Chapter 1: No Surprises
I always struggled a lot more with getting into Saras head than I did with Harry, but this story just wouldn't let go.
Sara was in the middle of calibrating the Remnant data core they had just picked up when she was patched in by Scott over comms.
"Unknown vessel, this is first officer Scott Ryder on the Tempest, please identify yourself....” Main comms turned off, internal comms switched on: “Still not getting anything."
"What do you want us to do?" Suvi said.
“Retry” Scott said after a few seconds of silence. Main comms turned on again.
Sara listened in. The remnant data core would have to wait.
"Unknown vessel, this is the Tempest commanded by Pathfinder Sara Ryder Carlyle, first officer Scott Ryder speaking. Please identify yourselves immediately or we will be forced to take action. This is your final warning."
"Still nothing...” Sara heard Suvi say.
“Sara? Are you patched in? I think I might need you to get up here ASAP." Scott said.
"Unidentified vessel, been in a standstill for the past 10 minutes, not responding to call signs, been given appropriate warnings. Did I get it all?" Sara said.
"On it. Be there in 3"
Sara sighed, and glanced over at the picture of Harry and their son on her desk, before getting up from her seat, and exiting her cabin. She had just started climbing the ladders as she felt it. A big boom, and the Tempest shaking. An alarm sounding. Her hand slipped and she fell to the floor, head first. She didn’t remember her head hitting the floor, but she realized as she woke up a few seconds later she must have lost consciousness for a second. She felt a throbbing pain in her left temple and realized by the small pool of blood left where her head had been just a second earlier that she was bleeding. Sara looked up. The alarm was still loud and the Tempest was still shaking. Something was terribly wrong. Shit.
“SAM?” Sara asked, confused as she was. She didn't even know what she was asking, she just knew she needed someone to tell her what the hell was happening, other than the fact that they were under attack- she had deduced as much.
"It appears we are under attack. Your presence is requested at the bridge." SAM said.
Sara remembered. Bridge. Hull breach, possibly?
Sara climbed up as far as she could. “No shit, SAM. Who's attacking us?"
Another boom sounded. Sara managed to hang on to the ladder this time she managed to get up on deck and hold on as the Tempest shook violently again.
"What do you mean by unknown, SAM? Is the vessel unknown, the enemy unknown, what? What is the unknown?" She asked
"Their ships design and style of attack does not match the Roekaar or the Kett's standard pattern of attack."
"Meaning?" Her heart was beating fast as she was opening the bridge doors. This would not be the end of her. She needed to get home. To Harry and Fleming. She'd give it all up, if she could just see them again. Maybe she should take Bradley up on that offer to come work with him after all.
"I do not recognize the style of attack. It is potentially a new enemy.” SAM replied.
Another boom, another shake, and the dreaded sound of the alarm to signal a hull breach had sounded. There was definitely a breach now, and there was no avoiding it anymore, she had to order an evacuation.
"Evasive maneuvers, get all non-essential personell prepped for evacuation" Sara said.
"Sara, you're bleeding..." Liam said.
"Never mind that now! Scott, you're in charge of the escape pod. Prep, headcount, deploy and landing. Gear up! Liam, you’re in charge of seeing non-essentials to the pod, bring mag-boots, just in case we lose gravity." She said before putting her helmet on. The Pyjak had already climbed in as Liam returned with Lexi’s medical bag. Sara thanked the stars her Hamster was living on Eos with Harry and Fleming.
"I am not leaving the Tempest!" Kallo shouted.
“Liam, please escort Suvi to the pod.” Sara said, ignoring Kallos infantile remark.
"I agree with Kallo, don't want to leave her either. We can still save her if he just does some of his excellent maneuvering." Gil shouted over the comms.
"KALLO, GIL, I AM ORDERING YOU BOTH TO STOP ACTING LIKE CHILDREN AND EVACUATE! ABANDON SHIP, NOW." Sara shouted as Suvi took Liams arm, got up and walked towards the pod. Lexi was clutching her data pad and another bag containing medical supplies, entering with her.
"NO!" Kallo shouted.
"We both agree, Ryder, WHY CAN'T YOU?" Gil shouted. "She's salvageable if Kallo just gets to do his magic!"
Sara sighed. "Evasive maneuvers. Get us out of here. All non-essential personell to the pod just in case. Jaal, are you suited up and in the vicinity of Gil?"
"Yes." Jaal replied.
"Could you make sure he puts on a helmet? In case something happens?" Sara said, trying to keep her frustration with her pilot and engineer to a minimum.
Suvi moved back towards Kallo with a mask as they evaded another shot from their unknown attacker. Sara let out a deep breath once Kallo managed to open an FTL window allowing them to escape.
"Alright, so what do we do now?" Scott asked when they were finally coming to a stop.
"How big is the damage?" Sara asked.
"Big" Gil said on the comms.
"How big? Can we make it to the Nexus? Will we be able to land?"
"No." Gil and Kallo said in unison.
"It appears most of our critical systems are damaged, our life support system included. We have a limited supply of breathable air left."
"That's not good. Is our long distance comms working? Can we signal for help?"
"Nope. Everything is broken, except for the escape pod. I think our wisest plan of action is to evacuate and use the pods systems to signal for help. We can still salvage the Tempest as long as she's picked up and towed back to the Nexus" Gil said over comms.
"Okay, let's do that. Abandon ship! Scott, you're in charge of headcount and pod deployment. Liam, you're in charge of supplies, weapons, food, the usual. Everyone suit up."
Scott nodded and went for the pod to once again prep it for launch. Liam went downstairs towards the galley and Saras room.
When everyone had gotten safely into their pod, Sara left the bridge and went in for her seat to strap herself in. The pod started to shake the minute it hit the atmosphere. She removed her helmet to wipe the side of her head to get rid of some of the blood.
