I actually do own the Mass Effect series, I've played through it a couple of times now. Unfortunately, I don't own the Intellectual Property for it. That is owned by the Devil… I mean EA. Sorry, I got my soulless, fun sucking, abominations mixed up for a second.
Author's Note: Hi! I'm alive! and publishing this… and not that other fic I am working on at a much slower pace.
I like the idea for this one, hence why I put it to paper… err… electronic paper, and we'll see how well it will stick with me. The title was almost a pun based on the title of an old Cartoon Network show from the early 2000s. A friend convinced me not to do that, though I will fit that pun into this work if it kills me.
Anyway, got a new job a few months ago, and it's been super busy. It seems that it will calm down soon, so I should be able to get more writing done, but until then, expect slow updates.
Also I'm working on a bunch of different fics at the same time, so… that.
Anyway, enjoy! Read and review! Let me know what you think! And remember, the more detail in a review, the more helpful it is to me!
Edit - 7/25/2016: Spelling and Grammar fixes.
Chapter 1: Steel Flower
For the third time in an hour, the Captain of the Frigate-Class starship, the SSV Dunkirk, found his gaze wandering towards the strange guest occupying an out of the way space on the command deck of his ship. The man, one Shinichi Mitsui, was a guest on this ship, and the focus of this ship's current mission. He was a VIP, who was being escorted back to Earth after travelling to various Systems Alliance training facilities and giving in depth lessons on close range weapons combat. Shinichi had asked for, and received, permission to observe his journey home from the command deck, so it wasn't his presence that drew attention. What attracted the eyes of the Captain and just about every member of the command crew was the fact that Shinichi Mitsui was wearing very old fashioned, traditional Japanese clothing, a kimono and hakama.
On a spaceship, currently traveling a corner of the galaxy many many light years from Earth, surrounded by blinking lights and intense technical readouts, stood an unrepentant samurai.
The Captain took a moment to appreciate the strange disparity of the man and where he was. Standing next to a holographic monitor was a man that would not have looked out of place at a Japanese historical reenactment festival. He was a relatively short, old man, standing only 5 feet 6 inches tall. He wore a light grey hakama, with a white kimono, and a strange sleeveless vest with exaggerated shoulders. At his waist, he had a pair of Japanese swords, one long and one short. The top of his head was covered with a crazy bush of shock white hair, which occasionally spiked out in random directions. His face was heavily wrinkled and his skin had a light tan, giving his visage the appearance of being made out of old leather. He had a stern gaze, and his mouth always seemed to be in a small tight frown, like he always found something to be just a little bit lacking. The Captain mused that, perhaps he was frowning because he had figured out that he was wearing clothing that had been out of style for 400 years.
The Captain shook his head to clear it and returned his gaze back to the front viewport. He didn't have any right to judge the quirks of a man in his 70s who had, in a mock battle, shown that he was completely capable of taking out a squad of marines while armed with only a wooden sword. Some soldiers had laughed beforehand, saying that even if the man was a Grand Master of some swordsmanship school, he was essentially bringing a sword to a gun, laser, and energy field fight. Those same soldiers were probably still nursing bruises from the beating he had dished out to them.
A soft beep drew the Captain from his thoughts and drew his attention to the source of the noise. The woman occupying the sensor station called back to him without drawing her eyes from the holographic display before her.
"Captain," she said, "we are picking up an Alliance Civilian distress signal. Sensors are picking up the source and we should have a description of the ship momentarily.
"Got it! Civilian ship!" She paused, double checking what the readout was telling her. "Readouts say it's a shuttle, sir!"
The man at the station next to her turned in disbelief.
"What's a shuttle doing all the way out here!?"
Having heard enough, the Captain began calling out orders, sending the command crew into a flurry of motion.
"Put us on an intercept course! See if you can calculate its course! I want to know how a shuttle got out into the middle of nowhere like this! I want a visual scan as soon as we are in range! Let's go people!"
A moment passed, and the flurry of activity died down as one by one, after completing their assigned tasks, members of the crew turned their eyes to the sensor station, all of them eager to find out the answer to the mystery of this small ship.
Finally, the growing tension was broken by the sensor station attendant.
"Course calculated, sir. It appears that the shuttle came through the Mass Relay. I can't tell where it came from before that, but it seems to have been adrift in this system for a few days, sir."
Her console flashed and she quickly began to manipulate the holographic display.
"Visual scans coming in, sir. No hull damage or noted atmosphere leaks, engines appear to be dead. It probably ran out of fuel. Hull markings noted…" She paused before turning to face the rest of the command deck.
"It appears to be a Cerberus vessel, sir." She said with distaste.
Grimaces and looks of disgust passed among the crew at hearing that. The Captain snorted, and shook his head, a look of distaste passing over his own countenance.
"Understood! Resume previous course. Make for the Relay."
In a corner of the command deck, the form of Shinichi Mitsui stirred, and for the first time in hours he spoke.
"You would leave a ship in distress?"
