"Samara, your plan's stupid."
Sitting across from each other on the L shaped couch in the Loft, the spacious apartment aboard the SR2 Normandy that serves as her quarters, Jane Shepard, resurrected savior of the galaxy, Spectre in service to the Citadel Council, and woman who has successfully headbutted a Krogan, lets the words sink in to her companion as she cracks her knuckles, hearing the sounds of hissing wires underneath her index finger.
"And I'm going to tell you why," the red haired human continues, "We are assuming your daughter has more than two brain cells to rub together. That means that she can look me up on the Extranet, after gently plucking my identity out of my brain with her biotic abilities, and know that I am a plant sent by her mother, who is trying to kill her."
Sitting across from her, hands on her knees, the blue skinned woman blinks red eyes, before clasping her hands together and twiddling her thumbs. As much as Shepard appreciates the calming presence of the Asari Justicar, there are some things that she has come to realize about Samara. For all her centuries of experience, she is not very world wise. As much as she sympathizes with the woman about the situation, Samara is a long gun. As a Justicar, her tasks are ones she executes in solidarity. She operates alone, she plans alone. And she is not good with people. Her daughter, the deviant sexual vampire, is.
"I see," Samara says, her head tendrils flickering, an Asari gesture equivalent to a sigh, "I had miscalculated how famous you were, Commander."
"Jane," Samara repeats, "But Morinth must be stopped. We must trap her, or she will simply continue killing, and children like that girl will go unavenged."
Shepard nods. Pit in her stomach, she nods. In many ways, Samara is wiser than her, comforting the bereaved mother. She probably feels like that all the time, herself; according to Asari customs, Samara's three children are dead, even if not in fact but in the eyes of her people.
"Then we need another option," Jane says, "The plan can work, we just need a better bait. We need someone else to draw Morinth towards, because while I'm flattered that you think she'd be attracted to me, I'm too obvious."
Eyes narrow, her tendrils flickering again. Much like furrowing a brow, Samara thinks.
"What about Krios?"
"Thane's Drell. That means that he can bring up photographic memories too easily, and he tends to bring them up in conversation. Also, his solution to this might be using a sniper rifle."
"Yes...correct. Mr. Taylor?"
"Him and Lawson are bad ideas for this," Jane says, tenting her hands in front of her face, "They're Cerberus. That also means that if Morinth does pick up something off of them, she can start a riot to get away, and those two could get killed. Besides which, Miranda never struck me as having great people skills, and I have yet to see Jacob convincingly flirt with anything."
"You think he is-"
"No, I just think think he's never had a girlfriend. And Mordin's out, because Salarians have no sex drive, and that means that if we sent him in, Morinth would know she's being played."
"He'd probably run off with her."
"Too much of a chance someone will recognize him as Archangel," Shepard says, leaning back on the couch, "We need someone unique. Special. But also someone who, while fascinating to someone violent like Morinth is also transparent enough to not...give away everything. Someone completely honest. Almost childlike."
Then it hits. The two old soldiers stare at each other, and Samara raises a hairless eyebrow.
"EDI," Jane says, "Could you ask Grunt to come up to my quarters?"
Grunt Sticks It In
"The biotics don't work that way, Commander."
Much like an oncoming storm or the answer to the question that no one asked, Miranda Lawson enters the room much like she entered her life; completely uninvited and questioning her every action. Glancing at the black leather wearing woman showing more cleavage than is regulation but would be welcomed with open arms on any ship she served as, her XO takes the position opposite her on the holographic projection table in the briefing room.
"I know," Jane says, the normal three dimensional view of the Normandy replaced by the view of the club they plan to set the trap in, "But Morinth's an Ardat-Yakshi. If Samara's right, we're dealing with a biotic that makes you and Alenko look like Uri Gellar."
Jane smirks. Half her hobbies now involve finding obscure references on the Extranet that go completely over the woman's head.
"20th century showman. Bent spoons," Jane responds, "Samara's plan is workable, but there's a lot about biotics we don't know. If anyone can use telepathy, it'd be Morinth."
"Telepathy's impossible, even with biotics," Miranda says, half sighing, "I should know. I'm the biotic in this room."
"My other point is that I'm too famous. Now, whatever powers Little Miss Mind Rape has, Grunt has a redundant nervous system, which gives him a chance to get in close. I'm going to coach him to make sure Morinth finds him interesting, and he takes it from there."
The hologram switches off. Snapping her gaze to her XO, Jane folds her arms and purses her lips.
"Look," Miranda says, "Far be it from you to actually listen to me, but I have an idea."
"Which is, what? You're the bait."
Miranda rolls her eyes. If biotic-telepathy did work, she would make it a point to try mind control. It might make her job easier.
"No," she says, "Grunt is the bait. The problem is, you're talking about luring in a centuries old connoisseur with a Krogan teenager who has the life experience of...EDI! Do you honestly think you, Samara, and Grunt can pull this off?"
