"Ryder, where are you taking me?"
Suvi was unbearably cold, the thin material of her lab uniform doing little to keep her warm. She watched with a dismal expression as her breath condensed into vapour before her eyes, the gentle wisps of gas dissipating as if it had never been there.
She sighed; how did she let Nasi- Sandy drag her into this? She had just been doing some spectral analysis up in the labs (a fairly run-of-the-mill operation that shouldn't have taken too long) when the Pathfinder had stormed in, a heavy-looking duffel bag slung over her shoulder. Suvi hadn't even been able to say a word before the other woman had grabbed her wrist and pulled her out the room, much to the amusement of her colleagues.
Bastards, Suvi thought, bet they won't be laughing when-
"Here," Sandy Ryder grunted, letting go of the scientist's hand as she fumbled around with her omni-tool, "Just gimme a moment to-"
"Ryder, where are we? I don't recognise this part of the Nexus..."
Sandy hummed slightly, appearing to mull over Suvi's question. A few moments passed before she responded, her voice sounding equal parts excited and hollow. "We're in a part that's still under construction," perhaps sensing the next question, she continued, "Don't worry, it's got air and shields and everything. Just gotta get through this door."
Suvi relaxed a bit at that news, but she still felt on edge- after all, the strange edge to the Pathfinder's words remained...
"Why's it so bloody freezing?"
Sandy let out a dry chuckle, casting a sly look over her shoulder before turning back to the closed door, "Trust me, you'll be wishing it were even colder soon enough."
What does that even mean, she thought, brow furrowed in concentration.
"What's in the bag?" An innocent-enough question, Suvi hoped, maybe Sandy will drop a hint?
But she didn't respond right away, instead letting out a slight sigh as the door finally slid open. A gust of chill air rushed past the two women before fading, and Suvi got her first glimpse into the room.
Ryder strode into the room confidently, as if she owned the place (does she own a room on the Nexus, Suvi thought, I've never heard anything about a Pathfinders' quarters?). With a thump and a clatter, she threw the duffel bag to the floor, wincing slightly at the loud noise made by its collision with the smooth metal.
"Be a sweetheart and open that bag for me, would ya Suvi?" Sandy called out, already buried in a side room.
"What the hell is she playing at?" Suvi muttered to herself as she slipped into the room, cautiously making her way towards the bag. Now she was actually in the room, she took the chance to take in her new surroundings.
It was fairly big, at least by her standards. The walls were perhaps a bit too far apart, and the ceiling was far higher than she was used to, but it wasn't too alien. It actually reminded her of her old-
"Welcome to my gym!" Suvi wheeled round in surprise from the sudden voice. Sandy stood in the doorway to the side room, a smirk on her face as she drank in the scientist's shocked expression. She had changed out of her usual jacket into a tight black tank top and baggy red tracksuit bottoms, giving Suvi the impression of a particularly butch sports teacher she had had back in school. Her eyes fell, instinctively, to Sandy's arms.
Wrapped under layers and layers of crisp white bandage, the faint impression of her whipcord muscles could just about be made out. Further up towards her shoulders, her flesh seemed slightly twisted and melted, as if someone had taken a torch to-
Suvi remembered the file Vetra had given her- didn't it mention something about this? She tried to remember the exact context but try as she might, nothing came to her.
Sandy shifted uncomfortably, bringing her bandaged hands up to cover her shoulders as a hurt look showed on her face for but a split second. Suvi knew she had to say something, anything to her, otherwise th-
"Ithinkyoulookbeautiful!" The thought came out in one breath, each syllable being forced out before its predecessor had even had time to get out. Sandy straightened up slightly, her eyes darting to Suvi and back over and over again.
"Th-thanks, Suvi!" She beamed, a wide (if clearly forced smile) spreading across her face. Her eyes returned to the bag, and all at once the smile was gone. "The bag still appears to be closed."
"U-uh yeah! Sorry I was looking round the room, you said this is your gym?"
Sandy scratched her chin absentmindedly, considering Suvi's question. "Anywhere I work out is a gym to me, so today this room is my gym."
With an almost audible click, Suvi put two and two together, "Oh no, I've heard of your 'workout' sessions before Ryder! Didn't Liam end up in the med bay after the last one?"
"Only because he overexerted himself," Sandy paused, her gaze foggy as she recalled the session, "Plus I couldn't stop laughing at his new 'hairstyle', if you can call a bald head a style..."
"Be that as it may Ryder, I don't think I can be much help to you..." Turning to leave, Suvi felt another rush of wind blow past her. She spun back around to look at Sandy, but she wasn't th-
A tap on her shoulder. Suvi couldn't help but scream as she fell to the floor, flailing her arms wildly at her unknown assailant.
