“This is a really, really bad idea.” Ryder muttered to herself and ran a hand through her hair, bouncing her gaze between all the gathered members of her crew. She remained silent for several moments as the tension built before she spoke up, casting a sidelong glance at the Scottish scientist standing at her side. “Alright, guys, come on, settle down.” She paused for a beat as she waited for the buzz of conversation to taper off before continuing, “As you know, I’m not really in any shape to be driving the Nomad,” she indicated her leg which was wrapped in a cast--the consequences of an ill-judged jump on Kadara. “And since the science guys at Techiix want to meet Suvi and I’ve got to talk to… uh.. History Guy, we’re gonna need someone to drive us and Suvi has no idea how.” Ryder cast a regretful glance at the well-maintained vehicle, knowing deep in her heart that the expensive paint job was about to be credits wasted. “So… I’m going to need to take two of you. One to drive there, one to drive back.” She looked back to the crew who seemed to be paying much closer attention now.
As Ryder quieted down every hand in the room shot up, save for Drack’s. “Me me me!” Peebee, predictably, was the loudest of the bunch as she spoke without pause for breath. “Come on you’ve never let me drive it, I want to drive it!” She whined, bending her knees and beginning to bounce up and down.
“I’m going to regret this aren’t I?” Sara sighed to herself and pointed at the Asari, hesitating slightly before she spoke up, “Okay, fine. But if we crash it’s on you.” Peebee squealed and sprinted directly for the Nomad, practically ripping the doors off and jumping in. “We aren’t going…” Sara trailed off as the Nomad’s engine hummed to life and instantly rolled off of the raised platform, nearly slamming into the lift wall. “...to go yet.” She sighed and looked back to the group. “Drack, I think we’re gonna need you to pull us out of the ditch.”
The Krogan grumbled and trudged toward the ill-fated vehicle, pulling open the door and staring at the Asari who’d managed to get herself stuck under the console during the crash. “Get up.” He grunted and clambered inside in the most ungraceful way possible, visibly weighing down the suspension of the Nomad as he took a seat in the front.
“I guess we’re going now.” Sara chuckled nervously and cast another glance at Suvi, who seemed to be equally terrified of what was about to happen. “This is not going to go well, I hope you know that.”
The redhead gave a half-hearted smile and shuffled her feet. “Well… maybe it won’t be that bad?”
“Peebee the brakes! Hit the brakes!” Suvi’s accent filled the small compartment--a sound Sara would usually be more than happy to hear, but seemed to be drowned out by the crippling fear as they barreled across the snow-covered plains of Voeld toward a massive rock formation.
“I’m trying, I don’t know where they are!” The Asari shouted back, barely audible over Drack’s screaming and Ryder’s swearing. “Are they the left one or the other left one, I’ve never driven this thing before!”
“The left, all the way to the left!” Suvi seemed ready to climb in the front seat and slam the brakes for her but was halted when the Nomad impacted the rock, flipping over and landing top-first in a ditch filled with ice, sending Suvi flying into the very back of the vehicle and Sara over Drack’s shoulder and into his lap while Peebee simply ended up stuck underneath the console again.
Several moments of silence passed as the wheels whirred fruitlessly until their driver pushed herself out from her prison, landing face first on the back of the driver’s seat. “Uh… it’s fine! Drack can help, right?” She twisted around like a ferret and somehow managed to set herself upright, grabbing the steering wheel for balance and gazing hopefully across at the Krogan.
“No can do kid, thing’s in ice, it’ll just slide around.” He looked down at Ryder who was sprawled across his legs, still looking dazed and confused. “You okay? Break anything else?” He shook her slightly and she mumbled in response, blinking several times to clear her head and rolling out of Drack’s lap.
“Suvi, you okay back there?” She shouted, crawling over the upturned seats as best as she could and trying to see past the red emergency lights of the Nomad. A few moments of silence passed before she spoke up again, “Suvi? Do you need help?” Panic rose in Sara’s chest for a moment before she heard a rustling sound.
“Uh… I think? Could you come back here a second?” Her voice sounded distant as the walls of the Nomad soaked up most of the sound from the ‘trunk’. Without hesitation, Sara clambered over Drack and Peebee and began finessing her way through the ceiling-mounted instruments of the vehicle.
