Lightning among the Stars
Chapter Eight: Bugs, Brokers and Biotics
(A/N: *dodges a flying pitchfork* Alright, alright! I'm back with a new chapter, and yes I know I was evil to you all with that cliffhanger, but if I'd decided to keep writing that chapter would have likely been an extra two weeks in the writing, so take your complaints about my apparent sadism and shove 'em! Actually, on that note... I was very much touched by the reviews last chapter. When I set out to write this fic, I was not expecting to receive the level of praise I have been getting these last few chapters. It means ever so much to me. I know a lot of writers say this, but I work very hard on these chapters and it makes me really happy to see that my hard work is rewarded. Anyway, enough with the sappy stuff and ON WITH THE CHAPTER!)
(A/N: Right, update. This took me ages for three reasons. One, I had a very bad bout with writer's block. Two, I got into The Old Republic, which sapped a great deal of my time while I was trying to coax the muse back. It's probably a long shot but if any of you are on the European server "The Red Eclipse" you might run into me somewhere. And three, I received several rather upsetting reviews jabbing holes in my story, either in the name of "constructive criticism" or just for the sake of jabbing holes. My response to those people is simple; eat shit and die. I write this entirely for fun; if you want to drive me to quitting posting my stuff online because you find that funny, I'm more than happy to do so.)
(Lemon writer's A/N: So his muse finally came out of hiding only for mine to flip me off and proceed to spend most of these two days being… difficult. That said, I apologize if this lemon is not up to standards, and declare Leonineus free of all blame. Direct the rotten fruits and veggies at me, XRaiderV1.)
Natalie Tena as Nymphadora Tonks
Saffron Burrows as Aleena
Helena Bonham Carter as Matriarch Aethyta
Anna Paquin as Seyla
Rana McAnear as Mirala/Morinth
Erica Cox as Emily Wong
Candice Neil as Jacqueline "Jack" Nought
The effect was immediate. Tonks blinked at Harry for a second, then she doubled over and her hands flew to her temples as she gave a cry of pain.
Harry and Hermione glanced at each other for a second as Tonks' hair began cycling madly through colours, then she slumped against the bar and drew a long, gasping breath.
"Tonks, are you-" Hermione started to say, but then Tonks' hand shot out and grabbed Harry by the collar.
He was dragged nose-to-nose with the Metamorphmagus, her hair turning so red it almost cast light on the walls, and she yelled in his face, "DON'T CALL ME NYMPHADORA!"
Then she released his collar, sat back in her chair and made a huffing sound.
"Definitely Tonks," Harry mumbled, massaging his wrenched neck.
"Tonks, how did you get here?" Hermione asked, fighting down a grin.
Tonks frowned, "I... don't know. One second I was fighting with Remus, then I saw that cunt Alecto Carrow waving her wand at us... then nothing. My head kinda hurts; did you really have to restore my memory like that?"
"We had a hunch. Joanne here told us about your Metamorphmagus abilities and we asked to meet you. We wanted to know if it was really you."
"Well, you found me. Surprised to see you working for an organization aimed at humanity's dominance over all other races, Hermione, after all your work with Spew."
Harry fought down a snicker as Hermione scowled, "It's not Spew, it's S.P.E.W.!"
Tonks grinned, "Still as feisty as ever, I see. Nice to see you two got together, though I wish you'd done it sooner or I might have won the pool. How'd you get here?"
"Later," said Harry calmly, "Right now I have to go and meet somebody and Joanne had better head back to the ship. Hermione can lead you. We'll talk later."
Tonks frowned, "You two look older. How long was I out of commission?"
"About eighteen decades, Tonks. It's a very long story, but we'll explain back on the ship."
Tonks' frown deepened, but she nodded and stood up, following Hermione out of the bar with Joanne, as Harry set off in the other direction, heading up to the Presidium.
He almost smiled when he arrived at Apollo's Cafe half an hour later, to see an armoured asari sitting at a table on the balcony overlooking the reservoir, drinking a glass of some blue liquid. She noticed him and beckoned him over.
"Captain Potter?" she said as he sat down. When he nodded, she inclined her head, "Tela Vasir, Special Tactics and Reconnaissance. I've already been briefed on what my current assignment is, and given considerable warning about what is likely to happen to me should I emulate my predecessor's actions."
Harry nodded curtly, not saying a word while he probed the asari's mental barriers. "Hmm, difficult. She's well-trained," he thought, having noticed significant obstructions between him and her mind, "Just what I'd expect from an asari Spectre. Saren was just a fool."
Finally he said, "Well, I am glad you seem to have more sense than the xenophobic turian. I guess I should explain the rules on my ship then."
"Luna?" Hermione said, "What is it?"
"I just received a message from an unknown party you might wish to hear. Hello, Nymphadora."
Tonks blinked, then scowled, "Luna? Looks like Harry and Hermione aren't the only ones here. And don't call me that please."
"I think not."
Tonks pouted, "Fine, I sense that's the best I'll get out of you."
Luna's beaming smile was evident in her tone, "Alright then. Nym it is."
"Anyway, what did you want to say, Luna?" Hermione cut in.
"This is the message. "You spared us before, and returned us to the place of our people. We will rebuild in peace, thanks to you, hidden away from the galaxy. But our gratitude does not cease there. We wish to bestow upon you a gift of manpower. Come to Suen. We will wait." I suspect that it is from the rachni queen we assisted, Suen being the rachni homeworld."
"Yes," Hermione mused, "I wonder what this gift of manpower she wants to give us is?"
Joanne broke in, "The rachni are naturally a hive mind, allowing them to move in a coordinated fashion towards a mutual goal. I suspect the queen is inclined to help you by giving you some drones to help with your ship."
"That will be interesting, though we will have to make sure that Wrex and Kanara have no problems with them, and the Spectre could be an issue as well. Luna, please inform Harry."
"I have. Unfortunately I was unaware he was with company, and he is currently explaining to the Spectre what I am. Also, I have a message from Dahlia. She says she persuaded her acquaintance Aleena to meet you in Flux casino."
"Then I'll head there first before heading back to the shuttle. Thank you Luna."
"It is no trouble, Hermione. I will see you when you return to the ship."
