Breaking News from the Cirno News Network! Ace reporter Khalisah al-Jilani from associate news group Westurland News has just reported that a group of Volus traders has been found smuggling contraband goods. Said goods include a collection of oddly labeled materials. Along with various normal materials such as aconite, other materials labeled as oddly as dragon's blood and fairy wings. This has us here wondering, why would there be a demand for something such as dragon's blood? There are no such things as dragons, as our new pointy-toothed vorcha overlords are keen to remind us.

Note: Cirno News Network and associated publications are produced under the Nineball Corp. () Any information disseminated by is most likely untrue, and is rebutted by the parent corporation. Perhaps our dear associates would like to do some more research into their subject before broadcasting. And should we send a memo informing them that those creatures are not vorcha? …Nah, this is more amusing.

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Chapter 9 - Echoes of an Enemy

"EDI, remind me why we're heading to a prison in space to recruit our next party member?"

The blue orb beside Harry flashed. "The next objective is the acquisition of the biotic known as Jack. There is little known about her, except that she is possibly the most powerful human biotic in human ever, and that she has a rather lengthy criminal record."

Harry sighed, and rubbed his eyes again. Leaning against the bulkhead of the bridge, he stared out into space at bright speck. "Are you sure she is guilty of her crimes? I wouldn't imagine Cerberus to be the most altruistic of organizations, and voluntary spring an innocent person."

The orb seemed to shake from side to side before answer. "No. Criminal history is years long, and contains numerous small errors. Most likely, any forgeries would be perfect." The AI paused momentarily. "Of course, I could always be wrong. Perhaps you should ask her when you do meet her."

Again, he sighed before nodding. "Alright, so we're picking up a criminal, since she's simply that good at what she does." He paused for a moment. "But, how come we're having to deal with Blue Suns again? Last I checked, we blew up one of their facilities not even a day ago. Yet, here we are playing all nice? How do we know they aren't going to just try and keep us as prisoners?"

This time, the response was from Joker, who had been idly messing with a few of the controls on the console. "They're mercenaries, remember. They go with whoever pays the highest. And Cerberus really wants this 'Jack', so they will deal with them." He gave a small shrug. "Besides, technically, you killed very few of the Blue Suns. The rest was done by either released krogans or Jedore setting off the base herself. Since it sounded like she was preparing to go rogue, you might have even done the group a favor."

"Still, that does not excuse a lack of caution." The AI seemed slightly miffed at Joker for taking away her exposition. "While there is indeed no reason to believe that this group will do anything untoward, the opposite is also true. Although, given your abilities, I believe that any attempt at restraining you would fail spectacularly."

Harry chuckled. "True. They never would think of apparition, would they?" Still, he shrugged. "But that's making the assumption that there aren't any wizards around, or assisting Blue Suns. The idea is a bit farfetched, considering I haven't seen the signs, but it would still do well to avoid making the assumption. Wouldn't want to make an arse out of us, anyways."

"Indeed." Pausing for a moment, EDI said, "Also, I have just received docking clearance from the station, along with a message from the warden. He would like for you to keep the number of party members to a minimum. He says that a number of outsiders would make his crew uneasy, and could provoke an uproar among the few prisoners that you encounter."

Stroking his chin, Harry replied, "I suppose I can see his point of view. But why would any prisoners react?" He looked out at the rapidly encroaching dot in the sky. "Not like there would be much room. Small corridors would prevent any extra firepower in the event something did break out. But I'd like to avoid anything like that, so…" He shrugged. "Inform Garrus to meet us at the exit ramp. Is Okeer down with his prototype, or is he currently assisting Mordin?"

"The latter, Potter."

"Good, I'll go a collect him real quick. For some reason, everyone likes to wear their armor everywhere, so he should be mostly ready."

At that, Joker laughed, turning back from his console. "He's a krogan, Potter."

Harry chuckled and shook his head. "I suppose that would make him a special case? At least he seems to have the brains to back up his brawn. I imagine the species tends to just like to fight, eat, and sleep all the time." He paused. "Reminds me of a wizard I was once friends with." He snorted. "Bah, old memories. I'll grab him, so we can get this over with."

Leaving the bridge, Harry made his way through the ship back to the science bay. Giving a wave to Kelly, who was standing around sorting through various messages with nothing better to do, he walked into the lab to find the salarian debating with the Krogan.

"Unacceptable! No need to waste samples like that. Brute force methods inelegant, unsophisticated!"

The krogan merely grinned at the smaller alien. "Of course they're inelegant, but they're also effective. Sure, you can do your measly projections, but the only way to ensure results is through live testing."

Mordin sniffed. "True, results never known until procedure carried out. Still, is possible to minimize possible side effects beforehand. Reduce undue suffering."

"Heh, ironic for your kind to talk about reducing suffering." The eye on the side of the krogan's head turned to look at the newcomer, even though he still was facing Mordin. "Potter, nice of you to join us. Is there something you need? Or would you kindly tell this salarian to let me get back to my experiments?"

Deciding to ignore the earlier conversation, Harry jerked a thumb over his shoulder. "There is. We're about to be docking to pick up a new crewmember. I'm hoping it will go well, but I'm taking you and Garrus along with me. Our track record with the Blue Suns hasn't been the best, after all."

