A/N: Hello everyone, and welcome to my latest story! I've long awaited the chance to get this tale written, and hopefully it will be as fun to write and share with you as my previous ones. This is a direct sequel to my first story 'Total Eclipse' and it's companion piece 'A Job is a Job.' It should not be necessary to read those to understand the characters and their relationships with each other and motivations, but doing so might give you a better understanding of who they are then the load of info dumping early in the story. Also, just a bit of a warning now, this story will be fairly AU in some areas, and of course Shepard and Co. will have few if any appearances in the tale, though Liara is involved here or there.
I will try to keep updates once a week or so as per my previous stories, but my life is very busy, so that may not always be possible. Also, feel free to PM me with questions if this chapter is a bit confusing. I realize it is a lot to take in all at once. Anyway, that's enough of that. Onward!
Disclaimer: Mass Effect is the property of EA and Bioware. I do not own it, or any other movie, video game, song, book, or any other form of media I may reference in this story, and I make no money off of it's publication. This work is entirely fictional. Any characters that may bear resemblance to any persons alive or dead is purely coincidental. Any opinions or beliefs expressed in this story are purely those of the character and not necessarily those of the author.
Mass Effect: The Unsung War
Optimal Outcomes Cruiser Delaney. 0400. 2186. Somewhere in space.
The man awoke with a stir and sat up on the bed. The compartment he was is was fairly spacious, having enough room for two dressers with a mirror nearby, two cabinets, a desk with an extranet terminal, and a small table. On the desk, which was near the bed, was a small picture frame in addition to the terminal. On the small device was a constantly playing gallery of pictures of a small asari family, some of which included the human and a large krogan. The human looked around and smiled at the asari laying down next to him, still asleep. Her hands were curled up under her pillow and she was laying on her stomach, the covers pulled down enough to reveal some of her back. The man kissed her on the cheek gently and went into the bathroom.
As the man came out of the shower with a towel wrapped around his waist, he stopped in front of the mirror and was reminded of all that had happened to him over the past year. He was a small human, barely 5' 8" or 5' 9". He was rather thin, and had brown hair and brown eyes. The human looked over his scars and remembered how he had acquired each of them. On his left shoulder were three healed bullet wounds from an episode in his life he would rather just forget.
We got them out alive. That more than makes up for it. Now if I could just convince her of that.
On the man's left arm were scars from a Batarian shotgun blast. His company had fought a group of pirates in hopes of liberating slaves they had captured. They eventually succeeded in freeing the slaves and getting them the help they needed, but at great cost.
6 of my squad killed in less than a month. Some sergeant I turned out to be.
The man turned his attention to his worst injury: a scar from a Revenant machine gun he had taken fighting the Blue Suns on Sanctum located on his mid abdomen. That fight had been one of the hardest he had ever been in. Most of his platoon had died, himself nearly among them.
It was worth it though. If anything ever happened to her I'd...
Blue arms suddenly wrapped around the man's body in a warm embrace and the asari rested her head on his shoulder, "Good morning Allen. Why did you get up so early?"
Captain Allen Ryan looked into the reflection of the asari in the mirror and smiled, "Just counting my blessings Herja. You chief among them."
Major Herja Pruor had dark blue skin, red facial markings around her eyes and along her crest, and light purple eyes. She stood about 6' and had an athletic figure. With a puzzled look on her face she asked what he meant by 'counting his blessings.'
Allen explained, "I'm considering myself lucky I'm still alive. You and our family are the only good things that ever happened to me. If it wasn't for you I'd still be in Eclipse, or worse dead. You're just about the only thing keeping me going."
The asari smiled, "I could say the same for you. You were always there for me when I needed you. I know I can always rely on you Allen."
Allen nodded, "Always." He then turned and asked Herja, "Any word yet from The Doctor?"
Herja shook her head. Allen responded, "Good. Hopefully that means that we don't have to go on some other far flung mission to dig up some random piece of ancient alien tech or go on some stupid recruitment drive for the Doc's private army."
"Am I hearing mutinous words coming from you Captain Ryan?" Herja gently chided.
