Cut Loose Among The Stars
Ria fidgeted anxiously as she stood waiting for the arrival of the transport that would take her off planet for her pilgrimage. Glancing up at the clock set into a wall near the center of the spaceport, she saw that the shuttle was due to arrive any minute. A fact that only redoubled her nervous anticipation.
Quit worrying, you haven't even left yet and you're already quaking. Ria told herself, failing despite her best efforts to rationalize away her apprehension.
Bouncing on her toes again in an attempt to expel the nervous energy; Ria felt a comforting hand press against her shoulder. Turning her head, she saw that her father had stepped up unnoticed behind her and now regarded her with a small, knowing smile. Her mother too stood beside her, and even through the mask Ria could sense her mother's worried frown.
"Nervous?" Her father asked simply, mirroring the question he'd asked a few times over the past couple of weeks.
"Less that and more terrified." She replied with a small, nervous smile hidden behind her mask.
"Ahhh." He replied, giving her shoulder a reassuring squeeze. "Always is, the first time setting off on your own."
She gave him a small, uncertain nod before turning back to stare at the empty platform before her; her parents and herself falling silent once more as they waited together.
"Still..." Her father added a moment later, his smile widening as he spoke." I'm sure that as long as your pilgrimage doesn't end up going as badly as your mom's did, you'll be fine."
"Or as well as mine did, as it had aspects of both." Her mother interjected with a laugh. "As bad as getting shot at by Saren's men and becoming wrapped up in a suicidal quest was; I'm still not sure I shouldn't think of it as a good thing."
"I'd say good, as otherwise you wouldn't have met dad." Ria laughed, the mention of her parent's adventures dispelling some of her fear.
"Yes, though I'd hope you'll do without the galaxy saving mission. Your father and I worry about you too much as it is." Her mother placed a hand on the shoulder opposite of the one her father's rested on.
Ria started to reply, only to stop as the roar of approaching thrusters caught her attention. Turning her head, she looked just in time to see a small transport shuttle enter the enclosed dock and begin its approach at the empty platform before them.
"Well Ria, looks like your ride is here." Her dad noted, giving her shoulder one last reassuring squeeze before pulling his hand away. "Take care of yourself okay?"
"I will." She answered, turning to embrace her father in a tight hug. Pulling away a moment later, she turned to hug her mother in a likewise fashion. "I'll try not to worry you too much mom."
"Too late." Her mother's whisper was muffled slightly by her crushing hug, but eventually they pulled apart.
Shouldering her pack from the ground where she'd left it, Ria turned and walked towards the waiting shuttle. Right as she stepped inside the shuttle's open entrance hatch; Ria turned back to gaze one last time on where her parents stood on the platform, raising her hand in a wave of goodbye.
Waiting only just long enough to catch her parents own waves; Ria turned back and with a deep breath, stepped inside the shuttle.
Shepard and Tali watched for several minutes after Ria entered the shuttle; standing together in silent vigil until at last, with a roar of engines, the shuttle lifted up away from the platform and departed.
"Well... now she's on her own." Shepard said simply once the shuttle had vanished from sight, turning to regard his wife as he spoke.
"Yeah." Tali agreed, still staring after the departed transport with evident worry. "It'll be hard getting used to that idea."
"I know." He replied softly, turning his head to give one last look at the direction his daughter had left. "And while neither of us have a chance of actually doing it, we really shouldn't worry about her too much. Ria can take care of herself."
"I know, but she does have that unnatural talent for finding trouble; just like a certain big bosh'tet I know." Tali retorted with a worried laugh.
"Well, she is a Shepard after all. It's a talent of ours." He grinned, wrapping an arm around her. "Besides, what's the worst trouble she can get up to?"
"Do I really have to answer that, John?" Tali asked, her luminous eyes meeting his.
"I'd prefer you didn't. But I did have an appealing thought just now."
"We have the house completely to ourselves again."
"Mmm." Tali's voice worked wonders on him as always, and before they knew it they were both speed walking for the air-car and home.
Ria'Shepard nar Rannoch... That name will change soon. Ria sat among on a shuttle outbound from Rannoch, idly staring out of the side window as the Perseus Veil got smaller behind her. It was beautiful as always, and she still sometimes had trouble grasping the idea of her peoples prior exile. To think that only a few decades ago it had been under hostile territory, and had gone unseen by her people for roughly three hundred years was nigh unfathomable.
Looking down from the window to her lap, she looked at her meagre pack of supplies meant to last her for what could be years. There were only a few things she felt she truly needed on this journey, and she went through her bag for yet another check of approval. Her toolkit she'd accumulated throughout her childhood, suit toxin filters, her pistol and father's rifle plus ammo for both, antibiotics and an emergency decon unit...
