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Mass Effect Andromeda: Aftermath

Chapter Text

The Heleus Cluster is enjoying a period of calm. Scott Ryder saved the Andromeda Initiative and the Angara when he killed the Kett Archon with the assistance of of his sister Sara and the Pathfinder team. After only a short pause for celebrations and mourning the pathfinder has once again taken this ship, the Tempest, and headed out into the stars to continue his role as explorer. All of free Heleus rightly celebrates his accomplishments with many looking to him as the example of how they will move forward in their continued war against the Kett.

 

But where does this leave the other Ryder?

 



Location: Havaral, Faroang system.

 

Sara Ryder was absolutely sweltering. Her recon armor did incorporate basic temperature controls but it was never really designed to keep you comfortable, more to keep you alive. The surface of Havaral was sweltering with temperatures exceeding 40 degrees celsius. The sweat dripping down her face was driving her crazy, unable as she was to wipe it away. She could feel her hair plastering to the back of her head and neck as she squeezed her eyes shut to keep a bead of sweat from stinging her eyes.

 

Matching the moisture in her suit was a thick mist that kept forming on her helmet’s visor. Her suit would always correct and quickly clear it away but it was irritating nonetheless. She need her vision to be absolutely clear for her job tonight. Squirming a few centimeters further up the large fallen tree she was lying on she took a moment to reflect on her situation.

 

She’d left the Milky Way searching for a new start, as had many who had joined the initiative. Sara had, however, had more reasons than most to be looking forward to hitting reset on her life. Like her brother she had lost a promising career in the Alliance military when the exact scope and nature of their father’s research into AI had become public knowledge. Scott had taken this hard as he’d truly loved the chance to work with scientists and other experts working on Prothean ruins. Sara had, officially, been assigned to the same duties but had in fact spent very little time in and around archaeology.

 

Sara was a ghost, or at least she had been. More precisely she’d been a member of an elite and highly secret Alliance military unit known unofficially by its members as the ghosts. As the unit had been so secret that it didn’t have any sort of official name the term had stuck. Though the members of the ghosts hadn’t ever been given any kind of formal story they had all known or guessed why their unit existed. Though humanity was working hard to be a good citizen of Council Space and to play ball as much as possible this hadn’t prevented the alliance from creating contingency options.

 

The ghosts had been the alliance’s absolutely secret answer to the council’s spectres. A mystery shrouded group of highly trained operatives who could do the dirty jobs that inevitably arose as a result of expansion and governance. If there was ever a situation where a single suppressed shot or thrust of a knife would save having to deploy Alliance forces, the ghosts were there. Indeed this had been one of the reason’s Sara had accepted the invite to the unit, in order to keep people like her brother and his comrades safe.

 

Before their assignment guarding and excavating Prothean ruins (or notional assignment in Sara’s case) both she and Scott had been rising stars in the Alliance military. Both of them had achieved N5 status relatively quickly but whereas Scott had begun to distinguish himself leading small tactical units of marines, Sara had begun training as a commando and infiltrator. It was after a particularly dicey mission in cooperation with an Asari Commando unit that she’d first been approached about becoming a ghost.

 

The invite had come in the form of an datapad left anonymously in her quarters. It had offered her a chance to do what it called ‘real and lasting good’ for humanity. It had also made clear that if she refused this offer she would be ordered to submit to a medical procedure that would erase her memory of the offer entirely. Sara had been intrigued, she’d risen about as high as she ever would in her infiltration unit as someone who had no interest in administrative duties. And thus her new, and secret, life had begun.

 

Of course all the good work she’d done as a member of the ghosts had been off the books. Officially she’d spent those years dutifully shepherding Prothean digs. Part of her cover had necessitated her studying up on the subject, and she had developed a legitimate interest in it, but she’d always had to be careful when it came to discussing their ‘shared’ job with Scott. But when the tsunami of the revelations about Alec Ryder’s AI research had hit the unofficial nature of her work had bit her in the back. If Scott, the promising young officer with a brilliant combat record, had seen his career torpedoed then what chance did his Sister, a soldier who had served with no apparent distinction, have? Sara had even tried to reach out to her commanding officer in the ghosts for help to no avail.

 

And so she’d joined the Andromeda initiative fully intending to simply be the best recon specialist she could. Then her cryo pod had experienced a malfunction when the Ark Hyperion had hit the scourge on arriving in Andromeda. She’d been stuck in a coma for weeks and had awakened just in time to be captured by the Kett. She’d done her part to help her brother, now a Pathfinder in their father’s stead, to defeat the Kett madman known as the Archon but when Scott had finally killed him she’d once again become the ‘other’ Ryder.

 

She’d tried her best to push through this. She’d even spent a short amount of time serving on the Tempest in her original recon role. The Pathfinder team had been nothing but welcoming, her brother doubly so, and yet it had still been uncomfortable for her. No matter what they said, and she did not doubt their good intentions in the least, she was still the ‘other’ Ryder and an outsider. Someone who hadn’t been through the immense trials and tribulations they had in the struggle against the Archon.

 

So she’d transferred off the Tempest over the loud objections of the entire Pathfinder team. She’d then applied to Tiran Kandros, the head of the Nexus militia, for a spot on one of his APEX strike teams. In response she’d received a message from him inviting her to discuss ‘other opportunities’ with him in his new office. She’d shrugged at this, the wording had certainly raised her eyebrows but if the Turian had a bad case of ‘soft skin fever’ she’d happily use that to get herself in a position to feel useful again.

 

When she’d arrived at Kandros’ office at the unusually late hour he’d picked for their meeting, further evidence of his possibly not entirely professional intentions, she’d been prepared for anything. Or so she’d thought. Instead when she’d entered the office she’d found not only Kandros but no less exalted a personage than the Turian pathfinder, Avitus Rix, himself.  She’d actually been working on a quip about not wanting to cut herself in too many private places on their plates when Rix had said what was literally the last thing she’d have ever expected.

 

“Welcome Recon Specialist...I’ve always wanted to meet a ghost” the Turian had told her with what she’d thought was a knowing smile, it was hard to tell sometimes with Turians. Had the pathfinder dropped to one knee and proposed to her Sara would have been less shocked. Of course her superiors in the ghosts had trained their people to deal with these sort of situations but it had been so long since she’d had to be mindful of this that she’d known instantly that she hadn’t kept the surprise from her face.

 

“Seems you were right” Kandros had said to Rix from where he sat behind his desk. Sara had noted that he was sitting in an unusually rigid posture, even for a Turian, and had instantly guessed that he had a weapon on her.

 

“No guesswork needed, and no need for the gun either” Rix had said as he waved Sara toward a seat. Deciding that she’d pretty well blown her secret by now she’d taken it and waited as the Turian pathfinder and closed and sealed the door behind her.

 

“How did you know” she’d asked the room at large.

 

“I didn’t, at least not about you until I became a pathfinder…” Rix had told her as he’d taken the seat next to her. After a short pause he’d continued by adding “...but as to how I knew the term ‘ghost’ I used to be a council specter and we’d heard rumors about your unit for a long time”.

 

Sara had actually given him a wry grin before saying “and we thought we were being oh so clever” finishing with a rueful shake of her head.

 

“Oh you did well, if the council had ever had any proof that your unit existed they’d have used it to slap down your ambassador…” Rix told her “...they had several of us looking for that proof at the time I retired”.

 

“So what now?” Sara asked.

 

“We need your help” Kandros had said as he’d withdrawn his hand from under his desk to deposit an M-3 Predator pistol on his desk.

 

“My help?” Sara had asked suspiciously.

 

“THE pathfinder…” Kandros said, there was no need to actually specify Scott as unless otherwise specified the term always meant him, “...has made pretty clear that he wants total transparency and openness from the initiative, even from the militia” he finished.

 

“So? He’s not in charge of policy” Sara countered.

 

“Maybe not but his voice is hugely influential, publically butting heads with him takes a lot of political capital that I don’t have” Kandros answered.

 

“But the need for groups like the spectres or ghosts…” Avitus said with a nod toward Sara “...doesn’t go away just because we wish it would”. Sara nodded but stayed silent. She hadn’t ever brought it up to her brother but she happened to agree with the Turian pathfinder. Scott was a shining sword in the hand of the initiative, righting wrongs everywhere he went. But some fights didn’t call for a shining sword, some needed a knife or brass knuckles in a dirty alley.

 

“That’s where you come in” Kandros said.

 

Sara looked from one Turian to the other for a moment before saying in a skeptical tone “...you want me on your secret black ops unit? That's going to be hard to pull off in a place like the Nexus”.

 

Kandros shook his head and said “no, nothing like that”.

 

“Then I’m confused as to why you need me” Sara said.

 

“He means we don’t want you to be PART of the unit, we want you to lead and recruit it” Rix said from beside her. Sara’s eyes widened again as she did her best to gauge how serious the Turian was.

 

As she thought Kandros added “and you wouldn’t be totally secret either, officially you’d be just another APEX strike team but unofficially we’d be sending you any jobs we had that might be...embarrassing for the initiative if they became too public”. Sara thought about it though she could already feel a tingling of excitement building inside of her.

 

“Do Tann and the others know about this?” she finally asked.

 

“Yes…” Kandros answered “...and they approve though they will deny any knowledge of your activities if you are ever exposed”.

 

Sara snorted “yeah, well I’m used to that”.

 

“I thought you might be” Rix said with a Turian smile.

 

“What kind of resources and authority would I have?” Sara asked.

 

“Publicly you’d have as much as any other strike team leader, which isn’t inconsiderable” Kandros told her as he laced his fingers together and stared at her over them.

 

“...Unofficially we’d do our best to get you whatever you might need to complete your missions” Rix added.

 

Sara was conflicted. She couldn’t deny that she was tempted by the offer. It presented a chance for her to once again feel as though she were contributing in a real way. Perhaps more importantly, contributing in a way that wasn’t contingent upon her being THE pathfinder’s sister. On the other hand one of the reasons she’d come to Andromeda was for a fresh start. Did she really want to dip right back into her old life? She didn’t remain conflicted for too long however.

 

“I’m in...” she said before adding on “...on one condition”.

 

“What’s that” Kandros asked, giving nothing away with his expression or tone.

 

“...Someday you two will tell me how you found out about me” Sara said, holding first Kandros’ and then Rix’s eyes.

 

“Someday” Rix said simply.

 

“And what about you?...” Sara asked him “...this all doesn’t sound very pathfinder-like”.

 

Rix smiled “...officially I have no part of this of course, and you’re right I do have my pathfinder duties. But Kandros has asked for my help on this due to my experience as a spectre so when I can I’ll be your handler”. Sara nodded at this, it made sense to her.

 

“Before you get started on recruiting and training however…” Kandros said as he hit a control on his desk to bring up an image of a world Sara recognized as Havaral “...we have a job that we need you to handle personally, right away”.

 

And so Sara found herself laying belly down on a pungent and rotting tree trunk, on an alien world, in a galaxy that wasn’t her own. She’d been up here for several hours already. If necessary she’d stay up here for even longer. Looking through the scope of her weapon again she scanned the distant clearing and saw that, as it turned out, she wouldn’t have to. She’d climbed the tree early that morning after carefully surveilling the clearing her target was now standing in. She’d picked a tree that had fallen into another, the still living tree’s leafs providing her concealment. She’d arrived very early to give the local wildlife a chance to grow used to her presence. Alert sentries would grow suspicious if they came upon a an area of the jungle that was devoid of the usual sounds and signs of life.

 

Her target was an Angara. His name was Tef De Qjoser. A Roekarr hardliner and one of the many small time leaders who had attempted to step into the void left by the disgrace of the movement’s original leader, Akksul. Despite Scott’s efforts on behalf of the Angara the movement had actually grown slightly now that the Kett seemed to be in retreat. Tef had managed to gather a large enough gang around him that he might soon pose a potential threat to Initiative personnel on Havaral. Unfortunately he was also very well connected among Angaran leadership and publicly respectable, showing no outward signs of his affiliation with the now disgraced Roekaar. Diplomatically they initiative was stuck.

 

That was where Sara came in. For at this very moment she was staring at Tef De Qjoser’s blue skin and equally blue eyes through the scope of her Black Widow rifle. Despite being over 500 meters away the powerful optics made his features as clear to Sara as though she stood right next to the Angara. He was shouting something at a group of listening Angara, all of whom seemed to be receiving his words appreciatively. He was still shouting as Sara blew out her breath slowly and tightened her finger on the trigger.

 

She was still watching through the scope as Tef De Qjoser’s head exploded in a spray of blue blood and flesh. A moment later she was dropping down from her tree, careful not to use her jump jet as it might attract attention, and then hurrying off into the darkening jungle. As she jogged along she let her rifle collapse and replaced it on her back with slow smile spreading across her face. The moment before she engaged her tactical cloak she spoke to herself.

 

“It’s good to be back” she said.



Chapter Text

Location: Meridian, Saajor System

 

“BOOM! Beat that...” Sara Ryder shouted in glee as she watched the stone shatter into a thousand small bits of gravel in midair. Lowering her rifle she turned to her left and winked at her younger brother Scott before adding “...or you can preserve your dignity and pay me my credits now”.

 

Scowling pathfinder Scott Ryder, THE famous pathfinder, hefted his own rifle and said “...you’ve been trying so hard to convince me to quit it’s almost like you’re worried you can’t beat me sis”.

 

Sara grinned at him saying “just looking out for you little brother, can’t let it get around that the big bad pathfinder is a spray and pray guy”.

 

“Just throw the rock” Scott said grumpily as he lifted the muzzle of his rifle high and peered through it’s scope. Giving a theatrically heavy sigh Sara turned toward the pile of stones next to her and concentrated hard. A blue halo of sparkling biotic energy formed around the stone on top of the pile as it hovered up to about chest height. Gritting her teeth Sara focused on keeping it there for a few moments before sending it hurtling out into the air with a loud grunt. The stone sailed high over the edge of the cliff reaching an impressive height before starting to plummet back down toward the lake below them.

 

“Oh I got this” Scott muttered as he swung his rifle after the rock and pulled the trigger. There was a loud hollow boom as his valiant kicked hard against his shoulder. The rock, completely unscathed, continued crashing downward toward the lake. A moment later it hit the water with a splash that was audible even on top of the cliff they stood on.

 

“Yeah...you showed that patch of sky” Sara teased her brother as she checked her own rifle. A moment later she’d sent not one but two large rocks soaring over the lake. Two quick shots. As newly made gravel rained down into the lake a voice called out from behind the Ryder siblings.

 

“You’re getting a lot better at that toss” Cora Harper said as she approached from the direction of the shuttle Sara and her brother had taken to this remote part of Meridian.

 

“Thanks!” Sara said as she set her guns safety and set it carefully down before stepping forward and hugging the other woman. Cora’s almost white blonde hair was swept to the side as usual revealing one side of her head that had been shaved smooth. She was dressed about as casually as she ever got, a long sleeved athletic top and matching pants and boots. Accompanying her were an Asari, a tall Angaran and an even bulkier Krogan.

 

“I’ll beat you someday sis” Scott said as he mock scowled at Sara.

 

“Not shooting like that you won’t kid” the old Krogan, Nakmor Drack, rumbled as he looked at Scott.

 

“Drack, you old fossil! How are you” Sara said as she disentangled herself from Cora and stepped forward to grab the old Krogan by either side of his face before driving her head toward his forehead plate. Before she could concuss herself however she conjured a small biotic field and her head bounced gently back, but not before sending Drack tilting minutely back onto his heels.

 

“That’s cheating you know…” the old warrior grumbled even as he grinned at Sara. Drack had become close to both Ryders but whereas he was a mentor/bodyguard to Scott he’d become an almost surrogate father like figure to Sara. Part of this was due to the fact that neither Ryder twin had been very close to their father Alec. In Sara’s case it was also the fact that she just liked Krogan.

 

“Oh trust me you don’t want to go head to head with me old man, I’m a Ryder remember? Our heads are harder than diamonds” Sara teased him.

 

“Easily” Scott said grinning.

 

“I think I would prefer to forgo a head butt as a greeting” Jaal Ama Darav, the tall Angra, said as he and Sara both extended their right arms to press their knuckles into the other’s right shoulder. A traditional Angaran greeting.

 

“Me too” Kerri T’Vessa, the Asari, said as he joined the group and slid an arm through Scott’s. The two had announced their relationship shortly after the defeat of the Archon, something that Sara had heartily approved of. Kerri was smart and driven with a desire to do good in the universe that perfectly matched Scott’s.

 

“You two are no fun” Scott said as he exchanged a greeting with Jaal and then kissed Kerri quickly.

 

“Awwww” Cora and Sara said simultaneously.

 

Ignoring both of them Scott asked “would one of you like to be the one who finally beats my sister at her own game?” he said as he gestured toward the rocks.

 

“Sniper rifles aren’t for me, I don’t like fighting if I can’t see the enemy pissing himself” Drack said as he looked dismissively at the rifle Scott was offering him.

 

“You know I only shoot with a camera” Kerri said.

 

“Perhaps I will try” Jaal said as he stepped forward and took the rifle from Scott. Sara grinned wolfishly as he did.

 

“Stakes?” she asked, trying and completely failing to sound innocent.

 

“Hmm...what about...ten of your credits?” Jaal suggested after a few moments.

 

“Someone’s not confident” Sara said.

 

“Don’t let her hustle you Jaal...” Cora said as she raised her own Omni tool and tapped a few commands into it “...I’m in by the way”.

 

“Uwww more victims” Sara said as she matched Cora’s gesture, adding her own credits to the pot. After Jaal had done the same all three shooters took their places at the edge of the cliff.

 

“Kerri, if you’d do the honors” Sara said, stepping forward to go first.  Before Kerri could answer Sara’s omni tool beeped loudly.

 

“Kandros to Ryder” came the voice of Tiran Kandros, the Turian commander of the Andromeda Initiative militia.

 

“Yes?” both Scott and Sara said. Sara turned to look her brother looking quizzically.

 

“Sorry, habit” he said.

 

“Oh, hello pathfinder…” Kandros said before continuing “...COMMANDER Ryder, you’re needed back at Port Hyperion”.

 

“On my way...” Sara said as she signed off. With a sigh she looked regretfully at her companions “...sorry duty calls”.

 

“My sister, an APEX Commander” Scott said with a smile that was tinged with the tiniest bit of regret. Sara knew that he’d have welcomed her back aboard the Tempest as one of his crew without hesitation but she actually enjoyed her new role immensely.

 

“Take the time to practice little brother, maybe someday you’ll be a challenge” she said with a grin as she turned to leave.

 

“I doubt it sis, I think you’ll always have me at this” Scott said with a rueful smile.

 

“Awww…” she said as she stepped forward to reach up and ruffle his hair “...you’re just too good of a grunt for precision work little brother”.

 

Cora had to choke off a laugh at this as Jaal asked “what is a grunt?”.

 

“If I ever need something heavy picked up and put down again I’ll let you know” Sara said over her shoulder.

 

“Mind if I join you actually? I need to head back as well” Cora said.

 

“Sure”

 

“Does this mean I win the bet then?” Jaal asked. Sara looked at him with furrowed brow for a moment before she closed her eyes tight. Three of the remaining stones suddenly hovered jerkily off the pile, looking as though they might toppled back to the ground at any moment. Acting before she lost her grip Sara flung all three stones out over the lake. Her tenuous grip on release meaning that they flew off at widely varying angles. Jumping quickly to one side she raised her rifle again and squeezed the trigger three times.

 

As three clouds of destroyed rock rained down from above Sara turned back toward the shuttles once more but called “no Jaal, it does not”.




Sara piloted one of the two shuttles the group had taken out that afternoon with expert skill as she headed back toward Port Hyperion.The crashed former Ark had become the seat of human governance in Heleus and the primary spaceport on the Dyson Sphere known as Meridian. It was strange that Kandros would be there, as he usually worked out of the Nexus. But Sara knew she’d learn his business when she arrived so she didn’t dwell on it.

 

“You’re control of your biotics is getting much better” Cora said from beside her. Cora was an extremely powerful and skilled biotic capable of pulling apart armored vehicles or warding off air to ground missiles with an act of will. Sara’s biotics were of a much lower order. Inaccurate rock flinging being one of the greatest feats she could accomplish.

 

“Thanks, I’ve been doing those exercises you showed me” Sara said as she consulted her piloting HUD.

 

“Still getting the headaches?” Cora asked.

 

“Yeah, when I over do it...I’ll be paying for that last one tomorrow” Sara answered.

 

“Keep at it, they go away eventually”

 

“Glad to hear it”

 

“So how do you like APEX?” Cora asked casually.

 

Sara shot her a sideways look before saying “What? Did Scott send you to do his weedling for him?”.

 

“No…” Cora said, perhaps too forcibly, “...I’m glad you’ve found a place with APEX and they are lucky to have you…” she trailed off.

 

“But…?” Sara prompted her.

 

“He does miss having you around the Tempest, he spent all the time running all over the cluster dealing with the Archon and I think he always told himself that in the end you would end up on his team” Cora allowed.

 

“I know” Sara said quietly as the shuttles computer told them they were five minutes out from Port Hyperion.

 

“But I told him that he needed to respect your decision” Cora said she smiled at Sara.

 

“Thanks Cora, I really appreciate it” Sara said. They spent the last few minutes of the flight gossiping happily about Scott and Kerri. And by the time they emerged from the shuttle into the hanger bay they were both laughing cheerfully. Kandros was waiting for them and as he approached from the hanger entrance Sara was struck once again by how rigidily and erect he held himself. The militia commander was the scion of an old military family on Palaven, where that sort of thing meant a great deal, and he always seemed to be conscious of the weight of that legacy.

 

“Lieutenant Harper…” Kandros said as he stopped in front of them with a nod.

 

“Kandros…” Cora said before turning to Sara and hugging her once more “...I need to go speak to requisitions, catch up later?”.

 

“You bet” Sara said with a smile. She watched Cora walk away for a few moments before turning back to Kandros and asking “...got another job for me? Or is this news about my team?”. Officially Sara was just one of several APEX strike team leaders and as such should have had a team already. Unofficially she, Kandros, and the Turian pathfinder Avitus Rix had fixed it so she would be the leader of the Andromeda Initiative’s first black ops unit. The project had the tacit approval of Nexus leadership but with the caveat that if it were ever exposed Sara would be thrown over.

 

She’d agreed to this arrangement because it allowed her to do what she was best at. She’d been part of a secret elite black ops team back in the Milky Way, unbeknownst to her brother, and she felt that this was a chance for her to use her own specific skill set to really help the Initiative and it’s Angaran allies. Thus far however, she’d only been out on a few solo missions as her promised team had yet to materialize.

 

“Both actually…” Kandros said as he beckoned for Sara to follow him. She had to hurry slightly to keep up with his much longer legs but she made sure to catch every word as he continued “...we have an important job for you that I don’t think I can trust to any of the other APEX teams”.

 

“And it’s not even my birthday” Sara quipped.

 

Kandros gave a tight lipped smile before saying “we have a lead on the Primus”. That caught Sara’s attention. The Primus was now the most senior Kett in the Heleus cluster with the death of the Archon. He’d done deal with Scott that had made it easier for the later to kill the Archon, whom the Primus had his own reasons to despise. But that was all firmly in the past as one of the first things the Primus had done upon ascending to leadership was lead a series of brutal raids on isolated Angaran and Initiative outposts.

 

“If you know where he is then why aren’t you dropping the heavy end of the hammer on him?” Sara asked.

 

“We don’t have the forces for a head on attack…” Kandros answered as they left the hanger bay and entered a elevator “...and we don’t know where the Primus is but we think we’ve located someone who does”.

 

“So this is a snatch and grab?” Sara asked as she bit her lip.

 

“Maybe, but there will be other options as well” Kandros told her. He then fell silent until the elevator doors opened and he began walking briskly down another corridor. “It’s possible you could interrogate him on the spot or even that a data raid could do the trick”.

 

“So three of the most difficult operations possible, with just me to do it...no biggie” Sara asked sarcastically.

 

“Not JUST you” Kandros said as he stopped outside a nondescript looking door. Rather than simply open it Sara was surprised when he tapped a long complicated sequence into the door’s keypad. Kandros then paused and wait until the keypad emitted an unusual tone and turned pink. He must have been waiting for this response because he entered another rapid series of keystrokes and a moment later the door opened.

 

“Well this is all very cloak and dagger” Rion said as she followed Kandros into a plain conference room. The room was occupied already, a single Salarian sitting at the table studying a wall mounted monitor and flipping through screens with dizzying rapidity.

 

“Ryder, meet Major Saelen Varn, formerly of the STG” Kandros said he waved Sara toward an empty seat on the table across from Varn.

 

“Ah, another Ryder…” Varn said as he stood and offered Sara a hand which she shook.

 

“Thats me, the ‘other’ Ryder” Sara muttered.

 

“Your brother is certainly a capable one but from what I am told you’re the better option for the jobs we’ll have ahead” Varn told her, speaking rapidly even for a Salarian.

 

Sara blinked but finally asked “we?”.

 

It was Kandros who answered saying “Major Varn is the first member of you team”. Sara looked at the Salarian skeptically. The STG was certainly famous in the Milky Way as a very skilled group of operators but from what little Sara knew of Salarian anatomy the Major seemed old for field work.

 

“I see…” was all that she said aloud.

 

“Oh I know what you’re thinking…” Varn said quickly “...and I am too old for much of the dirty work anymore”.

 

“Major Varn has decades of experience with this sort of work, he’ll be invaluable to you as a staff officer and organizer” Kandros said.

 

Sara looked at Varn for a few moments before shrugging “works for me, we’ll try it out...BUT…” she said with a hard edge in her voice “...if I don’t like it then you don’t stay Major”.

 

Varn smiled in reply “of course Commander”.

 

“It’s your team Ryder…” Kandros said, taking the seat at the head of the table “...but Avitus strongly recommends the major” he finished referring to the Turian pathfinder. Sara guessed that Varn and Rix must have met while the former was still with the STG and the latter was a council spectre.

