Nunc id Vides, Nunc ne Vides
"So, how'd it go?" Eri asked as Finn left the room.
"We're mending." Finn said, unable to resist the urge to let out a sigh. "After everything that happened, it's silly to think it'll all be fixed in a single conversation. Still, I think our friendship will make it."
Finn eyed Eri. "She had a few things to say about you.”
“Me? What did she say?”
“Just she thought you were kind. You’ve been talking with her for a few days, haven’t you?”
“Well, I thought she could use the company. I've never met a Neukaraan before; are they all like that?"
"You mean the metaphors?" Finn nodded, saying, "They're a very creative people. If you keep an open mind. I’m going to give her a nice chunk of credits so she can rebuild the …"
Finn stopped in mid-sentence; an asari had just staggered into the corridor from an adjoining hallway. With a start, Finn recognized her as the doctor who had been treating him. Her white uniform was stained with blood, and her staggering gait had a pronounced limp.
“Help me!” She reached her arm out towards Finn and Eri, only to suddenly stiffen as a length of metal shot from her stomach.
As she fell to the floor, Finn realized that the length of metal was actually a katana. A brief surge of light flowed irregularly through the air, revealing a woman in light armor that covered every inch of her body. There was a strange mark on her forehead that caught Finn's eye. It looked vaguely like a six-sided crystal held in a sconce.
As the assassin looked up at them, Finn found himself paralyzed. Fortunately, Eri had the presence of mind to grab Finn's arm and pull him back into Xyn's room.
Xyn looked up, surprised at their return. "You are back? Has something happened?"
"Looks like our friends caught up with us." Eri shook Finn out of his shock and said, "Lock the door, genius!"
"R-right." Finn activated his omni-tool and quickly scrambled the door functions. It'd take hours to reassemble the code connecting the control to the door, but apparently the corridor wasn't an escape option at the moment.
"I don't understand." Xyn said, her eyes wide as Eri forced open the window.
Eri shot a glance at Finn. "You wanna tell her?"
"We're being chased by some mystery organization because of Billy." Finn said, trying to get it all out as quickly as possible.
Xyn naturally looked confused. "Who is Billy?"
Finn opened his mouth to answer when the thin metal blade shot through the door, narrowly missing his arm.
"Come on, Finn!" Eri said, already halfway out of the window.
Finn started to follow when his eyes fell on Xyn. She looked utterly bewildered by this turn of events.
"Can you walk?" Finn asked, holding out his hand.
"W-what?" She stammered, blushing.
"What?" Eri asked, poking his head back through the window.
Finn jerked a thumb at the door as the assassin continued stabbing her sword through the heavy metal around the locking clamps. "They just killed a doctor for being in the way. Do you think they're just going to walk by Xyn?"
Looking back at Xyn, Finn said, "I can't just leave you here to get slaughtered, or I'd be an even worse friend than I already am."
Eri glanced at the both of them for a moment before letting out a sigh. "Fine. Welcome to the team, Xyn. Now can we get moving?"
Finn helped Xyn stand. She stood a few inches taller than him, and Finn was wearing boots with thick soles.
"You first." He told her as the door began to rattle from the force of the blows.
"I gotcha." Eri said, helping Xyn out of the window. "Come on, Finn!"
Finn wasted no time in climbing through the window. He was barely halfway out when the door slammed open. The assassin leapt over the bed towards Finn, blade outstretched.
With a yelp, Finn fell out of the window. Eri grabbed the pane and slammed it down on the blade, trapping it momentarily as it slid through the air over Finn's head.
Xyn tugged Finn away from the blade, her eyes wide with alarm. "Are you okay?"
"I'm fine!" He managed as he regained his footing. "That's not going to hold her for long. Let's go!"
Finn, Eri, and Xyn ran through the streets like bats out of hell. Despite her stay in the hospital, Xyn was capable of far outpacing the human and the turian, but slowed down enough for them to keep up with her.
