"A hero is an ordinary individual who finds the strength to persevere and endure in spite of overwhelming obstacles. " - Christopher Reeve
First fan-fic, I had the idea for Aila when I was asked to write a short story about what I thought made a "hero" and if they were born or made as a result of their surroundings. I had just finished a ME-thru-ME2 marathon and although I ended up using a real-life example (Yakov Pavlov) , I had already developed the character and a general "hero-by-surroundings" storyline. Decided to finally put pen to paper (or fingers to keys, as the case is) and share her with the Mass Effect community!
Lieutenant Regala'Darini paced stiffly around the bridge. Even if she were not wearing a mask, her face would be impossible to read, as emotional and caring as the metal floor her boots softly clanged on. As warm and inviting as a Russian in a Siberian storm a human once commented while she was on pilgrimage. She still didn't know if that was meant to be a complement or an insult, as she had no idea who the "Russians" were nor what system Siberia resided in.
"Lieutenant, we're approaching the co-ordinates, 10 minutes away."
Regala nodded stiffly "Alert the Captain." she then keyed her personal radio "Sergeant Aila, assemble the team, standard boarding equipment."
A youthful voice chirped over the radio "Boarding? I thought we were on a salvage run? Because if we're expecting a fight, wouldn't it be more of a "forceful exchange of commodities" or something along those lines?"
"And I thought I was giving you an order, Sergeant." Regala growled into her radio.
The reply was quiet, and very deflated; "Yes ma'am."
Regala let out an exasperated sigh and rubbed her mask lightly. Whatever happened to children maturing during their pilgrimage?
"Growling at her over the radio won't magically inspire her to become an ideal marine, Lieutenant."
Regala whirled to face the speaker and snapped stiffly to attention "I'm sorry, sir. I didn't hear you approach. I...ah...if I may ask, sir...how did you know who I was talking to?"
Captain Velzi'Mar chuckled lightly and the Lieutenant knew he was smiling widely "Because, Lieutenant, only our own Aila'Gerrel could get under your skin like that. She only returned from her pilgrimage a month ago, and she is still maturing into her own."
Regala had to force herself not to echo the words she knew were coming: "Patience is the answer." She smiled inwardly: That, in a nutshell, summed up Velzi'Mar vas Adami. His was one of the longest pilgrimages in memory, his gift an entire supply-ship full of salvaged ship parts, collected over 4 years of working odd salvage jobs. He was passed over for command twice, and never once raised an objection, content to be the XO as long as it suited the Admiralty Board. Even this ship, the Adami, exemplifies his motto...mainly in that it was only ever 70% functional at any one time.
At first she had seriously questioned the captain's decision to place Aila in the marines, seeing her as barely being sensible enough to carry a knife, let alone an assault rifle. Her opinion changed, however, the first time she saw her in action against Batarian slavers. Although they had caught the Adami by surprise, they didn't make it past the shuttle bay where they had made their entry. Aila had been practicing with her rifle in a make-shift range when the gunship blasted a hole through the door. She managed to keep their heads down until Regala and the rest of the marines arrived then, to Regala's shock, immediately took control, ordering everyone, the lieutenant included, around like she was the captain. Within minutes the Batarians were retreating with their dead and wounded, and with only a few suit punctures on the Quarian's side. That
seemingly brain-dead girl has more leadership ability in her pinky than the Admiralty board exhibits on a good day...
The Captain strolled over to the front view-port and gazed out at the blurring mass of stars.
"How long until we reach the destination?" He casually asked.
"Arriving in 3...2...1...uh..." There was a moment of silence, then a shudder as the ship dropped out of FTL drive. The helmsman tapped the digital readout; "I'll make sure that is calibrated next time, sir. We're out of FTL, almost on top of the given co-ordinates."
Velzi nodded and continued to gaze out of the view screen "Standard search procedures, if we're going to salvage a ship, we need to find it first."
The two sensor station operators smoothly manipulated their displays, methodically scanning for emissions. There was a few seconds of silence, during which Regala sensed some confusion rise in the two operators. She stalked over to their consoles and looked at the readouts: Heat-signatures, radiation emission, signal scanning... she raised an eyebrow ..negative?
"Captain, there isn't anything being picked up on the sensors. Even the heat sensors are showing negative" she said as she turned towards the captain. As always, he didn't seem to react in the slightest.
"Send out an active LADAR emission. Lets make sure there isn't anything out there."
Regala took a step forward "Sir, may I remind you that, according to operational guidelines, active LADAR is limited to asteroid fields and nebulae only." She new the answer already, of course, but she was wired to voice her complaint regardless.
The captain turned his head slightly "And you know what I think of half of those "guidelines". Proceed lieutenant."
The operator nodded and manipulated his controls, then scanned the LADAR receiver for any reply. "Contact, sir, bearing 22 E 7. I'd guess by the return we're looking at a small frigate. Can't get a clear enough return to begin determining a species of origin."
"Looks like the report was accurate. Lets get in as close as we can, Lieutenant.." he didn't even have to finish the sentence, she nodded and spun on her heels, briskly making her way to the shuttle bay.
The captain smiled inwardly: 6 years and she's still as stiff and formal as the day she returned from her pilgrimage...I suppose those Turians had quite the effect. He slowly walked over towards the communications terminal and placed a hand on the operator's shoulder "Launch a
comm buoy, let the Flotilla know we've arrived and spotted the ship. Species of origin is still undetermined, however we are starting recovery operations regardless."