 

“We’ll see” Sara said noncommittally. If her tone and manner put Varn off he didn’t show it at all, which was what she’d expect from a spy.

 

“Then I think the best way I can begin demonstrating my value to you will be to help you find some recruits” Varn said as he began manipulating the wall monitor again. A moment later a hologram of the display appeared over the table displaying a long line of personnel files.

 

“I assume you have some recommendations then?” Sara asked pointedly.

 

“I’m going to leave you two to it” Kandros said as he stood. He was at the door when he said over his shoulder “...the major has the mission details” and then he was gone.

 

“Who do you have for me?” Sara asked Varn as she leaned forward to study the display hovering in the air in front of her. She and Varn then spent the next two hours combing over the personnel files of Initiative personnel (and even some Angara) that both qualified for APEX work and fit the profile of what Sara was looking for in her own specialized team. In the end they only found two candidates that seemed to fit the bill. Sara flatly refused to take anyone who seemed ‘close’ to what they wanted given the nature of the team’s job and she was pleased when Varn agreed with her. After the Major had arranged for the two candidates to meet them on the Nexus he hit a few controls and the personnel files were replaced by a mission briefing file. Hovering over it all was a rotating model of the Primus rendered from the shoulders up.

 

“Let's get to work” Sara said quietly.

 

Chapter Text

Location: Ryder-1, Eriksson System

 

“You know, if a planet had to be named ‘Ryder’ I’d have preferred something a bit more picturesque” Sara Ryder said as she looked out through her shuttle’s side viewports. Ryder-1, formerly known as Habitat-7, was an uninspiring grey and brown color from the air. Still, she consoled herself, the planet was actually named for her brother and not her.

 

“Talk about famous people problems” Maria Santos, the shuttle’s pilot, said over he shoulder as she brought the craft skimming along the crest of a long ridge of rocky foothills. Or more precisely between two of them.

 

“Looks liveable to me” Curdan Grode said as he pressed his frontal plate against the shuttle’s port window and watched the landscape flash by. The Krogan field medic was an amiable sort, at least for his species, and generally tried to find positives in everything. Apparently this included Ruder-1.

 

“Everything looks liveable when you’re home world is an irradiated dump” Niay Janilas said over their commlink. The Asart explosives expert was waiting with the final member of Sara’s field team, Bain Massani, was waiting to ambush their target several kilometers away. Before Curdan could answer the last member of Sara’s team spun in the co-pilot's chair to face the rest of the shuttle. Though not a field team member Major Saelen Varn served as Sara’s second in command and as the team’s XO. His decades of experience as a member of the famous (or infamous depending on one's point of view) STG served him well in both roles,

 

“We’ll be over the target in one minute, you two better get ready” he said. Sara could see the Salarian’s mouth moving but only heard him over their comm channel. This was due to enormous sound of rushing air filling the craft as Santos opened the side door opposite Sara and Curdan.

 

“You worry too much” Sara shouted into her comm before walking to the doorway and clinging to one of the several hanging handles there. All she could see below them was the seemingly unending string of rocky hills but she knew that was about the change.

 

“Remember that you’ll only have about seven minutes to locate and grab the Prefect” Varn reminded them. Needlessly it seemed to Sara but she supposed that the team simply hadn’t yet earned all of the old spy’s confidence. Fair enough, she thought, she didn’t trust Varn with all her being yet either. Officially Sara and her team were known as APEX Strike Team Hotel. A name Sara disliked for several reasons but one she accepted because ultimately it was a disguise.

 

Strike Team Hotel were actually the Nexus Government’s first black ops team. Conceived by the join vision of Nexus Militia Commander Tiran Candros and the Turian Pathfinder Avitus Rix, himself a former Spectre, the team existed to do the less than pleasant dirty jobs that came with governing an unruly patch of space. Sara had become involved when the two Turian’s had somehow learned of her service in a top secret Systems Alliance black ops group back in the Milky Way, indeed they’d asked her to lead the new team.

 

Sara had entertained vague hopes upon joining the Andromeda Initiative that she might really be able to just be a recon specialist. Yet despite the fact that she was in a new galaxy she found herself once again living the life of an operator. And she couldn’t deny that part of her, a large part of her, felt as though she had a purpose again. More to the point a purpose that she was very very good at.

 

“I’ll get you as low as I can, but the drop will still be over fifty meters” Santos told them from the cockpit.

 

The plan that they were carrying out would have been impossible for any other APEX team to carry out. In fact the rest of the APEX leaders would have dismissed it as pure idiocy had Sara mentioned it to them. As things stood she and Varn had only agreed to it because they knew they had a special group of individuals on their team. Individuals who just might be able to make it work.

 

The plan called for Santos, the teams pilot and mechanic, to hug the ravine between the two ridges until they were almost on top of their target. She would then shoot out from concealment to drop Sara and Curdan right on top of their target. The target was a large convoy of Kett vehicles that seemed to be shifting materials and personnel from one Kett base to another. Ryder-7’s infamous lightning made all flight tricky and the Kett had obviously decided that ground transport would be simpler than using their own shuttles. Fortunately for Sara and her team, Santos was more than up for the challenge.

 

Upon spotting the shuttle break cover both Janilas and Massani would launch whatever distraction/ambush they had planned to sow confusion amongst the Kett and, hopefully, draw some of their forces to the front of the convoy. Sara had considered having them launch their diversion earlier but had decided that for maximum confusion it would be better if everything happened at once. While all this was happening she and Curdan would drop from the shuttle directly down among the center vehicles of the convoy, taking advantage of the confusion to locate and Prefect and extract him or her.

 

Ordinarily Sara specialized more in killing Kett than kidnapping them but this was a special occasion. Ever since her brother Scott, THE pathfinder, had defeated the Kett leader in the Heleus cluster, the Archon, the Kett had been under the leadership of the Archon’s former 2nd in command the Primus. APEX had made tracking down the Kett leader a top priority but had thus far had no success. That was until recently when an Angaran resistance operative had tipped off Avitus Rix about a possible lead. The operative hadn’t known where the Primus herself was but had given Avitus the location of a Kett who might.

 

And so Sara and her team were preparing to snatch the very Kett in question. They didn’t know for certain where in the convoy the Prefect would be but given the Kett’s almost fanatical respect for authority it stood for reason it would be the largest and most heavily protected vehicle and probably in the middle of the convoy. Early scans had indicated that there was just such a vehicle rolling along in the exact center of the convoy. Sara was prepared to stake not only her neck but those of her crew that it would contain the Prefect.

 

“Ten seconds!” Santos yelled from the cockpit. A small countdown timer appeared in Sara’s helmet HUD as she mentally braced herself for her jump. The timer had reached five seconds when Santo’s voice came back “rockets away! Prepare to jump!”.

 

Even from as high in the air as she was Sara felt the detonations from the Cobra RPG’s as they struck the ground and several Kett vehicles. Normally shuttles we’re armed but Varn and Santos had thought it prudent that their team’s vehicle have a few surprises in her. One of these surprises was slide away panel in the nose that revealed four Cobra’s ready to go. The projectives weren’t guided in anyway and once they were used it required a full landing and refit to reload them, but they paid off in this case.

 

In the brief time that Sara was airborne she saw two vehicles on their sides with flames guttering from them as well as scrambling Kett. She didn’t have time to view more as she had to concentrate with all her might on not only firing her jump jets but creating a small biotic field beneath herself and Curdan as they landed.

 

Sara was now great biotic herself, her abilities barely warranting an L3 implant, but she’d been practicing hard under the tutelage of Cora Harper and Pathfinder Sarissa when either other woman had time to spare. That practice paid off now as she was able to turn what would have been a knee damaging landing even with jump jets into something that just shook both herself and Curdan to their cores and drove their wind out. She even swore she felt a tiny vibration in the ground as the huge Krogan landed.

 

Conscious thought seemed to cease for her the moment she landed. She entered an odd state of being both detached and hyper alert whenever she was in combat and today was no exception. The moment she landed she rolled forward and came up in a couch, her rifle already expanding in her hands as she finished the movement. The Black Widow sniper rifle would have been a wildly impractical choice in a short range firefight like this one for most people. Sara was not most people.

 

Two trigger squeezes sent two Kett Chosen slumping backwards with holes in their bony foreheads. Instinctively knowing she’d been stationary for two long she threw herself sideways as the heavy barrel of a Kett Anointed plasma cannon swung through the air where her head had been. Sara hurled a concentrated ball of biotic power at the Kett and watched him slam backward into a vehicle at the same moment that she engaged her tactical cloak. Ignoring the all too familiar tingling feeling or the distorted perspective that the cloak cause she hurried sideways toward where three Kett Chosen were drawing beads on Curdan.

 

“Hey boys” she said as she suddenly appeared behind first Kett and drove a knife hard into section of his neck unprotected by bone plating. The other two Kett didn’t even finishing turning toward her before she shot both through the temple. Or where a temple would be on a human anyway. Spinning back to survey the way she’d come she saw that Curdan was hard at work doing what Krogan’s did best.

 

Howling like a demented demon the Krogan was cutting through the Kett around him like a blowtorch through ice. Though she only looked for a second Sara saw the bodies of several dead Kett at his feet, not all as a result of gunfire. She also saw that his shields were taking a pounding from the Kett who were slowly encircling him. Time to change that. As her cloak was still cooling down she lifted her rifle once more and dropped another Kett before dodging to her right and scurrying toward the relative cover of one of the stopped vehicles.

 

Turning back the way she’d come she had only the barest moment to recognize the tell tale shimmer in the air before the wraith pounced. Rolling into three quarters of a reverse somersault she got her palms on the ground and shoved off with all her might when she was back on her shoulder blades. She drove both of her booted feet into the Wraiths snout, drawing a whimper of pain from it as it flew backward. Knowing she’d bought herself mere moments Sara executed a kip up and immediately engaged her jump jet.

 

Just as he feet cleared the field of fire a stream of Kett fire slashed through the air she had occupied moments before. As she was gone however there was nothing to stop the shots as they struck the Wraith, killing it instantly. Twisting in mid air Sara hovered for a moment and thrust out a palm toward the two Kett that had fired on her. A wall of biotic energy shot toward them and though it did little more than cause them to stumble that was enough time for her to raise her rifle and shoot both.

 

As she thudded to the ground again she felt and heard, though didn’t see, a tremendous crashing sound from somewhere ahead of them. The sound of metal screeching in protest as it was bent out of shape filled the air drawing the eyes of several Kett. Not so for Sara. Shooting an Anointed before he could spin up his plasma guns she turned and sprinted toward where Curdan was bodily throwing a Kett into a gaggle of his compatriots. As they landed in a heap Curdan raised his Hornet SMG, his preferred weapon, and unleashed a hail of bullets into the pile of Kett all while laughing as though he’d never had a better time.

 

Sara shot several more Kett but found that they had reached one of those inexplicable luls that appeared in most fights. A quick check of her HUD told her that her shields were holding and that her ammo situation was solid. Hurrying up to Curdan she slapped the big Krogan’s arm as hard as she could to get his attention causing her had to smart. It took one or two smacks but eventually he turned on her snarling.

 

“Easy there big guy...” Sara said as she pointed toward the vehicle a few meters in front of them “...let’s go get our target!”.

 

“Allow me” Curdan growled, though he was still grinning, as she stomped over toward the vehicle’s rear door. Sara covered him and killed two more Kett who were hurrying toward them. She sensed that there were more of them around but that they were massing before they attacked again. They’d seen that fighting Sara and Curdan piecemeal simply meant suicide so they’d try to overwhelm them.

 

“Get that door open quick” Sara shouted over her shoulder as she took cover behind a chunk of one of the vehicles that had been struck by a rocket earlier. Her HUD had confirmed her earlier instinct and was informing her that two groups of Kett were forming two either side of them. As it turned out Curdan didn’t need to. At that moment the door flew open sending the Krogan sprawling backward. Sara hurried over to him and helped him to his feet just as a Kett voice sounded behind her.

 

“The impudence!” said the Kett Ascendant as he or she (as always Sara couldn’t tell the difference immediately) floated regally out of the vehicles hatch to hover in the air before them. Sara assumed this was the Prefect.

 

“I think that’s our target” Curdan muttered as he hefted his SMG. He didn’t have time to fire though as the Kett’s focusing orb spun rapidly around towards him and sent a blast of bioelectric energy searing toward him. Curdan dodged and began hurrying to his right, weaving between several pieces of debris as he did.

 

“Get me a shot!” Sara called to him as she engaged her tactical cloak.

 

“You cannot hide from me human!” the Kett screamed as it fired another bolt at the frantically fleeing Curdan. It floated down toward the ground and began rotating in midair to track Curdan as it continued “...your Krogan will serve us but as a punishment for your effrontery I will deny you the glory of exaltation!”. The Kett fired several more blasts that struck the ground where Curdan had been only moments before.

 

“I’m not anyone’s Krogan pal” Curdan roared as he lowered his shoulder and bowled over a Kett Chosen who had tried to block his path. This game of cat and mouse continued for what felt like a long time as the Prefect chased Kurdan around first one and then another vehicle. Several more Kett arrived on the scene but seemed content to allow their leader to finish off the attackers.

 

“Silence! Your childish mewling is of no interest to me” The Prefect cried as it’s orb suddenly began vibrating and sparking in front of it. This was the prelude to an even more devastating electrical attack, Sara recognized the signs, and had it hit Curdan she doubted even the Krogan could have survived.

 

“Nice use of the word ‘mewling’” Sara muttered from where she no knelt atop  the vehicle behind the one the Prefect had exited. She’d climbed up it’s side the moment she’d cloaked and had been waiting for the right moment. And now that she had the Kett’s focusing orb in her sights, it had come. Of course Curdan hadn’t been running in an oddly shaped ovoid out of panic, he’d simply been stringing the Kett along for Sara to find the right shot. She squeezed her trigger. The three shots that burst out of the rifle with each shot crossed the distance between her and the Prefect in less time than it took to blink. With an extremely satisfying small explosion the orb disintegrated and the Prefect was jerked mid air as though struck by its own lightning. “Gotcha” Sara said with a grin before rolling off the top of her vehicle.

 

“About time!” Curdan bellowed from two vehicles away. Sara couldn’t see him but she assumed he was now going after the unprotected Prefect. Taking advantage of the fact that several Kett had fled the area while others looked confused by the fall of their commander. Sara, on the other hand immediately activated a shield booster. Good thing she did too as a storm of fire from the Kett who had been watching suddenly crashed into her shield causing it to shimmer blue around her. Using a biotic blast she was able to shove one Kett out of her way and to sprint through the gap this created in the cordon around her but her shields were still taking a beating.

 

“Just grab the target!” Sara shouted as she squeezed off a series of random shots as she hurried toward where she assumed Curdan was. Sure enough she turned a corner and found him hunkered next to an overturned vehicle taking fire from both directions, the slumped form of the Prefect laying next to him. Snatching a grenade from her belt she flung it toward the shooters behind Curdan and then did her best to encase him in a biotic field. It mostly worked, none of the grenades deadly shrapnel hit the Krogan but he was still buffeted forward onto his face.

 

“Would you be more careful!” Curdan shouted as he scrambled to his feet. He was almost invisible behind the rippling blue distortions of his shields which were taking a pounding. Sara knew they couldn’t hold forever so she raised her rifle again and and swung it’s long barrel around toward the Kett still shooting at him.

 

Unfortunately in the time it took for her to do so another Kett had appeared from somewhere and loomed up before her. Grabbing the barrel of her gun the Chosen wrenched it out of line, preventing Sara from helping Curdan. One of the first things you learned in Alliance advanced hand to hand training was never to wrestling with an opponent for your gun like this. If they were going to focus on your weapon than you focus on hurting them.

 

So Sara let go of her gun as the Kett tried to wrench it from her grasp. This sent him stumbling away as he failed to meet the resistance he’d been calculating he needed to overcome. Sara was on him again in flash with her knife out. She’d learned the hard way, literally, that most unarmed techniques didn’t work on Kett. Their bone armor was simply too strong and the weak points hard to reach in most cases. Not so with blades as she’d demonstrated earlier. This time however she didn’t open the Kett’s throat but simply grabbed his shoulder armor with her free hand and brought her knife up into his unprotected armpit once, twice, three times. Sara didn’t know if there were critical blood vessels there as in humans but she knew that any living being would struggle to ignore being stabbed repeatedly. She didn’t let up until she’d driven him down to the dirt, stabbing whatever unarmored parts of her body she could reach.

 

Realizing that he rifle had been flung several meters away Sara snarled and drew her sidearm, an M-358 talon, from her hip and turned back toward the Kett who were still attacking Curdan. The Talon hadn’t been standard issue back in the Milky Way and certainly wasn’t handed out to APEX teams in Heleus. No Sara had claimed the pistol off a dead terrorist she and her team had killed back in the Milky Way. Her old team that was.

 

A talon had many things wrong with it including low capacity, short range, and weight but it made up for all these things with pure power. Hitting the group of Kett from the flank Sara quickly killed two before the rest woke up to their danger. Cloaking herself Sara rolled to her left and watched as the Kett fired wildly toward the spot she had just been in. Before they could correct their mistake the barrier they were sheltering behind suddenly slammed into them sending the group rolling backward. Curdan stood over them with the Kett Prefect slung over one shoulder and his SMG in his free hand.

 

“Tough luck” the Krogan growled as he squeezed the trigger. His massive strength allowing him to control the Hornet despite the fact that it kicked like a mule. Curdan held the tigger down for a whole two seconds before letting up and surveying the dead Kett before him.

 

“Nicely done” Sara said as she joined him after having retrieved her rile. They were in another lull in the fighting but she suspected this one wouldn’t last long. The fall of a leader tended to either break an enemy or enrage them. The Kett that had been present when she and Curdan had incapacitated the Prefect had mostly fled but Sara didn’t see any others scattering from the convoy so that meant there were more enemy who planned to fight. And she was under no illusions that she and Curdan could hold out indefinitely or even much longer.

 

“How much longer until our ride arrives” Curdan asked as he looked up toward the empty sky. Since he didn’t usually wear a helmet he didn’t have the benefit of a HUD in front of him all the time.

 

“Just under three minutes” Sara told him, amazing as she usually was how time seemed to distort when in action. She felt as though she’d been fighting for a long time and yet it had been little more than four minutes.

 

“Do you think we have that long?” Curdan asked her as he hefted the unconscious Kett higher on his shoulder.

 

“Good point” Sara said as she raised her omni tool and began frantically keying in commands. A moment later a small window opened in her helmet showing a side view of Maria Santos at the controls of the shuttle.

 

“I’m hurrying I’m hurrying!” she snapped without looking toward Sara’s POV.

 

“Well hurry faster!” Sara said before jerking her head down. Several shots had just pinged off the Kett vehicle she was standing next to. She looked around furious and found no good cover nearby and ended up just ending further into the space between the two nearest vehicles.

 

“Thanks that will make the ship move faster” Santos said before she closed the channel between them. Sara knew that her pilot would get there as fast she possibly could, the question was would there be anyone for her to pick up when she arrived. Sara looked around her in frustration seeking some inspiration. Convoy had been taken a root through a very barren stretch of rocky ground, even by the standards of Ryder-1. Aside from the hills about kilometer off in one direction there wasn’t really anywhere for them to go.

 

“Into the truck” She finally said as she indicated their shelter. To his credit Curdan didn’t question her he just lifted the unconscious Prefect and headed toward the rear of the vehicle as Sara leapt up to one of the cab doors and pulled it open. Of course the controls were all in Tonaizhet, the Kett language, but thanks to her brother’s efforts the initiative had a working database of the language. Scanning the vehicle’s dash with her omni tool she only had a to wait a moment before her HUD imposed floating English translations over the various controls.

 

“ETA two minutes eleven seconds” Santos’ voice came over their channel. Even as she spoke Sara felt her vehicle shudder under a pounding hail of Kett fire. Two minutes might as well be an eternity under these circumstances. Raking the control panels with her eyes Sara finally found one that was overlaid with the word ‘start’.

 

“Here we go” she muttered to herself as she slapped it and was reward with the sound of a large engine roaring to life. Grabbing the vehicle’s controls, which consisted of a row of levers similar to a tank’s Sara pulled leftmost level fully back at the same time as she jammed the right one forward. She let out a gasp of relief as the vehicle began to slowly rotate on the spot. It seemed some concepts held up in any galaxy. When she’d oriented the truck, that was how she thought of it, on a perpendicular course away from the rest of the convoy she jammed both levers forward and with a lurch it set off.

 

“Where are we going” Curdan asked over their channel. Sara actually had a hard time hearing him over the sound of all the shots hitting her truck.

 

“Away!” She said simply before reopening her channel to the shuttle and saying “be advised we’re in the large truck moving away from the convoy, if you’re unsure just look for the one they are shooting at”.

 

“You know you’re heading toward a canyon right?” Santos asked her in a half incredulous and half calm voice.

 

“I did not know that but it’s all the more reason for you to get here quickly!” Sara snarled as she tried to will the truck to move faster. Canyon or not she had at least bought them some time. Sending her truck into a hard left turn she began speeding along parallel to the canyon. Speeding being a relative term as she probably wasn’t going any faster than 40 kilometers and hour. Checking the truck’s displays she saw that several other vehicles had peeled off from the stalled convoy. To her dismay she saw that they all seemed to be noticeably faster than her vehicle.

 

“One minute thirty seconds” Santos said in her ear. Sara though hard for a moment and then sighed when she realized what she had to do.

 

“Curdan, can you blast a hole in the side of the truck” she said as she stared straight ahead through the truck’s windshield.

 

“I’m a Krogan aren’t?” came the surly response.

 

“Then on my mark I want you to blow a hole in the right side of your compartment and then I want you to take the Prefect and jump out!” Sara yelled as she tried to push the levers forward a bit further in hopes of increasing their plodding pace.

 

“I don’t know if this Kett will survive the impact” Curdan answered.

 

“Oh he definitely won’t…” Sara said as she saw that their pursuers were closing fast “...of course none of us will in this case, we’re going to jump out into a canyon”.

 

There was a short pause before Curdan answered “...I’m hoping the plan doesn’t end there Ryder”.

 

“Just be ready...” Sara snapped as she conference Maria in from the shuttle and said “...Santos are Niay and Bain with you yet?”.

 

“Yeah we scooped them up just after we dropped you”

 

“Then drop down into the canyon right next to us, then tell Niay to be ready to catch us” Sara said as she gritted her teeth as shots began striking her truck.

 

“Catch you?” came the Asari woman’s voice.

 

“Just be ready!” Sara said as she jammed the throttles forward as she maneuvered the truck so that it was skimming right along the canyon’s edge. Checking one last time to make sure  there pursuers couldn’t simply ram her over the brink she assured herself they weren’t and then used a biotic blow to blast the passenger door off its hinges. She then climbed as quickly she could over to the opening as the truck sped onward. “Curdan, NOW!” Sara shouted into her commlink before she launched herself out of the truck into space.

 

“Niayyyyy!!!!” Sara shouted as she saw the shuttle hovering twenty meters below them. A shuttle that seemed to be approaching at an alarming rate. She had only a moment to see that the shuttle was hovering with one side angled up and toward her before she saw the blue flickering around her that meant Niay was reaching out to them with her biotics. Even if she was Sara still hit her jump jet as she collided with the shuttle’s hull just in front of the open door. The impact jarred up her legs and through her spine but she forced herself to cling awkwardly to the hull as she saw something huge flash past her and through the open hatch.

 

There was a huge crashing sound followed by loud swearing in a Korgan and an Asari voice. Swearing softly to herself Sara shimmied awkwardly along the shuttles hull before a hand reached around the edge of the door and seized her shoulder pauldron. A moment later she was tipping head first down into the shuttle’s passenger area as the door closed behind her and the crafted righted itself. Sara suddenly found herself in a confused tangle of blue, brown, and grey limbs as the ship blasted forward and then angled upward. Sara’s voice had now joined the loud chorus of cursing as the snarl of Krogan, Asari, Human, and Unconscious Kett limbs was tossed forward as the ship abruptly levelled out.

 

“Is anybody hurt?” Major Varn said when Sara, Curdan and Niay had all paused for breath. Sara took a moment to reflect and found to her surprise that no, she wasn’t. Using her knees and elbows she finally managed to extract herself from the pile of sentience before standing and helping Curdan and then Niay to their feet. This left the Kett Prefect still lying unconscious on the deck, or she hoped.

 

“You didn’t kill him did you?” she asked Curdan quickly before having to pause for a moment. She found she was out of breath from the fall and the shouting and she gave herself some time before adding “...because if you did I’m going to headbutt your head down into your torso”.

 

“Hey! I’m a professional” Curdan said huffily. He even snorted like an affronted bull before he stalked over to one the shuttle’s lockers and withdrew a large first aid kit. Turning back to the cabin he nodded toward a bald human male standing behind the pilot’s chair and said “let me have a look at that arm Bain”.

 

“Thanks big man” Bain said as he lifted his left arm to show a nasty looking burn along his forearm. Whatever had hit him had shredded his gauntlet all the way down to his skin.

 

“In the future, use your shields to block fire...not your arm” Sara told him as she sat heavily on the shuttle’s rear bench.

 

“Thanks boss” Bain said dryly as he let Curdan smear medi-gel along his wound. Belying his fearsome appearance and even more fearsome combat style the Krogan was actually a gentle soul and a very talented medic. In the short time Sara’s team had been working together they had all benefited from his skills.

 

“Set a course for Elaaden, put us down at the safehouse” Sara said, her eyes closed and her head leaning back against her headrest. She suddenly found that she was overpoweringly tired and all she wanted was to go to sleep. But work came first.

 

“Yes ma’am” Santos said from the pilots chair.

 

“Any signs of Kett pursuit?” Sara asked, deciding that she had to stand or else risk dropping off entirely.

 

“No ma’am” Santos assured her after a quick check of her instruments. It was usually ‘ma’am’ or ‘commander’ when they weren’t in tense situations.

 

“Still, it’s best to be cautious…” Saelen said as he turned to look over Santos’ shoulder “...take us through the Dar’Hegah and Civki systems first, if we have a tail we can either shake them or spot them before we get to Elaaden”.

