Lylanya had been very quiet during the whole trip back. Despite bursting through the gate to get out and having several guards shoot at them from the roof of the building as they made their escape, Lylanya was stern and silent the entire time; driving as if it was a casual cruise. As if signaling their success, the first bright glow of the morning sun peeked over the horizon only moments after they were clear of the place, erasing the darkness from their surroundings except where long shadows stretched from anything with some height to it. Slowing the vehicle's speed as to avoid attention in case any local authorities were on an early morning patrol or returning from a late night one, Lylanya casually backtracked until she brought the truck to where they had been dropped off. Yalo looked at her expectantly as they arrived and she just glanced at him with an emotionless expression.
"You call him," she said, her voice matching her visage. "After all, it's your victory."
Yalo cocked his head to one side, but she had already opened the door and leapt out before he could ask. Ignoring it, he contacted Intarr and told him to come and pick them up, then hopped out himself and went around the back to help Haedian unload their prize.
"Now remember, Intarr doesn't know what really happened back on Bersilius," Yalo warned. "He thinks you gassed everybody and escaped, and that Lylanya is an old mercenary buddy of mine from before I even joined him."
"I'll keep up your silly pretense, don't worry," Haedian muttered, but then he smiled. "It actually makes me look slightly better than I already am."
"And also keep in mind that he's not very fond of you, so don't push him and try to keep your observations to a minimum."
"That goes without saying," Haedian stated. "And, yes, I'll try my best not to accrue the krogan's wrath."
Intarr arrived a few minutes later, swooping down in Karina and touching down on an empty block with nothing but grass on it. He opened the main door and gave Yalo a nod as the quarian approached.
"Yalo," he said.
"Intarr," came the response with a returned nod.
"I've opened the cargo bay door on the other side," the krogan informed him, nudging his head back and to his left. "I trust all went well?"
Before Yalo answered, Doctor Haedian walked by with the mass-grav lift, heading around the back of the ship as he narrowed his eyes at Intarr. The krogan tracked his movement with his head, the massive plate on his forehead sliding down a bit as he scowled. "Well... about as well as can be expected given the circumstances," came his correction.
"Relax, its all been worked out," Yalo consoled. "Just remember: no skull crunching unless I say so."
"You're the boss," Intarr shrugged. "Was it clean, or did things get a bit messy?"
Yalo started to speak, but was interrupted by a familiar and irritated-sounding feminine voice.
"They got messy," Lylanya said, walking up to the door. She looked at Yalo, her already-present frown deepening. The early morning sun was reflecting in her eyes, making them seem to burn a bright yellow, while her skin looked slightly green. "Too messy, some might say," she added.
She ducked under Intarr's arm and stepped up onto her ship, disappearing in the direction of the cockpit. Intarr watched her for a while, then looked back at Yalo sideways, his one visible eye seeming like a miniature sun now itself.
"What's with her?" he asked. Yalo shrugged.
"I think she feels I was a little... overzealous in my shooting," he responded.
"I didn't know there was such a thing," Intarr commented. "Come on... if you caused that much of a fuss, the faster we're off this place the better."
Yalo nodded, hauling himself up into Karina and closing the door. Intarr noticed the doctor entering from the cargo bay so called out towards the cockpit that they were good to go. There was no response from Lylanya herself, but the engines roared to life and it wasn't long until the sleek blue ship was off the planet and back in the endless void of space. Yalo entered the cockpit to find Intarr and Haedian both sitting in seats on opposite sides of the compartment, while Lylanya was up front in the broken pilot's seat. Two sets of eyes met Yalo's visor as soon as he stepped in; one set krogan and the other salarian.
"So... what happened down there then?" Intarr asked.
Yalo took a seat and began to outline the events that transpired since Intarr had dropped them off, with Haedian filling in little bits once the story had made it to his involvement in things. Lylanya had remained silent the entire time, even when Intarr turned and made several praising comments about her actions during the mission, but as the story came to its end she got up from the pilot's seat and strode past them quickly, leaving the cockpit entirely. Yalo watched her pass through each room before opening the door of her own quarters in the distance, then disappearing as it snapped shut behind her.
"Pfft! Softhearted asari. Can't take a little bit of blood," Intarr snorted. Yalo sighed inside his helmet.
"I think I should go talk with her," he said. "I'm pretty sure I'm the one at fault here."
