Sorry for the delay in publishing this chapter. I spent time doing a detailed outline of the remainder of the story, including Epilogue. Now that the ending is insight I wanted to make sure all the major plot points are addressed and had to decide how much time I wanted to give to sub-plots.
There is much more backstory for the moon (aka Jungle World) and the stone tablet Liara found. More than will be revealed in the remainder of Jungle World, but I decided that information is best left to its own story instead of intruding on Kaidan & Shepard's story.
This chapter opens on Day 10, three days after the last chapter. Liara has conducted a few trips out to the caves she wanted to explore and engineering started the power generator they were repairing in previous chapters.
Chapter 10: Day 10 - Discovery
Lying on the bio-scanner bed, is a pale faced Kaidan, he feels clammy and his headache is worse today. Next to the bed, Dr Karin Chakwas examines the scan results on her datapad, a look of consternation settling onto her face. Lying on this bed is only exasperating his migraine, as the scanner begins to make a third pass, a audible sigh escaping his lips. She had to suspect something, or the extra scans wouldn't be necessary. "Talk to me Doc. What's wrong?"
She sets aside the datapad, "Your infection. The swelling hasn't been decreasing for the last few days. Which already had me concerned, now today, you're running a fever." A frustrated tone has replaced her normally amiable voice, "Perhaps the bacteria may be starting to resist the medicines." Kaidan starts to fidget on the bed as the scanner finally completes its task. "Okay, you may sit up now, Major."
Glad to be out from underneath the bio-scanner, Kaidan swings his legs over the side of the bed, sitting up too fast making him dizzy. That's when Karin noticed the bump on the back of his head in the scan results, "Now, how did you get this?" She gently examines the wound.
Kaidan's cheeks turn red in embarrassment, "I slipped in the shower." Telling a lie, he'd fainted, but he wasn't in the mood for another scolding.
Her voice uneasy with concern, "Kaidan, I want you staying on the ship until this infection is gone. You need to rest and relax, let your body fight the infection." Her eyes holding his for a few seconds, waiting for him to object, "I'm also starting some fresh labs, to see if we can't find another treatment for you." Absentmindedly adding, "I wish our Medical VI was online to examine the DNA of this bacteria."
SBA Housley enters the room with Kaidan's morning medicines and a glass of juice. He hands them to Dr Chakwas while she passes him the new lab work orders. Turning back to Kaidan, she says, "I'm going to double your dose of antibiotics to see if that'll help." Handing him the juice, "Now, drink this before you leave, and remember, stay on the ship and relax."
-II- Normandy's Wing
It's a beautiful day, with the sun high in the sky and the air clear and still, with nearly zero wind. "Ah, look at this. It's a perfect day to fly." Steve says cheerfully as he scans the sky with his eyes, before returning to his task of completing the final checks on the drone.
"It is a nice day" Javik agrees, as he watches the pilot fuss over the probe, "That doesn't mean this. . . contraption of yours, will work."
Laughing, "Blunt as always, Javik." Making a few final adjustments to the wing attachments. "I've been building models since I was a kid, this will work." Pointing out the features as he explains, "There are six rotatable micro-masseffect engines on this hull -only four are really needed- but the extra two give the unit more lift and safety. The engines rotate for hover or flight modes and the wings provide full flight control; Yaw, Pitch, and Roll." Standing up to face Javik, "Plus, the onboard sensors provide VI flight assistance and obstacle avoidance. Given me some time, I can cook up a decent autopilot program too."
Satisfied with his work, Steve steps back and using his Omnitool, activating the power. "Ok, we're ready to go." Tapping a few commands, the flight system starts up and the Probe hovers off the ground, exactly as he expected. "Alright, phase one is go. Engine pressure is good and dataloop is clean." Entering a few more commands, smiling at the Prothean, "Let's try a basic flight test."
The Probe lifts up to chest level and flies around the clearing perimeter, follows the fence line, then returns to the starting point hovering. "Okay, now let me try. . . " Steve continues his testing.
