Tali'zorah nar Raya ran through the ship, her father's ship the Alarei. She is 19 years old and was about to embark on her pilgrimage but then fate decided that was not to be. Frankly, Tali was terrified, she could hear the ship groaning and creaking as the aging old vessel struggled against the strain of moving at full speed for such a long period of time. Why was the ship moving at full speed you ask? Well simply put they were fleeing, fleeing from the Batarian Hegemony. That Batarians you see had decided they had enough of the Treaty of Farixen, they decided they did not want to restrict their naval power and in almost absolute secret they created many new dreadnoughts. How none of the council races discovered this was anyone's guess considering the Salarian STG and the Council Spectres were the best intelligence groups in the galaxy.
So now the Batarians now had more Dreadnoughts than the Asari, still not as much as the Turians but enough that the Turians would have to suffer significant casualties if they wished to attack the Batarians. Furthermore the Dreadnoughts also broke the treaty in terms of ship size and armament making them much more dangerous than your average Turian Dreadnought. So in a show of power and proof of the Hegemony's new might they fabricated an incident against the Quarians obtaining a Casus Belli. It would look good after all if the new Batarian fleet destroyed the largest fleet in the galaxy and none of the council races would risk intergalactic war for the "suit rats". A perfect plan for the Batarians if you didn't mind the Genocide of an entire race… and it seems the Batarians didn't mind at all…
Tali staggered as the ship groaned and shuddered, she looked out the window to see one the ship next to the Alarei had taken a hit from one of the Batarian guns. Their heavy cannons punched right through the thin shield and armour of the civilian ship. There was now a gaping burning hole in the side of the ship. She could see the lights in the windows start to flicker and go out. The ship started to list and fall behind, gritting her teeth Tali turned away from the window catching a glimpse of engineer shuttles flying towards the ship in an attempt to save the ship.
Tali ran as fast as her legs could take her, running towards the bridge where her father was. He had called her to the bridge for a reason that she did not know, she was helping to keep the engines going when she got the message on her omnitool. The engines couldn't handle the strain of going full speed for so long. They have been running for weeks and the power core was now so hot it was almost uninhabitable. The engine room was not doing much better, she had seen the engine maintenance compartment next to hers burst into flames as the heatsinks caught fire and incinerated the engineers.
Finally she reached the door of the bridge guarded by two nervous looking marines.
"Tali, your father wants to see you." one of the marines said.
"Thank you." Tali muttered in reply as she ran into the bridge.
She entered to see the bridge in chaos, the crew was on the verge of panic and from one of the displays she could see red alerts popping up everywhere.
"Status on the Rio!" Tali heard her father bark.
"It's no good Admiral, the Rio is losing power rapidly, life support systems are down, the engines are at 30% power. That shot hit one of the main power conduits." a crew member replied frantically.
"Dammit, we would need to stop for a chance to save the Rio…" Tali heard her father say as she walked up behind him.
"Tell the captain of the Rio to evacuate what he can and abandon ship." Tali heard her father say.
"But sir they would only be able a fraction of the population before they are left behind. They have two hours at best before they reach the Heavy Fleet rear guard." the crewman replied shakily.
"Tell the captain to save what he can." Tali's father said grimly.
"Aye sir…" the crewman replied shakily.
"Father…" Tali stammered, finally finding her voice.
Tali watched as her father turned to face her, she couldn't see his face but she could tell by his body language that he was exhausted and almost at his wits end. They had already suffered two million of their seventeen million total population. It was a very real possibility that the Quarians as a race wouldn't last the next month.
"Tali… I need your counsel." her Father said quietly and with a noticeable tremor in his voice.
"Me?" Tali asked, surprised.
"I need a fresh perspective, I know you were researching where to go on Pilgrimage right now we need a place to go… all of us." her father replied.
"Erm… I was thinking of going to the Citadel but I assume that's not an option." Tali replied.
"No, those Bosh'tets said we were not allowed in Citadel space, along with Turian, Asari and Salarian space. The only two places that haven't outright rejected us are Omega and Tuchanka. Honestly I don't fancy our chances of receiving aid from the Krogans or those criminals in the Omega Relay. Do you know any strange places that would be even remotely possible for an escape." Her father said.
Tali paused as she cupped the bottom of her facemask, she could tell her father knew she was thinking. Where could they go, if the council race's space is off the table… then by logical elimination they just had to choose what wasn't in council space. Like her father said they couldn't go to Omega or Tuchanka no help would be found there. Going to a place wasn't the problem, it was going to a place where someone would help…
"Or someplace the Batarians won't follow…" Tali muttered.
"What was that?" Her father asked with a tinge of desperation in his voice.
"Sol… we can go to Sol…" Tali replied.
"What? That's crazy even the Krogan don't…" Her father began.
"Exactly, the humans smashed a Turian Armada eighty years ago, no one has dared enter human space since. Not even the Batarians would follow us there." Tali replied.
