Alright! Welcome back! This is the rewrite of the first chapters. I'll completely redo the first two Chapters, because they're objectively terrible, and I'll be going back and tightening up some of the other early chapters. mostly adding paragraph breaks and fixing the things that I mucked up in the past.
For those of you that are new, welcome. This is an old pet project of mine and it's a lot longer than I ever expected it to be, but I really enjoy working on it between other projects. This story involves elements of the Halo franchise entering the Mass effect world. These two universes have vastly different ways of doing things in their"physics". So, to reconcile the differences, I have made a few hard decisions that have proven... unpopular with certain groups. Which is ok. People are entiltled to their opinions. My reasoning in making these decisions mostly boils down to conflict. A story has to have conflict to be, well, a story. If the elements of the halo story was "right" then certain charcters would be overpowered and kill the dramatic tension for the character. At least the way I'm making this story. It could probably be done, but I'm just not that good of a writer.
Anyway. I just wanted to tell any newcomers ahead of time. you might take issue with how the "power levels" work out between the unverse's technology. And that's ok. Also I'm not gonna change it because that would be waaaaay to much work.
The Independent Salvage Vessel Quiet Repose shuddered as she barreled out of matterless space next to the Shrike Abyssal Mass Relay. Captain Mallus Renaldus, a turian, frowned, his mandible fringes drawing down as he stood behind Walesh. The salarian pilot was an odd one but very good at his job. They were the only two people in the Repose's bridge and it was already cramped.
"She isn't supposed to do that," Mallus stated, he tried to keep the fatigue out of his voice. His eyelids felt like they were made of lead and there always seemed to be something going wrong with his boat. He barely noticed the massive alien superstructure pass out of view. The Mass Relays were a fact of life in the galaxy. Almost omnipresent enough to forget nobody had any real idea how they were made.
Walesh nodded absently. "Agreed. Likely a result of missing anterior buffer panel."
Mallus blinked. "How long has that been missing?"
"Since brush with Council forces last month. Repose not designed for intense G-forces needed to escape authorities."
"Why didn't anyone tell me?!"
Walesh shrugged. "Did tell you."
Mallus opened his mouth to retort, then snapped it shut. "Just don't crash her, Wals."
"We crashing again?" The voice boomed through the air and filled the small bridge to bursting, though not nearly as much as the voice's owner. Janeth squeezed in and engulfed the remaining space. At 7 feet and weighing over eight hundred pounds, the krogan was a behemoth. Not always ideal in a cramped spaceship, but perfect for when hostiles needed to disappear.
"Ghrmopht," was Mallus' only, heavily muffled, reply.
"What's that, Boss?" Janeth asked.
Janeth stepped back from very nearly smothering Mallus.
"I said," Mallus took a deep breath. "Get off my foot. Or I'll shoot you."
"Hehehe," Janeth chuckled. "You say the nicest things. Let me know if there's something to shoot." He clomped away out of the Bridge and down the hall towards the Mess.
Mallus and looked back at Walesh. "Start scanning," He ordered. "I want to know if there's anything worth hitting inside an hour, and begone if not so. This corner of space makes my plates itch."
Walesh swiped through a series of screens on his piloting suite. "Aye aye," he said, already at work.
Mallus walked out of the Bridge and onto a grate metal floor. His feet clattered as he passed the four ladders that made doors for the crew quarters. This was not a part of the Galaxy that one wanted to be in without large space guns and lots of giant lasers. If he didn't need to be, he wouldn't even be here. But sometimes life didn't care what you wanted, it pushed you to the edge regardless. He ducked through the knee knocker style hatch that led to the mess, a long table stretching along one half of the room, the largest save for the Cargo Bay, and a compact kitchen took up the rest. Zolal, his XO, sat with her head was down at the head of the table, looking over a series of datapads spread out around her on the table. She looked over her shoulder as he entered.
"How's the nest egg, Zo?" Mallus asked.
"In good order," Zo said easily, turning and leaning back in her chair. She grinned. "We're just missing the nest, the egg, and a tree to put it in."
"As always." Mallus smiled. When you're at the firing squad, joke, and hope they laugh hard enough to miss. "Are we short anything terribly dear?"
