REVISED: September 20th, 2013
Characters: Kolyat Krios, Oriana Lawson and other little-known residents of the Wards; cameos by main characters.
Rating: T. Rated for language, violence and suggestive themes. Subject to change.
A word of thanks to my friends, for helping this come to life. :)
Ghosts and Guardians
He'd thought he'd feel nothing. But no, he'd still felt some things. He'd felt the presence of flat walls and flat floors. He'd felt sterile air, a sense of static; the slow burn of relay travel.
And he'd also felt alone.
It'd been easy enough to know why. He'd left familiar faces far behind. He had no one left to guide him, no one left to speak soft words of encouragement while he traveled far between the stars.
She was gone.
She only existed in brief bursts of sensory information known as memory by then. He could have called on her - wrested her visage from his past - but his thoughts had been dark... too dark for sunset-colored eyes.
His scales had felt weathered, dry; pulling in weird ways against the base of his neck. He'd been pressed in by empty static. Empty air. And there had been voices, none of which he'd grown up with. It had been a typical transport shuttle. He'd never been in one before. He hadn't done a lot of things.
That was changing.
In one hand, he'd kept a holo. A strange thing it was, by drell standards, and he hadn't needed to look at it more than once. But he had. He'd lit the holo by and by, turned it in his palm, and let the angles of a foreign face imprint into his memory. It joined the catalog of other faces he'd encountered throughout the course of his life, strangers and loved ones alike, although the latter were all dead to him.
She was dead, and he had only one person left to blame.
He'd hated the uncertainty. He'd hated thinking about his life. He hadn't wanted Kahje, but he hadn't wanted this, either. He'd wanted more than the mementos of a man who had been little more than a phantom. He'd wanted more than trinkets of supposed sentiment.
He'd wanted answers.
So he had taken the credits, and the holo, and anything else that might have proven useful and left. And as that shuttle had carried him through the void between the stars on a course for the Citadel, he'd let his thoughts turn dark and in upon themselves. The world outside his body entertained the same old cycles: sleeping, eating, waiting. He'd gone through the motions and hadn't thought twice about the detached feeling it brought, or if it should unnerve him.
Transit officials had asked for his name when the Citadel's Wards arms loomed into view. He'd told them hesitantly at first, both his given name and his last. By the time he'd reached Zakera Ward, he'd felt much more at ease.
Krios was a killer's name. It would suit his needs.
The day they'd left for Zakera Ward, she'd felt ill.
It had been more of a mental state than a physical one. She'd known her sister was behind the move. Her sister had always been behind everything, every twist and turn and coincidental streak of fortune she and her family had ever encountered. Her adoptive mother's most recent promotion and their relocation to the Citadel had been no less coincidental.
Her guardian angels were at work. Something must have gone wrong... again.
And so, just like the time she and her parents had left Illium, she had her sister's contact information and the names of all the credible information brokers she'd ever used encrypted onto an OSD. She'd it kept in a pocket close to her breast throughout the moving process, not trusting that it wouldn't be lost or mishandled with the rest of her luggage. Her parents had remained oblivious.
It had been for the best.
The galaxy was full of opportunity. It was something she'd been eager to explore in the field of colony development, but as she and her parents had sped through the nearest relay on a course for the Citadel, the insurmountable wealth of space felt more intimidating than welcoming. She would have to adjust to this new uncertainty.
It was fortunate that she'd always been good at adjusting.
She'd listened to her adoptive parents talk animatedly about their future while on the shuttle to the Wards. Topics had included new jobs, humanitarian efforts, her continuing education, and their living arrangements, among other things. She had numerous Wards institutes bookmarked on her extranet account and had taken the time to browse through their degree programs, but always her thoughts had turned back to her sister. Her sister wouldn't have wanted her to worry, but her sister hadn't counted on her suspecting as much as she did.
She'd been left with little choice but to trust that her sister and her sister's associates knew what they were doing. She'd become used to relying on blind faith and frustration. She hadn't expected an explanation.
But then, the unexpected: Midway through the Citadel move her guardian angel had sent a message promising just that. It had been their first correspondence in what felt like a long time.
The evasive tone coloring her sister's e-mail had done nothing to allay her suspicions.
She'd played the violin to pass the time. She'd been practicing in their transit cabin when the Citadel winked into existence under the light of the Serpent Nebula. The sight of it had made her stop playing mid-motion, inspired a sense of awe and a sliver of fear.
It had to have been for the best, but she'd still wanted answers. She'd get them, too... somewhere here.
Kahje had been all rainclouds and gray-studded skies. The rain had plagued him in his youth; ran down his face and gotten in his eyes. He had seen it run into the Encompassing that swirled around the bio-domes. He had seen it swallow the body of his mother when she'd slipped away and out of sight, weighted down by stones.
The Citadel had never known rain.
