That's already my ship. Or, at least, very close to it. <3
(Art by Lownine)
‘In allis verbis, tenere manu mea’
ClassOlympus Function: Strike Carrier Manufacturer: Athoek Drive Yards Length: 318m Displacement: 203,800 long tons Crew Complement: Crew complement of 800, air wing of 400, Marine compliment of 400, artificial intelligence construct compliment of 1 (backup core installed).
Assigned Groups: MAS complement: 12th MAS Squadron Air complement: 114th Aerospace Squadron (‘Stormriders’), 519th Aerospace Squadron (‘Pluggers’) Marine complement: 8th Battalion, 2nd Marines (‘Delta Victor’)
The Olympus-class is first in the line of next-generation warships, designed to complement and augment existing battle strategies while opening up new avenues of attack and defense. Unlike older vessels, which are designed to project overwhelming firepower from relatively stationary positions, the Olympus class is designed to dictate the field of engagement on its own terms. The ship has a very large central fusion reactor compared to its displacement, which powers a short-recharge Jump drive and provides plasma flow for outsized conventional thrusters. It is additionally armed with forward-facing hypervelocity rail guns and a full compliment of conventional anti-ship and anti-air weaponry. Captains tasked with commanding an Olympus will know that where compromises have been made, they have tended to affect the ship’s armor plating. These ships will not endure the punishment of larger battleships and dreadnoughts, and tactics should include the understanding that these ships are designed to avoid fire, rather than simply absorb incoming. That is not to say they are not still well-armored, but they are meant to be hard to hit and hard to kill.
These tasks are made considerably easier by the ship’s largest persistent upgrade from traditional Naval vessels, their quantum-core artificial intelligence construct. Many of the ship’s functions, especially data aggregation and command execution, are handled in a way similar to the synthetic personality matrices that will remain in use for the foreseeable future. Unlike the SPM installations, the Olympus intelligence is capable not only of managing data aggregation and shipboard communication, but it is an additional member of the crew (nominally of a Master Sergeant rank), and is capable of synthesizing and contextualizing information and relaying experience-driven suggestions to command staff. In combat, the AI can coordinate firing solutions at marginally faster-than-human timescales for incoming fire, analyze and coordinate target tracking, and many other functions.
Artemis, like all ships of her class, is powered by a Kandon Dynamics fusion plant buried deep in the heart of the craft. Waste heat is piped via superconductive pathways to exterior hull radiators, or captured to use for shipboard functions. The core is similar to those used in vessels nearly twice Artemis’ tonnage, modified to be stable at comparatively low average power production and with additional stability measures for extremely rapid power ramp-up.
Propulsion: Olympus-class vessels are designed to move around their local volume with considerably more speed than ships of their size typically do. High-temperature plasma diverted from the reactor is capable of moving the ship at 3.5g for an indefinite period of time. The thrusters are additionally equipped with layers of ablative armor that will allow up to 6g of acceleration for no more than 12 hours, after which the ship will be limited to 0.25g acceleration until the armor panels, or possibly the entire thrusters, are replaced. In addition, the ship is equipped with unusually powerful reaction-control systems, and is capable of changing the ship’s direction comparatively quickly - all the better to bring the fixed-arc forward weapons to bear.
Finally, the ship’s Jump drive is capable of moving it up to 35 light years in a single jump, after which the ship will require at least 38 hours of cool-off and recharge time. The drive is, however, optimized for smaller jumps in the light-hour range, requiring as little as 5 minutes of recharge time for the shortest jumps. This is an entirely novel capability, and one that allows an Olympus a tremendous degree of mobility in the field of combat. These short-range Jumps are, however, very hard on the ship’s power system, and even minor damage will render these “combat jumps” inadvisable. In addition, with every Jump the ship must dissipate more and more heat, and it is entirely possible for an incautious captain to overtax the ship’s heat reservoirs and render themselves entirely unable to jump for a considerable period of time - or of destroying the Jump drive entirely.
The ship is equipped with full coverage arcs for anti-aircraft and anti-incoming weaponry, ranging from propellant-based mass drivers to small plasma casters to vaporize or physically disrupt incoming ammunition, missiles, or ships on suicide trajectories. These weapons can be selectively controlled by the onboard intelligence, though the AI is not capable of coordinating the entire defense grid unless she devotes her entire consciousness to the task. Large communication arrays can be used for fleet coordination, or used for electronic warfare, jamming, or even direct remote override of any system that (foolishly) accepts connection.
The ship’s primary armaments, two longitudinally mounted (one above the other) hypervelocity rail guns, are in a fixed, non-overlapping profile, and can fire out either the front or rear of the vessel. They are primarily designed to deliver massive, inert slugs of metal at relativistic speeds, but they can be modified (via easily-manufactured sabot) to fire anything that will fit down the bore. Acceleration and desired muzzle speed are nearly infinitely variable, and the payloads can range from battalions of Marines to megaton-class fusion bombs. Artemis is currently equipped with 12 fusion payloads, and deployment requires the joint authorization of the Captain and the ship’s AI construct. In addition, the ship is equipped with four large plasma casters on deployable turrets in a spinal-mount orientation. These weapons are intended for direct capital ship combat, orbital bombardment, or other tasks that require a large amount of firepower.
While captains are instructed to consider the ship’s mobility its primary defense system, Artemis is equipped with a high-performance shield system, designed to absorb or deflect most energy weapons. By varying the field, it is additionally possible for electrically conductive incoming fire to be physically deflected, though the degree of course change can be very small. In effect, a heavy-caliber mass driver could be steered to hit a less-critical area of the ship under absolutely ideal situations. Most small-arms fire can be much more easily manipulated, however the field geometry changes required represent an considerable investment of time by either onboard subroutines that could be doing something else, or direct intervention by the majority of conscious bandwidth available to the ship’s AI construct.
The ship’s armor plating is largely conventional, and lighter than a ship of this size would typically mount. The armor has been applied in clever geometries to minimize energy transferred to the plating (weapons tend to ‘skip’ off it, rather than deform or remove it), but concentrated effort, bad luck, or well-aimed heavy weapons will inflict considerable damage. While the ship is designed to be highly survivable, and critical areas (fusion reactors, warhead storage) remain heavily armored, the ship is not designed to be an immovable bulwark.