"She's too sensitive," Haedian uttered, as if an authority on the matter. "You did what had to be done... simple as that. We might not have escaped otherwise." A pause. "Besides, I never liked Chortan or Varinus anyway."
"I'll be back later," Yalo said, heading off to Lylanya's quarters. "We have a lot to discuss."
"If she throws a hissy fit and leaves can I have her cut?" Intarr called out.
Yalo didn't respond and Intarr just snorted, shaking his head. He looked up at Haedian who just smiled nervously. "What are you looking at?!"
"A non-sentient lifeform who belongs in a cage," the salarian answered.
"Shut up!" Intarr yelled in his face before stomping off towards the cargo bay. Haedian frowned in the krogan's direction.
"A cage that should be thrown into a volcano on a planet whose sun is about to go supernova," he mumbled to himself.
He sat there for a while, his large charcoal eyes darting around the cockpit as he twiddled his fingers on his knees restlessly. Eventually his gaze was drawn to the main console at the front of the section.
"I hope she put on the autopilot before leaving..."
That was the response Yalo got from behind the door as he tapped the control panel's chime to request entry to Lylanya's quarters.
"It's me. I got the feeling you wanted to talk with me."
"The term 'yell' would fit better than 'talk' I think, " came her answer.
"Fine. So can I come in so you can yell at me then?"
Yalo opened the door, entering Lylanya's quarters for the first time since he'd been on Karina. They were bigger than he expected considering the size of the rooms that would generally be considered more important, but then that kind of fit what he knew of Lylanya. There was a large bed with dark purple sheets on it, with matching curtains at the port-side window. There was a desk and chair, with shelves with various knickknacks on them, Yalo guessed from her various adventures over the past hundred-and-a-bit years she'd been a mercenary. There was a vanity with a large mirror, which was hardly surprising, and what looked like a closet with an asari mannequin nearby that he guessed was for her armour. A simple exercise machine lay on the floor, but aside from that the room was very spacious and there was a lot of empty space simply not used. Lylanya was standing in this space at the moment, looking out the window with her arms crossed at the small of her back, facing side-on to Yalo. As soon as the door closed behind him she have him an accusative glare.
"You went too far!"
"I did what I had to do," Yalo countered, coldly and instantly. It seemed to catch her off guard, as if she were expecting him to pause, apologise or at least sound guilty about it, even if he believed his claim.
"No, you didn't. The turian, yes... that I understand. But those salarians?! They weren't even armed, they were helpless."
"They would have alerted others and they would have tried to stop us."
"We were getting shot at as we escaped!" Lylanya said after an exasperated sigh of disbelief. "They were already trying to stop us."
"There could have been more... there probably would have been, and it would have slowed us down. There's no time to try and make an effort to make sure they survive."
"That doesn't make it right. I could have just knocked them out, like I did with the others before I got you out of that crate. But you had to just kill them in cold blood!"
Yalo paused, studying Lylanya for a moment.
"Why do you care?" he asked.
"What do you mean?"
"Why do you care?" the quarian repeated, crossing his arms and favouring one leg in a challenging pose. "You're a mercenary. Have been for, what... a few hundred years? You've probably killed dozens, if not hundreds more than I have. And you're telling me that I'm wrong and I went too far?"
"Yes I have," she said. "But I don't just treat life as meaningless. I've lived long enough to realise the value of life, and that a single person can effect the lives of others in ways we can't imagine."
"I know that!" Yalo yelled back. "The reason I'm doing this, in case you forgot, is to save my people."
"That doesn't give you the right to take their lives like that," Lylanya argued. "Not when you can find another way. When there's no option, then fine... that's another matter. But you could have found another way. I've always tried to find another way if I could."
She paused, her eyes drifting off a bit and her brow twisting with a mix of emotions.
"Or... at least I do now."
"You can't hesitate and think of alternatives in a situation like that," Yalo defended. "You go with the quickest and best option available at the time."
"Sure," Lylanya said, her eyes piercing through his visor to meet his. "You believe that now. But one day, you'll pull that trigger, or you'll activate that omni-tool or you'll do something else in the heat of the moment, and you'll end up regretting it for the rest of your life."
Lylanya turned away sharply, but not in time for Yalo to missed the tears beginning to stream from her eyes. She stormed over to the back wall beside her bed, crossing her arms and then let out a heavy sigh. Yalo cocked his head to one side, then slowly approached.
"I sense there's more to this than just you objecting based on your principles," he said.
