"This path began a long time ago. A course paved through human history that took us across continents, oceans, and ultimately...to the stars. For us, this planet is home. It's protected us, challenged us, provided us the foundation to become galactic citizens. But the time has come to prepare ourselves for a future beyond the Milky Way. A future that begins 600 years from where we stand. In a time and place among unknown stars and unseen dangers. And so we issue this call to the brave, the inquisitive. To the trailblazers of the human race. As an invitation to stand on the shoulders of those who came before, and challenge yourself to go further." - Alec Ryder
Bolting upright from the pod, my breath rips from my throat in a ragged gasp, my head pounds and my throat aches as if I’ve spent a century screaming, my eyes flick from face to face, met with strangers until my eyes land on the familiar face of my sister, my chest heaves as she presses forward, kneeling before me to grab me into a hug. I cling to her as she cards her fingers through my red hair as the people behind her and around me chatter, my eyes press shut as tight as I can, before I take a deep breath, swallowing as I pull back, looking into Cassie’s bright blue eyes. “What. Happened?” I rasp as Cassie frowns, and stands as she grabs my hand, slowly helping me to my feet as a familiar gray haired, dark skinned man, the closest thing to my dad’s best friend, comes over. “Harry!” I cry, coughing as dry pain ripples through my throat, he smiles as he holds out a bottle of water to me.
“Hey, kid.” He greets, placing a hand on my head as I sit on one of the medical tables, unscrewing the cap of my water, and downing it, feeling the cool water brush and stream down my throat, soothing the ache there. “We’re going to check your SAM implant now, okay?”
“Alright.” I look at Cassie as she smiles at me, crossing her arms over her chest, cocking her hip as Harry walks over to the console beside my table.
“SAM, are you online?” Harry asks, causing me to shutter as there is silence, fear fills me for a moment, before a buzzy sort of robotic voice answers aloud.
“Yes, Doctor. Hello Josie, how are you feeling?” SAM asks, causing me to grin.
“Hey SAM,” I answer the AI, feeling like I’ve been reunited with a long lost friend, seeing as I helped dad build the AI. “long time no see!”
“It is good to see you again, but I am afraid you have yet to answer my question.” SAM responds, causing me to smirk.
“I’d feel a lot better if Cassie would tell me what’s happened. Other than that, I feel good. Happy to be awake.” I finally answer his question.
“Neurological scans indicate high levels of dopamine, oxytocin, serotonin, and endorphins, indicating that you are happy.” SAM answers, causing Harry to nod as he walks over to stand before me, opening his omni tool to scan me, going through the list for the check up, and once he deems me well enough, I stand to walk over to the door, where Cassie is talking to an unfamiliar guy with dreads, and scruff.
“Now, are you going to tell me what’s going on?” I demand without a care of interrupting their conversation, causing the guy to fall silent as he stares at me.
“Holy hell, Cassie-” His voice is smokey, a british accent hints at his tone. “It’s a miniature redheaded you!”
“That would be because she’s Lysander and I’s little sister.” Cassie points out, causing the guy to raise an eyebrow at me.
“You mean there are more Ryders?” I roll my eyes as I look at my sister, sighing impatiently as she shakes her head.
“It’s best for you to wait until we’re aboard the Tempest with Lysander.” She states, holding her hand out to usher me forward, and I cross my arms over my chest, cocking a hip as I glare at her.
“Where’s dad?” I urge, causing Cassie to stall, frowning as she grabs my arm, tugging me off to the side of the corridor, just outside the medical bay. As she finally lets go of me, I whirl around on her, my glare pinned on her as the guy lurks nearby, not close enough to eavesdrop, but enough to guard us, and keep others from trying to eavesdrop. “Cassie, where is dad?” I insist, causing her to frown.
“Dad’s dead.” Her words strike me true, causing me to gape at her.
“What?” I gasp.
“Dad’s dead .” Cassie snarls. “Dad’s dead, the golden worlds didn’t pan out, Lysander was in a coma, and Mom’s still alive.” I choke as my breath hitches, eyes widening as I stumble back, catching myself against the wall behind me, struggling to get a grip on the words she’s spewed.
“Th-Then Cora’s Pathfinder?” I finally choke out, looking up at her in expectation.
“No, dad passed down the role of Pathfinder to me, and I think I managed a damn good job at it.” Cassie answers, she parts her feet, locking her hands behind her back, making her look relatively military- if not for the pink streak in her hair, and black and blue sweatpants and the black muscle shirt with Blasto on it. “We have a home, multiple homes.”
“Then why wake me now? I understand that you have this power, but I wasn’t due to come out of cryo- unless there was an emergency that requires me specifically- until the very last batch of defrosts.” I state, causing Cassie to sigh.
“We found a new alien species called the Angara- very emotional, very huggy, and to give them more of a say, I put their Political Icon in an ambassador position on the Nexus. This has lead to her suggestion of having a “Ryder” stay on Aya as an ambassador.” I frown as I tossle my deep cherry red locks, blinking my one blue and one green eye at her.