A murmur of unease passed among the crew. Leaving a ship to drift in the void was a taboo among taboos held by the spacefarers of almost every race.
The Captain turned to face his guest.
"You don't know much about Cerberus, do you? Those terrorists are lucky I don't just shoot their ship out of existence."
Shinichi meet his gaze without flinching.
"I know enough about Cerberus." He said. "But I also believe that slow starvation or suffocation are rather low on my list of ways I would like to die."
The Captain couldn't help but grimace at the thought of slowly running out of food and water, trapped in a small container in the inky blackness of space. Around the deck, members of the crew shuddered.
The shuttle had already been sitting in the cargo bay for 10 minutes. Armed marines surrounded it on all sides, guns focused on it, waiting for any signs of movement or traps.
With a sigh of impatience, Shinichi pushed his way through the circle of marines and approached the shuttle, waving away the shouts about danger and traps and terrorists.
When he arrived at the shuttle he immediately hit the panel to open the door, and then stepped aside as the side of the ship folded out to create a ramp. This position gave him the chance to check the interior of the craft before any of the marines.
When he saw what was inside, he signaled the medical team standing by in the back and called out to the surrounding soldiers.
"Lower your weapons and make room for the medical team."
None of the soldiers lowered their weapons, and none of them moved for the medical team, even as the ramp finished lowering and the form of the prone child inside became visible to everyone on that side of the shuttle. The child was lying face down near the center of the shuttle. They were wearing bland grey pants and an equally bland grey shirt. Both articles of clothing had been colorized by what seemed to be a considerable amount of dried human blood.
Shinichi narrowed his eyes at the marines and moved his left hand so that his fingers just barely brushed the tip of his katana's hilt. Every soldier surrounding the shuttle lept back and began to scan around, searching for whatever threat they had felt to their lives. Eventually, every gun in the room settled onto the short, old Japanese man standing next to the shuttle.
Unshaken by the amount of weaponry pointed at him, Shinichi raised an eyebrow at the men around him and snapped out in a clipped voice.
"Worst. Escorts. Ever. I have never before had the men who were supposed to protect me all turn and point their guns at me. Perhaps I should have a chat with Hackett about the men he has been recruiting."
Immediately every gun in the room was pointing at the ground, and subsequently holstered, while the owners of said guns looked around sheepishly.
"Now," continued Shinichi, "get out of the way. You are blocking the medical team."
The soldiers submissively made way for the three doctors but stayed nearby in case they were called for.
The doctors cautiously approached the ship. Two stopped a little to the side of the shuttle's ramp and began to construct a stretcher and lay out emergency medical equipment in case it was needed at a moment's notice. The remaining doctor slowly entered the shuttle and began to minister to the child laid out on the floor.
Presently, he gave a quick report.
"She's a girl," he said. "Severe dehydration and malnutrition. Various injuries, but none of them life threatening at the moment."
His words caused a stir among the doctors outside the shuttle as they prepared various medicines to administer before moving the young girl to the medical bay.
Shinichi had stayed near the shuttle ramp, looking into the open shuttle. Because of this, he had a good vantage point to see the girl's eyes open, blink in confusion, and then begin to glance around frantically. Those distressed eyes focused on the doctors outside the ship, preparing the required medicines. In the next moment, those eyes were filled with confusion and rage. The girl weakly raised a fist from the floor, then crashed it back down to the deck. Skin made fragile from malnutrition broke from the impact and her fist began to bleed freely.
A flash of blue was all the warning Shinichi got. Luckily, it was all he needed as he intercepted the doctor who had been administering to the girl and was now flying through the air. Shinichi redirected his flight so that he avoided a fatal collision with the bay wall, and instead crashed into a nearby soldier, sending both of them tumbling to the ground.
The milling marines paused in surprise, but quickly recovered and raised their weapons. The only thing preventing them from filling the shuttle with mass accelerated rounds was the fact that Shinichi Mitsui, the man they were supposed to be escorting, was now standing on the shuttle's ramp, preventing any of the soldiers from shooting.
What happened next caused trained Alliance soldiers to pause in their actions, and their blood to run cold.
It started as a raspy squeak, as air forced its way over a throat parched from lack of water and through vocal chords already strained from screaming some days before. From there, it built up, gaining strength from some reservoir of strength unlocked by the rage issuing forth from this girl. A shriek came from inside the shuttle, and scraped its way through the ears of every man in the bay.
Along with the shriek, a blue light began to emanate from the shuttle, originating from a blue energy that was surrounding the young girl. The intensity of both the light and the shriek increased as she pushed herself up to her knees, and eventually to her feet.
From there, the blue energy pushed away from her until it formed a ball around her. The ball continued to expand and the light to increase in intensity until it pressed against the walls of the shuttle that contained it.
The cry also continued to increase in intensity, occasionally broken by hitches and gurgling noises as the force of the scream tore apart the dehydrated tissue of her throat. The sound was a pure expression of rage and anguish, as though some demonic god was trying to express its hatred of the world through the broken throat of this small, injured girl.
