Straight to the Head

Chapter Three: Clear and Present Danger...to Sanity.

I don't own Bioware, Battlefield: Bad Company, Tom Clancy or any of the other few dozen pop culture references I am about to shamelessly rip off.

NOS ASTRA

LOWER REGIONS, NEAR THE BOTTOM

LOL, THAT'S WHAT SHE SAID

Zaeed Massani traversed his rifle from left to right, scanning for any target that dared cross his path. He gave a nod to Garrus. The burly turian lifted his Incisor to his shoulder and advanced down the alley. This part of Ilium was dark, cold and lifeless. Some of the buildings had been torched, holes blown in their sides, evidence of gang activity in the area. He shook his head and began running after Garrus. This place had a dark fell to it, he could almost hear the ghosts of the dead, singing their haunting songs…

"All around me are familiar faces…Worn out places, worn out faces. Bright and early for the daily races. Going nowhere, going nowhere."

Grey fog entwined and embraced them. A backstreet cat hissed at them as they passed. The streets stank of death, ambushes might await around every corner. Zaeed could have sworn he saw the shapes and shadows of people laughing and running, once peaceful and content in this place. No longer.

"Their tears are filling up their glasses. No expression, no expression. Hide my head I wanna drown my sorrow. No tomorrow, No tomorrow."

Garrus held up a gloved fist. There might be something ahead. The turian faded into the shadows, scouting out ahead for their prey. Zaeed crouched by a broken pillar, glad of the few seconds to catch his breath. He heard footsteps, slowly pattering behind him.

"And I think it's kinda funny, I think it's kinda sad. The dreams in which I'm dying are the best I've ever had…"

"Oh shut up, Shut Up, SHUT UP!" Zaeed roared as Kasumi de-cloaked behind him. "You've been singing that song for half a fucking hour woman! What does that even mean? 'The dreams in which I'm dying are the best I've ever had?'"

"Well…it's like a dream, and he's mourning that his dreams are better than…" the perky thief trailed off, she looked a bit awkward. "Well, OK, I don't really know what it means, but it still sounds terrific. I stole the original guitar Gary Jules played that song on."

"See that's the problem with you kids," Zaeed paused to light up a cigar. "You've got no appreciation for music. A bunch of crappy artists try to cram a lot of meaning into words that don't make sense. Now back in my day, the music stated what it was. Now for take for instance…"

He cleared his throat, and began in a beautiful deep bass voice. "Hold me close and hold me fast, the magic spell you cast, this is La Vie En Rose!"

Kasumi joined in. "When you kiss me, heaven sighs. And though I close my eyes, I see La Vie En Rose."

Garrus to Zaeed!= the sound of a sniper rifle barking in the distance alerted them to trouble. =I've found the slippery bastard=

They charged toward the gunfire. Their quarry had eluded their grasp more times than they cared to count, after having escaped his captivity on the Normandy. There was no way he'd elude them this time.

Zaeed peered through the smoke. "Garrus mate? You got the little bastard? Shepard said we either get him, or don't come back alive."

"I got the rascal," Garrus called cheerfully as he strode through the smoke. "Some cats were getting rather vicious back there. I think he's glad to be going home, aren't you little guy?"

His fist unclenched to reveal a shaking space hamster curled up in his palm. Mr. Sniffles, Shepard's prized pet, had made a bold strike for freedom and had succeeded. Driven half mad with worry, Shepard had dispatched his three most experienced trackers to find his pet. Just in time as well.

"Aww, did the mean cats scare you?" Kasumi cooed as she took the shivering ball of fur. "I didn't know you were so good at this Garrus."

"Well, I rescuing children's pets on Omega," the badass ex-vigilante explained. "One of the merc groups was composed entirely of guys who didn't have anything to do after their Pet Finders business ran out of customers."

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NORMANDY SR-2

SCIENCE LABORATORY

Illusive man smiled his most charming smile at Mordin. "Doctor, could I speak with you alone for a moment?"

Mordin frowned at him, then nodded. "Ah yes, understand you are the new crewmember. Come, must give you your physical. Would recommend removal of hideous abomination on your face."