The ship’s flight deck is mounted forward, with the hangar bay beginning halfway down the forward “neck” of the ship. Fighter and MAS recovery is handled through a large opening on the “bottom” of the ship, and the “top” is heavily armored and reinforced to withstand crash and combat landings. The ship provides armament, repair, and refit capability for 5 MAS units at once, and can mount 40 aerospace fighters of varying types. There are an additional 3 boarding craft, 2 railgun-launched “breaching pods” for Marines, and a number of personnel shuttles and utility craft.
The hangar is a busy place, and if many ships are undergoing refit or are out of stowage, space can be very tight. Most tools and repair stations fit into panels and storage compartments that rectract or flip out of the hull, and any tools left on the flight deck during combat launches are likely to be swept out with the initial burst to vacuum. Pop-deploy air shelters, oxygen masks, and other accoutrements of an area likely to be rapidly depressurized are in prominent and visible locations throughout the deck.
Artemis is inhabited by a quantum-core artificial intelligence that has named herself “Ava.” She is professional, polite, but anything but subservient. She is accorded the rank of Marine Master Sergeant, and while she is the primary authority for few things on the ship, she is a respected member of the crew. While she is very aware that she is not human, Ava does have emotions, though they tend to be somewhat more muted than a human’s. She is wholly conscious and self-aware, and has a tremendous ability to process and analyze information, but she is not necessarily more intelligent than a very bright human being. By inclination rather than programmed-in directive, Ava is affectionate and cares quite a lot for the crew, and could not be accused of considering them only as assets to be spent or saved.
Due to the extensive artificial intrusion already present in Captain Sarett’s brain, Ava has an unusual relationship with the Captain. She is capable of displaying information directly into Ava’s field of view, and of relaying information or conversation into her mind without needing a terminal or voice output. This connection goes two ways, is consensual, and either party may terminate or request reconnection at any point. She typically keeps the Captain aware of overall ship function and various administrative data (ETA, fuel reserves, etc) through ambient information (similar to a nonintrusive HUD), but is capable of other tasks. Ava tends to work closely with the ship’s executive officer, but augments, rather than replaces, that officer’s function.
Should the ship’s human compliment be killed or disabled, Ava is capable of returning the ship to friendly space on her own, with a complex series of conditions that must be met in order for her to assume that level of management over the ship. She does not, however, have the capability to replace the entire crew during a combat situation (her total available mental capacity is insufficient to manage all ship systems), and as she has no physical body, there are many maintenance and repair tasks that she cannot perform.
Hmmmm...I never did get to do much with the captain and ship I wrote last time. How do you feel about that character (or flavor of character) coming back, or would you prefer we're all robot pilots? :3
Gender: Female (Comfortable with she/her and they/them)
Psych. Eval.: Given her past, Ms. Zahir is not what you might expect. She is far from being a hardened, emotionally-distant veteran of firefights, skirmishes, and life-or-death combats; indeed, it appears that she made the conscious choice some time ago to approach the world with empathy, joy, and wonder. While this is, no doubt, in part a coping mechanism (Severin, in her own words, admits to as much), it is plain that there is no artifice here. She is interested in other people, in their stories, and in the universe at large, in a way that tends to put people at ease, certainly a necessary skill for a medical professional, but one that seems effortless and entirely genuine. Put plainly: Severin Zahir is a pleasure to spend time with, despite everything that has happened to her. She is intelligent, confident, and realistic, and while her wit is razor-sharp, she rarely deploys her words with any real malice. She is also, to be perfectly frank, ferociously flirtatious and forward, though without a characteristic aggression sometimes seen with similar individuals. She is a believer in intimacy of all kinds, and while she is not indiscriminate with emotional or physical intimacy, it is something she seeks out - with willing co-participants - on a frequent basis.
Also clear, however, is that Zahir is accustomed to working with smaller mission groups, and of having a very direct line to the local mission commander or other point of authority. This is not to say that she is insubordinate or needlessly argumentative, of course. While she trusts and will express her own opinion, that trust is not at the expense of others, and is rarely, if ever, without basis in reality. Rather, it is the opinion of the writer that Zahir is not well-suited for a position with multiple levels of bureaucracy, or where she is highly-isolated from decision-making processes. This, however, does not appear to be an issue with the mission currently under consideration.
In her official capacity, Zahir is a consummate professional. She keeps herself up-to-date on the state of the art for her fields, with a particular emphasis recently on maintenance and improvement of her own suite of prostheses and implants; a field of study that dovetails nicely with her existing understanding of biotic laces and mass effect field projection systems. Though her scope of practice has largely been focused on acute trauma for most of her career, she has made a point to develop, and to retain, a broader understanding of medicine across several galactic species, to ensure that she is more than only a battlefield medic.
Since her retirement from active duty, Severin seems to have adjusted well. Never one to compartmentalize or rationalize the apparent disconnect between being a combat specialist and a person whose first duty is to "do no harm," she believes that her past actions, taken together, tended on the whole toward more good, stability, and justice than otherwise. She has few regrets about her time working for Citadel Security, but also seems to be enjoying the new directions her life has taken her. Always profoundly spiritual, though in such a wide-ranging way that any particular facet of her beliefs can’t be called a specific religion, Severin has continued her study of faith throughout the galaxy, finding wisdom - of a sort - calm, and a belief in kindness in the words of prophets, saints, and madmen.
In her private life, Severin is a person that people enjoy being near. She is open and warm, curious and ferociously intelligent. A very driven woman, she is rarely idle - though she tends to work toward being able to function well, rather than trying to skip steps in an effort to reduce recovery or procedural time. In other words, when injured, she takes the time to recover, rather than rushing into the field with a still-broken leg, but she becomes restless if she's in one place without a clear objective for too long. She maintains a network of acquaintances, friends, and lovers across Citadel space and beyond, deliberately ensuring that she will rarely be without a friendly face, a sympathetic ear or, indeed, a companion in bed. She is recommended for the current mission by expedience of availability, practicality, experience, and a likelihood that medical personnel will be a valuable asset on this mission.
