A/N - Happy Thanksgiving. Thank you so much for reading Deals with the Devil. I hope you enjoyed it. CODEX of terms is at the bottom. This is the first mission for the Normandy under Shephard. We'll start with the OPORD for the hostage rescue, look at planning and then execution and how operations and intelligence is supposed to fuse together. Wrex gets to strut some of his stuff. The next chapter will feature the negotiation with some twists.

Other Malarkey - I almost drew a duel with sensei in Kendo, losing 3-4. Pics to be posted to lj.

PRECEDENCE: IMMEDIATE

THIS DOCUMENT IS CLASSIFIED SECRET

TO: CO SSV NORMANDY
CC: XO SSV NORMANDY
CC: S-2 SSV NORMANDY
FR: DCO 5TH FLEET

SSV NORMANDY IS ORDERED TO PROCEED WITHOUT DELAY TO CLUSTER/HADES GAMMA – FARINATA SYSTEM AND INTERCEPT MSV ONTARIO.

SITUATION REPORT: TWO HOURS AGO BIOTIC TERRORISTS KIDNAPPED CHAIRMAN BURNS OF THE PARLIAMENT SUBCOMMITTEE ON TRANSHUMAN STUDIES. THE TERRORISTS ARE ABOARD THE MSV ONTARIO AND HAVE ISSUED DEMANDS TO PARLIAMENT REGARDING COMPENSATION FOR BIOTICS. THEY HAVE THREATENED HARM TO THE CHAIRMAN SHOULD THEIR DEMANDS NOT BE MET.

INTELLIGENCE: FLEET J2 REPORTS THAT MSV ONTARIO IS A KOWLOON CLASS FREIGHTER WITH MINIMAL WEAPONRY AND SENSOR ARRAY. SENSOR ARRAY OPERATES ON THE DELTA BAND WITH A 100 KHZ CYLCLE. VESSEL SHIELDING OUTPUT IS IN THE 1200 MW RANGE WITH A 200 MS CYCLE. PROBABILITY OF VESSEL DETECTING APPROACH OF SSV NORMANDY – LESS THAN 1%.

J2 ESTIMATES TERRORIST STRENGTH AT 10 INDIVIDUALS, ARMED AND DANGEROUS. IT IS BELIEVED THAT ALL TERRORISTS ARE L2 BIOTICS RATED IN THE B TO D CLASS IN POWER. WHILE IT IS BELIEVED THAT ALL TERRORISTS HAVE PARTICIPATED IN BAAT, SPECIFICS ARE UNKNOWN AT THIS TIME. CONTACT WITH THE TERRORISTS HAS BEEN MINIMAL AND THE GROUP HAS ONLY IDENTIFIED ITSELF AS THE PEOPLE'S BIOTIC FRONT. AUDIO ANALYSIS OF THE DEMAND MESSAGE INDICATES THAT THE SPEAKER IS MALE, APPROXIMATE AGE 30. SPEAKER WAS MODERATELY AGITATED, BUT WELL EDUCATED. NO REGIONAL DIALECT WAS NOTED. ONE FEMALE WAS HEARD IN THE BACKGROUND, APPROXIMATE AGE 25. VOICE RECOGNITION IS ONGOING AND BEING COMPARED WITH BAAT CANDIDATES.

WEAPONRY: THE TERRORISTS HAVE ONLY BEEN OBSERVED DURING THE KIDNAPPING AND ARE BELIEVED TO BE EQUIPPED WITH STANDARD SMALL ARMS.

SSV NORMANDY IS TO AFFECT RELEASE OF CHAIRMAN BURNS THROUGH NEGOTIATION OR TACTICAL MEANS AT THE DISCRETION OF CO SSV NORMANDY.

END

Communications Center, SSV Normandy – 1923 Hours

Staff Commander Claire Shepard, Commanding Officer

The OPORD or operations order was short and sweet and she knew what was expected. Shepard glanced up from the data pad and over to Lieutenant Commander Colin Pressly. He looked nervous. He always looked nervous. He was just that kind of guy; a little jumpy and full of energy. Beads of perspiration were already running down the front of his balding head between his receding hairline. "XO, opinions?" she asked.