“Drack…” She glanced pointedly at the Asari who, characteristically, shot her a wide grin. “Peebee.” Sara grumbled, pointing to the console. “Call Gil and get him to come pick us up.” She began forward before pausing again, looking back. “Also tell Techiix we’re going to be late.”
“Sara?” Suvi’s voice called again as an odd squelching noise filled the cabin. Ryder’s eyes widened as she realized what was going on and she hit her jump jet, rocketing herself across the Nomad and slamming into the back wall with force enough to break another limb. Thankfully not. “Woah!” Suvi shouted and jumped back as best as she could, hitting her head on the wall. “Sara! What’re you doing?!”
Ryder coughed and drew air back into her lungs, perching herself on the lip of the trunk and hunching over so she wasn’t pressed against the ceiling… floor. “What happened?” She looked over the foul smelling goo that covered the floor, along with several canisters of ordinary sand and some shiny rocks.
“Well, I fell back here and knocked over all these… things. What is all this and why do you have it?” She crinkled her nose and picked up one of the slime-covered rocks, brushing the goo aside and looking it over. “Why do you have a bunch of rocks and sand?” She clarified, trying to brush away some of the same slime from her legs. “And what’s this?”
Sara chuckled nervously, scratching the back of her head and grimacing. “Uh… well, that sand is from Elaaden and Eos, the rocks are from H-04… the asteroid place, and the slime is a bunch of water from the sulfur pools on Kadara. After the vault, don’t worry.” Ryder swiped two fingers through the slime, “I guess it isn’t really water anymore though.” She added as an afterthought.
“You’re collecting stuff from the golden worlds?” Suvi tilted her head at the Pathfinder with a little smile. “I think that’s wonderful. I still wish it weren’t all over me though, the sand’s already getting in my jacket.” She adjusted her collar pointedly, wincing slightly as the grains ground against her skin.
“Well you could always take it off and let me look for more, but I’d have to be pretty thorough.” Sara winked and adjusted her posture, balancing herself on the ceiling-floor in preparation for the inevitable playful smack, which--predictably--came.
“Sara, we can’t do that with Peebee here!” She peeked under the chairs at the Asari who seemed to be trying to get comfortable to little avail on the ceiling-floor of the Nomad while Drack simply lay propped up against the wall. “Or Drack. That’d be weird, like doing it in front of my granddad.” She shuddered slightly right alongside Ryder as the image popped into their heads simultaneously.
“Okay, maybe not. You’ll definitely need to shower though, that sulfur smells awful.” Sara laid down on the lip and made herself comfortable. “Speaking of showers, can you ask them where the hell Gil is?” She pointed up to the front of the vehicle where Peebee was now throwing various bits of trash from her bag at an indifferent Krogan.
“Sure, hold on.” Suvi sat up from her slime bath with an audible squelch, making her shiver and take a moment to compose herself before crawling back to the front of the Nomad. Sara watched the two in front react to her smell before Peebee pointed to the front console and Suvi tensed up visibly--even from the back of the vehicle. A few moments later and she was crawling back, keeping her head low and nearly bumping it into a terminal.
“Uh, so, bad news.” She spoke softly as they came within speaking range of one-another. “There’s a blizzard outside and Kallo can’t get to us until it lets up. In about twelve hours.” She wrinkled her nose and clenched her teeth, looking down at the assorted slime and rocks on the floor. “Also, SAM said the temperature out there is pretty bad so they had to turn off all the comms equipment so the life support has more power.
“Well… that’s fucking lovely.”
“Is anyone else really really cold?” Peebee drew in on herself against the wall, hugging her arms to her exposed midriff and wrapping her jacket around her head like a hood, leaving only her face peeking out from the purple leather.
“No.” Drack grunted, scratching the underside of his chin and slumping back against the door with a huff. “Maybe you should’ve put on a shirt.” He pointed to her sleeveless, short-cut tank top that she wore beneath her signature jacket.
“Well Suvi’s just wearing her science outfit!” She whined and pointed to the woman in question who was huddled up with Ryder against the wall just next to Drack, sitting in one of the few places without tech jammed everywhere it could fit.
“Yeah but it covers my whole body. Your pants don’t even cover your legs.” Suvi indicated the Asari’s exposed shins, barely covered by her boots. “Besides, it’s a lot warmer than you’d think, it’s all fluffy on the inside. Well, the cold weather ones anyway. The real ones are barely there, you could probably tear them without much of a thought.”
