A/N: This is the volus take on biotics. It's a bit longer than most, due to the volus being very weird. This one was completely written up by Jacob and edited by the Editing Gang, so credit where credit is due.
I've got a Tech Guide file, an STG file, and maybe another Lions chapter in the works alongside another quarian file. No… firm dates on the next chapter of TWCD, I've hit some writer's block and the end of year is always a mess anyway.
Perspectives on Biotics: Volus: Bouda Marr, Chief Executive Officer, Biotic Investment Directorate, Volus Defense Force.
2141 CE, Marr-Clan Prime, the Sweeping Plains, Irune
He watched his son and daughter scoot about in excitement, laughing as they teased each other and pointed up to the sky at the sight of the approaching VDF pinnace. Another VDF vessel – a transport by the look of it – flew in formation behind it.
Gerrum Marr knew what they were here for, but his children didn't. Not really. How could they? But Gerrum knew, and it weighed upon his spirit on that chill day in the landing field. There was a dry methane taint on the wind.
It had taken him a week to be able to tell Vidon and Bouda what had happened to their mother, his mate, with whom he had formed clannu and celebrated so many of life's gifts, and in the end it had been pirates in the Silver Rim that had taken her from them. It hadn't even been intentional – they were sloppy with their boarding charges and the shockwaves breached the life-support of the merchant vessel Hirusecca, all hands lost.
"The Citadel and the Salarian Union send their deepest condolences, Cera Marr." The usual platitudes from those who probably pressed a button to send such a message, one that gave neither balm to the soul nor recompense to the bank account.
At least the forsaken Sur'Kesh-clan filth had the decency to pay for the recovery of her remains. The children deserved to have a lock of matted hair to remember her by.
"Will she be meeting us here?" asked Bouda, stopping her play to look up at him.
His daughter still asked questions like that every so often, even though she'd been told what had happened. He didn't know why, knew he wouldn't understand why, but tried to say something helpful anyway.
"No, sh-she won't be. I wish she was, though. She'd be proud of what the two of you are doing today."
"Why?" she asked, and folded her hands.
Her father laughed. "Why what?"
"Why would she be proud? We just signed the contract, with you. That's all we did."
"Clan and clannu!" her brother shouted, his voice swelling with pride.
Gerrum looked away for a brief moment, his jowls shaking, before he steadied himself and turned back to the children. "She'd be proud because you both did a great and noble thing today. You saw a great bounty in the sky and you seized it. I—" He paused. "I'm… I'm proud. Also. Of you both. The clan will prosper." If I'd suggested a different shipping route, if I hadn't lost all our holdings on the last venture and she hadn't had to travel at all in the first place and if I was a more cunning trader and a better man… then I wouldn't have to say this to my own child and—
This seemed to please Vidon. "All volus will prosper."
Gerrum nodded. "Yes, the Vol-clan will grow stronger and wealthier." That boy has enough confidence for the entire VDF, at any rate. He'll spend his first day routing a pirate fleet and flirting with a War Priestess.
Good, he thought, and grinned like he hadn't in weeks, fringe-lips visible through his beard.
"Why are you grinning? Stop grinning," said Bouda.
Gerrum grinned even more. "Come, the VDF is waiting," he said, and the three of them walked over to the pinnace.
There was nothing that could truly prepare you for these things. He'd learned that much in the last few weeks. He wondered if it had been a month, or two months, or a lifetime, then decided it didn't matter. Bouda and Vidon were what mattered now, that was why he'd signed the contract with the VDF, that was why the two military vessels were landing right now before him on the field, causing the air to roar and spin around him. He saw a single VDF officer stop on the ramp and turn his head to say something to someone in the cargo hold, but Gerrum couldn't see who.
Gerrum made a movement on his omni-tool, summoning a small courtesy drone from the residence with a few token refreshments for his 'guest.' It may have been the most exhausting day in the most exhausting months of his life, but that was no reason to be rude.
The VDF officer came to a parade rest in from of them.
"Greetings, Gerrum of the Marr-clan, and greetings too to your clannu. Bouda. Vidon," he said, giving a short bow with each of their names. "I am your liaison, of the VDF and the blood-profit-clan. I'll be here to execute the emptor responsibilities of our contract. It is a pleasure." His voice was like silk, leavened and hardened by the confident tones of command.
