Mass Effect Slipstream Book I: The Streamer's Edge

The Omega Blues

Finn awoke to the sound of metal tapping on metal. "Finn! Hey Finn! Are you awake?"

For a moment, he thought he was back on J-27. As he peered around blearily, his hand found the handle of his tool bag and automatically started to attach it to his belt. "Busy! Long range sensors aren't gonna fix themselves!"

The door slid open, revealing Ensign Mannon.

"What about the long range sensors?" She asked, raising an eyebrow.

Finn rubbed his eyes as memories of the previous day rushed through his mind.

"Sorry." He mumbled, still feeling a bit sleepy. "I thought … never mind. What's up?"

She stepped aside so he could leave the room, "You've been asleep for twelve hours. Jake asked me to check on you. Sorry if I woke you up."

"Nah, it's okay. I shouldn't be sleeping that long anyway." He took a moment to stretch and pop his back and neck. Letting out a sigh of relief, he said, "I'm gonna check and see if there's anything edible in the kitchen."

"Don't bother." She held up a silver-wrapped bar Finn recognized immediately, to his dismay. "It's pretty much just a few boxes of these."

"Oh boy." Finn said, his voice flat. "Omni-bars."

She shrugged, an apologetic look on her face.

Sighing, he took the bar and ripped it open. After a moment's hesitation, he took a bite and immediately blanched. "You'd think they'd at least add some flavor to the damn things."

"I'd imagine it's hard to find something both leva and dextro physiology can digest. Still, it's better than a heaping bowl of nothing."

"Hmm." Finn eyed her as he took another bite. "You're awfully chipper today."

"Like you said, there's not much we can do about our situation at the moment. To be honest, I'm kinda glad to get off that dusty old station." She blushed and quickly added, "Not that I'm saying I'm glad it was destroyed. I'm not. I really feel bad for Darsan. I was just trying to say-"

"It's okay." Finn said, holding up a hand to stay her further attempts to explain herself. "I get what you mean. I at least got to go to Krieger's place occasionally; you were stuck on the station for years."

He chewed the last bit of omni-bar in his mouth and forced himself to swallow it. "Blech. You know, I've always been curious; how did you end up at J-27?"

She immediately turned red. "It's a long story, really … very boring. Unimportant, really."

Finn shrugged. If she didn't want to talk about her past, he certainly wasn't going to pester her about it. He tossed the wrapper of the omni-bar into a small waste receptacle beside the elevator.

She stood beside him, fidgeting with her hands. "So, you used to be with the Alliance."

"Used to be is the operative word." Finn replied, glancing up at the lift indicator.

"My parents wanted me to go to Anderson. My mom was a frigate pilot. Dad was one of the pilots of the Dreadnaught Shepard."

"Impressive." Finn replied, meaning it. It was one thing to pilot a ship by yourself; quite another to coordinate with a team and still keep a massive ship going in a straight line.

"I thought about it, but I just get too nervous. I mean, when you think of how many things can go wrong with just a slip of a button-"

Finn interrupted, "It's best to just focus on flying; if I spent my life worrying about getting things wrong, I'd either be jumping at my own shadow or completely out of my gourd."

The elevator doors slid open. Finn had to resist the urge to say, "Finally" as he stepped inside. He reached for the control panel when he realized that Ensign Mannon was still outside the elevator.

"Heading back to the bridge?" He asked her.

She shook her head, saying, "I'm going to take a quick nap before we get to Omega. I'd like to have a clear head when I contact the Alliance."

Nodding, he replied, "Well, goodnight Sherle. Oh, by the way, you might want to rethink the uniform; the Alliance isn't exactly the most popular organization around here."

She looked like she was going to say something else, but the doors to the lift slid shut and effectively cut her off.

When he reached the flight deck, he found Jake sitting in the pilot's chair, his front paws on the helm console. He turned his head as Finn approached and immediately started wagging his tail end.

"Hey, Finn! Good morning, man. You sleep okay?"

"Well enough." Finn conceded. "How are we doing?"

"We came through the relay just fine; not a sign of any mysterious ships. We should be at Omega within the hour. It'll be nice to see the place again."

Finn looked at Jake with a small measure of astonishment. "I bet that's the first time someone's ever used the word 'nice' when they're talking about Omega."

"You kidding? That place is packed full of fun stuff to do! Plus, no one ever gives me guff about being an AI. Say what you want, but everyone's welcome on Omega!"

"Especially if they have deep pockets and low morals." Finn replied.

"Keeps things exciting, don't it?" Jake hopped out of the chair so Finn could sit at the helm. "Besides, we had some friends there. It'll be good to say hello to 'em again."