Okeer turned to face Harry, staring down the human. "So, you're to use me as muscle, rather than as a scientist?" Suddenly, he smirked, the wide crocodilian grin somewhat disconcerting. "I suppose I might as well. If things do deteriorate, a fight is always a good way to relax. Besides, it might give the salarian time to consider my views." With that, he stomped out of the lab in the direction of the armory.

Mordin shook his head again, and headed back to the console. "Insufferable. Once denied existence of krogan scientists. But apparently, treat the art as they do everything else."

Harry raised an eyebrow, deciding not to immediately meet back up. "You alright there, Mordin? You seemed a bit perturbed."

The salarian's eyes darted back and forth. "Somewhat. Krogan obviously brilliant, has millennia of experience to back him up. However, methods quite gruesome. Obviously breaches many Council laws. Not to mention ethical ones." He paused, voice taking on an odd tone. "Still, will admit, was quite successful. Krogan he created purest example I have seen."

Snorting softly, Harry shrugged. "Somehow, you seemed impressed in spite of yourself."

Mordin pondered for a moment. "Perhaps. Like I said, krogan scientists… Unheard of. But possibilities for study… Salarians incredibly short-lived. Learn quickly, but also die quickly. Krogan live until killed. The research that could be done, if I had the time."

"You almost sound as if you're jealous, Mordin."

The salarian just shook his head. "Perhaps, but being honestly. My kind lives longer than only vorcha. If I could live so long, could only imagine what I could do. Yet, Okeer spends his time using brute force methods to quickly achieve goals. Perhaps is krogan within him. Still, seems like such a waste."

Harry almost replied, but was interrupted by the noise of the Normandy connecting with the docking tube. "I suppose that's my cue." He turned, before looking back over his shoulder. "I know he's unpleasant, but it can't hurt to have him help. Just make sure to remind him that you're in charge up here. Temporary Captain's orders."

A small grin came over the scientist's face. "Will remember, Harry. Good luck. Hopefully, no violence will be required."

"I hope so too." He shook his head and muttered to himself. "Perhaps we'll be lucky, and the guards decide not to do anything stupid."

-oo-

"Welcome to Purgatory, Potter. Your package is currently being prepped, and you may take delivery of it shortly. As this is a secure vessel, we require you to relinquish all weapons before proceeding."

Sighing, Harry turned to eye his partners out of the corner of his eye. Garrus had once again decided to forego his helmet, and was giving the turian guard a beady eye. Okeer on the other hand seemed to have decided to use his unsettling grin on every person in the room. Staring at the faceless goon, Harry just shook his head. "It's a good thing that I don't need to be armed then. And these two are merely here for my protection. Now, can we please get on with this?"

The guard glanced back at the others, before starting to speak. He was interrupted, however, by a soft voice behind him. "That won't be necessary. Now, Potter…" Another turian stepped out from behind the guard. I suppose he's in command of this station, considering he's not wearing a helmet. Is that considered some sign of importance? Still doesn't protect him from getting shot.

The guard stared down at Harry for a few minutes before nodding. "Wouldn't you agree that our visitor shows a great deal of trust in coming unarmed? Let us share the same trust with him, and let his companions in." His aside was met by hasty affirmations, while the turian beckoned Harry onward. "I'm Warden Kuril, in charge of this facility. Come along, and we can have this handled promptly."

Nodding slowly, Harry and his two teammates followed the turian through the door. As they passed through the door, Harry found himself in a suspended corridor, overseeing a large room full of small receptacles. As they passed, one of the large arms descended from the ceiling and grabbed the nearest container. With mechanical precision, it extracted the container and spun about, placing it on the ground floor of the large room.

"Impressive, is it not?" The turian turned about. "This is cellblock two. Each of those cells is a modular unit, allowing the prisoners to be controlled quite well. I've had a few blown out the airlocks as an example." They passed through the door, as the warden continued to extol the virtues of the station. How there house thousands of criminals, the worst of the worst across the galaxy. That planets across the galaxy pay to have them shipped there, out of sight and out of mind. For a nominal fee. So, still appears to be a mercenary group, no matter what colors they paint on their flag.

After the turian took pleasure in describing the lockdown systems, Harry decided to break into the conversation. "So, what can you tell me about Jack?"

Suddenly, Kuril paused and turned about, eyes suddenly shimmering in fear. "Cerberus… hasn't told you? She's the meanest and most violent piece of hate that I've ever encountered." He shook his head, and turned back around. "You'll see soon enough." He paused, and checked his omnitool. "We're about to begin her extraction, of which I'm supervising personally. Follow me to the control terminals."

The four began to make their way through the corridors. Wincing at the sight of guards beating some of the prisoners, Harry nearly stopped, before a sharp look from the warden had him moved onward.

It was a look that Garrus did not miss. As Harry began to hang back, he said, "I'm surprised. I'd have expected you to react stronger to that."

Harry avoided the turian's eyes. "So did I. But if these people did a tenth of what they're suggesting, they probably still deserve it." He shook his head. "Besides, I've gotten used to what my kind does to our prisoners. It's a lot worse than this could ever be."