The Illusive Man lifted his hand to his moustache. Why that impudent…he forced his temper back under control. This guy had just joined the Council on Illusive Man's list of 'Guy's who will be first up against the wall when the Revolution comes'. "Never mind my moustache."

Mordin started to say something, doubtless cutting and moustache-related, but this time it was Illusive Man who interrupted him. "Doctor Solus, can we be honest with each other?"

The Doctor shrugged. "Of course, aware that I repress too much, might be good to open up."

Illusive Man smiled good-naturedly as he inwardly retained a death-grip on what little remained of his patience. "Indeed. Look, I see that you're busy, Doctor, so I'm just going to tell you what I want so you can give it to me, and then I'll be on my way. Does that work for you, Doctor?" Just the faintest hint of patronization crept into the head of Cerberus's voice.

Solus eyed him suspiciously, and not just because it had been a long, long time since anyone had been stupid enough to patronize Doctor Solus. The last Blue Suns who had tried had suffered an unfortunately lethal outbreak of headshots. "Depends on what you want."

"The confidential medical records of the senior members of the whole Normandy crew."

Mordin blinked several times as he processed this. Mercenary wants medical records, why? Research? No, not in his dossier. Curiosity in medicine? No, soldier, not doctor. Blackmail? Possibly, must investigate hypothesis.

"I assure you there's a vitally important reason for it, but unfortunately it's very, very confidential," Illusive Man said in the most gravitas-loaded tone he could muster, which, considering that it was The Illusive Freaking Man talking, was a hell of a lot of gravitas. "Important ship's business, you see. I'm sure you'll understand."

Mordin nodded contemplatively, straightened his white coat, and cleared his throat. He didn't get many opportunities to tell mercenaries where to shove it (although the last job he had held provided him ample opportunities to simply kill them), and wanted to make this count.

"Mr. Tam, could tell Yeoman Chambers was infected with scale itch simply by uncomfortable way she walked. Had concocted cure for said infection by end of the day. By studying how many boxes of tissues went into Operative Lawson's quarters, and were recycled drenched in tears, became aware of her infertility. Currently working on cure, should take no more than a week. Have healed nearly all the crew of various ailments, including the Commander. Would have definitely been made aware had important medical records been requested. To use human expression, 'What kind of chump do you take me for?'"

The Illusive Man smiled again, a bit more toothily this time. He'd hoped it would come to this. "Let me put it this way, Doctor," he said smoothly. "Have you ever heard the phrase, 'physician, heal thyself?"

"All the time, usually immediately before attempts of violence upon my person."

"I see. And what about the phrase, 'physician, heal thyself from a point-blank gunshot wound to the head delivered when you least expect it?' Is that one familiar?"

"Have not heard before this date," Mordin admitted.

"Yeah, there's a reason for that, Doctor." Another smile. "Do we understand each other?"

"Am starting to understand that you are the type of person that makes me desire to break my Hippocratic Oath…..well, more than I usually do." Mordin looked long and hard at the Illusive Man. "Hmm, human male well past his sixtieth year since birth. Have been experiencing any back or neck pain, stiffness?"

Illusive Man was taken aback by the apparent non-sequitur. "Um… well, I'm not as young as I used to be, and there are the occasional cricks, but…"

"Perfectly good enough for me. Happen to be fully licensed chiropractor, and am prescribing an immediate spinal readjustment." Mordin cracked his knuckles. "May feel a small amount of pain, followed by incredibly large amount of pain and temporary inability to pull any more 'crap' with me."

"Don't even think abo-" Illusive Man's words were cut off as Mordin's three fingered hands suddenly seized him by the back of the neck and pulled. Illusive Man gasped as his felt his spinal cord pop and stretch, none too pleasantly. Trying to strike back, Illusive Man spun around and reached for Mordin's neck, trying to catch him in his patented, worlds-famous Shanxi Soul Strangler. But before his hands could achieve a suitably trachea-crushing purchase, Mordin's hands found a vertebrae in the small of his back and pushed it inwards as though it was a button. A very, very painful button.