"If you say so." Finn shook his head. "We'll see when we get there."

The hour passed by rather quickly. All too soon, Omega was visible through the window. Once just a small station on a much larger asteroid, Omega had grown to the point that the remaining half of the asteroid was dwarfed by the station jutting out from its underside like a rough metal spike.

"Here we go." Finn muttered, trying to ignore the pounding of his heart. He activated the ship's intercom. "Hey, everyone. We'll be docking at Omega in a few minutes. Everyone going on the station should start heading this way."

Glancing at Jake, Finn asked, "I need to make sure they have medical personnel waiting. Could you open a channel?"

"Sure thing, bro." Jake hopped out of his chair and walked over to the comm console. After putting his feet on the console, he quickly interfaced with the system. "Go ahead, man."

Finn cleared his throat and said, "Omega command, this is the Ulasomorf, we have a volus crewman who needs emergency medical aid."

There was a crackle from the other end of the line as the operator connected. The gravelly voice indicated the operator was either a batarian or a human with a smoking problem. "This is Omega control; is your crewmate sick or injured?"

"Injured. Part of his suit ruptured, and he's taken a few shots. He is currently in stasis."

There was a pause as the operator no doubt ran a scan on the Ulasomorf. "Ship's identity is confirmed. Okay, Ulasomorf; you've got clearance to land at bay twelve. Keep your weapons powered down, or we'll blast you into dust."

"Got it." Finn nodded at Jake, letting him know he was finished. As soon as Jake disconnected, Finn muttered, "Nice to know they still employ the standard 'hello' message."

The dock was crowded, but Finn managed to squeeze the Ulasomorf between a volus trading vessel and a fighter bearing the emblem of the Blue Suns. As soon as they were connected, an automated voice said, "Docking procedure complete. Enjoy your stay at Omega."

Finn couldn't help but chuckle. "That's new. Guess they're trying to soften their image."

"Can't rob people who aren't there." Jake replied cheerily.

They met Darsan and Ensign Mannon at the airlock. Mannon looked like she could use more of a nap. She had taken off the top of her uniform and wore it around her waist with the arms tied together, leaving nothing on her upper torso other than the armless black tanktop she wore underneath her uniform.

"Okay." Finn told them as he made sure the seals on the docking tube were secure, "I'm going to deal with Krieger and the doctors. Mannon's going to contact the Alliance and see if we can't get some help or info from them. Darsan, you'll-"

"Decisively; I'll make a quick call to my insurance agent then meet you in Jiub's Haberdashery on level twelve."

Nodding, Finn said, "Okay. Remember to be on your guard. If anyone asks who you're with, just say … we're construction workers getting supplies to build a new station."

"From Dekuuna." Darsan added. "Knowledgeably; I've got membership in the Dekuuna Trade Comission. That might help keep any never-do-wells from trying anything."

"Dekuuna is a heavy gravity world." Mannon replied. "I think they might realize that Finn and I aren't heavy grav-worlders."

"Don't worry about that." Darsan replied.

Finn frowned. Darsan only forgot to mention his tone when he was hiding something.

Shaking his head, Finn said, "Let's make a point to meet up at …"

He activated his omni-tool to check the time. "Twelve-hundred hours. Meet up at the entrance to Afterlife; it's big and flashy and not easy to miss. You don't have to go in; just … wait outside."

"We get it, Finn." Mannon said, eyeing him strangely.

Nodding, Finn opened the airlock and led the group into the Omega docking area.

They were met at the door by a team of medics and several armed guards, turians and batarians.

One of the turians stepped forward, holding up a hand. "Stand still for a moment."

A scanning field passed over them, a thin red horizontal line showing where it had progressed. As it reached their waists, the line suddenly coalesced to a point at Finn's side.

The soldiers tensed up immediately. The turian hefted his rifle meaningfully, "Hand over the weapon."

Finn slowly pulled the old pistol out of his tool bag and handed it grip-first to the turian , knowing full well it was better to lose the weapon than get shot.

Sherle stared at Finn. "You brought a weapon?"

"Approvingly; it's Omega. It would be foolish not to bring a weapon."

The turian ran his omni-tool over the weapon, commenting, "Huh. Haven't seen one of these in ages. You've kept it up pretty well. Your name?"

"Michael Adams." Finn lied.

Nodding, the turian handed it back to Finn. "It's tagged. There you go, Mister Adams."

"Tagged?" Finn asked.