Allen shook his head, "Never. It's a hell of a lot better then being in some random place getting shot at; it just gets dull sitting on my ass all day watching mechs digging some ancient pyramid out of the ground in hope of finding some ancient alien death ray."
Allen said in a very serious tone, "You know I'm loyal to the Doctor Herja. I am more than thankful for all she's done for us, I just-"
Herja silenced his ramblings with a hand over his mouth, "Goddess Allen, I was joking! You need to learn to relax more, you know that? Yes, I know it's been boring, but would you rather had a dozen new scars to show dad? The Doctor has us doing what she believes is important. I know it may not seem like it at times, but you just have to trust and have faith in her. When has she ever 'steered us wrong' as you humans say?"
Ryan nodded, "I know I know. Relax. It's just...hard for me you know? A year ago I was scared for my life, thinking some Eclipse merc might decide to use me for target practice. Now I have an amazing job, a family, and an amazing asari to call my own. It's just sort of a hard change to adjust to is all."
Herja grinned, "You really couldn't live without me, could you?"
Allen shook his head and stared back at her, "Never." He looked over at the shower and tilted his head, "Feel like joining me? I may ha-"
Herja practically through him into the shower and joined him before he could utter another syllable.
Herja and Allen walked onto the mess deck of the ship wearing their standard working uniform, which were black and white colored military fatigues that looked almost exactly like what several human militaries wore in the early 21st century. On the left and right bulkheads were lines of human, asari, and an occasional salarian moving toward the opposite end of the compartment towards the kitchen where the chefs on the ship handed the crew their breakfast. The galley was filled with hundreds of soldiers and crew of the ship. On several spots on the bulkheads were vid-screens showing various news networks.
As Herja and Allen got in line for their breakfast, the asari couldn't help but look around admire the troops and crew of the ship. The Doctor had spent months finding the best people to assemble the battalion. Officially they were a Private Military Company operating under the name 'Optimal Outcomes.' Unofficially they were one of the special operations battalions in the army of a major galactic player and were just one battalion among dozens. All of them were outstanding soldiers, most having served honorably in their own species' military. None had criminal records like most people seemed to think of mercenaries having. Herja had grown to know many of them, and she was sure that when they went into battle again, they wouldn't let her or the Doctor down.
After Herja and Ryan got their food, they immediately went in search for one pair of troops in particular to sit with.
"Oh, he's just so cute in that! What um...exactly is that outfit?" a young asari asked a blond human female sitting across from her.
The human woman stared at the picture on her Omni-tool, a small boy maybe 3 years old dressed in a tiger striped coverall like outfit, and answered, "It's a costume Leo dressed in for Halloween last year. Remember Kara, I invited your family over but you said it was 'just too weird' to be a part of?"
Lt. Kara S'Vipul, an asari with no facial markings, green eyes, and skin a lighter shade of blue then Herja's, responded, "You dress up as whatever weird monster, movie character, or person that you can think of, go around your neighborhood, and ask complete strangers for food which might be poisoned. What the hell kind of sense does that even make Leslie?"
Captain Leslie Blake, a woman in her early 30's with shoulder length blond hair, hazel eyes, and tan skin, begged for help from Allen and Herja as they approached, "Allen, talk some sense into her please and explain all the fun you can have at Halloween."
Allen just shook his head, sat down next to the other human, and started eating, "Sorry, can't help you. I never celebrated Halloween growing up on Omega. Didn't have much time for that unlike you people living on the Citadel since just after first contact."
Kara smiled as Herja sat down next to her, "Morning mom. You two sleep well?"
Herja and Kara's relationship was...complicated. Both of the asari's mothers served in the Serice Guard and moved to the asari world Sanves after they retired from military service. Hildra, Herja's mother, had eventually settled down and bonded with a krogan bounty hunter named Jursk.
Kara's mother Prima however had not been able to find a bondmate, choosing instead to have a one time encounter with a turian to conceive. The failure on Prima's part to find a bondmate meant that she had to work more than Hildra did raising Herja. Prima also worked very difficult hours at her job as a case worker for abandoned and abused asari children.