Still, she screamed, and still, the ball of light surrounding her grew in intensity until she seemed to be standing in the center of a small blue star.
Objects and people throughout the cargo bay began to glow with a faint blue light of their own and began to float around the room. The blue light was joined by flashes of red as alarms began to go off all over the ship.
As if to voice its own suffering, the shuttle itself began to shriek, its metal walls protesting against the force being applied to them from the inside. The walls began to glow from the heat generated by the forces exerted upon them, starting as a cherry red, and quickly building up to a pure white.
Abruptly, the walls of the shuttle suddenly stopped squealing. Its protests done, the walls ballooned out. The formerly rectangular shuttle was quickly warping into a sphere.
Eventually, the metal stretched too thin, and the hull of the shuttle began to rip. All at once, huge sections of the wall pulled away from each other and bent away, like petals on a flower. Shinichi was taken aback by the beauty of the scene in front of him. In stark contrast to the screams, alarms and chaos around him, what had once been a shuttle was quickly transformed into a beautiful flower. Each petal glowing a brilliant white, tinged with red at the edges where the heat escaped faster. In the center of this steel lily, a ball of pure azure light filled the cargo bay with its radiance.
As if the tearing the metal had been a signal, the girl suddenly stopped screaming. The blue sphere of energy surrounding her burst, knocking around everything in the bay. The girls eyes rolled back in her head, and any blue energy that had remained on her guttered out. She swayed unsteadily for a moment and then she pitched forward and collapsed.
Before she could hit the ground, she was swept up into the arms of an old Japanese man, wearing anachronistic clothes.
Pausing for only a moment, Shinichi began walking towards the exit of the cargo bay. His wrinkled face cast in a look of concern as he glanced down at the young girl in his arms. As he passed the medical team, who were looking around as if seeking confirmation that they were still alive, he called out to them.
"Please get your things together quickly. This girl and several crew members will need medical attention."
Every crew member in the cargo bay watched in a daze as the elderly Japanese man walked through the newly formed disaster zone which was previously the docking bay of a ship.
One Week Later
Shinichi Mitsui knelt quietly on the tatami floor in one of the outbuildings on his property. On a simple Japanese futon in front of him was the sleeping form of the girl they had recovered from the Cerberus shuttle almost a week ago. This poor girl had been kept asleep the entire time with sedatives added to the medications she was giving to deal with the extensive damage she had done to her own body when she was found, as well as other, older injuries which had never been properly treated.
Everyone who had been in the cargo bay when she had last woken up, and everyone who had seen the footage, were sorely tempted to see to it that she didn't wake up for a long time, and that if she did, it was in a bunker somewhere far from them.
Eventually, Shinichi had grown exasperated over the bickering of the Alliance brass and volunteered his own home as the location where the girl would be allowed to regain consciousness. More debates had followed, but the potential information about Cerberus that this girl represented, as well as Shinichi's connections in the Alliance eventually forced the issue through. It was decided that the still sedated girl would be moved to Shinichi's property, along with several medical staff to help with any any medical issues that might arise as the girl regained consciousness.
He glanced around the room again. A traditionally styled Japanese room, complete with tatami mats and sliding paper doors, all of it in somewhat disrepair. The tatami mats were fraying in some places, and holes in the sliding doors had been covered with tape, instead of being correctly repaired. At the moment, he was glad he had let it go to this point. He had been planning to demolish this building anyway, so it wouldn't be much of a loss to him if the girl decided to let him skip paying someone to tear it down for him.
A dry, raspy moan came from the girl, and slowly her eyes opened. Shinichi waited a moment and watched as the bleariness of the sedative induced sleep slowly faded from the girl's eyes.
Those eyes wandered the room, taking in the wooden construction and paper walls and doors with obvious confusion. Eventually, the girl met his eyes, and a dry noise escaped her mouth.
Shinichi picked up a small cup of water next to him as he leaned forward. With one hand, he grasped the back of the girls head, helping her raise it so that he could let her drink. He felt her resist, and try to pull away from his hand, but she didn't have the strength to fight him. As he brought the cup of water to her lips, she managed to turn her head away in an attempt to avoid drinking.
Meeting her eyes, Shinichi saw that she was terrified. To reject water, even when unable to speak from thirst. Someone had done some terrible things to this child.
Keeping eye contact, he drew the cup of water to his own lips and took a drink of it.
"It's water." He said, never looking away from her.
The girl searched his eyes and his face, waiting a moment to see if some poison would take effect. Eventually she managed a small nod, indicating her acceptance. Shinichi helped her drink, still feeling her resistance to his simple physical contact.
After several more sips of water, he laid her back down in the bed.
"I'm sure you want more water." He said. "But you haven't eaten in awhile, so if you drink too much you will get sick.
