Mass Effect (c) Bioward and Associated Companies
Author's Note: I've finished University for now and am hopefully getting a part-time job soon. Maybe even some freelance work... I don't know. Here's hoping. At any rate, please enjoy, this is the longest chapter yet. I will admit, I was very lazy. And admittedly, this has been a huge pain in the ass for me to write and edit. If anyone could suggest a good Beta reader or a support group. I would be estatic.
"Wow. I'm liking it here already." Williams' deadpanned tone broke through Shepard's bubble of thought, snapping his head up from the control panel and out the skycar's window.
The Zakera ward was far darker than the presidium, both in colour and atmosphere. Turians, Humans and Salarians were gathered together along the stripe below them at some kind of market. He could pick out some weapons, armours and some kind of alien fruits for sale before the skycap sped past. There were some scuffles here and there, a loud argument or a dozen, the sound of a gunshot, some pick-pockets and even a street performer occupying a corner. Almost like home, Shepard mused fondly; he immediately grimaced a second afterwards. Could do without the smell, though.
Shepard's fingers deftly running over the transparent yellow control panel, pulling the skycar into a mostly empty bay located in the furthest end of the ward. Though out of the way, it was only a few streets away from the Gentlemen's Club: Chorra's Den. A single C-sec officer tended to the area, his omnitool flashing brightly with an affirming beep as he scanned the registration of each vehicle in the bay. He was half way across the lot when Shepard set the Vehicle down and got out, along with Williams. When he noticed the two marines leaving, he shot Shepard a warning look.
"Excuse me, sir," The Officer began as he approached the marines, sounding professional, but his body language radiated annoyance and frustration. "This bay is restricted to pre-paid Customers only. I'm going to have to ask you to leave."
Are you fucking kidding me? The voice in his mind groan, outwardly Shepard tried unsuccessfully not to roll his eyes.
"We're-" Shepard barely got a word in edgewise, but the officer raised a hand in his face which cut him off.
It was almost comical; the officer looked a hell of a lot taller – and older – from the distance. Up close, he was a few inches shorter than Williams, and looked more like a High School prefect than a parking attendant with lanky limbs and yet to grow into his adult frame. He noticed Williams trying to maintain her professional exterior, but her lips twitched into a slight smirk.
"Sir - I will ask you once more to get back into your vehicle and move it." The C-sec officer's hand was poised over a stunner clipped to the right side of his belt. The unspoken threat made both marines take him a little more seriously than before.
Shepard knew from experience that those models only contained three shots on the maximum setting before needed to be recharged, and he also knew that being on the receiving end of just one was an excruciating experience. Three in rapid succession was enough to knock out a fully grown human for several hours, and leave their nerves feeling frayed for hours after they regained consciousness. They had used such devices as part of resilience training during the N7 program - part of learning to endure interrogation and torture.
"I'm Lieutenant Commander Shepard, This is Gunnery Chief Williams. Alliance Navy. We're here on urgent Council Business." Shepard responded, resisting the powerful urge to slap this idiot upside the head. The C-Sec officer's mouth opened slightly to retort but stopped short.
"Oh." He said incredulous when Shepard reached into his pocket and presented the idiot with a proof of ID. "Carry on, sir."
"Thank you." Shepard replied with barely withheld frustration, blowing past the man with Williams in tow.
"All that for a stupid car spot?" Williams muttered when they were both out of earshot of the officer. "He's barely more than a kid!" She turned to Shepard. "Please tell me we don't have to deal with more of these idiots?"
"Welcome to the Citadel." Shepard replied dryly. "The heart of bureaucratic bullshit."
"And your new bosses if they don't yank the whole 'Human SpecTRe' thing out from under you." Williams quipped, sounding very pessimistic at the situation – and she had every reason to be.
Without anything concrete to support their claims that Saren had turned rogue, it was likely the traitor Spectre would use his authority and influence to keep humanity out of the SpecTRes. Though Shepard had not been overly thrilled at the prospect to begin with, the decision was completely out of his hands...
Shepard had spent years of his life constantly trying to avoid involving himself in politics. He just wanted to be a regular grunt, firing his gun at the bad guys and come back to three square meals and a bunk. But after the events of the Skyllian Blitz, it became painfully obvious that he couldn't keep out of them forever. Elysium thrust him into the limelight, the Alliance showered him with praise and awarded him the Star of Terra. He was held up as some kind of Alliance recruiting tool. A shining example of humanity's potential.
Katelyn on the other hand, she had a cold, ruthless approach to her early career if the rumours surrounding Torfan were true. She was pragmatic, calculating and brutally efficient in her missions.
