Petty Ship, Venchin
While quarian society hadn't the security or resources to constitute anything of a hierarchy, there were still obvious obstacles that instituted such things. Given that their people lived aboard a large fleet of spacecraft of varying degrees of size or quality, it was understood by the lot of them that different ships offered different amenities and, even more magnified, different problems.
One of the Fleet's smaller craft, with little to its name, was Venchin, a tiny vessel that had been constructed after the quarian exile from Rannoch. As such, it was constructed rather crudely, as time and care were in short supply among the shipyards of the other species amidst the galaxy, and wasn't nearly as large as others, leaving room amidst its hollow quarters for only a few clusters of quarian clans. In fact, the only real amenity it offered was a rather advanced hydroponic farm, which, being the only thing aboard worth being proud of, those aboard took great care to master its finer points.
Without a home planet, these families and clans strove to find the only source of pride they could find, which largely became the very ships they resided upon. They took their names, and the ships themselves, especially the smaller ones where the clans aboard were more tightly-knit, became something of family members. With only false gravity and artificial atmospheres separated by some measure of metal separating these beings from the coldness of space, those ships became as essential as oxygen might be for humanity, after all.
Venchin, while crudely and quickly built, was still relatively new, and broke down at a much less frequent rate than other vessels. With fewer repairs, and a hydroponics facility that lent them a rather vast assortment of greenery, those aboard this petty ship appeared rather odd to the other quarians, almost like a entirely separate region of the same nation. Many were obsessed with that greenery, which most quarians hadn't delved into for many centuries, and some aboard the Venchin probably couldn't tell an FTL drive from a whisk. Still, they were treated normally by the others, even if there were some social ladders upon which its inhabitants found themselves low upon.
This is where Lera'Cosa had grown up. Her mother had perished soon after giving birth, and being raised by her father, as proud of a military man as one could be without the military accouchements offered by a planet, she didn't see him much. She was mostly raised communally by the Venchin crew while her father led raids on geth freighters or systems, eventually earning him a great deal of respect among the Admiralty, and was nearing a spot upon the Board himself.
Lera was a naturally quiet child, and took to her body suit rather readily. Even as infants, being immediately shoved into a suit could prove a rather traumatizing experience for many quarians, but Lera seemed nearly relieved to be thrust into one, and even as she grew, as much as the Venchin was her home, the suit seemed to be as much of a shelter as the metal surrounding her and her clan.
That suit, endlessly pressed against her skin, offering her atmosphere, breaths; it never left her, even during her yearly refittings, which were often done piece by piece. It became a silent friend to her; never leaving her side. One that never spoke, but always listened- Never judging her, and not bothering to question her actions or thoughts; it merely did what it was supposed to in service of keeping her alive.
These had become the usual musings of quarians as a whole, with even scholars waxing poetic about their suits in some fetishized reverence, but Lera, in all her quietude, seemed far more welcoming of the artificial skin surrounding her own than many other quarians who found it a hindrance. even if it were merely due to her discomfort at being exposed in any way.
In this way, her suit had been more of a life-long refuge than anything else.
Still, as introverted as she was, Lera was still a curious child, and she seemed eager to understand the hydroponics farm that was as much of her being as the pretty ship Venchin was. Her elders upon the ship were also eager to acquire the services of one small enough to crawl underneath the farm, seeing as how they had all outgrown the task of clearing out the irrigation ducts that would run the plants' water into the rejuvenation basin where it was, essentially, cleared of impurities to be reused. Lera had frown the task to be a chore at first, but soon enough realized the adoration received by her closest clans upon the Venchin, and even the wild curiosity of quarians from other ships whenever they visited.
As a result of her work, the crew respected her immensely, and whenever she became reclusive, they didn't bother her beyond essential conversation, particularly as she began to grow up. She enjoyed reading whatever material she could get her hands on, and took to flights of fancy whenever she could. Even staring out of the portholes at the other ships, she knew that there was nothing much different from this tiny vessel, yet she couldn't help but imagine less grey hallways on the other side of the space between them. Even the plants grown aboard the Venchin were more a sickly green, and couldn't be described as much more than drab.