"Sir, we're close enough for limited visual contact." The captain returned to his position in front of the window. He could see the outline of the
mystery ship as a black void amongst the backdrop of stars. His eyes twitched to the right as he saw the engines of the shuttle flare and push it towards the black shape.
Regala's voice sounded over the comm "Adami, this is Lieutenant Regala. Shuttle is away."
Regala leaned forward in the co-pilots seat, behind her the 5 other members of her team double-checked their weapons and suits...well...4 of them did at least. Aila, predictably, was sprawled out in her jump-seat, idly twirling her pistol.
Regala resisted the urge to snap at her and instead focused on the void ahead of the shuttle. She flicked on the external light, illuminating the surface, revealing a smooth, flat black surface completely void of any markings what-so-ever. The pilot skillfully maneuvered the shuttle around the ship, searching for a possible entrance. Regala was aware of a shape behind her and turned her head, her mask clanking against Aila's and causing both to jump back slightly.
"Keelah! Sergeant Aila! What in the name of the ancestors are you doing?" She snapped harshly.
Aila leaped backwards and quickly tapped on her omni-tool, bringing up a partial wire-frame "I'm trying to get an idea of the shape as the shuttle moves around it, so I can send it back to the Adami and they can try and determine a species of origin, Ma'am!"
Regala blinked and raised an eyebrow, Huh. That's actually a pretty good idea She stood and moved away from the co-pilots seat "Fine, Sergeant. Sit here. Pilot, give us a tour around the outside of this ship so the Sergeant can get a good outline. Keep your eyes open
for airlocks or bay doors."
She raised an eyebrow in mild amusement as Aila practically vaulted over the back of the seat and leaned towards the window, her three fingers skillfully manipulating the wire-frame, slowly building up a rough shape. She could only imagine how wide the kid's smile was.
She found herself looking at said wire-frame more than outside the window. She saw the ship slowly take shape. Curved backbone, two wing-like pylons jutting out and downward, two long engine housings on each pylon...she glanced out of the window, then back to the wire-frame, rubbing her head-scarf absentmindedly ...this shape is familiar...vaguely...
Her musings were interrupted by Aila thrusting her hand up "Huzzah!" the pilot turned to face her, his eyes indicating extreme confusion. Aila sunk down a little and laughed slightly "Sorry. Learned that from a human during my pilgrimage. Sorry. But anyway, here's our mystery ship!"
She lifted her omni-tool, revealing the wire-frame and slowly rotating it. The shape was very elegant in shape, swooping back, flat bottom, few angles to speak of. Regala's mind raced Where have I seen that ship?
"Outstanding. Forward it to the Adami, have them analyze it. I think there was an airlock near the...I suppose front of the ship."
The pilot nodded and briskly moved the shuttle to the airlock while Aila stood and moved back to her jump-seat, tapping away at her omni-tool as she did so. "Okay Lieutenant, transfer complete. I'm ready kick some ass and take some names, Ma'am!"
Regala decided to ignore the odd saying and crossed her arms in front of her torso "Is that so? Well, seeing as you are so eager and are quite skillful with that omni-tool, how would you like to open the door for us?"
Aila's demeanor changed almost instantly and she started wringing her hands together "Oh. Uh, well...I...I'm not that great, plus I don't really know how to access an airlock computer, or how to open an airlock if the computer is down. I'm probably not the...er...best choice...ma'am?"
Regala drummed her two fingers "Well its a good thing we have radios then, you can ask us questions." She tapped on a panel and depressurized the shuttle, then opened the shuttle door. "Now get over there, Sergeant."
Aila swallowed nervously and nodded, fumbling with her rifle and moving towards the exit. She paused for a moment and took a deep breath, stepped back, and jogged towards the door. Just as she disengaged her magnetic boots, she felt someone grab her and drag her back in.
"You forgot your recovery cable." She felt Regala clip something to the back of her suit, the squeaked as the Lieutenant heaved her out of the door towards the ship. Regala let a smile invade her normally emotionless features a quarian who is afraid of space...who would have thought that was possible?
Aila flailed comically for a moment before gaining her bearings, trying to ignore the fact that she was free-floating in space. She double checked the cable clipped to her belt and inhaled, mustering her courage. She look at her target and realized the lieutenant was a little off with her throw and that she would miss the ship.
Thinking fast she grabbed her pistol, quickly performed some mental calculations, and fired one shot, nudging her back towards the ship. She smiled at her ingenuity and fired two additional shots, accelerating her movement. Forget specialized maneuvering thrusters, a real marine moves around with her gun! She giggled softly to herself and twisted back around to face her destination. Oh Keelah... she let out a loud grunt as she slammed into the hull of the ship, her hands scraping the smooth hull for a purchase as she felt herself begin to float away again.
Her omni-tool flared to life and she quickly re-activated the magnetic fields in her gloves and boots, causing her to slam into the hull once more, this time completely winding her.
Regala turned from glaring at the scorch marks on the back wall of the shuttle...just in time to see Aila slam into the ship for the second time. She rested her mask in the palm of her hand, sighing in frustration.
There you have it. Critique away, please.