Borbala's family was considered to be one of the greatest on Khar'shan, with extensive interests in illicit trade, red sand dealing, and the like. Practically born an aristocrat in a society that places inordinate importance on caste, she herself amassed such titles as the Queen of Smugglers or the Knife in the Dark. She was old but wiry, with a chartreuse complexion and red chin markings. A lifetime of assassination attempts, many of it from her own family, led her to acquiring an immunity to many poisons.
Members from other branches of her family tree included her grandfather, who used to chide Borbala for her obvious tics and tells whenever she lied. Her niece Gyula tried to kill her once by soaking her paintbrushes in Pauper's Pleasure, for the matriarch shorted her on a shipment of red sand and geth scrap. Gyula was put down the bottom of a swamp by Borbala's problematic youngest nephew Ignac, a knife nut who never liked girls, and was, incidentally, also put down the bottom of another swamp eventually by Borbala herself.
Mama Bala bore 17 offspring but killed some of them for one reason or another. Four of her children unceremoniously removed her from power, a fact she seemed particularly impressed with. Her sons Erno, Kelemen, Tiborc, and Muz conspired to gouge out her lower right eye, dump her in a crate of nutrient paste, and trade the entire thing to quarians for a couple of old terminals and just one shoe to drive home their "attempt at humor". She wasn't angry at her sons for that; rather, she was irritated that they let her live since she thought she raised them to be proper smugglers and schemers.
Her sons turned on her because she actually left the family business and tried to convince other batarians to use their ships and manpower to spread their culture, and in order to do that they had to create some first - ignite a batarian renaissance of art, music, etc. Borbala herself was an avid painter, but her people did not take kindly to the suggestion of fewer guns and more songs, and wanted her eye for that.
Despite the draining of her financial accounts by her sons, Borbala managed to bounce back enough to smuggle items aboard Keelah Si'yah that she thought would be extremely valuable in another galaxy: fish, for anyone nostalgic for a taste of home, and red sand.
Mass Effect Andromeda: Annihilation Edit
Borbala is brought back from cryostasis along with the rest of Blue-7 in order to deal with increasingly useless computers and a rising death toll among drell and hanar passengers. Her talkative teammate Irit Non antagonizes her from the outset, so when the volus whines about the lack of funeral rites Borbala tilts her head right at her. True to batarian beliefs, she doesn't care about the corpses and suggests airlocking them already, but the doctor Yorrik thinks they may need the bodies yet. She compliments Ysses' suggestion to wake the Pathfinders for the use of their SAMs (while disparaging the rest of Blue-7 for lacking the brains to think of it), but team leader Senna'Nir vas Keelah Si'yah deems their actual job too important to risk.
The drell analyst Anax Therion gets on Borbala's nerves when she calls her a merchant, insulting that it implies she's in a lower socio-economic class than she really is. Borbala merely bristled at the suggestion of sabotage, but Anax is too focused at the loss of 400 of her people to care for niceties. The analyst further expands on the possible identity of the culprit: Borbala laughs at the prospect of an elcor villain since she suspects they aren't as cuddly and innocent as everyone else thinks, though she angrily disavows any batarian involvement while calling the drell an "eyeball-licking lizard that thinks it's people." Anax later sarcastically jibes at Blue-7 shooting down all possible sources of the problem, causing Borbala to remark if she's so smart why don't she figure it out herself. Irit washes her hands on the issue since it has not (and thinks it cannot) affect her personally, causing the drell and batarian's five eyes to stare at her until she apologizes.
Senna designates Borbala and Anax as Team Who, for searching the ship for potential saboteurs and scouring the security feeds for any leads. Borbala isn't happy with the arrangement, but complies anyway. To help Team What figure out what's killing the passengers, Borbala and Anax haul two drell corpses and one hanar to the medbay then travel to the cargo bay for a quarian family crate containing a microscope. Borbala loudly announces to Team What over comms that they found and opened the crate, chortling at the amount of "garbage" the owners managed to take and musing everyone should follow the quarians' mindset on belongings to the advantage of people (like herself) who think otherwise.
After finding the microscope, Borbala hears Ysses is ignorant in medicine despite supposedly being an apothecary, prompting the hanar to clarify its actual job description in an overly longwinded manner that the old woman swears by the Pillars of Strength they'd die and turn to dust before getting to the point. She fake-flatters Yorrik by addressing him as a member of the intellectual class, even asking with elcor punctuation if there's anything else they need. The elcor grows angry and explains the importance of a working medical scanner, rhetorically wondering if they think he hailed from some backwater with a primitive approach to medicine, a notion Borbala genuinely believes. Yorrik also needs culture dishes, so Borbala sets aside a tea set. One of the cups is human-made, causing her to rant how she can't stand them for obsessing over Earth too much that they'd even draw insects on their products.
Later Borbala hears about Yorrik's former name, and a short while after she praises Ysses for managing to extract useful information from the Keelah Si'yah VI regarding dyes they may need. She advises Anax to check for quarian make-up, lounging outside the crate while the drell does the actual digging. The number of useful (and eclectic) items extracted from the crate causes Borbala to be impressed at the family who owns it. They even brought a crate of prohibited horosk, eliciting fond recollections on shipping lots of it during her smuggling days. Her demeanor sours on learning they need rhodamine from fish: weighing her options, she tells her fellow Sleepwalkers she "can make fish happen."
