"Finn! Finn, wake up!"
Finn awoke in a dull haze. It was hot … way too hot for his liking.
"Zat you, Jake?" He mumbled.
"Oh, thank God! I thought you were a goner, man!" Jake's metal form appeared blearily in Finn's vision, but the angle was wrong.
"Why're you on the wall?"
"Ah, crap. Finn, listen to me; the apartment's on fire."
"Turn on the air-conditioning then."
Finn rolled over and started to go back to sleep, only for Jake to get into his face and zap him with a jolt of electricity.
"Gaah!" Finn said, sitting bolt upright. The smell of smoke cleared away the fog instantly. Quickly falling back to the ground, Finn shook the rest of the cobwebs from his head and quickly covered his mouth with the front of his shirt. "What the hell?"
"The building's on fire, man! Come on, we gotta get outta here!"
Nodding, Finn crawled after Jake. The flames weren't in his room yet, but he could see flickering outside his window.
It was a terrifying experience; the hallway was practically an inferno. Even sticking as close to the ground as he could, Finn could tell he was breathing in a lot of smoke.
"Is the stairwell clear?" Finn asked, trying not to cough.
"It was when I ran up here."
As soon as they hit the stairwell, Finn took a deep breath and stood up so he could descend faster. They were four floors up, but the air in the stairwell was at least a little less smoky.
"Come on, Finn!" Jake shouted, bounding past the entrance to the second floor.
Finn started to follow, when he noticed something through the haze and smoke; Two scaar, one lying on the ground, the other kneeling beside him.
As Finn moved toward the door, Jake came to a screeching halt.
"What are you doin', man?" He asked, panic in his voice.
"Someone's still here!" Finn shoved his way through the door and hurried to the scaar's side.
It was a man and a woman, the former of which was no longer breathing. Half of his body was practically ash. The woman stared at him as though catatonic, her hand still holding his.
Finn put his hand on her shoulder, saying, "We've gotta go!"
"Leave me." She said, her voice dead.
Finn stared at her a moment, not believing what he was hearing. "What?"
"Leave me here. I am already dead."
"Look, you ain't dead! I'm sorry for the loss of your partner, but dying here isn't going to bring him back!"
She remained where she was, her eyes on her bondmate. "I am already dead." She said.
"Oh, for the love of …" Finn grabbed her and lifted her from the ground. She offered no resistance; she didn't even flinch as her bondmate's hand slid from her hand. Fortunately for Finn, scaar were quite light.
Finn burst out of the second floor landing where Jake was waiting.
"Her partner's dead." Finn told him. "Come on! Let's get out of here!"
As they rushed down the final stairwell, part of the upper floors collapsed, cutting Finn off from the exit. Clutching the inert body of the scaal woman, Finn braced himself for the coming pain of the flames.
Finn opened his eyes to find himself back in the Muonsol Café booth. Darsan was peering down at him, his massive hand on Finn's shoulder. Mannon and Eri were looking at him as well, concern in their eyes.
"Wha …? Finn asked peering around blearily.
"Worried; are you okay? You are crying."
Finn rubbed his eyes to find that Darsan was right; tears were streaming down his eyes.
"There was a fire." Finn mumbled, looking around the café. There was no sign of Siren's Call, and most of the lunch crowd had already left.
He put a hand to his head as the last vestiges of the dream slowly faded away. "Sorry. I must've dozed off."
"Who is Xyn?"
Finn looked sharply at Mannon. "What?"
"You said the name Xyn while you were asleep. Who is that?"
"I don't know." Finn lied. Glancing around for a way to change the subject, he noticed two absences in the group. "Hey, where's Kyra and Jake?"
"Jake is …" Mannon glanced beside Jimmy, only to notice that Jake was in fact not there. "Huh. I could've sworn he was there a second ago."
"As for Kyra," Eri said, his eyes scanning the crowd, "Didn't she get up at the start of the Siren's show?"
"Yeah, she said she needed to go to the restroom." Finn replied.
