Wednesday, 25 September 2013

A Child's Dream - Part 7

1 Year later...

Emi still remembered the night where Gerald had told her his true purpose of being with the ambassadorial group, and had tried her best to forget it. It helped, however, that all the team had done for the past year was party.
She still had not been drunk again, though.
It was a celebration called 'Eastar' or something similar... Easter, maybe? She didn't see the point in it. There were a lot of people eating chocolate because a person who lived nearly three thousand years before seemed to have some sort of technology alike to what the Quarians had before.
Quarians worshipped ancestors instead of gods, and they had made a digital imprint of a consciousness before they died and uploaded them into a single database. The Geth had destroyed it, however.
So for what she could understand, a man called Jeezuz or something had technology that could upload his consciousness when he died. And he must have had some sort of drone because apparently he moved a giant rock. That or he had a pet Thresher Maw.
She still didn't understand how that technology could have existed in that rather... primitive, time. But oh well. It must have been some sort of human mythology.
They were having yet another party to celebrate it. The group had even bought her a large Turian 'Easter Eggg' or something. How many G's did Eggg have?
She got lost with the human language sometimes. It just sometimes sounded like a bunch of grunts to her.
The chocolate was... interesting. Slightly addictive too. It was sweet and silky, smooth and soft. She definitely liked it though.
The party was being held in a room at the back of a restaurant. Something called a "function room".
She was starting to worry about the physical health of the people in the ambassadorial group. Drinking so much alcohol and eating so much... well, the food wasn't exactly as healthy as vitamin paste, could not have been good for them. But none of them were showing any ill health effects. Their stomachs weren't even getting larger.
The group was talking amongst themselves at the party, but Emi was fed up so took out her book and began reading. She was on the last page of the book... again. After reading it another ten times in the past year.
"Keli'Ria's hands were taken by the Commander. He squeezed them gently as they looked across the beautiful horizon. The sun was rising above the buildings, casting orange and pink light across the sky.
The End."
Every time she finished the book she wanted love even more. In the previous year she had still not met anyone who she loved or loved her. It seemed Gerald was just pretending - he added some flirting every now and then but most of the time he was just ignoring her. But his eyes never left her, and was looking around the room all the time - as if he was watching out for any possible dangers.
How could she have not noticed it before?
Even though it unnerved her, she tried her best to ignore it. It wasn't causing any harm to her, in fact he was protecting her anyway so...
There was a groaning noise from outside the building that derailed her train of thought. Everyone turned their heads and began looking out of the window at whatever the noise was.
Emi stood up and walked over to the window and saw a large black shape that had landed. It had four giant legs that held a body away from the ground. Two panels on the front of the main part folded outwards, revealing a glowing red light within.
The group looked in shock, but Emi had no idea what it was. Some kind of aerial display?
There was a discharge of energy and a red beam tore through several buildings on the horizon.
It was certainly not an aerial display.
The Earth was under attack.

Saturday, 21 September 2013

A Child's Dream - Part 6

"... I feel like a tourist," Emi pointed out as she gazed at the mass array of clothes set upon rails that covered the entire floor of the shop. Rachel decided to wait with her, but the rest of the group had scattered across the shop and were clearly out of talking distance.
"Because you are a tourist, dear," grinned Rachel, "You come from a different part of the galaxy, I think that gives you the right to look around."
"Oh, and by the way," Rachel added, "Earlier when you asked whether getting you to your apartment was the only thing we'd done, what did you mean?"
Emi blushed, "... It doesn't matter..."
"Come on, tell me. I'll get it out of you eventually."
"... I'd still rather not tell you..."
"Ok, in ten seconds I'm buying you something and making you wear it over your suit. Maybe get you one of those 'I'm a geek' transfers."
"... I'm not a geek... I know nothing about technology..."
"Just tell me, Emi."
"... Fine..."
"The clock is ticking..." Rachel grinned.
"... I... I... I... thought I had slept with you... like when I was drunk... I couldn't remember a thing then you sent me a message saying how awesome last night was and how great I had been and..."
"I... Uh... I think you got the wrong end of the stick... I meant because you were funny... You were singing random songs and... not... like... yeah..."
Rachel's cheeks looked to grow as hot as Emi's felt.
"... I... I'm sorry..." Emi said, "... I didn't mean to... It just seemed like the only option..."
"I wasn't exactly drunk, though..." Rachel pointed out, "... I didn't even have a hangover the day after. I wouldn't do anything like that... No offense."
"... I wouldn't, either... I'm so glad nothing happened... It'd have been so embarrassing..."
"Almost definitely..." said Rachel, "But I never knew you were... that way inclined?"
"... Are you asking if I like human females? Because... It's hard to explain... If I had the choice I'd prefer to be in a relationship with a man but..." she shrugged, "... Sorry for the misunderstanding..."
"It's fine, really," Rachel said, "I'd have probably thought the same if I was in your position."
Emi pointed at a nearby skirt. It was black in colour and by the shape of it, couldn't even fit over her hips. And the length of it was hardly decent. She was smaller than most humans, and it would have probably just reached her thigh...
"... Is that what humans wear?" she asked Rachel.
Rachel shook her head, "Not most of us, no."
"... At least we Quarians dress more suitably..." Emi pointed out, "... We have a suit and a skirt... And the skirt finishes part way down my thigh, not at the top like that does..."
"You have no choice but to keep the suit on, though," Rachel responded, "If we were the same we would dress suitably too."
"... That is a good point. But we don't dress in skirts that finish where your leg starts... What are the point in them? And a really short short..."
"Shorts," Rachel corrected her, "It's plural in English."
"... That makes no sense either... There's only one of them..."
"But two parts."
"... They're made out of the same material..."
"But there's two parts. Two legs, see?"
"... There is no leg part, just a hole where they're supposed to be..."
Rachel sighed, "You know what I mean. By the way, Gerald is hosting a party. Tonight. And he asked me to ask you to come."
"... Will there be alcohol?"
"Most probably."
"... I don't want to go..."
"You don't have to drink it. We can take you some Turian apple juice or something."
"... I'll think about it..."
"I think Gerald likes you, anyway."
"... Likes me?"
"Yeah you know... Fancy?"
"... He fancies me? Why?"
"I'm guessing it has something to do with your hips," she said, "He can barely take his eyes off them."
"... But I don't fancy him... and the way he looked at my hips scared me a little..." Emi sighed, "... This is going to be horrible..."
"Don't worry, I'll be there," grinned Rachel, "Laughing, probably."

The party was being held in Gerald's apartment, which, it seemed, was only a floor above hers. As soon as she and Rachel walked into his apartment, the rhythmic thudding of a drum beat reached Emi's ears - muted slightly by her helmet, but still loud.
"Hey Emi," Gerald said, "Hey Rachel. Nice of you both to come."
"Well how could we resist?" Rachel grinned, "You know how much Emi loves to party."
"... Please don't remind me..." Emi grumbled.
Gerald laughed, "If you want to sit down, there is some food waiting."
"... Any suitable for me?" she asked. She didn't want to poison herself on human food. All food apart from Turian and Quarian were toxic to her, after all.
"Oh shit. Sorry... totally forgot."
Emi shrugged, "... It's fine... I've brought my own drink anyway..."
Gerald gestured his hand towards a long table that was full of different food and drink. She could see cheese, wine, bread, circular dishes with pieces of meat and cheese on that she hadn't got a clue what they were...
As they sat down, Toby and the rest of the group who had gone to play golf appeared through the doorway, wearing an odd assortment of colourful clothing. She arched her eyebrow in her helmet, both amused and curious about why they were wearing such ridiculous things. They seemed odd, humans, but she didn't mind. They definitely had weird tastes in fashion, too.
Gerald went and greeted the group and a few moments later they came and sat at the table alongside them. The girls who had joined Emi and Rachel with doing shopping also walked in.
Soon after the food and drink started being demolished. Emi on the other hand took out a small carton of Turian Apple Juice from the pouch on her skirt, pierced the small silver circle that marked the entrance to the drink with the straw, and slotted it into the emergency induction port that was situated at the bottom of her helmet. The emergency induction port was set upon a band of silver-gold metal that ran near her chin. It was a small circular device with a blue centre, and it pulsed every time she talked.
She took a drink from the juice and felt the cool, slightly tangy liquid fill her mouth. It tasted weird, admittedly, though it did taste better than the vitamin paste. She pulled the straw away from her helmet and the induction port sealed automatically to prevent any unwanted contaminants entering her body.
Gerald sat down next to her.
"Something that I've realised," Amy pointed out, "Is that the ambassadorial club is pointless. No one even comes to check that we're there. And we get paid no matter what so... anyone up for a full year of partying and fun?"
"Hell yes," grinned Tara, "A lot better than discussing politics."
Partying without alcohol was probably more fun than with, Emi thought, but she still preferred to talk about the ambassador-things... it was more her style. She wasn't someone who enjoyed going out to parties. But she decided not to say anything. Unless something bad happened. Then she would probably say it a lot.
Rachel smiled, "I doubt Emi here could stand a full year of parties."
"... That wasn't my fault..." she grumbled, "... I'll never be getting drunk again..."

