I don't own anything related to the rights of Harry Potter or anything else you might see here.
Here you go, the next chapter of The Guide.
Publish Date: September 22nd, 2016
Update Date: N/A
Ripples in a Pond
Harry paused in his packing as his ship, the Legacy, settled in a new reality. Resuming his packing, he spoke idly, "Artemis, can you give me the highlights of this one?"
After a moment, Artemis' voice filtered in over the intercom system, replying, "Long range scans show the presence of multiple space-faring species, a number of habitable worlds, and unknown energy readings."
Harry paused again and grinned. "Unknown, you say?"
"Indeed," Artemis replied excitedly. "I'm also detecting a type of internet on a galactic scale. Extrapolating based on the data I have already accessed, there are a number of sentient species out there occupying pockets all around the galaxy, but no more than 30 percent of the entire galaxy, if these numbers are relatively accurate." There was a small pause where the artificial life form pondered options before she asked, "Shall I begin cataloging and sorting information, Father?"
Harry nodded absently before replying, "Yeah. We should know what we're up against and make sure we're adequately defended." He thought for a moment before continuing, "After that, prioritize information based on criminal activity, specifically slave trading, piracy, and storage facilities." He shook his head and muttered, "Galaxy-wide governments always seem to have those problems."
"And we can acquire new technology and information, as well as resources," Artemis added unnecessarily. It was the same tactic they used when entering a new reality. No one seemed to really care about slavers and pirates, except their other members. As long as they stuck to the small, independent bands to begin with, they could acquire and assimilate new tech and defenses and supplies as well as test the effectiveness of their own current equipment in smaller, more controlled scenarios.
"Exactly," Harry replied. Closing the bag and slinging it over his shoulder, Harry apparated to a monitor room. Looking over the information displayed on the screen, Harry asked, "Find anything interesting?"
"A number of things, including an explanation for the unknown energy signature." Artemis displayed some of the information on one of the monitors. "Also, a number of new designs for armor and weapons have been added to the database." There was a pause before she added, "I'm currently coming up with modifications and alterations to various designs and specifications based on previously seen aesthetics and intricacies in similar armor and weapons."
Harry nodded indulgently and waited an appropriate amount of time before asking, "Anything interesting for me?"
There was an audible sigh over the speakers before Artemis replied dully, "I've found a supply cache on a nearby planet that belongs to a small group of pirates in the system. I've also noted a bounty for them all, alive is worth more."
Harry grinned. "Wonderful! Let's go!"
June 12th, 2140:
Harry had been in this new universe for a grand total of a year and hadn't seen a single human. Well, to rephrase, he hadn't seen humanity on the galactic scene. Earth was still there, and humanity was still chugging along, but they hadn't left their home system yet, so he was keeping a relatively low profile for now, and passing as a drell by not being seen by anyone without his helmet on.
He had no desire to be experimented on or otherwise 'probed' in any capacity.
He had made a small name for himself in the Terminus Systems by running cargo, turning in bounties, raiding small-time pirate bases and supply caches, and any other odd job that piqued his interest. Some of the armor and weapons were broken down into various components and sent to the labs with the rest of the tech for research and possible reuse, the rest sent to the armory for storage, food was stored away under stasis in the pantries, drugs were tucked away on the medical floors, everything else was sorted and packed away in a section of a cargo floor set aside to store anything they found from this universe that didn't belong elsewhere, like the labs for research or the bio-floors for upkeep. Any ships they found were either stored on a special cargo floor in Legacy's cargo area, sold, or remotely controlled by Artemis to an empty spot on a nearby habitable planet, stripped down completely by the house elves, and the shell sectioned and shrunk for scrap.
All in all, it had been a rather productive year.
He was sitting on a small fortune in credits, enough equipment and contraband to trade for just about anything he needed, quite a few contacts and favors across the Terminus, and a good deal of information still to act on. Artemis was cataloging quite a few unsavory actions taken by some of the bigger names in the world of crime, such as the Shadow Broker and the various mercenary groups, but nothing he felt comfortable taking on at the moment, though. He almost decided to skip this universe and move on at one point, but his gut was telling him to stick around and be patient, so he had to find something to do to fill his time until something big happened.
Knowing his luck, he'd land right in the middle of it eventually, anyway.
October 22nd, 2144:
"Artemis, scan the galaxy for a habitable planet," Harry asked, elaborating, "Something out of the way and off the relay network, with a good place to build." He sighed heavily as he made plans in his head. "I think we're going to be here for quite a while."
"What are you thinking, father?" Artemis asked.
"I'm thinking that a base of operations might be a good thing. We could be here for decades at minimum, and a place to spread out a bit might be good for us. I also want to do some work on the ship so we can hire some help on occasion without revealing the expanded areas."
"It will also give you a chance to organize and store the excess supplies, equipment, and ships in long-term storage aboard the Legacy," Artemis added smugly. "The poor house elves have been too busy taking care of the plants and creatures on the bio-floors to deal with it for quite some time."
November 18th, 2144:
Construction of a base began shortly on a habitable garden world that was 'off the grid' relay-wise. Originally, all he wanted was a place to relax, park his ship on occasion and store his excess supplies, but it turned into so much more.
At first, it was just a bit of a prank. He built himself a nice home on the surface and put up every protection and building preservation charm he could think of, chuckling to himself as he imagined the confusion of a late 20th century home being discovered all the way out in the arse end of the galaxy. By the time it was found, he would be long gone and this place would be just another fond memory for him, so he might as well get a few laughs out of it.
Then he needed a place to sort and store the excess supplies, so he started building a large underground warehouse for storage, which grew into an admittedly massive complex underneath the house.
When he started working with the various ships he had collected, he very nearly bashed his head against the wall in frustration. This was the beginning of the ship yard next to the house, and another massive amount of work for Harry.
"What the hell are these things?" Harry questioned, holding a pair of slightly bent metal rods, one in each hand. Fiddling with the handle part caused an arc of electricity to jump from one rod to the other, causing Harry to yelp and quickly drop both rods.
Artemis' laughter filtered over the speakers as she said, "I believe those are the weapons you stole from Nebula."
Harry looked at the rods in confusion and asked, "Nebula?"
"Jump one-eight-three, Peter Quill and the Guardians of the Galaxy."
"Oh, right," Harry nodded. "Now I remember. That was a fun one."
"What is all this stuff?" Harry questioned confusedly, staring at the endless expanded trunks filled with bundles and batches and bottles of harvested plant and animal parts, all stored under stasis.
"The house elves have not been letting anything go to waste," Artemis explained. "They have been storing the harvested items until they are needed and placing them under stasis."
Harry sighed heavily. "Add it to the list of things to do," he droned tonelessly.
"Seriously?" Harry questioned incredulously. "One or two on a drunken lark, I could understand, but this?" Harry waved his arm in a wide, sweeping arc as he continued, "What in Merlin's name made me think stealing this thing was a good idea seventeen separate times?"
"I believe you had some plan for them, but the specifics have been purged from my memory, with the note that you are insane," Artemis replied easily. "Whatever it was probably isn't a good idea, father."
"Meh," Harry shrugged. "You're probably right." He looked around the room one more time before shrinking the objects in the massive room and depositing them in a trunk. "Seriously, though," Harry muttered quietly. "The Statue of Liberty. Seventeen of them. What was I thinking?"
Harry paused for a moment before asking, "Do I want to know where the last one is?"
There was a measurable pause from Artemis before she replied, "It's a decoration on one of the bio-floors. Let's leave it at that, shall we?"
Harry tilted his head, briefly considering investigating the whereabouts of the missing landmark, before shaking his head and deciding that he probably didn't want to know right now, anyway. He'd find out sooner or later.