Crate ZB3301T/V is full of cryogenically frozen fish: Illium skald fish, prejek paddle fish, koi, striped dartfish, khar’shan snapping eels, bluefin tuna, in about 1,500 miniature cryopods. It's also deemed by its batarian owner as her "nest egg". Asked if she smuggled anything else, Borbala lies through her dimpling cheeks. She suggests grabbing some of the horosk after sending Team What's items to them, figuring Anax isn't a colorful conversation partner, but is surprised and impressed to learn of the drell's multilingual espionage past.
Upon reaching the bridge, Borbala is giddy it has a locker with potentially impressive weapons. Her drell companion wonders how she could be cheerful given the present circumstances, so Borbala tells her she's used to death. She thinks of death as the greatest pirate of all, sparing no one, and the only defeat is to surrender to him before he even strikes. Anax claims to be impressed with her speech, but still hesitates to hand her a gun, so Borbala snatches an Arc Pistol from her. The retired matriarch reads the situation as pandering to stereotypes, and lays out how it's going to be: she'd try to overcome her "inherent batarian nature" and refrain from shooting the analyst in the back, as long as she keeps the drell memory reveries to a minimum and avoids keeling over due to weak lungs. Anax is slightly offended, so in the interest of an efficient working relationship Borbala slightly softens her tone afterward.
The old batarian suggests they can review the footage at the bridge instead of walking back to the security hub. At the beginning of the session Anax wonders about the lesions on the corpse of Soval Raxios, so Borbala tells her about some Khar'shan poisons she thinks can produce the same effect. The matriarch segues into family recollections, surprising the drell when she learns the batarian can paint. Borbala thinks of herself as a complex individual, and recommends artistic expression to Anax as a way of loosening up. Hearing that her partner is a poetry champion disgusts Borbala though, and discourages her from reciting any of it.
The conversation soon shifts to the story behind the loss of Borbala's eye. The smuggler tells Anax the surface details but claims personal reasons as to why she didn't have it replaced. Meanwhile the bridge grows hotter and hotter, to the point Borbala complains and loosens many of the leather straps on her chest, but drell physiology welcomes the heat and Anax is more focused on running through the feeds. The old woman recognizes and derides one of the figures on the screen: Zoli Haj'Nalka, a drunk philosopher-wannabe attributed with such gaudy koans as "I kill, therefore I am." Anax recounts her childhood in return, but then notices a shadow on the feed that Borbala is slow to see. Some fastforwards later on Soval's Sleepwalker team revival, Borbala learns Anax saw Soval's sores on a volus child, which shouldn't have happened given the completely different physiologies. She also inquires what happened to Anax's hanar master - on being told that it's dead and she went to work for the Shadow Broker, Borbala claims she never heard of the latter. She wants to know who killed the hanar, so Anax also claims personal reasons and refuses to tell the batarian about it. The session is interrupted by Yorrik declaring lockdown procedures, who also requests Borbala and Anax's presence in the medbay. The smuggler's slightly miffed that the stowaway sweep will have to wait, though she's glad to be going out of the heat.
Back at the medbay with the other members of Blue-7, Borbala jokes they were called to the meeting because they're all going to die, only to lose some mirth on reading Yorrik and Ysses' body language. She reports to Senna about temperature imbalances in the scorching bridge and in the presently freezing medbay, listening while Team What confirms the presence of a pathogen in the corpses. Immediately suspicious of Ysses' nonchalant behavior, Borbala warns the hanar lest she starts thinking it had something to do with the virus. She announces to Blue-7 that Team Who is two for two on results, letting Anax explain and analyze what they found in the feeds. She's irritated when she hears about Team How's lack of results, insultingly goading the "homeless" Senna to speak up when he thinks aloud to himself.
Later, Borbala readies a shotgun Anax gave her earlier when the group becomes alerted to someone approaching. Briefly considering giving Irit her sidearm before deciding against it, the batarian orders the newcomer to identify themself. She recognizes the newcomer upon closer inspection: Jalosk Dal'Virra, a slow-witted drinking buddy back on Hephaestus Station. He seems to be sick with the same thing as the autopsies, prompting Irit to immediately accuse him as the saboteur, so Borbala tries at first to defend him against these allegations. With the racism tensions rising in the room, Borbala justifies why Jalosk isn't a suspect while also deriding his lowborn and lowbrow origins. The latter batarian still calls Borbala the "mother of worms" and compares her to a slave for "running away" to Andromeda, prompting her to tilt her head right at him even as she insults his intelligence and explains she's on his side.
The ark's Captain Qetsi'Olam vas Keelah Si'yah joins the commotion after Jalosk has been put into isolation, and Borbala laconically informs her the ship is fucked. The matriarch also notices one other problem on top of the others, and instructs the group to listen carefully: space debris slamming into Keelah Si'yah's flickering shields. While Anax is off to be fitted for a hermetic suit, Borbala is ordered by Qetsi to secure the mess hall and draw up a food distribution plan for the people currently awake. Since Team What has no further need for the autopsies, the wiry old woman disposes of the corpses through the airlock.
