This story draws heavily, and with permission, from the layout, habits, and background of the Terminus laid out by KatKiller-V in the "Another Realm" series. If you haven't read it yet, I highly recommend it. Here is a link to the first story; s/11038928/1/Another-Realm-Arrival. I will also be drawing from his idea of Batarian culture and customs. s/11826964/1/AR-Exploring-the-Galaxy is a link to the story he has set up to explain this background, but be careful not to spoil anything for yourself.
However, back to this one, KatKiller-V is serving as my beta writer. We both have extremely high hopes, so, read on!
Prologue: The Lost Colony
It was a barely-habitable world that my parents had immigrated to when they had me, an initially unnamed planet in the Dark Rim that showed evidence of having been partially terraformed by the Protheans. It had no real useful resources, but when a few of Warlord Cessa's crews had reached the stage where they wanted to settle down, she had given the green light and the funds to establish the initial infrastructure, the planet being named Falivas, after a vote by the Turian majority, in honor of a nickname that crew had used for their patron. It meant "Spirit of the Seas".
The name did fit, as the few human and Batarian families admitted. A levo world, the colony I'd grown up on was nonetheless predominated by Turians burnt out on spacefaring life, and ready to raise a family. They fed themselves using imported soil and greenhouses, while the dozen or so Batarian exile families and the three other human households subsisted on fish from the ocean and an alien grain that grew wild in the plains. It was a simple life, with a Turian woman and Batarian priest educating us children. My parents taught me English, but lowborn Batarian was what we spoke in day-to-day life. All of us kids learned Turian too, and we all basically knew how to talk to each other and our friends parents.
I spent a lot of time with the Batarian priest, the only mid-caste in our little colony. He saw how I had a bigger drive to learn than most of the kids here, and taught me highborn Batarian as well, even teaching me to read it in the small, handwritten transcript of the teachings of the Pillars of Strength that he had carried with him since his induction into the priesthood. My parents had never been religious, but they didn't object to me learning about the alien beliefs. That had been part of why they'd left Earth right after first contact, ending up in the Terminus running with a small smuggler group that joined up with Cessa in the Dark Rim after she saved them from a Blood Pack raider. That was the story they told me, at least.
Life wasn't easy, especially as we started to drill for something to repay Cessa with. A few small deposits of mid-value minerals were all we really ended up with, but there were the right amounts of materials that, by the time I was ten, we had a small foundry making armor-grade ceramics for Cessa's hardsuits, and for export. The Turian who ran it showed me a few tricks of the trade, and took me on as a kind of apprentice alongside his daughter once us kids were old enough to start contributing to the colony.
We didn't have an extranet connection, and this far out in the backwaters of space we were in our own little insulated bubble. The growing tensions and hostilities between my race and the Batarians, and the animosity between Turians and the Alliance, didn't bother us. We had a few disputes, but everyone got along for the most part. I spent most of my time with Mellaris, the armorsmith's daughter, and a pair of Batarian twins named Lilush and Varush, the former being a girl and the latter a male, with both being about two years younger than me. They were Nalii's, the priest, grandchildren and both worked with their father, an exiled soldier. The girl was training as a pilot with the battered shuttle the colony used, and the boy and her both were being taught by their father to fight.
Life was fairly peaceful, no new immigrants coming into the colony and nobody really getting hurt or leaving. When we weren't working, us kids could swim in the ocean that covered nearly eighty percent of the planet, something that me and the twins spent a lot of time doing, though Mellaris usually sat on the beach complaining about how sand was getting in her plates. Turians were notoriously bad swimmers, according to everyone, but she did put in an effort.
Not to mention she looked great, as did Lilush, in the minimal clothing that we wore to swim. In terms of attraction...I most certainly wasn't normal. It was probably because there were no human women in my age range around as I grew up, but both Batarian and Turian women were kind of attractive to me. I'd never done anything, of course; they'd told me that I was basically like a brother to them both, so there hadn't been any chance of that even if I'd tried.
I was sixteen now, and laying on the same beach by myself just thinking. I'd gotten the day off earlier because I'd pulled an all-nighter yesterday getting an order filled for the pickup by one of Cessa's frigates later today. Mellaris was still working, and everyone else was busy, so I'd come out here. But, after more than an hour laying here, I got up and just started walking along the beach. The sun here was apparently weaker than Earth's, but it could still give some really nasty sunburns as I'd learned the hard way. After about five minutes my foot hit something in the sand. That was unusual; the beach here wasn't rocky, at all, and it hadn't felt like driftwood.