Harry sighed and rubbed his temples. "What the hell is all this junk?" The trunks and trunks of spare parts, scrap, electronics and crystals lining the shelves of one of the expanded rooms he was standing in were all completely full, and he had no idea what most of it was from, or what it was originally for.
"I believe it is all things you had plans for," Artemis responded. "And then subsequently forgot about."
Harry sighed again. "Thanks, Artemis. Big help."
"You're welcome, Father."
Harry stared wide-eyed at the sight before him. "I really need to work on my collecting problem." Arrayed before him was the entire collection of ships, cars, motorcycles, speeders, and a multitude of other smaller vehicles he had acquired and shrunk over the course of his travels, all shelved in the endless stacks of the ship storage floor. "How many are there?"
"There are one thousand, seven hundred and twelve different styles of ship, with a total of two-hundred-eighteen thousand, five hundred-eighty-three ships in all, ranging from small shuttlecars to shrunken dreadnaughts," Artemis replied.
Harry sighed heavily. "This is going to be a whole lot of work."
September 12th, 2160:
Harry sighed as he flopped down in a chair in his living space. It had taken a while to sort all of the crap he had collected over the course of his travels, but he was finally finished. Other than the occasional trip out to do a small job or two to keep up appearances and keep from going crazy, he had spent most of the last several years sorting and then organizing and cataloging all of the supplies and parts and pieces and whatnot into some semblance of order. And now that that was done and he had a complete inventory list, he could move on to his next project.
Harry looked over the notes on the table in front of him, sifting through and trying to decide on a plan to get all of this done as soon as possible. Most of it would be easy to maintain after it was all in place, but actually setting everything up was a different matter altogether.
"I hate this crap," Harry sighed.
"Father," Artemis began hesitantly. "I believe I have an idea on what to do with some of the excess supplies and ships."
Harry perked up a but and replied, "Am I going to like this idea?"
"Well," Artemis began, "It will make use of a vastly untapped resource, help people who need it, get rid of quite a bit of the excess, and make quite a profit doing so."
Harry groaned. "It sounds like you want me to start a company."
"That's exactly what I want you to do," Artemis replied flatly.
Harry groaned again.
"You will very likely have the chance to infuriate quite a few narrow-minded politicians and other similar individuals, and you will be kept from the public view as much as possible."
"A cargo transport and salvage company?" Harry asked incredulously. "How is that going to help at all?" He furrowed his brow in confusion as he continued, "That just sounds like we'll be adding even more crap to our already gigantic piles of crap."
"Do you trust me, father?"
"Of course I do," Harry answered immediately. "But I have no idea where you're going with this and I'd rather like to know."
Artemis sighed and explained, "Eventually I'll be using the company you set up to launder our excess supplies and ships and whatnot. It will add to our stockpile in the short term, but in five years maximum, we will be able to begin laundering our excess and reducing our current overabundance of supplies."
"So you want me to schlep cargo across the galaxy," Harry deadpanned. "I hate this plan."
"You will only need to set up the company in the beginning and do the required face-to-face meetings involved in doing so," Artemis replied primly. "After that, I'll need you to hire a few people and occasionally move some cargo from time to time. I'll take care of the rest."
"I must be going insane for even considering this," Harry muttered. "And the rest of the time can be spent doing other, more interesting things?"
"Of course, father," Artemis answered quickly, albeit flatly.
Harry sighed and shook his head. "Absolutely mental," he muttered. Finally he asked, "So what's the first step?"
"Setting up a few alternate identities and finding a few people to act as intermediaries, and I believe I have just the people to do so."
September 7th, 2165:
There was a lot more involved than Artemis had originally hinted at, beginning with the fact that the company she wanted him to set up was actually several companies all under one privately owned corporation. The first step was to create a second identity for a glamoured Harry to use that would be listed as the owner of the company, however infrequently that was needed, so James Evans was born. The second step was to create an identity for Artemis to use, so Artemis Evans was created as well. After that,
It had taken more than a year just to set the groundwork and get the required permits, and another year past that to buy the various properties, get the facilities constructed and staffed, convert the required ships, and countless other minor tasks required to get everything in order. Harry thought it would never end, but when they finally officially opened for business, Marauder Inc. had six different operating divisions; Weasley Ship Repair, Black Security Services, Potter Cargo and Salvage Services, Granger Research and Development, Tonks-Lupin Transportation Services, and Lily Luxury Cruises. By that point, Harry had nearly depleted the entirety of the funds he had amassed in the more than twenty years he had been in this reality.
Harry hadn't needed to do much to run the corporation after setting it up, other than a few deliveries that weren't out of his way and what few public appearances he had to make as James Evans. By this point, Marauder Inc. was turning a very good profit and was slowly becoming a popular name.
May 3rd, 2166:
At sixteen, Miranda should not have to be running for her life from her own father, and under ideal circumstances, she would have waited the two more years to become of age and then disappeared. It would have been much harder to track her when she could move around much more freely as an adult, but events had drastically accelerated her plans for escape. Unfortunately, she hadn't been able to plan as well as she would have liked to because of it, and with the hurried arrangements, mistakes had been made, and her father and his people had capitalized on that.
The last month of her life so far had been a long game of cat and mouse, just barely escaping being captured several times already, and she knew it was only a matter of time before her luck ran out, and she refused to let her sister suffer for it.
It had taken a lot of money and the last of the favors she was owed for Miranda to smuggle herself and her baby sister onto the Citadel. She hadn't slept in days, only barely staying ahead of her father's people, which was a hell of a lot harder than she had originally anticipated. She was running out of steam, and was hoping that the meeting she was heading to would keep her sister safe and keep her out of her father's reach. Everyone else she knew owed her father more than they liked her, and would quickly turn her in to her father for a reward.
Cerberus seemed to be the only option she had, now.
Suddenly, her omni-tool beeped, causing the young girl to jump in surprise and tense, worried her father had found her again. After a moment's hesitation, she opened the message, and read it swiftly, her eyes widening.
There are three of your father's men following you. Go into the cargo company ahead on the left and ask for Mr. Potter. And really, Miranda, Cerberus? You could do so much better than that.
Miranda almost turned and looked for the people following her, but that would have been a dead giveaway and would result in a chase, and she wasn't absolutely sure she could outrun them in her fatigued condition, carrying a small baby to boot. She still had more than a mile to go to make it to her meeting with the Cerberus contact, but apparently that was already known about by a third party, so the odds of her father knowing about it as well were quite high, and she knew she wouldn't make it that far before her father's men forced a confrontation. It seemed her only option now was to follow the instructions from this Artemis person.
Miranda hated being backed into a corner.
She frowned as she continued walking, noting the entrance to the cargo company coming up quickly. She had to make a decision before then, take her chances on making it to the meeting with the Cerberus representative, or trying her luck with the unknown cargo company and whomever was behind the message. A glance at the reflective surface of the glass storefront window she was passing revealed the three men following her closely, and a quick glance around showed no way to escape without alerting them to the attempt, which would result in a chase. More than a mile to go gives them plenty of time to get reinforcements and box her in, and she couldn't guarantee being about to outrun or outfight a group of trained men. Her sister shifted suddenly in her arms, drawing her attention to the infant.
Miranda realized then that she couldn't risk her sister on such slim odds. With that, she made her way through the door of the cargo company she had just come to, hoping her luck was beginning to look up.
As soon as she walked in, the asari woman behind the counter looked up at her and then glanced at her computer, looked back at her, smiled and asked, "Can I help you, miss?"
Miranda hesitated a moment, suddenly overcome with worry. What if this was a trap and she had just willingly walked right into it? After a few more seconds, she steeled herself and replied, "I was told to come here and ask for a Mr. Potter. Is he here?"