Phys. Eval.: Severin Zahir is a Human woman of Arabic descent, a little taller than average at 170cm, with elegant, playful features and large, mismatched eyes, though both are shades of dark green. Her hair is coffee-dark and kept tomboyishly short, framing a face that smiles more than anything else, full-lipped and inviting. Though her frame is no longer dangerously athletic as it once was, Severin is clearly someone who takes care of herself; the lines of her frame are long, lean, and obviously feminine. She usually dresses in something comfortable and made of soft fabric, tailored well and carefully flattering. She makes no particular effort to hide her artificial limbs or other prostheses, and often dresses to bring attention to them on dates.
Those augments - if such they can be called - are pervasive, invasive, and extensive. Due to previous injury, Severin's body is now filled with an extremely unusual number of artificial components. Most visible are her left eye (slightly darker than the living eye), her right arm, shoulder, and part of her chest, (Entirely artificial, replaced with an obvious, sculptural prosthesis in shades of onyx and turquoise, with metallic gold and silver accents), and the lower part of her left leg (from the knee down, following her arm's colours and designs). Internal damage has been addressed with artificial organs (particularly a lung, kidney, and liver), muscle damage has been repaired to the extent practical with implanted permanent prosthetics, pulverized skeletal tissues has been replaced with artificial bone and marrow, and an extensive neural lace has been installed to coordinate and support these systems.
It is entirely accurate to say that Severin is fully dependent on these systems to live. They are, however, the highest-quality commercially available at the time, installed by very competent technicians, and there have been no dexterity, sensory, or rejection issues thus far. However, even combined, all of this machinery has served to get Severin to a state where she can live independently, with a good quality of life; her recovery has not been complete. She is no longer the athletic, ferocious adventurer she once was, she moves a little more slowly and much more carefully, her physical strength is substantially reduced, and her time spent undergoing tests, adjustments, and dealing with her current condition are considerable. However, she does not currently suffer from any chronic illnesses, her issues with chronic pain related to implant sites have largely resolved, and while she will not be keeping up with a Krogan warrior charging into battle, she is not physically frail.
A small scar cuts through Severin's left eyebrow, the only remaining mark of the injury that ruined the eye beneath, and her body is lined with the delicate marks of surgical scars. Some of these are incorporated, or masked, by elaborate, mandala-like tattoos, which are complimented by patterns etched and highlighted on her artificial limbs. She is a little bit of a magpie, and tends to enjoy wearing jewelry, especially in shapes and colors that highlight her prosthetic body parts; both her ears are pierced several times, and she has a collection of eye-catching pendants, many of which are on chains that leave them more or less exactly at the level of her sternum.
Biotics: None present.
Qualifications: Put bluntly, the ship needs a doctor; one who has, by custom and practice, become familiar with a variety of species' medical requirements, and who knows how to work quickly, under pressure, and can deal with being shot at. It doesn't hurt that Rin answered C-Sec's call (though her initial confusion suggests she was waiting for a different call from someone else on the Citadel), that she has extensive experience working in a largely-deniable fashion for Citadel Security, and that, it appears, Severin knows - and possibly, has slept with - someone who may be helpful at a tremendous number of planets, stations, shipyards, and orbiting bars across the galaxy.
A sun's light always looks different from the view out a station window. Brighter, more white, without the filtering through a planet's atmosphere, and casting knife-sharp shadows on ships and structures beyond. Severin admired the view - below, and to every side, she could see lightning flashing between cloud-tops while a storm churned across the surface of the gas giant this station anchored to, a convenient fueling stop on the way to or from the system’s Relay.
On the star maps, the station was nothing special, just Transit Hub 87, but for the locals - and Severin - the place was Toren’s Landing. An old story - spacers telling stories after their third drink that there was an old, derelict ship down there, crashed from some long-ago cataclysm. People said if you spent too long in orbit before hitting the relay, you’d start hearing things - a woman’s voice, the sound of a barking dog, wind through trees that couldn’t possibly be there. Officially, nobody had been down to take a look at the strange sensor echo on the planet’s surface.
Severin, however, had. But that life was a long time ago - though maybe not so far gone that it couldn’t catch up.
Behind her, the door opened with a small whir, the kiss of changing air pressure on the back of Rin’s neck. Still leaning on the frame, her arms crossed, she glanced up a little at the door’s reflection in the window, and grinned. She shifted, lifted one hand in a wave, but didn’t turn away from the view.
“Heya, Zee,” the new arrival said, “Not easy to book the rooms on planetside - but I thought you’d like the view.” She was tall, taller than Severin, her C-Sec uniform crisp, bright, and flattering against her dark skin. Then again, almost anything would be flattering on her, at least so far as Rin was concerned.
Rin chuckled, a smile spreading across her face, “Oyin Kalu, as I live and breathe.” She put her artificial hand against the window and propped herself back up to stand, turning to face the other woman. She made an exaggerated show of looking her up and down.
“You know, most people don’t get to call me that ‘till we’ve had sex, and while I’ve got a few holes in my memory...well. I’m sure I’d remember that,” Rin said with a smirk.
“Get over yourself,” Oyin said with her own grin, her voice playful, “You had my blood pumping through your heart and keeping you alive for two days, so I can call you what I damn well please.”
“All right, all right, I concede,” Severin said with a laugh, “Less than a minute and we’re at war stories.”
“Old soldiers,” Oyin said, and stepped forward, “Come here, Rin. It’s been too long.”
She let out a sound that landed somewhere between a laugh and something tearful, and took the pair of steps toward Oyin. Her balance wavered on her artificial leg, and she caught herself on the edge of the table in the room’s center, an awkward, if small, stumble. Still, Rin wrapped her arms around Oyin, pulling the woman into an embrace. She held it for a long moment, then pulled back, her hands on her friends shoulders.
“Are the implants bothering you?” Oyin said, her own hands on Rin’s waist, “We can sit, if you’d like.”
“I’ve done enough sitting for a lifetime,” Rin said with a shake of her head, “I’ll be fine in a moment.” She grinned, her eyes darting to the rank insignia on Oyin’s jacket, “But look at you! A Captain now, yeah? Now that had to feel good.”
Oyin laughed, the sound warm and inviting, “Last week, yes. The bars are still shiny, see?” She took her hand from Rin’s waist, which she found herself already missing, and turned the rank insignia to the light, “Brand new ship, too, a frigate - Light of Thiala. You’re actually my first mission, officially, at least.”
Rin smirked and took a step back, the movement almost subconscious, “Would you like me to salute?”
“Do you remember how?” Oyin said, one side of her mouth pulling up in a half-grin.