"Joanne, can you find your way back?"
"Yes, I can."
"Good. Take Tonks. I'm going to be talking shop with mercs." She set off in the other direction.
Finding Flux proved to be easy. Hermione took a public shuttle to another section of the Wards before heading to Flux through the markets.
However, she was waylaid just outside the entrance.
"Miss? Excuse me, miss! Could I have a moment of your time?"
Hermione turned to see a young woman approaching her hurriedly, "Yes?"
The woman smiled, "I'm Emily Wong, I'm an investigative journalist here on the Citadel. You and your advanced ship are the talk of the station at the moment, so many reporters are clamouring for interviews. Do you mind if I ask you a few questions?"
"I'm currently going to a meeting with a potential partner, but alright."
Emily beamed, "Thank you!" She tapped her omnitool a couple of times before nodding, "Now, first question..."
Hermione entered Flux half an hour later and looked around. The questioning had been quite simple, and had ended with Wong giving her her omnitool details in case they wished to schedule an actual interview later on.
As Hermione surveyed the room, she saw two asari seated at a table in a corner, one being Dahlia, and approached.
"XO Granger," said Dahlia as Hermione drew out the third seat and sat down, "This is my contact, Aleena."
Hermione sized up the other asari. She was a lighter shade of blue than most asari, but her eyes were a striking lapis lazuli hue, and her facial tattoos were quite decorative; a single chevron-shaped mark in the centre of her forehead and several horizontal dashes across her cheeks, serving to highlight her high cheekbones and jawline, which looked delicate but Hermione judged could likely take a blow or two without flinching. She also seemed pleasant enough, like most asari, but Hermione got the impression that she was more in her element dressed in commando leathers and holding a gun. If anything, she reminded Hermione of Aria with the way she held herself.
"Right," she said, clearing her throat, "Let's get to business. I asked Dahlia here to contact you, Aleena, because my captain and I require agents off our ship who can help elsewhere."
"Why me in particular? Surely the captain of this new ship the Argenti Cygnus could find more... lawful... help?" Aleena's voice was musical, again like most asari, but there was a note of strength there that Hermione found it easy to respect.
"That may be so, but we won't discard an advantage if we can get it. Having Dahlia and you on our side is such an advantage."
"Very well. And what's in it for me?"
"A sizeable paycheck to do with as you wish. My captain and I can pay for good help."
"What kind of paycheck am I looking at?"
Hermione tapped her omnitool, and Aleena's chimed. "That kind."
Aleena's eyes widened, and she smiled, "I think we have an accord, if you can keep those payments coming."
"Then what do you want me to do first?"
Hermione tapped her fingers on the table, "On our crew is an asari justicar. She is tracking an Ardat-Yakshi, her name is Morinth. I need you two to put your feelers out, see if you can find her."
"Hmm," Dahlia looked pensive, "First port of call would be areas with an irregular spike in the daily death count. Heavily-populated regions, and the like."
"We'll have a lot of work to do, but we'll get it done," promised Aleena.
"Good," said Hermione, "Now, I must be going. We've got to get ready for departure. Places to go, people to see, and all that."
"Yes, goodbye Ms. Granger," said Dahlia vaguely, "We'll keep you updated."
Hermione smiled and left.
Arriving back at the Cygnet's docking bay, Hermione found Harry already sitting in the pilot's chair talking to Tonks. Vasir was sitting in the corner, Luna standing on the asari's omnitool as they chatted quietly together.
"Hey, Hermione," said Harry as she settled into the co-pilot's chair, "How did the meeting go?"
"Well. I got them tracking Morinth for Samara. They promised to keep me informed."
"How was your meeting with the Spectre?"
Harry glanced back to where Luna and Vasir were talking before waving his hand and casting a Muffliato around them both.
"She's well-trained, good mental barriers like I would expect. After Saren I'm still suspicious, however."
Hermione grinned predatorily, "Well, at least this one's easy on the eyes. And if she steps out of line we can always dispense punishment."
Harry chuckled as he closed the passenger hatch and began running takeoff procedure, "Ah, my kinky second-in-command. What would I do without you?" He dropped the Muffliato before she could respond.
"Time to go," he said to the cabin at large.
Settling Tonks and Vasir in took only a short time, and soon Harry was leaving the Spectre liaison's office.
"Luna, please monitor her outgoing communications. If she does something suspicious, I want to know about it before she's stopped doing it."
"Understood, Harry," Luna replied.
Harry headed up to the bridge.
"Where to next, Captain?" Joker asked.
Harry settled himself into his command chair, "Rila, plot a course to the Ninmah Cluster again."
"Aw, rachni space again?" said Joker incredulously.
"Well apparently the Queen wants to speak to us. Make of that what you will."
"Fine," the human pilot grumbled, and settled back in his chair.
"Why are we going back to rachni space?" Rila asked as she began plotting their course.
"As I said, the Queen wants to speak to us. I don't know what about save that she wishes to repay us for freeing her. A "gift of manpower", from what I recall of her message."
"A gift of manpower?" wondered Falere, "Well according to history, the rachni were very technically minded. Maybe she wishes to supplement the engineering crew."
"If that's the case, I'll have to warn Brak and his band of merry grease monkeys ahead of time," said Harry in an amused tone.
His omnitool bleeped in that moment and he checked it. "A message from Admiral Xen?"
He opened it.
I know my daughter Lina snuck aboard your ship. Tell her I'm proud of her for taking the initiative as I tried to teach her and take good care of her. If you can give her the attached message, it would be appreciated.
Admiral Daro'Xen vas Moreh
"Hmm," Harry said, before getting up from his chair, "I'm heading down to Engineering. Call me if anything comes up."
Harry headed back out of the bridge towards the elevator, and quickly took it three levels down to the engineering deck.
"Hey Brak," he said, "How are the engines running?"
The batarian looked up from his console, "Same as usual. Like a dream, in fact. That new core you locked in is insanely strong."
"Yeah... the ship's got double-layered kinetic barriers and standard shields now, after we added that."
"So I can tell. Then there's that new IFF. It's like nothing I've ever seen before."
"It's supposed to interface with the relays at an entirely new level, allowing for far more precise relay jumps."