"Brace for impact" She heard Scott say, before she felt the pod hit the ground with an enormous crash, and Sara’s head banged painfully against her seat.
The last thing Sara remembered was the thought of Harry. The love of her life. And Fleming, their son. She'd hug them both once she came home from this ordeal. She felt the fear of never seeing either one of them again before the darkness engulfed her. Maybe she should take Bradley up on that deal to come work for him after all.
Flashes going through her. Uninterpretable. She thought she saw the Archon. Her dad. Pathfinder Raeka. So many dead.
Sara woke up with a gasp and looked around. She felt dizzy and strange. Where was she? What was going on? It was warm, moist. There was this sort of hot and humid smell to the place she was at, like the smell of moss and rocks. Almost like on earth. Familiar, yet so unfamiliar.
"SAM, what is going on?"
Well, fuck. Nothing. Alright, what do I have to work with?
Sara sat up and reached for her wrist, only to find she was not wearing an Omni tool. What the hell? Dressed in only an under suit- Sara didn't recognize its markings- this one was jet black as opposed to her dads red and black n7 suit, she looked for any hints as to where she might be. This cave was not one she was familiar with, but she deduced by the fauna she wasn't Kadara or Eos, and it was certainly not Aya. It was hot and very moist inside what appeared to be a cave.
She got up, and nearly fell to the ground at once. In addition to feeling dizzy, something wasn't quite right with her left knee. It hurt when she put her weight on it, and the kneecap was not where it was supposed to be. There was some equipment scattered around- a sidearm and a water bottle, but nothing to use to support her leg with, and nothing to give her any clues as to where her crew was. Sara set her knee back in place with a giant crack that made her whimper. She limped over to the bottle and started taking a giant sip when she felt something attached to it. A note? This was getting stranger and stranger. She unfolded it, and was shocked to see it appeared to be written in her own handwriting:
"Find Morda. You are safe with the Krogan. Do not trust the initiative. Destroy this note."
Sara looked at the note again. It definitely was her handwriting:
"Find Morda. You are safe with the Krogan. Do not trust the initiative. Destroy this note."
Why would she have left herself such a note?
You are safe with the Krogan? What the hell? This is so weird, she thought and cursed out loud. If whatever had happened to leave her in such a position that she’d had enough wits about her to leave herself a note, she might have shown herself enough curtsey to tell her exactly how she had let herself get in such a position in the first place. Her knee was hurting beyond belief. Must have been dislocated. She ripped the note in tiny pieces as instructed and looked around- there appeared to be an exit further down the cave. She looked for another gun without any luck. She desperately prayed she wasn't going to be far from civilization- preferably a friendly one with a shuttle she could use.
“SCOTT?” She shouted. All she got was the echo of her own voice, bouncing off the cave walls.
"LIAM! DRACK???" No answer. "VETRA!" "SOMEONE! ANYONE!" "JAAL!!! PEEBE!" No one answered. In frustration, she kicked a rock with her left foot, and hurt both her foot and her knee, which started throbbing even more than before. "MOOORDAAAAA! FUUUUUCK!!!!" No one answered. She was alone, yet she didn't feel alone- Sara had that unmistakable feeling as if someone was watching her- as if she was being followed. She might not know much about what situation she had just found herself in- but she knew she needed to get herself out of it, fast. Get out of here. Find Morda. You can do this.
As she exited the cave, she hoped to find her crewmen somewhere- or at least a trace of their whereabouts. Most of all, she hoped they were unharmed, wherever they were. She had a horrible feeling- she knew they would never leave her behind like this, given a choice. Had they been captured, or was she the one who had been taken? Sara reached the cave exit, and saw she was surrounded by the desert. Sand and plants everywhere, but at least she knew where she was, Elaaden.
Yet, it wasn't as warm as it had been two years ago- when she had first touched down. It had started to cool down a bit the last time she’d been to visit, but it was nowhere near as green as the landscape had become now. SAM was still down, Sara had expected as much, and she saw nothing she could use in the immediate vicinity. How did I get here? We went down near Aya, yet there's no shuttle around… She oriented herself, although it was a hard task without SAM. The vault had worked faster than she had expected. Despite that, it had still not changed so much she couldn't spot the outpost she had placed years earlier- and the Krogan settlement right next to it. The Krogan settlement. Morda! Sara almost cried out loud in relief- if there was someone who could help her out of this mess it'd be Morda. Or Drack. Preferably Drack, but the note specifically said to find Morda, and more importantly that she would be safe with the Krogan. The note had even underlined that part, so it had to be important. Weird situation 0, Sara 1. New Tuchanka it is, then.
She limped towards the camp and avoided the initiative outpost all together- the note said not to trust the initiative, and to seek the Krogan for help. Contrary to what she had seen the last time she had been on Elaaden, there was a new reception area once she entered what had just a few years ago been a heavily guarded checkpoint for the Krogan outpost.
There was a very filthy mirror on the side of the entrance. Sara could barely make out her own silhouette, yet she almost shrieked when she saw herself. She was hardly recognizable, with jet black hair as opposed to her usual blonde, that matched her jet-black clothing of which she did not know, stripped of any armor or protective gear- with only her sidearm and water bottle in her hands.
The Krogan receptionist was looking down at a data pad, and she appeared very busy.
"Hi." Sara said, realizing how hoarse her voice had become.
"Name, title, and who you're here for." The receptionist asked without so much as a glance at Sara.
"Sara Ryder Carlyle, human pathfinder. Here to see Warlord Nakmor Morda."
The receptionist looked up.
"Ryder... what the…? Oh my..." She talked into her comms "Team leader, this is Nakmor Keera. We need a medic immediately, prep for quarantine. We have a walk-in."