A mass cascade of revivals soon turn the cargo bay into pandemonium. Borbala sneaks in to check on her nest egg, only to find scavengers messily looting and eating her fish. She runs into Anax and Irit, who have been stuck in the hold for over a day. Anax and Borbala manage to escape, but they have to leave the volus behind. People both infected and clean are now wandering the ship despite quarantine procedures - the pair have been forced to shoot a raving batarian on their way to the Radial.
At the volus section beyond the Radial an infected volus explodes in his suit in Borbala's view, who's astounded at the highly unusual event and asks Anax how the sickness even got inside their suits. Captain Qetsi's audio warning has been looping in the background for some time, irritating the batarian and warning she'll shoot the next speakers she sees.
Their next mission is to locate Malak'Rafa vas Keelah Si'yah of Sleepwalker Team Yellow-9, groupmate to Jalosk, Soval, and the initial hanar autopsy Kholai, and Borbala quickly appoints herself as the "bad cop" for the interrogation. In the quarian residential zone, she informs Malak the ship's under attack from something that originated during Yellow-9's rotation, asking about his team's behavior (and the lack of suspicion conferred despite sufficient reason). To get Malak talking further Anax deduces he was in love with the married Soval and tells him a story about her own forbidden love affair, eliciting a snort from Borbala since the drell told her a completely different story with the same names earlier. The interrogation is cut short with the revelation that a quarian child appears to have died in her mother's arms.
Borbala and Anax are summoned by Senna, who is in his quarters nearby attempting to solve the software issues. They are asked to look for VIs uncorrupted by the ongoing problems. Borbala appreciates that she and Anax both have armor sets with VI components, but Senna is requesting that they once again return to the chaotic cargo hold for self-contained VIs in passengers' personal effects. Their team leader is confident he can fix things, so Borbala sighs and assures him she "can make VIs happen."
With both of them carrying large crates of electronic supplies, in the medbay Borbala asks Yorrik to hand over some of the items they gave earlier: the microscope and a fish tank, both of which have VIs. Yorrik announces he has a possible cure against the recently named Fortinbras Plague. It will require large amounts of element zero, grabbing the matriarch's full attention. Because the eezo in the ark's engines can't be spared, Borbala restlessly fidgets before reluctantly coming to a decision and telling the others she "can make eezo happen."
On the way back to the cargo hold again Borbala calls Anax out on the discrepancies she noticed regarding her stories. She's impressed, rather than mad because the drell can lie smoothly compared to her. A volus blocks their way and attempts to sell them a cure for the plague in exchange for six food rations: Borbala humors him and claims the hanar were selling for four earlier. When she sees the "cure" is nothing but ignac cones from Khar'shan, Borbala calls him a pyjak and shoves him aside. Anax wants them to go to her quarters after retrieving the eezo, causing Borbala to mistake this for flirting banter and responds accordingly. When the drell clarifies her issues with her enviro-suit, Borbala still keeps acting seduced for her own amusement.
Asked why Borbala even has an eezo stash, the matriarch quietly reveals she doesn't know how to take up an honest living in Andromeda, so she lives up to the batarian nature of being a smuggler and schemer who ends up on top, akin to a Pirate King. After singing a few appropriate lines, Borbala confesses to Anax the real reason why she was blinded and why Jalosk despised her after learning who she was.
The pair reach Borbala's eezo crate, only to discover an infected Ysses gorging on the old woman's supply of red sand. She finds it darkly hilarious the universe is out to ruin her nest eggs. Beckoned by the drell to complete their task after dealing with the hanar, Bala responds in a dejected and self-loathing tone.
Borbala spends the last moments of the crisis guarding an immobilized Ysses in Anax's quarters. The hanar and its ilk are ostensibly blamed for spreading the plague despite indolence being part of their beliefs; Borbala reckons there are heretics even among heretics as explanation. Senna, Anax, and Qetsi are all in the drell's room discussing what to do with the hanar, and Borbala pensively interjects when the captain goes away claiming to arrange for a tribunal.
In the aftermath, once cures and fixes have been disseminated and the perpetrators brought to justice, Borbala slips back into her own cryopod aided by Anax. The two have grown fond of each other over their experiences. The old woman wants Anax to tell her something true about herself in exchange for a house wherever the Pathfinders deem suitable for batarians. With some reticence, the drell does so before kissing Bala's ruined eye, then her lips.
Borbala's Song Edit
The song appears to be set to the tune of Pirate King from The Pirates of Penzance, similar to Mordin Solus' "Krogan Queen" ditty.
“Oh, better far to live and die
Under the Khar’shan flag I fly,
Than choose to play the paragon’s part,
With a pirate head and a pirate heart.
Away to the Citadel go you,
Where pirates all are well-to-do;
But I’ll stay true to the life contrarian,
And live and die batarian.
For I am batarian!
And it is, it is a call clarion
To be batarian!”