06/28 – Well, here I am. It's been, what, five years? It's taken me a while to actually push something worth writing out of my brain.
To be honest, I had a lot of false starts with this one. I didn't like the characters, I got sick of the plot (or lack of), didn't like the pacing, didn't like the back story. I've got a lot of pages torn out of notebooks, a lot of scribbling out.
This came to me one night. I was attempting to get an early night, and the roommate was still up so I put my ear buds in to listen to some music while I attempted to relax. I was listening to Teeth, by Lady Gaga, when all of a sudden this stuff came spewing out of me. It was a decent beginning to a story. It was a decent character, and personality, with problems and history. It was up to me to put her into a situation where she would either thrive or fail. I grabbed my notebook, I started writing, furiously. I stayed up way later than I intended.
But, it's worth it. It feels so good to accomplish something. We'll see how long it takes me to update chapter 2, but I've got a plot set out that I need to follow (unlike ALL of my previous writings, where I would go and go and go and go and maybe this crap gets resolved).
At any rate, enjoy. Please let me know what you think.
And if you're wondering, the title comes from the Star Fucking Hipsters song, Immigrants & Hypocrites. Good old-fashioned punk rock. Live it, love it.
This chapter is appropriately titled Teeth. Thanks, Gaga.
(PS if anybody can spot the Star Trek: TOS reference, I will shower you with virtual kisses).
Private Lina Shepard crouched next to the sleek black assault rifle she currently cradled in one arm. She raised her lip and ran her tongue over her teeth in concentration, stopping briefly to press on her canine, drawing just a little blood. She was painfully aware of how the sleek black of her HMWA Basic reflected the pure sex of her body armour, so tight it might be a layer of oil painted on her skin. She raised her head a bit to get a clearer look at her target.
It was paper, of course. A paper target in the shape of an androgynous human with a target in the centre of the chest, indicating the heart. Shoot here, it screamed to Lina. Fucking shoot off that stupid gold cross.
The target wasn't wearing the gold cross, of course. Andrea Phillips was. She was in the next booth, and was both the only other woman in the N7 training program, and Lina's rival.
Andrea was an inferior solider in many ways, according to Lina. The first being that she had beliefs in a higher power. Lina had caught a glimpse of the cross, the shiny gold cross on a delicate chain, always hanging around her neck, under her armour, in the showers, over the skanky clothes she wore out to clubs every weekend. To Lina, this was a sign of weakness, that she could be so easily brainwashed into following a non-existent, supposedly omniscient being that could watch and judge everything she did.
The second reason is that Andrea had a family, she had something to lose. Someone who would cry over her if she were to perish in a suicide mission, someone to bring up a lawsuit in the event that she should die in training. She had memories and photographs with loved ones that reminded her, every day, to stay alive, no matter what.
Lina didn't have these things. Her beliefs were in the military she so proudly served in and would gladly die for. Her family were the weapons she aimed and fired and carried with love and care, kept so meticulously clean, upgraded to make them faster, more powerful, less prone to overheating. Her memories were with the tactics she learned about, the missions she planned and the enemies she shot down.
The third was that Andrea Phillips was such a fucking slut, which is kind of ironic, considering reason number one.
Lina heard them at night, in the next bed. Being the only two girls, they shared a two-person dorm with a private bathroom. This didn't stop Andrea from bringing home various boys (and to Lina, they were boys, nowhere near men) she'd met at the bars on the Citadel. She'd sneak them in, late at night, blasted off of her ass, the two of them would go at it not ten feet away while Lina pretended to sleep. The boys would get up to leave, promise to call, never would. Andrea cried all week until the next weekend, when she would wash, rinse, repeat. Like clockwork.
Was Lina jealous? Maybe a little, but at the same time, it's not how she wanted to be perceived. She'd let herself be led into a boy's bed once during basic, and it took far too long to live down. Never again, she thought. Never again until she met a guy that was smart, dark, deadly... well, a male version of her. At any rate, she heard what their fellow soldiers said about Andrea, their individual conquests of her- she'd gone through the acceptable N7 males in a matter of weeks, and had to find her companions outside of the Alliance areas of the Citadel, in the wards, at bars and clubs. Townies, C-Sec agents, and the like.
Lina was not interested.
On these nights, when Andrea had a local in bed with her, Lina would roll over, recite prime numbers as high as she could go, or try to count out as many numbers of pi as she could. Recall what she learned that day. Create offensive or defensive strategies in her head. Think about upgrades she wanted or books she'd read. It wouldn't take very long, inevitably. Like she thought- only boys, not men, and the whole debacle would be over in under ten minutes.
