Our Love Is Problematic


Greetings dear reader, thanks for checking out my work. This is a Mass Effect 2 fic detailing the growing relationship between Commander John Shepard and the mysterious, violent biotic known only as Jack. I love Jack, she's one of my favourite Bioware characters and I've always had a thing for tatooed, foul-mouthed bald headed girls. The fic will stick closely to the Mass Effect 2 storyline in the early stages but will gradually expand beyond that. It's rated M because well, it's Jack and she tends to run her mouth and kill people. Also suggestive scenes later on. Bioware seem to share my love of Firefly, and there are plenty of influences from and references to that amazing show in this fic.

I would be very grateful if you leave a review, and I'll respond to each one personally. PM me any time if you'd like to chat.

- Finn Solomon

Chapter 1 - Jailbreak

Purgatory Incarceration Facility

Osun System

"Of all the run-down, scum-infested, disease-ridden hellholes we've had the privilege to visit, Commander, this has got to be the absolute worst."

Garrus Vakarian was openly cradling his sniper rifle as we walked down the corridors of Purgatory, the floating prison ship renowned for harbouring some of the vilest criminal vermin the galaxy had to offer. No other name would have been more appropriate, by my reckoning. The inhabitants of Purgatory were caught between the planets below and the heavens above, drifting hopelessly in the space between. Suspicious guards eyed Shepard and his team as they passed by. They looked more heavily armed and armoured than most special forces soldiers. Then again, watching over the inmates at Purgatory was a more dangerous task than most black ops missions. There were mass-murderers and serial killers, psychopaths and the deranged, war criminals and sadists of the lowest kind. There were also the white-collar criminals and those who were sent to Purgatory as part of a revenge scheme. They tended not to last long.

"Cerberus runs with the biggest and most vicious dogs out there Garrus. Doesn't surprise me one bit they have a tentacle that extends to Purgatory," I replied. I couldn't help but be on my guard in a place like this, and even if the guards did notice my hand hovering above the holster of my pistol I decided that I didn't care. I had survived half a hundred battles that would have slaughtered any other human, and you don't wade through all that blood and death without knowing deep in your bones when a next firefight would be coming. It would have been nice just to collect the package and get the hell out, but I sensed it wasn't going to be that easy.

Garrus snorted at the remark, and turned his head to stare down yet another guard. The turian had sustained a major injury while fighting off waves of attacks from three of the largest mercenary groups in Omega. It had taken a gunship blast to take him down, yet the wily bastard survived even that. Garrus had been up and walking around in days. The scar tissue that lined the side of his face and neck was at once a testament to his toughness and a constant reminder of his loyalty to me. I appreciated it more than he could ever know. Garrus had saved my life more than once during our travels, I'd done the same for him, and we'd become closer than brothers.

But if his face had been scarred, it only served to match the psychological and mental beating he must have went through during the years after my apparent death. I thought I knew Garrus, but Archangel was a stranger to me. If you had asked me if I thought Garrus was capable of leading a hit squad to eliminate crime on Omega, of all places, I would have hesitated to answer yes. It quickly became obvious he had hidden depths that went deeper than I knew. After rescuing him Garrus had been twitchier, more violent, even more restless than what I remembered. He'd sit up all night calibrating the Normandy's weapon systems array without a break. True he'd suffered a major injury, and had readily accepted fighting by my side again, but Garrus had changed - and not necessarily for the better.

"I've been in some nasty places in my time, but Purgatory's got a real bad rep. Most planets have their own incarceration facilities. Purg' takes the scum even they can't handle off their hands for a price. Nothing good can come out of money and the legal system getting in bed together," commented Jacob Taylor, the young man from Cerberus assigned to my team. I didn't like being forced to work with the Illusive Man's hand-picked operatives, but Jacob had proved to be a courageous and resourceful ally. He seemed pretty easy-going during our chats together in the armoury, but it took more than that to gain my full trust. Until I knew better, I resolved to keep the Cerberus agents at arm's length. Even if it did mean passing up the chance to get to know Miranda a little better.

In a contrast to Garrus's blue tinted heavy ceramic-tiled battle armour, Jacob wore a form fitting black body suit that looked at first glance highly impractical going into a combat situation. The reality of course was that Jacob didn't need restrictive armour. His formidable biotic abilities allowed him to throw up a psychic barrier around himself, which soaked up any amount of damage enemies cared to fling his way. Thus protected, he could wear a bodysuit that afforded him greater mobility and flexibility than a restrictive suit of armour. Unlike Garrus he favoured a Carnifex handgun, which was diminutive but packed a hell of a punch.