The turian cocked his head at that. "Worse than this? I hadn't imagined humans being that… oh, wizards. Right." He still shook his head. "If they're anything like you, I still don't see…"

"Because I was a bit of an anomaly myself, remember?" He shook his head. "You have to remember, there are monsters out there worse than what you've seen. Creatures that can consume the soul, that consume the very essence of happiness from their prey." Chancing a glance back at the prisoners, he shuddered. "Those things are rather unpleasant."

Garrus took that moment to look away, and they caught back up to the warden. A few minutes later, they had finally reached their dead end in a room overlooking another large bay area, with a fortified capsule on the ground in front of them. The warden turned about, and looked at Harry. "This is where we keep the most dangerous of all criminals, such as the biotics." He waved one of the other humans about to the terminal, where he began to type. "Along with extra strong alloyed metal to contain the prisoners, we keep them placed in cryo-storage. Not exactly the safest for long term solutions, but it prevents them from becoming conscious at any time."

Harry walked over and stared down at the container, noting the frost pour out of its edges. "I don't doubt it. But still, what if they become conscious? Isn't there the chance that biotics could still escape?" Especially one noted to be the strongest of human biotics.

The warden clicked his mandibles together. "They could. But that is why we install a control chip into their biotic amplifier. It completely nullifies their powers, as long as it remains within broadcast range, and has the correct code transmitted." He paused, glancing down at the container, and back up at Harry. "Are you… sure you want to do this? I will not personally hold it against you if you wish to leave Jack here."

Shaking his head, Harry said, "No, I'm actually not sure. But we've come all this way. And call it morbid curiosity, but I want to see what this person can do."

Kuril shrugged. "Very well. Thaw her out."

A few more keystrokes from the technician, and the machinery in the chamber began to dance. Another of the arms descended from above, and latched onto the top of the capsule. Rotating the lid, the capsule clicked as it was detached from the floor. It began to rise slowly, revealing the form of a small human woman inside, bald and covered with tattoos. And nearly naked.

Okeer seemed to be intrigued with the sight. "So, the most powerful human biotic is a female? Amusing."

As she began to regain conscious, Harry shot him a look. "Maybe. But if biotics are anything like my kind, size isn't everything."

A quiet harrumph was all the reply he got. By this point, the woman's eyes had jerked open, and she was looking dumbly at the scene in front of her. Unseen to Harry, a group of YMIR mechs had approached her from the front, keeping their cannons sighted on her body. Recognizing the situation, she growled, and yanked her fists up, summoning a weak purple aura.

As the girl continued to struggle and begin to shout, the warden faced Harry. "Be glad that this area has been soundproofed, or you'd be wishing that it was. But now that you've seen her, are you satisfied enough? And do you want us to transport her to your ship?"

Quietly, Harry stared down at her. Coming to a decision, he said, "No. I want to go down and talk to her. See if I can get her to come willingly."

"That's a fool's errand, Potter. She'll never listen to you." Still, the turian shook his head, waving him towards the nearest door. "It's your decision, though. After all, Cerberus has already transferred the money."

Nodding his thanks to the warden, he turned to the other two. "Just wait here. As long as that chip is active, she'll be under control. I'll be back before you know it." With that, Harry walked out the door, and down the stairways into the corridor.

As he did, he was met by a most colorful recitation of the more salacious aspects of the English language. "-my hands on your shit-slinging pyjack balls, I'll rip em-" Taking the moment to block out the sound, Harry made a point to audibly walk up to her, attracting the attention of the woman.

She fixed him with an incredibly spiteful glare. "Well, look who we have here. A poor little fucking boy in a dress. Are you lost, you little shit? Come to gawk at the pussy little prisoner, when she can't do anything?" She suddenly grinned at him. "Well, take a good long look. It's probably the most naked you've ever seen a woman before."

Rolling his eyes, Harry walked up the steps. "Hardly. I'll make sure the wife meets you. She'll gladly correct you. But I'm not here to trade jabs." He stared her down, looking up as she was still suspended in her prison. "I've come here to recruit you."

"Fucking likely you have. Probably just want to use me in some sort of piss poor experiment." Sneering, she asked, "Who sent you? I know a pussy like you isn't going to come here on your own volition. Who had the fucking great idea to recruit someone like me?"

Harry simply answered, "Cerberus."

Jack's eyes widened, before she did the only thing she could. She spat in Harry's face. "Fuck No. I'm not going to work with any Cerberus group, if I have my way. They can all fuck off, as far as I'm concerned."

Wiping the spit off of his face with a sleeve, Harry continued to try and speak to her. "That's nice. But there are bigger things to worry about. Human colonies are disappearing, and Cerberus is the only one doing anything about it."

Laughing softly in his face, Jack replied, "So? What does that have to do with me? You just sound like a fucking cheerleader for Cerberus."

"So what? I don't really care about the organization. And the more I learn about it, the less I care." Harry paused, looking to the side. "On the other hand, there are things bigger going on. I'm recruiting a small team of the very best in the galaxy to help solve this problem. Cerberus is going so far to attempt and resurrect Shepard to fight this. If they succeed, he'll be the one leading the fight."

"And what do I care? If they do, they'll just put a fucking control chip in their head. Like they put in mine!" She growled. "You'd be dead right now if it were the case." Taking a few moments to draw in a breath, she continued her rant. "Besides, why would I follow you? You look weak. You're not some soldier type. You're not a biotic. I can smell them. So again, why the fuck should I follow a dress wearing pussy like you?"