When placed side by side, both Shepards seemed to represent everything that Galactic Society as a whole admired and feared about Humanity: A human could be the most sympathetic, compassionate person you'd ever be likely to meet, or they could be cold, unfettered and a driven force that no one would wish to cross. And now, the Council wanted one of these two people in their SpecTRe ranks.
"I hate politics." He muttered bitterly, almost to himself rather than in response to her comment, slumping his shoulders for a moment.
Williams nodded sympathetically behind him as they moved through the streets with purpose, careful to avoid patrons of the market stalls and other obstacles.
"What's that thing - Some kind of animal?" Williams asked after they'd been walking for five minutes, her gaze focused on a strange green bug-like creature with four insectoid legs and tiny two-prong hands attached to four tiny arms. Some sort of mechanical apparatus attached to its back and head beeped intermittently as it tinkered away at an exposed panel.
"I'm pretty certain it's called a Keeper." Shepard replied, glancing at the Keeper as they passed by, finding the last door that lead to the front of the Chora's Den club. "I guess it… 'keeps'." He finished with a dumb shrug.
"I never would have guessed, sir." Williams quipped, with a smirk.
Shepard ignored her playful remark as they turned the corner and entered the final stretch to Chora's Den. Already, he could seem the sound of low, bass heavy music, loud ruckus and violent beats, and he could smell the mix of putrid, sex and stale alcohol. A neon sign illuminated the narrow alley, and the silhouettes of two figures. From their profile and irregular body shape, the bony fringe and relatively avian faces, Shepard could tell they were Turian. In seconds their guns were drawn, two small pistols levelled at the two Marines just now entering the pathway.
Shepard had little time to react. On instinct, he throw his left hand forward and the right a little to the side, covering Williams. The motion triggering the desired respond from his synapses, his skin almost appeared to shimmer as dark energy flowed through his extremities, casting a small but powerful biotic barrier. Large enough to cover both Williams and himself, small enough to let her drop to a crouch draw her pistol and place two perfect shots into the first Turian's bony carapace. The Second turian quickly turned to flee, firing blindly in attempt to cover his escape.
Shepard wouldn't let him. Not without knowing what the alien was after first. Williams apparently agreed. Her next round was perfectly and carefully aimed, she fired. The microscopic bullet blew straight through the Turian's right calf, exploding muscle and bone. He gave a shrill cry of anguish but continued onwards, half crawling, half hopping away to the safety of the club's back alleys.
Shepard's hands lowered, the biotic barrier no longer required and took a few seconds to gather enough energy. He extended his left hand out once more, palm facing forward with his fingers clawed to the centre. The blue glow one again extended down his limb, he visualised his target snapped his fingers into a fist and ripped his arm so far back he took a step to accommodate the motion, biotically pulling his assailant towards him. Like a rag doll, the Turian flew off his feet towards them and skidded to a halt face down at Shepard's feet, limp and unconscious.
"Is he dead?" Williams asked cautiously. Shepard bent down with a perplexed expression. Even with the leg wound, the Turian should at least still be semiconscious. His three-pronged fingers still clutched the pistol tightly. Williams stomped the hand once and kicked the loose gun away.
"Yeah… "Shepard replied unconvinced, standing straight again with a look of shallow disappointment on his face. He had hoped to get some answered, but maybe the biotic pull had been a little too harsh with that wound. Although, it was strange. He hadn't put enough force behind the pull to cause death - nowhere near enough. He leaned forward once more for a closer inspection.
A few seconds later, his suspicions were confirmed when the Turian seemed to leap up, propelled by one good leg and hand with a long, jagged knife in his left. Shepard leaped away from the surprise strike, landing squarely on his behind. He felt the blade clip skin across his right forearm, drawing a long thin line of blood. Williams raised her pistol again, and delivered two shots to the back of the Turian's. He slumped against the wall with another bark of pain. This time, Williams levelled the pistol at the back of his skull, and fired twice, ending the Turian's life with a final gurgle.
The marines remained in silence for a moment, the adrenaline of the sudden attack still running high.
"Well... " Shepard started, standing up and awkwardly dusting himself off before inspecting his wound. It was superficial, barely even felt anything, but still a long injury, running down the entire length of his forearm. "So much for interrogation..." He ended with a deadpan.
"Do you need any-?" Williams cut herself offer short when Shepard gave a curt shake of the head.
"I'll live." With his left hand, he reached for his omni-tool, and applied medi-gel paste to the injury. He flinched when the sensation of a thousand tiny needles spread up and down the cut, then relaxed when it gave way to numbness.