While Andrea was busy personally boning every one of the human males on the Citadel, Lina concentrated on her studies. You don't get to the top of N7 by sleeping with everything that moves, but at the same time... there's no harm in making them want her.
When she could spare a moment, or when she caught one of her comrades looking at her, she had a small list of carefully chosen moves that screamed "SEX!" without screaming "SLUT!"
This list included a combination of any of the following:
Lightly placing her pen on her lips, or lightly biting it.
Biting her lip (bottom)
Licking her lip (top)
Gently, slowly running her tongue over the edges of her teeth (top) (this one required eye contact)
Slow parting of her lips
Slow backwards glance over her shoulder (only worked if the recipient was behind her)
If she sandwiched any of these moves between a quick shakeout of her hair and a flutter of the eyelashes and/or lingering eye contact, and Lina was guaranteed to get a flustered reaction out of the intended recipient.
It also worked surprisingly well on Alliance soldiers, if she wanted just a little more time in the weapons locker to do maintenance on her guns.
Back to the gun in her hands, she thought. Lina glanced over and saw Andrea glaring at her from the next booth, a Stiletto IV in her hands. The redhead released one hand from her weapon to fluff out her short, but full and curly hair, she repositioned herself and let her eyes slowly wander back over to her rival. The two of them locked eye contact, and Lina pulled a slow parting of the lips (# 5) followed by a #4 (tongue running over teeth) before she uttered the following:
"Show me your teeth."
She'd barely glanced forward again when her right pointer finger gently squeezed the trigger. The round exploded out of the barrel, hitting the paper person in the dead centre of its three-ringed target. Right where the gold cross would be resting, had it been Andrea the gun was aimed at.
Lina perched on the edge of her bed, her hair still wet from the shower she had just taken. She picked off a tiny stray hair that had stuck to her shoulder, despite the shower, from when she had buzzed down the sides. It was long in the top, all one length, and buzzed short on the sides. It was easy to maintain, and when she put forth the effort, made a kick ass mohawk. She wore a pair of denim cut offs and an oversized tee, her legs crossed beneath her as she picked up her ear buds and shoved them into each canal, then turned on some loud, upbeat music through her comm system to keep her mind alert as she read.
It was 2100hrs on a Friday, and she was fully prepared to spend the rest of the evening catching up on her technical journals.
Andrea entered the room then, the perky brunette making a beeline for the bathroom without even acknowledging Lina's presence. After a moment, she could hear her roommate making a disgusted noise and yelling about "CAN'T YOU RINSE OUT THE SINK AFTER YOU FUCKING SHAVE?" Lina pretended not to hear her, and simply glanced up and waved when the brunette stood in the doorway and glared at her, then went back to her journals.
Lina knew the routine- Andrea would shower, spend what seemed to be hours putting on too much make up in front of the mirror, and chat to her friends or that week's boyfriend over her comm system. They would talk about the "hot new cluuuubbbbbbbb!" they were "hittin' upppppp!" that night, get changed into something that barely covered her, give Lina an accomplished look ("Look at how popular I am tee hee!" Lina would mimic in her head) and head out the door, to return hours later, shitwrecked, dragging along... well.
Fucking slut. We've gone through this.
Every damn week. The same thing.
Lina, back perfectly straight, turned her music louder to drown out the blow dryer once Andrea got out of the shower, and flicked to the next page in her journal, determined to learn the difference between batarian and krogan tactical offence techniques.
Suddenly, her ear bud was ripped out of her ear. She looked up, angry that someone had managed to sneak up on her, and saw her roommate standing over her.
"Come out with me," the brunette said, more an order than a question.
Lina, determined not to be caught off guard again, raised an eyebrow in anticipation.
"Why in the 'verse would I want to do that?" she asked flatly.
"Because I have an extra VIP pass to this big thing at Chora's Den tonight, you know, that gentleman's club? It'll go to waste otherwise," she talked as she wandered back to the bathroom mirror. "Besides, we've been roomies for three months now, and we still know nothing about one another."
"Correction, you know nothing about me," Lina called, allowing her eyes to wander back down to her journal. "My dear, I know ENTIRELY too much about you."
Andrea gave her an "oh, shut up bitch," look and went back to the mirror.
"Come on, I'll buy the first round," she called, fixing her mascara.
Lina licked her thumb and dramatically flipped the glossy pages, clearly indicating her lack of interest in moving from that very spot.