Harry shook his head. "Well, the most important point would be that you don't really have another choice. If we don't take you, you go right back into the freezer." Harry grimaced. "And that would kill you, sooner or later. Maybe if you were lucky, it'd cripple you. Also…" He pulled out his wand, and spun it in his fingers. "If I wanted to kill you, you'd be dead. Simple as that."

The woman snorted. "What would you do? Stab me with your little stick? Or do you just carry that around to make you feel adequate?" Giving her restraints one more good yank, she sighed before looking down at him imperiously. "So that's it? You're giving me the choice between going back into the cooler, and working for the people that tortured me. Not much of a choice at all."

"You know, I'm just about tired of this." Harry glared at the woman, grasping his wand tightly. "I don't have to listen to this. I know your type. You're just like Bellatrix. Or going to become her." Ignoring Jack's sudden confused look, he continued. "I was in the same situation you are in. Yet, I still accepted it. Maybe they stacked the deck in their favor. Or maybe I'm not aware of something going on. But I've learned to take what life's given me. It may be a crappy hand, but I'll keep playing until I make up my losses, maybe even take the pot if I'm lucky. But I'm not going to quit."

He stepped even closer, prodding her in the forehead. "But still, I will make the best of it. Because there are some things more important than what I want. So, I'll give you that option. Are you big enough that you'll take it? Or are you just going to sit here and wallow in your self pity. I need the best. Not some whiny bitch with the mouth of a sailor!"

Silence reigned o'er the chamber for a few moments as his words settled in. Suddenly, Jack began to chuckle. "Maybe the little pussy has balls after all." She shook her head and looked down at him, mouthing thinning into a tight smile. "Alright, I'll make you a deal. Since you think you're so tough, fight me. If you win, I'll follow your orders. Unless you decide to do something incredibly retarded. Then all bets are off."

"Right here, right now?" At her nod, her turned back around and almost shouted, before remembering the chamber had been soundproofed. Cursing the fact that he didn't bring a radio, he waved his wand and vanished the pane of glass separating them. "Kuril! Cut the transmission to the control chip!"

After a few moments, the warden appeared where the glass had been, eyes wide. "What? You can't be serious! You'll have to fight her to get her back under control!"

Glancing back at Jack, who was sporting a vicious grin, he shrugged and yelled at Kuril, "That's the general plan! We have a deal, anyways!"

Muttering about insane wizards, the warden did an about face and left Harry's filed of view. After a few moments, where Harry was worried that they did not disable the chip, he heard a small chuckle from behind. Turning about face, he was met with the sight of Jack beginning to glow with power, steams of biotics licking the air about her.

"Well, seems you've met your end of the deal." Jack squeezed her eyes shut and grunted, tearing her left hand out of the reinforced restraint. "Ahh… That feels so much better. But you've never bothered to tell me you name. Is the little boy in a dress too ashamed?"

Slowly backing up and keep his wand at the ready, he replied simply. "Harry Potter."

"Heh, a Potter?" Another grunt, and she yanked out her other hand. "Well, ain't that just lovely? Facing the strongest of human biotics is a potter in a dress. Should I be afraid that you'll try to stick me on a table and spin me around?" Grabbing the restraint around her neck, she let out a guttural growl and ripped it to pieces.

Harry shook his head, grinning slightly at the banter. "Hardly. Not even if you asked nicely. Wife would get jealous, but she's not the type. She'd ask to join in."

Kicking the leg restraints off, the woman launched herself off, before landing right in front of Harry. "I can't wait to meet her, then. But for now, let's take this someplace more open. Catch me, if you can!" With that, she dashed past Harry towards the nearest exit, slamming her fist into the door. The biotics crumbled it, slamming it into the other side of the wall.

Smirking tightly, he followed after the girl, evidence of passing left everywhere in the form of debris that now littered the corridors of the space station. A few twists and turns through the destroyed rooms, and Harry found himself in the bottom of a wide-open chamber similar to the one he had observed earlier. Across the room from him was Jack, perched on the edge of the ledge.

"About time you caught up Potter! Have a welcoming home present!"

With that, her biotics flared again, surrounding one of the arms on the ceiling. With a groan of metal, she tore it loose and floated it in mid air. After a short paused, she grinned at him and thrust her fist forward, chucking the large piece of equipment at him.

With a wave of his wand, Harry released a slicing charm that bisected the incoming arm. Both pieces landing to the side of him, he walked forward through the rubble. "Thanks, but I'm not sure if I really appreciate it."

"Well, I'll just have to give you something to enjoy then, won't I?" With that, Jack leapt across the floor, throwing a few small purple orbs from her hands. While they sped through the air, twisting around towards Harry, she slammed her fist on the ground, sending a shockwave of energy towards him.

Well, if it's a battle of power she wants, it's what she'll get. With that thought in mind, Harry brought his wand up and cast Protego over him. As the shield formed, the biotic pulses slammed into it, hammering Harry. After weathering that storm, the encroaching shockwave also slammed into the shield. The spell easily held that, but left Harry blinded as to her position as it flared up.

Once it cleared, he saw Jack running towards him, fist primed for a biotic attack. Reacting to the assault, his wand snapped down, unleashing a banishing charm into her. It met her right in the gut, sending her spiraling back the way she came.