Rin waved her living hand in dismissal, “I was never good at it.”
“Oh, sure,” Oyin said, “That’s why you’ve got enough medals to melt them down and make a life-sized statue of yourself.”
“Hey, now,” Rin said, feigning hurt, “The statue would only be about fifteen centimeters tall. Leave a girl some pride.”
“All right, all right,” Oyin said with another laugh, “Fifteen centimeters. And I’m sure you actually did the math. But, look -” She touched the back of her arm, an omni-tool’s glow casting pools of candlelight glow on her dark skin, “You know why I’m here, right? Heard about the new mission?”
Rin crossed her arms, shifted her weight to her living leg, “I’ve got the general idea.”
“Rin.” A hint of exasperation came into Oyin’s voice, “There was a two-hour comm call. I was on it. So were you.”
“And I was hung over, and I only picked up because I was expecting a call from someone else and it seemed impolite to hang up.” Rin looked away, then back at Oyin, “Listen. I was trying to arrange a threesome from across three different star systems, and your number at C-Sec looked a lot like the one I was waiting on. I was distracted.”
Oyin paused, blinked, “You know, I’m not even surprised.”
Rin smirked, “We were only together for ten years. I’m glad I left that much of an impression.”
“Well…” Oyin cleared her throat, tried to look official, “Look. You - we - already did this kind of thing, right? Deniable work for C-Sec? Except this time it’ll matter. No more brush fires, no more border skirmishes, no more maintaining the status quo. It’s a chance to make a change. To see behind the curtain.”
Rin looked to the side again, the smirk fading from her lips like sunset, “I seem to remember a time when we thought we were going to get a look at the Wonderful Wizard of Oz.” She shrugged her artificial shoulder, making sure the golden filigree caught the light, “I don’t remember the next week. And there are things we did that...well.” She leveled her gaze at Oyin, “Don’t tell me you were always happy about it.”
“We…” Oyin sighed, “Rin. I know it’s asking a lot. But it’s been a long time - and things are changing. I don’t know how much you’ve been keeping up, but it’s getting worse. Or at least, it’s getting different. Things like that are happening more and more; we lost two scout ships from the Citadel Fleet last month when they went to check out some kind of sensor ghost.” She swallowed, “You know I’m not supposed to have told you that, but there’s something wrong, Rin. C-Sec’s trying to do something about it, but there aren’t a lot of people like...well.”
“Like us?” Rin smirked, “You coming along, with that shiny new ship?”
Oyin’s smile turned sad, “I’m gonna be making a difference in my own way, Rin. This isn’t for me. The Light is too big, too flashy. And she’s painted C-Sec colors. We stick out.”
“And it would look bad for the newest captain in the Fleet to go missing with her new ship.” Rin smirked, “I get it. I already know the rules, and I never actually retired. Call up the reserves -” Rin raised a finger, “the expendable reserves, and send ‘em off to solve the mystery.”
“Have you really been happy, living this way, Rin?” Oyin said, her voice gentle, “You’re hardly in the same place for more than a couple of months, and it’s not like you’ve just been lying back and letting someone feed you grapes -” She bowled ahead, talking over Rin’s incipient retort, “Not all the time, anyway. I know you’re not going stir-crazy, but...are you really happy, Rin? Or are you still looking for a purpose?”
Severin crossed her arms again, looked to the side, to the ceiling. She even turned her body a little to look out the window again, but there seemed to be a little less peace in the view than there had been just a few minutes ago. She closed her eyes, lowered her head, took a long, slow breath. She’d known the fun part of this conversation couldn’t last. And, gods damn her, Oyin always knew what buttons to push, it’s why they’d never gotten together. Too much like one another. Not two peas in a pod, no - more like two halves of a criticality experiment.
But the damn of it all was this: She wasn’t wrong. Like a moth to a flame, a fool to her folly, her palms itched to see the galaxy again. Even after everything, after waking up in a medbay and realizing she wasn’t whole anymore and maybe she never would be again, after all the pain and loss, the confusion, the triumph and the terror, part of her had never wanted to walk away. It was the part of her that took the offer for C-Sec’s reserves, the part that still looked at the medals, the part that still sent postcards to that Krogan she’d met a decade ago on a world choked with ash.
All the same, the years hadn’t been that unkind. The pain had gone, and if she wasn’t who she once had been, Severin still recognized the woman in the mirror. If she lost her balance walking across a room, she still knew how to restart a Drell’s heart, how to diagnose malnutrition in an Asari, how to set a bone, how to make people believe it would be all right, and how to be honest when it wouldn’t. She was still herself, and that meant something too. Rin turned back to Oyin, meeting the other woman’s eyes.
“I’m taking care of kids, now, Oyin,” Rin said, her voice getting a little more somber, “Orphans. Some of them were left behind after things we did. Or things we didn’t stop. Or that we couldn’t help, but at the end of the day, they’re still there. And I’ve got a clinic on Omega; by Arashu, I’ve got staff. You’re not wrong, Oyin. Sure, there’s a part of me that misses the life, sure, I move around a lot. But you want me to walk away from this? Why?”
Oyin took a small step forward, and reached to take Rin’s artificial hand, clasping it between hers. The onyx and gold of the digits complimented Oyin’s skin, and Rin enjoyed the warmth. Oyin closed her eyes, took a long, deep breath.
“For a galaxy with fewer orphans in it going forward, Rin. For parents who don’t have to bury empty caskets. To finally find out why Zaro and Rafael died, why Ilia disappeared, why you were hurt.” Oyin opened her eyes, meeting Rin’s, “Because this is the right thing to do. Not because C-Sec is asking you, because I know that was barely worked at the best of times. Because I’m asking you, Severin.” A small smirk, “Because if I have to bury you, it’s not going to be because you decided to try Hanar drugs again.”
Rin spluttered, laughed, and the laugh built, bubbled over, became something with a life of its own. She leaned against the table, propping herself up, and laughed until the tears came, and until the tears turned into real tears, and until she left dark stains on the shoulder of Oyin’s uniform. The minutes passed, the world below turned, the lightning flashed, and at the end, Oyin’s arms held Rin close, one of her broad palms on the back of her head, the other making slow circles on her back.
Rin sniffled, “They sent the right woman for the job, didn’t they?” She straightened, wiped a stray tear from her artificial eye.
