Chapter 1: What is a sneeze?
This story became a reality thanks to a suggestion made by natsora.
I apologize for any language and spelling errors I might've missed.
Drack was going to be pissed. Amber Ryder knew this. She chose Raeka instead of his scouts. Did she make the right choice?
Maybe she was a coward. Because she didn't have the courage to face him and if she was honest with herself she wasn't sure if she'll ever will.
"Well that was close," Jaal was the first to spoke.
"Not that close. It could've been worse," Ryder countered.
Vetra and Jaal gave her a skeptical look but Vetra was the first one to speak, "Right. But it also could've gone a lot better."
This was Ryder being a realist not an optimistic.
Ryder shifted her gaze to both of them, "Alright. You guys know what's next."
All three of them took care of their gear and just as Ryder wanted to go out of the room Vetra stopped her, "I hope you're going to the med bay next."
Ryder turned around. If anyone would've said anything she thought it would've been Jaal. But he was awfully quiet. Why was that? Didn't he agree with her choice? Vetra was the chatty one when they removed their gear, and she's never this chatty.
"Why?" Ryder asked.
"Well leaving out the part that happened with SAM, you could've barely got out of your gear by yourself," Vetra said sternly.
"Yes I think it's best that you go," Jaal agreed. He sounded concerned.
It was true. Ryder's whole body was sore but she didn't think it was serious enough. It felt like she had bruises where she didn't have before.
"Med Bay. Now." Lexi appeared within thin air.
"Lexi," Ryder answered being startled but she hid it away by just blinking a few times. "Where did you come from?"
"Now!" Lexi repeated, this time more sternly.
What's the verdict?" Ryder asked after Lexi did her scans and took her blood.
"Nothing too serious. Just a few broken ribs. You'll be fighting uncomfortable for a while," Lexi didn't look up from her datapad. "The blood tests results will take a while, if something comes up I'll let you know."
"I can work with uncomfortable," Ryder said with a shrug.
Lexi eyed her and Ryder felt naked.
"Are you mad about what SAM did?" Ryder asked.
"Yes," Lexi didn't even try to deny it, "but you should get some rest. Observation for one day. Just to make sure everything is fine."
"Everything is fine. You said it yourself."
"Observation," Lexi held one blue finger up. "One day." She wasn't going to take no for an answer.
"Fine," Ryder said as she lay back onto the bed.
Ryder wasn't planning on sleeping, but it wasn't mere 5 minutes after she placed her head on the pillow that she drifted off. She must've been more tired than she thought.
When she came to it again she saw Jaal sitting next to her bed, "You okay Jaal?" Ryder asked, seeing how deep in thought he was.
"Yes. I'm just glad you're okay."
"Of course I am," she assured him. "Are you mad about what had happened?"
That's not what she meant but she decided to go along with it, "Yes."
"Not mad. Worried."
Ryder took his hand, "I'm fine. Lexi just wants me to stay behind. Just a few broken ribs. Nothing too serious."
Jaal didn't stay long after that. He insisted that she should rest for the remainder of the day. But just before she drifted off to sleep again she remembered something. She couldn't believe it slipped her mind.
"Yes," Lexi was sitting at her desk. And turned her chair to look at Ryder.
"Do you know what was in that injection?"
Lexi knew she referred to the injection of the Archon.
"No, but Suvi is working on it. She'll come back with results as soon as she has them."
The next day everything went fine. Lexi released Ryder and it looked like she was doing fine. Lexi told Ryder how she disagreed with what SAM has done, but after their conversation, it seemed Lexi felt better about what happened.
The rest of the crew were either asking if she was okay, completely ignoring the line of the subject or congratulating her on hitting the Archon with a massive blow.
Last she went to see Drack. He was not happy to see her. He told her she sent his scouts to a fate worse than death. And he wasn't wrong. She tried to apologize to him, for whatever good that would do, but he didn't let her. His words cut her deep. She lost his trust. And she wasn't sure if she would ever get it back again.
The conversation left an ache in her chest.
When they arrived at the Nexus Tann gave a speech and asked her to add on what he said. The meeting with the leadership has gone as well as it possibly could. Unfortunately, she couldn't get permission to go to Meridian, which was an absolute bust. Why the hell did she go to the Archon's flagship? For absolutely freaking nothing?
She understood the leadership doubts, but why did they come to Andromeda? To take no risks whatsoever?
Her brother was awake which was really great! She acted like she was positive saying: "Asher will be awake soon." But the truth was, she had her doubts from day one.