 

“Do it” Sara said before turning to look down at the Prefect. The Kett’s face was caught in a permanent grimace that seemed to be the default expression of the Kett species. Suddenly disgusted she gave the Kett a hard kick in the side before signalling to Niay and saying “restrain…” she used her omni tool to quickly scan the Kett “...her, and then hit her with another tranq. That should keep her sleeping until we get to Elaaden”.

 

“Hit her with two...” Curdan said as he wrapped a bandage over Bain’s wound “...we’ll want to use two to be safe”.

 

“Wait, you didn’t use one already?” Niay asked from where she knelt beside the Kett.

 

“Nope”

 

“Then what did you do to knock her out like this?” Niay asked incredulously.

 

“I head butted her” the Krogan said with a booming laugh. Sara took one look at his big frontal plate. It was solid and covered in ridges so defined that they were almost spikes.

 

“Well that’ll do it” Sara said with a smirk.



Location: Elaaden, Zaubray system.

Two Days Later

 

Sara Ryder was sitting with her forearms on her knees and her head down. The pounding Elaaden sun was, as always, merciless and she took a long drink from her canteen before closing her eyes and letting her head droop down. She and her team had been holed up at the tiny shelter they called the ‘bolt hole’ with the Kett prefect for over 48 hours. And the effort was beginning to wear on hem all.

 

Two days ago Sara had given the order for Curdan to inject the Kett with the cocktail of drugs that would counter the steady diet of sedatives they had been giving her. Only a few seconds after the Krogan had stepped back the Kett’s eyes had begun to flutter. She slowly raised her head and surveyed her surroundings before beginning to twist and jerk violently against the restraints that held her tightly to the wall. Sara had been inwardly impressed by how quickly the Kett had recovered her vigor.

 

“How dare you!” the Kett snarled as she’d tugged at each each of her wrist and ankle restraints in turn. They were made of reinforced tungsten carbide and there was no way she was going to break them, not without a utility crawler to help.

 

“Good morning!” Sara had said as she’d plunked a stool down in front of the hanging Kett and seated herself.

 

“Ignorant beasts!...” the Kett had shouted over her “...release me this instant or you will be punished with all the power and might of the Kett empire!”. Sara had rolled her eyes and just waited until the Prefect finally had to pause for breath.

 

“Are you done?” she’d asked with a raised eyebrow. The Prefect was not done however.

 

“You are all of you beneath me you pitiful inferior creatures!” the Kett had positively howled at Sara. Suddenly the Prefect had stopped struggling against her bonds and closed her eyes as a grimace came across her face. There was a long pause before her eyes shot open again, if anything more full of hate than before, and she spoke in a voice almost incoherent with rage “what have you done to me?!”.

 

“Oh, you mean why you can’t do your floating and zapping things” Sara said in a casual tone as she withdrew a ration bar from her pocket and began eating.

 

“You will release me now!” the Prefect screamed. This went on for sometime before eventually even the Kett realized that Sara was perfectly happy to continue eating as long as necessary.

 

“There is a special nanite serum circulating in your body which neutralizes all the Element Zero in your blood stream, in addition the things on your forehead is a disrupter that does the same thing...better safe than sorry” Sara had said around a mouthful of rations.

 

“How dare you sully my perfection!” the Prefect howled. There was another short period of ranting before Sara could make herself heard again.

 

“And as for your focusing orb…” Sara had said before jerking head to her right. The Kett’s eye’s followed the gesture to find the orb split into two halves on a workbench. Sara, Santos, and Varn had all spent several hours scanning and analyzing the device, gleaning everything they could from it. Then she’d let Curdan step on it.

 

“How dare-” The Prefect started to say but was cut off when Sara drew her sidearm and fired it into the ceiling. She’d had Santos install a specially reinforced plate into the ceiling of the room specifically so she could make this kind of gesture.

 

“Yes, yes, how dare we. Can we get past that please? I have some questions for you” Sara had said impatiently as she’d holstered her weapon.

 

“You will learn NOTHING from me human” the Prefect had spat at her. Sara had sighed at this and stood slowly before walking to a nearby desk and throwing her ration wrapper in a trash bin.

 

“You know...everyone said that back in my home galaxy too…” she’d said before nodding at Saelen. The Salarian pushed a small metal car forward, arrayed on its surface were a wide variety of implements and devices. Turning to look at the Prefect over her shoulder Sara said “...but most of them turned out to be wrong and I don’t see any reason to believe why it would be different hear”.

 

“Your mind is small, you cannot begin to comprehend what you will are sowing” the Prefect said in a voice heavy with superiority. Sara sighed inwardly at this, it meant that what she had to do next would be much more unpleasant for all of them.

 

Returning to stand in front of the Kett once more Sara asked “where is the Primus?”.

 

“I will never tell you! And if you did find out she would unleash a fate worse than a thousand deaths on you for this affront. You will be denied the glory of exaltation and made to scream in eternal agony” the Prefect snapped but now with a note of triumph in her voice.

 

“It’s poetic imagery whatever else it might be” Saelen had said from behind her.

 

“Flowery, even…” Sara said before turning back to the Prefect and saying “...look, you can save me and you a lot of unpleasantly spent time if you just tell me what I want to know”.

 

“You aren’t even fit to speak her name! You insignificant and frail thing-” the Prefect began to say. Rion tuned her out and turned back the Major.

 

“Do what you need to  Major” she said as she’d toward the exit.

 

“Of course Commander” the Salarian had said as he’d pushed his cart forward. Even before she’d exited the room she heard him say “...now hold still please or this will hurt even more than it otherwise would”.

 

And now here Sara was, two days later. She and her team had all taken their turns working on the Prefect. They’d gleaned small pieces of valuable intel here and there but they had yet learn where the Primus might be, despite the fact that the Prefect did seem to know. Sara took another long sip from her water bottle as she stared out over the endless and of Elaaden.

 

Years ago, when she’d first joined the secret force known as ‘the ghosts’ back in the Milky Way she’d been an idealist. And in some ways she still was. But the ghosts had dealt with the absolute worst that the collective species of the Milky Way had to offer, and she’d learned very quickly that almost no sentient beings were essentially good. The younger Sara, the one who’d first been recruited by the ghosts, would have been appalled by what was happening here. The woman she now was knew from personal experience how effective it could be.

 

Even if they didn’t learn the Primus’ location, and Sara had no reason to doubt they would. They’d make sure to let the information spread about what some mysterious group had done to the Kett leader they’d captured. To many of the people of the initiative or even the Angara the Kett always seemed totally monolithic. Lockstep emotionless killers who would swarm relentlessly until they achieved their ends. And there was some truth to these things but Sara, in the brief time she’d been waging her shadow war against them had come to realize something fundamental. The Kett were living breathing sentient beings.

 

Beings with an enormous superiority complex and a horrific ideology but living beings nonetheless. They had roughly the same physical needs as other species, even if they went about satisfying them differently. And more importantly the were subject to emotions like any other race, even if they displayed them differently. And that meant they felt fear, even if many of their foes would be surprised to hear it. Sara had seen it. She’d seen Kett soldiers flee when she’d killed their leaders with her rifle, seen the panic the same panic that affected other races when confronted with a killer they could not see. She’d seen Kett hesitate when they’d found they’d found the bodies of their comrades, killed savagely with knives or hammers. She’d seen their fear.

 

And that meant that even if she got no further intelligence from the Prefect, she’d still accomplish something here. She’d even toyed with the idea of letting the Prefect go, battered and broken, on some remote world with a Kett presence. But in the end the Kett had simply seen too much of her team. She’d have to let rumors in the right paces spread her fear.

 

She was shaken from the reverie as someone left the bolt hole to stand beside her. Looking up she saw it was Bain. He held out a hand which she took before allowing him to pull her to her feet. Bain took a long drink from his own canteen before wiping his mouth and saying “you’ve got a call coming in, Maria is routing it from the shuttle, and then you’re up again with our guest”.

 

“Thanks” Sara said as she lifted her omni tool and brought up her call. She composed her face into a smile when she saw who it was from and a moment later Cora Harper’s face appeared hovering in mid air.

 

“Hey Sara, not interrupting you am I?” Cora asked.

 

“I’ve got a minute of two for you Cora” Sara answered.

 

“Well don’t let me keep you I just wanted to let you know the next time the Tempest will be back on the Nexus, maybe we can arrange a girls night?” Cora asked.

 

“Of course! That will be fun, just send me the info and I’ll see if I can sneak away” Sara responded with genuine enthusiasm.

 

“Sounds good, the schedule is on it’s way, see you soon doll” Cora said with a grin. ‘Doll’ was a nickname she had privately given Sara after an incident in the Vortex. It had involved a drunk stumbling up to their table and clumsily trying to get first Cora and then Sara to leave with him, calling them both doll in the process. He’d then tried to get them BOTH to leave with him which had made Cora indignant and had amused Sara. She admired stupid ballsy moves and despite the fact that she’d sent him packing she had to admit that had been a big swing.

 

“See ya Cora” Sara had said before signing off. She let her smile linger for a few moments longer before turning back to Bain, who had been waiting quietly while the women had been speaking. Without saying a word he raised his hand to offer her a pair of plain brass knuckles.

 

“Time to get to work” Sara had said dryly as she fit them over her hands and walked back into the bolt hole.




Chapter Text

Location: Fen Odam, Shojaon System

 

Sara Ryder wasn’t quite sure if it was possible for a planet to be nothing but long chain of mountain ranges and foothills, but if it was Fen Odam was a perfect example of it. She and her team, APEX Strike Team Hotel, had been hauling equipment up and down a particularly steep hill for most of the morning and they were learning to hate the hill. Though the team was the Nexus’ first black ops unit, this didn’t actually bring them any special consideration.

 

In fact it meant double the workload compared to most of the other APEX teams. APEX, or Advanced Precision Engagement and Extraction, were the elite of the Nexus’ militia. Highly capable small tactical units they handled everything from escorting critical supplies to sabotaging enemy installations. They were the, partially, visible manifestation of Andromeda Initiative might in Heleus rightly feared by enemies and admired by allies.

 

Officially Sara’s team was simple one among many APEX teams. This meant that they had to carry out all the missions a standard APEX team would be required to. This of course in addition to their more off the books missions, which they received directly from the Nexus Militia Commander, Tiran Kandros, or the Turian Pathfinder, Avitus Rix. And though both Turian’s were sensible to the risk of burnout and did their best to keep Sara and her team fresh, they had to assign them at least a few more mundane tasks to minimize suspicion.

 

And so Sara and her team found themselves helping a group of Initiative personnel haul heavy equipment up the hill. Sara had asked why they couldn’t have simply landed their shuttles on top of the hill but apparently she just didn’t understand how these things worked, or so she’d been told. So she’d bitten her tongue and rolled up her sleeves along with the rest of her team.

 

The initiative team they were assisting included scientists, technicians, and soldiers all deployed to this outlying world to set up a combination research facility and listening post. Sara’s team was tasked with protecting them while they established themselves as well as ‘rendering any other assistance’ that they could. Translation, unless they were under attack they were going to have to become laborers.

 

“Come to Andromeda to start a new life…” Bain Massani, a member of Sara’s team, said sourly “...because there was just no way I could have done menial labor back in the Milky Way”.

 

“Whine more Bain, that will definitely help” Niay Janilas said from behind him. The Asari had a heavy looking crate strapped to her back and looked no happier than Bain did about the situation.

 

“Thank you I will” Bain growled. Unlike Niay and the other two members of Sara’s team, the Krogan Curdan Grode and the Salarian Major Saelen Varn, Bain hadn’t actually be recruited willingly. The human had been blazing a trail across Heleus as part of a one man war against the Kett. Unfortunately he’d pissed off enough other people in the cluster along the way that he’d found himself locked up on Kadara facing the possibility of exile to the badlands with only the clothes on his back. Bain was tough but unarmed people had a way of dying like flies on Kadara, especially outside the port.

 

Sara and her team had happened to be on Kadara at the time as part of one of their first missions. They’d been hunting down a cell of Outcast holdouts that had been raiding the Initiative outpost on the planet. Despite the official blessings of Keema Dohrgun, and the more important UNofficial blessings of Reyes Vidal, the real ruler of the port, the group’s leader had proven unusually elusive. When they had eventually run him down they found him holed up in a network of caves that would have forced Sara and her team to dig him out via force.

 

While they certainly COULD have done so it was obviously preferable to find another way. Sara had then been approached by a representative from Keema (read: Reyes) who had informed her that they had a prisoner in custody who might have a way in. That was when she’d met Bain. Initially she’d had no intention of doing anything other than pumping him for information but something about him and struck a chord with Sara. She’d known legions of tough guys so that hadn’t been it. It was more the quiet but deep intelligence that she’d sensed behind Bain’s cold eyes.

 

So she’d made a deal with him, and later Keema. She’d take Bain their hands and keep him busy far away from any of Kadara’s interests. Keema and Vidal had agreed that so long as Bain was working with Sara then they wouldn’t come after him. Of course as far as they knew she was just another APEX commander but that hadn’t mattered much. Bain had actually been pleased when he’d learned the other side of Sara’s work.

 

Bain was a natural predator. One of the most gifted trackers Sara had ever met he was also an expert with over a dozen different kind of weapons. He had tried to suggest himself for the role of team sniper but quite apart from not yet trusting him in that role, he wasn’t the shot she was. Though she had to admit he had SOME talent as a sniper.

 

Whatever the case his gifts did not extend to cheerful manual labor. And if it came to that neither did Sara’s. In fact the only member of her team that didn’t seem annoyed by their present duties was Curdan. The Krogan was one of the more optimistic people Sara had ever met, something she’d have never associated with a Krogan prior to meeting Curdan, and was generally happy wherever he found himself.

 

“It’s better than being shot at” Curdan said as he hauled heaved a sled laden with heavy equipment behind him. When they’d realized how enthusiastic the Krogan was to help the Initiative personnel had rigged a slide and harness for Curdan who had happily acquiesced. Now in addition to whatever he was carrying he could also drag a large load of gear up the hill as well. Though he flatley refused to drag Sara up the hill in the sled, which had left her feeling miffed.

 

“Commander!” someone shouted up the hill to Sara. Sighing and rolling her eyes she kept on trudging upward. Undoubtedly it was one of the scientists or techs again with some complaint about how she and her tem were assisting. “Commander!” the voice called again. Sara still didn’t turn around but she did recognize the voice as Turian this time. This made her frown, she hadn’t met any Turians among the initiative personnel she was supposed to be guarding.

 

Turning she did indeed find herself looking at a Turian. And unusually tall Turian girl. Sara thought she was a girl at least, she had a hard time judging Turians ages. Waiting for the long legged Turian to reach her she asked “can I help you?...” she let the questions hang as an invitation for the girl to introduce herself.

 

“Uh yes, hi...I’m Sidera Nyx…” the Turian said. Sara had never seen a Turian look nervous before but she suspected she was seeing it now. After an awkward pause Sidera added “...and I know who you are Commander Ryder”.

 

Sara made a face at this but kept her tone friendly as she said “yeah...it’s hard to meet people in Heleus who HAVEN’T heard of me, or at least my last name”.

 

Sidera laughed and said “yeah, I bet”

 

“But I bet you have the same problem” Sara pointed out.

 

“Me?”

 

“Nyx…” Sara said significantly as she crooked an eyebrow at her “...I assume you’re related to Vetra Nyx of Pathfinder crew fame?”.

 

“Yeah she’s my sister” Sidera said, sounding surprised that Sara had known this.

 

“Well, welcome to the famous sibling” club Sara told her as she hitched pack she was carrying higher up on her shoulder. “Walk with me?” she asked Sidera as she began walking after Bain and Niay who were now several meters above her.

 

“Oh, yes...sorry” Sidera said as she walked alongside Sara.

 

“So I didn’t see your name on the list of personnel assigned to this place, are you a late edition or just visiting?” Sara asked.

 

“Late edition…” Sidera said “...Superintendent Kesh recommended me to the post commander after she heard what we’d be doing here”. The Turian girl sounded proud of this achievement and Sara found herself feeling happy for her.

 

“And what exactly is that? No One bothered to tell us specifics” she said as she indicated her team and herself.

 

“Oh, well I don’t really know about the research and stuff but I’m assigned here to look for the Keelah Si’Yah” Sidera said sounding excited. Sara’s eyebrows rose at this as she felt her respect level for the young Turian tick up another notch. The Keelah Si’Yah was the final Ark that had made the long journey from the Milky Way. Though it was primarily filled with Quarians it had also taken on large contingents of Drell, Hanar, Elcor, and Volus. The safe recovery of the Ark had become one of the initiatives top priorities since the defeat of the Archon.

 

“That's important work…” Sara said, resisting to the urge to say ‘for someone your age’, instead she added “...you must be real good at what you do if they want you helping”.

 

“I’m a data analyst…” Sidera said with still more pride in her voice “...I’m good at sifting out useful stuff from background noise or even through jamming”. Sara nodded, useful skills for someone looking to track down a missing that might not want to be found. She’d been at an APEX briefing where she’d learned that the initiative had information confirming that the Ark was indeed in Heleus but that it was under attack and apparently trying to conceal itself. It didn’t take much imagination to point to the Kett as the mysterious attackers but despite a growing presence in the cluster there was simply a LOT of places a single ship could be hidden. Even one as big as an ark.

 

“Well if you do find them and you need some Kett butt kicking, make sure and keep us in mind” Sara said as she finally reached the summit of the hill. Breathing heavily she dropped her pack down into the pile of gear she’d been erecting and took a moment survey the terrain around her. Nothing but hills leading to distant mountains.

 

“Oh right! I came to tell you that you have a call from the Nexus” Sidera told her.

 

“OK, from whom?” Sara asked.

 

“Kandros” Sidera said, sounding impressed.

 

“Can you send it to my shuttle? I’ll take it there” Sara said as she blew her breath realizing that the shuttle was parked all the way at the bottom of the hill.

 

“Sure…” Sidera said as her fingers flew over her omni tool “...just sent it there”.

 

“Thanks Sidera”

 

“You can call me Sid, Commander”

 

“Then you can call me Sara” she said before giving Sid a smile and heading back down the hill. She was still thinking about the Quarian ark when she reached her shuttle and sealed the door behind her. She dropped into the pilot’s seat and hit three more buttons. The first caused the windows to go completely opaque, the second scrambled her shuttle’s transmissions against outside eavesdropping, and the third punched up her call. A moment later a 1/10th size rendering of Tiran Kandros resolved itself in front of her.

 

“Commander” Kandors said with a small nod.

 

“Kandros, for once I hope this isn’t a social call and that you have an immediate assignment that will force me to drop everything I’m doing” Sara said with a straight face.

 

“You might be in luck there” Kandros said solemnly. Like many of the military minded Turian’s he often didn’t seem to know what to do with Sara’s sarcasm.

 

“Do tell” she said, leaning back in her chair and folding her arms.

 

“We checked that intelligence you and your team got from that Kett Prefect against what we get from the Outcasts and the resistance. It looks solid” Kandros said, seemingly without excitement. This was in contrast to Sara who had suddenly sat forward with a predatory gleam in her eyes.

 

“So we know where the Primus is?” she asked quickly. The Primus was the current leader of the Kett in the Heleus cluster. She had assumed command upon the death of the Archon at the hands of Sara’s brother, Scott, and had, if anything, managed to be even more destructive. As terrible as the Archon had been his preoccupation with the Remnant had kept him from ever focusing entirely on the enemies around him. The Primus, having nothing to divide her attention, had already committed many atrocities against both the Angara and the Initiative.

 

“Possibly, but there is a problem” Kandros said as he looked up into her face.

 

“Which is?” Sara prompted him after the Turian went silent.

 

“The pathfinder also has a lead on this that he found on his own” Kandros said as Sara’s face fell. Technically there were four pathfinders, five if you assumed that the Quarian pathfinder was still alive, but whenever anyone in Heleus referred to THE Pathfinder they always meant her brother. Scott was amazing at what he did was was supported by a team full of some the best that Heleus had to offer. However he wasn’t the man for a dirty job. Sara often thought of Scott as the raised shining shield of the Andromeda Initiative, and in a way all of Heleus against the Kett. He was their protector and their inspiration.

 

But sometimes life didn’t call for a champion in gleaming armor. Sometimes it called for a silent knife in the back and a hand clamped over a mouth to stifle a scream. It was this very realization that had prompted Kandros to create Sara’s secret team. If Scott thought about this at all he would have rejected this notion. He really believed that if he and his team did right that they could compel the rest of the universe to do so as well. Under most circumstances Sara would have found this idealism annoyingly naive. When it came to her brother she viewed it as a precious thing, a flame to be shielded from the wind and rain of a dark and nasty reality.

 

“And you’re worried that if the pathfinder confronts the Primus, even if he wins, that we’ll just end up with some other Kett who wants to play warlord” Sara finally said.

 

Kandros shook his head “that might be inevitable...but the way the Pathfinder handles things makes him as much an inspiration to the Kett as he is to us”. Sara was initially surprised at this comment but on reflection realized that Kandros was right. When Kett heard that the Pathfinder was present they seemed to attack with renewed vigor. Scott had become a high priority target for them. And whether they finally killed him or, much worse in Sara’s view, exalted him the mere possibility seemed to excite them.

 

“So you want the Primus dealt with in a way that makes next Kett up nervous about taking the job?” she asked quietly. If that was indeed the case then there was only one Ryder for the job and it wasn’t Scott.

 

“Exactly, but if someone swoops in before he gets there and takes out the Primus in a way that suggests Initiative involvement there are bound to be questions. And that will get awkward for both of us in more ways than one” Kandros pointed out. Sara nodded as she pondered the problem. She couldn’t deny that she wanted to be the one that took down the Primus, badly. She’d known several people killed by the Kett’s recently raiding and even more that had been affected by it. On the other hand she really didn’t want to have the conversation with Scott that would become inevitable if he ever got wind of her true duties for the the Nexus. It seemed entirely possible to her that such a conversation might end their relationship.

 

After a few more moments of thought as she stared out the cockpit viewport and passed Kandros’ image she said “get me and my team Angaran weapons, we’ll take the Kett with them and then we can say it was the Roekaar who pulled off the operation. Tann can publicly claim that we’re simply benefitting from our enemies fighting each other, and the Primus gets the shot in the face she so desperately deserves”.

 

Kandros looked thoughtful as he pondered this suggestion for almost a full minute before said “I don’t think that most people will believe the Roekaar could pull something like this off, not now. Ever since your brother dealt with Akksul they’ve been scattered”.

 

“Even a blind squirrel finds a nut occasionally” Sara pointed out.

 

“Whats a squirrel?” Kandros asked.

 

“Never mind, it just means that anyone can get lucky” Sara said.

 

“Maybe, but I think we can do better. If we get you those Angaran weapons you’ll need to hit some Kett targets across the cluster, and be noisy about it. The visibility will make it more plausible” Kandros said, now sounding a bit more enthusiastic.

 

“That’s a big risk, it might embolden the actual Roekaar” Sara said.

 

“Right now they’d still be much less dangerous than the Primus, and I think we’re better placed to deal with them now that we’re cooperating fully with the resistance” Kandros countered.

 

“Fair enough, but it’s not like Scott won’t be chasing down his lead while I’m doing the Roekaar’s dirty work across Heleus” Sara said as her mind worked through the implications.

 

“I think I can stall him for a week, maybe two…” Kandros told “...we actually do need him and his team on Havarl to train the resistance fighters who are clearing the last Roekaar out from some of their jungle camps”.

 

“Hmm…” Sara was skeptical but she asked “...do you really think he’ll divert from a chance at the Primus for that?”.

 

“If we fudge the intel we’re sending him a bit he will, maybe slightly exaggerate the threat posed by the Roekaar on Havarl” Kandros assured her.

 

“Ok...I guess it could work” Sara nodded. She didn’t love the idea of manipulating her brother like this but she could recognize the necessity. Besides she had had actual nightmares about the possibility of Scott stumbling onto one of her operations in the field. She thought for a moment longer and asked “...how do you want us to pick up those Angaran weapons?”.

 

“I’m sending you some intel now…” Kandros said as he looked down and his hands did something the transmission didn’t pick up. Sara waited until the data arrived and pulled it up. As she read a grim smile came across her face.

 

“Well then, I guess we’ll be going to relieve some Roekaar of their guns” Sara said. She did her best but she couldn’t quite prevent a grin from touching her face.

 

“All for a good cause...” Kandros said before looking to his side and adding “...I need to go, another leadership meeting, but I’ll send another APEX team to relieve you but you’re authorized to leave as soon as you’re ready. We’ll just note that you’re responding to urgent intel”.

 

“Got it, we’ll leave soon” Sara said as she hit the control that would summon her team back the shuttle.

 

“One last thing, I don’t suppose I want to know what happened to the Kett Prefect your team grabbed?” Kandros asked though his expression seemed to say ‘please give me a reason to not need to know’.

 

“Depends...but it’s really not all that interesting” Sara allowed cautiously. Part of her arrangement with Kandros and Rix was that as far as her methods went it was mostly no questions asked. Of course they’d also made clear that if someone ever did expose her work then they wouldn’t protect her.

 

“Would it be fair to say we won’t be able to get anymore intel from her?” Kandros asked with the air of someone who didn’t want the answer to his question.

 

“Thats fair” Sara said cryptically.

 

Kandros stared at her for a few moments before saying “...best of luck out their commander, I have a feeling you’ll need it”.

 

“And you Kandros, I’d much rather be fighting rogue Angara than meeting with Taan and Addison” Sara teased him.

 

“You have no idea” Kandros said grimly before killing their transmission.




Location: H-444, Anasa System

 

The two Kett Chosen had been sent out from their small encampment by the Destined to examine the small pod. Their scans had indicated that it was Milky Way technology, which was enough to put them on alert as they had wiped out what should have been the last of the aliens on the planet several days ago.

