When the dust had settled there was nothing but silence, a single child stood among the rubble clothes dirty and torn. There were no tears only a blank stare at the two Turians walking through the smoke.
"By the Spirits, I didn't think there would be any survivors, not after a fight like that. Much less a kid, what's it doing here?" The first a Red Turian sucked in a breath at seeing the child; the second narrowed his deep set eyes at it.
"Who cares? Leave it." The Grey Turian shouldered his weapon and started off in the opposite direction.
"Arien, we can't just leave it. This outpost is in the middle of nowhere, it'll be ages before anyone finds it. It'll starve."
"What do you care? This isn't a rescue mission, we did this. You have the data we need, let's move, Ganis."
"No, I won't just leave an innocent to die. This was supposed to be a military installation why were children here?"
"I don't know but the shuttle is here, if you're going to take it, grab the thing and let's go. So you know though I'm not taking the heat for this one. You can explain it to the General."
"Fine, Arien I'll deal with it. Don't go putting yourself out or anything." Ganis stowed his weapon and moved toward the child. He was expecting it to run to cry or something, to its credit it didn't move or even flinch as he crouched before it. It stared back at him with green eyes, he realized now that he was closer to it that it had long hair, from what he had learned he knew that meant it was female, or at least he thought so. He reached out a hand to the child but she didn't move; just stared at them with those dark green eyes.
"Com'on kid let's go." She scrunched her face at him when he spoke but still didn't move.
"Ganis, I doubt it has a translator, just grab it and let's go damn it."
He grunted and scooped the small child up in his arms, he felt her go stiff and then limp, a glimpse at her pale face told him she was out cold.
"She passed out; I'm surprised she was even able to stand as long as she did."
"Spirits who cares? You're going on galley duty for a month for this, if not tossed out of the damn military and you're worried about the damn thing passing out."
"Arien, I'll deal with it just shut the hell up about it would you?"
They double timed it to the evac zone and as they boarded the men already there stared at Ganis like he had grown a second head.
"What is that?" A Turian in the back asked, his mandibles fluttering nervously.
"Ganis picked up a pet." Snorted Arien, his mandibles flaring wide in a mocking grin.
"It's not a pet, it's a human female child," Ganis snapped back.
"So since when have you had human sympathies? You should have just left it down there. We're not on the best terms with the humans if you didn't notice over the last three years. Started over the stupidest bullshit; over soon said the Generals. Soon as the humans realize their place, right they told us that three fucking years ago."
Ganis glared at the man next to him. "It's a child; it's not her fault that we're in a war. I couldn't just leave her there to starve, or worse."
"Yeah well I'm not sure the General is going to see your point of view."
"I don't care."
"Your ass not mine."
The rest of the flight back to the ship passed in awkward silence.
Stepping off the shuttle Ganis ignored the looks being tossed his way and stepped up to his Commander who was waiting for the data they had gathered as well as to debrief them.
The Commander eyed Ganis and the child in his arms and turned a look that could only be described as confusion and disgust up at him.
"You had better have a damn good explanation, Lieutenant."
"Yes, sir I," the Commander held up a finger cutting Ganis off.
"I'm not through Lieutenant. Hand over the data; I'll speak to the General. You keep that thing here."
Spinning on his heel after Ganis had handed over the information they had gone for, he marched down the hall and out of the room. The others saluted as he passed; they each in turn pointedly ignored him as they moved out of the room and left him there with the child.
Sliding down the wall to sit on a crate he kept the child in his lap, she was so small and soft. Running a gloved talon over her forehead he brushed back the stray strands of hair that had stuck to her face. A face that was covered with dirt, blood and ash; Ganis was struck by the fact that they had done this to her. He knew that there had been civilian casualties on both sides but to see it first hand and have the small, soft girl in his arms cause a stir in him, in a way he couldn't have imagined.
Ganis didn't know how long he sat there with the little girl in his arms, but the longer he stared at that little face, the more he knew he had done the right thing. This little creature had survived something terrible, and the fact that she had survived had to mean something. He just didn't know what yet.
"The General will see you now, Lieutenant." The Commander motioned towards the door.
Standing keeping the girl as still as possible he made his way down the corridor and to the General's ready room, the door hissed open and he stepped inside, the Commander didn't follow him.
Standing silent and at attention as much as he could with the child in his arms, he waited.
"Lieutenant, I hope the mission didn't suffer due to you playing Hero down there."
The General stepped forward his white face markings reflecting in the glow of the ready rooms consoles.
"No, General Victus Sir of course not, I would never jeopardize a mission."
Nodding Victus took a step towards Ganis and the Child.
"Do you know anything about her?"
He looked up shocked. "You know it's a girl?"
"I haven't been studying humans for three years for nothing now have I?"
"Sorry Sir, I shouldn't have Sir."
Holding up finger Victus eyed the child.
"I asked you if you knew anything about her, Lieutenant."
"No, Sir. Only that she was the last thing breathing down there."
"I see, that will be all Lieutenant; take the child to the med bay and report for your debriefing."
