They call her a “beginning agent.” Not recruit, not trainee. Beginning Agent. It sounds so distinguished, so formal. She’s sure Mam would be proud, if Mam were here to see.
It’s good she likes her job title because, so far, she doesn’t much like her job. These past weeks have been grueling, day after day of what Superior calls “briefing,” poring over documents, photos, dossiers. Memorizing faces. Names. Species. Statistics. Movements. Psych profiles.
She’s seen photos of every species her father ever told her about and many more he hadn’t. She’s learned to distinguish one member of a species from another—what makes Urdnot Grunt different from Urdnot Wrex, for example, and how to judge the age of an Asari.
Through it all, though, one dossier haunts her. One photo. Two eyes.
The human called Butcher of Torfan. The human who destroyed an entire system without batting an eye. The human that has the Hegemony scared.
The photo watches her from the walls of the briefing room, from the edges of her imagination, from across the galaxy.
And Pahly’a knows with utter certainty that, beginning agent or not, she will be the one to take Shepard down.
His assistant was having a hard time. Mordin could hear the screaming from several rooms away.
“Daniel? Something wrong?” he asked, approaching the clinic’s examination room.
Daniel, who, curiously, was hiding behind a table, called to him. “Could use some help in here, professor.”
The shouting, meanwhile, had not stopped, and seemed to be coming from a small patient standing barefoot on the examination table.
Mordin gave the patient a cursory look. Batarian, female, rather young. Considering the child’s arm bent in two places, abnormal for an individual of any species, Mordin doubted it was the diagnosis that troubled Daniel. It probably had more to do with the heavy pistol clenched in the girl’s too-small hand.
Ah. So that’s where the Carnifex had gotten off to.
As the professor watched, his assistant made a grab for the girl’s arm, syringe at the ready. Panicked, the girl squeezed the trigger. The weapon roared, and the edge of the table at Daniel’s elbow was suddenly no longer there. He flinched away from the impact, the needle slipping from his fingers.
“I said don’t!” the girl shrieked, aiming the gun at Daniel’s head with a dangerously trembling arm. The human froze, eyes darting from the gun to the syringe. Though no longer screaming, the girl was whimpering now, her injured arm dangling crookedly at her side, a sheen of sweat on the velvety skin of her forehead. Her fingers twitched around the grip of the gun. “Don’t want…human poison…”
Time to make his entrance. Mordin strolled into the room, and the girl jerked the gun in his direction. Daniel, no longer in mortal peril, lunged for the fallen syringe. Clenching it in his hand, the human bunched his muscles, as if preparing to tackle the girl. Not necessary. Mordin held up his hand and Daniel stilled.
Mordin walked slowly around the table, keeping a respectful distance from the distressed batarian. Arriving at the research desk at the far side of the room, he turned his back on her and began to study a sample under a microscope. Seconds ticked by, and he began to hum to himself. A few more seconds passed in which Mordin did not find himself with a sudden gaping back wound. Aside from Mordin’s humming, the examination room was silent. And then…
“W-what are you looking at?”
“Hm?” Mordin said without turning around. “Oh. Parasitic worm native to Thessia. Feeds on both psychic energy and flesh of hosts. Interesting. Also glows in the dark.”
“Can I see?”
Mordin turned to face the girl. She still held the Carnifex, but at a lower angle now. Daniel still hadn’t moved, despite the opportunity. He stared at the professor from under raised brows.
“Of course. But,” he said, gesturing at the table on which she stood, “Can’t do it from there. Allow me to help you down?”
She nodded cautiously. He approached and, holding her at the waist, levered her down. Now that her bare feet touched the floor, she clutched the gun to her chest, her four eyes wide, and stared up at him.
“Need free hand to operate scope,” Mordin said. She looked at him and then the scope. Coming to a decision, she tilted her head to the left and placed the Carnifex gently on the counter. Mordin kicked a footstool toward the scope, and she clambered up and leaned her bottom set of eyes against the eyepiece.
