Across the Universe

Grounded

Basically the moment we'd docked in the Citadel, Udina sold us out. There were locks placed on the Normandy, we couldn't fly.

Until further notice, we were grounded and Sabrina was taken off the mission.

All because we detonated a nuke to try and stop Saren.

Liara recognized something from the visions from linking minds with Sabrina. Ilos. We needed to get to Ilos, but we couldn't. All because Udina was a douche.

Jeff and I had gone with Sabrina, Wrex, and Garrus down to the Wards after getting a message from Captain Anderson to meet him at Flux, Sabrina getting stopped by a reporter on the way. She smiled at Sabrina, fake and snotty. I already didn't like her.

"Khalisah Al-Jilani, Westerlund News," she greeted. "Would you answer a few questions for our viewers?"

Sabrina shrugged, distant. "What do you want to know?"

"You've been given a unique position to represent our race," the reporter replied. "People want to get a sense of how you'll do that," she activated her camera-bot. "Humans have been trying to get the respect of the galactic community for twenty-six years. With that in mind, what are your feelings on being the first human Spectre?"

Sabrina gave her a small, tired smile. "The Spectres represent the best of every species in the galaxy. To be asked to join them is an honor."

The reporter frowned. "Some have said your appointment is the Citadel 'Throwing the humans a bone,'" she quoted. Jeff and I gave each other a look. "Have you encountered any situations where the Citadel asked you to place its needs before the needs of Earth?"

I rolled my eyes. What exactly was this lady trying to do?

"The Council is concerned with the needs of the whole galactic community," Sabrina explained, being incredibly political. "We're a part of that community now. Our needs are on their agenda, but we're one of many."

If I was Sabrina, I would have walked away already.

The reporter continued to try and lure Sabrina into a bad response, but the commander was very good about answering in a way that wouldn't make the Council or herself look bad. As we walked away, I piped up.

"I would have punched her in the face," I told Sabrina bluntly.

Wrex chuckled. "Spoken like a Krogan."

Sabrina sighed. "If she'd asked me about Virmire, I would have."

I closed my eyes for a moment, fighting off the dark feelings that came with the mention of that place. It was just… too soon. My bruises hadn't yet healed, and neither had my heart.

Once we'd arrived at the club, Anderson waved us over, and I grabbed some seats for Joker and I to sit on. Wrex and Garrus stood behind us, Sabrina taking the spot next to our ex-captain. The music in the club was loud, and everyone in it was either too drunk to listen in on our conversation, or too busy dancing to the loud music.

A perfect place to talk.

"Hey Anderson," Sabrina greeted. Anderson smiled at our little group.

"I'm glad you all came. I heard what happened," he sighed, leaning forward and resting his hands on the table. Sabrina sighed, a touch of anger appearing on her face.

"They pulled me off the mission, just like when they forced you to give up the Normandy," she grumbled. I patted her back.

Anderson nodded understandingly. "I know, I'm sorry. I wanted to warn you but there was no way to get a message to you before you docked. I know you're pissed off right now but you can't give up," the older man stated. "They all think this is over, but we know it's not. You have to go to Ilos, you have to stop Saren from using the Conduit."

Sabrina raised an eyebrow. "There's only one ship that can get me into the Terminus System's undetected and she's grounded.

A smirk appeared on Andersons lips. "Citadel Control's locked down all the Normandy's systems, but if we override the Ambassador's orders we can get them back online. You can be in the Terminus Systems before anyone even knows you're gone."

The Commander frowned, uncertain. "If we steal the Normandy, you're the one left holding the bag."

"And if Saren finds the Conduit, life as we know it is over," Anderson argued. "The Reapers will destroy us. Humans, Asari, everybody. You're the only one who can stop it Shepard, so I'll do whatever it takes to get you on the Normandy and off this station."

Sabrina leaned back, still unsure. "Stealing the Normandy is mutiny, what if the crew won't help me?"

I snorted. "Really Sabrina? I'd follow you to hell."

Jeff agreed with a firm nod. "There's no way I'd let you do this alone." Garrus and Wrex both added in their willingness to join Sabrina for the mission, Anderson smiling.

"See Shepard? The Normandy's your ship now Commander. Her crew will follow you to the ends of the Galaxy, we all know that."