Ryder leaned her head into Suvi’s shoulder, smirking sideways at her. “You never told me that, maybe I should test that theory out.” She husked into the scientists ear, bringing a blush to both of their faces.
“If you guys are gonna fuck can I at least watch?” Peebee chimed in rather predictably, smirking at the two of them.
“Don’t do that, it already smells bad enough in here.” Drack shot a pointed glance at Suvi and her sulfur-covered suit. “And trust me, I know bad smells.”
“Fine, but I get to watch when we get back.” Peebee huffed and looked between the three.
“Nobody’s watching anything! Weirdos.” Sara muttered as Suvi buried her face in her shoulder, extremely embarrassed by the talk.
“Let’s wait until we’re back to start talking like that again.” She muttered into Sara’s arm.
“All I’m saying is that they shouldn’t talk like that if they don’t want me watching them!” Peebee had strapped herself into the driver’s seat and hung upside down, letting her arms dangle and her fingers press against the ceiling-floor of the Nomad. “I don’t get what’s so weird about it!”
“Aren’t you always bragging about how good you are at getting laid?” Sara lifted her head slightly from its resting place against one of the protruding consoles, her broken leg resting on Suvi’s lap who had remained in the same place for the past hour. “Why do you even need to watch?”
“Why are we still having this conversation?” Suvi groaned and buried her face in her hands, continuing to try and drown out as she had been for the past hour of heated discussion between her girlfriend and the ever-raunchy Asari.
“Watching is different , you wouldn’t understand if you’ve never done it!” Peebee flailed her arms in frustration, sighing heavily and unclipping herself from the seat, promptly falling with a thud.
“This is going to be a really long day.” Sara muttered into her hands.
“Don’t we have any food around here?” Drack growled as he rummaged through one of the Nomad’s many compartments, pulling out various bits of trash that had accumulated over the past several months of exploration. He paused for a moment to consider a spoiled cup of yogurt before throwing that out as well.
“Drack, you’re gonna get trash all over the ceiling.” Peebee groaned, face-down and curled up like a cat underneath/on top of the steering console, using her jacket to cover what little of her it could as she tried to sleep.
“I’m hungry!” He barked back at Peebee, who simply sighed and buried her face back into her arms with a contented sigh.
“Could you guys keep it down back here?” Sara poked her head up from Suvi’s shoulder, staring at them angrily. “What are you doing, Drack? Why are you trashing the Nomad?” She looked to the garbage strewn about the ceiling-floor and drew her lips into a tight line.
“I’m hungry.” He stated again, this time in a whisper as he moved to the next compartment and began rummaging around.
Ryder groaned and reached up above her to the seat, pulling a large package out from underneath and tossing it to him. “There, emergency rations. Share it with Peebee.” She muttered and cuddled back up with the scientist.
“Owwwww!” Peebee whined as a ration bar bounced off of her head. She looked up blearily and snatched the projectile that had woken her up. “Where did this come from?” She looked around the compartment for a moment before her eyes landed on Drack, who’d consumed most of the emergency pack and had left behind only two bars and a bottle of water.
“Ryder said to share.” The Krogan sounded almost like a child as he spoke, leaned up against one of the seats with his legs stretched out in front of him and a hand on his stomach. “I can’t eat anymore anyway.” He grumbled, licking his lips and dozing off almost immediately.
Peebee shrugged and unwrapped the bar, taking a bite.
“Uuuuuugh I’m so bored!” Peebee shouted and shut her omni tool down as the pre-installed game failed to amuse. “Everyone get up, I wanna do something!” She balled up the ration bar wrapper and threw it at Drack, who simply continued snoring.
Ryder and Suvi, on the other hand, were not so lucky, clambering to the front of the vehicle. “What do you want now?” The Scot complained, slumping down over one of the consoles and watching Peebee hop down with a renewed vigor.
“I wanna do something!” She whined again, even louder than before. “The omni-tool doesn’t have anything fun.” The Asari pouted and slumped up against the wall, hugging her knees to her chest. “Don’t you keep board games stocked in here or something? You had food.” She looked around the cabin, trying to spot anything fun stashed away.
