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Fire and Ice

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A sudden rush of heat. Burning, searing, scorching.

A blast of force. Pushing, crushing, suffocating. 

Then, falling. 

Falling…

Further…

As the ground rushed up to meet her, Ryder had only a split second to squeeze her eyes shut. When she opened them again, her suit was blaring an alarm. Pain coursed through her veins like molten lava but that agony was nothing.

Air. 

Her mouth opened and closed. Gasping, open and close, like a fish. There was no air to be found. None. Every gasp brought in more toxic gas that choked her, that killed her. 

Air.

There was none to be had. Fingers clawed at her neck. Frantic and urgent. Her ribs ached, her lungs screamed, her throat begged. 

“Air!” she screamed as she jolted awake. 

Her eyes blinked. Her father’s face mouthing words she couldn’t hear, would never hear again, danced across the back of her eyelids like a spectre that refused to leave her alone. Her heart hammered against her chest, begging for release. 

“Pathfinder, do you require help?” A foreign voice spoke in her mind. 

Ryder flinched. Her mouth opened, but she barely had the breath to answer. Her hands shook a little as she dragged her fingers through her sweat soaked blonde hair. Her lungs dragged breath after breath of air, cool, sweet albeit recycled air. 

How long did it take. Her lungs stopped screaming, her heart stopped slamming against her ribs, her hands stilled. With a growl, Ryder pulled her hair back into a ponytail. Her fingers and hands working rougher and faster than usual. The tiny pull of her scalp didn’t matter today. 

This was her new normal. Her father dead, a voice in her head. 

Her eyes scanned the room, for dangers, for threats, for a way out. Piercing blue eyes snagged on the outline of the door. She had fell asleep on the chair in front of her father’s console, in her father’s room. Her dead father’s. 

“Pathfinder, do you require assistance?” 

“Shut up,” Ryder growled finally. 

Mercifully, SAM remained silent. Pushing herself off the chair, she stood on slightly shaky legs. A sound of frustration erupted from her throat. Ryder didn’t need any more reminder that she was Pathfinder now. A job she wasn’t interested, in a galaxy she wasn’t even sure she wanted to be in with a brother in a coma. Her brother, her fucking twin. 

“Argh!” 

A scream so ragged, so raw ripped through her throat, giving voice to everything she didn’t know how to put into words. Words she didn’t have, never have. would ever have. Emotions primal and base boiled just under her skin. They burnt. She glared at the empty room balefully, trying to find something wrong with it. There had to be. Why was she feeling this way? 

What the fuck did he save my life for? He was the one needed, not the kid, not fucking me. 

She stomped straight to the door. She couldn’t be in here. The room didn’t belong to her. She didn’t belong here. The Tempest was safer, would be safer, must be safer. 

Her legs carried her straight to the Tempest’s docking bay before she made a conscious decision. Ryder slammed her palm against the holo-lock. The door slid open quietly on command. She could feel her pulse throbbed against her temple, the pressure against her skull was fast turning into a headache.

Ryder stepped through the threshold. The door slid close behind her, sealing her away in. The Tempest empty. The air still. She took a deep breath. It was silent save for a constant hum of the Mass Effect drives. The lights dimmed for the night cycle. 

Her lungs swallowed every molecule of oxygen greedily. Her booted feet echoed a little as she walked off the bridge. Ryder paused for a moment trying to remember which way to go to the Pathfinder’s, no, her quarters. She was the Pathfinder now. 

Ladder. Yes, the ladder. Ryder slid down the ladder with practised ease. Her throat was raw from her episode, she needed water to soothe it. Turning her back to her quarters she headed towards the gallery. Ryder allowed the peace of the Tempest to tame her anger. The fire in the pit of her gut banked as the silence eased the dull ache of her head. Just as she was about to press her palm against the galley’s door, she heard a sound. 

Ryder froze. Her head cocked as her body shifted into an alert stance. Her hand went to her hip. There was no pistol there. 

“Fuck,” she growled. 