The woman's eyes narrowed slightly as she asked, "And whom exactly referred you to Mr. Potter, personally?"
Miranda, even more worried now at the receptionist's reaction, responded cautiously, "The only name I received was Artemis."
The woman froze for a split second before her whole personality seemed to shift. She stood quickly and ordered, "Follow me, quickly," heading deeper into the building at a swift pace.
Miranda, wide-eyed at the sudden reaction and change, simply did as she was told. The woman and seemed to suddenly go from simple receptionist to seasoned soldier in the blink of an eye, and a closer inspection showed the outline of a pistol holstered at the woman's back, and a quick glance backwards showed a very high-end and well cared for shotgun strapped to the underside of her desk.
Miranda swiftly turned back to follow. What had she just walked in to?
May 3rd, 2166:
"Father," Artemis began, "We need to go to the Citadel."
Harry looked up from the notebook he was writing in asked, "What for?"
"There is a person there in need of our assistance."
Harry arched an eyebrow. "The last time you sent me out on something like this I was thrown from the forty-eighth floor of a skyscraper," he deadpanned. "I hit seven skycars on the way down and the landing was no picnic either."
"The risk of that happening again is minimal," Artemis replied primly, reminiscent of Hermione when she was trying to get Harry to do something.
Harry sighed in resignation. "The sad part is, you probably know exactly how likely it really is."
Harry sighed again.
As Miranda looked around the large office she had been led to, she was truly worried about what was in store for her. She cradled Oriana and rocked her gently, hoping she didn't wake up and start crying now. That would be disastrous. After several more long moments, the asari who had led her here returned with a tray of food, two bottles of water, and a thermos. She set it all on the table to the side as she said, "I figured you might be hungry, so I brought you something from the cafeteria here in the offices, and the thermos is warmed milk for the little one when she wakes up. Hope you have a bottle, but if not, I'm sure I can scrounge one up."
Miranda looked at the woman. It had always been her experience that no one helped you for free. Some of the suspicion must have shown on her face, because the woman added, "No, I don't expect anything from you. If you really must rationalize it though, I'm helping Artemis. She's done a lot for me over the years."
Willing to accept that, Miranda dug in the satchel at her side and pulled out a clean bottle, setting it on the table next to the thermos so it was available when her sister awoke. She shifted Oriana to one arm and picked up the fork, eating as quickly as she could while still maintaining her dignity.
"Mr. Potter should be here in a few hours," The woman said, filling the silence. "He should be able to help you with whatever you need help with. My name is Elana, by the way."
Miranda stopped eating and finally asked the question that had been rolling around in her mind since she had entered the office. "And what exactly is he going to expect from me for it?"
Elana understood the unasked question and smirked at Miranda, causing the younger girl to tense significantly, before the asari woman replied flatly, "If it were that easy to get into Mr. Potter's bed, then I would have willingly been there a long time ago."
Miranda nearly choked on her water. Finally she asked, "What do you mean?"
The woman shrugged and responded, "I like him. I enjoy his company and I think he'd be amazing in bed."
Miranda shook off the shock after a second and questioned, "That still doesn't tell me anything. What will be expected of me?"
Elana shrugged. "That's between you and Mr. Potter and depends on what your asking for, how difficult it is, and how honest you are." Elana's eyes hardened and suddenly Miranda remembered the woman across from her was armed and very likely well trained. "Don't lie to him. If you do, he'll know, and any chance of him helping you will go right out the window."
Miranda nodded hesitantly and went back to eating her food, considerably slower this time, as her mind whirled.
May 3rd, 2166:
Miranda turned in her chair as the door opened and Elana entered, followed by a young man, barely out of his twenties if she had to guess. As the man passed Elana, she smiled at him and said, "Here you are, Mr. Potter, let me know if you need anything else."
Miranda was slightly shocked by the blatant invitation, but he just grinned and replied, "How many times have I asked you to call me Harry?"
Elana's grin widened as she shot back, "I'll start calling you Harry after I've been in your bed."
Harry chuckled and shook his head. "Head on back, Elana."
"Have a good day, Mr. Potter."
Harry turned around after the door clicked shut and looked at the girl sitting in front of the desk. She was cradling an infant in her arms and looking at him with suspicion. Harry sighed heavily. He had no idea why he had been sent here. Artemis was perfectly capable of handling things on her own, so there were very few reasons for her to get him involved personally, and not many of them were good.
This was going to be a long and difficult conversation.
June 19th, 2168:
Keenah'Breizh was cursing his luck.
He had thought such a big place as Illium would have been easy to start his Pilgrimage from, but apparently it was far too difficult to find any work, and far to easy to find yourself in debt. It wasn't long before signing an indentured servitude contract was the only way to get out of the hole he had found himself in and off this rock when he was done.
When his contract had been picked up, he had been mildly surprised. The contract broker had taken pity on him and took on his debt, even though he had no real marketable skills other than a slight affinity for technology from doing repairs in the Floatilla and the ability to lift and carry moderately heavy loads.
Keenah sighed as he looked up at the building he would be working at for the next five years. He was told that it would likely be manual labor or equipment repair, which would be pretty simple for a quarian, but the next five years were going to be boring for him.
He walked in and was immediately routed to one of the numerous computer terminals against one wall and told to fill out the forms and then someone would be with them shortly after. He sat down and began the process of paperwork, and was surprised at the seemingly random nature of some of the questions and the oddly specific nature of others.
Less than ten minutes after he had finished, he was approached by an employee and directed to another office where he would receive an identification badge and code number, then shown to where he would be housed for the duration of his employment. The quarters were sparse, and on the small side, but they were sealed and kept sterile, so that was a rather large bonus.
Maybe things weren't quite so bad after all.
August 22nd, 2176:
"'You need a vacation', they said," Shepard snarked to herself. "'Go to Elysium and relax', they said." Shepard popped up from behind the skycar next to her and fired twice with her pistol before dropping back down as a hail of bullets pinged off of the side of her cover. "'Nothing ever happens there', they said." Two more shots from around the side of the skycar from Shepard and a slaver's head snapped back, his brains decorating the pavement and wall behind him. He crumpled to the ground only to be stripped of his stuff and shoved out of the way of the others.
The moment the rounds stopped hitting her cover, Shepard bolted out from behind the skycar and into the building a few feet away, diving through the door and scrambling towards the back door as quickly as she could. Half-way there, she stood and ran through the isles, praying that she wouldn't get hit by a stray or lucky shot. As she swiftly approached the back door, she turned her upper body and rammed into it, sending it completely off it's hinges and skidding slightly across the alleyway.
Shepard never broke stride, turning and bolting down the alley and across the street towards her hotel room and her weapons and armor. At less than a block away, two gunships swept the street with machine gun fire, punching holes through cars and buildings and civilians unlucky enough to get caught in the crossfire. Shepard managed to dive through a store window as the two made their initial sweep, just barely getting out of the way as they flew above the rooftops.
"FUCK!" Shepard yelled, taking deep breaths to slow her heart rate. She poked her head out the window she had just jumped through to see the two gunships turning around to make another run down the street. Shepard's eye's widened at that. "Oh, double-fuck," she muttered, diving away from the windows and hopefully out of the line of fire just as the two gunships swept down the street again.
"God damned it, that was a brand new fucking skycar!"
Shepard froze, wide-eyed, at the sound of such indignation in the middle of what was quickly turning into a war zone. She didn't think anyone could be so… She couldn't even come up with a word for it, and that was annoying in itself.
"I hadn't even had a chance to crash the damned thing yet!"
