A/N: I had this idea after watching First Blood one too many times. Enjoy.
The driveway was paved in shiny blacktop, unlike the others she had passed on the isolated road that wound its way beside a mountain lake, and Jack knew she was in the right place. It was a quiet and cool morning. A light fog was slowly being burned away by the rising sun. There was an energizing quality in the air but that may have just been the biotic's excitement at finally reaching her destination. She paused in the driveway, lined by fairly dense forest on either side, for a moment to do a quick check to make sure she wasn't too scruffy-looking.
The former convict, long since pardoned for her role in The Reaper War, had grown her hair out into a tousled mass that was several centimeters in length. It wasn't quite the long mane that Lawson had sported by the time they parted ways but there were still nights where it felt weird to have any hair whatsoever. Ruby wrap-around shades protected her brown eyes from the glare of the sun while an ankle-length, insulated black coat kept the worst of the chill off of her. Her combat boots, only a few months old, were covered in road dust but that would certainly be forgivable. She only carried one weapon on her since she was on Eden Prime and it was concealed beneath her coat.
That bitch shouldn't complain too much. Just enough that I can snap at her some. Like the old days. Jack thought with a tiny smile as she resumed her walk down the driveway.
Upon coming into sight of the lakeside clearing, Jack was brought up short in astonishment. There were at least three two-story houses that she could see and an enormous three-story that dominated the center of the clearing. A large fountain bubbled happily where the driveway widened and circled around it. Several aerocars, very expensive models, rested on a landing pad near the two-story on the left. Wheeled vehicles, including what looked like a turbo-charged three-wheeled cycle, were parked in various marked places around the fountain. To top it all off, an entire herd of children ranging from nearly grown to a toddler were playing a wild game of tag in front of the house on the right.
Well, shit. This definitely smells like the Cheerleader. Wonder where all the kids came from?
As the thought crossed her mind, the oldest girl turned and noticed her approaching. A faint biotic corona flared around the brown-haired young woman as Jack made her way to the game. The girl met her halfway and Jack's jaw dropped. Except for having brown eyes, a slightly softer jawline and smaller forehead, the girl was probably a spitting image of Miranda. She even seemed to have Miranda's taste for form-fitting bodysuits and was entirely immodest about the diamond-patterned, red and black outfit.
What the fuck? I thought she couldn't have kids. Maybe it's the sister's?
"Can I help you?" The Miranda look-alike asked without the trademark accent.
Well, dumbass, she wouldn't have the accent if she grew up around here, would she?
Jack gave the girl her best smile, though it was marred somewhat by the scar tissue on her lip that she had never gotten fixed. "Yeah, I think you can." Jack opened her omni-tool and located a still-picture file that she often looked at. "I'm looking for Miranda Lawson. She gave me this address and told me to come find her if I ever needed anything. She said she had a job for me. See, that's her on Grunt's right, Kasumi's on the left and I'm the one sitting on his shoulders flippin' the camera off."
"Isn't that a little weird? Three human girls with a krogan?" The brown eyes narrowed in suspicion as she gazed closer at the flat-image being displayed by the 'tool.
Jack let out a short bark of laughter. "Yeah, it is. We got a lot of shit about it. Everybody starting calling us Grunt's Gals. It pissed Lawson off so bad since she was squadleader." Jack took the opportunity to pose the question that had been on her mind since she'd first laid eyes on the girl. "You know, you kinda look like her?"
The girl sighed and nodded. "She was my aunt. Mom says, because of all the genetic tampering, the girls in our family have a high probability of sharing Aunt Miranda's facial features for another four generations."
So she is... wait... was?
"Was?" Jack asked, her voice coming softer and, to her disgust, her knees threatened to give out on her.
"She died about six months ago." She was definitely related to Miranda because, despite the look of sorrow in her eyes, she spoke in a candid fashion.
Jack refused to let the anguished wail inside of her out as she asked, "How?"
"I guess she wanted you to work with her in her security firm. She always complained that the quality of specialists she hired was so much lower than what she was used to." Miranda's niece lowered her head. "One of them ran out on her when she was trying to protect an elementary school from Batarian slavers in the Traverse. Her and the others managed to repel the slavers but she died holding one side of the perimeter by herself. They say that she died with a smile on her face."
Jack didn't know what to say so she settled for tried-and-true. "I'm sorry." Her voice was hoarse and broken but she didn't care what the kid thought.