“You’re coming, then?” Oyin said, the smile on her face halfway between sad and amused.
“Oh, gods damn you,” Rin said, wiping another tear from her cheek, “You know the answer to that.”
“Let me walk with you,” Oyin said, gesturing to the door with an elaborate, needless flourish.
“In case I run away?” Rin said, “Or fall over?” She grinned.
“No, Zee,” Oyin said, “Because if I know you, you still need to pack. And I still haven’t seen your bedroom, after all these years.” She smirked, “You can tell a lot about a person by their bedroom.”
Rin laughed, “Like there’s anything about me you don’t already know.”
“I’m always willing to be surprised,” Oyin said with a wink.
The pair walked out of the room, away from the storms, away from the lightning on the planet below. The corridor curved up and away from them, the station’s habitation ring making the characteristic strange horizons. Oyin’s boots clicked on the worn deckplates, Rin’s steps made almost no noise.
“Hey,” Oyin said after a few minutes, “Did you really go down to the surface here? To find the ghost ship?”
Severin smiled, “We did. About a month before we stood down.” Rin smiled, “You were on vacation with that Quarian boy-toy.”
Oyin rolled her eyes, “Yeah? What did you find?”
Rin walked a few more steps, then put her hand on the control panel to her quarters, “Well…” She said with a smirk, “That sounds like a conversation to have over dinner.” She touched the panel, and the door slid open. “I’ll cook, you listen.”
“And in the morning?” Oyin said.
“You’ll take me to the Citadel,” Rin said, with a small smile, “And we’ll find out what happens next.”
Severin Zahir was born on October the 3rd, 2259, in Queens, New York, one of the first areas of the Five Boroughs to be reconstructed following the events of the Reaper War. Her parents, Imal and Layla Zahir, were second-generation immigrants to the area, their family having relocated from the greater destruction done to their home in what had been the United Arab Emirates some time earlier. She grew up in a home busy with life, with her father an Imam in the local mosque, and her mother spending her time between Earth and the Citadel, working with the Systems Alliance to normalize relations with the Council Races and pull what resources she could to the ongoing efforts to rebuild Earth; a task that would easily last longer than her lifetime, and likely Severin's as well.
She is the oldest of three children, all sisters. Her middle sister, Rania, is two years younger, and the youngest, Safiya, is five years junior to Severin. All three children excelled in school, and were, in general, no more a handful than a person might already expect of a household with three daughters in it. Safiya currently owns her own clothing line, specializing in Quarian suit decorations, and Rania followed their mother's footsteps into the Systems Alliance diplomatic corps, spending more of her time in space than she does at home, though that does at least mean that their parents get time to themselves, on occasion.
Severin, always with a flashing, glittering intellect, took to sciences early, and medicine in particular. Not particularly shy about using her mother's connections with the Citadel, Severin found a place with Citadel Security as a very young woman. Nepotism or not, Severin had a passion for C-Sec's work, believing that the Citadel's stabilizing influence in the galaxy was important, and she felt like she wanted to spend her time in that pursuit. Though Citadel power, and C-Sec in particular, may have been reduced in respect and influence, the Citadel's cosmopolitan population - and lucky meetings with like-minded people - helped Severin on a fast-track through medical training. Like anyone starting a career, there were stumbling blocks along the way, and no notable disasters. Despite this, Severin tends to joke that "Of course I'm a good doctor. I have several living patients."
Though she could have simply stayed on the station, absorbed its vast wealths of knowledge, and followed a highly traditional path through medical training, when Severin was offered the opportunity to join a more far-ranging group, she jumped at it. During an early attempt for the Citadel to start rebuilding its reputation for cross-border problem solving, C-Sec saw fit to send small groups of generally well-trained individuals to problem areas, brush fires, or on humanitarian outreach missions - though usually even those were dangerous, to one degree or another. These were early trials, designed to test the waters, and if they weren't secret, they also weren't exactly well-advertised.
Severin's team, given the designation of Deployment Nine, which eventually the group shortened to "Niners," or simply, "Nines," initially spent time largely on humanitarian missions. There were six of them in all, and they they were close enough to be a second family by the end. First was Ilia T'lana, a young Asari woman and, by luck of the draw, the group's nominal leader; already an inspiring figure, her compassion seemed infinite, matched by her incredible talent for software and hardware overrides - which, more often than not, were used to defeat 'licensed' features on farming equipment. Then there was Oyin Kalu, a fellow Human and a year older than Severin, from a fourth-generation family of merchant marines, who could untangle patterns in data quicker than full-fledged artificial intelligence. Kariss Zaro was by far the strangest Krogan that Severin had ever met; like all his people he was a mountain of a being but he practiced an art similar to embroidery, could civil-engineer in his sleep, and fought with hand-to-hand weapons that looked like sculptures in steel and eezo. Over nearly a decade, Rafael Singer solved engineering problems that Rin couldn't even begin to understand, turning the questions on their sides until everything lined up like pins in a lock; he rarely spoke, but he was the kind of man whose smile said volumes. Lanar Rix, a Turian with a laugh like spring rain, taught most of the rest of them how to survive, to fight when necessary, to believe in the being next to you, and how to tell a well-made automated defense system from shoddy workmanship - and, with care, to turn the latter into the former.
They assisted colonies in setting up defensive grids, dealing with disease outbreaks, working on soil remediation to deal with impending famines, and other activities related to the endless fallout from the Reaper War. They often worked alone, or in contact with one other Deployment group, and were expected to operate in a highly-independent fashion, frequently out of easy range of Citadel leadership. Over time, the Deployment groups became if not semi-autonomous, at least very accustomed to receiving broad orders, a goal, and returning the C-Sec (or, on rare occasion, the Council itself) later for debriefing and finding out what their next task would be.
However, not every mission was something with the relative safety of repairing waterworks on a colony world nominally friendly to the Citadel and patrolled by either a local fleet or the Citadel fleet itself. Before long, the Deployment groups, Severin's included, found themselves having to defend themselves and, occasionally, the people they'd been sent to help, from those who saw the Deployments as easy prey, and their 'clients' nothing but carrion. Generally far from Citadel response, the Deployment groups were, in a very real sense, put in the choice of adapting to their increasingly-hostile environment, or not making it home. Some were captured, killed, lost, or destroyed, but a surprising fraction came back again and again - smoke-blackened, scarred, with their ships held together with bailing wire and hope. They became, by necessity, ferocious fighters, brilliant improvisors, and unlike people trained from the ground up for that kind of hostile environment, often still deeply committed to their cause of helping people.