 

The pod was marked with the strange writing the Milky Way aliens used. Neither Kett could read the scrawl, and neither would have lowered himself to learn how to do so. Scans had indicated that the pod had a single occupant, though they appeared to be deceased. Nevertheless the Kett approached cautiously. When they were finally standing just over the pod one them bent over and pounded on the only obvious control panel.

 

There was a loud hissing sound as trapped air escaped from the pod as it’s seals parted. After a quick nod the two Kett roughly yanked the lid up and cast it aside. Each Kett then hefted his rifle and looked down into the pod. It’s contents drew a shocked howl of outrage from both Kett. Laying in the pod was what had once been a Kett. The two Chosen couldn’t tell of what sort.

 

The Kett had clearly been tortured, and for a long period. There didn’t seem to be a single bone unbroke, and large sections of it’s skin showed signs of severe burns. The mouth was empty of teeth and and it’s bone crests had been peeled away from its face. Hardened though they were the two Kett couldn’t help but feel disturbed at the extent of the brutality before them. They were trained to view themselves as invincible, and used to being the ones who inspired terror not to being it’s recipients.

 

But it was their final discovery that sent one of the Kett scrambling back toward their camp. At the feet of the mangled Kett lay the two shattered halves of an Ascendant’s focusing orb. Most of the Kett in the neighboring systems had heard about the events that had led to the loss of a Prefect. Even more humiliatingly the Prefect had been taken alive. Those Kett who had been guarding the convoy had all been put to death for their failures but the ting of the failure remained.

 

And now, here in front of them, lay the remains of that same Prefect. The obviously desecrated remains of that Prefect. What was more, the remains had obviously been intentionally sent back. This was a declaration of war in a way that the Kett empire had never faced in Heleus. And though their leaders vowed revenge, there was no denying the sense of uneasiness that prevailed.

 

Had the Kett on H-444 been able to read the ‘Milky Way Language’ they would have been able to decipher the small note that as tucked into the mouth of the Prefect’s corpse. As it was they simply burned it. But as the flames curled the paper for one moment the message was illuminated. It read: “The Ghosts are Coming”.




Chapter Text

Location: Everodaan, Layan System

 

Sara Ryder made her way carefully through the remains of the Roekaar camp with her rifle at the ready. She and the rest of the Ghosts, the unofficial term for APEX Strike Team Hotel, had just hit the place and now they were tying up loose ends. Sara kicked a dead Roekaar hard in the ribs and, upon drawing a groan, lifted her gun and shot him in the head. Looking over her shoulder toward where the rest of her team stood she called “everything rigged Niay?”.

 

Niay Janilas, her explosives expert, looked up from where she was kneeling next to one of the Roekaar’s generators and said “almost Commander”.

 

“Curdan, Bain, do you have those guns ready to go yet?” Sara yelled to where the two were working. Aside from wanting to weaken the Roekaar, Sara had hit this camp with the goal of acquiring Angaran weaponry. She and her team would need this hardware for the next phase in her plan to take out the Primus.

 

“More than enough for us” Curdan Grode shouted over the sound of several shots. Bain Massani had stepped away from the box they were loading to shoot a still moving Roekaar on the ground.

 

“Good, get them to the ship and tell Santos to be ready to go as soon as we get back...” Sara called before waving the two away. She was turning to speak to her companion Saelen Varn, but then saw another Roekaar roll onto his back. She raised her rifle and and shot him under the jaw. Ignoring the sudden spray of blue blood she turned to locate Varn again and asked “...any more throat cutting to do?”. Varn, a former Major in the Salarian Special Tasks Group, stood and jerked his head toward a final cluster of bodies.

 

“Just there, I’ve gotten everything I can from their terminal” Varn said as he dusted off the front of his uniform. The Salarian was technically retired and functioning in a purely administrative and organization role with the team. This hadn’t prevented him from being very useful to the rest of the team in the field however.

 

“Any highlights?” Sara asked as she trotted over to the clump of bodies. As she went one of the Angara, a female with pale green skin, began crawling quickly away toward the cover of some nearby trees. Sighing Sara caught up with her and drove her booted foot hard down on the Angara’s back.

 

“No, please!” the Angaran cried as Sara pushed her down into the dirt with her foot.

 

Sara shot her in the back of the head before turning to shout to where Niay was still working “hurry up we’re leaving!”.




A few hours later Sara was curled up on the rear bench of her team’s shuttle. She was leaning against the wall and reading through her emails on her datapad. She had breezed through the usual paperwork that accrued around every military unit. Officially she led an APEX Strike team and appearances had to be kept up. But upon finishing she’d accessed her personal mail and had begun much more enjoyable reading.

 

Her first message read:

 

Hey Kid,

 

Thought I’d check in and see how you’re holding up in APEX. Sometimes I think you have the right idea. Seems like we haven’t had a really good fight since the Archon died, not sure I’m cut out for life as an explorer. But this outfit would fall apart without me (and I don’t mind if you tell your brother I said that). Let’s spar again next time we’re both in the same place.

 

Drack

 

Sara smiled as she finished reading the old warriors message. The smile grew broader still when she opened the attached files and found various images of Krogan fighting (and usually devastating) members of other races in hand to hand combat. She thought for a moment before composing her reply:

 

Drack,

 

You’re on old man, I’ll try not to knock your quads off. Take care of Scott for me please. It helps to know my little brother is in the hands of a stubborn old fossil like you.

 

Sara

 

Her next message was from Sidera Nyx, the young Turian she’d met Fen Odam. She was surprised that Sid was writing her since they’d only ever spoken once and then not for long. Still, Sara had liked what little she’d seen of Sid and she was a little curious. Opening the message she scanned it’s text:

 

Ryder,

 

Hey it’s Sidera Nyx, Sid, we met at the listening post on Fen Odam. I just wanted to say hi and let you know how things are going on the search for the Quarians since you seemed interested.

 

Sid

 

Sara supposed she had indeed been interested when she’d learned that the Turian girl was assisting in the search for the Ark but she hadn’t been very demonstrative about it. She suspected this as simply the excuse Sid was using to justify messaging her. The thought that Sid might be starstruck by her amused Sara. Still she saved the attached data packet for later review, she was as interested as anyone about the fate of the final Ark.

 

She skipped past a message from Anan T’Mari and another from one of her Angaran contacts before reaching the bottom of her list. When she saw it was a message from Cora Harper she opened it quickly, Cora was probably her best friend, and read:

 

Sara,

 

Really need to talk with you. Kind of got myself into a bad situation and could use your take. Hopefully see you at the Nexus soon.

 

Cora

 

Sara instantly noted Cora’s omission of the nicknames they usually used for each other. She also noted that the brief message seemed positively frazzled coming from someone as buttoned down as Cora. She was considering how best to respond when an alarm suddenly squawked from the direction of the cockpit.

 

“Report” Sara said as she stood quickly and hurried forward. She stepped over where Bain and Niay were both sleeping on the floor as she did and carefully set her pad aside. Curdan as at the helm at the moment and his big hands moved with surprising dexterity over the controls.

 

“It’s a distress beacon from Eos, they’re requesting immediate military assistance” Curdan rumbled as he turned to look at Sara. She bit her lip. She wanted desperately to stay on the trail of the Primus. She was positively itching to feel her finger squeezing her trigger as she had that Kett bitch in her sights. On the other hand the reason she was hunting the Primus was to protect people, and right now there were people in immediate need that she could help. And that wasn’t even touching on the enormous symbolic significance of Eos.

 

“Set a course for Eos” she said after no more than a moment’s hesitation. The Primus would keep, but she’d be damned if she would just fly past a call for help. Besides, an attack on Eos, and presumably Prodromos, was an attack on her brother’s hard work. This was now a family matter.



Eos, Pytheas System

As Sara’s shuttle streaked down through the atmosphere of Eos toward Prodromos she studied her long distance scans with mounting concern. Details we’re sparse but what was clear that there were at least a dozen Kett shuttle’s and handful of larger craft on the ground already. If the Kett held true to their usual tactics that would make for over one hundred Kett on the ground. Prodromos had been established as a research outpost and simply didn’t have the personnel or equipment to deal with those kind of numbers.

 

Sara turned away from the cockpit and walked back to the shuttle’s side hatch. She was already in her modified recon armor with both her rifles and her sidearm on their attachment points. The rest of her team were either equally prepared or almost so. Looking out a window Sara could faintly see the stream of flashing lights that indicated a firefight far below. She pressed her forehead against the glass as she stained her eyes for more detail but the shuttle passed into a bank of cloud and her view was obscured. Turning back to her team she began issuing orders.

 

“Niay, you’re up here with the Major, keep him shielded. Major, no time like the present to try out those cyclones we rigged up” she said as she jerked her head toward one of the shuttle’s storage lockers. Her team’s shuttle was almost the only one in the Heleus that was armed, they’d retrofitted four cobra RPG’s into a hidden panel on the craft’s nose, but that hadn’t stopped her and her team from further tinkering. Maria Santos, her pilot and mechanic, had worked up a hatch mounted swivel point that could accommodate not one but two cyclone assault rifles. No one on her team much cared for the weapons as rifles, they were impractical for their work, but their high capacity and rate of fire had suggested they might make good support weapons.

 

“Understood” Varn said as he moved toward the locker and removed the first of the weapons. He would man their improvised weapon and give the ground team some fire support. While this was happening Niay would use her biotics to shield him and the shuttle itself from attack. It was a tall order to ask of any biotic, even an Asari, but Niay had been a huntress once and Sara knew she’d buy them all critical time.

 

“The moment you start feeling your barrier going down you tell Santos to get you out of there” Sara said as she put a hand on Niay’s shoulder.

 

“Understood commander” Niay said with a nod.

 

Turning to the rest of her team Sara said “Bain, you and Curdan will be out front, stay close enough together to provide quick aide”. Curdan might have been her medic but he was still a Krogan and that mean when he was in a fight he was a monster. Bain on the other hand was about as talented a gunfighter as Sara knew and almost as accurate as she was. The two would make a formidable pair but against the sheer numbers of the Kett they would need to stay close to each other to stay alive.

 

“Think you can keep up Krogan?” Bain asked Curdan.

 

Curdan growled and said “just don’t slow me down human”.

 

Smiling at the posturing despite the seriousness of the situation Sara turned back toward the cockpit and asked “I assume the Kett are coming at Prodromos from the east and south?”.

 

“Yes ma’am” Santos said as she kept the shuttle aimed down toward the settlement.

 

“Then swing over the hills immediately to the north of the settlement, and let me out there” she said before patting her pilot on her shoulder and moving to stand in the doorway. She only had to wait another minute before the hatch opened and she was able to hop down the few feet to the sand of Eos. Turning back to the hovering shuttle she saw that Niay was already wrestling the cyclones mount into place with the help of Bain.

 

“Good luck Commander” Varn said over their teams commlink as she wouldn’t have been able to hear him over the sound of the shuttle.

 

“Stay sharp everyone! I’ll call out targets” Sara said as she waved the shuttle away and then sprinted to the edge of the cliff. Despite being almost eighty meters above the settlement below she was able to quickly assess the situation.

 

Things were looking bleak. Swarms of Kett were closing on the settlement from two sides sending out hailstorms of fire at the few overwhelmed defenders. The only thing that seemed to be keeping the Kett at a distance were the settlement’s few turrets but she could see that they too were taking a pounding. Echoing roars her attention the east and her worst fears were confirmed as she spotted the hulking forms of several Fiends lumbering up to the front lines.

 

Gritting her teeth Sara hurried to a spot with a better view a few meters away. She’d grabbed a box of spare ammo for her black widow before leaving the shuttle and she set it to one side before dropping to one knee and lower her eye to her scope. It took her only a moment to orient herself and then she started doing what she was best at. She became a sniper.

 

Steadying herself and putting all other distractions out of her mind she slowly blew out her breath and squeezed the trigger, you never pulled it, as her sights found the forehead of a Kett Destined. She was slowly panning her rifle away from the Kett even before it’s body hit the ground. She fired again, this time killed an Anointed. And so she worked for several seconds, seeking out and killing Kett leaders or at least their heavies.

 

She looked up from her scope for a moment as she heard her team’s shuttle descend once more to hover just over Prodromos’ turrets. She made sure that both Curdan and Bain had disembarked successfully before locating the nearest Kett, a Chosen, and shooting him through the eye. Now that her whole team was in play however she had to shift her focus slightly. Swinging her rifle, and thus her view through the scope, to the left she located the Fiend closest to the settlement and hit a button on the side of her rifle.

 

“Target marked” she said over their commlink. She then repeated the process with a second and then a third Fiend.

 

“Swinging around for a better angle” Santos’ voice said as the shuttle flew off to the east. Locating a knot of Kett hunkered behind a rock outcropping Sara killed two with shots to the head before the rest scrambled out of her view. That was the end of her charmed life however as several Kett began firing up her from the ground far below. There weapons weren’t particularly accurate at that range and in any case her shields were fully charged but it still mean she couldn’t stay in one area any longer.

 

“Moving, no spotting or high fire for a bit” she said as she grabbed her ammo box and sprinted to a large rock nearby.

 

“Bringing the rain” came Santos’ voice as with a loud roar the shuttle came screaming back toward them. The craft was diving at a relatively shallow angle as first one and then another and then a final rocket blasted away from its nose. Sara wasn’t quite resettled but the time they hit but from the sounds below she suspected they’d hit their targets. Dropping her ammo and then lowering herself onto her belly Sara once again took a moment to gauge the battle.

 

The Kett advance seemed to have slowed down but was still slowly rolling on. She could see Bain and Curdan rallying the few defenders Prodromos had managed to rally but she could also see that one of the settlement turrets had lost it’s shields. The blue shimmering mid-air that indicated this drew Kett fire like a magnet and a moment later the turret was blown to a smoking wreck. In frustration Sara found another Kett Chosen and killed him before she began seeking another key target.

 

She found it in a group of Kett who were busily deploying a pair if their portable barriers. Marking the area with her rifle she said “Major, do you see it”.

 

“We’re on it” came Varn’s voice as the shuttle swung low to hover over the battlefield once more. The craft immediately began taking fire from the ground which dissipated as it ran into Niay’s biotic barrier. Sara did her best to help as she began hunting and shooting Kett Anointed, the ones who were capable generating the most fire. She’d shot two when the the group Kett she’d marked vanished.

 

Even over the sounds of the fighting it was hard to miss the sound of two cyclones spinning up and then unleashing a blistering torrent of death. Sara couldn’t help but take a moment to watch as Varn directed the fire down onto the Kett, the storm of bullets ripping through the aliens. Varn poured it on until he was certain the Kett were all eliminate before the shuttle flew up and away from the battle once more.

 

The fighting continued on for a long time like this. Sara would do her best to eliminate any Kett leaders that she could spot. Bain and Curdan would do their best to keep the defenders fighting and the turrets firing. And when things got too dicey. If the Kett began massing behind cover or more fiends arrived. Then Sara would mark them for Santos and Varn and the shuttle would descend once more to rain death on the Kett. Her team was fighting brilliantly, they all knew it, and yet it wasn’t enough. No matter how many Kett they killed more seemed to come and to their discouragement several more Kett vessels had landed to join the others, no doubt disgorging more troops the moment they landed.

 

“Major what’s your ammo situation?!” Sara shouted as she shifted her position for the fifth time. Her own was getting desperate, she had less than a hundred rounds left in total for her rifle. When they ran out she’d have no choice but to descend down into the valley and use her close in weapons.

 

“Almost out, probably enough for one last pass” Varn said over their channel, he sounded calm but then again he rarely displayed much emotion beyond sarcastic wit.

 

“We need a resupply ASAP” Bain said, he had to shout to make himself heard over the sound of the gunfire around him.

 

“Is there any in the settlement?” Sara asked as she brought her sights over the chest of a Destined and shot the Kett.

 

“We already brought it up, we’re still running low...” Bain said before asking “...what’s left on the shuttle?”.

 

“Not much but we’ll try to land when we can” Santos cut in.

 

“If we do we need to do it quick!...” came Niay’s exhausted voice “...I can’t keep this up much longer”. The Asari woman sounded absolutely exhausted. Sara could sympathize, though her own biotics were much weaker than Niay’s she knew how tiring extended use could be.

 

“When you land take don’t join the fight, round up the outpost personnel and get them to seal themselves in whatever building is the strongest” Sara said before killing a Kett that had been firing on one of the few still functional turrets. As she did she was forced to reload, a quick check of her ammo box told her that there wouldn’t be many more chances.

 

“Commander, something’s coming through on the general Initiative frequency, patching it through” Santos’ voice cut in. A moment later Sara head the voice she’d been expecting but one that nonetheless made her heart soar.

 

“...Pathfinder Scott Ryder calling Prodromos, we’re inbound on the Tempest and bringing two APEX teams with us please advise about your situation” came her brother’s familiar voice.

 

“Scott!” Sara cut into the general frequency.

 

“Sara?...” Scott said.the surprise in his voice obvious and overriding his professionalism. “...What are you doing here?” he asked.

 

“Trying to prevent your outpost from getting overrun!” Sara shouted as she dove to one side to avoid a flurry of shots directed up at her.

 

“Wha-...” Scott said before his common sense caught up with him and he said “...what's the situation?!”.

 

“One moment!...” Sara said as she sprinted to her right as even more fire began stabbing up at her. Another of the settlement turrets had been destroyed and that freed up more Kett to focus on her. As she back from the edge of the cliff she answered “...Prodromos is down to two turrets, we’re almost out of ammo, and we just told the outpost personnel to seal themselves in!”.

 

“Hold on we’re on our way!” Scott said.

 

“Sure, I’ll try to leave some for you” Sara said as she poked her head up long enough to shoot a Chosen before being forced back into cover.

 

“Pathfinder! Two Kett fighters are descending toward the settlement” a Salarian voice said. Sara assumed it was Kallo Jath, Scott’s pilot, but she didn’t have time to think about it.

 

“Damn it” Scott said.

 

“I really hope you brought some fighter cover of your own” Sara said as she popped up once more intending to shoot another Kett. This time the fire was so intense that she had to drop back before she could even get a shot off. Checking quickly she saw that her shields had been dramatically reduced.

 

“No such luck” came Cora Harper’s voice.

 

“FUCK” Sara swore. Scott had enough people with him that he might have been able to swing the ground fight but if the Kett had fighters roaming unopposed they were all doomed.

 

“I can take one of them” Santos suddenly cut in.

 

“How? Your shuttle isn’t armed!” Scott said sounding frustrated.

 

“YOUR shuttles might not be armed, ours is...and I’m a much better pilot than any bone brain out there” Santos snapped. Sara happened to agree that she was probably better than whoever was flying the Kett craft but she only had one rocket left and it wasn’t even guided.

 

“This is crazy you’ll get yourself killed-” Scott began to say.

 

“Maria! If you can take down one and bring the other coming straight at me then I think we have a chance” Sara said interrupting her brother.

 

“Roger commander” Santos said as Sara saw the shuttle shoot into the air.

 

“Sara what are you-” Scott began.

 

“Just get your boots on the ground and finish off those Kett, I have this” Sara overrode him as she retreated to well away from the edge of the cliff she was on. She didn’t need any fire from below distracting her.

 

“Come on assholes, let’s Dance” Santos snarled as she sent the shuttle climbing rapidly into the sky. To Sara it seemed as though she were flying to intercept both Kett craft but that would be suicide. Apparently Santos agree because just as the Kett began firing at what they’d thought would be an easy target the shuttle suddenly began plummeting like a rock. Sara guessed Santos had killed her thrusters entirely and was simply allowing gravity to carrying her out of harm's way.

 

As the Kett craft shot by overhead Santos fired her own engines again and resumed her rapid climb. The Kett craft each swung in wide arcs that brought them back on intercept course with the shuttle. Sara was having to use her helmet’s zoom feature to watch but the show was worth it. As the enemy fighters shot up toward her Santos pulled her shuttle through a complete loop that brought her on a collision course with one of the fighters. Though she couldn’t see it at this distance Sara knew that Santos most have fired her last rocket because a moment later the Kett fighter’s port wing was sheared from it’s fuselage.

 

“Scratch one bogey!...” Santos whooped over the comm as he shuttle began rocketing down toward Prodromos once more.

 

“Come at me from the east! Make sure and give me a good long approach!” Sara shouted as she raised her rifle.

 

“On it commander” Santos said as she turned her dive into a twisting turn that sent her far over the Golden Wastes. The Kett fighter followed her through the maneuver, firing wildly the whole time. When the shuttle and the fighter were both hurtling directly toward her Santos said “...I really hope you have a plan”.

 

“Well I HAVE one, we’ll see if it’s any good” Sara said as hit a control on her weapon with her thumb. There was a beep and a click that indicated her rifle had just chambered one of her few concussive shots. These were extremely powerful rounds that were designed to send armored targets flying backward, Sara was hoping it would be enough for her purposes too.

 

As the shuttle screamed over her head she had to use all her might to minimize her stagger as the blast of air hit her. She had only a second or two before the Kett fighter would do the same. In that time she had to raise her rifle, find her target, and squeeze her trigger. And so she did. The concussive shot blasted out of her rifle and a millisecond later it drove through the cockpit canopy on the Kett fighter killing the pilot instantly. Sara had no time to celebrate however and she dropped her gun and engaged her jump jet which sent her tumbling to the side.

 

It almost wasn’t enough as the Kett fighter had hit the top of the cliff moving faster than the human eye could easily perceive. Sara’s move had thrown her clear of the fighter itself but the buffeting air thrown outward but it’s passing turned her dive into a rapid pinwheeling movement. She slammed into the ground moving far faster than she’d intended. All of the air was driven from her body and stars exploded before her eyes. She didn’t do anything else but lay there for several seconds. Those seconds stretched to almost a minute before she realized someone was speaking to her over the comm.

 

“Sara! Are you receiving?” she heard her brother’s voice asking.

 

“No need to shout little bro...I’m just...basking in my victory” she groaned as a fresh wave of pain coursed through her body.

 

Either Scott hadn’t heard her or he chose to ignore her last remark as he said “we’re cleaning up the last of the Kett down here, I’ll be up there as soon as I can!”.

 

“Take your time” Sara said dreamily as started up at Eos’ sun. She had no idea how long she’d actually lain there but she thought it must have been sometime before she heard the sound of an approaching engine. Rolling her head to one side she dimply saw what she thought was an approaching land vehicle. A moment later her vision cleared and she saw that it was a nomad. She let her eyes close again and waited until someone spoke above her.

 

“Sara!” it was her brother. He sounded concerned but as ever she couldn’t resist the opportunity to tease him. She didn’t answer him and lay completely still. A moment later she felt him lean over her and one of his hands lifting her head and shoulders from the sand with touching tenderness.

 

She waited a moment longer before suddenly opening her eyes and shouting “BOO!”. Scott jumped so violently that he let her fall back into the sand as he let loose with a string of curses.

 

“God damn it Sara! I was worried sick” he said to her in a voice that melded gratitude and angry indignation.

 

“I know, it was very sweet” Sara said before she looked over toward the sound of booming laughter.

 

“Oh that girl has some Quads on her Scott, and you wonder why she’s my favorite” Nakmor Drack said as he walked up to where Sara lay.

 

“Nice to see you old man” Sara said with a grin as she allowed Drack to pull her to her feet. Turning toward Scott who was still looking seriously put out she said “sorry little brother”.

 

“You’re hopeless” he said as he threw his hands into the air and stalked off back toward the nomad. He stopped when he was about halfway there and shouted over his shoulder saying “and you’re seeing Lexi whether you like it or not!”.

 

“He’s cute when he’s worried” Sara said to Drack as she removed her helmet. Though the air on Eos was, as usual, warm it still smelled wonderfully freshed after so long with a helmet on. A crackling sound from behind her turned her around to see the burning scraps of the Kett fighter she’d brought down.

 

“You did that huh?” Drack asked as he came to her side and joined her in staring.

 

“What can I say…” she said without looking away “...it was a good day's work”.




Chapter Text

Eos, Pytheas System

 

Sara Ryder was stunned. Something that didn’t happen often. From where she sat, on an upturned crate she looked over at her best friend Cora Harper in total shock. For a moment she was even struck that she might not know the other woman as well as she thought.

 

“Cora...how long?”she asked in a quiet voice. The two women were sitting side by side in the Tempest’s bio lab with the door sealed and SAM’s recording logs shut off. Sara had spent many hours in the room with Cora during the brief time she’d been a member of the Pathfinder team.

 

“About three weeks, I confirmed it with a scan this morning” Cora said bleakly with her head in her hands. Despite her shock Sara finally remembered to drape her arm over Cora’s shoulders.

 

“I hate to ask...but are you-...” she trailed off, unable to say what she wanted to.

 

Thankfully Cora knew what she was getting at and answered saying “yes, it’s Scott’s” she didn’t turn to look at Sara as she said this but spoke into her hands.

 

The bombshell that Cora had just dropped and that had rocked Sara to her core was that she was pregnant. Not that this was itself any bad thing, in fact from the standpoint of the initiative it was a great thing. Unspoken but understood by everyone who had come to Andromeda was the fact that one of their primary duties would be the reproduce. No what had so shaken Sara was that apparently her brother was the child’s father. Under normal circumstances this might have been joyous news for Sara, she loved both Cora and Scott and would have been delighted to have Cora in the family.

 

But that wasn’t the case now because her brother Scott, the famous Pathfinder and the savior of Heleus, was already in a relationship with the Asari journalist Keri T’Vessa. Keri had become famous as the producer of a documentary that had followed Scott’s early progress as a Pathfinder. Since it’s release the documentary had probably been viewed by every initiative member and Angara with the spare time to do so. Naturally this had brought Keri to the attention of a great many people. Indeed she and Scott were as close to a celebrity power couple as Heleus had to offer.

 

Of course Cora, as the second in command of the pathfinder team, was a celebrity in her own right. This turned what would have been a very messy personal situation and turned into a political powder keg. The potential fallout of a scandal like this would reverberate throughout the cluster. Scott had become much more than just a pathfinder, he was the most potent symbol in Heleus. He stood not just for successful opposition to the Kett but for how the Initiative and the Angara could not only co-exist but thrive alongside each other. If he were to suddenly be exposed as just as fallible as anyone else the consequences could be disastrous.