As they ran into the fountain square, Finn noticed a large old-Earth truck with a load of dirt in the bed. The vehicle was beyond ancient; despite their situation, Finn couldn't help but wonder how it came to be on New Elysia. A gardener was taking the dirt and spreading it around an old flower bed that must've died out during the last winter.
Finn grabbed the gardener by his overalls. "How much?"
"I b-beg your pardon?"
"For the truck, dirt and all. How much?"
"I dunno, ten-thousand credits?" The gardener said, his eyes wide.
Finn activated his omni-tool and quickly extended his arm to show the transfer request.
"Really?" the gardener said, sounding delighted as he activated his tool and accepted the transfer. "I was just … er, going now. Enjoy the truck!"
As Finn climbed in the truck, Eri asked, "What're you doing?"
"Trying to save us some time." Finn cranked the ignition, which reluctantly started. "Besides, if Xyn's staying with us, she'll need a bed. Now get in!"
Xyn had already climbed into the back of the truck (the front seat only had room for two people anyway), and firmly secured her position with a myriad of roots that extended from her bare skin.
A group of soldiers burst into the square directly in front of Finn and company just as the truck started rolling. Finn noticed that the soldiers' faceplates were basically a stylized version of the same symbol the assassin bore.
"There they are!"
Finn couldn't tell which one of the soldiers spoke, nor did he care. He slammed his foot down on the accelerator.
The soldiers dove out of the way, barely avoiding being flattened by the truck as it zoomed past at a surprisingly fast speed.
For a few moments, it seemed as though they had made their escape. Just as Finn started to breathe a sigh of relief, however, a burst of fire blasted one of the nearby solar-powered street lights into scrap. Finn could only catch a glimpse of the shadow slowly approaching them. Fortunately, Eri wasn't busy driving and was able to get a better look.
"A gunship?!" He said incredulously. "They brought a friggin gunship?!"
Swearing, Finn swerved down an adjoining street. The gunship followed easily and soon began to fire at the rapidly retreating vehicle once again.
As the bullets drew near the vehicle, however, a glowing shield appeared around the truck. When the bullets hit the shield, they stopped moving instantaneously and fell to the ground.
Xyn was standing up on the dirt, roots trailing from around her legs as she held her hands out. Tiny wisps flowed from her hands as she protected them with her natural Neukaraan gifts, looking almost like flames.
Finn knew from experience it wouldn't last; the Neukraraan's 'magic' took a lot of energy, and it was clear that Xyn was still a little weak from the incident at the Glendale Apartments. Finn looked around desperately for another solution when he recalled his conversation with Godot.
Swerving around a group of tourists who didn't have the mind to get out the truck's path, Finn started hugging the side of the road with the most trees. At first, nothing happened; the gunship continued following them unhindered.
Just as Finn started to wonder if Godot had been wrong, one of the trees suddenly swatted at the passing gunship as though it were a particularly annoying fly. The gunship only caught a glancing blow, but the force of the hit was enough to send it careening down to the street.
Eri leaned back in his seat and let out a sigh of relief. "New Elysia is kinda nice, isn't it?"
The truck barreled through the docking area, sending people running in all directions as it hurtled towards the Ulasomorf. Fortunately, the cargo bay of the Ulasomorf was open. Finn could just make out Darsan directing a turian carrying a box up the ramp and into the ship.
Finn hammered the horn as they approached, but Darsan had already noticed their approach. He grabbed the turian and pulled him out of the way mere seconds before the truck hit the ramp. The truck was airborn for a few moments before hitting the ground and skidding across the bay, coming to a stop only a few inches from the Gradisian.
"Shocked; Finn! What the heck are you trying to do?"
"What's going on?" Kyra had stepped out of Billy and was looking at the truck in bewilderment. Her eyes widened when she saw who was with him. "Xyn? What are you-"
"Bad guys right behind us." Finn said, quickly climbing out of the truck. "We need to go, right now! Is Mannon aboard?"
"Alarmed; she is on the bridge." Darsan glanced at the slack-jawed turian holding the box, who quickly set the box on the ground and quickly fled.
"Get the cargo doors shut." Finn shouted, already running towards the bridge.