"In a way," she said, then sniffled. "Let me put it this way: I'm objecting because of one of the key moments in my life that founded my principles."
There was an awkward silence between them, save for the odd sniff from Lylanya, who was still facing away from him. Yalo broke it.
She looked over her shoulder at him, and he couldn't tell if she was angry, sad, confused or something else entirely.
"Why? Why should I tell you a personal matter of my past when you won't even tell me what it is you're planning on doing?"
"Well, aside from the fact I intend to tell all of you very soon what my plans are, perhaps by telling me you can give me a perspective on things that I hadn't considered before. Perhaps I can learn from your example."
Lylanya's eyes looked away and she just stood there silently for what seemed like a long time. They narrowed briefly, as if she was battling her own conscience or something about whether to tell him or not, and then her face relaxed and she looked at him once more. "All right," she said, and it was almost a whisper.
Turning around fully, she gestured to the edge of her bed for Yalo to take a seat, and when he had she backed up against the wall behind her, clasping her hands before her nose as if in prayer. She took a deep breath, and began.
"It was almost seventy years ago now. Back before the humans were in and the batarians were out. I was hooked up with a band of mercs... the third one actually."
Lylanya paused for a moment, though it was more like the words had just left her. She gazed away at nothing, her eyes glazing over slightly, and then she said, "And the last" in a voice that wasn't hers. She blinked twice rapidly, her eyes darting to Yalo who was just sitting there. With an embarrassed cough and a downward glance she leant back against the wall, crossed her arms and continued on.
"There... there were seven of us in the group. There was the leader of the group, an asari twice my age named Sytheria. Or at least that's what we called her... I don't think it was her real name. Then she had two turians directly below her she referred to as 'The Pin Twins,' half because they actually were brothers and half because together they were experts at simply pinning an enemy down in one place and stopping them from either advancing or retreating. There was a batarian named Tagarn who was our tech expert, a drell named Arann and finally two young asari: myself and a pureblood ten years my junior named Dri'ala.
"We operated out of an old cargo ship that we'd just take from system to system and leave out in the middle of nowhere with most of its systems off-line as to avoid detection. Everything inside worked fine, so we had power and life support and everything, but we turned off all the things that would get us detected by another ship. The old barge was pretty much just our home and we had a faster ship of Sytheria's that we used to strike at our targets with. Its sensors were specifically tweaked by Tagarn for a narrower but longer range, and we used it to detect ships from out of their own sensor range and would burst our engines and just use the inertia to get us to our targets, hopefully undetected, and then strike when we were right on them, preferably taking them by surprise and knocking out their weapons and engines before they could counterattack. Truth be told, we were actually closer to pirates than mercenaries. It didn't start out that way, but after basically pulling off some pirate raids as contracts Sytheria saw the profit in it and we began to just do it on our own between contracts for profit. We were already pretty much considered pirates by any authorities that knew about us, so we figured 'why the hell not?'
"Anyway, we were all one single unified group, but it still kind of split down the middle a bit. One one side there was Sytheria, The Twins and Tagarn, and on the other was the rest of us. Dri'ala and I started about the same time and hadn't been with the group as long, except for Arann who joined a little later than us, so the three of us kind of formed this tight knit group. It was a little like we were the little sisters and brother to the other big brothers with Sytheria as the mother at the top, who tended to trust the big brothers more because they had been around longer."
Lylanya looked distant again and a smile twitched to the surface.
"She was actually more like a mother than a boss in some ways come to think of it. Very strict, but also caring and fair. Never took sides or chose favourites, and everybody listened to her. I don't think I ever saw anybody question her decisions or orders. The Twins may have on rare occasion, but if their alternative or objection was denied they would never push the issue further."
Lylanya came back to reality, shaking her head a little before moving on.