"Name?" a dark voice replied over comms.
She scanned Sara with her Omni Tool. How Sara missed having one for herself.
"It's Sara Ryder Carlyle."
"Could you repeat that, please?"
"Not a drill, ID positive. It’s her."
"Stand by whilst we check for available quarters." The voice over comms replied.
"Just wait here for a second, ok hon?" The receptionist known as Nakmor Keera said.
"Is Morda around?" Sara felt tired.
"Morda?" Keera looked complete and utter perplexed. "No... She's onboard the Nexus..."
"Figures." Sara said. Best not to say anything more. Morda was probably in a council meeting or something. Yes. That made sense. Council meeting.
"Nakmor Keera, please escort the walk-in to the guest quarters, suite 2" the voice over the comms said.
"What about Drack? Kesh? Vorn? Are they around" Sara asked as the female Krogan walked around the desk.
"They are also aboard the Nexus, honey. Follow me please? I'm Keera by the way."
"I heard. I'm Sara." Sara limped after her.
"I know." She replied, shortly but friendly.
Keera guided her down a hallway, took a left at the docking bay, and down some stairs.
"If you'd please step in here, we'll need to quarantine you until a medic can clear you. Standard procedure after having gone missing."
Sara hated being injured. She could barely walk and not at a regular pace. It wasn’t that she had any trouble keeping up with Keera, but Sara hated being at the mercy of others, especially whilst injured. It didn't seem a good time to ask anything of the pressing matters on Saras mind. Despite the much-lessened security presence, New Tuchanka seemed much more military structured than it had been the last time Sara had been by. Instead of asking for the date and time, she decided to act like she too knew what was going on.
"Can I use your comms? I need to contact my husband and brother as soon as possible and tell them I'm safe. My Omni-tool's missing..."
"There's nothing to worry about, Sara. We just need a medic to clear you before we do anything or call anyone. Standard procedure." She smiled as reassuring as a Krogan might be expected to. At least it resembled the indulgent smile Drack always gave her whenever she tried threatening other Krogan with head butts, all those times in shady bars, late at night. God, she wished Drack was there with her right now. He'd always have some liquor at hand, and something to say to make her relax. This Krogan, Keera, if that even was her real name, did not seem have any liquor, and Sara could not shake the feeling that this might be some sort of a setup.
"Ok... When will that be?"
"As soon as possible. We need to wait for a specialist from the Nexus to clear you, we don't have any physicians who knows enough about the human anatomy at the moment I'm afraid." She must have picked up on Sara's expression of complete and utter worry, and gave her a reassuring nod, and added:
"Not to worry, we'll take very good care of you. You've always been a true friend to the Krogan- we remember, and value it. You are safe here. Are you hungry?"
They entered a room down a hallway Sara had never been in before. The room was sparsely decorated, with a bed, two chairs, and a table and a small window. There was a small bathroom through another door, containing a toilet, a shower and a sink with a mirror above it.
Sara looked at herself in the mirror. She looked a bit thinner than she was used to- she must have been out in that cave for quite some time- perhaps a week or... Could it have been longer? No. No, it couldn’t have. Sara deduced she must have banged her head pretty hard to have lost the ability to tell time.
It sure was lonely without SAM in her head, not to mention confusing. How long had she been gone? Her hair was longer than she was used to as well- and jet black, as opposed to the blonde bob as she usually sported. This was very strange indeed. There was a giant scar crossing her left eyebrow she had never seen before, and it looked as if it was much older than a week as well. Probably from the crash- but- that can't have been too long ago. Did someone use medi-gel on me? How come they didn't fix my knee? Where is everyone, and what is going on? Her knee was starting to throb with pain, matching the headache that was ever increasing in intensity. Nothing was adding up nothing making any sense. Or maybe it was the absence of SAM had left her with a distorted concept of time, and more than a little paranoia.
Harry himself had said she had hemorrhaged quite a bit from the whole ordeal with the Archon a couple of years back. Perhaps that was the cause? Could side effects hit you this hard, two whole years after the injuries had first occurred? Maybe hitting her head when the pod hit the ground had done some more damage in the brain department? Sara had never wished to see her husband more than she did at that moment- he'd be able to explain this to her or in the very least comfort her. But Harry wasn't here with her. Sara had to face the reality that she was hurt, alone, and feeling more disoriented than she had ever felt before. The dreaded feeling of paranoia escalated, hit her like a train, as if the walls were trapping her in, and shrinking. She was breathing heavily, seeing the walls enclose on her.
Sara must have nodded at the guard when asked if she was hungry, because she returned with a tray of food and a bottle of water- along with a supportive brace for her knee. Keera entering the room snapped her out of her panic attack.
"I noticed you were limping. The initiative colony stores some of their medical equipment with us, so I took the liberty to fetch you a brace for your knee. I also brought something for the pain. I think it's best for a physician to have a look at it before we treat it though" Sara thanked her. Keera looked as if she was about to leave before she asked:
"I also... I need you to relinquish any weapons you might have on you."
Sara disarmed and held out her sidearm, which Keera accepted.
"Omni tool too? Base rules, I'm afraid."
"I didn't have one on me..." Sara replied.
Keera looked at her arms, before nodding, and exiting the room.
"Team leader, I'm headed towards the armory- she did not have an omni tool on her, just a sidearm." Keera said into the comms as she left and the door closed. Sara did not catch 'team leader's' reply.
She felt her stomach clench. She couldn't shake the feeling that she should have insisted on keeping her gun with her. Sara started to pace the room, frantically trying to remember what had happened. She needed to sort her thoughts out.