While some of the Deployment teams would go on to be fashioned into high-profile Citadel outreach functions, it became clear that there were forces at work beyond simple piracy and expanding criminal empires. Some of the groups - the Niners included - were repurposed into more directly stabilizing forces. Less and less of their work became nation-building infrastructure management, because it became clear there was something out there directly, and deliberately, trying to tip the balances of power, pulling levers that shouldn't be pulled. There was someone - or a group of someones - testing the waters, to see where their influences would be felt, and where they would be ignored. The Niners, and some other groups like them, became rapid-response units, not precisely black ops, but not exactly anything else, an active attempt to throw wrenches into what increasingly appeared to be some kind of plan.
But even at that, C-Sec's resources were stretched thin. This work would have been done by Spectres in ages past, but there weren't any of those around anymore, and the galaxy at large had lost their taste for the Council's shadowy operatives in any event. Severin and her fellows were reactive, not proactive, and there was a general feeling that they may have been slowing some unseen adversary, they certainly weren't stopping them. And every year, another Deployment group would go silent, never returning home, their fate completely uncertain. There were rumors of capture, of enslavement, but none of them ever seemed to come to anything - or, if they were, C-Sec carefully withheld that information from their very, very unofficial collection of 'special agents.'
By the time Severin was 25, she had been with the Niners for half a decade, had more light-years behind her than some freighter captains, and knew how to triage, treat, stabilize, resuscitate, and revive half a dozen species in the acute, battlefield-medic kind of way that harsh practicality teaches. Between missions, she would spend time attending actual medical school, and arguing with college administrators about what counted for credit and what didn't on her increasingly-adventurous career. She wouldn't officially graduate until 27, and though it would take some arguing, the next decade would more than count for "residency." It would take her nearly that long to actually apply for, and be granted, a license to practice medicine.
Severin's career with Citadel Security, the Council, and Citadel space in general, would occupy this not-quite-black-ops position for almost ten years, and on the whole, she loved what she did - though she may have developed something of a complicated relationship with C-Sec authorities. She would take orders from Ilia, of course; they all would, but she started to wonder if the folks at the top were losing sight of what they'd started out to do. All the same, there were mysteries, puzzles, and adventures, camaraderie, and the opportunity to travel the broader galaxy, and it was all in the pursuit of something meaningful. There were people who needed help, and they were tasked to offer it. There was nothing flashy to the job - their ship was well-maintained but uncomplicated, the gear workmanlike. The hours were long, but for ten years, she was never truly alone, wrapped in the care and love of her companions, living in the light of the next mass relay jump.
Though there was considerable downtime between missions - occasionally more than a month would go by, and Rin would wonder if she'd have to get a 'real' job - but in the end, C-Sec never failed to provide the next adventure. In the meantime, though, Severin spent her spare time in the pursuit of the twin passions that drive a substantial part of her life: Satisfying her intellectual curiosity, and sex. While she has had boyfriends, and masculine-presenting partners, she finds herself more likely to spend the evening with female-presenting human partners, and the occasional alien (No, not only Asari) that might catch her eye. She traveled widely, including frequent trips to Earth to visit her family, and spent time with her sister when they were both on the Citadel. While the two of them did find themselves occasionally pursuing the same person (not usually at the same time, though that did happen), Rania and Severin are the kind of people to laugh uproariously about that and go about their lives, rather than nurture resentment or jealousy.
Over her career with Citadel Security, Rin's life was never boring, and the job never became a blur. Their adventures were many, including working with the Loyalist Clans during the Neo-Krogan War for a brief period, during which time she met and befriended Urdnot Shephurd. That outing remains the only time Rin has ever actually tried firing a Krogan shotgun - an experience she is not keen on repeating. She's participated in rescues from pirates, stabilizing the engines on asteroid mining platforms, bringing medical supplies to distant worlds, and defending herself from slavers and worse. To Rin's point of view, a life, and a career, of Doing Good, or at least the good she could find, was all the reward she could ask for.
In the early weeks of 2294 the arc of Rin's life changed, sharply. Their latest mission had seemed routine by the standards of the Niners' usual jobs, looking into a freighter that had stopped responding on its way to a nearby mass relay, only a couple of jumps away from the Citadel. The freighter's owners were both not local to the system and it appeared they couldn't be contacted, and since its trajectory wouldn't take it into the relay at that point, it became the Niners problem, at least for now. While they didn't expect something simple - they didn't get a call until all the 'simple' steps had already been taken - Severin and her team were prepared to be back on the Citadel in a few days, maybe a week, and that she could finish up the paperwork for her medical license. The last, at least, would turn out to be true.
The freighter, once they arrived, was anything but straightforward. The engines were offline, but the attitude thrusters weren't; the ship wasn't drifting, but it also wasn't accelerating or on any specific course. It also wasn't responding to standard communications or approach requests - the power was on, but it appeared that nobody was home. More worryingly, a scan of the ship showed that most of it was standing in hard vacuum - an airlock had been forced open, and along with it, most of the ship's air had exploded into the void. There were still pockets of pressure, though, showing that interior compartments were still sealed, which may have meant someone had survived whatever happened here. Not only that, the sealed areas were warm, while the rest of the ship had cooled nearly to ambient.
Finding an undamaged airlock, the Niners made their way into the freighter without even bothering to come to a consensus first. Something had happened, and it seemed like someone may have survived. Even the suspicion that there had been no radio traffic faded, as the moment their ship made hard connection, they heard crackled, distorted voices over the local comm. Not enough signal to make out what they were saying, but enough to know someone was alive, further into the ship. Three team members - Severin, Zaro, and Rafael - made their way into the freighter, with Ilia standing guard by the Niners' ship.
That the freighter was an elaborate trap, and one set for C-Sec's bands of misfits, didn't become clear until they were quite deep in the freighter, having to override access doors one by one on the way to the pressurized crew areas. The voice on the comm became clearer and clearer the closer they got to the warm, sealed compartments, but it would go quiet for minutes at a time, and any responses were broken, malformed, and less clear. They were still half a deck away when Oyin, who had been listening in, told everyone to hold. She had found patterns in the comm signal - not only what it was saying, but in the bursts of static, and even in the carrier signals themselves. There was nobody trapped in those pressurized areas - there was only the ship's VI, damaged, configured to repeat some barely-coherent messaging over the local feed.
