Gypsy Child: Chapter Six: Follow The Leader

All rights to mass effect and its subsidiaries go to Bioware. Rights to my OC go to me.

-sorry it took me so long to update. RL has been busy... and sick... and overall uninspiring.-

-also... I just couldn't resist. This is by far my favourite intro to this point.-


Diplomacy sucks. As a vocal, stylized, overlong method of slowly, laboriously convincing someone else to do what one wants them to, modern diplomacy can in many ways be seen as a hindering force to society at large. However, diplomacy, with all of its rules, regulations, traditions, set standards, and, admittedly, second chances, does help to keep dictators and over-aggressive machismos out of power. On a more personal basis however, such guidelines and requirements are less imperative. In small groups, or between individuals, such compromises, arrangements, and so forth can be made much more simple and effective, merely by removing excess words. A nod can replace "I agree with the honourable representative from blah-dy-blah's viewpoint on this matter," therefore streamlining the entire process. As such, body language and sub-vocal communication - through eye contact, relative positioning and so forth- often make both 'diplomacy' and 'conversation' much easier.

So when all else fails, resort to charades.

...

After what felt like an eternity of bouncing about with my guts doing the polka on top of a pair of unicycles, the motion finally stopped. My stomach lurched again with the sudden stability, much as one may feel 'landsick' when coming ashore after a long tour at sea. In the process of holding back another of my body's attempts to relocate my digestive tract, I forgot one important thing:

I was supposed to pretend to be asleep.

A shadow fell over me, and I squinted past the nausea to see the face of my captor glaring down at me. If I hadn't known better (or perhaps if I had) I would've believed he was smirking at me.

Realizing that my current state of awareness had been exposed, I steeled my stomach, and opened my eyes fully, glaring straight at the giant's face. He may have had me injured, captured, and unable to move, but I'd be damned if I was going to let him take pleasure in my pain. "What the hell do you want?" I asked. "You plan on standing there all day? Take a picture. It lasts longer."

My voice was raspy and dry, and the taunt came out far quieter and higher-pitched than I had hoped. Note to self: don't talk while injured, starving, and dehydrated; you sound like a little girl with pneumonia.

Perhaps what happened next could be explained by the absolutely pathetic, and mildly amusing nature of my confrontation. Maybe I just had a fever and couldn't figure out what the heck was going on; whatever the case, the lizard's response was not what I expected.

He laughed. Long and loud. Following up with some growling and deep booming noises that I could only assume were its language, it untied my bonds, allowing me to move again. I slowly rolled to my side, closing my eyes as a fresh wave of nausea consumed me. When they reopened, the giant had picked up the dog-beast and flung it over his shoulder like a sack of potatoes. He proceeded to walk towards the door of the craft, pausing at the entrance to look back.

The look he was giving me was clear as day: "you coming?"

...

Slowly, I pulled myself up into a sitting position. The lizard-man shrugged, and walked out the door, the head of the monster-dog swinging like a pendulum with his steps. Left alone, I tried to get up. Lean forward, extend legs while pushing upwards. Straighten posture at the same time. Do not puke.

My head was swimming just from standing. The pulsing of my headache had evolved into a full-blown roar. Gravity itself seemed to pitch and roll, trying to throw me off my feet. I pushed it all back. Breathing deeply, I lowered my arms. The roar dimmed a little, and up began to distinguish itself from down once again. I took one hesitant step forward, swaying uncertainly. Two steps, a little firmer. Another two steps, and I was at the door.

I stopped there, leaning heavily against the frame, gasping in harsh lungfulls of air. The simple act of walking had reduced me to the level of a land-based fish. There was no way I would be able to keep up with the giant; his enormous stride crossed twice the distance of my own, and he wasn't sick and injured to boot.

Looking out the doorway, I was graced with the site of... more wasteland.

Great...

...

Lizard-dude was getting impatient. He had stopped only a few metres away from the vehicle, and was obviously waiting for me. However, there was simply no way I was going to be able to follow him in my current state. But standing there all day wasn't going to do me any good either.

Screw it. I climbed out of the door on shaking legs, and braced myself on the side of the vehicle. Damn thing looked like a Tonka truck on steroids. With part of my weight supported on the chassis, I slowly made my way past the vehicles nose, wincing as my headache stabbed me in protest. I held up a finger as the giant made to come after me, scowling as I did so. "Give me, a fucking, minute." Remarkably, he stopped, and chuckled, as I made my way around the far side of a rather large boulder, where I promptly gave in to my body's demands.