"Alright, all of your drinks are on me," Andrea reasoned. "Just please don't rape my bank account too badly."
Lina snapped her publication shut.
"NOW we're talking," she stood and pulled her remaining ear bud out, turning her comm system's steaming music off. "See, Andy, you give a little, you get a little!"
"Drea," the brunette corrected. "My friends call me Drea."
Lina rolled her eyes, stopping herself from making a sarcastic comment. For her own comfort, she ran the blow dryer through her own thick hair and threw on a layer of mascara before shoving her feet into red hightops.
Andrea gave an exasperated look. "You're wearing THAT?"
"There is a problem?" Lina pulled aggressively at the laces.
Andrea sighed. "No... well, yes. But- whatever." She leaned back over the sink. "At least accessorize a little?"
Lina stared. "Seriously? I don't own any jewellery!"
"Then look through mine and take whatever!"
Lina opened the small brown box and poked through the articles, eventually settling on a knuckle ring with the word LOVE written out on it. Andrea nodded at the selection, thinking it sweet. Lina thought of a metal song by the same name.
"Lip gloss," Andrea passed it to Lina. "Put it on."
Lina one again rolled her eyes and obliged.
"Am I acceptable now?" she asked sarcastically as she handed the tube back. She shoved a few things- her ID, a credit chit, her sleek black comm box, into the pockets of her shorts.
"Good enough," Andrea responded as she shoved many, many articles into a tiny purse. "Just promise me you won't embarrass me."
"Promise me you won't bring some dude home and bang him, regular or mouth," Lina quipped back.
Andrea scoffed, "maybe if you brought some dudes home yourself, you wouldn't have such an aversion to it."
"What, and ruin the mystery that is Lina Shepard? I don't think so."
The club was packed, that was an understatement. Lina tried not to seem aghast at all of the aliens. Despite her time on the Citadel, Lina hadn't ventured outside of the Alliance areas much, so she had seen mostly only humans, with the odd alien here and there. The dance floor was packed, everyone pushing against one another to the beat, and there was a sudden rise in humidity as soon as they entered the place. Lina wrinkled her nose at the smell of sweat, but reminded herself that she was here, the drinks were free, and she might as well try to make nice once she got a buzz going.
You're on the Citadel, Lina, the cultural centre of the 'verse. Just don't make a fool of yourself in front of everyone, she told herself sternly.
The asari host showed them to their booth, where Andrea's friends had already arrived and ordered drinks for them- some kind of colourful frilly concoction with all sorts of crap sticking out the top of it. Lina pushed it over to Andrea ("All yours!") and ordered a bourbon.
Looking over the group, Lina recognized a couple of their fellow trainees, as well as a few younger-looking individuals that were probably boot camp trainees. In other words, fresh meat to Andrea.
Oh, wait, Lina thought. I recognize that one from a couple weeks ago. Forget that last comment.
"So, Shepard, you finally tore yourself away from the library?" one of the boys across the table joked. Lina recognized him. What was his name? It was Greek, something with lots of Os and Ps... Apo! They called him Apo!
"She bribed me with free drinks," Lina explained, at that moment receiving the bourbon she ordered. She took a sip, sweet Kentucky bourbon, her ring clinking against the glass, and motioned towards Andrea, who was already chatting up a young human C-Sec officer.
"That's all it takes to get you out of that uniform, eh?" Apo nodded suggestively. "Well maybe after a few of those, we could go and formulate an offensive strategy to conquer that fine ass of yours?"
Lina's smile dropped. Apo accepted high-fives from the other boys across the booth.
Oh, a sex joke, she thought, not even a clever one.
She composed herself again, pushing back her hair and leaning over the table closer to him. She bit her lip and fluttered her lashes a bit.
"Oh, Apo," she said suggestively, using her breathiest voice that she could while still being heard over the music. "Unfortunately, there isn't enough alcohol in the 'verse to make that seem like a good idea. You're far better off developing strategies solo, because I don't know of a single person that would want to touch your offensive weapon."
She sat back down and gave him a small shrug. Apo's grin fell, turning to anger. Adwin, one of her comrades sitting next to Apo, burst out laughing and threw his hand across the booth to give her a shake. She obliged.
"That was a good one! That was a good one!" he said with a slight South African accent.
Lina, already disgusted with the crowd and Andrea's actions, picked up her drink and downed it, suddenly planning to get very, very drunk that night. If she found some moderately cute guy to talk weapons with, the night may not be completely wasted.