 

“Does Scott know?” Sara finally asked.

 

“No, I only began to suspect last week…” Cora said.

 

“Can I ask...how long have you two been…” Sara started to say.

 

“A few months…” Core said dejectedly “...it just happened one night and then it was like we had one life out here and one life on Meridian or the Nexus..” she finished by sniffing loudly and Sara knew she was losing the fight to hold back tears.

 

“I guess it’s my fault...I should have know this could happen and Scott-” she started to say before cutting off and giving Sara a red rimmed look of concern.

 

“Scott what…” Sara said. She’d been on the point of telling Cora that of course this wasn’t her fault but something in the other woman’s tone had brought her up short.

 

“I...I shouldn’t…” Cora started to say before the tears began to flow. Sara wrapped her arms around Cora and held her for several minutes, not speaking. Eventually Cora was able to say “...I’m sorry I just…”.

 

“Don’t be sorry” Sara said as she held Cora tightly.

 

“I still should have known” Cora said eventually as she shifted in Sara’s arms.

 

“Why?” Sara asked.

 

“I...I don’t want to say anything about your brother to you…” Cora said, straightening and wiping at her eyes.

 

“Cora…” Sara said, taking her hand and looking into her eyes “...tell me”. More than anything else on this day Cora’s expression shook Sara. Cora looked scared. Previously Sara might have been surprised to learn Cora was even capable of fear. And yet somehow, Sara could tell that what Cora was afraid of was not Scott, but her. Of her reaction.

 

Something in Sara’s eyes must have overcome Cora’s reluctance because she finally murmured “before Scott and I...before we...before us he was seeing a Angaran woman, Avela, while he was with Keri…and...” Cora trailed off and sniffed loudly before finally saying “...something similar happened”.

 

Sara was stunned once more and couldn’t speak for several moments but eventually she was able to ask “..what happened...to the this Angara and her baby?”.

 

Cora hesitated but it seemed that, now that she was talking, she was determined to get it all out so she finally said “Scott...he made sure they were taken care of but he and the Governor decided that…”. Cora couldn’t bring herself to finish the sentence. She didn’t need to to, the unspoken meaning was clear. Scott had left the woman with a child on her own, which Sara assumed would be a HUGE taboo in the family oriented Angaran society. Moreover he and Aya’s Governor had worked together to conceal the problem to protect his reputation.

 

Sara said nothing for several long moments, she just stared and blinked as she processed this information and its implications. And the more she thought, the angrier she got. Eventually she disengaged herself from Cora and slowly stood, heading toward the door. She continued to stare straight ahead as she went, her eyes looking but not really seeing. Her posture was unnaturally rigid, as though her spin had been replaced with a metal rod.

 

“Sara?” Cora asked, batting at the tears on her cheeks as she half stood.

 

“Excuse me” Sara said in a flat emotionless tone as she left the bio lab. When the doors closed behind her she spoke to the air asking “SAM, where is my brother?”.

 

“The pathfinder is returning to the ship now, he will arrive soon” came the voice of Scott’s companion AI, SAM. Sara had once had a SAM implant similar to the rest of the pathfinder team, but it had been rendered useless by her treatment at the hands of the Archon. At first it had felt strange to not have the connection to SAM but looking back now she actually prefered things this way.

 

“Please tell him that I’ll be waiting for him his quarters...” Sara said in the same monotone voice “...and SAM, a favor?”.

 

“Of course Sara”

 

“Please don’t log the conversation, we need some private sibling time” she said. Her voice was still flatter than usual but now she was having more trouble controlling it.

 

“I will, Sara” SAM answered. Ordinarly Sara would have thanked the AI but today she was almost trembling with Anger as she hurried to the Tempest’s hold and grabbed her chest armor before heading to Scott’s quarters. There she began to pace as her building rage began to bubble over. A rage sprung from the knowledge of how her brother had treated not only Cora but Keri and this Angaran woman. Fortunately she only had to wait a few minutes before she heard her brother speaking outside the doors to his quarters.

 

“...Yeah just a moment PeeBee I just need to find out what…” he trailed off as the doors to his quarters closed behind him. He turned to look around his apparently empty quarters for several moments before he asked “...umm...Sara?”. At that exact moment Sara decloaked and punched her brother with all her might. By her own standards the punch had terrible form, sending her hopping sideways as the momentum of her swing carried her two paces to her left. Nevertheless the punch did it’s intended work as Scott was sent stumbling down to one knee saying “...what the hell?!”.

 

But Sara wasn’t ready to talk yet. She immediately stepped forward and kicked Scott’s leg out from under him sending hard down onto his side. Before she could follow this up Scott rolled away and came up quickly a meter away from her. His reflexes were great, they always had been, and they’d have only gotten better as a result of his connection with SAM. Sara didn’t care. She stepped forward and through first a left and then right at him, he blocked both blows but wasn’t fast enough to catch her foot before it slammed into his chest.

 

Scott went careening backward and bounced off a bookshelf. As it’s contents scattered everywhere he half stood, breathing hard, and held out his hands saying “SARA! STOP! What the fuck?!”.

 

Deciding that she hadn’t finished yet Sara didn’t answer but simply ran forward and with a roar of primal anger Sara charged forward and tackled her brother, driving him down onto the deck which he hit with a thud.

 

“SCOTT ALEXANDER RYDER!...” she bellowed at him as she clambered up his body, punching every inch of him she could reach as she did “...YOU SELFISH STUPID SON OF A BITCH!”.

 

“STOP!” Scott screamed back as he finally managed to get one of his legs up and to use it to shove Sara backward. She stumbled as she went and ended up landing hard on her butt. She quickly scrambled back to her feet but Scott did as well and once again held out his hands shouting “...WHAT HAS GOTTEN INTO YOU!”.

 

Her chest heaving, less from fatigue and more from fury, Sara marched quickly up to him. Scott half raised his hands into a guard but Sara didn’t do anything more than jab him hard in the chest with a finger as she shouted “...WHAT DID YOU DO?!”.

 

“I DON’T KNOW WHAT THE HELL YOU ARE TALKING ABOUT!” Scott shouted back, matching her volume but sounding bewildered instead of angry. As he spoke he began edging to his left, clearly attempting to get closer to the door.

 

“You don’t even know!” Sara roared, her anger flashing again, as she ran toward him and started throwing punches again. Scott managed to catch most on his shoulders and forearms but several connected with his face. He was still retreating back toward the doors when they suddenly shot open and something big and orange stomped in. Sara suddenly founder herself being lifted off the deck by the front of her chest plate and staring down at an angry looking Nakmor Drack.

 

“WHAT IN THE NAME OF VAUL’S QUADS IS GOING ON HERE!” Drack bellowed at Sara as her feet kicked helplessly in the air.

 

“LET ME GO YOU BIG BASTARD!” Sara shouted as she pounded futilely at the Krogan’s arm. She might as well have been hitting a tree.

 

“CALM DOWN DAMN IT!...” Drack roared at her before pausing and saying in a normal voice to Scott “...you alright kid?”.

 

Scott, who was standing shakily as he rubbed his jaw, let out a groan of pain before saying “yeah, I will be”.

 

“Not when I get done with you!” Sara snarled but Drack shook her once and she went back to hammering uselessly on his arm.

 

“What the hell is going on!” Drack growled looking first at the struggling Sara and then to the battered looking Scott.

 

“I have no idea!” Scott shouted in frustration as he shook his head as though trying to clear it. Blood was running from his nose and one of his eyes was already beginning to swell.

 

“OH MY GOD! ARE YOU SERIOUS?!” Sara roared as she pounded once more on Drack’s arm. Giving up on this she swung her legs up and scissored them around the Krogan’s arm intending to pull him down to the deck. It didn’t work as he she just ended up suspended in the air like Sloth clinging to a tree branch.

 

“WHAT IN THE HELL IS YOUR PROBLEM?!” Scott roared back at her. Absurdly Sara was reminded of the few time’s they had severe arguments as children. One of those had probably been the last time they’d shouted at each other like this.

 

“YOU! Are my problem!” Sara shouted at him as she finally let go of Drak’s arm and let herself hang limply in his grasp. She knew she was never going to break the old Krogan’s grasp with anything short of a laser cutter.

 

“Yeah I figured!” Scott said loudly as he grabbed a shirt from his dresser and pressed it against his face to staunch the bleeding. Turning back to Sara he snapped “care to be anymore specific?!”. He cut off as two more people rushed into the room. One was Sara and Scott’s friend Peebee and the other was the Tempest’s doctor Lexi T’Perro.

 

“What the hell is going on here?” Lexi said, sounding angrier that Sara had ever heard her sound. It was actually kind of jarring to see the usually so composed Asari so upset. This helped further cool Sara’s red hot violent rage, though it did nothing to address her underlying anger.

 

“Ask her!” Scott snapped bitterly as he dropped the bloody shirt to the floor and let Lexi begin looking at him.

 

“If I let you down you won’t make me put you in a bio bed will you? Drack asked Sara. She shook her head and a moment later she was set down on her feet once more.

 

“What the hell?!” Scott yelled at her. It was then that Sara realized that despite what she wanted to scream at him, she couldn’t. At least not without giving away Cora’s secret. She was still frantically puzzling over this when a familiar voice interrupted her thoughts.

 

“Scott? Can I talk to you and Sara, privately?” Cora said softly from where she stood in the doorway, her arms wrapped protectively around herself. Whatever else he was, Sara’s brother was very smart. He looked from Sara to Cora and comprehension dawned on his face.

 

“Sure Cora” he said, sounding as gentle as possible through his injuries.

 

“Scott! I need to look at you now-” Lexi started to protest but to everyone’s surprise it was Drack who interrupted her.

 

“Leave it doc...” he said as he turned toward the door “...you too motormouth” he said to Peebee.

 

“No Drack, I need to-” Lexi started to say again.

 

“Lexi, it’s alright, I’ll be right there” Scott said. Even being as upset with him as she was Sara was impressed by the quiet authority in his voice. Lexi pursed her lips and looked from Scott to Drack and finally to Cora, who didn’t meet her gaze, before leaving the room muttering to herself.

 

“But, I want to see...” Peebee said but Drack put a big arm around her shoulders and steered her out of the room.

 

When they were finally alone again Scott retrieved his bloody shirt and pressed it to his face again and asked “what’s up Cora?”. Cora seemed to steel herself, taking a pair of deep breaths, before finally looking up to meet Scott’s gaze.

 

“Scott...I’m pregnant” she said at last. No one spoke. While it was hard to tell through the damage to his face Scott looked thunderstruck.

 

“Pregnant…” Scott said sounding as though he’d never heard of the term before. He sat heavily on a table behind him and stared at the deck for several moments before looking up and asking “...are you sure?”.

 

Cora nodded quickly, even managing to turn the corners of her mouth of for a moment in a pale imitation of a smile, though it faded quickly. She shot a look over at Sara before saying “I...I wouldn’t have chosen for you to find out like this” she said and now she glared at Sara who hung her head.

 

“Yeah...me either…” Scott said as he winced.

 

“But...now that you know…” Cora said, forcing a tiny laugh and another horribly strained smile “...what do you think?”.

 

“Cora…” Scott said standing and walking over to her “...that’s great news, of course it is…” he paused then and turned to Sara asking hotly “...so why the hell were you attacking me?”.

 

“Oh, yeah, why would I object to you treating my best friend like you treated that Angaran woman!” Sara snapped but was cut off by Cora.

 

“ENOUGH…” she said, finally sounding like her usual self “...enough you two, Sara you HUGELY overreacted here and you know it!”. Sara folded her arms and looked away at this, but she knew Cora was right. “Scott, I’m not here to judge you I just...I just needed you to know” Cora said as she returned her attention to him.

 

When Scott simply stared Sara spoke up saying “now you tell her that you are going to be there for her and the baby however they need”. Scott turned to Cora who once again tried to smile at this but didn’t offer any contradiction.

 

“Of course...of course Cora, I’ll make sure you and the baby get whatever you need” Scott said though Sara noted he didn’t look at Cora when he said this.

 

“No...dumbass…” Sara said waspishly “...tell her that you two will raise this baby together, that’s what she wants”. Cora’s smile became a shade more genuine and her expression hopeful at this. She seemed grateful to have Sara there to handle the talking.

 

To the end of her days Sara thought she’d never get over how horrible it was to watch that hope fade from Cora’s face. And fade it did as Scott didn’t say anything for several long seconds. When he finally did look up his face was desolated. Cora took a step back from him as he said “...Cora...I…”.

 

“Scott?” she asked softly.

 

“Cora...I...Keri…” Scott didn’t seem to be able to communicate in anything more than single words. But he managed to do tremendous damage nonetheless.

 

“Scott…” Cora said, her voice desperate and quavering slightly as tears began to from in her eyes.

 

“You and the baby...you’ll have whatever you need…” Scott said still looking away.

 

“Scott” Cora said the name again as a quiet gasp, her voice positively shaking now.

 

“I’m sorry” Scott whispered as he stepped back from Cora.

 

“Please!” Cora pleaded as the tears fell and she shook her head. It was as though she thought she could deny her current reality if she shook it firmly enough. When Scott said nothing Cora brokedown entirely. Scott half lifted a hand and looked as though he wanted to step forward for a moment but in the end he did nothing.

 

Sara, glaring pure hatred at her brother, stepped forward and wrapped her arms protectively around Cora. She recalled feeling like she hadn’t really known Cora earlier, that had passed, she wasn’t sure this feeling would. Looking at the man who was her brother she thought that she’d never been more disillusioned in her life. Whatever their differences in the past she’d always thought of Scott as a fundamentally good man, and had always loved him for it. Now it seemed like a stranger stood before her.

 

Releasing Cora for a moment she stepped up the Scott and slapped him hard across the face. The cracking sound from the blow echoed around the otherwise totally silent cabin. Before turning back to the sobbing Cora she looked straight up into his eyes and whispered “...mom would be ashamed of you”. Despite her anger with him she thought the expression of shock and hurt on his face as she said this would also stay with her forever. She ignored this however as she took Cora in her arms and led her out of the room.




Chapter Text

Norgraqua, Skeldah System

 

If they had been on any other world Sara Ryder would have looked up to see billowing plumes of smoke rising into the air around her. On Norgraqua’s bitterly cold and wind whipped surface nothing could burn for very long, even if it had been as thoroughly wrecked as the small Kett outpost they had just attacked. Sara was standing just inside the large doorway to the outpost’s one large building squinting out through the wind blown sand. She was searching for the tell tale lights of her team’s shuttle coming to pick up them up and had been for several minutes now.

 

A particularly loud roar followed by a wet cracking sound tore her attention away from her vigil. Turning she saw Curdan Grode straightening with his Krogan hammer with a wicked grin on his face. Sara looked down at his feet and saw a large dent in the flooring as well as most of the corpse of a Kett Chosen. Most of one because where the head should have been there was only a large greenish smear flecked with bits of Kett bone armor. A quick look at the head of Curdan’s hammer told the rest of the story.

 

“Make sure and leave the bodies somewhere the Kett will find them” Sara told him before looking back out over the bleak landscape. Sara, as the commander of the Ghosts, had excused herself from the dismemberment duties but she still had to supervise.

 

“Barbaric beasts!” came a Kett voice. Looking to her right she saw where Bain Massani and Niay Janilas were guarding the one living Kett left in the facility. The Kett Destined had been the outpost’s commander and had been forced to watch helplessly as Sara and her team and eviscerated his troops. Helpless because Niay biotically driven a dart full of a powerful paralytic into his neck. Now that his troops were dead they had administered just enough of a special cocktail of drugs for the Kett to awaken but not to regain full control of his body.

 

Sara sighed and walked over to where the Kett was lying on the deck. Crouching beside the Destined she said “a Kett aliterating? Who says you guys don’t know how to have fun”.

 

“The Primus will inflict a fate worse than death on you for this outrage” the Kett spat at her. He still couldn’t move but his eyes made very clear how he felt about Sara and her whole team.

 

“I look forward to meeting her!” Sara said bright as she patted the Kett’s cheek and stood. She turned and watched Curdan smash another Kett skull before turning back to Bain and asking “any problems with the rifles?”.

 

Massani looked at this Zalkin rifle disgustedly as he said “this Kett piece of shit is useless, it’s amazing they’ve conquered anything-”.

 

“The glory of the Kett is beyond your ability to-” the Kett Destined started to say before Bain drove his boot hard into the Kett’s stomach. Sara wasn’t sure if that was where Kett lungs sat but it did shut the Kett up.

 

“We won’t have to use them much longer after this” Sara reassured them as she thought about the Ishary rifle on her back. Her beloved Black Widow had been destroyed on Eos by the Kett fighter she’d managed to down and now, apart from their need to camouflage their activities with weapons the Roekaar would use, she was in need of a new sniper rifle. Sara liked the Isharay rifle’s tremendous punch but it’s one round capacity made her uncomfortable.

 

Of course missing her Black Widow brought her thoughts to Eos and then, inevitably, to her ferocious fight with her brother. Sara had been so enraged at learning of Scott’s infidelities and his treatment of an Angaran woman she’d impregnated as a result that she’d actually attacked him. In the end though it had been Scott’s refusal to do the right thing by Cora Harper, his second in command and Sara’s best friend, that had broken Sara’s relationship with her brother.

 

Cora was pregnant, with Scott’s child. Apparently they had been carrying on an affair for several months despite Scott’s relationship with the Asari journalist Keri T’vessa (and the Angaran woman for that matter). When Cora had told Scott however he’d tried to brush her off with promises of material support. When pressed he’d made clear that he wouldn’t or couldn’t leave Keri, and so Cora had left with Sara. Sara had no idea what Scott had told the pathfinder team to explain her absence and frankly she didn’t much care. The mere thought of her brother’s actions was enough kick the dark mood she’d been in since Eos into full blown rage. To vent her frustration she kicked the Kett Destined in his face once before stalking over to Curdan.

 

“Give me that” she said as she tugged the hammer from his hands. The moment he let go the hammer dropped quickly but she managed to control it in the end. Walking awkwardly to the next Kett body she took in several deep breaths before heaving at the weapon with all her might. She realized halfway through her swing that she was about to fall over and had to use a quick biotic nudge to complete the motion. Regardless of how she did it she managed to bring the weapon down with enough force to cave in the face of the dead Kett.

 

“Not bad” Curdan said as he took the weapon back from her. Sara, unsurprisingly, found that this action hadn’t slaked her temper even slightly. She was about to snatch her pistol off her hip and start shooting bodies when a new voice cracked over their commlink.

 

“We’re inbound now, ETA five minutes” came the voice of Maria Santos, her shutte pilot.

 

“Acknowledged...” Sara said before turning back to their prisoner and saying “...you get your wish, we’re leaving”. The Kett didn’t respond beyond a glare with Sara ignored as she asked Curdan “did you find something that would work?” The Krogan nodded and bent to retrieve what looked like the base of a portable receiver, the cylinder was about fifty centimeters in length and ten in diameter.

 

“Ready?” Niay said as she used her biotics to lift the limp Kett into the air before shoving him hard against the wall.

 

“Ready” Sara said as she concentrated hard and lifted the cylinder from Curdan’s hand. Her biotics were significantly weaker than Niay’s but she was able to hold it steady in the air pressed against the Kett’s abdomen.

 

“Ready” Curdan growled as she hefted his hammer.




Ghost Shuttle, en route to Hybaro

 

As their shuttle shot through space toward the Ratul system most of the Ghosts were sleeping. Sara Ryder however was at the shuttles controls. She was dressed comfortably as she usually was when facing a long shuttle flight. The outfit was marred somewhat by the presence of her helmet which she was wearing with it’s seals engaged. The odd fashion choice was because this was the only way she could have a truly private conversation while in the close quarters of the shuttle.

 

“Kandros got me set up with an office here on the Nexus, and he’s keeping me plenty busy planning and supervising APEX ops” Cora Harper told her. Cora’s head and shoulders were being displayed on the inside of Sara’s helmet visor so to her it was like they were face to face. She’d engaged the helmets stealth protocols so any audio she received would stay in the helmet while the visor would appear opaque to an outside observer.

 

“Did he ask any questions?” Sara asked.

 

“No, he seemed to get it” Cora said with a sigh. After taking Cora off the Tempest Sara had given her a ride to the Nexus. Sara had suggested Meridian but Cora had vetoed the idea out of hand. She didn’t want to sit idle on Meridian while there was work to be done. And so Sara had gotten in touch with Tiran Kandros, the commander of the Citadel Militia, and asked that he find Cora a job.

 

Not that Kandros wouldn’t have been eager to accept her anyway. Cora was a high trained biotic commando and had a wealth of experience gained from her time as the executive officer of the Tempest. She was exactly the sort of recruit APEX longed for. No Sara’s call had been less about getting Cora a position and more about assuring that the Turian, and the rest of APEX, wouldn’t inquire to closely as to why she was there.

 

Though she was officially just another APEX commander Sara did actually have a great deal of pull with Kandros. This was because her unit, officially they were just APEX Strike Team Hotel, was actually the Nexus’ first black ops unit. No other APEX team would be given the kind of freedom that she was nor would the Nexus leadership turn so blind an eye to their methods. Sara had accepted Kandros’ offer to lead the unit on the condition that she have such autonomy and so far he’d been as good as his word. One of the perks of her position however was that she was in more direct contact with Kandros and thus had more influence over the Turian.

 

“How are you feeling?” Sara asked Cora. This was a much shorter way of expressing the tumult emotions she was experiencing and knew Cora was as well.

 

“I’m healthy and so is the baby…” Cora said quietly as she looked down. She paused for a few moments before adding “...Scott called today”.

 

Sara actually felt her nostrils flair at this but she managed to fight down her temper enough to ask “and how did that go?”.

 

“He...was nice...he always is…” Cora said, still not looking at Sara who didn’t answer. She knew Cora, in spite of everything, still loved Scott in some way. Sara also knew that her break with Scott put Cora in a very uncomfortable place. Still, she simply couldn’t stand the idea of her brother right now.

 

“Are you working with the pathfinders at all?” Sara asked, very obviously changing the subject.

 

Cora’s eyes showed regret but she didn’t push Sara and instead answered her question saying “some, the pathfinders themselves handle the training of their own teams but they’ve asked me to come by once or twice to share some experience”.

 

“Good, they are lucky to have you” Sara said in an encouraging voice.

 

“I wish I was out there with you” Cora said, now sounding wistful. Sara could well imagine how it would be killing the other woman to not be taking the fight to the Kett.

 

“We’ll arrange a playdate during an op after the baby arrives...” Sara suggested with a smile “...they can hold their first pistol with auntie Sara!”. Cora actually laughed at this. Something she hadn’t been doing much of lately and it did Sara’s heart good to see it.

 

“It seems like all visits with auntie Sara will have to be closely supervised” Cora said. She looked over her shoulder then and turned back to Sara saying “I gotta run Sara, you coming to visit me soon?”. Sara could detect the hint of a plea in Cora’s voice and it hurt her to have to give the answer she did.

 

“Not too soon...we’re closing in on Primus and I don’t think I’ll be back until we find her” Sara said regretfully. Cora did her best to smile and look supportive at this but Sara could tell she was disappointed.

 

“Of course, just stay safe out there OK?” Cora said.

 

“You know it doll” Sara answered, using the nickname they used with each other. Cora managed a faint smile at this but didn’t say anything else as she closed their commlink. Sara leaned back heavily in the pilots chair at this as she tugged her helmet off and tossed it into the co-pilot's chair. She closed her eyes and massaged her temples against a headache she suddenly found she had. She had several hours left in her shift with nothing but the possibility of extended brooding stretching in front of her. She was still rubbing her temples when asked “couldn’t sleep Major?”.

 

Major Saelen Varn’s approach would have been completely undetectable to most people. His movements had been honed by decades as a member of the STG back in the Milky Way. But Sara wasn’t most people. She had spent years as a member of a black ops team, the one her present Ghosts were named after, while in the Alliance. It would take a truly exceptional being to successfully sneak up on her. If Varn was surprised her lack of surprise he didn’t show it, as he sat next to her.

“Salarians only sleep one hour a day Ryder...two if we’re tired” Varn said as he stared out the forward viewport. He didn’t say anything for a few more moments before he added “I’ve been through the intel we got from that Prefect a dozen times as well as the analysis Kandros and Avitus sent us...this is it Commander”.

 

Sara nodded at this. She and her team had snatched and then interrogated a Kett Prefect for information about the whereabouts of the Kett leader in Heleus, the Primus. The Kett Prefect had died as a result of the Ghost’s interrogation but not before they’d gotten enough out of her to send onto the Nexus. She and Kandros, as well as the Turian pathfinder Avitus Rix, had then worked out their present plan.

 

Sara and her team would hit a Roekaar camp to acquire some Angaran weaponry. They would then strike hard at Kett outposts across the the cluster, leaving obvious signs of brutality like the ones they’d left on Norgraqua. The whole idea was to advertise to the whole cluster that the Roekaar were once again a danger to both Kett and the initiative. In truth the group had been reeling ever since the disgrace of their former leader Akksul.

 

During this time Kandros and Rix, with the unknowing assistance of APEX and other pathfinders, would be working to verify their hard won intel. If it turned out to be good Sara and her team would infiltrate the Primus’ base and assassinate the Kett leader. They would do this in a way that suggested that the Roekaar had been responsible. This ruse was necessary as Kandros and the rest of the Nexus leadership did not want to advertise the fact that they had a unit like the Ghosts at all. Least of all to Sara’s famous brother.

 

“These things sure were easier in the Milky Way…” Sara said contemplatively “...we knew the rules of how things worked even if we were going to break them”.

 

Varn nodded and said “you seem to have adapted marvelously Commander, you’ve even helped keep this old spy feeling useful”. Sara heard him but was still mostly following her own train of thought.

 

Eventually she asked “do you ever think maybe the people who oppose the existence of people like us are right Major?”. She was slouched in her chair now but she turned to look at Varn when she asked this. The Major gazed back at her with his big placid Salarian eyes seeming to think about his answer.