Like many quarians, the maturation process proved to be an incredibly stressful time, but more so for Lera, due to her seclusion. With her father gone oftentimes, and nobody else on the Venchin particularly feeling an obligation otherwise, as long as she was doing her work, Lera fell into her teens with the crushing weight of mixed emotions and thoughts. The suit she had once felt so protected in from others, she could now feel restricting her every pulsation of nerves, nagging at her, reminding her of how restricted she was from reality itself. From birth, quarians were always held within sterile chambers or their suits to protect their fragile immune systems, and while some of the larger ships held those sterile rooms for quarians to shed their armor, Lera couldn't remember a time where her suit didn't shackle her.
Without her father, she hadn't the clearance to pass from one ship to another, much less to enter a sterility chamber, and she spent long nights contemplating simply shedding her suit and finally seeing life with her own eyes, unhindered by a visor. Hearing her own voice, untarnished by a mechanical speaker or by the reverberations along bone from lips to ear.
She hadn't ever heard her own voice before. She couldn't even be sure of the shade of color that covered her skin.
With ravenous eyes, she read more and more from writers among the other species that she knew of; turian, drell, human, asari- All these individuals that retained the freedom to freely breath beyond a respirator, who could touch, and be touched; people who could see with their own eyes, uninterrupted by the smoky glass that had long been just as much of Lera's vision as her own eyes.
Hindered, so dramatically, only further frustrated her once she began going through puberty, when her suit adjustments became more regular and her body began changing without her so much as being able to see what was happening. She spent hours thinking about who exactly she was… What she even was. All she was, she knew, was little more than a mere suit; a wretched amalgamation of skin and synthetic fabric wherein she hadn't an idea where she ended and that suit began. Despite such festering misgivings, she knew that, for all her complaining within her mind, she couldn't ever surrender that suit. It was her home, after all, much like a hermit crab carries its shell; even the hermit crab, she pleadingly realized, had more freedom than she.
Sitting in her tiny room, the quarters not much longer than a few feet across in either direction, Lera lay atop her small bed which took up most of the floorspace, leaving her with only a handful of slits in the walls for use as shelving to keep her most prized possessions. Much like everything else about the quarians, utilities and most objects were communal, leaving very little ownership to each individual, though Lera made certain to keep to herself the miniscule collection of storybooks she had stumbled across whenever traders visited the Migrant Fleet, or on those off-chances the Fleet would stop off on some station for equipment or supplies.
Snuggled up with a blankets yanked up to her neck, legs pressed against her torso as she curled up in the corning, she lazily scrolled her eyes along the tepid pages, eventually sending a lethargic finger sliding along the sheet of paper before gently pressing it onto its opposite end, continuing on silently, lulled as she was by the gentle humming of the ship's engines that that ran with full vibration beneath her before finding it's way to her spine, where a twitching tingle would eventually escape in a jolt up to her brain.
Lera's eyes poked through her mask like tiny bulbs of light breaking through haze, only just appearing to move as they scrolled along the book's pages. Every few moments, her respirator would speak up in tinny feedback as her ability to breathe through her suit was reinvigorated, her resting position ensuring that the routine was more sparse, allowing that silence she so craved.
She slid her back down the cold anterior wall of her room, feeling the coldness of space against the newly warmed sliver of skin now exposed to its lazy reach through Venchin's exterior. Further relaxed, she made her way further through the book; something about a vorcha on some fictional planet who had escaped his debtors to become the supreme crime boss of an entire system. It was a bit too out there for her, but with so few books to come across at all, she hadn't ever been one to –
Lera frowned, twisting her arm as she attempted to sate that stinging itch that had arisen just beyond her elbow. Her teeth bit into her bottom lip as frustration settled in, knowing that such irritating sensations were futile to relieve. Still, she slid the book from her hand and into her lap before reaching over, scratching atop her suit, pressing her fingertips hard against the somewhat-elastic material in some hope of finding relief.
