A/N: This short, one-shot story came about as I was wondering about potential team-mates in ME3. There's been a lot of suggestions (a lot of them quite unfeasible) about who/what should be the next squaddies in the game. Which started me thinking; everybody makes suggestions, without considering how difficult it may be for the writers to implement new team-mates seamlessly.
So, this is my attempt to do just that. This is my "if I was a Bioware writer" fantasy. For continuity, I've kept most of the ME2 team-members alive and well, and some of them will appear during the following 'recruitment' mission. Except Zaeed... I never really liked him, and if I had my way, I'd replace him with my own invention.
The potential team-mate running around inside my head is yet another Cerberus experiment gone wrong. I had a lot of fun coming up with this character, and hope you have as much fun reading.
The Captain's cabin was built on the highest habitable level of the Normandy SR2. Hidden behind the high ceiling panels, out of sight but not completely out of mind, were the lithium heat sinks. It was these sinks that allowed the ship to run in stealth mode; and it was these sinks that gave John Shepard cause to lie awake at night. What would happen if the sinks malfunctioned, and instead of venting heat, they kept storing it? What would happen if Joker forgot to release the heat in the cells after several hours of silent running? How quickly would John Shepard be cooked alive in his sleep? Would he even have time to wake up, and scream for help?
Not for the first time, he sighed and threw back his blanket, letting the cooler air in his cabin run its fingers across his skin. Even the simple act of thinking about the heat-sinks made him feel hot. It was, of course, entirely psychosomatic. His mind knew that the heat sinks were perfectly safe. His body just didn't seem to agree.
The quiet sound of bubbling water helped to relax him somewhat. He looked over at the fish swimming in the aquarium that was built into the wall. They'd been Kelly's idea, the fish. 'Commander, you need to have something to keep you grounded. I know how hard you take it when you lose somebody, or when we don't arrive in time to save colonists from batarian slavers or raiders or mercs or Collectors. Think of this as your redemption. By keeping the fish alive, you're proving to yourself that you can keep others alive.'
He wished she'd started off with a plant, or something. Plants were easy. You just threw a bit of water at them every now and again. But fish... fish needed care and attention. He hadn't given them care and attention, and they'd died. It was almost as if they gave up the will to leave upon entering the aquarium. In the end, Kelly had took pity on the things, and now saw to their care herself. But she always did it when he was away on missions. He knew that she knew that he knew that she did it, but it was something they didn't talk about. She wanted him to think that he was the one keeping the fish alive, and he was willing to give her that illusion, even when they both saw through it. That was psychologists for you. They were fucking crazy.
"Captain?" Joker's voice was scratchy over the ship's internal communicator. It was always like that, during FTL flight.
"I'm asleep," he said, and Joker chuckled.
"Right. Well, this must be the weirdest dream you ever had. I've got Ambassador Anderson on comm for you. He's using an Alliance military channel. Said it was important that he speaks with you."
"Alright, patch him through." He waited until the clicking sound over the comm indicated that a new channel had been patched through. "Captain Anderson. This is a surprise."
"Thank you for speaking with me, Shepard." Anderson's voice was the same as always; deep, calm, collected. Very little could phase the man; he treated batarian slavers and the Citadel Council with equal composure. "And you can drop the honorific. I was Captain once, but no more."
"I wish I could say that I'm sorry, but you were the best man from the job. So, when did speaking with me cease to become anathema?"
"Technically, it hasn't. For as long as you're working with Cerberus, the Alliance wants little to do with you. But they understand how much you've sacrificed... which is why they turn a blind eye to you."
"Sing me a new song, Ambassador. You didn't contact me to discuss old times, or my current allegiances."
"That's right. To be honest, Shepard, I need your help. You know I wouldn't come to you without great need."
"Alright. I'll bite. Tell me what's going down," he said, sitting up in his bed.
"Over the past few months, there has been a spate of killings."
"That's nothing new."
"No. But that's not what's worrying me. These killings have revolved around six former Alliance scientists. In some cases, the scientists have been killed. In other cases, their families have. We've had our best minds on the job, but we haven't been able to figure out who's been killing them, or why. Every time I try to investigate further, I'm stone-walled by somebody higher up in the chain of command. At first I was able to investigate freely... but after the last two killings, it's been getting harder and harder to get information from anywhere. Somebody doesn't want this investigated."
"So naturally, you want me to look into it." Sometimes, it was like being telepathic.
"You're still a Spectre, Shepard. You can still go places and do things that I can't. I know you've got your own crack team out there with you, and I'm confident that if you're able to find out who's targeting ex-Alliance scientists and why, you'll be able to stop them before they strike again. I won't lie to you, Shepard. This is a mystery. And as much as I'd love to solve it on my own... I can't. So I'm asking for your help."
"I'll do it," he relented. He'd never been able to refuse Anderson's requests, even when the Ambassador has been forced to distance himself from him after Cerberus brought him back.
"Thank you, Shepard. I'm forwarding the Alliance profiles for all of the scientists in question, as well as everything I've found in my own investigation so far."
"I'll let you know when I have something."
"Be careful, Shepard. I don't want whoever's doing this coming after you too."
The comm line went dead, and John lay back on his bed once more, only the gentle bubbling of the aquarium to interrupt his thoughts. Who would be axing Military scientists? And why their families? With a sigh, he swung his legs over the side of the bed and began to dress. There wasn't much point in trying to sleep further tonight; not when there was a mystery to solve.
o - o - o - o - o
The corridors of the ship were quiet, with most of the crew asleep in the ship's pods. On the deck below, the engine was humming quietly as it propelled the Normandy through space at FTL speeds. In the mess hall, he knew that several of his friends were waiting for him. Samara, as a Justicar, was interested in this mystery that Anderson had brought them. She wanted to find out who was killing innocent men, women and children, so she could put a stop to it. Likewise, Garrus' help would be invaluable. Who better to help you connect the dots of a murder case than a former C-Sec officer. And since Miranda and Jacob had gotten wind of the mystery, they would be waiting there too.
"Commander Shepard, the Illusive Man would like to speak with you."
EDI's synthesised voice was capable of conveying tones. He was certain that the AI had a full-blown personality, including a somewhat warped sense of humour. And the tone that the AI was using now told him that the Illusive Man would brook no delays. So he stepped back into the elevator he had just stepped out of, and punched the button for the deck above.
He didn't like running every time the Illusive Man crooked his finger, but there was little he could do about it. This ship belonged to Cerberus. Most of the crew was working for Cerberus. The damned AI had been programmed by Cerberus. He was trapped in a cage with transparent bars, designed to give the illusion of freedom. The Illusive man lived up to his name; he was damn good at illusions.
The door to the briefing room swished open at his approach, and as he stepped onto the communications podium, the rest of the room fell away. In front of him, a familiar scene sprang up; the Illusive Man was seated, as always, with a cigarette in his hand. There was no smell of tobacco - there never was. This wasn't real, it was simply an elaborate hologram. Yet another illusion.
Behind the Illusive Man was an image of a sun burning brightly, flaring occasionally, lashing out with bright orange whips of fire. Was that, too, an illusion? John didn't know. And he didn't ask. There wasn't any point. The Illusive Man rarely answered questions, and when he did, the answer you heard wasn't the one that you wanted.