"Can you stay?" Miranda's niece asked suddenly, eyes bright with unshed tears. "Mom and Dad are at work right now but they'll be home tonight. I didn't recognize you with the hair but Aunt Miranda had that same picture above her fireplace in her house. I'm sure they'd like to meet you."
Jack looked around at the idyllic setting and the hole in her heart seemed to just grow wider.
"No... I, uhm, I should get going. I need some cash." It was a bold lie. Miranda and Jack had both been millionaires by the time the war had ended thanks to being, essentially, auxiliary combat units to a SPECTRE. "Tell your mom that I'm sorry."
Jack turned and didn't let her tears fall until she was back on the road.
Jack walked for days. Physical activity helped her deal with emotional trauma, at least that's what Kelly had told her during her time on The Normandy. It was the reason why she never bought her own vehicle of any sort. The old inferno of rage in her chest had been tamped by years of struggle and, at first, reluctant camaraderie. It had been replaced by increasingly dark thoughts about her life and how utterly empty it really was. If she were honest with herself, that was why she had finally decided to take up Miranda on her offer to come live with her. Jack stopped at the edge of some shitty town that she couldn't even recall entering as a thought occurred to her.
That's why there were three houses. The bitch actually built one for me!
It was then that the idea, barely in its embryonic stages, had an accelerated growth spurt and became a decision. Unfortunately, a police vehicle rolled to a stop beside her. The passenger-side door raised and a sandy-haired, blue-eyed man leaned over to get a good look at Jack. It was an overcast day, she hadn't even realized it had been raining, but her shades remained in place.
"Hey, friend." The man asked in what he probably thought was a friendly voice but instantly made Jack's hackles rise. "Where ya headed?"
Jack's head turned mechanically and she stared at the officer for a moment before answering, "I don't know. Someplace with good grub."
"You visiting someone around here?"
Jack sneered, "No."
"Well, why don't you hop in? I can give you a lift to the edge of town. There's a city about sixty klicks up the intercontinental." Jack took too long to consider because the pseudo-friendly smile disappeared. "That wasn't a suggestion."
For a brief moment, the urge to Lift the car ten meters into the air and Slam it into a twisted mass of metal was almost too good to pass up. Years of Shepard's influence won out and she slid into the car after throwing her bag into the backseat. The two rode in a tense silence until the pig just had to start running his yap.
"So, where you from?" He asked, whistling as he fingered the shiny badge on his jacket.
"I know what that means, smartass." Now the venom was out in full force. "I take it you fought in 'The War'?"
"Yeah, I figured. We get you types through here sometimes. Every one was a drunk, a liar, or a thief. Sometimes all three. Which one are you."
"All three." Jack saw a likely little diner along one side street. "I think I like that place. Can you let me off here?"
"You wouldn't like it here, lady. We've got a nice, quiet little town and I like it that way."
"I like quiet." Jack mumbled and crossed her arms to stifle the desire to snap the fool's neck.
"Well, we don't like people like you running around and causing trouble. So, I'll just drop you off at the edge of town and you can be on your way and everybody wins, right?"
Jack clenched her teeth and growled, "Why are you pushin' me, man?"
Now the cop's face turned a bright shade of red as he leaned over. "What was that?"
"I said... why are you pushin' me?" Jack repeated.
"Listen, bitch. I could run you in on just about whatever I want to. We're a long way from the capital and, as long as nobody dies, I've got the big dick around here. So shut the fuck up and enjoy the ride."
The fight left Jack all at once and despondency remained in its wake. It was an increasingly common occurrence, this despondent, apathetic outlook and she rarely had the drive to combat it. King Dick of Asshole-town drove them across a bridge to the town limits and let her out. He leaned over once again and grinned at the biotic.
"Have a nice day."
Prick. Jack thought as it started to rain again and she unrolled the thin hood that was concealed in the collar of her coat.
Jack didn't know why she did what she did next. Maybe she was just too tired to give a shit or maybe she wanted to get into the sort of trouble she had ten years ago. Whatever the reason, she turned right back around and began walking across the short bridge. Of course, the fucking cop saw her in his rear viewscreen and reversed with a tortured squeal from his tires. Jack didn't stop walking as he slowed, put his vehicle in drive, and followed her.
"Didn't you get the message!" He shouted but she didn't even glance in his direction. "Hold it right there!" Jack kept walking. "I said hold it goddamnit!"
Then the car was in front of her and the cop, who was much taller than the relatively short biotic, was reaching out to grab her arm. Jack violently wrenched herself away, casual touching from strangers was still one of the things that could cause that type of reaction, and her duffel bag fell to the ground.