“This is an exploration vehicle, not a road trip car for kids.” Sara spoke pointedly before promptly pulling out a colorful box from behind her. “But yes, I do.”
“Remind me again why you have more board games than food in here?” Drack grumbled and slid his piece across the board onto the colored square, tossing down a fistful of money. “I’m buying that one.” He laughed as Sara groaned and pulled out the property card, handing it over to him.
“You never know when you’re gonna have to camp out for the night and you need entertainment.” She shrugged and watched Suvi roll the dice and land directly on one of her properties. “Yes! Yes, you…” She caught her girlfriend’s death glare and glanced at the back of the property card for a moment. “Uhhhh… don’t have to pay anything.” She turned her gaze away for a moment and narrowed her eyes at Peebee, who gave a ‘whipped’ gesture with a shit-eating grin plastered over her face. “I will break your bank.”
“Hah! Good luck!” The Asari rolled the dice next and tapped her piece across the board with a renewed vigor before landing on one of Suvi’s properties and instantly losing all her cheer. “Uh… so, about all that stuff before.” She spoke up after a long silence, grinning nervously at the scientist.
“Suvi?” Sara smiled wolfishly.
“Would you stop squirming?” Drack rumbled into Peebee’s ear as she tried desperately to escape his arms and get her revenge on Suvi. “I’m trying to sleep.” The Krogan rested his head against the chair once again and squeezed the Asari tighter until she caught on and stopped moving. “Better.”
“You’re sleeping again? You haven’t even been up for an hour!” Suvi seemed confused, curled up in the corner with Sara’s jacket over her shoulder while the Pathfinder was off on a bathroom break.
“What else is there to do?” Drack didn’t even seem fazed as Peebee tried to pry his arms away from her waist, pretending not to notice it.
“Cold cold cold cold!” Sara shouted as she dove in through the emergency hatch on the bottom of the Nomad and shut it hastily before too much heat could escape. “Ho-oly shit cold!” Even though she’d only been gone for a few minutes her eyelashes had already formed small dustings of frost.
“Come here!” Suvi spoke with urgency and pulled the jacket off, presenting it for Sara who huddled underneath it like a blanket and cuddled up to Suvi, shivering.
“W-why did I do that?” Sara wondered aloud, flexing her fingers to try and return feeling to them. “So warm.” She whispered, tucking her head into the jacket and curling up.
A few minutes passed before she spoke up again, “Is Peebee still upset with you?”
A shout tore across the Nomad, loud enough to wake its captor, “YES!”
As the time ticked away Peebee eventually tired herself out and fell asleep in Drack’s arms, resting her head against his plate and snoring almost as loudly as the Krogan did.
“They’re so cute together. Like a granddad and his grandaughter.” Suvi whispered to Sara who was still curled up in her lap, albeit shivering much less intensely than before as the Nomad’s heaters kicked back in.
“Yeah, or one of those weird couples where the girl is like a hundred years younger than the guy.” Sara mused, burying her head in Suvi’s thigh again and sighing not unlike a comfortable animal would.
“Well now you’ve gone and ruined it!” The Scot flicked her ear with a huff before laying her hand on the side of her head. “You still sleepy?” She peered at Sara’s face, tilting her head to the side to try and see beyond her strawberry-red hair and brushing a few strands away.
Silence passed between the two for a moment before Sara broke it, humming quietly and shaking her head, “No, I just like laying here. You’re comfy.”
“Yeah, and it helps that you’re short enough to fit.” Suvi laughed a bit too loudly as Ryder reached up and pressed her palm against the scientist’s face, pushing her away playfully. Luckily, it wasn’t enough to wake up the two sleeping beauties on the other side of the vehicle.
“Is that dry enough for you?” Ryder snickered and took a swig from her water bottle as Suvi crunched her way through another bland bite of ration bar with a grimace, washing it down shortly after with a sip of water.
“It’s so… tasteless. How do they manage to make it taste like wood?” The scientist muttered, picking at a withered chunk of something and trying to figure out what exactly it was and how edible it was supposed to be.
“Hey, these are for survival, not taste.” Sara pointedly took another bite of her bar and nearly gagged trying to swallow it. “Eugh… then again, I might not survive trying to eat this.” She muttered, sniffing it cautiously. “Seriously, what is in this thing? Does yours have ingredients on it?” Ryder peered curiously over at Suvi’s wrapper.