Amber Ryder wasn't an optimistic person. It was something that was assumed by others. She couldn't blame them of course. That's how she acted around other people. But deep inside she knew she wasn't.
She was afraid she was going to lose him. That was normal, right?
But…her visit didn't go that well. He was mad at her. She lied to him about the Golden Worlds, about Dad.
She didn't know what she expected, of course, he would be mad. When she spoke to him through SAM she tried to tell him, but the words didn't come out. How could she tell him while he was in a coma that she was the reason their dad was gone? That it was all her fault. She couldn't. At least not like that.
But she didn't want him to find out like this either. Golden Worlds, fine someone can tell him about that. But Asher finding out like that about their dad. It wasn't right. He deserved to find out by his own sister. Not someone else.
Ryder tried. After she heard that her brother was awake she got there as fast as she could. But not fast enough.
That didn't matter now. The past was in the past.
Ryder said goodbye to her brother. Things were better between them now. He forgave her and surprisingly didn't blame Dad's death on her. He just said he was mad that she didn't tell him earlier.
He said it wasn't her fault. She told him…well, everything about Habitat 7. There was no emotion in her voice. Was she cold? She missed him so much, she knew it. And she still didn't understand why he saved her life. She and her dad had a very complicated relationship which she couldn't explain even if she tried.
Cora talked to her. She said that Alec Ryder loved her and that's why he did it. But she had this sinking feeling the whole time that there was more than that. If she could just remember what he said before she blacked out at Habitat 7. That was the last words her dad said to her, but it's just blank.
They couldn't stay on the Nexus for much longer. They needed to move on. She decided Voeld would be their next destination. There were a couple of assignments left that needed her full attention. Luckily the outpost was already done, which meant things could move along on Voeld.
Ryder, Jaal, and Peebee were suiting up. And then something really weird happened. Ryder sneezed.
Jaal and Peebee stopped with what they were doing and looked at her as if she did the craziest thing in the Galaxy.
Peebee gave her a weird look and it was clear that Jaal had no idea what happened.
"What just happened?" Jaal asked.
Not taking her eyes off Ryder Peebee answered with a smirk, "Ryder just sneezed."
"Ah," Jaal said as understanding kicked in. "Cora mentioned sneezing before. So this is what it sounds like." He seemed to consider this. "Interesting."
Ryder shrugged and picked up an Assault Rifle, "So I sneezed, it's not a big deal."
That's what Ryder thought at the time. Later it would turn out she was very wrong.
"When was the last time you've sneezed?" Peebee asked.
"Hmm…" Ryder wasn't sure. When was the last time she sneezed? She equipped the Assault rifle and answered with a shrug.
"Peebee," Jaal started, "Why does that matter?"
It was the first time Peebee turned her gaze to Jaal, "Because that could mean our dear Pathfinder is having a cold."
"I'm not having a cold. I feel fine," Ryder said defensively before Jaal could even ask what a cold is. "It could also mean I'm allergic to something."
"Like what?" Peebee challenged her.
"I don't know," Ryder answered too fast. "Point being I'm not having a cold. It's just one sneeze. There could be numerous reasons why I've sneezed."
But it wasn't just one sneeze. In the Nomad she sneezed twice, each time Peebee gave her a weird look and Jaal gave her a fascinating one.
After they were done for the day they returned to the Tempest. Ryder was more tired than usual and she couldn't understand why.
Back in her quarters, she tried to work for a bit until she couldn't keep her eyes open anymore. Then finally she started to go to bed.
The next morning she woke up with a strange headache and her nose was blocked.
She went to the bathroom to wash her face, to help her wake up. When that didn't seem to work she went to the galley to make some coffee.
Vetra was there when Ryder arrived. "Morning," Ryder muttered. Surprised how strange her voice sounded to her own ears.
Was Peebee right? Am I getting a cold?
No. That can't be it. Maybe it's just an off day.
"Are you okay Ryder?" Vetra asked. "You don't look so good."
Vetra was drinking something that Ryder couldn't identify.
"Yeah, I'm good. Just need my coffee to wake up," she lied.
After finishing her coffee she didn't feel any better.
"SAM what's our ETA?" Ryder asked. She decided to help Vetra next.
"Are you sure you should drive?" Vetra asked. They were on H-047c, on their way to the abandoned mine Sid told them about
"Yeah, why?" Ryder's voice started to sound hoarse.
"Have you looked in the mirror today?" Vetra asked.
Ryder didn't pull her eyes from the road, "Don't start," she knew where Vetra was going with this. "I'm fine. It's just a cold."