"Put your hands on the car!" Jack took slow, deep breaths to prevent an instinctive biotic corona from flaring. "Do it! Now!" Now the cop put a hand on his piece, a shitty-looking civilian light pistol, and he looked ready to use it.
Jack sighed and finally did as he asked. Just the thought of killing the obnoxious prick was enough to make her feel tired. The patdown was quick and not very thorough but even a blind squirrel could have found the nut on her.
"Oh, what do we have here?" The cop lifted up the back of her coat, reached around to unbuckle her wide leather belt, and removed it. He drew the 25 centimeter blade and whistled in appreciation. The serrated edges halfway down were certainly vicious-looking. "What the Hell do you have a knife like this for?"
"Trimming my cunt hair." Jack said but, when she closed her eyes, a scene flashed before her.
Grunt handed each of his krantt a long, slender box before standing back to shuffle nervously as they opened the unexpected gifts. Inside, they found the long daggers that he had ordered especially for his krantt from a famous blademaker on Tuchanka. Kasumi thanked him with kisses on his scarred face, despite have to clamber onto him and barely being able to keep a grip thanks to the massive hump he sported, and Miranda even patted him on the arm. Jack had scowled and told him that, next time, he should get her a bigger shotgun. They had all rolled their eyes but none missed the tiny, contented smile she tried to suppress.
Now the cop was leaning over to look at a spot behind the ear that had her implant. "What the Hell is that? A tattoo? What's it supposed to be?"
Jack had suggested they get tattoos and, in an ironic twist, the foursome had gotten the tattoo of the Omega symbol on Omega. Goto had laughed about that for months.
"Let's go, smartass."
The next few hours passed in a blur to Jack, stuck in memories of her past, as the asshole cop took her to a station full of assholes just like him. He led her to a holding/processing area beneath the main office. They talked about her like she wasn't even there. Asshole Cop #1 handed her off to Pot Belly, Wimpy Man-Boy, and Sadistic Prick cop. The three dumbasses took her to a decon chamber and ordered her to strip. She lethargically did as told while Pot Belly and Prick laughed their asses off. Pot Belly, his thinning hair sticking about rather comically, whistled lecherously as she began to remove her long-sleeved black sweater. The silence as she began to undo her cargo pants was thunderous.
"Holy shit!" Man-Boy exclaimed, his pale face turning crimson as Jack began to remove her underwear. "I don't know what she's got more of! Tattoos or scars! What the Hell's she been into?"
"Who gives a shit?" Pot Belly answered and whistled again when she was finally naked.
"The back's worse than the front!" Man-Boy shouted in disbelief when she handed him her pile of clothes and walked to the back of the decon shower. "We should really tell Will about this, Dick!"
"You're not telling him shit." Pot Belly came into the shower and stopped behind her. "Let me see your hands." His eyebrows rose at the ink on them. "Death, huh? You think you're some kind of badass?" The punch to her stomach wasn't unexpected. It was a sloppy punch but she took it and dropped to one knee.
"Hey!" Man-Boy protested. "We're just supposed to clean her up!"
"Well, clean her up." Pot Belly scoffed with a satisfied smirk.
The decontamination shower passed quickly and she was given a sleeveless t-shirt, a pair of gray utility pants, and soft-soled shoes. Sadistic Prick, his thick brown hair was slicked way back to make him look even more like a pompous jackass, was cursing at the automated identification scanner he was trying to run her hand through.
"What's the problem, Tony?" Asshole #1 called as he reentered the processing room.
"The scanner keeps coming up empty when I put her hand through! The diagnostics say it's working fine but it can't be."
"What about the omni-tool?" Asshole #1 looked over to where Man-Boy was attempting to hack into Jack's omni-tool.
"It's locked up real tight, Will. I ain't ever seen anything like it."
"Did she have anything on her besides that big fucking knife!" Asshole #1 snapped in irritation.
"Hell no," Pot Belly drawled from his perch against a table at the far end of the room. "All she had was that knife, a cred-chit with ten thousand on it, and some spare clothes in the bag. Bitch is like a ghost."
"Goddamnit. It doesn't matter. I sent a facial scan to the capital. We should have something by the time I get back with the doc. Would you give her a haircut for fuck's sake, Dick? It's bad enough she still smells like road trash."
Once Asshole #1 left, Pot Belly began to laugh in a way that made Jack's skin crawl. He drew her krogan dagger from its sheath and gestured to the other two.