"Hahahahaha! See Suvi, you need to learn some self-defence! It would really help with..." Sandy's triumphant tone of voice was even more grating from Suvi's prone position, each syllable being savoured like a sweet treat. She hadn't really noticed it before, but she could just about make out a slight accent dripping from the Pathfinder's droning lecture.
Probably a side-effect of those damn translators, she thought. She still remembered how Cora has 'accidentally' brought down the translation systems aboard the Tempest- it had taken weeks to fix the Pathfinder's, much to the woman's chagrin. And even after all that time, they hadn't been able to fully repair it.
"… hospital! So yeah, that's pretty much that story- never saw that stupid jellyfish again!"
"What? I kinda zoned out for a minute there..."
Sandy made no effort to hide the sour look she threw out Suvi, even as she lifted her up off the ground, "That boring, am I?"
"No! Not at all! I've just had a lot on my mind recently, that's all!"
Not entirely convinced, Sandy looked the scientist up and down a few times, before leaning in closer, "Well, y'know what always helps me relax and unwind when I feel stressed?"
Try as she might, Suvi couldn't help blush- Sandy's voice had lowered to a husky drawl that made her weak at the knees. Was this finally it? "Sh-show me!" Suvi squeaked, trying desperately to keep her voice level in the face of the other woman's offensive.
Sandy smirked slightly, leaning in closer, "Okay then, Doctor Anwar..."
Suvi closed her eyes as if by instinct, waiting for the inevitable contact. Any moment no-
She felt Sandy grab her wrist, forcing something cold and metallic into it before pulling back. Confused, she opened her eyes and looked down.
A long, wicked-looking knife was clasped into her right hand. It's dull metallic sheen glittered under the artificial lighting, lending it an almost ethereal feel.
"Disappointed?" Sandy's smug voice echoed from across the room. Suvi looked up to see her holding her own, identical blade, twirling it absentmindedly between her fingers as she let a wry smile work its way across her face. "Sorry, but you should have seen the look on your face!"
Pouting, Suvi held the knife up to her face, peering at the fine detailing on the blade. The metal (whatever it was) had a beautiful sheen to it, with the dark swirling patterns appearing to shift and change as the light reflected off of it. Curious, Suvi ran her finger along the edge of the blade...
"It's blunt?" She asked, brow furrowed in confusion, "What's the point of a blade with no edge?"
"Firstly, nice pun," Suvi blinked- whatever her pun was, she must have missed the point, "secondly, I blunted them for training purposes! I knew you'd only end up lopping off one of your fingers otherwise."
"Why are you doing this?"
Sandy frowned slightly, spending a few moments piecing together an answer. Finally, after what seemed like an eternity, she responded, "Both the Kett and the Roekaar make use of knives and other small blades when in hand-to-hand combat. If you're gonna be on the Pathfinder team, you need to at least know how to defend yourself in those situations."
Suvi opened her mouth to object, but she couldn't think of anything to say- everything Sandy just said was perfectly logical.
"Besides, don't you wanna see me at my best?" Sandy added with a wink, smiling as she saw Suvi visibly shiver at the simple gesture.
"Alright, fine!" Suvi relented with a shrug, "Just... go easy on me. I saw what you did to those poor militia cadets, almost gave them all heart attacks..."
"They deserved it, lippy sons of bitches..."
"You almost killed them! During a first aid lesson!" Suvi didn't know whether to scold Sandy or laugh at that day's misadventures.
"Potato, tomato. Are we gonna spar or what?"
"Ryder's Top Tip Number 31- Never do what your enemy wants you to do!"
"But you told me to do that though! As part of the lesson and everything!"
"Ryder's Top Tip Number 32- Sometimes do what your enemy wants you to do!"
Suvi groaned. They had been going at it for what seemed like hours now, and she hadn't even been able to land a hit on the Pathfinder. And to make matters worse, Sandy was far from the greatest teacher.
"Come on ya wuss, too much for you? We've only been doing this for a few minutes!"
"A few minutes?"
"Yeah, 7 minutes to be precise!" Sandy's smile was sincere, that much was clear, but Suvi knew that there was no way that could be true.
"Ryder, how long?"
"Ugh, do you really have that little faith in me? Check your omni-tool if you don't believe me!"
Sure enough, only 7 minutes had passed. Suvi barely suppressed a laboured groan as she turned to look at the smug woman who bobbed and skipped mere feet away. She knew that she wasn't in peak physical condition but even still...
"Ready for another go?"
"Sure... g-go for it!"
