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Standing Strong and Staying Clear Together

Chapter Text

Sakura Ryder gazed out the window of the bridge, hands on the railing. Her sky blue eyes almost matching the FTL tunnel effect streaming outside.

She ran her fingers through her jet black hair, cursing slightly why she didn't tie it up. Her standard blue and white Initiative uniform stood out stark against her earth brown skin.

Looking out, she imagined she could see Eos as they passed the Pytheas system on their way to Kadara. She sighed, it was a, as Liam called it, hive of scum and villainy. And he was right. Choked full of problems that needed solutions that tarred everyone, herself included, black.

She closed her eyes, her memories trailing back to before Andromeda and what lead up to this point.

Six hundred and ninety years ago, in 2129, her and her brother Scott's parents were born. Their mother Ellen Ryder in the city of Nara in the Nara prefecture of Japan. Wish I could have seen the place, sounded beautiful from how mom described it. Their father, Alec Ryder, was born the same year in the Sierra Nevada region in the United States. Sounded interesting, but nowhere near as interesting as Nara.

Years later in 2154, in Rio de Janeiro, their mother would meet their father Alec Ryder while he was in N7 training. Mom always said he was a charmer, and she could tell even from the start that he was smitten with her. And would meet and date many times.

In 2163, Sakura and her twin brother Scott were born on the Citadel. Their father gave Scott his name. While their mother gave Sakura her name, in honor of her Japanese ancestry from her mother's side of the family in Japan, and she had loved cherry blossoms. Wish I could have learned more about my mother's side of the family...sounded so interesting.

A year later, their mother was diagnosed with AEND, a terminal neurodegenerative disease caused by Element Zero exposure with no cure. Their father resorted to developing illegal AI technology in a desperate attempt to save her. He was able to continue the research for years, growing distant from his children. Wish you spent more time with us father...though you did give us some of your N7 training, or as you put it, 'N-School training'. Thanks, dad. Really saved our asses too many times to count.

Six hundred and thirty five years ago in 2185, with their mother dead from her disease, their father dishonorably discharged for his illegal AI research, and her and her brother's careers ruined; they departed for Andromeda with the Andromeda Initiative. A new beginning, in so many ways. Little did we know what we were going to run into...

In hindsight, we slept through one apocalypse, the Scourge event four centuries ago. And late to the tragedy of the Kett invasion by eighty years.

The arrival in Andromeda onward was far from a smooth start.

Her brother ended up in a coma, Habitat 7 was far from a 'Golden World', her father died and made her Pathfinder, and the Andromeda Initiative was in dire need of help, a lot of help.

Then she fixed the Vault on Eos, met the Angara, one of their own joined her team to observe them, went to Havarl and fixed the vault, then back to Eos.

It was on Eos where she met the badass Kett Hunter Bain Massani, who then joined her team for a short time to take out a Kett base on Eos that could have become a real problem down the road. And once the base was clear, she had suggested to him to start a team himself, that she could use the backup. Also, giver of bad nicknames. Little Duck? Glad I suggested 'Cherry Blossom', he liked it too.

Then it was onward to Voeld, where she, Jaal, and Peebee taught the Kett a very well deserved lesson on what biotics can and will do to evil doers.

Then the mission to rescue the Moshae, and came the horrific reveal of what the Kett really were. A reveal that still gave her restless nights, and nightmares of it happening to those close to her, and lately to Jaal.

The return to the facility to save everyone else was her first look at Bain Massani's efforts of gathering a team, he had two new teammates- former Justicar Matriarch Tesuna and former STG Taelin Uji.

Then Akksul and the Roekaar starting giving her and her team real problems. And when they recruited three of Jaal's siblings, that was the last straw. Jaal was becoming more than a friend to her, and Akksul doing that was the same as if they'd been her siblings, and she knew he had to be stopped before he did something far worse.

They confronted Akksul, and he shot at Jaal. Thank goodness he missed. Then Jaal took her to meet his family and confessed his love for her, and she confessed her love for him. Lexi was right on me falling in love.

Then the Archon's flagship, dying again the escape the Archon's trap, and saving Drack's Krogan scouts at the cost of the Salarian Pathfinder.

After the mission, after all the horrors they saw, the Pathfinder team needed a break. Evfra himself had ordered the shore leave, to "Get some rest, not many can venture into such a place of horrors, and not need rest after." Easier to listen to Evfra, better leader than Tann. Competent, brave, everything Tann wasn't. Even if his icy walls...needed thawing at first.

And it was then that Jaal invited her to the lake and the waterfall. And where they really confessed their love for each other.

Sakura heard Kallo's voice. "Thinking about the past?"

Sakura opened her eyes and turned to her right, focused on the black eyes of the Salarian pilot of the Tempest. "Yes, and of Jaal too."

Kallo saw the dreamy look on her face. "Lexi was right. You're in love. Obvious."

Sakura chuckled. "No hiding it from a Salarian."

Suvi spoke, her tone gentle. "One can say you are pathfinding love with an Angara."

Sakura turned to Suvi, the red-headed light-green eyed co-pilot; unable to hide the resulting blush, and smiled. "One can say that." A pause. "Going to go see Jaal." She left the bridge, and headed down the hall.

At the holographic pedestal in front of the door leading to the garage, showing an image of the station known as Khi Tasira, the Asari doctor Lexi and Sakura's Krogan team member Drack stood talking to each other.

Sakura overheard part of Lexi's sentence. "-and try not to skip any more appointments. You know I can take people apart as easily as I can put them together. And that includes Krogan."

Drack sheepishly chuckled. "I-I-sorry. Won't do it again."

Sakura stifled a laugh and shook her head. Might be just me, but those two are so going to end up together. "Skipping Lexi's appointments again? Not a good idea, not after Liam and Peebee conspired to skip her appointments."

Liam turned from the orange-lit terminal by the tech lab, looking at Sakura with green eyes. "And her ear pulling...ouch! Never skipping another appointment again."

"Good idea, I know better than to skip, she'd do the same to me." Sakura headed to the door into the tech lab, and just before she reached it, it opened.

Jaal Ama Darav stood at the doorway. Alluring blue eyes and purple-blue skin tone, graceful cowl and neck flaps, and blue rofjinn worn over his black under-suit which he wore his armor over when not on the Tempest. "Darling one, perfect timing. Evfra wishes to speak to us at the vidcon terminal."

Sakura nodded. "Let's go." She and Jaal walked up the ramp to the vidcon terminal. The incoming call button was flashing on the holographic display and she pressed the button.

Evfra's holographic image appeared on the other side. Evfra was in his usual clothing and rofjinn, one thing different was his light blue eyes looked less tired than usual.

Sakura smiled. "I'm guessing its good news? Since you don't look...too worn out today."

There was a very slight smile on Evfra's face. "Yes. With closer coordination with Apex, and the use of biotics and their barriers, casualties are down by a significant amount. And that's only become better since you found the Asari ark."

Sakura smiled. "Glad we could help, even if you were 'Mr. Grumpy' at first." That got a very small, slight chuckle from Evfra. "The Kett would do that to anyone really, imagine if our first contact with an alien race back home was a race hellbent on killing and enslaving all Humans." A pause. "Did you need something?"

"Not this time, but have good news for a fellow team." He was was interfacing with his own terminal, and a holographic image of a ship popped up on the pedestal. It wasn't an Angaran shuttle, it was larger. "Formally a captured Kett cruiser. My people spent the last five years retrofitting it, removing all Kett tech down to the barebones structure, and refitting it with Angaran tech. It was hidden, and still is." A pause, Sakura could tell Evfra was remembering the times before the Andromeda Initiative's arrival. "Before the arrival of your people, it was planned to be a means for me to go around the cluster, to finally push out the Kett. But now, things have...changed. So I sent a message to Bain Massani. With all he is doing, his team that is growing in number. A ship of this size would allow him to have a good sized team, crew for the ship, and a means of easily transporting those he rescues from the Kett."