Rather than focusing her attention as to what she couldn't remember, Sara directed her attention towards what she could remember. She remembered defeating the Archon, how exiting the prospects had been in the aftermath of it all. She remembered being told Scott would be fine. She remembered marrying Harry on Havarl, an Angaran ceremony on top of the Mithrava, officiated by Evfra himself. It wasn’t what she had planned, but it was a wonderful day nevertheless. She remembered learning about her pregnancy, the birth of her child, whom she and Harry had agreed to name after Saras father and the discoverer of penicillin- Alexander Fleming, sort of. His full name was Fleming Alexander Ryder Carlyle. Fleming for short. They both liked the idea of Fleming Carlyle, they had felt it suited him the best. She remembered his first birthday just a few weeks ago. Scott, Lexi, Gil, Drack, Vetra, Kandros and Kesh had attended. Liam had stopped by. So far so good. She remembered Tann having sent her on a mission to retrieve some abandoned Kett hard-drives when she had found unknown technology, just outside Aya. That's when someone had hit her ship. They had escaped and landed in the escape pod. But how had she gotten to Elaaden from there?
Sara sat down and waited. It was lonely without SAM in her head. It was weird, just a few years ago she'd had to adapt to having him in her head. Now she didn't know what do do without him there, analyzing everything. Sara even missed his jokes. She didn't have her omni tool either. She wasn't sure how much time had passed, she knew she had slept for a few hours in the very least- but not much else, when she heard a knock on the door, and a different Krogan guard walked in. This one was a male, and much bigger than Keera. She must have slept through a shift change.
"Good morning, Sara. There's someone here to see you. I'll be right outside in case you need anything, ok?" He said. Sara nodded.
Sara tensed in anticipation. As Harry walked in, Sara’s heart leaped. Here he was, the only person she needed to see in order to make it all better, to explain what was happening to her, she was sure of it. He looked whiter than she'd ever seen him in her life.
"Harry!" She threw herself around him in a hug. He held onto her- almost as if he was clinging to her. The hug was unbearable and so great at the same time. Here he was, in the flesh. Her Harry. The one to explain what was happening. The one to pick her up and bring her up to speed. When he let go, Sara looked at him. He looked older, drawn. Ghostlike in a way. It was unlike Harry to look so distraught.
"You look like you've seen a ghost, Harry!" Sara said. Finally, he was here.
He hugged her again. Quiet wasn't usually his game- Harry always had a comeback, or at least a chuckle for her. Something was wrong. He was shaking. What the hell? Was he crying?
"Harry?" Sara asked
"Sara. Where... What... How?" He said. His hands cupping her cheeks.
"What's going on?" She asked.
"Why didn't you tell me, Sara?" He was tearing up. Red eyed and shaking, he stood there. He took her into another tight hug.
"What do you mean?" She asked.
"I thought I lost you!" He said into her shoulder.
"I'm right here," Sara said, and as they broke the hug, she reached for his hands. She felt his fingers in her hands, how rough they felt- after years of constantly washing them. That was when she noticed he wasn't wearing his wedding ring. What the hell?
"Harry? Where's your ring?" She asked, even as arbitrary as it seemed, given the situation.
"Sara... you've really got nothing to say to me?"
"What are you talking about?" Sara asked.
"Sara... I... I thought you were dead!" He caressed her cheeks again, his green eyes sprung red, searching her face - just like he had done after she had killed the Archon on Meridian. Looking for something concrete he could fix by just looking at her. She had never seen him like this before, and she didn't enjoy seeing him this upset. It was clear she was missing something big in the puzzle that had become their conversation.
"What? Harry, you're scaring me..."
He said nothing, just hugged her, smelled her. He smelled like himself.
"I can't believe it's really you... I missed you... So, so much..." he said into her shoulder, so quiet only Sara could hear him. He hugged her so hard. It felt great, but she couldn't shake her stomach clenching. Something was off.
"Harry?" She said, as if she was about to throw up.
"How... How long have I been gone?" She finally managed to ask, despite feeling like the words had to be forced out one by one, as if they were stuck in her throat.
He looked up into her eyes, let go of her hands and grabbed her by the shoulders. It was heartbreaking seeing him cry. She wasn't used to it at all- she had only seen him cry once- the day their son had been born. This was freaking her out beyond anything she'd ever been through her entire life, and Sara wasn't entirely sure she wanted her question answered after all.
"Sara... you've... You've been gone for three years..."
Sara felt numb. This couldn't be right. No. This was all wrong. It couldn't be true. This had to be a nightmare.
In order to get some context, I published chapter 1 and two at the same time.
Feedback is always appreciated.
Chapter 3: Paint it, Black
Sara can't cope with the information she's been given.
No. No, this wasn't right. This was wrong. Sara backed into the wall. Dead? Her? She might have missed out on a lot about the situation she had found herself in, but she did know two things: She had not been dead, and she did not find this the least bit funny.
"What the hell, Harry, this isn't funny."
"No, I agree this isn’t funny. It really is not. You've been gone for three years."
"I haven't... No. That's impossible. A week or two maybe, but years? No. This... Harry, this isn't funny!"
"No, I think we can both agree on the fact that this is not funny. Sara, if you're in some sort of trouble... Talk to me- we can figure this out! I..." He said.
Sara had rarely found herself in a position where she did not know what anyone was talking about. Nothing made any sense at all. Harry must have caught her perplexity, for when she didn't reply, he continued:
"Our son is almost 4 years old, and he thinks his mom's been dead for 3 of those years- yet here you are- standing in New Tuchanka- not dead. I can't believe it... I... What happened to you? Where have you been? All this time..." Harry said.
