Finn awoke to find himself sitting on some kind of chair, unable to move his arms and completely surrounded by darkness. He was also quite sore, as he discovered when he tried to test whatever it was that was digging into his wrists.
"Ow! Son of a …" He muttered.
Something moved behind him. "Finn? Oh, thank the ancestors, you're awake!"
"Kyra?" He asked, though he recognized her voice.
The chair shook.
"Did you just nod?"
"Yes." She said sheepishly.
Sighing, Finn said, "Don't worry about it. We've got enough on our plate right now. Are you okay?"
"Y-yeah, I'm fine. You?"
"Splitting headache and my body feels like it was worked over with a baseball bat. Hey, is Jake here?"
"Yeah, I'm here, bro." Jake replied, sounding dejected. "Someone tied me to an old radiator. I can't get out, man."
Finn tried his bonds again, but they only dug deeper into his wrists. "I'm stuck too."
A moment of silence passed over them.
"I'm sorry, Kyra." Finn said, hanging his head.
"For what?" To her credit, she genuinely sounded surprised.
"For dragging you into this. God knows what they've got planned for us after they take Billy. I just hope Eri, Darson, and Mannon get away."
"It's not your fault." Kyra told him. "For the record, I thought you were a pretty cool captain."
Finn smiled despite their predicament. "Thanks. You're a pretty bang-up mechanic, fixing the engine like that."
"Don't I know it." In a more serious voice, she said, "Not that I don't appreciate the compliment."
After a few more moments of silence, Finn sighed. "Any thoughts on getting out of this?"
"Not really. You?"
Finn considered for a moment. "Panic?"
He heard Kyra let out a snort of laughter. "Anything constructive?"
Light flooded into the room as the door swung open. Finn tried to look at the figure looming in the doorway, but he couldn't make out more than a tall humanoid shape.
"Hey," Jake shouted as the figure approached Finn. "Just who the hell do you think you are, chasing us across the galaxy! If I wasn't tied up and was actually a dog, I'd totally bite your ankle!"
Jake's impassioned speech didn't provoke a response.
Still squinting at the figure, Finn said, "I get why you want the ship, but why are you chasing us? Sneaking aboard the Ulasomorf and stealing the damn thing would've been a hell of a lot easier than kidnapping us."
"I am not a thief, nor have I followed you since you left this world." Replied a silky, feminine voice. "But I haven't forgotten you, Finn."
"That voice …" Finn said slowly. “Who are you?”
When his eyes finally adjusted to the light, he peered at the figure again. It was the scaal woman from the front desk. As he stared at her, however, he realized that she looked different; her face was thinner, her hair long and straight instead of curly as it had been earlier. It was the burn scars on the woman's arm that finally clinched her identity.
"Xyn?" He said disbelievingly.
"Who?" Kyra asked, trying to twist her head so she could see.
"Xyn Unalla." The scaal replied as she walked around the room. She gestured at the crystalline growths on the wall as she passed, making each glow brightly with a wave of her hand, filling the storage room with their strange light.
"Xyn …" he said, “Look, I-“.
She struck him. Unlike Kyra's bonks, Xyn's slap hurt.
"It's strange, isn't it?" She commented as though nothing out of the ordinary happened. "The cycle of life moves beyond the ground and into the cosmos, sending us all running in great big circles. Do any of us really get anywhere, or would it be better if we simply waited in one place our whole lives?"
"This isn't about them, Xyn." Finn said, his voice strangely quiet. "Let them go."
Xyn struck him again, her hand moving with effortless ease yet striking with the force of an angry krogan.
Finn could taste blood in his mouth. He spat out what he could as the slender scaal woman continued, "They told me you had left. Even Godot was sure you'd never come back after what happened … and yet, here you are."
She ran a finger down the nape of his neck and across his shoulder. "Imagine my surprise when I saw Finn Cresste walking down the street, arm in arm with … “ Her gaze flicked over to Kyra. “Her."
Kyra was silent. Part of Finn wished she would say something, but it was hard to blame her for keeping her peace after seeing the reaction Finn's remarks brought.
Xyn stopped in front of Finn and put both hands on his knees as she stared into his eyes. "Does she know of me, Finn? Does she know of us?"
"There never was an 'us'." He said, sadness in his voice. He winced when the blow came, but it didn't surprise him.
As she continued to walk around the room, she said, "Then I will tell her the tale. Twenty years ago, my mate and I were first bonded. Even as mere seedlings, our souls were filled with a love for the brush; on canvas, we captured wonders of the earth and sky, and of the stars beyond. Our souls were gentle, pure, and kind. While great wealth was never part of our life, we were content to live here in peace, secure in our meager earnings and our love."