"Shepard," the Illusive Man said, then took a long drag on his cigarette. "I heard the Ambassador has been in touch."
"You sure do hear a lot," he replied.
"Where you are concerned, yes I do. Consider it... protecting my investment. Now, I know what the Ambassador wanted, and I know what he gave you; a list of names. I have another six to add to that list."
"What? Six more ex-Alliance scientists have died? Why didn't Anderson give me their names too?"
"Because these scientists aren't ex-Alliance. Not all of them are dead, either. Some are alive, only without their families."
"They were working for Cerberus," he said, jumping to the first conclusion that appeared in his head. "What were they working on?"
The Illusive man took another long puff on his cigarette. John could tell that he was debating how much information to divulge.
"Weapons research. I'll forward all relevant information to you. Good hunting, Shepard."
The image faded, replaced once more with the briefing room. It was dull, in comparison to the miasma of colours present in the hologram. In a way, that hologram was more realistic than anything. After it, everything else seemed... faded.
He stepped off the podium and left the room. He didn't have to ask the Illusive Man when the files would be sent over; it would already have been done by now. One more piece in the puzzle. But how much of it was coincidence? Six former Alliance scientists are killed, or their families are. And the same happens to six Cerberus scientists? Well, if there was a connection there, he would find it.
o - o - o - o - o
The mess hall was probably not the best place to hold this sort of investigative meeting. But John didn't care. He wasn't with the Alliance anymore. He didn't have to follow the book to the letter. There was some flexibility in how he ran the second incarnation of the Normandy, and if he wanted to hold a meeting in the mess, he would hold a meeting in the mess. Who was going to complain?
"Alright, let's go over what we know," he said, his elbows on the table and his hands supporting his head as he stared down at the pad in front of him.
"Again?" said Jacob. "Commander, this is a joke. The Illusive Man hasn't given us nearly enough information to go on. I mean, a list of names, and the locations of their homes? What does he think we can do with this?"
"We need to start at the very beginning," said Garrus, completely unphased by the task ahead of them. "First we look for general links. Things that these people have in common. Then we start breaking it down, looking for smaller connections."
"Right. From the top," said Miranda, picking up her own pad.
"EDI," said John. "Please record all of this, and give us a visual representation of the links between these people."
"I will construct a chart as your investigation progresses, Commander Shepard," said the AI.
"From the list that Anderson provided us," said Miranda, "we have the names of two geneticists, one molecular biologist, one biochemist, and two evolutionary biologists. From the list that the Illusive Man gave us, we know that these people were also experts in their fields, which are remarkably similar to those of the first list. Biologists, chemists, geneticists... etc."
"Well that's our first link," said Garrus.
"But these aren't the sort of people you'd put on a weapons research project," said Jacob.
"Unless they were researching bio-weapons," John suggested. "Weapons of mass destruction, programmed to target a specific species."
"There's a sobering thought," said Garrus.
"I don't buy it," said Miranda. "I mean, there's a chance that Cerberus was doing that... a very slim chance. But it would be extreme, even for them."
"I wonder... did any of these people know each other?"
"Well," John continued, the words blurring in front of him through his tired eyes, "We know that the Cerberus group worked together. As for the others... they served in different military installations, some on Earth, some in colonies, some on ships. Some were doctors, others were researchers. After they left the military, all at different times, they all pursued different paths. Two of them, men named Kalmar Singh and David Stone, worked at Caltech. They were colleagues, who split their time between lecturing and private research."
"They were the evolutionary biologists, were they not?" said Samara, examining her pad.
"That's right. Of the others... two geneticists worked for different companies. One, Julie Moore, worked for ExoGeni. The other, Frank Sax, worked for Crescendo Biotechnics. Carrie Guerin, the dead molecular biologist, was retired from the military. She went off to do private research after her retirement, and wasn't seen again until she was found dead in her apartment on Amaterasu. Simon Jackman was a biochemist who worked for Solar Polymer Research. Never heard of them, but his family was found dead in his home on Elysium. He's since been committed to a mental institution."
"Shepard," EDI interrupted. "I have found something interesting that I thought you would wish to hear."
"Let's have it, EDI."
"I have cross-referenced records of Solar Polymer Research in several Earth databanks. I have an address for the company."
"And that's interesting... why?"
"Because the building in question suffered significant fire damage during an industrial incident six years ago, and has not been rebuilt since."
"That is interesting."
"And there is more. I am unable to find a list of personnel for the company. I have, however, found the name of the company's financial advisor, with an instruction to contact him with any queries regarding the finances of Solar Polymer Research."
"Who is it?"
"A volus broker named Barla Von."
"Well well. My old friend Barla Von? I think it's time I made a call to him. EDI, could you get me his office on the comm?"
"Processing your request."
"I take it you've had dealings with this Barla Von before?" said Jacob.
"Yeah," he replied, leaning back in his chair. "He tossed me a scrap or two to help expose Saren as a traitor to the Council."
"Commander, I have Barla Von on the comm line, and he has agreed to speak with you," said the AI.
"Thanks, EDI. Put him through."
"Commander Shepard?" said a rasping voice over the comm system. "I'm pleased that rumours of your death appear to have been exaggerated."
"They weren't exactly exaggerated... but that's a story for another time. I'm looking for some information."
"Then you've come to the right place. For the right price, of course."
"I believe you've been handling finances for an Earth-based company called Solar Polymer Research?"
"Normally I would never give up the identities of my clients... but since you have already figured that out on your own, I see no sense in denying it."
"I need to speak with the managing director."
"Oh. I'm afraid I'm not at liberty to divulge personal information, Commander. You should know that, by now."
"I'm investigating several murder cases, Barla Von, and I believe that Solar Polymer Research may be involved. Which makes you complicit. Do you really want a Spectre looking into your affairs? Because if you don't tell me who the director of that company is, I'll have to do just that. On the other hand, if I was to hear a name dropped casually in conversation, I might just terminate this call and be satisfied that you haven't committed any crime. I know you, Barla Von. You put money through more hoops than a circus lion, but you don't commit crimes."
"Ohh... alright. The man who asked me to oversee the company's finances was a Mr Skywalker."
"Don't tell me," said Jacob, "his first name was Luke?"
"Why, yes! Do you know the gentleman in question?"
"Shit," said John, all but seeing his only lead go flying out of the airlock. "Thanks for the info, Barla. Pleasure doing business, as always."
"Well," said Miranda, as the comm line terminated. "It seems that we have a phantom company with a phantom director."
"If you paid me for being here," said Garrus thoughtfully, "then I'd be willing to bet an entire month's wage that Mr Skywalker and the Illusive Man are intimately acquainted."
"You believe that Solar Polymer Research is a front for Cerberus?" said John.
"Maybe it's all a front," said Jacob. "Maybe they were all on the payroll of these other companies or universities or whatever, but working on this Cerberus weapons project behind the scenes."
"Alright. I'm willing to entertain that. It's about as plausible as anything. But why kill off these scientists?"
"Maybe something went wrong with the project," Miranda suggested.