"Yes... I'll have to ask Joker to preserve a few records of our latest drift readouts for me to examine. This IFF is fascinating. But I take it you didn't come down here to talk tech, Captain?"
"No, I'm looking for one of the quarian techs."
Brak gave a bark of laughter and gestured towards the cores, "Take your pick! They've been swarming around the cores all day!"
"One in particular. What have you to say about Lina'Xen vas Taren nar Moreh?"
"Her? Oh, she's a good egg, as you humans say. Very smart, very quick and easy to work with. Sharp, too. You have an eye for talent, if those quarians and the couple-in-denial over there are any indication." He jerked a thumb over his shoulder to where Daniels and Donnelly had their heads together, poring over a series of datapads and readouts.
Harry chuckled, "Back to work, Brak."
Stepping over to where the quarians were darting back and forth like honey bees, running scans, working in access panels or tapping at computers, he cleared his throat, "Which one of you is Lina'Xen?"
There was a pause, and then one of the quarians shakily raised her hand from where she stood beside the matter-antimatter fusion core.
"Come with me," said Harry, moving further along the walkway towards the plasma core fuelling the shields, situated at the aft end of the deck.
As they walked, he examined the young quarian woman's body language. She was twisting her hands together and her shoulders were hunched. Evidently she was nervous.
"I received a message from your mother..."
The quarian's restraint snapped, "Please don't throw me off the ship, I really want to serve here, my mother didn't want me to go off on this because she thought it was just a flight of fancy that I'd get bored of, but I really want to stay so don't send me back to the Migrant Fle-" she cut off as Harry held up his hand.
"First of all, you're a part of my crew now and Brak's only had good things to say about you. I'm not giving you back to the Fleet unless they ask."
"But... you said you got a message from my mother..."
"And I did. I did not, however, say that she wished you to return. Instead she told me to say that she's proud of you and that I should take good care of you while you are on my ship."
"She's... not angry that I disobeyed her and ran away?"
"Apparently not. She attached a message for me to give to you." He forwarded the attachment to Lina's omnitool and looked down at her, "If you want to contact her directly, just ask and I'll have Falere set up a comm link."
The young quarian stared at her omnitool for a second, then stood to attention and saluted, "Aye, captain."
Harry chuckled, "That's the third "Aye, captain" I've heard today. As you were, Lina'Xen." He stepped around the quarian and walked off, stopping briefly to reassure a concerned Ceya'Lana that Lina was not in any kind of trouble before stepping into the elevator.
Phoenix was working in the armoury when Harry exited the elevator, "Phoenix, how's Myxtin's project coming?"
The quarian looked up, "I've finished it. I just need to ask her to try it on and then we can start talking implants."
"Inquiring: Did somebody say my name?"
Harry turned to see the female elcor lumbering towards them.
"Yes," said Phoenix, "The captain asked me to design something for you to be able to carry out your tasks."
"Curious: What is it?"
Harry broke in, "Hermione and I had the idea of a kind of waistcoat for you, mounted with metal arms to facilitate your inventory job and controlled by a neural implant. Phoenix was making a prototype."
"Greatly intrigued: This sounds very interesting. Enthusiastic: Where is it?"
"Right this way." Phoenix led Harry and Myxtin over to another table, on which rested something which resembled a saddle connected to some kind of visor, "Captain, could you help me lift this onto her?"
Myxtin stayed still as the human and quarian were able to slide the waistcoat over Myxtin's back and fasten the clips that held it in place under her stomach.
"How do you feel?" Phoenix said, stepping back a little.
Myxtin lifted one leg ponderously and tilted her head slightly. "Tentatively: It is comfortable, but a little tight under my right foreleg. Conciliatory: It is still very good however, and I am pleased. Eagerly: How does it work?"
Phoenix tapped his omnitool, and several flexible metal arms unfolded away from the vest, shifting and dancing through the air like the legs of a spider.
"The visor fits over your face like so," said Phoenix, holding it up to Myxtin's face, "But it needs to connect to the neural implant so it won't fit properly for the moment."
"Interested: I see. When can I acquire this neural implant?"
"As soon as I've cleared it with Dr. Stark and we find a way to tranquillise you without breaking a bed."
"Enlightened: Understood. Pleased: I will wait then. Thank you for your work."
When asked, Dr. Stark was actually intrigued by the idea of the implant, and immediately sent a message to Myxtin saying that she was more than welcome to come up to the medbay when she had time.
Harry meanwhile had headed back up to the bridge, only to be intercepted by Wrex along the way, "Potter!"
"Is it true we're heading into rachni space?"
Harry clucked his tongue against the roof of his mouth for a few minutes before he said, "I figured this was coming. Come with me into the conference room so we can talk."
Growling, the krogan headed inside the conference room after him. This discussion had the possibility of ending in either peace or in bloodshed.
It appeared that Harry's luck held true; Wrex left the conference room a little while later looking thoughtful and retired back to his quarters. They had agreed that the krogan would come groundside on Suien with them, so that he could speak to the queen directly.
Harry watched him enter the elevator before heading towards the bridge.
"Captain, we're about two hours out from Suen." Joker said as Harry entered the bridge and sat down heavily beside Hermione.
"Problem?" Hermione queried.
"Just had to talk Wrex down from shooting me over the whole rachni situation. Long story short, he's coming with us onto Suen so he can speak to the queen himself."
"Are you sure that's wise?"
"No, I'm not, but it was the only way I could resolve the situation without him going on a shooting spree." He rubbed his eyes.
"Are you alright, Harry?" Hermione asked, leaning sideways in her chair to look closely at him.
"Yeah, just tired."
Hermione prodded him "Go get yourself some rest. I'll come and wake you when we reach Suen."
Harry nodded, then leaned across and kissed her, "Later, Hermione." He stood and left.
Hermione thought for a second, then appeared to reach a conclusion and stood, "Joker, you have command. I need to go down and talk to someone."
"Understood," Joker said after a second.
Hermione got into the elevator and went down to the living quarters, before heading up the stairway to the veranda around the upper level. She waved to Liselle, who as usual was sitting in the lounge, then knocked at a door labelled K. GOTO.
"It's open!" the thief called from within.