They may have been a step closer to figuring out what was going on, but the Niners were still no closer to the why. While Rin's group made their way back through the ship, Ilia suggested sending a shutdown-and-restore command to the VI, that maybe the old standby of "plugging it in again" might shake some of its marbles loose and maybe they could get some useful information out of it. The command was, to everyone's surprise, accepted using its vendor-default credential string, and that was when Rin really started to worry. The lights died, even the floor strips, and a moment later Lanar was yelling into the comm that Rin's group, and Ilia, had to get out of the ship, and they had to do it now.
They didn't usually scan ships for explosives, especially not apparently-derelict cargo vessels, no matter how strange they were. This one had even been manifested that it was hauling grain, and should have been no more dangerous than any other enormous, spacefaring vessel capable of transiting entire solar systems. But what it should not have had were corridors lined with mines, or remote detonators, or to suddenly come alive with detonator-synchronization signals. It seemed that, in addition to having been tampered with to draw people into the ship, the VI had been additionally configured to reboot into something connected to enough explosives to wipe out a battalion, and certainly to blow away any evidence of what happened.
And that would have been the end of the story, had Ilia not reached into the ship's network, grabbed the VI by its virtual throat, and tried to throttle it into submission - digitally speaking, at least. She broke past its firewalls with all the speed she could, redirected or spoofed commands, buried directives, and reset timers, but the rebooting VI still spawned more. Rin and her group ran for everything they were worth, and if the direct path to the ship was mined, that didn't really matter - if the mines went off, there were enough of them that even more remote areas of the freighter would be torn apart. They ran, and Ilia fought, and the VI still slowly went though its boot cycle, every moment getting closer to the command sequence that would trigger the mines.
Rin's group came around the corner, boots pounding on the corridor. Rafael led, Severin behind, and Zaro brought up the rear, moving with the unexpected grace of Krogan under threat. The airlock was still dozens of meters away, Ilia still engrossed in her omni-tool, voices shouting over the comm to hurry. To each side, small lights on detonators came on, lining the wall in pulsing crimson pinpricks, each one a deadly promise. The three redoubled their efforts, trying not to think about the explosives. To Rin, heart pounding in her ears, every step seemed to take longer than the last.
Ilia gasped over the comm, her omni-tool suddenly flaring with alert glyphs. She looked down, then looked back out at the group, her eyes wide. She choked out a message: The VI had rebooted again, this time of its own accord. Time seemed to slow, and a message flashed across the local comm feed.
The lights overhead went out. The lights on the detonators did not.
In Rin's memory, the next moments are a mixture of frozen images, gaps, and fleeting moments of terror. Zaro roared and came from behind like a freight train, grabbing Rin with one arm and Rafael with the other. She felt the deck rumble and shake when the mines started exploding, she saw the stars, bright with white-hot metal burst into view while the freighter's hull split like a shattered egg. A handful of meters from the airlock, she felt Zaro turn, putting his armored back and body between the wall and the humans, and the world went white. She remembers seeing a lance of fire burst through Zaro's chest along with the white clouds of escaping air, she remembers feeling him fall to his knees. She didn't realize then that he wasn't the only one hurt, and she couldn't figure out why she couldn't grab him to help him up, or why she couldn't stand, or why any of this was happening. Then Zaro grabbed her by the front of her hardsuit, which Rin just now realized was flashing every alarm it could, and with a strength that seemed impossible in one arm, threw Rin down the corridor, toward Ilia and the airlock. The last thing she remembers was the moment of weightlessness after Zaro let go, and the bloom of another explosion.
In the end, their ship survived - barely - but the team itself was wounded beyond saving. Zaro and Rafael had been killed by the mines on the freighter - by Ilia's recollection, it took four of them, all heavy-duty anti-personnel mines to take Zaro down, and he tried to keep Rafael safe to the very end. Even with every piece of emergency kit the team had, if they hadn't been in such relative closeness to the Citadel, Rin would have joined them.
Rin was in a medically-induced coma for some time, and only intermittently lucid after that, during the start of her recovery. She underwent more surgeries than a person should in their lifetime, let alone during a critical-care phase, just to get back to something like crippled, but stable. The choices she made after that exhausted most of her own credit account, even with her family's help, but in the end, she would be, if not recovered, at least whole. For months, she barely left her hospital room, collecting scars and slowly coming back to herself.
Word of what happened to the Niners came in a single perfunctory visit from a C-Sec officer that Rin had never met before. The Deployment project was being dismantled - their team wasn't the only one to come across some kind of trap or lure, and internal pressures in the Citadel were moving toward winding down the groups in any event. They weren't being fired, but the man suggested that they may want to make plans for their futures before nodding and leaving without giving Rin a chance to reply.
There were visits, commiserations, grief, and laughter during Rin's stay in the hospital, but in the end, the Niners very much wound up going their separate ways. During their last visit, Ilia said that she'd found something in the pieces of the VI's code that she'd managed to keep that she needed to follow up on, but Rin hasn't heard from her in years. Oyin transferred to Citadel Fleet, which had been her plan all along, on the command track. Lanar decided to stay with C-Sec, which surprised nobody, and made a point to check in on Severin during her recovery, and afterward.
In the end, Rin functionally retired from C-Sec, although she was never entirely off their roster; more of a reservist, if such she could be called. There are questions she's never been able to answer - clearly, someone had put a lot of effort into trying to kill her and her team. All the same, who, and why, remained an open question. No shadowy figures have come out of the dark to try and finish the job, and other than Ilia's disappearance, none of the other team members seem to have had more than the usual amount of problems and complications with their lives. She is not particularly comfortable with the question being so unresolved - but in her current state, she's in no shape to figure it out.
In the years since, Rin has applied for, and been granted, her license to practice medicine as a full doctor in Citadel Space and the Systems Alliance. She has spent a considerable amount of time trying to find places that can use a doctor, places that might otherwise be in dire straits or hardship, and offering her services where and when she can. In this capacity, she's spent some time on Rows with Sam Bridge's orphanage, stopping by the place several times a year to offer medical services, share a drink, and laugh about the way the universe is strange. She is not broken, or repressed, or angry about what has happened to her; rather, Rin sees it simply as the next chapter of her life.
