Disclaimer: Slayers is the property of Hajime Kanzaka, Rui Araizumi, and various and sundry publishing companies. Mass Effect is the property of Bioware, Microsoft Game Studios, and Electronic Arts. I am none of these, and as such make no money from this venture.
Word count: 2000
The girl in the tank was the first to speak, voice cracking with disuse. "Who are you?"
"I'm Commander Shepard," she shifted faintly, keeping the girl's attention focused on her. "Do you have a name?"
"Lina Inverse," the redhead replied, eyeing them warily before looking around the room. "Where are the others? Where are we?"
"We're in a Cerberus facility," Shepard kept her voice light, but this wasn't looking good for the girl's mental state. "Which others are you talking about? We found quite a few people in similar tanks, but very few of them are still alive."
"Cerberus..?" Lina seemed confused. "Few survivors? You're not making any sense."
The Commander shrugged minutely, uncomfortably unsure how to address the existence of Project Zephilia's other specimens. "Where were you expecting to be?"
"We were just outside Seiruun! None of this is right." With the look of indignant fury she'd just been given, Shepard almost expected the redhead to stomp her foot in a frustrated tantrum.
Instead, the girl finally moved to leave her tank and Shepard stepped back to give her space. Garrus eyed her warily from his post while Mordin drifted to the desk to shuffle through whatever notes he could find. When her legs, weak from a life of inactivity, collapsed under her, the Commander reached out to catch her small frame. Before she could, however, Lina muttered a frustrated, "Levitation!"
Shepard gaped as the redhead floated a few inches from the ground, her simple white shift fluttering about her knees.
"Impressive," Mordin noted from where he watched.
Lina turned to him and floated closer, brows furrowed. "You're strange looking... some type of mazoku? Hm..."
"Salarian, actually," Mordin clarified in his usual clipped tones. Turning to the Commander, he gave an approximation of a raised eyebrow. "Ignorance of Council races unusual. Must assume virtual reality vastly different."
Lina glanced back at Shepard, gesturing to the scientist beside her. "Can you understand this guy? He makes no sense to me."
"Yes, I can understand him. Mordin is a salarian, not a... what did you call him? Mazoku?"
"Yeah, mazoku. Demons who inhabit the astral plane. They tend to favour weird forms when they project to the physical." Her ruby eyes cut to Garrus, who was alternately scanning the hallway and making sure she didn't make a move on his Commander. "What about that guy?"
"Garrus is a turian. Neither of them are demons and both exist solely on the, ah, physical plane, as far as I know."
Red eyebrows shot upwards in surprise. "Really? That's unusual." She was silent for a moment before speaking again. "You say you found others?"
"We should leave anyway, Commander," Garrus muttered from the door. "Joker always complains when we make him hang out in orbit for too long."
Shepard nodded and moved towards the door, gesturing for Lina to follow. They were halfway across the room when there was a startled gasp from the smaller girl. "By Cephied... L-sama! You killed L-sama!"
Instantly Garrus and Mordin had weapons in hand, not yet trained on the girl, but ready if the need arose. Shepard raised her hands in a placating gesture. "She attacked first. You recognise her?"
Lina stared at the body on the floor dumbly for a moment before shaking her head. "Not... as such?" She made a few frustrated gestures, turning her troubled gaze up to meet the Commander's. "She would appear in my dreams... the Lord of Chaos, Mother of All Mazoku, Creator of Ruby-Eye Shabranigdo and Flare Dragon Cephied. She was... she was all-powerful. If she's dead, my..." She trailed off again, then glanced over at Shepard's team with uncertainty. "Can you three cast Levitation?"
They traded looks before the Commander shook her head. "No. What you're doing is an impressive display of biotic control. We do have transportation outside, if that's what you're asking."
"Biotic control? No, no. I mean magic. I have no idea what you're talking about."
Garrus shifted impatiently and Shepard flashed him a glance. "Let's talk about this once we're back on our ship. We'll take you wherever you want to go, but we should check for other survivors and leave now."
Lina observed them shrewdly for a moment, then nodded. "Lead on. I'm getting hungry!"
"Well you have been living in a tank for the last who-knows-how-many years. Maybe that'll make the nutrient paste taste good," Garrus snarked. Shepard smacked him lightly on the arm as she passed.
They found fewer specimens still alive than they had hoped as they retraced their path through the labs. None of them seemed to be the 'others' that Lina was looking for, but they all seemed to be in better shape physically than the redhead was. At least they could all walk on their own. When they reached the roof where the Kodiak waited, Lina spoke up once more. "Can this thing actually fly?"
"Yeah, it's capable of sub-orbital flight and limited space flight," Shepard replied distractedly, gesturing for the half-dozen humans to enter the shuttle before her teammates. "We'll use it to break orbit and reach the Normandy."
"Can it hover?" Lina pressed.
"Sure, though we don't usually do so."
"Will you let me try something once we're in the air? With L-sama dead, I need to know if my other magics still work."
"Possibility of explosion: 99.9-repeating," Mordin remarked, amused, from just inside the Kodiak. Garrus flared his mandibles in a smirk and Shepard grinned at them over her shoulder before glancing at Lina again.
"How high do we need to go?"