“So cool,” she murmured, only a trace of a pained sob underlying her words. She looked up at him, tilting her head to a greater degree. “Can you make it bigger?”
“Will show you how to increase magnification,” Mordin replied. “Easier with two arms, though. Allow me to fix it?”
The girl looked at him doubtfully.
“Promise no injections,” he said, smiling. “Besides, batarians have high pain tolerance. Suggesting otherwise… insulting, yes?”
The girl nodded and followed docilely as he searched a drawer for a splint. She remained silent, aside from a whispered “Pahly’a,” when he asked her name. But that was okay—if there was one thing Mordin knew how to do, it was fill a silence.
He’d no sooner gotten her arm bound than she’d dashed across the room back to the scope. Mordin handed the Carnifex to Daniel, who stared at him as if he’d sprouted wings.
“How’d you do that? Some kind of child psychology?”
“Not so hard,” Mordin said. “Bright child. Reminds me a little of you.” He sniffed. “Except handier with a gun.” He smiled at his bewildered assistant and then went to join the girl at the scope.
Drabble Meme for pagorismaleel
Polly didn’t want to, but the order had come in from Superior, and it was clear. The dalatrass had to die.
Finding the house had been child’s play. She’d just looked for the grandest, flashiest house in this area of the Presidium. The hardest part was getting inside and finding a place to lie in wait until Pagoris Maleel finally, finally went to sleep.
Salarians rarely slept more than an hour. It had to be now. She crept into the darkened bedchamber, bare footsteps muffled by plush carpet. Batarians have excellent nightvision, and Polly could make out the salarian’s sleeping form curled under silk sheets.
It didn’t have to be like this, Polly told herself, tension roiling in her stomach. She liked the dalatrass. Pagoris had been so kind to her, had donated a hefty amount of credits to the charity, had even believed her when she’d said she was no longer in contact with the Hegemony. If she didn’t know I’m an agent—if I had been more discreet…
But no, this wasn’t Polly’s fault. Or Pagoris’s. Or anyone’s. It just… was.
Polly lingered at the side of the bed, feeling ill. What was wrong with her? She trained for this. Pagoris Maleel was a nice enough person, but her continued existence threatened the Hegemony. And the good of the Hegemony was Polly’s highest priority.
Polly keyed up her omnitool. The orange glow filled the room, giving everything a sinister, shadowy cast. Pagoris didn’t stir.
She’s going to be a mother.
Polly paused, a hair’s breadth from pressing the command that would end the dalatrass’s life. Somewhere, hidden away in the house, was a clutch of eggs full of baby salarians who would be born orphans.
It would be Polly’s fault. And her responsibility.
Pagoris awoke, opening eyes that widened further with recognition. In a blind panic, fueled by instinct, Polly extended her omniblade and plunged it into the salarian’s chest. Pagoris tried to speak, but could only manage a wheeze. The silk sheets puddled green.
“Don’t worry,” Polly whispered to the dying woman. “Your kids’ll be safe with me.”
Drabble Meme for major-kirrahe
If you’d told Polly, before she left Khar’shan, that she would one day sit on a bench on the Citadel eating ice cream with an alien, she would have had two things to say.
First: “No way.”
Second: “What’s ice cream?”
Polly stared doubtfully at the gooey mound in its strange, edible cup.
“Go on and eat it,” said the salarian major. “I assure you it’s safe.” To demonstrate, he took a careful lick at his own ice cream. “See? It’s very good.”
Polly raised the…thing…to her mouth and probed at it with her tongue. Cold. Too cold for food. She had the urge to spit it out and call it a loss. And yet…
“You sure the humans eat this?”
“Oh, yes,” said the major. “It’s quite the delicacy on Earth and is gaining popularity in the rest of the galaxy. Quite similar to a traditional salarian treat, actually. You only have vanilla, but it comes in many flavors. Surely there is one type you will enjoy.”
“Does it come in pink?”
“That’s a color, not a flavor,” the major said, chuckling. “Go on now, it’s starting to melt.”