"Are you sure about that?" Vetra went on. "You look worse than you did this morning."
"Yeah, it's fine. It'll pass." Ryder said, being very sure of herself. "Peebee's already gloating because she was right. So there's that."
"What was she right about?" Vetra inquired.
Ryder took her eyes off the road to look at Vetra. Hmm…that was interesting. "Peebee didn't gloat?"
Before Vetra could answer Jaal talked, "Eyes on the road Ryder."
And then they felt it. Ryder drove on a hill. Her stomach made knots but afterward, she felt an odd sense of freedom. Ryder loved it. Until her stomach protested and left her with an uneasy feeling. That was odd, she thought. But she said nothing about it.
"Coming back to Peebee," Vetra said a few moments later, "I don't think she would have fun at the compromise of you not feeling well."
Ryder could feel Jaal leaning in closer, "I have come to know Peebee better recently," he said, "she won't admit it but she cares."
Peebee was someone Ryder couldn't figure out yet. She had layers, lots and lots of them. It was a way to protect herself. Peebee was one of those people who took a lot of work before she'll let you in. She reminded Ryder of an old friend.
"Do you really have to go?" Niria asked as Ryder packed her bag.
"We've talked about this," Ryder threw a blue jersey at her best friend.
"You know you don't have to go only because they are going."
Niria had a point there, but what choice did she have? Nothing was here for her anymore. Except maybe for Niria, but she had her own life. Her dad thought he could find a cure for Mom and just look what it did.
Mom died, Dad got discharged. And it ruined her and her brother's careers.
Careers weren't everything. She knew that better than anyone. But it wasn't only her career. She tried to move on, but she couldn't.
Funny that it took something like this for people to show their true colours.
Don't trust people. People will let you down. They're undependable.
In the end, Niria was the only one who was there for her. Ryder felt bad for abandoning her, but what other choice did she have?
"I can't stay here anymore. You know why." She walked up to Niria and took the blue jersey from her. She sat on the bed next to her studying the jacket, "I have to move on."
"You're taking that to a new level by moving to another galaxy don't you think?" The turian challenged her.
"Maybe. Or maybe I'm looking for an adventure," Ryder could feel a smirk at the sides of her lips.
"Well, you were always the adventurer between us Amber."
She was the only good thing that was left in Ryder's life. And she abandoned her. Was it even the right choice?
It's been months and Ryder still didn't have the right answer to that.
It wasn't long before they arrived at the abandoned mine, "Are you guys ready?" she asked no one in particular.
Of course, later it will turn out to be a trap. How many times were they in a trap since arriving in Andromeda? Ryder lost count.
After the Pathfinder team got away from Merriweather's trap they, fortunately, had Sid to guide them. Which of course Vetra wasn't happy about. Neither would Ryder be if she were in Vetra's shoes.
Ryder's brother was only two minutes younger than her. But she could only imagine what went through Vetra's mind. How worried she must be for her sister.
Vetra seemed extra focused for this reason. Not like Ryder…
She was slower and apparently she was wrong about her stomach, blaming the hill and the Nomad. Ryder was unfocused she didn't move so smooth in combat then she usually did. And she just felt worse and even more tired than before. Her stomach twisted and turned at every movement. But she went on.
Unfortunately, Vetra's worst fear became a reality: Sid was captured by Merriweather. They moved fast. Faster. To try and get to Sid.
Ryder's heart protested. Beating rapidly against her chest. Asking. No begging to take things slower. It was protesting against her fast movements. But Ryder chose to ignore it. She had no other choice.
She almost thought for a second that Jaal and Vetra would realize something is off, but they didn't seem to notice. Which was a surprise to her at that point.
"Pathfinder-" SAM's voice sounded in her head. But she cut him off before he could say anything else.
"Not now SAM," she spoke through their private channel.
When they went through a door each one of them was on full alert. Each one pointing a weapon at a different angle. The door made a swishing sound when it closed. Ryder turned her head making sure there weren't any unexpected surprises happening at their backs.
They only took a few steps forward until they saw Sid and some women who Ryder could only guess had to be the infamous Merriweather. They were waiting for them. She had her gun pointing at Sid's back. Using Sid as a shield.
It was a clever tactic, of course. That way Merriweather protected herself. But Vetra, seeing her sister like that. Seeing the person she raised and would without a doubt do anything for her. That must've been hard.
The two groups moved closer to each other. "Think carefully about your next move, Pathfinder," said Merriweather.
Apparently, the weapon that was in Merriweather's hand was not a gun like Ryder thought, but a grenade.