Sakura turned her eyes to the holographic image of the ship. She could see how it used to be a Kett cruiser, similar size. But it had been completely redesigned. It now looked like a vastly up-scaled version of an Angara shuttle without the 'step platform' on the sides. And it had a forward lower landing ramp for vehicles or drop ships. "Impressive, I can see why it would take so long to finish it." A thought drifted into her mind. "Any luck trying to capture a Kett dreadnought? We had found a Kett ark ship, as Jaal has likely told you, but it...was in such bad shape it exploded right as Liam, Jaal, and I had discussed whether if it could survive a jump back to the Nexus. And the Decimation's flagship was badly damaged, their weapons likely inoperable."

Evfra sighed. "No. But it would really help to capture such a ship. Would really be able to turn this war around." Sakura could hear the weight of shouldering his peoples' survival on his shoulders in his voice. "We already are, but every time I look at the damage, the numbers...the-"

Suddenly, the incoming call alert beeped on Sakura's side.

'Incoming call: August Bradley. Urgent, please respond immediately.'

"Sorry, incoming call, connecting Bradley from Prodromos." Sakura hastily pressed it, and August Bradley's image joined the pedestal to the left from Sakura.

His brown eyes betrayed desperation and worry. "Glad you are here, Pathfinder." He sighed, shaking his head, he noticed Evfra. "Sorry if I interrupted something important, but terrible things have happened on Eos, and-" His attention was on Sakura, "we need you."

Sakura's breath caught. "What happened? Is it Kett? Roekaar? Something else?"

"Most likely Kett." Bradley sighed. "All we know is people are disappearing. Those exploring, people taking in the sights, and on vacation. Even some of our new Resistance guards vanished." He steadied himself. "Some of the missing...are children. Both Initiative and Angara." He took notice of Jaal. "Jaal...I am so of those missing Resistance fighters...Tarrol Ama Darav. He told me about you and now, he's one of those who vanished."

"No..." Jaal's voice and face betrayed his emotions. "When did this happen?"

"Not certain, but less than an hour ago, one of the Resistance guards was found just outside the outpost. Don't know how far she walked, but she was injured, terrified, and dehydrated. Didn't have her armor on either." He looked desperate. "Just hurry. If it's the Kett, and they're making a comeback, who knows when they'll hit Prodromos itself?"

"We'll head there as fast as we can." Sakura activated her orange omni-tool. "Kallo, take us to Eos as quickly as possible."

Kallo's reply was quick. "On it, Pathfinder." A pause. "ETA Eos seven hours."

Sakura deactivated her omni-tool. "On our way now, Bradley. Just hang in there."

Bradley nodded. "Thanks. We'll do our best." He disconnected the transmission.

Now it was just her, Jaal, and Evfra.

And the Resistance leader had a grim look on his face. "If it's Kett, prepare yourselves. They are known to...make displays of horror to terrorize and demoralize. Don't let them get to you." He looked at Jaal too, then back to Sakura. "And be careful."

Sakura nodded. "We will."

"And please update me with what you find." With Sakura's affirmative nod, Evfra disconnected the transmission as well.

Sakura looked at Jaal, and saw tears running down his face. She placed a hand on his shoulder. "We'll find him, and get to the bottom of this. This time Cora is coming with us.

Jaal turned to her, voice thick with tears and sorrow. "Tarrol...he's one of my oldest cousins, and is a favorite cousin to many of my younger cousins and siblings. And a very well respected and accomplished Resistance fighter. To lose him...would be a terrible, terrible loss not to just my family, but to the Resistance as well."

Sakura embraced Jaal, and felt him hug her tightly. "I am so sorry." She knew Jaal and his family had suffered so much loss- including his truefather nineteen years ago, his older brother Taalre and Allia four years ago, and his sister Noriine two years ago. And there's the cousins he had lost to the Kett, and Tarrol would be next on the list if they were too late. She looked up to Jaal's face, his blue eyes, and raised a hand to wipe his tears away and gently cup his cheek. "Let's get ready."

"Thank you, darling one." Jaal sighed. "I can only hope for the best."

Chapter Text

In the Tempest's garage, by the weapons and armor bench near Vetra's quarters, Sakura slipped on her blue and white Angaran designed armor, similar to the designs she'd seen that were the 'baseline' variants given to new recruits in the Angara resistance. A gift from Jaal himself following the Archon's flagship after her old set was damaged during the mission and worn from countless battles before then. It was stronger in ways than her previous set, including better armor.

She inserted her Angaran Ushior pistol into her left holster, another gift from Jaal. It was very helpful when dangerous things got too close for the Isharay or Sweeper.

Her Angaran Isharay sniper rifle onto her back right attachment, another gift from Jaal. She wasn't as good as he was at sniping, but it was very handy for taking out large targets such as Remnant Destroyers, Kett Fiends, and the highly dangerous Hydra mechs and their upgraded variants used by Outlaws and Roekaar.

The Angaran firaan was inserted into her holster on her right side; the blade was deadly, and she can make it more so by channeling her biotic energy into it. Another gift from Jaal, she could say her 'Angara set-up' was now complete thanks to him.

Last, but not least her Remnant Sweeper assault rifle, attached to her left magnetic attachment, one she chose for herself early on. A weapon which, unlike most weapons, ran off a plasma battery recharge system. One would have to fire for many hours without pause to run out of charge, more than enough ammo for on and off battles for days.

She picked up her Heleus Defender helmet and put it on over her head, securing it to her armor. She didn't always wear a helmet, but when going into unknown, or environmentally difficult situations- like the freezing air and even colder winds of Voeld- she needed it.

Confident her armor and weapons were secured, she turned her attention to Jaal nearby, already geared up and adjusting his visor over his right eye.

In addition to speaking to her, he talked to his family including his truemother Sahuna on Havarl about recent events, and others on the Tempest. It appeared to have helped.

Cora Harper, her blond-haired light-brown eyed second-in-command, was already ready in her blue and white armor and shotgun safely secured to her magnetic attachment to her back.

Kallo's voice was heard over the intercom. "Landing."

Sakura looked at Jaal, then Cora. "Ready?"

Jaal turned to her, his visor safely secured. "Yes."

Cora nodded in her direction.

"Let's go." Sakura walked to the six-wheeled exploration vehicle, the Nomad, and opened the door. She hopped into the driver's seat. She popped open the other door, allowing Jaal to set beside her, and Cora by the right door, who shut the door herself.

Sakura shut the one on her side. "Now, just need to wait."

Kallo was heard again. "Lowering ramp." Moments later, the landing ramp lowered, and the Tempest touched down.

Sakura started the engine, carefully drove the Nomad down the ramp, and onto the sands of Eos. And stopped near the tire treads which formed the 'roads' through Prodromos. "Now, let's get to the bottom of this." She opened her door and set foot on the ground.

Running footsteps and Bradley stood before Sakura, her teammates joining as well. "Glad you're here."

Sakura saw the relief in his face. "Where should we start?"

He gestured for them to follow. "With me. He glanced at Jaal as well. "The Resistance fighter we found, Ashfa Tovfad, she hasn't awoken yet. What she must have went through, it took a toll." A pause. "Had to confirm her name, wasn't sure when I contacted you."

Jaal's eyes widened. "Tarrol talked about her before, I believe there's something between them."

Bradley continued. "And for the missing, several dozen. Angara and Initiative, too many. And our Resistance guards...we lost two squads and most of a third except for Ashfa. They're too terrified to go out and investigate now, we all are. We're stuck here, no one wants to venture out beyond the boundaries of the outpost." He sighed. "If it's indeed Kett, they're doing a damn good job of controlling us with fear."

Sakura's eyes narrowed. "Don't worry, if it's those bony bastards, we'll tech them what happens when they mess with our first successful outpost. My team and I nearly got incinerated by a burning cloud of death in the Vault, and I am not about to let them undo my work."