You're certainly more polished than their earlier runs, thought Gerrum. At least the Vol-clan has gotten a return on our investment. The drone arrived and he spoke. "You are most welcome, officer. Please enjoy the fruits of our hospitality and refresh yourself if need be."
The VDF officer's face split into a sardonic grin as he took a glass of something rust-brown and bubbly. "You do your clan credit, Gerrum. Most of the traders see me as little more than a mercenary or a social engineering experiment gone horribly wrong. Or right, depending on your perspective."
Gerrum snorted. "You travel the galaxy enough and you soon see the necessity of the VDF. I have no quarrel with your clan. None at all."
"Excellent – so is this drink, by the way, you have my thanks – it pleases me to see more Vol-clan take up your views on our place in galactic society. We can discuss that later, of course. You've discussed this with you children? I have to ask, even now."
Vidon puffed out his chest, fluttering his jowls and shoulders and biceps. "I will do my duty to the Vol-clan, and my clannu." He paused. "Will I get a pistol?"
The VDF officer spread his hands. "Of course. Two pistols."
Vidon nodded. "Acceptable."
"…You'll fit into the clan nicely, young one," said the officer, before he turned to Bouda. "And you? Your biotic potentiality testing was… most impressive, and we have sore need of biotics. What do you say?"
Bouda looked at her father before turning back to face the VDF officer. "I say I'll show the Thessia-clan what a daughter of Irune can do."
"Truly, I suspect you will," said the officer, his voice entirely serious. "This is good. We need more volus like you. Not just the VDF – all the Vol-clan needs more of you. If you have said your goodbyes, please wait on the transport vessel whilst your father and I deal with the final details." He turned to Gerrum for approval.
Gerrum nodded, and said his last goodbye to his children.
The three of them stood in the field for what felt like his entire life, but then, at last, they turned away and ran off in childish excitement to the yawning cargo hull of the VDF transport. Her father turned to face the VDF officer. "I… appreciate you waiting until Bouda and her brother had left. It was courteous of you. You have my thanks."
The VDF officer bowed, the thick bio-sculptured muscles of his form lending his movements a barely contained sense of power that Gerrum found unsettling. It reminded him of the myths and fantastical stories his clan-elders used to tell him as a newborn, of the Fallen clans who inhabited the nightmare landscapes of the Depths regions, volus who spat upon the teachings of the Cloudwalkers and willingly embraced bloodshed and violence. Gerrum was jarred out of his thoughts as the VDF officer spoke.
"There is so little courtesy to be found in this galaxy, Gerrum, that I see no reason why we should contribute to its coarsening. If we celebrate brutishness then we're no better than the un-volus. But you know all about that, don't you?"
Gerrum glared at the man. "No doubt you read the incident report. I've seen alien savagery. Do you have a point?"
"I do. And yes, I helped draft the report. I helped recover your mate's remains, in fact. The VDF appreciates the sacrifices of you and your clannu." He paused for a moment to flick a few haptic images on his omni-tool. "There. Your clan debts are now entirely repaid, your obligations fulfilled, and your actions will be celebrated for three generations to come. Are you pleased?" The VDF officer – names were pointless, of course, they had no real connection to their old life and being anymore – didn't enjoy this. He didn't want to remind this man of his loss, of the unavoidable fact that his world and future were shattered, but this was necessary, wasn't it?
Gerrum balled his fists and turned to stare at the sky. The VDF pinnace was already gone, probably in low orbit by now. Objectively, he knew that his children would likely enjoy a better standard of living and better career opportunities in their new life, especially now that he had gambled and lost so much. In truth, he was proud that they volunteered, and relieved that their last memories of their mother would be ones filled with laughter and contentment.
No matter what else I've done, I did my duty. No pirate can take that from me. No clan-member can say I didn't. My children know I did. Nothing else matters.
"I suspect my anima is damned. What do you think?" said Gerrum. He heard the casual nonchalance in his own voice and fought the urge to laugh aloud.