"Or maybe someone else is looking to steal their work," said Garrus.
"But then why kill some of them, and leave others alive but kill their families?" asked Jacob. "Unless it's a threat."
"Shepard, I believe you are looking at this from the wrong direction," said Samara.
"Oh? How so?"
"You are concentrating on the victims, and looking for links between them. I believe you should instead be looking at the crimes to find the links. This is what I have been considering, as the rest of you have discussed the scientists."
"And what have you come up with?"
The asari stood up to pace the room as she spoke.
"I have reviewed the crime scene information provided to us. These men and women, or their families, were not killed for their research."
"How do you figure that out?" asked Jacob.
"The method of killing is very unique. Very... barbaric. Most were killed with sharp, bladed weapons. Knives, unique to each crime scene. From scene to scene, no two entry wounds were the same. Some were stabbed, causing deep puncture wounds, others were slashed, their arteries opened and left to bleed to death. Even the children received this treatment. And the ones who were not stabbed to death, were shot at close range, with smaller guns. Pistols or shotguns. No automatic weapons. No sniper rifles. To me, this suggests that the crime was personally motivated. Somebody wanted to see these victims die. It suggests a crime of passion, anger or revenge. Nothing was stolen from the crime scenes, and no evidence was left behind. This suggests that the person, or people, we are looking for, is a trained killer. But not a professional one. We are not looking for someone like Thane, who kills coldly, without compassion. We are looking for someone with emotional investment."
"Hmm," said Garrus. "I can't argue with four hundred years of fighting crime."
"There is more," said Samara. "These people... the scientists who did not have families were killed in their homes, always at night. And the scientists who did have families were never present during the murders. They were always off-world, or working."
"You know," said Miranda thoughtfully, "taking my sister away from my father was my method of punishing him. Do you think that's what's happening here? Somebody wants to hurt the scientists by striking at those closest to them?"
"It's something to work with," said John, grateful for Samara's input. "Now I think it's time I had another chat with the Illusive Man."
o - o - o - o - o
"So what did our friend have to say for himself?" Garrus asked as John rejoined in friends in the mess.
"Very little. But I did get three more names. Apparently, these guys were all the top scientists on the project. The three extra names... nothing's happened to them. Yet. But the Illusive Man did suggest that I figure out which one is going to be next if I want to stop the slaughter."
"Let me see these names," said Samara. He gave her the datapad, and her eyes flickered over it. "EDI, please check with the respective worlds of these three men. We need to know if they are on-world or off-world, and which have families."
"Processing your request. I have found the information you require. Jay Oldman and his family live on Intai'sei, but they are away on a cruise of Sol. One man, Alexander Korolev, lives on Amaterasu. He has no immediate family, and is currently present on his homeworld. The third, Phillipe Rouarc, is also present at his home in Illium. He has only one surviving parent, who lives on Earth, but no wife or children."
"So," John mused, "it's going to be either Korolev or Rouarc. But which one?"
"Want to borrow a coin, Commander?" asked Jacob wryly.
"Thanks, but I'll pass." He pressed the comm button on the wall. "Joker, are we closer to Amaterasu, or Illium."
"Illium, Commander. Do you want me to set a course?"
"You know, Shepard," said Samara, "these killings have been carried out over a period of months. It could be days or weeks before the killer strikes again, if it even is the same person."
"Then we'll just have to take Rouarc into protective custody until we can catch the criminal. And the same goes for Korolev."
"Making the jump to the Crescent Nebula now, Captain," said Joker.
"I would like to accompany you down to the surface, Shepard," said Samara. "I am familiar with Illium, and my status as a Justicar may come in useful against any beaurocracy."
"I'd like to go too," said Garrus. "This killer has been harming innocent families... I want him stopped."
"Alright. You can both come, but we're taking Grunt too. Just in case we're dealing with a lot of 'someones' who have a grudge against scientists."
o - o - o - o - o
The sky of Illium was dark, except for the waning red glow on the horizon. John Shepard's boots made a steady thud thud sound as he walked down the pavement towards the apartment block that, according to Illium's police department, Phillipe Rouarc lived in. His was one of the highest apartments, only three levels from the top.
"It was good of the detective to give us the override key to the apartment door," said Garrus, twirling the electronic card around in his fingers.
"I prefer the old fashioned method of getting inside a building," said Grunt. "There's something satisfying about kicking a door in."
"I suspect Mr Rouarc will not be pleased to see us," said Samara. "No doubt he will try to resist our help."
"I'm not giving him a choice," said John, patting his assault rifle for emphasis. "Right now, he's the best chance we've got to catch this killer."
"This is it," said Garrus, stopping outside a tall building. High above, in the sky, small shuttles zipped to and fro, carrying passengers around Illium.
"Hey, Shepard," said Grunt, staring up at the building. "There's something moving up there."
"Up there? See it, just above the second floor window?"
John peered up, his vision briefly affected by the light streaming out from the windows of the building. Then he saw what Grunt saw; a lithe shape climbing up the side of the building, long hair being blown about by the breeze. Whoever it was, they had a long climb ahead of them; Rouarc's apartment was another thirty storeys up.
"Garrus, you're with me," he said, hurrying towards the door with the turian in tow. "Samara, Grunt, wait here. Whoever it is, they're coming in with us or down to you."
Garrus swiped the access card across the reader, and they ran down the hallway to the stairwell. There was no time to wait for the elevator, and they only had to climb up three stories. John took the steps two at a time, using the banister to help pull himself up. He held his gun tightly to his chest, ready to shoot if there was somebody waiting. Behind him, he heard Garrus keeping pace.
When they reached the third floor he took a left turn, aligning himself on the side of the building where he had seen the figure climb. He tried to prise open a window, but it refused to budge, so he used the butt of his rifle to break the latch, then lifted the window frame up, holding it in place with one hand while he point his rifle down at the figure below him. Beside him, Garrus did the same with his sniper rifle, looking down the scope, though at this close range it wasn't needed.
Below him, standing on an impossibly narrow ledge, with her black-gloved hands gripping the wall, was a woman. Her long brown hair was whipped around her face by the wind, and on her hip he saw a pistol holstered, and a long knife was sheathed at her belt. Something about her struck him as odd, and for a moment he couldn't place it. Then he realised what was wrong; the iris's of her eyes were yellow, and when light from the window landed on her face, her black pupils narrowed to slits. Though the rest of her face was human, her eyes were clearly not.
"Don't move!" he called, though she hadn't made a move yet. She merely looked up at him, assessing him. "I'm going to reach down, and I want you to take my hand so I can pull you up."
The woman cocked her head, and he wondered if she even understood. If she was an alien, she might not speak his language, though the translator built into his suit should have been able to convey his message to her. Slowly, one hand still on his rifle, he reached down with his left hand. The woman let go of the wall, and stepped backwards, dropping feet-first from the narrow ledge.
"Shit," he said, as he watched gravity hurl her towards the ground. But instead of falling, and breaking her neck, she landed on her feet, bending her knees to absorb the impact of the drop. He could only stare in open-mouthed disbelief. Even enhanced marines, like him, would have broken a few bones pulling a stunt like that. But the woman simply landed, looked around, then ran away from the building.