"Sit her down. I'm gonna use her own knife for this."
"I don't know about this." Man-Boy said nervously as he gently led Jack over to a metal chair in front of Pot Belly. "Look at her, man. She's in la-la land. There's obviously something messed up with her."
"Would you shut the fuck up and grow a pair, Billy?" Sadistic Prick teased the kid as he and Pot Belly shared a laugh.
Some part of Jack resisted at the thought of someone holding a knife behind her and the hands on her arms tightened in response. An arm came around her neck and Pot Belly's warm, moist breath tickled her ear.
"Don't fight me, bitch. It doesn't matter to me if I cut your throat or not."
"Yeah and I bet that's usually the only way you can fuck somebody." Those were the first words she'd spoken and, as Jack's words had a tendency to do, they pissed him off.
The world began to dim around the edges as Pot Belly applied a chokehold to the protests of Man-Boy and the laughter of Sadistic Prick.
That's it, you fucker. Just keep squeezing until I die. A figure suddenly appeared in front of her, solid and as real as the cops, but no one reacted to the presence of a massive krogan so she figured she was hallucinating before the end.
"Maybe I'm not real, Jack, but I've still got a quad. What about you?" Grunt asked her, his mouth twisting in a krogan grin made terrifying by the scars down one side of his face.
"I'd say she still has a pair, Grunt. They've just gone back up. Reverse of how they're supposed to drop, maybe?" Kasumi flickered into existence besides the krogan, leaning against his side as she and Miranda had taken to doing.
"There must be something of the old Jack in there after what she said to that pot-bellied officer." Miranda's cultured tones preceded her own appearance on Grunt's opposite side.
All three looked exactly as they had the last time she had seen them. Grunt even had the massive eezo-enhanced bomb on his back that he had used to take out that one Reaper which had laid siege to some shithole of a system that was "vital to the war effort". They were always vital to the war effort. His hump was practically nonexistent after not eating or drinking for close to three weeks during the fighting so that his human krantt didn't have to go without. He had died delivering that payload.
Kasumi's beautiful features were charred and burned beyond recognition but her expressive eyes were undamaged. The Reaper's ground forces, culled from some no-name rock that the Council races hadn't even discovered, had bombed an entire district of a city in order to get rid of the thief after she had killed three hundred of them in an effort to delay their advance to the Alliance's main military base. Miranda and Jack had been busting up their sub-HQ on the other side of the city when it happened.
Miranda was the most undamaged. The biotic had teased the woman endlessly about all the cosmetic surgery she had to get rid of the scars. She had kept several that she had gotten when Kasumi and Grunt had bought the farm. She was wearing a suit of light combat armor that still managed to show just a bit of cleavage.
"Still dressing like a slut, Cheerleader?" Jack didn't even question how she was talking while getting choked into unconsciousness.
"Still getting into trouble, Pyscho-Bitch?" Miranda asked and gave a tiny laugh.
"What are you doing, little Jack?" Grunt asked. "This is not how a warrior dies. A warrior dies in battle. Roaring against all who dare oppose his strength. This is... unworthy of you."
"I hate to say it, but the kid's right." Kasumi nodded, her burnt flesh crackling. "Even I managed to go out, literally, in a blaze of glory."
Miranda stepped forward and placed a cool hand on Jack's forehead. "Make us proud before the end, Jack."
Her biotic corona flared to brilliant life and the men surrounding her let out shocked shrieks.
"She's a biotic!" Man-Boy had time to yell before simultaneous biotic Pushes sent him and Sadistic Prick into opposite walls.
Pot Belly tightened his hold but a Lift field, accompanied by a jump-boost, enabled Jack to send her, the chair, and the fat bastard into the ceiling. His grip relaxed instantly and Jack let him fall to the floor with his lightened mass instead of slamming him into a pulp.
So fucking weak. Jack sneered in contempt as she reattached her omni-tool and knife-belt.
"What the Hell's that ruckus?" Asshole #1 shouted as he entered the threshold.
Jack had to give him credit for going for his gun but he was far too slow. She was across the room and delivering a strike to his shoulder that made him drop his weapon. Her corona left trails of bluish-white light as she threw a dozen rapid-fire strikes to Asshole #1's torso before delivering a low power Push-kick that sent him careening backwards to crush a table four meters down the hallway. Jack emerged from the room and raised a glowing fist at a cowering figure on her right.
"P-p-please... don't..." The man, in a white labcoat, stammered in fear.