A light blush dusted Sabrina's cheeks, a small smile appearing on her face. "I… Thanks you guys, and I won't forget this Captain. I promise."

Anderson nodded. "The Normandy's controls can be unlocked from one of the consoles in the Citadel Control Center, if I put the cameras on a loop you'll have a few minutes before anyone realizes something's wrong."

Garrus shook his head. "That's a restricted area patrolled by armed guards. How are you going to get in?"

"Leave that to me," the Captain replied. "Just make sure you're in the Normandy when the systems come back online."

A lightbulb went off in my head. "Wait, Anderson, is there any place else that the controls could be overridden?"

Anderson looked up thoughtfully. "Ambassador Udina issued the lockdown order, if I could hack into the computer in his office maybe I could override it," he replied. "But the cameras won't be on a loop, you could get caught pretty quickly."

"Not as quickly as we could if you walk straight into Citadel Control to unlock the Normandy," I reasoned, turning to Garrus. "Garrus, you used to be C-Sec, the Control room is just through the C-Sec offices right?"

Garrus nodded. "Yes, they are… why?"

"Are there any air vents or something?" I pressed, determination written all over my face. "Getting the cameras to loop shouldn't be too hard as long as I can get close enough to a console to hack into it with my omni-tool."

Sabrina grabbed my arm. "No way Keys, you're not doing that. What if you don't get back to the ship on time?"

"Wait, Shepard, it might be a good idea," Garrus advised. "Since she won't be running right into the control room, no one's going to expect a thing. The cameras would be on a loop for an hour at the least, the systems won't even notice a thing as long as she's careful with her hacking. And the vents don't have any sensors or cameras in them."

"Plus, do you really think anyone else here can hack and be small enough to be unheard in an air vent?" I added. "I can do that, and once the footage is looped I'll get back to the ship. Garrus can wait for me by the vent I enter from so he can message Anderson once I'm clear, and while I'm doing that we can get the crew back onto the Normandy."

Jeff frowned, crossing his arms. "If everyone goes at one time, it's going to look suspicious, Commander. Maybe CP's plan isn't bad at all, we'll have extra time to get everyone ready."

Sabrina looked conflicted, but nodded. "Okay, if that's the best option then we'll go with it. Anderson, what do you think?"

"It seems like the plan with the least amount of risk," Anderson acknowledged, nodding approvingly. "You sure you're up for it though Officer Kogan?"

I glanced at Garrus. "Think you can tell me what you know about the Citadel's computer systems to help me out?"

The turian nodded, just as determined as me. "I could even map out the vents for you on your omni-tool."

I gave Anderson a thumbs up. "I got this Captain."

"Good," Anderson smiled, turning to Sabrina. "You ready to get the hell off this station Commander?"

"We're ready," Sabrina confirmed.

"I'll go to the Embassy's and wait for your signal," Anderson informed, Garrus tapping on his omni-tool to pull up some information for me. Sabrina placed a hand on my shoulder, handing me a pistol she'd brought along with a stern face.

"You go in, hack the cameras, then get out," she ordered. "Wrex and I will get everyone to the ship in intervals of seven to ten minutes, and we take off the moment you and Garrus step foot on the Normandy."

"Got it," I responded seriously. Jeff stood up, limping towards me with his crutches.

"Don't do anything stupid," the pilot stressed to me before turning to Garrus. "And if she gets in trouble, you'd better be ready to help her."

"You can count on me," Garrus promised. I took a step forward and hugged Jeff, leaning my head against his chest for a moment before releasing him, grinning and looking into his green eyes.

"Don't worry about me Jeff, I'm fantastic," I boasted, confident in my abilities. He rolled his eyes and frowned, saying nothing more as he limped after Sabrina. I looked up at Garrus, who smiled back down at me and started walking. "So Garrus, what can you tell me?"

"There's a shaft you can get into just inside the Atrium," he told me, forwarding a map to my omni-tool. "From there, you go straight and take the first right. That part of the vent is an upwards slope that takes you above the C-Sec offices. Once you're there, just take a left… that should get you to Citadel Control. We're going to need to give you a rebreather, just in case of exposure to the outside. We can get one of those from a friend of mine, Doctor Michelle."