"I've got a shot," said Garrus, his attention focused down his rifle's scope.
"Take it, but try not to kill her. I want to know why she's doing this."
The gun was almost silent as Garrus pulled the trigger. Not far away, the woman fell forward as the bullet hit her. For a moment she was still, and he feared that Garrus had killed her by mistake. Then she slowly pushed herself to her feet, and he saw blood on her clothes at the back of her left shoulder.
"Hmm, maybe I should have gone for a leg," said Garrus, sighting down his scope again as the woman staggered slowly away. But there was no need for another shot; Samara stepped out from behind another building, raised her hand, and sent the killer flying into a wall. When she crumpled to the floor, she did not get up again.
"Come on, let's get down there before Grunt decides to toss her around for fun," he replied.
"Maybe you should let him. She killed an awful lot of people, after all."
"I'd like to hear what she has to say, first. Ordinarily, I wouldn't have asked you to take a non-lethal shot. But with Cerberus involved..."
Garrus nodded emphatically. With Cerberus involved, anything was possible.
o - o - o - o - o
Mordin Solus and Dr Chakwas moved with calmness and surety around the med bay. John watched as they worked with each other and around each other; the doctor worked to heal the unconscious woman, whilst Mordin ran tests to determine who, or what, she was. And as they worked, John examined the woman on the table.
She had been restrained, of course, and her weapons had been taken away. Even now, Samara was examining them, trying to determine if they had been used in any of the killings. The woman on the table, even and unconscious and restrained, looked... peaceful. Her face was pale, her features soft but well-proportioned, and a bruise was forming on her temple. Her brown hair fell to below her shoulders, and was still unruly after being tousled by the wind. And the fact that she'd been thrown against a wall probably didn't help. Still, apart from the bruise on her temple, and the blood on her shirt where the bullet had penetrated her shoulder, she didn't look too worse for wear. Her black trousers hugged her body comfortably, ending in black calf-high boots, made out of some sort of soft faux-leather material; not the boots you would associate with a trained killer. Her long-sleeved grey and black shirt was also skin-tight, highlighting the contours of her body but without exposing even an inch of flesh.
"Interesting. Interesting," Mordin mused aloud.
"What is it?" he asked.
He stepped forward, and Garrus followed, with Miranda close behind. Mordin picked up a small torch-light, and pulled back one eyelid of the unconscious woman, exposing a yellow eye. When he shined the light in her eye, the yellow expanded, causing the black pupil to shrink horizontally.
"Yeah, we saw that back on Illium," he told the salarian.
Next, Mordin removed one of the woman's gloves, and held up one of her hands to inspect her fingers. He pushed down on one finger, and the nail... extended, showing a tendency to curve towards a point.
"Partially retractable claws," said Mordin. He let go of the hand and pulled open the woman's mouth, indicating another oddity; the woman's canine teeth were longer than could be expected in a human, and sharper. The rest of her teeth were normal, though, and pearly white. "Elongated canines. Very interesting."
"She's some sort of hybrid?" John suggested. "A cross between a human and... a turian, maybe?" After all, she possessed several turian-like features... claws, sharp teeth, oddly coloured eyes...
"Hybrid, yes!" said Mordin excitedly. "But crossed with turian? No. Physical impossibility. Too much difference in DNA. Even to cross human with asari or salarian... impossible."
"So what kind of hybrid are we looking at?" said Miranda.
"Genetic scanning shows traces of DNA from Earth predator, Panthera Tigris."
"What, you're saying that somebody has made themselves a half-human, half-tiger?" John asked in disbelief.
"No, Shepard. Also detecting presence of chromatophores. Pigment altering cells beneath upper dermal layer. Common to other Earth species... most likely Celoid or Chamaeleoninae."
"Um... Doctor Chakwas, could I get a translation?"
"What Doctor Solus is saying," said Chakwas as she continued to work on the patient, "is that the young woman in front of you has been the subject of extensive genetic modification. Chromatophores are used by several different species of animal to alter skin pigment, usually as a method of camouflage or communication. They're only found in cold-blooded animals, though. Mammals, along with birds, have a different type of cell called a melanocyte, which is responsible for producing melanin. It seems somebody wasn't happy with that, so they made a few changes."
"This is illegal."
"Illegal, immoral..." Mordin agreed, "but very interesting. Never dared do anything like this myself. Interested in studying specimen. Would have been better if you hadn't shot her. Maybe next time, try sedative."
"We'll let you work, doctors. Let me know when you have anything else," he said, and gestured for Miranda and Garrus to follow him. They stepped out of the med bay, now guarded by two armed crew members, and into the mess. Samara as there, examining the weapons with Jacob, and it seemed that word of the mission had got around; not only was Grunt there, but Tali had been coaxed up from the engine room, Jack had finally deigned to show herself, and Thane was quietly watching everybody else.
"Commander," said Jacob, looking up as he approached. "How's the... uh... prisoner?"
"Recovering, but still out cold. What can you tell me about the weapons?"
"We have been unable to determine whether they were used in any of the killings," said Samara calmly. "The scanners show only one DNA set on the blade; hers. The gun has been used, but not extensively. It is new, and does not show the usual wear and tear of an oft-used weapon. It is possible that she procures a new one for each new killing, to prevent her trail from being followed."
"Is it true that she's some sort of genetically altered hybrid?" asked Tali. "Not even my people would go that far, and we created the geth."
"Huh, I wouldn't mind a bit of whatever she's got inside her," said Grunt appreciatively. "She dropped almost three storeys without so much as a scratch. Imagine what I could do if I could drop off buildings like that."
"What I want to know is why the hell did you stop her?" said Jack angrily. "If she was taking out scientists on Cerberus' payroll, she was making the galaxy a better place. Trust me."
"She was not just killing scientists," said Samara. "She was also killing innocents; women and children who had no part in Cerberus and its schemes."
"Like you give a damn. You'd shoot an 'innocent' for dropping a piece of litter if your damn code told you to. When are you going to wake up and smell the roses; there's no such thing as an 'innocent' person."
"Let's try to avoid moralising," said John, stepping between the two women before they could come to blows. There was no telling what a fight between two powerful biotics would do to the ship. "I'm more interested in knowing who decided to create this genetic aberration, and why."
"It was so that I could become the perfect killer," said a low, calm voice behind him. At once, eight weapons came up, pointing in a single direction. John turned, and saw Mordin and Chakwas standing beside the woman from the bed. And behind them, the two armed crew had their own weapons pointing at her. He looked down, and saw her hands cuffed, but it was still incredibly risky of Mordin to let her out of the med bay.
"Shepard," said Mordin, seeming to sense that the Commander wasn't pleased. "She wished to talk to you. Saw no harm in it. Can easily terminate her if violence used."
He gestured for his friends to put down their weapons, and most of them did so reluctantly. Samara, especially, looked ready to mete out justice right there and then.
"Is that what you are? The perfect killer?" he asked the woman. "Is that why you've been killing Cerberus scientists?"
"No," she said, watching him through her calm, yellow eyes. "I was supposed to be the perfect killer, but I am not. I am here to stop the deaths, not to cause them. You must let me go, before the man I was trying to save is killed."