Cora's voice hid barley contained anger. "With Sakura here."

The mayor led the team to one of the prefab buildings, the two floor medical center, and entered the door leading to the first floor.

Dr. Ramirez was a familiar sight, wearing the same medical uniform as always, though his dark blue eyes and facial expression betrayed his emotions and feeling of sadness and desperation. "Glad you're here." He turned to the figure laying on the bed. "Over here."

Sakura approached. The figure was Angaran, female, no armor, a facial marking ran from her forehead leading to her 'neck flaps' and down out of sight beneath her under-suit, and an olive green skin tone. "Is this our Angara Resistance survivor who was found outside the outpost?"

Ramirez was looking at his omni-tool screen. "Yes." He looked at the Pathfinder. "And here's the thing- she was out there for hours, maybe days. Wandering. Severely dehydrated. There's lakes and small rivers, but either the water is not safe for Angara to drink, or she was too scared and focused on running. Her clothes and skin had a heavy mineral scent, evidence she swam too." He sighed. "I don't know what she was running from, but scans detected evidence of extended heightened stress and fear."

Sakura looked at Ramirez. "And has she woken up since she was found?"

Ramirez shook his head. "No. The dehydration was severe, even heard one of my colleagues say she was basically almost 'a dried out Angara'."

Jaal stepped forward. "Hot dry worlds like Eos, and worse Elaaden, are harder on my people in most cases. Dehydration comes quicker. Which is why humid places or cooler places are preferred."

Ramirez nodded. "Been told about that, still doesn't prepare one for seeing it firsthand."

A groan, the Angara was waking up, Sakura's translator struggled to pick up the mumbling words. "Tarrol...Kett...hunted...taking..."

Sakura and Jaal rushed to her side.

Jaal was first to speak. "Ashfa, we're here."

Her eyes looked over to them, out of focus, before focusing. She took a deep breath. "Jaal." And noticed Ryder. "Pathfinder. Heard about you and the good you've done."

Sakura looked at her face, her skin did look dry, but it looked like Ramirez treated her as well as he could. "Can you tell us what happened? What you were running from?

Ashfa tried to sit up, but she didn't have the strength, and laid back down down. "Yes. And I know who is behind it. Kett."

Sakura glared. Bony bastards!

Ashfa took notice and didn't even need an answer. "I know. All they do is inflict harm, and take from us. I was with Tarrol and our team, investigating the disappearances. Things went bad when the Kett ambushed us. It was down to just me, Tarrol, and our captain, he told us to run, to bring news back." She paused, voice thick with sorrow. "Our comms weren't working, must have been jammed. We ran through a cave system, there was a collapse, separated us. Don't know if Tarrol made it or not. But I refuse to give up on him. He had to have made it."

Jaal's tone had a slight hint of relief. "So you're saying he might be out there?"

Ashfa nodded. "Yes." Her eyes were now on the Pathfinder. "I would hurry, this planet's heat and dryness are not kind to Angaran physiology."

Sakura nodded. "We're on it."

The drive out of the outpost and down one of the paths was uneventful.

Sakura focused ahead. "SAM, anything unusual? Anything of note?"

SAM intoned. "Nothing as of yet. Considering how no one has found the Kett base of operations yet, most likely hidden. Possibly in a cave, or cloaked."

"Thanks SAM." They were now kilometers from the outpost, now on a pathway between a large lake and a towering cliff face.

Minutes later, she saw something in the 'road' made by many months worth of vehicles passing over them.

Jaal's eyes widened. "Sakura! That's-!

Sakura saw it wasn't a rock or some other object, it was a figure laying in the sand. "Shit!" Sakura swerved hard to the left, and stopped just before the cliff face. "Hope I didn't-." She swiftly jumped out and ran to what she had seen, and saw an Angara laying in the sand. The tire tracks of the Nomad barely missed his head. Shit...had I been any slower... She bent down on one knee beside him.

Jaal was quickly beside her, along with Cora.

Harper readied her shotgun. "Check on him, will keep a lookout."

Sakura quickly and gently rolled the Angara over.

Like Ashfa, he didn't have his armor on. Though his under-suit was dry, she could detect a mineral scent. His dark blue skin looked very dry, and he was unconscious.

Cora looked at a trail leading from the lake. "Think he swam...and crawled here." She headed to investigate.

Jaal recognized the Angara's appearance and gasped. "Tarrol..." He put a hand on his shoulder, and looked at Sakura. "His bioelectric signature is still there, alive. But very weak, we need to get him to the outpost now."

Sakura nodded. "Cora, help me get him to the Nomad." She wrapped one of Tarrol's arms around her neck.

Cora ran to them holstered her shotgun, and did likewise with his other arm.

Together, they dragged him to the Nomad.

Jaal climbed into the backseat, and helped pull Tarrol in and strapped him safely in his seat.

Sakura jumped into the driver's seat and shut the door, soon Cora sat in her seat and shut the door. She looked back and saw Jaal was in the middle backseat. The Pathfinder drove off with haste to the outpost. SAM, get Lexi and Dr. Ramirez.

SAM intoned. "On it, Pathfinder."

Moments later, the comms activated.

Sakura spoke. "Heading back to outpost. We have one of the missing, Tarrol Ama Darav. Found him collapsed on the pathways. Needs immediate medical attention, appears to be worse than Ashfa."

Ramirez swore. "Shit..."

Lexi was heard, voice calm. "I am coming to help, Doctor Ramirez."

He sighed in relief. "Thanks."

Cora looked at Sakura, getting her attention, her comms were connected as well. "When I checked that trail, even though it was dry, it was obvious Tarrol swam in that lake."

Lexi was heard. "Noted."

Sakura turned onto the final stretch of the pathway to the outpost.

She heard mumbling. "Is Tarrol waking up?"

Jaal's voice, laced with relief. "Yes." A pause. "Tarrol. You are okay, we're almost to Prodromos."

There was a hint of fear in Tarrol's voice. "'s a trap...Kett...following...I'm...the bait..."

Sakura's brows raised. "Bait?" The realization hit her, she most likely lead the Kett to Prodromos. "Shit!" She connected the comms to every member of her team. "I need everyone, the Kett are coming!" She brought the Nomad to a stop near the medical station and opened the door. She turned to Cora. "Tell everyone to get into good defensive positions."

Cora opened her door. "On it!" She jumped out and hurried to the Tempest and saw the rest of the team, including Peebee and Vetra, leave the Tempest.

Sakura jumped out to the ground, Lexi and Dr. Ramirez were waiting with a travois, a gurney with mass effect fields to keep it afloat.

Sakura turned to help Jaal get Tarrol out of his seat, and laid him onto the travois.

Jaal jumped to the ground beside her.

Lexi glanced at Sakura, and Jaal. "We'll take care of him. And don't worry about us."

Sakura nodded. "Understood."

Lexi and Dr. Ramirez went into the medical station, now safe. And the Kett didn't know what Lexi can, and will do, to them if they somehow got in.

Sakura took her Sweeper off her back, Jaal doing likewise with his modified Kett Lanat sniper rifle. "Jaal, have the Kett ever done this, using someone as bait?"

Jaal's voice betrayed his disgust. "Yes. They've sometimes snatched away almost everyone, leaving someone wounded, or a child. And when someone found them, and brought them to a daar, or a Resistance base or camp; the Kett would attack shortly after."

Sakura growled. "Damn bastards, using our own goodwill and 'never leave anyone behind' thing against us."

Cora ran to the pair. "Got everyone ready. Suvi's monitoring the sensors, she'll tell us if we've got inbound hostiles."

"Thanks." Sakura gave her Sweeper a once-over. "We have to be ready-."

Suvi was heard over the comms. "Inbound hostiles!"

Sakura heard the roaring of an engine, but it didn't match that of the Kett drop ships.

"Skkut!" Jaal looked to the path they drove in from. "Kett rovers!"