Darsan did something that could only be called a snort. "That was over an hour ago. That's too long, even for a woman."
"Hey!" Mannon said, giving Darsan a light punch in the arm.
"Oh. Well, maybe she went back to the ship to drop off-"
"-her bags?" Eri finished, holding up one of the many shopping bags sitting in the corner of the booth.
Finn frowned. "Mannon, could you go see if she's still in the bathroom? I'm gonna see if I can't find Jake."
As he stood up, Eri and Mannon moved to follow him.
"It's probably nothing.” He told them. “This isn't Omega; she probably just went for a walk or something. Heck, maybe Jake's with her."
"Still," Eri said, "I wouldn't be much of a friend if I let my buddy's girlfriend get taken."
"She's not my girlfriend." Finn said, glowering at the turian.
It was surprising how mischievous a turian could look. "Oh, my mistake. That must've been some other human who gets flustered around her and carries her shopping."
"Innocently; and sleeps in the same bed as her."
"What?" Eri and Finn said at the same time before exchanging glances.
"You sly dog." Said Eri, shaking his head.
His cheeks burning, Finn quickly said, "It wasn't like that. I didn't realize she was there until she-"
"Whoa!" Eri said, holding up his hands. "Whoa there, Finn! I don't care to hear the details of your sordid little affairs."
"Teasing; speak for yourself, Eri. Come on, Finn; tell us more about her eyes."
Finn glowered at the both of them. "I hate you both, you know that?"
As he walked away, he heard Darsan say, "Happily; our little boy is growing up, isn't he?"
He glanced back to see Eri and Darsan, each with an arm over the other's shoulders as they watched Finn.
Rolling his eyes, Finn walked away as swiftly as he could manage, confirming the credit transfer for their lunch on his omni-tool in the process.
Once he was outside of the restaurant, Finn tapped his temple. "Jake, where the hell are you?"
Finn raised an eyebrow despite the fact their private communication channel was audio-only. "What are you doing?"
"I'm following Kyra."
Despite the fact no one was around, Finn felt his cheeks grow hot. "Well, stop it! What she does isn't either of our business."
"Why not? She's going around asking about you."
"What?" Finn asked, taken aback by this knowledge.
"We're in the Sagrit Quarter right now. She's been going around asking store owners and the like if they know you."
Finn wasn't sure how to respond to this. Part of him was angry; what business of it of hers was he? The anger soon faded, however, as he realized that he was her business. He was her friend, and the captain of the ship that was now her home.
"Still, I wish she had just asked me." Finn replied, more to himself than to Jake.
"You'd have told her?" Jake asked, sounding surprised.
Finn considered it a moment before saying, "I'd say no, but it's hard to predict what I do when she's around."
"You should tell her, man. Chicks dig a guy who can open up."
"We've only know each other for a week."
"Life is short, bro. Gotta seize the moment!"
Finn let out a sigh. "Did everyone get together and talk about this or something?"
"Come on, man! We're not too far from the Gladfield Apartments. I'll be your wingman!"
"Big words for a dog." Shaking his head, Finn said, "Okay, you win. I'm on my way."
"Ha! You do like her! I knew it!"
The Sagrit Quarter was mostly apartment complexes and the more day-to-day kind of shops. There was a healthy farmer's market near the center of the district that sold fresh vegetables and fruits from the outer gardens. The apartment complexes themselves ranged from the standard metal box of pre-fabricated rooms to elaborate constructs built around the living trees.
The Sagrit Quarter was built at the site of a former Neukaraan settlement. As such, there was significantly less technology and considerably more plantlife. There were trees everywhere, not just of the native kline and jabar trees, but of many varieties from across the galaxy. The trusk tended the plantlife reverently with occasional aid from the scaal, the flin, and those of other species who had heard nature's call. The steel walkways of the inner city became cobblestone roads, the street lights became natural growths holding pieces of glowing crystal, and the air swam with the scent of plantlife.
As Finn strolled down the cobblestone streets, he couldn't help but feel an overwhelming sense of nostalgia. His time in New Elysia felt like ages ago, and yet it looked as though it hadn't changed a bit.