Something wasn't right. Sara didn't have time to think, but she was sure of one thing- Harry, HER Harry wouldn't joke about something like this, or mess with her head in such a way. This wasn't her Harry- this must be an imposter, and she might be in danger. Yes, that made sense. This had to be an imposter. But she had to think and act fast. Harry- The real Harry might be in danger, and their son along with him. Sara knew she had to find them.
She looked into his eyes. Forcing herself to cry- not that it was that hard- although this couldn't be her Harry, the imposter sure looked like him and the thought of seeing Harry like this was heartbreaking.
"You're right. Let me tell you where I've been. Have a seat. I'll explain everything." She said.
Harry nodded and went for one of the chairs. Stupid thing to do, but that just proved that this person, whomever he was, could not the real Harry. Her Harry would know better than to sit down if she was this distraught. As he went for his seat, his jacket revealed a tranq gun in his belt. Before he had time to react, she had taken him by the arm, slammed him against the wall, and put imposter-Harry in a solid chokehold.
"I don't know who you are, you fucking asshole, but impersonating my husband?” She said as she bent his arm a bit further back, as Harry had once taught her, to inflict maximum amount of pain. Imposter Harry screamed through the chokehold.
“Well, that was fucking moronic. WHO are you? Who are you working for? HUH? WHO SENT YOU?" She screamed.
"H... Help...H.." He was choking. "S-S-Sara! Let... me...G-G-Go..." He clenched his free hand on her forearm as she choked him. Sara couldn't help but notice that for an imposter, he showed very little resistance to her firm grasp. That's what they want you to think, that he's the real deal. He's not. Don't trust the initiative. Even though Sara didn't know who "they" were, she was sure they were behind this.
As the Krogan guard stormed in, as Sara had half expected, she used imposter Harry as a human shield, let go of his arm, grabbed the gun from his belt and shot the guard in the chest with a solid tranquilizer. She let imposter-Harry go, and as he was gasping for breath, she used her newly acquired gun to hit him over the head. He fell to the ground, unconscious. She checked his pulse, and put him on his side, before grabbing the pain killers off the table. These might come in handy. She dragged the Krogan into the room before stepping over him, and out in the hallway.
I need to get out of here. Morda. The note said to find Morda. Morda is on the Nexus unless Keera was lying to me about that. She might be in on this. She exited her room slowly, knowing there'd be shuttles around the corner- she had seen them as she came in. Securing the hallway, she limped down into another hallway- looking for any other security lurking around. She checked Harry's tranquilizer gun- it had 5 darts left. Better make them count. Her knee was hurting more than ever, even with her supportive brace. It could be bugged. I have to remove it once I find a shuttle. Sara didn't spend much time contemplating wether or not it was possible to bug a supportive leg brace, she just knew she had to remove it.
She snuck out from the hallway and headed down the cave past the throne she years earlier had seen Morda sitting on for the first time. She made her way towards a storage room, hoping to find something she could use. Locked, and she had no omni-tool to override it. Fucking great. She should have taken Harrys. Why didn't she think of that? It seemed so fucking obvious in retrospect. An alarm sounded, and Sara ran as fast as she could towards the shuttle bay she knew was just a few yards from where she was standing. She found what she thought to be imposter Harry's shuttle, a pilot standing near it. Sara contemplated how to lure him away as it appeared he got a message over the comms, drew what appeared to be his own tranq gun and started running towards another hallway.
Sara snuck up to the shuttle, threw herself in, and initiated the procedures to start it. Hacking without an omni tool proved more difficult than she had thought. She needed to leave right now, she didn't have time to wait. She heard Krogan guards running around- they hadn't found her yet. The comms in the shuttle area was booming: "Do not engage- she has a tranquilizer gun- do not use force, sedatives only! Lockdown initiated."
So that's why they wanted my gun. They wanted me at a disadvantage.
Well, they hadn't found her yet. But this did not make sense- the note- presumably written by herself specifically said to trust the Krogan. Was she going insane? No. Don't think right now, just focus on the task at hand. They haven't found me yet, and it’s clear they need me alive.
Sara had just gotten the shuttles engine to warm up when she felt a sharp jab in her shoulder. She looked back, and saw Harry, teary eyed, looking at her whilst still holding the tranq-gun he had used to incapacitate her. He put the gun down in his belt before walking towards her and catching her before she fell right into his arms.
The last thing Sara felt was the fake Harry holding her on the floor of the shuttle, kissing her forehead, saying "I'm sorry. I'm so sorry, baby. Everything will be alright, I promise. Shhh". A guard was noting over comms that they had found and secured her. Imposter-Harry smelled like the real Harry. But it couldn't be him. It just couldn't. Her Harry wouldn't shoot her with a tranquilizer. Her Harry wouldn't have believed she had died. Not her Harry. This Harry held her, kissed her forehead, rocked her gently back and forth, just as her Harry used to do as she slipped back into darkness, his sweet words of apology the last thing she heard, his firm grip holding her the last thing she felt. The darkness had engulfed her completely as Sara lost all the sense of where she was, who she was. Perhaps she'd wake up from this nightmare on Eos, next to Harry, and they could laugh about it over breakfast.
Flashes occurred. She saw her own wedding. Scott. The archon, dead- hanging from his giant architect. Something very bright in her eyes. Mumbling. Harry's voice.
Chapter 4: Escalate
Sorry this took so long. A special thank you to AO3 user: @dreamsindigital for so much help and support in writing this! Seriously, thank you so much! I could not have finished this without your help!
Bright lights in front of her. White sheets. A light flashing over her eyes, the sound of the doctors working. She'd know those sounds anywhere.
Flashes of bright lights. Voices. Were they real, or was she imagining things?
"Increase the sedatives. We'll want to figure out what has happened before we wake her. She's... confused..." Was it Harry?
