Nihlus touched her shoulder cautiously, but she didn't react.
He didn't flatter himself by thinking he'd exhausted her, but she had gotten a lot more of the toxin into her system, and apparently she was by virtue of species more susceptible to it, and took longer to shake off all of its effects. In any case, he had the advantage right now.
The Spectre got up, still careful not to disturb the justicar, then retrieved his clothes and armor and got himself dressed. From his med pack, he retrieved a tranquilizer patch that he quickly applied to the sleeping justicar's neck. He nodded to himself. That would buy him some more time, at least.
Then, just because he had to know what had gone wrong in his original plan, he went over to what was left of the vines and clicked on his omnitool. A few scans later, he clicked his mandibles in irritation. Well, he had been hasty. It was the same plant, but in a different stage of its life. Apparently, once they were ready to propagate, the toxin changed to something that induced slight disorientation and mild euphoria in the local fauna. Any afflicted animal would stagger and roll around in the broken vines, then carry off its spores to whereever it went afterwards. Too bad that the effect on sentient life was a bit more drastic.
Well, another puzzle solved.
Now, what was he to do with the justicar?
The tranq patch would keep the asari out for a while, but Nihlus knew he couldn't just leave her out in the open. Apart from the fact that she'd be in danger from any of the larger predators that inhabited this region he wasn't too certain he could make it all the way to his ship and off this world before she woke up and got on his trail again.
And really, he was done playing hide and seek. And he still didn't want her dead. Even less that before, maybe.
He could carry her along, keep her out until he got back to his ship, but if she had found his ship and set her own traps, that was too risky, even if he tied her up. He couldn't keep his attention on a pro like her and investigate a potentially trapped ship at the same time.
Incapacitating her was an option, but given her persistence it would take some severe injuries to slow her down enough, and there was again the problem that he wasn't the only predator in this jungle. Therefore he'd have to get a bit more creative again.
Then he remembered the ecirra colony, and his mandibles drew back from his teeth in a wide grin. Oh yes, that might work. He'd still have to get her back into her armor and carry her a bit, but that would be worth it.
A few hours later, Nihlus walked into the small asari settlement. His presence was noted, but he had to wait a few minutes for one colonist brave enough to actually approach him. Not that he could blame them; he probably looked like he'd been through a minor war.
The asari who was the first to come close didn't seem to know what to say, but he solved that problem for her. "If you want your justicar back" he said bluntly, "then you'd better go get her as soon as possible. I left her in that ecirra colony about an hour north of here."
The asari gasped. "Justicar Samara - did you ...is she hurt?"
Samara, huh? Nice to finally put a name to the face.
He gave her his best blank stare, the one he'd learned from his old mentor, the one who'd gotten him into Spectre training. It seemed to be as effective as ever, he was pleased to note as the colonist shrank back into herself.
He usually didn't enjoy scaring civilians, but in this case it was necessary. She needed to believe him.
"When I left, she was unharmed. Of course, that was some time ago."
The asari turned away from him, looking like she was ready to run into the jungle as she was. He wasn't completely heartless, so he snatched her arm, clamping his claws down just hard enough to make her pause. When he was sure he had her attention again, he just growled "Remember to bring guns, and put on some armor." She nodded, and he released her.
Watching her hurry off, he inwardly shook his head. Amateurs. Well, he really should be grateful, because that was exactly the reaction he'd aimed for.
He appropriated a comm unit from another asari that happened to get out of his way too slow, then he turned back into the jungle, towards the direction where his ship was hidden. He wasn't sure about how much time he had, so he was lengthening his strides.
As soon as he was out of earshot from any of the colonists, he clicked on the comm, fiddled around with the frequency until he was certain he'd gotten it right, and spoke calmly. "Hello, Samara. Awake yet?"
Her voice was cold, even devoid of anger.
"Very much so. And I didn't appreciate waking up tied to the top of a boulder more or less in the middle of an ecirra colony. You will have the opportunity to judge this for yourself very soon."
"No, I won't. I don't know where you are, but I wouldn't suggest you move too far away from the ecirra colony."
Nihlus could almost hear her think.
"And why would I do that?"
The Spectre allowed himself a rather smug grin. "Because I'm back at the settlement and told the civilians here where to find you. And at least one just ran off to rescue you. She seemed very determined to find you before they could do you any harm."
"You sent one of the colonist alone into the jungle at a ecirra colony." Samara summarised flatly.
"Actually I didn't. It was her own idea."
The justicar didn't reply for a while, then stated in the same flat tone. "A civilian isn't trained for this, and that's a large colony. She'll be killed."
"Not if you find her before the ecirra do." Nihlus suggested calmly.
He was exaggerating a bit, probably. He had told the asari colonist to arm herself and suit up properly, and he assumed she had had the sense to follow his advice. If she showed a bit of common sense, remained calm and moved slowly, the ecirra would probably even leave her alone. But neither he nor the justicar could be certain of that, and reasonable doubt, hopefully, would be enough to tip the scales in this case.
Again a pause, then the justicar's voice came over the comm again. "I see. There's no choice in what to do for me. I cannot allow an innocent come to harm, especially not for my own sake."
Nihlus breathed a very careful sigh of relief. "Thought you'd see it that way." Or rather, I hoped.
"I can see that, too." Another pause. "Well played." she acknowledged, without any discernible anger.
"Thank you" he replied, meaning it.
There was a pause, then her voice was back. "Given your profession and mine, it is unlikely our paths will cross again."
Nihlus nodded to himself. She was telling him that she wasn't going out of her way to hunt him down, which was good enough.
"However", the justicar continued, "I would appreciate it as a courtesy if the details of our...conflict...weren't to become public knowledge."
The Spectre winced, suddenly glad the comm had no vid feed. "As far as I am concerned there's nothing to tell." He meant it. It wasn't that he was ashamed of what they'd done, but his misjudgement of the toxin and the resulting loss of control were mistakes he'd rather not be reminded of by anyone else. The rest, well, he wouldn't mind remembering that, but that was a private matter, too.
"Then we are in agreement. Farewell, then, Spectre, and let us hope for both our sakes we will not meet again."
Nihlus made it back to his ship in record time, finding it in good order, undisturbed and with no traps rigged to it, which was an unexpected but pleasant surprise.
He didn't waste any time in taking off, and relaxed only when Tevkin became a small spot on his monitors.
Nihlus grinned. The match itself had been a draw, but he'd survived and escaped, which meant he'd won. Still, it would be much better to get some distance between himself and this place. Actually, the Citadel sounded appealing, right now, especially as he needed to report on his last mission and replace what gear he had lost anyway.
Decision made, he plotted a course back to his official headquarters, then let the autopilot take over and settled in for a much-needed rest.