"I can easily get us up to the Ontario under stealth, but the rest is up to you. I'm not a tactical guy," he said in his edgy, high-pitched voice.

"Okay, have Joker jump us to the Farinata System and scan for the Ontario. I want a detailed report of the system and the location of the ship. The freighter isn't a threat, but I don't want to stumble into a trap either," she said and then looked to 2nd Lieutenant Beth Kohl, the Normandy's S2 or Intelligence Officer. "S2? Any input?"

Beth looked a little frightened, her blue eyes wide beneath a prim blonde bob. The German/Danish girl graduated from the Naval Academy only a year ago and this was her first deep space assignment. She had a good record as an intelligence officer and came with a personal recommendation from Admiral John Shepard. Beth licked her lips, looking from Shepard to Pressley and back. "Ma'am, I think we have two courses of action: announce ourselves and initiate negotiations or proceed with a boarding and initiate a tactical option with the possibility of negotiations. I'll review the audio analysis for intelligence on their stance and motivations. It may help you with any discussions with the hostage takers."

Shepard nodded. "Very good." She could empathize with Beth's trepidation. After all, Shepard had only received command of the Normandy a day ago and under less than ideal conditions. She couldn't shake the feeling of being a thief for having been given the ship from under Captain Anderson's nose. She tried to decline the command, but orders were orders and it was Anderson who convinced her to take it in the end. The sad look in his eyes nearly broke her heart. He didn't deserve to be kicked upstairs and shackled to a desk – that was for the Fobbits at HQ. Anderson was a decent, honorable warrior, who had played the game the right way for the right reasons.

"Dismissed," she added, bringing Pressly and Kohl to their feet. They took two steps back and then about faced to depart the room. Shepard was never a big stickler for protocol, but tradition was all she could hang onto right now. It was familiar…comforting. Suddenly, the ship seemed way too big for her and the silver oak leaves felt way too heavy on her collar. On instinct, she wanted to report to the captain and get instructions, but she kept having to remind herself that she was now the skipper. She took a deep breath and focused like Master Sha'rin had showed her. She was going to need a lot of deep breaths in the time to come.

Shepard had always been a good officer, obeying orders and taking the initiative on her own when necessary. Commanding an entire ship…being responsible for the welfare of the entire crew…it was a bit overwhelming at the moment. The feeling of being alone really sunk in.

She rose with a sigh and tapped the intercom. "Lieutenant Alenko. Rally the squad for a briefing. I want Garrus and Wrex in there too."

"Ma'am?"

"Just do it, lieutenant. Five minutes." Shepard rose and took her data pad from the table near the viewscreen. She'd been feeling very edgy lately. Too much had happened in the last week – from a promotion to induction into the SPECTREs to being given the Normandy. The change of command was uncomfortable at best. Relieving Captain Anderson was tantamount to treason in her mind. The whole affair left a bad taste in her mouth.

She went downstairs to what had become the operations area for the marine squad and saw Garrus Vakarian admiring the M35 Mako Armored Fighting Vehicle or AFV. He was running his hand along the metal skin of the Mako as she approached. "Good to see you, commander. I am impressed with your vehicle here. I look forward to seeing it in action."

Shepard took a long look at the AFV – fast and maneuverable, sleek, with sloped armor to deflect incoming ordnance, a low profile to go hull-down behind suitable defilade, a high-powered smooth-bore cannon and coaxial machinegun…what was not to like? "I hope she lives up to the hype, Garrus. The tanker community says she's the best armored vehicle in Citadel Space."

The turian looked at her curiously, his optical sight glinting in the overhead lights. "I've noticed that humans have a habit of calling their equipment he or she. It's almost as if you consider them living beings."

She chuckled and lightly kicked one of the fat tires. "Yeah, I suppose we do. We think it instills an energy or spirit into the vehicle…personalizes it for the operators. In fact, we need to name this beast," she said with a smile."

"Name? Like what? For we turians, weapons of war are just that…tools to be used to defeat the enemy."