Hermione entered. Kasumi was lounging on her bed, reading what looked like a romance novel, "Hey 'Mione. What's up?"
"I'm curious about something. You told us all about Keiji and his greybox and it all sounded quite like you were devoted to him. So why get so friendly with us?"
Kasumi closed the book and set it down, sitting up again, "Didn't we discuss this before?"
Hermione nodded, "But please remind me."
"I accessed Keiji's greybox, the day after we returned from the heist. I found a memory he had uploaded, probably the last one before he was caught and killed. He was telling me not to mourn him, to move on and find someone I felt was as worthy of me as I found him to be. That's you and Harry."
"And the multitude of other people we take to our bed both with you and without you?"
"Well, a girl has to have some fun from time to time, no?"
Hermione chuckled, "Yes, she does."
Kasumi suddenly got a hungry look in her eyes, "You know, this particular conversation is making me hungry."
Hermione smirked, "Me too."
She stepped forwards and licked her lips.
smut scene redacted; refer to HPFFA for full lemon; link is on profile
Unbeknownst to either woman, Luna had decided to take steps to facilitate the next addition to Harry's little repertoire of women he and Hermione had taken for their own; she had deactivated the soundproofing around Kasumi's room when she knew that Samara was nearby, so that the justicar's curiosity would be peaked and she would investigate.
Samara entered, question on her tongue, and stopped dead, watching the two women pleasuring each other loudly, before turning and quickly fleeing the room. Neither woman was even aware they'd had a visitor.
From her position in the Argenti Cygnus' systems, Luna giggled to herself. "Victory is now all mine," she sang quietly to herself, "And soon the justicar's mood will be just fine,"
Still giggling, she meandered off to find something else to do with her time.
The trip down onto Suen was undertaken in complete silence.
Wrex sat in the back seat, not saying anything.
He was not a happy krogan, and only the fact he halfway trusted the captain and his female was stopping him from shooting them.
Harry and Hermione exchanged a look as Harry flew them in.
"...Somehow, I doubt buying him a new shotgun is going to help soothe things over," Harry thought to himself.
They landed without much issue and donned breathing masks, stepping off the shuttle. Suen was immersed in a thick blanket of fog where the trio stood on the termination shock, the habitable belt between the planet's two extremes. Harry could barely see a few feet in front of him. Then something shifted in the haze.
Harry's hand brushed his Locust, but then a rachni drone emerged from the mist and chirruped in their direction. Harry offered his hand, and after a brief touch on the drone's antenna he nodded, "It... she... wants us to follow her."
Wrex growled and shifted slightly, but followed as they walked after the drone into a tunnel.
After a long walk, they emerged into a large multi-levelled chamber. Around the ring-like ledges on the walls, thousands upon thousands of rachni sat, antenna waving softly in time to a barely-audible song which seemed to echo in the very bones of the two humans and one krogan there. At the heart, and where they were being led to, stood the Queen. She was watching carefully as they stopped just in front of her.
Harry took a few steps forwards and offered his hand to the Queen, who gripped it with one of her antenna.
"Can we help you, queen?" He asked, once he had accessed the queen's mindscape with a nonverbal Legilimens.
"The rachni sing again because of you. I seek to bestow a gift upon you for this second chance."
"Your message said as much. What gift is this?"
"My people are gifted engineers and builders. Working to escape the harsh conditions of our homeworld is what gave my people their first steps towards space travel. Your ship is unlike any I have seen before. I would like to place two of my young there to assist with the maintenance of the ship."
"I don't see why not, as long as they generally keep out of the more populated areas of the ship. Peaceful or not, some of the crew may react badly to a rachni wandering the corridors."
"I expected no less. I can tell that krogan with you wishes to kill. Why did you bring him?"
"We hoped that we could show him the difference. He only knows the rachni as monsters, and if rachni are to join my crew I will not have discord between them, especially when I think that simply asking them to avoid each other would not work."
"I can but try. Please ask him to approach."
Harry ended the Legilimens, "Wrex, step up."
Wrex growled, but stepped over to him. Taking the krogan's arm, Harry brought it up so that the Queen's antenna could grip his claws, then focused his magic on bridging the gap between their minds.
Harry, Hermione and Wrex returned to the Argenti Cygnus a few hours later, the krogan immediately retiring to his quarters to think over what had been shown to him this day. Harry went straight upstairs to sleep, a little exhausted from bridging a krogan's and a rachni queen's mindscapes for well over four hours while they communed. Hermione was left in charge of delivering their new crewmember's to their new workplace.
She brought the new pair of rachni drones through the engineering bay to introduce them to the rest of their new co-workers where, after a brief period of hesitancy, Brak gave them instructions to examine and shore up a little of the shielding on the matter-antimatter fusion core, which had been showing some deterioration in the last few days but which the crew had not yet been able to correct. After informing the two rachni that they could stay down in the subdeck, Hermione herself had left as well.
It was as Hermione was exiting the lift on the crew deck and standing aside for two of the quarian marines going to their shift on the bridge that Luna appeared on the nearby holopad, "Hermione, I have a message from Dahlia and Aleena."
"What is it, Luna?"
"They say they have tracked Morinth to Illium."
"Really? Excellent. I'll inform Samara."
Luna nodded, "She is in the lounge, talking with Matriarch Benezia and Liselle."
Turning, Hermione headed towards the lounge.
"Samara, can we talk?"
The justicar turned to look at her, "Of course, XO Granger. What about?"
"We found her."
Samara blinked, then her eyes shifted slightly, "Morinth?"
"Yes. She's on Illium. We'll be heading there as soon as possible."
Benezia sat up a little, "May I come? I have been feeling a little restless lately."
Hermione nodded, "Another biotic would be welcome to help us apprehend her."
Benezia smiled, "Thank you."
Liselle said nothing, simply toasted Hermione with a glass of wine and smiled.
"Joker, set course for Illium."
Hermione looked closer at the pilot. He seemed lost in thought, gazing out the window.
"Joker?" She touched his arm, and the pilot jumped.
"Huh? Oh, sorry XO. Just thinking."
Joker took a breath, "Captain Anderson of the Alliance just sent me a message. They're building a new ship with the turians, a joint project. He wants me to be the pilot."