The party continued for several hours. There was talking, laughing, flirting, food, drink. Tara was the only drunk one, this time. Watching a drunk person felt a lot better than being drunk yourself, Emi realised. However, it seemed Tara could cope with alcohol a bit better than she could and wasn't singing, or complaining. She was just looking rather dizzy.
As she inserted the straw into her induction port and took another drink - lowering the capacity of the carton of juice down to perhaps half, she felt an unfamiliar sensation on her leg. It was almost like something was putting pressure on it.
Emi looked down at herself underneath the table and saw a hand resting on her knee. Gerald's.
She gently knocked his hand away, but it came back a moment later.
"... Please stop..." she whispered to him.
"I thought you loved humans," he whispered back, barely audible above the other conversations that were taking place across the table.
"... I do... But... I want to be with someone who I love and I don't... feel that way about you..."
"Maybe you could learn to," he smiled.
"... I don't want to..."
Her heart started beating faster and faster. She was starting to get scared. There was something about his smile that unnerved her.
"But I want you to," he said.
"... What?"
There was something not right. He was no longer the mild-mannered man that she had met and talked to before. There was something... different. Wrong, almost.
"I work for Cerberus," he said with a grin, "That's something you should learn about us. We appear where you least expect us. Tell anyone and I'll kill everyone in this room. Don't worry though, I don't actually feel anything for you. I'm just... keeping an eye out. It's a good disguise."
"... Like protecting me?"
"Exactly like protecting you."
"... Why would you protect me? You hate aliens..."
"Because a series of events are going to be set in motion. Maybe in a second, maybe in a month, maybe in a year - none of us know. But we have planned for it. All will become clear, trust me."
"So!" exclaimed Tara, pointing at Emi, "What am I?"
Emi stumbled over her words. She had just been told someone who she knew was actually working for Cerberus and he had implied that she was somehow connected with their plans. It was... not exactly something that was expected.
"... A human?" Emi questioned.
"Or do I just appear to be a human? I could be an Asari."
"Asari are blue, Tara," Rachel sighed.
Gerald leaned in to whisper to her again, "I have a pistol. Remember what I said. Tell anyone and I will know."
"... Ok... But why tell me? I have nothing against you... never encountered anyone from Cerberus before I just know they hate aliens... you seem nice enough anyway... until now, in any case..."
"Because you will know who to come to when the shit hits the fan," he grinned.

Sunday, 15 September 2013

Quarian Model - Before The Build

This is a model of a Quarian I found on the internet and have printed out... Yes, there are a LOT of pieces... And it's very complex. I will be starting to build it sometime soon... Maybe next weekend.

Thursday, 12 September 2013

A Child's Dream - Part 5

Emi woke up, but did not open her eyes. Pain filled her head and coloured lights were flashing in front of her blackened vision. It felt as if her entire body was hurting, being stabbed by a thousand boiling hot needles.
She rolled over, but the pain did not stop. So she obviously had not fallen asleep on a bed of spikes or something similar.
Emi slowly opened her eyes, "... Keelah..." she grumbled as her eyes started aching. There was not a part of her that didn't feel as if she had been dragged backwards through the stomach of a Thresher Maw.
She groaned in pain and wondered what on Earth had caused her to be hurting so much. Last night she had... talked to the people in the ambassadorial group then they had gone out... somewhere. But she couldn't for the life of her remember where she had been or what she had done.
Her mouth tasted foul. Bitter, even.
She quickly closed her eyes again due to the pain, but it didn't stop. She was hurting all over, with a massive fuzzy mess where the memories from last night should have been.
... Where was she?
She grimaced at the pain but forced herself to open her eyes again and sat up in bed. Despite the pain her body felt, the emotional hurt felt a lot more powerful. As it always did.
Emi was laying in a bed in a room. She had no idea where it was. It looked reasonable, though. The colours were nice - a gentle cream colour for the walls and the carpet had a slight tint of green. The bed seemed comfy, too. She could feel the springs in the mattress through her suit.
Her environment suit recognised that the air in the apartment contained not a single germ. Literally nothing. The only thing that was alive in the room was her.
Emi's Omni-tool was flashing so she activated it. The orange hologram flared into life and it nearly blinded her. She yelped and waited for her eyes to adjust.
Even though Quarian eyes were luminous - they created a chemical that made them glow - her eyes were still sensitive to other sources of light. Even more so as her eyes were hurting already.
It was a message from Rachel.
"Good morning! If you come across to the road back to the Meeting Room we'll see you there. It was awesome last night. You were great! - Rachel"
... Oh keelah. What had she done? Why couldn't she remember? Had she had her mind wiped? How did she get in the apartment?
She hoped to her ancestors that she had not done anything stupid. She did love humans, after all... Maybe she herself was blocking it out, subconsciously.
... wait.
Rachel had said the night had been 'awesome'... oh keelah what had she done? Please don't say she... with...
She swallowed.
"Please..." she begged herself, "... Please don't say you slept with Rachel..."
She would never forgive herself if she had. She loved humans, yes... But she promised herself not to do anything of the sort until she found someone who she loved...
It would have certainly explained why the room had no germs in, if it had already been decontaminated... But there was only one way to find out what had happened... She'd have to go and ask... But what if she was wrong? What if she made a fool of herself by asking whether she and Rachel had...
No. She'd walk in the Meeting Room and just ask everyone what had happened. It would be the safest thing to do and she'd find out what actually happened... no matter how embarrassing.
Why would she have slept with another girl, anyway? She, for sure, preferred the male of the species... But maybe if she had been drunk... Or maybe she had been drugged...
Fear overwhelmed her.
She climbed out of bed, groaning in pain from her fragile joints as they felt as if they were twice as heavy as normal, and had been hit several time by a hammer. Or something similar.
She disliked all the pain... It was like a war raging within her. Her blood felt to be on fire as it pumped around her body. The emotional pain of being without a lover, the physical pain from her... whatever had happened the night before, and the stab of guilt she felt for if she had done something actually bad.
She climbed to her feet, grimacing at the effort. Emi felt her suit's cleaning system activate and her skin was blasted by wave after wave of warm water. She giggled, as she always did. The warmth helped her physical pain. Almost soothing it. The sensation relaxed her and a few moments later, her suit's heating application activated. Not only did it dry her skin, but it also dissipated the water into the air as vapour.
Unfortunately, however, it didn't stop her heart aching. Nor her doubts and worries about what she could not remember.
She figured she had been drunk. The bad taste would fit, as would the fact she couldn't remember a thing. And her pain? A hangover. But as for what had happened...
She tried not to think about it until she'd know for sure.
After she was sure all the water had gone from inside her suit, Emi quickly used a cloth to wipe down the outside of it. Despite how she was feeling, she still smiled at the sensation of something running over her suit.
When she was finished, and her black and purple environment suit was almost shining, she pressed the circular hologram in the middle of the locking mechanism. She waited for a moment before it hissed open.
The light outside was almost blinding. She let out a string of Quarian curses and used her hand to try and filter the light away from her helmet.
The door slid shut behind her and she stepped out, grimacing more with every step she took.
She never realised it was so noisy. The birdsong in the trees hurt her ears, the shuttles that passed overhead almost deafened her and she couldn't help but yelping in pain as someone said good morning to her.
She crossed the road to the building that Gerald had taken her to. The one where she had met the ones of the ambassadorial club.
She pushed the door open slowly and managed to navigate herself back to the Meeting Room.
"Hello Emi," said Amy, "It's so nice of you to finally join us."
Emi squealed, "... Please not so loud... And I'm sorry I was... What happened last night?"
Rachel laughed, "You don't remember?"
Oh keelah oh keelah...
She shook her head, "... No..."
"We all got drunk," Tara pointed out, "But you had a glass of Turian wine and was absolutely pissed. You said some random things, fell off your chair, then Rachel and Rebecca took you home."
There were two? Keelah, keelah, keelah, keelah...
 "We managed to get you into your apartment then left," Rebecca shrugged, "Then I went to sleep."
"... That was it?"
Rachel nodded, "Of course. We weren't going to read you a bed time story."
She blushed. She had been very stupid. Emi kind of knew, even when drunk, she wouldn't do anything like... that.
Or at least she hoped so.
Luckily her helmet hid her face, so she sat down and the discussions began.
"Today will be the first day of our discussions," Amy said, "I will propose a hypothesis and you will have to discuss it. That is how it normally works," she added for Emi's benefit, "Today we will be discussing the military power that the combined forces of the Alliance and the Migrant Fleet would have if they worked together. Gerald, start us off."
Gerald cleared his throat, "The Alliance is already one of the most powerful military assets in the galaxy. But the Quarians, however, have the largest fleet. They could be... almost unstoppable. But they choose not to be. Why?"
Emi shrugged, "... We're not like that... Everyone thinks we are after what happened with the Geth... To be honest, we're more bothered about trying to make the Flotilla continue rather than fighting. Yes, there is still a war, but we're only pumping a small amount of ships into it... I think. Or at least that's what I heard..."
"But if the Alliance and the Quarians were to work together, we could provide great help in the fight against the Reapers, which are due to return any day now."
"... Come on," said Rachel, "Everyone knows they don't exist."
"So tell me why the Normandy SR-2 just crossed into Collector space, hm? Something had been abducting human colonies."
"The Normandy was flying Cerberus colours. And no one ever knows what Cerberus are up to," argued Rebecca.
"... What's the 'Normandy'?" Emi asked.
"The Normandy SR-2? One of the most legendary frigates of all time?" Gerald questioned.
"... I've never heard of it..."
"It's captain is Commander Shepard. Heard of him?"
"... No..."
Gerald sighed, "Commander Shepard is one of the greatest Alliance heroes of all time. He saved the Citadel from the Geth, destroyed the Reaper called Sovereign, then the Normandy SR-1 was taken out by a Collector ship. He was rebuilt by Cerberus and then started working with them. But I'm sure he'll come back to the Alliance. Eventually."