Jack shrugged and followed the emergency exit signs. She was pleased to discover that it led to stairs which stopped at a reinforced door to street level. The sirens that began to go off did not please her. That anger was an excellent source of fuel for the Push that blew the door completely off its hinges and into a street. Panicked, confused screams were sounds that she hadn't heard in years.
It was amazing that she could still get warm feelings.
A man foolishly slowed down his tri-wheeled cycle as he approached and she was more than happy to liberate it.
Should have got my fucking coat.
Will Bond hissed as the medic applied medi-gel to the cuts on his face. He was in the foulest mood he could ever recall. His life had become utter shit since he had picked up that psycho-bitch yesterday. First she'd wrecked his fucking station and then she'd pulled Dick right out of an aerocar into a stony ravine. His brains were probably still on the rocks out there. He had personally led four of his men, plus fifteen security mechs, into the mountain forest that the bitch had disappeared into. All the mechs were scattered in a thousand different places, Tony was going to be lucky if he could walk in a year's time, Billy's face was a bruised mess, Lisa's left arm was broken in about twelve places, and Old Walt was going to be pissing blood for a week. His mood wasn't helped by how powerless he had felt when the bitch had appeared out of nowhere, levitated him at least twelve meters high, and told him to back off. It was only by the barest of margins that he hadn't pissed himself. Now he had the goddamned Militia Commander for his section demanding to know just what the Hell was going on.
"Before Billy went to get treated," Harry Lenderman ran a hand through his short blonde hair as the medic finished up with Will. "He said that Tony and Dick were kinda rough on the girl."
"Yeah, well, then they come to me!" Will snapped. "I can't have every slack-jawed drifter coming through and beating on my guys. Oh, yeah, not to mention killing them."
"Do we even know who this girl is?" Harry asked, sipping a hot cup of coffee an aide had handed him.
"No, damnit!" Will seethed and resisted the urge to slap the coffee out of Harry's hands. "We don't know shit about her. The data-packet just said that some kind of officer would be here to brief us on the situation. It's pissing me off, all this security clearance shit. I need to know just what in the Hell I'm dealing with out here."
"Was she really that bad?"
"It's like the Devil himself designed the perfect, man-eating cunt."
"Her name's Jack and the Devil didn't mold her. That was me." A calm, commanding baritone came from the entrance to the portable command module they had set up overlooking the mountainside.
Behind the figure, on the landing pad, a military shuttle took off and the man strode into the prefab unit. He was powerfully built beneath his jacket. That was the first thing that Will noticed. The dark skin on his face was crossed by several small scars, one just beneath his left eye, and he wore a cap with SR-2 on it. His dark, shrewd eyes took in the frantic scene before him and Will had the feeling they were not measuring up.
"And just who the hell are you?" Will demanded sourly.
"Andre Shepard. SPECTRE Andre Shepard."
Harry let out a quick squeak that was unbecoming a Militia man but Will had almost done the same. Everyone knew about the first human SPECTRE but it was easy to overlook the man before him. He was big and looked competent but the stories people told about Shepard always made him seem like he'd be ten-feet tall or something. Will swallowed and worked up his courage.
"Okay. We're a little busy this morning, SPECTRE. What can I do for you?"
"I've come to get my girl." The SPECTRE stepped closer with a confidence that Will envied at the moment.
"Your girl?" Harry asked, his voice trembling slightly.
"I recruited her, augmented her already considerable talents, and I commanded her in The War for four years." Shepard smirked. "I'd say that makes her mine."
"Why the Hell would the Council send a SPECTRE to an Alliance world to handle one little girl?" Will stepped closer to Shepard with a contemptuous gaze leveled squarely at the hero.
"The Alliance brass thought I'd be able to help."
"I don't know how unless she's a rogue SPECTRE." Shepard shook his head. "Well, then she's a civilian now and she's my problem."
Shepard grinned in a wolfish manner. "I don't think you understand. I didn't come here to rescue Jack from you. I came here to rescue you from her."
Will scoffed. "Well, we all appreciate the concern, SPECTRE. We'll try to be extra-careful."
Shepard leaned closer to get a better look at his face and Lisa's immobilized arm. "I'm just amazed that she allowed any of your team to live after she got her blood up."
"Is that right?"
Shepard grinned in that shit-eating way again. "Strictly speaking, your whole town should be a pile of rubble instead of you and a bunch of Militia combing the forest for her. You really are lucky to be breathing."
"Well, that's just great." Will took a sip of coffee from someone's mug on the table beside him. "I tell you what I think. I think you came out here to find out why one of your machines blew a fucking gasket."