Hermione blinked, "Didn't you resign your commission?"
"I did, but he said I'd be given a full reinstatement since I was the best pilot in the academy."
"But you'll leave us."
"Yes. I don't like it, I love this ship, but I've been thinking. When I joined you, I just up and left. Now…"
"You're caught between your loyalty to us and to the Alliance."
"Flying you guys is great, but I would like to consider returning to the Alliance."
Hermione nodded, "Very well. Feel free to keep the suit." She smiled at him and held out a hand, "It's been an honour, Flight Lieutenant Jeff Moreau."
Joker smiled back, taking the hand and shaking it, "Likewise, Executive Officer Granger."
"Now, let's go to Illium. Let's see if we can't herald your return to the Alliance with a bang, eh?"
"As you say, ma'am."
"We're gonna need a new pilot," said Hermione as she exited a Cygnet with Harry, Benezia, Samara and surprisingly Shepard, who had ambushed them on the way to the Cygnet and asked to speak to them about something. Since they were in a hurry, Harry had simply directed her into the shuttle.
"What's up with Joker?"
"He wants to go back to the Alliance."
Behind them, Shepard suddenly paused, "That's… what I wanted to talk to you about. Captain Anderson called me and…"
"…He wants you on this new ship that the Alliance is building with the turian Hierarchy."
"…How'd you know that?"
"Because Joker got the same offer."
"Yeah…" Shepard flushed slightly, "I've enjoyed… serving on the Argenti Cygnus, but I'm Alliance first."
Harry nodded, "When do they want you back on Earth?"
"I need to be at Arcturus within a week."
"Understood. We can meet that deadline."
"Thanks," said Shepard, darting around and holding out a hand to Harry, "It's… been a privilege."
Luna had remotely accessed Illium's network, and soon informed them of an altercation in Eternity, a bar just off the main trading floor, between two asari, one of which fitted a description much like Samara's.
"That'll be her," said Samara, and set off at a brisk walk in that direction.
They ended the bar not five minutes later to discover there was indeed an altercation taking place. Two asari wreathed in dark energy were grappling on the floor, and as one of them drew her head back and headbutted the other squarely in the mouth, Benezia stopped and blinked, "I recognise her…"
"You do?" said Hermione.
"Yes…" Benezia suddenly blushed uncharacteristically, "Liara's 'father', Matriarch Aethyta."
"Well she has a very… interesting fighting style," Harry commented, chuckling as he watched Aethyta grab the other asari in a headlock and drag her head back by her scalp crests.
Samara tensed as the second asari's eyes fell upon her and widened, before there was an explosion of biotic energy and Aethyta was flung off and into the wall.
"Mother!" another asari nearby shouted, running to the dazed matriarch, but nobody paid her any mind as Morinth drew herself up and imitated the third asari in the room.
"It's over, Mirala," said Samara, holding up a hand, "You cannot escape."
"Don't call me that! My name is not Mirala! It's Morinth!"
"Mirala, my daughter," said Samara.
"I AM NOT MIRALA!" Morinth screamed.
"She's acting oddly," said Hermione softly to Harry, "Very oddly."
Harry nodded, and tapped Samara's shoulder, "I'll handle it." Without waiting for a reply, he approached Morinth.
The Ardat-Yakshi's eyes snapped up to look at him, even as Hermione spoke quickly to Shepard and the two began herding the terrified patrons out of the door and Benezia moved swiftly to Aethyta, leaving Samara ready for anything if she was needed.
"Who are you?" said Morinth roughly, glaring at Harry, "You're with her aren't you? The bitch found herself some help! What'd she offer, huh? Peace and tranquillity? Or did she finally realise that body is good for more than just filling out that slutty outfit?"
Samara showed no sign of offence, she simply blinked.
"Neither," said Harry, "I'm here to help you."
Morinth scowled, pacing away from him a few steps, "You think I'm going to believe that?"
"Whether you do or you don't, it's the truth. Come on Morinth. I'm not going to hurt you."
For a second, something in Morinth's eyes flickered, then she shook her head, "I… No. I'd hurt you. I'd hurt you. Don't… don't look at me!"
Harry took a step forwards and Morinth took another one back.
"Stop!" said Morinth nervously.
"I want to help… Mirala."
There it was again, more noticeable than before. The flicker. But this time the Ardat-Yakshi's eyes hardened and a predatory smirk spread across her face. "You're too close," she hissed, and lashed out with a meld.
Just as Yanis had before her, Morinth delved straight into Harry's mind and was almost instantly impeded. But even though Yanis' attempted meld had simply been the product of her own impetuousness and Morinth's was a cold and conscious act, it made no difference as Morinth found herself up against an immovable obstruction which halted her meld cold.
Even as she mentally looked around, trying to find a way through the wall, something seized her from behind and spun her around, slamming her against the wall. Then she felt a chill, and realized the wall had shifted, melted around her hands and legs and pinning her against the wall in such a way that she couldn't possibly escape.
The strange human stood before her, looking down at her with emerald eyes that seemed to pierce the very depths of her soul, open her up like a book and lay her entire being bare for his perusal.
"Mirala," he said softly, "I'm going to help."
Mirala swallowed and opened her mouth, but then she was thrust aside by Morinth, who snarled, "Worm! You cannot contain me like this! I am the genetic destiny of the asari! You'll just be another ant that I crush on the way to true power!"
"I think not. And I wasn't talking to you anyway. I was talking to Mirala." The name came forth suffused with power, and Morinth felt her grip weaken as Mirala was drawn to the forefront of the Ardat-Yakshi's consciousness.
"Who are you?"
"I am Harry Potter, a friend of your mother's. I'm going to help you."
"My mother? She is here? But… isn't she going to kill us?"
"I won't let that happen. I have several like you on my crew, and all of them are fine now. I can help you, Mirala."
"But… we're a monster."
"There is no we," Harry said firmly, "There is you. And you are not a monster."
"Will go. You won't have to worry about her anymore."
Morinth screamed in rage and fought, but they paid her no mind, Harry's aura shielding Mirala from her counterpart's twisted influence.
"What do I have to do?"
"Open your mind to me. I'll handle the rest."
Mirala looked into his eyes, and found she believed him. Closing her eyes, she opened her mind.