The conversation drifted in and out of topic. The point, she realised, to politics, was that it didn't matter what you said, as long as you had something to say. She had heard lies about the Geth being thrown around. She corrected them, of course, but the majority of the things the humans were saying weren't true.
She didn't understand the philosophy behind it. They were discussing things that weren't true for no reason... but she was enjoying it. It wasn't all work. She enjoyed discussing things with the human ambassadorial people.
Soon after an hour of discussion had passed, the conversation had swapped to what happened the night before.
"You were hilarious," Rachel pointed out, "But a bit of advice, never have any wine again."
"... I honestly never will... I felt horrible... Still do..."
"Happens to everyone the first time," said Tara, "Don't worry you'll get used to it."
"... I'm not sure I want to... Next time we go out, could I have a glass of water or something?"
"... Though I might make the night exciting with a biscuit every now and then..."
"You don't have a good idea of how to have fun, do you?" Gerald grinned.
"... It's not that, it's just..."
"What do you find fun, Emi?" Rachel asked. She was frowning slightly, perhaps at her dislike of alcohol. Her forehead was creased, in any case.
"... I like reading."
"Favourite book?"
"... A Child's Dream by C.J. Harriet... It's so good..."
"... If I'm not mistaken," Amy said, "Isn't that the one with... Keli'Ria? With the Commander too?"
Emi nodded, "... That's the one... Have you read it?"
"Read it? The author is my best friend!"
"... Seriously?"
"Yeah! Catherine Jennifer Harriet. We used to go to school together and have been friends for about twenty years now."
"... Oh keelah... Does that mean...? You could...?"
"You want to meet her?"
Emi nodded.
"I'll message her when we're done. I did actually like the story. What was your favourite chapter?"
Emi smiled in her helmet. A lot. She was going to meet the author of her favourite book! On Earth! Her two favourite things at the same time... It was amazing.
Then Amy's question clicked in her mind and she couldn't help but blushing. "... Chapter thirty five..." she said, embarrassed, "... It's a good chapter..."
"Now if you're quite done talking about a romantic book," Toby sighed, "I'd like to crack on."
"But... The official starting date isn't until next week," said Rebecca, "We don't even have to be here... I say we go out. Take Emi on her first shopping trip!"
Gerald nodded, slowly, "We'll go finish playing Golf then. Come on Toby, see if you can get a par."

"... What are we doing here?" asked Emi as she looked into the shop window. Mannequins based on Quarian anatomy were stood completely still behind the glass, wearing different accessories for their environment suits.
"Hey," Tara responded, "This is the only Quarian shop in the northern hemisphere. You should be glad it's only up our road."
"... What does it sell?" Emi questioned nervously.
"Style items for Quarians," grinned Amy, "Come on."

The shop was full, seriously full, of different attachments to environment suits and other accessories. Transfers to make an environment suit look colourful, bracelets, necklaces... the list was nearly endless.
She decided to buy a beautiful gold ring with a small, but pretty, blue gemstone on. The stone reflected the light and cast rainbow colours all over the room. It was great. The gem felt smooth and yet angled as she gently stroked it with her thumb. It fit perfectly on her finger.
It would only cost her... three thousand credits. Keelah... that was a lot... but it was so beautiful. She couldn't resist... how much money did she have? Her account on Migrant Fleet said... twelve thousand credits? But she was being paid for being an ambassador so maybe a little bit more had been added. So she had more than enough to buy the lovely jewel.
But what else should she buy? There was so many things to choose from... skirts to fit on the lower half of her environment suit, patterned visors, a few suit programmes that sounded interesting...
Her first time shopping and she felt like she could spend all of her credits in a single place. There was so much choice.
She bought a replacement skirt - patterned with the colours dark purple and black, alike to the one she currently wore. It would work as a spare.
"... What kind of shops do you normally go in?" Emi asked Rachel, "I doubt you go shopping for Quarians..."
Rachel shrugged, "No specific shops, actually. Lots of different ones."
"... Would you like to go to some? I mean... I love it here but it isn't Earth fashion... I want to find out what humans wear..."
"Sure. Once you pay for your ring and skirt we'll go to Savannah, one of my favourite clothes shops. It's just across the road."
Emi nodded enthusiastically and went to the terminal to pay for her ring and her skirt. It came to a grand total of three thousand, two hundred credits. It was expensive, but nice. As soon as she had paid, she fitted the ring on to her finger. A bag was automatically dispatched from the terminal for her skirt. She put the item of clothing into the bag, the handles of which fit very nicely in the palm of her hand.
"Let's go," Rachel said, then called to the rest of the group, "Come on!"

Tuesday, 10 September 2013

SP/ME Crossover

For a single story (in no way connected with Emi and Thomson), I will be exploring what could happen if the Reapers attacked Dublin in the Skulduggery Pleasant universe.

