Niera’Ai crinkles her nose in frustration, sizing up her new squad member with nearly x-raying acuity. She can tell that the woman before her is well built, already foreseeing a tank in action. She doesn’t need to know the woman’s name, didn’t read her file. She doesn’t care. . She needs…
(ps sorry Kara for the confusion, we’ll fix it!)
Maryah clicked through her datapad, checking the stability of the rest of the experiments. The attack hadn’t been kind.
“Maryah. Alliance has sent word. More troops coming. Cleaning up Cerberus,” Dalaris commented. He looked at Maryah, her grey eyes downcast as she checked off her list.
“Good. What about the batarian? Are experiments necessary? Work on him ceased approximately two months ago,” she responds, brushing her black hair out of her eyes. She was not pleased with the situation. Sur’Kesh had become her home and it had been attacked by Cerberus bastards.
Bastards…she had picked up a few words from Alliance training. Soldiers weren’t known for their clean vocabulary.
“Yovak says he’s important. Do not understand why,” Dalaris shook his head. Maryah looked up at the Salarian, scanning him quietly. Yovak never had a good reason to keep something. He always kept things just to keep them.
“I recommend application of anesthetics then. He seems irritable.” She checked the datapad again. “Heart rate and breathing is elevated.” She put the datapad down, hopped onto the table, and glanced back over at Dalaris. “I should look for Cerberus troops,” she muttered, half-heartedly.
Dalaris chuckled. “You should. Duty calls.” He blinked up at her, his large eyes surprisingly sad.
Maryah sighed. “I have no attachments. I was hoping for one. Having no squad is unfortunate. But…”
“But? Hesitant are you?”
“Very much so. I miss…home…” she muttered, dropping her head.
“Do not claim this home. You are human. You must find another home,” he stated quickly but Maryah could hear his voice falter.
“Of course not. Childish notion.” Dalaris was putting up his usual front. Ever since she was a child he would say those exact words. Do not claim this as home. You are human. You must find another home. But every time he’d say it, Maryah knew he was lying. This was her home. No matter what happened, home was with her family and her family was Dalaris.
She hoped back down from the counter, looked over her pistol, and readied herself to leave. “If you require any assistance…”
“Thank you, Maryah,” he responded, looking back at her. She smiled gently at him and he returned it. “And good luck.”
“No luck required. Just skill. And Justice,” she laughed, eyes brightening.
Zyire sat silently in the shuttle, staring at the red armored helmet on the seat beside her. It was brand new, shiny and unscathed. She expected that to change soon. She put out a hand and set it on the glossy surface, catching it from rolling off the seat just as the shuttle pitched forward again. The jarring movement of the vessel was familiar, almost reassuring. It meant everything was normal and, so far, there was nothing to worry about. Her blank expression – almost always set in an unconscious scowl – did not change.
Everything was going smoothly… Until she felt eyes on her, and her blood pressure instantly skyrocketed. She didn’t know why she was being watched, she could only guess it was because they had never worked together before.
She hated new people. She hated being evaluated. She felt like her trust and skills were being second-guessed. She had proven herself many times in her service. Her record spoke for itself. She was a Staff Lieutenant, the goddamned XO, and she didn’t need to be spoken to like some quivering private.
The Quarian’s words burned in her ears, making her face redden in anger, but she relied on her training to keep her smart mouth shut. She didn’t want to be reprimanded on their very first mission together. I’ll show you capable, she swore silently instead, the tiniest twitch of a confident smirk cutting through her petulant scowl. Her skill as a soldier was the only thing she could rely on, the only part of herself she felt good about.
“Yes Ma’am,” she said simply, forcing herself to respond. She had heard it all before, from Commanders who felt the need to intimidate in order to inspire obedience. She did her best to brush it off. Only time and experience would tell if obedience was warranted.
She looked away as the Quarian’s attention was diverted. She had pulled her shoulder length brown hair back into a quick ponytail, not caring how messy it looked, and shoved the loose hairs back behind her ears before pulling on her helmet. It smelled intensely of plastic, and she hoped it wouldn’t give her a headache.
The fittings clicked into place, a hiss signaling a good seal, and she looked up again just in time to see the Commander pulling open the shuttle door. Good, finally. It took damn long enough to get here.
She felt relieved knowing that she would soon be back in the thick of things, and as she prepared herself she felt her pulse settle. The only time things really made sense in her head was in the middle of a fight, when all thinking could be reduced to “aim, shoot, duck, roll, cover, watch out for your squadmates, repeat.”
She jumped out of the shuttle and landed heavily, watching disdainfully as the Quarian ran off ahead. Instead of following, Zyire just stood there and calmly switched her Revenant’s ammo to incendiary. She would wait and scout the area until she received further orders. She wanted to get a feel for how much leeway her new Commander would allow. If she wanted a standard “press mold” soldier, that’s what she would get. If she wanted ingenuity and freethinking, that was fine, too.
Either way, things were going to burn. And as long as she had a chance to do the burning, she didn’t really care about anything else. She was flexible like that.
Most of the time.
Maryah wanted to stay. She normally didn’t falter when it came to orders but she hadn’t been home in two years and honestly, Sur’Kesh was more a home to her than Earth. Looking at Dalaris once more, she smiled weakly. He was already back to work, double checking on the structure of the facility. This was the first time she ever felt lonely. Dalaris was, in essence, her father, but he was also nothing more than the inn keeper. Even after fifteen years of living with Salarians—even after she picked up every mannerism and created tech for them—she was nothing more than a human interacting with an alien species. She used to be alright with that but she was different now. The world was different now. She was alone.
