Home of the Fallen
There wasn’t much out in the Phoenix Massing. Once
geth-controlled space, the area was now a silent testament to the existence of
the race of synthetics who stood with the galaxy against the flawed logic of
the Reapers. Ships, bases, and millions of geth platforms lay still in the void
between the Salaheil and Chromos systems, monitored and protected by the
It was among the ancient vessels that Billy, the last survivor of the geth, flew the prototype Cerberus starfighter that was now his only platform. His pilot, Alliance fugitive and former J-27 repairman, Finn Cresste, was busily checking the area for prying scanners.
“Nothing to indicate any Cerberus presence. Looks like we’re clear.” Finn said, his eyes on the sensor screen. “Nice of Rannoch to let us look around.”
“Indeed.” Billy’s voice said in Finn’s head via neural interface. “I admit, I was surprised they so readily accepted my existence.”
“It’s not that surprising.” Finn told him. “They had reconciled with the geth before the whole Crucible thing. You’re like their long lost child that they thought had died in the war with his brothers and sisters.”
After a few moments of silence, Finn said, “Er, sorry. That sounded better in my head.”
To his surprise, Billy chuckled. “I understand what you were trying to say. I’m just surprised that the other quarians had even half the excitement at meeting me as Kyra.”
“Yeah.” Finn tried to force a chuckle, but it just came out as a sigh.
Billy’s concern was like a small cloud in his mind. “Is something wrong?”
“We had an argument yesterday. It was really stupid; I was trying to help with some of the Ulasomorf’s upgrades, but I think she took it as an insult. She kept telling me I was just messing things up.”
Sighing again, Finn said, “And she was right. Didn’t stop me from arguing about it, though.”
“You’re really bothered by this, aren’t you?”
“Yeah.” Finn confessed. “We’ve had a few squabbles before, but this was our first big fight. I don’t even know why I was so bothered at the time; like I said, she was right. I guess part of me will always be the brat I was back on Earth, but …"
“I don’t want to lose her.” He blushed. “I’m sorry, Billy. This is my problem; I shouldn’t just be laying it on you like this.”
After a few moments of silence, Billy suggested, “Maybe you should tell her that when you apologize. They say that honesty is important in a lasting relationship, and I know you care as much about her as she does about you.”
“She told you that?” Finn asked curiously.
“Not intentionally. She was talking about your fight to Mannon while she was working on the Gradisian earlier. I believe her exact words were, ‘Yeah, he’s a knucklehead, but he’s my knucklehead.’”
Finn couldn't help but chuckle at that. “Thanks, Billy. It may sound strange, but it kinda helps to hear that.”
“Glad to be of assistance. Now, perhaps we should begin our exercises. Javik insisted I return you on time for a change.”
“Fair enough.” Finn shoved the argument out of his mind along with his future training session with the last Prothean and focused his attention on Billy’s controls.
Three geth fighters fired up their thrusters and sped his way under Billy’s remote control. As they zoomed past Billy, Finn fired up Billy’s engines and gave chase.
The Graveyard was the perfect place for flight training; plenty of vessels to dodge around and avoid, just as would be likely in a real fight. They had outfitted the geth fighters with low-power lasers; they weren’t strong enough to cause any damage, but Billy could detect the angle of the hit and estimate the damage he would have received from standard weapons.
Finn had been humbled during his first few sessions; although he prided himself on his skill as a pilot, Billy had managed to peg him with a deadly shot within a minute. Always a quick study, Finn had brushed off his old talents and made a point to learn from his mistakes.
Under Finn’s control, Billy spun, swerved, and slipped through the inert ships as though the ship were merely an extension of his body. Part of that was the neural interface; the ship responded equally to his thoughts as it did to his manipulation of the controls, allowing him far more control than the pilot of a typical vessel. Part of it was Billy as well; the geth’s voice was always whispering in his ear, advising him on tactics and flying tricks once shared by the best of geth fighter pilots.