Suddenly, couldn't move. His limbs were stiff and every inch of his body tingled, courtesy of Mordin's ministrations upon one of the more sensitive nerve clusters. But he was not numb enough to be spared pain and agony as the Doctor turned him back around and began to do things to his spine and nervous system which Illusive Man would have previously thought impossible. Pinned helplessly, the Head of Cerberus could do nothing but open his mouth and begin to scream.

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CAPTAIN'S QUARTERS

Meanwhile, Shepard listened intently to Yeoman Chambers on the phone. Beneath him, Liara sat patiently as she waited to resume their meeting, which, so far, had been like all their other meetings: an excruciatingly awkward attempt to conduct the business associated with the survival of the galaxy once the Reaper's arrived, without any kind of hot and heavy activity intervening. Like all their other meetings, the second part of this attempt had been a complete failure, hence their half clothed state and Shepard's barely contained frustration as he conversed with the Yeoman, not even dreaming of telling her to shut up and let him have some quality time with his girlfriend. Shepard was too much of a gentleman to interrupt a lady.

"I understand, Yeoman. Evacuate the laboratory, tell no one to interfere and keep me informed. Shepard out." He closed the comm line and sighed as he kissed Liara's fringe.

"Trouble?" Liara asked.

"My ship's scientist appears to be beating the living hell out our new recruit. Apparently they don't work well together. May have to ask the chap to leave."

"Hmm."

"Yeah."

"Jack, do you ever worry that you pretty much let the Doctor do whatever he wants?"

Liara smiled as he kissed her. Shepard hated it when she smiled. It was the kind of smile that made it impossible for him to be badass. In fact, sometimes when she smiled that smile the Commander got a sudden, inconceivable urge to give up his entire career, never again take up arms to fight evil in the galaxy, and spend the rest of his life doing things to the Shadow Broker that her clients would probably rather not know about.

"Mm-hrrm." Shepard nodded, taking a sip from his previously untasted drink on the bedside table. "I can't muster a lot of emotion on the new guy's behalf. He should have known better than to pick a fight with Mordin."

He scowled suddenly, and re-activated the comm link =Yeoman Chambers? If I remember correctly, I wanted this Scotch neat= Faintly, Liara could hear frantic excuses, pleading, and then sobbing coming over the comm line, followed by the sound of a blade being drawn. "No Chamber's, there's no need to commit Seppuku. We'll discuss this later Yeoman, during my foot rub." Shepard said. "Now then, where were we?"

Liara cleared her throat. "Actually, Commander, this reminds me. Specialist Gabriela came to see me today about her partner's workload."

"Really?" Shepard frowned. "I didn't know Gabby was enough of a big shot to get an appointment with the Shadow Broker."

"She was… insistent." And her copy of the Kama Sutra was most adequate payment for this task. "Apparently, as a favour to you, Chief Donnelly is currently cleaning the entire Normandy with a single handkerchief."

"Yes he is. Doing a good job too," Shepard nodded with approval. "If Gabby gives you any trouble, I could always ask her to be your maid for a while; she wouldn't be able to say no."

"Jack…" Liara said softly. She crawled on top of him; he felt her breath on his skin. "I know that there is almost no one in the Galaxy who has worked harder to ensure the survival of life as we know it than you. I know that every one of us owes you his or her life at least once or twice over. I know that you're one hell of an Commander, and that flying the Normandy through the Omega 4 Relay, blowing up the Collector Base, then helping me kill the Shadow Broker, was, quite simply, awesome. And I know well that you're fully entitled to indulge yourself a little and expect some gratitude from everyone as a result of all this."

"But…" she continued as she took Shepard's hands, which were notably sweaty at this point, "One of the reasons I've always admired you is your selflessness, and your absolute responsibility… how you never, ever flinch at all the stuff that gets put on your shoulders, and never ask for any reward." And then she smiled.

Shepard knew resistance was futile against that smile. He let go of her hands- reluctantly- and opened the comm line again.

"Yeoman Chambers?"