"Eventually, people will want to talk to you, to ask you questions. For now though, you can rest. Before you do though, I would like to see if I can learn your name. I would like to be able to stop calling you 'the girl', if I could." He smiled reassuringly, watching for her reaction.
The girl nodded weakly, before pausing to gather the strength required to speak.
Shinichi leaned forward to hear.
Despite her voice being mangled, squeaky, and raspy, Shinichi managed to make out the single word the girl forced from her injured throat.
One Month Later
It had been a tiring month for Jack, but in some ways it was the easiest month she had experienced in a very long time. As soon as she was well enough to talk, she had been brought to the main base of the Japanese branch of the Alliance Military and interviewed by a bunch of old men in stiff looking uniforms. Shinichi Mitsui, the old Japanese man whose house she was staying at, stayed with her through the entire process. Shinichi didn't add much to the interviews, except when the old men would begin badgering her, then he would glare and tap the hilt of his sword, reminding the participants to be civil. They would repeatedly ask her questions about Cerberus and their activities. Questions she didn't have satisfactory answers for.
This made Jack furious. Unfortunately, the target of her anger was herself. Here she was, surrounded by adults who were intensely interested in bringing the hammer down on those bastards from Cerberus. Here they were, poised to move against Cerberus, needing only some clue from her about where to strike, and she had nothing to give them. She knew what had been done to her. She could remember the faces of the doctors who had experimented on her. She knew every inch of every surface in the room she had been a prisoner in for as long as she could remember. She could remember innumerable things about the facility where she had been held, but she didn't know anything about where the facility was, or where any Cerberus bases where.
Her initial reaction had been to shout out a string of every curse she knew. She had been at it for only a second when she was cut short by the feeling of Shinichi's glare focusing on her for the first time since they had met. Before she even knew what was happening, she found herself sitting back in her seat with her mouth clamped shut. She didn't know why her body had moved on its own, but she glared at Shinichi, because it was clearly his fault. The old Japanese man simply raised his eyebrows at her expression. She held the glare for a second before turning away. She supposed that since he was giving her food and shelter, she could go without swearing for a little bit, at least while he was around.
At the end of the interviews, the only consolation Jack received, during her rendition of what had been done to her, was watching several of military brass break down, cry, and more than a few of them leave the room holding their mouths and looking green in the face.
All of that was behind her though. She was sitting on the table in the medical bay of the Alliance Military base she had all but lived in during the last month. Shinichi, ever by her side, was doing his usual statue impression off to the side of the room.
At this very moment, Jack was burning with an emotion she had rarely ever felt in her life. She was hopeful. All during her incarceration, Jack rarely had any reason to be hopeful. She had planned plenty of escapes, but she had never felt that any of them would succeed. Even when she did escape, it was more a spur of the moment event, where her body had done more of the thinking than her brain.
Moments ago, two doctors had drawn some of her blood, and at this very moment, they were analysing it to see if they could find out who her parents were, and if they were still alive.
Jack stared holes in the door to the office as the moments ticked by.
Eventually, the doctors returned, both of them wearing neutral expressions. They came to stand before Jack, the closer one squatting down to look her in the eyes.
"Jack," he said, "I have some bad news for you."
Jack braced herself. The staff at the Cerberus facility had told her that her parents were dead. She had dared to hope that they had been lying. The one hope she had ever let herself have. The hope that she might have a family. The hope that she might have parents who had been looking for her since she had disappeared all those years ago. Jack tensed up, waiting for the doctor to tell her that Cerberus hadn't been lying.
"We couldn't tell who your parents were."
"What?" She croaked.
"Cerberus must have done countless gene therapy modifications to you. Your DNA has been altered so much that it won't match against any of the DNA maps we have on record."
Jack blinked again. This was too much. She had been hoping for them to be alive. She had been prepared for them to be dead. This was Cerberus kicking her in the teeth again, even after she had escaped. Her parents might still be out there, but now she would never be able to find them.
She felt her control slipping. She had held strong for so long. For a moment longer, she held herself together. But it was too much.
Jack began to cry. The doctors leapt back as sparks of blue energy played along her body. The other person in the room, lept forward.
Loose, billowy sleeves of cotton wrapped themselves around Jack. For a moment, Jack froze, the physical contact sending her into a panic. When no further action was taken, she realized that she was being hugged. She couldn't remember the last time she had been hugged.
For several moments, she just set there, petrified. The calming presence of Shinichi reassured her, and she slowly began to return the gesture. As her arms wrapped as far as they could around the elderly man, her emotional control shattered and she began to cry with a new intensity. Her initially tentative hug intensified and she clung to Shinichi as if for dear life as she cried into his clothes.
Jack sobbed and wailed, on and on. During that time, the doctors silently excused themselves, partially to let them have a private moment, and partially because they didn't want to be anywhere near an emotionally distressed biotic that could turn a space shuttle into a modern art piece using only her mind.
After a while, Jack stopped crying. Shortly after that, she pulled back from the hug, although Shinichi kept his hands on her shoulders in support. Staring at the floor, Jack let her fear spill out in a whisper.