He took his time walking down the old paths, brushing his hands against the rough trunks of several of the trees as he passed. He missed sitting under the shade after work and taking moonlight walks through the quarter as the rest of the city slept. There was something innately magical about the place, much like the Neukaraans themselves.
"Where are you, Jake?" Finn asked aloud, drawing curious glances from a pair of passing scaal.
"Maple street. Kyra's heading up to Glendale apartments."
"There's a name I never expected to hear again." Finn said, shaking his head. "I'm a few minutes away now."
Glendale apartments, one of the larger apartment complexes in the Sagrit Quarter, was the site of the fire of which he had so recently been reminded. No one was truly to blame for the accident; a short in the fire suppression system during a test set the place ablaze. The image of the apartment and the trees in which it had been build around still haunted his nightmares from time to time.
As he neared the restored building, he couldn't help but feel some comfort in the fact that the old apartment had been restored so well. Even though the trees would take a few more years to regrow (which was still better than the decades it'd take without the Neukaraans help), the framework of the apartments had been completely rebuilt.
"With time, all wounds heal." Finn shook his head and climbed up the wooden steps to the main entrance.
The lobby was empty, save for a pair of scaal, one male and the other female. The woman busied herself behind the counter while her bondmate swept the lobby. Her orange eyes indicated an addiction to a local drug known as ‘nectar’, a somewhat strong mind-altering drug popular among artists and other creative-types. It was a good thing it was legal, as you could spot a user from their eyes a mile away.
"Greetings, sir." Said the woman, sweeping a curl of moss-like head. "Are you moving in?"
"Nah." Finn said truthfully. "I'm just visiting. I used to live here before the fire."
She looked at him with a sympathetic expression. "Such a tragedy. We lost many children of the forest that day. We have made special endeavors to ensure the fire suppression system will not malfunction, if you are considering renting a room."
"It's tempting." Finn said, rubbing the back of his head, "But my home's in the stars these days. Perhaps you can help me with something else, though; I'm looking for a friend of mine, a quarian woman.”
"Ah, yes; Kyra, I believe. She was here just a few moments ago, asking about another former resident. I sent her to room 422; you could probably catch her if you hurry."
As he hurried away, she said, "Have a good day, Mister Cresste."
"You too." Finn replied absently. He hurriedly ducked into the nearest stairwell and activated his internal comm. "Jake, tell me you're reading this."
"Yeah, I'm here. What's the problem?"
"Something weird's going on here. You still on Kyra?"
"Yeah, I'm up on the fourth floor. What is it? What's going on?"
"I don't know, but I find it a bit suspicious that someone would point her to our old room."
"Our old … oh, it was 422, wasn't it? Well, she was asking about you."
"The owners of the hotel died in the fire. There weren't any records, and only a handful of people knew I stayed there before." Finn stopped, and murmured. "I didn't tell her my name."
Horror slowly dawned on him as he realized that the male scaal in the lobby hadn't spoken. The woman hadn't even conferred with him. Pair bonds always conferred with each other, unless ...
"Unless they aren't pair bonds." Finn looked at his Omni-tool. "Get Kyra out of there!"
"Cool down, man; I'll head a min-"
The transmission cut off.
"Jake? Jake!" Finn swore and started to run up the stairs as fast as his legs could take him.
Stumbling as he pushed the door to the fourth floor open, he glanced down either hallway, only to find the place deserted. His mind raced as he ran down the hall towards his old room. How had the people chasing him found out about his old room? How had they gotten here so quickly? Were they going to use Kyra as some kind of ransom, or were they just picking off the crew one-by-one?
Finn skidded to a halt outside door 422. It was slightly ajar.
"Kyra! Jake!" Finn said, shoving the door open.
Kyra sat on the floor, cradling Jake's jerking body. Of more note, however, was the security mech with the stun baton. It pressed its baton against Finn’s chest before he could react. With a jolt of electricity, his world went dark.