 

“You mean those people who believe that if only we act with complete honesty and integrity then the rest of the universe will follow suit?” he asked.

 

“Yeah those” Sara said. The discussion she and Varn were having was an old one. Sara suspected that beings had been having it for as long as there were groups like the Ghosts, or the STG, or even the Counsel Spectres. All these groups justified their existence by saying that governance inevitable created nasty jobs that needed to be done by nasty people in secret. This was what allowed the majority of society to live in the light of progress and idealism, or so people like Varn and Sara told themselves.

 

“I’ve been thinking about things like this for a very long time Ryder, almost for longer than you’ve been alive...600 year cryo sleep notwithstanding...” Varn said “...and I’ve had this very conversation with many other people. In the end I have always come to this conclusion: would you rather that people like us be out there doing what we do or would you rather have others, the good people, having to do it? The people who have the highest ideals. I for one would rather we do these things so they can lead us toward a time where we won’t have to”.

 

Sara thought about this. Her strong contrarian streak wanted her to argue but she found that she agreed with what the Major had said wholeheartedly. During her tenure with the Milky Way Ghosts Sara had always told herself that she did what she did to keep people like her brother and mother safe. Her father was more like her than the rest of the family and would probably have been out there with her if he’d known of her true activities. This thought made her think about her brother however and that of course made her angry.

 

“Sometimes I think that the rest of society could benefit from seeing what we do. It might wake them up to the actual consequences of what their leaders do” Sara said.

 

Varn blinked once before looking back out the viewport and answering “Maybe...but the mass of people isn’t capable of handling that. They want and need to live in their ignorance. And it’s not merely the stupid either. It’s good men, women, and children who simply aren’t made to deal with the dark. You are, Ryder, so do it for them”.

 

“Hopefully…” Sara started to say before pausing. She thought about all the time they’d spent chasing the Primus and all the things she had done during that pursuit. She also thought of the wreckage of her relationship with her brother, and the void that had left in her life. She thought of all those things before finishing “...hopefully when we get the Primus, we’ll all have to do less of that for the good people”.

 

Varn started solemnly at her for a long moment before saying “you don’t believe that Ryder, any more than I do. There will ALWAYS need to be people like us on the wall between those people the horrors of the universe”.

 

“Yeah…” Sara said quietly “...I know.




Chapter Text

Hybaro, Ratul System

 

Hybaro was a very hostile planet, most of the time. As a result of the Scourge it was only habitable for about one third of its orbital period. However, as this orbital period was over one hundred and sixty years this mean that, by the standards of most beings, it was habitable for a significant amount of time during each orbit. Apparently the Kett felt this way because they had established a small mining outpost on the planet.

 

“Well this complicates things” Sara Ryder said as she stared at one of the shuttle’s scanner readouts. The intel she and her team had managed to extract from a Kett prefect she and her team had captured had ultimately led them there. The intel had strongly suggested that the Primus, the Kett leader in Heleus, was based on Hybaro. However that intel had also suggested that the Primus resided on the planet in a fortified compound. That wasn’t the case.

 

The complication that Sara had pointed out was the large Kett cruiser in geosynchronous orbit over the mining outpost. She and her team had been monitoring Kett comm traffic since they’d arrived in the system and they’d managed to learn that the Primus rarely left the vessel. Infiltrating a Kett facility was one thing, getting aboard a warship would be another. Sara sighed softly as she wondered why these things could never be easy.

 

“How in Vaul’s quads are we supposed to get on board that thing” Curdan Grode asked from beside Sara.

 

“I thought we’d just blast a hole in the hull and dump you through it...one Krogan versus an entire ship of Kett seems about fair right?” Sara said dryly without looking up from the readout. Curdan grunted in reply but it sounded like an amused grunt at least.

 

“There’s really only one thing for it Ryder” Major Saelen Varn said as he stared at the same readout as Sara. The Salarian had been very quiet, even by his standards, for some time now. Sara assumed he had been working on a plan and thus hadn’t interrupted him.

 

“Go down to the planet and come up with the ore?” she asked him. She’d been thinking this for a few minutes now and that meant Varn had probably reached the conclusion long before.

 

“Indeed” Varn said, finally turning away from the screen to look at the rest of the team. Varn was not technically an active member of the Ghosts, serving primarily in an organizational and planning role. Despite this his decades of experience in the STG had made him one of the most gifted planners of special ops in existence. And he also managed to find his way into plenty of action despite his notionally non-combat role.

 

“This’ll be good” Curdan grunted as he eased his bulk down onto the shuttle’s bench. The Ghosts had been together long enough to know that Varn was about to share whatever plan he’d developed.

 

“Plainly we won’t be able to approach the Kett ship directly, and attempting to fight our way aboard would be suicide…” Varn began as he raised his omi-tool and typed in a series of commands that transferred the shuttles scanner readouts to a mid air hologram. Varn adjusted the image once more and then continued “...we’ve seen several shuttles come up from the planet and dock with the cruiser, these seem to me to be the only way onto that ship”.

 

“And so?” Niay Janilas asked promptingly. The Asari demolitions expert had been busily stuffing a pack with a variety of different kinds of explosive devices as Varn spoke but now looked impatient. Varn did tend to have a long wind up phase to his briefings.

 

“We know they are mining Iron on the planet’s surface, and so I propose we put the field team down on the planet near the camp. You can then survey the mining facility and find a way onto one of the shuttles which will then take you up to the Kett cruiser. From there you can split into pairs with one searching the Primus and the other placing the bombs we originally planned for the facility. That is assuming they will still suit for this purpose” Varn finished his summary before turning to look expectantly at Niay.

 

Niay thought for a few moments before answering “if we can place them near a reactor, or even better the engines, they should kill it”. Sara was looking skeptically at the Salarian however.

 

“That's it? I was expecting a more thorough plan from you then a basic series of steps” she said to Varn.

 

“I think you’ll agree that I don’t have much to work with Commander…” the Major pointed out as he tapped on his omni-tool again. This changed the view of the planet to a closer view of the mining outpost. The facility was little more than five ugly Kett buildings on the edge of a large open air pit mine. Varn tapped a group of small circles that Sara assumed were landing pads and continued “...without more details I’m afraid this is the best we can expect”.

 

“Fair enough” Sara said as she continued to stare at the rotating map in front of her. Her eyes scanned it for a long time before she reached forward and pointed at a scattering of small hexagons along the facility perimeter. “These look like turrets to me” she said.

 

“Me too” Bain Massani said as he leaned forward. The human male hadn’t spoken for a long time but that wasn’t unusual in and of itself. He tended to be an introspective person and usually didn’t speak until he had something important to say.

 

“We COULD destroy them…” Niay put in cautiously “...but we have no chance of getting in quietly if we do”.

 

“It’s gotta be me then...” Sara said matter of factly. She was the only member of the team who had been trained in the use of a tactical cloak. She turned to where Maria Santos, the team’s pilot and engineer, sat and asked “...think you can talk me through how to disable one without attracting too much attention?”.

 

“Yes Commander” Santos said without turning away from her console. She was presently adjusting the shuttle’s position and needed to concentrate.

 

“No reason for us to wait then” Sara said with a nod to Varn. The Salarian killed his hologram and took his place next to Santos in the co-pilot's chair. Turning to the rest of the team Sara clapped her hands and said “gear up, this is it people”.



A short time later the Ghost’s shuttle descended to hover a few meters above the surface of Hybaro. Sara and her field team leapt down and a moment later the ship was climbing rapidly away from them. She and her team were in this now.

 

“It’s about five clicks to the facility from here…” Sara said as she consulted her omni tool sensor “...but we have almost half a click of a killing field in front of all those turrets”.

 

“Someone knew what they were doing when they placed this place” Curdan growled.

 

“Let’s move out” Sara said before turning and starting to move toward the Kett facility at a brisk jog. Hybaro’s gravity was comfortable and allowed her to maintain the pace easily for most of their journey. Along the way they didn’t encounter any living thing other than some scrub like plant life. She raised a fist to indicate the rest of the team should halt as they reached the final low hill before the long flat area surrounding the mine.

 

“We’re still a long way out for a single cloak” Niay said as she sat down on a rock and caught her breath. Sara had made the run easily but the rest of her team wasn’t in the condition she was.

 

“Right, that’s why you’re going to throw me” Sara said.

 

Niay blinked at her once before asking “what?”.

 

“You’re right, it’s too far to run under one cloak” Sara explained. Tactical cloaks only kept a person invisible for a certain amount of time before they shut down to rebuild their charge. Sara had modified her personal unit for extended life but it still wouldn’t last for the time it took her to run half a kilometer.

 

“And you want me to...throw you?” Niay asked. She was a deadly shot and one of the most knowledgeable explosives experts Sara had ever met, but sometimes it took her a moment to grasp Sara’s drift. A moment later comprehension dawned and she understood say “oh...biotically..right”.

 

“You reckon you could make the throw with your hands?” Curdan snorted as Bane sniggered into his hand.

 

“Shut up” Niay snapped.

 

“Can you do it?” Sara asked her.

 

Niay thought for a few moments before nodding slowly “...probably not the whole way? But I can give you a big head start”.

 

“That’ll do” Sara said as she turned and started hurrying away toward where she would become visible to the turrets. She was a few meters away before she looked over her shoulder said “now”. Her stomach gave a tiny lurch as she suddenly found herself floating off her feet and hovering slowly upward.

 

Niay’s voice came over Sara’s helmet comm and said “tell me when”.

 

“DON’T MISS!...” Sara told her sternly before taking a deep breath and engaging her cloak. At the same moment she felt herself shimmer out of the visible spectrum she shouted “NOW!”. She suddenly found herself being flung forward with an amount of force that surprised her. As she soared through the air she did her best to keep her eyes fixed on a stretch of ground that was hurtling rapidly toward her.

 

A few seconds before she would have hit the ground with enough force to kill her Sara reached out with her own biotics. She didn’t have nearly the power or control that Niay did but she was able to cushion her landing sufficiently that she was able to transition it into a series of forward somersaults. She came up after the third and immediately broke into a run. She still had almost two hundred meters to cross and even at a dead sprint she knew things would be close.

 

A small timer appeared in her helmet HUD that told her that her cloak would fail in three seconds. She was still over eight meters from being safely behind the Kett turrets so she had to do something desperate. Sara’s low level biotics generally prevented her from being able to execute more complex techniques that powerful humans or all Asari could. When she tried she usually simply failed or, worse, ended up hurting herself. And yet now she had to try.

 

Specifically she drew on every ounce of power she had in an attempt to charge. Charging was an advanced biotic application wherein the user launched themselves forward at superhuman speeds. It wasn’t true teleportation but the biotic moved so quickly that it often appeared that way. At least when the technique was used successfully. Sara had never managed to do so before, all of her practice attempts with Cora Harper had ended with her unconscious.

 

So it was with a silent prayer to any diety that might be listening that Sara Charged. She could feel the enormous strain building on her body and mind as she reached for her power. And then, almost as quickly the strain was replaced with a deep almost overpowering fatigue as she found herself stumbling forward onto her knees safely behind the nearest turrets just as her cloak failed. Forcing herself to stand she hurried toward the turret and crouched against it’s base hoping to conceal her presence for the time it would take for her cloak to recharge.

 

Pulling open the panel on the turret’s base she shook her head to clear it and opened a channel to the shuttle and said “Santos, what do I do here”.

 

Her pilot responded almost before Sara was done speaking “disengage the turret’s targeting protocols without killing it’s powers. Looking for a trio of conduits about as thick as your wrist running vertically from the base up to the gun”.

 

Sara looked around quickly and then said “got them”.

 

“Scan them and identify the one with the least power moving through it, that will be your target” Santos said. Sara complied and then told Santos who the said “use your omni blade and sever it”.

 

“On it” Sara said. She pressing her right fist against the conduit she then used her left hand to quickly trigger her omni tool’s blade. The moment she activated it she turned it off again, but it was enough. The conduit had been severed though the rest of the turret appeared unharmed. Sara stepped back and looked at the weapon for a long moment eventually asking “how do I know if it worked”.

 

“Well you didn’t trigger an alarm, which you would have if you’d killed its power entirely...but beyond that you won’t know for sure until you try get past the” Santos replied.

 

“Well that’s encouraging” Sara muttered as she cloaked again and hurried toward a second nearby turret. She repeated her sabotage on this weapon and then another before she contacted her team and said “alright get moving”.

 

“Acknowledged” Bain’s voice replied. Without bothering to watch, she actually couldn’t bring herself to, Sara cloaked again and hurried toward the nearest building. The outpost seemed to be largely automated as no one had spotted her during the moments she’d be visible while she sabotaged the turrets. Still, it didn’t pay to be careless so she located the buildings entrance and after a quick pause she opened the door and shot through with an Angaran Firaan in each hand. Two Kett laborers were hunched over consoles as the door opened, both turned to see who was entering the room. The first died as Sara lunged at him and drove her knife into his neck. The second was still struggling to comprehend what was happening when she threw her other knife into his stomach. He doubled over and she finished him off with a quick biotic twist that broke his neck.

 

“Building clear” she said into her comm.

 

A moment later Curdan’s labored voice came back saying “give us a minute we aren’t all as fast as you”. Sara smiled at this but didn’t answer as she moved toward a console and brought up her scanner. She was still working on a brute force hack when her team joined her inside the building.

 

“Any luck?” Niay asked as she joined Sara at the console.

 

“It’s times like these that I wish we had a SAM” Sara muttered as she continued to struggle with the alien system. She wasn’t any kind of hacker by training but given time she could usually work her way into most computer systems. Unfortunately she wasn’t sure if she had that time at the moment. They hadn’t had enough time to observe the facility to learn what the Kett shuttle schedule might be like.

 

“Are you alright?” Niay asked Sara, suddenly sounding concerned.

 

“What?” Sara asked distractedly as she continued trying to force the Kett computer to yield. Just then she felt something wet on her lip, she wiped at it with her fingers and found them stained with blood. Curdan must have been paying attention because Sara felt as well as heard the big Krogan walk over to her before she head the sound of an omni scanner activating.

 

She tried to ignore this and keep working Curdan growled from behind her “you need to sit down, now”. Sara spun around fully intending to tell Curdan off and if necessary pull rank but the protest died in her throat. This happened as a result of two factors. First: even as she spun she felt the flow of blood out of her nose increase noticeably. Second she found herself face to face with Curdan. He was actually a very gentle soul most of the time but he was still a Krogan, and an unusually large one at over eight feet tall. Subordinate or not it was difficult to argue with a determined Krogan.

 

“I’ll take over” Niay said quickly as Curdan frog marched Sara over to a nearby container and pushed her down onto it before levelling his scanner at her.

 

“Just a stellar bedside manner” Sara muttered as she pinched the bridge of her nose. Truth be told she was feeling much more off than she’d ever admit to her team. Her successful biotic charge had apparently taken more out of her than she’d realized.

 

“That’s a human concept, Krogan don’t coddle” Curdan grunted distractedly as he continued to examine her. There was a long silent pause before he looked up and asked “any dizziness or double vision?”.

 

“Oh how could I not have those? What’s a girl to do around a Krogan like you?” Sara snapped as she tried to stand only to have a platter sized hand force her back down.

 

“Whatever that stunt you pulled with your biotics was it’s done a number on your whole body, what you need is a few hours rest and some close monitoring” Curdan said.

 

“Oh well it’s a good thing we’ve got all the time in the world and are in no immediate danger then” Sara countered sarcastically.

 

“THAT…” Curdan said in a slightly louder growl “...is why I’m telling you to sit on your ass for as long as you can while the rest of us figure this out”. He finished with a glare at her that could vaporized a wraith before opening his bag and beginning to rummage in it.

 

Bain, who had been peering cautiously out one of the building’s windows called over to them “no one seems to have noticed us or the turrets yet”.

 

“Good, I’m not making much progress here” Niay muttered as she glared at the Kett computer that she and Sara had been working on.

 

Before Sara could react Curdan, still looking in his bag, leveled a finger at her and said “not a single damn centimeter”. Sara glared back at him but stayed where she was. She was secretly grateful for the rest but she still hated being idle.

 

“Commander, we’re reading two Kett shuttles descending toward the outpost” Varn’s voice suddenly said over their commlink.

 

“Our rides” Curdan said.

 

“Only if we can find a way onto them” Niay said.

 

“Try a- ouch!” Sara started to say but she was cut off as Curdan unceremoniously jabbed her in the neck with a medical injector. Rubbing the place where she’d been stabbed she glared at the Krogan and snapped “what the hell are you doing?”.

 

“Making sure you don’t get yourself or the rest of us killed...” the Krogan said as he replaced the injector in his bag “...it’s the same cocktail that doctor T’Perro gave your brother before he took on the archon. It’ll keep you on your feet for the next five or six hours but the come down will make you wish I’d killed you”.

 

Sara simply wasn’t in the mood to think about her brother at the moment and so chose not to respond. She could already feel the drugs doing their job as her heart pumped them throughout her body. The heavy feeling was lifting from her muscles, her head was clearer, and her nose had stopped bleeding. She wasn’t 100%, yet, but she felt like she heading that way.

 

“Got it!” Niay cried as the Kett computer gave a decidedly affirmative sounding beep. Curdan turned to look at the same time as he used a big hand to hold Sara down on her crate. Niay didn’t speak again for a few moments before she said “there will be a load of ore coming up out of the mines in a few minutes.

 

“Well that’s convenient” Bain said from by the door.

 

“Or just lucky” Niay said. Sara was about to chime in when she saw Niay’s face fall.

 

“What is it?” she asked.

 

“Not sure, apparently this is the last shipment of ore the ship is taking for this trip. It’s leaving the moment it’s on board” Niay said as she tried to learn more from the computer. A moment later Niay’s face went as ashen as her blue Asari skill would allow. Turning her head slowly to look at Sara she said “apparently they capture the Pathfinder!”.

 

Sara must have looked as though she’d been slapped. A complex maelstrom of emotions welled up inside of her. The almost constant anger and that she’d felt toward him since they had last met clashed violently with a sudden, and unexpectedly strong, fear for his safety. Swallowing hard she stood shakily, Curdan not trying to stop her this time, and asked “how do you know?”.

 

“The cruiser just sent down an alert, the mine is supposed to send whatever it has and then stockpile until they can return” Niay told her.

 

“Anything on how they got the...the Pathfinder” she said, not able to bring herself to use Scotts name. All she could think about was that if Scott died the last thing she’d ever said to him was that their mother would have been ashamed of him.

 

“Nothing, Commander” Niay said sounding awkward. Sara was staring at the floor but she knew her team were all exchanging glances. No one spoke for almost a minute. Clearly everyone was waiting for her to show them a lead. And so she did. Standing so suddenly that Niay jumped slightly Sara started issuing orders.

“This mission just changed team, rescuing the pathfinder is our priority now. Niay, I need a way onto the shuttles in the next few minutes or we’re going to have to improvies. We HAVE to be on that cruiser when it leaves the system. Bain and Curdan get ready for possibility that we will have to seize one of those shuttles” she said as she stood and headed over to the window.

 

“Yes Commander” Niay said.

 

“If we’re going to seize one of them without spooking the Kett we need to go in quiet and hard” Bain said as he joined her at the window.

 

“I know, that means you and I clearing the way” Sara said. It was true, she and Bain were unquestionably the Ghosts best close quarter stealth killers.

 

“Should we get a head start then?” Bain asked. Sara turned to look over at him when he said this. Bain was technically a member of the Ghosts against his own will, though he really enjoyed what he did as part of his ‘sentence’. Still, even with the horrible things she and her unit had to do he was sometimes too bloodthirsty even for her. Sara did horrible things as a means to an end, Bain seemed to genuinely enjoy them.

 

“We’ll give Niay her shot. Sneaking onto the ship will be that much harder if we have to start dropping bodies” she said finally. Bain nodded, perhaps grudgingly, but he didn’t press the issue.

 

“We have a problem Commander” Niay called over to them.

 

“No more after this one” Sara grumbled at her.

 

“The shuttles are automated. No crew just a computer expecting a specific weight range of iron, which means that anything significantly more or less and they won’t launch” Niay said.

 

“Define, significantly more or less” Bain asked.

 

“Probably one person to each shuttle if you don’t want want to spend a few minutes tossing out oar…” Niay said before turning to look at Curdan and saying “...sorry big guy”. Curdan harrumphed but didn’t say anything.

 

“You and Curdan get out of here as soon as Bain and I reach the shuttles, have Santos swing around and grab you and do your best to tail the cruiser” Sara said decisively.

 

“Are you sure that Bain and I shouldn’t…” Niay started to say. She was obviously about to bring up Sara’s issues with her biotics but she trailed off at Sara’s glare.

 

“You heard me, Bain you’re with me” she said as she hurried over the buildings second exit. From what she’d seen of the holo-map of the mag rails that carried the ore carts toward the landing pads ran right past the building they were in. Knowing Bain would follow her she pushed right through the side door and raised her rifle. Fortunately for them both the shuttles were automated, which meant that as long they could get on without being noticed the transit should go smoothly.

 

Another stroke of luck had them emerging out into a deserted area of the mining outpost between two buildings. Looking to her left, toward the mine, she didn’t see any carts coming so she swung to her right and raised her rifle and peered through it scopes to examine the landing pads. There were Kett there, she saw five Kett Chosen milling around the two pads.

 

“I’ll hop the first cart and start taking them down, think you can cover me from here?” she asked Bane as she handed him the Ishary Rifle.

 

“With this thing? Maybe” Bane said as he looked at the weapon. He had been sulking ever since Sara and her team had been forced to adopt the use of Angaran weapons.

 

“When we kill the Cardinal you can go back to Milky Way tech” Sara told him before slapping him on the shoulder.

 

“I’ll hold you to that…” he said as he peered through the rifle’s scope. Sara nodded at him and turned to peer once more at the landing pads. She was still looking that way when Bane shot her through the shoulder.





Chapter Text

Kett Cruiser over Hybaro, Ratul System

 

Sara Ryder awoke floating in mid-air. This led a brief moment of panicked confusion when she first opened her eyes. Her body did it’s best to flail for a moment before she realized that she couldn’t move. Try though she might the only parts of her body that seemed to be at her command were her sense. So she resolved to make the best use of these as she could.

 

From what she could tell she was floating in utter blackness save for a bright light that illuminated an area about one meter in diameter around her. She sniffed the air and detected the distinctive order of Kett bodies as well as that of machinery. The presence of machinery was further confirmed by the unmistakable humming of electronics. Sara spent a few minutes gathering these observations before she decided on a test. Finding that she still had control of her mouth she wet her lips and whistled a note.

 

She listened carefully for a moment before whistling again. Sara, as a sniper, had well honed senses. Perhaps more importantly she had learned to trust them. Whistling again she strained her hearing and listened to how the sound echoed. It was a very inexact science but she got the impression that the walls of the room she was in weren’t more than a few meters beyond the edge of the light she was floating in.

 

It seemed obvious to Sara that she was aboard a ship. A moment later it occurred to her that it was probably the Kett cruiser since she seemed to be a prisoner. Then she remembered the explosion of pain she’d felt in her shoulder. She’d known instantly that she’d been shot, it had happened before. As she’d slumped she’d tried to roll to one side, a warning to Bain on her lips when she’d suddenly blacked out. She could only assume something else had hit her but she had no idea what.

 

Pursing her lips she put this out of her mind. There was no sense in worrying about something that wouldn’t help her escape her current predicament. If she was correct in her guess she was aboard a Kett ship, and she saw no reason to doubt it, then she thought she might know what was holding her. She’d read all the reports that her brother had filed about his time abroad the Archon’s flagship and she recalled reading about a Kett restraint device that was similar to where she found herself.

 

Unfortunately her brother had only escaped that trap by having SAM shut down his heart and then restart that. That wasn’t an option for Sara who didn’t even have a working SAM implant any longer. Her own had been wrecked in her brother’s final confrontation with the Archon. So now it was up to her to think of another way out of her predicament. Something she had in fact given a fair amount of thought to since she’d first read her brother’s report.

 

The thought of her brother was enough to scatter her thoughts again. She and Scott had last parted on terrible terms after a ferocious fight, literally. Sara had been entirely convinced she might never speak to her brother again, then she’d learned that he was captive on this very ship. Her red hot anger with him had been overwhelmed by fear for his safety. The anger was still there but Sara’s priority was now to rescue him. And to do that she would need to escape this restraint just as her brother once had, just in her own way.

 

Scott, despite his many gifts, lacked on critical skill that Sara had that might allow her to escape. Scott wasn’t a biotic, Sara was. She wasn’t 100% certain how she would apply this to her advantage but she knew that the Kett lacked biotics. This made it unlikely that their technology would have been built with defending against biotics in mind.

 

Before she could really focus on reaching for her power the room around her suddenly lit up. Lights flooded the formerly dark areas revealing a circular room with walls in the dull shade of green that the Kett favored. Sara found herself facing a large door that opened a moment later to admit a Kett Ascendant, several Kett Chosen, and Bain Massani. Sara thought for a moment that Bain must be a prisoner but then saw that he was completely unbound and smiling wickedly at her.

 

“This is the one?” the Ascendant asked without preamble.

 

“Yeah that’s her” Bain said as he locked eyes with Sara. She and Bain had spent a LOT of time together. They’d laughed and fought together and Sara had seen many things in those eyes usually some form of mocking amusement. But now she saw a vicious triumph that she’d only ever seen from him in the moments where she’d been uncomfortable with his blood lust.

 

One of the Chosen behind the Ascendant raised a scanner and pointed it toward Sara for a moment before saying “genetic scan conforms it Cardinal, it is related to the human pathfinder”. Sara had never seen a Kett leer before but she thought that was what the Cardinal was doing when it turned back to her.

 

“The Primus commands that this one be spared alongside it’s brother. It will then be executed first so the Pathfinder learns the futility of opposing the Kett Empire!” The Cardinal said. Sara bit back a retort and simply started straight at the Kett. Verbal sparring would accomplish nothing and might provoke the Kett into doing something drastic. She wanted to be left exactly where she was, she’d just noticed a control console over the Cardinal’s left shoulder.

