[19] Frightened

Nihlus is alone in the commons, typing away at the report. He pauses, sips the lukewarm water directly from the decanter. He should really go to sleep soon. His fingertips have been rubbed raw from the difficult descent and the grit inside his weave, and the constant typing is not helping. He continues anyway; his mind feels too numb. Numb is good. Numb is great. The hardened smile remains.

He shouldn’t have been afraid. He really shouldn’t have been–Nihlus had come to expect the impassive face, the permanent scowl, the haughty stare; not the panic of a five-year-old, scrambling away from the monsters under his bed. Biotics should have been in training already by that age. So he shouldn’t have been afraid of monsters. And a couple of humans, even less. Never.

He clenches the decanter so tightly, he’s positive it’s going to shatter.

He shouldn’t have left Nihlus. Shouldn’t have been anything less than the Spectre he was supposed to be. Shouldn’t have been more trigger-happy than usual, shouldn’t have abandoned all modes of communication in favour of charging in without a word, pistols blazing. And that was what had tipped Nihlus off. Saren never wasted ammunition. Those men were strictly one shot, one kill. They both could see that. And yet Saren wasn’t done until they were leaving bloody footprints all through the halls. (Nihlus tried to call out. He really tried. The creature with gore on its white gauntlets hadn’t heard.) Saren wasn’t done until he had wired the whole place with explosives and told Nihlus to get the logs quickly unless he wanted to be in the radius of destruction when he pushed the detonator.

At least he hadn’t pushed it early. The rage subsides somewhat.

Nihlus wonders if Saren is okay.

The first half is probably crap, and the rest of the report isn’t getting anywhere. What can he say? That Saren was extreme? That he was (Nihlus chuckles) unprofessional? That their best agent went insane?

Is he okay? He hasn’t left the cabin since they had lift-off. Nihlus drinks some more water. And how long ago was that? How long?

He doesn’t remember.

The cult was frightening, to be sure. Grafted cybernetics with not even an attempt at subtlety, all cyan and steel and flickering, glowing eyes–but no more frightening than a den of vorcha, or, heck, a pair of krogan. And those things were commonplace.

Saren had been frightening. Yes, that was true. That, he couldn’t — he can’t deny.

Those humans had spoken with human words. Jarring, he supposes. Words of parlay coming from mutated mouths, seeking to preserve their pitiful organisation of synthetic-wannabes. But that was it. Jarring. Not frightening. Saren probably hadn’t even heard, because he had shot the leader three times in the space between when the echo of his last words disappeared and the thud of his body falling to the ground.

Like a cornered animal, swiping at passers-by.

He should go check on him.

No, Saren’s probably busy analysing the data. He’ll take a swipe at Nihlus, too. Better not get anywhere close to that cabin.

Or he’s off-balance and he needs a ration pack. And a stiff drink.

Are you kidding? I don’t even like the guy, and he sure as heck doesn’t like me.

Nihlus was in the middle of standing up, but he plops back down again. Can Saren hear him from the deck below?

He slams his heel into the floor. Pauses for thirty seconds.

No one reminds him to keep it down.

In the end, he decides to pass on the stiff drink–because the ship doesn’t have any.

Nihlus takes aim at the shambling, humanoid creature, crosshairs centred on the vivid blue core on its abdomen. Damn geth.

In the back of his mind, he wonders if Saren is okay.

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