"Now I'll never have a family."
A look of pain crossed Shinichi's face.
He closed his eyes in thought as Jack continued to stare at the ground, sniffling to keep her nose from running, and occasionally letting another tear slip from her bloodshot eyes.
Eventually, Shinichi opened his eyes, his decision made. Slowly, he moved one of his hands so that he could push up on Jack's chin so she met his eyes. He spoke softly as he looked into her brown eyes.
"Jack…. I may be too old to be your father. But if you will allow it, I would like to adopt you as my granddaughter."
8 months later [2173 CE]
Eight months passed in a blur.
Early on, there had been adoptions papers to fill out, which only served to emphasize how little anyone knew about Jack, including Jack herself. Birth name, birth date, parents' names, home colony, birth planet. She didn't know any of these things.
The only reason she had the name 'Jack' was because one of the guards at the Cerberus facility had decided it would be cute to name all the children he dealt with after pets from his neighborhood. It had been a kindness, and a cruelty. The only man that referred to her by anything but a number was also the one that routinely gassed her into insentience and dragged her to the operating table. She didn't know what had become of that guard, but she had probably killed him in the course of the indiscriminate massacre she perpetrated during her escape.
The Alliance doctors were able to place her age as somewhere between 11 and 13, based on her hormone levels and physical size. Even that was a guess though, since they were unable to predict how the numerous surgeries and gene therapies had affected her entry into puberty.
She had moved in with Shinichi Mitsui, and was now officially known as Jack Mitsui. She was his daughter by law, but he treated her as his granddaughter. He had no children of his own, and his wife had passed away years earlier from an illness. He had quite a large, traditional style Japanese estate, located a short train ride outside of Nagoya in the Aichi Prefecture of Japan. The estate was composed of several buildings, including a sprawling one story house, an annex building, a dojo, and a few storage buildings spread out across the lawn. The entire estate was surrounded by a tall stone wall.
The move had been easy. It wasn't like Jack had any possessions anyway. Though adjusting to living in a room where the door either locked from the inside, or not at all, had taken some time. The first morning after moving in, Jack had simply waited in front of the door to her room until Shinichi had come in around noon to see if she was still sleeping. She managed to get over that little quirk, but only with a concentrated effort.
Shinichi had been quick to buy things for her to fill her room with. He had started with utility items like a desk and a dresser and finished with a huge pile of stuffed animals of all different species and in a variety of colors and hues.
Jack was still adjusting to the world having far more colors than she had ever seen before. The Cerberus facility was all blues and greys, with the occasional splash of red, but that was usually cleaned up within a few hours.
More recently she had found herself with little to do but think. She had wondered what had gone wrong in her life. Why had Cerberus taken her? Why had they been able to take her? She had been a simple four year old. She hadn't been able to stop it.
She had been weak.
She had become stronger since then. Strong enough to escape, but part of her escape had been luck. If something hadn't gone wrong, she may have never escaped her cage. Even after eight months of quiet and safety, she would still wake up most nights, screaming into her pillow, as Cerberus soldiers invaded her dreams to drag her back to the operating tables.
After a week of running across the house to see what she was screaming about, her grandfather began to sleep down the hall from her. Now, he was often in her room before she was even fully awake from her nightmares, reassuring her that she was safe while at the same time trying to prevent her from destroying any more walls while she was half asleep.
It was during this period of thought that Jack made a decision about herself and her future. She decided that she needed to get stronger. She needed to be strong enough that Cerberus soldiers taking her away in the night was too fantastical, even for dreams.
With that decision made, Jack began to try and think of ways to make herself stronger. She soon discovered that there may be a great resource of strength a lot closer than she expected. Her own grandfather, Shinichi Mitsui, was regarded as a master of close combat. He was known to take on fully armed squads by himself in mock combat and come out victorious. The Alliance sent people to him to train in his sword style. They let him use their facilities for training their men, as well as his own disciples. He was well regarded as a strong and dangerous individual.
After hearing about her grandfather's prowess in battle, Jack was still uncertain whether he was the right person to acquire strength from. After all, she had killed squads of soldiers herself when she had left the Cerberus facility. Defeating a single squad in mock combat didn't seem that impressive, even if he could do it without the use of biotics.
So, she decided that a little test was in order. Shinichi would be using the Alliance training facilities during the coming weekend. She could go along, and then throw a biotic Lift at him. If he couldn't deal with a surprise attack like that, then he definitely wouldn't be able to make her any stronger.
Now she just had to convince him to let her come along when he went to the Alliance base.
"Come on, Gramps!" Jack shouted, hurling another ball of biotic energy. "Take this seriously!"
The elderly Mitsui patriarch laughed as he calmly stepped to the side of the incoming energy ball, allowing it to fly past harmlessly while he repositioned to dodge the second attack, then the third, in what rapidly became another one of Jack's wild onslaughts. Occasionally an attack passed close enough to briefly bathe him with the blue light of the biotic energy, highlighting in sharp relief the wrinkles on his hands and face, and the many folds of his hakama. However, these near misses left him unaffected as he continued the subtle dance of shifting feet, twisting waist, and slight repositionings of his weapon with which he wove through the biotic barrage.