Flashes again. She thought she felt herself move- yet her muscles remained still. Lights moving as if she wasn't really lying down, but standing in an elevator going down. Endlessly. She thought she felt someone touch her arm, a pain going through it as she felt even lighter. The voices were even further away as Sara felt herself drift in a sort of velvety ocean. It was white. Could it be some sort of remnant vault? Sara didn't care.
"SAM says he's not really disconnected, not entirely anyway, but... suspended? " A female voice said. Could it be Lexi?
"Might explain why she attacked me like she did. The injury she suffered the last time someone did something like that to her... It doesn't look good. I want 3D imaging of what's happening in there" Harrys voice. It was definitely Harrys voice.
"She has severe hypertension, looks like she's been on medication for a while..."
Sara missed Harry. She missed understanding what was up and down in the world. Maybe this was part of the awful nightmare she had found herself in, and was about to wake up. Sara had no concept of time or space. She just kept floating in comfortable numbness, with voices far away floating in and out. A warm feeling on her forehead as if someone had just kissed it. It sounded like Harry when she felt the warmth of her forehead, his soft voice whispering he'd be back. Maybe she imagined it. A cold feeling when there was no one around, talking. The radio playing songs.
Flashes of darkness erupted. She thought she saw the Archon again, hanging from his giant architect - but not dead this time. Alive. Coming for her. Darkness spread throughout her soft white space to engulf her. She had started to fall. Sara kept falling- back first- further down into the ever darker abyss, until she jerked and found she was not in a giant white and black vault as she had first thought, but in what appeared to be a hospital room, Lexi standing over her, scanning Sara with her omni tool.
"Welcome back, Sara." Lexi said.
"Where am I?" Sara asked.
"You're in Ryder memorial hospital on Meridian, fifth floor. You are safe." Lexi said.
Sara tried to get up and found she had been restrained with a handcuff to the bed. They cuffed me? Sara felt any opportunities at a calm approach fly right out of the window with every shake she did to confirm that it wasn't a hallucination. Rage filling her. How dare they cuff her to the bed like some sort of criminal? She had done nothing wrong, not that she was aware of anyway.
" Get... me out of this.. this... thing... Now! " She said through gritted teeth.
"I'm sorry. We were under orders to restrain you as we woke you up. They were worried about more... incidents. Like on New Tuchanka" Lexi said sheepishly.
At the mention of New Tuchanka, Sara remembered who had drugged her. What had happened. The panic she had felt was back, and she needed to act now.
"Where's Harry? And Fleming? Are they safe? There's an imposter, Lexi! Please! You have to help me, I have to find them!"
“Calm down. It's ok. They are safe. It was Harry who came to get you. And it seems you've been through quite the ordeal. We want to make sure you're feeling up to everything." Lexi said.
"He told me I had been dead for three years... I-" Sara said before being cut off by Lexi.
"We are looking into that. You can imagine the kind of investigation this calls for."
Sara just sat in her bed, her left arm painfully twisted against the cold metal surrounding her wrist and stared into blank air. This was not how it was supposed to be. She wasn't supposed to be here, she was supposed to be at home on Eos. This felt even more like a nightmare than ever before. Apparently deciding Sara had calmed down, Lexi moved to remove her restraint.
"There is someone here to see you if you're feeling up to it." Lexi said in her soothing voice as she unshackled her and removed the cuff from the bed.
Sara nodded. This had to be one horrible horrible nightmare. A nightmare so vivid she no longer could divide what was real and what was not. Perhaps she had finally lost her sanity. She always had an inkling it was bound to happen eventually. Maybe this was it- maybe she finally was her losing her mind, and just didn't know it. Any further self examination went straight out the window as Gil entered the room.
"Hi. Um... How… Wow. Couldn't believe it when I heard."
“Gil... Umm... How are you?" Sara realized as she said it how stupid she sounded. What was the first contact protocol in regards to friends who thought you were dead anyway?.
"Happy to see you!" Gil said. "But I'm a bit confused... Do you remember anything? Anything at all?"
"No... Nothing. Last thing before waking up in the cave, I was in an escape pod with you, then I'm on Elaaden and apparently it's been a while..." Sara said.
“We've 'reactivated' SAM, if you can call it that, but it doesn't look like he had any answers.” Lexi said.
"Reactivated? Last time I checked, losing the SAM connection almost blew my brains out. Something about scaring the hippopotamus or something?" Sara asked.
" Scarring in the hippocampus , and we'll get to that. He sais he was in a sort of suspended state and rebooted a few hours prior to your waking up in that cave. He wasn't offline, he just.. I don't know exactly how it's possible. But it looks as if he was making a backup of himself as you woke up, which is why he's still silent. He wasn't really deactivated per se, just… for lack of a better word, ‘suspended’. It may be why your emotions are so unpredictable. That's Harry's guess at least. We've found some abnormalities on your brain that supports this as our working theory."
"As you may remember, the hippocampus is responsible for long term memory and controlling emotions. In addition to scarring on the optical lobe and hippocampus, we found some abnormalities on the frontal lobe- er... The part of your brain that manages impulses." Lexi corrected herself when she saw Saras confused look and continued: "We're hoping that's due to the ...reboot. You can ask him yourself in the morning, your implant should be fully functional again by then."
"So... SAM is in a sort of... sleep mode? Like a computer?"
"I don't understand it that well, even Harry had issues with it. He'll be back in a few days, probably with a better explanation than I have."
The second mention of Harry made Saras stomach clench.
"You've been in an induced coma for almost week, sort of. He was here for the first few days, after bringing you in with him. He had to get back to Fleming. He is making arrangements as we speak.” Lexi said.