Mannon glanced up as Finn burst onto the bridge. Her lips pursed with the obvious question, but after staring at him for a moment, she simply nodded and quickly moved to her station. As Eri came jogging onto the bridge, Finn strapped himself into his chair and activated the helm controls.
"Intercom's open." Mannon told Finn.
Nodding, Finn said, "Okay, everybody, we're heading out. Kyra, get to the engine room and do what you can to prepare for streaming. Jake, you go with her and help out however you can. Xyn and Mannon …"
Finn fought a moment to think of something for them to do. Coming up with nothing, he simply said, "Strap in to whatever you can; there's no telling what we'll be running into once we're out of orbit."
Once the docking clamps released, Finn brought the Ulasomorf out of the docking area. Not a moment too soon, either; several of the mysterious soldiers were already in the docking bay and quickly heading their way. They opened fire, but the Ulasomorf's kinetic fields held strong.
"Ease off the incline." Mannon warned.
"Ease off, or we're gonna-"
Finn was pushing the Ulasomorf as much as he dared; as soon as they were away from the planet, he'd enter FTL. From there, they were a quick stream away from freedom.
The ship shook alarmingly for a few moments as they flew free of the planet's gravity field and back in the starry expanse. Unfortunately, they didn't get to enjoy the peace for long.
"Incoming!" Eri called out, "Six fighters and a frigate. Blue Suns."
"Blue Suns?" Mannon asked, alarmed. "Were they the ones on the planet?"
"Nah, the uniforms weren’t right." Finn said as he plotted a course away from the majority of the enemy ships. "I guess our mystery pursuers aren't as eager to risk their own fighters after the pasting I gave them outside of Omega."
A few shots hit the Ulasomorf's shields, but soon most of the enemy fighters were behind him.
"All right." Fin said as he brought the FTL drive online, "Let's go!"
The Ulasomorf shot forward. The Blue Suns fighters didn't follow (hardly surprising, Finn realized when he thought back to it later, it would be expensive and silly for the Blue Suns to outfit hundreds of fighter ships with eezo drives), but the frigate entered FTL right behind them. It wasn't closing in on them, but it certainly wasn't going away either.
"Okay." Finn said, forcing his eyes open. "Everyone get ready!"
He began to inch the ship forward in the mass effect field. For a few moments, he felt that strange sense of bliss and wonder as he stared wide-eyed into the expanse of space. It was like there was something beyond what he was seeing, something he was slowly beginning to grasp.
His reverie was cut short as the ship suddenly fell out of the stream. Their momentum kept them in FTL, but the emergency thrusters were automatically firing to slow their momentum.
"What the …?" Finn mumbled, still a little dazed.
"Finn!" Kyra shouted over the intercom, "The eezo engine's busted!"
"Your Streaming fried the engine!" She replied, her voice scolding despite the enormity of the situation. "It's gonna take at least an hour to fix!"
"We don't have an hour." Eri said, his eyes on the sensor controls. "They still have a bead on us, and their FTL drive is still working."
Finn stared at the controls disbelievingly. Had he messed up? Was he to blame again?
"Finn!" Mannon's voice brought him out of the chaos. "The emergency thrusters are slowing us down. Can we stop them?"
"R-right." Finn quickly disabled the emergency thrusters. They were still going fairly quickly, but they were definitely going at less than FTL at that point.
Finn glanced at Eri. "How much time?"
"Maybe twenty minutes?” Eri said. “They're at the edge of our sensors, but if we can read them, they definitely can read us."
"Okay." Finn forced himself to take a deep breath and let it out slowly. "Options?"
"Kyra?" Mannon asked hopefully.
"Not a chance." She replied, sounding a little out of breath. "An hour, thirty minutes if you aren't worried about it being a bit sloppy."
Finn let out a frustrated sigh. "It won't make much of a difference either way."
"I'm sorry, but that's the best I can do."
“Don’t be sorry.” Finn said, his voice softening. “I bet it’d take any other mechanic at least two hours. Just keep doing your best, and I’m sure we’ll think of something.”