However, Jack was either prescient or quick with her reflexes, as her biotics activated once again, righting her in flight. Landing on her feet, she looked up again and grinned. "So you do have some teeth after all. I wonder what else you can do."

Before she could complete her sentence, Harry swished and flicked at the nearby half of the arm she had chucked earlier. It hovered in the air momentarily, before he returned Jack's earlier present to sender. Under his breath, he muttered, "Heh, well I suppose her address is unknown. Or does a cell number count?"

Jumping out of the way of the log sized projective, Jack growled and tore loose various panels from the wall and ground. Floating them about like marionettes on a string, she launched them one by one, spinning towards Harry like multiple oversized, square buzzsaws.

Quickly intercepting them with his own banishing charms to deflect them, he launched a few more of his own spells. In an attempt to defuse the situation more quickly, he began lobbing bombardment hexes towards her, causing the deck of the station to tremble as they impacted.

"Fuck…" Jack was tossed to the side as one landed too close to her. Seeming to realize that as long as she stayed at a distance, she was at a disadvantage, she dragged herself up and began to charge, lobbing more of her biotic blasts at him, while slamming shockwaves out again. Alternating between the two attacks, she slowly made her way forward, Harry stuck keeping the shield up.

With the shield needing to be kept up from the constant attacks, Harry could only stand and wait for Jack to make her move. Which she soon did. As soon as the biotic came within striking distance of the shield, she leapt forward and slammed her fists into it with all of her might.

The shield noticeably rippled from the effects of the blast, absorbing the force. Harry was tempted to simply apparate out of the way and blast her from the side, but knew that was not what he needed to do here. He narrowed his eyes and subtly channeled his magic further into the shield, empowering it. Under his breath, he intoned the spell once again.

Protego Maximus

As he did all this, the biotic human continued her full frontal assault on his temporary bunker. Blow after blow hammered down, sending near constant ripples shimmering across the translucent surface. Nearly snarling, the seemed to not run out of energy, with each blow putting more and more force down.

To Harry's surprise, he found the shield beginning to weaken quite noticeably. The impacts were cascading throughout the shield, nearly resonating with the magic. Still, he was sure that he could outlast the attack, so he poured even more of his energy into it.

Finally reaching the end of her limit, Jack joined her hands together, threading the fingers between each other. Glaring down at Harry, she muttered, "Stupid, fucking kid in a stupid fucking dress, with a stupid, fucking, stick." With that, she once more slammed down her fists on the shield.

Only this time, the shield did not ripple. It stiffened, flashing opaque as it contained the blow. Blinded by the sudden light that the shield was now emitting, Harry closed his eyes, forcing even more of his magic through. However, he felt no response from his magic. Instead, he got a terrible, small noise.

Snap.

A small explosion lit between the two of them, as raw magic lashed out. Harry found himself thrown against the wall not ten feet behind him, arms and legs splayed by the explosion. He barely registered a smaller, more distant thump as Jack landed on the far side of the room. Cracking up his eyes as the blood pounded in his head, he spotted the in his hand the handle of his holly wand, the phoenix feather core waving in a non-existent breeze.

Mourning silently to himself, he waved his hand, and summoned the other pieces of his wand from wherever they may have landed. As they slowly made his way over to him, he staggered forward, trying to get a good sense of where his opponent was.

"So, your little toy is broken. Ready to call it quits now kid? Or am I gonna have to knock you around further?" Favoring a leg, but still standing, the woman grinned at him, before spitting out some blood. "I hope that wasn't nothing too valuable to ya."

As the pieces finally congregated above his hand, he sighed and placed his hand in his pocket, letting the pieces slide in. "No, it was indeed something quite valuable to me. But I'll be able to fix it." With grim satisfaction, he gripped the other hand he had not so much as used the entirety of his time spent in the future.

Depulso. With nary a thought, Jack was slammed against the wall. "But now, it's time for the kiddy gloves to come off." Wingardium Leviosa. Without even bothering to wave his spare wand, the entirety of the debris that had been dislodged in their brief fight floated up into the air. Softly stepping across the ruined floor of the facility, he stood in front of the biotic, restrained against the wall with his still active banishing charm. "Now, do you yield instead?"

Jack managed to emit a grunting sound. "I suppose, shit. Fine, I'll work for you. Now, will you let me down?"

With a short nod, he thought and flicked, and the charm holding Jack up faded. Collapsing to the ground, she groaned for a second, before looking up with a sarcastic grin. "Never met someone who had the balls to stand up to me and win before. Most would either die, or fuck off take potshots at me from a hiding place."

"Most of them would, I imagine." Kneeling down, he eyeballed the wounds leaking from her. Taking the wand in hand once more, he muttered Episky under his breath. Instantly, the wounds sealed up. "There, you should be fine now. Come on, we need to get moving before the warden shows up."

A laugh from Jack was his only answer. "Too bad, cause the pussy is already here."

Turning about, Harry spotted the turian making his way toward him, accompanied by a few guards. Garrus and Okeer were both trailing behind him. "Potter? What do you think you're doing! You could have compromised the security of this facility with those actions! Not to mention the integrity of the superstructure."

With an unconcerned shrug, Harry said, "Relax, warden. I made a deal with her, and she'll come quiet from now on. Won't even cause any problems from now on." He turned back around and stared at here. "Will you?"