Though, perhaps, the past won't be the past for much longer. Recently, Rin has been contacted by C-Sec, and offered a position - a new ship, a new crew, and this time, a chance to maybe find the center of a mystery that cost her an eye, her friends, and so much more besides...
Position: Ship's doctor / chief medical officer / chaplain / counselor. She can, and will if required, function in a combat or battlefield capacity, but would prefer not to.
Inventory & Logistics:
Full suite of installation, modification, removal, and maintenance tools for cybernetic implants (including biotics) from a variety of manufacturers, including firmware for her own implants and a collection of spare parts.
Medical texts (Digital, holographic, and physical) detailing particulars of Drell, Quarian, Krogan, Human, and Asari medicine; obviously frequently referred to.
The ship’s medbay and its equipment.
Her own medical kit; battered, scarred, burned, dented, and containing almost everything she’d want in a hurry under fire.
A collection of small drones, which tend to follow Rin around like a flock, doing small, useful tasks while she’s focused on something else. Some open cupboards and bring her tools, some assist with medical procedures, some maintain inventories, some bring her coffee while she’s walking so that she doesn’t have to make a detour to the kitchen. Some play music. Some do...other things. They are controlled either by verbal commands or directives sent from Rin’s implanted neural lace.
An M300 Claymore, mounted on the wall of her office in the medbay. This was a gift from Urd. It looks heavily used, and is in perfect working order. Rin would normally store one thermal clip of ammunition (or one shot) in her desk drawer, but at the request of Seraph, all ammunition is safely deposited in the ship’s armory.
A collection of small plants and fungi from across the galaxy; the equivalent of a very exotic succulent garden. She is very evasive about whether any of them possess psychoactive qualities.
A cane made from hickory wood. She hasn’t had to use it in a long time.
An acoustic guitar; both something she's good at playing, and something useful for ongoing physical therapy.
Requisition requests have been made for wine, chocolate, scotch, and dextro-compatible intoxicants.
Notoriety: 6. Rin knows a lot of people, but she tends to know them socially, rather than having an established reputation.
On Rin’s Background - I have ideas for things that have happened during her career with C-Sec (In particular, a deliberately comedic mutual-lifesaving moment with Urd, and that whatever mission she was on last was exploded by the Shadowy Cabal we’re going after), but I didn’t think it was useful to have a blow-by-blow breakdown of every single one of her adventures. My pitch here is this: She worked for C-Sec, she was good at it, she mustered out after being hurt, and isn’t that mad they pulled her back in. She did Stuff, and when it’s useful to the story, I’m perfectly happy slotting that Stuff in, but otherwise the specifics of those exploits will be things told in-character over drinks, or in boast-offs with Urd, or whatever seems like it might be funny at the time. I will never use this lack of specificity to try and break the story; you won’t ever have to worry about my trying to claim that Rin knows how to hotwire a hyperdrive blindfolded “because she had to do that once, it’s in part of her backstory I didn’t explain!” or anything like that.
[Blasts from the Past]: Yes. Please. I have given you so much ammunition for this, and that was fully intentional.
Samara stretched, her arms rising over her head, the movement accompanied by a jaw-popping yawn. Her hair was tousled even a little more than usual, and if she looked bleary, well, it was three in the thrice-cursed morning. She rolled a shoulder, still sore from that fight with that plant thing with all the mouths last month, and realized what had been bothering her the whole ride out here. Sam looked down at her shirt and sighed - yes, this was already going to be one of those kinds of nights. The fabric was right, and the cut was right - which actually was rather the problem, because the shirt itself was about a size smaller than Sam usually wore. She let out a curse in five-hundred-year-old Persian, and tried to pull the seams into something a little more comfortable. That was the problem with being woken up in the middle of the night; you could never be entirely sure whose shirt you were grabbing off the floor. Or the nightstand. Or, if she was being honest, from the living room couch - waiting to get to the bedroom had, at the time, seemed like an awful idea.
Zipping up her jacket, Sam made her way from the truck to look closer at the...well, the whatever-this-was. Millar and Clint were right, the place was, for something the Sentinels got themselves involved in, spic-and-span. Hardly anything that might make the average person even think of the heebie-jeebies, and certainly nothing like the last time they'd been out this way. Still, Millar hadn't seemed like a fool, and if he'd made the call, she'd doubted their time was going to waste - but at the same time, there certainly didn't seem to be much here.
With another yawn, Sam made her way to the crashed SUV. She leaned in through a shattered side window, careful not to disturb anything she didn't have to. Glass pebbles crunched under her boots while she pulled a flashlight from a pocket, playing the beam across the inside of the vehicle. She looked at the headliner, the seats, checked if the seat belt had been cut or if it had been released manually. Leaning a little further forward, she tried to get a look at the driver's side footwell, in case there were anything nefarious there - the vehicle may as well have been remote controlled, given how empty it seemed. Maybe it had been. Not likely, but there was likely no harm in seeing which primrose path to be led down.
The smell of coffee wafted past her nose, and Sam breathed in, her brain sizzling at the scent. She stood up, making sure not to touch anything, and turned to face Clint and Millar.
"Tell me you've got more of that," Sam said, her lips curled into a smirk while she pointed the beam of her flashlight at the cup. She sniffed again, "...Wait, this time of day, out here..." She shook her head, "Never mind. That's cop coffee, right? Worse for you than the rest of this job put together."
Sam nodded to Clint, watching the older man pick up his go-back from the rover, and made her way a little further down the road, following the SUV's tracks before the truck had lost its fight with physics. Not out of any real idea that she'd find anything, but she needed a moment of comparative quiet.
Away from the growing bustle of equipment and people, Sam took a deep breath, closed her eyes, and let the breath out. She felt something in her chest, almost like the fluttering of anticipation before a kiss, almost like an electric shock. This never got any less strange, but then again, perhaps that really was the point. The Sentinels lived beyond the veil, in the world of magic and monsters, but seeing past even that layer of reality and into the one beneath, well. That held its own special take on the strange and wondrous. Sam finished letting her breath out and with air filling her lungs again, she turned, her attention now on that liminal space between this world and the next, searching for spirits, ghosts, or evidence of the recently departed.