Zo arched a single brow, " well it feels like we're missing an anterior buffer panel," she said. "Which I told you about three weeks ago, and you said you'd fix it."
Mallus shrugged his shoulder in his brown coat. It didn't seem to fit right at the moment."I'm working on it," He said, trying not to sound evasive. "These things take time."
"I hope it doesn't take longer than our next planetfall," Zo said. "Otherwise it will be… interesting."
Mallus knew this one. "Interesting meaning-"
"Oh god, Oh god we're all going to die." they both finished with wide grins.
"Aahhh… That was a fun crash landing…" Mallus said with fond memory.
Zo's smile faded. She ran a hand over her scalp. "We're low on almost everything." She said seriously. "We need to refuel, we've got water, food, and O2 enough for a few weeks, at best-"
Mallus put a hand on Zo's shoulder. "We always did like the edge, raggedy as it is."
"One nudge and we're falling," Zo warned.
"Then we'd best nudge back first," Mallus said with a smile. "Walesh is scanning the sector, he'll pick something up."
"It better be a good one." Zo said, scanning over the datapads, "Fuel isn't cheap these days, especially out here." she thrust out a pad at Mallus without looking up. " take this, I need a list of necessaries from medical and engineering.
Mallus looked at the pad, then to Zo. "You know I'm the Captain, right?"
"You know how unpleasant it is to have an uncooperative Xo, right?" Zo replied. Her head was still down, but Mallus could see the edge of a smile on her lips.
Mallus plucked the Datapad from her talons. "Fine," he said.
"A great leader of men." Zo murmured as Mallus marched out of the mess.
"Yeah, yeah." Mallus waved over his shoulder.
The cargo bay was the single largest room in the Repose just over ten meters, with a series of interconnected catwalks filling the upper level that could point you towards any other part of the ship in short order. The deck was filled with various crates and their most recent haul, which meant it was largely empty. Mallus kept walking straight across the catwalks, bow to stern, towards the medical bay.
Before the Medbay, Mallus crossed a small lounge/triage area, depending on the day's events. Intent on his task, Mallus missed the small shape, crouched bird-like on the couch, watching him.
"We should enjoy it while we can." It was a small voice, feather light and airy, as if a solid puff of air might blow it away.
Mallus turned to see their most… eccentric crew member. A young woman with large, penetrating eyes wearing a flowing dress. Slender and lithe, she always seemed to move as if dancing. But her eyes were just a touch too large, they seemed to see more than they should, more than was visible.
"River," Mallus said with a smile that was only a little forced. "I didn't see you there… all perched and creepy-like." River rarely spoke in a straightforward fashion, but she said something, it was almost always worth paying attention to. He'd learned that the hard way. "What should we enjoy?".
River slipped off the couch, like a panther sliding to the ground to stalk its prey, to stand directly in front of Mallus, staring up into his eyes. "The quiet," she whispered. She was gone in a flash, dress whirling around her legs as she flew over to the stairs that lead down to the guest quarters that was her home. Her foot wavered over the first stair. "It's about to get very loud." And she was gone.
Mallus nodded, fairly confounded, but completely unsurprised. Krogan fight, klixen burn, and River Tam says cryptic messages you won't understand until they come to pass.
"Simon," Mallus said, walking into the small medbay, looking over the datapad. "I need to know if there's anything critical you need, I've already got medigel on the list, so you don't need to-" He cut off as he looked up.
Simon Tam, their doctor and River's older brother, stood on the far side of a medical suite with another crew member, Kalia, an asari Maiden with a knack for machines. Simon was plain for a human, which was saying something indeed. The same slenderness as River, with none of the grace. Kalia was energy made flesh, excitement and good cheer flowed from her freely like water. The pair turned to face Mallus as he entered, perfectly composed, as if in a deep intellectual conversation. "Oh, good." Mallus said." I needed to ask you as well, Kalia, anything?"
The young woman - well, young for an asari, she was 73 years old - shook her head and blinked, trying and failing to pull her eyes from Simon. "Hmm? What's that Cap'n?" She asked, sounding a little breathless. Mallus narrowed his eyes.