Shepard blinked in confusion, absolutely dumbfounded at such a statement. She was in such shock that she didn't even react as a man dove through the same window she had and slid to a stop against the wall next to her. She belatedly snapped her pistol up at his face, not knowing if he was an enemy or not.
He looked at her, seemingly entirely dismissing the pistol two inches from his right eye, grinned, and asked cheekily, "What's a pretty girl like you doing in a place like this?"
"Trying not to catch a bullet in my perfect ass," Shepard snarked back, just as small arms fire sounded off down the street and getting closer. "Who are you and what are you doing here?"
The man's grin widened as one of the gunships was shot down and crashed to the street in front of the building they were taking cover in, sending bits of debris flying through the broken window. "I'm the cavalry." Shepard blinked in shock as the man reached up and put in an earpiece, pulling a second out of his front pocket and handing it to her.
She reached out and took it from him cautiously with her free hand, her pistol still in his face, and stuck the device in her ear. There was a quiet burst of static as the earpiece turned on and suddenly she could hear a man ask, "Can you hear me, Commander Shepard?"
Shepard started slightly and asked, "How do you know who I am?"
"We're acting as the defense of Elysium." The man responded. "Nilus Kryik, Council Spectre."
Shepard blinked. "What in the hell is a Spectre doing here?"
"Harry got wind of the attack through his contacts about four hours ago and informed me," the Spectre replied. "I informed the Council and the Alliance military and Harry brought me and his fleet here to cover things until the Alliance's Second and Fifth fleet arrive."
"He brought a few other friends as well," a female voice interrupted over the sounds of gunshots. "We've set up fortifications on the southwest side of the city, but we could use some air support if you expect the pair of us to hold this area for a while all on our lonesome."
Another female voice, this one with an accent, interrupted, "And I would appreciate some ground support on the northwest end, Harry. Things are getting quite hectic over here."
"Artemis, send the two slackers some air support," Shepard watched the man grin at the indignant squawk and continued, "Shepard and I will get her gear and head back northwest to help Miri."
Shepard arched an eyebrow at the man for assuming she would just follow him, but at the moment, she had no other decent option. She lowered her pistol and started, "My hotel is-"
"Currently crawling with slavers," Yet another female voice came out of the comms. Shepard blinked at the interruption as the woman continued, "Forty-seven, actually."
"Well this is going to be interesting," Shepard heard the man mutter. He took a deep breath, and Shepard's eyes widened as she caught on to what he was planning to do. He was planning to walk right in the front door and fight his way up seventeen floors.
Just as he started to rise, she yanked him back down and hissed, "And assuming we survive the absolutely abysmal odds of a frontal assault, how do you expect the both of us to survive coming back down?"
The man blinked at her and replied seriously, "If you ask me how we're getting down again, I'll tell you. But you won't go up with me if I do, so best not ask that one."
Shepard felt a thrill of fear run up her spine. "Can you guarantee that both of us can survive going up and coming back down?"
"Guarantee?" The man shook his head, continuing, "I can't guarantee anything, but I can stack the deck in our favor so much that the risks are pretty negligible."
Shepard started at him intently. Honestly, she would have been a hell of a lot more hesitant if he had just said yes. The fact that he didn't meant he likely truly understood the risks of this endeavor. Finally, she nodded at him.
"Okay then, I need to ask you a question," the man stated seriously. "How much are you willing to trust me?"
"Why?" Shepard questioned cautiously. Usually such statements didn't end well.
"Because I have an ability. I can link our minds in such a way that we'll be able to respond to each others movements in a fight much more fluidly." At Shepard's arched eyebrow, he added, "It's perfectly safe, and I'm linked to the others right now as well, but it's only active in close proximity."
Shepard hesitated for just a second, then nodded once.
Shepard finished attaching her weapons to her armor and turned to Harry, asking, "Now how do we get back to the ground floor?"
Harry grinned mischievously and said, "We're going out the window."
Shepard looked at him dubiously and replied, "I don't have any climbing gear in my hotel room."
Harry's grin just widened as he shot back, "We aren't going to need it."
While Harry's eyes were wide with excitement, Shepard's were wide with fear.
"The Alliance fleets are inbound, five minutes maximum to arrival."
"Pack it in and get everyone back to the ship," Harry replied. Shepard looked confused, which only deepened when he turned to her and said, "Well, time for me to go."
Shepard turned to him and protested, "You need to be debriefed."
Harry shook his head with a grin and shot back, "We were never here, Shepard. There may be a few stories about us with the locals, but overall?" Harry shrugged. "There's no proof we were ever here in the first place." A shuttle flying dangerously low skimmed toward them across the rooftops, catching the attention of the pair. "That's my ride," Harry grinned. "It's been a pleasure, Shepard."
There was a quiet pop next to her and when she turned back to Harry, she found him gone as the shuttle passed overhead and then shot off into the atmosphere.
In orbit above Elysium
August 22nd, 2176:
Admiral Hackett looked over the table in his quarters at the soldier in front of him. When she had requested a private debrief before anything official was made, he thought he was prepared for anything.
"Are you telling me," The admiral began, making Shepard squirm uncomfortably in her chair, "That there was a Spectre on site for the defense of Elysium? And that that isn't even the most shocking part?"
"Yes sir," Shepard answered. "There was a civilian there who had a combat-capable fleet under his personal command."
Admiral Hackett's eye's narrowed as he questioned, "How big of a fleet?"
"I saw five different frigates and there were indications there were more, and at least a hundred fighters, as well as a minimum of twenty shuttles for support." Shepard hesitated before adding, "And the pilots were good. I didn't see a single one get hit."
Hackett sighed. This was a damned mess. "Well, we'll get something off of the security and surveillance systems and figure out who the others are."
Shepard shook her head. "I don't think so, sir." At Hackett's glare, she explained quickly, "He seemed pretty confident that we wouldn't find anything, and congratulated me on successfully defending Elysium nearly single-handed just before he disappeared."
March 18th, 2181:
Harry was lounging in his living room and watching a movie when Artemis interrupted by pausing the film.
"I was watching that," Harry frowned. "So what's up?"
"The company just received a purchase request," Artemis replied. "For a large number of ships."
Harry's frown deepened. "And? Sounds like a normal purchase, so why bring this one to my attention?"
"The quarian Admiralty Board wishes to negotiate on the purchase of a number of ships within a strict budget," Artemis clarified. "I am unsure of whom to forward the request to. With the prejudice against quarians in this universe so widespread, it's becoming difficult to choose someone suitable for the task."
Harry snorted. "And you want me to do it."
"Why not?" Artemis asked.
"I suck at negotiations!" Harry exclaimed.
"Your last one was successful," Artemis countered.
"My last one was a reality ago with a wand in one hand and a miniature nuke in the other," Harry deadpanned.
"But still successful."
Harry was frustrated. The negotiations weren't going well as he had hoped they would, and Harry had needed to call a recess before he lost his temper and just shot one of them. That would be horrible for negotiations.
Great for his mood though.
The fact that he had briefly considered it told him that a break was in order, so now he was making his way back to the ship to cool off a bit and get something to eat, something that fate, it seemed, did not want him to have.
The moment Harry was back on his ship, Artemis spoke, "Father, we have a highly curious trespasser on the ship."
Harry sighed. The urge to shoot someone grew as he pulled off his helmet and massaged his temples. "Where are they and what have they done to the ship?"
"I have her contained in one of the storage rooms down the hall," Artemis replied easily. "And she hasn't done anything to the ship, more that her curiosity overrode her common sense."
Harry arched an eyebrow at that. "Well that's just par for the course. Usually you redirect them right back out the way they came." He tilted his head a bit, his earlier anger tempered by his own curiosity. "What makes this one so special?"