"Yes, Sir." Ganis cradled the girl in one arm and snapped a salute.
"By the way, Lieutenant; I would have done the same thing, you're dismissed."
Ganis controlled his features but his mandibles wanted to twitch into a smile.
The med bay was still except for the slight hum of machinery and the soft sound of wounded men sleeping. The doc on duty was a friend of his and as he stood behind him waiting for the older man to turn he ran a finger down the girls face connecting the odd brown spots, he wondered if they were a marking from her colony or family.
"Hey Ganis I heard you found a," turning the older Turian spotted the child in his arms and almost jumped. "Spirits, it's true. I thought the boys were just shitting me."
"No she's real; the General wanted me to bring her here. I'm not sure what you can do for a human but she's been through hell and she's been out since I picked her up on the surface."
The Doc nodded towards an empty med bay. "Lay it down and I'll see what I can do. It doesn't look like it has any wounds but I'll check. Most likely it's just in shock. I'll have to see what I can do for food, not sure we have much for humans aboard. I'll figure something out, test it to see what it's tolerance for our food is and go from there. How old do you think it is?"
"She." Ganis corrected.
"It's a She, Doc and I'm not sure how old she is."
"Well, she will have to wake up then to tell us. You had better get going, I'll do what I can."
With that Ganis left the med bay and attended his debriefing. He explained how they came upon the girl and that it was his choice to bring her back. After he was done with his explanation he was dismissed, and told to retire to his quarters.
Not bothering to remove his armor he flopped down on his bunk. He knew he wouldn't be able to sleep, his thoughts were on the little red-headed girl in the med bay.
Ganis awoke to the morning call and realized he had in fact, fallen asleep. His body ached but he pulled himself from his bunk. Turing to the tail tail sound of his door opening, he stood to attention at the sight of his Commander.
"Lieutenant Ganis Vandrel you are to report to the General at once."
Ganis snapped a salute and followed his Commander out and down the hall, not to the ready room but towards the Med Bay.
They found the General inside sitting across from the little human girl, who once again to his surprise showed no fear, perhaps she was still in shock.
"Leave us." Victus said with a flick of his talons towards the door.
The Commander and Doctor exited the med bay, and the General stood turning towards him, his talons clicked together as he clasped them behind his back.
"Lieutenant, first off I would like to say that no matter how much I think you did the right thing you have put us all in quite the situation here. I ask you, what am I supposed to do now? I can't just message the Human Alliance and tell them we have a human girl captured at one of their military bases. That would be admitting to what our mission was there, and I'm not willing to do that. Which causes me to wonder what a child was doing at what by all accounts was a strategic Alliance Military base."
Ganis didn't speak and his eyes weren't on the general, but on the little green eyes that peered first at him and then to the General. Still no fear.
Motioning to the girl the General paused, "she still hasn't spoken, I thought perhaps you could try talking to her, the Doc got her a translator and she should be able to understand us, but so far nothing I've said, has had a response."
That was all the encouragement Ganis needed and he knelt in front of the bed she was sitting on, she watched him with those green eyes and he smiled, which for a Turian meant sharp teeth showing and his mandibles flared. She didn't flinch or pull away, just turned her head slightly at him like she couldn't figure something out.
Pointing to his chest he started slowly. "My name is Ganis Vandrel," he waited and when she didn't respond he pointed to his chest again. "I'm Ganis," then pointed to her "and you are?"
The little girl scrunched her eyebrows together but didn't respond.
Ganis leaned forward on his knees resting his face on his knuckles watching the little girl, her eyes fell to his armor and she reached forward touching the insignia of the Turian Military.
"You know the symbols, or have you seen ones like it?" She nodded and he got an idea.
"I'm Lieutenant Vandrel and this is, General Victus." The girl tilted her head and nodded but still didn't speak. Ganis shrugged, his mandibles pulled tightly to his face and turned towards the General.
"That's fine, Lieutenant you're dismissed."
In a rare display of disregard for protocol, unless you count bringing a human child on board, he spoke out of turn.
"General Sir, what are you going to do with her?"
Victus lifted a brow plate in surprise but didn't reprimand him.
"I suppose she will have to go to a holding facility, until another solution can be found or until the end of the war."
The next words out of Ganis's mouth shocked even him.
"Sir, if I may be so bold, let me take care of her; I did this I take responsibility."
Victus shook his head in disbelief, "you would take on the care of a human child? But we have no idea how long the war will continue, no I'm afraid it wouldn't be possible. She will be taken to a detention center."
Ganis had the image of this little girl growing up in a cell, and it made him physically ill.
"General I know this is insubordination and I should just walk away, but I can't. I would like permission to take the girl and care for her as long as it is needed. I'm almost thirty and I am to be removed to the reserves and as I have no family, I will return to the colony I was born in. It's not on Palaven so she would be out-of-the-way."
Victus, regarded him in silence for a few moments before clearing his throat.