“You chose me for an ambassador position? Send Lysander, he was part of the Alliance Peacekeeping system, not me!” I cry out, causing her to huff.
“I would, except he’s helping out on our main planet, Meridian. He’s clearing out pockets of enemies that managed to escape, and help set up outposts.” Cassie explains. “Besides, you’re my little sister, I’d feel better with you planetside in a place where I know you’d be safe- The Angaran Homeworld is perfect. Especially because Moshae Sjefa- the Political Icon- has managed to get the Military Leader to relent to let this new “ambassador” to stay with him at his house.”
“Are you kidding me?! A live-in babysitter?!” I throw my arms above my head, groaning as they fall on my head, and I dig my nails into my scalp. “I’m a cook , and engineer, expendable! Not some political ambassador that will probably end up offending this new race, in some way!” I cry out.
“You’ve seen the workings of-”
“You just want me under a protection duty because I’m the youngest!” I huff, dropping my arms to cross my arms over my chest, and clench my hands into fists, tight enough that my nails bite into the palms of my hands. “You know what? Whatever. Ditch the kid sister as always!”
“We’re not ditching you, Josie! We just want-” I scoff, turning to stalk up the stairs, effectively cutting her off as she rolls her eyes, and she catches up at the top with the guy with dreads. “This is Liam, by the way.” Cassie states, causing me to nod to the guy silently as we climb onto the tram, and I sit on the seat closest to the door, watching my sister and the young man talk in hushed voices in the corner. Before long, the tram stops at the docking bay, so I stand to follow Cassie and Liam towards the ship, bite my lip all the while.
“Where’s my crate?” I finally ask, tugging at the Initiative Regulation clothes. “I wanna change.”
“On the Tempest , in the captain’s quarters- You can change once we’re on board.” Cassie answers, causing me to huff as she opens a door, and we cross a platform to climb on board a sleek black and white Spacecraft of fine make, obviously a very dedicated team put her together. Cassie leads through the empty ship as Liam branches off towards the Cargo Hold, after a minute, we enter a large cabin between two ladders, and Cassie gesture to my Initiative Regulation crate sitting before a black leather couch. I plop down before it on the couch as Cassie leaves. Throwing open my crate to pull out a pair of old fashion, faded dark blue jeans with the knees torn, I set them beside me before I pull out my faded, light blue denim vest, a black short sleeve shirt with a black choker, and my dark gray arm warmers. I make quick work of shedding the uniform, tugging on my favorite outfit that I packed, braiding back my hair with my Initiative issued hair ties, letting the braid smack my waist as I continue to dig through the crate, seeing whatever else I packed. I have my tool belt with tools still on it, three books of recipes, two hundred packs of veggie and fruit seeds of various assortments, twelve boxes of cocoa, a small box of exotic cocoa beans, some old holopictures, assorted spices, and my own boxes of amino-dextro friendly recipes, along with a large bag that was flattened at the bottom, and at the very bottom, beneath everything else, is my favorite pistol. Lifting the pistol, I examine the blue and black M-3 Predator, trailing my finger across the names etched into back of the handle, my smile spreads as I study the names ‘Xanthe Shepard’ and ‘Garrus Vakarian’, two of my idols I had been lucky enough to meet. Commander Shepard, herself, had given me the pistol after she watched me tackle her Geth companion on the Citadel- she laughed at me before telling me that I’d better succeed on taking down Geth with a gun, then gave me her spare as I stood and stared at her in shock.
“Josie!” I jump, snapping from my reverie as the gun falls back into the box, meanwhile I’m tackled from behind by my brother, his arms tight around my neck as I gag.
“Need.” I smack his arm, causing him to yelp, releasing me as I take a large breath “Air.” I breath out, and turn to glare at Lysander, who stands behind the couch with a huge grin on his face, his brown hair spiked up, his green bangs stands further up than the rest of his hair, his blue eyes sparking mischievously. “I had a pistol in my hand.” His face falls.
“Oh, sorry.” He grins, hopping over the back of the couch, and plops down beside me as he nudges me. “I missed you.”
“Missed you too, Lys.” I answer, nudging him back with a grin before, I pull the bag out of the bottom of my crate, and start to pack my belongings away. “Been keeping out of trouble?” I taunt. Lysander and I have always gotten along best, it’s great to see him alright.
“By keeping out of trouble, you mean banging the hot drive core engineer… yes.” Lysander grins cheekily, and I roll my eyes.
“You sure work fast, I haven’t even met the new species, and I’m apparently, I’m the new ambassador on their planet.” I explain, causing him to frown.
“They’re not bad, maybe I’ll introduce you to Jaal- Cassie’s boyfriend, an Angara, good guy, good friend. His boss is hot. That’s who you’ll be staying with.” Lysander offers.