Unfolding her arms, she leans against the table, before lifting up her hand and waving Miranda on.
"You want us to trust each other," she says, "Fine. Then stop doing these personal crusades half cocked. If we're going to work as a team, we need to work. As. A. Team."
Jane smirks. She loves it when a plan comes together.
"Fine. What's your suggestion?"
The turian is deceptively well armed. Partially because this is Omega, where an assault rifle is considered 'chic,' and partially because he knows if he fails at his appointed task, he will need the rifle to defend himself from Aria's hired guns. He would still die, of course. Just the question of how many people would die before he does.
A human approaches. The turian flicks his mandibles. Well dressed, in black and yellow, not showing that much skin. Square jaw, short cropped hair, good eyes. The ladies would like him if he weren't so stiff.
"Yo," he says, stopping in front of the bouncer, "Can I get in?"
"Depends," the turian says, inclining his head towards the door, "You think you're up to it?"
"Jaruut thinks so."
The bouncer taps his fist on the green circle hovering in front of the door. It disappears and the door slides open, the turian nodding to the human as he walks in. Grinning to himself, Jacob muses about how easy that was. Scratching underneath his jaw, he clears his throat.
"Papa Hotel, this is Chocolate Thunder."
"Papa Hotel responding," Miranda says, pinching the bridge of her nose, wondering why she let them pick their own callsigns, "Confirm you have entered VIP lounge. Are our advance agents in position?"
She turns, slightly. The other remaining member of their team, Kelly, is sitting across the briefing table from her. Otherwise, everyone else is in position. Of course, Kelly is serving an important function that none of the other crew members can serve.
Miranda holds out her glass, and Kelly dutifully takes the pitcher of ice tea and refills it.
"Looks like we're in position," Jacob says, weaving through the crowds to the bar, "Motion sensor confirms Thane in the ductwork. I see Donnelly drinking a krogan under the table, and I...what the..."
Standing behind the bar, shaking the martini shaker in one hand, the one horned salarian with the criss crossed scars on his face juggles the frosted metal container before catching it in his left hand and pouring into the thin stemmed martini glass.
"Ah, Mr. Taylor," Mordin Solus says, "What will you have?"
"Professor, since when could you tend bar?"
"Talent I picked up," Mordin says, grabbing several bottles from under the bar, "Essential. Non scientific skills give the impression that science is not the end all and be all of my life. Also, easy to slip in drugs and poisons for assassinations. Less mess, and looks like an accident."
Jacob's jaw drops open as Mordin uncaps the bottles, glancing at his omnitool.
"Right. One part gin, six parts vermouth, one green olive, seven icecubes, one pinch LSD...no, wait, LSD hallucinogen in humans. Start over."
He dumps the concoction in the drain in front of him. Which is right when the ice cube filled shotglass slams in front of Jacob.
"Hit me again!" Tali yells.
"I can't believe you talked me into doing this."
"My powers of persuasion are legendary."
She stands in front of the kiosk with the two crashing holographic air cars on the display. To her left, her companion hobbles up next to her, his black and gray Cerebrus uniform traded up for a blue jacket, loose pants and a gray sweater. Clearing her throat, her other companion appears on her right. Her hood masks her eyes and most of her head, the tattoo on her lip red today instead of black, and the repurposed quarian encounter suit hugging her backside prominently, but Kasumi Goto does not mind standing out in a crowd.
"So," she says, "Nice place you took us. This is part of your master stroke?"
"Keep around, Kasumi. You'll learn something."
Smirking, Shepard walks in, her armor clanging along as the turian behind the counter looks up and hastily closes his Extranet connection. Clearing his throat, he walks out from behind the counter, mandibles clicking.
"Welcome to Silh's house of autos! What can I do for you?"
Shepard looks at Joker, grinning.
"What do you have with an overpowered engine?"
"So, remind me," Kelly says, sitting next to Miranda as the bald, middle aged man in the Cerberus uniform refills their drinks, "Thanks, Rupert. Remind me, how are we keeping Miss T'Loak from finding out what we're doing?"
Miranda wraps an arm around Kelly's shoulder, patting her on the back. She loves sharing knowledge. Especially to people who are, in her opinion, barely adequate.
"Simple," she says, "Zaeed and Jack are providing a distraction."
"What kind of...distraction?"
"Listen here, you f_ing pukes! This is Jessie!"
The middled aged man with the face like an old, reinforced saddlebag cocks the assault rifle, the assembled men in armor with the blue sun logo on their chests taking a careful step back. Taller than them, better armed than them, definitely louder than them, their captain made it a point to ask what the f_ he was doing there. Their captain is not going to do that. Ever again.