Sakura looked down the path, and sure enough two of the green wheeled Kett rovers came racing around the corner.

The automated defense turret fired, and popped the shields of the lead rover, but it was too late to land a killing shot. The rover ran over the turret and crushed it under the wheels, and the wheels of the other rover ran it over as well.

The turret no longer fired, or moved.

The second came to a stop, and the Kett inside jumped out and engaged Drack and the Resistance fighters with him. Some appeared to realize their mistake of taking on a Krogan, and tried to fall back.

An Angara Resistance fighter's Isharay round pierced the side of the lead rover and apparently killed the driver for the foot must have stayed on the accelerator. The vehicle sped out of control and headed straight for Peebee's group.

Peebee, the quick thinker she can be, put up a biotic barrier before the vehicle could crush her and the Resistance fighters under her protection.

The vehicle slammed into her barrier, due to the incredible strain, Peebee was pushed against the wall of the prefab structure but she refused to let the barrier drop.

Vetra Nyx stood on the rooftop, her assault rifle aimed at the front window of the rover.

The dead Kett driver was pushed out, and before another could take his place, Vetra filled the window and the would-be replacement driver full of mass accelerator holes.

Peebee was able to move due to the lack of a vehicle pressing against her barrier, and she was able to give the Resistance fighters a better firing angle against the Kett leaving the vehicle, killing a few before they even touched the ground.

Three Kett drop-ships made their presence known, flying over the mountain which partially surrounded the outpost. They came to a stop and descended to the area on the other side of the outpost, Kett jumped to the ground, and nearby forces engaged them.

Sakura glared. "Jaal, Cora, with me. Time to join the fight and kick their asses!" She dashed towards the battle, her teammates close behind.

She fired her assault rifle, taking out a Chosen.

Cora became enshrouded in biotic energy and zipped across the battlefield, nailing a Kett Destined spreading the blue cloaking mist, then turned her energy into fuel for a biotic Nova which dispelled the cloaking mist and blew away any unfortunate Kett in the blast radius of the Nova.

Jaal quickly sniped the Kett sent flying in his line of sight with precision.

Lexi looked over the datapad and sighed. Same as Ashfa, but...worse.

Liam was currently upstairs protecting the non-combatants not involved in the battle. The Kett would be in real trouble if they messed with the medical station. First floor, they'd be dealing with her and her biotics. Second floor, they'd be dealing with Liam, and the only accessible external pathway was facing the battlefield, and they would be in in the line of sight of Cora's biotic Charge and any snipers.

Tarrol's eyes were on her. "Sorry I lead them here."

Lexi looked at him and placed a hand on his shoulder, her voice reassuring. "It is not your fault, we never leave anyone behind. And the others outside are taking care of the problem." She paused, and turned back to the front door.

Ramirez took notice. "Something wrong, Lexi?"

Lexi kept her focus. "Call it Asari intuition, but I feel something is...amiss."

As if on cue, the door opened, but no one stood there.

Ramirez saw nothing, but Lexi's eyes were focused on a shimmering in the air, and some slight wisps of blue mist.

Lexi quickly put up a biotic barrier right as a Kett Destined's Hesh shotgun fired, the door soon closed. They're inside now.

Ramirez swore and backed away. "Invisible bastards!"

Lexi's voice was reassuring and gentle. "Stay calm everyone, I've got this." She glared at the pair of Kett. "You two..." Her biotic aura grew more intense. "Messed. With. The. Wrong. Asari. Doctor!"

The Kett were close to her barrier as if to try to walk through it when she unleashed the barrier as a shock wave, blowing them backwards right into the door, denting it and causing the holographic interaction screen to fade.

Their cloaking had dissipated, and they had lost their grip on their weapons which clattered away. And it was then, that it dawned on them, they were trapped with a pissed off Asari doctor and her biotics.

One of them cowered. "No! I beg you! Have mercy!"

The other staggered to his feet, looked at the door and saw it was busted, and back to the Asari glowing with biotic energy with a look of terror on his face. "We'll leave, and never come back!"

Lexi's glare intensified, her eyes glowing blue and nearby lightweight objects floating upward. "Do you think I am stupid?! Don't mock me!"

The Kett on his feet lunged for one of the nearby dropped shotguns, only to gasp in fear when the shotguns were enshrouded in biotic energy, and flew back to where Lexi stood.

The Asari caught the weapons, and with her biotics, caused the clips to eject, she pointed them at the ground, pulled the triggers, and when no shot answered, tossed them to the ground. "Any last words?"

Lexi heard Tarrol's voice. "Whatever you do, make it hurt."

Lexi grinned. "Gladly."

Ramirez smiled. "Do the words 'Game over, man! Game over!' mean anything to your people?"

The cowering Destined appeared to be enraged, and stood up on his feet, his buddy joining him. "Imbeciles! No one mocks the Kett, and lives!" They rushed forward, but not at Lexi.

Lexi moved so swiftly anyone who blinked would have missed. She used a biotic Push to slam one of the Kett against the door again, and rushed forward, dodging a vicious punch that would have floored her if she had taken the hit, then landed a bone-shattering blow on the Kett's face, sending him flying to the floor.

She continued forward, her biotic infused foot crushing the Kett's neck, killing him, and headed straight for the Destined struggling to his feet.

The Destined had a look of utter terror on his face before Lexi's biotic energy charged fist caved the Kett's face in, and splattered green blood all over the door and Lexi's uniform. She removed her hand from the cavity that used to be a face, allowing the shattered corpse to fall.

Lexi's biotic aura dissipated, her breathing heavy, but not from exhaustion. For the first time in over one hundred and fifty years, she had taken a life with her biotics instead of aiming to disable. Or when it came to innocents and her patients, protect.

Lexi turned to Ramirez and the two Angara, and saw their expressions of shock and awe. "Sorry about that. Things...tend to get messy when biotics are involved." She turned to the door and activated her omni-tool to use the backup method when the primary interface was damaged or unavailable. "Busted. One moment." Her aura was alight again, and she slowly opened the door with her biotics.

Sakura panted. That's the last of them. She looked towards the medical station, and saw Lexi pulling the doors open.

Cora saw it too. "Sakura, go with Jaal and check on them, will go check on the others." She dashed off, there were surely wounded.

Sakura ran to the station with Jaal close behind.

Lexi took notice, having finished opening the doors and bending the metal back into shape the best she could. "Sorry about the mess. But everyone is safe."

Sakura whistled upon seeing the two Kett bodies, broken and mangled by biotics. "And now I have one more reason not to skip your appointments." She looked at Lexi, and the others nearby. "But seriously, glad you are all okay."

Jaal was in awe. "They really messed with the wrong Asari."

Cora came running to them. "Some minor injuries, but everyone is fine, and Liam said none tried to enter where he was guarding those not fighting."

Sakura looked to her. "Glad to hear. Now we just need to figure out our next course of action."

Soon, Lexi had cleaned the Kett blood off of herself, changed uniforms, and was now tending to the wounded with the help of Dr. Ramirez with Liam assisting.

Sakura, Jaal, Cora, and August Bradley stood near the second Kett rover. The first that Vetra filled the window full of holes was used as a projectile by Peebee to take out a group of Kett, and now laid at the bottom of a small lake.

Jaal was first to speak. "Best course of action is to retrace their path, then we'll find their base. When it comes to situations like this, the Kett can...get overconfident at times, especially with the way," There was pain in Jaal's voice, "my people were...slowly losing the war before your arrival."

Sakura nodded affirmatively. "Let's get to it then, figure out what we can." She opened the hatch, and climbed into the driver's seat. She activated her scanner, and scanned the front controls and assorted screens. "SAM, getting anything?"

SAM was heard on her comms, same for Jaal and Cora. "One moment. Scanning." A brief pause. "Yes, navpoint located."

Sakura smiled, she looked at her teammates and Bradley. "We've found them."

