Fools Rush In
Urdnot Lazlo's Fishdog Shack, Milgrom, Bekenstein, Boltzmann System
December 26, 2183
Kibra Hamid stared at her food, one hand over her ear as she listened to The Illusive Man's instructions. "And Dr. Boaz?" she questioned.
"I have no further Intel on the doctor," the head of Cerberus told her. "Retrieve Moreau, Chambers, Chakwas and Dr. Boaz's medical notes. If you find Dr. Boaz, bring him along. Williams' granddaughter could also be an asset. Keep your cover. She knows nothing."
"We're on our way." Hamid's omni-tool lit up as she received the co-ordinates to the Alliance safe house. Bekenstein's global positioning system gave her map three kilometers away. She looked at her compatriots, an ex-Alliance engineer named Donnelly and an ex-Alliance navigator named Patel. Hamid shook her head mentally. This mission called for Marines. Not Navy brats. Donnelly had only just joined Cerberus in November.
"Trouble?" Donnelly asked as he took a bite of … of whatever the hell it was he was eating. Haggis? Stuff should be outlawed, Hamid thought. It probably wasn't even made from vat-grown. It was probably the real deal – or varren. They were in a restaurant that specialized in the animals, after all.
"Yes," she told him. "I'll tell you on the way. Let's go."
Kenneth Donnelly looked down at his meal with a frown and sighed. "Always when I'm eating."
Patel shook her head as they stood and made for the exit. "Damn, Gabby was right about you, Kenny. You think with your mouth and your stomach."
Safe house, [Co-ordinates deleted], Bekenstein, Boltzmann System
December 26, 2183
Joker knew as he watched Ashley hack into the binding cuffs' microcomputer that this was a Bad Idea. When she started cursing and the beeps turned to boops, he classified it as a Very Bad Idea. The final boop before the system locked her out sounded like the computer blew a raspberry at them. Shock of shocks, she and Joker were still in cuffs and now anything less than omni-gel or a good pry bar wasn't going to help them.
Ashley huffed and looked up at him. "I'm not a hacker," she offered weakly, powered down the omni-tool.
Omni-tools required two hands to operate efficiently. One to work the inner system controls, the other to scroll through windows and make commands. Ashley, with Dr. Chakwas help, had removed Kelly and the doctor's cuffs. When Kelly started coughing up… green shit, Joker got the hell away from her, retreating to the kitchenette of the small safe house.
Kelly was pale – sickly pale. Dr. Chakwas examined the therapist using the instruments in the case that the Blue Suns found near Dr. Boaz body.
Joker looked around the little space for something – anything – to pry the binding cuffs off to take his mind off Kelly while Ashley leaned against the opposite counter.
"What fab-programs does that thing have?" he asked opening a drawer. Plastic flatware greeted him.
"Um." Ashley turned the omni-tool back and opened a window. Then another.
Joker bit back a groan. He wanted to throttle her. Weren't Marines supposed to know these things? MaRINEs: Muscles are Required, Intelligence Not Essential.
"Let me get yours off first," she had said.
And he had trusted her.
Just like that.
Angered with himself just as much as with her, he whirled around and snatched the tool out of her hands, the cuffs clicking together briefly. The yellow glow went dead when it lost the connection to her skin. He stood there seething at her, green eyes alight.
"I had the screen up," she told him. Her eyes flashed with irritation.
Oh, no! She was not allowed to be angry. Hell no! She had no right. It was his turn to be angry.
Angry for trusting her.
Angry for believing in her.
Angry for letting her in. She got under his skin like noone else.
"I'll do it," he told her, his tone clipped.
"Omni-gel will –"
He brandished a plastic spoon from the flatware drawer. "We 'gel this? Plastic?" He snapped it. Yep. Just as he suspected: Made in China. "Awesome idea. Hey, let's just walk on out of here while we're at it. Tell 'em we're tired of playing and we're taking our toys with us."
He tossed the broken parts on the counter and rifled through more drawers looking for something that would make stronger 'gel. The cuffs were chafing his wrists. He wanted out of them.
"I never asked for this," he stated.
There had to be something here. Anything. The second drawer was empty.
Third drawer had… yarn? In a kitchen?
"Mom would hit the ceiling," he said. The knitting needles were old-fashioned. Earth-made. Wood. You couldn't make omni-gel out of wood. Wood didn't melt; it burned.
He braced his bound hands on the counter. "Doll, go help Dr. Chakwas." Stay the hell away from me. He wasn't going to look at Ash. He tried to stare a hole in the overhead cabinet. Then he realized that he was looking right at the cabinet's handles and forgot all about being mad. They were made from metal and ceramic.
Powering up the omni-tool, he used the fabber's electromagnetic end to unscrew the screws holding the handles in place.
Ash's hand was warm on his shoulder. "I'm sorry," she told him quietly.
He let out a breath, didn't face her. "How does that help anything, Williams?" His tone was harsher than he intended. She took her hand away and coldness filled the void left.
"Look," he said after a moment. He turned to face her. She was in his personal space. It felt strange that she was so close but gave off no body heat because of the ballistic-cloth body suit under her plum-colored duster. His eyes momentarily dropped to her lips and he swallowed. "Look," he started again, "we're up to our eyeballs in shit right now. Virus Queen –" He indicated Kelly lying prone on the divan in the other room with a nod– "is getting us all sick. The Shadow Broker wants to dissect her. I can barely walk. Cerberus wants us dead. And there are mercs with guns outside."
Ashley's eyebrows dipped into a frown.
"And you lied to me," he added wanting to push her away. She didn't step back but she looked away.
"I wasn't in a position where I could."
She looked him in the eyes. "I should have told you," she acknowledged. "I didn't. I was doing my job. I'm not going apologize for doing my job."
Ashley swallowed the lump in her throat. Joker was never going to forgive her. His next words confirmed it.
"Your job include pretending to be my friend, Doll?"
Her heart plummeted. Doll was usually said as pet name. It came out a slur.
She closed her eyes. "I was ordered to keep you safe, Moreau."
He snorted. "Great job."
That brought Ashley up short. She glared at him, eyes narrowed to slits.
"What was I supposed to do? Shout to the world, 'Hey! Guess what? The Normandy's gone. Commander Shepard's dead. The crew's dead. Reapers are going to kill all organic life in the galaxy. Oh, by the way, Joker's wanted by Cerberus. I'm here protecting his ass while he recuperates instead of doing something about the Reapers!'" By the time she'd finished, she was in his face and shouting. She turned away, but not without a parting barb in a sickly sweet, patronizing tone. "And Joker, if you didn't want to get sick, then you really should have stayed the hell away from her. Hendricks is dead."
Ashley instantly regretted her words at the look of pained-shock on Joker's face. He spun around, threw the flatware at the wall and grasped the counter hard enough to turn his knuckles white.
"Get the fuck away from me," he whispered when she touched his arm in apology.
She obeyed, heart in her throat.