Harry entered her mind like a storm, Mirala at his side and Morinth held over his shoulder in a fireman's lift, the Ardat-Yakshi personality screaming and thrashing, beating his back with her fists and kicking him in the stomach with her feet, but Harry would not relinquish his grasp on her as he strode onwards.
He moved through her mind, using his experiences purging indoctrination from the batarians to identify where to go. Any darkness or shadow in Mirala's mind was drawn up and dragged away, the memories of the last three hundred years that Mirala had been on the run as Morinth caught in the maelstrom Harry created and blasted off.
Mirala watched as Harry packed all the darkness and negative emotion into a tight bundle and cast it into the deepest reaches of her mind, before he clasped her hand and willed something into existence, a brilliant shimmering cage which clashed down around the bundle even as Morinth managed to free herself and flew up against the bars, screaming and spitting with rage as she found herself trapped forever.
And Mirala felt lighter than she ever had before, freed of the darkness which clung to her mind like a tumour and corrupted her every thought, and she wept with joy as Harry drew her into a comforting embrace.
Samara watched as, rather than Harry simply collapsing dead as she thought would happen, Morinth was suddenly held absolutely rigid, eyes wide with horror and surprise, before she suddenly fell into Harry's arms and cried.
Samara caught the sound of her sobbing, mingled with frantically babbled whimpers of "Thank you", and judged it safe to step forwards.
Harry whispered something to her, and Mirala's head came up, and she truly met her mother's eyes for the first time in three centuries.
"Mother?" she said nervously as Harry helped her to her feet, then she stumbled forwards and reached out.
Samara caught her daughter in her arms and held her tight, tears coursing down both their cheeks as the pair revelled in their reunion.
"Isn't that sweet?" Hermione murmured to Harry as she approached her lover's side.
"Yes," said Harry calmly, "It is."
They turned as Benezia approached with Aethyta, the second matriarch being supported by the younger asari from earlier.
Harry turned and looked her straight in the face, and his eyes widened. Meeting Tonks, returned and seemingly reincarnated, had been a shock; but as he looked straight into the attractive face that had once been Bellatrix Lestrange's, he felt as though the world had dropped out from underneath him.
"Hey human, take a holo; it'll last longer," said Aethyta.
Harry blinked and shook his head, "Sorry, you look like someone I knew a very long time ago."
Aethyta nodded and turned to Benezia, "So Nezzy, this is the human you now work for?"
"I do not work for him, Aethyta. I simply booked passage on his ship and decided I preferred to stay."
"Lady Benezia is excellent company."
Aethyta smirked, "Is that a fact? Well, I've been thinking I need a holiday. What do you think, Seyla?"
The younger asari at her side, who had wavy pink markings across her dark blue skin, nodded, "I was thinking that as well, mother."
"Mother?" said Benezia.
Aethyta chuckled, "Nezzy, this is my daughter Seyla. Her father was a hanar. Sadly he didn't quite match up to all the hype about asari-hanar pairings, but he was good enough to give me my girl here."
"Mother!" groaned the girl, slapping a hand against her forehead and jabbing her mother in the ribs, "I didn't need that mental image!"
Aethyta gave her daughter a teasing look, "When did my own little girl become such a prude?"
"I'm not a prude! I'd just prefer a special connection…"
"If it's all civilized, you're not doing it right."
"Mother, the last person I picked up in here tried to kill me."
Mirala gave the floor a guilty look.
"What about the turian before her? He seemed nice."
"He was in denial. How do humans put it? In the wardrobe?"
"Closet," Hermione corrected without thinking.
"What about the batarian before him?"
"Her? She was a slaver in disguise."
"How do you know the collar and cuffs weren't for play?"
"When I woke up after the act and caught her making a call about selling me for two hundred thousand credits!"
"Right," Aethyta turned to Harry and shook her head, "Sorry, my little girl has mate troubles." Then she grinned, "Perhaps you'd be interested? I think you'll find that even if she is rather inexperienced, there's always room to learn-"
Seyla's strangled shriek of outrage was drowned out as Jenny and Benezia had to hold on to each other for support and burst out laughing.
"Anyway, let's go."
Back on the Argenti Cygnus, they had settled the new arrivals in; Aethyta had bunked with Benezia, Seyla with Liselle and Mirala had been dragged into the Ardat-Yakshi dorm by her eager sisters; and Harry had gone upstairs to discuss Joker's leaving with him, leaving Hermione with little to do except walk around and check on the crew.
"Ah, XO Granger! Excellent timing!"
Hermione smiled; she liked the salarian doctor, and turned to greet him as Mordin hurried up with a datapad in his hand, "Yes, Mordin?"
"Encountered problem. Was helping A.I. with calibrating internal data connections on ship. Discovered suspicious outbound transmission, heavily encrypted. Curiosity paid off, no such encryptions necessary, not even Spectre reports so heavily secured. A.I. helped decrypt. Thought you should see."
"A suspicious transmission? From who?"
"Tela Vasir. Spectre. Not sure of target of communication, but nature of communication… concerning."
"Information on ship, crew makeup. Spying, providing intel. Not a scratch on STG encryptions, however; sloppy work. Could do better asleep." He sniffed, "Disappointing. Expected better of Spectre."
Hermione's face hardened, "Luna?"
The A.I. appeared on a nearby pad, "Yes, Hermione?"
"We have a security breach. Summon Harry, lock Vasir's terminal down and shut her in her office. I will go and start things for Harry."
"Understood," Luna blinked out of sight and Hermione turned to Mordin.
"Thank you for bringing this to my attention, Doctor."
Mordin smiled, "Kirrahe spoke of Spectre Arterius' actions. Would hate such to occur again. Too good lab and too challenging tasks set to just cast aside. Will speak again, XO Granger." He walked off back to the lab, while Hermione turned towards one of the stairwells up to the second level of the crew deck.
"Open the door," she commanded as she reached it, and as soon as it opened she stepped through the door.
"XO Granger?" said Vasir, looking up from her terminal with a smile, "I think there is a problem… I seem to have somehow been locked out of my terminal in the middle of issuing a report to the Council. The door locked as well. Is there something I should know?"