Jaal looked to his darling one. "We should infiltrate considering we've got one of their rovers, and your 'vocal cord modulation' which can make you sound like a female Kett." A pause, and a shudder in his voice. "Though I find it...incredibly disturbing."

Sakura nodded. She understood why Jaal would find it so disturbing, since it was what she'd sound like if she were a Kett, and considering he did have nightmares of Exaltation at times, it was no surprise. "Now, let's show them what happens when they use someone as bait." She looked behind her and there was space. "Cora, Jaal, get in the back." The two headed to the rear hatch and Sakura turned her attention to Bradley. "Get the Resistance on the Tempest, and tell Kallo to be on standby in case we need extraction or assistance."

Bradley nodded. "Will do so." He headed off back towards the outpost.

Sakura shut the hatch and heard Cora close the rear hatch behind her. Jaal was already sitting on the seat attached to the wall behind her. "SAM, I am ready. Modulate my vocal cords to mimic Kett intonation."

SAM was heard. "On it."

Moments later, Sakura spoke, and her voice sounded low-pitched like that of a female Kett. "Cora, Jaal, how do I sound?"

Jaal spoke first, that subtle shiver in his tone. "Exactly like a Kett."

Cora nodded. "Agreed." She paused, in thought. "We should rehearse, to make sure we get it right. One screw up, they would see right through us and we'd be in some very deep trouble."

Sakura knew she was right, this mission was dangerous. "We'd surely need the backup."

It took numerous tries, but eventually Sakura got it nailed down.

It was very difficult to maintain the act and be mean, like a Kett, especially to Jaal. But she had gotten the hang of it. She was to be the 'Kett', while Jaal and Cora were the 'captives'. Push the disgust down, hold it, and save it for the Kett in the base. Then unleash it on the first group. "Ready?"

Jaal nodded. "Yes."

Cora did likewise.

Sakura started up the rover's engine, and drove out of the outpost to the navpoint.

It took nearly two hours of driving before they neared the navpoint, and the rover's comms crackled and the unmistakable voice of a Kett Ascendant. "Rover Zal, state your purpose."

Sakura steeled herself, imitating exhaustion and slight fear. "I did it...I did it. I took the 'Human' with these 'biotics' and the 'Angara' from the Pathfinder. Everyone else didn't make it. The two subjects are confined, unable to harm me. But I am deeply shaken," her fake cough sounded genuine. "I believe the 'biotic mist' must have affected me, need medical attention as well."

The Ascendant laughed. "Perfect! While it is regrettable you lost everyone else in your team, the fact you captured those two...get them to me, and we'll be rewarded!"

Sakura smiled, her deception was working so far. "I heard a rumor there's something between this 'Pathfinder' and the 'Angara'."

The Ascendant's voice was that of barely contained glee. "Oh, it's more than just a rumor, it is a fact the Archon discovered! We'll deliver the 'Angara' to the Archon for certain. He'll reward us handsomely for our efforts!" The Ascendant's laughter echoed through the comms.

Jaal's voice was the perfect imitation of rage. "Sakura will find you before you give us to the Archon, and she will make you regret it!"

Cora was next. "And once I get free from my restraints, I'll flay you alive, with my mind!

Sakura looked back, ensuring to not break the facade. "Silence, imbeciles! Or you will regret it!"

Jaal and Cora quieted.

Keep it in. Keep it in, and unleash it on the Kett. Sakura focused ahead.

The Ascendant was heard. "Everything good? In another five minutes you should be at the base, you can't miss the garage."

"Just a minor disturbance. Affirmative, going to disconnect the comms, so you don't have to hear any more unpleasantness." With the Ascendant's affirmative reply, Sakura shut off the comms. "Finally..." She sighed. "I hated that. Sorry Jaal, Cora."

Jaal's voice showed his sympathy. "It is okay, darling one. Me too. On the good side, they basically just handed us our ticket in."

Cora smiled. "Same. And indeed, they did. Now we just have to get into the garage, and then...the fun begins."

The base came into view, it was partially hidden under a cliff face that had been hollowed out over a period of tens of thousands of years to at most a few million years. And the garage, a big round building connected by a connecting passageway, was next to the base.

Sakura turned the rover onto the path to the base, and headed to the garage. The door opened.

The comms crackled. "Once in, stop and wait for the medical team."

Sakura smiled. "Affirmative." Suckers! They totally bought it! She pulled the rover into the garage carefully, and into a marked parking space. She saw the comms weren't open and turned back to her teammates. "It's game time." She could see the team approaching. Green armor but wearing some kind of...extra clothing- a cape or kind of robe? Most likely the medical team. She opened the hatch slightly, and waited.

The lead Kett spoke. "Can you get out on your own?"

Sakura coughed, making it sound real. "No...I think I got hit worse than I thought I did..."

"Coming!" The lead Kett hurried, and opened the hatch, he paused for a beat. "What?!"

Sakura had a biotic lance readied with a wicked grin. "Thanks for totally leading us to your base, suckers!" She threw it at the lead Kett, throwing him backwards. Cora opened the rear hatch quickly, and biotic Charged another Kett while Jaal blasted away with his sniper rifle.

The fight was over before the Kett group could even scream for help.

Sakura saw what looked like a dropped Kett comm unit, a voice was heard. "Respond! What happened?!"

Sakura picked up the unit. "Weapon malfunction. Everything is under control. We'll be heading back soon with the captives."

A reply came through. "Affirmative. Head to the labs."

"Order received." She disconnected the comm link and infused her hand with biotics, and crushed the unit and dropped it. "Let's figure out what's going on, and try to find those missing people." Sakura readied her Sweeper. "And SAM, restore my voice, I don't want to give Jaal any more nightmare fuel."

SAM intoned. "Yes, Pathfinder."

The three headed to the nearest door, which had a terminal next to it which Sakura stopped by. She activated her omni-tool. "SAM, find the labs, don't want to fight through the entire base without knowing what we're dealing with."

SAM intoned. "Analyzing...labs found and marked."

Sakura turned off her omni-tool. "Thanks, SAM." She headed through the door, which lead to a connecting corridor to the base.

Down the halls they ran, by sheer luck avoiding any Kett, until they reached the labs.

Sakura's hand shook as she pressed the holographic panel which would open the door, her gut telling her she was about to find indescribable horrors.

The door opened, and inside, was the labs.

And worse, what were laying on the tables.

Bodies of Angara, Humans, Asari, Salarians, and Turians, with at least one Krogan.

And the smell was so awful, it made her almost gag even with her helmet on.

Jaal's voice was full of rage and disgust. "Kett butchers, they...there's nothing they won't defile and destroy."

Cora's biotic aura was alight from her anger flaring up her implants. "I'll tear that Kett Ascendant in charge of this place apart, slowly, and enjoy it."

Footsteps, and a Kett scientist had walked from the back of the labs to see what the shouting was.

And Sakura's rage finally had an outlet. She threw a Pull orb, gripped the Kett inside the field, and sent a Throw, slamming the Kett into the wall.

Jaal ensured the Kett's death with a single shot from his Lanat.

SAM intoned. "Life sign detected. Fading fast."

Maybe we weren't too late for all. Sakura hurried in followed by Jaal and Cora.

Among the dozens of bodies, were smaller bodies- teenagers, and worse were the little children.

On the other side of the lab, they had found their remaining life sign.

A child, an Angara child. Purple skin, blue eyes, some pink as well. Colors and patterns similar to Jaal. In her mind's eye, she saw Jaal's face on the child.

Sakura ran to the table, tears in her eyes. "SAM, Jaal, what should we do?!"

SAM intoned. "Organs have been...defiled for lack of a better term. There's nothing we can do."

Sakura looked to Jaal, and he was staring in horror, tears streaming down his face.

Sakura saw what SAM meant, the child's torso was cut open. And the organs, she didn't know if they were all accounted for or if they were where they all should be.