Eventually, Jack had to stop and bend over to catch her breath. As she did, her elderly opponent took a narrow stance. His feet close together, knees bent, weapon held next to his head, with the length of it parallel to the ground, its tip pointing towards Jack.
It probably would have been a pretty intimidating stance had he been holding a sword instead of the giant paper fan he had opted to use.
Jack was sweating buckets. She had been throwing biotics at her grandfather nearly constantly for the last 10 minutes. Shinichi had casually walked through all of her attacks like they were minor obstacles on a stroll through the park. He wasn't sweating at all. In fact, he looked mildly bored, as if he had just paced through a particularly bland hallway, and not a rain of debilitating and dangerous projectiles.
As Jack straightened up to restart her assault, she noticed the disconcerting fact that her grandfather was no longer in sight. Before she could turn to seek him out, a paper fan crashed down on her head, carrying far more force than a paper fan had any right to.
"You, my dear granddaughter," came a voice from behind her, "are dead."
He emphasized the last word by tapping her on the head again with the paper fan. He rested the fan on top of her head as he circled around until he was beside her.
"Now." He tapped her on the head again. "Will you tell me your reason for coming out here to destroy an Alliance training room?"
He lifted the fan from her head and used it to indicate the wall that had taken all of the biotic attacks Jack had been throwing at him. The wall in question was severely dented. In one place, Jack had blown through the wall into a completely different room. Several sets of eyes peered through the hole, trying to discern what ungodly force had managed to bust through the wall of an Alliance training room.
Jack huffed and looked away from the wall. Her grandfather was probably going to get an earful from the brass for bringing her in and letting her destroying a wall. They would probably ban her from the base, but it wasn't like she was planning to come around here often anyway.
"I didn't come here to destroy the training room. I came here to fight you."
The smile faded from her grandfather's face, and his arms slowly dropped to his sides.
"And why did you want to fight me?" He asked mildly, concern evident on his face.
"I want to be strong, Gramps. You're strong. I want you to teach me."
Shinichi looked up at the wreckage of what used to be a wall before their little spar began.
"You seem pretty strong to me." He said in a joking voice.
Jack just stared evenly at him, her eyes never leaving his; her face and posture resolute.
"Jack," he said, his voice almost pleading. "You've already endured enough in your life. Training under me will be harsh and punishing. If I want to train you correctly I wouldn't be able to go easy on you. I don't want my precious granddaughter to have to endure hardship because of me."
For a moment, Jack wavered. The mention of harsh training made her remember things she would rather leave forgotten. Memories surfaced of the drugs and the electrocutions. She remember tearing a fellow child apart with her biotics, just to stop the pain they inflicted on her. For a moment, she imagined Shinichi doing the same things to her, in the name of "training". The thought of her kind grandfather as one of her tormentors from the Cerberus facility made her want to throw up. Tears began to form in her eyes before she blinked them back and met her grandfather's eyes again.
"I want to be strong, Gramps. Besides, nothing you can do can match the harshness of the training I've had before."
Shinichi looked down at the reference to her past life, and his face took on a pained expression.
Slowly he raised his eyes to meet hers. He stared into her eyes, as if searching for something inside of her.
Eventually, with a sigh, Shinichi nodded at her, his eyes never leaving hers.
"Very well, but there will be conditions."
In the first month after making her demand for training known, Jack discovered that her grandfather had been giving her a lot of allowances when it came to growing up. Her constant visits to the hospital had given him the impression that she was still recovering from her injuries and traumas. Once she had declared her intention to train though he had come back saying: "If you are well enough to train, you are well enough to attend school."
And thus the embarrassment began. Teachers came to the house to test Jack to see what grade of school she should attend. The teachers, unaware of her background, assumed that she would only be a year or two behind other children her age.
How wrong they were. The faculty at the Cerberus facility weren't interested in seeing if their weapon could learn her times tables or write critical papers on classic literature. The only numbers she had to think about there were the number of opponents she faced, and after a few minutes of combat, that number was always zero. Jack couldn't do math that went past counting on her fingers, or toes if it was called for. She could barely read, only because a weapon needed to be able to understand its orders, and she couldn't write at all. For Jack to attend a class at her level of education would involve her sitting in amongst the small children at the kindergarten.
Tutors were called in, and they poured all their effort into catching Jack up to students her own age.
After that debacle, Jack had been taken to a counselor, something she had opposed to no end. Her mind was her own, and she didn't want anyone messing around with it. Not after the last group of people to literally poke around in her head hadn't done her much of a service. Her grandfather explained that the counselor was only going to talk to Jack to try and heal any non-physical damage left by Cerberus. Jack had capitulated at that; she could barely stand the physical marks left on her body by her tormentors, the idea that they had left something inside her that she couldn't see had been enough to tentatively convince her to go.
