@DrRtron and I did a thing.
The water broke upon the shore in gentle, unassuming waves. Karnoc stared at the pull of the sea, a cycle of reaching and retracting, just shy of his feet, like the most ineffective predator grasping for prey it wouldn’t know what to do with if it caught it. It was a strange, alien thing to the krogan; Tuchanka wasn’t exactly renowned for its majestic oceans, and a lot of the worlds he’d been to weren’t mostly water like Earth was. Apparently the oceans turned into a mighty tempest called a hurricane sometimes and destroyed entire cities, and perhaps that was what drove Karnoc to visit this seemingly gentle giant; he wanted to see if anything on this planet could account for humanity’s strength and dominance in the galaxy.
Was it not a human that ended the Reaper threat? Karnoc’s current leader was a human woman that he could pick up with a single hand and wouldn’t be able to make a scratch on him if she tried without the assistance of weaponry, but there was something about humanity that lent themselves to many strong emotions from other species that one could only obtain from being in a position of strength and power. It was a spectrum ranging from loathing to fear to respect and anything in between, and if it weren’t for humanity forcing an end to thousands upon thousands of years of animosity between the species of the galaxy in light of the bigger threat, there was a good chance that this beach wouldn’t have had a single soul left on it, and this seemingly weak body of water would carry on, ignorant of the people who had once lived alongside it vanishing.
Krogan were feared more than anything, powerful warriors and conquerors that required extinction level solutions to stop when the species hit its stride. It took the entire combined efforts of the galaxy to stop the Krogan Rebellions that ended with a sterilization plague and the galaxy was powerless to stop the Rachni until the krogan arrived to snuff out the bug bastards. It wasn’t respect the krogan were ever shown, or understanding.
Karnoc’s people were either tools that their wielders never realized how dangerous they were or a force of nature that required nothing short of genocide to stop. Unlike the batarians, who pretended to be strong and bickered and whined about being treated unfairly by the Citadel and were incapable of taking what they wanted from humanity because they were weak, the krogan decided to take what they felt were owed and the bloodiest and most devastating war in galactic history, save the Reapers themselves, was what the krogan promised.
And so, with a destroyed homeworld and having survived the genophage and whatever else the universe decided to throw at the krogan, Karnoc’s people had emerged from this war stronger and more united forever, and perhaps following a new path that was worthy of countless generations of just surviving against all odds. Maybe, just maybe, this whole peace thing was worth a shot, and the strength that really mattered wasn’t born from a planet where everything wanted to test and murder you. Perhaps that made the krogan shortsighted, whereas humans were able to focus on the bigger picture and more ambitious and clever goals because of their soft planet. Maybe that’s why Karnoc fell in line to Katya and followed her leadership without complaint; there was something to learn from her, and the krogan would become an ambassador for what his species could
The waves reached towards Karnoc and finally touched his toes.
“That’s it; show me what you’re made of, runt.” Karnoc challenged the ocean.
After asking around the resort, Karnoc was a very distinct krogan after all, Janiri was finally pointed in the right direction. She headed to the beach, which made sense considering that there were no oceans on Tuchanka, pausing as she reached the edge. It was beautiful. The salty smell, the regular and soothing sound of the waves, how the sun glistened off it, all of those were more beautiful than she had expected. She had seen oceans before, of course. The extranet was filled with them and she had spent hours watching videos of scientists exploring the depths of their own seas.
She had never seen one in person, however, and it was better than she had imagined it would be. Janiri walked onto the sand and, looking around to make sure no one was too close, pulled a glove off and knelt to let the sand fall through her finger tips. She gave a soft giggle at the sensation, doing it a few more times before she pulled her glove back on and made her way towards Karnoc.
He was standing at the edge of the ocean, staring out at it. For a brief moment she wondered what he was thinking as he saw it. Was he wondering what monsters lay in the depths that he could fight? Comparing it to a blue rose? The possibilities were many, though she had to admit most of them dealt with violence.
Carefully, so that she didn’t startle him and end up like the drell, she edged into the side of his vision and waved a tentative hand. She was six feet back, giving herself plenty of space to back up should he decide to touch her again.
“Hello? Kroc?” She closed her eyes, wincing and hunching a little more in on herself. Fuck.
That wasn’t his name. Why did she want to keep calling him that? She corrected herself as she continued. “Karnoc? I’m Janiri, the one you saved back on the mission. The farmer? The one you told to get up and fight? I just wanted to say thank you for that. For saving me, not for yelling at me.” The words were soft and slowly said, so she didn’t stutter as her eyes looked everywhere but Karnoc’s eyes. She didn’t know what to do with her hands as she crossed them, folded them, tried to leave them hanging, before finally settling on pulling a credit chit from her pocket and just turning that over and over.