"I don't think he'd be willing to talk anyway." Williams replied, holstering her pistol.
"Don't know 'til you try." Shepard countered with the old saying. "I can be very persuasive."
They turned to the club and continued, stepping over the mangled corpse.
"Impressive shot." Shepard complimented as he passed the first downed Turian, casually glancing down at the two perfectly placed headshots. One squarely in-between the eyes, the other planted in the centre of the forehead. She's good. He thought.
"Thank you." Williams replied, a little earnest.
When the door opened in response to their presence, there was an immediate wave of heat emanating from inside. Shepard's face twisted into a disgusted scowl at the sight. Half-naked women, dancing across thin elevated stages and wrapped around poles in compromising positions. Any other man would be aroused by the sight. Shepard, however, couldn't help but imagine those dancers being like so many girls he used to see on those dusky corners back on earth. He knew all too well the poor and hard conditions of Earth's streets. There were girls not even half his age already prostituting themselves out on the slim hope that it might lead to their next meal, almost permanent fixtures on every corner.
The memories filled him with a sense of revulsion. Every time he set foot in an establishment like this - which wasn't often - he couldn't not imagine Katelyn being forced into wearing one of those outfits. He couldn't keep the idea of his only sister selling her body like a common whore out of his head. And the very idea of some unknown man brutalising the one scrap of goodness in his life filled his gut with a burning, undiluted rage. It was his instinct as a brother; or maybe it was just that he was sick of objectification of half-nude women in general. Quite probably, a bit of both.
A bouncer appeared in front of them, a large lumbering Krogan with brown ridges and his hand relaxed around the stock of a shotgun at his side.
"You killed them." He grumbled, looking past the two humans and to the Turian corpses. It had been a statement more than a question.
"Yep." Shepard answered bluntly. Williams seemed to almost jump out of her skin, the last thing the two of them needed was a giant lumbering mountain of muscle and scales chasing after them. The Krogan seemed to sigh, or the equivalent.
"Figures. Stupid bastards never were smart." The Krogan rumbled. "Now, I have to get Korrik to clean it up." he then turned and disappeared into the club.
"We're not gonna do something about the bodies?" Williams asked behind him.
"They're not our problem right now." Shepard replied, making his way through the club, carefully scanning for anyone matching the description Anderson gave them.
"A thousand year from home, and we walk into a bar with women half-naked dancing on the stage…" She muttered, "Is that funny or sad? I can't decide which."
"Pathetic." Shepard supplied quickly. He hadn't heard anything more from the Chief over the loud beat of the bass-heavy music, but he did spot who they were looking for. An older man in a ragged unkempt C-sec uniform. He was haggard, had grey balding hair, with one hand slumped over a half-empty bottle and the other up the shirt of a lap dancer.
"Ugh, get a room…" Williams grunted, Shepard glanced over his shoulder to her, nearly laughed outright when her disgusted expression turned hopeless. "Please tell me that's not our guy." She half-begged.
"Good guess." He replied with cheerful sarcasm. "That's our guy."
"Great..." She groaned, shoulders slumping.
Shepard quickly moved forward and pushed the woman aside, not caring that she nearly fell to the ground as he did so.
"The hell's your problem?" The man grumbled, the dancer stumbling to her feet and quickly moved away at one glance of the marines. Harkin tried flimsily to reach the woman's backside before giving up. "Great, you scared her off, bastard."
"If you have time to squat around in this hole, you have time for a few questions." Shepard countered.
"And who in the hell are you?" Harkin spat darkly.
"Shepard. Alliance. I'm looking for Garrus Vakarian." Shepard stated to the point, remembering the officer he encountered on the way to meet with the Council. The Turian had demanded more time for an investigation into Saren, and Harkin may have known where he'd be. At least, that was the faint hope.
"Alliance, huh?" Harkin mused bitterly, giving Shepard a judgemental look over. "And which one of those goddamn bigshots are you, that cocky son of a bitch from Elysium, or -?"
"The one that matters." Shepard cut him off bluntly.
"Where's Garrus?" Williams insisted, joining the conversation.
"Why don't you slip out of that uniform and bring that fine little ass over here?" Harkin leered with a lecherous grin. "I might be a little more talkative-"
"Try it pal. And I'll knock your teeth out, one punch at a time." Williams threatened brightly, her fingers curling into a fist.
"Alright, alright!" Harkin raised his hands defensively, slurring. Then laughed darkly, as if some tragic punch line suddenly occurred to him, "You must be one of Anderson's. That son of a bitch is still trying to bring Saren down?"
"Answer my question." Shepard stated sharply with a threatening undertone.