"In either case, the point was that Dri'ala, Arann and I grew pretty close over time. We were the greener and less serious half to the more mature big brothers, and while they sometimes seemed to be irritated by our antics I remember Sytheria once telling them that she felt it made us a better team. Over time as our bond grew, another one began to form, specifically between Arann and myself. Dri'ala and I used to flirt with him and tease him jokingly, which embarrassed the hell out of him. Many don't think a drell can blush, but believe me... they can. Eventually I found that I was no longer just teasing him but actually flirting with him. I think it was because I'd heard stories of the drell being these deadly soldiers and assassins with hearts as cold as ice, but Arann was instead rather shy and a little awkward, and I found it cute. At least he was when things weren't happening anyway; while on the job he was like a different drell entirely. He could shoot a krogan's left front testicle with a pistol from a hundred metres away, and he'd enter a room, his eyes would twitch for a few seconds and he'd be able to tell us any holes in our defenses or places enemies may be able to use to their advantage based on the layout of the place. Gravity seemed to hold no sway over him either... without so much as a running start he could leap five times his own height, and he had no fear in a fight, even if he seemed to want to crawl into a dark corner and hide from the smallest tease from Dri'ala or myself.
"Eventually I ended up jumping him one night, since he couldn't seem to take a hint, or was too timid to do anything about it. We became a thing, and while we didn't blab it around we didn't keep it a secret either and soon everybody knew. Sytheria took us aside after finding out and I thought she was going to tell us to knock it off, but all she told us was to not let it get in the way during work. And we didn't, more due to Arann than myself, since he seemed to switch into his 'battle mode' whenever we were working and it was like there was nothing between us at all until we got back, which was fine as far as we were both concerned and seemed to please Sytheria as well. Things seemed to be going well, but at the time I hadn't noticed that the little group that was once the three of us had become the two of us and Dri'ala. Now it was Arann and I who were the talkers and Dri'ala was growing increasingly quiet and distanced. We used to share meals together, but more frequently she'd start leaving part the way through them. She and I shared a room, and if Arann ever came in she'd stop whatever she was doing and utter something about 'leaving us two alone' and up and leave. I just let it happen, not because I was intentionally being selfish, but because I actually didn't notice it at the time. Hindsight provided that little insight into my life unfortunately. And, hey... it didn't hurt that when she wasn't there we could get it on like varren in heat without being disturbed.
"One day, after this had been going on for months and months, a job came up. Sytheria told us that it wasn't a big one and so not all of us would be going. Usually at least one of us stayed behind anyway to look after the main ship, but this time it would just be her, one of The Twins, Arann and Dri'ala going. Apparently they weren't expecting much resistance and she thought the less of us involved, the less there would be to go wrong. I usually went on missions with Arann and asked Sytheria why Dri'ala was going instead of me. She simply told me that she'd made her choice, and like everybody else when it came to our mother's orders, I didn't question her decisions beyond that first time. So they left, and I stayed behind. For some reason things didn't seem right from the start, and I wasn't sure what instinct kicked in or why, but... it was there, and yet, at the same time... it wasn't enough to... to..."
Lylanya sniffled, and tears began to run down her cheeks. By this point she had slid down the wall into a sitting position on the floor. She cupped her nose and mouth in her hands and began to rock slightly. Something light touched her shoulder and rested there.
"What happened?" she heard Yalo's voice say, curious and reassuring at the same time. Lylanya breathed in deeply as her mind cast back to some of the moments that most defined who she was today.
In some ways, it was like time itself began at that very moment. The moment when Sytheria's voice crackled through the intercom and echoed off the dull metallic walls of her quarters was if The Goddess herself was proclaiming the dawn of a new age. Not an age of life and prosperity, but one of death and destruction. Everything before had seemed like a dream by comparison, and everything since would be permanently coloured by it.
"Mission failed," came the words. "Arann is dead."
Lylanya felt as if all her internal organs had vanished and been replaced by a void the size of the universe itself. For what seemed eons she just sat there, her eyes wide and refusing to blink. The datapad in her hand slipped to the floor as she finally tore from her bunk through the door and out into the main corridor. She was running through filtered air, but it felt like wading through water to her, and the more she wanted to get to the docking area the more it felt like it was fighting her back. She was a dozen metres or so away from the docking bay room doors when she saw one of The Twins emerge, followed soon by the other. Carried between them was a long black bag about two metres in length, and Lylanya knew exactly what was inside it. She froze, the only movement her eyes as they traced the movement of the bag coming towards her. She sidestepped to her left to let them past, more as an instinct than a conscious act, and as it passed by she didn't even turn her head to track it, instead looking up and to her right as blue entered the corner of her eye. There was Dri'ala, her large green eyes brimming with tears and a look of sorrow and something else Lylanya couldn't describe.
"What happened?" Lylanya asked her best friend.