The heavy crested head turned to look at the asari… the idealist. He gave Janiri a curt nod. “I remember. We’re on a team; I’d appreciate it if you didn’t insinuate I’m an idiot who can’t remember people because I’m a blood raging krogan.” he remarked dryly, his voice was level. “Not sure how many battles you fought before, I assumed a few if you were on the team. I can tell you’re young; there’s no place for ideals on the battlefield. Doesn’t matter if those drell were mind controlled or not, they would have killed you and everyone else if presented the opportunity.”
He grunted, shaking his head slowly. “Way I see it, there was never any guarantee they would have been freed from control, especially if Reaper crap was involved. If I were trapped in my own body with something else puppeting me, I’d hope somebody would put me out of my misery. It was always going to be us or them; it just worked out that the solution was tidy enough to save some of them.” he lifted his large shoulders in a heavy shrug. He regarded the credit chit the asari was fiddling with with a tilt of his crest to the side.
“I’m not taking your money for doing my job.”
Janiri hunched further on herself as Karnoc spoke. She hadn’t meant to imply that he was an idiot! They had only just met two days ago! It was stupid of her to have included so many reminders. She should have just left it with her name and explained further if he didn’t figure it out. Why didn’t she ever do the smart thing? Her inner beration was interrupted as he continued and lectured her on her ‘ideals’. She kept quiet, eyes still refusing to meet his own. She wasn’t an idealist. The Reaper War hadn’t left anyone with ideals alive. She was just good at following orders. They had been explicitly told to keep the drell occupied and alive. Regardless of how good Karnoc’s points were, their orders hadn’t changed. Fortunately for Karnoc, it didn’t matter in the end. The drell were all killed by the seeker swarms and no one was going to wonder why there was another that had been eviscerated.
Her brow furrowed in confusion and she tilted her head at the mention of money, before she looked down at the chit she was still turning over in her hands. Her next words were blurted out as she blushed with embarrassment.
“Oh! No, nonono! Sorry! I wasn’t going to pay you for saving me, not that you wouldn’t deserve it! I just have this thing where my hands have to be kept busy, and I figured it’d be less weird if I was messing with a chit rather than folding and unfolding them. Sorry if I insulted you with that. And sorry about the accidental insinuation. It’s just that we’ve only known each other for two days...and didn’t interact much...and I didn’t want there to be any confusion...sorry...” She trailed off, putting the chit back in her pocket to hopefully avoid any more confusion. A few beats of silence and then a thought popped into her head. Karnoc knew what he was talking about when it came to combat. While she had no idea if the squad was set up to be effective or not, Karnoc would.
“Do you think we’re an effective squad? When I was in Eclipse there was a balance. I was tech, Shala was the biotics. Tazun and Mark were the muscle. I...don’t see such clear lines here. We got the job done, but.... Sigma died. That Collector almost tore through us. It was messy.”
“You’re more skittish than an over-caffeinated salarian; relax.” Karnoc said, turning to face Jainiri, his hands hanging at his sides, as if unsure of what to do with them when they weren’t holding something. He could relate to the asari’s reasoning for needing to fiddle with the chit. “Believe me, insults tend to need to get to the point of inter-clan gunfire before I start to really pay them any mind. You’re fine.” he reassured her in an almost tired baritone.
Janiri nodded, but her body language didn’t change. Sure, she was fine now. But that could change in an instant, even with as unusually calm a krogan as Karnoc seemed to be.
He pondered what her follow-up question postulated. “Considering we went up against a Collector that we weren’t expecting and only lost a single soldier to enemy fire, it went about as well as you could expect.” he didn’t mention that Sigma’s sacrifice, while appreciated, was utterly unnecessary; a rocket would hurt and likely break his shielding, but krogan physiology and battle-tested armour would have taken care of the rest… it just might have knocked him senseless for a bit, maybe took a limb if he was really unlucky. “I think mostly we have individuals who are talented and experienced, you kind of have to be to survive the war, but we don’t know each other.
“Maybe you can be assed to read a dossier or pay attention to someone at the range or whatever, but we never fought alongside each other. We all have different strengths and doctrines and tactics and blah blah blah.
I know the others look at me like I’m a liability, that I’m reckless and dangerous and probably stupid because krogan go smash, krogan no use turian tactics, you know how it is. What they fail to consider is I’ve survived Tuchanka with my clan for a long time before most of the people we’re fighting with were even born. I survived fighting the Reapers in the frontlines the entire time. Yeah, a human tries to do what I do, they’d be eviscerated in no time because they’re soft. A krogan is a force-multiplier; we draw fire, we endure shit that would kill anyone else in stride, and our reputation and ferocity puts fear into our enemies. So what if I take a few shots? I can withstand it. Can you say the same about anyone else?” he asked the asari.
