Lera'Cosa vas Venchin,
It has come to our attention that you have been embroiled within the catastrophe upon Farnuri. Upon investigation, you have been named as the primary source of the aforementioned disaster, and are hereby ordered to return from your pilgrimage, back to the Flotilla, to plead your case.
Failure to do so will result in your absolute banishment from the Migrant Fleet.
Lera dropped the letter back onto the table before curling up into a ball upon the chair she had sat on. She had been sitting in an interrogation room upon one of the quarian ships, the coldness only making her feel more alien than she already was, despite having grown up amidst these endless walls of metallic facings that now seemed to trap her, confined as she was from any sort of freedom. Even her childhood seemed so foreign to her, just in the months since the beginning of her pilgrimage, considering just how much she had changed.
She dropped her head onto her knees, helplessly awaiting further company. With her mask on, she couldn't even feel her face against her body. It only seemed ironic to her, now. Aboard a ship that she had known forever, and it feeling so foreign, she was now forced to remember just how foreign she was when it came to her own self: to her body, and certainly, to all the changes she had undergone in the last few months.
Farnuri. She remembered it well, but also remembered her role in the so-called "catastrophe". In fact, given her photographic memory, she remembered it all. She remembered each planet she had explored on her seven-month-old pilgrimage, and more importantly, the people she had met along the way. Here in this cold room, she wondered just how many would come for her.
She didn't have to wait much longer.
Her head jolted up as the doorway into her containment room churned open, sending exhaust searing through the air while she watched with wide eyes as Porol Tawaji, salarian lawyer "extraordinaire" trudged angrily through the mist that spat from the door's gearshifts, spinning around with a curse as he did so.
"And you'll be sure to see a report from your superior on your desk! I assure you!"
Lera lifted her head and watched as the salarian grumbled to himself before the door closed, shaking his head as he saw her, "My apologies, Lera'Cosa, but with all due respect, your people certainly don't respect personal space."
He annoyingly wiped off his long shirt and made his way to the table, sitting across from his client and laying out a folder upon the iron table, his bedside manner clearly non-existent as he got right to business, not even leaving Lera a moment to speak, "Now, I'm no expert on quarian law, but I gave it a very quick run-through. I am concerned, however, that their evidence does seem, um, rather substantial."
He eyed her, seemingly oblivious to her distant posture, "I mean, you were involved, correct?"
Lera sighed, nodding slowly against her legs, "I mean, inadvertently. I was on my pilgrimage, seeking something worthy of bringing back to my people. I thought Farnuri was…"
Porol sighed, shaking his head, dismayed, "I mean, I'm not trying to complain, but there isn't too much to work with here, Miss."
With those words, Lera closed her eyes again, almost shaking between the cold and the fear creeping up within her. Her last seven months had been dedicated to helping her people, and now it all seemed to be so fragile. Facing banishment, everything she had worked for- it all suddenly appeared meaningless before her mind's eye. Even for a quarian of only twenty years, she had still accomplished quite a bit, she thought, only for it to result in this predicament.
Even so, Porol perused the paperwork he had already begun to sort out, "I did manage to finagle out some more evidence that I think your Board would have liked me to have. There are some vids, and a few important documents from some of your, ahem, 'employers'."
"That wasn't my fault," Lera confirmed, ashamedly, "I had no idea I was being helped by Terminus raiders; I was under the impression that they were-"
"You come under quite a few impressions," Porol interrupted coldly without stopping his examination of all the evidence.
Once again shot down, Lera returned to herself. She knew the man meant no harm, but it didn't do much of anything to help cheer her up either. Instead, it secluded her even more.
Lera'Cosa had always been a very shy girl; very fitting, she had always figured, for the race of beings she had been born into. Perpetually encased within her suit, she would use its carbon fibers for protection, though not only from dangers. Her suit also protected her from the discomfort she found within the outside world, and her mask had become a shield, masking her from those people so unlike her. It protected her from any sneering remarks directed at her from people whom she couldn't help but stare at; it kept her in this bubble where her mind was free to think, judge, consider all on her own time, free from the restrictive impressions from any quarian or other being.
That side of her had perpetually changed when her next visitor, Vylesia Remigatus, had entered her life as suddenly as she had just entered her interrogation room.
The doorway burst open with exhaust, once again, spewing through the musky flotillan air while a tall figure stepped into silhouetted shape. Without stopping even for consideration, the turian body stepped purposely through the smoke and into Lera's eyesight.