Skulduggery walked out of the Sanctuary in Roarhaven, immediately tapping his collar bones and making new, waxy skin flow over his face.
He checked his look quickly in the wing mirror of a black jeep that was parked next to the side of the road.
For once he was not happy. He was ginger. And had an uneven skin tone, which was almost like a full gradient across his face. His eyes were green and he admitted to himself that he looked like an absolute idiot.
But at least his hat and suit were cool. As for the facade, he'd have to go and see China Sorrows after he had met up with Valkyrie, to consult with her about an interesting vision the Sensitives were having about some giant metal machines destroying the planet.
They had investigated, but had so far got blanks. There was no reason to suggest that a being like that could even exist, let alone that they were posing an immediate threat to well... everyone.
He unlocked the door of the Bentley and climbed into the driver's seat. Valkyrie immediately came into view behind the vehicle after questioning another Sensitive. She strolled to the passenger's door and opened it, and joined Skulduggery in the interior.
"Same vision again?" he asked her, confirming something that he already suspected, "Giant black machines?"
She nodded, "With lasers. Don't forget the lasers."
"Any other information?"
"Nope. Nothing. They just said explosions and stuff. But we can beat them, right?"
"Well knowing is half the battle:"
"And we know nothing."
"It'll be a short battle."
"Well I'll think of an amazing plan just in time to save the world. And everyone will live."
"That's your plan? What if you don't?"
"Then the world is doomed. But as I said, they probably don't exist. Now, coffee?"
"You don't drink coffee. It'd go down through your ribs."
"You can drink a coffee if you want."
"You know I hate coffee."
"But you could have changed your mind. You always change your mind."
"Not with coffee."
Skulduggery started up the engine, "So where next? Check the map."
Valkyrie pulled out a crumpled map from her jacket pocket and unfolded it, revealing a complex pattern of roads. There were several black marks that indicated Sensitives in the local area. It had been issued to him by the Sanctuary.
"Uh... Hove Lane?"
"Right. We'd better-"
A metal object crashed into the ground in front of them. Debris was scattered everywhere. The looming creature dwarfed every building that there was to see. Neither he or Valkyrie could see the top of it.
"Aha," Skulduggery pointed out, "So they are real."
A synthetic groan was audible from the giant machine as two separate pieces of its armoured shell folded back to reveal a spinning orb of red light.
"That can't be good..." Valkyrie sighed. They got out of the car.
Skulduggery clicked his fingers and thrust his gloved hands outwards. Twin jets of fire scorched out of his palms and hit the Reaper on one of its large metal legs.
It turned towards them.
"Run!" he yelled at Valkyrie as its energy cannon discharged. The red beam carved a giant crevice in whatever it touched. The road, several buildings... The Bentley. The creature sustained the power for a moment before cutting it out. He heard buildings crumble, car alarms whining, people screaming... Roarhaven was full of activity as sorcerers ran for their lives. Even the most powerful ones.
There was a sigh from behind them, and an instantly recognisable female voice said, "Can't you two ever just have a normal day?"
"I'm sorry China, but normal isn't in my dictionary," Skulduggery responded, "And that thing just destroyed my Bentley."
"It'll destroy us if you don't think of something quickly!" Valkyrie tried to shout above the noise.
"Let me," China said with a grin, swiping hair from her face. She tapped two sigils on her arms, which immediately started glowing electric blue. She stepped a few metres in front of Skulduggery to be successfully launch an attack. A blue beam of energy struck the Reaper's leg again. To no effect.
It discharged another blast of energy from its glowing orb and China was struck directly. It was almost like she suddenly ceased to be. One moment she was launching attack, there was a red flash, then she was gone. Along with most of the road.
Valkyrie stared for a moment in shock. It had just taken her out so easily! She had protection against all sorts of attacks but it had just annihilated her. She couldn't believe it.
She sprinted forwards, fireball in hand. Valkyrie pushed the air and sent herself up higher than the low-level shops that had been set on the street.
The red energy beam swiped across the air, ripping her apart and tearing a cavern into a small housing estate, which crumbled due to the damage.
Skulduggery felt cold anger rise up into his stomach. His partner... And China, had just been killed. They hadn't even had time to scream. It wasn't just a killing. It was pest control. Not even that.
The red orb started glowing brighter.
He had no chance to even move before he and half of Dublin were taken out in a beam sustained for no longer than five seconds.

Monday, 9 September 2013

A Child's Dream - Part 4

"We have now entered Earth's atmosphere," said the virtual intelligence that ran the systems on board the shuttle, "There is an incoming transmission from Cal. Connecting..."
The holographic projection of the captain of the starship flickered into view in front of her seat.
"Emi'Derik," he said.
"... What? Is there something wrong?"
"There's been a... change of plan. We need a representative for Earth since the Flotilla will be passing through the Alliance System in a few years. We want you to be our ambassador."
She sighed. Quarians cared little for what other races thought of them - mainly because they had no choice. This meant that they hadn't got any other job for her to do due to her lack in skills in technology and instead appointed her for something completely unnecessary just so she wouldn't use up space that could be used for someone who actually gave something to the Fleet.
She was a waste of space, in other words.
Emi sighed again, "... Ok. Will I ever get to return?"
Cal shook his head, "I'm afraid not. Goodbye and good luck Emi'Derik. Keelah se'lai. Cal out."
The hologram flickered then disappeared entirely.
She sighed again. She had no skills when it came to being an ambassador. She had no experience, no nothing. But at least she knew who the ambassadors for Earth were. It was one of the things that the book 'A Child's Dream' had taught her. She hoped it was accurate.
"Shuttle marked as ambassadorial vessel," said the VI, "Representatives will meet you upon landing."
At least they had sorted that out for her.

Emi stepped off the shuttle as soon as it landed. It opened automatically and she leaped out of her seat and crossed the space between her chair and the exit in a flash. She was so excited! She was actually on Earth!
The landscape that stood before her was amazing in comparison to the cramped conditions on the Quarian starship. Beautiful, blue sky, green grass, white stone buildings... it was just how she imagined it. She smiled to herself inside her helmet and couldn't stop a "Keelah..." escaping her lips. She was completely in awe of how amazing the planet was, and she had only taken one step.
There was a man waiting for her. One thing that she did know about the human aging cycles was the fact that they got wrinkles on their skin as they got older. The man had several, so she would put him about middle aged. His hair was brown, though was greying slightly in the centre. He wore a black suit.
"Emi'Derik," he said, "Oh wow... I am Gerald Hopkins, representative of London."
"... Wow?" she questioned. No one had ever said wow whilst meeting her before...
He pointed at her, "You're more... curved, than I expected."
She explored her hips with her hands, smiling slightly at the sensation. She didn't have curves that were that impressive. Normal for a Quarian, but then again she heard that human women tended to have smaller hips than Quarians. So maybe to him it was uncommon.
"... Thanks... I think..." she responded. Emi hoped that it hadn't provoked him to say anything else... Pointing out the fact that she had curves wasn't something she was comfortable with anyway, and she didn't want him to do any more. She felt slightly scared.
"If you would kindly follow me I will show you the rest of the troop."
Despite the sense of choice that he had portrayed, he gestured for her to follow him then set off walking towards a medium sized stone building with a red, blue and white flag fluttering above it in the wind. The wind that she could feel ever so slightly on her face.
Gerald stopped just outside the door and waved his hand to tell her to go inside, and as she passed in front of him she saw him taking a glancing look at her hips.
If it wasn't for the fact being an ambassador meant to create peace, she'd have called him a bosh'tet. She did her best to hide the curve of her hips from his view but it wasn't easy in such a tight environment suit.
The hallway she found herself in had a red carpet. Pictures of people lined the walls, most in black and white. They were surrounded by striped wallpaper with a slight gloss finish that gently reflected the light.
"It's the next door on your right," Gerald pointed out, looking up from her rear end. She shot him a glare. But it didn't have the desired effect through her helmet. He had no right to be looking at her like that. She didn't like it.
Emi opened the door and stepped into another room, this one labelled "Meeting Room". It was a small room with several chairs arranged in a circle around the edges. The room was in colour coordination with the hallway.
All but two of the chairs were occupied. There were five men and five women, all wearing suits or dark coloured dresses.
"Hello," said one of the women, "Please have a seat and we can get the discussions underway."
She sat down on one of the spare chairs, and Gerald occupied the one next to her. The cushioning on the chair felt rough but spongy against her environment suit, and she smiled slightly.
"Today will be all about introducing ourselves and what we're trying to do. To get to know each other a bit better," said the same woman, "Then the discussions will go underway tomorrow."
Emi nodded.
"So," she continued, "My name is Amy Witan and I'm the head of this establishment. One thing you should know is the fact that this isn't actually influencing the politics of this planet. We all are politicians, but it's more about discussing what is possible and what we could do, rather than taking action. This will make sure that we all know what we could accomplish before the Migrant Fleet arrives." She nodded at Emi, "Your turn."
"... I... I'm Emi'Derik nar Neeah," she told group, using her full title - 'Emi'Derik, child of the Neeah', "I... I've just come on my Pilgrimage to this planet..."
One by one, the group introduced themselves. She tried to memorise their names - Amy, Sam, Jack, Toby, Eric, Harry, Rebecca, Janine, Rachel and Tara. And Gerald. Humans had such weird names - they had no titles nor clan names. They had a 'first name' then a 'family name'. They were each taller than she was, and thicker. And their knees were bent slightly different to hers.
She couldn't stop staring at their hands. They used them so casually but they were so weird. Exotic, even. Their fingers were thinner than hers but there were so many of them. She wondered how they could keep count of them. She was sure she'd end up losing some.
And in turn, she found out they were fascinated by her. They asked about her immune system, her figure, her culture, her language... She answered them as best as she could, but couldn't help blushing when Rachel remarked about the fact that their... she wasn't sure what humans called them... their chest areas... were the same size, despite the fact Emi was smaller.
None of them were being rude, though. They were just interested and curious. She felt like she belonged in the group - accepted as a friend almost instantly. There were no harsh comments or insulting remarks, they were all polite and friendly towards her. She, most of the time, was smiling in her helmet. They talked for several hours.
"We should go out," Toby suggested, "Hit the town. Get absolutely smashed. It is the first day, after all."
"... Smashed?" she questioned. It sounded horrible, being crushed or something similar. She didn't want to participate in something like that...
"Drunk," Amy told her.
"... Oh."
Rachel grinned, "I actually like that idea. What's the point in being here now? I mean, we all know each other now. We might as well have some fun."