"Go on." her father said. Usually he wouldn't even entertain the notion but seeing as they were on the brink of extinction, caution wasn't really being on the table considering the metaphorical table was on fire.
"It's the only place the Batarians might not follow us. Maybe the humans will leave us alone and let us repair our ships, we are in no condition to pose a threat. Yes the Turians lost an entire fleet in there but remember they were going to attack the humans. Any ship with a window can see our fleet is so damaged we can barely keep it functioning. Maybe the humans can be reasoned with. Or maybe they would just take pity on us." Tali said.
"One in a hundred chance of survival rather than certain death? A logical deduction." her father said with a nod.
"Alright I'll call the admiralty board, stay here with me. I will need your reasoning." her father said.
"Me? But I'm not even a full adult!" Tali said, wringing her hands.
"Your idea is the best I have heard in two weeks of this hell. I'll take a good idea no matter where it's from." her father replied curtly as he gave commands to his bridge crew to hail the admirals.
"Besides, we aren't exactly in a position to stand on ceremony and tradition." her father added wearily. Just as the faces of the Admirals appeared on display.
"What is it Rael? I hope you have an idea." Admiral Gerrel said curtly as the lights on his ship flickered ever so slightly. His fleet was made of military ships and were trying their best to fight a rear guard action to cover the Flotilla.
"No, but my daughter does. Tali." Rael said as he gestured to Tali.
Tali fidgeted as she saw the piercing gazes of the most high ranking individuals of the entire flotilla.
"What is it Tali? I know you have a knack for unorthodox ideas, we could really use some right now." Admiral Raan or Aunty Raan as Tali calls her affectionately.
"We could go to Sol…" Tali said, trying to put as much strength into her voice as possible.
"Sol? Are you mad girl? If you want us to die I rather go out in a blaze of glory against the Batarians." Admiral Korris said.
"Hang on Korris, I assume you have a reason for your suggestion Tali. After all, the most ingenious solutions often sound like madness to the ignorant." Admiral Xen replied calmly.
"Yes, right now we need one thing, to get the Batarians off our backs. Sol is a place where even the Batarians may hesitate to follow." Tali explained.
"And if we go there the humans would just send us to the ancestors like they did to the Turians." Admiral Gerrel replied.
"Yes, they might but the Turians were obviously hostile. They would take one look at us and realise we aren't a threat. They might just allow us to wait near the Sol Relay while we try to fix what's left of our ships." Tali said.
"So your plan relies on the mercy of a race we know nothing about and the cowardice of an enemy that openly defied the citadel council?" Admiral Gerrel asked.
Tali didn't know how to reply to that, it was true, this would be a gambit that would either save or damn her entire species. Tali was starting to feel faint as the silence dragged on.
"A hundred in one chance for survival is better than certain death." Rael said.
"This is madness Rael." Admiral Korris said.
"Possibly." Rael replied curtly.
"We would likely go extinct." Admiral Korris added.
"Most likely." Rael replied again.
"Well that's the situation we are in now, at least if we die in Sol we can deny the Batarians the satisfaction of a complete victory." Admiral Gerrel added.
"Hmm, yes, going to Sol actually increases our chances, not reduces them. I support this plan." Admiral Xen said.
"As do I." Admiral Gerrel said.
"Myself as well." Admiral Raan said.
"I assume you support this as well Rael." Admiral Korris said wearily.
"Naturally." Rael replied.
"Very well, let's do this then. May the ancestors light our way, Keelah Se'Lai." Admiral Korris replied shakily.
"We will reach the Mass Relay in about a day. For now all ships should do as much repairs as possible so the jump doesn't tear our damaged ships in half." Admiral Xen said.
"What do you think we have been doing?" Admiral Korris muttered in reply.
"Now at least we have a glimmer of hope. Perhaps this will motivate our people to give the next few days everything they have. It will take at least two days for all our ships to depart by the Mass Relay afterall." Admiral Xen said.
"The heavy fleet will buy whatever time you need, Admiral Raan as discussed use the Patrol Fleet to screen the Liveships." Admiral Gerrel said.
"Of course, good luck to you all, Keelah Se'lai." Admiral Raan said as she cut her transmission quickly followed by the other admirals.
"Now we can only pray that your gambit won't be the final one we ever play." Rael said.
Tali nodded mutely as she scanned the display showing the state of the Alarei, it showed that the engines were overheating to dangerous levels. Some of the engine heatsink rooms were on fire and the fire foam dispensers had run out of foam a few days ago.
"I should go, they need all the help they can get down in the engine rooms." Tali said as she turned and began to leave but she felt her father grab her hand.
Tali turned to look at her father and saw the hesitation in his body language. "Tali… be careful down there…" her father said softly.
"I'll be fine dad." Tali replied as she turned and left the room.