“That’d be awesome, Lys.” I hug my brother real quick, before zipping up my bag, and hooking my gun to my belt loop. “Thanks.”
“Jocelyn, Cassie wishes me to tell you that we are to touch down on Aya in one week.” SAM chirps from his console on the desk across the room.
“Alright, thanks SAM.” I state as I close my crate, and Lysander clings to me once again.
“Boo! You just got out of Cryo, and you’re already being sent to work!” Lysander groans, laying his head on my own as I huff, and shove him off, lifting my bag from the floor to drop the bag on the couch, before I cross to the door, and Lysander perks up. “Right! Jaal! Let’s go!” He grabs my arm, leading me down the hall, and up the elevator in the cargo bay, before tugging me towards the tech lab. The door opens to reveal a burly purple alien with his back to us. “Jaal, man, meet Cas and I’s kid sister.” The Angara turns to us, revealing a cat-like structure for his face, and eyes that are wide, the orbs reflecting like space, and is irises are like looking at Earth from a space transit. “She’s gonna take the ambassador position on Aya.”
“That…” The Alien, Jaal, starts to rumble in laughter. “Is going to be hilarious!” Jaal smiles down at me. “You are rather small, compared to your siblings.”
“I take after our mom. I’m the runt.” I smirk at him, causing him to blink, before booming with laughter once more, slamming his hand into my back, none too gently, causing me to wince. “Ow.” I mutter under my breath, causing him to smile apologetically.
“Angara are rather free with their emotions, Josie. All of ‘em, except for Evfra.” Lysander explains, causing me to nod. “Jaal, I brought Josie so she could learn about your race, firsthand.” Jaal looks at me, before his nods in understanding.
“I will teach you, but it is better to learn in person.” Jaal’s voice has a natural echoing undertone, just like the Turians, like subharmonics. “Thought,” Jaal smirks. “Evfra is not exactly what qualifies as usual Anagara.”
“What?” I ask, causing Jaal to pause, before blinking.
“That was a joke .” Jaal explains, causing me to pause, before I nod.
“Oh. Sorry, I’m… uh… calculating and processing everything.” He tilts his head at me, before Lysander places a hand on my shoulder.
“Shock.” Jaal nods at that.
“Perhaps I have something that may help.” He offers, causing me to look at him in confusion, my head tilted a bit as he gestures towards the door, Lysander steers me out the door as the large Angaran follows, leading us towards the galley which opens to reveal a scarred Krogan with skin and plates of varying shades of brown and gray, and yellow armor standing before the stove, a rather appetizing scent coming from it. “Sit.” Jaal says, causing me to nod, settling on the bench beside Lysander, while Jaal rustles around in the cabinets.
“Who’s the runt?” The Krogan asks, eyeing me with beady yellow orbs.
“Drack, this is Josie. She’s Cassie and I’s little sister.” Lysander introduces. “We had to wake her up for the Ambassador position on Aya.” The Krogan looks at me as I smile at him, causing him to blink, before he grabs a bunch of fruit, a tube of paste, and a few things of protein bars, dropping them all on the table before me.
“Eat.” He rumbles, causing me to stare at the miniature feast before me, before looking at Lysander, then Drack, who points to the food again. “ Eat !” He growls.
“Drack, ease up.” Lysander says with shoulders quaking with laughter. “She just woke up!” Drack huffs, before he grabs the fruit and protein bars, putting them away as I stare at the leftover paste tube.
“I believe this is Drack’s way of saying that you are rather small.” Jaal says, walking over with a metal mug steaming in his hands, settling across from me as he presses the mug towards me. “Or that he is worried about your size. Please, drink, it will help.” I tilt my head at him in curiosity, bringing the mug to my lips before I take a large sip of the steaming liquid, the flavor that explodes across my tongue is heavenly, warmth spreading through my cold body from my fingers to my toes.
“This is heavenly.” I murmur, giving a soft smile as he nods.
“This is a tea, we call it Anj-set-vesoan ; Anchor to Explorer.” Jaal explains. “It helps with the shock.
“It tastes like Oranges and Raspberries with a small amount of vanilla.” I state, causing Lysander to nod excitedly as he takes the food paste tube to open it for me.
“It does, but it’s made with stuff from Aya, the Anagaran’s main world.” Lysander explains, causing me to smile as I eat some of the paste, before taking another drink of the tea.
“Thank you, Jaal.” I say as he nods.
“My pleasure.” He answers. “I believe now would be a good time to explain the culture of my people. Starting with my people had been at war with the Kett for 80 years.”
“Uh… Kett?” I ask, causing Jaal to look at me in confusion, before looking at Lysander, who looks at me in confusion as well.
“Cassie didn’t explain?” Lysander asks, causing me to shake my head. “Alright, maybe we should start from when we landed in Andromeda, and go from there.” I sip my tea, waiting for my brother to continue.