He had always wanted a krogan to stoop out of the shuttle to avoid hitting their head, but none ever appeared. All he knew of them, the young drell, was what his father had told him. Of their hulking great frames, their reptilian features ("Like our own?" but there was only a shake of the head) and their abundant warrior spirit. No krogan had ever come to their undersea colony on Kahje. They can't swim, was his father's own reason but he knew his was some sort of joke as they resided within one of the many domed cities that were dotted throughout the vast, planet-covering ocean known as the Encompassing. Though the joke would serve as well as any other explanation until a real Krogen appeared to explain themselves in person.
All other races had appeared from the shuttles at some time or another in the city's main cargo bay. The young drell would clamber amongst the crates and caches, out of sight to watch the newcomers come blinking into the bright lights and noise. Nobody ever saw him because he never wanted to be seen, his father demanded this of him each time on the city-side of the immigration checkpoint, "You know what to do Harkin. Scout ahead and tell me who you think is worth our time." Newcomers needed to go through immigration before entering the city from the cargo bay but there were other entrances, mostly for security purposes and Harkin would use these to sneak inside. After seeing the latest arrivals he would rush back through to inform his father. Nobody ever saw, not the cargo bay security, workers and not the newcomers.
All except one. A human, who stepped out onto the shuttle's rear gangplank and spotted Harkin almost immediately. Pale eyes that stared right into him, questioned him and forced Harkin to hide from the human's glare behind a crate. His father had no patience for humans, said they were lazy and prone to procrastination, no good for the sort of work he would put them to. The boy thought maybe he would make an exception for this human though; nobody ever spotted him when he was hiding, ever.
When the initial fear had subsided, Harkin slowly peered around the crate once again to get a look at the latest selection for his father's business. Cheap migrant labour from across the galaxy came to Kahje for various reasons, mostly to get away from everything. The human had shifted his attention to immigration control and had made his way to the booth and was speaking with a member of the security team, the Drell was able to get a better look at him. Tall for a human, even from his vantage he could see that. Greying hair and a covering of lighter yet facial hair - still a humorous thing for a Drell to see. His build was strange, not quite fat but he seemed to have recently let himself go, the arms and shoulders remained muscular (something his father had told him to keep an eye out for). The clothes, a pale bodysuit was somehow still too big for him and the sleeves flowed as the man threw an arm over his head to scratch the back of his neck. The mouth hardly opened in his responses to the Drell's questions at the checkpoint.
The cargo bay was far too noisy to hear his words, the cavernous walls echoed and layered every voice again and again into an ear-deafening hum. Salarians, turians ("Keep a look out for turians, good workers."), humans, fellow drell and even the odd asari were hoping for passage inside the city. Their reasons for doing so would be ever more varied than their race but some would be looking for work and Harkin was good at spotting them; the ones who arrived with next to nothing. The human on this occasion carried a single tattered duffel sack over one shoulder, an outdated polyblend that humans still insisted on using.
Harkin couldn't quite put his finger on what it was about this human that continued to intrigue him, but the look he had received from the rear of the shuttle had really put the hook in. And he wanted the man to make eye-contact one last time before he sneaked his way back out to report to his father, one more passive yet violent glance that acted as a dam to an apparent reservoir of rage. But his father would take some convincing, waiting on the other side of the numerous, vigorous security checks. Harkin had even forgotten to check for krogan.
"No," the predicted response, "No humans." His father was resolute and stead-fast but youth carries with it that naive determination which can drive a parent to eventual surrender.
"He saw me father!" Harkin's exaggerated arm movements painted the scene, "Amongst the old, forgotten crates. Nobody ever sees me there!" Such had been his rush to bring what he considered big news that Harkin has been spotted by a Drell Security agent. Lazy, careless. Plucked up by the wrist, he had to give the guard a swift kick in the shin in order to wrestle free and merge back into the crowds of the travel hub. "You know how careful I am about seeing seen," he added with emphasis upon remembering that this time even the slow-witted security had spotted him.
"He looked right at you? Didn't just happen to look the right way?" Harkin smiled to himself having found his father's curiousity.