-III- QEC Room
Sam is watching the final few-dozen seconds countdown on the repair tool, while Tali is testing and installing the other timing array. The term "Repair Tool" was a misnomer, not only can it repair, but also build replacement parts. The Alliance's official name was, "Three Dimensional Multipurpose Repair and Manufacturing Device" and nearly every race had their own names and designs. This unit is specific for nano-electronics, while others are designed for metal alloy and composite parts.
The most sensitive parts, like the femtosecond timer chips Liara gave them, cannot be produced by this tool, though it can build items around those parts. The process is still less accurate, and slower, than other modern techniques, but on a ship where space is limited, they are treasured. Her wandering mind is returned to the present by the finish chime. The tool's hatch opens revealing the newly created part. Sam reaches in, "Alright, hot off the presses." The new timing array is still warm to the touch.
Tali cocks her head, "I've heard humans use that term before." Walking over to inspect the newly made part, "What does it mean anyway?"
Sam considers the question for a moment, "It's an old Earth term from centuries ago. I'm not entirely sure either." Shaking her shoulders. "Anyway, did the other array pass the tests?"
Tilting her head toward the other equipment, "Everything is green. Hopefully we can start a full diagnostic on the QEC array today." The two get to work testing the new timer.
-IV- Liara's Quarters
The wall of displays are playing the recordings the survey team made of their trips to the nearby caves. Currently, Liara has it configured in dual-display mode; the left half showing the footage from the first cave they explored, and the right side showing their explorations yesterday. "This stone work between the natural cave sections and the man-made areas. It's an excellent example of stone masonry workmanship. The seams are still tight and clean."
Over by the workbench, Private Campbell, is examining one of the stone tablets they recovered from the caves, "Yes, the keystone arches and also the granite dowels used in the block walls, show they had a good understanding of engineering too." Running her hand over the stone carved lettering, "I just wish we could translate the language. I had hoped Javik would have recognized it, but it was a long shot."
The video on the display pans to one of the older primitive wall drawings, it shows a group of hunters with spears taking down a large animal. Liara tilts her head, "I bet James would love to hunt down one of those large creatures."
Campbell looks over at Liara, "He'd probably just say it tastes like chicken too." Breaking into a giggle, "Do you think they had tails? I mean, the shape of the hunters make it seem like they had at least a stubby tail or pronounced tail bone."
Liara considers the question, "The heads are also out of proportion for an average humanoid shape and the bodies are-" The comm alert beeps interrupting her.
The excitement in Steve's voice erupts from the speakers, "Liara, you're not going to believe what I'm looking at." Her comm display lights up with a video feed from the survey drones camera. The on-screen compass rotates as the view shifts south, the jungle canopy stretching into the distance, the probe is higher than most of the trees providing them their first long distance view of the area. In the distance is a ridgeline partially obscuring a valley. As the camera lens zooms into the valley, Liara and Campbell both gasp. Campbell getting her voice first, "My God, look at those ruins."
Liara studies the screen for several seconds, absorbing the view, "It's hard to see, but the stone work looks even more intricate than the examples in the cave. The drone's camera was never intended for such long distance shots. Wait," Pointing to stone work in front of a large building, "Do those look like statues?"
The private considers the image for a few seconds, "Yes, and the columns and building design reminds me of the ancient Greco-Roman era on Earth." Campbell breaks her eyes away from the video to glance at the data feed, "They're about 25 Kilometers away, that's close enough for a team to get there and back within a day."
Nodding her head in agreement, "If we leave first thing tomorrow we should have plenty of time." Eyes still on the video feed, "Meanwhile, Steve, can you move the drone closer?"
Steve's voice is a mix of regret and irritation, "Sorry, not yet. I'm having some stability problems at altitude and in windy conditions. I'm still working on how to resolve the issue. Until then, I want to keep the drone close."
"I appreciate your care and attention to detail, Steve." Liara could relate to the frustration he was experiencing. She'd experienced enough setbacks in her own studies over the years, "Do you think it'll be ready to go for tomorrow's trip?"
"Probably, but either way I'm going with you." The instance clear in his voice and before she can respond, "Javik said he wants to go too."
