Sands of Tuchanka

Chapter 5: Just another day

A/N: Wow. Ok so, sorry it's been so long guys, I kinda totally lost inspiration for this one, in a bad way. I'm gonna attempt to write a new chapter for you guys, since I keep getting reviews of "next plz kthxbai!" Usually that means a story is overdue for an update, and seeing as this one's not been touched since November, I'd have to agree.

I re-read this for the first time in forever, had a few laughs, and realized there was no reason not to continue it. I just need to slow the pacing down a touch, as I was STILL racing ahead too quickly, and skipping rather important details. This seems to be a common thing with me, but: my writing style has changed since the last update, so if it seems different, that's why. I'll try to mimic it as closely as possible.


Sweet, blissful dreams are suddenly interrupted by the vibrantly chaotic scene of war drums being pounded in an uneven rhythm around a roaring fire, krogans charging each other left and right, grappling, striking, clawing, biting... Smatterings of orange blood form a bright flash of color against the dull earth tones that dyed the hides and plates of the krogans fighting each other in a violent dance around the fire, somehow managing to time their blows precisely to the beat of the drums. A growling, snarling cacophony is barely discernible over the loud pounding of the drums, the impacts sounding more metallic as the insanity of the scene presses into my mind, growing stronger, making my blood pump faster through my veins, speeding adrenaline through them as I near the edge of the all-out brawl.

Suddenly, the drums go silent, and every krogan present ceases all aggression, turning towards me in a wave of movement and sound. Every single one of them raises a fist to his chest, bowing slightly, honoring me. Instead of feeling shocked at the enormous gesture of respect, my dream self smiles, brings her fist to her chest, and bows in return.

The scene slowly fades as the drums begin anew.

I wake to the sound of someone trying to beat my door down. At least, that's what it sounds like, as the clanging reverberates off the walls of my small concrete home. The drums... The drums were someone knocking on my door... How long had they been knocking? I tried to raise myself and slide out of my bed at the same time, managing to halfway land on my face before my sluggish muscles caught up to my groggy brain's request. I groaned in exasperation as the pounding at my door returned, coupled with a shout from a voice I hazily recognized.

"Spyke! Wake up! You're late for training!" It's Grunt. I like Grunt. Wait, what did he say? Late? Late for training? "SHIT! Garkun's gonna be pissed!" I muttered under my breath, which I noted after a sniff to clear my nose was none too fresh. I picked myself up as quickly as I could, stumbling over to the bathroom with a complete lack of grace. I snatched at the giant utensil krogans used in lieu of a toothbrush, and quickly set about cleaning my large mouth with it as best I could, while looking at myself in the small mirror through half-closed eyes.

Despite the fog of sleep still clearing from my features, I looked better than I had the previous morning. That was something, at least. Sleep was good, right? Right. I hastily finished up the strange mouth cleaning ritual, and tottered slightly more gracefully over to my armor locker, snatching my undersuit on as quickly as I could. I grabbed the back piece for my armor, then leaned back against the wall after slapping it to my back a bit harder than necessary to help wake me up, and reached for the chest piece. After I snapped it all together, I put the rest of my armor on at a slightly faster pace, feeling my nerves finally catching up as the last numbness of sleep finally cleared away.

I grabbed my shotgun and holstered it, and after a quick check in the mirror to make sure I hadn't put anything in the wrong place, I huffed and walked to my still pounding door, yanking it open quickly enough that my face was very nearly met with Grunt's fist. Thankfully, he realized what had happened just in time to pull back, and a look of relief came over his face.

Before he had a chance to say anything, I grumbled, "Let's go."

He nodded, and we proceeded to the training area at a fast walk. I could see Garkun glowering at me long before we reached the shooting range. "You're late." he growled as we neared close enough to be in earshot.

I grimaced as I stood in front of him. "Sorry." I said quietly, lowering my head a bit in submission, while still keeping respectful eye contact.

"Sorry? What is it with you?" He imitated me – badly – as he spoke up again. "I fell out of the sky and bumped my head! Sorry! I'm late! Sorry!" He looked at me, seemingly taking a measure of me through slitted eyes. "Do you know how often a krogan uses the word 'sorry' as an apology?" He looked at me expectantly.

I gritted my teeth slightly before answering. "I'm going to assume 'never'?"

Slight surprise crossed his face, then he gestured at me as if to say, 'exactly!'. "She does get it! Give the female an extra heat sink, Grunt; she's going to need it."

Grunt nodded and handed me another heat sink from the supply crate, which I accepted with a sheepish smile.

Garkun grunted approvingly, then gestured to the gun rack behind him, which had a very evil looking assault rifle glaring out of the middle of the rack at me. "Grab your gun and let's get this over with."

I stepped up to the rack and reached for the rifle, carefully curling my hands around the grips, sliding it off the rack carefully, and bringing it closer to my front, trying to imitate pictures I remembered seeing of human soldiers holding assault rifles in my old life. Barrel aimed downwards, butt slightly elevated. Apparently it was mildly satisfactory, since neither krogan burst into laughter, though Garkun did shrug a little, apparently thinking it odd, but not enough to comment.

He started pointing out what I needed to know about the rifle to shoot it properly, showing me where to insert the heat sinks, how to pop them once they were spent, correcting my stance when I held it utterly wrong after he told me to raise it in preparation to fire. Once he'd finished grumbling over my ignorance, he led me over to the range, where he'd set up a target for me to practice on. He flicked a lever on the side of the gun as I watched, and a soft blue glow came over the gun in certain spots.