"Yes sir?"

"Cancel my foot rub."

"Yes sir."

"Cancel filming on Pimp My CIC and Pimp my Cabin, as well as Pimp my Log Book, Pimp my Armoury, Pimp my Private Terminal and Pimp my Hammerhead."

"Yes sir."

"Remove the chandelier from CIC."

"Certainly, sir.

"Return all suits, alcohol, furniture, and bling to their respective owners."

"Right away, sir."

"Tell Officer Lawson that she is no longer required to wrestle that crocodile I ordered from Earth."

"She will be most glad to hear that sir."

"And dispose of the…exotic herbal collection," Jack spoke this one with the most regret. Liara seemed disappointed as well.

"Finally, tell Chief Donnelly to take the rest of the day off."

"Very good sir." Chamber's paused. "Um… will there be anything else sir?"

"Hrm? Oh, yeah. Tell everyone they can put their pants back on."

"Thank you, sir," said Kelly, whose legs had been getting rather chilly.

"That'll be all, Yeoman."

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ILLUSIVE MAN'S HEADQUARTERS

SERIOUSLY, WHAT DO YOU NOT GET?

THIS IS A FUCKING EVIL PLACE

ACCOUNTING HAD TO DIVER FUNDS FROM THE LAZARUS PROJECT TO HIRE MORE DESIGNERS TO FIGURE OUT MORE WAYS TO MAKE THIS PLACE MORE EVIL. THERE'S A JUMBATRON ON THE SIDE SIMPLY FLASHING 'MURDER, DEATH, DESTRUCTION, EVIL, PSYCHOTIC EXPERIMENT'S AND HOT AUSSIE CHICKS.'

The Illusive Man awoke slowly and painfully. Every single part of his body was in exquisite agony- except for his spine, which felt younger than it had in years.

The last thing he remembered was Mordin talking, no doubt saying something witty and triumphant, while turning Illusive Man's spine into a pretzel. Apparently somebody from Cerberus had been kind enough to pick him up and take him back to base.

Illusive Man hadn't gotten to where he was today by being stupid. He had nothing to show for his clever planning and fashionable moustache except major physical trauma and a bunch of dirty secrets too unspeakable for him to even contemplate. Clearly it was time to give the whole thing up and focus on more important things.

Despite his body's strongly expressed wishes to not get up, nor, in fact, to do any sort of movement ever again, Illusive Man got up. He went into his main office. All of his inner circle were waiting for him, all eager to hear the results of his mission. Even Kai Leng was there, both legs wrapped in casts, but still grinning happily at the sight of his boss.

The Illusive Man stood straight, cleared his throat and spoke. "FUCK SHEPARD AND HIS WHOLE FUCKING CREW! THEY CAN GO DO THEIR OWN FUKING THING, I DON'T FUCKING CARE! IT'S ONLY A MATTER OF TIME TILL THEY BLOW THEMSELVES UP, OR PERISH IN A HAIL OF STD'S! EVERY OFFICER OF CERBERUS IS HEREBY ORDERED TO STAY THE FUCK AWAY FROM THE NORMANDY. I'M NOT LOSING ANYMORE OPERATIVES TO THOSE PSYCHOTIC, SEX LOVING, ALIEN BANGING FREAKS!"

Having vented, Illusive Man began limping toward the invisible side door in the massive, cavernous, (monstrously expensive and very menacing) room. He wanted to go and see Trellani, maybe she could make his spine (and ego) feel better.

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MEANWHILE ON THE NORMANDY

Unaware of the Illusive Man's rage, the brave, noble crew of the Normandy cruised through space. Up in the Captain's Cabin, Mr. Sniffles had been returned to his cage, the fish had received their food about two minutes before they were about to die of starvation. And all over the ship, the various nymphomaniacs were retreating to their hidey holes with their companions.

All was well once more.

And they still had ten months till Mass Effect 3 came out and they'd have to get back to work.

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A/N: Away with dull angst and tragedy. We need to be cramming in as many smut fics as possible before ME3 removes many of our favourite characters from existence.