Across the Universe


What amazed me most about the Citadel was how much diversity there was. As I walked through the brightly lit station, I saw many different races – which was an experience I’d never really gotten when I’d lived on Earth or when I was training in the Alliance. Asari, Turians, Salarians, Volus, Hanar… Elcor?! I couldn’t keep the awe off my face, and I was glad that nobody from the Normandy could see how ecstatic I was about just getting to see aliens up close. A permanent grin was stuck on my face as I practically skipped through the marketplace.

Unfortunately, my excitement also kept me from paying close attention to my surroundings, and I soon found myself barreling into a purple blur and tumbling to the floor.

“Keelah, I’m so sorry!” a soft, interestingly accented female voice cried. Looking up, I let out an awkward laugh as I stared straight into the mask of a quarian. “Are you alright?” the stranger asked me, holding out a three-fingered gloved hand to help me up. I quickly took it, pushing myself off the ground and onto my feet.

“No I’m sorry, I wasn’t paying attention to my surroundings,” I told her, my voice a slightly higher pitch than normal. “Wow, I’ve met a quarian!” I gushed. “My life is complete, so sorry for crashing into you, but it’s really nice to meet you!” While I couldn’t see her expression, I could sense that my starry eyed reaction surprised the quarian girl. I’d read that most of the Citadel races didn’t look too kindly upon quarian’s, but the extranet also had many articles sympathizing with the nomadic race.

“Wow I… I haven’t had many react to me that way,” she exclaimed, taking my hands in equal awe and childish delight. “My name is Tali’Zorah nar Rayya, it’s nice to meet you also.”

“I’m Kim, Kimberly Kogan,” I replied with a Cheshire grin. Glancing around, I noticed most of the other people in our vicinity were giving the two of us odd looks. The quarian girl I’d crashed into couldn’t be the only one of her kind on the Citadel, but I figured it would be safer for her if she had someone with her. My smile slowly fading, I tilted my head to the side and lowered my voice. “Tali, are you here alone?” I asked worriedly. Sabrina had been worried about me walking around alone, and I could only imagine how much worse it would be for someone whose race was so discriminated against.

Tali took a step away from me, rubbing her arm awkwardly as the people that were staring at us before returned to their business. “No, I’m not.”

Total. Lie.

I grinned, shrugging. “Well, um, do you want to walk together? I have some questions about quarians and to be honest this is my first time on the Citadel and I’m waiting for my sister to message me.” Uncertainly, Tali looked to the side. She didn’t know if she could trust me, I could understand that. After all, I was just some girl that had crashed into her that she’d never met before and now I was basically asking if she wanted to hang out with me as I nerded over her race. “And you don’t need to worry or anything, I’m an Alliance pilot, totally harmless,” I shrugged. “You could probably take me down in a fist fight too. I’m pretty wimpy compared to some of the other crew members!”

Tali’s head snapped back in my direction, the white lights that I assumed were her eyes widening. “You’re part of the Alliance?”

I shifted, now kind of uncomfortable myself. “Yeah, I’m a Flight Officer,” I explained, fumbling for my omni-tool and bringing up my identification. “See? Totally legit.”

“Oh, it’s not that I didn’t believe you or anything,” Tali assured. “You just don’t really look like a pilot. Oh Keelah! That didn’t come out right,” she rambled. If I could see her face, I was sure that she’d be quite red. Well, unless quarians turned a different color when they got embarrassed. Maybe they didn’t blush at all?

“Really, I just want to help,” I told her in a whisper. “No offense, but I don’t think that a lone quarian would be treated fairly on the Citadel.” Tali continued to seem tense, but she finally nodded.

“Well, I suppose we could walk together. For a little bit at least.” I absolutely beamed with joy. “Awesome! So, where are you headed?” I asked her, the two of us beginning to walk down a staircase to the lower markets. “I don’t really have any destination mapped out for myself exactly. But earlier I was searching the extranet and this place called Choras Den had a lot of good reviews.”

