First Steps

Crux hesitated at the bottom of the cargo ramp of the small freighter that had brought her and the others here from Omega. She had dreamt her whole life about this moment, and it was hard to convince herself that it was finally happening. That she was really doing this. Above, the majestic, unfamiliar sky stretched out, bright and endless. Not that there was such a thing as a familiar sky to her. She had spent her whole life with a roof over her head. Buildings. Corridors. Tunnels. Hollows. The closest thing she had ever experienced was standing at the bottom of the mining district and looking up at the cavernous, smoggy space above. Or, she supposed, staring into the void of space. That’s what this was, she reminded herself as she stared up at the massive moon lurking in the sky, and the band of debris arcing across the clear blue. Only there was no window separating her from that void.

The thought was… more than a little unsettling, and vertigo-inducing, so she focused on the ground instead. The spaceport was busy. Small ships were parked all over, being loaded or unloaded, some with fuel lines attached. There was a quarian encampment too, a colorful mishmash of small craft, prefabs and tents. None of these things were unfamiliar to Crux. The white substance that covered the ground very much was however. Snow. She’d heard of it, of course. Seen it in vids and read about it on the extranet. Just one more step and she’d be standing on it. Standing on the ground. Of a planet. A real planet. She found herself nervous. Which was stupid. She’d dreamt of this since… forever. And now it was real. Soon her future would be wide open, all she had to do was-

A sudden clap on her back startled her from her thoughts with a deep breath. The air was cold - colder than she was used to, and so very crisp. Fresh air she thought. An expression she’d heard many times but never really been able to grasp. Not recycled for centuries. Not filled with all manner of toxic fumes and pollutants.

“Psyching yourself out again? You’ve been waiting for this moment as long as I’ve known you. Don’t tell me you’re having second thoughts.” The familiar grin on the lanky young batarian that had appeared next to her on the ramp helped ease her nerves a bit, and she let out an embarrassed chuckle.

“No, of course not… it’s just… it’s a big deal.” Crux admitted, a bit of awkwardness lingering as she shoved her hands into the pockets of her shabby jacket. It served her well in the cold rock tunnels of Omega’s outer districts, but here it felt insufficient. The batarian next to her snorted as he looked out at the spaceport. His jacket was much the same as hers, and, again, just like her, he was wearing an old beanie that had seen better days. They were roughly the same age, although neither knew theirs exactly. She recognized a hint of the same awe she felt in his four dark eyes.

“Yeah, no shit…” he muttered, before flashing her a smile. “But this is the start of the rest of our lives. As soon as the job is done, we can do whatever we want.” he added, his smile widening. Crux nodded a couple of times.

“You’re right.” she admitted, briefly mirroring his smile as she nodded again, bracing herself. “Together?” she asked with a glance toward her old friend. It was hard to believe that they’d both made it here. To this time. To this place. So many others hadn’t. And they’d left a lot of people behind on Omega. Maybe some would hold a grudge,and maybe some would be happy that they got away. She wasn’t sure. But this had been an opportunity they had to take. The chance they’d been waiting for. A fresh start.

The batarian shook his head to himself but then sighed and nodded in confirmation. They took their first steps together. The snow didn’t feel at all like Crux had imagined. It crunched under her boot, collapsing and compacting into a solid form. She couldn’t help the laugh that slipped out, grinning widely as she spun to hug the man next to her. “We made it, RC! We fucking made it!”

The tall batarian returned the small human woman’s hug, grinning at her enthusiasm as he looked over her at the sky, taking in the reality of the situation. He was interrupted as Crux let out a cheer and shook him a little, jolting him from his thoughts. “Fuck! Yes!” she exclaimed, loudly enough to draw the attention of the human man carrying a crate down the ramp next to them, with the help of a powered suit that Crux suspected was a custom build - a modified dock worker’s exoskeleton reinforced with armor plates and shield emitters crudely bolted on. The man shot a scowl their way. He was bald and probably a decade or so older than Crux and RC. His most prominent feature was definitely the disfiguring, net-patterned burns that covered his head. “Get to fucking work! I’m not paying you rats to stand around! I want all your shit set up in the safehouse in half an hour!”

Crux and RC both flinched, turning towards the barking mercenary and straightening their backs. Crux was quick to nod, scratching the back of her neck. “Yeah! Uh, yeah. On it!” she exclaimed, shooting RC at glance to confirm he was with her before heading up the ramp to collect her tech. The man that hired them had paid for what she needed to build the jammer. The finished thing was worth more than anything she’d ever owned, even her pride and joy - the battered old omni-tool wrapped around her wrist.

She slung the heavy backpack onto her back and turned toward RC, who grabbed the satchel that held his armor vest and his gun. “Time to earn our new future, huh?” she said, her smile reflecting the nervous, buzzing anticipation that she felt throughout her body. This was it. One last job, and then the future was wide open.