Relenting she agrees to their demands, "Alright, sounds like a plan. Now, I just need to get Kaidan to sign off." Taking a moment to gather her thoughts, she begins to hand out assignments to prepare for tomorrow's trip.
-V- Shuttle Bay
With the generator repaired, there was available power to run the heavy equipment to dig out the shuttle bay. Even before Kaidan finished climbing down the ladder, the din was nearly deafening. James and an Engineering team have been making good progress today, with a nearly a half meter shaft dug that will be large enough for the Kodiak.
Gabby is monitoring the master control panel for the two mass effect drills. Speaking into a mic, "Watch the pressure Kenneth." She didn't see Kaidan, until he was standing right next to her. She hit the main power button, turning off the equipment, "Sorry Major, I didn't know you were there."
Thankful for the silence, "I just dropped in to check on progress" Smiling at the team, "Not to slow you all down." Looking at each member of the team in greeting. "Looks like you'll hit the projected meter-a-day mark."
A proud smile brightens the whole teams face, but Kenneth is first to respond, "Yes sir, we should have the path clear for the shuttle in about a week." Gesturing to Gabby, "Lassie here, modified these drills to chisel rock and they're working better than we thought."
Gabby's cheeks were flushing as James padded her on the back, "We'll get this done is no time, sir." His tone confident.
A gentle admonishment, "James, I'm more worried about safety than speed." Looking each of the team in the eyes, "I won't keep you from your task. You're doing good work and let me know if there is anything you need." With that, he let the group continue their work while we went back to the upper levels.
-VI- Shepard's Cabin
Kaidan, had nearly gone stir crazy trying to "relax". Throughout the day, he had tried reading, meditating, walking around the ship, and even tried to take a nap around lunch time. Nothing really worked, he wanted to be "doing" something. Then during lunch, the crew sprung the surprise arranged by Garrus and Engineer Adams; they had replaced the glass on the fish tank. Watching the fish through the new glass was relaxing, and it touched his heart to see the tank repaired. Still not content to just "relax", he's been puttering around cleaning up the cabin for the past hour, he even found Shepard's model supplies in a drawer. Without even thinking about it, he was sitting at the desk sorting the models and parts that have broken off. A few of the models were badly damaged but most parts had broken off cleanly at the seams.
The Turian cruiser model was nearly repaired, when Garrus dropped by with another dose of medicine & juice from Dr Chakwas. Handing them to Kaidan, Garrus turned to inspect his handy work, in a friendly taunt, "Playing with models too, Major?" The twinkle in his eye underscoring his dry humor, "Is it the cabin or some kind of human idiosyncrasy?"
Snickering, but caught off guard, he had no comeback, "You know, I remember Shepard's smile whenever he'd get a new model." Eyes growing soft as the memory replays, "One of my first nights back on the Normandy, we spent half the night talking about his models, the fish, and even the hampster."
"Only half the night?" Getting in another jab.
The giggle transforms into a full laugh, "The other half of that night, is none of your business." A matching twinkle in his own eyes. Finishing the last of his juice, he hands him the empty container. "Now, you go tell my keeper that I'm relaxing, as per her orders, and that I'll see you both at dinner in a few hours."
Garrus retreats, leaving Kaidan alone with his thoughts and memories. A smile lights his face as he remembers the other half of that night with Shepard.
-VII- QEC Room
With the back of her hand, Sam wipes sweat off her forehead. The past several hours has been intense for the pair, "Getting those new timers to remain synchronized properly was harder than I thought." Relieved yet frustrated, she feels proud of the work they've done. Taking a sip of her drink to relax for a moment, she watches the test pattern on the diagnostic display. "Okay, the timers are ready and even the holo-tank tested fine. I guess we're down to the most sensitive part; connecting it all to the quantum array."
All their work would be for nothing if they damage the quantum array. Tali nods her head, "Yes, but even with the multiple safety measures. I'm still a bit nervous too. It's not like we can repair or replace that part."
Sam agrees, "We've been over every diagnostic, at least, twice so we're as ready as we'll ever be." Shutting down power to the equipment, the two make the final attachments from the front end communication equipment to the quantum state sensor array. Taking a deep breath and a silent prayer, "Here we go, Tali." Activating power, the equipment quickly reboots though it's power-on-self-test.
