Aloy crouched low on the catwalk as Cerberus soldiers passed underneath. They were looking for her. But after years of sneaking up on Grazers in Mother's Embrace, she could keep herself hidden from a few frantic humans. Even on their own ship.
The Cerberus cruiser was massive and reminded her of the cauldrons back home. The halls were dark and metallic. But at least she didn't have to fight through waves of machines to get where she needed to be. Not that she wasn't prepared for a fight if it came to that.
Garrus' Black Widow hung off her shoulder, where she used to keep her bow and arrows. It was a less graceful weapon, for sure, but its firepower matched that of her blast arrows. And the clips took up far less space. But the real challenge was its weight. It was heavy. Like the guilt in her chest.
She peeked over the rails once the soldiers left. Below, there were Ravager-sized pods lining the walls, each with a turian silhouette under its surface.
Garrus was down there somewhere. And she needed to find him.
She climbed down silently and effortlessly, moving from pod to pod, searching for the turian face she knew by heart. The face she never could have imagined existed only a few months ago.
Nothing. Next pod. Hide. Nothing. Next pod. Unfamiliar. Next pod. Hide. It was a slow search.
Next pod... She slowed to a stop next to it, recognizing something in the blue markings on the face within. It was the face she'd studied every day since she first saw it. Garrus Vakarian.
She only stared down at him for enough time to catch her breath before she went to work yanking at the cords on the side of the pod and pushing at the lid so she could get to him. He was only inches away. All she had to do was wake him up and they could leave. Together.
It took all of her strength to move the lid, but once ajar, it slid away, revealing the body underneath. Her palm found his face, thumb tracing the lines of his mandibles. He was cold and slick. Never a good sign.
This technology was beyond her. What would she do if he didn't wake? What could she do? Where would she go?
Aloy shook him gently. Then harder. Nothing. But he was still breathing. He was still there. Just... gone.
How had she lost this family she'd only just gained?
Her focus chimed, alerting her to the approach of Cerberus soldiers. But there was still time before they arrived.
"Garrus," she whispered, a hopeless attempt to reanimate him. "Do you remember when you found me?"
A grassy green prairie rolled on for as far as I could see. I leaned back onto the hill, feeling the warmth of the sun on my cheek.
Earth. What a beautiful place. Lush. Empty. Abandoned.
But it wasn't empty, was it? My own perceptions confused me. Surely someone lived here.
All I could remember were the creatures. The machines, someone had called them. I'd fought one the size of my starship. A Thunderjaw. The word came from thin air. Yeah, a Thunderjaw.
"Garrus," a voice whispered. "Do you remember when you found me?"
There was a heat at my side. I wasn't alone. She was sitting next to me, fiery and brave and human. Had she always been there?
"Of course." I couldn't recall. "You were fighting the Thunderjaw." My own words surprised me. "And the damned thing took my ship right out of the sky."
She stared at the ground, letting grass slide between her fingers before she ripped it up. "I was alone before then. An outcast." She forced a chuckle. "And I didn't know anything about the world."
"You knew more than everyone on your planet," I chided softly. She was a genius. I still remembered her face in the firelight as she pieced my ship together one part at a time. And when she had questions, her eyes sparked with wonderlust. I'd give her half an answer before she figured it out on her own. After all that, she probably knew more about my ship than I did.
Aloy didn't react. Didn't even look at me. She was lost in the rolling plains. "I never imagined I'd leave the Sacred Lands," she managed. "And then you took me to the stars."
I'd been stranded on Earth for weeks. In the meantime, we'd traded stories of Palaven and the Nora, bonded over weaponry and sharpshooting, and used the machines in the valley to repair my ship to its functioning flying glory. It was only fair that I take her for the ride of her life --show her how small Earth was in the grand scheme of the universe. How was I supposed to know she'd never want to go back?
"I've experienced so much. You've shown me the unimaginable." Her voice broke. "Everything is... so much bigger now."
Aloy's braided and beaded hair fell over her shoulder, hiding her face. I reached out to brush it away. She was too proud to cry. But she could trust me, couldn't she?
And then my fingers passed right through her.
She kept talking, as if she'd felt nothing. "I'm not afraid of being alone. I've been alone before." Her breathing became shallow and ragged. "But if you don't wake up... You'll never know how much I..."
If I didn't wake up...?
"Aloy, what do you mean?"
She looked up suddenly, like she'd heard something. Her focus could pick up things from far off. Things my scanners couldn't even read. "They're coming..."
"Who is coming?" But in my gut, I knew it was Cerberus.
Aloy and I had met up with a turian fleet on its way to Palaven. I'd promised Aloy we'd go to the Citadel from there. We were on a galactic tour or sorts. But the fleet had been ambushed, boarded, and seized. And we flew right into their trap.
I scanned the valley, realizing how cold and lifeless it truly was. There were no machines. No wind. No heat from the sun. The only warmth here radiated from Aloy.
She jumped to her feet in a defensive stance, ready to fight. My rifle hung from her shoulder.
"Aloy," I tried again, reaching for her leg. Reaching for her warmth. But I passed right through.
And then she vanished. Popped right out of existence in front of me. I had only blinked. And she was gone.
From the horizon, a dark shadow swept over the valley, eating away this world I'd somehow imagined. The shadow moved faster and faster, coming for me.
"It's not real, Garrus," I scolded myself. "Aloy needs you to wake the hell up!"
And the shadow consumed me.
Aloy held Black Widow just like Garrus had taught her. He’d emphasized four principles --aim, hold, sight, and shot. Similar to the principles she used with her bow. But this was nothing like the ebb and flow of her arrows. This was a power she had to squeeze tight and hold in her core lest it escape her.
She’d left Garrus’ side only to set traps throughout the room. Near doorways. Away from the other pods. If she could fight machines back home, she could defeat a few humans in space.
An explosion sounded as one of her trip wires went off.
Cerberus had arrived.
Aloy glanced over her shoulder at the pod where Garrus was stirring. She couldn't leave now that she knew he was alive. Whatever she’d done had been enough to wake him. But she needed to defend him until they could escape.
She wouldn’t leave him behind again.
Aloy stared down the Black Widow’s sights and waited for the soldiers to descend upon her.