Dri'ala stopped for a moment, looking directly into Lylanya's eyes. This only lasted a few seconds before the emerald orbs darted briefly towards Sytheria behind her and were finally concealed by her eyelids, squeezing out more liquid before she kept walking. Lylanya's gaze followed her friend's trudging steps before she was aware of Sytheria passing by her. Looking up at her leader she saw that there were no tears in her eyes or look of sadness on her face. Sytheria's emotional state was very clear: she was angry.
Lylanya shifted her gaze quickly, as if the rage from Sytheria was directed at her, even though she knew had nothing to do with whatever happened. She stared at the floor while Sytheria passed behind her, the only sense of any kind to her the sound of the ebbing footsteps behind her. A door creaked in the distance, jolting her back into reality and she turned around to see The Twins taking the bag into Arran's room.
Taking Arann into Arran's room, Lylanya's mind corrected.
Lylanya sniffed and blinked away her sadness, heading towards the turians as they disappeared into Arran's room.
"Wait," she called, but it was no more than a whisper for a start. "Wait!" she repeated louder.
She quickened her pace and found her way into the room blocked by one of The Twins: Garonis, the one with the darker complexion and facial markings around his mouth resembling jagged teeth. Behind him she could see his brother laying the bag on Arran's bed carefully. Lylanya moved to get past but Garonis shifted to block her again.
"Move, Garonis!" Lylanya insisted. His constant success at blocking her every attempt was frustrating her.
"Arran's body is to be undisturbed," the turian explained, his voice cold and direct. "Sytheria's orders."
"But I need to see him!" Lylanya argued, trying her damnedest to get through a gap under his left arm she knew wasn't going to be there long.
"He's dead, Lyl!" the turian snapped, using the shortened nickname she had become more used to hearing over her time there. "You seeing his bloodied corpse isn't going to change that!"
Lylanya was stunned by this and stopped her futile efforts to get past, just as a large gap opened up for the other turian to leave the room through. Garonis was always the least sensitive of the brothers, which was saying something since neither were particularly soft or sentimental, but he usually wasn't as blunt as this. Lylanya just sneered at him until she heard a creak from further down the hall and saw Dri'ala and Sytheria at Sytheria's quarters and about to enter.
"Sytheria! Dri'ala! Wait!" Lylanya called out to them, tearing towards them as if them disappearing into the door meant the universe itself ending. "I need to--"
Lylanya cut herself off as the door closed behind them. She heard the locking mechanism creaking and clicking into place. The same noise came from behind her and she looked over her shoulder to witness Garonis locking up Arran's quarters. It was as if she didn't even exist to them at the moment, but Lylanya wasn't going to stand for that.
"What happened?" the asari demanded, storming up to Garonis. "Tell me!"
"Arann got shot," the turian answered, not even making eye contact and in a manner so casual it was as if he couldn't decide what to eat.
"With a gun, in the head," Garonis said as if the answer were obvious. "You'll have to talk to Sytheria for more than that."
Garonis checked his Crossfire assault rifle while Lylanya fumed at his insensitivity and complete lack of cooperation. The fact that he still hadn't even looked at her felt like salt in the wounds.
"You were there! Why can't you tell me?!"
"Because I was told not to," he said, turning his back to her and walking away towards the docking bay again. "Sytheria's orders."
Lylanya fumed for a while more, then punched the wall to the left of Arran's door in frustration, briefly pulsing with dark energy and leaving a small fist-sized dent behind as she stormed off to her quarters.
Lylanya lay there for what felt like eons, staring up at the ceiling above her bed with her pillow hugged to her chest. The datapad she'd dropped earlier was half-crushed at the foot of her bed where she'd stepped on it shortly before collapsing on her bunk. If she'd even acknowledged its destruction she'd have probably found it fitting, considering it had contained an asari romance novel she'd been reading before hearing the news.
Mission failed. Arann is dead.
Shit! Why did those words have to echo through her mind. She slapped right right palm against her forehead as if the act would drive them out, then tossed the pillow against the far wall as if casting it aside would remove all her pain and doubt. As the pillow made contact, a creaking noise sounded from the opposite wall and Lylanya craned her neck to see the door half-open and Dri'ala standing in it; staring at her with wide green eyes and frozen between the task of opening the door as if standing still would make her invisible.
That's all she said, her eyes dropping to nothing on the floor. Then, as if time decided to unfreeze in her vicinity and make up for its lost existence, the door was fully open and Dri'ala was at her footlocker, opening it up.