Despite their many differences Jacob and Garrus got along better than I expected. That was a good sign. The Collectors would rip us apart if we weren't a united team. I had been a soldier and an officer long enough to know that unity and discipline were worth more than an entire legion of mechs.

Still...arm's length. At least for the moment.

We came to the end of the corridor, and a turian prison guard made us halt. He was sheathed in blue and white armour and a helmet with a glowing blue visor obscured his face. I didn't like it much. I've always had an aversion to people in masks.

"Welcome to Purgatory, Commander. Your package is being prepped and will be ready for collection in a few minutes. As this is a high risk facility however, I must ask you to relinquish your weapons."

I didn't need Garrus's meaningful glance to tell me what to do next. Giving up my weapons and trusting our lives to the goodwill of a prison warden brokering a deal with Cerberus? Not in a million years.

I whipped out my own Carnifex and aimed it straight at the guard's visor. Beside me, Garrus and Jacob did the same with the other two guards stationed beside the door. I was impressed at the speed with which they'd anticipated my actions.

"I'll relinquish one bullet," I said calmly. "Where would you like it?"

Before the guard could do more than sweat, the door behind him slid open with a hiss, and another turian stepped out. He wasn't wearing a helmet, which afforded me a good look at his face. Strangely for a turian, he didn't appear to have any facial markings whatsoever.

"Commander Shepard, my name is Warden Kuril. You must realise this is just a simple administrative procedure. Your weapons will be returned to you when you leave," he said.

"Pleased to meet you, Warden," I returned in that same level tone, while still keeping my gun trained on the guard. "If it's just a matter of protocol, then you can surely see your way clear to relaxing the 'procedure' for a valued client. You know who I am and who I represent. I will not give up my weapon voluntarily." It made me feel a little sick to use Cerberus's name and reputation as leverage, but it had to be done. Ordinarily my own would have sufficed, but I suspected a hard nosed bastard like Kuril wouldn't be intimidated lightly.

I wasn't expecting him to try it on me though. He locked eyes with me, trying to force me down. But when you've been chewed out by Citadel Councillors and stared down a millenia old space monster bent on galactic destruction, a mere prison warden seems tame by comparison. After a while he gave up and lowered his eyes. The corners of my mouth twitched upwards.

"Allow them to pass," he muttered. "I'm sure our facility can handle three armed guests without a problem." He was trying to make a threat, but his heart wasn't in it. I holstered my gun and the guard started breathing again. The three of us followed the warden as he led us down yet another long corridor.

"Jack is currently being brought out of cryogenic hibernation. Once the funds clear you can collect the prisoner and be on your way. I'll escort you to outprocessing from here."

I nodded in response. Garrus and Jacob were looking out of the corridor's clear walls, down at what looked like rows upon rows of cells and chambers fitted into a high wall. It reminded me of a honeycomb.

"Cellblock 2," announced the warden, noticing their interest. Below us, huge mechanical arms groaned as they swung around and removed several of the cells around. "As you can see, we keep the population under tight control. Each prisoner's cell is a self-contained modular unit. I've blown a few out of the airlocks as an example to the rest."

If that was an attempt to impress me, it didn't work. I already knew Warden Kuril was a venal, greedy, self-serving bastard. Now I added unnecessary cruelty to the list. If Cerberus didn't need him I would have no qualms about showing him what I really thought of his facility's so called protocol.

"The station is made up of thirty cellblocks identical to each one. I can put the whole place on lockdown at a moment's notice. Nobody gets out of Purgatory. No one."

"Place like this, there has to be escape attempts," said Jacob.

"We're in space. The inmates have nowhere to go, and they know it. We have certain ways of keeping a tight rein on the population."

As the warden spoke I noticed two inmates far below us getting into a scuffle, watched by a seemingly disinterested guard. Before the violence could escalate however, the guard tapped his omni tool, a field generator popped out and separated the two inmates by use of a mass effect field, containing each man in his own bubble. I couldn't help but wonder if it was all just for our benefit.

"I'll have to check if the funds from Cerberus have cleared. Outprocessing is straight down from here, past the interrogation rooms and the supermax wing. I'll see you later, Commander," said the warden. He went off in another direction, leaving us alone.

"Lets go lads," I said, wanting to get this over and done with.