A change came over her face, subtle at first, but growing more pained as she continued, "Then came the fire; burning pain and death sweeping through our home. Our creations, painstakingly painted and captured from the fabric of reality, destroyed, and my bondmate's death screaming in my ears as he passed beyond the veil and left me alone."
She paused for a moment, the pain on her face almost more than Finn could bear to see. “Do you know what it's like?” She said softly. “To share a mind with someone, their thoughts constantly whispering and comforting you? Do you know how it feels for that to be torn from your mind, leaving your thoughts torn and broken and so horribly alone?"
"I didn't know." Finn told her. "I thought I was saving-"
She raised her hand as though to hit him. He flinched in anticipation, but the blow never came. Instead, she gently touched his cheek. He blushed, strangely aware of the warmth of her hand against his skin.
"And you did, my love. Where my own people would've let me die, you stayed by my side. You brought me out of the darkness and showed me that my time didn't have to end; that I could heal and find someone new … and I chose you."
"You have a girlfriend?" Kyra asked accusingly.
Finn tried to shoot a glare at her, but his head wouldn't turn enough. "It wasn't like that. I stayed with her, but not 'with her' with her!"
"So you just toyed with her?"
"For the love of … she lost her bond mate! The scaal acted as though she were already dead! Jake and I were the only ones who treated her like she even existed."
Xyn held a finger to his lips. "Hush. You don't have to explain. You once told me that life is unpredictable, a tapestry woven of hellos and goodbyes. That you have returned is proof of our bond."
"I returned because we're being chased, Xyn; people are trying to kill us. They already destroyed the satellite where I lived and hurt a dear friend of –"
Without warning, she hit him again. He let out a small gasp of pain as his vision started to swim.
"If you care for him so much, why are you hurting him?" Kyra demanded.
Xyn glanced at her, the delicate features of her face hardening. "Because he hurt me. When he left, it was like my heart was torn open again.”
Looking at Finn, she whispered, "You didn't even say goodbye. Was it something I did? Did I fail you in some way?"
"No." Finn replied, sadness creeping into his tone. "I failed me, Xyn. I failed us both. I wanted to help you, but all I did was make things worse. I left because I was afraid I was doing more harm than good."
"You never harmed me." Xyn cooed, rubbing his bruised cheek. "You were kind and caring, just like Shien. You understood, because you too felt the emptiness inside. I would've done anything to make you stay, to help you fill that emptiness."
"I know, and that scared me. I didn't deserve that kind of commitment then, and I don't deserve it now."
"But she does?" Xyn shot an icy look at Kyra. "I saw you together in the streets."
"She's part of my crew." Finn eyes shut tight as he saw her hand dart towards him again. White-hot pain shot across the side of his face from her hit; in moments, he could feel the skin around his eye tighten and swell.
"I watched you both, Finn. The way you both steal glances at each other, the way you smile and laugh when you're together. You care for each other. You couldn't share yourself with me, but you can with her."
"It's not like that." Finn said, hoping it wouldn't earn him another strike. "We've only known each other for a week."
"Then you deny that you have feelings for her?"
Finn didn't respond. He couldn't. What was he going to say? Telling her the truth would hurt her, and lying to her would only hurt her more.
"I thought so." Xyn said sadly. "You found what you were missing."
"I guess I did." Finn said, thinking to his time on J-27.
Xyn slowly walked out of his field of vision. As Finn looked around with his good eye, he noticed something … or more accurately, an absence of something. Jake had slipped his bonds and escaped while everyone had been talking.
Finn breathed a small sigh of relief, but it didn't last for long.
"And now that you found what you are missing, you can finally accept love. My love." There was a whisper of metal; the sound of a blade being drawn. "I'm sorry, my love, but it is for the best. Once she is gone, our bond will fill the emptiness inside you, and we will be happy."
"You don't have to kill her!" Finn said desperately. "Let her go; I'll stay with you."
"Finn!" Kyra said, shock clear in her voice.
Xyn slowly walked back into his vision. She knelt down in front of him and stared into his eyes. She put her hand against his cheek. He didn't flinch this time; instead, he rubbed against it.
"You really would." She said, her tone almost one of wonder and disbelief.
"Finn, no!" Kyra shouted, struggling against her bonds. "You can't do this!"