"What's going on?" Lylanya asked, standing up now. "What happened? Why won't anybody tell me anything?"
Dri'ala froze again about halfway through Lylanya's questions, then eventually looked over he shoulder up at her friend. She had a clear complexion and was paler than most asari, with a hint of green in her skin, but now she seemed even paler than normal. Her mouth moved a little, but nothing came out. As if sinking under some pressure her eyes sank down to the floor and words eventually came.
"Arann got shot. He... got shot in the head." A pause, and then she turned away and spoke swiftly. "And I have to go."
Dri'ala's arms were a blur and the contents of her footlocker poured upwards onto her bed. It happened so fast, Lylanya didn't manage to get a word in until it was empty.
"What... what do you mean you have to go?!" Lylanya asked, stepping forward and finding it hard to evaluate the situation.
"I mean, I'm leaving," Dri'ala answered, trying to sound firm and in control, but failing. "I'm leaving now. Sytheria's taking me away and... and... I'm not coming back."
"You... you can't go!" Lylanya said, raising her voice. "By The Goddess... I don't even know what happened! Arran's dead and now you're going away?!"
"I have to go," Dri'ala said, this time sounding more convincing than before. She hauled a large bag from under her bed and tossed it up atop it beside the disorganised pile that once occupied the footlocker.
"You can't," Lylanya said, placing her hand on Dri'ala's shoulder. The younger asari slapped it away violently as if Lylanya was diseased, spinning around onto her feet.
"Don't touch me!" she hissed.
Lylanya took a step back, her eyes wide. But at that moment, as Dri'ala looked at her, she caught something, and wide eyes narrowed.
"You're hiding something from me," she said. Dri'ala took a step back and turned back around. "What did you do?"
"I'm leaving, Lylanya! Just let me pack and go!"
Dri'ala shoved her stuff into the case, but it would never fit properly given her lack if finesse. Lylanya grabbed her upper right arm and spun her around.
"No! You're not going anywhere until I find out what happened on that mission!"
"I told you!" Dri'ala yelled back into Lylanya's face, all emotional strength leaving her and tears flowing free. "He got shot!"
"How!" Lylanya demanded, grabbing her other arm now too, then swinging her around to pin her against the wall. "How did he get shot?!"
"I can't tell you!"
"Was it something you did?! Did he take a bullet for you?! Or did you do something stupid and get him shot?!"
"Let me go!"
"Not until you tell me! What happened?!"
Dri'ala remained silent save for struggling grunts.
"Fine! I'll find out the hard way then!"
She saw fear strike Dri'ala's features. The younger asari knew exactly what Lylanya meant, and she'd seen first hand how good Lylanya was at getting information from somebody that way.
"You won't," her voice quavered
"I'm going to find out what happened... one way or another." Lylanya was determined and Dri'ala could see that.
"You're going to have to dig deep," Dri'ala said, taking a deep breath and steeling herself for what was to come. "I'm not letting you in easily."
"Then that's what I'll do."
Lylanya leaned in close and closed her eyes. The room seemed to grow darker for a brief moment before lighting up around the dominant asari as her eyes blackened and the other jerked with a groan of resistance in her grasp. The younger asari's mind was dark to her and moving through it felt like wading thrrough a deep swamp. Lylanya had never been in a mind so closed off to her from the start, and it took a bit of effort for her to break the basic barriers and enable her to see anything. There were many memories there, though they were hazy and nothing stood out. Whether Dri'ala was trying to flood her mind with thoughts to keep her out or whether they were simply there because they were nothing secret Lylanya didn't know. In either case, she had to big deeper.
There was resistance for a moment, but things became clearer soon enough. More of the same, but more vivid now, until something drew her attention. It was shadows and sounds at first. She knew the sounds but couldn't recognise them, and the shadows resembled familiar shapes but placing them was hard. They tried to retreat further away, but this just encouraged her to chase them. It was getting harder to keep catch them, but she persisted, breaking any and all blocks that came her way. Clarity soon hit and resistance ebbed, as noise became voices and laughter and shadows became shapes with form and depth.