The child coughed, blood leaking from his mouth, tears streaming from his eyes, and a strained tiny voice. "" He soon breathed his last.

Sakura gasped, her stomach feeling as if it would revolt. Hot tears ran down her face amid sobs, and she felt Jaal pull her into a tight hug.

"Goddess-damned monsters!" Cora's hands were clenched into fists. "Killing adults is bad enough, but children?"

Sakura took a deep breath, and Jaal released her from his embrace. "We need to stop them, put a stop to all of this, before others suffer like this."

Her teammates nodded in silence, and the three continued on down the corridor beyond the labs.

Jaal gripped his Lanat tightly as he and Cora followed the Pathfinder to where the hall went, and came upon a dead end with three doors, one ahead, one to the left, and one to the right.

Sakura turned to him and Cora. "I'll take the center, Cora you take the left, Jaal you take the right."

Cora nodded and headed to the left door.

"On it." The Angara headed to the right door, entering, and the door closed behind him.

The room contained rest cots, tables, and another door leading off to another room Most likely sleeping quarters. Jaal noticed a datapad on a table, and walked to it. He placed his Lanat on the table, picked up the datapad, and scanned it with the Angaran omni-tool equivalent.

Translated from Tonaizhet:


I have these...visions of being one of the 'Angara', specifically one named Allia, and of knowing several 'Angara' named Jaal Ama Darav, Vajen Ama Darav, Taalre Ama Darav, and another named Kosaan.

I was able to get assistance looking for the names, they were all considered worthy of the greatness of Exaltation, and are among the Exalted.

Do I need to go see the Archon? The Chirurgeon? The Etiologist?

I will do whatever I need to do to quiet these visions.

Your humble servant,

Anointed Ezth.

Despair and grief settled into his chest. No! Tears streamed down his face. "No...this…!" He screamed out loud in anguish, tears streaming down his face.

He heard the door open, and turned to see that it wasn't the hallway one, but the other one.

A Kett Anointed stood in the doorway, and drew its Soned assault rifle.

Jaal dropped the datapad, despite the tears and grief, and grabbed his rifle and aimed it at the Kett, but something was amiss.

The Kett didn't fire, and the facial expression had went from a mix of disgust and hate, to horror. "Kill me! It's me, Allia. They're taking our people, turning them into Kett! Please kill me before I am not myself again!"

"" Tears flowed in earnest and his finger grip on the trigger slackened, the will to pull it evaporating faster than spilled water on Elaaden.

The Kett stood still, expression turning from horror, to pure hate and disgust. And rushed straight at him and slammed the butt of the Soned across his face, sending him flying to the floor.

Jaal struggled to pick himself off the floor, and felt a boot slam into his abdomen, sending him flying across the floor and landing oh his back.

His vision was blurred, and he saw the Kett approach, aim the Soned at him, and heard the weapon charge up.

The Angara heard the door open, and Cora's voice. "Not on my watch!"

The gun fired, right as Cora's biotic charge slammed into the Kett, sending the Kett flying away along with the weapon. He felt several burning wounds where the plasma rounds had found their mark.

Running footsteps and Sakura's voice full of worry. "Jaal!"

Chapter Text

Shit! Sakura knelt down on one knee beside Jaal, heart racing and voice full of worry. "Are you okay?"

Jaal coughed, his voice strained. "Darling one..."

SAM was heard in her head. "Recommend a quick application of medi-gel, wounds are serious and require immediate medical attention."

The Pathfinder noticed the plasma wounds on his torso, some on his left arm. She quickly removed the first-aid kit from the upper leg part of her armor. "Hang on, stay with me!" She quickly prepared the medi-gel, and applied it to the wounds.

Cora was panting, her armor splattered with Kett blood, she did a quick once-over of her surroundings. "There was only one Kett in here...what happened?!" She noticed the fallen Lanat, and the nearby datapad. The investigative part of her Asari Commando training took over, she promptly walked to the datapad as if on a mission, and picked it up. It took only a moment, and her expression turned from investigative to one of shock and horror, glancing at the Kett she had killed, then the datapad. "Sakura...I think I know what happened..."

The Pathfinder glanced at her second-in-command. "What's in that datapad?"

Cora opened her mouth to speak, and saw the door open, and froze, before quickly readying her biotics. "Stay there."

Sakura looked back to the door, and saw what Cora saw. She quickly put up a biotic barrier to shield herself and Jaal. "Jaal, I'll protect you." He's unconscious...Jaal, hang in there!

Kett Ascendant that spoke earlier over the comms was in the doorway, and he was pissed, eyes glowing orange-red. "You...deceiving...imbeciles!" The only thing preventing him from taking action most likely was the threat of retaliation from biotics, he might have seen the mangled corpses earlier and knew what would come.

Cora's biotic aura was pulsing bright and blue. She placed the datapad on the table, and walked forward. "Found you, monster. And time for biotic justice."

The Ascendant quickly put up his barrier. "Wait! I have a deal!"

Cora stopped, her expression one of quiet rage. "And what would it be?"

The Ascendant grinned. "Just hand the Angara over. Then I will allow you and the Pathfinder to leave."

Sakura gritted her teeth. "You think there's a chance in hell I'd give Jaal to you?!"

Cora's glare intensified with her biotic aura. "Sakura's right. We'll never let you, or the Archon, have him. Not now. Not in a million years. Not ever."

The Ascendant's expression turned from confidence, to horror. "No! Wait! I am not like the Invictor! He was an utterly selfish fool! Glad you killed him. I'll leave, and take everyone with me!"

Cora took a step forward. "You think I will let you leave? After what I saw in the labs? After what I saw on Sakura's and Jaal's faces there when that Angara child died?"

The Ascendant's face turned to that of fury and desperation, he formed a large ball of lightning, and thrust it forward at Cora.

The biotic stood her ground, and lifted a hand, palm outward. And caught the ball of lightning. "Is that all you have?" Her mouth became a smirk. "Time to show you what a biotic can do..." She infused it with energy. "...when you make them mad!" With a forward push of her hand, the biotic energy infused ball of lightning flew straight at the Ascendant faster than before.

The Ascendant yelled something the translator couldn't catch, before the ball smashed into his shield, causing a blue and orange-red explosion. The Ascendant was engulfed by the blast and thrown against the wall, and struggled back to his feet. " use my own attacks against me?!"

Cora stepped forward. "And to introduce you to my specialty." She became a blur, a biotic Charge, and slammed the Ascendant into the wall. "And to finish!" She focused her power into a Nova, and slammed it right into the Ascendant's face. "And you call yourselves superior? Hah!" She removed her hand and allowed the Ascendant's shattered body to drop to the floor.

Sakura allowed her barrier to drop. She turned to the Angara. "Jaal?" He was unconscious and a spike of fear settled in before she heard him breathing. Thank goodness.

She heard Cora approach, the sensation of an active biotic aura was comforting. "I'll lead the way, you carry him." Cora looked at the dropped Lanat and the datapad, and headed over to pick them up, attaching the weapon, as well as the datapad, to her back magnetic attachments.

Sakura picked up Jaal, one arm under his legs and the other supporting his back.

The two ran for the garage with speed only biotics could possess while their auras were alight.

Sakura ran into the garage on Cora's heels. The yelling of angry Kett was not far behind.

Cora immediately turned to the terminal, and activated her omni-tool. Moments later, the door's holographic light turned orange, it was locked. "That will buy us some time." She activated her comms. "Kallo, are you hearing me?"

Kallo's reply was quick. "Yes, but getting some interference."

Cora glanced at Ryder. "We need extraction. Jaal's been hurt, bad. And I've killed the Ascendant in charge of this place, the rest are pissed, for lack of a better term. We're in the garage now, locked the Kett out, but they'll eventually get in."

Kallo was heard. "Locked in, inbound on your signal. ETA two minutes."

"Affirmative." Cora turned her attention to the locked door, now shaking from repeated blows amid angry yelling. "We should get that garage door open."

