Shoutout to natsora and Ripley95 for helping me out with a scene and giving opinions on it. I appreciate it!
Tw for Canon character death
TW for mention of unethical experiments
As Ellen Ryder spoke to her children Amber had a feeling this was goodbye. But she shoved that feeling inside.
They still had time. This wasn't the end.
She kept saying it to herself over and over again.
"Amber. Asher." Alec Ryder's voice broke her thoughts. "Give us a couple of minutes."
Amber frowned. He said it differently, but she couldn't put her finger on what it was exactly. So instead she looked questioningly at her mother's eyes.
Ellen Ryder only gave a soft smile and nodded.
Amber still hesitated at the doorway but her brother calling her name had her attention and she went with him.
So they sat in the waiting room. No one was there beside them and Amber subconsciously tapped her foot. She only realized it when her brother's eyes settled on her knee.
"Sorry," Amber apologised and tried to stop it when the urge came.
It felt like a lifetime before her dad came. It was impossible to say how much time actually went by.
Where her dad always looked neutral, he had the same straight poster he always had. But something was different. His features looked different.
She turned her gaze to her brother. He seemed to realize what happened and under his breath, he mumbled, "I can't believe this."
"I'm sorry," her father said, "I wish I had different news…"
"No, that's not possible. She's still alive."
Her dad's poster changed as if what she said hit a nerve. But at that moment she didn't care. She needed to see for herself. So she started walking.
"Amber, don't do this." Asher practically needed to jog to stay with her. She didn't slow down. She only walked faster.
When she was at her mother's room she stopped. Her heart beat in her throat and suddenly she wasn't sure if she could get herself to go inside. But she did.
When she got in she had to blink a couple of times to make sure she saw what she saw.
The bed, her mother usually laid in was empty. It simply looked like her mother left. All signs pointed to that someone did sleep in the bed before.
Amber looked questioningly at the bed as if it had all the answers.
"Amber, are you okay?"
It was one of her mother's favourite nurses.
"Where's my mom?" Amber needed someone to deny what she already knew was true.
But the nurse only came closer and squeezed her shoulder. "I'm sorry for your loss."
Before she could say anything else the nurse left the room.
"Amber… she's gone." It was the first time her brother spoke since they entered the room.
"No," she shook her head. "She still had time. She went too soon."
This time her brother stood before her, "I know."
He embraced her and it's all that she needed for the tears to spill.
The funeral arrangements were hard. Amber and Asher worked tirelessly to make sure everything was ready. But their dad kept himself locked inside his office.
He helped here and there but wasn't really involved.
Asher found her outside of the house where she just wanted to catch a break.
"How are you doing?" He asked as he took a seat next to her.
Amber shrugged, "I'm doing okay."
Amber sighed. He was right she wasn't doing okay. She was drowning in her regrets.
There's a lot of things she should have done and not done before her mother died. But the biggest regret of it all was not telling her dad he should have spent more time with her mother.
Amber was a coward. Even now she couldn't walk inside her dad's office and confront him. She wasn't sure if she ever could.
"I never should have searched for a cure. It's so much time wasted." She buried her fingers nervously in her hair.
Asher and her mom knew. She wasn't sure of her dad. They only knew the basics of it though.
"You needed to do that."
Amber let out a small laugh, "That's what Mom said."
Her brother squeezed her hand in support, "The important part is after you realize you couldn't find one, you stopped. And you spent time with mom."
You don't know the whole story. But it was messy and one of the worst mistakes she made in her life. So she shoved it aside.
Her eyes lingered to the backdoor instead, "What is he doing in there?"
Asher shrugged his shoulders, "Can't tell you."
They both knew she was referring to their dad.
"You know, I didn't expect him to cry or anything, but nothing? What the hell?" She was frustrated in the way her dad acted. She didn't understand it. Maybe she understood him even less than she thought.
"Maybe it hasn't sunk in yet."
That was the last thing she expected him to say. And in return, she shot him a look.
He lifted his hands in surrender, "I'm just guessing. You know Dad as well as I do."
"Yeah, you're right about that."
