Lured by the sound of conversation from the kitchen as he passed it, Domitian entered. His red eyes swept the room, finding Brask and Lucianus within, Kalros just leaving through the other door with Roshiovis and Cogwedj in tow.
"Well well, what have we here?" the turian announced. Lucianus glanced at him, taking in the dark-armored figure, then returned to bustling around the kitchen and retrieving ingredients and cutlery from various cupboards and drawers. The kitchen space was as spartan as anything else aboard, made to serve filling meals to soldiers as they were ferried between the stars. Given such an environment, Domitian wondered what the doctor might conjure for them to eat.
"I was just preparing a meal for those present," Lucianus said. "Were you looking for a meal or are you here to prod me about my past again?"
"I was simply searching for conversation," Domitian said, feigning affront. "Most of those aboard this vessel seem unfortunately mute and I have no interest in talking to walls, be they organic or synthetic. But if you are offering refreshment, I will gladly partake."
"Should I prepare to feed the entire ship?" the doctor asked as he began to prepare his gathered ingredients. "If you were planning that, I may have to get some help."
"Oh, no, it will just be the five of us dining at this present moment, though I cannot speak for any who may arrive late to the meal," the soldier sneered. "I find your variety of professions rather bemusing, I must confess."
"You work on a frontier colony, you get used to picking up a lot of different tools," Lucianus replied. "I do what I can to help, be it sewing people back together or making sure they get a good meal inside them."
"How the mighty have fallen," Domitian mused, leaning against the door frame.
"You might see it that way, I do not." Both were silent for a moment, the only sound that of Lucianus' knife slicing ingredients. "Are you going to stand there and supervise everything I do, Domitian?" His tone was clipped, as though his saintly patience was wearing thin.
"I am merely being cautious," the Havoc chuckled mockingly. "You will forgive me if my lifestyle has led me to be somewhat suspicious of what others feed me. Occupational hazards abound and poison has such a nasty habit of trying to slip into my meals."
Lucianus bristled. Though he did not speak and there was no change in the rhythm of the knife's chopping, it was clear that he knew what was being insinuated and that the wound Domitian was jabbing was still sore.
"Still, I suppose you have little reason to, say, accidentally feed me the wrong meal," Domitian mused. "And I have yet to associate with our companions in the next room, so I will take my leave and see what they might have to offer." With a curt nod to Brask, he swept from the room and into the mess hall. As he approached the three within, he saw Kalros unmasked and the other two at her side. She was talking to them, and as he approached, he overhead enough to realise that she was sharing with them what Melanie had informed him of. Askari's intriguing find. What a strange scene this was. A female krogan, her adoptive turian son and the eccentric salarian, bound in conversation about the dark dealings of the Elkoss Combine.
"I see we have all been made aware," he declared to them. "The human girl saw fit to inform me of those curious morsels Askari found for us." He sat a table away, resting his claws on the surface and tracing lines into it. "What, then, do you make of it?" If nothing else, their responses to such information might give him the measure of them, and to know more of them was something he desired. If Askari and Elkoss were watching for daggers in the dark, so would he. Which of the group might be motivated to betray the rest at the promise of such a valuable prize? And who would be frightened away by the looming shadow of the Citadel and the Spectres?
He awaited their answers in silent anticipation.
Melanie lay on her bed once more, having returned to her room. She brought up a video on her omni-tool, playing it. It was a cheesy kind of drama, the sort manufactured in Citadel Space by people who earnestly believed in cooperation between humanity and alien races. The sort that Cerberus and her parents would despise. It was about a ship voyaging across the stars with a crew of many different races, turians side-by-side with quarians, asari, salarians, krogan and, of course, humans. A serialised show, it told of their expeditions, their encounters with alien species on the fringes of known space, recurring clashes with the geth (represented by rather unconvincing holograms) and more, filtered through the kind of cheery feel good spirit that made the show a guilty pleasure for her. She'd found it while on Omega, watching illegal streams from Citadel space and getting to know the characters. Space Odyssey resonated with her because it so refuted the beliefs of her parents and Cerberus. It spoke of cooperation, friendship, even love between different species.
Silly and awkward as it could be at times, it spoke to her.
"But you can't remove your suit," one of the characters, a human woman, said. "We couldn't touch, we couldn't kiss..."
"No," her quarian love interest answered. "But that doesn't mean what we have isn't valid. Though I wish it could be otherwise, that I could hold you with my bare skin, we can still love one another like this." He reached out and pulled her into an embrace. "This is still love, even through my suit, no matter what others might say."
Melanie rolled onto her side, adjusting her arm so she could still clearly watch the episode. The human planted a kiss on the quarian's visor and smiled, and uplifting music played. It was so corny and yet so heartwarming to watch. Understanding and love, not the hatred and cruelty she had grown up with. She remembered it. Being pulled away from aliens whenever her parents thought one might talk to her, told never to associate with 'the riff-raff' and 'the scum', told to look down on them and scorn them. And she could never do that. They weren't so different. They might eat different food and speak different languages and look different, but they were people just like her. People who smiled and cried and loved, and she couldn't understand why her parents hated them so.
Why Cerberus tried to mold her into a weapon against them.
"I love you, Sonn'Jimun."
"I love you too, Rachel Joselyn."
It was a distraction, she supposed. After everything, she still believed in goodness and morality and decency, but sometimes the cruelty of the galaxy wore her down. She'd had to hurt people, kill people, in order to survive. She could say that survival wasn't pretty and that she'd done what she had to, but that hadn't stopped the guilt making her want to drown in alcohol. And drowning her sorrows often ended in nightmares of Cerberus, of broken bones and fingers clawing inside her brain. She needed things like this sometimes, these cheesy, silly shows that were so saccharine, just to give her a smile on her face when the darkness was especially deep and the shadow of Cerberus stood tall.
It was going to be a while before they arrived. She could get through a few episodes before she prepared for Fafnir Station.