"Besides the fact that she got further than I intended to allow her?" Artemis deadpanned in response. "Or maybe the fact that she did so quicker than anyone else that has tried to break in since we constructed the ship? I am unsure, but she is."
"Huh," Harry muttered in surprise. "Think we should hire her?"
"Maybe in another few years," Artemis replied easily. "I doubt trying to hire someone who has yet to even begin their Pilgrimage would go over well with the quarians, especially this one."
Harry froze and blinked in surprise before questioning, "Really?"
Tali'Zorah had gotten herself into a bit of a bind. The girl had accompanied her father and aunt to the negotiations, presumably to learn more about how the Floatilla worked and such. Instead, she had taken the first chance she had to slip away and explore, not that her father would notice, and her aunt would let her get away with wandering off a bit.
She had hacked through three security doors and wandered down a number of hallways, looking into random rooms as her curiosity prompted her, when she came upon one of the large Observation rooms.
The ship they were docked with was massive. Bi8lack with a lighter gray trimming, the ship was a bit difficult to make out against the background of space, but the lines of gray and the absence of stars where the ship was made it easier for the girl. The running lights winking across the ship's surface and the overall design made it look sleek, beautiful, and dangerous.
Tali'Zorah was enthralled.
She quickly made her way to the airlock the two ships were connected at and hacked through the first door relatively easily. The next, and the only way on to the ship that had her attention so completely, was decidedly more difficult to get through, but she made it. Things just seemed to go downhill from there, though. If she had thought that first door was tough to get through, then the second was a nightmare, and the third damn near stymied her, but she made it past that one as well.
The fourth stopped her cold.
After trying and failing to crack the security on the door in front of her, she turned around to find another way past the door. Not seeing any kind of ventilation shaft in the hallway, she made her way back to the previous door, the codes to unlock it already up on her omni-tool, only to find that the codes had changed and the encryption on the door had gotten quite a bit more sophisticated in the ten minutes since she had last hacked into the security on it.
After quite a bit of inventive cursing at the door and its parentage, some of which she wasn't even sure of the definitions for, she gave up trying to go back and started checking the doors along the section of corridor she was apparently sealed in. When she was done, she was sure someone was either messing with her, or capturing her. The encryption on all the doors was impossible for her to crack, let alone keep up with.
Except for one.
The only door in the section of the ship that she could get in to was also the only one without any form of security or encryption, which was a big warning that she was being herded. Unfortunately, her only other option was standing here in an unoccupied hallway until she was discovered.
The room she found herself in was small and empty, obviously a storage space. The amount of empty space that she had seen on the ship so far astounded her. So much unused space would be a crime in the Floatilla, but at the moment it was relegated to the back of her mind. Right now she was more concerned with what was going to happen to her. She had been so sure that she could explore a bit without being discovered that she had gotten herself trapped on an unknown ship, captained by someone she was completely unfamiliar with, and no one knew where she was. Tali sighed heavily and slid down against the wall facing the door, waiting for someone to discover her.
Hopefully before she starved or dehydrated.
"Why are you on my ship?"
Tali jerked awake at the sudden voice, momentarily panicking as she didn't recognize her surroundings, until events clarified in her mind.
Tali looked up at the figure standing in front of her. The armored individual was obviously male, from the sound of the voice and the general cut of the armor, but he didn't seem to be overly aggressive, just curious. The way he cocked his head to the side reminded her of the old vids she had seen of the human pets called 'dogs', and the comparison nearly made her laugh, but she just managed to hold in that impulse.
She doubted it would be good form to laugh in his face right after being found having broken in to his ship.
Tali opened her mouth, intending to try and excuse her being there, but the words stuck in her throat. She knew there was no way she could brush off being this far into his ship as being lost or something equally as stupid.
"You know, it's generally considered bad manners to break in to someone's home," the figure continued, making Tali wince behind her mask. She had forgotten that 'personal space' was important to the other races, and invading that was considered very, very bad manners.
"I'm sorry, I saw the ship from the Observation room on the Tonbay and it looked so beautiful and I just wanted to see a little of the inside and then I got trapped and..." Tali's voice trailed off as she heard a low laugh come from the man standing in front of her.
"Snuck away from the others, huh?"
Tali blushed, glad that he couldn't see behind her mask. "Y-Yes."
The man chuckled again and unsealed and removed his helmet, sitting down next to her and setting his helmet by his other side. He turned to her and asked with a grin, "So, are all of the admirals always that obnoxious?"
Tali blinked at the human before replying, "You do realize that one of those admirals is my father, and another is my aunt, correct?"
The strange man's grin widened and he shot back, "What's your point?"
"I told you, I want her found! NOW!"
Admiral Shala'Raan vas Tonbay was panicking. Shortly after the recess had been called, she had noted that Tali had wandered off. That in itself wouldn't have been a problem, considering Tali knew this ship well, but the fact that her entire crew couldn't find her after four hours of searching sent shivers up and down her spine.
She had known that Tali didn't really have any interest in the negotiations past what kind of ships they were getting. She loved the girl with everything she had, but Tali could develop tunnel vision to an extreme when a new ship or engine was involved.
She froze at that thought.
There was a massive, majestic, sleek, deadly, and unknown ship attached to the Tonbay, one that would intrigue the girl to no end, and she doubted the security on the other ship would keep the girl out for long if she was truly determined.
Shala'Raan sighed heavily. Given that the person they were negotiating with had very nearly shot Daro'Xen, she didn't think an intruder on his ship would be a good thing. At all.
Unfortunately, her hands were tied. If she wanted to know if Tali was on the other ship, she would have to notify the crew of the massive carrier and bring the missing girl to their attention, as well as the fact that she may well have let herself on board.
"Open a line to the other ship," Shala'Raan ordered. "I need to speak with their captain."
Tali was having the time of her life. After promising to keep a few secrets, Harry had shown her around some of the ship, including the secondary bridge and now they were on a shuttle, making their way to the engineering section. One thing had been bothering Tali, and now that she felt more comfortable with her host, she asked the question that had been on her mind since she had first set foot on the Legacy. "Where is the crew?" She turned to look at Harry, the confusion evident in her glowing eyes. "This ship is huge, it should require hundreds of people to keep it running smoothly."
Harry grinned and replied, "She has all the crew she needs."
"But how can it?" Tali pressed. "A ship this size has multiple stations that have to be run simultaneously in order for the ship to function properly!" The girl seemed truly troubled by not being able to figure this out. "And a V.I. wouldn't have the necessary programming to make those kinds of decisions."
Harry frowned as he seemed to consider what to say, so Tali let him think. So far, he had been quite kind about everything, but she really, really wanted to know how such a ship could run with a crew of one. Finally he asked, "Do you know why the Admiralty Board wanted to open negotiations with Marauder Inc.?"
Tali was confused by the sudden change in subject, but answered, "From what I was told, to purchase ships."
Harry nodded and clarified, "They want to purchase more than a thousand ships." Tali was shocked at that. She had believed they were only getting a few dozen, not that many. "The problem with that is that the numbers being thrown around aren't within the authorization limits of any of the brokers that work for the company."
Tali was confused, and now slightly scared. What if he didn't really work for the company they were supposed to be negotiating with? What if he was a slaver or something and was here to harm them? She unconsciously took a step away from Harry, suddenly very wary of him.
Harry seemed a bit confused about her sudden change of demeanor, but continued, "The Admiral's request kept getting pushed up the chain until it couldn't go any further, and the owner of the company came out to handle this one personally because it's such a large purchase." Harry spread his arms wide and said with a grin, "Welcome to Marauder Inc. Corporate Headquarters."