2 Hours Later...

"So," Eric chuckled, "I said to the Salarian: why the long face?"
The group laughed. Emi understood the joke but she wasn't feeling... normal. Alcohol tasted very bad. She could feel herself swaying on the small bar stool, which threatened to tip over every few seconds.
Emi hiccupped, "The... the... the implications of hic doing that wouldn't be... nice... the Salarians are hic nice people..."
"Are you alright there Emi?" Toby asked, "You seem a little, uh..."
"... I'm fine thank you T... Toby. Hic... though a little bit... disorientated..."
"You've had a glass of wine. A small one, at that."
"... I think I know what I've had..." Emi sighed, "I'm not stupid... Everyone thinks I'm stupid... Just because I don't know anything about technology... it isn't the end of the world..."
"What are you talking about?" Rachel laughed.
But Emi's mind was elsewhere, "... Have you ever wanted someone to love you so much it hurts?"
"I'm sorry, no," Rachel responded.
"... I do... It's horrible... I just want someone to love me... Is that too much to ask? I just want a single human to care for me... Kee... Keelah, I don't even care who it is... Am I being... Un... Unreasonablebleble?"
"I think you said that wrong," Amy pointed out, "I think we should go home, too."
"... Where am I staying?" Emi questioned, "... Is it nice? Does it have a bath? I've always wanted a bath..."
"You've never had a bath?" Rebecca asked.
"... No... The suit has a cleaning system... Speaking of systems, the emergency induction port is harder to get into the hole..."
"That's because you're drunk, dear," grinned Tara.
"... Don't 'dear' me. You sound like my mother... And I'm not hic drunk... I'm just feeling strange... I'm fine apart from the obvious pain..."
"Emi, you should go home," said Sam, "You won't feel good in the morning."
"... I don't know where home is..." Emi sighed, "But I'm not drunk, I'm fine..."
Amy nodded, "Sure you are."
Then she fell off her bar stool. It clattered on the floor and she was sent sprawling across the floor.
 Emi picked herself up. Her hips were tingling. It didn't feel nice but it did at the same time. It hurt, a little. But the sensation was knew and she liked it. Or maybe it was the wine talking.
"Seriously," Rachel said, "We're going home."

Emi was by far the most drunk out of all of them, despite the fact she had the least alcohol. As they made their way back to a luxury apartment designed specifically for Quarians, Rachel and Rebecca were holding her up as she sang an old Migrant Fleet folksong.
"... There is nothing to say about Reegar the bold, he took on two Geth with his sleeper hold. He was shot in the back, then a life he did lack..."
"Have you any idea what she's singing about?" Rachel asked.
Rebecca shrugged, "Absolutely no idea."
Emi stumbled over her words, "... I... I always meant to ask you... what's a 'sleeper hold'?"
"I think it's when you grab someone's neck and make them go unconscious."
"... Aha. Thank you so much."
They reached the door of the apartment. Rachel unlocked the door with the arm that wasn't supporting Emi, then opened it. She and Rebecca managed to haul the drunken Emi into the ground-floor flat.
Emi began humming tunelessly then sighed, "... I hurt... my heart... I can't take it any more... I just want someone to love me... Why won't someone love me?"
"I'm sure you'll find someone," Rebecca said, "Don't worry. There's lots of us."
"... But that bosh'tet of a book has got my h... hopes up..." she sobbed, "... I'm useless..."
"Is it me," Rachel whispered in Rebecca's ear, "Or is she having lots of random mood swings?"
Rebecca shrugged, "Maybe it's a Quarian thing. We don't know what Turian Wine is like."
"... I can hear you," Emi pointed out, "... And Turian Brandy is the worst thing I have ever tasted..."
They managed to manoeuvre her to the king-sized bed that was in the centre of the room and lifted her on to it. They moved her head to the side in case she vomited, so she wouldn't choke.
"... You're my best friends," Emi said, "My human best friends..."
Rachel laughed, "But you don't even know us!"
"... I've never had a best friend before... and now I have two... isn't it great?"
"Yes Emi. It's great. But unfortunately we have to go now. We'll see you in the morning."
"... Oh... Goodnight best friends... sorry I can't remember your names..."