We passed by a couple of cells, then someone called out to me. It was a prisoner. He was wearing a dirty brown jumpsuit and looked worn out and beat down. Kuril obviously didn't lose any sleep over the health and comfort of his inmates.

"Are you buying prisoners? Please, could you buy me? I don't care what you do to me, I just want to get the hell out of here. Please, I won't cost much," he pleaded.

"Sorry. We're here for Jack," Jacob replied tersely. The prisoner reacted strangely at the mention of Jack's name. He backed quickly away from the glass and held his hands up.

"Whoa, Jack? Forget what I said, man. I'm not going anywhere with that maniac."

That perked my interest. "What do you know about Jack?"

"A whole lot of crazy, mixed up with the worst kind of violent urges and way too much biotic power. I'm not saying anything else."

I frowned, and moved on. From the Illusive Man's dossier I knew that Jack was one of the most powerful human biotics in existence, if not the most powerful. But the dossier also made mention of Jack's violent nature and destructive tendencies. An extremely powerful biotic sounded like a good weapon to aim at the Collectors, but I didn't need a weapon. I needed a team member. If Jack couldn't control himself on board the Normandy, I might have to cut short our association. It would be a wrench, but I had other biotics on the team already.

"The outprocessing room's past that door to your right," said a technician. We went into the room, and the door clanged shut behind us. At that moment I knew Kuril had stabbed us in the back. A second later, his voice blared from the intercom.

"I'm sorry Shepard, you're far too valuable a prisoner than as a customer. Do you have any idea what some people are willing to pay for you? With a suitable mind control chip implant of course. I'll never have to work on this damn station again for the rest of my life."

"Yeah, I know what I'm worth Kuril. I also want you to know you just committed suicide. I'm going to blow your head off for this little stunt."

"Drop your weapons and proceed to the open cell. You will not be harmed," went on Kuril blithely.

I scanned the room, and found the speaker the voice was projecting from. "Go to hell!" I snarled, and blasted it to pieces. Garrus and Jacob had taken up flanking positions, one on each side of me. Not a moment too soon as it turned out. The door burst open and a horde of Blue Sun mercenaries flooded into the room.

I ducked behind a handy desk. Not the best cover, but it was all I had. Garrus had reacted more quickly, dropping three mercs with three shots. Jacob had fired wild, but a rush of biotic energy suddenly sweeping a couple of mercs off their feet to dangle them helplessly in the air reminded me what he was capable of. He finished them off as casually as a fisherman unhooking his catch.

My Avenger assault rifle grew hot in my hands as I took down one merc after the other. I've handled a lot of guns over the years, but I kept coming back to the Avenger. It could switch between single shot, burst and fully automatic as easy as you pleased, and never jammed or malfunctioned. Still I'd never go so far as to name a gun, like Zaeed had with his rifle 'Jessie'. He claimed it was older than I was.

Thinking about Zaeed made me realise it was his damn fault we were coming under heavy fire today. He started up the Blue Suns a couple of decades ago. To be fair it only really went to pieces when his partner Vido Santiago kicked him out, but taking a round or two in the chestplate wasn't doing much for my feelings of goodwill.

Dimly I noticed that all of the mercs who had charged into the room were either dying or dead. Even as the thought crossed my mind Garrus was busy moving the mercs from the former category to the latter. Bits of stray circuitry and wiring were strewn about the floor, debris from exploded FENRIS mechs. Where the Blue Suns went, their pet mechs were never far behind.

People often ask what it's like for me when the bad guys start shooting, how it really feels to be in a combat situation. They'd be surprised to know I don't know any more about it than they do. For me, I always feel strangely detached from combat, as if all the action is happening to someone else. I pick my target and aim my weapon as quickly and as calmly as one would do with any other routine task that has been repeated hundreds of times, and honed over the years to perfection. Some people compose music, others write epics or construct monuments. Me, I kill. Battle is another form of art, after all, and like any artist, mastery comes through constant and unending practice.

Heh. Didn't Ash use to have something to say about that? Some old Chinese guy, Sun Tzu I think his name was. He'd written a book called The Art of War, and Ash had read every page twice. She'd always bugged me to read it, and I kept putting it off.

No. Seal those thoughts away. Focus on the mission.

"Come on," I muttered, and the three of us moved swiftly out of the Outprocessing room and turned left along a corridor. "Cryostasis whatever's this way."