"My name's Zaeed Massani," he bellows, "I founded this order of f_ing numb nut a_ f_ers! Right up until that f_ing f_ f_er Vito stole you f_ers out from right f_ing under me! Right now, you f_ing f_s work for me! Or else Jessie gets to have another conversation!"
He points the assault rifle, one handed, at them.
"And Jessie feels f_ing talkative! Any questions?"
"Alright, listen up! I don't know how you Blood Pack _ _ _s handled things back when the Krogan goat _ _ _ ran things, but I handle things different."
The bald, tattooed woman wearing two straps of leather and a pair of pants paces in front of the assembled vorcha, the bat like aliens watching her, occasionally drifting their gazes to the Krogan, and the Krogan's head, which are both in separate locations. The woman continues ranting; this is something they are used to at this point. She has a tendency to rant, and during one rant the Krogan had enough, and she killed it. With her hands and fascinating mind powers.
"I don't give a shit about discipline! I mean, you're f_ing vorcha! Your family tree looks like a dead raccoon with two sticks jammed up its a_! So what's the big f_ing deal? So, anyway, f_."
She sits on the dead Krogan's hump, producing a cigarette and lighting it.
"Anyway, listen up," Jack says, "Who wants a war?"
The vorcha cheer.
"F_ing dandy. Let's go hit the f_ing Blue f_ing Suns."
"Grunt is en route. Act natural."
"Yes, ma'am," Jacob says, depressing the receiver and turning front of the dance floor back to the bar. Tali is now laughing hyersterically, five shot glasses empty in front of her.
"Curious," Mordin says, "Exaggerated effect on Quarians. Mild muscle relaxant in Turians. With Shepard's permission, will continue experimenting on Tali once mission is over."
"Put more of the stuff in the thing the stuff goes in!" Tali slurrs.
Jacob sighs, turning to the esteemed salarian doctor as said doctor shakes the martini mixer over his head. Tali watches the drink container, moving her head from side to side in rhythm with Mordin like an enchanted cobra, which is around when Jacob notices the straw jammed into the vocal light on her helmet.
"Professor, is it really the best idea to try out drink recipes on Miss Tali?" he asks.
"Perfectly safe. Nothing toxic. In worst case scenario, she will feel more at home with the crew."
"I'm just saying," Jacob says, glancing between the two, "That the Commander's a little protective of her. Getting her tipsy might not be a good idea."
"Will be watching her the entire time," Mordin responds, opening the shaker as the blue liquid inside fizzes, "Own concoction. Dextro-protein equivalent of batarian whiskey."
Jacob watches, fascinated and concerned, as the lightweight quarian girl downs the shot with a single slurp, pitching forward and slamming her face against the bar, followed by her collapsing to the floor.
The doors to the bar open. They can tell who it is by the heavy footfalls, the scraping armor against the walls, and the yelp of the guy trying to bum Expel 10 tickets before he gets tossed onto the dance floor from the entrance, which Jacob estimates is a good 10 yard flight, which lands him on the creepy turian who was hitting on the dancer.
Two birds, one stone.
Standing almost seven feet tall, silver armor freshly polished, bright blue eyes scanning the bar, the newest sensation of the night has arrived. Grunt snorts, appraising the looks of the people there, and not missing a beat their dutiful soldier gets the good will of everyone there.
"Drinks are on me."
"~I've got sun shiiii~iiine on a cloudy dayyyyy...when it's cold outsiii~iide, I got the month of May.
Oh I. Bet. You. Say. What could make me feel this way?
My girl. My girl! My girl. Talkin' bout myyyyy~yy-"
Mandibles twitch. Sniper scope lines up over his sight on his right eye.
"Are you in position?"
Sight lines up. Hm. Garm. Must've regenerated when he wasn't looking, even if half his head is cybernetic. Given, it's been two weeks since they were last on Omega, so given that they didn't, say, cut off his head, there was probably a chance he hit under a corner and pieced himself back together. Right now, he sees him yelling at a group of Vorcha, ready to take back his Blood Pack from Jack.
"I'm in position," he says, loading up one of the rounds Thane showed him, "Good view of Omega."
He pulls the trigger. There, no head left, Garm can't regenerate. That takes care of that.
"Okay. All yours."
"Shepard. Closing in on target."
He moves silently, shadow to shadow. His instincts guide him, following the voices, following scents, standing in the hallway as he hears footsteps. The door opens, and the three batarian mercenaries run past, heavy boots vibrating along the floor as they exit through the far door. He slides out of the vent, landing without a sound. No blood yet. No need to kill.
Pulling his coat closer, he ducks in through the door as it cycles back to lock, the heavy pumping sounds of Afterlife shaking him to the core. Many people. Many angles. He sees the assistant, three more guards. He could run in, guns blazing.