She stared in front of her, the sun was beginning to set. The colours red, orange, and yellow filled the sky. And just for a moment, her tense muscles relaxed.
She heard her brother standing up, "You coming?" he asked.
She shook her head, "Give me some time. I need to be alone for a while."
"Alright," and he moved inside.
The day before the funeral was the hardest. This whole time she expected her mother to walk through the door. Being well and alive.
But of course, that never happened.
The funeral made things even more real than before. Most people wore black. As did Amber. She wore a black suit with a white top.
A lot of people spoke at her funeral, the Ryder family included.
But where others cried about Ellen Ryder's life that should have been longer, her dad stayed neutral. He showed no emotion at all.
"Stop it," her brother whispered in Church.
"What?" she whispered back.
"Stop checking what Dad does. Today is not about him. It's about Mom."
Asher was right.
Why did she even care about how her father reacted?
The rest of the service was peaceful. The Pastor had a nice few words about her mother's life and at that moment most people cried.
Afterwards, snacks were served with some juice.
She was nibbling on something sweet when her brother was walking towards her. He had a very deep frown.
"What's wrong?" She sat her plate down at a table nearby.
"Dad left. He said he had some work to do."
Amber closed her eyes in an effort to calm herself down, but it didn't help at all.
"I can't believe it," she whispered. "He's unemployed. Mom's not alive to search a cure for. What work would he possibly need to do?"
Asher opened his mouth to speak but she wouldn't let him.
"It's his wife's funeral - our mother, and he just leaves. He should be here talking to people. You know what?" she grabbed her things from the table, "I'm going to talk to him."
Whatever Asher expected her to say it wasn't that. "Amber I think you should calm down."
"No!" When she looked around people were staring at her. "I can't," she whispered, "I should have done this sooner."
If I wait I won't confront him.
Then she realized she was doing to her brother what her father did to them. "Is it okay if I go?" She searched his eyes.
Asher nodded, "Go. I understand. It's something you need to do."
Amber nodded her thanks in return.
Amber's heart was beating outside of her chest when she was standing in front of her father's office. She felt like chickening out, but she couldn't.
She needed to do this. For her mom.
"Dad, can you open? I need to talk to you."
No answer. The door's holo-lock was as red in response to being locked as it was to start with.
"Please dad," she pleaded, "This is important."
She heard a groan that was probably from her father and not long after, the door opened.
"What's so important?" Her dad asked with a frown on his face. The only thing she saw was how tired he is.
She shook her head. No, I'm not feeling guilty about this. He abandoned her.
"Why did you leave the funeral so early?"
His frowned deepened and he activated his omni-tool. With a push of a few buttons he stopped and looked at her again, "I've sent a message to Asher. Didn't he tell you?
Amber shook her head again, "You know, I can't understand you. And believe me, I tried for years."
She looked at her dad but he still looked as neutral as always.
"Since Mom died you didn't show so much as emotion," she demonstrated with her thumb and index finger, "It's like her death made no difference to you."
But that hit a nerve. "Don't you think I care about her? That I wish she was still with us?"
Amber gaped at him. Why she couldn't say.
"Honestly, no I don't."
"Then act like it!"
Both of their voices were starting to rise. Amber rubbed her temples. She felt a headache beginning to form at the edges.
"Look," she started again, "I never said anything. And when you started to build this AI…"
"His name is SAM," her father corrected her.
"I don't care what his name is!" She took a deep breath and started lowering her voice, "Point is, in the end, it didn't matter. You should have been there for Mom. But you never were. And I was a coward for not coming sooner to you about this. But that's on me. And I'll always regret it."
It looked like he wanted to say something but he clenched his jaw shut. But that only infuriated her even more.
"Aren't you going to say something?"
"Are you done?"
That answered her question. She almost snorted but she stopped herself. "Yes, I'm done."
"You should come home," Asher said when she picked up his call.
Amber sighed. After the conversation with her dad, she packed up her bags and left. She decided she needed some space.
"I will, but not now. Did he say anything?"
This time Asher sighed, "No nothing."