Polly scooped a little of the frozen matter off with her tongue and held it in her mouth. Once she got over the cold, she could actually taste it. It wasn’t that bad, actually, just sort of…bland. But sweet. And a vast improvement over the crackers and dried goods they’d been rationing in the camp.
The two sat in silent camaraderie as they finished their treat. When it came time to leave, the major helped her to her feet and half-bowed, gallantly. “I have business to attend to in the wards. Can you find your own way home?”
“Yeah, I think so. Um, thank you for the ice cream. It was…interesting.”
“You’re welcome,” said the major. He bade farewell and set off with the usual salarian haste, so that he only barely heard what Polly said next.
By the time Kirrahe turned to look, Polly was already gone.
How the Batarian Jump-Started Christmas
[This ended up much longer than I thought it’d be. So I’ll post it in chunks over the next day or so. Please read, and make me a happy person? ::-)]
“This is ridiculous,” said Tobith from the foot of the mountain of toys.
Balancing precariously at the peak, Polly peered at him over her shoulder. “Ridiculously cool,” she said, smiling. “There must be a thousand toys here. Oh, whoops!” Her foot slipped, sending a small avalanche of model ships tumbling to the floor.
Q:-5000 credits tranferred to account- Donor name withheld.
“F-five thousand?” Polly stared openmouthed at the asari behind the desk.
“That’s correct,” the asari replied. “Unfortunately, the donor withheld his or her identity. Or its. Can never be sure about the pronouns with so many synthetics around. At any rate, this brings your balance to eight thousand one hundred and forty-seven credits. How much longer does your charity run?”
Polly blinked stupidly at the question. Her mind was still reeling. Five thousand. Until now, Polly might not have claimed there was even that much money in the galaxy. In a matter of seconds, someone had more than doubled her total donations.
“Uh, I don’t know. Soon. Gotta finish my order to one of the stores in the wards. And then next-day delivery.”
“You know,” said the asari, “You’re the sweetest batarian I’ve ever met. No, wait, that came out wrong. I mean, I don’t know anyone else your age as generous and industrious as you.”
Generous? Her? No, Polly sullied the very concept of generosity just by being associated with it. Of the money in her account and the countless second-hand toys amassing in the borrowed storage unit, Polly had contributed a measly forty-seven credits.
Someone had just given a hundred times that.
She nodded an awkward goodbye to the asari and headed off to her cargo crate, thoughts swirling wildly in her head. The identity of the donor had been withheld, but credit transfers could be traced.
Polly was going to find this anonymous donor.
But what she would do then, she did not know.
O Captain, My Captain — for kaizershepard
“There are no problems with your omnitool,” the salarian asserted, handing the device back to Polly. “Or, if allowed to rephrase, no problems aside from illicit weapon concealed within.”
“Thanks, Tobith. Announce it to the whole camp, why don’t you?” Polly said, glancing about to see if he’d been heard. She needn’t have worried; perched as they were on the roof of her cargo crate, there was little chance of listening ears.
“I should,” Tobith said. “Should report you to Citadel security. Would be the right thing to do. Would earn… commendation, for turning in agent of Hegemony. ”
“But you’re not gonna do it, are you?”
Tobith opened his mouth then closed it again. “No,” he said after a moment. “Against my better judgment, but no. Couldn’t. You’re my friend.”
Reattaching the device to her wrist, Polly called up the holographic interface and began flicking through applications. “Then why can’t you fix my omnitool? I still can’t reach my—-uh, extranet accounts.”
“Told you before, not your omnitool or the extranet that’s the problem. Communications failure in Hegemony space.” He reached out to touch her shoulder. “My apologies, but Khar’shan likely incapacitated. Likely no one to report to.”
“N-no, it has to be just a temporary failure. They’ll have to be back online. I’ll make my report then.”
“In fact, I bet it’s so temporary that it’s already working again. Here, let me see.” She tapped a command into her omnitool, but was distracted by a tiny blinking icon at the top of the interface. “What’s this?”