“No, because I’m pretty sure it’s just cardboard.” She turned the wrapper over a couple of times in an attempt to pinpoint the ingredients but couldn’t find anything other than the word “RATION” printed on the foil wrapper.
“Well, I guess it’s food. Probably.” Sara shrugged and took another bite, clamping her hand over her mouth and forcing herself to swallow it.
“Fuck, you’re so hot.” Sara breathed into Suvi’s ear the scientist sucked at the hollow of her neck, both hands clamped on her rear as the Pathfinder straddled her hips and began to slide her hands under her coat.
“Shhh, don’t wake them up.” Suvi hissed, shuddering as Sara’s cold fingers made contact with her belly.
“I knew it!” An accusatory voice rang from behind them, startling Drack from his sleep with a snort.
“Shit!” Ryder screamed and practically jumped off of her girlfriend, scrambling away like she’d been burned. “Nothing!” She protested preemptively, clearing her throat and trying to fix her messy hair.
“What’s going on, is the cavalry here?” Drack grunted and looked around the Nomad--still upturned in the snow.
“They were about to do it!” Peebee shook Drack’s arm excitedly, pointing at Suvi and then Ryder, who’d scrambled to the other side of the cabin and looked like she’d just seen a ghost. “They were totally about to do it, I called it, you owe me credits!”
“Ah for the love of…” Drack grumbled and brought up his omni-tool, authorizing a transfer into Peebee’s account.
“We were not! She was just cold!” Despite her protests, Suvi was red as a beet and trying to disappear into the walls to little avail, hugging her arms to her chest and avoiding eye contact with anyone else in the cabin.
“Yeah, cold!” Sara chimed in unhelpfully, similarly trying not to look at anyone as she tied her hair back into a ponytail.
“Come on guys, I’m not blind , you were totally about to do it!” Peebee bounced happily, counting out her credits. “And now I have a bunch of--” She shrieked as Drack pushed her out of his lap and onto the floor, turning over and facing the back of the chair.
Peebee sat upright and began humming a soft tune and bouncing her head back and forth.
“I’ll be gone,” Sara belted out, standing as best as she could in the narrow cabin while the others around her provided background vocals. “In a day or two!” She held the final note rather shakily, though as the other three joined in it was barely audible.
As the singing tapered off everyone applauded loudly and Ryder slumped down against the wall, out of breath and red in the face but smiling. “I’m surprised you knew that one, Drack!” Peebee called over to the Krogan as she slid back into a sitting position.
“It’s a classic, why wouldn’t I?” He rumbled and laughed heartily, collapsing against the dashboard and resting his hump on the steering wheel.
“I’m surprised anyone still listens to songs that old.” Suvi chimed in, sliding smoothly up to the Pathfinder and wrapping her arms around her neck. “Archives of them aren’t exactly common you know?”
“Yeah, but that one was really really popular.” Sara shrugged, taking a deep breath and steadying herself. “Well, that was fun. What next?”
“Strip poker!” Peebee shouted, throwing a pack of cards directly at Sara’s face and leaving behind a large red mark. “Come on come on come on come on! We gotta!” She began pleading even before the Pathfinder could deny her request, clamping her hands together and bouncing up and down on her knees.
“Hey Peebee, you remember what happened the last time I gave into that?” Sara gestured around the upturned Nomad, raising her eyebrows at her and drawing her lips into a thin line.
“Well yeah but this can’t go wrong! Not like… this, anyway. Still, c’mon!” She deflated and appeared to be begging like a child.
“What does everyone else think?” Ryder looked to Drack and Suvi wearily, hoping for a democratic resolution to the problem.
“If it’ll make me less bored then I’ll do anything.” The Krogan sat up and crawled forward, barely fitting in between the consoles that he nearly crushed with his weight. “Long as you don’t mind seeing naked krogan, heh heh heh.”
“Well that’s a horrifying image.” Suvi whispered, cringing a bit and looking to Ryder. “I guess. You know they’re gonna play anyway and that’s double the chance of seeing Drack naked.”
Ryder huffed, finding herself unable to disagree with that logic.
“Okay, okay. I really hope this doesn’t get weird.”