The VDF officer really did laugh. "I didn't suspect you for a Cloudseeker, Gerrum. You think you're damned to never walk the Eightfold Path? Bah. Plenix take your critics. You made a mistake. A horrible mistake, true, but you didn't know that at the time. You saw a bounty in the clouds, desired it for yourself, you gambled, you lost. It happens to us all. What matters is that you did your duty and made amends as best you could. Your children will know that, when they're older."
Assuming they survive the VDF conversion process. And the training program. And their actual deployment. But he couldn't tell Gerrum that. It'd likely kill him at this point. Needless killing was inefficient.
Gerrum was still staring at the sky, the cloud formations a lurid mess of bronze greens, bruised purples, and tainted whites. "I wasn't a believer. M-My… mate… was. She was." He still couldn't say her name. When would he be able to say her name? "Perhaps now I am. I don't, I don't know how these things work."
The VDF officer gave a sympathetic grunt and clasped him on the jowl. "Who can say? We don't always get neat endings and closure, Gerrum, but you're walking a righteous path, and don't forget it."
"This is true. Or perhaps we both need it to be true. Your organization is reaping quite the profit from this arrangement," said Gerrum. Bastard probably has a biosocial augmentation designed to render the most empathetic noise at just the right moment, maybe a spray of hormonal chemicals to induce that atmosphere of masculine camaraderie and catharsis.
Part of him knew that the VDF officer was simply a target for his frustration, and the rest of him didn't care.
The VDF officer's grin was ghastly. "We always seek to profit from blood. I can't bring your mate back, Gerrum, but I promise I'll bring you the shattered skulls of the pirates who took her from you."
Gerrum shook his head. "No. That won't be necessary. I don't particularly care what happens to me. Do everything you can for Bouda and Vidon. Nothing else matters."
"We will. Plenix guide you, Gerrum."
"And you, officer. I suspect we won't meet again."
They clasped shoulders and, as Gerrum turned to walk back to the clan settlement and face the rest of his life, the VDF officer slowly walked back to his pinnace.
He didn't like having to do this, but that didn't make his work any less necessary.
The VDF had slowly developed and grown stronger over the centuries, but it was too small and still considered a third-rate vocation by the most talented sons and daughters of Irune. If the Vol-clan refused to invest in a project so critical to their survival, then how could alien barbarians be expected to take them seriously? It was too late for Gerrum, but the man's children were the future of the VDF. They would be the guardians of Irune. They would show the alien that volus were not some coddled merchant caste. Perhaps, one day, pirates and raiders and warlords would tremble and flee upon the sight of a VDF emblem. Such dividends were worth any cost.
If it meant that the VDF had to recruit from the broken, the suffering, and the overlooked of volus society, so be it. If it meant that those freaks in the Unseen Cloud occasionally made strange requests for exotic materials and 'high-spectrum Depthwalker subjects,' so be it. If it meant that the Vol Protectorate willingly looked away when Deathwatch-sponsored separatists targeted volus shipping concerns, so be it. They had to develop their capabilities, test their people, and drum up public concern in both Vol-clan and alien space. The alternative was the subjugation of the Vol-clan and, worst and most disgusting of all, the oppression of their blessed ability to seek the bounty of life.
This outcome was unacceptable, and the VDF was the most efficient solution. Maximize return on investment – that was the directive.
Such dividends were worth any cost.
Present Day, VDF-BID001 Orbital Blood-Profit Complex, Irune (high orbit)
She felt the Power course through her body and gasped aloud.
It started, as always, from the very core of her gel-stem, the semi-translucent core of nerve centers, fats, and nutrient gels that followed the volus spine-analogue and now throbbed and hummed and glowed with the eezo that the VDF had invested into her.
A shimmering Orb of liquid golden light erupted into existence not half a meter from her head. She flicked her wrist in a long-practiced incantation and the Orb began to make a lazy orbit around her, ready to deflect incoming fire and absorb the enemy's Power.
She conjured a second Orb, and then a third, and then made a series of blurring hand gestures that left all three Orbs surrounding her body like electrons on an atom, a spectacular golden blur of movement that would ruin the efforts of all but the most sophisticated attackers. She reached out with her mind and extinguished them a moment later, the rest of her VDF Counterassault Biotic trainees following suit before falling to parade rest on the hard laser steel decking of the training commons.