"I don't want any more blood on my hands, Kyra!" Finn said, his tone harsher than he intended. Taking a deep breath, he said more calmly, "I've made so many mistakes in my short life … so many people hurt. If I can redeem even one of them-"
"You're just being a selfish bastard!" She shouted angrily. "You aren't doing it for her! You're doing it because you feel sorry for yourself!"
"Maybe I am." Finn conceded. "Maybe I always have been selfish."
"Finn …" Kyra's voice had a tone of desperation to it now. "Don't … just don't."
Xyn watched them both, her expression unreadable. Just as she seemed to come to a decision, Finn's omni-tool activated.
"Finn!" Jake's voice shouted over the communications channel, "I've got Eri, and we're on the way! Stall her as long as you can!"
A dark look passed over Xyn's face. Without a word, she walked back over to Kyra.
"No, Xyn!" Finn shouted, struggling in vain to free himself. "Don't hurt her!"
"I take no pleasure in this, child of Rannoch." Xyn said, her voice serious. "But I must do this for my bondmate and I."
"I understand." Kyra said. The sincerity in her voice surprised Finn.
He bowed his head, his mind frantically grasping at some way to save Kyra, but he could only stare at their shadows on the wall as Xyn raised the knife to strike.
Kyra's shadow suddenly lengthened as she wrapped her legs around Xyn and threw her to the floor with an impressive twist of her hips. The ornate dagger fell to the floor with a clatter, but it didn't remain there for long; with a grace and dexterity Finn could only envy, she picked up the dagger between her toes and swiftly began to cut the bindings from her hand. Xyn was still struggling to rise as Kyra cut the last of her bindings and stood up from her chair.
Xyn took a swipe at her, her arm lengthening in mid-swing, but Kyra dodged aside well before it came close to hitting her. Finn shuffled his chair around; with Kyra loose, it was much easier to move.
Neukaraans are by their nature graceful creatures, and Xyn was no exception. There was a strange economy in her motions as she fought Kyra; much as when she struck Finn, her blows seemed to come from swings that seemed almost lazy.
Even her natural grace was no match for Kyra, though; Kyra moved like a creature possessed, while maintaining a smoothness in her motions that in many ways seemed more graceful than that of Xyn. Her body flexed almost unnaturally as she leapt about the floor, the walls, and even the ceiling, always somehow managing to avoid Xyn's attacks. It didn't even seem like she was really dodging; every time a punch was thrown, Kyra simply wasn't there anymore.
Something about it seemed familiar, Finn realized. Something recent … but what? He tried to think, but the repeated blows to his head made his thoughts hazy.
Despite their differences, the two were an even match for each other. It came down to which of them was the first to make a mistake.
Letting out a snarl of frustration, Xyn made a clumsy swipe at Kyra that the quarian easily evaded and countered with a quarian boot to the head. Xyn fell to the floor in a heap as Kyra landed easily a few feet away.
She rushed over to Finn and started cutting him loose. Flashing a glance at him, she asked, "You okay? Looks like she gave you one hell of a black eye."
"I'm fine." He told her, wincing in pain as she helped him stand.
The world swam in his vision alarmingly for a few moments. An overwhelming urge to go to sleep passed over him, but he managed to fight it off. Barely.
"Whoa, there!" Kyra said, holding on to his arm tightly until he managed to steady himself.
"Thanks." He tried to ignore the throbbing in his head long enough to figure out what they should do next.
Fortunately, a Kyra at least was thinking straight. Leading him by the arm, she threw the door open and hurried out of the storage room. From what Finn could tell, they were still in the hotel.
Seeing the male scaal that had been sweeping the lobby approach, Finn whispered. "He's not a scaal."
Kyra glanced at him, her eyes wide. "What?"
Sure enough, the scaal's form wavered and was replaced with the cold metal and glowing lights of a security mech. It was a security android modified by a holographic projector, the perfect disguised protector. It took aim with a heavy pistol.
Kyra was faster. She knocked the pistol into the air with a surprisingly high kick, caught it in mid-air, and blasted the mech in the chest. As it fell to the ground, she hurried back to Finn's side. "How many more?"
Finn shook his head and instantly regretted it. Every movement made his head throb.
Pressing her lips together, Kyra nodded and helped Finn towards the lift. As she raised a hand to push the call button, they heard Xyn shout, "No!"
She emerged from the room, her eyes shining bright orange. Fire burst from her fingertips, scorching the walls as it blasted towards them.
Kyra managed to pull Finn away before the blast consumed them both. Not missing a beat, she yanked Finn towards the stairwell as the fire began to spread through the dry hallways.