“Private message,” Tobith said.
“What? But… Superior always contacts me through a secure channel. He wouldn’t leave a message on an omnitool where anybody could hack it.”
“Are you so sure it is your superior? Have you no other friends?”
“Other than you? I…” She selected the messages and called them up. “Oh! It’s from Captain Shepard.”
“Shepard? Human name. Hated name, for batarians. Thought you distrusted humans.”
“The Captain’s different somehow. Nice. She calls me Princess. And she left to go be a pirate. The pirate part balances out the human part, don’t you think?”
Tobith blinked slowly in what Polly had learned was his version of a shrug. When he made no reply, Polly turned her attention back to the omnitool.
“It’s been days. I wonder what she’s up to?” Eagerly, Polly opened the first message and began to read.
“This is my first log as I begin my new life in the Terminus systems,” Polly read aloud. Something stirred in the back of her mind, like a memory half-buried away, but she shook it off and crinkled her nose in a smile, anticipating the action-packed, swashbuckling adventures that surely awaited.
Then her eyes caught a couple of words from the next sentence. “M-memory wipe?” Anxiously, she skimmed the remainder of the message then tabbed to the next, and then the next. The messages were short and referred to several disturbing events, including an account of how the Captain lost her arm while defending a young batarian from a phantom. Despite the matter-of-fact tone of the log, Polly’s gut clenched as she processed the words. A missing arm? Surgery? All of these were disconcerting, but nothing bothered her so much as a couple of sentences from the final log:
“In a few moments, I will become a new person. Already, I am forgetting the things I once held dear; my father’s smile, my brother earning his status as a spectre, my mother telling me stories at night. All of them, disappearing.”
“She’s forgetting everything!” Polly said aloud. She slammed her omnitool against the roof of the cargo-crate, startling Tobith awake from his open-eyed doze. “She’ll probably never come back. And even if she does, she won’t remember me!”
“Polly,” Tobith said again in a consoling voice.
She shoved his proffered hand away. “I should’ve expected this,” Polly hissed, pulling herself to her feet. The memory she’d pushed away earlier returned in force. That’s what happens in the Terminus systems, Pahly’a, Superior had said to her as she cried. People get lost.
First Papa, and now…
“You’re the child I may never have,” Kaizer had written.
Yeah, Polly thought, baring her teeth, and you left me. Just like the parents I did.
Every spring she made the journey out to the edge of the world.
Mam always went with her, and Papa, if he was home. At the edge of the world, it always felt like they were the only people on Khar’shan. No Hegemony to keep Mam away, no galaxy for Papa to disappear into for seasons at a time. Just the three of them together, talking, laughing, basking under the desert sky.
This year, she walks alone.
The trail is rougher, rockier than she remembers. Sharp stones dig into the toughened pads of her bare feet. Midday sun sears her skin. She raises her arm to shield her eyes against the glare.
It’s too late in the day for a ten kilometer walk, but she knows this might be her last opportunity this year—and maybe ever. She leaves Khar’shan tomorrow on a refugee ship bound for the Citadel.
She crests the hill and pauses, leaning to scratch the back of her calf. At the bottom of the hill, the land flattens, extends in every direction to touch the horizon. Normally, the earth is cracked and bare.
The desert plants, usually tiny, scrabbly, thorny, and brown, have burst into furious bloom. The desert is carpeted with tiny flowers. They hang thickly from boulders, crawl along the sides of the path, pile atop each other like drifts and dunes of sand.
In her mind, Mam weaves vines and blooms into a cape and lays it over her shoulders. Papa draws his gun and fires at random into empty space, and she laughs at the sound.
Wind stirs the hem of her shift like a hot breath. She blinks rapidly as her thoughts return to the present. Superior expects her back by sundown for another briefing and some last minute preparations. She doesn’t have long. Time to do what she came to do.
In the middle of the desert at the edge of the world, Pahly’a kneels in a field of purple flowers and says goodbye.
Source: Daily Mail