Curiosity getting the best of me, and I dropped to my knee and brushed the sand away. A dull grayish-green, smooth surface was revealed, which continued in either direction through the sand. It felt like metal, and it kind of excited me. This planet had apparently looked like someone had tried terraforming it when Cessa opened the relay leading here, so maybe this could be something left from an ancient alien race. I knew for a fact that nobody from the colony had built this here, and a lot of the beach here had washed off in the last week's storms. It was several feet lower than I remembered, if the steep hill where sand turned into soil was any indication. Whatever had been buried, it had been here for a long time.
More and more of the metal was revealed as I went, and it showed no signs of stopping even as I uncovered a haptic panel, a huge rarity on a cheaply assembled prefab colony like this. It wasn't there one second, but then I apparently cleaned the sand off of the emitter, and as my hand touched it the ground under me gave way as the door, or whatever it was, slid open. A veritable mountain of sand tumbled in with me. My ribs hit a metal step, driving the wind out of me, and I rolled down several more before splashing into a thin layer of brackish, foul-smelling water.
My head stayed above water as I coughed and spluttered to get my breath back, my ribs burning with each heaving breath even as the sand and dust stirred up into the air scratched at my throat. After a few minutes I could finally start moving, my eyes already adjusted to the greenish metal around me, which was streaked with rust and dead brown algae. The only light was that which was coming though the opening I'd fallen into, up a long flight of stairs. Turning in the other direction, and still nursing the bruise on my side, I saw another door, the water at the bottom of it about shin deep over landing in front of it. Its haptic was still lit, a red color that I assumed meant it was locked. Then again, aliens might not have used the same color scheme as modern civilization, so I limped over to try it anyway.
When my hand touched it, the door opened and several loud alarms started blaring. The room that it opened into was lit by strobing lights as some kind of harsh voice, almost reminiscent of a Batarian's and a Turian's playing at the same time, spoke over crackling, static-filled speakers. The sound, and the fact that the massive room seemed to have alien skeletons laying in the water inside it, unnerved me greatly. But...I didn't want to leave empty handed. There was a table that one of the skeletons was laying next to near me, a weird, overturned chair with what seemed to be a melted hole in its back, sticking up from the water. On top of it was what looked like a picture I'd seen of a Prothean beacon, except smaller. It was a black and green rectangle, with multiple layers and bumps that made it look kind of like a crystal, and there were lines etched along it.
I splashed over to it, looking around nervously as some kind of scraping rattling sound echoed out from deeper in the ruin, and reached out. I was eager to grab it and get out, this was getting too weird. I was already turning around, the thing just visible in the corner of my eye, when it suddenly lit up, glowing bright green along the etched in lines, and a spark jolted through me as my fingers touched it. I started to lift it up and...
...shard clutched tight in my hand as the alarms started. The ground shook, a massive rumble drowning out the first words to blare through the intercom, but then Xithan's voice came through saying, "...lost. I repeat, the surface is lost. Civilians, retreat to fallback position three. I repeat, fallback position three."
He was repeating the same message over and over again. The few artisans and laborers that had been here eating were running as fast as they could, while I pulled the rifle slung across my back out, nestling it into a ready position.
I was turning to the entryway, knowing it wouldn't be long before they found it, when the snap-whine of an energy lance rang out and my a burning pain hit me. I couldn't even scream, all the air burning out of my lungs as the emerald beam pierced the armor on my chest, melting a hole through my chair as I started to tumble backwards.
My eyes locked onto the cold glare of a guard in full armor by the door, his lance still raised as the beam snapped off and the shard slipped through my fingers...
I jolted upright, my back cracking as I did and water splashing everywhere. My hands flew up to my chest, my heart hammering as the burning pain in my chest slowly faded. I couldn't find a hole or wound, but there was blood all over the neck of my shirt, which I realized had come from my nose a moment later. My head was throbbing as the alarms rang out still.
"Alert! Alert! Unidentified Species has breached perimeter! Base Self-Destruct initiated; T-Minus seventeen minutes to thermonuclear detonation." The droning voice started again immediately after, the alarms driving my head deeper into agony.
My stomach lurched as I staggered to my feet, my thoughts muddled and sluggish. I couldn't think, more than to know I had to leave. The room was empty as I staggered to the stairs, sand crunching under my feet and my vision warped and twisted, feeling like something was missing. I couldn't focus my eyes right as the muted, red-filtered sunlight poured down from the top of the stairs, a foggy haze that filled the sky.