Xyn chased after them, fire spreading more and more with every rage-filled burst.
As they neared the third floor landing, Finn heard the sound of metal-clad feet approaching from below.
"Good ol' Eri." Finn muttered, managing to walk on his own while still fighting a sense of grogginess.
Kyra peered over the railing and quickly pulled her head back, narrowly avoiding a hail of bullets. "More security bots." She told him. "A lot of them."
Since the stairway was too dangerous, they hurried onto the third floor landing and into the hallway. The fire hadn't spread there yet, but it was already getting hot. It made Finn's desire to sleep even worse, but he pushed through it.
They were halfway down the hall when they heard Xyn shouting again. The pain in her voice was hard for Finn to hear, but he didn't dare stop now. Fire erupted around them, but Kyra managed to pull them both through it and slip into the other stairwell.
A few security drones turned their way, but Kyra wasted no time in firing a shot into their twitching heads. As they collapsed, Finn heard someone below them shouting, "Finn! Finn, can you hear me?"
"Eri?" Finn called back. "Is that you?"
"Yeah, it's me! Hurry down, man! This place is an inferno!"
"So much for the new fire suppression systems." Finn muttered.
Eri met them as they reached the first floor, a trail of security bots in his wake. Peering at Finn, he winced and said, "Damn, Finn; you look uglier than usual."
"Thanks for that." Finn replied, a grin slipping onto his face despite the situation.
Patting his shoulder companionably, Eri said, "Let's get outta here before this place comes down!"
The three of them made a run for the main entrance, and not a moment too soon; the fire was already starting to spread across the first floor.
Finn glanced back as they left, only to see Xyn staring at him from the end of the hallway. The look on her face was one anger and despair.
"Come on, Finn!" Kyra said, pulling him through the door.
There was a small crowd around the flaming hotel. Several shuttles were flying around, spraying the building and the nearby trees with water in an attempt to douse it, though Jake was practically dancing just down the steps, his cartoon face filled with worry.
As they hurried down the steps, a loud crash came from the building.
"Damn." Eri said, his eyes wide. "Sounds like the bottom floor collapsed.”
Finn stared at the flames for some sign of Xyn, but nothing came. Despite what had happened, despite the fact that she would have doubtlessly killed Kyra, he couldn't help but feel guilty.
"There was nothing you could've done, Finn." Kyra told him sympathetically, no doubt seeing the look on his face.
"Life is a tapestry of hellos and goodbyes." He murmured.
Without warning, he started running back to the hotel.
"Finn!" Kyra shouted after him, panic in her voice now.
Finn didn't stop; he couldn't stop, or he knew he'd lose his resolve and probably his consciousness.
Flames practically covered the entire Lobby as he rushed through the door. Coughing as the smoke started to fill his lungs, Finn stumbled forward. The smoke made his eyes tear up, but as he pushed through it, he saw Xyn. Eri had been right; part of the upper floor had fallen. She was pinned beneath a heavy beam.
"Xyn!" He shouted, kneeling by her side. "Xyn, can you hear me?"
She didn't respond; from the look of it, she was knocked out.
Finn grabbed the beam and immediately let go as the metal burned his hands. He pulled his shirt off and wrapped his hand as much as he could before trying again. Straining every muscle he had still didn't move it; the beam was solid steel, and probably weighed several times more than he did.
The fires were getting closer now. Finn looked around desperately for something, anything to help him when a hand came down on his shoulder. He looked back to see Mannon, Darsan, and Eri standing behind him.
"Help me." He said, coughing.
They paused for a moment before moving beside him. Stretching out Finn's shirt as much as possible, they each grabbed the beam. With a massive amount of effort, the heavy beam slowly rose from the ground.
Kyra darted between the three of them and grabbed Xyn under her arms. Once she pulled the scaal out from under the beam, she shouted, "She's free!"
The beam fell with a loud crash. Although he felt far from stable himself, Finn helped Kyra carry her out of the apartment building. His body was sore, his skull throbbed, and he felt as though he had just smoked a pack of cigarettes in the last minute, but somehow he found the strength to stay on his feet.
The crowd gave a cheer as Finn and Kyra left the building. Parametics hurried up to them and relieved them of the unconscious Xyn. One of them asked him something, but Finn’s endurance was all but gone. Kyra caught him before he could fall. She shouted something that he didn’t quite catch. As he slipped into unconsciousness, the last thing he saw was Xyn’s tear-stained face as the paramedics laid her on the stretcher.