"Right at me," and he took a moment to think about it properly, his face turned up slightly, "Right into me, father. But not like an asari would. I can't properly explain it." He wished he could explain for his own sake if no other. He was too proud to tell his father how frightened the human had made him. Weak, spongy things that they were.
"What did he look like?" Father's affectionate hand was then on top of his head.
"His... hairs are greying but he's large in the shoulders and arms, good for working."
"I'll be the judge of that."
The new arrivals came through the gates from security in a mass, myriad group and set about dividing themselves into smaller categories. Some went straight passed those waiting and disappeared like ghosts into the crowds. Others met with friends and loved ones in various forms of social embrace. Turians said very little to each other, presumably the words stolen from their lips by the salarians' motor mouths. Fewer still had no sense of direction or purpose, some half dozen or so, and they were strung out in a loose group. They seemed to know the routine. It was technically against Kahje's employment laws for labour to be solicited and 'bought' in travel hubs. But if any member of the security forces were to ask most had an excuse ready to go and leave their sudden interrogator knowing the truth but impotent to do anything about it.
"That's him," Harkin tugged at his father's body-hugging shirt. The statement was redundant as of the six stragglers, only one was human.
"I can't use him for labour," his father's rasping voice was firm on that point, Harkin could tell, "But..." Though he did not continue and Harkin was left to wonder the end of his sentence as his father walked confidently over to the human. If the man saw their interest in him he made every effort not to let it show. Quickly by his father's side, Harkin half-hid himself from the man's line of sight. Eventually the human became visibly agitated by their intrusion of his personal space and looked dead in the father's eyes. A voice heavy laden with threat and bitterness.
"Ain't your kid seen a human before?"
"He has. Many in fact."
"So I wonder why the little bastard was peering at me from a place he had no right being in."
"I sent him."
The man laughed as though he didn't have many left, a short, sharp exhale of breath from the nose, "Some father you are, putting your kid in danger like that. Probably tells you it's a game does he?" That look again, Harkin slid further behind his father.
Who cut straight to the chase, "I have work for a man like you."
"Who says I am lookin'?" but the front soon dropped, "What sort of work?"
"I work in construction-"
"I don't labour."
"Good," Harkin's father caught the man out, "Because I need security. Materials go missing, some skulls need bashed together amongst existing workforce."
"And you think I am cut out for that kind of work?" The man gave another little snort, "Keep moving you reptilian-" his gaze met Harkin and he paused but only for a moment, "piece of shit. I don't need charity."
"Maybe I phone the Alliance embassy, say I have information regarding a deserter." Harkin didn't know where his father's accusation came from and perhaps it was just a gamble, but the human hesitated just long enough not to bother denying it and resorted to threats instead.
"Maybe I break your arm."
"I'd still offer you the job if you did." At this the human laughed, not his disdainful snort but an open-mouthed guffaw that stretched and distorted his facial whiskers. And Harkin understood what this human was, a killer and understood too the look he had shot him from the shuttle. A look that reduced him from a sentient being to a sack of organs and fluid, not so much a look that could kill as one that simply imagined you already dead. A look that you felt replaced your body wholesale with that of some twitching child corpse from his memory. Harkin was haunted by it for as long as the human worked for his father.
Though worked he did, honest and hard. Harkin's father worked as a foreman contracted by various drell construction firms to oversee the day-to-day processes and labour. A buffer if you will between the suits and hammers and responsible for the happiness of both. They lived almost entirely on-site and Harkin had never known more than two planetary cycles of social stability before being uprooted once more. He never minded though (or never knew any different) and his life was certainly a happy one.
Educated and entertained by the various labourers who spent anywhere up to a full cycle working for his father. There was the turian who taught him how to fire a rifle; "On Palaven, you would have learned at half this age." and the volus who kept his father's books and huffed and wheezed his way through teaching Harkin some advanced mathematics and economics (when his father discovered that the volus had been cheating him, threats of helmet removal and poisonous decompression had been thrown about). Some were more than welcoming of his social curiosities of their species' cultures and ways and few were anything less than willing to humour his never-ending questions. Except for the new human, who was so disdainful of Harkin's childlike desire to learn a little bit of everything that he threatened there might be an 'on-site accident' if he didn't stop bothering him.