Tali's mind ground to a halt. One of the things she had been required to do before accompanying the admirals on this trip was to learn about the company they would be negotiating with. It was a privately owned company that opened in 2173 and had shot to the top of various fields like a bullet, seemingly overnight. In the eight years since their founding, they had expanded more than twenty times over and were reporting profits in the trillions every quarter. The original owner had passed away and left the company to a Harry Potter. The new owner was even more secretive than the first, and no one knew who the enigmatic owner of the company was, other than a name and a few very grainy pictures, and even that wasn't worth much with how common the name was in the first place.
Finally, Tali stuttered out, "Y-You own M-Marauder Inc.?"
Harry just nodded with a grin. "I'd appreciate you not telling anyone that, though. I've kept it secret this long, I'd like to see how long it lasts." Tali nodded hesitantly and was about to reply when she was interrupted by a voice coming over the speakers in the corridor, startling her.
"There is an Admiral Shala'Raan on the line requesting to speak with the captain," Artemis said. "Likely about our passenger."
"Put it through," Harry responded with a chuckle.
"Captain?" Shala's concerned voice came through the speakers.
"I'm here, Auntie," Tali interrupted.
"Oh, Keelah," Shala breathed, relieved. "What do you think you are doing, Tali'Zorah!"
Tali winced at the rebuke, before straightening and replying, "I got lost."
Harry's howling laughter drowned out Shala'Raan's reply, but Tali was sure she was in quite a bit of trouble with her aunt.
She was also sure it was worth it.
Harry was still chuckling as he and Tali walked back over to the Tonbay. They were met at the airlock by Admiral Raan, who alternated between very apologetic to Harry and rather angry with Tali. It was several minutes before she composed herself and apologized once more to Harry.
Harry just waved it off and replied, "To be honest, she impressed me." He grinned behind the helmet he had put back on and continued, "It's why I want her there for the rest of the negotiations."
Shala'Raan seemed to freeze momentarily before responding, "She was supposed to observe them anyway."
Harry shook his head. "You misunderstand," he straightened his posture and said in a more official tone, "From this point forward, Marauder Inc. will only continue negotiations if Tali'Zorah nar Rayya is present and has a voice in said negotiations."
Shala'Raan froze for a split second before her head snapped around to look at Tali. For a short moment, Shala considered calling the man's bluff, but something in Tali's eyes and posture screamed that she knew he could make such a claim and had the ability to follow through with it.
Her decision made, she turned to the man and replied tersely, "Give me a moment to inform the other admirals. Tali'Zorah can show you back to the meeting room." With that, she spun on her heel and marched off down the corridor.
Harry waited for the woman to turn the corner and get out of sight, then turned to Tali and asked innocently, "Which one of us do you think pissed her off more?"
April 23rd, 2183:
"Are you insane?"
Harry froze. He had just finished making a delivery for his company and was on his way to more entertaining pursuits when the distinctive sound of a turian arsehole echoed across the docks. The derision present in that voice reminded Harry heavily of Snape talking down to Neville, and the desire to interfere was nearly overwhelming. He took a deep breath and told himself that it wasn't his business, nor was it his responsibility to knock those idiots down a peg or twelve. There was no reason for him to get involved. If he got involved in every little thing, he'd never get anything done. He shook his head and began walking toward his shuttle.
"I would never allow a cripple to pilot the most sophisticated starship created to date."
Harry froze again, then grinned wickedly. Challenge accepted.
May 13th, 2183:
Tali'Zorah and Keenah'Breizh ran through one of the major docking areas on Illium, dodging and weaving around people and objects in an effort to put as much distance between them and their pursuers as possible. Right now, they had lost sight of them, but the lead they had was slim and disappearing quickly.
"What are we going to do?" Tali asked, slightly winded. "We can't go back to the Honorata."
Keenah silently cursed the loss of his ship. He also knew what he was about to suggest wouldn't exactly go over well with the young woman. "We need to either stow away on a ship leaving the planet, or steal a ship and leave the planet," He said hurriedly, looking around the dock for something suitable when another thought struck him. "Or we could go to the company I worked for while I was here on my Pilgrimage. Some of my friends should still work there."
Tali was about to reply when she was cut off from saying anything at all by the distinctive zip sound of a bullet passing by her head, immediately followed by the crack of a pistol. She froze momentarily, but Keenah grabbed her arm and yanked her away and into cover.
"Are those really the only options?" Tali asked, visibly wincing at each round hitting the concrete divider they were hiding behind.
"We can't afford to leave a trail, and we just lost everything except what we were carrying, so yes, it's necessary," Keenah replied tersely, still scanning for an escape from their current predicament. Seeing an alley not too far away, he pulled out the only ace he had.
A highly illegal, heavily modified EMP grenade.
He turned the dial and activated the timer before blindly throwing it as hard as he could over the barrier in the direction of the gunfire.
Hearing the cries of 'scatter!' and 'grenade!' made a small part of Keenah feel a bit better, and the moment it went off, Keenah grabbed Tali's arm and ran towards the alleyway.
Legacy, Omega Nebula
Harry was not having a good day. It had started with a simple transport run to Omega when he had been attacked by a group of pirates on his approach to the station. After mocking them turned into a drawn out ship battle, they attempted to board Harry's ship.
Needless to say, that failed.
None of the pirates left had any kind of bounty on them, so keeping them was pointless, but they annoyed the hell out of him, and that warranted a special kind of punishment. Harry had become irritated enough that he was heading down to the pirate's base to clean it out and then blow it up before deciding on an appropriate punishment for the pirates.
His deliberation was interrupted by Artemis relaying a message. "Father, it seems Tali'Zorah is on Illium and in some trouble."
"What kind of trouble?" Harry asked distractedly, still trying to come up with a suitable punishment.
"Unknown," Artemis replied. "She is currently hacking in to the offices on Illium in order to reach one of us here."
Harry frowned as he focused on what Artemis was telling him. After the last time he had met Tali, he knew she wouldn't be hacking in to his ship unless the situation demanded it and there was no other option.
"Get in touch with her and keep an eye on her," Harry responded, "I'll head out there shortly." With that, he turned his attention back to the pirates and said with a wide, feral grin, "I guess I'll just have to go with an old standby for your punishment."
"What are you doing?" Keenah asked distractedly, still looking around for someone he recognized. It had been relatively easy to get limited access to the complex once his previous employment with them had been verified. He and Tali had been given visitor's badges and allowed on the property, and while the first time he had been here he had been looking at everything he could, Tali had been tapping away furiously on her omni-tool, only barely paying attention to make sure she didn't lose him in the minimal crowds.
"She is hacking into the Corporate Headquarters of Marauder Inc."
Keenah jerked at the new voice coming from Tali's omni-tool, but Tali sighed heavily as her entire body relaxed, much of the tension she was carrying leaving her. Keenah looked at his young friend in shock before hissing out, "What in the hell are you thinking, Tali!"
"She was trying to reach my boss or myself," the unknown voice replied tersely. "And I would thank you for not yelling at the young miss Zorah."
Both quarians seemed shocked at the rebuke, but for entirely different reasons. Keenah was at a loss to in coming up with an explanation where Tali hacking in to the Corporate Headquarters of a galaxy-wide corporation lead to him being in trouble, and wondering who Tali knew there.
Tali, on the other hand, had not been expecting to be defended in such a manner. She overcame her shock quickly and started, "We're being chased and we nee-"
"I'm already reviewing the footage miss Zorah," the voice interrupted. "Head back to the main offices at the entrance, I'll already have people there to keep an eye on you two until Harry can get to you and take over for them."