"By our sensors. Your friend is right; Omega's not the kind of place you want to go to without a weapon. Tagging the weapon on our internal sensors lets us know when and where you shoot it."

"So you can find out whether it was used in a crime or for protection?" Sherle asked curiously.

"That's one reason, certainly." The turian waved at his squad, who nodded and walked away. "Now, I believe you have an injured crewmate?"

"Yes." Finn said, stepping aside so the medics could pass. "He's in a cryo-pod on deck three. I'll show you the way."

The medical crew was quite efficient. To Finn's surprise, they took the entire cryo pod, detaching it quite easily from the med-bay and putting it on an anti-gravity trolley. As they left the ship again, Finn noticed Darsan and Ensign Mannon were waiting near the entrance.

"Do you need me to go with Krieger?" Finn asked the lead medic.

The salarian shook his head. "We'll let you know if you need anything. We're taking him to the Solus Clinic, if you want to check on him later."

"Solus Clinic." Finn repeated. He knew the name something to do with krogan history, but that was the limit of his knowledge. Part of him wanted to ask how a krogan had inspired a clinic, but the medics had already gone on without him.

Finn approached Darsan and Mannon, who hadn't moved from their spots since the guards arrived. "You two didn't have to wait for me."

"We were thinking," Mannon said, sounding a little nervous, "Maybe we should stick together."

"Won't that make this all take longer?" Finn asked, raising an eyebrow.

Darsan shuffled uncomfortably. "Pointedly; you have a gun."

"What about the DTC?"

"Honestly; they aren't here. You are, and you're armed."

Finn couldn't help but sigh. "Come on, then."

As they stepped out of the docking bay, Finn felt a wave of memories pass over him. The nervous look in the eyes of the people in the streets, the harsh glow of street lights and store signs against the dark backdrop of the streets, and the harsh scent of industrial cleaners barely detectable over the smell of the sweat and fear of a dozen races made a reluctant feeling nostalgia pass over Finn.

At its core, there was nothing inherently threatening about the station construction; one metal corridor was pretty much the same as every other, with a few minor details. Despite this, the low lighting made the long-since dull metal seem dark and foreboding. The darkness was almost a live thing, creeping up every skyscraper and spreading across every inch of the station.

Turians, asari, humans, batarians … pretty much every known sapient species in the cosmos could be found walking the dark streets. In truth, most were perfectly fine people just living their lives as best as they could. Much as with the corridors, however, the low level of lighting made it easy for the paranoid to see a sea of untrusting faces at every corner. Even the asari, the beautiful blue-skinned sirens of the galaxy, had a dark look to them on the streets of Omega.

Finn turned to his companions. Jake was excitedly looking around, while Darsan was eyeing anyone who walked too close. Ensign Mannon stared wide-eyed at the imposing view of Afterlife, visible over the railing a few floors down.

Finn nudged Sherle. "Don't gawk. You'll look like a tourist, and tourists are always easy marks."

Blushing, she said, "S-sorry. I'm just … sorry."

"Don't worry about it. Come on; the nearest Transtat is this way."

Most communication on Omega ran through omni-tools and extranet terminals. Unfortunately, most omni-tools are only configured to send messages over short distances, and the extranet terminals are notoriously unsecure. As most people running business on Omega were very interested in security, each district of the station was now equipped with at least one long range Transmission Station (commonly referred to as a 'Transtat') that provided secure long-range communication services. There was a cost, based on distance of communication, whether said communication used conventional communication channels or quantum entanglement, and how much Aria wanted to charge for the privilege of secure communication.

The station itself was all automated, with only one guard watching to make sure no one tried anything funny. The opaque glass booths were soundproof, allowing users complete privacy while still allowing the guard to see anything the users did.

There was a bit of a line as Finn and company reached the Transtat station. As they took their places at the end, Finn spotted a nearby storefront that caught his eye.

"Rigger's Folley." He whispered.

Darsan glanced at him. "Curiously; what did you say?"

Finn shook his head, saying, "Something Krieger told me. Look, Jake and I are gonna go check something out real quick. You two should be fine here."

"But-" Mannon began.

Finn pulled out his pistol and handed it to her, grip first. "You know how to shoot, right?"

Her cheeks flushed as she took the pistol. "O-of course. The Alliance trained us-"

"Good." Finn motioned for Jake to follow and hurried towards the shop.

Jake had to run to catch up. "Whoa, Finn! Where are you going?"

"Remember what Krieger said when he messaged us?"

"Something about a quarian, right?" His lights brightened with realization. "Oh, right! The Rigger's Folly!"

"Damn straight. Maybe we'll finally get some answers."

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