Saturday, 7 September 2013

A Child's Dream - Part 3

"The sun set over the city as Keli looked across the skyline. She was stood on a balcony of her hotel, her helmet reflecting the beautiful scene that was set before her.
Below the balcony, she could see the humans walking in the streets. The amazing humans. The humans who she cared for very much, whilst she was just waiting for a single one to feel the same way about her. Just one amongst billions. Surely the chances were in her favour?
The skyscrapers that dotted the city dwarfed her, even though she was on the second-to-top floor of the hotel. She changed her balance so she was leaning against the glass of the balcony, allowing it to support her weight.
She stared at the palm of her three-fingered hand.
"Only if I had five..." she grumbled, "Only if I had five..."
She considered the human planet completely beautiful. There was so much to see, so much to do, so many people to meet... and there wasn't the risk of slavery like there was on several non-council planets. Like the Omega Station.
Despite the fact that Keli'Ria had only been on the planet for a matter of days, she missed the Flotilla. There was something comforting about the fact that you were surrounded by fifty thousand other starships. And she was with her own people there too. On the human planet, she was probably the only Quarian. She felt people staring at her - perhaps in disgust - as she walked down the street and tried to absorb the beautiful sights.
She knew most humans didn't like Quarians. But she didn't blame them. They had done a bad thing in the past, but she wanted to know why they blamed her. She wasn't even alive when the Geth were created. She had no part to play in what happened at all, and yet still they looked down their noses at her.
It was kind of sad, considering how much she liked them."
Emi sighed happily. The human planet, that she presumed was Earth, sounded so beautiful. Even though she was scared to be leaving the Migrant Fleet so soon, she was excited. She finally got to meet her favourite race in the galaxy!
Except for the fact she had already met one. The soldier in the corridor who she had accidentally knocked in to. It defeated the... thrill, of being on a new planet and meeting your very first alien. It was like reading a new book after reading a page in the middle. But it wouldn't stop her being a tourist. A tourist who looked at humans as well as the views.
Even if she did find a human who liked her, though... they couldn't ever work as a couple. Their protein was harmful to Quarians and because of the differences, they couldn't have any children, either. But maybe, maybe they'd show her a good time. Maybe they'd show her all that Earth has to offer. Maybe they'd take her dancing or something.
But she knew she'd be content with just knowing that someone, somewhere liked her in that way. She wouldn't care if they chose not to take their relationship further than just declaring their feelings for one another, but it was a sign someone cared. Yes, she would have liked a more... physical relationship, but perhaps just for the experience. Quarians never got to do anything like that and it'd be interesting to see why a big deal was made from it on the human worlds. The ultimate sign of trust. The ultimate sign of love...
Whereas all Quarians could do, in reality, was link their suit environments. She wanted to experience the feeling of having someone who loved her. Her heart ached. She craved love and compassion and... everything like that. She wanted to experience everything. Everything that Earth had to do or see. The aim of a Pilgrimage was to bring back something to give a Captain of a ship that you would be assigned to - it changed from the one you grew up on - but her purpose of being on Earth was to see everything. Hear everything. Smell everything. Touch everything. Taste everything.
Even if she'd have to have her food pureed. Even if she had to use an emergency induction port, or as the humans called them - a straw.
The chance to be able to interact and experience new things thrilled her. She wanted to know everything about the humans and their society.
She couldn't exactly put her finger on what she wanted. But knew she wanted everything when it came to Earth.
But most of all she desired love. She wanted someone to hold her. She wanted someone who would be able to quench her thirst for the unknown. Sometimes her need made her want to tear her hair out. It was frustrating, to want to do so much and yet only being able to do so little.
But maybe she was being unrealistic. Maybe she had her expectations too high due to the book she always read. Maybe they painted humanity as a civilisation of good and decent people - which probably wasn't true after what Bei said that they called the Quarians.
She felt like she was trapped in a cage. Like the Migrant Fleet were her restraints and out there - Earth - was her freedom. There was only several hours to go until she left for her Pilgrimage and she couldn't wait. Doubts flittered across her mind about the humans. She felt like her emotions were changing every second. Happy, sad, excited, frustrated, nervous...
Keelah, she didn't know how she felt. Her heart was thudding in her chest as if it was her body's way of saying "calm down, everything will be fine". She took a few deep breaths and gently rubbed her finger over the bones in her shoulder. The artificial nerve stimulator gave her the feeling of relaxation and her head slumped back into her pillow.
"Keelah..." she whispered to herself, "... I am stupid sometimes..."
She always got herself in such a... the Quarians didn't have a word for it. It was such a complex mixture of emotions that was so frustrating and so... grr. She didn't understand why she did it. It was just... new. As soon as there was a change in her circumstances the emotional concoction appeared and then she didn't know what to do.
Maybe sleeping for a while would help. She had a few hours until her mother would call for her to enter the shuttle bay. And she couldn't leave herself in such a state. Touching her shoulder had relaxed her but she could still feel her worries and doubts at the edge of her mind.
Emi moved so she was laying on her back, with her hands together and resting gently on her stomach. She pushed her gold and grey patterned hood backwards so her head was more comfortable.
It didn't take long to fall asleep.

"Emi, come on!" her mother yelled, "You'll be late for your own Pilgrimage if you don't hurry!"
She sat up instantly and practically leaped out of bed. She blinked away the remainders of her sleep and then pulled her hood so it came up to about the middle of her head. She could feel the soft material as it touched the metal.
"... Where do I go?" she asked.
Her mother grabbed her wrist and pulled her out of their living quarters. The patterned blanket rubbed against her arm and she couldn't help but smiling at the sensation. Everything felt so amazing when you hadn't ever experienced anything like it before.
She was led to the shuttle bay. Her mother pressed the circular green hologram that operated the locking mechanism and it hissed open. It revealed a room full of equipment and had about thirty shuttles in total. It was a reasonably large room, enough to cram the entire crew of the large starship into it. It was customary for everyone to be there when someone left on their Pilgrimage.
There was a single shuttle that was powered up and laying open, revealing a dark cockpit.
Did they expect her to fly it?
She walked into the centre of the room, in front of the crowd. She felt nervous but excited. The Captain - Cal'Reun - stepped forward.
"Emi'Derik," he said, "Despite the set back with the Geth and even though you are technically a full grown woman already, you will be leaving on your Pilgrimage. Please state your chosen planet."
"... Earth," she responded.
"Your Pilgrimage will not last for any specific time period, but you will return once you have brought a gift for your new captain. The ship will be chosen at random once you return. You have already downloaded upgrades for your environment suit which will help you on your trip. But we have other gifts for you. At any time during your Pilgrimage you may need additional protection, so armour and weapons are available on board the shuttle.
We understand that the Flotilla is currently cruising through the Outer Rim, which is at the other side of the galaxy to Alliance Space. Travelling that distance, even at light speed, will take time. So we have applied suitable entertainment systems inside.
Your trip will end once you return. But to get back to the Migrant Fleet you will need passcodes. If you have completed your Pilgrimage and have returned with a gift, your password is "Among the stars, among the light". If you have failed your Pilgrimage and have no gift, your passcode is "Down in the darkness. Among the depths". If you fail your shuttle will be fired upon. Do you understand?"
"... What?"
No one had told her anything about being shot down if she did not return with a gift...
"Do you understand?" the Captain repeated.
"... Yes..."
"Good luck to you Emi'Derik. May the ancestors be with you. Keelah se'lai."
"... Keelah se'lai."
She stepped on board the shuttle. It folded back upwards so it sealed behind her. She sat in the rear, surrounded by screens and other terminals with links to the extranet. She was interested in none of them.
Emi took her book out of her pouch as the shuttle's autopilot engaged and she left the shuttle bay, into the darkness of space.
But her destination was the planet that she loved.

Tuesday, 3 September 2013

A Child's Dream - Part 2

Warning: May contain language some Quarians may find upsetting.

Emi walked up to the nearest Quarian on the deck. It was a man who was wearing a red environment suit. He was looking at an orange terminal - buying some sort of medical equipment.
She quickly cleared her throat to grab his attention. If it wasn't for her helmet then she'd have been blushing. She felt rather silly asking someone how to use a nerve stimulator.
The man turned to her, "Yes?"
"Emi'Derik," she said. Since most Quarians looked similar, it was part of their culture to say their name as they addressed someone.
"Yuo'Hasaf," the male Quarian responded, "What do you want?"
Now came the embarrassing part. She instinctively gripped her hips with her hands as some sort of nervous twitch, as if she was subconsciously trying to make herself smaller, "... I'm wondering, do you know how you use NerveStim Deluxe Edition? ... I'm not that good with technology..."
Yuo'Hasaf tilted his head, "You do realise that to the wrong person, that could sound like a chat up line?"
Emi nodded, "... But it isn't. I really don't know how to work it..."
Yuo switched off the terminal, "It's rather easy once you get used to it. Deluxe Edition is meant for people who have upgraded from Basic and Premium so it isn't exactly the best thing to do if you have had neither of them. Activate your Omni-tool and I'll show you how to work it."
She activated her Omni-tool, her arm lighting up with a holographic wireframe covering. She selected 'Settings' and then scrolled down to the appropriate programme. Two dials appeared on the small screen.
"Right," said Yuo, "These two dials toggle between the options. The one on the left sets the nerve intensity - low, medium or high, and with the one on the right you can activate and deactivate the nerve stimulators on the different parts of your body. Just try it. But don't press the red button underneath."
"... Why not? Does it self destruct?"
Yuo laughed, "No. Not even close. It just tends to be a little painful. Run some basic tests and you should be up and running in no time."
Emi nodded, "Thanks."
She turned away from Yuo'Hasaf and started turning the dials. She decided to start with some simple things - the lowest setting on her feet.
Emi lowered her three-toed foot to the floor of the ship. She giggled. It felt funny. Slightly warm and it tickled a little. She began prodding the floor through her suit with her toes repeatedly. She would have looked extremely strange to the surrounding Quarians but she didn't care. She was enjoying it. It was a new experience.
Then she turned the setting to 'medium'. It tickled even more and she couldn't help a slight laugh escaping her lips. She took a few slow steps and savoured every moment of them. It felt weird but it was almost addicting. Her feet felt all... nice and warm and sensitive.
Emi decided to be adventurous and set it on to high, but as she did so she accidentally knocked the red button.
"Ow! Keelah!" she yelped as pain exploded through her feet. The next thing she knew she was laying on the floor having tripped over the base of a terminal. She quickly pressed the button again and her feet stopped hurting, though they still tingled.
Yuo'Hasaf turned back to her and laughed, "Not used to it, huh? I told you not to press the red button."
"... It was an accident..."
"Just try not to have accidents with that thing."
"... I'll try not to."