"Do I look crazy? Do I have 'gullible' written across my forehead?"
"I know you have no reason to trust me, but I am telling the truth. I do not lie. Please, remove these bonds and let me leave."
Her voice was almost a purr as she spoke, sending chills up his spine. Her eyes had a hypnotic quality to them, and he found himself reaching forward, to free her from the cuffs.
"Ahem," said Mordin, breaking him out of the trance. "Prisoner capable of using pheromones to disorient individuals. Human males especially susceptible. Recommend caution."
He nodded, realising what he had almost done. The woman merely watched him through her dark lashes. He noticed something else about her eyes; she rarely blinked.
"Sit down and tell me what you're doing here," he said, leading her roughly by the arm to a chair. "And if you have a reason why I should trust you, it better be a damn good one."
"Will you at least uncage my hands?" she asked.
"No. Not until I have a reason to let you go."
"Very well. What is your name?"
"Shepard. John Shepard," he said, crossing his arms and leaning back against the breakfast bar. The rest of his friends were watching her too; Tali looked curious, though it was only possible to tell that by observing her body as she leaned forward to hear the stranger's words. Thane, quiet as always, seemed to be listening and praying at the same time. Samara was tense, obviously ready to react to a single wrong move from the stranger. Garrus was leaning back casually against a wall, but his rifle was close to hand. Grunt didn't even bother with the casual; he simply stood there holding his rifle as if daring the stranger to give him a chance to use it. Jack was relaxed in her chair, trying her best to feign disinterest. Mordin was still scanning the stranger with his omni-tool. Jacob and Miranda simply watched the woman, their faces expressionless.
"Shepard. My designation is Ten. But the name that I chose for myself, when I claimed my freedom, is Fenna."
"I was engineered in a laboratory. Grown in a test tube. And then later I was implanted into the womb of a woman; a volunteer who was being paid a lot of money to carry me to term. But I was not alone. There were thirty of us; I was the tenth created, and so that is the designation they gave me."
"Who are 'they'?" asked Miranda.
"An organisation named Cerberus."
"Shit. I knew you should have let her get on with the killing," said Jack.
"Fenna, why were you killing the scientists off?" John asked.
"I told you; I wasn't. That is the work of the others."
"Thirty of us there were at first. One year after our births, only fifteen survived."
"Wait, you're only a year old?" Jacob asked.
"One year, six months, and... some days."
"How is that even possible?"
"Hey, I was grown in a tube, and look at me," said Grunt, slapping his chest. "I'm much bigger than her."
"But you're a Krogan," Garrus pointed out. "Krogans mature much faster than any other species."
"Simple explanation," said Mordin. "Prisoner's body flooded with nano-tech. Responsible for increasing cell reproduction. Ages cells to a certain point, then switches off. Possible to grow from human baby to human adult in three months. Not recommended, though. Can be... complications. Organ failure, brain damage, amongst others. Very risky."
"Some died as a result of this rapid maturation process," Fenna confirmed. "Others died because of experiments performed on us by the scientists."
"Why did they even make you in the first place?" said John. "They broke not only Alliance laws, but Council laws too."
"I told you. They wished to create perfect killers. We were trained and conditioned from birth to kill."
"To kill who?"
"Whoever our overseers wished us to kill. Mostly aliens... asari, salarians, turians, krogan, hanar, drell, elcor, batarians... when we slept, we were played indoctrination recordings, over and over again. The voices on the tapes would tell us that we were better than anybody else. They told us that aliens were dangerous, that they could not be trusted, that they would hurt us if they could. We were shown images and vids, and a hatred of anything that did not look like us was strengthened within us."
"But you haven't been killing aliens, you've been killing the scientists who did this to you. Why?"
"I told you," she said, her brows knitted together in anger. "That was not me; it was the others."
"It was revenge, wasn't it," said Samara. "For what they did to you?"
"No. It was revenge for what they did to our brothers and sisters. A year after our births, only fifteen remained. The scientists feared us from the beginning. They feared that we would turn on them. From listening to the guards, I learnt that something like that had happened before. Scientists had done experiments, and the experiments had turned."
"Yeah, that was probably me," said Jack.
"From the moment we could understand speech, we were taught not only to hate aliens, but also to love our creators, to revere them. We were rewarded with pleasure for pleasing them. They thought that they had tamed us. They did not realise that the bonds between brothers and sisters were stronger than our bonds to the scientists. When we discovered that our brothers and sisters had died during experimentation, and died painfully, without dignity, we planned our escape. We broke out, stole a cargo ship, and left. But we knew it would be too dangerous to stay together. We would be easily tracked and caught. So we split up, each going our separate ways. But before we did, we promised each other thar we would hurt the scientists as they had hurt us. We would take their families from them, as they had taken ours from us. And those who had no families... we would take their lives. The man I chose to kill was Alexander Korolev."
"He's one of the men still alive," said Jacob. "Why haven't you killed him yet?"
"We all left the cargo ships in life pods, not knowing where we would end up or when we would see each other again. My pod was found by a salarian freighter; the captain took my pod on board, brought it into his cargo bay and opened it. I had no weapon, but I was ready to kill him with my bare hands. When I saw him, I heard the voices that told me he was a threat, that he was evil and dangerous. But instead of trying to harm me, he offered me food and drink. He treated me no differently than he treated the few human members of his crew. It made no sense to me. Everything I knew told me that this man deserved to die, simply for being who he was. And yet... I was fascinated. In the research facility, I had been something of an anomaly. All of us had increased intelligence, an increased capacity for learning... but none of the others displayed the same level of curiosity that I did. I saw, then, that the scientists had been wrong. And if they had been wrong about this, could they have been wrong about everything else?"
"Must have been quite an eye-opener," said Garrus.
"It was. The salarian freighter dropped me off on a human world. There, I watched and observed. Though it was a human colony, other species frequented it; asari, turian, salarian, even an occasional volus. I followed in shadows and came to know that they were no threat to me. It was then that I learnt the meaning of words I had never heard before; 'innocence', 'love', 'compassion'... in the Cerberus facility, I had been taught only to hate. Now I found that my eyes were open, and for the first time I could truly see. In a library, I read a book about the ancient Earth religion of Buddhism. I was fascinated by it. The concept of samsara, of life cycling over and over again, giving us a chance to change, to become better, to reach a state of enlightenment... but at the same time, it terrified me. I was not born. My life is false. When I die, I will not reborn again, because I am not natural. So I must strive in this life to be the best that I can, and hope that it is enough to save my soul when I die. If I even have one. I'm not really sure what a soul is supposed to feel like."
"So that's why you haven't killed Korolev?" said Thane.
"Yes. I realised that my brothers and sisters were making a terrible mistake. We did not know, when we made our pact, the meaning of the word 'innocent'. We had no concept of guilt, no knowledge of the soul. We knew only the hatred that had been taught to us, and the loss of our brothers and sisters. I knew that I had to enlighten my siblings, to teach them the lessons I had learnt. I tried to track them down, but it was difficult. I didn't know where they were. All I knew was the names of the scientists we had sworn to kill. Although I tried, I was always too late. My brothers and sisters struck before I could reach them, leaving bodies in their wake. On three occasions I arrived in the aftermath of such slaughters. When I confronted my siblings, they reacted with anger. They said that I was weak, a coward, a disgrace to what we were." Fenna lowered her eyes. "They did not realise that in killing the scientists, we became worse than them. They attacked me, and I was forced to kill them."