I'm not going to describe the vomit of a person who has been living off of dirty water for days on end. It's gross, just trust me on that. Needless to say, I retched the meagre contents of my stomach on the ground.

Surprisingly, it made me feel better. As I stood there, one hand braced on a boulder, leaning over my own stomach contents, taking in as many deep breaths as I could, I actually felt better. My headache wasn't quite so sharp, my stomach had settled (having nothing left to complain about), and the movement had loosed some of the stiffness from my muscles. My right arm was still screwed, but even that didn't seem quite as bad. Or the blood loss had made me delirious, which works too.

With a firmer step, I turned and walked back towards my... guide. He was waiting there, arms crossed over his chest, grinning at me, the dog-beast hanging from his shoulder like a leathery shawl. I crossed the open space between him and the ship, stopping in front of him and cocking my eyebrow. "Something you want to say?"

Naturally, the only response I got was further rumbling and booming sounds. However, it did spur him onwards, and I took liberty to follow, steadily now, as he made his way through the rubble.

...

After about five minutes of navigating through the debris, we reached a large stone door, embedded in the earth. 'Stronghold' was the first word that came to my mind upon seeing it, and indeed, as the doors slid apart, I gazed into what truly would be considered a stronghold.

Turrets stood facing the entrance, and more lizard-men waited behind them, with guns drawn. The ceiling was made of a similar substance to concrete, and pillars supported it uniformly along its length. The walls were at least two metres thick, and though there was significant damage to the floor, there was no mistaking the fact that this place could take one hell of a beating. More so than that however, was the fact that within this fortress-garage-looking-space, there were dozens, perhaps even more than a hundred of the lizard-men. All of them wore armour, and there were only three that I could see who didn't have weapons. The fact that many of them were in the process of what looked like daily chores within their canvas lean-to's and tents did nothing to detract from the overall feeling of preparedness.

My guide walked past the turrets to 'speak' with the guards. While I couldn't understand a word that they were saying, that did not stop me from listening in. It was... interesting actually. Listening to their conversation, I began to hear distinct pauses and changes in tone. The pauses were likely to have been the slight halt between words that spoken language virtually requires. The changes in tone could have been either distinctions between different meanings of the same grunt/rumble, or simply vocal inflection. Which one was uncertain... and largely irrelevant too, but meh.

...

It was only a matter of time before they finished their conversation, and the guards directed their attention to me. I tucked my good arm behind my back, and cocked an eyebrow at them. Directing my gaze to the nearest one, I sneered. "You got a problem with somethin, bub?" Thankfully my voice was steadier, and a bit more normal sounding than my previous attempt at taunting the lizard-folk.

The guard shrugged and rumbled something, taking a single step to the side so that my guide and I could pass. I nodded to him in thanks as I walked by; judging by the expression on his face, he wasn't expecting that. However, his demeanour quickly shifted back from surprised, to stoic, and he nodded back.

...

My guide led me to a side-room, just off of the garage stronghold of what I realized was a much larger fortress than I had initially thought. Another lizard-man awaited us there (surprise, surprise), and he rumbled and boomed at my guide as we walked up to him. My guide lifted the dog-beast from his shoulder one-handed, and cocked his head to indicate me. They then began conversing in their language again, which left me quickly bored, and nervous.

There was no way to know what they were saying, but it obviously had something to do with me. The way my guide had gestured to me was clear enough. Was he simply explaining how he had found me? Were they going to kill me for killing the dog-thing? Was it something more innocuous?

No way to tell. And nothing to do about it either. All I could do would be to take whatever happened honestly, and with my head held high. So when the new lizard turned and started rumbling at me, I simply shifted my weight onto my right foot and tapped my earlobe. "You realize I can't actually understand a single word you're saying, right?" His brow ridge shifted slightly, and he turned to rumble at my guide again. My guide merely shrugged, which was obviously not the answer the other giant was looking for.

...

It turned its gaze back to me, and in less than a second it had reached out, and clamped its massive hand around my neck.


A/N: I expect that everyone has figured out by now what planet Melanos is on right now, and as such, I need to clarify one simple point. It's winter. I realize that the temperature is usually ridiculously hot, but it's winter okay?

In any case, read and review!