Opening the diagnostics menu, Sam selects the "Quantum Test Ping" option. Glancing over to Tali the two nod their heads in agreement. Sam closes her eyes and presses the start button, sending the first series of tests through the entire array as a whole unit.
Tali's relief is clear, even though her suits speaker, "Pattern one is good." Sam opens her eyes again as more results show up. "We're getting some echo on patterns three and five." As the final test completes, an incoming call immediately follows, the holo-tank and audio is a garbled mess, they can't make any sense of it.
Sam makes some adjustments to the equipment, "We're so close!" The excitement clear in her voice, "Tali, can you adjust the..." Looking over at Tali, she can see the quarian already thought of it.
The image in the holo-tank finally stabilizes into an image of Admiral Hackett. His voice clear, "Normandy come in." A relieved smile crosses his stoic face, "It's good to see you."
Sam and Tali exclaim at the same time, "We did it! We did it!"
Several minutes later, Tali is leading Kaidan in by the hand. His eyes widen in surprise as he walks into the QEC room to see Hackett on the line, "Tali, why didn't you tell me?!" Escapes his mouth before he regains his composure and comes to attention, "Admiral. I can't tell you how relieved I am to see you, sir. Is. . ." Pausing trying to think of the best way to ask about Shepard and yet still afraid of the answer, "How is situation at Earth?"
"I'll be honest, major, Earth is a mess. We're still cleaning up and conducting Search & Rescue operations in nearly every major metropolitan area." The Admiral looked directly at Kaidan, seemingly able to anticipate his real question, "But to answer your real question, Shepard is alive. Though, we had a scare a few days ago."
Kaidan let out the breath, he didn't know he was holding, as tears welled in his eyes. Behind him, he could hear the War Room began to fill up with jubilant crew members, Garrus and James stood by the entryway into the QEC room so he could talk privately with the Admiral. "Thank you, Sir. I'm. . . I don't know what to say."
Hackett's eyes seemed to soften, "I know you two were close, but we have much to cover. Now, give me a quick rundown of your status." The hologram turned to look at Sam, "Traynor mentioned that Joker located your position in the Local Cluster, is that correct?"
"Yes, sir. I hear him in the War Room now. Let me bring him, and a few others, in to bring you up to speed. . ." Kaidan, Joker, Dr Chakwas, and Engineer Adams continue updating Admiral Hackett on the crew condition and Normandy status.
-VIII- Earth Orbit: SSV Argentina
Technicians make the final connections to the portable holo-com unit, as Admiral Hackett explains the situation to Shepard's mother and Doctor. The senior tech turns to the Admiral, "Sir, we're ready. There is only a few minutes of power."
Nodding his head for the tech to start up the unit, he walks over to Shepard's bedside, "Commander, someone would like to talk to you. I hope you can hear him." He walks back to stand next to Shepard's mother. The comm link establishes and the holo-projector forms Kaidan's image in the spot just vacated by the Admiral.
Though it has only been a handful of days, it felt like months since the last time he looked at Shepard. Thinking to himself, My God, he looks so weak, instead saying, "Shepard? Can you hear me?" Tears welling up in his eyes again, "I'm coming home, Alan. I. . . I can't wait to hold you again." Fighting to control his voice. Shepard shifts in the bed, mumbling something. "Fight Shepard! I'll be there soon."
Hackett clears his throat, "Ten seconds left on the comm, Major. Know that we're doing everything we can for him. Get your people ready, the rescue team is on the way." Kaidan turns and gives him a perfect salute as the feed cuts.
-IX- Normandy: Shepard's Cabin
The early sunset light illuminates the room. On the edge of the bed sits Kaidan looking down on Shepard's N7 helmet. His mind racing with a flurry of emotions; joy that Shepard is alive, delight that rescue is on the way, and worry that Shepard was still in a coma. The Admiral promised they'd get a power connection setup for the holo-comm in Shepard's room soon. Speaking into the empty room, "Hang on Shepard, don't give up."