The Endurance (Mass Effect Collision, Chapter 9)

The Endurance. I've been unable to discover the original artist of this work. If you know, please tell me!

The Endurance. I’ve been unable to discover the original artist of this work. If you know, please tell me!

The ship was…new. And kind of shiny, with a sleek, dark finish that bore no notable markings. It was modern. Ultra-modern, even…
“She’s a prototype,” Sync said as he ushered them up the central ramp and into the fairly impersonal central area. “Bedrooms aft, pick one just…stay out of the locked one please. Captains quarters on the port side, as well as Chief Engineer’s. Mess on the starboard. Also bathroom block. Conference room to the fore on this level, elevator’s just over there down to the cargo hold. You can either use that or these stairs to get up to the cockpit.”
“Which I’m assuming is where you’ll be flying the ship?” Elias asked.
“Unless you can?” Sync asked.
“Let’s save my piloting for emergencies,” Elias said. “At least until I get more used to your ship. If you don’t mind, I’d like to see what systems you have and what sorts of upgrades would be possible though.”
“Be my guest,” Sync said, indicating the ramp up to the starship’s controls. “Oh, Elias?”
“The medbay’s over here,” Sync said, knocking on the window looking into the area just next to the captain’s quarters. “It’s a clean room facility with decontamination protocols on entry so…if you ever need to get out of your suit…”
“Are you volunteering to help me, Captain?”
“Well thank you, I appreciate the offer,” Elias said, before he headed up the ramp, and Cicepia was almost certain he was smirking.

“So, um, you and Sync, huh?” Cicepia said later after dropping her few belongings in one of the port side cabins and climbing up to the cockpit, where the quarian was already using four of the screens on the side wall.
Cicepia leant against the wall and folder her arms across her chest. “You, him, the med bay?”
“Oh, no I’m sure he was just trying to be considerate,” Elias said, gazing up at a scan of the ships exterior. “Oh good, cyclonic barrier technology is already built in.”
“So…you weren’t flirting with him?”
“Sure I was,” Elias said. “In a ‘you didn’t actually just say that’ way, but sure. Do you think the GARDIAN ladar module just got left off prototypes because the war is over? I mean really?”
“You flirted with him just to make him blush uncomfortably?”
For the first time since she came up Elias turned away from the screens and looked at her. “Of course not. You saw Pi down there right?”
“My drone.”
“You named your drone Pi?”
“He’s spherical,” Elias said with a shrug. “Anyway not the point. Pi’s recording video footage for Jamak for the next round of negotiations for our little reality show. That one line and Sync’s blush just added a few zeros to the value of the licensing rights for Sync toys and action figures. It’ll probably shift a few billion units if it goes to air as well.”
“So…you flirted with him for profit?”
“For funding,” Elias said simply. “You think outfitting this gal properly is going to be cheap? But you didn’t come up here to quiz me about my love life unless you’re dabbling in tabloid journalism, Officer Altus.”
“No,” she said, pushing herself away from the wall. “I wanted to ask if you’d be able to do some sleuthing for me?”
“I’m going to have to spend some time smoothing things over with my boss given my disappearance in the last twenty four hours. Are you able to jump over to the Krogan and Hanar’s universe and do some background checks? I don’t know much about them.”
“Are you asking me to spy on them?”
“Just background information. I don’t…look I’ve tried talking to this Thek Akara, but she’s not saying anything. All I know is that she was a sniper at your concert and had a mission to take out someone. Now either she was after you on behest of a rival or she was after one of your fans. And then she happens to have the things we need to control this ‘mimic’ that allows us passage through the dimensions? That’s a hell of a set of coincidences. I haven’t spoken properly to Anar yet but he seems sketchy. A concertgoer just happens to bring in a mechsuit that transforms into a suitcase and doesn’t trip off our alarms? Not to mention his reaper tech. I imagine with your tech skills you should be able to do some digging.”
“I’ll see what I can find out, but I’m stuck here just like you. Our little jaunt appears to have depleted the power in the reality collider. I’m monitoring it, but at current rates it’ll take at least twenty four hours to recharge. We’re not getting over to their universe on the sly—and I doubt we’ll be able to do it without everyone’s cooperation. I don’t see Arkara giving up custody of her seeds anytime soon and Anar is very attached to that disc.”
“You may be right,” Cicepia said. “Oh well, I guess I’ll see what I can come up with when I’m there and they’re busy with their own lives. Maybe Arkara has a criminal background. That said, if she’s as good a mercenary as I think she is, she won’t have a criminal background.”
“Perhaps,” Elias said. “Although if you want to be ruthless about this we don’t actually need her. Just the seeds.”
“Do you actually intend to go one on one against a Krogan?”
“Of course not,” Elias said. “I just pointed out we need her seeds for this mission. That’s a statement of fact, I don’t currently see any need to take her out.”
“I just want to know what cards people are holding in their hands,” Cicepia said. “If we’re all truly going to cooperate and get along it would help to not have anything causing trust issues hanging over our heads.”
“Alternatively, you can just try to get all the Aces,” Elias said jovially. “And hope we’re not playing Hearts.”
“Human game, you want low cards, and Aces are high.”
There was a squishy knock at the cockpit door and a soft, dopplered “Ow.”
“Hi Anar,” Elias said, looking up. It still fascinated Cicepia that Elias was somehow able to give the hanar a friendly smile despite his facial features being masked. The quarian’s head and upper torso all turned towards the hanar, and there was a subtle relaxation in his biceps and forearms that all worked together to say ‘friendly smile’.
“Sync asked this one to ask you if you would accompany him to the hospital. It appears his crewmate is there for surgery and he does not know why.”
“His crewmate as in he only has one?” Cicepia asked.
“Yes,” Anar said. “Apparently she and Akara are friends. Or are in our universe.”
Elias cocked his head. “You mean your universe.”
“Yes, that’s what this one said.”
“You go,” Cicepia said, looking at Elias. “I need to speak with my Captain. I’ve been gone for a while.”
Elias nodded and passed her a small datadisc. “Evidence,” he said. “If you think you need it.”

