Sara was slow in waking the next morning.
Everything felt muffled, like her head was stuffed full of cotton. Not to mention the raging headache she was sporting. It felt like there was a midget in her skull trying to bash his way out through her eyeballs.
She remembered… getting to the Nexus. Dealing with bureaucracy. Shit, they were getting her ship ready, weren't they? How long had she been…?
"Oh good, you're awake."
Sara froze at the flanged rumble of a laugh that followed.
She slowly turned to face him, but his mandibles were pulled tight to his face and she couldn't read any emotion in the expression.
"I, uh…" Sara scrambled off the bed, scattering beer bottles that she didn't dare count, straightening her white and blue Initiative approved uniform.
Just as she stood a blinding piercing pain in her skull shattered her concentration and nearly brought her to her knees.
"Pathfinder! Are you alright?" Kandros was suddenly there, an arm around her shoulders to keep her steady.
SAM interrupted her.
"Ryder, please see me in SAM node on the Hyperion. Your implant needs attention, and we need to discuss a confidential matter."
"I'm fine." She managed a weak grin up at Kandros. "Turian beer's just a bit stronger than I'm used to. How long…?"
"Just a couple hours. Your ship is nearly ready, your crew has been looking for you."
Sara groaned quietly at the obvious amusement in his subharmonics.
"Right. Uh… Sorry about-"
He held up a taloned hand to stop her apology. "No apology necessary, Pathfinder. If you need anything, come see me. Even if it's just to vent."
"Right." She nodded, running a hand through her hair to calm the tangled mess. "Thanks. If you see any of my crew I'm stopping by SAM node and I'll be at the docking bay shortly."
Sara paused halfway to the door, twirling her hair around until she had it tied into a tight bun at the base of her skull. She probably looked like hell, and no doubt she stank of turian beer, but it was the best she could do.
Kandros opened the door and stepped to the side to let her pass. She paused for a moment, looking up at him.
"Thanks again, Kandros. I'll uh… come see you when I'm next on the Nexus, yeah?"
"Sounds like a plan, Ryder."
"I've adjusted my connection to your implant," SAM was saying. "The headache you experienced before shouldn't reoccur."
Sara pinched the bridge of her nose and took a slow, deep, breath. "Yeah, what the hell was that about? You said we need to discuss something 'confidential'?"
"You should know certain facts before you leave on your expedition. It seemed best we speak alone." 'Great,' Sara thought, rubbing her temples. 'The AI is waffling.'
Swallowing an aggrieved sigh, Sara let her hands drop and cross her chest. "No more hiding things. If we have to work together, you're going to tell me everything."
"My apologies," he didn't sound very apologetic. "I was simply following your father's wishes."
"My father," her lips twisted into a sneer, "is dead. What was he hiding?"
"My true capabilities."
Sara scoffed, shifting her weight from one foot to the other. But SAM continued.
"Alec overrode the implant's safety protocols. It allows me unrestricted access to the Pathfinder's physiology."
'Of course he did. Of. Fucking. Course. He did.'
"And that's… me." Her hands clenched into fists, digging gouges into her arms with her fingernails.
"And only you." 'Because why tell others when you can keep the advantage solely for yourself, right Dad?'
"I can act as a force multiplier, dramatically enhancing your motor and neural skills when required. Alec called them 'profiles.' They provide unique tactical augmentation during combat. Your father preferred to keep this fact to himself."
Carefully unclenching her fists, Sara stepped forward to lean against the railing. Her eyes stared through SAM and saw nothing. Even dead, Alec Ryder was still fucking with her life and in this instance, it wasn't metaphorical. She squeezed her eyes shut, forcing back unbidden tears that suddenly threatened to overwhelm her.
When she spoke, her voice was dead. "And what do you get out of it?"
"Though I am artificial in design, I am fully sentient. Far beyond what even the Initiative understands."
'Someone save me from circumspect robots.'
"I don't- that's not an answer to my question. Sentience is sentience, is it not?"
"I am a new form of AI, drawing directly from the human experience." 'You couldn't have just said that in the first place?' "Your implant is my window into the world."
'Deep breaths, Sara. Just breathe.'
"Fine," she snapped. "What does this mean exactly?"
"I find myself in an unusual position." Sara could practically feel her blood boiling at the non-answer. "Though I had access to all of your father's experiences, there is a gap in my understanding."
That cooled her temper somewhat, giving way to confusion. "... what?"
"He placed a block on portions of my memory array."
Sara snorted a humorless laugh. 'Good ol' Dad…'
"Why would he do that?" She asked it because it was expected, though she felt she already knew the answer.
"Perhaps so when you asked me what his plan was, I wouldn't know."
'And there it is. Thanks, Dad.'