"If it's been so hard for you to get to them in time, how did you know to be here now?" asked Tali.
"The same way you did, I expect. Through the process of elimination. I knew that Korolev was safe, because he was my 'victim'. I learned that Oldman was off-world, so Rouarc was the logical choice. I told you; we were given the capacity for quick learning and vast intelligence. Just because I look like an animal, does not mean I am one. Now, all I wish is to be released. My brother has not struck at Rouarc yet, and there is a chance I may convince him to let his hatred rest. Please, Shepard. I do not want to lose another sibling. Not to hatred, and not to my own weapon."
Her eyes conveyed such open desperation that he decided to believe her story. But it didn't hurt to be cautious. She had already tried to fool him once with her pheromones, or whatever Mordin called them, and he didn't want that to happen again. He raised a questioning eyebrow at the rest of his team. Jacob nodded immediately; hopefully not another casualty of chemical persuasion. Tali also nodded, no doubt moved by Fenna's plight. Jack merely rolled her eyes; no doubt she would have preferred the ending where the scientist was killed. Garrus hesitated for a moment, then nodded; he did have reason to be cautious, given that Fenna had been conditioned to hate aliens. Mordin also nodded his head, no doubt happy he'd get a chance to study the woman further. Miranda reluctantly nodded too, and Thane gave a single, firm nod. Grunt shrugged, meaning he didn't care either way. Which left only Samara, who watched Fenna intently.
"Tell me something," the Justicar said. "How did you get the clothes you wear and the weapons you carry?"
"I stole them, as I also stole the food I needed to survive," said Fenna, raising her chin defiantly.
"Then you admit to being a criminal?"
"I told you; I do not lie. Nor do I make apologies for what I am. I stole out of necessity, to prevent greater crimes. I did not rob people who could not afford to lose an item here or there."
"I do not trust you," said Samara at last. "But if Shepard wants to free you... I will not object."
"Fenna," he said, pushing himself away from the bar to stand over her. "I give you your freedom, on the condition you stop your 'brother' from killing Rouarc by any means necessary. And to make sure you carry out your promise, I'll be going with you."
"As you wish, Shepard," she said, raising her hands so he could release her cuffs. "But know this; if my brother is to die, it is by my hand, and my hand alone. I will not let him be killed out of hatred or fear. If it is necessary to kill him, he will die with my love, or not at all."
"We have a deal," he said, and hoped that there would be no need for bloodshed tonight.
o - o - o - o - o
As the shuttle shook gently during its descent back down to the planet's surface, John examined the woman sitting on the seat across from him. There were conflicting auras of strength and vulnerability about her. Clearly she was intelligent and capable, and, judging by how she had attempted to scale the apartment block, also fearless. Yet she had been alive for only a year and a half. Most of her life, she had known anger and hatred, and now that she had finally broken free of that, she was forced to kill the people she considered her family.
People? Is that what they were? According to Mordin, she was only about half human; the rest of her was a cocktail of animal DNA. Part of him looked at her and saw something unnatural. Something that was abhorrent and did not belong. And it wasn't just because of her appearance; physically speaking, she looked far more human than Samara, who was sitting on the seat beside her, or Garrus, who was sitting on the seat beside him. But asari and turians were standard fare for him, these days. They were aliens, but at least they were natural. They hadn't been created in test tubes in a laboratory. Even Grunt, who had been grown in a tank, was a hundred percent pure Krogan.
She seemed to realise that he was staring, and raised her yellow eyes to meet his. It was an uncomfortable gaze, that she had, as if she was trying to peer inside his head. Just like a cat, really.
"Why did you jump down from the building, instead of letting me bring you inside?" he asked spontaneously.
"I thought you were going to kill me," she said simply.
"Didn't it hurt, falling all that way?"
"No. The feline DNA within me gives me more than good night vision. My bone density is less than that of most humans. My muscle mass is greater than that of most humans, especially in my legs. My leg muscles are also slightly longer than they need to be, to help absorb the impact of a fall, at least from a certain height. It made the maturation process... painful."
"Do you recall having growing pains, as a child?"
"Yes, of course. They're horrible."
"For the first three months of my life, I was constantly growing. My bones were developing, my muscles were strengthening and stretching... the pain was often excruciating. Sleeping was difficult, and sometimes the simple act of walking was enough to make me cry. Two of my siblings could not stand the pain, and took their own lives."
"I'm sorry. You've not had the best experience of humanity so far. It amazes me that you're willing to save the people who did this to you."
"I am doing it for my sake, not for theirs," she assured him.
"Tell me something... Mordin mentioned that you have... chro... chrom..."
"Chromatophors," said Garrus, bailing him out.
"Yeah, those. He said you could make your skin colour change. Is that true?"
"Yes," she said, shifting a little uncomfortably on her seat. "But it's not something I can control. It happens when I feel threatened, or anxious. Or when an emotion catches me off guard. It's like my heart beating. I know that it does it, but I can't control it. The pheromones work the same way. It is a reflexive, autonomous process."
"You said that you will be the one to kill your brother, should it come to that," Samara interjected. "Do you know, then, which of your siblings to expect here?"
"Yes," she said, casting her eyes to the floor. "His designation was Eleven, but the name that he took for himself was Orlan. Though the bond between all of us is strong, we feel it most strongly with those whose designations are closest to ours. My sister, Nine, was one of the last to die at the hands of the scientists before we fled. She was my close-sister, as Orlan is my close-brother. And I am Orlan's close-sister, as Twelve is his close-brother."
"But none of you are genetically related?"
"I don't know. Maybe the scientists used the same genetic material in all of us. Maybe they didn't. Does it matter? If I call somebody 'brother', then it is so, no matter what genetic stock we come from, no matter what female birthed us. We are all the same, but few acknowledge it. When we do, we become brothers and sisters."
There was no more discussion as the shuttle landed at Illium's main space port. Fenna had given him a lot to think about. In a mere six months of freedom, she had found herself a religion and discovered her place in the galaxy. After more than thirty years of life, and two years' experience of being dead, he was still as lost as ever.
o - o - o - o - o
The apartment complex where Rouarc lived loomed into view once more. Garrus gave him the card to the door, then left to find a vantage point where he could watch from. He was to be the look-out, and warn them when Orlan arrived. Samara was here to see that justice was actually done; she still didn't trust Fenna.
Once inside the building, they took the elevator up to Rouarc's level. And as the elevator ascended, Fenna took out her pistol, removing the heat sink clip before putting it back into the weapon. She did it over and over again, though he did not suspect she did it out of nervousness. It was more like she was trying to familiarise herself with the weapon. It seemed an almost comforting gesture, for her.
The door opened and they walked along the corridor until they reached room number 3215. He knocked on the door with Samara beside him, whilst Fenna stood to one side, out of view of the spy-hole. For a moment there was silence, and then a voice called out.