"Keli'Ria craved love so much. Her heart ached every moment of every day - it almost drove her crazy."
Emi knew the feeling. As she walked she kept probing the cold floor. She felt the thin paper of the book beneath her fingers. She never realised how rough it was, in comparison to how smooth it looked. She corners felt sharp - sharp enough to hurt her a little. But she didn't mind. It was good pain. She couldn't help but poking the edges.
The spine of the book felt smooth and soft as it was made of leather. She hummed happily to herself and as she explored the gold lettering on the front cover. It was raised slightly above the leather and felt... interesting. Rough but soft at the same time.
As she put the book back in her pouch she knocked her hand against her thigh by accident. But the sudden feeling made her yelp - normally she wouldn't have even felt it. It felt interesting though. Kind of nice too.
She poked herself in the shoulder and giggled. Then poked again.
"Are you alright?" someone asked from behind her. They must have seen her poking herself and laughing. It must have looked rather odd.
She felt red rise in her cheeks and she turned to face the girl who had addressed her. She briefly recognised the bright colours of her suit from her brief time in schooling. Her name was Bei, if she remembered right.
"... Yes, I'm fine... I just got NerveStim Deluxe Edition and... everything feels funny."
"Oh! You're going on your Pilgrimage in a few days, right?" Bei responded.
"... Yes. I think I'll go to Earth."
"Earth? The human world? Why?"
Emi's cheeks grew hotter, "... You know I like humans..."
"Who could miss it? All you did in school was draw pictures of the Alliance ships and their logo. I'm pretty sure everyone knows that you have a thing for humans. But they're always causing trouble. Cerberus? They're all humans. And they're not exactly the nicest of creatures. I prefer Asari, but each to their own."
"... But Asari still believe in slavery..."
"But they have tentacles! Isn't that great? When it's my Pilgrimage I think I'll go to Illium."
"... Each to their own..."
"Illium is so interesting, though. Nothing ever happens on Earth."
"... No slavery, humans, lots of opportunities, home of a Council species... there must be something I can bring back to give to my next captain... and it sounds perfect for me."
"What, do you think a human will just fall in love with you? They call us Suit-Rats. They have no respect for our people."
"... Suit-Rats?"
"Yes, Suit-Rats."
"... What's a rat?"
"I think it's some sort of small furry rodent."
"... But I'm not furry."
"Well we know that. But I think it's a term that's supposed to be hurtful. It's not nice, in any case. I better get going anyway, I have an element zero drive core to fix."
"Goodbye Bei."
"Bye Emi. Good luck with your Pilgrimage."

Emi sat on her small bed, turned the setting to max and started poking her own shoulders, shivering in delight as she actually felt it. It was artificial, yes, but it was nice.
She ran her fingers down the back of her neck and over her spine to as far as she could reach, then stroked the base of her spine too. She liked that. One of the nicer places to touch. It relaxed her and she felt all warm inside.
After nearly-thorough tests of the programme and herself, she had deducted several things.
1. Back = nice.
2. Feet = funny.
3. Hips = nice.
4. Hands = interesting.
5. Shoulders = nice.
There were several places that she resisted to set the nerve stimulator to. She saw no point. If she ever fell in love, then maybe. But definitely not in the cramped conditions of the starship.
She gently poked the underside of her foot and giggled. No matter how many times she poked herself there it still gave her exactly the same feeling.
Emi pushed her hands down on to her shoulders and moved her shoulders up against her hands. The friction set the artificial nerve stimulation going and she hummed happily and felt herself relax. All the worries about her pilgrimage were gone.
She could actually feel. She couldn't believe it. She never thought, unless the Quarians decided to try and retake Rannoch, their homeworld, that she would ever be able to feel anything. And a strike of that scale was extremely far away. The ability to be able to feel excited her and made her feel like anything was possible.
But still not for a human to love her. Suit-Rats? Why would they call the Quarians Suit-Rats? It made no sense... Maybe not all humans were like that. Maybe there was good in them. She still liked them, though. A lot. They were... interesting.
She leaned backwards so her head was resting on the smooth, soft pillow. She had never come to realise just how soft it was before. She could feel each individual strand of Quarian cotton - and it felt good.
Emi knew she'd never take it for granted. It was such a rich experience. It was something she had never had the chance to do before and she would never forget how nice it was to be able to feel.
She cuddled her pillow, feeling the soft material inside compact as she slowly put pressure on it.
"Emi," her mother's voice called as she ducked underneath the blanket, "There's news. The Geth have stopped their attack and retreated and the Captain has ordered that your Pilgrimage has changed dates. You can set off tomorrow."
"... But... I thought... I'm not... keelah..."
She burrowed her fears by drawing her book from her pouch and began reading again.