Immediately hopping out of her chair, Lera rushed over toward Vylesia, who readily took the quarian into her arms, staring peevishly at Porol.
"And what exactly did you do to get her all bent out of shape?!" she asked, accusingly, though Porol turned to her with a sincere obliviousness.
He sighed, "I didn't do anything, Ms. Remigatus. I was simply going over the file regarding her case, though…I suppose I did make the situation seem more dire than it is.
Worming a finger along the space between his eyes, almost in irritation, he continued, "From what I can tell in my research, quarian courts seem more subjective than most. There's never a truly 'impossible' defense, unless it's murder or something; I assume it's due to their people being so few in number, they can't exactly risk sending so many to the brig."
His eyes flashed, "or into banishment."
Vylesia gently patted her friend's back, her scaly turian hand a bit more forceful than most, "It's fine, Lera; we'll get you out of this."
Absentmindedly returning to his research, Porol spoke plainly in his high voice, "I mean, that's still a lofty proposition, considering."
Vylesia groaned, holding Lera tighter, "Don't listen to him. I know how important the Fleet is to you, but I promise, I'll break you out of space prison if I have to. Flash packs a massive punch anyway; we'll have you out in no time."
Lera turned her head up to her, "I'm only facing exile though."
To this, Vylesia's neck twitched in shock, "That's all?! You mean you can leave, and we could find a permanent residence among the stars?!"
Her lips contorting in dismay through her smoky-blue mask, Lera confided gently, "This is my home. Despite the fun we've had during my pilgrimage- I am nothing without my people. Sometimes the only thing that gets me to sleep is remembering the hum of these very engines… Thinking how I would crawl into one of these very ships just to lull myself to sleep."
Vylesia sighed again, lifting her hand to cover her face, "Yes, yes; I know your engines well. Remember, it was I who fitted Amoux with a brand spankin' old engine off of a derelict quarian ship.
Slowly, Porol cleared his throat, a pithy tone leaving him, "In violation of Citadel code 132-45."
Vylesia pointed a thumb in the salarian's direction, speaking quietly to Lera, "Who is this nut? You really think he'll help at all?"
"My dear, I adequately had a krogan acquitted of an assault charge within Citadel jurisdiction with three salarian jurors. I'm a pretty good lawyer," Porol assured with a heat in his voice, indicating how offended he was of Vylesia's insinuation
Shooting an apathetic stare, Vylesia shot back, "Call me 'dear' again and you may have another charge to defend against."
The turian's head fell backward as she spun around in exhaustion after hearing the exchange, though Lera crossed her arms now that she was standing freely, "I don't care how difficult it may seem; I'm staying a member of this fleet. That's why I sent for Porol in the first place."
"You flatter me," he grumbled, "But honestly, given the system of law, you would probably be fine just explaining yourself."
Vylesia turned to him, grimly, "It's not that simple."
Finally pulling himself away from his papers, Porol turned to the two with an overly-inquisitive expression, even for a salarian. Lera cringed under his stare, but thankfully, Vylesia went on, starting up her omni-tool with a serious stare.
"Although Lera… Although we have accrued some amount of ill-feelings during these last few years, particularly amongst those in the Terminus systems, the account on Farnuri remains the crux of this trial."
Porol nodded, "Yes, and I'm well aware of that system. I believe there belongs a gravity well, now, to Farnuri that is relatively n-…"
The salarian slowly turned his head toward the distant quarian, his eyes peering through heavy eyelids, "You don't mean you…"
"I didn't even mean it!" Lera shouted outside, her speaker crackling through her volume, "I'm telling you! Most of the things that happened have nothing to do with me! I mean-! When you're on pilgrimage, you can't escape the inevitable 'wrong place, wrong time' thing!"
Vylesia shrugged, sadly, "Lera just happens to run into that more than, oh, I'd say…most of the universe."
Porol returned to the folder, flipping back to the front of the rather slim binder, "Well, that would explain these notations pertaining to further files… Twenty-two in all, some of which speak of assault, planetary bombardment? and some odd charge related to hanar thought-crime?"
Lera embarrassingly wrapped her arms over her head, sadly answering his amazed voice, "There's four more that you're missing… I think."
Her turian friend sighed again, walking over to hold her, "Poor Lera just has rotten luck, on occasion. I'm telling you, it's a good thing I adopted her, so to speak; this poor, introverted thing didn't know Omega from Illium until I showed up."