Being with the Alliance had changed a few things within her: she learned how to be anger; how to use the anger against the enemy; she also learned guilt, emptiness, and heartbreak. The amount of loved ones she had informed they would not see their soldier ever again almost equaled the amount of men she had taken down with her sniper rifle.
She took in a deep breath, flicked her slender fingers across her omni-tool, and called up her combat drone, Justice. She traced the name back to when she lived on Terra Nova. Dalaris thought it be best if she lived with humans a bit as a teenager but all it did was confuse her; it showed her how much of an outcast she really was. Justice had become her only friend. She supposed that she had created a companion out of the drone out of loneliness but hadn’t felt the loneliness until now. Maybe it was built in, this need to be with someone, this human need to be wanted.
Clearing her throat, she focused all her attention on the flicking yellow ball. “Reconnaissance only. Do not attack. Relay information. Alright?” The ball flickered a faint purple and floated off. She doubted she’d get any information back. Justice had been a bit flaky as of late. She clicked off her omni-tool and went back to checking her ammo for the umpteenth time.
Within moments she heard the sound of a shuttle setting down and her omni-tool blinked. Data streamed in: troops, unknown origin. Her drone appeared around the corner, flickering blue and yellow. She sighed. He was too scared of combat. “I should just make you a secretary drone,” she muttered, sliding her hand around her pistol. Justice shuttered, beeping at her. She placed her finger to her lips, glanced over at a completely oblivious Dalaris, and darted out into the hall.
She knew how to approach the enemy: quick cover, recognizing escape, gun at the ready. She shook dark strands of hair out of her face, closing her eyes. She was scared. She had never fought Cerberus on Sur’Kesh. She had never fought anyone on Sur’Kesh. She sighed, opening her steely eyes once again. Looking back, she saw her drone peeking out of the doorway. “Damned thing,” she muttered to herself.
Footsteps could be heard in the distance. She quickened her pace, running down the corridor. She stopped at a corner, hearing the footsteps move, shuffle, and then continued again. She took a deep breath, clicked the heat sink, and turned the corner, pistol withdrawn.
The muzzle of her gun found itself pressed between two dark eyes, narrowing on her. Maryah swallowed, feeling her body tighten in fear. “W-who are you?” she stuttered.
No orders. “Alright then…” Zyire muttered to herself, musing at her next step. She hesitated to call and ask, not wanting to appear useless. Instead she drew from her experience, and came up with her own orders: scout, find a nice defensible position to maintain, and kill all the bad guys. It was just a matter of anticipating the opposition… and making sure she didn’t put herself in a position she couldn’t get out of on her own. She got the feeling she wouldn’t see much of the Commander, except in the form of a well-placed rifle round.
Pausing for a moment, she allowed a grudging moment of respect. The Commander was a sniper, it made sense for her to break away from the ground forces and find a place to watch from with her sharper eyes. Besides, she was sure she’d keep in contact. Zyire was just used to a little more instruction. In fact, many of her past squad leaders had been too chatty for her taste. But if the Commander didn’t think she could handle it, she was sure that she never would have been selected.
She pulled her focus back in and swept her eyes over the surroundings. Right. Taking a moment, she evaluated the situation. Commander Shepard had been through the area already and taken care of most of the enemies with the help of Salarian forces. That didn’t mean there couldn’t be stragglers though.
Sweep the area then. Keep an eye out for hidden snipers – what are they called again? Nemesis? Nemesi? Nemeses? Whatever… - and those little cloaked ones that like to dance. She started moving, her heavy rifle held loose but ready, her head swiveling slowly to maximize her field of vision. All the others die easily enough from a bullet in the-
She turned a corner and found herself eye to eye with the barrel of a pistol. … Face.
She froze, waiting, unable to breathe, while she expected to be shot at any moment. Stupid, stupid, stupid! That was stupid! She tried to stand as still as possible as her anger at herself bubbled up and threatened to turn volatile. She wanted to move, to lunge at the weapon, to take advantage of the other woman’s hesitance. But the moment passed as she realized it would just get her killed faster. She had a helmet on, sure, but at point blank range through the faceplate? She knew from personal experience how well that would go. Instead, she steeled herself, slowly tightening her grip on her rifle. It was pointed down at the woman’s bottom half and she hoped that, at the very least, she could do some damage before she died. She would go down fighting.
Then the woman stuttered out her question, and her rage returned.
“Me?” She asked, on the verge of losing her temper as she processed the fact that she wasn’t actually facing an enemy. “I’m the last friendly face you’re ever going to meet if you don’t put that gun down, Chief,” she quipped snidely, making a point to note the woman’s lower rank. Friendly probably didn’t seem like an accurate description, but, judging by the woman’s armor, they were both Alliance and there was no reason to point guns at each other. She reached up, keeping her movements steady, and removed her helmet, revealing her roughly scarred face and dark glare.
It was one thing to have a gun in your face – as a soldier, that was hardly unusual. It was another to have a fellow soldier on the other end. And then she felt uneasy as she realized she was being watched again, by a large pair of the palest blue eyes she had ever seen. She wanted to wince, or look away, but she fought the urge and tried to hide her discomfort. Her face burned, as if to spite herself, and she cursed silently.
“Stop wasting time!” She shouted, her inner frustration showing through. She wasn’t known for being sociable, that was for sure.
((BTW, FUCK IT, I say that there’s totally rank insignia on armor SOMEWHERE, so she could tell that Maryah’s a Chief. IF ANYONE HAS AN ISSUE WITH THAT I’LL FIX IT, BUT YES. HTEHJSTJKYKS))