“I was actually planning on going there myself,” Tali stated cautiously. “You act rather carefree for someone in the military,” my new companion assessed.

I shrugged. “I’m still young,” was my rather weak explanation, but it seemed to satisfy the quarian; this was likely because she herself couldn’t have been any older than me. “And, well, I’m just a pilot. I don’t see all the same things that other soldiers do.”

“Don’t get me wrong, it’s refreshing to meet someone like you,” Tali told me honestly. “Most military are a lot less… open.” I took her compliment to heart, and would be lying if I said I didn’t feel at least a little bit proud.

“Thank you very much Tali.” Tali nodded. “When we get to Choras Den though, I’ll need a bit of time alone.”

“Not a problem, just don’t ditch me there without saying goodbye,” I replied easily. Tali nodded again, and we soon found ourselves inside the club. Asari danced all over the dimly lit club, and I felt a blush reach my cheeks seeing all the guys leering at them. “Please don’t leave me here Tali. I’m leaving when you do.”

Sensing my discomfort, Tali placed a gentle hand on my shoulder. “I’ll meet you at the bar once I’m done my business here.”

“Thanks Tali, you’re the best,” I told her with a sigh of relief. The two of us separated, Tali talking to a Krogan closer to the back of the club while I sat down at the bar. A human bartender with short orange hair and an outfit similar to the asari dancers smiled at me.

“Hey, I’m Jenna. Want anything to drink?” she asked me, friendly. That was expected of course though, if a bartender wasn’t hired for looks it was because of their people skills. Not that Jenna wasn’t a good looking girl, she really was. Just not really my type.

I grinned at her. “Water please.”

“You sure I can’t get you anything stronger?” she questioned me.

I guessed that not a lot of people came to Choras Den for water. “Rather not. Just waiting on a friend,” I explained.

She nodded. “One water then, coming right up,” Jenna told me with a charming grin. She turned away from me and reached for a glass. I opened up my omni-tool to send Sabrina an update on my location so she wouldn’t worry-

“Flight Officer Kogan!” Kaidan greeted, placing a hand on my head and smiling down at me. I scowled up at him and shook his hand off. “Sorry,” the man apologized sheepishly. Another hand was placed on my head, and turning I was able to see it was Sabrina, smirking.

“Don’t worry about it Lieutenant. Flight Officer Kogan here knows that she has that little sister quality that inspires us to do this.”

“Sabrina….” I warned.

“Also she’s short,” Sabrina stated.

I scoffed, shaking her off while Ashley and Kaidan attempted to hide their amusement. They were not doing a great job. “I’m five foot three,” I responded darkly. “Not that short. Shorter than the rest of you, sure, but not exactly the definition of short.”

“Is someone pouty because the bartender refused to serve her alcohol?” the commander teased.

I rolled my eyes. “Actually, I’m not here to drink. What are you doing here?” I asked.

Sabrina smiled. “Trying to get some information,” Sabrina replied. “Have you seen any C-sec officers around here?”

I raised my eyebrow. “Sabs, I don’t exactly want to look around this place. I’m kind of limiting my attention to the bottles of alcohol and the bartenders.”

Ashley snorted. “I don’t blame her, there’s some pretty creepy people hanging around here.”

“Well, we’ll see you later then,” Sabrina sighed. “We’re looking for some more evidence against Saren. Oh, and if you see some dead bodies laying around outside…” Jenna placed the glass of water in front of me and I gave her a small nod before turning back to my military friends.

“Tell me, how long did it take for Sarendippity-doo to send assassins after you?”

“About twenty minutes,” Shepard shrugged.

“Hmm, not bad,” I noted.

A short silence came between the four of us before Sabrina awkwardly spoke up. “…I should go,” Sabrina finally said.

I nodded my head, looking back at my glass of water and continuing my wait for Tali. Once I’d finished my glass, my Quarian friend approached. “How’d your business go?” I asked her with a smile.