It was them she was hiding away and their time together. Lylanya was experiencing a moment between Dri'ala, Arann and herself from Dri'ala's perspective, just like any random moment they'd shared together when not on a job. It was a happy moment of them joking and laughing and telling stories. Why did Dri'ala want to hide this from her? What was so bad about a moment like this? No, wait... there was more to this. There's something there, yet to be uncovered somewhere in this seemingly innocent scene. Lylanya searched, sensing things out. She was right, there was something there. Something that didn't feel right. It was an emotion of some kind... definitely a negative one. It came from Dri'ala herself. It seemed to get stronger as she witnessed herself giving Arann a kiss. Hate? No, it wasn't quite that strong. Jealousy? Yes, it was. It was jealousy.
There had to be more than that though. Lylanya had to find her memory of what happened on the mission. Even with her hiding it away it shouldn't be too hard to find, since it clearly made her distraught. Dri'ala didn't have the training and mental discipline she did, and she'd invaded the minds of others who had without too many problems in the past. If she could get into the mind of an asari Matriarch, she could damn well get what she wanted from this comparatively young pup. She already knew there was jealousy there, so she could draw on that and it may just lead her to the answers. Dri'ala must have had a crush on Arann too, and seeing the two of them together must have been tough for her. But what did that have to do with the mission where Arann was killed? Was she so jealous that he wasn't with her that she'd rather see Arann killed than romantically involved with her best friend? Was there a moment where she could have saved his life, but she chose not to act out of spite? Lylanya knew there was more to this.
She delved further into the depths of Dri'ala's mind, trying to find that which was being concealed from her the most. It had to have only been seconds in reality, but the search felt agonisingly long within Dri'ala's consciousness, and resistance was growing. Lylanya eventually sensed something dark and evasive, which only drew her attention more to it. She charged her way against all resistance, and could soon hear voices and see shapes like before, though these were not as familiar. The voices sounded angry and she soon began to feel the tension as she once again began to live out the scene from Dri'ala's perspective. Sounds were muffled, and all was black silhouettes against white streaks. Perspective wasn't quite right, and she could feel Dri'ala fighting her harder as a voice once clear for a split second would muffle again, and an image that would seem to form a picture would be a garbled mystery once more. Lylanya wasn't going to let Dri'ala keep her out now though, not when she'd got this far. She fought hard again, so much so she could hear herself grunting in the real world, which sent shockwaves into the mental realm like earthquakes to crumble the last walls Dri'ala could muster to dust.
Things weren't all familiar here, but they were at least clear. She was inside a ship, or at least it seemed that way. Colours were more vivid than in real life and there was a bright contrast to everything. The edges of her vision were darker and blurred, but all that was in the centre was clear, which wasn't too dissimilar to how she had experienced the previous memory. The voices weren't entirely clear, but they were sharper than the muffled gibberish they had started as. Dri'ala was still resisting her a little, and Lylanya could feel it, but she was too far into it to be stopped now. She could recognise two figures: Garonis and Arann While the turian was nearby just to her right, Arann stood in the centre of her vision, facing and talking to somebody in the distance. He and the other figure were yelling at each other, and then Arann raised his gun at the figure. Dri'ala spoke, and it was the only word Lylanya clearly understood since she'd melded with her.
It was spoken not as a sudden outburst of objection, but as a firm and confident declaration. Something blurred into view at the bottom portion of her vision and then flashed with a crisp, loud bang. Arran's head jerked just as Lylanya recognised the now still obstruction as Dri'ala's extended arm with a pistol at the end of it. There was a scream as the drell fell, twisting just in time for Lylanya to catch the final surprised expression that adorned his lifeless face. She saw Sytheria rush to the body shortly before Garonis' surprised visage entered her vision and a blinding light brought her back to reality.
Lylanya opened her eyes, and they met the tear-filled ones of Dri'ala, still pressed up against the wall before her. A trickle of blood had ran out of one nostril to coat her lips and slide down her chin where it met with the streams from her eyes. She looked exhausted, pale and grief-stricken, and Lylanya could tell that she knew she'd found what she was after.
"I'm... I'm sorry," Dri'ala breathed.
Shock left Lylanya to be replaced by pure rage. She gritted her teeth and her breathing accelerated. The meld had taken a lot out of her, but anger had given her a second wind. She let go of Dri'ala's arms, but her right hand clamped around the younger asari's neck like a vice. Dri'ala gasped, both at the strong pressure on her windpipe and in fear.
"Sorry?!" Lylanya hissed.
She drew her left arm back, a fist balling at the end of it, then brought it as hard as she could against Dri'ala's face. Her victim was knocked out of her own grasp to the floor, glancing off a metal filing cabinet that sat between each of their beds. She only had time to get off her stomach to her hands and knees before a second assault came.