When Kara was born Herja was 53 years old, just starting her adult life. Prima asked the young asari to help care for her daughter. Herja accepted. However, the more the years went on, the more Prima was away. For the first 20 years of her life, Kara actually thought Herja was her biological mother. By the time she learned that wasn't the case it didn't really matter. Kara attached on to Herja and Herja loved the younger asari like they really were mother and daughter.
They were inseparable until the day Herja left home to become a mercenary, Kara following soon after. Herja often wondered what Prima thought of her. She wondered if Prima hated her for what might be seen as 'stealing' another asari's child, but in the end she didn't care. Kara was her daughter and she would never apologise for loving and raising her.
Looking over at her daughter Herja answered, "Yes. Allen and I always enjoy sleeping together."
Allen choked a bit on his coffee when he heard that. When he regained his composure he asked, "Did you have to put it that way?"
Kara laughed, "What's wrong Dad? You embearassed knowing that I know what you two get up to when you two are alone?"
Allen responded, "First off, no I'm not ashamed or anything, it's just something you don't talk about where I come from. Especially not when people are eating. Second, I'm not your dad."
Kara leaned forward on the table, "No, but you want to be, don't you? Seriously, just go get a bracelet and make mom an offer. You're not getting any younger you know."
Allen just sighed and shook his head, "Leslie can you Please talk some sense into your friend so I can eat in peace?"
The blonde woman just smiled back, "Sorry Allen, I'm not the one dating an asari with a daughter 3 times my age who just happens to act like a 17 year old."
Turning back to her friend Leslie commented, "In fact, for a battle hardened mercenary, you sure don't seem very mature."
Kara smiled, "Hey, you need to see funny side of things in life. Or at least try to make things funny. If you can't do that, how can you expect to cope? You have to laugh in life Leslie, and I'm always serious when I need to be." Kara turned to Herja, "Besides, I'm just trying to make sure my mom has someone she can be happy with."
Herja said, "Thanks, but I think Allen and I are fine with our relationship as it is right now." She turned to face Ryan, "Right?"
The two had formed a relationship soon after they had met during their brief stint in Eclipse together. Both needed someone they could rely on, neither had a way out, and both found strength in the other. It seemed to be a good situation for now. Still...Herja was an asari. That meant she was a planner. Sooner or later, she and Allen would need to really decide if they wanted to truly bond or go their separate ways. Allen always told Herja whenever she would bring this topic up that they didn't need to talk about this now. That they had time. Herja knew that just simply wasn't the case.
Asari could live for 1000 years, and Herja was only 114. Herja in 100 years would the exact same person she is now. In 100 years, Allen would either be dead or very close to it. Herja tried to not think about the future. Not to plan ahead, but she always would. Allen was always patient in trying to help her, but he knew it was a lost cause. Until one of them made a decision to propose and try making their relationship official, this little cycle of talking about the inevitable and hastening decisions would continue.
Allen nodded as he took a bit of a biscuit, "Perfectly fine."
Leslie asked, as much for a real answer as much to break up this topic of conversation, "So, is your family still visiting Herja? My mom would love to see you all again. Just don't break the table this time!"
Herja sighed, "Dad doesn't know his own strength! He didn't meant to break your table, and who makes a table out of wood and not stone or metal anyway? It's just one more thing you humans do that-"
Leslie cut her off, "Ok OK I'm sorry. After all, your mom did buy me a new one. I'm just making sure I won't have to get any more new furniture after the one's I already bought."
Herja looked at her friend and smiled, "I promise I'll keep dad in line."
Leslie was a good friend of Herja and Allen's, and she was especially close to Kara. Leslie Blake joined Eclipse when 2 years of job searching on the Citadel had proven useless. Her job teaching literature at a school was lost when the school was destroyed during the Battle of the Citadel, her husband was killed in the same event, and she had her mother and a young son to support. Out of options, she resorted to desperate means to survive.
Allen had joined Eclipse when his mother had been killed one night on Omega and most of his belongings stolen. Allen had originally planned on deserting the first chance he got, but then he met Herja. Herja joined because she had met an Eclipse commando when she was working as a waitress on Sanves and was told it would be a good job. Herja knew Kara joined a mercenary army because she needed to find work, but part of her would always feel that Kara joined Eclipse because of her.