“Arrangements?” Sara asked. Was that what she was to him now? Arrangements? Like a chore, like Saturday grocery shopping, mowing the lawn and cleaning the house? She needed to be arranged? He had shot her and brought her here unconscious, just to leave her so he could ‘make arrangements’? Hell. No.
“Yes. We think it best if you don't see your son just yet. We'd like for you to recover a bit more, but Harry wants to be here as much as he can for your recovery.” Lexi said.
“I want to see my kid.” Sara said, as calmly as she could.
“I understand that, but Sara... you've been gone for three years. Fleming doesn't know you other than from pictures. We need to make sure this goes smoothly for both his AND your own sake.” Gil answered.
Sara felt disconnected from herself at a whole new level as she realized she was crying. What new circle of hell was this? Why did things like this always happen to her? Couldn't the universe pick someone else for a change?
“I know this hurts, but we need to consider what is best for Fleming.” Lexi said, the finality in her voice so clear Sara knew there was no point in arguing. She nodded and they sat in silence for a while until Sara asked the second most pressing question on her mind.
“Where's Scott?” She croaked. Gil and Lexi exchanged looks before answering. Sara had long since learned exchanging looks when faced with a question rarely led to good news.
“He’s not with us- the initiative I mean- anymore...” Lexi said.
“What do you mean, not with us?” Sara asked. No. Not Scott too . The horror of not being able to see her twin was too excruciating to bare.
“He was... exiled about 18 months ago. Last we heard he was on Kadara in one of the high security work camps there.” Gil said. His soft voice did not have what Sara perceived to be its intended effect- she felt her blood boil and her hands clench. This was not fair.
“ WHAT? Tann fucking exiled him? I'm gonna fucking kill him, I swear- ” Sara had started to raise her voice. At one level she felt happy she finally had a valid reason shout.
“No, he did not. Tann is no longer part of Initiative leadership, and please calm down, Sara.” Lexi interrupted.
“Who then, WHO SMOKED THEIR SOCKS and decided it was a good idea to exile my brother ?” Sara didn’t care much for quiet at that moment.
"Addison did, and please, please keep your voice down!" Lexi pleaded.
" YOU try calming down when learning about SHIT like this! No fucking way. That fucking psychotic horrible hag! She can't do that, she's not ..." Sara was shouting so loud she didn't hear the door slide open.
"Director of the initiative." Addison said coldly as she walked in, threw a glance at Sara's arm before turning to Lexi. "I thought I ordered restraints, why is she not wearing them?"
"Addison." Sara said coldly. "Did you have a reason for exiling my only remaining family?"
Addison didn't answer Sara, she looked directly at Lexi instead.
"Dr. T'Perro, why is she not restrained?" Addison said, if possible in an even colder tone than before.
"Like I told you numerous times, we have no reason for restraining her. She's not a security risk to herself or to others. And this is a hospital, please leave your security detail outside" It was then Sara noticed the two men accompanying Addison, in grey armor with the initiatives logo on it.
"I disagree. She was perfectly capable of not only incapacitating her husband, but a Krogan guard before they were able to stop her. Had Dr. Carlyle not woken up and managed to warn him to flee the scene, I fear she might have injured the initiative pilot as well. Judging from her behavior now, her anger issues doesn't seem to have lessened like you said they would."
"I'm right here, you know" Sara said. Addison gave her a cold look before shifting her focus back to Lexi. Gil grabbed Sara’s shoulder and squeezed it. Sara figured this was her cue to stay quiet, no matter how much she wanted to strangle Addison. The guards were each sporting a loaded m8 avenger.
"Has hooking her up to SAM helped her regain her memory yet?" Addison again directed her attention towards Lexi.
"No, and like I told you it was unlikely to work. In SAM node, he explained although he appeared to reboot 8 days ago, he's not able to account for anything that's happened for the past three years. He just knows he's been present. It's almost as if he was wiped." Lexi said.
"But... I'm confused- did he or did he not know I was alive?" Sara asked. Gils hand clenched her shoulder even tighter.
"No, it did not know. Until you made contact, SAM believed you to be dead, just like the rest of us." Addison said. Sara thought Addison almost looked happy at the prospect of a dead Sara, unless she was imagining that. Maybe it was just paranoia.
"But I wasn't... I... I don't understand.. " Sara felt dazed. It must have shown, because Lexi stepped up and positioned herself between Sara and Addison.
"Director, she needs to rest."
"I'll want a full debrief once she's recovered." Addison said.
She then turned to Sara and spoke in a slow condescending voice. "In the meantime, on behalf of the initiative- we are happy you are alive, and we are glad to have you back in the fold." She looked at both Gil and nodded at Lexi before she left the room.
Sara looked at Lexi.
"How long will she be around?"
"She's heading back to the Nexus now. You can relax." Lexi said.
"That woman gives me the creeps." Sara said.
"We all second that, Sara, but you have to be careful. You don't know what it's been like" Gil said as he took her hand.
"How long do I have to stay here?" She said, the feeble tone of her voice shocking even herself.
"We'll need to monitor you for a few days, and fix your knee. We're also looking to find you somewhere to recuperate here on Meridian. You'll need close medical supervision- like I said before, your scans showed some abnormalities I'd like to keep an eye on for now."
Lexi hesitated for a second before continuing:
"I'd also like for us to start therapy. If you're not comfortable with me, I'll find someone else..."
"No, no... I'd like it to be you..."
Gil squeezed her hand.
"I'll be here with you for a few days, ok? Just relax. We'll get you back up to speed in no time"
Sara nodded and squeezed Gil’s hand back.
Sara didn't want to relax or be careful for that matter. She wanted to punch someone. Everything was wrong. Between anxiety attacks, episodes of paranoia and some serious bouts of rage, she felt incredibly alone. Despite Gil’s and Lexi’s presence over the next few hours, Sara felt ever more alone by the minute. She needed to get out.