"I want you to think about what you're asking me Lieutenant, as you said you're turning thirty, you have no family. It's time for you to take a mate. No one will want you as a mate if you take on the responsibility of raising a human. You will be seen as an outsider, one with human sympathies. Beyond that think of the girl, she will never be accepted. Even at a colony she won't ever fit in and will be a child of the enemy. Don't you think it might be a kindness to just let her be in a holding center until this war is over?"
"Forgive me, Sir if I don't think a child in a prison, is a better choice than her having a home."
If General Victus's brow plate could have gone higher it would have at that statement.
"What about a mate, and starting a family?"
Ganis stared at the little girl and his mind caught up with what his heart was already screaming, "sir, I don't care about that." And in all truth he didn't all he could think of was that he took this girls family from her, and the least he could do was keep her out of a cell.
The General seemed to decide something and he nodded.
"Okay, Lieutenant granted. I hope you know what you're in for. You're relived of active duty and your new position is as caretaker to the captive human child. I expect regular updates on her, when she is speaking I want to know about it, you will treat this as you would any mission. Do you understand me, Lieutenant?"
Ganis was so shocked he couldn't speak for the first few seconds before stammering out a, "yes, yes Sir, of course Sir."
"Now get your things you're going home." Victus saluted and nodded as Ganis took his leave, and the first step towards the most changing experience of his life.
As the shuttle left, Ganis stood with the little girl next to him, staring at the Colony of Randiv before them.
The little girl looked up at him and he smiled, she lifted half her mouth in what he thought might be a human smile, and he offered her his hand, without hesitation she grabbed his longest talon and wrapped her little hand around it and they walked to his and for now, her home.
They had stopped long enough for him to pick up some clothes for her, he figured she would fit Asari type clothes as they were basically the same build. The colony had a few Asari living there and he quickly found where to buy food for her, the Doc had told him that she was only slightly intolerant to Turian food and that with time her body might even adjust ,but not to push it and try to keep her diet as human as possible.
The first night was quiet; he had set up a back room for her that had once belonged to his sister. They sat together at the table both eating; at least she was eating well. He talked to her like he would anyone, asking if she wanted more to eat, something to drink. She nodded yes, or no and when it came time for bed she stopped at the door and looked back at him.
"Go ahead, Red its fine." She still didn't move and Ganis looked about for something he remembered his sister had needed. Finding the little light he switched it on.
"See, it won't be so dark now."
She entered the room and sat at the edge of the bed staring at him.
"Alright well, I'll leave the door open; I'm just over there if you need me okay, Red?"
She nodded and he walked to his room, it felt awkward to not have any armor to remove and he lay on his bed staring at the ceiling wondering at the crazy direction his life had taken.
The movement in the middle of the night awoke him and his first instinct was to jump to the ready; until he realized it was Red. He watched her out of one eye as she stopped at his door with her blanket. He was wondering why she wasn't moving until he figured out that she was watching him to see if he was asleep. Once she had decided that he was in fact asleep she moved to the end of his bed and climbed up at the foot and curled up into a ball. He felt her body ease and the evening out of her breath as she fell asleep.
Ganis woke up early and carried Red back to her own bed and set about making her some breakfast.
The smells must have woken her and when he turned to the table she was already sitting there rubbing her eyes her red hair sticking up in the oddest directions.
Confused he walked over and sat her breakfast in front of her and then tried to smooth back the strands with his talons.
"Does that hurt?" She shook her head and took a big bite.
"What are we supposed to do with it?"
She laughed and he grinned at her.
"Well a laugh is good. Though you're going to have to help me out, Red I don't have that stuff," he said motioning to her head.
Turning back to the kitchen to grab his plate, he jumped as heard the little voice behind him.
"Why do you call me Red?"
He spun around so fast he almost spilled the food on his plate.
He tried to not act too shocked after the first start, and continued back to the table trying to act like she'd been talking the whole time.
Taking a bite of his food he was chewing slowly and made a motion towards her head again.
"The stuff on your head is Red like my skin is red," he pointed to his arm.
"People used to call me Red back in the academy, I figured it fit you."
She seemed to chew on this for a bit, her face screwed up in thought and it almost made him laugh.
"They don't call you Red anymore though. I heard them they call you Ganis or Lieutenant."
He nodded "and what do they call you?"
She chewed on her upper lip for a second before answering.
"I'm Jane, and I'm six."
"Jane, that's nice."
She smiled before narrowing her eyes at his face
"What are the marks on your face?"
"They mark that I'm from this Colony, where we live now."
She thought some more and he pointed to her brown spots on her face.
"Is that what your marks are? Though yours seem permanent."
She giggled, "no silly these are freckles they are part of my skin."
He lifted a brow plate, "I guess I have a lot to learn."
She fell silent again and he tried to get her talking, the sound of her little voice fanning the warm feeling growing in his chest.
"Do you have a family name? Like mine is Vandrel."
She nodded, "Shepard."
"Shepard," he said the name, and smiled the realization of how much her talking meant to him sinking in.
"Welcome home, Jane."