit on one of them.”
“Did you manage to verify the source?”
Liam shook his head. “Such things are pretty impossible to verify. It’s more like taking a leap of faith and hope things don’t go to shit.”
“What are they asking?” Ryder sighed, rubbing her forehead.
“There won’t be a meet just a pick up at the dead drop. I guess that’s how they are letting us know that their information is good.”
“Is the information even worth it?”
“There is only one way to find out,” Liam said in a sing song voice.
“Where is the drop dead?”
“Here’s the co-ordinates.”
“SAM?” Ryder prompted as the nav point showed up on the terminal.
“Ryder, this is located in the Eriksson system on the planet Habitat 7, now renamed as Ryder-1.”
“Let Kallo know to set course there,” Ryder said, her eyes meeting Liam’s. Gods, I hope I don’t regret this.