"But it's all connected, don't you see?" Harkin offered, with a sly look. "Saren and Anderson go way back. They were gonna make him a SpecTRe, but he screwed his mission to hell so bad they kicked him out."
"Great - couldn't care less. Where is Garrus Vakarian, and don't make me ask again." Shepard had lost his patience, his voice rising through gritted teeth and hand inching to the Predator on his hip.
"Fine, fine." Harkin relented finally, tossing his hands up in surrender. "Last I heard, he's over at Michel's clinic in the wards. Now, get the hell outta here."
Shepard didn't need to be told twice. The bar smell and ambient noise was starting to give him a headache. He left with Williams at his shoulder after mumbling grudging thanks. They weaved their way back through the alleyways and towards the parking bays where they left the hired skycar.
"Why didn't the Captain tell us he used to be a SpecTRe?" She wondered out loud after they were in motion, sounding puzzled. Shepard shook his head, his fingers danced over the holographic display imputing their destination, Doctor Michel's clinic. When completed, he leant back into his chair then let out a slow breath of air as his mind digested what they just heard.
"That's not our mission right now." He finally decided, pressing his hand to the com device in his ear. In truth, also he wanted to know more about what Harkin said. Wanted to know whether it was true or not. However, he would have to attend to that particular matter for later. Right now, it was more important to find clues on Saren, not chase rumours from a drunkard.
"Let's hear it, John." Katelyn's voice commanded over the receiver.
"We've found Harkin. He pointed us in the direction of a C-sec Officer. We're headed to investigate now. What's the situation on your end?" He wanted to know. His question had been met with silence, and the faint cocking sound of a weapon.
"Kat? Alenko? Respond." He sounded, a little panicked by the sound.
"Sorry John. Gonna have to put you on hold." Katelyn answered, sounding cold and detached. Shepard flinched when he heard the sound of a fist fight. He then rolled his eyes. Great. Not even half an hour and she's already picking fights.
"Shouldn't we try to help them?"
"We can't do much from the other side of the Citadel," Shepard considered his next words for a moment. "They're skilled soldiers and biotics. Kat's an N7. I'm not inclined to worry." He assured the Chief, returning to his normal business tone. A moment passed and all sound of conflict from the earpiece ceased. Shepard waited a second before trying again.
"Kat. Alenko. Sit-rep." He said simply.
"Riddle me this: Why in hell are there Batarians on the Citadel?" Katelyn grunted, the microphone picked up a sniffling sound and groan of disgust afterwards.
"There are Batarians on the Citadel?" Ashley asked, perplexed. "I thought that they were kicked out of Council Space. 'Least that's what they said in history class." Shepard gave a shrug, flicking the microphone on mute.
"I heard the same thing," He told her. Shepard turned the mouthpiece back on, "What do you mean, 'Batarians'?"
"Four eyes and more fangs than I care to count – the hell did you think I meant? The bogey-man?"
"'Bogey-man'?" Ashley echoed, silently smirking.
Ignoring both female marines with a mute groan, Shepard continued. "Are you ok?"
"Yeah, fine. A few bloody noses, but we're good." Katelyn answered back in a business tone. "Alenko's looking for any markers or identifiers now. After that, we're on our way to C-sec. There's a Krogan Battlemaster there that hopefully has some information about Saren."
Shepard nodded in agreement. "Alright. Good luck. Radio in if you find anything."
"Wilco. Kat out." With that, the radio turned off with a short static sound.
Silence passed for a moment,
"Bogey man?" Williams echoed once more, Shepard rolled his eyes and his lip twitched into a crooked smirk. "She used to hide from the monsters under the bed as a kid?"
"Nah – she's just a twit." He brushed the question off, half joking and shaking his head, "Sisters... What can you do with 'em?" He finished with a shrug as if it explained everything.
"Can't live with them, can't live without 'em." Ashley said, nodding sympathetically.
The next ten minutes passed in silence. Neither marine said a word as the skycar pulled into a bay only two doors and a flight of stairs away from the Doctor's clinic.
"Let's just hope the Doc's feeling chatty." Williams muttered, breaking into a light jog to catch up with Shepard. He was already halfway to the stairs by the time she exited the vehicle. When they reached the Doctor's door, it was ajar by a few centimetres. Shepard had noticed the intermittent flicker of the holo-panel and realised it had been hacked. He quickly dashed across and pressed his back to the frame. Williams, also sensing something amiss did the same. Both marines drew their weapons and checked their thermal clips. Cautiously, Shepard peered through the gap then held up four fingers.