It would be remiss to say that Finn’s natural skill wasn’t a factor; Finn felt more alive in a cockpit than anywhere else, with the possible exception of being in the company of Kyra. More often than not, he operated purely on instinct. Where anyone else would’ve been blown to bits, he always managed to fly through it.
It was nonsense, his instructors had told him. He merely was able to filter sensor data and apply it to flying with very little response time. Maybe they were right, but to Finn, he was flying on his own.
After pegging the final ship, Billy said, “Impressive. That was even faster than yesterday.”
“Wanna do a live fire test?” Finn asked, grinning at his console.
“While I have no doubt you’d be victorious, I have no desire to destroy the remains of my kind.”
“Oh.” Finn said, feeling very foolish. “I’m sorry, man; I didn’t mean …”
“It isn’t important. With no way to restore their programming, the geth are little more than empty husks, floating in the void for eternity. Still, I hope that perhaps they might one day be restored.”
Finn knew it must have been tough for Billy, being the last of his kind. He wished there was something he could do to help, but Kyra had already gone over Billy and Jake’s programming extensively; if there was a way to restore the geth, it was beyond her.
Sighing, Finn said, “Well, let’s get back. Hate to keep Javik waiting.”
There was a saying on the ocean world of Trident; everything lost eventually will eventually wash up on Trident’s shores. There was big money in combing the few beaches scattered across the planet, but the popular saying was more focused on the people of trident. Widely considered one of the most lawless places in the universe, Trident was home to many a corporation wanting to act outside ethical guidelines. While private security firms kept crime to a minimum, corruption was widespread on the bits of land both natural and artificial.
Fortunately, there was one place on the planet where a quiet pervasive order still existed. Swimming beneath the ocean like one of the natural leviathans of trident, the Amonjana silently floated through the currents, carefully avoiding the settlements as to remain unknown to all. The Amonjana was home to the Shadow Broker, the master of secrets whispered across the known galaxy and beyond. That the Broker was in fact Doctor Liara T’soni, noted anthropologist and friend of galaxy hero John Shepard, was a secret known only to a select few.
As Billy neared the current location of the Amonjana, Finn transmitted the code that would extend the long passage that would allow them to dock within the moving ship. Even knowing that the top of the tunnel was disguised to look like the ocean, Finn still had a hard time seeing the passage entrance when it slowly rose from the ocean, looking far more like a particularly tall wave than a complex combination of design and holography.
The passage was well lit. The sight of the ocean above them never ceased to amaze Finn, though the view was quickly covered by safety bulkheads as the corridor began to retract. There was a large landing area at the base of the corridor. There were only a few ships there, mostly short-range fighters used by the Shadow Broker’s agents.
“Like me.” Finn thought to himself. It was a strange thought; he had been a pilot, a repairman, a hacker, and an engineer, but an agent of the Shadow Broker? It was hard to ignore the childish voice inside him jumping up and down at being a secret agent working for one of the most mysterious organizations in the galaxy.
Finn set Billy down by the Gradisian, the old quarian fighter he had bought when he left Omega for J-27.Kyra had used some of the Shadow Broker’s resources to upgrade the ship into a truly impressive fighter with top-of-the-line armor plating and shield generators, some truly impressive cutting-edge weaponry, and a more compact and powerful mass effect drive. He had flown it a few times already; it was easily a match for Billy, though it was missing that one thing that made the prototype Cerberus ship truly special.
“A shame you can’t upload onto the Gradisian.” Finn told Billy. “I can only imagine how much trouble we could cause together in her.”
“Liara is researching the storage cells in this ship. If she can figure out how Glaxe managed to lock me into this ship’s databanks, I might yet be able to leave this prison of mine. I might even be able to move into one of the geth platforms Liara has recovered.”
Something in Billy’s tone caught Finn’s ear. “I kinda thought you’d be glad to be able to move around on your own.”
“Perhaps I’ve gotten used to this ship. The idea of being compressed into a moving platform is, quite frankly, unappealing. Besides; without this ship, we wouldn’t be able to converse as freely.”