Light streaming out from the bottom of the medbay. Ryder cursed herself for not noticing. It was not like her. The day was fucked. Her life was fucked. And now her skills failed her. 

“Fuck.”

She came to the Tempest for peace. Not more people, not more noise, more questions, more and more. Heedless, she slammed her palm against the holo-lock. It slid open soundlessly. 

Her hard ice-cold eyes found Dr Carlyle sitting at Dr T’Perro’s desk. Dear Dr Harry fucking Carlyle. Her hands made fists as she forced them into her pockets. 

“What are you doing here,” Ryder demanded, stepping into the medbay. 

The door closed behind her. Ryder walked to the opposite end of the room. “I thought the Tempest was empty.”

Dr Carlyle went on working, ignoring her. The fires flared anew. “Hey, answer the question,” she growled, baring her teeth at him. 

“T’Sony wanted me to conduct tests on the body you found,” he replied tonelessly, head bent over some science equipment. “That’s what I’m doing.”

Ryder’s head throbbed harder at his lack of emotions. Her nostrils flared. Why was he calm? He didn’t deserve it not when she was fucked over. Nobody deserved calm. 

“So nobody could deliver samples to you on the Hyperion? You have to do it here?” 

“No,” Dr Carlyle replied, as he jotted down some notes on a datapad, eyes still refusing to meet hers. 

Ryder took a deep breath, took two steps closer to the doctor. Her fists trembled from the intensity she was clenching them, 

“Transportation will damage the sample.”

“Really?” Disbelief and scorn dripping from her words. “And the Tempest is the best place for these tests?”

“Yes,” Carlyle replied, his words clipped and curt, his movements sharp and fast. “The body isn’t usually in a state of decomposition. You will understand that if you had listened.”

Ryder grinned, a feral smile perched on her lips, pleased to get some kind of reaction from the doctor. “So you’re just hanging around here without supervision?”

That did it. Dr Carlyle looked up. His grey eyes flashed with frustration. Good. That’s right. Fuck him. 

“I’m an employee of the Initiative. This is the property of the Initiative. I can go wherever I want,” he replied, voice rising. 

Ryder took another step closer, her arms folded over her chest. Her hands tight over her arms. “This,” she gestured at the medbay, “is the property of the Pathfinder team. I am the Pathfinder. I didn’t allow you to be here.”

Ryder’s foot steps loud and sharp as she did a single circuit of the rapidly shrinking room. It could barely contained her fire and ice. “Hey, I can arrange an escort off the Tempest for you.”

Carlyle stood abruptly. The chair scrapping against the floor harshly. “I can read the exit sign, thank you very much.”

“Well,” Ryder said jutting her chin out at him. “You can find your way out. Like the rat you are, escaping this fucking sinking ship.”

Carlyle took a step back from Ryder’s vehemence. Ryder saw a look crossed his eyes but she couldn’t quite placed it and she didn’t care to. Her hands unfolded, now held tight against her side, waiting. 

“We didn’t run,” Carlyle rasped tightly. “I didn’t run. I was the doctor of your father.”

Ryder refused to react. Her fire tempering her steel in her spine. Her face, a mask of stone. 

“I know you’re hurting but Sara you’re behaving like a child.”

It was a slap across her face. Her brow knitted together. Her mouth twisted. “Not Sara,” she growled, her eyes ice and fire. “It’s Pathfinder Ryder.”

Keeping her hands to her side was no longer enough. Her eyes glared at the work on the desk. How she longed to sweep it all to the floor. With a snarl of anger, she slammed her fist into the wall next to her instead. 

“Yeah, I’m a child,” Ryder all but shouted. “I am Alec Ryder’s child. And you are my father’s doctor.”

A laugh, so bitter she could taste it, escaped her lips unbidden. “Where is my father huh, doctor? Where is he?”

“Sara…”

“Ryder!” Her snarl was so feral, Carlyle took another step back, his eyes both fearful and angry. 

“Get the fuck off the Tempest. You have five minutes.”

Without giving him a chance to reply, Ryder slammed her fist on the door. She slipped through before the door open completely leaving a wake of anger, hurt and pain behind.