Shia sat on the floor of the docking bay, resting her back against her duffel bag. It had grown considerably in size after she raided her parents apartment for anything belonging to her that she might want to take with her. In addition to some clothing, she'd also found a few books. She had to weed out most of them, books being heavy and bulky by nature, and in all honesty rather useless when you could fit a whole library in your omni-tool. Never the less, she'd always enjoyed the feel of one against her skin, the smell of chemically treated paper and ink. She'd eventually settled on the early 20th century edition of The Divine Comedy that grandma Hannah had given her when she turned fifteen. It was a ragged old thing, bound in leather that was now worn and threading in some places, and the gold colored inlays of the title now tinted towards black.
Looking up, she studied the fine contours of the Narva outside the glass dome. It's so sleek in it's design. There's something.... predatory about it. A ship like this, she stalks her prey, hunts it rather than just attacking. She thought it was elegant in a way, the melding of two schools of thought and design. The turian elements were clearly visible, but the form of the ship was still distinctly human. She was modeled on the Normandy SR-2, the ship her father commanded during the war. Years later, it was still the fastest and most effective stealth vessel in the fleet. And it might get even faster. she thought, pondering what kind of modifications it was that Jani were here the implement. She'd received a message from her new friend a few days ago. They hadn't had time to meet up again, Jani had been too busy pouring over manuals and schematics to prepare for the new assignment, and Shia decided not to push the issue. After all, there would be plenty of time, she'd been told there's a surprising amount of down-time on a ship running scouting and recon. Barring some kind of attack, it was pretty much like any other nine-to-five job out there. Only, you know, with more guns.
She checked the time. She was early, she'd already been sitting in the bay for an hour or so, and there was still almost an hour left until she was to report for duty. The pad with her official transfer order rested in her lap, she glances over the words. The marines... never thought I'd be volunteering to go crawling in the mud again. she thought, smirking slightly. Had the thought crossed her mind the first week of basic, she'd probably had slapped herself. Her omni-tool beeped and drew her attention to a new message in her inbox, she brought up the small display.
From: David Stevenson
Hey Blue, what's up? Hope you're settling in ok. What's this I hear about you gunning for the marines? Well, I guess it's "Private" Blue now then? Started my assignment yesterday. They put me on the Orizoba, can you believe that shit? From what I gather, we're not expected to leave Arcturus in like... ever? I applied for orbital operations, learning to pilot a Kodiak, and I guess I can do that here as well as anywhere. Haven't even gotten around to the simulators yet, they have me scanning cargo containers and adjusting bio-filters all day. Oh, and Mia's here with me, she says hi. We've set up a regular game of skyllian five, relieving the servicemen of their credits. They're not as easy a mark as you, of course, but I take what I can get. Anyway, I should get back to it. Take care, Blue, we'll see you out there.
Shia laughed lightly as she read the message, David could be a pain in the ass sometimes, but at least he had the decency to make you laugh while he annoyed the crap out of you. Never a dull moment with that guy. Her stroll down memory lane was cut short by the chipper and slightly modulated voice of one very happy quarian.
Jani walked up to her with a lithe spring in her step. She'd changed suits since they last saw each other, the simpler khaki fabric with details of darker green of the quarian navy dress hugged her figure as she made her way up over Shia. In her usual cheerful demeanor she said "There you are!".
As Shia rose from the floor to greet her, shaking of the staleness in her limbs, Jani greeted her with a hug.
"I'm sorry I didn't have time to meet up again before today." she continued "The conclave sent me about a million schematics, along with an equal amount of regulations regarding conduct and diplomatic relations." her voice switching to one of general regret as she finished.
Shia felt herself being caught slightly off guard by this unexpected act of affection. But at the same time it gave her a warm feeling, and she could feel her cheeks flush slightly. She was genuinely happy to see Jani again, more so than she expected. How can I miss someone I hardly know? Granted they'd been messaging over the extranet for the past few days, since Jani didn't seem to have a problem with multitasking, but they'd met only once.
"I hope you're not disappointed?" Janis voice, no slightly nervous, pulled her out of her train of thought once again, and she realized that she'd been quiet for longer than she thought.
"No, of course not" she managed, shaking her head "I know you've been busy."
Jani rubbed her hands together nervously, with a relieved sigh she said "Good, I was getting worried there for a minute."
"Besides" Shia continued "I had a visit from my parents, so I had plenty to do."