 

“She’s planning something” Bain told the Cardinal without looking away from Sara. “She always has something juvenile to say, so if she’s quiet you know she’s going to do something stupid” he said in a voice with dripping with contempt.

 

“You will stay here then and ensure that it doesn’t escape” the Cardinal said. Bain was about to speak but the Kett had seized his shirt front before he could make a sound and had lowered it’s dark face to his saying “...if the Primus’ prize is damaged in anyway then you may consider are bargain void”. Without waiting for a response the Kett released Bain and stalked from the room with the Chosen.

 

This left Sara alone with Bain in the room. Baine stared up at her for a long moment before saying “let me guess….biotics?”. Sara didn’t say anything but just stared directly at him. Quite apart from not wanting to discuss her plans or confirm his guess she’d learned long ago that simply not speak was often the best way to assert control of a situation.

 

In truth she was a bit dismayed how easily Bain had figured out her plan. She’d never discussed her thoughts on escaping from this sort of Kett trap with him previously. Still she supposed she shouldn’t be surprised, he had a quick mind. Whatever the case her task of escaping had suddenly become much more difficult as she now had to escape AND neutralize him.

 

“Even if you could do what you were planning, what would you do then? Fight your way through a whole Kett warship without any gear?” Bain asked her. He looked over his shoulder at the control console and asked “that’s it is it?”. He walked over to the console and laughed derisively “what you think because you got lucky down on the planet that you aren’t a pathetic biotic anymore?”.

 

“You’d know about pathetic” Sara said. It was less that Bain had finally goaded her into responding but more that she wanted him to keep talking.

 

“Oh you can speak again huh? That mean you’ve settled on your plan then?” Bain asked sarcastically. He looked down at the console again and drew a pistol from his hip as pointed to one of the larger buttons on the panel and said “go on then, it’s this one, hit it if you can and see how it goes”. Bain was right though Sara hated to admit it. She still didn’t have the fine control she would need to hit the button without Bain reacting. Fortunately that wasn’t her plan.

Bane was holding an M-3 Predator, a pistol her prefered. He prefered specifically because it was capable of both automatic and semi-automatic fire. Sara knew he usually kept his weapon set to full auto. If this time he hadn’t, her plan was about to fail.

 

Reaching out with all her might Sara seized Bane’s hand in a biotic grip and compressed it with all she had. Bane let snarl of pain as the bones in his hand crunched audibly, both noises were quickly drowned out as the pistol in his hand went off. Bain hadn’t been aiming directly at Sara but near enough that she flinched as the gun belched bullets for over a second before it’s magazine ran dry. WIthout pausing Sara adjusted her biotics and clamped an invisible grip over Bain’s face and neck.

 

Sara may have lacked the fine control of her biotics to actually choke someone without crushing their neck. She’d entertained the idea of doing just that to Bain but had decided he deserved much worse. So she spread her grip over a larger area and cut off Bain’s ability to breath as effective as though she’d pressed a thick pillow to his face. Bain’s eyes widened as he realized what was happening though to his credit he didn’t waste any time. He his hand’s didn’t scrabble at this throat or face, instead he reached instantly for his knife.

 

Realizing that he intended to throw the blade at her Sara squeezed her eyes shut and pressed even harder with her biotics. Bane’s eyes were narrowed as he lifted his knife with surprisingly steady hands. Of course they were steady, Sara thought, the man was a natural born killer. Bane drew his hand back and Sara did her best to squeeze even harder. Bane’s arm came forward and Sara had only a moment to release the man’s face and focus on driving the knife upward. As had been her plan all along.

 

Sara was well aware of Bane’s knife. It was a good blade too, made of tungsten and kept wickedly sharp at all times. She’d gambled that if she could empty his gun he’d go right for his knife, then it had just been a matter of creating a sense of urgency so he’d throw it instead of wielding it. Now if Sara didn’t have the fine control necessary to choke someone she certainly couldn’t seize a flying knife out of the air. But she’d been betting that she could redirect it. It turned out that she could.

 

She gave it everything she had as she shoved the knife up and over her, doing her best to send it straight up toward the ceiling. She also did her best to give it a little extra boost as it went but she didn’t much time to do this as she had to immediately turn her attention back to Bain. He’d recovered with shocking speed and was already moving toward her as Sara head a loud crackling noise above her a moment before a shower of sparks fell around her. And a moment later she was falling to the floor.

 

In addition to reading Scott’s reports about his time aboard the Archon’s ship, she’d also read Suvi Anwar’s analysis of it. Specifically, she’d paid close attention to her theorizing about the Kett restraining field device. The science officer had suggested that such a device would require a powerful set emitters above or below the prisoner and that equipment like this would be very delicate and, more importantly, difficult to shield. Sara hadn’t know that Bain’s knife would do the trick but she’d hoped it would.

 

She was given no time to relish her string of luck however as Bain was on her almost the moment she landed. WIth the instincts of a predator he immediately struck at the shoulder he’d shot her in, for it was pretty clear by now who had shot her. Sara’s wound seemed to have been given some very basic care but it certainly wasn’t up to being punched repeatedly. Bain outweighed her and was stronger than she was so she knew that if he got on her back she’d probably never get up again. So despite the howling in her head that was telling her to stop using her biotics she used them once more to shover herself hard off the ground.

 

She ended up flying awkwardly through the air before crashing back to the deck a meter to her right. The pounding in her head now almost exceeded the pain in her shoulder but she forced herself to stand quickly. Spinning to face the way she’d come she saw Bain already closing the distance between them. A slow measured stalk that did at least give Sara a few moments to ready herself.

 

Their first exchange went badly for her. Using her uninjured left arm she thrust hard at his face with her palm. Bain dodged and countered with a left hook of his own which she ducked only to have his right fist smash down onto her injured shoulder. She yelped in pain and backpedaled only to meet another flurry of blows. She avoided two but caught a chop on her shoulder this time.

 

“What? Out of biotic tricks? Color me shocked” Bain taunted her. Sara, doubled over a few meters away, glared at him and then spat. Bain actually laughed at this and said “I can’t kill you, but I think the Cardinal will understand if you were to get injured while trying to escape”. He didn’t wait for a response for this but pounded his fists together and advanced on her once more.

 

Sara knew it was time for something desperate once more. She wasn’t going to be able to overcome Bain in her present state and losing meant probably execution. And so as Bain approached she slid a hand under her shirt and jammed her fingers into her shoulder wound. She cried out in pain as blood gushed past her fingers. Bain didn’t stop coming but as he neared her she withdrew her hand and thrust it at his face, sending a shower of blood at him. He flinched and Sara made him pay. Fast as snake she spun in place and caught him right under the chin with a wheel kick that drove his jaws together with a sickening crack. Bain went down like a bag of bricks as blood began streaming down his chin, Sara guessed he’d bitten off part of his tongue. Sara jumped forward as he fell and the moment he landed she drove a kick hard against his temple, possibly unnecessarily.

 

Now confident that Bain was out cold she fell to her knees and jammed her sleeve into her mouth. A high squeal of pain escaped from her lips as water pooled at the corner of her eyes. Between her shoulder and her head it was a race to see which would cause her to pass out first. She hung on to one single thought above all else, she had to stand. Everything would be better if she could just stand. Even as she tried with all her might to do this an alarm started to sound.

 

Had she been confident she could open her mouth without screaming Sara would have sworn in frustration. There was simply no way she was going to be able to fight off whatever Kett were on their way. She hadn’t seen Bain trigger any sort of alarm but she assumed that they’d been being monitored and now security was on its way. Somehow she managed to struggle to her feet after a few moments. Maybe only because she wanted to be on her feet when her enemies arrived.

 

Just then the entire room seemed to shake violently and she was sent reeling into another console. She fell back to the floor and could do little more than lay there for several long moments. She was just wondering if she could ever make it back to her feet when the doors to the room opened. Sara gritted her teeth against the pain and pushed herself up to a sitting position.

 

“Come on you bone brained bastards!” she yelled. Or tried to, it actually came out as a barely audible murmur. Her vision swam and a moment later she saw a figure loom over her. The figure said something that she couldn’t quite make out over the howling alarm. She tried to lash out at the figure but her punch came horribly sluggish and the figure easily pushed it aside. They shouted something else at Sara, who heard only a kind of indistinct warbling. It was only that she realized there was some sort of loud rushing sound in her ears.

 

Suddenly a bright orange light flared in front of her eyes causing her to wince away from it. Sara heard more distant warbling for several moments before she cried out in pain again. Something cold and sharp had just been driven into her thigh and a moment later her shoulder exploded in a maelstrom of agony as something was pushed against her wound. Here she actually did black out. She only knew this because an indeterminate amount of time later her eyes fluttered open and she found herself staring up at about the last thing she would have expected.

 

“WAKE UP RYDER! I NEED YOUR HELP NOW!” Pelessaria B’Sayle, known as ‘Peebee’ to her friends, was shouting down at her. Sara could barely hear her over the wailing alarm but she could definitely hear her now. A significant improvement from before.

 

“Peebee?” Sara groaned drunkenly. Her speech was sluggish as though her tongue suddenly weighed ten kilos.

 

“YES! IT’S ME! NOW GET UP RYDER!” Peebee shouted at her as she tried to tug Sara to a standing position. Unfortunately she was tugging on Sara’s injured arm and drew a yelp of pain before she let go.

 

“How are you even here-” Sara started to ask before Peebe seized her other arm and began trying to drag her to her feet again.

 

“Stop with the questions! We need to go!” Peebee snapped. Sara found to her surprise that she could actually stand and so let herself be pulled upright.

 

“What did you do to me?” Sara asked dazedly as Peebee hurried her toward the door.

 

“I slopped some medi-gel into your shoulder and gave you the same cocktail that Lexi gave your brother before he fought the Archon” Peebee said as she pressed a pistol that Sara recognized as an N7 Eagle into her hand.

 

“Curdan gave me one on the planet” Sara said distractedly as she examined her pistol. She was suddenly feeling great, her recently crippling pain melting away. She felt strength coursing through her limbs again and she suddenly felt as though she could take on the whole Kett empire by herself. When Peebee didn’t respond right away Sara turned to look at her and saw that the Asari woman was biting her lip as she furrowed her brow.

 

“Yeah...I probably shouldn’t have given you another one then…” Peebee said, as she eyed Sara up and down as though looking for signs of impending crisis.

 

“Am I going to be OK?” Sara asked her incredulously.

 

“Don’t know, but you aren’t dead so we might as well do this then…” Peebee said as she took another syringe from her pouch and drove it into Sara’s thigh before Sara could stop her.

 

“Ouch would you stop that….” Sara trailed off as her whole body began shake suddenly. A moment later an overwhelming sense of euphoric joy began to fill her body, something that she knew at her core made no sense. Looking over at Peebee she asked “...what did you just give me?”. She meant to snarl this but she found that life was simply too good at the moment for her to be angry.

 

“Red sand” Peebee said offhandedly as he looked out through the door she’d come in through. Jerking herself back into the room she added “...fight now, talk later Ryder!”.

 

“RED SAND?!” Sara overrode her, finally managing to summon enough anger to cut through the pleasant warmth that was filling her being.

 

“Can we discuss this later! Just be happy that you won’t be in pain and your biotics will be stronger now!” Peebee said as she beckoned for Sara to follow her through the door.

 

“We are SO having a conversation about this later Peebee” Sara said in a tone she wished sounded more serious than it did. The drug was obviously already working on her. Red Sand was a narcotic from the Milky Way. It was most famous for it’s ability to induce euphoria, which Sara was fully feeling, and for providing a short term boost to natural biotic abilities. How Peebee had gotten her hands on it in Andromeda, Sara had no idea.

 

“Later! Come on!” Peebee said impatiently. Sara finally began trotting after her while doing her best to fight down a sudden insane urge to giggle. Sara followed Peebee down several corridors before she thought to ask questions.

 

“You’re damn right later” Sara muttered as she followed. What she failed to notice were the biotic sparks playing around her fingers and how her eyes had suddenly begun glowing an electric blue.




Chapter Text

Kett Cruiser over Hybaro, Ratul System

 

Sara Ryder had become a biotic god. Or at least that’s how she felt.

 

A potentially disastrous mixture of chemicals were coursing through her veins. Her heart was beating faster then she’d ever felt before. She had a grievous wound to her shoulder and had accumulated several more recently. And yet she felt absolutely great.

 

Biotic power rippled off of her whole body distorting the air around her. Any Kett who dared to stand before he would be dispatched with a casual gesture of her head or hands. A wraith decloaked mid lunger at her and she sent it flying so hard against the bulkhead that the sound of it’s shattering bones could be heard over the sounds of battle. Kett soldiers poured fire at her but all their shots were deflected the moment they reached her biotic barrier.

 

Ordinarily Sara’s biotics were only noteworthy in their weakness. But her companion, Peebee, had injected her with the Milky Way narcotic ‘Red Sand’ which was famous in that galaxy as a biotic boosting drug. Ordinarily even Red Sand wouldn’t be enough to boost a low level biotic like Sara to her current power levels but this was a special case. Sara had received a special cocktail from her own medic Curdan Grode, originally designed by Dr. Lexi T’perro, that was designed to keep her working at peak levels despite injury or fatigue. Peebee, not knowing this, had administered another dose of the same drugs when she’d rescued Sara.

 

This double dose of powerful drugs seemed to have interacted with the Red Sand Peebee had also given Sara. Sara’s biotics had increased by a factor of at least one hundred. To the point where could now lift four Kett Chosen into the air and crush them into bloody pulp. Which she did, twice.

 

“Ryder! Cover me!” Peebee shouted from beside Sara as she bent over a Kett console.

 

“Happy too!” Sara called over her shoulder before blasting a Kett Anointed backward into a bulkhead. She looked around eagerly for more targets but the few living Kett left had begun retreating up a ramp in an effort to escape her.

 

“SAM help me with this! We need to find the Pathfinder and the team!” Peebee said. In response a glowing orange orb appeared over her left forearm.

 

“Working” said the cool mechanical voice of SAM, the Pathfinder team’s companion AI.

 

“Take your time SAM, I’m enjoying myself” Sara shouted as, in the absence of any Kett, she used her new powers to levitate herself up off the deck.

 

“That would be inadvisable Commander, it seems your APEX team is being held as well. With the exception of Bain Massani” SAM answered promptly.

 

“You should have let me kill him when we had the chance” Sara said to Peebee, suddenly sounding angry.

 

“We needed to go right away!...” Peebee said as she stared at the information SAM was showing her. A moment later she added more quietly “...and we don’t execute defenseless people”.

 

“Of course not” Sara muttered. If Peebee had known half the things Sara and her team had done in their pursuit of the Kett Primus she wouldn’t have been so confident in that pronouncement.

 

“Prisoners located…” SAM said “...It seems they are all being held nearby with the exception of the Pathfinder”.

 

“Where SAM?” Sara asked. The combination of her drug heightened state and concern for her brother making her voice much sharper than she’d meant it to be.

 

“The door you are standing in front of Commander” SAM answered. Sara blinked and exchanged a look with Peebeen before rotating mid-air and noticing the door for the first time.

 

“Well….that's convenient” Peebee said with her hands on her hips. She looked the door up and down and asked “SAM...can you open the door”.

 

“Unlikely Peebee, it requires a verbal command authorization. If the Pathfinder were here I might be able to modulate his vocal chords to approximate it but that is currently impossible” SAM explained.

 

“Well what are we supposed to do now- ahh” Peebee started to say before cutting off with a started yelp. The door had given a suddenly loud shrieking groan born of metal under intense stress. Sara, still hovering above the deck, had her arms extended palms up before her as though welcoming the door toward her. Blue biotic energy radiated off her in visible waves that rippled the air. The door continued to creak in protest for several seconds before Sara suddenly jerked her arms back to her sides as she closed her fists. With an almighty shriek of metal followed by a huge crash the door, and several meters of wall on either side, was ripped down. The resulting hole was jagged and spitting sparks in several places where electrical systems had been severed.

 

“After you” Sara said, as she landed on the deck beside Peebee. The Asari woman, looking equal parts horrified and shocked couldn’t manage more than a wide eyed nod before she hurried through the hole.

 

The entered a large rectangular room lined with more of the restraint fields that Sara had been held in. Spread throughout them were not only the combined members of the Pathfinder team and the Ghosts (though they were the only ones who knew that name) but also several Angara. Peebee hurried to each stasis field and deactivated it while Sara continued to hover in the giant hole she’d made.

 

“Well that's new” Vetra Nyx said as she came to stand beside Sara. The Turian and Sara were good friends and Vetra knew as well as anyone how much Sara usually struggled with her biotics.

 

“Here’s wreckless biochemical experimentation” Sara said with a only slightly manic laugh. Vetra looked as quizzical as a Turian could but chose not to inquire. Finding that even hovering wasn’t burning off her excess power at a quick enough rate she cast around for another outlet. Eventually she settled on levitiating the weapons the Kett she’d killed had dropped and floating them over to the members of the Pathfinder team and the Ghosts. They each got one but there weren't enough for all of the Angara.

 

“Who are they?” Peebee asked as the Angara came to stand a little way apart from the assembled Andromeda Initiative personnel.

 

“We are Roekaar!” one of them said. He was bigger than others with pale blue skin. He pushed forward and added “these Kett beasts were torturing us before you all arrived. They seemed to think we had been attacking them across the cluster! No doubt YOUR work, once again my people suffer due to your presence!”. He had been getting more and more agitated as he spoke until he was shouting at the them.

 

“It was a pair of aliens who just rescued you…” Jaal Ama Darav said. He hefted his Kett rifle as he stepped forward and added “...and given what you’ve just seen THAT Ryder do...do you really want to antagonize them now?”. He finished his statement by jerking his head toward Sara. The Roekaar didn’t seem to have sort of response to this so Jaal said “stay here and we will arrange for your escape along with us. Hinder us in anyway and we will put you down”.

 

“We will...stay here” the Roekaar muttered.

 

“We don’t have time for this! We need to get the Pathfinder!” Liam Costa said impatiently.

 

“SAM where are we headed?” Peebee asked the AI.

 

“The Pathfinder is being held in the Primus’ quarters. I will guide you” SAM answered.

 

“Wait!” Niay Janilas cut. The Asari was Sara’s explosives expert and had clearly been captured with the rest of the Ghosts “what about Bain?”.

 

“Yeah...I need to pull his spine out through his neck” Curdan Grode growled menacingly. The big Krogan, big even FOR a Krogan, looked perfectly capable following through on this threat.

 

“He was guarding me but I took care of him when I escaped” Sara said. In fact she’d taken Care of Bain only after an extremely desperate gamble that had involved throwing her own blood in his eyes. She’d been near to blacking out, and likely dying, when Peebee had found her.

 

“That bastard!” Liam snarled.

 

“Look, can we discuss this as we move?” Vetra asked as she she gestured back through the hole in the wall with the Rozerad was holding. Nakmore Drack, who thus far haven't spoken, grinned as he stared at Sara.

 

“This is going to be fun” he said.



The Kett aboard the Primus’ flagship had been given every reason to be confident. There were hundreds of them aboard a vessel under their control. When they had learned that they had both the Pathfinder AND his sister as prisoner they had assumed the war against the Andromeda Initiative-Angaran Alliance was nearly won. They had every reason to think this.

 

But as the wall the door that led to the long corridor adjoining the Primus’ quarters was blasted inward before their eyes this certainty flagged. This was exacerbated when the first figures through the haze of debris and smoke were a pair of Krogan and hovering figured crackling with biotic energy. You could almost feel sorry for the, Sara thought. Not that she showed them any mercy.

 

She, Curdan, and Drack worked like a devastating scythe. Any Kett who got in their way was either shot down, tossed aside like a rag doll, or biotically destroyed. Any stragglers who made it past the three of them ran into the combined might of the Pathfinder team and the Ghosts. Sara did her best to shield the whole group with her biotic barrier though she noticed doing so wasn’t quite as easy as it had been. Ignoring then she tossed a Kett Anointed into an Ascendent, the commander of the forces defending the Primus’ quarters, before killing both with a biotic explosion.

 

The fighting didn’t last long. Almost two dozen Kett had been waiting with heavy weapons to confront the eight attackers. None were alive by the time Sara, Curdan, and Drack reached the doorway to their destination. The rest of their group joined them and there was a pause. It was as though they had all suddenly realized how momentous what they were about do was. The Primus had been the leader of the Kett in Heleus since the death of the Archon. And in many ways the Primus had been worse.

 

The Archon had been horrible, there was no denying. But the Angara, and later the Initiative, had never born the full brunt of his fury. His obsession with Remnant technology had diverted his energies and efforts to a large extent. The Primus, unburdened by this this, had focused all her energies on war. Since the Archon’s death the Kett had become even more aggressive and had destroyed several Angaran and Initiative settlements.

 

“Let’s see how the bitch likes the Krogan” Sara said. Drack and Curdan both smirked at this. Sara turned toward Peebee and nodded. She wanted to try the door this time because she could feel her boosted biotic powers draining away and wasn’t certain she’d be able to destroy this door. Thankfully, it opened.

 

The room they entered was large and shaped like a semi circle. Across from the door were a set of large windows that gave a spectacular view of space. The room was empty save for two people. One was Sara’s brother, Scott, who looked as though he’d been fed through a meat grinder as he floated in a restraining field. The other was a Kett Ascendant. Unlike most of Kett Ascendant this one wore elaborate red robes with a collar that rose high behind it’s head.

 

“Do you really think you’ve won ANYTHING here?” the Kett asked. It was floating encased in the energy field that Ascendant could project with the aid of their focusing orbs. This Kett’s orb was levelled and ready to launch a blistering energy attack at the combined Pathfinder Team and Ghosts.

 

“You’re not the Primus” Peebee blurted.

 

“You will not speak her name ignorant!” the Kett snapped as it glared at Peebee. The Kett paused to turn it’s gaze on the rest of the group before saying “the Primus has left Heleus. She will return with a mighty fleet from the Kett Empire that will sweep the stain of your presence from this cluster. Your people will ALL be exalted but you will be denied that-”.

 

“Yeah, yeah, we get it. Any ETA on when the Primus will be back with your friends?” Sara interrupted the Ascendant. She could feel fatigue suddenly dragging at her limbs. The cocktail she’d received from Curdan was supposed to last for many hours. Either she’d been captive for much longer than she’d thought or the interactions with the other chemicals in her system had shortened it’s effectiveness.

 

“Silence! I will not be questioned by beasts like you. I-” the Kett started to say but cut off with a choked gurgling sound. It’s crushed focusing orb clattered to the ground a moment before the Kett’s body hit. A bullet hole between its eyes beginning to ooze muddy green blood. Sara, fighting to stay on her feet, lowered her pistol and unclenched her fist.

 

“WHY did you do that?” Liam shouted “We could have learned more about the Kett’s plan!”. The crisis specialist looked angry but his voice trailed away as he and the rest of the combined group saw Sara sway on her feet.

 

“Because….because...I’m about to…” Sara tried to say but before she could finish she dropped down to her knees and began to be violently sick. Her whole body was shaking violently and she suddenly hurt all over.

 

“Get the Pathfinder down! The rest of you give me room!” she dimly heard Curdan roar from above her. A moment later she was aware of the Krogan leaning over her training his scanner over her body.

 

“What’s wrong with her?” Sara heard Vetra ask. The Turian woman said something else but Sara didn’t hear it over a fresh gagging fit as more vomit came up.

 

“This doesn’t make sense, the injection I gave her doesn’t account for half of the chemicals in her bloodstream and the proportions are way off for the rest” Curdan growled. The Krogran was a highly skilled medic but he tended to approach medical problems the way Krogan approached most things, as foes to be overcome.

 

“Umm…” Peebee said sounding as scared as she ever did.

 

“What?!” Curdan snapped at her causing the Asari to jump.

 

“I...I...MAY...have given her another of the same injection-”

 

“WHAT?!” Curdan roared.

 

“...and…” Peebee said in a vanishingly small voice “...I...thought we’d need an extra biotic boost so I gave her...some...red sand”.

 

“WHAT?!” Several people shouted at the same time. Curdan wasn’t one of them as he stood quickly and stomped toward Peebee, driving the much smaller Asari back toward the wall with a terrified expression on her face.

 

“WHAT DID YOU DO?!” Curdan bellowed in Peebee’s face.

 

“Hey! Easy pal! Back off!” Liam snapped as he pushed in between the two.

 

“We need…to focus on getting out of here” a tired voice said. All eyes except for Sara’s turned to see Scott, being supported by Jaal, had joined them.

 

“We NEED to be helping your sister!” Niay snapped at him.

 

“SAM…?” Scott asked, still sounding ancient and in obvious pain.

 

“Yes Pathfinder”

 

“Is there anything we can do for Sara here?” Scott asked.

 

“Unlikely Pathfinder, your sister is experiencing intense chemical withdrawal symptoms resulting from several adverse chemical reactions. Her symptoms are likely to escalate and may pose a threat to her life if she is not taken to a proper medical facility soon” SAM responded. Sara slumped on the deck shivering but she heard enough to understand.

 

“Must...hurry…Kett” Sara managed to force past her quivering lips.

 

“She’s right...” Jaal said “...the Kett are undoubtedly preparing some form of counter-attack as we speak”.

 

“Curdan…” Scott breathed as he squeezed his eyes shut against the pain “...is there anything you can do for her right now?”.

 

Curdan snorted like an angry bull but eventually said “...no”.

 

“Then carry her out of here, we’ll head for the docking bays and take a ship” Scott said as he used Vetra’s tall frame to pull himself upright. A moment later Sara felt herself being lifted off the deck and then draped over one of Curdan’s shoulders.

 

“Alright Pathfinder...but the mouthy Asari and I aren’t done!” he snarled before shooting Peebee a dark look and walking back through the door. This was the last exchange Sara heard as he vision began wavering as she bounced on Curdan’s shoulder. “Do NOT throw up on me Ryder” Curdan growled back to her. Sara tried to respond but one moment later she was out.