Ignoring the grumbled yes that the tattooed human gave, Kuril stepped towards Harry. "Still, the damage you've cost my station is immense. I've half a mind to just take you into custody myself."

"So you can sell me off like everyone else?" Harry looked around. "But considering what I've done already, I'm surprised you still want to try." His wand thrummed in his hand, the arcane energies seeming eager to renew their activities.

Kuril paused, and decided to back away from Harry for some reason. "That's the only reason I've decided not to. Still, someone needs to pay for the damages." He turned around, staring at the remains of the arm. "That alone is nearly a hundred thousand by itself."

Harry shook his head. "I don't have time for this. But if you're going to be so insistent…" Another wave of the wand, and a cacophony of sounds were created as metal twisted itself back into its original shape. Bulkheads crumpled by blows became straight once more, and they settled back into position. Pipes torn apart by errant biotic blasts resealed themselves. The giant arm, meanwhile, stitched itself back together, before rising back up to the ceiling. As the groaning of metal stopped, Harry looked down at the turian. "Now, does that satisfy you? The worst of the problems should be fixed."

The turian stared at him for a moment, before stepping back further. "That… That will be fine. Now, would you kindly leave my station, before anything else happens?"

Nodding curtly, he turned back to his companions. "Garrus, Okeer, we're leaving. Prepare yourself." As a look of horror dawned on the turian's face, Harry stepped and twisted, leaving the wide open space of the station and returning to the by now familiar halls of the Normandy's command deck. As three small pops sounded off behind him, he loudly said, "EDI, tell Joker to get us out of here. We're done here."

"Affirmative, Potter. When you have a moment, please report to the communications room. The Illusive Man has some new information for us."

With that, he turned around to find the new recruit trying to find a porcelain god to give her prayers to. Berating himself for his snap decision on the forced apparition, he walked over to her. "You holding up there?"

Between heaves, she attempted to reply. "Of course, that's why I'm painting your hallway with puke. Shit, what was that you pulled on me? Felt like my fucking insides were twisted apart."

Harry ignored the sarcasm. "It's one of my tricks. I'll tell you later." He sighed, knowing that any more of his magic would not be needed. "You should report to Dr. Chakwas. Who knows how long you were kept in cryo; it'd be better if she checked you over to make sure if there isn't anything else wrong."

"Whatever you say, Captain. You'll have to tell me what that deathstick of yours does later. Along with some other things I want." Forcing herself to her feet, she looked around, with one hand clutching her stomach. "So, which way to this doctor of yours? Or am I going to have to stumble around like a damned idiot until I find her?"

Okeer decided to chime in, apparently tired of the lack of action presently occurring. "I have to go check on my prototype anyway. I'll show your new… recruit, the correct way. If she thinks that she'd be able to make it."

"Fuck off, krogan." The answer only earned her a small chuckle from the alien, who proceeded to walk away. Apparently deciding that discretion was the better part of valor, she followed in his footsteps, not saying anything else.

Once she was out of earshot, Garrus took a moment to voice his opinions. "Isn't she just a lovely person." He shook his head and turned to face Harry. "Well, here's to hoping she's worth the trouble. And… you might want to turn the glowy-eye-thing off. You look rather unsettling with it on."

Harry nodded absently, until his he registered what Garrus said. "My eyes are glowing? Great, again. I'll just have to wait until it wears off…" He shrugged, making his way towards the armory. "But while I have the spare magic, I might as well get my wand fixed."

Cocking an eye ridge at Harry, Garrus followed in his footsteps. "Fix your wand? You were holding it when we arrived, weren't you?"

"I was holding a wand, my spare. But it's not truly mine. There's a difference." As he entered the armory, Harry noted that Jacob was nowhere in sight. Probably in his temporary quarters down on deck three, doing some paperwork. He made his way towards nearest clear table, and withdrew the fragments of his wand. Sighing, he placed them on a table."

Looking back and forth between the broken remnants of the wand and Harry, Garrus asked, "That looks like it exploded. Why did that happen?" He cringed. "It looks rather painful, come to think of it."

Harry shrugged. "Mostly because I overloaded the wand. I sent too much power through it, preventing Jack's attack from getting through. Even a magically enhanced piece of wood is still a piece of wood." He withdrew the other wand and waved it over the mess. Slowly, the pieces gravitated towards each other, wood fusing to wood and wrapping around the exposed phoenix feather. "It's still my piece of wood though. Even if it's not as strong as the other one."

Humming to himself, the turian asked, "So, why don't you just use the other one, if it's stronger."

"Because I don't need to, usually." At the turian's curious glance, Harry explained. "You know how I prefer to act. I don't like letting ay opponent taking a shot at me. I'm strong, yes, but that missile still managed to penetrate my shield back on Omega. And Jack is strong enough to pound through it, even when I was prepared."

"What I don't get is, why did you even give her that chance? I know you could have easily won that fight."

Harry nodded. "I could have. But I need her respect. Her trust isn't going to come, since she apparently hates Cerberus. And I can't count on earning her loyalty for a long time. But if she respects me, she'll follow. She'll grumble and moan at times, but she'll do her job." Reaching down gingerly, Harry picked up his wand and examined it closely. Satisfied that the slim holly stick was back into top condition, he spun it around and waved it, casting a few sparks into the air.