“Ah.” Finn nodded. Billy was speaking of the neural interface; he and Finn had spoken quite frequently in the recreation of Rannoch. The interface was integrated into the Cerberus vessel; they’d have to tear the ship apart to remove it, and there was no telling if it could be integrated into the Gradisian.
Still, Finn was glad Billy valued their conversations; Finn certainly did. “Well, maybe it’s all for the best, then. After all, the Gradisian can’t cloak yet anyway.”
There was a slight tone of relief in Billy’s voice as he said, “Indeed. Landing procedures are complete; are you departing?”
“Yeah.” Finn told him. “Don’t want to keep Javik waiting.”
Billy chuckled. “Any longer, anyway. Talk to you later, Finn.”
As the neural interface retracted, Finn let out a sigh. It didn’t hurt, not anymore; Billy had reinforced the original port he had installed in Finn so that connecting was nearly seamless. It still left him feeling a bit drained when disconnecting, though.
Billy’s hatch opened, only to reveal the pale, maroon-tinged face of Kyra’Shor Nar Shepard. The sight of his girlfriend still made Finn’s heart make a leap for his throat. Her gentle, beautiful face, her stark black hair, and her luminescent eyes often followed him into his dreams. Even when she was clearly annoyed, she still managed to look unbearably pretty in her grease-smeared sleeveless shirt and denim overalls.
“About time you dragged your lazy ass back here.” She told him as she helped him out of Billy. “Javik’s been stomping around like a man possessed. Would it hurt you to be on time for-”
Her eyes widened as he pulled her close and kissed her. She started to pull away for a moment before giving in and wrapping her arms around him.
When their lips separated, she stared at him for a moment before asking breathlessly, “What was that for?”
“An apology.” Finn told her truthfully. “You were right; I was just being stupid … y’know, on the Ulasomorf. If I had listened to you instead of being a pig-headed jerk, you wouldn’t have had to spend all evening fixing the sensor array.”
His apology seemed to take her by surprise. Looking a bit embarrassed, she fidgeted with his hands and said, “I’m sorry too. I didn’t mean to snap at you like that. I’ve just been so stressed with the upgrades to the Ulasomorf and the Gradisian, and Katt keeps trying to pull me into helping her with the cloaking generator …”
She sighed and smiled at him, her soft hand rubbing his cheek. “I’ll forgive you if you forgive me, sweetie. Deal?”
“As you wish, milady.” Finn took her hand and kissed it gently, making her giggle and blush.
Squeezing his hand, she said, “Meet me for lunch after Javik’s finished running you through the ringer?”
“Depends. What are they serving in medical?” Finn told her, making her laugh again.
As they kissed again, Finn found himself savoring the ever-present taste of blackberries on Kyra’s lips. He wondered briefly if it was her lipstick, or simply natural.
After they separated, they stared at each other for a moment. Kyra seemed to be waiting for him to say something; Finn wished he knew what it was.
“Well.” He told her eventually, “I’d better get moving. See you later.”
“Later, sweetie.” She gave him a final kiss on the cheek before slipping around him to get to Billy.
Finn stared at her for a long moment. How had someone like him ended up with a wonderful woman like her after all of the mistakes he had made in his life? If there was some deity keeping karmatic score, Finn couldn’t help but feel that the numbers had gotten mixed up at some point.
Kyra glanced up at him, catching his stare. Smiling, she said, “As much as I like being admired, I’m not kidding about Javik. You’d better get moving, Finn.”
His cheeks feeling hot, Finn nodded and said, “Right. I’ll just … right.”
As he walked off, he caught a hint of a giggle behind him. Resisting the urge to turn, he headed for the nearest lift.