Chapter Text

The Tempest, En Route to the Nexus

 

Sara was unconscious for the combined Pathfinder Team/Ghosts escape from the Kett cruiser. She would later learn the combination of her previous display of power and the death of the Kett leader, whom Scott identified as a Cardinal, had largely taken the fight out of the Kett. The combined group had been forced to fight hard to reach the docking bay but not nearly as much as they had anticipated.

 

Sara would have some vague recollections of confused lights and sounds as she drifted in and out of consciousness aboard the Kett shuttle and then the Tempest. She was told later that she spent most of the time shuddering violently and occasionally ranting deliriously. Several times her heart even stopped. Only the presence of SAM and the skill of Lexi managed to keep her alive.

 

Her first really lucid memory was of waking up in the Tempest infirmary. The lighting was low, making her think that it must be the ship’s ‘night’. For a moment she didn’t move or speak, she simply let her senses feed her information. It seemed she was alone and as she wasn’t feeling up for a chat at the moment she didn’t mind. She took several deep breaths through her nose and tried to guess how long she’d been there.

 

There was a bright orange flare beside her and then a mechanical voice said “hello Sara, are you feeling well?”.

 

“No Sam...I am not” Sara said as she closed her eye again. It was true. Though she didn’t feel nearly as bad as she had when the drugs had first worn off she was still sore all over and had a pounding headache.

 

“I understand, if you wish I will summon Dr. T’perro” SAM offered.

 

“No!” Sara said quickly. Too quickly as it made her headache flare for a several long moments. She took a few more deep breaths and said in a calmer voice “that's alright SAM, thank you”.

 

“Very well” SAM said. There was a short pause before the AI asked “Sara, may I ask you a question?”.

 

“Sure SAM” Sara answered with a sigh. It wasn’t that she disliked speaking to SAM but she wasn’t sure she had the strength for his Pinocchio-like questioning at the moment.

 

“Do you believe your recent actions against the Kett are moral?” SAM asked. The AI’s tone didn’t change, it never did, but it’s words struck Sara like a slap.

 

“What?” she asked. During her time with another secret black ops unit in the Milky Way she’d been trained in how to handle this exact situation. Dissimulation and outright lying had become second nature to her when it came to dealing with those closest to her. She was out of practice now (and in any case she wasn’t sure her tricks would work on an AI) but she she felt she had to try. The existence of her unit was one of the closest kept secrets in the whole Andromeda Initiative.

 

“While the Pathfinder was being held in the Primus’ quarters he was kept unconscious for several hours. During that time I was still online, something the Kett did not realize. During this period I witnessed a long conversation between the Cardinal and Bain Massani” SAM explained.

 

Sara took a few moments before she answered, eventually asking “Oh? And how was that for you?”. Answering questions with questions being a classic technique to deflect unwanted inquiry.

 

“Enlightening. Mr. Massani explained to the Cardinal that the recent brutal attacks on their outposts were not committed by the Roekaar. Mr. Massani informed the Cardinal that he, as part of your unit, had been responsible for the attacks” SAM said. Sara knew that failing to respond promptly was often seen as a sign of ascent so she thought quickly.

 

“Bain Massani is a treacherous piece of pyjak shit and you can’t trust a word he says” Sara answered as forcibly as she could. Trying to divert an inquisitors attention onto a common enemy was another trick she’d often made use of.

 

“While he is undoubtedly treacherous individual, I see no parallels between him and pyjak excrement” SAM said fairly before saying “as to his truthfulness in this matter I detected no physiological signs of deception in him when he was conversing with the Cardinal. Moreover your own body is showing the signs of one who is attempting to deceive”. Sara sighed in surrender at this. She should have known better than to try word play and misdirection with a hyper intelligent AI.

 

“If we’re having this conversation SAM, then it’s off the record, otherwise I’m going back to bed” she said. Suddenly her head was suddenly hurting even more than before.

 

SAM didn’t answer for so long that Sara thought he might not ever do so when he said “very well, I will erase the logs of this conversation”.

 

“Thank you” Sara said as she turned her head toward the glowing orange ball next to her and stared for awhile. She looked into the depths of SAM’s projection for what felt like a long time before she said “the answer to your question is, no I do not”.

 

“And yet you willing participated in activities that many would deem abhorrent, I am curious as to why you would chose to do so” SAM asked. Unlike almost any other being in existence in this situation the AI conveyed no sense of judgement in his voice.

 

Sara closed her eyes and sighed again before responding “SAM, do you have any information your historical database about black ops teams from Earth?”.

 

“Yes” SAM said simply.

 

“Then you know WHY governments since the human’s were fighting with swords have had groups capable of carrying out those kind of operations” Sara said.

 

SAM paused for  moment before saying “a slight exaggeration, but it seems that most governments have justified the use of such methods as necessary for the greater good”.

 

“Exactly SAM” Sara said, vainly hoping this would be enough for the AI.

 

Of course it wasn’t. “I fail to understand how using immoral methods can be part of a greater good” SAM said.

 

“Look at it like this SAM. When two groups, two governments, or two cultures meet there is always a chance for conflict...agreed?” Sara said.

 

“Agreed” SAM said.

 

“And when groups conflict there will inevitably those who wish to confine those conflicts to certain ethical or even moral principles. This is admirable and can serve a valuable purpose to the combatants as well as a practical one. For example, we don’t kill prisoners because if we do then our enemy will” Sara said.

 

“Agreed” SAM said.

 

“However, it is inevitable that EVENTUALLY someone on one side or another, or both, will realize that by ignoring these principles the might gain an advantage over their opponent. This advantage is increased if their opponent refuses to also violate these rules. In effect that side will be fighting with one hand tied behind their back” Sara pointed out.

 

“Not inevitable but highly likely” SAM allowed.

 

“Fine…” Sara said impatiently “...but the group refusing to bend these rules will gain no extra defense against the attacks of their enemies by standing rigidly on their principles. They aren’t any less vulnerable, and might even be more vulnerable to attacks that fall outside their rules”.

 

“A possibility” SAM said. His voice hadn’t changed in the slightest but Sara had the feeling that he wasn’t convinced.

 

“And so even the most moral governments need to bend to reality. Groups must exists who can fight the dirty fights. Being imperfect is part of being a biological lifeform. It’s our pursuit of excellence, of perfection even, that can define us. And so while we reach for that goal we have to keep ourselves grounded in reality even the nasty parts” Sara said. She was slightly surprised how impassioned she sounded.

 

“The Pathfinder has spent a considerable time speaking with me about topics of morality and ethics. I believe he would point out that if one desires that the world be better then one must first be better themselves” SAM replied.

 

Sara thought about making a barbed comment about Scott’s own moral standards vis-a-vis women but she bit her tongue. Instead she said “that's because Scott is one of the good ones. The ones who will lead us as we reach for that time when we can all be better”. Sara had to pause here as a conflict rose up inside of her.

 

For many years while they both served in the Alliance Sara had firmly believed this about her brother. Indeed she’d first joined the Milky Way Ghosts as a way of protecting people like her brother from having to do the dirty work, so they could remain pure. However the recent revelations about Scott and various women including his former second in command Cora Harper had badly damaged her brother in her eyes. Enough that she had to seriously doubt her sincerity in what she was telling SAM.

 

Their escape from the Kett ship had temporarily put their conflict on a back burner. But now that they were free again she had to confront it again. Ultimately what Sara had to decide went beyond her conversation with SAM, it went to her own view of her brother and thus of herself. If Scott wasn’t someone worth protecting was it worth it for Sara to do the horrible things she did?

 

“Sara? Are you well?” SAM asked her.

 

“I’m...I’m fine SAM” Sara answered distractedly. Sara ran her palms over her face. She really wasn’t in any kind of condition to be having this sort of ethical dilemma. But now that she was on the subject she found that she was oddly driven to explore it.

 

When she and Scott had parted after their fight Sara’s anger had been white hot with him. She’d been more disillusioned and ashamed of her brother than she’d have ever thought would be possible. These feelings hadn’t died away entirely, and maybe they never would. But against these she had her lifetime of love for her brother. Despite the distance between them both and her father she and Scott had always been close They’d even gone to the Alliance recruiter and signed their enlistment papers together.

 

There was also the fact that Scott was, undeniably, a hero. His actions and sacrifices during the war with the Archon were rightly the stuff of legend. It wasn’t an exaggeration to say that the Andromeda Initiative would probably have been wiped out by now if not for him. Could the man capable of doing all of that really be a terrible person? Was Sara simply guilty of putting him on a pedestal that he’d never asked to be on?

In the end what swung things for her were the other members of the Pathfinder team. She respected Liam for his passion, Vetra was a close friend, Peebee was often her partner in mischief, Drack was a mentor to her and often like a surrogate father. She deeply admired Jaal and Lexi, and was at least friendly with the others. None of these people were stupid or morally bankrupt. By now they all had to know the nature of Sara and Scott’s fight and it’s cause and yet none had walked away from Scott. And it was more than loyalty to the Pathfinder, it was loyalty to the man. If these exceptional people could find a way to look past Scott’s faults then could his sister do less.

 

“SAM…” she said finally.

 

“Yes Sara?”

 

“Scott is...Scott is as flawed as anyone but he is a VERY good man. A very good man who occasionally does stupid and wounding things but at this core he’s the kind of person who should be leading people. And I do the things I do because I don’t want Scott to ever have to. And I don’t want someone like me on the other side to jam a knife in his back someday as he is pulling us forward” Sara said. As she finished speaking Sara felt a sense of completion and closure that she hadn’t felt for a long time.

 

“I understand” SAM said simply.

 

“You do?” Sara asked genuinely surprised.

 

“I believe so. I must still consider more fully the implications of your arguments however I believe understand them” SAM said.

 

Sara didn’t answer for a long time but eventually asked “SAM?”.

 

“Yes Sara”

 

“You’ll keep this conversation and...and what you know...between us?” she asked.

 

“I will if you instruct me to” SAM responded, sounding more like a computer again.

 

“Consider yourself so instructed then” Sara said before groaning loudly. She shifted to a more comfortable position on the bed and closed her eyes. The philosophical discussion had drained her more than a brisk run would have. “Good night SAM” she said.

 

“Good night Sara”.

 

The next morning, or shipboard morning rather, Scott himself stopped in to see Sara. Sara was sleeping when he arrive but many years as a soldier allowed her to awaken instantly when something changed around her. Sitting up quickly, her fists clenched, she found herself staring at her brother who had a bemused expression on his face.

 

“Didn’t you get enough of that last time we spoke” he said as he nodded at her fists.

 

“Maybe” she said. Despite her moral epiphany on him last night she still hadn’t fully forgiven him yet. Scott seemed to sense this because when he came to stand by her bed he changed the subject.

 

“Lexi will kill me if I keep you chatting long but I had to come see how you were feeling” Scott said sounding legitimately concerned.

 

Sara felt her annoyance at him soften slightly but she kept this from her face and voice as she said “I’ve felt a lot worse, I’ll say that much”.

 

“Good?” Scott said quizzically before moving on and saying “...so SAM told me about what he overheard from Bain on the Kett ship. You doing OK on that?”.

 

“All I know is that he stabbed me in the back so no, I’m not OK with that” Sara said moodily. In fact she was surprised by just how much Bain’s betrayal had stung her. Of her team she’d always been the least comfortable with him but they’d shared so many experiences that his betrayal couldn’t help but sting.

 

“SAM hasn’t told you what he said?” Scott asked sounding surprised.

 

“I didn’t ask” Sara said in a forced casual voice.

 

“What?” Scott sounded even more surprised now.

 

“Bain betrayed me, got me captured, and nearly killed but we escaped. I don’t much care WHY he did what he did I just know that when I find him someday, IF he’s alive, I’m putting a bullet in the back of his head” Sara said belligerently.

 

“You really don’t care? You don’t want to know even a little?” Scott asked incredulously.

 

“Look, it seems you’re just dying to tell me so go ahead” Sara said.

 

Scott pursed his lips but eventually said “Apparently Bain got ‘tired’ of hunting Kett, said there was no challenge left in it. He said he decided that hunting the Initiative and the Angara would be more of a challenge and the people who could let him do that most effectively were the Kett”.

 

“So he’s insane, as I suspected” Sara said dismissively.

 

“It gets worse…” Scott said, finally sounding angry, he took a moment to compose himself and said “...he apparently WANTS to be exalted because he believes it will make him an even more dangerous ‘hunter’”.

 

“Like I said...nuts” Sara said. Scott seemed to want to protest this off hand treatment of a subject he obviously considered very serious but in the end he decided not to. After a slightly uncomfortable pause he changed the subject once more.

 

“Sara…” he said before trailing off. Sara waited for him to speak but when he did she made an impatient gesture with her hands. Scott swallowed and said “the Kett Cardinal...told me some things...some things that Bain had said about you and your team. Things about you doing horrible things while fighting the Kett” he didn’t seem to be able to continue at this point and he trailed off again.

 

“And...you believe him?” Sara asked. Once again she fell back on her training in concealing her true work by delicately inflecting her voice with a wounded tone.

 

Scott struggled to look her in the eyes for a moment but eventually looked up and managed to say “I...I don’t want to...but the Cardinal seemed to know things…”.

 

“Scott Alexander Ryder!” Sara said accusingly. She locked her eyes on his and drove her words deep into his tender conscience as she said “what exactly are you accusing me of!”. She felt a stab of guilt at taking advantage of his feelings like this but she knew it was for the best.

 

“I...look...Sara…” Scott seemed to be struggling to communicate beyond single words but he closed his eyes again and said “...look me in the eyes and tell me that you weren’t impaling Kett on walls, or cutting off heads, or burning them alive and I’ll never bring it up again. I will believe you absolutely. Look me in the eyes and say you never did these things Sara...please”. By the end of this Scott’s tone was an open plea and Sara saw moisture at the corner of his eyes.

 

A million conflicting emotions surged through Sara when he said this. She was annoyed at him and yet she wanted to do nothing else but comfort him. She felt guilty about what she needed to do and yet certain it was the right thing. She reached out and put a hand on Scott’s shoulder until he turned his onto hers. Sara gave her brother a soft smile.

 

“Scott, I would never do those things. But I forgive you for thinking I would”

Chapter Text

The Nexus, Offline Section

 

Sara Ryder was on high alert, all her senses straining for any sign that she wasn’t alone. She moving slowly but steadily through the near pitch blackness all around her, the only light aside from the one in her hand came from the stars that shone in through large viewports. She was armed with a pistol and fully ready to use it should the situation arise.

 

It had been one week since she’d arrived at the Nexus aboard the Tempest. She’d been hurried off the station’s hospital and had spent several days there under the care of Dr. Carlyle. Upon her release she’d been debriefing repeatedly by Tiran Kandros and Avitus Rix over the next two days. The threat of the imminent arrival of a Kett war fleet being something that needed to be dissected and analyzed at great length. It was only recently that she’d been allowed any sort of free time.

 

Sara had been looking forward to a night out in the Vortex with her team. And all in all despite the betrayal of Bain they had managed to raise some real hell. The highlight of the night had been the fairly epic headbutting contest between Drack and Curdan that had ended with both Krogan reeling before Lexi and interposed herself between them. Sara had stumbled back out of the Vortex almost two hours later lost in the pleasant floating sensation of being profoundly drunk.

 

Somehow she’d made her way back to her quarters in one of the new opened sections of the station. What had happened then wasn’t clear but she’d woken up sometime later with a pounding headache and a mouth of sandpaper. Groaning loudly she’d rolled onto her back and looked around blearily. A wall clock had told her that it was still the middle of the night and she’d been intending to curl up right there on floor when something caught her eye.

 

There was a pulsing green light on top of her table. Despite the state she was in she knew she hadn’t left anything there when she’d left the previous evening. She would have ignored the light and gone back to sleep but whatever was on her table chose that exact moment to emit a loud beep. More frustrated than concerned Sara hauled herself clumsily to her feet and lurched to one of the light controls on the wall. She hit, no response.

 

When a second attempt hadn’t yielded results some part of her alcohol fogged mind went on alert. She’d been part of too many snatch missions where her team had killed the lights on a target not to. She was also too much of a professional to show any outward signs of this alert, even if she was drunk. Lurching over to the table erratically she put both palms flat on its surface and appeared to take several steadying breaths as though she were fighting nausea. As she did this she lowered her head and allowed some of the hair that had escaped her ponytail to fall around her face.

 

Taking advantage of this Sara shot a quick glance around her. She was only partially exaggerating her drunkenness and her vision swam slightly due to her lowered head. She didn’t spot anything obviously out of place, a half fake lurch to her left afforded her a change of vantage that let her see the rest of the living room, again she saw nothing. It was possible that someone was hiding in her bedroom but the door was closed so she would have some warning if they moved. Deciding that she had a moment she looked down on at the object on her table.

 

She had to blink several times to bring it into focus but eventually she recognized it as a portable comm transceiver. She knew the model as well, a unit favored by Alliance military personnel for the durability and power it packed into a relatively small frame. The blinking green light indicated that someone was attempting to connect to the unit. Given the range of this unit Sara knew that whoever was calling could be anywhere on the Nexus or aboard a ship nearby. Deciding that if someone was trying to kill her they wouldn’t have to work this hard she reached out and hit one of the unit’s controls.

 

A light suddenly shone out in the darkness of her quarters prompting her to jump backward and snatch one of the several hidden pistols she kept around her quarters. She had it levelled at the source of the light in less than two seconds, slow for her but she was drunk. When conscious thought caught up with combat reflexes she realized she was aiming at the large vid screen on her wall.

 

“Very impressive, you really did seem to be intoxicated” said the figure on the screen. It was a Salarian male that Sara didn’t recognize.

 

“Who are you?” she asked, her voice strong with only the tiniest slur. The image on the screen shifted to dark skinned human male with blonde hair as it responded.

 

“A benefactor, and the real force behind the Andromeda Initiative” said the human before the image shifted again to that of an Asari. Sara didn’t react but something clicked in the back of her head at this statement. Scott had mentioned something about a mysterious benefactor to her before the defeat of the Archon. She’d forgotten this in the rush of events but now it came rushing back.

 

“And felt like creepily appearing in my quarters was the best thing to do with all that power huh? Charming” Sara said archly. The figure on the screen was a Batarian now but it still smiled in a manner that suggested private amusement.

 

“Your ability to irritate is one of your great strengths Sara Ryder, but I’m afraid it won’t work now as you are speaking to an admirer” the Batarian said before becoming a human female.

 

“That so? Well aren’t you sweet…” Sara said as she lowered her gun “...why don’t you come show yourself to me and we can grab a drink at the Vortex”. As if in response there was a small hiss in front of her that drew Sara’s eyes quickly downward. A small compartment had opened on the front of the comm unit to reveal an access chip made barely visible by the light coming from the screen.

 

“Take that to the following section of the Nexus…” a Krogan female said as a string of text and numbers appeared on the bottom of the screen “..what you find there should be of great use in your coming war with the Kett”.

 

This triggered something else in her mind and Sara said “well that settles whether or not you stayed in the Milky Way”. She remembered Scott mentioning that their father had wondered whether or not the mysterious benefactor was with them all in Andromeda..

 

“Use what you find there well” was the only response Sara got from the now Drell on her screen. A moment later the screen went dark and there was a sparking sound from within the comm unit followed by the smell of melted electronics. There would be no using the unit to track down the benefactor Sara was sure. She stared at the blank screen for several moments before lifting her left arm and saying into her comm unit “Major? Are you awake?”.

 

As Salarians only slept for one hour a day she wasn’t surprised that Saelen Varn answered immediately saying “I’m here Ryder”.

 

“Meet me at the entrance to this section of the Nexus…” Sara repeated the location of the place before adding “...come armed but discreetly”.

 

To his credit the old spy didn’t ask any questions but simply said “on my way”.

 

And so here Sara was. She’d taken a circuitous route to her destination so she could approach the entrance down a perpendicular corridor. This had proven more difficult than she’d initially anticipated as the stations VI had told her that the section she was seeking didn’t exist. In the end she’d simply had to deduce its location based on its numerical designation. Of course none of the stations trams had gone there so she’d been forced to walk the whole way.

 

Fortunately she’d thought to grab a miniaturized rebreather before leaving her quarters. She’d had a hunch that wherever she was going would be out of the way and possibly without full life support. The device wasn’t much more than a mask that strapped over her nose and mouth connected to a set of canisters on her belt, but it would allow her to breath in the section.

 

Unfortunately it did nothing about the temperature around her. She was having to work hard to prevent herself from shivering so much that she couldn’t aim properly. Cursing herself for not grabbing a jacket in addition to the rebreather. Come to think of it she probably should have grabbed  her armor and helmet but she hadn’t wanted to possibly panic anyone. Still, her Blasto tank top wasn’t well suited to frigid environments.

 

She had just reached the door that would lead into her destination when she heard a noise behind her. She spun as quickly as she could manage, dropping into a shooters crouch her light falling on...Major Saelen Varn. The Salarian raised both hands as the light fell on him though Sara was pleased to see that he’d brought a pistol. He was also wearing a rebreather though he had thought to strap a micro heating unit onto his belt.

 

“I admit I’m intrigued by your summons Ryder, will you tell me what's going on?” the Salarian asked. He really did sound intrigued too.

 

“I swept my quarters and gear as well as I could but I assume you are still monitoring most of my communications” Sara asked, though it wasn’t really a question.

 

“You and the team, yes” Varn answered. Sara was pleased that he didn’t try to deny anything. Years in the STG had made it almost impossible for Varn to trust anyone so Sara would have been more surprised to learn he WASN’T monitoring her. Though she suspected he was being cagey about the true extent of these activities, she highly doubted they stopped at her team.

 

“I’ll go in first, cover me” Sara said. She turned toward the door but Varn stopped her with a hand on her shoulder.

 

“A moment Ryder…” Varn said as his big Salarian eyes looked her up and down “...you appear to be drunk and suffering from the effects of the cold”.

 

Sara sighed and asked “is it really THAT obvious?”.

 

“Maybe not to most people but I am trained to observe and analyze body language...also you’re shivering more than you think” Varn said.

 

“I’m still going first” Sara said. Varn didn’t answer but just reached behind his back and produced a second micro heating unit and offered it to her. Sara snatched it eagerly and clipped it to her own belt and activated it. It only took a moment for the devices warming field to coalesce around her. The blessed heat stopping her shivering.

 

“Now, you should go first” Varn said.

 

Despite their situation Sara couldn’t resist asking “nothing for my being drunk?”.

 

“No device for that” Varn said simply.

 

“Fair enough” Sara said as she turned back to the door. She took a position to the right of the door as Varn mirrored her to the left. They exchanged a look and Sara nodded at the Salarian. Varn hit the door control and Sara shot around the corner in a half crouch her gun up. She found no targets. She moved her gun around her several times but no threat presented itself. Varn stepped in behind her and did the same. After ten seconds of silent scanning they both stood and lowered their weapons, though they kept a grip on them.

“Thoughts?” Sara asked without turning to look at Varn. She swept the beam from her light around her and found that they were standing on a small platform with stairs leading downward on either side of a single console. The room was shaped like a half circle, as one would expect from the very bottom of the Nexus, with the curved walls lined with what appeared to be stasis pods. Unusual stasis pods however as even a brief glance revealed that they seemed to be lacking much of the equipment that the pods usually had.

 

“Some kind of secret cryo bay…” Varn said musingly.

 

“Yeah, but without the cryo. All the deep freeze components are missing” Sara said as she shone her light on one of the strange pods.

 

“I’ll try the console” Varn said as he holstered his gun and stepped forward. There were several silent moments before he said “uh...Ryder...it wants you?”.

 

“What?” Sara asked surprised.

 

Varn gestured to console and explained “it says it’s waiting for YOUR vocal authorization”. Sara blinked at him before joining him at the console and looking down at its surface. Sure enough the text flashing on the screen read “Access Denied: Awaiting Sara Ryder Vocal Authorization to Initiate Activation Protocol”.

 

“Uh…” Sara said uncertainty. She wasn’t sure that she wanted to begin activating whatever was in this room. A quick check of her scanner showed that it wasn’t more colonists, there were no life signs other than her and Varn. She wasn’t given anymore time to reflect however as the console took the choice out of her hands.

 

“Voice print confirmed” the console said. Sara exchanged a started glance with Varn as they both raised their pistols again. Apparently her monosyllable had been enough to do the trick. The chamber they were began to rumble with the sounds of large machinery coming to life.

 

“Should we call for backup?” Varn asked from beside Sara. His pistol was hovering hear his midriff as though he wasn’t unsure of where to aim it. Sara didn’t answer, she was staring as banks of lights began coming online. They began at the far end of the chamber, revealing it’s true scale. It was probably almost half a kilometer in length. With each bank of lights that came to life more and more pods were revealed.

 

“I have a very bad feeling about this” Sara said as the lights closed in on them. When they were still about thirty meters away another bank came to life to reveal an enormous clear tank. More lights inside the tank came online to illuminate an enormous three legged metallic form.

 

“Is that?...” Varn asked, sounding afraid. Had she been less startled herself Sara would have noted that this was the first time she’d ever heard the emotion in Varn’s voice. Sara didn’t respond directly however instead she lifted her left forearm and clumsily brought up her vid comm.

 

“Scott…” Sara asked in a dazed voice that didn’t even sound like her own. She had to try again several times before her brother answered.

 

“Sara?...” he asked groggily, she’d obvious just woken him from a deep sleep. She heard him yawn loudly before he continued “...what is it? It’s the middle of the night-”.

 

Sara barely heard him and cut him off unintentionally as she said “Scott..you...you need to come to my location...now”. She trailed off then as the final bank of lights had come to life and she could finally see what was in the nearest pods.

 

“What is it? Are you OK?” Scott asked sounding concerned. He never got an answer though as Sara was staring in total shock at the pod nearest to her, and then at the hundreds that filled compartment. In the pod, and indeed in every pod she could see into, was a Geth Trooper.