Sakura looked at the door, then Cora. "Agreed. We need to find a terminal."

Cora headed to the large garage door. "Failing that, biotics are a viable solution." She found the terminal by the wall and walked to it. She activated her omni-tool, and interfaced with it.

And on cue, the garage door opened slowly.

It wasn't too long before it was open, and the familiar roar of the Tempest's engines, and the ship flew overhead.

Kallo came over the comms. "Landing, Resistance teams ready for deployment." The Tempest descended, and the landing ramp lowered.

Suvi came over the comms. "Have visual on a group of Kett. And they, pardon my Martian, look shitted off."

The Tempest touched down gently. The Resistance teams from Prodromos left the ship, and ran down the ramp, and put up defensive positions, along with bioelectric barriers. The gunfire started shortly after.

"Thanks for the warning." Cora put up a protective biotic sphere barrier, shielding herself, Sakura, and Jaal. "With me, we're running to the Tempest." She sprinted for the ramp, Sakura close behind in the barrier.

Some of the Kett turned their attention to Cora and Sakura, but it was their final mistake, the Angara Resistance fighters made short work of the distracted with bioelectricity and plasma rounds.

Cora dashed up the ramp with Sakura right behind her, and they didn't stop until they were in the garage.

Lexi was already there with a travois.

Sakura laid Jaal on the travois. "You're safe."

One glance was all Lexi needed. "I'll update you once he is stabilized."

"Thank you." Sakura looked at Lexi. "What about Tarrol and Ashfa?"

"In the crew quarters. Heading to Havarl with us. After everything they went through, it was what they wanted." She took Jaal to the med-bay.

"Understood." Sakura turned back to the landing ramp and the Resistance teams. "Make them pay."

One of the Angara, presumably the one leading the teams, turned back to her after firing a shot at an out-of-sight Kett. "We will. And they won't have victory." He returned to fighting the Kett.

The ramp closed and Kallo was heard. "Taking off."

Sakura activated her omni-tool comms. "Get us to Havarl as quickly as possible."

Kallo was heard. "Will do, Pathfinder."

Sakura looked at Cora. "Need the datapad, going to report to Evfra what happened."

Cora nodded and removed the datapad from her armor attachment and handed it to the Pathfinder. "Will be here cleaning off my armor if you need me."

"Thanks." Sakura activated her omni-tool and translated the contents of the datapad. She gasped, her mind mentally connecting very plausible dots. If that Kett we killed used to be Allia...and say she somehow escaped for a moment and begged for death...and the others… She hurried to the lift, which lead to the upper floor, and the quickest path to the vidcon terminal.

Sakura headed to the terminal. "SAM, connect me to Evfra on Aya."

SAM was heard. "Right away, Pathfinder."

A few moments passed, and Evfra answered, his image appearing on the other side of the pedestal. "Hope the mission went well, heard from Ashfa what happened. And about Tarrol as well."

Sakura shook her head. "While we found Tarrol, the others...they were..." she steeled herself, lips compressed for a moment, "dissected, experimented on by the Kett." Her eyes were watery. "I had to watch an Angara child die in front of me...not able to do anything." Some tears escaped. "Then...Jaal...found this." She uploaded the data from the datapad via her omni-tool. "I don't know if this has happened before. But Jaal must have taken it hard, possibly sapped his will to fight back. And he was injured, bad. We're heading to Havarl as we speak, Kallo is going as fast as he can."

Evfra read the sent data, his eyes narrowed in silent rage against the Kett, he looked at Sakura. "This is nothing new, but when we learned of Exaltation, it revealed what this really meant." He paused. "Before then, most of us assumed it was another one of the cruel tricks of the Kett. Even back then, there were a few who...suggested the at that time unthinkable idea that the Kett were turning our people into them. There wasn't any proof until you and Jaal rescued the Moshae."

Sakura sighed. "Leave it to the Kett to hide their most horrifying secrets."

"And it is a powerful demoralizing weapon if one finds the truth, and has no support." Evfra's expression lightened a bit. "On a much lighter note, Bain Massani replied to my message, he and his team are on their way to Aya."

Sakura's smile was weary. "Good, we all will be sleeping better at night once he and his team are in their new ship flying around."

Evfra nodded. "Same here. I need to go, Resistance meeting."

Sakura quickly replied. "Understood."

With that, Evfra disconnected the call.

Sakura sighed, preparing herself. "SAM, contact Sahuna on Havarl."

SAM intoned. "Contacting."

Sahuna's image appeared on the other side of the pedestal. "Sakura! How are things going?"

Sakura had a slight smile. Sahuna was always cheerful, and even though Sakura herself wasn't Angara, she treated her like part of her family. But the slight smile dissipated with the fact she had some bad news to deliver. "Things were going well before this mission. Not sure if you heard yet, but there were disappearances on Eos, we tracked down the source of the problem, brought Jaal and Cora with me. We couldn't save most of the missing, but before then we found Ashfa and Tarrol, they're on the Tempest resting easy. And Jaal...was seriously injured. Lexi is doing what she can, and we're heading to Havarl as fast as we can." She paused. "I'm sorry."

Sahuna's expression softened. "You have nothing to be sorry about, I trust Lexi, and you did all you could. I will still worry, but do not blame yourself."

Sakura sighed. "I know...its just…" She almost considered not telling about the datapad until they arrived, but decided it was better to. "I feel I could have prevented it if I was there. Until he wakes, I can only take my best guess, but I think the datapad lead to the events. Will send the information." She sent the information via the omni-tool.

Sahuna read the information, she seemed to age slightly, her expression turning to sadness and tears rolling. "I...see what you mean..." She was barely holding it in. "Please, just get to Havarl as soon as you can."

Sakura felt bad for Sahuna, to have seen that. "I will."

With that, Sahuna disconnected the call.

First, need to change out of this armor, and get into something more comfortable.

The door to the crew quarters opened and Sakura walked in, now in her Andromeda Initiative uniform.

Tarrol and Ashfa were sitting in chairs by the window which gave a view of the passageway between the hallway and the garage.

Sakura turned to them. "How are you doing?"

Ashfa finished her drink of water. "Doing better than earlier, thanks for asking. Just need to, as Lexi put it, 'take it easy.' Drink plenty of water, and don't overdo it."

Tarrol looked at Sakura. "And after what we saw Lexi do to the Kett, no one in their right mind would want to argue against her." He chuckled. "I'd hate to be the fool who makes her mad on purpose."

Sakura knew what he was talking about. "Same here, she'd pull my ear all the way to the med-bay, ouch!" A pause. "Tarrol, what happened before we found you. Since it sounded like you were chased by the Kett.

Tarrol sighed. "After we got separated, I ran for the outpost. And...the environment took its toll, which is why you found me out there. And I knew I was being followed, would catch glimpses of Kett, they were likely trying to see if I would lead them to the outpost, so I mislead them. Went on too long. And that's when you found me."

Sakura went into thought. "And inadvertently lead the Kett to Prodromos. Then again, they messed with us on a day we were ready to kick their asses."

Tarrol smiled. "Indeed."

Sakura turned to the nearby terminal, and saw Liam Kosta standing there, looking at something. She walked to him.

What he was looking at, was statistics and stuff Verand sent him.

Sakura smiled. "I guess things are going well for you and Verand?"

Liam did likewise. "Yes. Going better than I hoped!" He looked at the Pathfinder. "Still can't shake what we found out about Calot's ship, that it was a Kett Ark."

Sakura put a hand on his shoulder. "Don't let it get to you. The Kett are invaders, we're not, and we're going to prove that with our actions."

Sakura Ryder sat down beside the door to the med-bay, having checked in with everyone, except for Lexi and Jaal still in the med-bay.

Sakura's thoughts and memories trailed back to her first meeting with Jaal, just after arriving on Aya first time.