“I’m supposed to meet someone else in a nearby alleyway in about an hour and a half,” she told me. “I’d appreciate sticking with you until then.”

“Hour and a half… Galactic standard time?” I questioned. Tali nodded. I began doing the math in my head. That’s 150 minutes, and each minute consists of 100 seconds, but all the seconds were half as long as a human second… so like, 50 seconds. “Ug, my head hurts,” I groaned. “My brain only uses human time, I might need to leave a bit earlier depending on when my commanding officers are done their business here.”

“That’s fine,” Tali replied. “Is there anywhere that you needed to go?”

“Well, I told my lieutenant that I’d grab some real food to snack on while we’re traveling… Are you hungry? Maybe we can find a shop that sells dextro based foods too,” I shrugged.

“That sounds nice, actually,” the quarian girl responded, a little surprised by my willingness to go out of my way to find a place where she could get food too. Quickly, I opened up the Citadel map on my omni-tool and did a quick search.

“There’s a small snack shop near here actually… Oh look! Dextro-Amino Friendly products available. Let’s go!” I cheered, taking one last look at the map before walking off in the direction of the shop. We were supposed to go through an alley to get to it, it was sort of tucked away. I sighed as I saw a few dead bodies outside the club, but my quarian companion paid them no mind. As we walked through the alleyway, Tali stopped me.

“This is where I’m supposed to meet with… someone,” Tali commented.

I glanced around. “Don’t you think it’s kind of weird that you’re meeting someone in a place like this?” I asked her seriously. “I mean, look at it. It’s not that well lit, there’s barely any cover if it turns into a shootout… Well, I guess there’s always those crates over there,” I pointed. “Better than nothing, but other than that it’s a clear shot if you run in the direction of any door.”

“I can take care of myself,” Tali told me.

I resisted the urge to roll my eyes. “Yeah, okay, but I’m just saying that I hope these people you’re meeting aren’t like…. Assassins or bounty hunters or something. I know that the two of us don’t really know each other all that well, but I’d certainly feel horrible if anything happened to you. Heck, we’ve been hanging together for over an hour now and already you’re my girl crush.”

“G-girl crush?” Tali stuttered. I giggled.

“Relax Tali, I’m just kidding around. Let’s go get some food!” I cheered, practically skipping ahead of my quarian companion. We got to the shop in a little under five minutes. A sign glowed above it, “Fausso Foods”. I pushed open the doors to be greeted by a slightly run down but still incredibly well stocked shop. The shelves were all on the walls, the chit reader on a counter in the center of the store. A turian woman stood behind the counter, purple paint on her face and an expression that I guessed was a Turian version of a smile.

“Welcome! Anything I can help the two of you with?” she asked. I smiled back at her, Tali standing beside me now.

“Can you point my friend here in the direction of the dextro-based foods? Oh, and do you have any Earth imports?”

The Turian nodded, pointing to the right side of the store which I noted had purple flooring while the other side was green. “Purple side is dextro-friendly, green is levo-friendly,” she explained. “Earth imports are in the back corner.”

“Thank you,” I nodded, walking to the back corner while Tali stood at the front awkwardly. “Grab whatever you want Tali, my treat,” I told her. She nodded and headed over to the dextro side. Scanning the shelves, I inwardly swooned at what they had available. I hadn’t seen an actual can of Pringles since I lived on Earth. Looking up in thought, I felt a bit conflicted before finally pressing the call button on my omni-tool. Joker popped up in hologram form and I managed a small smile. “Hi.”

“What’s up CP?” he asked, sounding incredibly bored.

“I’m getting snacks like you asked,” I replied. “But I don’t know what you like. They have a good selection of Earth imports,” I told him, pulling up a container and reading the name. “Like… Chips Ahoy. And Pringles. Oh, and they have some candy here too… Um, Airheads?”

“I didn’t know they named a candy after you,” the pilot commented.