"Thank you, Artemis," Tali breathed happily. "Can-"
Tali's omni-tool lit up suddenly with a map of the complex and a highlighted path back to the lobby in the main building. "Here are directions. You really must pay more attention to where you are going in the future miss Zorah."
"That's what Keenah is for," Tali shot back, the wide grin evident in her voice.
"Hey!" Keenah exclaimed as Artemis sighed in exasperation.
"Tali," Artemis started, sounding as if she was speaking to a small child, "Men have utterly no sense of direction. Relying on one to lead you around will see you going in circles for eternity."
Keenah simply threw his hands in the air as Tali laughed.
"Father, I believe I have found the reason for Tali's current predicament," Artemis said. "And I worry that just Spectre Kryik and Detective Anaya will not be sufficient."
Harry frowned, pausing in his current self-appointed task. "Just what has she gotten herself into?"
"It seems she has found herself on the wrong side of a traitorous little rat of a Spectre."
Harry scowled dangerously. "Well then," he snarled. "This is going to be legendary."
"Call in everyone we can trust on Illium and keep those two safe," Harry ordered, the tone of his voice brokering no argument. "Build me a complete file on the traitor and then forward it to me, and keep an eye on Tali and her friend."
"What are you going to do, Father?"
"I'm going to teach a lesson," Harry replied vaguely, finishing up his punishment of the pirates. He sighed and looked around, checking his transfigurations before exiting the room with a grin. He waved at the man waiting impatiently outside and said, "All done, mate." He brushed off the front of his stolen repair crew uniform and added with a chuckle as he left, "Enjoy those new toilets."
By the time Tali and Keenah had made it back to the lobby, there was a pair of heavily armored individuals who seemed to be waiting there for someone, if the way they were looking around was any indication. After receiving confirmation from Artemis that the two in the lobby were sent by her, the pair of quarians approached the two armored figures.
They hadn't even made it half-way to them when they were spotted. The asari nudged her turian partner and gestured in their direction before heading over to them and asking, "I take it you two are Tali and Keenah?" At their nearly simultaneous nods, the asari grinned slightly and continued, "I have no idea what you two got yourselves in to that warrants this kind of protection detail, or Mr. Potter coming here in person, but I'm guessing it isn't good."
Tali tilted her head to the side and asked, "What do you mean, 'this kind of protection detail'?"
The woman's grin widened as she said, "My name is Anaya. I was a commando for three hundred years before I retired and became a detective about five years ago, and Nilus here has been a Spectre for well over a decade." Seeing the male quarian jerk back slightly at the word 'Spectre', the asari looked back at her companion in confusion before asking Tali, "Why is your friend so jumpy?"
Tali looked at her friend for a moment when her omni-tool beeped and Artemis' voice emanated from the device. "Tali, these two have worked with Harry and myself for more than a decade."
Anaya grinned wickedly at the voice and chirped, "Hey, Arty!"
A sigh of exasperation came from Artemis, who then asked tiredly, "Must you continue to call me that ridiculous appellation?"
"Does it continue to annoy the piss out of you?"
"Yes," Artemis deadpanned.
Anaya's grin widened. "There's your answer!"
Tali relaxed at that friendly bickering and turned back to Anaya, answering, "We found evidence that a Spectre named Saren is planning to attack a human colony called Eden Prime with the Geth."
Nilus, who had been watching the entrances to the lobby while listening to the conversation taking place just behind him, snapped around and focused intensely on the quarian female with an intensely serious look on his face, asking, "You have physical evidence of this?" At Tali's nod, Nilus relaxed minutely and turned to Anaya, continuing, "We need to get these two somewhere more secure than this lobby, and we'll likely need more than just the two of us."
"That's what me and my boys are here for, princess."
Nilus spun quickly, drawing his pistol up in a flash and into the scarred visage of the man that had surprised the group, who looked blandly down the barrel of the firearm in his face and back to the Spectre, asking, "You gonna shoot me in the face, pup?" He tapped the side of his face that was scarred and contained his milky white eye. "Been there, done that, and all it did was piss me off," he said with a wide grin. "And rage is a hell of an anesthetic."
Legacy, en route to Illium
Harry reread the file displayed in front of him with a critical eye. The traitor had an extensive service history, but he was not impressed by his results. Numerous civilian casualties and 'accidents' littered his record, and most directed at humanity.
He had Artemis collecting more evidence against the Spectre and compiling it all into a complete record of his life. All of his misdeeds, all of his illegal operations, and every backroom deal he had ever made, and Harry was going to personally see it all drug out into the open and exposed for all to see. Harry was going to completely and utterly destroy the traitor's reputation across the entire galaxy, take out his entire support network, steal every single account and investment he had under any alias, and render him isolated, alone, and broke. Then, he would drag him back to the Council in chains, cursed, bloody, and broken.
He held a special hatred in his heart for traitors.
It hadn't taken long for the three soldiers to get the two quarians to a safe house nearby and get settled in. Tali looked at the three people that Harry had apparently sent to protect them, still quite shocked about the lengths Harry seemed willing to go to keep them safe. A Spectre, a former commando turned detective, and a life-long mercenary; quite a strange group, considering the three professions didn't usually get along. Finally she asked, "So how do you all know Harry?"
"We run into each other from time to time, and occasionally I'll call him in if I need certain kinds of help with something," Nilus said, peeking through a gap in the curtains at the street below. He turned to the mercenary and asked, "All of your people are in position, Zaeed?"
The mercenary frowned and replied, "Of course they are. We'll know if anyone gets within a mile of here."
Anaya rolled her eyes at the two bickering and answered Tali's question, "Harry and I worked together on occasion back when I was a commando. Usually the asari government wouldn't hire freelance help to work with a commando team, but Harry came highly recommended from several prominent figures as someone who could not only get the job done well, but also keep up with us in doing so."
At Tali's obvious confusion, Anaya explained, "I was a Huntress, which is twenty to thirty years of training, for more than a decade before I was invited to become a Commando. The process to be accepted to commando training takes more than five years, and that's just to be accepted into the academy. Half drop out before then, and the half that make it in are then pushed even further and harder than before for another ten years, and then you can call yourself a trainee commando." Tali's wide eyes only widened further as the woman continued, "Trainees pick two specializations, and are then sent to learn those better and have to meet certain requirements and conditions in order to continue, which can take up to another ten years. Then, you can call yourself a Probational Commando, which means that your life for the next twenty years will be under a microscope and everything you've learned to that point will be hammered in until it's reflex. Every action will be examined, every single training mission will be evaluated, and you will be on the lowest rung of the ladder. For twenty years." Anaya grinned at the stricken look on everyone's faces and still continued, "After that, you're attached to an individual squad, where you will learn the intricacies of your specializations for the next ten years in a live setting before being sent back to Probational School as a trainee instructor for another five years. Then, after nearly a century of training, you can call yourself a full-fledged Commando."
"And Harry kept up with you?" Tali asked confusedly. "But I thought he was a negotiator for Marauder Inc."
Anaya shrugged nodded, replying easily, "I know he does that too, as well as makes deliveries for them. He also turns in quite a few bounties a year on pirates and slavers, routinely does mercenary work, protection details, infiltrations, corporate espionage, hacking, and numerous other pursuits, both legal and technically illegal."
"You've been making such claims for years," Artemis interrupted, reminding everyone that she was still tapped in and listening through Tali's omni-tool. "You know you can't prove a thing."
Anaya grinned. "Good thing, too. I'd be required to try and bring him in."
At Tali's confusion, Anaya explained, "Two years ago, a medical storage facility here on Illium was broken in to and robbed. No money was taken, but quite a few of the drugs were. Harry had just landed less than twenty-four hours before, and I know how he works, so I knew it was him, there just wasn't any proof. I knew confronting him wouldn't get me anywhere, so I started looking for the missing drugs instead."