Merely watching the spellwork, the turian shrugged. "Alright, if you say so. As long as I don't find myself murdered in my sleep by naked humans, I'm perfectly content." He began to head towards the elevator door, before turning around. " You know, you still seemed pretty eager for that fight, all things considered."

Harry paused, before flicking his holly wand in his fingers. A spell shot out across the room, leaving a small scar on the wall. "Garrus, these fights might be difficult for you, but for me they're practically slaughters. It's… necessary, what we're doing. But I do not care for it. Not at all." He sighed to himself. "I hate to say it, but we're working for a greater good here. We just have to keep in sight what goal we're working for."

A small smile then came over his face. "But a proper duel? Even if it did basically consist of throwing rocks at each other, it was a change of pace. And a sign that maybe I've gotten a bit rusty, too." Unconsciously, his hand lowered to his side where he had stored the other wand. "Especially to the point where I would have to rely on that wand."

Leaning on the edge of the door, Garrus gave Harry an odd look. "What's so special about that wand? You're making it sound like it's a curse just to use it."

Harry chuckled to himself. "Oh, the wand is cursed. But not in the usual way." He glanced away, pondering for a moment. "It's a long story, but safe to say this wand is the most powerful one ever created." Raising his hand, he stroked his chin, still thinking. "With it, I could topple empires if I desired. But such power always comes at a cost. One I'm not willing to pay." Suddenly, he glanced over at Garrus. "I want to ask you this, though. If I'm ever killed, or lost, and that wand is separated from me. Break it."

Eyes widening at the vehemence in his voice, Garrus said, "That seems rather extreme. Are you sure about that?"

"Very sure." He looked down. "There are only a few others I'd trust with this stick of death. And by now, they're all dead. So if something happens, I want to make sure it's destroyed. Even if it has to be chucked into a star."

Giving a long sigh before breaking into light laughter, Garrus shook his head. "Yup, definitely extreme. But At least you won't do it halfway then." Nodding his head to the door, he said, "But I've got to get down there. Need to run through some calibrations. Although, I'll be taking my time. If I finish, I might have to work on the deathtrap."

Harry also laughed. "And we can't have that." Eventually, the jovial expression fled his face. "But I've got business to take care of. Got to make sure that my wand is working again. And then, go speak to our illusive leader."

"Ah, what fun. I'm suddenly glad that my itinerary includes the Mako."

"I bet you are."

-oo-

"Potter, it's good to see that you've been successful so far. Although, some of the reports I'm receiving are rather extreme." The flickering hologram of the man flipped his cigarette between his fingers. "Some of which are causes for concern. First, was it necessary to deal with the acquisition of Subject Zero as you did?"

Harry crossed his arms and stared at the man. "I assume you are referring to the fight?" At the subtle nod the older man gave, Harry continued. "I believe it was. Jack was not coming onto a Cerberus ship willingly. She seems to have some bad history with your organization. I needed to earn her respect, so I did it in the best way she would recognize."

"Hrmm." The Illusive Man took a drag of his cigarette, staring down at Harry. "That's all well and good, Mr. Potter, but remember that you are returning once Shepard is back to full health. We need her devoted to the mission, and not to you. Is that clear?"

Shrugging, he answered, "It is. I think she'll have to see what we're up against first. I imagine Dr. Chakwas hasn't even let her out of the medbay yet."

"True." A ghost of a smile flickered over the man's lips. "Still, the damage you caused was excessive. Not to speak of your apparent abilities at… apparition, you call it?"

Harry raised an eyebrow. "What of it?"

The man shrugged at him, taking up a glass of liquor. "It could be that I'm interested in replicating your abilities. Such a technique would be invaluable." He paused for a moment. "But, you're needed elsewhere. And I do try to uphold my bargains, as long as the other side does the same with theirs."

At Harry's silence, he continued. "But enough of that. You were able to recruit Okeer, who has integrated somewhat oddly with the good Dr. Solus." The smirk returned to his face. "And at the same time, he has his prototype. Intriguing find, indeed. A krogan like that might make any future operations much easier to pull off."

"I don't believe Okeer would be willing to risk his prototype, especially to help us. It's his life."

"Possibly." The Illusive Man took a sip and set his glass back down. "No matter. I will be in communication with him. He will need to have a few test runs, after all." He stared at Harry for a few minutes, seeming to judge his next few words. "I don't believe I have anything else to say about your other acquisitions. Although, it seems rather fortuitous that Archangel turned out to be Mr. Vakarian. That will prove invaluable with securing Shepard's assistance."

"Is that so…" Harry looked back at the hologram of the man. There really is something disturbing about those eyes. "From the sound of it, you're treating Garrus as some kind of leverage against Shepard. Almost like some kind of blackmail."

The hologram sighed. "I am aware you are still suspicious of me, Mr. Potter. But remember, I do what is best for humanity." He paused, before leaning forward. "Vakarian is a strong fighter, yes, but that is not the reason I am interested as such. Did you believe that we simply ignored your warnings?"

Harry tilted his head. "About what?"

"About Shepard not coming back the way he was." The man leaned back in his chair, nearly slouching. "I'll admit, that perhaps our methods are more crude than yours were. Maybe it's the other way around. But we are in uncharted territory, so it would be especially idiotic to ignore sound advice from one reputed to have witnessed resurrection."