"You bitch!" Lylanya growled, pulsing with blue energy. "You fucking bitch! You killed him!"
Dri'ala's body shimmered with biotic power too, but it was not her own. Her body was lifted into the air as Lylanya swept her hand up then propelled her into the far wall beyond the ends of their beds. Dri'ala hit the wall hard, making a nasty dent and fell to the ground. She groaned in pain on the floor, but Lylanya didn't stop there; storming towards her and sweeping her into the air again with her biotics.
"You were jealous! You wanted him and when you couldn't have him..."
Lylanya trailed off as she raised Dri'ala up again. "...You waited until I wasn't there and killed him!"
She heaved her into the wall just past her bed. This time Dri'ala's head struck the wall with a nasty thunk and she dropped behind Lylanya's bed to leave behind a bloody mark in her wake. Lylanya stepped closer and floated her former best friend's now limp body up. The fact that the upper right side of her head was a bloody mess didn't seem to bother Lylanya who screamed at her and swung her around behind her into the opposite wall.
Lylanya's rage had taken complete hold of her, and Dri'ala was slammed into various walls another five times before Sytheria came running in. When she saw the state of Dri'ala from suffering Lylanya's wrath, she was frozen. Her eyes drifted to Lylanya who stood there looking at her; breathing heavily in an almost primal pose with gritted teeth and eyes glazed with rage. Every wall had a smear or splatter of blood on it somewhere and Dri'ala's left arm poked at an unnatural angle.
"By The Goddess!" Sytheria eventually managed to say. "What have you done?"
She was too shocked to be angry, and her mouth seemed incapable of closing. Reality kicked back in and without keeping her eyes off Lylanya she slammed her hand against the door panel to activate the shipwide intercom.
"Tagarn, prep the shuttle. Garonis, get in here with a stretcher right away!"
Two acknowledgment came through the speaker in quick succession and Sytheria tapped the panel again before taking another step into the room towards Lylanya.
"I'm going to ask that you come with me to the brig without a fuss right now," Sytheria stated firmly. "Is that clear?"
All Lylanya did was nod.
"They rushed her to the nearest medical facility," Lylanya explained to Yalo, wiping some tears away. "I just waited in the brig for a week... nobody talked to me. Garonis shoved a bowl of food and a cup of water in through the door twice a day, but that was it as far as contact with the others went."
"She died, didn't she?" Yalo asked. Lylanya nodded, squeezing her eyes closed as if doing so would stop all future tears until the end of time.
"I understand," Yalo said reassuringly. You killed your best friend because she killed your lover out of jealousy, so you've been reluctant to kill since."
"Oh no," Lylanya said, shaking her head. "You don't understand. You don't understand at all."
Yalo twisted his head to one side and she turned to regard him. Sighing deeply and leaning back to stare at the ceiling, she proceeded to explain.
"Sytheria eventually came to me after that week was up."
Lylanya looked up from her bunk to see a familiar form standing in the doorway, wearing a long black and white dress rather than the bulky blue and red armour that normally adorned her.
"She's dying," Sytheria said solemnly, as if they'd last talked only moments earlier instead of more than seven days ago. There was no hint of blame or anger in her voice.
"How..." Lylanya started, before stopping as if speaking felt foreign to her. In truth speaking of Dri'ala made her feel empty and hollow. "How much time does she have?"
"A few days. A week at the most," Sytheria answered, and then there was silence for a long time. "She wants to see you."
Those words hit Lylanya like a tonne of bricks, and she noticed that even Sytheria seemed surprised to be saying them.
The obvious questions didn't always have obvious answers. Sytheria's gaze faltered briefly before returning to meet Lylanya's.
"She said that you didn't fully understand. She said that if... if..."
Sytheria looked away and up, half turning from the younger asari. Lylanya couldn't see the tears, but light gleamed off something near Sytheria's eyes as she moved. The band leader gathered herself up again.
"She said that if she was going to die anyway, she wanted to make sure that you understood."
"That's for her to tell you. Now come on... have a shower and get changed. We'll leave as soon as you're ready."
Lylanya nodded and got to her feet. As she went to walk past Sytheria on the way out, her chest hit something and she was halted. It was Sytheria's palm, and as she looked at the older asari she saw a cold seriousness in her eyes.
"I warn you now: if you harm that girl any further in any way... I will kill you."