"Yes," said Hermione coldly, "You're giving information on us to someone who is most certainly not the Council. What I want to know is who."
"There must be some mistake. It was certainly going to the Council…"
"Wrong," said Luna as she popped up on the pad in the corner, "I know it was not directed to the Council because I'm aware of where you would send such reports. Harry is on his way, and then we will find out the truth."
Vasir's face hardened this time and she stood, "Hypocrites. You violate the Citadel's laws for your own gain and now you do this when I am simply serving in my own way!"
The door opened and Harry entered, glaring at Vasir, "Explain. Now, Vasir."
Vasir glared and said nothing.
"Fine," Harry clucked his tongue, "Hermione?"
Vasir made to straighten, but then Hermione held up a hand and Vasir found herself pinned to her chair and unable to move, bound tightly by ropes that had come from nowhere and somehow unable to use her own biotics.
Harry moved across and sat down opposite her. "Legilimens!"
Five minutes later, Harry removed himself from Vasir's mind and the Spectre slumped in her chair, insensate.
"Luna? Tell Joker to set course for the Hourglass Nebula, Sowilo system. A new threat has arisen. And bring Joanne; I want to ask her opinion on this information."
Joanne entered the room less than a minute later with Miranda on her heels. She raised one delicate eyebrow when she saw the Spectre, "Did we have problems?"
"Yes, we did," said Harry, "I need you to make sense of some information for me."
It took a couple of minutes for them to explain, then Joanne clapped her hands together, "The Shadow Broker, it has to be."
At the puzzled looks she received, she explained, "The Shadow Broker is the most influential information broker in the galaxy. He has fingers in every pie from the Viper Nebula to the Shrike Abyssal. It appears our naughty little Spectre," she glanced at the asari, now awake and aware, gagged to stifle her angry curses and glaring balefully at them all, "has been carrying out hits for the Broker. I will see what information I can dig out of the Cerberus network." She left with Miranda in tow.
Hermione frowned at the asari, "Shall we do something about her?"
"We can't kill her," said Harry, "But I'm not chucking her off the ship either; she knows far too much." His smile turned a little predatory and Vasir began to feel a modicum of fear entering her stomach, "At least this one's attractive, eh Hermione?"
Hermione nodded, a similar predatory look crossing her face, "Agreed. The Shepard treatment then?"
"Yes," said Harry. He approached Vasir and caught her chin between forefinger and thumb, tilting her head up and back despite her struggling. She stilled and a hint of fear entered her eyes as she saw a tinge of malice enter his, "Don't worry, Tela… I'll take good care of you."
Vasir whimpered softly behind the gag.
Some hours later.
In orbit over Hagalaz, Sowilo System, Hourglass Nebula.
"So what's the plan, Harry?" Hermione asked, looking over at Harry from where she stood on the gantry.
The young man was standing by a Cygnet, weaving additional spells around the already formidably-enchanted shuttle. "The shuttle needs to be resilient enough to survive the storms. Luna, you should try and get into the ship's systems. Cause havoc."
Luna, standing on a nearby pad as usual, beamed, "Wrackspurt protocols?"
"Excellent. Beginning my assault now."
"Hermione, can you help me with these spells?"
The two displaced mages worked in concert to finish their upgrades and start the Cygnet up for launch. As they were getting in and settling down, Harry said, "Luna, update?"
The A.I. appeared a second later and smiled brightly, "I have managed to infiltrate the ship's systems and am causing mayhem within. I am also siphoning data from the central information hub via at least two hundred and forty data spikes. The Broker is attempting to shut me down but the randomised nature of the Wrackspurt protocols are making it difficult for him. Estimations for absolute control of his systems stand at under five minutes. Will you be boarding immediately or will you wait?"
"We're going now."
"Understood. I will herald your arrival." The A.I. cackled maniacally and vanished.
"I should feel sorry for them," mused Harry.
On the ship, all hell was breaking loose. Power conduits were randomly overloading and frying any troops within range of them, the communication channels were giving out contradictory orders like candy and above all the bedlam every computer screen in the ship showed a similar image.
Two girls, one with black hair and dressed entirely in red and the other with white hair and silver eyes dressed in some kind of uniform, stared down at the pandemonium below and just giggled together.
"What do you think, Alma?" said the uniformed girl, "Shall we play a game?"
The red-clad girl said nothing, but simply nodded.
"Yes, let's. Fear us, puny insects, for your death approaches!"
For a brief second, everything stopped and the troops all looked up at the computer screens as the uniformed girl made an odd hand gesture. Then her next words struck terror into their hearts.
"Now, we will play our game. I have absolute control of the environmental controls on this ship. I will be venting strategic sections of the ship, according to this map," the two girls were replaced on the screens by a three-dimensional image of the ship divided into segments, "I will be giving five minute warnings to you concerning what areas will be vented. You have to get out of those areas before they vent. The winners are the last people left alive. Let the game begin! The first sections to be vented are…"
In reality, Luna had no intention of killing the troops. The numbers she had gleaned from the Broker's network so far told her that spacing such a valuable asset would be immensely unwise. She wasn't even going to be venting the ship. All that explanation was meant to achieve was give the troops incentive to move while she herded them into areas to keep them out of the way while Harry and Hermione took over the Broker's network.
It was herding sheep raised to an art-form, and it worked perfectly. By the time the Cygnet hovered into a landing bay she opened for it, the troops were all confined to various areas of the ship. The only area she had been even more ruthlessly efficient with was the central information centre and lair of the Broker, where she had simply overloaded the energy reservoir above his seat and reduced him to his component molecules.
Luna then returned to the Cygnus, where she popped up on the pad in Joanne's office, "Joanne, how would you like an expansion to your information network?"
The redhead looked up, "What sort of expansion?"
"The Shadow Broker."
Joanne's eyes went wide and she smiled, "It would be my pleasure. I will need better equipment however to handle all the information feeds."
"From what I'm seeing through the cameras aboard the ship, you will have it. Now I have to go and lead Harry and Hermione to the operations centre."
Luna popped up on Harry's omnitool as he and Hermione left the shuttle, "Excellent, you're here. I will lead you to the operations centre."
"Very well. Let's move."