“Put them back on Drack, please!” Suvi clamped her hands over her eyes as Drack went to grab his greaves, grumbling and tugging them back on and nearly cracking his hump against the roof-floor of the Nomad.
“You wanted to play!” He shouted over the noise Sara and Suvi were making. Peebee, on the other hand, seemed rather interested, even if Drack was covered up with some uncomfortably form-fitting underwear that wouldn’t leave much to the imagination if the cabin weren’t so dark. Even so, the two were likely traumatized beyond repair.
“Why did I agree to this?!” Sara shouted, burying her face in Suvi’s chest, who hardly seemed to notice as she tried to purge her brain of the thoughts that clouded her head. “Why can’t I just trust my gut sometimes?!”
“Oh come on you guys, it’s not that bad! It’s like… an old skeleton. A really big old skeleton. With leather stuffed into it.” Peebee narrowed her eyes at Drack, who was still topless and trying to fit his armor back over his head.
“Stop making it worse!” Suvi shrieked, folding into Sara and layering them over each-other. “Oh God my eyes!”
“You guys are jerks.” Drack muttered, slumping back against the Nomad’s wall and turning over onto his side.
The group was jolted from their slumber by the lurching of the Nomad as it was lifted up. “Oh shit, hold on!” Ryder shouted as the hull groaned. While most were fast enough to take hold of something, Peebee didn’t seem to get the message and ended up falling across the cabin into the sludge and rocks.
“Ow! Why do we have this stuff?!” She shouted back, her voice barely audible through the scraping of the clamp against the metal.
They seemed to hang in the air for a long time before the vehicle clanged against the deck of the Tempest and the doors hissed open, the emergency lights finally shutting down and leaving the Nomad in the dark.
“Solid ground!” Suvi staggered out of the vehicle and instantly fell to the ground, stretching languidly, followed suit by Ryder and Suvi. Drack, on the other hand, simply hopped out of the other side. “Fresh air!” The scientist took a deep breath before relaxing on the cold metal of the floor.
“Wow, you guys smell awful .” Vetra commented from behind her hand, which she’d clamped over both her nose and mouth. “What happened in there?” She peered into the Nomad only to pull back in a coughing fit, shutting the doors and waving the stench away. “Nevermind, I don’t wanna know.”
“So, twelve hours in a truck, how do you guys feel?” Gil stood over the three still stretched out on the floor, his hands on his hips and a grin plastered on his face.
“You don’t know the horros that go on when you’re trapped in a truck.” Ryder whispered and stood shakily, brushing herself off and limping toward the crew quarters. “I’m gonna go take a shower. Suvi, come take a shower, you stink!”
Grudgingly, the Scot obliged, pushing up to her feet reluctantly and trudging after the Pathfinder.
“Why do you smell like Kadara?” Liam directed his question to the lounging Asari who was still trying to find her feet.
“Ryder’s collecting slime.” She stated matter-of-factly, standing up and making her way for the ladders. “I’m gonna go sleep in a real bed, don’t bother me or Poc’ll zap you!” She chuckled to herself. “Poc. Zap.”
“Yeah, you guys probably don’t wanna go in there for a while.” Drack adjusted his belt and jabbed a thumb at the vehicle. “Pretty gross.”
Despite requests for him to elaborate, the Krogan simply made for the kitchen, seemingly exhausted despite his extensive napping.
“Oh fuck Suvi!” Sara moaned and arched her back, biting her bottom lip.
“Oh Ryder it feels so good!” Suvi responded in turn, groaning and bracing herself on the wall as the pleasure washed over her.
“Fuuuuuck!” Ryder hissed out, tensing up and then slumping against the wall. “I needed this so badly.” She breathed.
“I know, I felt like I was gonna die in there.” Suvi ran a hand through her soaked hair, sitting down and slumping forward.
“Don’t worry, I overrode the rations so we can stay in here as long as we want.” Sara leaned up against her girlfriend with a sigh as they both sat on the floor of the shower. “God this feels so good.” She moaned again as the water washed over her back.
“Can we go eat some real food after this with real taste?” Suvi whispered almost wonderously, as if the very concept were incredible to her. “And some cold water too!” She chirped out, resting her head on Ryder’s.
“That sounds absolutely incredible. Then maybe we could retire to the bedroom and… you know.” Sara smirked up at Suvi.
“Sleep in a real bed?”
“You read my mind.