Her arm was devoid of touch. As she dug against suit that now shielded her from that alleviation; a bitter irony, now that she thought of it. Even her fingertips, working into her suit, fell sensationless, dulled by the material that suffocated her skin. Lera's teeth bared invisibly beneath her mask as she furiously dug against her suit, the more irritation that crept along her inner arm, the more frustrated she became until-
She fell back against the wall, huffing silently as she caught a quick shallow breath back, her book having been tossed angrily into the wall across from her, now lying there on the floor, motionless. Despite her near-empty breaths, having only barely exerted herself, the ventilator whirred awake as if she'd been left without breath at all, even her respirator making her every breath a noisy refutation of her solutional mood.
Her hand reached up to clutch the top of her helmet as she dropped her face into her knees in defeat, now resting here with nothing to comfort her- nothing to keep her thoughts from herself. She shut her eyes, trying to focus the itch away, lulling away that sensation much as the Venchin had done to ease her own unease. She thought of those very few glimpses in her life where she had actually seen her skin; even then, she knew, it wasn't 'real'. Her smoky visor ensured that even her eyes were unable to ascertain, fully, the world around her.
Her skin… What must it feel like, she wondered, lazily running her gloved hand across the suit at her arm. What was its texture? was it springy like a humans? or coarse and scaly like a turian?
Was it pretty? Did it have a hint of rosy glow to its mauve pallor? or was that merely a trick of the light? Did her face make prevent her from knowing, truly?
Did her skin had endless rashes? Splotches of fetid blisters- Even that she couldn't possibly know.
Her eyes shut tighter, contorting her face as she desperately battled her thoughts. Her frustration seemed insurmountable as she sat there in the silence, hearing nothing more than her respirator, the dull rumbling of the ship,
Her quiet tears.
She slid to the side, nestling herself against the corner of her room, her eyes remaining shut amidst a gentle seam of tears that glistened wherever the light of her eyes managed to barely break through her attempt at closing herself off from this reality. A reality cursed to live as a stranger to her own body.
Eventually, she managed that sweet escape from this reality of hers, the subtle roaring of engines nearly rocking her back and forth as she sat there, huddled within her blanket in the corner atop her mattress.
For now, at least, sleep had caught up with her.
Lera quietly sat at the desk of her immediate superior, the officer of the Venchin, Officer Yan'Naasa, a man who had always admired Lera's work ethic, despite her introverted nature. She was always quiet, but she did her work, and she did it well, leaving him quite dismayed that this day had come so soon.
"Lera'Cosa vas Venchin," he muttered as he wrote on the final portions of paperwork, ensuring to properly record the initial notes regarding her Pilgrimage, "Are you excited to be off on your own?"
Lera nodded, "Yes sir."
The elder chuckled, "You're an adult now, so you don't need to be so formal. You know, it's going to be really different here without you. I'll have to keep a closer eye on the farm, for one."
Smirking as he leaned over his desk, he went on along with a shake of his head, "You know, I never had to worry about the hydroponics with you here."
As his hand scribbled around atop the paper, Lera watched him write, her voice breaking through her suit, "It's not as if you'll be having more peace and quiet or anything."
Yan'Naasa chuckled, shaking his head once again, "Not that kind of different, child."
He peeked up toward her, "I don't know how much you ever realized, but you were always sort of our mascot. You remain the only quarian aboard the Venchin who was brought up from infancy here. I know we all took great pride in having a child grow up here to be so learned; even if you weren't exactly sociable, you made your mark in your own way. We've been proud to have you aboard."
He nodded to himself as he flipped his paper over, a hollowed voice echoing through his speaker, "You'll do well."
Lera looked over toward the circular window that allowed her a peek into the cosmos. It was so vast, she thought. She was just about to be sent out there, somewhere. The nerves welled up within her, but she couldn't help but feel excited at the prospect of leaving this place which had constricted her so much as of late. Perhaps a change of scenery truly was needed for her to better understand just how better life aboard the Venchin was, though- She ominously thought that to be a silly prospect.
"Alright then," Yan'Naasa spoke up as he finished, "I suppose if you're ready, we can go ahead and ship you off. We have a shuttle heading off to a salarian merchant craft, so you can hitch a ride with them. I think they're actually heading to the Citadel, so you'll be able to get the full galactic treatment."