"Do you need anything?"
Kalia's fingers idly played with the ridges that rose up the back of her neck, still looking up at Simon. "Not noth'n you can buy from a store." she smiled.
Mallus frowned. He turned to the Human. "Simon?" His voice had lost a good deal of warmth. Simon swallowed.
"Nope," Simon said quickly. His hands gripped the headrest of the medical chair tightly, white knuckles showed his distress.
Mallus tapped a talon on the datapad. "Well enough." he said. He turned to Kalia, "Kali, mind leaving me alone with the good doctor for a spell? I've a medical notion to run past him." Kalia opened her mouth. "-Something terrible unsightly," Mallus broke in.
Kalia closed her mouth and looked over at Simon with a wide smile. "Sure thing, Cap. No one better with pusses and various oozings." She bounced out of the medbay and turned to the cargo bay.
Mallus took a two full steps into the medbay, bringing him within arms reach of the young doctor. Simon began to speak, but Mallus silenced him with a talon over his doughy human lips.
He looked Simon hard in the eyes and clapped a hand on his shoulder. He tried to smile, but suspected it was more a baring of teeth than anything else. "Careful," his voice carried a mote of warning.
Simon nodded, his eyes wide.
"Good," Mallus clapped him on the shoulder and left.
Mallus laid in his private quarters, staring up at the gun-metal grey ceiling. His quarters were small, everyone's was. There wasn't enough room for anyone, captain included, to have anything bigger than a glorified closet. It was small, but efficient. Everything had multiple purposes, or folded away to make way for something that did. A desk could unfold over the same area as the bed, which also could be stored in the wall. The sink extended from the wall just above the head when you were finished. Everything was as compact as possible. The one exception was the armour stand. Clearly an alien structure to the room, it was a stocky wooden structure that took up an entire corner. It was worn, older that he was, but well cared for, properly varnished and oiled. It held his family's armour through over twenty Renaldus generations. The colours and styles of the armour may have changed, but it always belonged to a Renaldus. The suit it wore now was dull brown in colour, with a peg to hang the holster for his heavy pistol next to it.
Care for your weapon, and your weapon will are for you. The memory was a fond one, one of the few.
"Just look at me now, Dad" Mallus said though a sigh. "Who's a wasted scav merc, one slip away from dying in a failed wreck in the cold dark of space?"
The sink popped open with a clonk.
Mallus sighed again.
"Captain." Walesh's voice burst through the PA. "Have found something."
Mallus jerked to his feet and toggled the PA on his omni tool. "Moving." He said. He bumped his hip into the sink to fold it back into the wall as he went, when it fell back to fully open he stomped back and slammed it shut! He looked back at the armour stand. It stood in silence. The Renaldus family crest glinting at him under the harsh lighting.
"Shut up, Dad." Mallus muttered. He stepped over to strap on his pistol and then clambered up the ladder.
"What do we got, Wals?" Mallus asked, entering the bridge. Or he tried to. The small room was already full. Walesh, Zo, River, and Simon all crowded the space, staring at the small screen that showed the results of the scan.
"It's… huge." Zo said, looking over the numbers.
"How huge is huge?" Mallus asked.
"2700 tonnes?" Zo said, not quite believing her own words.
"That's not possible," Simon said. "It must be a scanner malfunction, nothing that big would be left on it's own like that. Thats, thats-"
"Military grade." Mallus tapped a talon on his lips. "No navy in the galaxy would've left something like that drifting."
"But what if they did?" Zo asked. "If we could salvage that, Sir, we'd be set. We could all retire."
"Or bring a mess of trouble down on all of our heads." Mallus said softly, still studying the scanner data.
"What do we do?" Simon asked.
"We need to-" Mallus stopped Zo with a raised finger.
"We're checking it out," Mallus ordered. He looked down at the pilot. "Quiet like, hear?"
Walesh nodded and went to work.