Not publicly known to be on Shepard's team. Can't be connected easily, been years since he was on Omega
The air thick with the smell of filth, Vorcha yelling, biting at the girl before he acts, tossing them with biotics, closing in on the pack leader, emptying a clip into his right eye to send the message
It seems less violent. He hears whispers of Archangel. He should tell Garrus, tell him he made a lasting impression. It has been fifteen minutes and he still has all his possessions. That is a start.
Shepard asked him to find a way to do this without a pile of bodies. Three days ago, she helped him make amends with his son, who he had not seen in many years. She kept her word. He will keep his. Passing by the bar, he stumbles, catching his foot on his other foot, coughing and waving off the turian he nearly stumbles into. The turian does not see the capsule that drops, dissolving into his drink. Waving him off, the turian clicks his mandibles and takes a drag, grimacing before grabbing at his stomach, vomiting all over the bar and yelling out violent swears.
Small capsule, filled with levo-protein based sweetener, enough to induce a mild stomach reaction but not an aphasic shock. He grabs at the bartender. The assistant, Grizz, leaves the overhead balcony. Taking the long way around, he circles the bar, coughing, almost collapsing against an asari dancer who does not see him, his gangly leg causing the human staring at her to trip forward and grab her breasts, earning him a head ringing slap. A bodyguard exits the balcony to deal with it. One left. He begins his approach, humming to himself, softly singing. The song Chambers taught him when they talked about Kolyat.
"And the cat's in the cradle and the silver spoon/Little Boy Blue and the Man on the moon."
Voice like gravel, the chaos of Afterlife enough that his approach cannot be heard, even with the soft soft.
"When you comin' home son? I don't when/We'll get together then. I know we'll have a good time then."
He ascends the stairs, one fluid motion disarming the guard who draws a gun on him and a nerve strike under the arm causing the batarian to collapse like a sack of bricks, in his arms gently laid down as the turian hits Grizz in the face and the asari dancer demands reparations.
He approaches quickly. The blue skinned Asari crime queen turns, her tatooed lips parting for a moment as she sees the shadow move, and Thane Krios grabs Aria T'loak by the back of the head and forces his tongue down her throat. Her eyes cloud over almost instantly, and as he releases she starts wildly laughing, the hallucinogenic effect of his biology taking full effect on the queen of Omega.
And when Grizz comes back up, swearing wildly to find Aria hanging upside down from her couch and counting pink unicorns, she is alone. The duct vent has already been replaced.
The bar has already embraced Grunt as their newest star. Rounds of drinks, paid for by the adolescent Krogan, have gotten more than enough attention. But, despite that, he sees no sign of the asari. This sort of thing, Samara assured them, would draw her out. She likes interesting and odd people, and a Krogan teenager is interesting just on the virtue of being so out of place. Krogans never leave the homeworld until well into adulthood, after all.
Scanning the bar, spots a flash of blue in one of the corners, weaving through the crowd. They need to draw her attention. He is nondescript, not unique in any way shape or form, which is why Jacob volunteered himself for point man. Everyone has their strengths, after all, and his strength is blending into the crowd.
He is everyone, a nobody, just another Alliance soldier with washboard abs. He blends into crowds, disappears in the shadow of the fascinating and extreme. No one sees him because he does not draw attention, which lets him cross the bar, finding an asari woman in the black catsuit smiling. Smiling at the guest sitting at her booth in the dim light as Jacob opens the channel to Miranda. He is about to make the report to begin the next phase in the plan when he hears the conversation.
"That's fascinating," Morinth says, purring out the words as stretches out like an uncoiling snake, "I've never seen a human with such a...gift...for finding the hidden things in this galaxy."
"You'll find, my dear, that things are only hidden until you start looking for them."
That voice. That has to be a trick of sound. Circling the table to get to the vending machine, he glances out of the corner of his eyes. Past middle age, still in top physical shape, clean shaven and short cropped gray hair and in a plum Guili Vorn single button suit. It could be anyone, but the voice, and the eyes, glowing with their ocular implants, are the giveaway. He's seen him in person. It can't be anyone but him.
"But enough about me," he says, his voice a slow, embracing drawl, "Tell me about yourself, my dear. Let's just say I've never been the center of attention, if I can help it."
Miranda squeaks, mouth dropping open. Rupert shrugs, Kelly waves her hand in front of Lawson's face and finding no reaction whatsoever.
"Well," she says, "That's not good."
"Okay, Miranda's gone bye-bye," Shepard says, sitting in the back of the car as it speeds over the towers of Omega, "Kelly, take over mission command."
A chuckle from the driver's seat.
"I think someone just found out Santa Claus isn't real."
"Judging from her reaction," Kasumi corrects, "It's more she found out Santa Claus is her Daddy and he has a taste for tranny hookers. Brings back memories."
Shepard glares at the two, shakes her head, and opens up her channel with the Normandy.
"EDI," she says, "Kindly explain to me what the Illusive Man is doing on Omega?"