Ria frowned to herself as she felt through the bag, her hand hitting something inside she didn't recognize. For a moment she panicked, frantically digging out half the bags contents for fear that she'd accidentally brought something she shouldn't have. Flashes of horrific embarrassment floated through her mind at the thought of having to return home. Seeing people snicker and laugh at her returning an item of her parents not hours after her pilgrimage ceremony.
When she finally got the item out from the bottom of her father's old duffel bag, She had to fight the urge to yell in relief. It was indeed something she had not packed herself, and she had no recollection of anyone else doing so for her. It was an old photograph taken with her fathers old film camera. It was wrinkled and showed it's age in no uncertain terms, so she took great care in smoothing it out to get a better look at it.
The first thing she saw was her own smiling face, surrounded by her friends and all of her, "relatives". Everyone from her father's old ground team, her friends, Mordin, Grelin, Laura and Tarran, even Aristotle. They were all grouped together along the beach with a sparkling ocean meeting the sand stretching out behind them. All were smiling, and more than a few were caught midway through childish Uncle Garrus in particular had a face of pain mixed in with laughter as his arm was being wrenched behind his back by her mother.
The photo brought back many good memories of her incredibly eccentric family, and she stared at the image for a very long time. Eventually she reluctantly put the photo down beside her and began re-packing the things she'd flung out in her haste. When everything was replaced the way she wanted it she picked the old photo up once more.
This has to have been father's idea. No one else would have slipped this into my bag.
The trip the image depicted was one of the parties they had thrown for her father's return from a mission. He hadn't wanted to be anywhere else but Rannoch, so his friends had all came to him. Even Liara had dropped her business dealings and came all the way from Thessia for that particular party.
Still smiling, Ria began to place the picture back into her bag in a more secure place when she noticed writing on the back of it. Frowning, she held it closer to her mask to make out the terrible handwriting.
"Love them even when they turn into horrible teenagers." - Dad
"We will always love you!" - Mom
Ria simply stared at the words for a time, seeing in her minds eye her parents smiling faces. Her heart already began to ache for them, but she shook her head sadly and pressed the picture into a pocket of her bag.
Before she could do much else her Omni-tool flashed at her to indicate an incoming call. Searching the mostly empty transport to see if anyone could overhear her, she accepted the call and spoke quietly.
"Hey Ria! Am i too late to see the ceremony?"
"Well even if you weren't I couldn't very well go through it with my omni-tool on now could I?" Her joke made him frown slightly through the video, but he just shrugged.
"Oh well, If I know our parents they recorded it with three or more separate cameras." Ria just nodded in agreement before he continued on. "Well I'm sorry I missed it Ria, but C-Sec won't even give me a day off with my injuries. Granted they are mostly healed, but still." Tarran lifted his cast covered arm and waggled it for good measure, but she was still concerned.
"You sure you feel better? Omega was a complete disaster, I knew we should never have-"
"Hey hey hey, I know you got drunk enough to not remembered most of it, but you enjoyed yourself. I haven't seen you so relaxed since spirits know when. So in my book, that's a successful evening."
"Why doesn't that make me feel better about it?"
"Aw cheer up kid. You're going to be fine. Trust me."
"How would you know?" Ria asked with a hint of curiosity.
"Because you've got way too many friends in way too high of places. Speaking of which, if you ever find yourself on the Citadel, don't hesitate to call me, alright? You might not like the way these places react to quarians, and a homeless shelter is no fun at all, believe me." Tarran's offer forced a smile to her face, but since he couldn't see it she had to convey her thanks through words.
"I doubt I'll end up there Tarran, but if I do you'll be the first to know. Thank you."
"Anytime Ria. Stay out of trouble, ok?"
"I'll try. Good bye Tarran."
"Catch you later Ria."
As the call terminated Ria finally focused on her situation, and what her plan would be. But the small, less pragmatic voice in the back of her mind still smiled at the thought of her fathers photo. In that moment, she knew what passage from the scroll of the ancestors she would use for her return to Rannoch. She could envision it, the crowd of friends and relatives gathered around the docking bay, waiting for her triumphant return. They would all hear her words, and she could only hope they would understand their significance.
"The dust on the path behind me may obscure what once was clear, but my soul will take comfort in the roots that form in the cracks of the desert floor. Let home be my guide."
With a renewed sense of confidence, Ria redoubled her efforts to form a plan. This was it. She had finally been cut loose among the stars.
Hey everybody! Bahoogasmif here.
I know you don't want to hear it, but this is in fact the last chapter of Legacy Of Fire. I can't tell you how much your reviews and kind words mean to me on the daily grind, but I'm just glad I can bring a few smiles to you. That was always the goal really, if I can lighten the mood in someone's day even for a few minutes, then my job is complete.
Thanks again for reading, and please go check out TheWerdna's story and see little Ria as she continues to grow!