When I got back up onto the sand, an acrid scent reached my nose. It was muted but it smelled like...smoke. The sand was trampled down, the footprints weird and three-toed. They were too long to be Turian. A splitting pulse in my head made me stagger, and for a second they looked normal and the entire beach seemed weird, emptier than it should have been. Then I shook my head and started off, a sick feeling in the pit of my stomach as I saw smoke billowing from the colony.
My first steps were too long, and staggering. I felt like throwing up as I moved, and everything felt wrong. As I moved my vision would flicker between what I could see and the same landscape, but with black and green spiraling towers. Between the billowing smoke and distant colony, and swarms of dark insects blocking out the sky as crimson light rained down into a city. I didn't know what was happening, but after over a minute of running I realized that flashes of green light were actually there.
A scream reached my ears as soon as I crossed the outlying tool shed where the colony kept its hunting gear. It sounded Turian, a flanging cry of anger that made my blood run cold. I'd barely even been taught how to fire a gun, but I knew going into whatever was happening empty handed would be suicide.
I threw up when I saw the Turian corpse laying on the ground inside of the shed, a clean hole burned through his head, no blood or anything anywhere. Just a clean, cauterized hole. The body was facedown, so I had no idea who it was, save from being one of the adult male Turians. I...I didn't want to know yet either.
I was shaking, my throat and nose and mouth burning, as my hands wrapped around the stock of one of the long-barreled hunting rifles inside the shack. I knew it wasn't meant for going through barriers, but it was better than nothing. And maybe whatever did this wouldn't have any.
The Turian from before screamed again, and this time there was the crack of a gunshot followed by a snap-whine, and another enraged shout. It sounded close. Like, inside the forge right across from me close. It...it sounded like Mellaris. But if It was her I'd have heard her father too. They both should've been there working.
I ran closer, stumbling as my eyes kept trying to shift focus, but skidded to a stop when I saw something stepping back outside the door. It wasn't Turian. It wasn't human. It wasn't Batarian. I didn't know what it was, but it...
Wrong. Enemy. Not Us.
The words rang out in my head like thoughts. I agreed with them, but hadn't consciously thought them. As the rifle on my shoulder barked, the figure turned to me. There had been no flare of barriers, and it hadn't moved, so I assumed I'd missed. Trembling, I tried to line the shot up again as it raised a blocky rifle towards me again, the dark and desiccated husk of a being in front of me superimposed by a more lifelike figure in the same pose. My rifle barked and it fell back, a beam of green energy firing wide and carving a chunk out of the metal roof of the building as it collapsed.
Not believing that I'd just killed something, I ran up to the door. I found myself face-to-face with another of these things, rusted and decayed metal clinging to what looked like bones as four metallic eyes glowered sightlessly down at me. It raised its arm with a creak as I screamed, but the boom of a heavy pistol firing left it with a gaping hole on the front of its forehead, shards of bone showering my face as it collapsed to reveal that the entrance lobby was filled with dead...things. I didn't know what else to call them.
It also revealed Mellaris standing in the center of a scorched wall, one of her arms hanging limply at her side with long line scorched down the plates that lined it. The other held her father's Carnifex, the barrel glowing red even through its peeling paint. Her mandibles were drooping, quivering with what I knew to be fear, and she looked exhausted. Terrified, even.
"I...Spirits. Is that really you?"
All I could do was nod. I was shaking too, especially since she was there with the pistol instead of her dad.
"I thought you were dead. They-they came from the beach a few minutes ago." She gulped and visibly shook. "They killed Dad. They're killing everyone."
She staggered forward, brittle machines crumbling to dust under her taloned feet, and fell into me in a very human hug, gasping and sobbing as she held me. "This can't be real."
"I...I think it is."
"W-what?" She looked up at me, her tone implying confusion.
"I think I caused this. I found some kind of alien ruin. I think these things came from it." My voice was cracking and shaking but she just looked at me blankly.
"S-Selos. You're scaring me. I can't understand you."
I was halfway through saying 'what' when I realized I wasn't speaking Turian. Or Batarian. Or even English. It was something else, but it felt as natural as breathing, and took a conscious effort to switch back to Batarian. The words I'd heard in the ruins, the countdown to a nuclear explosion chilling me to the bone. If we didn't get out of here, we were dead for sure.
"I...I know what happened. I can't explain now," my voice sounded rough, even to me. "We have to get to the shuttle and get out of here. There's an alien ruin underground on the beach. It's going to explode and kill us all if we don't get out of here."