"Yeah? Who is it?"
"My name is Commander John Shepard," he said aloud. "I'd like to speak to you face to face."
"Shepard? The Spectre? Naw, you're dead."
"Not anymore. But I believe your life may be in danger."
"Oh yeah? Who's that you've got with you? Don't think I can't see the blue chick."
"My name is Samara, and I am a Justicar. If you don't open your door, I will open it for you."
"Aw, hell. Why'd they have to send a Spectre and a Justicar? Why couldn't they have just given me a few dozen mechs?"
"Who are 'they'?" John asked.
"The Alliance or the Council or Cerberus, whoever you're working for. I don't care. I just want to stay alive."
There was the sound of an electronic lock opening, and then the door opened up to show the scared face of a middle-aged man. John found it hard to find any sympathy for him; after what Fenna had told him, about the experiments, about the pain they had put their 'perfect killers' through... it made him feel sick, that he was supposed to protect men like this.
Rouarc opened the door fully, and he stepped through, followed by Samara. But when Fenna stepped out, to stare at the man, Rouarc pulled a gun and aimed it at the young woman's head. John moved, but Samara was faster; she brought her arm up, deflecting the gun as it fired its shot into the ceiling. Then she punched him in the stomach and took the gun from his limp hands.
"You..." Rouarc managed to huff. "You... Shepard, you have to... kill her. They've gone wild, all of them. We can't control them anymore. They'll kill you, when they're done with me. They'll kill us all."
"You made us what we are, Rouarc," said Fenna calmly. "You made us into weapons, and you made us smart. You could have made a gun, but instead you made us. But I am not here to kill you. Nor am I here to save you, for you are beyond redemption. All I will do is keep your body alive, so that every day you can grow a little closer to death."
"You... you're not here to kill me?" Rouarc asked skeptically, apparently latching on to the only part of her sentence that he understood.
"What makes you think Orlan will come tonight?" John asked her as Samara closed the door and prodded Rouarc into a chair.
"Because we are the same," she replied. "And I know. He will come in through the window, as I intended to do."
"About that. Why didn't you just wait for somebody with a card to come along, and just ambush them?"
"And cause more unnecessary suffering to someone who does not deserve it?" she asked in a bemused tone of voice. "Have you heard nothing I've said?"
"Well... you could have taken a shuttle cab to the roof, and then climbed down a couple of storeys, instead of climbing up thirty."
"I had no money. I could have hijacked one, but that would have drawn unnecessary attention to myself."
"Oh yeah, they're real good at avoiding attention," said Rouarc from the chair. "That's how we taught 'em. You can't have your predators rampaging through civilisation. Can't have your perfect soldier going in with guns blazing and painting a target on themselves. Stealth... it's in their blood. They're sharp and they're fast, but believe me, Shepard, they're animals. No matter what she looks like on the outside, on the inside, she's a predator. A killer."
"There's only one animal in this room, Rouarc," he replied, "and it's not her."
"So... the military sent you, did they? Probably wondered why all their former buddies were popping their clogs?"
"What makes you think Cerberus didn't send me?"
"Because if they did, I'd be dead by now. Or 'recovering' in a mental institution."
"What do you mean?"
"Guess you didn't hear about that part. Cerberus doesn't want info on their program leaked. The Council and the Alliance would be all over them, for tinkering with genetics. Some of the team had families, and I hear that when their families got iced, Cerberus kindly offered to re-home them in their own special 'rehabilitation centre'. That's just a fancy way of saying they were locked up somewhere they'll never see the light of day, and never talk about why their families were killed."
"So why haven't they 'rehabilitated' you yet?" asked Samara.
"I reckon they don't want to push it. It's easy to help someone who's had their family violently murdered. Me, I know people. I have contacts. If I went missing, questions would be asked. Cerberus probably figured the 'lost weapons' would get me first, and I'd be just another murder."
"Shepard, I've got movement down here," said Garrus over a secure comm channel. "Looks like someone's coming up the wall. He's pretty exposed right now... I could wait until he's high enough then take a shot. If the bullet doesn't kill him, the fall probably would."
"Negative," he replied. "Observe, and let us know when he's close."
"Shepard, you and Samara should take Rouarc and find cover," said Fenna. "From now on, you must all be silent."
"She's right," said Rouarc nervously. "They've got excellent hearing. Not many people know it, but cats can actually hear better than dogs can. Dogs can just hear higher pitches."
"I didn't ask for a biology lesson," he grunted, hauling Rouarc up by the arm and pushing him behind a large kitchen base-unit. Samara followed him. "Radio silence," he said to Garrus over the comm, then switched off the channel.
Waiting was the worse part of any fight. It was when nerves frayed and men broke. Beside him, Rouarc was shaking with fear, and on the other side of the terrified man, Samara was calmly listening for movement. The minutes seemed to stretch on for hours, then came the sound of shattering glass as the window was put through. There was no noise, no heavy thud of somebody climbing in through the window and landing on the floor. But he knew that the room now had one more occupant; it was a sixth sense honed through years of combat. And it drove home just how deadly and efficient Fenna was. She, too, was capable of climbing the side of a thirty storey building. She, too, was capable of movement so silent that you wouldn't know she was there until she pulled the trigger. The only thing stopping her from being that person was her desire to be better than the weapon they had made her.
"Fenna? Well, this is a surprise." The voice, like hers, was low with an underlying purring tone.
"Orlan," she replied, and he could hear the warmth and happiness in her voice. "I am glad to see you."
"And I you, sister. But... what are you doing here? Doctor Rouarc was supposed to be mine. Have you come to help me?"
"No, brother. I have come to talk to you."
"It will have to wait until I've completed my mission."
"You can't complete your mission, Orlan. This is not the way."
"What? But we made a pact. We are doing this for our brothers and sisters, for the ones that they killed and made suffer. That's the way it has to be. It has to balance out. How can it balance out if monsters like Rouarc are free whilst our siblings lie died, buried in unmarked graves or incinerated to hide evidence?"
"We dishonour our brothers and sisters by doing this. They would want us to live, Orlan. And whilst we are killing, whilst we are fulfilling our roles and being what they made us, we aren't living. We're simply existing."
"You're wrong. When we kill is when we are most alive."
"The moment you kill is the moment you accept their design for us. Once you've taken life, you can never go back. I don't want that for you, Orlan. I don't want you to become a monster, like Rouarc and the others."
"You assume I haven't killed already, sister." There was a tangible silence in the room, and the moment stretched out.
"Have you?" Fenna asked quietly. She sounded sad.
"Of course. It's what they made us for, Fenna. Just because they killed our siblings doesn't mean they were wrong about everything else. On my first day of freedom, I celebrated by killing a turian. They're supposed to be amongst the best warriors in the galaxy, but he never saw me coming. A few days later I chanced upon an asari commando. Her neck snapped just as easily. I've yet to kill a krogan, but I hope it will be more of a challenge. It's all just training, Fen. Practice for the day when we'll be called back together to protect our people."
"Humans. The only species that truly belongs in the galaxy."