First thing is first, she thought. Another drink.
She walked up to the bar and called to the first person she saw standing behind it.
"Bourbon, on the rocks," she stated, pushing her empty glass forward.
The turian behind the bar looked up from the drink he was pouring and gave her a slightly bemused smile.
"Really?" he asked, his deep, calm voice had a soothing quality to it. "A little thing like you drinking straight bourbon?"
Lina's eyebrows furrowed. Who was this guy to judge her?
"Hey fuck you buddy, don't you fucking patronize me. All I want is a drink, a real drink, none of this frilly colourful crap that everyone else seems to have," she spouted out, realizing too late the upset in her voice. She had lost her cool.
The turian put down the glowing bottle he had been pouring from.
"Alright then," he said slowly. "What's your brand?" he asked, motioning towards the wall of bottles.
"Jim Beam," she leaned against the bar, allowing the coolness of the brushed steel to seep into her arms. It was then that she noticed how sweaty she was, despite the fact that she hadn't been dancing.
There are too many damn people here, she thought.
She watched as the turian located a mostly full forty of Jim Beam and pulled it off of the shelf. At that moment, another bartender started heading around the corner, walking to the end of the large circular bar where Lina stood. Before she could blink, the turian had crawled under the lifting tray next to where she stood, bottle in hand.
It was then that Lina realized he was wearing armour, and none of the others were.
With his back turned, the real bartender didn't notice when the turian stood, grabbed Lina at the waist and started guiding her towards the back exit.
Lina was flabbergasted, shocked at the scene she had just witnessed, and trying to make sense of it still. She allowed herself to be pushed towards the back of the room, understanding when he cut through the dancing crowd that it was tactical- none of the employees would notice them with the bottle in the large group of people, and none of the patrons would give a shit if they were having fun. He moved her to his right side, hiding the bottle at her back when they reached the back exit and were stopped by a young human C-Sec officer.
"I'm just taking her out for some fresh air," the turian said, motioning towards Lina, who could very easily pass for sick given how sweaty she was. She gave a small shrug and let her mouth and shoulders sag.
The blonde officer only glanced at her before looking back up at the turian, "sure thing, boss, I don't think there's anyone back there."
"Thanks, I'll be back in a few minutes," he said, lightly smacking the young human on the shoulder with his free hand, his right hand, with the bottle, still hidden behind Lina's back. "You're doing a great job, Bailey, keep it up!"
"Thanks, sir!" the kid, Bailey, opened the back door and let them through.
The two of them stepped out into the cool night air, freed from the crushing, claustrophobic confines of Chora's Den. Surely enough, they were alone in the back, with only an empty alley and a few garbage bins nearby. They simultaneously let out a nervous breath, then looked at each other and gave a little laugh.
Out in the light, Lina got a better look at her captor (saviour? It was really not her kind of place...). He had blue clan markings on his face, across the bridge of his nose (did turians have noses?) and eyes a gorgeous shade of deep blue. He was different, she could tell by the smile those eyes held when he looked at her.
"Well," he said, breaking the silence. "We just stole most of a forty of whiskey from Chora's Den, how does that make you feel?" he held up the neck of the bottle to her face like a microphone.
Lina couldn't help herself, the absurdity of it all, she burst out laughing.
How did I get myself into this? She wondered.
"Who ARE you?" she asked, unable to contain the words.
"I might just ask you the same question," he responded. "Other than someone who allows herself to be led out of the back exit of a bar into a dark scary alley by an alien twice her size."
Lina scoffed. "Who are YOU, Mister I-like-to-steal-booze-from-bars who may or may not be affiliated with Citadel Security!"
He shrugged and grinned at her.
"Well, if you want to join me in consuming this pilfered handiwork of Kentucky origin, name or no name, you are welcome to come this way. I know this great little spot with an awesome view of the fake lake," he said, turning on his heel and heading down one of the empty alleys away from Chora' Den.
Lina was torn, on one hand, she hated not being in control of the situation, but on the other hand...
"Lina," she called, causing him to stop and turn back to her. "My name is Lina Shepard."
The turian smiled wider, and held out his hand, beckoning for her to come take it. She obliged.
On the other hand, she was intrigued. She had never met someone who made her laugh so easily, who made her feel interested enough to follow.
When she reached his waiting hand, tentatively allowing herself to slip her own into his, she looked up at him and smiled back.
That's how Lina Shepard, N7 agent, met the turian C-Sec officer Garrus Vakarian.