Mallus didn't bother going anywhere, he wanted to be close in case anything happened. He stood in the Bridge, arms crossed, watching out the front view screens as empty space flowed by. His fingers tapped restlessly on his arms, betraying what calm he tried to portray. A crowd, such as could be found on their tiny ship, gathered around the bridge, everyone had come to see what this new score could possibly. Zo, Simon, Kalia, River, and Janeth all did their best to squeeze into the bridge, but everyone gave Mallus a good half foot of space. Leaving him alone with his thoughts and his tapping.
"Visual contact, in ten" Walesh said, the entire bridge jumped except Mallus. His mandibles flexed.
"Three, two, one."
"Spirits..." Zo whispered.
"No, I don't think they did it." Mallus muttered.
Through the front view screens of the Bridge, a massive ship, at least cruiser weight, spun slowly in the vacuum. Or rather, most of it did. As the stern spun past, it revealed the most interesting part of this wreck. It wasn't all there.
Half of it, the bow, presumably, had been sliced away, cleanly enough to expose the individual decks, like rectangular honeycombs. Mallus stared at the desicated monster. His mandibles flexed. Around him, his crew were all smiles, trading hopeful and excited looks as the find of the century sat before them. Mallus leaned over Walesh's chair, close to the Salarian's ear.
"No distress signals." Walesh said, bringing up the communications spectrum. "Some low end noise, but well below distress frequency."
Mallus gripped the holographic screen with his omni tool and pulled to slide the display down the spectrum, revealing a small blip. He tapped it.
"Mayday, mayday. This is UNSC FFG-201 Forward Unto Dawn requesting immediate evac. Survivors aboard. Prioritization code victor 5-3-Sierra-117." The voice, female, it sounded, quieted the room.
"What's that?" Janeth asked. "English?" Simon nodded.
"Mayday, mayday. This is UNSC FFG-201 Forward Unto Dawn requesting immediate evac. Survivors aboard. Prioritization code victor 5-3-Sierra-117." Mallus looked at the spinning wreck, it didn't look like it could support survivors.
"Shut it off, Walesh." Mallus said, deep in thought. Simon turned to him.
"Captain, we have to investigate," He said. 'If there are survivors on that we need to help them."
Mallus turned to the pilot. "Any way of finding how long that's been playing?"
Walesh flipped though the sensor logs. "First picked signal up less than one lightyear. Old radio tech, not supplemented by mass relay technology." He sounded almost insulted, that someone would use such outdated technology.
"Months, then." Mallus finished the thought.
A long moment of silence stretched in the bridge, everyone waiting. Everyone but Mallus. His head was down. Staring at the scanner data from the wreck.
"We're leaving," Mallus said.
"Sir!" Zo cried. "That thing is worth more than we'll make in years!"
"We need to help the survivors!" Simon demanded. "I took an oath."
"Sum'ing so big has got to have all kinds of shiny things." Kalia added. "Ain't it worth hopping over for a look-see?"
"I haven't hurt something in months, Mal." Janeth pleaded from outside the bridge door. "Months."
"That's just about enough!" Mallus snapped into the bridge, silencing everyone. "This is my ship. Means where she goes and what she does is up to none's discretion save mine. Any who feel elseways are more than welcome to rid themselves of our presence. Make sure you wear a coat. I hear it's cold outside." Mallus nodded to the wreck. "Something such as this is big money, truth, but twice so much trouble when whoever owns it comes a'calling. Now." Mallus looked around the gathered crew, "our skilled pilot is going to about face this boat, and we will find another wreck to salvage, one that won't end with all of our heads on a stick on some human warlord's desk. Clear?" He looked around the bridge.
Simon glared at him. "I will not-"
"Think very carefully." Mallus started, he rested his hand on the butt of his pistol, "Before you begin making definite statements on my boat." He looked around the room. "I've made a decision, and I'm keen to see all abide by it. Walesh? Find a new target. Everyone else is dismissed." Simon almost made to argue again. "Now." Mallus made his voice hard as iron, and everyone quickly shuffled out.
Mallus waited until the bridge was empty save for himself and Walesh. He leaned over the pilot's chair. "Make a detailed scan of that thing and send it to my omni tool."
Walesh nodded without stopping his work.