The two women stood apart by about 3 feet. Using what little knowledge that she already had about fighting, Suvi assumed a position not dissimilar to that of a boxer, her knife held at head height. Sandy, on the other hand, stood as plainly as possible, her feet at about shoulder width as she held the knife behind her. Cautious as always, Suvi edged closer to Sandy, stretching her knife arm out in front of her as she poked into her opponents defences.
As if a switch had been flicked inside of her, Sandy sprang into action. Feinting right, she threw Suvi off balance, watching with a smirk as the scientist fumbled and stumbled around. Using the momentum of her feint, the Pathfinder swung back around, going down into a crouch as she swept Suvi's legs out from under her.
"Ryder's Top Tip Number 33- You're not boxing. When defending, place your weight on you back leg to avoid being swept off your feet."
"Jesus Christ Ryder, lemme know when you're about to do that, okay?"
Sandy cast an eye over her prone colleague, "Ryder's Top Tip Number 34- Kett don't give warnings, and neither do the Roekaar. No quarter given, at any time."
"Ryder's Top Tip Number 81- Even if you think you're gonna hit an enemy, still follow through on the attack. You almost got me there, and you would have made contact if you had gone for a second swipe."
"Got it," Suvi was getting into a rhythm now, and she had to admit it- this was pretty fun, "always follow through. What if they parry into a counter?"
Sandy pauses, running her fingers across her own blade as she once again mulled over Suvi's question. "Depends. If you're more heavily armoured then I'd take the risk, but if you're unsure I'd probably backpedal into a defensive stance. Better safe than sorry, y'know?"
Suvi nodded, committing the advice to memory. By all rights she should be struggling to concentrate- she was absolutely dripping with sweat, and tying her lab coat round her waist had not helped as much as she'd hoped. But despite all that, she felt sharper than ever.
"Probably just the adrenaline..."
"Oh, nothing," Suvi paused, considering her options, "don't suppose you have anything to drink?"
Sandy, who had been busying herself with spinning her knife, straightened up, "I have what's left of that ryncol, which I don't think you'd like..."
"Yeah I'll pass on that one, I don't really feel like having my head blown off today."
"Good choice. Well, apart from that, I have a few cans of cheap beer? It's no water, but it's still better than nothing!"
Now it what Suvi's turn to mull things over. Did she really want to be drunk when alone with Ryder (famed pirate and Pathfinder) and two knives?
"Sure, chuck one over!"
"Anwar's Fucking Top Tap Tip Number... a billion! You gotta... fucking, swing at the thingy! Y'know," Suvi swallowed, punching her chest with a balled fist, "y'know when you wanna just stab at the soft bit? Well, that's... don't do that! I fucking HATE it when that happens!" She shouted, drops of beer sloshing out from her can as she swung it like a knife, "When what you wanna do... when it's right there but... it's not? Like, what?"
Sandy stalked back and forwards down the centre of the room, both knives swirling and twirling around her. Suvi watched with blurry eyes as Sandy slashed and thrust the dual blades around as if they were made of wood, not dense steel.
"How'd you even learn to d- to make the stabbities dance like that?"
With a flourish, Sandy threw the knives up into the air, letting them hang there for a few moments before they resumed their fall to the floor. She caught them midair, bringing them down to her waist as she fixed her hawk-like gaze on the inebriated Suvi.
"Y'know for a Scot, you are absolutely awful at coping with alcohol!"
"Okay, number one, that's is bullsh- crap! I can drink like the best of them!"
"Oh yeah, I'll believe that when I see it."
"Number B, stop dodging my quer- question with all your, "Suvi gestured at Sandy's face with the can of beer, "brain."
Sandy let out a wry chuckle, "Now now Doctor Anwar, you do yourself a disservice! I'm sure you have plenty of," she gestured at Suvi with a mockingly exaggerated wave of a bandaged hand, "brain, as well."
"Shut the fffffffuck up Sandy," Suvi's word slurred as she pulled herself to her feet, body swaying slightly as she staggered towards an amused Pathfinder, "Or should I say, Nasira?"
Almost instantly, Sandy's smile melted into a wary scowl. Her fists tightened around the grips of her knives as she narrowed her eyes on the scientist. "I'm sorry, I didn't quite catch that..."
If Suvi registered Sandy's change in tone, she didn't address it. "Yeah! I kno- I KNOW! It's top-secret... shush!"
Sandy stepped closer to Suvi, knives raised. "Suvi, I want to know where you heard that name. Right now."
"Vetra gave me a stupid dossy... dossiair? What the fuck you call it, it doesn't even fucking matter! She gave me a file!"
With clumsy fingers, Suvi opened up her omni-tool and fumbled with the display for a few moments. After what seemed like an eternity to her, Sandy's own omni-tool pings with the received message notification. Opening up the attachment, she scans over the text.