I nodded, following after him. It didn't take us too long to get the rebreather and then head to the ventilation shaft. The area was dark, and lucky for us there was no one else nearby who could see us. Garrus helped me take off the grate, putting it back in place once I'd crawled inside. I turned on my omni-tool for lighting, crawling forward. Luckily, since the Citadel needed a lot of air the shaft was large enough that I could crawl through it semi-comfortably.

Semi-comfortably, because even though I was tiny and didn't have any trouble with it, there was a hell of a lot of dust. Disgusting. After I was done with this, I'd need to take at least two showers to feel clean. I crawled quickly, keeping an eye on my map and being careful so I didn't accidently fall down a deadfall.

Soon, I was above the C-Sec offices. I slowed down, being careful to not make any noise because of the officers. I took the next left like Garrus had advised, making it to Citadel Control without a problem. Through the slits in the shaft, I was able to see a few consoles. The people that should have been working were all facing each other, laughing and chatting about some trivial topics. That would make my job easier.

With a few taps, I'd linked my omni-tool to one of their security consoles. Holding my breath, I began to set the security footage for dock 422 to loop so they wouldn't be able to see us stealing the Normandy, or see the crew make their way onto the ship.

Once that was done, I began crawling backwards, taking my time so that no one could hear something and think that anything was suspicious. Soon I'd made it back to the grate I'd entered from, knocking on it. Garrus pulled it off, helping me up before putting the grate back in place. "You're completely covered with dust," he commented. I let out a sigh, shaking my head.

"Think this is going to look suspicious?" I asked him, Garrus shook his head.

"Not if we're careful," he told me, activating his comm. "Anderson? Officer Kogan's out of the duct. We're heading to the Normandy now."

"Good job you two, hurry back to the ship. I'll wait five minutes before heading up to Udina's office."

We hurried. The elevator ride up to dock 422 felt unbearably slow, taking a whole three minutes. The two of us waited in complete silence, and as soon as the elevator doors opened we dashed into the decontamination chamber in record speed. Then, as soon as I stepped inside of the Normandy, I went straight to the bridge, Garrus following behind me.

"How are things going over here?" I inquired, placing a hand on Sabrina's shoulder. Jeff was watching the control panel intently, it was still red.

"Nothing yet CP," he answered, smirking. "All the crew is accounted for now, everyone's ready for this. Just waiting for Anderson to get rid of this lock."

"Anderson'll come through for us," Sabrina chimed. "Shouldn't be too long now."

Just as she finished saying that, the panel turned green. We all let out a cheer, Sabrina placing a hand on Jeff's shoulder while I took my position in the co-pilots seat.

"Let's go, get us out of here you two, now," Sabrina ordered. "Vakarian, come with me."

The two of them exited the cockpit, Jeff scanning his screens and preparing us for take-off. I began plotting our course to Ilos while the pilot maneuvered us out of the docks and clearing us from the Citadel's arms. I closed my eyes tightly as Joker rushed us through the Widow Relay, completely evading the ships that were on guard.

None of them followed us.

"Really? Really?" I turned towards Jeff in annoyance and disbelief. "That's supposed to be their defense against Saren attacking the Citadel? They didn't even try to stop us!"

Jeff wasn't even annoyed, he was disappointed. "Aw damn it," he groaned. "No sign of pursuit?"

"Not a single sign," I confirmed, Sabrina returning to check on us. The pilot turned his head to look up at Sabrina who was looking down at him with a raised eyebrow.

"I was hoping the Council would send some ships after us," he explained. "I was looking forward to putting the Normandy through her paces," he turned to look at me with a shrug. "Figured we could see what this ship could really do."

"Saren's still out there," Sabrina responded dryly. "Maybe we'll get the chance to play hide and seek with Sovereign."

"You know, it doesn't seem like much fun when you say it Commander," Jeff sighed, mood slightly deflated.

"Here, let me try," I offered. "Saren's still out there, maybe we'll get the chance to play hide and seek with Sovereign!" I imitated, speaking more eagerly than Sabrina had.

"There we go," Jeff approved, smiling at me. He did a double take. "You're covered in dust."

"Thank you so much for noticing," I sassed, standing up and facing Sabrina. "Can I use your shower?"