Garrus had fought beside me long enough that he fell easily into my usual combat doctrine. Always on the move. Ten feet between us any time there was ten feet to give. Whenever I glanced to the side, I wanted to see his ugly face. If there was determined resistance, find cover and break out the heavy weapons. It was a simple set of rules that had served us well over the years. Jacob had no difficulty adapting quickly to it.

"I want Shepard brought before me now!" raged the voice on the intercom. "Use overwhelming force if you have to, but take him alive! Kill the other two!"

"Now why did he have to go and say a darn thing like that," I quipped. "I was thinking of letting him live with a flesh wound."

"No way in hell would you let him live," retorted Garrus, quick as a wink.

"What, blowing off someone's head is not a flesh wound?"

"Only a really big one," piped up Jacob. "Here, we've reached the cryo chamber."

Jacob punched open the door, revealing a terrified technician holding a dinky little pistol. I was about to talk him down when he opened fire and screamed into a communicator "Shepard's here in cryo! Don't let him get through!"

His shot barely made a dent on my shields. I blew a hole in his gut with the Avenger and kicked the bloody corpse to one side. Garrus and Jacob wisely declined to comment.

"I think we've found our psychopath, gentlemen."

"Commander - we need to hack into the main security controls if we're going to get Jack out of that thing," said Jacob, studying a small control panel.

"If we do that, every cell in the station will be thrown open," warned Garrus.

As always it was up to me. I needed Jack, but did I really need to set free ten thousand of the galaxy's beasts to do it? I could always blow the whole thing up after retrieving Jack, but that would mean sacrificing all the innocent people on board too, the guards and service staff. I knew in my gut barely a handful of them were in on the Warden's racketeering game, and most were just doing their jobs.

Again, I made the call. "It's the only way to get Jack. I'm doing it," I stated, moving over to the control panel and setting into sequence the program override that would unlock every single door on the station. Whoever he was, Jack had better be worth it.

As my fingers flew over the controls, I offered a silent prayer for forgiveness, as I'd done countless times before. Belief in a higher power was all but extinct these days, yet I still clung to the old ways. It was one of the few things that helped me get to sleep at night. Well, that and Ash. Funnily enough, she had been a religious person too.

No. Above all, the mission. You'll have plenty of time for navel gazing and soul searching later.

"Three YMIR mechs? Three?" yelled Garrus, disrupting my thoughts. "How the hell are we going to take them down?" The mechs were circling a large vault sunk into the floor, on the platform below us but clearly visible through the window. It was apparent they were between us and the cryo chamber.

"I've got the missile launcher, and we've all got the shredder rounds," I snapped. "We find cover, pick them off one by one..."

"No, look," interrupted Jacob. "They aren't paying any attention to us. They're crowded around Jack's cryo chamber. I think they're under orders to guard her."

"Three YMIRs for one damn prisoner?" asked Garrus rhetorically. "No biotic's going to be able to take them down. No matter how good he is. We'd better get ready."

"Agreed. Jacob, you try to take out their circuits..."

The whine of the mechanical arm cut off my orders. As the YMIR mechs watched, it drifted over to the vault seal in the floor and latched on, detaching the various locks and deadbolts that had kept the cryo chamber sealed shut. Spinning in the opposite direction, the mechanical arm swiftly popped the vault door open. A cloud of smoke obscured what looked like a surgical table as it rose from the floor. It had someone strapped to it.

I had built up quite a picture in my head about the infamous Jack. Since Warden Kuril had put him and him alone in cryo stasis while thousands of other scumbags walked free, I thought he'd be pure death on legs. Not to mention the insane love for violence and overwhelming biotic abilities mentioned by the dossier. I was imagining an immense hulk of a man, covered from forehead to heel in tattoos, scarred from the many fights he'd must have been in.

I was right about the tattoos. I was wrong about everything else.

As the smoke cleared, I could clearly see the figure strapped to the harness was a slim, lithe young woman with a shaved skull, clad in what looked like leather leggings and with nothing but one or two belts criss-crossing over her upper body to save her modesty. Although it looked plain to see that this individual had left modesty far, far behind. Every inch of skin I could see from her neck downwards was covered in ink. Despite my earlier musings, not one scar marred her body as far as I could see.