Silence fell over the bridge. After a few moments, Finn realized there was one option. It wasn't a good one, but it was all he had, and he'd be damned if he was going to sit by while his friends were killed.
"I'm going to have to try and take them down.” Finn tapped his temple. “Jake, get to the bridge and take the helm, for me.”
“On the way!”
Eri stopped Finn before he could leave the bridge. "You can't take out a frigate with one fighter! It's suicide!"
"Maybe I don't have to. They're after the ship, Eri! If I take the ship, maybe I can distract them long enough for Kyra to finish the repairs."
“And what about you? You’re good, but you can’t take that many out, not even with Billy!”
“What other choice do we have?” Sighing, Finn said, “Look, tell Jake to head to-“
Mannon hit her console, drawing both of their attention. "Do you want to die, Finn?"
The question caught him off-guard. "I don't-"
"Do you want to die?" She demanded. "Eri told me that you were perfectly willing to try and rescue me from the Blue Suns with no plan. On New Elysia, you ran into a burning building to save a crazy woman who tried to murder you. I thought the whole streaming thing was crazy; risking so much just for a speed boost, but when you're streaming, it's like you're challenging the Universe. Now, you're perfectly willing to sacrifice yourself for the mere chance that they'll follow you instead of us. I'm no genius, but it sounds like you have a death wish."
"I can't just sit by when people are in danger!"
"I understand that, but did you think where we'd end up with you gone? Who is going to fly the ship? Hell, Darsan and I would practically be at each other's throats if it weren't for you. And what about Kyra? Did you think about her, or are you still trying to redeem yourself?"
Finn stared at her; somehow, her last words were the ones that struck the hardest.
Mannon's gaze softened. "We've all made mistakes, Finn; you said it yourself; that's why we were on J-27."
"That's why we're on the Ulasomorf." Eri said quietly. "Now come on; if anyone can think of a plan to get us all out of this safely, it's you."
Finn stared at them both for a few moments before saying, "Thanks … both of you."
"Hey, don't start getting mushy on me." Eri said with a laugh. "I just didn't want to see you get blasted."
Finn froze. "What did you say?"
"I said I didn't want you to see you get blasted." With another chuckle, he said, "Besides, if you're gone, how will I get paid?"
Realization dawned on Finn like the light of a rising star. "Kyra, can you-?"
"Er, yeah.” She said. “I, uh, hadn’t got around to shutting off the audio link yet.”
Finn blushed, but quickly forced his thoughts into the 'later' category. "I've got an idea, but I'm gonna need your help. Meet me in the cargo bay.”
“What about the engine?”
“We’ll fix it later; it’s not any good to us right now anyway. Jake?”
Jake skidded onto the bridge and raised a paw in salute. “Here, sir!”
Chuckling despite the situation, Finn said, “Take the helm. She’s gonna need help.”
"Finn?" Mannon asked, a worried look on her face as Finn headed out of the bridge.
"Don't worry about it." He told her much more calmly than he felt. "Eri, keep me updated on our friends out there. She's gonna need my help with this."
"You want to what?" Kyra asked, disbelief clear on her face.
Finn patted the hull of Billy, saying, "I want to extend the range of Billy's cloaking device to encompass the ship. The cloak just produces a field that bends light around Billy, right? Can't we just … make it bigger? Pump in more power and alter the field so it covers all of us?"
A look of wonder spread across her face. "Yeah, we could hook it into the ship's power grid. From there, it's just a matter of modifying the field! I'll need some tools to-"
Finn held up his bag of tools, "Like these?"
She took them from him, smiling.
Together, they managed to open up a maintenance hatch on the Billy's rear. The cloaking field generator was about fairly large, so it took both of them to bring it to the engine room.
It was going so well that Finn just knew something was likely to go wrong. Unfortunately, he was correct.
"Damn!" Kyra muttered, stepping away from the cloaking generator. "Billy's energy source must not be the same as ours."
"It won't work?" Finn asked, trying hard to ignore the sinking sensation in his chest.