This precinct was exactly as she remembered it, which made sense given that it was ‘her’ universe. Cicepia wondered if that sort of thinking would ever come naturally to her. ‘Her’ universe. Elias seemed to have the whole thing down pat, but as she walked up to the front desk, it struck her that Laura, the human who normally manned the front desk for the Tuesday and Wednesday afternoon shift hadn’t been present in the synthesised universe. She didn’t remember seeing her anywhere around the precinct either. Currently she was talking to two quarians—a rather familiar young man and his sister. Grinning, Laura waved her over and both quarians started a bit when they saw her, the young man quickly striding forward.
“It seems our timing is impeccable, Officer Altus,” he said. “I don’t know if you remember us, but you saved my sister from the man at the bank.”
“The turian,” his sister piped up. “He had a pistol and-and…”
“I was just doing my job,” Cicepia said. “I’m glad you both made it out of there.”
“Still, I—we—thank you,” the young man said. “My sister Niloo and I both feel that if you had not been there, we might not be here now.”
“You’re both very welcome,” Cicepia said. “I’m just glad that neither of you were hurt.”
“We are too,” the young man said. “Thank you for speaking with us, officer. We won’t take up any more of your time,” and with that the two left.
With a nod to Laura, Cicepia went straight to find Captain Damien, her immediate superior at the forty fifth Zakera. She found him in his office, for once, the man had a reputation for believing paperwork happened to other people, and once a month he dictated his reports using the perfect recall drell were renown for. Or at least, they were renown for perfect recall within C-Sec. Even during the reaper war, most of the drell specialists had remained elusive shadows on secret missions. Few had ever seen them on the front lines.
“Officer Altus. We were wondering where you’d got to,” he said when she had entered.
“I was following a lead, sir,” Cicepia said. “During the concert I came across someone I thought might be connected to the shooting at the bank.”
“Nothing conclusive, I’m afraid. I’m sorry I had to leave the way I did.”
“We were worried,” Captain Damien said bluntly. “You were there one moment and gone the next. It was…unlike you.”
“I’m sorry sir, but there wasn’t time to call it in,” Cicepia said, focusing her gaze at an invisible point just to the left of the Captain’s head.
He stared at her unblinkingly as only a drell could, but she’d long ago mastered the art of talking to superior officers. “If you find any other leads in the future, I do expect you to tell at least one of us. Me specifically if possible.”
“That was your ‘talking to annoying superior officers’ voice, Altus.”
“Sorry, Sir,” Cicepia said, forcing herself to relax. “Old habits and all.”
“I’ll let it slide this once, Altus,” Captain Damien said. “Just once.”
“Thank you, Sir,” Cicepia said. “I ah, do need to request some time off, Sir. Personal reasons.”
He almost blinked. Almost. If he had, Cicepia would have been a few thousand credits richer. The pool had started two years ago, and had only grown since its inception.
“You haven’t taken any personal time since…”
“Are you sure want to leave this investigation at this point?”
“No,” Cicepia said immediately. “But I have to.”
She watched as the opportunity to reduce the leave balance on the books warred with a hole in his investigative unit.
“It’s very short notice,” he said finally. “Normally we ask for a month’s notice, Altus.”
“I know, Sir. I wouldn’t normally ask but it’s important.”
“And you can’t say what this is about?”
Cicepia hesitated. “Not just yet, sir, it’s too…I will though. Soon. If I find anything of note on any current investigations, I’ll send word.”
“No illegal digging, Altus,” Captain Damien said with a smile.
“Of course not, sir,” Cicepia said blandly. “Just leads passed to the the appropriate people.”
“On that note, we found something you might be interested in,” Captain Damien said. “We were reviewing surveillance footage of Tameus, the turian at the bank.”
“Yes, I remember him,” Cicepia said. I remember his brains being blown out as he was surrendering.
“We spotted him at the casino the night before the heist, talking to an unknown person. We don’t know it’s connected, but we don’t know it’s not either.”
“We didn’t get enough footage to identify this person?”
“They wore a hood and managed to move to avoid all the cameras at the Silver Sun. Best we can do is humanoid, presenting as female with five fingers on each hand.”
“Asari or human then. Not much to go on.”
“And normally not cause for concern,” Captain Damien said. “But she went to great lengths to conceal her identity and knew where the security cameras were.”
“So she either organised the hit or is the next target.”
“That’s what we thought.”
“If I find anything on her I’ll pass it on.”
“Good,” Captain Damien said. “Now I expect you to let me know how long this vacation of yours is going to take and while I’m not asking questions now, you can bet your ass there’ll be lots of questions later and I expect a full and honest report on anything you find out that relates in any way to police matters. In any way.”
He stared at her again, but she avoided that by not meeting his gaze, staring firmly out the window behind him instead.

Before she left the precinct, Cicepia did some background digging to see if Thek Arkara had an analogue in her universe. There wasn’t one. That’s what Cicepia called a solid alibi.

Continue to Chapter 10