Gil had gotten Sara dinner and they had chatted for a while. Sara hadn't wanted to press any of the matters on her mind, she figured she wouldn't get an answer anyway. He had also brought her a deck of cards and promised to get her a data pad so she could read up on the news. They had talked for hours until Sara had gotten tired and Gil had left. It was late at night when Sara awoke to a flashing light on the floor.
SAM? What is this? She said, out of habit mostly. She'd been told she would not be able to speak to SAM until morning, so when he replied, she almost screamed.
"An eidetic memory trigger."
Did she hear that right, or was she imagining things again?
"Come again, SAM?"
"An eidetic memory trigger."
"From dad? What, he tricked grandma and grandpa into a stasis pod and brought them to Andromeda too?" She laughed at her own joke, and then felt the sting that she couldn't retell it to Harry at once.
"No, it is from you." SAM said.
Sara could not believe what she had heard. This had to be a mistake, or a nightmare, or a hallucination. There was no way this could be real.
"Make your way to SAM node."
Sara didn't need telling twice. She put on her shoes on and snuck down the hallway as best she could. The Hyperion had been rebuilt to a complete administrative center. She looked at the sign outside the door, she needed to get to SAM node. It was 5 floors down with the elevator, which was locked.
"It appears Mayor Dunn has increased your security status and placed the hospital in lockdown. Hacking and disabling the security cameras and doors now."
Sara made her way down and entered SAM node as she had done so many times before, even though it felt like a lifetime ago.
"Alright SAM, I'm here. Let's see what you got for me."
Sara was sitting at a table, eating, reading what appeared to be an analysis of some rem-tech on a data pad. The surroundings appeared unfamiliar, Angaran architecture probably. Was this where she had been held?
"Operative Moires, how are you feeling?" That voice. Something so cold yet so familiar.
It was Addison.
Real time Sara instinctively covered her mouth as she gasped. Why? What the hell was this?
Memory-Sara replied. "I'm feeling good, Chief Addison. I trust everything's going according to plan?"
"Yes. We need you to retrieve and analyze some rem-tech for us." Addison said.
"With pleasure, chief Addison." Memory-Sara looked to the left of Addison into a mirror. Saras face looked different. Her scar over her left eye was much more defined, and she had flaming red hair. She looked thin, drawn. Almost unrecognizable.
Real time Sara cried. She could not recall having ever been in such a state of shock, ever. She cried a silent cry before continuing to pay attention to the memory, barely registering the tears streaming down her cheeks.
"Yes?" Memory-Sara responded.
"It may please you to know your brother's been made pathfinder."
"I do not have any siblings, Chief Addison." Sara said.
"No. No, you do not." Addison smiled and nodded.
"And the initiative's pathfinders are terrorists, chief Addison. They undermine our cause."
"That is correct." Addison smiled her disgusting smile at her.
"You leave in an hour. Take Spender with you."
"Yes, Chief Addison."
The memory went dark.
"That fucking bitch. She knew. She had something to do with this. Maybe that's why she didn't engage with me when she came to see me on behalf of the initiative- she wanted to make sure I didn't talk or recognize her. She needed to see if I was faking- that's why she wanted SAM up and running at once. She wanted to check my reaction. That.... How.... What the hell? Why am I responding to her? 'yes, chief Addison, no chief Addison' Why am I not choking her? SAM, when was this?" Sara asked
"This is dated exactly six months after your presumed death..."
"Can we please... not call it that?" Sara interrupted.
"What would you like for me to call it?"
“Imprisonment, disappearance, whatever- I am not dead, SAM .” Another burst of anger oncoming. Sara contained herself out of fear of being found 5 floors below where she was supposed to be, having used SAM to hack her way there. Sara started crying instead of raging like she wanted to.
"She knew.. She knew... What the hell is going on, SAM? I woke up, different hair, dislocated knee and no memory of how I got there. Why?" Sara felt helpless and devastated at the same time. She sat down and cried on the floor.
"I can't answer that, Sara." The AI responded.
As she tucked her knees in under her chin, it hit her. Sam hadn't said he didn't know, he had said he couldn't answer that, which was two very different things.
“Hold on... You didn't say you didn't know... You said you couldn't answer. SAM, do you know what happened to me?”
"Yes." SAM replied.
Sara felt her temper go off again. Her blood boiling, it was as if her skin was on fire. She pointed a finger at the machine as if trying to intimidate him.
"TELL ME RIGHT NOW." She said through gritted teeth.
"I cannot do that, Sara. "
"WHY NOT?" She screamed out of frustration.
"Because you were the one to put up these restrictions on my memory in the first place." SAM said.
"You mean to say... that I did this... to myself?" The mere shock of this revelation made Sara feel like throwing up.
"I can't answer that, but I believe you erased your memory because you were afraid."
"Afraid? The initiative can't be trusted... I wrote myself a note! It said to go to the Krogan, and not the initiative. It said to find Morda. To not trust the initiative. SAM.... Am I in danger?"
"Are Harry and Fleming in danger?"
"Not to my knowledge."
"How about Scott? Does this have anything to do with his exiling?"
“I cannot tell you.”
“Did I do this to protect my family?”
“I cannot tell you.”
Sara felt angry again. She took a deep breath to calm herself, before she tried again.
"Why was this shown to me now?"
"You had seen Addison. As per my instructions, you were to trigger this after having met her."
"What are your instructions as to leaving me these?"
"I cannot tell you."
“Sam, please keep this between us. I need to figure out what this is before I tell anyone.”
She left SAM node in shock. Despite what may have seemed like answers, it only left Sara with even more questions than she'd ever had. Who could she trust? She needed to play her cards very carefully from now on.