Of course, none of that mattered now; they were no longer part of the organized crime syndicate that called themselves a 'security company.' Instead, they served a much better master. One who may not always have the galaxies best interests at heart, but a boss who would always look after them: The Shadow Broker.
Just as Herja was about to open her mouth to speak again a male human voice rang out, "Good Christ! Look!"
The four officers looked at the nearest vidscreen and all felt a chill run through their spines. News reports from all over the galaxy were showing cities being burned, destroyed, decimated by giant squid looking machines. By monstrosities that walked through buildings and were firing beams of molten metal into crowds of fleeing people. By...Reapers.
Herja could hardly breath. So, it's finally here.
Human and Turian news reports already showed their worlds being burned, and asari reporters were already speculating on when they would be attacked. The Salarians, for now at least, seemed to be out of the firing line.
That won't last for long.
The ship's VI announced over the intercom, "Major Pruor, incoming transmission for you in the comm room."
The asari bolted from her seat and ran to receive the call. The comm room was a small room only containing a holographic projector and enough room for a few others to stand in the room at once. When Herja reached it, there was a blue tinted image of an asari in a white outfit.
Herja took a moment to catch her breath before saluting and reporting, "Dr. T'Soni, it's good to see you safe ma'am!"
Liara nodded back, "Safe is a relative term at the moment Herja."
Major Pruor looked at her boss and asked worriedly, "Do you need help? We could launch a rescue-"
Liara put up her hand, "No, that will not be necessary, though I appreciate your concern." She looked at her feet for a moment before looking back, "It seems they have come at last. Are your people ready?"
Liara T'Soni had recruited Herja and what remained of her company after she lead the defense of a human colony from a Collector attack with only minimal civilian losses. Herja had at first been reluctant to work for the Shadow Broker and was shocked to learn that her own hero was working for the largest criminal in the galaxy, but eventually Liara had made presented her with the best possible deal she could hope for. Herja would report directly to Liara, not another faceless agent of the enigmatic Broker. The young asari would have full control to handle assignments as she saw fit, and only missions would be given that were vital to the security of the galaxy.
Herja was absolutely loyal to Liara, or The Doctor as most of Herja's troops referred to their 'handler' as Liara called herself. The Doctor had gotten Herja and the others out of Eclipse, given them more money than they could ever need, (although Herja and her makeshift family were already loyal to Shepard, Liara, and any other member of the Normandy crew who helped defeat Saren. Money didn't really motivate them as much as it did most people,) given them the best equipment in existence, and since joining the Broker's private army Herja had not seen battle once. This was the best job Herja could ever hope to have. She was proud to be serving under The Doctor.
Herja looked at her boss and answered, "We can be fully combat ready in 40 standard hours ma'am."
Liara nodded, "That's good to hear. I'll make sure the other battalions are mobilized as well. You will be getting your first assignment soon." Liara's hologram stepped a bit closer and she said in a more hushed tone, "If you need a bit more time to say goodbye to Hildra, I don't think the Broker would need to know about that."
Hildra Pruor was a teacher at a university on Sanves that had developed a very close relationship with Liara when she studied there before she transferred to Serrice University. They had known each other for decades and although in the last few years they didn't communicate as much as they used to, they were still close and Liara had promised her mentor that she would do everything in her power to make sure Herja would come home alive after every mission. Liara had been able to keep that promise...until now.
Herja was noticeably moved by that, "Thank you ma'am. That...That means a lot to me."
Liara nodded, "Use your time wisely. I can't guarantee I can do this again. Liara out." Her hologram disappeared.
Herja sighed, thankful that at least she would have time to say goodbye to her family. She knew many would not get that chance.
Goddess, how many families have already been wiped?
Herja didn't think about it. All that was on her mind now was going home...maybe for the last time. She pulled up her Omni-tool and announced over the ship's intercom, "All hands, this is Major Pruor. When we get to the Citadel you will have 2 days to get your affairs in order and report back to the ship. I'm sorry it can't be longer, but we don't have much choice."
In a calmer voice she said, "May the Goddess watch over us all as we march off into the abyss to fight these demons."
She turned off the intercom, and walked back to the galley to be with the family she already had with her.