But most of all, despite her baldness, despite her tattoos, despite all the dire warnings from the dossier and the prison inhabitants, and despite the fact that we were in a combat situation, what I happened to notice the most was that Jack was amazingly, ridiculously beautiful. It was like God himself was playing a trick on the universe. She had delicate, almost elfin features, high cheekbones and full red lips that looked far better suited on someone else, someone preferably without a confirmed body count in the quadruple digits. I'd seen my fair share of beautiful women. Ash had down to earth charm and warmth, the natural inner radiance that comes with knowing you look good and not caring one bit. Miranda was the ultimate ice queen, with an amazing face and body, but cold as well. Her eyes said back off with every look, which of course only added to her allure. But Jack...

The overall effect was of something feral, animal, barely human...but the human element was made so agonizingly clear in her beautiful face. I don't know what it was. Maybe it was the sight of all that loveliness hidden under so much superficial ugliness. It was like finding a torn up Van Gogh. Sure, it's a lost cause, but you'd be damned if you didn't at least try to put it back together. And I always had been a fan of lost causes.

Apparently my aesthetic musings had flashed through my brain at the speed of light, because the next thing I was aware of was Jacob saying dumbly "That's Jack?" He sounded almost as surprised as I was.

"She's a girl," ventured Garrus.

"Full marks for observation, Archangel," I said, coming back to the present. "Any other insights you'd care to offer?"

Garrus was unfazed by my sarcasm, that old standby to cover up my sudden loss of footing. "I think she's waking up."

And so she was. As we watched, Jack's fingers twitched, then her hands, then her eyes snapped open. They were dark, and blazed with an almost instinctive rage. I'd seen that look before, usually in krogan berserkers trying to kill me.

Jack struggled, and got one hand free, and then the other. She tugged at her neck restraint, straining all the muscles on her thin arms, her mouth open in a scream of incoherent fury. Despite the thick glass and metal between us, I thought I could hear her cry of mingled shock, fear and anger. Mostly anger.

The neck restraint finally broke apart and Jack staggered forward, free at last. She put a hand on her forehead and grimaced. Clearly she was feeling the effects of the cryostasis. In front of her, the YMIR mechs advanced menacingly. We were still on the raised platform, there was no way we could get down there in time.

Suddenly Jack's eyes focused on the three lumbering hulks in front of her. Even at that distance I saw it and recognised it for what it was. The battle awareness. The split second that races by while you assess your options and instantly decide what's the best outcome. I knew it. The girl hadn't merely been a brawler. She knew how to make war.

It wouldn't be enough though, not against three YMIR mechs at point blank range. The best outcome in this situation would be to die a quick and painless death.

So it came as a shock when Jack was enveloped in a sheathe of glowing blue biotic energy, concentrated around her right fist. With another scream of defiance, she launched herself at the first mech and there was an almighty explosion. The next thing all three of us could see were the sparking remains of three of the most deadly opponents we would ever face on a battlefield - and no sign of Jack.

Jacob said it first. "Holy shit."

I gave him a look. "Agreed. Quickly, let's get to her before Kuril does!"

"You want us to go towards the crazy biotic who just blew up three YMIRs with a single punch?" asked Garrus, even as he sped towards the ramp leading downwards.

"Damn straight. Imagine what she could do to the Collectors."

The cryo chamber below us apparently didn't have any other exit. This hadn't posed much of a problem to Jack, who'd simply blown a hole through the nearest wall and climbed through the service ducts and out again the other side. We couldn't do much but to gawk and chase down her trail.

Jacob kept swearing under his breath as we clambered through yet more holes blasted in walls and passed by the corpses of luckless prison guards. I felt like doing the same. Jack was tearing the station to bits and bringing the whole thing down around our ears. It was no wonder the Warden sounded a little frazzled when his voice blared forth once again from the intercom.

"Lockdown! I repeat, full system lockdown! Every inmate who does not comply will get shoved out of the nearest airlock! Guards, forget about Shepard, don't lose Jack! Take her down, but don't kill her!"

The Warden was more worried about Jack running loose than he was of me actively coming for his leathery ass? I was impressed yet again.

We were racing through the same prison decks that we had seen from the elevated corridors while walking in. The emergency lighting bathed everything in an eerie red glow. It was utter chaos. Guards were fighting with inmates, inmates were attacking the mercs, and the mechs were firing at everyone. We waded through a storm of hailfire, less concerned with slaughtering everyone in sight than we were of keeping to Jack's trail. Finally we emerged in what I recognised as Cellblock 1.

Warden Kuril was there, personally gunning down every inmate that had dared to pick up a weapon. Before I could raise my own he saw me and fired off a shot. I dived to one side and rolled behind a corner out of sight.