With the hope of getting through it quickly, Jack had sat down with the civilian counselor and began to tell her life story. It was rather shocking to her when, only part way through her tale, the counselor got up and fled the room, tears pouring down her face and crying about 'monsters in human skin tormenting children'. The experience was rather unpleasant.
After several more failures, eventually a counselor was found who specialized in Post Traumatic Stress Disorder, and even though she normally only treated soldiers and veterans, she decided to make an exception to treat Jack as well.
As promised, the sword training also started. Unfortunately, it also became an embarrassing situation.
Jack had always considered herself to be quite strong, and expected that she would easily be stronger than anyone else her grandfather was teaching. However, Jack's ability to win fights so far had mostly involved standing still and hurling balls of mental energy at her opponents. This style of combat didn't translate at all into swinging a sword. Jack quickly discovered that she could barely swing a wooden practice sword for more than a few minutes before her arms would shake too much for her to even hold the weapon. Instead of learning cool techniques to cut people up, she spent most of her training time building up strength and stamina so she would be able to do more than just carry a sword on her hip.
Towards the end of the first week after her destruction of the Alliance training facility, Jack began training in biotics under an Asari expatriate. The Asari woman was found through her grandfather's Alliance connections, and would tutor Jack either at her grandfather's house or at an Alliance training facility, under the condition that Jack didn't destroy any more of their training rooms.
For months after the beginning of her training and learning regimen, Jack didn't have any nightmares of Cerberus trying to capture her. This was mostly due to the fact that she was so tired every day that she didn't dream much at all. Any nightmares that she did have were usually strange combinations of the things she spent most of her waking time doing.
As Jack gradually got better at the subjects placed before her, the regimen became routine, and just like that, time passed.
5 years later [2178 CE]
Jack stopped a moment outside of her grandfather's dojo to let the cool night air steal some of the excess heat that was radiating off of her body. It was early summer, but the evenings still got chilly once the sun went down. This night's sword training class had been particularly harsh. Her white dougi and blue hakama were completely soaked through with sweat and clung uncomfortably to her wiry frame as she let the night breeze blow over her. Her brown hair, which normally reached the middle of her back, was tied up in a ponytail and dark with its own held supply of her sweat.
The sounds of conversation attracted her attention to the adjacent side of the building, where fellow members of the dojo were making their way out towards whatever transportation would bring them home. Some of them were still dressed like her, in their hakama and dougi, and some had changed into normal civilian clothing. All of them were rather subdued, and shared her appreciation of the night air after the intense training they had all gone through.
Watching them leave, Jack could see the expected change come over them. Once they stepped out of the dojo, they stopped being swordsmen and swordswomen and simply went back to being people that knew a thing or two about swords. Then again, they weren't like Jack, they didn't really expect life to throw nightmarish things at them. They wouldn't expect to be dragged off of the street to be experimented on by insane scientists.
There were very few people at the dojo that Jack felt were always in 'fight mode', as it were. Her grandfather was one of them. The others were mostly members of the Alliance military that expected to use their close combat skills in the immediate future, or had already made use of their skills out in the galaxy.
Another breeze blew through the grounds of the estate she had lived in for almost 6 years of her life. Jack shivered as the breeze stole the last of the heat from her sweat soaked clothes, and they began to feel cold and clammy against her skin.
To her side, the door she had just exited through opened and closed, allowing the master of the dojo, her grandfather, out into the night air. As soon as his eyes fell on her, he scowled, and immediately began to chastise her.
"What do you think you are doing out here in the cold with your soaked clothes? Get inside and take a bath before you catch a cold."
Jack couldn't help but smirk and shake her head at his statement. Not even 20 minutes ago, he had been running the whole dojo ragged, forcing them through endless drills and continuous spars. When it seemed like no one in the class was able to even stand properly, he had gone around the room, smacking people into the correct postures and stances. Now, as soon as he stepped out of the dojo, he was once again her grumpy, doting grandfather, worrying needlessly over her health like she was some kind of delicate flower.
Jack crossed her arms and refused to move from her spot. She was indeed starting to feel the cold, but refused to let her grandfather know that he might be right.
Shaking his head and muttering something about rebellious teenagers and defiant granddaughters, Shinichi crossed the distance between them and began to move past her. Smiling, Jack fell in step with him as they made their way down the path from the dojo to the main house.
As they walked, Jack contemplated the elderly man beside her. An important date was coming up for them. In the next two weeks, it would be her legal birthday. Turns out that if they couldn't figure out what your actual birthday was, you got to pick your own. She had chosen her birthday as the day that she was adopted into the Mitsui family. Every year, her grandfather would get something to give to her for her birthday. And every year, she would try to get something for him, to thank him for taking her in, back when she was a wild child.