Heavy footsteps caught their attention and Shepard turned to see Urdnot Wrex stomping up. "Personally, I like Bloody Skull or Severed Leg," said the krogan quite seriously.

She'd never thought of those and thought they were a little extreme, but she didn't want to insult Wrex's choice of names. She did like the intimidation factor though. A nice skull and crossbones painted on the bow of the Mako just might scare the beejesus out of some batarians. "I'll give it some thought, Wrex."

"Just putting my three credits in. So, who are we going to kill?" he asked in that slow-talking, gravelly drawl of his. Shepard mused that he might was well have come from Alabama.

She put her hand out. "Well, no one yet. I'll fill you in once the marines get here. So, Wrex, you krogan name your weapons?"

The long, wicked scar down his face crinkled with what must have been delight. Asking a krogan about his weapons was like asking a new mother about her infant. He pulled out that shotgun of his and cradled it. Claire thought she saw love in his eyes. "Yeah…we do," he said with a faraway look. "This one is mother."

Garrus pulled his head back and opened one eye wide. "Mother? That's an odd name for a krogan to give his weapon. You have a mother?"

It was hard to read krogans, but Wrex almost looked hurt. "Of course I have a mother. What do you think, I was hatched from an egg?"

"Well, the thought-"

Shepard stepped forward between them. This could get ugly real fast. "Hey," she said loudly, pointing to the Mako, "I always liked the German names for tanks. You know, panther or tiger or leopard. Leopards are cool." Out of the corner of her eye she could see Kaiden leading the marines over. It was none too soon.

"Ma'am," he said a little too formally. She had been a little short with him when last they spoke.

She did a quick head count to see that the whole squad was here - eight marines, Ashley Williams, who was the squad NCO, and Kaiden, the squad leader. "Have a seat everyone. I'm going to give you the quick and dirty briefing."

Ash pointed to the turian and the krogan. "Are they cleared?"

Shepard felt an initial pang of irritation. If they weren't cleared, why the heck would she be briefing them and in an unsecured area? A good leader wouldn't bite anyone's head off for a legitimate question though. "We've granted Garrus, Wrex, and Tali provisional clearances through the Director of Alliance Intelligence. Thank you for asking." She saw a couple of eyebrows raise at the mention of her father, the Director.

Ash seemed to accept this. "Just doing my job, ma'am."

The commander brought her watch up to her face and looked at the time. "All right, 1945 hours…time hack in three, two, one, hack," she said to have everyone synchronize their watches. "Welcome people, my first mission as CO is to affect the release of Chairman Burns from the grips of Biotic terrorists."

Kaiden shifted on the ground. "Biotics?"

"Yes, I'm going to download the DCO's OPORD to your datapads. Lieutenant Kohl is going to be receiving further intelligence, including biographical data on the terrorists. Lieutenant Alenko, I want you to review this with her and see if you recognize anyone."

"Aye, ma'am."

With a push of a button, the mission profile streamed to the team's datapads. "Take a look at the specs for the Ontario. Our ETA is four hours. I want you all to memorize the floor plan. Chief Williams, I want you to create a mockup of the freighter's interior. We're going to begin practicing the assault in ninety minutes."

"Roger that."

"This rescue mission will come down to assault or negotiations or a combination of the two. I prefer a bloodless outcome, but we're taking no chances with the chairman's life. Kaiden, you and Kohl will be the primary negotiators should we have a chance to talk this out."

Wrex mumbled something about talk being cheap, but Shepard ignored him. "ROE for this operation will be dynamic…dependent on the terrorists' response. Lethal force is authorized only if fired upon or if the chairman is threatened. The chain of command will be me, Alenko, then Williams. Questions?"

Kaiden looked a little reluctant. "Commander, I've never negotiated a hostage situation before. I don't know if I'm qualified for that."

"Lieutenant, I'd be lying if I said I didn't want to take advantage of your Biotics. I'm hoping that you will have some rapport with the hostage takers. Use that to your advantage."

"Okay…I think I understand. That's a good idea."