She looked at me askance, but she took it at face value. She trusted me. And, after causing this, that meant a lot. "But...what about everyone else?"
"The shuttle can't fit us all. If they weren't at home with their guns they're probably dead." It hurt to admit, but it was true. Everyone we knew was either dead now, or would be soon. "The twins should be in the field with the shuttle and their dad. We can get to orbit and wait for the supply frigate coming later today."
She nodded hesitantly, and then my ears started ringing as her pistol cracked again before one of the things behind us could attack. We crept out into the small alley, between the foundry and one of the prefab houses, the same one I'd come in through. There were none of the figures in sight, and we started back towards the edge of town. We'd skirt across to where the shuttle was kept, in a clear field on the landward side of the colony. It would be in the open but most of these things would be in the town, not here.
We were almost out of the alleyway when a tortured groan of metal rang out. We froze, her looking around and me looking up. The torn triangle on the roof was slipping, the tiny shreds of metal holding it together snapping as it leaned over towards us. Towards Mellaris.
"No!" I shouted, my focus slipping as the word came out in that other language. I shoved her out of the way just as it broke free, sending both her and myself to the ground sprawling. I hadn't even begun to stand when it landed on my leg, pain unlike anything I'd ever felt flooding my eyes with tears as I screamed.
Pain. Push through. Can't die.
The thoughts still didn't feel like mine. But, they felt right, and they mimicked what Mellaris was saying to me, begging me to move, to be ok. Somehow, despite every ounce of my body saying to just give up, I started to move. She shoved the debris off my leg, looking sick as her mandibles hung open. I didn't look back; I didn't want to know what it looked like. I couldn't feel anything but pain, like my entire leg was a lump of nerves set on fire, beneath my mid-thigh, and trying to move it just made it ten times worse as my Turian friend threw up.
"H-help me up. I can walk if you help, we have to get out of here."
It took way too long, and way too many bitten back screams, to get up on my good leg, and lean almost all of my weight on Mellaris. I could lean on her shoulder; it was probably the first time she was ever glad to be short for her race. We managed to get a rhythm going, albeit one that sent tears streaming down my face every time whatever was left of my leg touched the ground. We left the hunting rifle on the ground where I'd fallen, and my Turian crutch kept her pistol aimed at the rim of the colony as we limped along.
I was really nervous about the time when the shuttle came into sight, a single standing figure visible next to it. Out behind the shuttle several fires were burning in the grass, and vitrified furrows were left in the soil around it, along with over two dozen of the corpses of these things. As we approached, a gunshot rang out and a small puff of dirt went up next to us. My throat was raw from screaming, but Mellaris stepped in and shouted not to shoot.
The figure, too short to be Varush or his father, turned out to be Lilush, who was standing over the fallen bodies of her two closest male relatives, each in half-armor. Instead of scorch marks and burned holes, they had punctures, blood soaked dirt making up the ground under them. It just made me feel sick.
"You two are alive!" She seemed relieved. Then her eyes darted down to her family. "I...they're hurt, badly, but they're still alive I think. I put that medigel thingy on both sides of their wounds but they aren't waking up."
Her eyes saw my leg then, as we got closer, widening as her face flushed a darker green as she tried to fight the urge to throw up. "We need to get them in the shuttle and get out of here."
"What about everyone else?"
"If they aren't dead now they will be in a few minutes," I explained, trailing off into a pained groan as Mellaris moved me into one of the worn-down seats in the shuttle. "I'll explain later. We have to get into orbit. There's going to be a nuclear explosion."
Lilush was panicking. She might have been going into shock; by the Pillars, all of us probably were. And we had a right to be. But, she had to hold it together. She was the only conscious one here who could fly the shuttle. In less than a minute the two women had managed to bring the unconscious Batarians into the shuttle, laying them out on the floor. As I looked down at them, I saw my crushed, mangled leg and would have thrown up again if there was anything left in my stomach. Instead, I just sat there gagging.
One of the bay doors was closed and sealed, and Lilush was warming up the engines in the cockpit, when the little hope I'd built up crashed down again. A crack from outside rang out, and Mellaris dropped with a bullet hole in the center of her chest, a spray of indigo blood painting the door and the floor behind her as she slowly fell backwards, her eyes wide and her mouth open in a silent scream.
My scream wasn't silent as I flopped off the seat, jostling my leg, and managed to slam the door shut as we lifted off the ground. Lilush was calling back to me asking what had happened, but I couldn't bring myself to answer, too busy trying desperately to stem the blood pulsing from my closest friend's chest.