Bouda Marr spoke, her voice a ménage of beguiling contralto and commanding resolve that demanded the entire room stop and pay attention.
"At ease, clan-fellows. Your performance today was… acceptable. It will need to be exceptional. Irune demands it of you, and you will comply! That is the directive. Repeat it."
They shouted as one, elbows double-crossed over the chest in VDF salute.
"You will provide the highest possible return on investment to the Vol-clan! That is an imperative. Repeat it."
They did, louder this time, their bodies swaying in unison to the cadence of her words and the sweeping motions of her hand, her oratory guiding them as surely as a conductor.
"You will work as you have never worked in your lives, and you will please me! That is advice. What say you?"
Her charges roared their approval as they thumped their chests and their vorcha comrades on the gangways howled with glee. Faint static arcs of biotic energy crackled over the room, the smell of ammonia and ozone intertwining with the reeking acidic tang of sweat, her students soaring high on a cocktail of invincible youth and VDF biochemical serums.
Bouda Marr looked upon her clan-fellows and smiled. "Dismissed."
They couldn't just go back to their regular schedule after such a thing, of course, and she knew that most of them would vent that overwhelming energy and life-lust in the mess, the fighting cages, or their beds, but such was to be expected. She waited until her students had left the training commons before she turned and began to make the journey back to her own quarters. The corridors were pragmatic in design and utilitarian in their aesthetics, as befitted a warship, but every so often she'd find a discarded playing card, empty bottles, a stash of painted gold chips, or a torn open container of contraceptives in one of the spare rooms that always seemed to attract off-duty crewmembers.
Let them seek what bounty they would in their recreational hours. They've certainly earned it. She frowned at herself. Not like I can join in anymore. Being Chief Executive certainly has its bonuses, but that is not one of them.
She continued down the corridor. It was an easy walk, one she had made thousands of times over the years, and she found it always lent itself to reflection and plotting.
A good speech, she thought. Steady alternating installments of hard training, inspiration, and strategic leadership will compound at an exponential rate over time and lead to superior marginal outcomes for Vol-clan biotic military assets.
She passed dozens of other VDF personnel, most either stopping and saluting her or stepping out of her way entirely. Either way they earned themselves a respectful nod. She was proud of each of them, of what they had accomplished together here, and of where their efforts would take the VDF and ultimately all of the Vol-clan.
She came at last to the door to her personal quarters, a handsome hand-fitted set of wood panels overlaying the laser steel body, her name and station engraved in a tasteful rosé gold. Standing in front of it were her bodyguards and life-wards, two hulking vorcha brood-mates, each almost two and a half meters and three hundred kilos of gene-jacked muscle, regenerative multifunction stem cell analogues, and subdermal armor. The veritable armory festooned to their bodies was supremely fearsome and probably unnecessary.
"Mistress, we welcome." The vorcha bowed and spoke in unison. Their voices sang of murder and fire, and this pleased Bouda.
The un-volus will fear the VDF soon enough.
She smiled. It had been a good day. One of her vorcha opened the door, followed her into her quarters and silently began to help her undress and clean her belongings, its motions smooth and well-practiced. The other stood guard outside, knowing that no one here would dare threaten his mistress, but secretly hoping someone was stupid enough to try. He hadn't eaten since the start of his shift.
Bouda quickly cleaned herself in the sonic shower before donning a robe. She opened a drink and took a sip, closing her eyes and feeling the cool, burning, bubbling rush as the liquid slowly spread over her tongue and down her throat.
She made her way over to the couches and the frosted glass display case that occupied the center of her quarters, gently pressing a haptic button and watching as the case slowly opened. Inside were the matted remembrance locks of her mother and father, the hairs still smoothly bound by gold bands and glistening from the fragrant oils she used to treat them with each week.
She slowly picked each of the locks up and placed them one at a time on her thighs, before she began to recite a psalm from the Book of Plenix. She did it from memory. She'd done it so many times over the years that it was more of a calming and invigorating ritual than a somber moment of mourning.
"If only you could see me now, clannuro and clannura."