She walked over and tapped him on the head and tousled his hair. "And besides, I'm not qualified either. I'm just making it up as I go."

This got a nervous laugh from the team. They knew that they were all on the hot seat right now – an untried CO, an untried ship, a recently formed crew…not the best of circumstances. The whole freaking Council…no, the whole freaking galaxy was going to be watching this one. Shepard could see the pundits picking apart every decision made by the first human SPECTRE. Speaking of which, she had to call back that journalist, Ben Gleck.

"Okay, dismissed. We'll meet back here at 2130, hardsuit and weapons function checks to be completed by that time. See the Quartermaster if you need anything. This one is going to be by the numbers."

MSV Ontario – 2345 Hours

Urdnot Wrex

He'd almost been bored up to now. All of the scrambling around that the humans did after the briefing seemed pretty silly. And the talking…Shepard loved to talk. Wrex always thought it was best to just wade in and let your muzzle do the talking. Your armor would absorb any damage, so why worry? The humans' obsession with planning grated on his nerves. But still, he couldn't complain too much. Chasing down the galaxy's biggest villain had a certain appeal. The fact that the Shadow Broker would pay him to tag along with Shepard was gravy.

After all the talk, there was all of the practice. Shepard had them go over every move, every step, every corner of the mockup of the Ontario. "Move and fight as one," she kept saying. Fight as one…that was his motto too, only he had always done it alone. After the fiftieth practice assault, Wrex was close to eating his gun out of tedium. Even the approach and boarding of the ship was anticlimactic – The Normandy's stealth systems brought them up to boarding range without detection. In less than a minute the team was aboard. Shepard had chosen the boarding option with the chance of negotiations.

Now that they were on the Ontario, he finally felt free. Once again, he was right behind Shepard on what she called Gold Team. The other human female, Williams, led Red Team, consisting of the rest of the marines. Williams was a pretty good fighter, tough and unsubtle – you had to respect that. In the stack, Alenko and Fredericks were up front, creeping slowly to the hatch into the cargo bay. There was no resistance at the insertion point, something that made Wrex itchy. He would have much preferred a stiff firefight right off the bat. What better way to finish up the day?

Alenko put up an echoscan spike and began transmitting sensor images of the inside of the bay. There looked to be a jumble of crates and seven hostile heat signatures. The krogan had to admit that Alliance surveillance technology was pretty damn good – every member of the team shared the datalink of the picture on their HUD as red triangles, representing hostiles, walked about the bay. The fact that the idiot terrorists made no attempt to suppress their visibility…they deserved to die, simple as that. Even Shepard had this fancy armor that masked her IR and UV signature making her pretty stealthy. That was all good, but Wrex preferred to just pack on the armored plating. You could never go wrong with that.

On Shepard's order, Alenko overrode the door lock and it slid open silently. Agitated voices were heard from beyond a stack of crates…something about them going to be boarded and what should they do. If they didn't already know they had been boarded or figured out what to do, they deserved to die and Wrex was happy to accommodate them. Shepard recently told him about this human named Darwin and that seemed to fit the bill.

Alenko and Fredericks slid into the bay, creeping along with careful steps. The lieutenant scanned the ground and the ceiling to make sure no traps were going to catch them while the private kept his assault rifle up to cover him. As they had planned and practiced, he and Shepard pressed to the right to cover that flank.

"All right! Fine! I'll check it out!" a man's voice shouted from behind the left crates. Footsteps followed and Alenko put his fist up, telling everyone to hold and take a knee. Shepard looked over to Fredericks and made a slicing motion across her throat, which Wrex figured meant for the private to take care of it. The krogan knew that Fredericks was pretty green and for the commander to give him the honor of the first kill spoke volumes about her leadership. It brought back memories of his Rite of Passage. That was a fun time torching feral varren and stomping on dying klixen. And the Maw…he got tingles just thinking about that. Wrex watched closely as the private's eyes got wide, but he drew his dagger, a big, mean-looking single-edged weapon with a slanted tip. Fredericks had called it a Bowie Knife or something.