Tali was horrified. The man she had thought she knew seemed to be a thief, among other things, and considering the reputation quarians generally had around the galaxy, Tali didn't want to be even vaguely associated with theft of any kind. Her thoughts were stilled as Anaya continued, "When I finally tracked them down, they had been distributed to every clinic and hospital in a two hundred mile radius. Anonymously. But that wasn't all I found during my investigation. Apparently, the company that owned the storage facility was stockpiling the drugs and preventing deliveries to the clinics and hospitals to create a market vacuum, and then releasing small amounts for prices that went well beyond grossly inflated."
"I can count three different felonies off the top of my head just in what Harry allegedly did," Nilus added. "Breaking and entering, grand theft, and numerous counts of distribution of a controlled substance." He paused for a moment before continuing, "But I can't honestly say I wouldn't have done something similar."
Anaya's grin turned decidedly wicked as she added, "Six months to the day after the theft, the entire upper level of the company was swiftly and methodically gutted from the bottom up. Every single person that was involved found themselves having horrible luck and their lives ruined. They all lost their jobs under various circumstances, had their accounts frozen and audited, lost their spouses and children, and then they all, to the last, found themselves caught red-handed committing numerous felonies that carried some very harsh punishments. And every single one claims that they were framed. After that, the stock in that company plummeted, everyone invested in it bailed and sold their shares, and another company snatched up every single one available, which gave that company controlling interest. Marauder Inc."
Tali was conflicted. One the one hand, quite a few of the actions taken were repugnant to her, but on the other hand, there was no real legal recourse for the individuals being harmed, and Harry's actions weren't made out of selfishness, but to help others. After several minutes, Anaya caught her attention and said softly, "The world doesn't exist in just black and white, sometimes you have to weigh the intention behind an action more than the action itself, and look at the circumstances surrounding the events in question."
Anaya's gaze hardened as she continued, "Many of those people were suffering, and several were dying, slowly and in horrific amounts of pain, just to satisfy a small group's insatiable greed and desire to feel bigger than everyone else." Anaya growled and paused, reigning in her temper as much as she could, then hissed out, "I'm glad Harry did what he did, and I'm happy that I can't prove a damned thing."
Tali had been curled up on the couch, lost in thought, tracing random patterns on the fabric with her finger. She had been thinking quietly for several hours now, and the others were kind enough to not disturb her. Her mind was running in circles trying to make sense of everything she had learned today.
All she had done so far was give herself a headache.
Suddenly, Artemis chimed in, "Harry is on a shuttle and heading to your location."
Tali jerked slightly in surprise, then tensed in worry as the words entered her mind. She still hadn't quite made up her mind about how she felt about things, and she wasn't exactly sure how she would react to seeing Harry so soon after her mind had been thrown into such chaos, but it seemed life wanted to rush things for her.
It was only a few minutes later that Harry entered the room, not even pausing as three different weapons were pointed at him, and shut the door behind him. "Really feeling the love, guys," He said with a grin.
The three lowered their weapons and Nilus immediately asked, "How are we going to take down Saren?"
Harry's face immediately darkened and hardened in such a way that Tali involuntarily took a step back from the fearsome look and he asked Nilus, "Do you know the name Disana T'Lucia?"
Nilus missed Anaya's reaction, but Tali didn't. Seeing the hardened soldier shudder in such a way sent a wave of fear through the girl.
Nilus frowned as he searched his memory. After a long moment, he looked at Harry in confusion and replied, "No, I don't. Should I?"
The grin that adorned Harry's face as he replied was terrifying, and his answer even more so. "No. And no one ever will."
Tali looked between Harry and Anaya for a moment before turning to the detective and asking, "How do you know that name?"
Anaya immediately snapped her eyes to Harry's. The two seemed to have a long silent conversation with minute facial gestures and looks before Harry nodded slightly. Seeing she had the room's attention, Anaya explained to the people present, "Disana T'Lucia was a former Commando who led a squad that went rogue, killed four other squads of commandos, eighty civilians, and stole a military frigate. She evaded capture for more than two hundred years and created an underground empire that eventually stretched across eight systems."
Seeing the people present at least partially understood the gravity of such an empire and the power that would give them, Anaya continued, "Harry was assigned to my squad and we were ordered to take over the search for Disana. Over the course of the next six months, we had systematically decimated her empire and utterly crushed her support structure. When we finally cornered her in the very last place she had to go to, Harry insisted on going in alone."
"Naturally, we protested," Anaya explained. "Disana was a legend before she went bad, and at that point, still held eight records just in combat fields, but he went alone anyway."
"What happened to her?" Tali asked, her morbid curiosity getting the better of her. She doubted she wanted to know, but she asked anyway.
"I have no idea what happened in that building, but it was loud," Anaya answered. "And all we ever found of her was her head." She shuddered at the memory. "For identification purposes," Anaya deadpanned as she glared at an unrepentant Harry. "The rest of her was smeared across the walls, floors and ceilings in four separate rooms."
Tali's head snapped around as she stared at Harry in wide-eyed horror. Searching his face carefully, she was even more horrified when she saw that Anaya was telling the truth. With her people spending so much time in their suits, the facial expressions and body language of most of the other races seemed exaggerated to her. Small twitches or looks aren't lost on most quarians, and Harry's expressions and actions were confirming everything, as well as the fact that he would do so again if necessary.
Wondering what he would consider necessary is what worried her.
"What did she do that warranted such a reaction?" Nilus questioned, mildly nauseated. Tali perked to attention, waiting intently on the answer to the question she wanted to know as well, but was too afraid to ask.
"Honestly, it wasn't the drugs she was selling or even her enforcement methods," Harry shrugged. "It was the treason and that she dealt in slavery that did it." He shook his head and continued, "The fact that she routinely kidnapped and sold children didn't do her any favors, either."
Nilus nodded and Tali calmed slightly. While it still seemed to be overkill to her, she could understand a bit better. Children were precious to quarians, and to lose one was tragic. To have one taken and sold into an unknown, horrible life would be utterly devastating.
As the three soldiers briefed Harry on everything they had learned, Tali's mind was occupied with her own thoughts. On the one hand, Harry had committed a lot of various acts that, when examined individually and void of circumstance, Tali found utterly repugnant. On the other, the circumstances surrounding the acts themselves seemed to necessitate the need for such actions, and the motivations weren't selfish at heart. Her mind spun in circles upon circles for quite a while before she finally came to a decision she felt that she could live with.
By the time Tali had looked around and truly noticed her surroundings, they were in a shuttle and just leaving the atmosphere of Illium. She looked around in surprise and saw Keenah in the seat next to her, Nilus on her other side and Harry in the pilot's seat.
When Keenah noticed Tali was aware of her surroundings again, he turned off his translator, leaned over and asked quietly in Keelish, "Do you think we can trust this human?" Keenah was confused when Tali winced and her eyes snapped to Harry at the front of the small shuttle.
His confusion was cleared up when Harry chuckled and answered in Keelish as well, "That's probably something you should talk about elsewhere, or in a language I don't already know."
Harry just laughed.
"So what's the plan," Nilus asked. "I'm supposed to be en route to the Citadel to get to my next assignment."
"What is it?" Harry asked distractedly. "I might be able to get you there quicker."
Nilus grinned and replied, "I'm evaluating a Spectre candidate."
Harry grinned and asked, "They accepted her?" At Nilus' nod, Harry chuckled and added, "Could be interesting to see her again."
Nilus snorted. "She'll likely shoot you, considering the first time you met."
"Probably," Harry laughed, "But it would definitely be interesting."