Lera angrily replied, "I wasn't utterly helpless…"
Suddenly, her mind flashed back a few minutes as she quickly pulled away, "Oh! Flash! How's he doing?! He's not missing the trial…is he?"
Grinning, Vylesia replied, "He wouldn't dare. He's slow enough, though; hopefully he'll make it in time, but coming here, and then there, would take a year. Speaking of, Ripley and Jes'ra should also be in attendance."
Now nervous, Lera looked up at her with wide eyes, "Th-That many? Why are so many people here to…to…"
"To support you?" Vylesia finished, "Because you may have accidentally destroyed a planet or two, but you've also built friendships, no matter how much you wish to not acknowledge that. Don't worry; we'll make sure you get a fair trial."
Shaking even more, Lera turned to Porol, "I'm not in danger of that, am I?"
The salarian grimaced, or at the very least, performed the salarian equivalent of such a thing, "As soon as I figure out what exactly that entails with the Admiralty Board, I'll be sure to object. Like I've said, these courts are governed less by concrete laws than by the general need at the time- I hardly have many law codes to even study!"
Vylesia shot the man a glace, "She's not going to get jettisoned after you're through, is she?"
Lera gasped in fright.
"No, no," Porol assured, waving his hand from side to side, "My success rate may vary from one field of law to another, but if you bunch up the numbers, the amount of clients who have been harmed, either by death or excommunication, is fairly negligible."
Vylesia's eyes narrowed, "…fairly."
"Well, you can see statistics in many different ways," Porol shrugged, "One-in-four meeting an unsavory demise isn't terrible when-"
The turian felt Lera's arms constricting around her midsection as Vylesia charged, "One in four?!"
"It's not a negative-"
"In what cosmos?!" Vylesia growled, her head twisting suddenly to the side as the doorway sputtered awake once again.
From the crashing spires of steam came another quarian, his glowing eyes falling in suspicious as he scanned the room, finding the presence of a turian and salarian to be rather out of his taste.
"Lera'Cosa," he muttered lowly, his eyes remaining on Vylesia, "You've been summoned."
Lera felt her arms shake, even as Vylesia threw a vigorous slap into the back of her shoulder, the turian assuring excitedly, "You're gonna do great, Lera! I believe in you!"
"B- But- My legal counsel-"
Vylesia glanced at Porol with pithy eyes, "I mean, I don't trust him; but you?! Definitely!"
Lera could feel her heart shrink a size or two, a shallow breath leaving her lung as she followed the quarian before her, with Vylesia and Porol in line behind her.
In as much dignity as could be given in such an event, Lera'Cosa was allowed to make her way to the Board without the addition of handcuffs. She was escorted by the single commander, as well, with Porol accompanying her, her insides a deep tremor of nerves, even more so now that Vylesia had been sent away to stumble across the proper viewing area. Given such a narrow hallway, Lera had stumbled upon visions of being led to an execution, though, given her connection to this Fleet, being exiled wouldn't exactly be much different.
This hallway, in fact, embodied everything she loved about these ships. The man escorting her also wore a mask, and if casually walking along, she could easily move along without inquiry or greetings from people she wasn't exactly friendly with. The walls wailed occasionally with steam, as well, masking any of her off-putting and flighty utterances as she passed others, the floor vibrated violently at times as pistons and propulsion systems roared to life whenever needed to help conceal her every sensation from others.
She knew full well how close she was to losing all of this, not to mention her family and what few friends she had upon this particular vessel. Under direction from Vylesia, Porol had taken a more gentle attitude toward Lera, though this directive manifested itself as an awkward pat on the quarian's shoulder at, seemingly, the most unexpected moments. Just as she began getting lost in the gentle hums and whirs of the ship, a sudden pat hit her shoulder, breaking her concentration, her eyes shooting away in annoyance.
"I was told you respond well to stimuli atop your shoulder, "Porol noted absently, as though unable to understand why that was.
As they entered the main vestibule of the massive craft, Lera made sure to look around to locate her friends, finally noticing Vylesia hunched over a failing on the second floor, her body lithely making itself known amongst the sparce crowd of quarians that were in attendance. Simply being a turian, Lera thought, would've been enough to make her easily to spot.
Even more outlandishly, Vylesia was spun to the side, speaking to an elcor who Lera had come to know as Flash, his head slowly tracking the somber threesome Lera currently belonged to. She smiled, though, from this distance, he couldn't have noticed it anyway, while Vylesia was too far gone herself, possibly complaining of the situation her quarian friend was in.