The Amonjana was a massive ship, though deceptively so; when fully extended, the web of corridors and passages allowed the ocean to run through parts of the ship, enabling the ship to naturally diffuse the engine heat without harming the aquatic life of trident. It also gave the people living on the ship many windows that looked out into the ocean, a truly wondrous sight. Trident had a thriving underwater ecosystem that supported everything from the tiny mirmba shrimp to the massive whale-like leviathans. Finn and Kyra often went walking around the station to admire the ocean life.
The lift was actually a small pod designed to link to other parts of the ship. Finn stared out of the windows as a school of bright red fish swam around him, seemingly undisturbed by the pod’s presence.
As the pod slid between the numerous tunnels of the ship, Finn caught a glimpse of Darsan walking towards the kitchen facilities. Some may think it odd to recognize a specific elcor with just a passing glance, but some hadn’t encountered an elcor with a love of fine clothing and ostentatious hats. On that occasion, Darsan was wearing his usual wide-brim red velvet pimp hat with leopard-skin band and a jaunty blue feather.
Finn smiled, thinking back to the first time he had seen Darsan in that hat; cornered by the Blue Suns, Finn, Jake, and Mannon were as good as dead until Darsan appeared from nowhere and saved their bacon; the armor-mounted weapons had torn the Mercs to shreds, but it was that hat that stuck in Finn’s mind more than anything.
Darsan wasn’t alone either; Eri and Xyn were walking beside him. Eri was a turian Finn had met during his first stay on Omega; together, they managed to drain one of the Blue Suns bank accounts and escape, though not without losing the other two members of their little gang. He was quick with a gun, but even quicker with a joke.
Xyn was another of Finn’s old friends, but whereas Finn and Eri had been partners in crime, Xyn and Finn had aspired to something more. Xyn was a scaal, a humanoid plant-based race known together with the flying glin and the subterranean trusk as Neukaraans. Her tall, slender form was the very epitome of grace. Beauty shone through every inch of her smooth dark skin and her long green hair as she laughed along with Eri, her blue eyes seeming to glow in the dim lighting of the corridor.
Finn couldn’t help but sigh; he and Xyn had been close once. After rescuing her from the fire that took the life of her bond mate, he had stayed by her side when her own people had given her up for dead. They quickly grew close … a little too quickly. His insecurities and worries that she was somehow transposing him over her former mate rather than loving him for who he was led Finn to leave Xyn and New Elysia.
Seeing her laughing and talking with Eri and Darsan certainly made it look like he had made the right choice. Of course, he couldn’t help but feel a bit guilty at abandoning her, especially after she kidnapped him and Kyra while under the influence of an overabundance of Nectar, an emotion-amplifying drug that caused her to nearly kill the both of them in a fit of jealous rage and loneliness.
Eri noticed Finn through the window and gave him a wave. Finn waved at his friends as he passed, a wave of nostalgia passing over him when he thought about everything they had gone through, only a scant few months ago. It was hard to believe so many things had changed.
As the pod docked with the aft of the Amonjana, Finn shook his head. He’d need a clear head for Javik’s training; the last of the Protheans always seemed to know when his thoughts wandered, and never hesitated to take advantage of it, much to Finn’s chagrin.
The aft of the ship held most of the Shadow Broker’s weaponry; jokingly referred to by the crew as ‘The Forge’. The quartermaster was a relentlessly cheery red-haired woman named Anna Muleen, but everyone just referred to her as ‘little sis’, partly because of her friendly nature and partly because she was just under four feet tall.
“Hey, hun.” She said as Finn approached her desk. “Javik’s waiting for you in chamber seven.”
She held out a rifle. “Here; just got ‘em in. Completely energy-based rapid-fire combat rifle; they call it the C-Brace.”
“The Geruda Corp’s been busy lately, haven’t they?” Finn asked, hefting the surprisingly light rifle. It almost felt like a toy in his hands. It certainly had an impressive look to it, but he couldn’t shake the feeling that it would shatter if he dropped it.