She stood back and wiped the sweat off her forehead with a smudged rag. "I think the idea is sound, but we need a power converter."
An odd feeling came over Finn. "A power converter, you say?"
"Yeah, but we don't have anything like that in storage. Maybe we could … where are you going?"
"Be right back." Finn told her as the lift doors closed.
As the lift reached the cargo bay, Eri's voice rang through the ship. "Ten minutes!"
"Thank you, Eri!" Finn shouted, squeezing through the lift doors before they finished opening. He ran to the Gradisian and quickly opened the storage compartment. To his relief, the power converters and the sensor array he had picked up from Krieger were still inside. Grabbing the converters, he whispered, "All according to plan."
Kyra's eyes went wide when Finn returned and held out the practically brand new zuon-tech power converters. "Keelah! Where the heck did you find these?"
"It's a long story." He told her. "They'll work, right?"
"Definitely." She knelt beside the improvised housing of the cloaking generator and started working on connecting the device to the ship. "I'll have it up and running in-"
"Seven minutes, Finn!" Eri's voice called out.
Kyra met Finn's gaze, a brief look of concern quickly changing to a smile. "I can get it done in less than five. It's going to take a lot of power, though, and we'll need to be at a complete halt so I can calibrate the cloaking field."
"Don't worry." He told her. "I've got an idea about that too."
Finn emerged on the bridge a few minutes later, a massive smile on his face. Eri seemed uncertain whether this was a good or bad portent.
"You gonna let us in on the plan?"
“Sure.” Finn said, "I'm gonna make us disappear."
Mannon and Eri both looked alarmed at this, but it only made Finn laugh harder. "Don't worry; then I'll make us reappear."
Jake hopped out of the seat so Finn could sit down. As Finn did so, he activated the systems that controlled the Ulasomorf's salvage probes.
"Five minutes." Eri glanced at Finn. "What are you doing?"
"I’ll give you a hint." Finn told them as he reprogrammed one of the probes from his console. "Believe it or not, it’s easier to make things appear than it is to make them disappear. Ah, there’s the signal from Kyra.”
“What?” The beep from Eri's console let Finn know he had succeeded. Eri glanced at the control panel disbelievingly for a moment before saying, "Finn, I'm reading another Ulasomorf directly beneath us."
"That's just silly." Finn told him, grinning even wider. "There's only one Ulasomorf."
He finished up the last few details moments before Kyra's voice called out, "It's hooked up, Finn!"
"Excellent." Finn said, letting out another laugh. "Launching!"
"Launching?!" Mannon asked, incredulously.
"Yup!" Finn launched the salvage probe. "Be a dear, and shut down everything you can except engineering, sensors, life support, and the emergency thrusters."
Uncertainly, she nodded and turned back to her console. "A-alright."
Eri's console beeped again. "What the-" A look of realization passed over the turian's face. "You magnificent bastard!"
"What?" asked Mannon, looking between the two of them for some clue of what was happening.
"In due time. I’m bringing us to a halt." Finn said cheerily.
The emergency thrusters flared at full power, slowing the ship until it was merely drifting forward.
"We're ready!" Finn said as he deactivated the emergency thrusters again.
"Okay!” Kyra replied, “Here we go!"
The ship lights flickered as the cloaking device came online. The look of triumph Eri shot him told him everything he needed to know.
Leaning back in his chair, Finn said, "Hey, Jake; how's it going? We haven't had much time to talk lately."
Jake looked at him uncertainly. "Uh, is now really the time?"
"I've always got time for my bro." He said, holding a fist up for Jake to bump. Jake did so, a strange grin on his face.
"What is going on?" Mannon demanded. "Why are we just sitting here? What did you just-"
Their pursuers shot past them, little more than a burst of light. Eri glanced at his controls. "They aren't slowing down. Damn, Finn! I think you pulled it off."
"We." Finn corrected, raising a finger. "We pulled it off."
As he walked off of the bridge, his head held high while Jake trotted happily beside him, a very confused Mannon called out, "What just happened?"