"Why is the floor all sticky over here?" Hermione asked as she walked past the desk inside the operations centre.
Luna popped up on a computer console, "I think that's Broker tissue. I kinda… shocked him until he turned into dust."
"Ew," Hermione quickly stepped off the sticky patch and cast an Evanesco on her shoes, then on the floor.
"There's a lot here," mused Harry, "Might even be better to put Joanne here rather than on the Cygnus."
"Agreed," said Hermione, "Luna, would you care to set that up? See if she wants to bring Miranda or if she wants Miranda to stay on the Cygnus."
"Of course," the A.I. vanished.
"A lot of people are leaving us, aren't they?" said Hermione softly.
Harry turned to look at her.
"They're our crew. Besides, some of them are only going to another ship. Hell, I've got a feeling we still might run with this new ship a lot of the time."
"Yes. Plus we can always come by to see Joanne any time we want."
Hermione bit her lip and nodded, "Alright. I feel a little better now."
Harry just hugged her.
Whatever Luna said to Joanne seemed sufficient to peak the redhead's interest, as she soon came into the operations centre guided by Luna and immediately began poking around.
Miranda stood quietly beside Harry and Hermione while Joanne looked around, until finally the redhead approached them again, "Yes, I think I can make this work. Now just to decide whether… where do you want to go, Miranda? Do you want to work here with me or remain on the Cygnus?"
"I'll stay here. You need me more than they do."
"Alright. Then do you think…?"
Miranda nodded and the two women exchanged a significant look.
"Is something going on I should know about?" Hermione asked.
"Simply we were looking to share Harry as a thank you for freeing us from the Illusive Man and giving us this chance," said Joanne with a sultry look.
Hermione smirked, "Well that sounds like an attractive proposition… but I must insist I get some of the credit."
"Oh of course," said Joanne, swaying towards the brunette and kissing her.
smut scene redacted; refer to HPFFA for full lemon; link is on profile
Harry and Hermione boarded the Argenti Cygnus again the next morning, leaving an inanely-smiling Joanne tending to the still-unconscious Miranda, and immediately gave orders for Joker to set course for the relay system.
They needed to go to Purgatory.
Deep in the Argenti Cygnus' systems, Luna was fabricating a message.
"Let's see, a touch of falsehood, an outright lie, and season liberally with deception… Add a significant cash bonus and… done!"
Pleased, she sat back and considered her work. For the convict called Jack, she was offering the prison's warden a sum of several billion credits, which she actually had no intention of paying and would steal back as soon as Jack was in their hands.
Smiling, she sent it off as the Cygnus dropped out of FTL and began cutting towards Purgatory.
As usual, Harry and Hermione took a Cygnet over to the station, settling it in a landing bay while they got out and were soon greeted by a turian in blue and white armour that they both recognized as belonging to the Blue Suns.
"Greetings. Warden Kuril will be along soon to show you inside to pick up your package."
"Thank you," said Harry.
Warden Kuril, as it turned out, was a barefaced turian in Blue Suns armour and what seemed the turian version of a perpetual sneer.
Harry and Hermione stiffened slightly. Their experience with barefaced turians was not good.
"You the buyers?"
"Yes," said Hermione, "Our payment is ready to be sent, but we want what we came for first."
Kuril frowned, "Jack. You realize what you are in for, yes?"
"Possibly. Tell us about her."
"Jack is the meanest bundle of violence and hatred I've ever encountered. She's completely insane and a far more powerful biotic than any I've seen in my life. I hope you have means of controlling her."
"We thought about asking nicely," said Harry sardonically.
Kuril snorted, "That will likely never be enough. But as soon as she is off my prison ship, she is not my responsibility, so I will let you discover the truth for yourself as she turns your ship inside out." His smile was not pleasant.
He led the two humans though to the maximum security wing, mind working furiously the entire way. Some parties had already quoted prices for the successful capture of the Argenti Cygnus and the two super-biotics who captained it, but the price the two humans had quoted to him was one so far beyond what could be considered any kind of normal that he was willing to forgo their bounty to get his hands on that money. The fact that he had an odd feeling each of them could probably tear him to shreds with their biotics just as well as Jack could was another factor.
"This is our maximum security wing," he explained, "We keep Jack in cryogenic stasis."
"Any particular reason?" said Harry.
"Well any cell we put her in gets smashed out of. The only way to keep her imprisoned is to keep her unconscious."
Kuril tapped his omnitool, giving the order for Jack to be brought out of cryosleep… slowly.
"Harry," Hermione whispered, "How are we going to persuade her to stay quiet?"
"I figured we'd do what we always do."
"Make it up as we go along?"
"Right, we're ready to bring Jack in. Remember, after she leaves this ship, she's your problem."
"Thank you, Warden. You may go," Hermione said.
At that moment, there was a scuffle from somewhere ahead and a door flew open, a technician rushing out, "Warden! Jack woke up faster than we anticipated, she's coming this way!"
Harry and Hermione moved to the fore as the Warden began speaking into his omnitool. Barely a second later, the doors they were moving towards blasted apart and a bald woman covered in tattoos charged towards them, blue energy almost sheeting off her frame as she bared her teeth at them.
Harry stepped forwards and raised a barrier… but then time almost seemed to halt as the woman's biotics-enhanced punch met his barrier. Harry weathered the blow and inverted the shield, grabbing hold of the woman's arm and twisted, bringing her to the ground in an approximation of a defensive hold he had seen Dudley use and put to work himself on a few people over the years. Her biotics instantly cut out and she was reduced to screaming, squirming and beating his back with her fists ineffectually.
"Calm down!" Harry snapped at her, and suddenly the woman just stopped. She relaxed in his grip and fell quiet, staring back at him with a look of confusion mixed with anger.
"Harry," said Hermione as she approached, "What… was that?"
(A/N: So yes, this took me a very long time and for that I am sorry, I got stuck on them meeting Jack for the first time and finally was advised to just cut most of what I'd done and use it as the start of the next chapter, so that's what I'm going to do. Next time on Lightning among the Stars: Shepard and Joker say their goodbyes, Harry's odd new powers are explained (somewhat) and we (probably) make the official move into Mass Effect 1! Until next time, readers! Leonineus, OUT!)