Eyes focused on the grenade, Ryder spoke with calmness in her voice, "That explodes it takes you out, too."
Ryder didn't need to say it. Merriweather could see it, but using a grenade to kill your hostage and the people who wanted to rescue the hostage wasn't the smartest plan.
"You won't let that happen," Merriweather sounded very sure of herself and everyone in the room knew it was the truth.
"Vetra…" Sid whispered.
Sid was too afraid to say anything else.
"It's going to be okay," Vetra assured her sister. "We're going to get you out of this."
Ryder knew there was nothing she could say that would assure her. Ryder was a stranger to Sid. So she turned her attention to Merriweather, "Come on, that's a kid you've got there" she gripped her weapon tighter feeling the safety that her weapon provided. "She's not a threat. Let her go."
"She hacked my security. And she's as tall as you are," Merriweather dismissed Ryder's words. "Guns on the ground!" she ordered them.
Ryder had two choices here. She weighed it in her head, trying her best to focus on the stakes. Either she could submit, they were already putting their weapons on the ground. But Merriweather didn't look like someone who would keep her promises. That was a risk.
Or just as they were lowering their weapons Ryder can shoot something. She could distract Merriweather and they could get Sid out of there.
Either way, it was a risk.
Her hands chose before her brain could register. She took her weapon nodded at Vetra to make sure she was ready and distracted Merriweather.
She shot at something that was behind Merriweather and Sid. The grenade fell out of Merriweather's hand. It was already set to go off. Ryder could hear the grenade ticking among all of the gunshots. Luckily Vetra was fast. Crouching behind covers. Her movements were precise. When she got to the grenade she threw it across the room.
It landed between two of Merriweather's guards. Ryder didn't have time to look at it exploding. With her biotics and her weapon, she eliminated the guards. It wasn't long till she heard the explosion.
As she eliminated more of the guards she got closer and closer to Merriweather. Ryder thought Vetra should get the honours.
Apparently, this was something Vetra thought as well. She moved around some crates. "Cover me!" she shouted as her hungry eyes set on Merriweather. It wasn't directed to anyone specific. One thing was set on Vetra's mind and that was revenge.
Ryder covered her, taking care of all the guards. Using Pull on one and Throw on another one. Her eyes weren't set on Jaal, but she could hear his shots. It wasn't long until the guards were all dead. And when Ryder looked at Merriweather's direction she could see the woman's lifeless body. A pool of red blood formed under her.
Luckily through all of this Sid found a place to hide. She was out of harm's way and didn't have a scratch on her. At least not that Ryder could see.
Of course, there was a disagreement before they parted. In the end, Ryder asked Vetra if she was okay. But she directed the question back at her.
"I'm fine," Ryder insisted as a wave of dizziness engulfed her.
"We should get back to the Tempest," Jaal suggested.
As they made their way back to the Nomad Ryder could feel her steps faltering. Her feet didn't work as they should.
The way back felt long and draggy. But she made it back to the Nomad. She had no idea how.
After eating Ryder felt a lot better. She didn't eat a lot, but that what she ate helped.
This was the first she's been this exhausted.
As Ryder was seated next to her desk, rubbing her eyes, trying her hardest not to pass out SAM spoke, "Perhaps you should see Dr. T'Perro."
"I'm fine SAM," she said as she made her way to her bed. "I don't feel dizzy anymore."
"Pathfinder, although you don't feel dizzy anymore you are not fine. You know that I can detect when you lie to me."
"I know. I'm sorry," she said with a sigh. "I'll go tomorrow morning if I don't feel any better."
Ryder burrowed into her covers feeling a rush of heat going through her head. She fell into a dreamless sleep.
Of course, it would be too much to ask that she would feel better after getting some sleep. When she woke up, her mouth felt dry, her throat felt raw. Begging her to have some water. She felt nauseous. She lay there in her bed for who knows how long hoping that she would feel magically better. She knew it was hopeless.
She crawled out of her bed and almost fell out of it.
The room was spinning and putting one foot in front of the other was an accomplishment that was hard to achieve.
She succeeded for a while but never made it to the door. Her feet gave out from underneath her, and she collapsed to the ground.
Something must've zapped all of her energy because she had none. She didn't know if she could get up again. She tried to crawl to the door, but even doing that was hard. So she just lay there. Catching her breath. The cold floor was a relief against her hot body.
"Dr. T'Perro is on her way," SAM said and she was surprised that she heard him through all the buzzing she heard throughout her ears.
Before Ryder could think to reply she lost consciousness.
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