Sunday, 1 September 2013

A Child's Dream - Part 1

"The commander took her into his arms as his ship left the atmosphere, gliding gracefully into the depths of space. He was the captain not only of his ship but of Keli'Ria's heart.
The end."
Emi sighed. She flicked back quickly through the pages of her favourite book - the first in the series - and began reading it again for what must have been the tenth time in the past week.
The book was called 'A Child's Dream' and was about a Quarian girl who fell in love with a Commander in the Alliance military. She nearly knew it off by heart but she still wasn't bored. It was her favourite. Her only escape from life on the Migrant Fleet.
She sighed again. This time not in happiness as tales of romance and love disappeared from her mind, just to be replaced by the fact she was hiding in a cupboard. A cupboard used by kitchen staff to store flour, that now covered the back and legs of her suit.
What she was hiding from were her duties. Every week her parents told her to go to the trade floor and see what she could buy. This week she was too busy reading. She enjoyed reading. Most other Quarians took refuge in technology or by telling stories. She preferred to read. She loved to be taken into the world of romance. Especially between a human and a Quarian. It was something that was considered impossible and she liked it. It... Tore down barriers. Allowed her to believe it would one day happen to her.
Even though she knew it wouldn't.
She had been told several times to stop imagining such ridiculous things but it didn't stop her. She liked to pretend. Even though she was twenty two years old it didn't stop her. The book was in so much detail it was like she could almost picture it. Every single moment of the book imagined in her head in almost perfect detail.
But it wasn't Keli'Ria's helmet she imagined. It was her own. She was lost within her own endless mind, thinking of things that could never be but of what she hoped would one day come true.
But as the book suggested, it was a child's dream. It could never happen. Not to her. No human would want her. She doubted any Quarian would want her either. Forever alone, just her and her book.
She wasn't a technical genius. She wasn't pretty. She had nothing she could offer the Fleet. Her pilgrimage was coming up in the next few days and she was looking forward to escaping from the cramped conditions on the spacecraft.
She would probably go to Earth. She had never seen a human before. Apparently they had five fingers on each hand. Weird, but interesting.
She looked down at her own hand and tried to imagine it with two extra digits but she failed. It wouldn't look right.
She was dreading her pilgrimage as well as being excited about it. Some of her friends had never returned and were being used as slaves on an Asari planet. She was glad she was going to Earth, where slavery was prohibited. She couldn't stand being used like that.
Her pilgrimage had been halted due to a war with the Geth - the race of humanoid robotic beings that they themselves had created. They had evolved and it had frightened many people and the Quarians lashed out against them.
She opened the cupboard a little to see if anyone was there, pushing her mask against the inside of the door. There was no one.
Cautiously she stepped out, holding her book out of the way of any stray flour that could otherwise harm her favourite piece of writing. The kitchen was empty so she quickly walked back to her family's allocated area, which was inside a small room meant for storing medical supplies. They shared it with another family who belonged to the Yasil clan.
"Mother?" she called, sweeping the patterned blanket to the side so she could step under it.
"Emi!" her mother shouted, "You were supposed to be on the trading floor three hours ago!"
"... Sorry," Emi apologised, "I was... busy."
"Reading that bosh'tet of a book again?"
Her mother disliked her reading intensely. Unlike Emi, she knew that technicians and machinists were more valuable to the Flotilla than literacy and other trivial matters.
Emi's mother had a pink and black environment suit and had a grey glass mask on her helmet. She was sat on the edge of a small stool and seemed to be creating some sort of machine using a circuit board and a piece of scrap metal, which was rusted slightly around the edges.
"... Yes. I'm sorry... it's a really good book. What does that do?"
"It will be a hydrothermal displacement engine using element zero. It uses water droplets in the air to create a small kinetic barrier which should help a combat drone to be sustained for longer."
"... Uh... right... Don't you think father should go to the trading floor? I have no idea what I'm supposed to be looking for..."
Her mother sighed, "It's just a simple element zero shield generator used for armoured units in the field."
"... But I don't know what one even looks like..."
"That's why you should get your head out of that book and go and learn about technology. That book doesn't even matter."
"... But I can't do tech. You put me into schooling, remember? I tried to make a miniature mass relay that should have been able to transport a pencil across the room but I accidentally blew a hole in the floor... That was not my fault, by the way. I had faulty equipment..."
Her mother laughed, "You strapped the mass effect generator into the element zero core but left the outer panel open. You created a weapon, dear. That was your fault."
"... B... But it didn't have one of the things you pull to fire it..."
"A trigger? It didn't need one, it fired automatically when you connected it."
"... Still wasn't my fault..."
If Emi had no helmet on, she'd have been blushing. The incident at the schooling ship was probably the only thing she was known for. "The girl who blew up a school whilst trying to send a pencil faster than light for less than a metre". Though generally it was "the idiot".
But she didn't feel like an idiot. She just wasn't very good when it came to technology. And it wasn't her fault. She just had no natural gifts. She couldn't fight, she couldn't build things... maybe she was useless.
Her mother was starting to despair with her. Her father shouted at her every time he saw her. But she still didn't want to leave the Migrant Fleet... not much, anyway. Although she didn't feel at home, she didn't want anything to change either. She was scared, she admitted to herself, very scared.
What if she did end up being a slave? What if she did end up with people being mean to her because of what species she was?
"... I guess I should go," she told her mother, "I'll try and find father to tell him to get to the trading floor..."
She ducked underneath the blanket again and exited their living space, walking back into the corridor of the large spacecraft. Emi immediately drew her book and began reading.
"It was a quiet night on board the Hision, a quiet civilian vessel that floated alongside the Migrant Fleet. Keli'Ria was stood on the observation deck, staring out across the dark space - at the glowing planet that floated before her.
Keli'Ria wore a bright environment suit - pink and purple, and she had a yellow mask that glinted in the light from the large hovering sphere. Her mind was full of possibilities that could occur on the planet.
She felt lonely. Desperately lonely. She craved love more than anything in the world. Keli had never felt the glow of a relationship nor the warm of someone's skin against hers. But she wanted to. She definitely wanted to.
Keli didn't understand why she had not fallen in love with another Quarian. But none seemed appealing to her. She had been asked several times to have something to eat with men from her deck on the Hision, but she had always turned them down.
She still wanted-"
Emi felt herself collide with something. The book flew out of her hand and she stumbled backwards.
"Oh shit. I'm so sorry. Are you ok?" a male voice said. He didn't sound muffled by the glass of her helmet. There was an almost echo effect on Quarian voices - an effect that he did not have.
The first thing she noticed about his voice was that it was smooth and almost assuring, even with a curse.
Emi leaned over and collected her book from the floor, then finally looked back up at the person who she had accidentally walked in to.
It was a human. The first human she had seen. He wore black body armour and carried a grey rifle that immediately made her shy away in fear. The man had 'N7' written on his chest. She didn't know what it meant but it must have been something important.
The man had dark brown hair. She couldn't tell how old he was because she was unfamiliar with the human aging system, but his eyes were full of... something. Almost as if he had seen too much in his life. It scared her.
"... Yes... I'm fine... sorry..."
"... Are you sure? You seem a bit... scared?"
She pointed at his rifle which he had unintentionally aimed towards her knees.
"Oh damn," he sighed, putting the gun on his back, "I'm really sorry. I need to look where I'm going and what I'm aiming at."
"... I'm sorry too... I was too busy reading to see where I was walking... and I'm kind of scared of weapons... had a bad experience..."
"Hey Thomson, get your bloody ass in this shuttle so we can go and shoot some Geth!" another male voice shouted from behind a doorway. If she remembered correctly it was the shuttle bay, which would explain why the man had mentioned a shuttle... She sighed. She was not exactly the smartest Quarian ever. She didn't even know what a shuttle bay was. Not as such anyway. She knew it housed shuttles but had never had a reason to go into one. She wasn't even sure what a shuttle looked like... she had been kicked out of the school before she learned.
"Sorry," said the man who she had bumped in to, "See you."
See you? Of course he saw her... what kind of goodbye was that? She didn't understand what it meant, but nodded, pretending she understood, then replied, "... See you."
Emi got back to reading.
"She still wanted love. But she had not found someone who she liked to be with so much to consider a relationship with them. She hadn't even found someone who she liked to be around. She was alone."
She quickly looked up from her book so she could turn a corner in the corridor and head towards the machinist work area. It had a complicated name, something to do with static energy being conducted by metal rods within the drive core of the engine.
Emi called it 'work area'.
"Keli decided to act. She would not stand by and let life pass her whilst she idly waited for love that would never come. She would go to the planet below and see if she liked anyone there. It was a human colony, after all. And she always liked humans."
"Emi," said her father as she nearly walked into him, "Put that book down or I'll throw it into the drive core."
"... Would that destroy it?"
"Almost definitely."
"... Oh. Sorry..." She put the book in a small pouch in the skirt part of her environment suit. Her father was working on a terminal where a holographic orange circle was spinning slowly. He was tapping away at the screen, doing things she had not got a clue about.
"Why are you here?" he asked, "You're supposed to be on the trading floor."
"... Yes... That's kind of the problem... I don't know what I'm supposed to look for... I thought I should come and get you..."
"Fine. I'll be there in five minutes."

Emi walked to the stall in the market that sold vitamin paste. Her stomach was rumbling so she decided she should buy something that she was familiar with. She bought some. It cost her half a credit.
The paste was a green liquid in a small tube, which was compatible with the emergency induction port at the front of the underside of her helmet. She clicked it into place and drank from it. The green paste filled her mouth.
She wished she knew what it tasted like. But she had nothing to compare it to. Quarians lived on the vitamin paste - it provided their full needs for an entire day in a small tube. She had never tried any other food. Or drink. Whatever it was classed as. But she didn't mind its flavour.
Then she remembered. All Quarians who were going to leave on their pilgrimage were granted free access to several upgrades for their environment suit. Things like radiation detectors, Omni-tool upgrades and NerveStim programmes. Anything that would help her on her chosen planet.
Emi walked up to the terminal where she could buy the modifications and activated it by pushing her finger against a central hologram. It flared into life and a list of possible environment suit upgrades was visible.
She bought NerveStim Deluxe Edition - the best. It was free, after all. She also pressed RadiDetect 3.2, Immuno-Boost Max, an upgraded Omni-tool, an environment detection system and other assorted free upgrades, including a link to the extranet.
"Thank you for shopping at Environment Suit Upgrades. We hope to see you again soon," said a synthesised voice from the terminal. Her suit whirred as the upgrades were performed.
The bad thing was she had no idea how to use the upgrades.
She decided to ask someone.