When she first met Jaal, and he joined the team, he was cold, distant, and cautious. Not talking much about himself, the Resistance, or the Angara. "Understandable, if we were hostile and he gave that information, we would have used it."

However, his walls slowly faded after the missions to Havarl. "Staying a few days there would not be a bad idea, with Bain and his team in their nice new ship, we will be able to get a few nights in. Screw Tann and his complaining." And the missions to Voeld. "I saw some terrible things, but what has Jaal, and the Resistance, seen in eighty years? Makes me feel sorry for them, wish we could bring the horror to an end sooner."

Then came the mission to rescue Moshae Sjefa, and the horrific reveal of what the Kett were doing to those the Angara called 'The Disappeared'. "Seeing Jaal weeping over the Kett that used to be an Angara only a few minutes ago was so...heartbreaking and painful. Seeing him nearly broken, when he was so strong against the face of the horrors of the Kett before...had to give him a hug."

It was after the mission, that Jaal became more trusting of the Pathfinder team. "We became friends, close friends….I didn't know it at the time but I was going to fall in love."

Then later on, Jaal sent her a message that was basically a 'falling in love with you' letter. "I didn't know what to think at that time...but it was clear- he was falling for me."

Then Akksul, after giving her and Jaal so much trouble, recruited three of Jaal's siblings into the Roekaar. So they went to the Forge to deal with Akksul and get Jaal's siblings back. Jaal countered every one of Akksul's arguments that 'aliens were bad for the Angara', then Akksul pointed a gun at Jaal calling him a 'traitor', and fired. "Took every ounce of self-control to not shoot Akksul, or use my biotics. And made me realize who I nearly lost that day."

An image of what could have happened if Akksul didn't miss hit her mind's eye. Akksul's shot hitting Jaal in the middle of his face, blue blood splattering everywhere and on her, and him falling over dead; blood pooling on the forest floor. She shivered and brought her legs up to her chest and wrapped her arms around them. "Don't think about that!"

Days later, Jaal had taken her to meet his family. "I had totally fallen in love by then, he confessed his love for me, and I returned it."

Then came the mission to the Archon's flagship, to find the 'Meridian' artifact and save the Salarian ark. Then came the trap. The Archon came, gloated, declared that her testing had begun, and said he'd force her to watch as his scientists pick Peebee apart, and if the Angara was worthy, force her to watch as Jaal was Exalted. "Now he knows of my love for him via the memory flashes when I died...creepy bony bastard is not going to get the chance to put that to use."

After the mission, she and the team had a well deserved few days off on Aya. It was then that Jaal invited her to the lake and waterfall. "Completely fell in love that day with Jaal, a day I will remember forever."

It was also, on Aya, Jaal had given her some gifts. A new set of blue and white armor based off Angaran designs of armor for new Angara Resistance recruits to replace her old set which was damaged during the Archon's flagship mission and battles before that, the Ushior, Isharay, and a Firaan. And all had an inscription in Shelesh somewhere. "Thanks Jaal, loved those gifts."

Sakura sighed."You better pull through, Jaal. Or in the next life, I will give the Angara equivalent of an ear-pull: pull by the neck flap."

Sakura's thoughts drifted to the datapad and the names. "Allia...Jaal's girlfriend who was stolen by his brother Taalre, both vanished due to Kett...and now apparently among their ranks. Vajen Ama Darav...his it means he's one of them. Kosaan...had started love...then he disappeared too, and now apparently a Kett." Sakura shivered. "Shit...I need to be there when he wakes..."

It felt like ages before the door to the med-lab opened, and Lexi stood, she glanced at Sakura. "I figured you would be here." A pause. "Come on in."

Sakura stood up and followed Lexi in. "How is he?"

"Stable. When we get to Havarl, we'll let the Savi Tovaan medical personnel look him over to make sure he is okay." Lexi stopped by her desk. "Though what I heard about what was in the datapad, I do worry about the...emotional and mental damage."

"Same here." Sakura stopped by Jaal's side. She saw he was no longer in his armor, but in a white shirt and pants. There was a bruise on his left cheek, and she could see the bandages that weren't covered by his shirt, most was underneath. "Lexi, I feel terrible. If I had been there..."

Lexi had her attention on the Pathfinder. "Don't blame yourself, you couldn't have known. Could have happened to anyone."

Sakura heard a moan, and looked at Jaal.

He appeared to be struggling against something, his words barley audible. "No...Sakura...please..." And tears streamed from his eyes.

Lexi looked at the monitor. "Nightmare."

Jaal awoke with a startle. "No!" And moved to get up.

Lexi was quick to lay him back down. "You are safe, we are on the Tempest, the med-bay."

Jaal took deep shuddering breaths. "Sakura."

The Pathfinder was by his side, she took one of his hands into hers. "I am here."

The Angara was clearly distressed. "I...dreamed...that I lost you to the Kett...that you were one of" He was unable to continue, and was shaking slightly.

Lexi had a look of concern. "What happened back there on Eos? Can you tell me?"

Sakura had a similar look. "Saw the datapad. And Cora killed the Kett that had attacked you."

Jaal sighed, his voice thick with grief. "That...used to be Allia." He paused, steadying himself. "She...managed to escape...and begged for death, for release. I was unable to act, to do anything."

Lexi activated her omni-tool, typing in notes.

Sakura placed a hand on Jaal's right cheek, rubbing it gently. " so sorry. Is there anything I can do?"

Jaal looked to the other medical bed and back to the Pathfinder. "Stay with me, darling one. Please."

"I will." She leaned down to kiss Jaal on his forehead. "I am not going anywhere." She gently wiped the tears from his cheeks.

Jaal held her hand tightly. "Thank you."

Chapter Text

Sakura Ryder awoke to the morning rays of the star, Faroang. She opened her eyes, and sat up on the cot she was laying on.

It had been over two days since their arrival in Jaadeen, Havarl. Sahuna had been waiting for them. Sakura knew she had been crying, the loss weighing heavy, but relieved that she, Jaal, and the others were okay, and safe here in Jaadeen. The largest single settlement left the Angara had, aside from New Palaan on Aya, the main city where the Angara Resistance Headquarters was located.

The medical personnel checked on Jaal, and were able to get him on the road to recovery.

Sakura sat up on the cot.

The Savi Tovaan medical center, founded about one hundred years ago by the first settlers of Jaadeen, it had undergone renovations and expansions since then. The interior was of a similar design to Aya's- white and light blue.

She stood up from the cot, and walked to the bed Jaal was laying on.

He was sleeping soundly, at ease. He clearly wasn't in as much pain, and the bruise on his cheek was almost gone. And he was wearing the same white clothes as he did on the Tempest.

Sakura thought back to the datapad, and the instances of a family being hunted down, every single one of them. And in the case of one, one was considered worthy, and the rest were; they could only piece together the aftermath. I'll never let the Kett get their filthy claws on you, I'll protect you...even if it costs me my life.

Sakura walked to the window, and looked out it.

The courtyard below was paved in stone, there was a central fountain, trees and plants along the edges, and benches around where patients could sit, relax, and get sun. The courtyard was named 'Darri's Courtyard' in honor of Darri Tovaan. He lived up until fifty years ago, when he lost his life treating the injured up until the Kett had pushed through a daar's defenses on another Angaran world.

Sakura heard Jaal. "Good morning, darling one."

Sakura turned to see him sitting up. "How are you feeling?

He smiled. "Much better than a few days ago." A pause. "A pleasant day outside, we should go to the courtyard."

Sakura nodded. "Sounds great!"

Sakura and Jaal walked into the courtyard, and stopped near the fountain.

Jaal sighed. "It is so pleasant out here. Calming."

Sakura turned to Jaal. "Indeed, especially being with you." She hugged him tightly. "I hope you are okay, you had me worried."

Jaal hugged her back. "I will be, in time."

Sakura stood on her toes to kiss Jaal tenderly on his lips. "I love you so much."

Jaal smiled warmly. "I love you too, darling one."