But what it lacked in rain it made up for in people. At any one time there had been a thousand alien faces communicating a thousand different cues. He'd expected to learn fast, but not so much all at once. Artificial light flickered above the fins of his head when he'd walked down the halls.
Voices. Music. Bright, blinking banners. Blues and reds at the corners of his eyes. Structures of metal and plastic had been interspersed with splashes of foliage transplanted from a dozen alien worlds, all locked in perpetual spring, but it hadn't felt like night or day or spring or fall. The Wards had nothing but partitioned windows and space between them and Widow's light. The only sunset that existed was the one he'd kept within his mind.
They'd asked for an I.D. at customs. A human officer had displayed pale pink gums and commented on how rare it was to see a drell. They'd been satisfied with his passport, but he'd shied away from the security centers afterward. The person he'd been looking for wouldn't be found there.
And he'd found that person - a human - chattering away in one of the public comm terminals on the 28th level of Zakera's Mid-Wards. His scales had prickled against the air when he'd caught sight of two leather boots, smudged cuffs and a cocky swagger; the holo sprung to mind when the man before him had turned. There it had been, clear as day, perfectly imposed over the human's face in his mind's eye: the familiar gauntness, an identical face, give or take ten years or so.
He'd strode forward. His middle had felt tight and coiled, and the floor hard against his heels. The human had spotted him by then. The boy had frozen, confused and wary.
"Is this you?" he'd demanded. The rasp of his voice had carried between them only to be muffled by the thrum of a nearby club. The holo winked in miniature on his outstretched palm.
"Is this you?" he'd asked again when the human appeared too startled to reply.
"That's me," the human had said. The boy's face had then contorted into something that passed for recognition. "You... you're Krios!"
Revulsion and something shameful - something yearning and hurt - had welled within his heart at that name.
"You're his son," the boy had continued, oblivious. "Shit, I didn't know that you were... I thought he'd -"
"That doesn't matter," he'd said. The holo had since disappeared from his palm. "I'm looking for work."
"Work?" The human had nodded. "Yeah... yeah, I can hook you up. I mean, Krios, right? Just what sort of work are we talking?"
He'd leaned forward. "I need a gun."
The Tayseri Ward had suffered a great deal of damage during the Battle of the Citadel, and it had still been recovering when they'd taken a detour to survey the Dilinaga and Auxua districts. Her parents would be spending a great deal of time there, with her father working as a transit tech in the Dilinaga district and her mother with Inter-Wards public relations. They'd had an apartment complex reserved in Tayseri, but they'd been more interested in getting her settled in her own place at Zakera Ward.
When they'd left for the keel docking station, her mother had taken notice of various anti-quarian labor signs. The older woman had been incensed on the entire ride from that point on, and by the way her father had looked humored, she'd supposed this had been a good move for both of them.
Not that she'd expected any less from her guardian.
They'd arrived at the Zakera dock soon after. She'd noticed the hanar first, two of them, both idling outside customs. She'd seen many back on Illium, but the intricate bands of light that had glided through their bodies caught her eye when she and her parents clambered out of their shuttle.
The Wards were never dark, she'd learned. They'd always been illuminated by the watchful eye of the Serpent Nebula. A cautionary warning flashing over a ledge nearby stated that dropped items or persons jumping would fall towards the windows. She'd been sure to sidle away from the platform edges after that. She wasn't on a planet any more.
Illium had never seemed so far away.
A woman at customs had said something about foreknowledge of their arrival. Her father had scratched at his retreating hairline and laughed a thanks. A turian commuter might have said something racist when they'd been swept from the dock and into the hall for security clearance. She'd get used to it.
A scan had been required. She'd twisted her fingers below her navel when the bright grid of the scanner hummed across her dress. As they waited for it to finish, she'd mentioned to her mother that the scanners in Zakera were some of the best in the galaxy. Her mother had laughed and mentioned that it was good they had little to worry about. It had made her feel better... sort of.
The turian officer performing the scan let them go. They'd found themselves in a C-Sec lobby after exiting the hall. Her parents had wanted to see "her new place" before retiring to their own apartment block, something she'd relented to with a flushed smile.
She'd been pleased with her apartment. She'd still been poking around the place when her mother laid the ground rules for their arrangement, said rules being that they (her parents) wouldn't pry into her personal life as long as she kept in touch (weekly. Daily. Hourly. ...Maybe not hourly.) Her father had been less enthused with the idea of them living separately, but in light of her continuing education and blossoming womanhood, he'd had to concede the point. With a final farewell and a few wet smacks that might have been kisses, they'd eventually left her to her own devices.
The first thing she'd done was activate her extranet account and set up her personal terminal. Once situated, she'd turned her attention to unpacking the rest of her things, but that activity had been cut short by a chime of the door.
She hadn't hesitated to greet her visitor, and she hadn't been disappointed. Her sister had been standing at the door, all tentative smiles and long, dark hair.