The problem that arose every year for her was what to get for her grandfather. What do you get for a man whose only passions were swords and doting on his granddaughter? Getting him something to let him dote more was also not really an option, not if Jack didn't want to die of embarrassment.
Several years ago, when asking people what to get for her grandfather, her biotics instructor had recommended that she make something for him, like a drawing or piece of art. She should have known better than to trust a suggestion from an Asari, with all their touchy-feely emotional expressions of things.
Her grandfather had loved her drawing and and promptly displayed it on a wall of the main house, next to all of his accolades for swordsmanship and training in close combat. He then proceeded to show it off to visitors to the house, something he continued doing, even to this day.
Jack swore that if another member of the Alliance top brass complimented her on the damn drawing, she was going to see if it was possible to biotically Lift someone into orbit.
Her grandfather clearing his throat broke Jack from her musings of exotic ways to biotically execute high ranking government officials over an embarrassing picture, and drew her attention to the elderly man beside her.
Once he was sure he had her attention, he spoke slowly and cautiously.
"I spoke with your biotics teacher today…" He trailed off, leaving the rest the topic unspoken.
Jack grimaced, her previous good spirit replaced by irritation and, although she didn't want to admit it, a little bit of fear. She knew what her biotics teacher would have talked about.
Her grandfather didn't press further, he simply kept pace with her as they made their way into their house, took off the sandals they had used for the short walk, and stepped up into the house.
He wouldn't press, Jack knew that. He wasn't the kind of person to pry too much into another's life, even if that person was his granddaughter. He was, however, the kind of person that would fret and hover around his granddaughter if he thought something was bothering her, and he could tell that what had happened at her biotics lesson was definitely bothering her.
Knowing that she would cave eventually, Jack decided to just get it over with and led her grandfather into one of the house's sitting rooms. Her grandfather followed her in and sat patiently next to her at a small table while she started water heating in an electric tea kettle and then poured tea for the both of them.
After the first bitter, bracing sip, Jack began to stumble her way through a description of the events that had transpired at her biotics training.
"It was a stupid thing. Just a basic exercise. We did a few warm ups, and then…"
Jack stopped herself, realizing that she wasn't getting anywhere with her wandering explanation and vague gestures. She took another sip of tea, and, after gathering her thoughts, continued speaking.
"There's a basic drill we do in class. We've done it dozens of times. Practice using biotics under pressure. It's not something I really need, and it really isn't much of a simulation of pressure. We have a bunch of foam blocks, and we toss them at each other with biotics. You deflect, or return, the ones that are coming at you, if you can.
"During that drill, I started to feel warm… and fuzzy… and… good." Jack choked out the last word. She wouldn't cry, she had cried enough. She was strong now. Too strong to cry over this. Her hands grasped the edge of the table, and her knuckles turned white as she fought down the urge to cry. She didn't try to stop her words, as her confession poured forth, rising from a basic explanation into a fever pitch before she even finished the next sentence.
"My mind began to get muddled, and I began to wonder if I would feel even better if I killed my biotics instructor!
"That's how it always was before!
"Pain if I let them live! But drugs and happiness if I killed them!
Jack cut off as she felt something touch her hand.
She looked down to see her grandfather's hand resting gently on her hand, which still had the table in a white-knuckled grip. She raised her head and met the kind, worried gaze of her grandfather. After meeting his eyes for a moment, she had to avert her gaze and remind herself that she was too strong to cry.
Keeping her eyes averted, Jack took a breath and continued speaking, now in a monotone.
"I realized what I was thinking, and then… I just couldn't. I stopped, and couldn't start again. I couldn't even Lift a pen without starting to feel warm, so I refused to do anymore."
Finally, Jack released a deep breath and released her death grip on the table. She turned her eyes back to her grandfather's face, and a note of pleading entered her voice.
"It's been six years, Gramps. How much longer are they going to be able to affect me like this?"
Not expecting a response, Jack looked down at her hands. One was still covered by her grandfather's own hand, but the other was free. She raised it up and examined the thick calluses she had gained from her daily sword practice.
"I thought I was getting strong, Gramps. I thought I could take anything the world could throw at me. But what if I'm wrong? What if it's too late? What if I'm already so broken that nothing I do can change or fix that?"
Her grandfather's hand tightening on her own drew her attention back to him.
"Jack," he said, "horrible people have done horrible things to you. Their actions have left deep scars on you, physically, mentally, and emotionally. However, I don't think you are the kind of person to lose to them.
"Five years ago, a young girl looked me resolutely in the eyes and asked me to make her strong. The strength I saw in her in that moment left me with little doubt that she would grow up to be someone amazing."
He stared into her eyes for a moment, daring her to challenge his assessment of her.
Eventually his lips twitched into a small smirk.
"Or did you think I agreed to teach you just because you destroyed an Alliance training room?"
Jack couldn't help but smirk a little herself as he brought up that story again.
"I'm never going to live that down, am I?" She asked, shaking her head. His smile when she asked the question was answer enough for her to know that it wasn't a story he would ever get tired of telling.