Four hostiles armed with low grade M-8 Avenger Assault Rifles and Predator pistols were inside, interrogating a fifth, a civilian woman whom in all probability was Doctor Michel. Shepard noticed another figure inside. A Turian garbed in the blue and black armour of the C-sec office, squatting low to the ground, quietly weaving through medical tables and crates to avoid detection from the hostiles. The Turian stopped and peered over cover, then ducked back down and waited for any kind of opportunity to strike. Shepard leaned back and counted down from three.
A second later, one of the hostiles struck Doctor Michel across the face with an open hand. Shepard took no chances then, he hooked his fingers around the edges of the door on the right side, and Williams seized the left. With a sharp nod between the two, the door slid all the way open.
"Weapons down!" Shepard's voice boomed across the room, prompting one of them to take the doctor in a choke hold.
The Turian burst from cover, landing an accurate kill shot in the first man's temple, splattering brain matter and rivets of blood across the ground as his hand slipped from the Doctor's neck. She quickly dived to the ground, hands clasped over her head as all parties exchange fire. Williams leaned out of cover, firing three quick shots. Two made their mark and one of the thugs hit the ground with a scream of pain. Shepard heard the turian fire a few more rounds into next target, and Shepard stood from his cover firing four shots.
All bodies feel to the ground in lifeless heaps and both marines trained their weapon on the Turian, who raised his hands in response, his finger north of the trigger.
"Garrus Vakarian. Citadel Security." He identified promptly, Shepard lowered his weapon and nodded.
"Commander Shepard. Alliance Navy." He replied curtly.
"Chief Williams. The same."
"Doctor Michel - Are you alright?" Garrus helped the understandably shocked Doctor onto her feet.
"Yes." She strained out, swallowing down bile and trying again. "Yes, I'm fine."
"Who were these guys attacking you?" Williams questioned, "What did they want?"
"Fist's thugs." Michel offered gravely, her accent becoming thicker.
"And Fist is?" Shepard prompted eyebrow raised, Williams holstered her pistol.
"Last I checked it was a closed hand," She offered, lightly joking. "But, I'm guessing that's not exactly the 'Fist' we're referring to, huh?"
"He's a crime boss, used to work for the Shadowbroker." Garrus explained,
"I have two men investigating the Shadowbroker, but what I want to know now is; why would the Shadowbroker be interested in sending his lackeys here?" Shepard inquired, his features twisting into a frown.
"He doesn't work for the Broker anymore." Michel told them, interrupt them. "He works for Saren now."
"Bastard was always stupid, but that just takes the make?" Garrus muttered, bitterly.
"And why would Saren want you gone?" Shepard asked,
"I-I don't know. I haven't done anything –" Michel's brows furrowed in thought before seemingly coming to a realisation. "Wait... wait, yes. I remember. I treated a Quarian the other day for a gunshot wound."
"Aren't Quarians nomads? Why would one be here on the Citadel?" Ashley asked, confusion mounting.
"They are. This one – I can't remember her name – but she said she had information. And she'd only negotiate with the Shadowbroker. I sent her to – oh, god." The doctor was starting to panic, hands weaving through her hair. "I sent her straight to Fist!"
"We'll save her doc." Shepard assured her coolly. If that Quarian had information, there was no way in hell he would let it fall into Saren's hands or lose it to his lackeys.
"Yes..." The Doctor nodded slowly after a moment, swallowing down tears and breathing deeply to calm herself down. "Yes. Thank you."
"Do you know where this Fist is now?" Ashley asked,
"He's boxed up in Chora's Den, but you might want to get your men with you. Everyone whom isn't hanging off a pole is gonna have a gun in hand." Garrus warned.
"If that's the case, having Kaidan and the Lieutenant with us isn't a bad idea, Commander." Williams agreed, although sounding reluctant to agree with Garrus' assessment at all.
"Noted." Shepard lent against the half-wall, dragging a hand down his face before exhaling sharply. "Doctor Michel. Are you going to be alright on your own?"
"Yes, yes – I'll be fine."
"Commander. Let me come with you." Garrus requested, though it sounded closer to a demand.
Shepard moved halfway across the room, where a half-wall separated the entry way and the beds. He peered over and gave a pitiful look at the separate pools of blood forming on the floor and speckled red slowly sliding down the wall. Not even the butcher and I'm making a blood trail... the voice in his mind remarked wearily.
"Come on." He told Garrus, turning to leave. "But everything I say, goes. Am I understood?"
"Perfectly, Commander." Garrus' metallic tone followed.
Shepard nodded, "Good. I'll radio my men on the way to the car."
To be continued...
Thank you for reading and please review. I welcome criticism.