"I do not care for the fact that Vakarian was one of Shepard's closest friends. The same with Liara T'Soni, and Zorah. Even Urdnot Wrex, to some degree." The man sighed. "But that does not mean I am not practical. He'll need some familiarity in order to settle back in. It is the reason I went recruiting as much of his old crew that I did."

Snorting, Harry said, "That almost sounds human of you."

A shrug was all the man gave him. "Perhaps. Do not mistake me, though. All I care is for humanity. And if it takes cooperating with aliens to help our kind, I'll do as such." A small grin danced across his face. "Although, the irony of aliens working with us might make it easier for him to accept that this trouble is bigger than we could handle."

For a few moments, the silence stretched onward. Eventually, Harry became tired of the staring contest, and said, "Alright, whatever you say. Speaking of Shepard, has there been any word about whether you're bringing him back yet?"

"Operative Lawson that they might try to wake him within the next few days." The man gave him a tight smile. "She had originally predicted that it would be done later. However, she was unsatisfied with such predictions, and accelerated the timescale."

Harry brought a hand to his head, eyebrows knitting together. "That is… worrisome. Something like this shouldn't be rushed." And deep down, I know you agree with me.

Not giving away his emotions, though, the Illusive Man said, "Possibly. But we'll need Shepard. As competent as you have proven yourself to be, we need a figure for humanity to rally around. You could conceivably become that figure… But we'd need more time."

Now that seems somewhat ironic. Time traveling wizard needs more time. "If you say so. Was there any other information that we needed? At the moment, we've accomplished all that you outlined for me to do."

"There are a few more things. I've had my people feeling out a few more contacts, of which I'd like you to recruit." Picking up a cigarette, he took another slow drag. "But there far from being confirmed. But before I explain further, was there anything you particularly wished to know?"

Slowly nodding, Harry gave his answer. "You mentioned those books that you found in the underground of London. The ones you used to discover my kind. I want to see them."

"Hrm. Indeed you do." The hologram wavered momentarily. "I do not have any reason to deny it. Trying to discover what happened to your kind, so you can change it in the past?"

Harry snorted. "Hardly. I want to know what happened to the wizards now. If there are any clues in that book… I'd like to know. I know that I return, and I've seen so much that anything more I read won't change anything."

The man smirked slightly. "I wonder why we haven't heard from them, then. But no matter. I'll have the book delivered to Operative Lawson. When Shepard is revived, you'll be able to acquire it at the station, before you're sent back."

On the desk he was sitting at, a hologram appeared in front of the man. Eyes glancing down to take in the memo, he hummed to himself before setting them back on Harry. "Alright then, Mr. Potter, I've another job for you to do."

Eyebrows raised, Harry asked, "And that is?"

"Do remember my earlier comments about Shepard's former teammates. Cerberus approached all of them about possible work, but all of them declined, for various reasons. That isn't important. However, we've been keeping track of them, in case circumstances change enough that they decide to take us up on our offer."

He took a sip of his glass. "You are aware of the mission Zorah was undertaking after she departed? Less than twenty four hours ago, a quarian team touched down on Haestrom, in the Dholen system, behind the Perseus Veil. We hacked their communications to the fleet. Said communication has been… understandably sparse. However, within the last hour, they've made contact with a geth patrol fleet. Since then, all communication has ceased."

Harry's eyes widened. "So they're cut off. And you want us to go after them."

"I'd have been surprised if you didn't." All emotion fading from his face, the Illusive Man leaned forward. "I did inform you I wanted the best for this mission. Miss Zorah is, after all, one of them. But I do not need you or the rest of the team killed in the process of procuring her."

Narrowing his eyes, Harry shook his head while unconsciously clenching his fest. "You don't have to worry about that. You've procured the best, haven't you?"

"That I have. Until next time." With that, the hologram faded away, and the room returned to its fully lit state. As it sank in what was happening while they floated in space, Harry spun around. "EDI, you heard all of that?"

The disembodied voice of the AI sounded over the comms. "Indeed, I did. Should I prepare for transit?"

Harry nodded, more to himself than anything. "Do so. And inform my team to get ready for an assault. We've got a squad to rescue."

A/N Alright, I'm back, and we're off to Haestrom. The next two chapters may be a bit longer, as I'm consolidating some plot points, but I don't suppose ya'll will mind too much. As for this chapter, it's another acquisition, and the first person to give Harry a challenge. And one who has probably cursed more than all the other characters I've ever written, combined. Such a lovely girl, that Jack.

Frankly, here I wanted to change the pace even mores, and make Jack live up to her title as the strongest human biotic. And yes, Harry acted a bit stupidly during the fight. He could have simply put a full body bind on her, stunned her, and hauled her off. But then, we'd have been no more than kidnappers in her mind, and she'd be even less cooperative than in canon.

You might put it like this. I'm not applying it all across the board, but you could say that I'm taking the trope about cutscene power, and applying it liberally.

Either way, we're coming to the climax of Act 1, as I have been calling it in my head. So, as always, please read and review, and tell me what you think. Even if you disliked it. (To anonymous reader D, thank you much. And I can understand your points. I'll just ask for you to hold out, as there will be more changes coming up)