The man stayed in a temporary, flat packed structure on the perimeter of the construction site not too far from Harkin and his father. One night, when the surrounding weight of water went pitch black and everything was re-illuminated by the city's reflection on the inside of its own dome, Harkin looked out from the window above his bed to see the human sitting outside in the gloom. A spotlight picked out the worn edges of the second-hand armour that his father had bought for the new 'security chief' and there was a bottle in the man's hand that was swung to his mouth with routine timing. He was muttering to himself and some of the drink dribbled from his chin amongst the well-kept whiskers - beads of ever reflected light lost to the tossed earth. Harkin looked over his shoulder so see his father asleep at the other end of the room, a deep sleep that comes from the end of a day of excess stress.
He should have went back to sleep, have rolled over and minded his own business. Left the human to his drunken, late-night ramblings. But these doubts only crept in after he had carefully crossed the cramped living space and ever so slowly taken his father's pistol from the drawer beside the bed (his breathing steady in slumber even as Harkin turned toward the door). Only after he was outside with the door so adeptly closed behind him in silence did the doubts begin to gnaw at the back of his mind. Your approaching a drunk, grown man with a pistol in your hand. A man who may very well be a trained soldier. Would he threaten his employment by harming me? Harkin had hidden behind his father on occasion when he was younger, when his antics had provoked one of two of the labourers into heated words. Knowing fine well that their threats would be remain empty if they wanted to keep their jobs.
The human did good work for his father, there could be no argument about that. In the first week there had been no change, resources and tools had continued to leak out of the site. His father had began to not so quietly voice concerns, "What exactly am I paying this lazy human for?" Though two weeks later, a turian who had worked for them for over half a cycle didn't show up for his shift, nor the next day and the discrepancies ended. The human had found the leak and inexplicably plugged it. Harkin never found out what happened, never hearing the others speak of it in the course of his usual eavesdropping. His father seemed to know better than to ask or only concerned himself with the result. "Imagine! A turian! Never could trust them!" Though he hired another two for the following job.
So focused was the young drell on the bottle in one hand that he hadn't until then noticed the human's sidearm at his hip. By then it was too late and the slurred voice spoke without the eyes meeting his, "Go back to bed, boy. Before you do something stupid with your father's toy." It felt suddenly so heavy, cold in his hand and he regretted even having it with him. He's dangerous, I need it.
"You should g- go back inside," Harkin's voice sounded tiny, shrill in the night air and carried in it an awful fear, "You are working tomorrow."
"Or else what?" the human took another swig, "You'll shoot me? Why are you even out here? Go back to bed, boy." Harkin looked down at the weapon, his scaled fingers wrapped so tightly around the pistol's grip. I could do it, before he even had chance to take hold of his own. His mind went to a dark little fantasy about the fallout of killing this man but he knew he wouldn't be able to actually go through with it.
"Can you even lift that thing?" The human gave a snort and Harkin tensed up in anger.
"A turian taught me how to use one!" Why he lifted the gun and pointed it the man, Harkin didn't know, maybe he was rising to the man's goad. Maybe he thought it would put an end to the encounter, that the man would back down and slip off to bed without another word about it.
"Did the turian tell you never to point a weapon at somebody unless you are willing to shoot them?" The human pushed himself up to standing with the bottle as a stabiliser, walked over to Harkin and simply took the pistol out of the drell's hand without a word of protest, "That's what I thought, go back to bed. Boy." Not without the pistol, his father wouldn't be at all pleased if he found out and Harkin stood there with a pathetic face, looking down at the weapon in the man's hand. "Bed. Now."
"No." Harkin was adamant in his response, desperate to regain a little pride from the whole situation. And just for a moment it seemed like it had worked, that he was going to get the gun back, slink back into bed and pretend the whole thing didn't happen. The human dropped the bottle and simultaneously lifted the other arm, holding the confiscated weapon. Harkin didn't even hear the bottle smash. Didn't see the human drunkenly stagger for a moment, the barrel cooling in the night air, before he disappeared into his temporary digs to the most peaceful night's sleep he had since arriving on the planet. And Harkin never did get to see a krogan.
A/N: The story runs in a parallel to the events of Mass Effect 2, but this first chapter is to introduce the main OC before tying him into the canon. Any and all reviews are appreciated.