"Now, this is set to single round fire for now, until you get used to the recoil, then we'll switch it to three-round burst, then fully automatic. If you manage not to waste any stray bullets into the sky, you can have the gun. If you do shoot the sky full of holes, you get to clean that gun after every training session for a month, whether it's been fired or not." Garkun smirked as he finished speaking, obviously sure that I would be sending plenty of molten lead into the atmosphere.

I didn't want the damn gun; assault rifles weren't my style, in the game or real life. But I sure as fuck didn't want to be stuck cleaning it for a month, either. I took careful aim down the sights, kept my stance as close as I could remember to what he'd told me, breathed in, and took the shot. I lowered the gun as I breathed out, checking where the shot had landed on the target. Not exactly where I'd aimed, but not too far off. Well, not too far off that I couldn't correct for it, at least. I raised the rifle again, and took aim a second time. Two inches to the left, an inch up. Steady, breathe in, fire, breathe out, lower, check shot. Damn close. I heard Garkun snort behind me. Alright, old man, you want to see a shot? Let's do this. I raised the rifle again, adjusted my aim ever so slightly, and repeated the process again. Bullseye.

I lowered the rifle, switched the gun off, and turned to Garkun. "The sights are off. Gotta aim two and a half inches left, an inch and a quarter up to make it hit what you're wanting it to hit." I looked at him carefully, gauging his reaction. The nearly imperceptible smirk that flickered across his face was all the evidence I needed. "It's a test, isn't it? To see who's paying attention when they go to shoot it. Who calls it, and who calls it correctly." A smile spread across his wrinkled, scarred face, and he nodded. "So, did I pass?" I asked pointedly.

He walked up to me, put his hands on my shoulders, and slowly spun me around to face the range. He patted the butt of the rifle, and I drew it up to aim it. He clicked the lever twice, putting it in three-round burst mode, as the gun sang back to life. I smirked, and suppressed a nervous chuckle. I breathed in and out slowly, trying to calm my nerves. I knew there would be a triple recoil this time around, and that I'd have to aim lower to make sure every shot hit the target. I mentally adjusted for the sights being off, and aimed for two inches below the bulls eye. Steady, breathe in, 'RAT-TAT-TAT!' breathe out, lower rifle, check shots. I rolled my shoulder as I looked, trying to adjust to the odd sensation of the multiple recoils in such quick succession.

A bit more off than I'd thought it would be, but still on the target, amazingly. So far, so good. I tried again, adjusting my aim a little more to compensate. 'RAT-TAT-TAT!' Closer this time, but still not where I wanted it. I was trying to aim so that the second bullet would hit the bulls eye. It was proving a bit more difficult than I'd hoped. I tightened my grip, tugging the butt of the rifle more firmly into my shoulder, and tried once more. 'RAT-TAT-TAT!' There! The last bullet hit right on the edge of the bulls eye. Much better than the last two attempts.

I was just starting to get the hang of the three-round burst, when I heard heavy footsteps behind me. Garkun reached over, and flipped the lever to fully automatic. I gulped. "How many rounds per burst? Well, approximately, at least?" I called back to him.

"As many as you can manage, pyjak." He called back.

I straightened, my muscles stiff with annoyance. I lowered the gun and twisted to glare at him. "Pyjak? Did you seriously just call me that?"

He had a look of mild amusement as he answered. "You're small, you learn fast, you're smart, and you're adaptable. Sounds like a pyjak to me." He shrugged.

I rolled my eyes and sent him a sharp glance before turning back to the colossal issue at hand. It couldn't be too much harder than the three-round burst mode, could it? I swallowed again. Who am I kidding? It's probably a lot harder. Especially with the aiming issues to compound the issue. I sighed heavily and brought the rifle to bear, tightening it a bit harder against my shoulder, compensating farther than I had for the three-round burst mode on the aiming. And breathed in. 'RAT-TAT-TAT-TAT-TAT-TAT-TAT!' WOAH! That fires a LOT faster than the three-round burst mode! Holy shit! I was frozen, looking down the sights just an inch away from the outside upper-right edge of the target. I slowly lowered the rifle, letting out the air in my lungs in a great big gush as I looked to see where my bullets had hit, and praying I hadn't missed the target. Seven shots. All on the target. All over the target, granted; but still on it.

I couldn't help the grin that spread over my face at the small victory. I flipped the lever all the way down, powering the gun off, and turned to face Garkun. I'd never seen a bigger smile in my life. Then I noticed Grunt off to the side with the biggest, goofiest grin I'd ever had the pleasure of witnessing, and I burst into relieved laughter, which Garkun joined in on, the second he saw Grunt's face.

As the laughter died down, Garkun spoke up as he grinned broadly, with a hint of pride in his voice. "Good job, pyjak. Enjoy the gun."

I flushed, and shook my head. "I don't honestly want it, Garkun, but thanks. I just didn't want to clean it for the next month. I'm really not very comfortable shooting it, and I'm pretty sure that would be more of a hindrance than a help in battle." I smiled at him.

He smiled and nodded back. "Alright then pyjak, go practice with your shotgun for a while while I teach Grunt here a trick or two on the sparring mats."

I smiled and walked to the gun rack, replacing the rifle on its hooks, then drew my shotgun and headed to the close range targets. I stopped and watched the two krogans square off on the mats for a bit, until I heard Garkun's voice over the ruckus of clashing armor: "I don't hear any shots, pyjak!"

I grinned sheepishly and turned towards the range. Today, I almost felt normal, like this was all finally sinking in. Almost. Better than nothing, I thought, as I lined up my first shot.

Breathe in.


Breathe out.

Not bad. Not bad at all.