Smiling softly, his voice tinged with regret, Yan spoke up quietly, "I was once a young man going off to Pilgrimage, myself, so- I understand how it feels. like the entire cosmos is full of those with so much, and yet-"
He lightly fumbled with his pen between fingers, raising his head to face the young Lera'Cosa, "Whatever you do with your life from now on- It's what you make of it. But, just know-"
Nodding, Yan'Neesa confided with a comforting voice, even amidst the electrical crackle of his mask, "These suits confine us. but they also bind us. No matter what- Your suit will always mean you have a home here."
He slowly stood up, taking a deep breath before walking around toward her, patting her back as the two began toward the door, "I know it can be scary. My pilgrimage- I believe I ended up bringing back a geth codex that described early life on Rannoch. It was a very generous piece of historical significance, even if somewhat marred by the perspective of those synthetic beings. Just think of that excitement of bringing back something amazing; even if it isn't, every quarian returning from pilgrimage is a great sight for many of us."
The two stopped just at the door, with Lera curiously looking up toward her officer, "I'll do my best. I've read many books and articles; I've studied up on how to conduct myself around the galaxy; I even managed to learn some quick tips to repair spacecraft, since I know we don't usually have the opportunity."
Yan'Neesa raised a finger as though to point out some wise saying, as he often did, "Adversity does beget growth. It's almost a shame that we have so few opportunities here to face adversity- mostly thanks to you. but I'm happy you took the initiative."
The man nodded to himself again, reaching out toward the panel that opened the door, "I did prepare a certain surprise, by the way, to see you off on your pilgrimage; I hope you don't mind."
She turned, curiously, to the door, jumping in surprise as it opened, revealing her father there, arms outstretched, as she ran to him for a hug. Nearly slamming her entire body into him, Lera felt his tight embrace as he threw his arms around her, not having seen her for a good few months now.
"Father!" she shouted in a happy shock.
He only laughed solemnly, "You didn't think I'd let you run off without saying goodbye, did you?"
Her father looked up toward their officer as he held his daughter, "Thank you, sir. She's my daughter; she'll make you proud out there."
"Pfft," Yan scoffed, "Oh please, sir. Lera'Cosa has already made us proud. As if my reports weren't satisfactory for you, Res'Tael."
Lera's father shook his head as she pulled away, examining her top to bottom as he replied to the officer, "You hardly ever had anything to report, good sir. Now, my dear Lera- You've gone over your suit, right? No breaches?"
"No," she answered like a child encountering an easy question.
Res'Tael nodded, "Good, good. and what do you do if a breach does occur out there?"
Her father snickered, "and?"
Lera nodded with a knowing air, "Find a doctor or a turian."
"That's my girl," Res'Tael muttered with a smile, pulling her into another hug, "You know what you're looking for?"
The question hadn't ever been posed to her, Lera suddenly thought, leaving her silent as her father chuckled, his broad chest sharing its vibration as he joked, "It's a trick question, dear. Nobody knows until they've discovered it."
"She'll do well," Yan'Neesa assured.
Spinning her head from one side to the other across her father's chest, Lera came upon her officer with a smile, the small orbs of light escaping from her visor curling themselves to denote her upturned cheeks.
"For one so quiet, she's always been so bright," Yan'Neesa noted with a grin himself, lifting his hand to examine his omni-tool, "Ah. I hate to cut this short, but your shuttle is leaving soon."
Res'Tael nodded as Lera slipped away from him, turning toward the door as he spoke, "Yes, it is indeed."
Sliding a hand in a caring gesture atop his daughter's head, he inquired, "Are you sure you're ready?"
"I think so," Lera confirmed, albeit with a nervousness to her tone, "I mean-"
Her father stopped, turning his expectant eyes upon her as his arm wrapped around her shoulders, "Lera- You don't have to-"
"No," she spoke, "I'm ready."
She had only feigned the confidence now within her voice.
"Told you," Officer Yan'Neesa nodded proudly, raising his arm toward the door in instruction as he continued, "Lera'Cosa vas Venchin. It was an honor having you aboard. I hope when you return, you'll be among the best of us quarians. I look forward to your discoveries."
Her father extended the sentiment, his warm voice nearly rendering his speaker disposable, "As do I, my dear Lera."
"Just don't go blowing up anything, alright?" Yan'Neesa joked with a wry twist of his head.
Certainly that wouldn't be in the cards, Lera thought.