"You're valuable, Shepard. I could have sold you and lived like a king. But you're too much trouble. At least I can recapture Jack!" roared the Warden.

"Not bloody likely, you two-bit slave trading piece of crap," I yelled back.

"I do the hard things civil governments don't have the guts to do. This is for the good of the galaxy!"

"Just shut up already," I groaned, unslinging my Viper sniper rifle and sending a bullet the Warden's way. He leapt back, and was instantly shielded in a bubble of glowing blue energy.

"You'll never get past my shields, Shepard!" screamed the Warden. He sounded quite deranged. It took me all of a second to notice that the shield was being fed by four identical generator posts. I blew up two, and Garrus and Jacob right on cue took out one each. The shield around the Warden fizzled and died. The grin vanished from his face. He stumbled, and tried to flee.

I drew a bead on his skull, held my breath for a fraction of a second, and squeezed off a shot. Warden Kuril's head exploded in a mess of blue turian blood.

"Told you I'd blow your head off, you brain dead prick," I said to the former Warden, putting away the Viper. "I keep my promises."

In the corridor tube above us, I saw a bald headed figure charging down a pair of guards. That tube led to the Normandy, and our ticket off this damned station. Garrus and Jacob didn't hesitate as we must have set a few speed records running up to that corridor.

We got there in time to see a guard raise his gun and order Jack to halt. Her body shimmered with that same blue glow of biotic energy, and the guard was flung off his feet and violently slammed head first into the nearest bulkhead. Jack spun around and did the same thing to his partner. He crashed against a pillar and slumped out of sight.

Just then, Jack appeared to catch sight of something outside the window that clearly startled her. Through my visor, I could see her mouth the word 'Cerberus'. The look on her face made it a curse.

She reacted strangely, apparently going into another blinding fit of rage, pacing back and forth and physically shaking as if under tremendous stress. She didn't notice the guard sneaking up on her, but I did. A shot from my Carnifex whistled past Jack's face, close enough for her to feel the wind from its path, and buried itself into the brain of what must have been the last guard on Purgatory. Jack wheeled around to face us.

"What the hell do you want?" she demanded. Her voice wasn't the nail-on-blackboard sound I was expecting from someone who clearly shouted a lot. It sounded almost attractive, considering the tone was anything but.

"You're in a bad situation, and I'm going to get you out of here," I said, reverting to my Alliance officer demeanor.

"Shit, you sound like a pussy," fired back Jack, clearly unimpressed.

Damn. Shouldn't have gone with the soft touch, I mentally berated myself.

"I'm not going anywhere with you," she went on. "You're with Cerberus."

I still didn't know what to think about my association with the terrorist cell, but I decided that discussion was best saved for a later time.

"I'm here to ask for your help," I said, trying to keep my voice calm. Behind us, a dull boom signalled yet another explosion deep within the bowels of the station.

"You show up in a Cerberus frigate, and ask for my help? You must think I'm stupid," sneered the biotic.

"Look, this ship is going down in flames," I said. "We can get you out, and I'm asking for your help." Don't be stupid and get us all killed, my glare added silently.

"We could just knock her out and take her," suggested Jacob.

"I'd like to see you try," spat Jack. A now familiar blue glow was beginning to form around her body.

"Stand down!" I snapped. "No one's going to attack you."

"Look, you want me to come with you, make it worth my while," she said suddenly, coming a few steps closer.

"I'll help you if I can."

"I bet that ship of yours has all kinds of Cerberus databases. I want to look through them. Find out what Cerberus has got on me. You want me on your team? Let me go through those files."

Again, it was up to me. Luckily it was an easy decision this time. I needed Jack on the team - three YMIR mechs! - and if her price was poking through Cerberus's archives, I was more than willing to pay it. Besides, anything that annoyed the Illusive Man had to be good.

"I'll give you full access once we're on board," I said. Jack smiled suddenly, the first time I'd seen her do so. It was disconcerting, to say the least.

"Shepard, I don't think Miranda will let you do that," muttered Jacob.

"Aww, am I going to piss off some Cerberus bitch? Even better," snarled Jack.

"Move out," I ordered, settling the matter. Jack wanted to know more about her past, and that was fine by me. I was curious too. How did someone so beautiful get broken down as hard and as fast as Jack had been? If the Illusive Man was behind this, forget his money, contacts, his entire freaking army. Jack would cut a bloody swathe through them to wrap her hands around his neck.