By the time Mallus had made his way back to his room. His omni tool chirped. Mallus fell back on his bed with an exhausted sigh. He wriggled up to prop his back against the ship's bulkhead, and opened the scan. A small holographic model of the wreck floated above his omni tool. Mallus enlarged it and studied it. His time in the turian military had taken him to all corners of the galaxy, and into contact with every interstellar civilization, and even one or two that were pre-contact. Nobody had made ships anything like this. Hull markings spun into view. A bird, wings outstretched, overtop a planet, with the letters UNSC on a banner across the bottom.
"Who are you?" Mallus murmured. UNSC, nothing Mallus had ever heard of. Were they a new player in the galaxy? Another paramilitary group of crazy humans? Mallus didn't want to think about that. But perhaps they could be played off one another. If this UNSC could occupy Cerberus, keep them from becoming a bigger threat than they already are…
Mallus shook his head. Stop it, he told himself, you left that all behind. All you need to worry about is finding another score, and keeping air under your wing.
Mallus closed out the scan and shifted down to lay flat on his bed. The time of Mallus Renaldus being involved in wars, and conflicts that affect the whole galaxy are long gone. Mallus closed his eyes, it'd been, what? 17? 18 hours since he'd last slept? Now that he had stopped moving for the day, fatigue dragged at every part of him. He barely had time to realize how tired he really was before sleep rolled over him.
Three hours later, Mallus woke with grainy eyes and a dry tongue. Mallus grunted as he rolled out of bed and wobbled over to the sink. He splashed himself in the face, and cupped some water in his hands to drink, swish in his mouth, and spit back into the sink. Even in a old bird like the Repose, the water recycling was efficient to get almost every molecule back from the wastewater. Mallus looked up into the mirror that hung over the sink. He looked… hollow. "One more day." He told himself the familiar mantra. Everyday was just one more. "One more". He dressed quickly. Swinging his coat, a long thing that hung almost to his knees, and climbing up the ladder.
The kitchen was largely empty. Not surprising, as early as it was. Or was it late? Mallus stumbled into the kitchen.
"You should be sleeping more."
Mallis turned to see Zo, sitting at the dining table with a steaming cup in her talons. Mallus arched an eyebrow.
"Salarians need, like, 45 minutes of sleep," Zo said defensively. "You try getting a full eight with someone next to you getting up and coming back three times a night."
Zo pushed a second cup over towards an empty chair.
Mallus picked up the cup, but didn't sit. "Can't be caught sleeping when something needs doing." he said simply, drinking deeply. "Has Walesh found anything?"
"He'dve told you if he had."
Zo shifted in her seat, leaning over and holding her cup with both hands. "If we don't turn a profit this trip, Mal, we're dead in the water. "Spirits, if we spend too much time here, we won't have enough fuel to make it." She looked up at him. "I'll die for you on the battlefield anyday, Mal. But I'm not going to starve to death in a dead ship."
Mallus ground his teeth. "I'm not keen for either to happen. As I see it, it's a lot easier to find food when you're starving, once someone's put a hole in you, there's not much to do about it save pray. And I've never been much for gods and spirits."
"That's if there's someone to put a hole in anyone." Zo stood up. "You're keeping us from a feast on the chance there's a guard. We know we're starving, we don't know if anyone even knows that thing is there!" Zo finished the last in a near shout. "We need this, Mal.
"You know my notions about getting orders on my ship." Mallus said gravely, his hand on his pistol.
Zo scoffed, "Please, that might work on Simon, but not me." Mallus scowled and crossed his arms. It wasn't even working on Simon that well, anymore. Kid was growing a backbone.
"Fine." Mallus said. "We'll hit the big one, but!" He cut Zo off before she could celebrate. "Only if we don't find something safer. And if, if, we do hit it, we do it carefully. Am I clear, sergeant?"
Zo nodded. "Aye aye, sir."
Zo saluted, with a more than dry grin. Mallus had never been commissioned, but had more often than not been the man in charge, when things inevitably went sideways. she spun on her heel and walked out towards her quarters, opposite his own.
Mallus sighed and sat heavily. There was always something on his boat. They were on the raggedy edge, but Mallus Renaldus would do anything to keep them from falling.