Javik was waiting for him when he entered chamber seven. The chambers were large holo-rooms programmed with a wide array of combat scenarios (and more than one vacation Vista).As soon as the doors closed behind Finn, they promptly vanished, leaving the two of them in a wide grassy area with a few clusters of prefabricated colony ‘drop-boxes’. Ancient Prothean spires jutted out of the earth and dense wildlife in the distance, a reminder of the race that had last colonized the planet.
“You are late. Again.” Javik said flatly.
Normally, Finn would’ve rattled off some carefree response, but to be honest, Javik kinda scared him. It wasn’t his appearance; the four-eyed Prothean was hardly the strangest sapient Finn had ever encountered, though he was undoubtedly one of the most intimidating. Javik was a warrior from another age … two other ages, in fact. He had survived the Reapers twice, and from how hard he drilled his military training into Finn, it was clear that he intended to go for three.
That wasn’t the only thing that bothered Finn; he didn’t know much about Protheans, but Finn could swear that Javik was psychic. Whatever excuse he used, Javik seemed to see through it almost immediately. Whenever he tried to lie about where he was, or what he had been doing, Javik corrected him almost immediately, and that was downright unnerving.
Javik took Finn’s rifle and examined it for a moment before nodding and tossing it back. “Begin!”
A shuttle marked with what Finn recognized as Cerberus’s logo zoomed overhead to the far side of the settlement. Finn counted six soldiers and an engineer leaving the shuttle before it zoomed off again.
Finn rushed forward, careful to stay close to crates and other areas that could provide cover. Fortunately, his approach was not noticed; the soldiers were out on the open and exposed.
Finn poked his head over the crate he was currently behind, and fired a spray of energy bullets at the engineer and the two nearest soldiers. Unfortunately, his aim was off, and not a single shot found its mark. The soldiers leapt behind the nearest cover; unfortunately for some of the soldiers, that cover included several small canisters of thermal capacitance gel. Normally used to power small machinery, thermal gel was extremely combustible. Finn activated his omni-tool and sent a burst of fire flying through the air and directly into the pile of canisters, igniting them in a fireball that engulfed all the soldiers and sent the remaining crates and non-combustible canisters flying in all directions. After the explosion, Finn poked his head over his crate, only to find the engineer’s arm sticking out from beneath part of the pre-fabricated unit that had collapsed.
“Ha!” Finn said, raising his rifle in victory. “Record time!”
Javik let out sigh and shook his head. “Impressive.”
“Really?” Finn asked. It was rare for Javik to give praise.
“Indeed. Twenty three shots in all, and you didn’t manage to hit a single target.”
Finn’s face fell. “Well … I stopped them, didn’t I?”
Javik gave him an icy glare. “Your engineering skills may be on par with Shepard’s, but like him, you must be a soldier as well as an engineer if you intend to stand against Cerberus. If you spent half as much time training here as you did flying through the stars with that machine-”
The entrance to the training chamber slid open, revealing a woman in blue combat armor. Her feminine body structure was similar to that of a turian, but her face and hair were more similar to that of a human.
Her name was Jan'Ce. Finn still knew very little about her, other than that she had been created from the combined DNA of a human and a turian, something he had thought impossible. Then again, the same had been said of humans and quarians before omni-genetic conversion had been discovered.
She approached Javik. “You finished putting him through his paces?”
“We have scarcely begun.” Javik told her. Finn noticed an almost imperceptible softening of the Prothean’s voice as he spoke to what was for all intents and purposes his youngest daughter.“His lack of skill could be described as legendary at this point.”
There was laughter in her eyes as she turned to Finn. “Well, as much as I hate to take him away from training he desperately needs, Liara asked me to bring him to her.”
Javik snorted. “Take him. We’ll continue our training tomorrow.”
“Tomorrow?” Finn asked. “But I’m supposed to-”
“Tomorrow and the next day. I’m tripling your combat training until you learn to hit your target.”
Finn suppressed an urge to groan as Jan led him out of the room.
“Now, Finn.” She said teasingly as she started walking. “It’s all for the good of the galaxy.”
“Fat lot of good that does me if he ends up shooting me.” Finn grumbled.