Amber didn't have the energy to go back. She knew everything will be the same again. That conversation did nothing. She only waisted her breath.
"Look, Amber, Dad wants to talk."
That got her attention, "Talk about what?"
Asher only shrugged, "He didn't say. Something about a career opportunity."
Amber didn't like the sound of that. It sounded like he felt guilty about him being the reason why they lost their jobs in the first place. But she knew she needed to be there.
"Just send me the dates."
Amber blinked as she heard the information from her father's mouth. There was some chatter about this trip, but she couldn't be sure if that was the truth.
"You want us all to go to Andromeda?" she demanded. "Mom just died, and you want us to pack our bags and leave everything we have known?"
Beside her, Asher winced at her words, but Alec Ryder didn't move a muscle, as if what she said didn't matter. She sure hoped it was all an act.
"None of us have anything left here Amber. This is an opportunity for a new galaxy, a new career." His gaze switched from her to her brother's, "Both of you will be in the Pathfinder team."
Ryder frowned, "We can rebuild here." She didn't understand why her dad wanted them to come with him. They could stay. If he really wanted to go, he could go by himself. There's no reason they should go with him. But her brother disagreed.
"I don't know Amber. A new galaxy? It's an adventure. I'd thought you would like to go." Her brother started being very excited about this, and she couldn't understand why.
She sighed and ignored her brother, "So you'll be the human Pathfinder?"
"Yes," her father confirmed, "Each Pathfinder will have a SAM."
That made the anger she carried boil over. He created SAM to find a cure for Mom and now every Pathfinder will have one. The AI that stole the time he should've spent with Mom and now it's too late to change things.
This AI didn't just destroy her career but her brother's as well. The Ryder name didn't carry the same weight as it used to.
"Of course they will," she mumbled. If Asher or her dad heard her, they didn't give any indication. "Do we have a choice in this matter?"
"Of course." But she got a very weird feeling as her father looked directly at her as he spoke his next words. "But I hope you make the right one."
She got a strange feeling that he knew something, and Amber couldn't say what it was. It was like Alec Ryder was speaking in code. Those words weren't meant for her brother but just for her.
Amber frowned, "Okay. I'll think about it."
Her brother made one of their mom's special dishes. They decided to do this in her honour. After dinner, his omni-tool chimed with an upcoming call.
"I'll have to take it," he left the house, leaving Amber and her dad alone.
As soon as the door swooshed closed her father looked at her again, "Amber, you need to go to Andromeda."
Didn't he just say she had a choice?
Dad leaned forward as if revealing the biggest secret, "If you don't your past will catch up to you."
She knew what felt off about this conversation. "You knew." She closed her eyes. Her courage fell down to her shoes and she didn't know if she'd have it again. She could scarcely believe it. Amber thought she had covered her tracks well enough for no one to find out. She'd hoped she has buried her past and could go on with her life. "How?"
"It doesn't matter."
But it did because she was sure she had covered her tracks. The Alliance said…
That's when it hit her. "You covered it up. It wasn't the Alliance, it was you."
"Yes." Even now her father still had people inside his pockets. And now he was using this to manipulate her into going to Andromeda.
Amber stood up and began to pace. "If they find out I'm in some serious trouble."
This time her father sighed, "Amber, you helped murdered many, many people, helped partake in unethical experiments. The Alliance wouldn't let it go. You worked with terrorists."
With each word, her father's words dripped with more and more disapproval. And why wouldn't he? All those people were dead because of her.
She stopped and took her seat again. Day after day this has been eating her alive. "I didn't know. I wouldn't have if… She manipulated me."
Alec Ryder showed no emotion, but she saw it for what it was - disappointment, shock. The disbelief that anyone with a heart could do this. "It doesn't change things. And no one will find out for now. I helped you. But if you don't want this to get out eventually you need to come to Andromeda."
"The only reason you helped me is to blackmail me. Why do you want us to go to Andromeda?"
"I helped you because you are my daughter." But Amber didn't dare to believe him. There was more to this than that. "I only want what's best for you and your brother."
That's a lie.
The choice had been made for her. She was going to Andromeda.