I gave him a puzzled expression. “Huh?” And then it clicked in. “Wow, nice one Flight Lieutenant,” I grumbled. “Hilarious. It’s so funny that I just can’t even laugh.”

"Thanks,” Joker smirked. “Anyways, I’m not picky. As long as it’s real food it should be fine.”

“Kay,” I dropped the call and grabbed a couple Pringles, some cookies, chocolate, Airheads, and reached above me to grab something from the top shelf. When I saw what they were, I smirked. And then I started laughing evilly. Tali and the storekeeper watched me with equal amounts of unease and worry before I realized what I’d been doing and stopped. Taking two little boxes, I carried my snacks to the counter.

The storekeeper picked up the box I’d been cackling over and chuckled. “Ah, excellent choice,” the turian stated. I grinned sheepishly, Tali coming over with a simple dextro paste. “Will this be all for you?”

“You sure you don’t want anything else Tali?” I asked, tilting my head to the side.

“No, no, this is fine,” she answered.

I shrugged at her before turning back at the storekeeper. “That’s all,” I nodded. The turian nodded back, neatly organizing the food into a plastic bag while I tapped my credit chit and paid.

“Please come again!” the turian beamed at us, handing me the bag.

I dug through the bag for Tali’s dextro paste and handed it to her as we exited the store. “Sorry if my cackling embarrassed you,” I awkwardly apologized.

Tali giggled a bit and shook her head. “It’s fine. Did you have anything else you wanted to do? We still have a lot of time,” Tali noted, checking the time on her omni-tool. I shrugged.

“Want to just walk around the wards? This is my first time on the Citadel after all… I’d love to look around!"

So we walked. Really, the entire layout of the Citadel felt like a maze to me. Then we got to the restaurant section of the wards, and there was a giant clear glass window where we could see a fishtank floor, filled with fish. It was part of a restaurant called Ryuusei’s Sushi Bar. “That place looks awesome!” I gushed.

Tali admired the fish from behind me as I childishly ran up to the window. A waiter gave me a disapproving look, and I took a few steps back. “They’d never let me in,” Tali sighed dreamily. “But one day, when I’ve proved my worth to the galaxy, I’ll go there for dinner.”

“I’ll go with you,” I decided. “We’ll drink to your worth.”

A peaceful silence came over us before Tali replied. “It’s a promise then.”

We stayed there for a little longer, with me making funny faces at the waiters that gave Tali and I dirty looks before she had to head back to the alley. “I’ll walk you there,” I told her. “Want me to stick with you? It is a pretty dark and scary alleyway!” I could sense a bit of uncertainty coming off of Tali before she nodded.

“No harm in having back up.”

We entered the alley and saw a turian with two armored salarian guards. I gulped. Yep, it was probably a trap. Tali slowed her pace and turned her head slightly to look at me. “Do you have a weapon?” she questioned me. I shook my head, no. She nodded. “When I give the signal, dive behind those boxes you were pointing at earlier.”

Inwardly I hated on myself for offering to be back up when I didn’t even have a weapon on me. I stood slightly behind Tali, stopping when she did.

“Did you bring it?” the turian asked. His face paint looked frightening.

“Where’s the Shadow Broker? Where’s Fist?” Tali asked them, voice completely calm. I glared at the turian as he ran his talon down Tali’s side. It made me just a bit angry.

“They’ll be here, where’s the evidence?” the turian pressed.

Tali slapped his arm away. “No way. The deals off.” The turian stepped back. Tali threw something at the two Salarians. “Now!” she shouted at me, the two of us running for cover. She pulled out her gun and started firing, and soon all our attackers went down thanks to some unknown force. I peeked out from me and Tali’s cover and grinned when I saw who’d helped us.

“Didn’t I tell you to stay out of trouble?” Sabrina scolded me, holstering her gun. A Turian and a Krogan stood behind her now instead of Kaidan and Ashley.

I shrugged, rubbing the back of my head. “Sorry Sabs.”

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