Kahaone, or "Flash", as he'd come to be known, ironically, by Lera and Vylesia, was as friendly an elcor as you could find. Another acquaintance picked up along the way during their travels, Flash had actually become a passenger aboard the Everscamper Starship, Amoux, so aptly named to describe the vessel's exact behavior when it actually did manage to work properly. Flash could actually think much faster than he could speak, and his knowledge was invaluable to a two-woman crew who, at the time, couldn't even hope to work, by themselves, on such ships. Lera had a rudimentary knowledge of space tech, but most of what she had picked up at a younger age mostly revolved around raising plant life in horrendous levels of atmospheric pressure, and even beyond that, her quarian lifestyle lent itself to merely surviving upon spacecraft, not piloting them.
Her situation now, however, was a far cry from the quiet girl who left home for the first time on pilgrimage, even if this all was in direct consequence of it. And even as she stood beside her lawyer extraordinaire across from the Admiralty Board, she felt herself curling back into that same childhood, hoping she could disappear- crawl into the nearest air duct only to be accompanied by the gentle hum of the ship's engines.
"Lera'Cosa," began the first in line, Admiral Jalas, "You stand accused of twenty-six different counts, including treason, reckless endangerment, borderline terrorism, destruction of a quarian vessel, endangering the general wellness of our people, collusion to bring a geth aboard the Fleet, disobedience, treacherous use of-"
"Anyway…" interrupted another admiral, Teelo,
Porol's eyes widened as he shot a placid glance toward Lera, who merely spun away, dejectedly.
Teelo continued, "Your crimes are quite vast. At no point in our recorded history has a single quarian wrought such destructive behavior while on pilgrimage. While we have attained a bevy of evidence, and could easily have you exiled permanently, we are nothing without our laws. You are allowed a chance to explain yourself."
Flustered now more than ever, Lera nervously rubbed her fingers against each other. She was too afraid to turn her head to Porol, though the salarian was rather speechless anyway. Above, Vylesia shrugged dramatically at him, her arms outstretched enough to grab the lawyer's attention.
"Eh, uh, yes; my, uh, client has a perfectly reasonable-"
"And you are?" questioned Jalas.
"M-My attorney," Lera replied quietly, her response met with a few murmurs from the Board to one another.
Teelo was the first to speak up, "Young lady, representation is not permitted at meetings of the Board. And an outsider, no less; are you truly attempting to claim the record for 'most reckless and irresponsible member of the Migrant Fleet'?"
Afraid, now, of doing more harm than good, Porol simply stared vacantly back toward the admirals, leaving Lera standing there, more or less, alone. She shut her eyes tightly, summoning her courage, though it was proving an amazingly tall task to accomplish.
"Lera'Cosa," spoke the eldest of the Board, Admiral Cegar, her deep voice exiting her speaker with a certain understanding, "All that's required of you is an explanation. Just tell us what happened, from your point of view."
Her head rising, Lera eyed the admirals with a blank reverence, her voice barely shaking as she replied, "Uh… How long do I have?"
Jalas and Teelo shared a glance at one another while Cegar answered, "As much time as you need."
Her hands now joined together at her waist, Lera lowered her head in contemplation, thinking of an adequate starting point. Just seven months ago she had begun her pilgrimage; from the very start, things had gone wrong, though she only found it oddly appropriate. It had been her first time by herself; perhaps she deserved some rocky patches to trudge through. But nearly causing an entire planet to collapse in on itself? Surely, that wasn't merely her fate to bear.
Lera carefully took a glance up to the balcony, seeing Vylesia leaning onto the railing, her hand resting between her chin and the metal rail, her fingers extended onto her face in suspense, though her stare was deliberate. Regardless of what her fate had been, or what it would turn out to be, Lera found comfort in her friend. She may not have brought home technology to change the lives of her people, yet she had somehow, unbelievably, brought something along far more valuable, she thought, those nights upon the Amoux with Vylesia and Flash, watching the speeding stars in background as they simply sat there, relating stories to one another.
Lera sighed, summoning the last bit of her courage, though it also summoned a nervous itch up on her scalp which she attempted to rub through her helmet. She then peered off into the distance, now following the hallways within her mind's eye; the last seven months of which having been a jumble of messes and triumphs.
"Okay…" she finally muttered, her voice's mechanical resonance jumping from wall to wall in the deadly silent vestibule.
"I guess, uh- A year ago…"