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Summary: A collection of drabbles spanning ME1 and ME2; Fountain and Light were originally written for an alternate post ME1 scenario; Light remained as is, but Fountain was re-written to fit the events in ME2. Ring and Surrounded are from prompts at the me_challenge community at livejournal.
Nihlus was dead. The intensely uncomfortable angle of his head was what gave it away first – then the dark blue pool of blood underneath him. Kaidan took a moment to bend down next to the turian, as he had done minutes ago with Jenkins. He was not sure if he wanted to close the alien's eyes, and he found out that he didn't have to. While Nihlus moved and spoke he was, in Kaidan's view, another person, another sentient being. In death the unfamiliarity of an alien species broke out in full: there was nothing familiar about his corpse, even as the blue blood clung to his scales and skin just as human blood would.
The red giant Amazon is slowly bleeding out its dim light over Agebinium. It looks as if it's suspended in the sky, heavy, listless, about to collapse overhead any moment. It feels intensely like the reactor it really is: old, inefficient, hazardous: some day it will break down and unleash destruction.
We got out of the Mako, and even with the 0.79 g each step and movement is laboured. Amazon presses down from above; many races on many planets call their suns lifegivers, but all that Amazon can do now is slowly gnaw on its own life force.
Shepard was already waiting for him before the Council Chambers, leaning against the rail surrounding the large fountain in the entrance. He winced involuntarily at the sight of her again; it would take some time getting used to it.
In the dimmed light it looks as though the heavy scars of her face emit a glow of their own, and when she looks up at him with red, undisguisedly synthetic eyes, he finds it impossible to fit the soldier – the woman – he knew, into that breaking husk of a face.
She then greets him, says something about how she always liked that particular spot in the Citadel; she smiles her old, slightly crooked smile, and the pieces crowd back into place, ill-fitting, stiff, stubbornly solid. She notes his expression, but is not hurt as he had feared. She laughs, and her laughter puts the fountain's trickling song beside her to shame.
There were squares of light above him. From top left, clockwise: light, dark, light. Next row, dark, dark, light. Next, dark, light, dark; He tried to match it with his breathing, inhale, exhale, but the pattern didn't fit, couldn't fit. Then there were no squares at all, no sound of breath, just the dark
Hours later Garrus Vakarian saw the squares of light again, and recognised them for the ceiling lights they were, encased in opaque coverings to diffuse the glow. The wall to the left was matte glass, grey-green, much easier on the eyes. Ghostly figures passed hastily behind the panel, the sound of steps rising over a muted constant hustle. He was lying down on a medical bench, and the mask covering half his face amplified his breathing to his ears, inhale, exhale, restored to balance; there was no outward pattern he had to struggle to match his breathing with.
'Do you remember Eletania?'
She did. She remembered the soft green of the grassy ground under her boots and the urge to take off her helmet; it was hard to believe the air was full of microorganisms that could send a human into anaphylactic shock within seconds.
She also remembered cursing the Alliance when she had to run after every damn space monkey in several miles' radius from their landing zone, looking for that lost module she had been assigned to recover.
We should shoot them, Garrus had said obligingly, so we can know which ones we have searched. It had been tempting to both comply with this suggestion as well as say something scathing about the turian's sensibilities and trigger-happy tendencies. But she wouldn't; she had to do the right thing, there were no shortcuts. No killing where it was not necessary, no derision where influence had a chance. She ran after every monkey on sight, saying to herself this was the shore leave they were unlikely to get in the foreseeable future. Too bad that geth were also included in their little holiday package.
'Miss chasing after monkeys?' she asked him. Or just the old times?
His mandibles flared, in a way Shepard had learned to be the equivalent of a grimace. 'I was thinking of the Prothean artifact.' Then he cocked his head, mischief was in him. 'Really,' he said, 'what is it about you that activates every Prothean beacon or ruin in proximity? Anyway... you never said what you saw in that one. I've always been curious.'
She had a clearer memory of the sky of Eletania; blinding blue cast with shreds of clouds, and the planet's ring hanging like an enormous rainbow beyond, and far away a pale moon, like a lone quiet guardian from above. She saw all that while lying on her back, stunned by the contact with the Prothean vision, the revelation that they had been watched even from the age of the hunter-gatherers, and the gnawing thought that it was probably not a coincidence for all races to have advanced their civilisations in such similar ways.
She started to tell him all that, haltingly, unfolding her thoughts as best as words allowed, and he listened, keen-eyed, offering input of a more pragmatic side, as usual, as needed. She kept her last thought to herself, because their final mission was approaching, and clearer minds were needed.
Who would reap the benefits of their prosperity, in the end?
'Tell me about that night on Akuze.'
'I've given my report already. I have nothing to add.'
'Just tell me what you remember now.'
'Aren't you done evaluating me yet? It was bad. I lost many good men and women that day. But I'm fine, I'm fit for duty.'
'Please, tell me everything you can remember.'
Shepard stared at the counsellor for a few moments, then started to speak.
'It was late at night. Very quiet. I had been out on the perimeter, talking to Whitman and Smolenskaya on the patrol. Then there was a low rumbling and the ground trembled. We stopped, dead on our tracks. Anya was afraid, I could see it in her eyes. I had a bad feeling, too. I gave orders to get everyone in defensive positions; we had planned that beforehand. I kept shouting, right in the middle of the camp now, calling people by name, because there was fear in the air. Then we were in position and it was quiet again, you could hear a last few clicks echoing around the camp as rifles were readied, then only the sands shift in the wind.
'I heard a marine behind me – not sure who he was, it was just a whisper – 'See anything?' and then the thresher maws came, bursting out of the ground. One came out directly beneath a barricade. It swallowed it whole, sandbags and men together. They screamed, not for long, but then everyone was screaming or shooting or both. I shouted for everyone to get back in the vehicles, don't think many heard me, fewer could do something about it. We were surrounded. I gathered as many as I could, Anders was with them, Toombs, I'm not sure about the rest – maybe about a dozen. The maws had gone under, and we headed for the trucks. We had a Mako and an old Grizzly, too, I got in the Mako, Bhandari at the gun. The others made it for the trucks, then the ground shook again and one of the maws came out just a few yards away. The Grizzly went flying in the air, just like a plastic toy. Bhandari started firing at it, he was yelling like a madman, I didn't understand what he said, must have been in Indian. I stepped on the gas and we set off. Then two more maws got out right in front of us. I turned to avoid them, too fast. We toppled over.
'Then I don't remember too well. I remember seeing a hole growing on the inside of the Mako – that must have been the acid eating the armour – and trying to get out. I remember crawling on my belly on the sand. My hands were wet and the sand stuck on my palms, it stung. There was a horrible smell all around; breathing stung, too. There was no more screaming, just the thresher maws crying out in the distance, all around. I don't know how to describe it, it was like monsters out of a bad movie. Then I remember just lying face down, and the sky was red, I thought dawn is coming. Then again the next thing was being carried on a stretcher and I knew I was being evac'd.'