"You really don't get it, do you? Well, I guess you wouldn't since you don't have the clearance." Shepard folded his arms behind his back. "You're dealing with an expert in every type of warfare you could think of and several you've never dreamed of. With a woman who's the most powerful human biotic in the known universe. Who's the best... with guns, with knives... with her bare hands. I ran her through Alliance N-level training and she's rated as a 7. She's had training under Asari and Turian commandos; Salarian STG. She's been forged in the hellhole that's the krogan homeworld. Jack can ignore pain; ignore weather. I've seen her eat shit that would make a krogan puke when she had to live off the land. In The War, she was a shock trooper and guerrilla fighter." Now Shepard got right up in Will's face and, to the officer's horror, there looked like tiny pinpricks of red light seeping from behind the irises. "That means that she'd be sent in to crack the toughest nuts from the inside-out if she had to. To obliterate whatever resistance was in her way as fast and as nastily as possible. To kill. Period!" Shepard stepped back and shook his head slowly. "She's not the best because of her skills. She's the best because she's still alive."
"Okay. Do you have any suggestions about the situation then?" Harry questioned, a fine sheen of sweat coating his forehead.
Shepard nodded. "Defuse the situation. Defuse her. Leave a little gap in your screen that she can slip through. I'll pick her up at a spaceport in a few days; maybe on the road if I can trace her omni-tool."
"Thanks for the help, SPECTRE. But we're expected to do our jobs just like our war heroes. I'm not letting a murderer loose on my world."
Shepard's face was incredulous. "You really want a war you can't win?"
"Are you saying that two hundred men and mechs is a no-win situation for us?" Will asked incredulously.
"If you send that many, don't forget one thing."
"A good supply of body-bags." Shepard turned with a disgruntled shake of his head and left the command module.
"Will, maybe he can get her talking." Harry suggested and Will grunted to acknowledge that the man had a point.
Shepard was talking to someone via his omni-tool link-up when Will caught up to him. The SPECTRE ended the message and raised his eyebrows at the officer.
"Listen, maybe you can spare all our lives by helping us out?"
"What did you have in mind?"
Jack stared into the flames of her small fire. She was hiding out in an abandoned titanium mine and had just finished a meal of berries, tubers, and some kind of pig-like animal with six legs. It wasn't quite the meal she had had in mind yesterday but it would have to do. Jack had always known she wasn't right but she definitely had proof that she'd finally gone off the deep-end. When she'd been fucking those pigs in the ass last night, her old team had been all around her and offering sadistic, often hilarious, encouragement. When she'd hoisted Asshole #1 up, Kasumi and Miranda had bet Grunt that he'd piss himself. Jack had wanted to ask them if ghosts even had a need for money but she was too busy laughing at the terrified expression on the cop's face.
Now all four of them were sitting around the fire and chatting companionably. Somehow, maybe because she knew they weren't real, Jack had found it within her to say all the things she'd never been able to while she was alive. How much she enjoyed Kasumi's sense of humor, Grunt's naivety, and Miranda's ability to make Alliance bureaucrats shit themselves with a few words. She had told the phantoms that she loved them and they were her true family. To her surprise, they had all shared knowing smiles before telling her that each of them had known that long before she had. They had even had a pool going as to when she would drunkenly confess to the emotions. That had made her sob like a little kid and the ghosts of her friends had gathered around her to offer silent support. After that episode, they had begun to reminisce about the good old days.
"Company Leader calling Three-bee." All four heads looked down at Jack's omni-tool. The hail was being sent on a military frequency that she hadn't used in more than a year. "Company Leader calling Three-bee. Come in, over."
"You want me to get it?" Kasumi's shriveled lips turned upwards with a sarcastic smile.
"Come on, Three-bee." There was another pause before Shepard's voice came again. "Talk to me, Jack." Jack bit her lip as she looked down at her forearm. "Company Leader to identified Omega Team, Goto, Jack, Lawson, Urdnot. Confirm."
"My, my. He certainly sounds the same, doesn't he?" Miranda licked her lips and grinned.
Jack laughed. "You're still pining for that fucker after all these years, Cheerleader?"
"This is Commander Shepard. Talk to me, Jack."
Jack looked around at her friends and received nods of encouragement. She slowly switched her comm.-function to open and began to speak.
"They're all dead, Shepard." Her voice was rough and dry from disuse. It was odd. She'd been talking to her krantt for hours.