The redhead laughed nervously, one hand rubbing the back of her neck. "I'll tell you when to stop?"
The Commander waved at the open shuttle door. "I'll inform the pilots. You should get inside."
When Lina determined they were far enough above the facility, she asked for the door to be opened. The other survivors crowded to the far side, wary of the drop, but Shepard and her team moved to stand at the edge so as to better observe. The redhead floated out into the open air, cupping her hands before her and chanting softly.
Mordin sucked in a startled breath and Shepard glanced over to where the salarian was staring intently at his omnitool. "Amazing readings. Exceptional control. Odd mnemonic, but-" the complex below them exploded with the force of a thirty megaton bomb. "-unbelievable power."
"Haha!" Lina crowed, one hand punching the air in victory as she observed the wreckage below. She was grinning widely as she returned to the Kodiak. "The Giga Slave still works, and I can't feel the hesitation in the casting anymore. This is amazing! My hair isn't white this time!" She sighed wistfully, tugging a wavy lock, a smile never leaving her face. "I wish Zel could have seen it, though."
As they closed the door and radioed the Normandy for pick-up, Lina settled on one of the cramped benches beside Shepard. The taller woman sat back, glancing across the small aisle at her two aliens before speaking to the girl next to her. "If you don't mind, I'd like to have our doctors take a look at you when we get aboard the Normandy. Also, if you could refrain from using offensive... magics on my ship, I'd be grateful. If anyone gives you a problem, come to me."
Ruby eyes slanted her way. "Is anyone likely to do so?"
Garrus gave an amused snort from where he was ostensibly looking out the window. Lina raised a delicate eyebrow in his direction as Shepard answered, curtailing her own laughter. "As long as you don't touch anything in the main battery, Garrus won't be a problem. The lab is Mordin's domain and is full of delicate experiments, so I'm sure he'd rather you didn't disturb any of them either."
She rubbed the bridge of her nose where her scar had once cut across her face and sighed. "You probably ought to stay out of the Armoury too. The only person I can think of who might give you a hard time just by existing is Jack. Stay out of her way and don't let on how much... magic you possess."
"'Cause she's fucking crazy," Joker's voice echoed through the docking bay as the vehicle set down gently. "Everybody, please lock your tray tables, return your seats to the upright position, and exit calmly to your right. Thank you for flying Kodiak Air and welcome aboard the Normandy SR-2."
A few of the survivors looked around, confused. One of them spoke hesitantly. "Where is that voice coming from?"
Shepard hummed thoughtfully, ignoring the question for the moment and tilting her head towards the ceiling slightly. "EDI, please inform Dr. Chakwas that she has seven patients I'd like her to look over, and tell Miranda we'll need her in the med bay as well."
"Doctors Chakwas and Lawson are standing by, Shepard," the AI answered. "I have taken the liberty of informing Yeoman Chambers that her services may also be needed."
"Yeah, thanks EDI," the Commander sighed, turning back to the refugees. Gesturing for them to follow, she addressed the man who had spoken earlier as she ushered them into the elevator. "Those voices came from the intercom system. The male was our pilot, Joker. The female was the ship's... computer, EDI."
When she saw the blank looks on their faces, she rolled her eyes mentally and offered them a much simpler explanation. "It's magic?"
They nodded at that, expressions smoothing as they relaxed in her presence. Lina watched her shrewdly from the corner. As they stepped from the elevator onto the crew deck, she addressed the humans who followed her like ducklings. "I realise a lot of this seems strange, but please refrain from touching anything or anyonewithout permission. The only exception is if you require the restroom, please don't hesitate." She pointed out where each was and, as some slipped off to use the facilities immediately, she took a moment to speak with Gardner about getting some food into their new additions.
When she had ushered them all into the med bay at last, leaving them over to the care of Miranda and Dr. Chakwas, she returned to the mess hall and slid tiredly into a chair. Putting her arms on the table, she dropped her head into the dark cradle they formed. A gravelly chuckle from across the table had her looking up again, meeting the mismatched eyes of her resident mercenary over the cup of coffee he'd slid before her. "Ought to set up your own little primary school when you're done saving the galaxy, Shepard," he rumbled, drinking deeply from his own mug.
"Yeah," she scoffed as she unlatched her gauntlets and set them aside in favor of the bitter drink. "I can make sure the little bleeders know how to lob a proper grenade and drop a charging krogan with a headshot at 500 yards."
"You could follow up with improvised weapons-making and teaching the brats how to hold their liquor. Useful life skills, those."
"Well, I guess I'll have to bring you in to supplement their education with war stories and Omega Seven Card, then," she teased back.
He scoffed, gaze sliding to the mirrored windows of the med bay behind her.
"Surprised you aren't just watching from the cargo bay," she murmured around the rim of her cup.
"I've got it set to record your cabin for an hour every time the Kodiak docks," he returned idly. "Be bloody boring this time around, though."
She laughed lightly, not entirely sure he wasn't serious, and they sat in comfortable silence until the doors hissed open behind her and Miranda stepped out. Catching the Commander's eye as she passed, the Cerberus operative crossed back to her own office with a clear expectation of being followed. Exchanging rolled eyes with Zaeed, Shepard stood and entered her XO's office, her gauntlets laying forgotten beside her empty mug.