Sabrina nodded. "That uniform will never be clean again," she told me mournfully. "I'm so sorry."

I shoved her playfully and left to take a much needed shower. Sabrina was lucky, as the ship's captain she got her own private bathroom. I chucked my dust covered clothes into the laundry chute and digging through Sabrina's drawers to grab some clothes to change into once I was done. I'd pretty much moved into the captain's quarters with Sabrina over the course of our mission, so I no longer needed to keep my clothes in one of the storage lockers by the sleeper pods. Grumpily, I realized that I didn't have any spare sets of fatigues, and since I knew I was too small to just borrow one of Sabrina's without looking like a drowning midget I just grabbed my casual clothes. A pair of black tights and a dark gray tank top, boyshorts and a sports bra.

Inside the bathroom, I stared at myself in the mirror. There were dark bruises on my shoulders and my legs. The ones on my shoulders were the worst, from when Saren had thrown me back with his biotics. I felt a little bit sore, but Chakwas had told me that I was fine when she'd checked me after Virmire. Kaidan had been worse, but the doctor had praised me for taking care of him when he was unconscious, apparently my decision to administer the medi-gel had been the right one. Alenko had lost a fair amount of blood fighting the Geth, I was honestly surprised that he hadn't applied medi-gel himself when he realized he was bleeding.

But he was fine, we were all fine. Most of us were alive.

I felt a stab in my chest at the thought, and stepped into the shower. The water ran down my body, tinted brown as I washed the dust from my skin. I watched it disappear down the drain in a steady stream, slowly turning clear.

But I just… I didn't feel clean.

I lathered shampoo onto my hair, shutting my eyes and feeling the bubbles slip down my back. Once all of the bubbles had gone down the drain, I turned off the water and dried myself off. I changed quickly, frowning at myself in the mirror.

The bruises were a lot easier to see when I was in a tank top. At least my fatigues had hid the ones on my shoulders, but my tank top did not do that.

God, I couldn't let anyone see these. They looked disgusting. Sure, the armor I wore had kept me from breaking any bones, but why couldn't it have kept me from getting so bruised up? I guess I was lucky enough that I didn't get my face bruised too, but still.

It hurt.

Poking my head out of the washroom, I saw that Sabrina was doing some work at her desk. "Hey Sabs, can you toss me a hoodie?" I requested, the commander standing up and walking over to grab me one.

"Why can't you get one yourself?" she questioned, snatching a dark blue hoodie out of her drawer and tossing it to me. I barely caught it.

"Well, the bathroom's warm and your room is cold in comparison," I shrugged, pulling the hoodie over my arms and zipping it up. I stepped out of the bathroom, posing for my sister, who smiled.

"All out of uniforms?"

"All out," I confirmed with a sigh. "Looks like I'll be in my civilian clothes for the remainder of our mission."

"Well, considering the fact that we're fugitives now I doubt it matters what you wear," Sabrina remarked, returning to her desk. "You going to head back up to the bridge?"

I nodded, making my way towards the door. "Yeah, don't want to let Jeff do all the flying."

"First name basis now, huh?" Sabrina wiggled her eyebrows and I rolled my eyes.

"Come on Sabs, I call everyone by their first name, it's not that big of a deal," I grumbled, opening the door to come face to face with Kaidan. I pursed my lips, the biotic freezing up and staring down at me with a small amount of panic.

"Oh, Kim," he coughed out, giving me an awkward smile. "I'm just here to see Shepard," Kaidan spluttered. I raised my hands in surrender.

"I don't want to know, I don't care, I'm heading up to the cockpit," I announced. "Just do me a favor and burn the bedsheets when you're done." I pushed past the biotic, who was absolutely stunned by my reaction, and headed back up to the cockpit.

"Hey Jeff, what's our ETA?" I piped, peering over the pilots shoulder. He jumped slightly, and I snickered. "As you're not scrambling to shut some extranet tabs, I think it's safe to say that you're not watching porn."

"ETA to the Mu Relay's two hours, goofball."


Continue Reading Next Chapter

About Us

Inkitt is the world’s first reader-powered book publisher, offering an online community for talented authors and book lovers. Write captivating stories, read enchanting novels, and we’ll publish the books you love the most based on crowd wisdom.