The private pressed his back into the crate, staying hidden until the terrorist walked through the passage, an irritated look on his face. These clowns had no idea what they were in for. How the heck would anyone like this get some kind of ransom out of the situation?

Fredericks deftly put his hand around the terrorist's face from behind and pulled his head up and back, exposing the throat. Alenko immediately pushed his pistol into the man's mouth and shook his head. This was a good capture. Wrex sighed and rolled his eyes. It was going to be one of those days. More talk. The terrorist was on the ground before anyone could say boo and Garrus wrapped the man up in cuffs, gagging him before he could cry out. The marines, Beau and Jazz, from Red Team dragged the captive out the hatch in a well-choreographed "potato sack" carry.

According to the plan, Gold Team now advanced in two columns, hoping to surround the terrorists and create an effective kill zone should the terrorists resist. Well, that was the plan. And, as Wrex knew very well, no plan survives contact with the enemy.

From behind cover, Gold Team brought their weapons to bear on the hostiles. "Alliance Navy, get down! Get down!" Shepard ordered…and all hell broke loose. She should have just gunned them down.

One terrorist glowed blue and Fredericks flew into the air, wailing and flailing. A ball of energy hurtled towards Shepard and the krogan, but the commander dropped to the floor to avoid it. Wrex ate it full in the face, the ball bursting over him with Biotic power. "Son of a varren!" he shouted as he staggered back from the wave. Rounds began pinging around him and he shook his head to see Alenko throw a crate with his mind right into a hostile.

Wrex's shields flashed, but he had fully recovered from the blow. He fired a load of buckshot at a moving target, but the hostile disappeared behind cover. "Thanks a lot, Shepard," he said, irritated that she avoided the hit that got him.

"Learn to duck, Wrex," she countered as she rolled out from behind a crate to send a stream of rounds into a charging terrorist's chest. The man went limp and inertia carried him heavily into a wall.

At that moment, Fredericks fell from the sky. "Craaaaaaap!" he yelled all the way down, bouncing off of the metal deck.

Shepard bolted forward to another position of cover as Alenko sprayed pistol rounds to keep the enemies' heads down. "Get up, private! Plan Delta! Execute, execute!" she commanded over the roar of Garrus' sniper rifle. Fredericks scrambled to his feet and fell in behind Alenko and they rushed down the left flank as Wrex pumped out buckshot at anyone trying to fire at the marines. Now it was their turn.

Fredericks and Alenko poured it on, catching the attention of the hostiles. Wrex saw Shepard signal and they sprinted down the right flank. A terrorist tried to take a pot shot, but a sniper round sizzled through his throat, spraying blood in the air. The man fell to both knees, gurgling and holding his neck. Wrex shouldered his shotgun. Best he put the poor SOB out of his misery.

Red Team had just come through the door and now the remaining terrorists were pinned on three sides. It was a freaking kill box and Wrex loved it. Any which way the knuckleheads turned, their back or flank was to someone. Now was the time for action.

"Cover me, Shepard, I'm moving in." He half expected her to balk and hold him back, but she merely nodded and moved in behind him. So, all that talk about taking the initiative wasn't just talk for her. This might not be such a bad gig after all.

He began to accelerate towards the three terrorists. He really didn't care who they were, what they stood for, or who they terrorized. They were just free credits to him and a few minutes of fun. He had charged three meters before they seemed to realize that they were screwed. The horrified look in their eyes was priceless as they tried to turn and engage the krogan. One man pivoted and began to glow blue, raising his hand towards Wrex. The krogan wasn't the least bit perturbed and cradled his shotgun under his arm, firing on the run. The muzzle flashed, spewing dozens of metal pellets, some sharp, some flat to do the most horrific damage to any soft target. The blast caught the man full in the chest, shearing his outstretched arm off in the process. Now at a full run, Wrex lowered his shoulder and rammed the dying man like a wrecking ball, knocking him back into another terrorist.

Shepard was right beside him and he could hear the rattle of her assault rifle. His widely spaced eyes picked up on her tightly patterned shots connecting center mass with another man to the right. The blue swirls surrounding the terrorist instantly faded to black as he fell back against some crates and slumped over. "Tango down, right!"