"They're not 'our people', Orlan. Don't you understand that? We don't have any people. All we have is each other. If a human knew what you were, he would fear and despise you. He would call you an unnatural abomination, because that's what we are. We aren't human. We aren't anything but experiments gone wrong. All those humans that you wish to save would burn you at the stake for what you are."
"That's a lie. I've walked amongst them. Laughed with them, smiled with them, drank with them, shared their homes, their night clubs, their ships, their beds. We're just like them, only faster and stronger."
"I... you've given me a lot to think about, Orlan," Fenna said reluctantly. "I can't help you. I will leave. But when you are done, and I have... come to terms... with some of the things you've told me... I'd like to find you again. Perhaps we can hunt together, once all of this is behind us."
"I'd like that, Fenna. So... where's that coward Rouarc hiding? Under his bed?"
"No. He's over there, behind that kitchen unit. I've jammed the lock so he can't escape. He actually thought I would protect him from you."
"Ha! You should leave now, sister. If you don't want to see... just go."
John tensed his grip on the gun and looked up, ready to shoot the first thing that moved above the unit. Rouarc had his eyes screwed shut, like a child believing that if he couldn't see the monster, then the monster wouldn't see him. On his other side, Samara prepared to unleash a deadly biotic attack.
There was a single, loud shot, and for a moment, his heart stopped, and a chill ran up his spine. He looked at Rouarc, expecting to see a bullet in the man's head, but instead his eyes were wide open, and he was unharmed. There was movement from the main room, and footsteps approached the kitchen unit. John tensed again, but relaxed when Fenna stepped around the counter, her pistol drawn. She aimed the weapon at Rouarc's head, and John slowly rose, avoiding fast movements in case is startled her into firing.
"You should think yourself lucky, Rouarc," she said, her voice now more akin to a growl than a purr. "Out of fourteen experimental weapons, you've had only one failure." She lowered the gun and went to the door, opening it and stepping out into the corridor. John looked down at the floor of the living area and saw a lifeless body in a pool of blood. He had been shot at point blank range, a single bullet to the back of the neck where the spine connected to the brain stem. Death would have been instantaneous.
"I think we're done here, Commander," said Samara. He nodded, and they left Rouarc sitting alone on the cold kitchen floor, with nothing but his dead experiment for company.
o - o - o - o - o
Outside the apartment, some way along the street, Fenna was looking up at the stars in the night sky. Garrus watched her from the steps of the building, and John approached him while Samara went to summon a shuttle back to the space port.
"I managed to get a high vantage point," Garrus said. "Saw it all through my scope. I didn't hear what was said, but I can take a good guess at most of it."
"It was a shitty ending to a shitty situation."
"A merciful way to go, though. Quick, clean, no pain. Anyway, I thought I'd leave the whole human comforting thing up to you."
"I don't need comforting," Fenna said aloud.
"Her hearing's pretty good," he explained to Garrus.
"Fenna, do you want to fetch the body? Give Orlan a proper funeral?" he asked.
"No," she said, her yellow eyes still skyward. "Orlan is gone. What remains is an empty shell. Perhaps I'm wrong. Perhaps even unnatural genetic experiments like me are subject to samsara, and Orlan and I will meet each other again, in another life. But if not... there is no sense in crying over a shell."
"The shuttle will be here momentarily," said Samara, approaching from the building.
"Fenna," he said, "I know you've got a lot on your plate, but I could use somebody like you on my team. Life isn't always easy on the Normandy, but you'd be serving a worthy cause. We're fighting to save the galaxy, and allies are always welcome."
"I... thank you," she said, bowing her head. "I will fight beside you, until your enemies are defeated or until I am called away."
"Glad to have you on the team. Come on, this looks like our shuttle. Let's go and find you a home on the Normandy."
o - o - o - o - o
Thus ends my character's recruitment mission. As for how it would play out in ME3...
If Bioware go with the "loyalty" missions again, then stopping the fifteenth 'weapon' from killing his target would be Fenna's. Hunting down the rest of them could also be a side mission, since nobody wants eleven trained super-soldiers going rogue around the galaxy. As for how Fenna would react to the rest of the crew (assuming that Bioware actually improves the inter-party banter in ME3):
Shepard - Fenna would be initially uncomfortable around Shepard, avoiding him at times to avoid the whole 'can't control pheromones' thing she has going on. Eventually she'd learn to trust him. If Shepard is female, then less avoidance/awkwardness.
Jacob - Same as above.
Miranda - Fenna would be cautious of Miranda, because of the latter's history with Cerberus. There might be some trust, but it would never become true friendship.
Mordin - Fenna would respect Mordin's intelligence, but be bemused by his interest in her genetic alphabet soup. She would probably feel more comfortable around him, knowing that he knows the full range and extent of her abilities. She wouldn't need to keep secrets from him.
Garrus - Fenna would share some of Garrus' 'shades of grey' mentality, and probably enjoy his company (though she wouldn't spend time obsessing over weapons calibrations). She'd probably be relaxed around him, knowing that the pheromones she can't control would have no effect on him.
Jack - Fenna would have a mutual respect for Jack, despite their radically different outlooks on life. Both are looking out for themselves, both living in the 'now', but with Jack leaning towards hedonism and Fenna leaning towards altruism.
Grunt - As with Jack, there would be a mutual respect for his strength. (In Fenna's own words: "I'm attracted to strong things; food, drink, men..." Scary thoughts.)
Tali - Fenna would empathise with Tali's plight; both are isolated because of their differences; Tali physically so, and Fenna biologically so. They would be good friends, and spend a lot of time together (when Tali isn't busy cleaning up the engines, of course).
Samara - Though Fenna would respect Samara, she would almost always avoid the Justicar, because she doesn't agree with the black and white mentality. Having been a criminal out of necessity, Fenna would be hesitant to punish others for it. But she would pursue those who exploit others relentlessly.
Thane - Although she and Thane would share a lot in common, specifically their spiritual outlook on life/killing, Fenna would feel uncomfortable around Thane if he started talking about reminding him of his wife. Other than that, they would get along well.
Zaeed - Fenna would dislike Zaeed, seeing him little more than a gun for hire, lacking in the loyalty which is one of her foundations. She would tolerate him for Shepard's sake, but would always be watching her back around him.
Legion - Haven't met him yet, so I don't know.
As for romance... she'd make a good romanceable option for Shepard, Garrus or Thane, but she'd have to be eased into it, because she's yet to experience the full range of human emotions. That would mean not breaking her fragile psyche by talking about the feeling of peoples tongues in your mouth, Thane. And please, no discussion of flexibility, Garrus. As for you, Shepard... keep her away from the dance floor. You suck at dancing.
Owing to a healthy dose of feline DNA that automatically makes her seek out the strongest males around, she wouldn't be romanceable by a female Shepard, or any female squad member.
So that's my take on what I'd do if I had the freedom to write my own ME3 squad member. Fenna's class would be Soldier (no biotics, no tech) and she'd be pretty proficient at killing. But then she'd want to talk about it after. Perhaps one day I'll write a Mass Effect fic with her in it. I'd love to explore the galaxy through her eyes. But for now, I have other things to write.