The last part was a lie of course, or at the very least an omission of facts, in reality she'd been doing very little since her parents left the station.
Jani put one of her small hands on Shias arm reassuringly, with a voice that betrayed the smile under the lightly opaque glass she said "Good. Keelah, I was afraid you might have been bored out of your mind. I felt bad I couldn't take you up on your offer." Shia met the bright eyes behind the glass, and she felt her cheeks flush once again.
"So" she said quickly, shrugging it off "Excited to start the mission?"
"Super excited! The Normandy-class ships are legendary, I can't wait to tinker with the core. I've never served on a ship before though... let alone a human one... so I guess I'm a bit nervous as well." she confessed.
"I know what you mean, but I'm sure you'll get along fine with the crew." she reassured her. With a smile she continued "And if not, you have me." She froze slightly as she realized what she'd just said, but Jani squeezed her arm gently again and said in a voice softer than before "I do..."
- - -
Shia was awestruck by the buzz of activity in the CIC. Everyone seemed to be doing some kind of work, but she couldn't really discern any kind of pattern to what was going on. Behind her the helmsman, a female turian, was yelling something into the intercom, Shia didn't quite catch all of it, but the gist seemed to be that whoever was on the receiving end could kiss her dorsal plating. She'd expected to see turian crew members aboard ship, it was after all partly of turian design, but this one was sporting an Alliance uniform. She was aware that there were members of virtually every species serving in the Alliance these days, save for the hanar, but she'd never met a turian officer before. The Alliance didn't keep any public census data pertaining to species, so any official numbers were impossible to come by. Jani had headed straight for the engineering deck, but Shia, being Alliance, had to officially report in before she could do much else.
The turian officer, having stood up and exited the cockpit called out to her "Can I help you with something, love?"
Shia immediately snapped to attention, but switched to an awkward ease when the turian waved the salute off with her hand. "Oh, well..." Shia fumbled as she spun around to face her.
"You're the new recruit, right? I'm Flight-Lieutenant Cessia Vanntin. They call me Ces though, or chess in some cases, which is complete and utter bullshit since I don't even..." she paused abruptly, cocking her head to the side slightly "And I'm rambling again. Sorry, I tend to do that. Anyway, you were saying?"
Shia had to bite her lip to keep from giggling. All the turians she'd met in her life had been calm and collected, Ces seemed to be the complete opposite. She seemed friendly though, and Shia wanted to make a good impression. She eventually managed to speak "Oh, hrm... Yes, I'm just transferring in. Private Shiala Shepard... they call me Shia though."
Shia could see the Ces smirked slightly at the mention of her last name, but decided that she didn't want to drag any more attention too it.
Ces extended her her hand to Shia and said warmly "Well in that case, welcome aboard. Can never have too many grunts around I guess."
"Thank you, glad to be her Flight-Lieutenant."
"It's just Ces. As for how I can help you, I think you want the XO, Commander Nielsen. He's down by the galaxy map, it's right in front of the elevator." she pointed down the narrow walkway into the CIC. Shia nodded and swung her bag back up on her shoulder and walked down towards it.
Commander Nielsen was a trimmed man of about thirty, clean shaven and short, stubby blonde hair. Shia rounded the corner of the holographic display as the Commander made his way down the stairs from the interface. He stopped in front of the messages terminal to greet her.
"Private Shiala Shepard, reporting for duty, sir." she said saluting, and using the most professional tone she could muster.
The Commander returned the salute, and spoke sternly. "At ease, Private."
Shia followed suit, promptly handing over the pad that contained her transfer order. Nielsen studied it briefly, more as a courtesy as he had already been informed.
"Excellent" he said, extending his hand to greet her "I'm Commander Ian Nielsen, the Executive Officer. Welcome aboard"
"Thank you, sir." Shia responded sternly, shaking the mans hand.
"You'll be reporting directly to Gunnery-Chief Adams. I assume that you've been briefed on your duties, if not, chief Adams will fill you in." he put the pad down by the terminal "As for accommodations, you're assigned bunk 34B."
Nielsen studied her for a moment, before deciding to speak more candidly "You'll find that we run a fairly tight ship here, Private. But we're also quite informal, there's no need to run yourself ragged over the regs."
"Yes sir!... Commander!" Shia stumbled
Nielsen smiled faintly "Commander will do, Shepard." he said "I'll let you get settled in, stow away your gear and report to chief Adams. Dismissed."