"Jack! Are you alright? Over." That was definitely Shepard. Always looking out for his crew of misfits turned military specialists.
"Omega team's all dead, Shep." Using Kasumi's nickname for the commander caused the apparition's eyes to light up.
"Not Miranda Lawson. She made it."
"The Cheerleader's gone too, Shep."
Jack looked at Miranda and the cheeky bitch mimed someone blowing her brains out with a huge smile on her face.
"Some Batarian fucker on a shithole backwater blew her brains out when she was defendin' a school full of kids."
"I'm sorry. I didn't know." Shepard actually did sound like the news had hurt him.
"I'm the last one, Shep." Jack giggled after that and there was an even longer pause than normal.
"Well, it's good to hear your voice, Jack. It's been a long time." Shepard sighed into the link. "Look, Jack, you've done some damage here. They don't want any more trouble. That's why I've come. I'm gonna come in there and fly you the hell out. Just you and me. We'll work this thing out together. Is that fair enough?"
"Where'd you come from, Shep?"
"I tried to get in touch with you but those assholes never seemed to know where to find you."
"Yeah, I've been all over. They've got me shining a seat with my ass back on Earth looking for new SPECTRE candidates."
"I wish I had stayed on The Normandy now, Shep."
"We'll talk about that when you come in."
"I can't do that."
"Well look, Jack, we can't have you wasting friendly civilians out here."
"There ain't no friendly civilians." Jack snapped.
"I'm your friend, Jack. I was there with you in all that blood and guts, remember? I covered your ass more than once. Seems like getting you out of trouble is a lifetime gig, huh?"
"There wouldn't have been any fucking trouble if it wasn't for that king shit pig!" Jack growled. "All I wanted was some fucking decent grub. But he just kept pushin' me."
"You did some pushin' of your own, Jack."
"Yeah and I always push back harder, Shep. You know that." Jack bit her lip. "You wanna know something, Shep? I just had a fucking epiphany."
"What about, Jack?"
"Why Miranda bought it saving those kids." Jack chuckled. "That bitch wanted to die. No way in hell she would have tried to hold a line like that. Not as much as she was always going on and on about tactics and shit. She wanted them to kill her. She wanted to go out doing something big."
"You don't know that."
"I'm looking at her right now, Shep. She's nodding at me with that stupid grin. You never did see her grin, did you? She only ever did it when it was just the three of us. Our little secret, she called it." Jack laughed. "It all started with Jacob, didn't it? Yeah. See, Shep, Grunt's Gals had this plan. We were gonna set up a security firm and base it off Tuchanka. Crazy right, but none of us wanted to leave Grunt alone. He was too likely to do something crazy and get himself killed. Jacob even signed off on it because he was so hot for Kasumi. Then that dumb sonofabitch had to go and get himself killed when him and that fleet of rachni bought it near The Veil. Kas was never the same after that but we kept her going until Grunt bought it taking out that Reaper. Yeah, after that she just seemed like she was going through the motions. We couldn't pull her out of it. I always wondered why she stayed in that killbox for so long and I figured it out. She wanted to go. That's why we found her on top of that roof when they dropped the thermobaric. She was waiting for it."
"Jack, you can't know that."
"Then why's she patting me on the head like a good fucking dog, Shep!" She glared at Kasumi and the thief backed away with a sheepish grin on her crisp features. "I thought me and the Cheerleader would be fine when the war ended but I was wrong. I don't give a shit about anything, Shep. I never felt right before you put me on that fucking team and I didn't feel right after but it took me a year to figure out that I did feel right when the group was together. Maybe if I wasn't such a dumb cunt I would have joined up with Lawson right after we mustered out but I was too stubborn and stupid." Now the tears were flowing freely but she refused to sob as they ran down her cheeks and splattered on her dirty pants. "I never told any of them how I really felt when they were alive, Shep. It's eating at me but they're all standing around me and telling me it's okay. Fucking assholes. We all got these tattoos because I wanted us to have something that was just for us and I never told them that. I made up some stupid shit about it being funny and they saw right through it." Jack covered her mouth with her free hand to stifle a sob. Once she had it under control, she continued. "Fuck, I miss them."
"What are you planning, Jack?"
Now Jack cackled uncontrollably for a moment before she could answer. "The original plan was to find a place to eat. The best place in town. And eat as many blueberry waffles as I could stomach. Then I was going to find a place to stay, take a bath, and make myself all pretty. Send the knife Grunt gave me back to clan Urdnot, find the highest cliff I could, and throw myself off of it. No muss, no fuss." Jack growled low in a manner that caused Grunt to give a lusty battlecry. "But those fucking pigs reminded me of something. We're not meant to go out like that, Shep. We're meant to go out in a blaze of fucking glory or infamy that people will talk about for decades. That's the plan."