"Pretty fucki- pretty darn cool, right?"
Sandy closed her omni-tool with a laboured groan, "who else did you share this with?"
Perhaps sensing the seriousness of the situation, Suvi seemed to be making an effort to sober up, "No-one I swear on my life... well maybe not my life, but I definitely swear!"
Sandy brought her fingers to her head, massaging her temples as she tried to concentrate. Her face was a mask- Suvi couldn't even begin to decipher what was running through her head.
After a few minutes, Sandy sighed again, opening her eyes and staring directly at Suvi. A few more moments pass in a tense silence.
"… You're not mad at me, right?" Suvi whispered, any last traces of her drunkenness slipping out of her mind at the sight of Sandy's distraught expression.
"Heh, I was about to ask you the same thing."
"Why would I be mad at you? What's in the past stays there, that's what my dad always taught me!"
"Hmmm," Sandy paused again, running her fingers through her dark, matted tresses, "your father sounds like a nice guy..."
Another pregnant silence, although this one is far less tense than the last. Sandy sighed yet again, spinning the knives in her hands as she tries to centre herself.
"Ohhhh I am gonna KILL Vetra..."
Suvi giggled slightly, "I'd pay to see that fight! Imagine what HNS would say?"
Sandy let out a pained groan at the mention of the news agency. They had been dogging her every move since the... incident with the militia cadets. Drack had said something about the "damned paparazzi" trying to break into the Tempest on multiple occasions- they were that desperate for news.
She continued, "Well if it's any consolation..." Suvi advanced on Sandy, pulling the knives from her hands and letting them drop to the floor with a clatter, "I'm glad we did this today! Not how I imagined our first date going, but I still had fun..."
"First date, huh?" Sandy smirked, taking Suvi's hands in her own, "Wasn't even aware we were officially 'a thing', y'know?"
Suvi couldn't help but roll her eyes at that. "How old are you- 13? Did you want me to get Liam to pass you a note after science class?"
"Ah you tease, but I actually considered doing that a few times!" Sandy flushed a deep brown, her umber skin flaring in the most beautiful way. "Guess I'm not the most socially adept girl in the universe..." She chuckled at the self-deprecation, appearing to kind comfort in the familiar joke.
Suvi pulled her in closer, eyes flicking between Sandy's eyes and lips as the other woman reciprocated the gesture. "You're too hard on yourself Sandy..." Suvi closed her eyes as her face neared the Pathfinder's; she could feel her warm, alcohol-tinged breath tickling her face as she moved closer and closer...
Suddenly, a burst of energy flew across the room, hitting Sandy in the side as she was sent sprawling across the floor.
Shocked, Suvi wheeled around to where the blast had come from. In the doorway stood an asari, her biotics fading as half a dozen militiamen began to file into the room, guns all trained on the prone Pathfinder. The asari, dressed in a flowing blue robe and silver circlets, floated over to Suvi.
"Are you alright my child, did she hurt you?"
"What? No, Sandy would never-"
"Sandy?" The asari laughed- a beautifully melodic sound that floated over the sound of stamping boots, "My dear, surely you must know that that's not her name?"
"Well, she used to be called Nasira, bu-"
The asari interrupted her again with another laugh, this one more grating than the last. "Ah so you know about her past? She's a dangerous criminal you see, so we're taking her in."
In the corner of the room, a group of three militiamen pulled Sandy to her feet, restraining her as they begin to march her out of the room. As she passes, she locks eyes with the asari, a look of recognition briefly flashing across her features, followed by a look of pure hatred.
"Helyx? You fucking whore, I'll kill you!"
In reponse the asari, who is apparently called Helyx, merely tilted her head and drawled, "Hello my dear, long time no see..." Suvi was no expert with asari linguistics, but even she could tell that there was nothing but venom in that greeting. "Gag and deliver her to Kandros. She is to be placed in a cell pending Exile."
The militiamen nodded before dragging the now gagged Ryder from the room, kicking and screaming all the way. As she disappeared from sight, Helyx once again turned her attention to Suvi.
"Now my dear, what shall we do with you?"
"Please, whatever you think San- Nasira's done I swear that she's innocent!"
"Oh really?" Helyx snapped her long, bony fingers, and from the now vacant doorway came a familiar figure...
"Cora? What are you doing he-" Suvi began, but she was quickly silenced by the Lieutenant's raised hand.
"Two things. One; Nasira Ryder is under arrest for multiple charges of drug possession and smuggling, as well as assault, vandalism and improper conduct. Two;" Cora looks to Helyx for a nod of approval before continuing, "From now on I'm Pathfinder to you, Doctor Anwar."