The swell of emotion inside her chest had been too great to fathom much else. She'd invited her guardian in and ignored the protests. They hadn't seen each other since Nos Astra. Niceties could wait.
They'd made a show of unpacking some of her belongings, but had soon turned to the wine instead. She'd been eager to share some of her asari-made elasa, so they decided to take a break. Maybe she'd imagined the troubled crease of her sister's brow when she'd asked how her sister and her sister's associates were doing. She hadn't expected answers, but her sister wasn't immune to slips, so she had listened with rapt attention when her sibling moved to speak.
Guardian angels had never been perfect creatures, but she'd still been glad to call this one her own.
A gleaming Carnifex had been kept concealed at his side. He'd thumbed its trigger numerous times and familiarized himself with the cold alloy against the lines of his palm. It had been a strange sensation. The metal had been hard and unforgiving. It prickled his nerves and left him feeling incriminated when he had yet to do anything wrong.
A torrent of uncertainty had welled within him. He'd only grown to hate the feeling more, but this was what he'd come to do. He'd had no choice.
Or so he had thought.
He'd warded off a headache by pinching at his forehead. The uneasy feeling in his gut had twisted and uncoiled numerous times by then, but it stilled altogether when his target appeared.
His breath had caught. Colors flashed behind his eyes. Lines sharpened. He'd glanced up to gauge whether anyone had become suspicious.
No one had. The target moved past him, unhurried.
His body had already begun to move, its feet darting over a smooth-worn floor. His targets had neared the entryway. The looming red shape at the corner of his vision had become a krogan, and then a turian, and –
- and the best laid plans, of which his had never been, crumbled when someone called his name. His hand had jerked and squeezed the trigger twice on instinct, and the resulting wail of gunfire trilled a note of pain throughout his head. It had been sloppy, sure, and he'd been shaken, but the thundering whoomph of a krogan body falling had been good enough for him.
The recoil had shocked him back to his body and away in pursuit of his target, who'd since run inside the nearest apartment. They'd both been cornered and caught, but at least he'd be in control of one life, even if it wouldn't be his own.
The turian had already fallen into a kneel. A small sliver of pleasure, mixed with greater amounts of disgust and horror, had assailed him at the sight. He chose to ignore it.
And so he'd found himself exuding far more grandeur than he'd felt when he pressed the barrel of a pistol to the back of his target's head. He'd then looked up at the person – or persons – who had botched his job to find him, and when he did, his pulse had chilled.
The sunset was long gone, but it seemed the ghost was still around.
She'd called him Mister Bailey when they'd first been introduced.
He'd acted flustered and told her "Captain" or "just Bailey" would do fine. Before her sister had left once more for parts unknown, she'd explained that there were few people she could trust. The captain – Bailey – had been listed as a (grudging) exception. She'd taken her sisters words to heart.
Once niceties had been exchanged, Bailey had said that he had someone else to introduce her to. It had been an unexpected turn, but she'd been curious. She hadn't been prepared to find herself standing in the 27th floor lobby looking up at a teal-scaled drell male.
Bailey explained that this drell was the son of one of her sister's associates. He'd made mention that this individual had once "run with the wrong crowd," but that was being "corrected." He'd said the drell might "squirm a bit" and not to be surprised if she found him unfriendly because he was "something of an ass" and still dealing with "personal issues".
The disclaimer had been alarming. But when she'd looked at the drell, her concerns had faded. He'd looked just as uncomfortable as her, if not infinitely more-so. She'd smiled and nodded her head at him, deciding to give the drell a chance. She would need allies, if not friends.
"You work here?" she'd asked. The drell frowned. She'd never seen one before, not in person. The plates of his face moved in odd ways.
"Oh, he works here," Bailey had chuckled.
The drell's frown only deepened. She would always recall that frown. It was a funny thing to remember about someone.
"I'm Oriana," she'd ventured. She'd kept her hands laced in front of her body out of respect for his personal space, and because she'd been unfamiliar with drell custom.
"Kolyat," he'd said at last. The name had been spoken as more of a mumble.
"He's just settling in to his own place, too," Bailey chipped in. "Near your block. Not a suite by a long shot, but it's better than the old community lodging."
The way the captain had drawled out 'community lodging' gave her the impression that it was a fancy way of saying 'jail cell,' and if the venomous look the drell shot the captain afterward had been anything to go by, she'd been correct.
Yet, despite everything, she'd still found herself smiling.
"It's nice meeting you," she'd said.
"Feel free to drop in," the C-Sec officer offered. "Can't guarantee I'll be here, but Sergeant Haron or someone else will. Maybe even this guy." He'd jerked his head toward Kolyat.
The drell had grunted: "Maybe."
Their eyes met. It had been brief; blue on black. When Kolyat looked away, she'd turned to Bailey.
"I'll keep that in mind."
It'd been a start.