The last terrorist shoved the dead body off of him and tried to bring his pistol to bear against the krogan. Brave little fool. At least he'd go down fighting. Out of a weird sense of mercy, Wrex let him pop off a couple of rounds that flattened on his armor like bugs before he seized the man's arm and swung him into a crate and then another. Body, pistol, and crate crashed to the ground in a heap. The man lay there, beaten and bloody, one eye swollen shut, his hand broken and shaking. The pistol lay nearby and Wrex pushed it to the man with his foot. "C'mon, take it."

The man tried to wave the krogan away and wouldn't take the weapon. Wrex knelt down and put it in his hand. "C'mon, shoot me."

"No…you'll just kill me."

Pathetic…. The guy had promise until he started whining and crying. Someone grabbed Wrex's arm. It was Shepard.

"Okay Wrex, enough fun. He's a prisoner of the Alliance. We have to move on and find Burns."

He curled his scaly lip up like a kid caught taking varren entrails from his mother's cooking. "Awww, alright. I was getting bored with him anyway."

Shepard gave him a half grin. "I wouldn't want you to get bored now. Okay, fall in," she said and Red Team swooped in to secure the prisoner. She pointed to Ash. "I need actionable intelligence on Burn's location. Anything from the other prisoner?"

"No, he clammed up."

Surprisingly, Shepard knelt down to the injured man, who was trussed up like a roast turkey. "Dude…where's Burns? How many more are we facing?"

"Screw yourself, bitch! We're fighting for our rights!"

She patted him on the head. "Wrex, come back here." He started walking over, unsheathing a jagged knife in the process.

"Wait, wait!" the man shouted. "No, wait!"

Shepard waved the krogan off. "Sorry, get back in line Wrex."

The krogan sighed. "Quit teasing me like that Shepard."

The man started blubbering. "Burns…Burns is in the port cargo bay. We didn't want to hurt him. We just want what is rightfully ours."

"Keep talking…who's holding him? How are they armed?"

"I…I don't want to tell you. You'll just kill them."

Shepard sat cross-legged next to the man and her expression softened. "My name is Commander Claire Shepard. I've been sent to rescue Chairman Burns. I do not want any more bloodshed today, but I have a mission. If you help me, I swear, I will do my best to try to bring the rest of your people home alive. Help me and you will all be treated with respect and dignity. Cross me and I will make it my personal mission to see you all burn in Hell."

Wrex crossed his arms. Damn, she was good. She had this freaky thing called subtlety. The man blurted out that there were three remaining Biotics, led by Marco Oliviera, a BaAt graduate, who was ruined by debilitating pain caused by his L2 implant.

Shepard helped the man gently to his feet. "Thank you. I give you my word that I will do everything that I can to save them," she said and then turned to Williams. "Ash, make sure that they get food and water and medical care."

She then pointed to Kaiden. "Do you know this Oliviera?"

"Not personally, but he was a couple classes ahead of me. Commander, I feel really bad. I know what he's going through."

"I want to save him, Kaiden, I really do, but can you pull the trigger if needed?"

"I can."

"Good, now get Kohl up here and start running the names and intelligence. I want a bio so we can negotiate."

Wrex snorted. Damn, more talk. Well, it was a fun day while it lasted.

CODEX –

DCO – Deputy Commander of Operations.

Sloped Armor – armor angled in the direction of incoming fire to create a greater relative thickness and to deflect the shot. Implemented by the French Army just prior to WWII and extensively used by the Russian T-34 tank.

Hull Down – when a tank utilizes an obstacle or reverse slope to shield its hull, exposing only the turret to present a smaller target.

Defilade – the use of obstacles to shield oneself from enemy fire. Aka cover.

Smooth Bore – when the inside of the barrel has no rifling.

Coaxial Machinegun – when the machinegun is mounted next to the primary weapon to engage soft targets.

Soft Targets – People.

OPORD – Operations Order.

Center Mass – Aiming for the largest target area, usually the chest.