"We can't let you do that, Jack!"
"You gonna stop me, Shepard?"
There was a long pause before Shepard replied. "Die well, Jack."
"Will do, Commander. And Shepard?"
Will was congratulating himself on tracing the fugitive's signal when the last bit of the conversation played out and the SPECTRE shut down his omni-tool. Harry shared a look with the officer and the two walked over to Shepard.
"We've got a good trace on her. You want to tag-along?" Will asked, fearing the answer.
Shepard shook his head. "My advice to you is the same as before. You heard what she said. She's looking to die and I don't know how many she'll take with her. Evacuate the town if you're going to go ahead with it." The SPECTRE began to walk towards the landing pad.
"Are you really just going to walk away after what she just said? I thought you were supposed to be on the side of the law!" Will shouted in outrage and suddenly found himself lifted off the ground. He didn't know if it was good or bad that the SPECTRE was doing so with one hand instead of biotic power.
"That woman has seen more death and saved more lives than you can ever know. Maybe I could kill her if I had a crew with me but I wouldn't even then. You made this mess and I'm going to leave you to it. I'll notify the Council and the Alliance brass. They might send a SPECTRE or a squad of N7's to back you up in a few days. Until then, you're on your own."
Jack panted with the exhilaration that resulted from her first premeditated kill in over a year. The broken, terrified face of Asshole #1 lay in a twisted heap in front of the desk she sat on. She had blown up two-thirds of the town through a combination of jury-rigged explosive devices, fuel tanks, and pure biotic power. Klaxons had been going off non-stop when Asshole #1 had charged into the dark police station to stock up on ammo for an ancient model assault rifle he was carrying. She had played with him just a little. A few cuts from her krogan dagger before crushing his body in a biotic Grip that she and Miranda had created.
"Not long now." Kasumi said quietly from her left as Jack ran a hand along her freshly shaved scalp.
"Yep." Jack answered, grip tightening on the bloody dagger in her left hand.
"I'm proud of you, Jack." Miranda's voice was full of warmth and that was just fucking weird.
"Show them how a true warrior dies." Grunt commanded her as blinding light filled the station through the front windows.
Jack hopped off the desk and a brute Push blasted apart the relatively flimsy front doors. She walked through the faint cloud of debris and was brought up short by the array of firepower in front of her. The front line was composed of about twenty run-of-the-mill security mechs but the flanks were held by a pair of YMIRs that powered up their gun-arms as soon as she was within sight. Behind the line of mechs was a Militia Infantry Fighting Vehicle, which was essentially a decommissioned MAKO, and another line of soldiers armed with everything from pistols to a goddamned grenade launcher. There was only one thing that Jack could think to say upon seeing what she faced.
"Oh, more victims."
"Lay down your weapons, get on your knees, and put your hands behind your back or we will open fire."
Beside her, Grunt's roar overpowered whatever else the asshole was saying and Jack charged forward with her own battlecry erupting from her throat. Her biotic corona burned brightly in the night as the YMIRs were Lifted and then smashed together only to be Slammed into the direct center of the line of mechs. Then every single gun opened fire on her. There were so many options she could have taken. She could have delivered a wide-range Shockwave that would have decimated their formation or a similarly wide-range Push for the same effect. A jump-boost would send her sailing through the air onto the IFV and she could peel it like a can before killing the chumps inside.
So many options but she chose none.
Her biotic barrier failed before she came within four meters of the line and the first round passed through the right side of her lower abdomen. Another followed and something cracked in her hip. The follow-up barrage was too many to count. Oddly enough, none of the fuckers could even hit her in the head for a one-shot kill.
Stupid fuckers. She thought as the firing stopped and they stared at her as she staggered drunkenly with blood streaming from her body.
Blood poured from her mouth as she managed a guttural shout. "Is that all you got? I'm still comin', motherfuckers!"
A shaky, barely there corona flared to life as Jack took one step forward. The world exploded as a grenade detonated next to her. All of the pain disappeared. Sight and sound fell away as she sailed through the air to land in a heap several meters to the right. A light did seem to be growing in the darkness and the faces of her friends began to block it off.
"We love you, Jack. Come home."
Jack didn't know which one had said the words, maybe all of them had, and it didn't matter.