Shia saluted the Commander once again, as she turned sharply towards the elevator. Entering it, she realized she'd neglected to ask where to report to. As she was about to grab the krogan by the hump and go back and ask, the Commander called out from the console without turning around "Armory's in the shuttle bay, bottom level."
Shia bit her lip slightly to stifle her embarrassment "Thank you, sir" she said, punching the correct button on the pad to her right.
Commander Nielsen let out a soft chuckle as the elevator door closed "Kids..." he huffed to himself.
- - -
The day progressed in much the same way. Introductions, salutes, pats on the back. So far, the crew seemed quite friendly. Apart from herself, Jani and Ces; the crew was an all human one. Meaning that the marines were all human save for her. They'd welcomed her with open arms though, for which she was grateful, even though she suspected that her name had a lot to do with it. She didn't mind for once, it's not like anyone would believe she'd asked her father to pull some strings in order to get her to the rank of Private.
Gunnery-Chief Adams was a unique character in his own right. The man cursed worse than anyone she'd ever met, in a distinct British accent, and she'd been hard pressed to retain her composure when she first reported to him. He was friendly as the rest though, and insisted that there would be no "Goddamn sir's in his unit!", preferring instead to answer to 'Chief'. She'd checked out her weapons and armor, and received her new set of patches. She let her fingertips wander over the raised dagger and lightning bolts, superimposed over the Alliance symbol, working her way over the the name patch, the words 'SSV Narva' written under the bolder 'Pvt. S. Shepard'. She felt proud of them as if they were the Star of Terra, and she could hardly wait for the chance to sit down and sew them to her previously barren uniform. Having finally gone off duty after a long day, she strolled into the crew quarters and slumped down onto her bunk. Getting out some needle and thread, she set to work on the top of her uniform. Wonder how Janis day went...
- - -
<TheBlues: Hey. You up?>
<TheBlues: Not feeling so hot?>
<Nara86: No. Took off mask at beginning of shift. Sick.>
<TheBlues: Hold on, I got just the thing.>
She closed her omni-tool and headed for the mess hall. She'd found out that Jani had been given one of the cargo holds adjacent to engineering as private quarters. I guess being liaison for your government has it's perks. she snickered. Her mood was rather somber despite the little joke she told herself, something about Jani being in pain made her cringe a little, and she wanted to help... at least in some small way. She rummaged through the cupboards until she found a small box covered in alien script and a picture of a red fruit she'd never seen before. A small note written in English was glued to the box, that informed her that this was indeed tea, suitable for dextros, and that it was flavored with something called fire fruit. She took a bag out and stuck a cup of water into the heater. The tea didn't smell half bad, so she set out for the elevator and pushed the button for the engineering deck.
She paused in front of the door to the cargo hold. The holopad was green, but she decided after some contemplation to knock, just to be safe. "Come in" came the faint reply from the other side of the door. Shia punched the holopad and entered the room. The space was dimly lit, there was a couch in front of her with a small table, a desk to the right of it and a bed at the far end. Jani was getting up from it as Shia entered the room.
"Jani don't get up, I brought you..." she stopped dead in her tracks as she saw the quarian in front of her. She was draped in a blanket, having pulled it over her head like a cloak. A lock of hair, deep black in color had fallen over her cheek, the skin greyish with a tint of purple. Shia was drawn to the big eyes that now studied her, the irises were bright and seemed to glow in white silver from the reflected light. It was the most beautiful sight Shia had ever seen. She felt her heart swell as she took in the sight.
"Keelah, it's that bad?" Jani said, her voice weak as she shuddered a little from the fever.
"N-no... not at all." Shia responded softly.
They sat down on the couch and Shia handed Jani the cup of tea. The young quarian drank it slowly, but appeared to stop shivering after a while.
As she sat the empty cup down on the table, she curled up on the coach and put her head in Shias lap, hear head no longer covered by the large blanket she'd wrapped herself in. Shia felt her heart skip a beat, unsure of what to do.
"Jani..." she began after a while "It's pretty late... you should probably get some sleep." She said it without conviction. She didn't want to leave, she simply thought that it would be best. Jani turned her head en looked up at her.
"Please don't go." she said in a soft, almost pleading tone.
Shias heart skipped another beat as their eyes met. She pushed a lock of hair from her face and spoke with a whisper "Alright, I'll stay here... with you."
As Shia stroked her hair soothingly, Jani slowly drifted off to sleep.