Janiri couldn’t help but think that he had reinforced those thoughts. Karnoc had recklessly ran forward several times during the fight. Though, she had to admit he had a point about being able to survive it. He didn’t need to worry about being reckless when he was the organic equivalent of a tank.
“I could get the same results with my tech armor, technically speaking,” she allowed herself a small snort at the unintentional pun before continuing. “But it wouldn’t be able to handle nearly as much firepower as you would be able to. I don’t know about the others, but I for one appreciate you taking all the attention. Having that Collector’s attention on you was much preferable to having it on me.” She paused, realizing how callous her words might come across as. “Sorry! Not that I think you deserve it! Or that you can’t do anything other than charge forward recklessly! Not recklessly, intentionally! Because you know tactics!” Gods why couldn’t she stop talking. It was like a water spout that didn’t shut off. Desperate to change the subject, she blurted out, “Did you get Kate’s messages? Whomever is buying the artifact shards is delayed. While we’re waiting for them we’ve got two new squad mates. A medic and an engineer. That should help, right?”
“Technically speaking. Just don’t rely on it; technology has a way of crapping out when you need it most.” Karnoc grunted. “Seen a few mercs in my days think they were untouchable because of this piece of tech or this gun or whatever and they forgot the basics and they always have this betrayed look on their faces before their faces get blown off when their toys malfunction. Even a cheap omnitool usually has some level of cyberwarfare suites to sabotage enemy tech. One minute your shields are up, the next your HUD is screaming at you because something shorted them out. One second you’re firing a burst from your gun, the next it’s too hot to hold.”
He looked down as the water reached his feet again, letting the asari scramble to cover her ass from her salvo of verbal gaffs. “I don’t think deserve has much to do with anything. I’m not the sneaky type, if I didn’t think I could hold my own being the focal point in a fight, I wouldn’t do it. If I wasn’t keeping the Collector’s attention, it might not have given someone else an opening to make the critical shot.” his attention turned back to Janiri with a nod.
“Yeah, I looked at the messages. Not much really of interest to me, at least as far as the aftermath of a job goes. They could use the artifact as a paperweight for all I care.” he waved a dismissive hand. “The replacements are at least interesting, as much as they’ve told us anyways. Someone who can fix bodies and someone who can fix tech. Hopefully they know how to fight.”
Janiri gave a small shrug. “I mean, I kinda have to rely on it. As you saw, I’m pretty lacking when it comes to fighting. Without you, that drell would’ve splattered me instead of you splattering him. Thank you again for that! It would have ended...poorly for me if you hadn’t arrived.” Janiri paused, thinking over the messages they had received, both to try to remember what had stood out to her from them and to take her mind off of the fact she had nearly died without Karnoc’s help.
“Well, they can’t be any worse than me. If I remember correctly the engineer survived both the Sovereign attack on the Citadel, and when the Reapers brought it to earth. And the medic is a turian. They’re born to be excellent fighters. They’re like your people, only with discipline rather than redundant systems”
She winced at the implication again, stumbling over her words in her haste to cover it. “Not that the krogan can’t be disciplined! Obviously they’re more than just brutes! I mean, look at you! Not that you surprised me! You’re just-I’m just-I should go! That’s what I’m gonna do, I’m gonna go! Thanks again, bye!”
Blushing with embarrassment, still not meeting Karnoc’s eyes, Janiri turned back towards the city of Havana and beat a hasty retreat. She had managed to thank him, but by now she believed her foot was so far in her mouth that it would take the team’s new medic to pull it out. Gods, she could never just stop talking. She should have messaged him. That would have been easier.
Karnoc watched Janiri scramble away, somehow inflicting more mental damage to herself than Sigma had physically a few days prior. “Heh. Nice kid.” the krogan chuckled, turning back to the vigil of monitoring the water. It was just as uninteresting as beforehand.
So a turian medic? Karnoc never considered that turians practiced medicine, an irrational part of him always just assumed turians were like krogan that forgot to nuke themselves to the stone age and lacked the physical robustness to not bother with anything that didn’t resemble a firearm. Their bedside manner was probably abhorrent, probably blaming the patient for getting sick or something equally rigid and humourless.
The engineer probably lived in the ventilation system if they somehow survived two seperate Reaper infestations on the Citadel. Hide and seek might keep you alive, but the krogan wasn’t entirely sure how it was somehow more notable than fighting the Reapers on the battlefield each and every day; Karnoc had once narrowly avoided getting impaled by a Banshee by shoving a primed grenade into its stupid, shrieking maw one time, and a Brute shoved him through two separate walls before a squadmate brought it down with a missile. Everyone had simply survived
the war, so he hoped the newcomers brought something to the table that was actually useful for their damned jobs.
The waves seemed to retreat further away from Karnoc’s feet. He grunted disapprovingly.
“Come on. Do something.”