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Miles To Go Before I Sleep

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Emma dreamed. It wasn’t a full-fledged dream. More or less snippets of her life. Things she would have expected to see right before she died. The 8X8 cell she lived her childhood in, the memories from before gone. Lab suits and cold needles and pain that burned through her like fire. Her anger, loud and destructive, crushing bones and stealing life. These were the memories she wanted to forget. All the memories before kind eyes, green and blue. Hands outstretched to grasp her own and pull her from the dark.

Alec Ryder and Grace Shepard. They saved her and gave her the sun.

A sharp kick to her foot caused her to jolt upright, her hand grasping her pistol out of habit.

“Relax kid. What are you going to do shoot me?”

Emma relaxed slightly as her large Krogan friend plopped down on the bench beside her, not caring for the structural integrity of it.

“I just might you crotchety old bastard.”

Emma propped her foot up on the edge of the table and leaned back, trying her best to ignore the array of empty cups that littered the surface. A glowing testament to how drunk she had been…again. Hedrak threw his head back (if Krogan even can) and laughed, drawing a glare from the Asari dancing in the cage closest to them. Emma raised her hand in apology to only be awarded another glare.

“What did you do to piss off Jera?” She asked.

“I exist.” Hedrak took a shot after speaking.

“I suppose that would piss anyone off.” She scrubbed her hand down her face, trying to rid herself of the last traces of sleep.

“Yet you’re still here.”

“Where the hell else am I going to go?”

“True shit.”

They lapsed into comfortable silence. Their friendship was never strained despite the amount of time they spent in silence. They never had to fill the air with words and they respected each other’s privacy enough to never pry beyond reason. He was the only friend she had bothered making since she awoke on the Nexus. Alex had always pushed her to make friends and integrate into society, but it was difficult when she could measure her humanness with a percentage. Not to mention, she technically didn’t exist within the Andromeda Initiative. Alec had snuck her aboard last minute with the Nexus to wake up and wait for him. She waited. And when he didn’t come, she left with the Exiles.

A small stirring the club made Hedrak and Emma look up from the darkened corner. A small group, a human, a Turian, and one of those cat things, approached the bar. Emma shifted forward to get a better look. Green flashed into her vision and she felt as if the room was closing in on her. It had to be him. He was here. She stood up, ignoring Hedrak’s questions, her eyes not leaving the group as the turned back the way they came and left.

“Gear up.” She turned back to her friend and grabbed her bow from beside her spot on the bench.

“Dammit, you couldn’t wait until after I finished my drink.”

~

Most newcomers to the wastelands always made the mistake of using the road. The road was prime battleground for the Collective and the Outlaws, the two constantly having a pissing contest over who owned what. She and Hedrak had followed the group, sticking to the hills and sparse tall grasses that littered the landscape. Emma watched them fight, disappointment filling her every time she saw the one that reminded her of Alec. He was strong, but clumsy, less assured of his movements. She listened as the ribbed each other along the way, the cat thing constantly protesting the planet’s conditions and the Turian commenting on how delicate he was. The man with Alec’s eyes laughed and it was so familiar it made her ache.

Emma ignored Hedrak’s furtive glances as they followed the group, watching them fight with the Collective and the Outlaws and sorting through the junk in the camps. It seemed they were looking for something, or someone, but really had no idea what they were doing. She was slowly losing interest and thought of turning back from the man who was clearly not Alec Ryder until they made way for a small remnant structure.

“What the hell do they want there?” Hedrak poked her in the shoulder with the butt of his shotgun as he spoke.

“There is only one way to find out.” She answered, her voice distorted through her scavenger helmet that she had quite literally scavenged from a dead human.

Emma vaulted over the boulder they had been crouched behind and snuck across the road, her feet kicking up small clouds of dirt. She couldn’t deny her curiosity. Everyone avoided the remnant structures, solely for the “shoot on site” protocol the remnants apparently had in their code. Emma pulled her bow from her back and rested it against her leg as she crouched behind another boulder. The team tried to use the abandoned crates as cover, but the remnants were awake and they were pissed. Yet it did not deter them. She watched them move fluidly, playing to each other’s strengths and weaknesses, bullets and biotics combining to pack one hell of a punch. Until of course, the boy with deceiving eyes left himself open and an assembler took advantage. He stumbled at the impact of the blow and his shield dropped.

“Ryder!” The Turian shouted.

Emma didn’t know what spurned her into action. The panicked shout of the Turian, the grimace of pain on the boy’s face, or the sound of his name.

Ryder. Ryder! Not Alec. Which Ryder?

Emma was up, an explosive bolt nocked and then flying, beeping through the air until it landed in the assembler’s core and exploded, pieces of metal flying across the structure. She was moving, her feet filling the air with dust, another arrow ready to fly. A breacher turned to her, not as interested in the Ryder anymore and started firing. They were easily dodged and even if they weren’t, it’s not like it would matter. There was a vague sound of Hedrak’s laughter behind her and she knew he was beside himself that he would get to shoot something today. Emma ran into the thick of it, loosing an arrow into the breacher’s eye, it stumbled confused at its loss of sight and she used that to her advantage.

Her thumb pressed against a small button near the grip and heard the small click as small blades made of carbon steel extended from the top and bottom limbs. The breacher righted itself right as she swung her bow, pushing the blades through its core and severing it in half. It fell in two pieces, still sparking. She thumbed over the button again and the blades retracted.

“Wow.” Someone spoke behind her, drawing her attention.

The Turian was crouched beside the Ryder while he stared at Emma slack-jawed and appreciative. The cat thing still aiming, this time at her, but his eyes were also filled with curiosity. Hedrak lingered in the back, not too fond of engaging people he didn’t know, and to also shoot them in the back if they tried anything.

Emma stepped closer, noting the wariness of the human’s companions, hundreds of questions lingering on her tongue. Yet, the one she wanted to ask the most filled her mouth like sand and made it difficult to speak.

Where is Alec?

“You should be more careful.” Were the only words she could push forth from her mouth, and with that she stepped around them and continued back the way she came, afraid to hear the answer to the question that burned in her.