Mass Effect (c) Bioware and Associated Companies
Author's Note: Nothing to report at this time.
John Shepard was reaching the limit of his patience. Ordinarily, he would quite pleasant and diplomatic in his approach to his mission objectives... but his current predicament was about as far from 'Ordinary' that it got. Two days ago, the only thing he was worried about was completing the final personal checks for the Normandy Shakedown run, scheduling combat drills. Standard housekeeping stuff of an executive officer. Twenty four hours ago, they received the distress call from Eden Prime. Twenty hours ago, a strange Prothean artefact rendered him unconscious with a splitting headache that only seemed grow far more intense and painful as he waded through a sea of political bullshit.
Naturally, he wasn't his usual diplomatic self, being forced to visit some seedy strip club twice in an hour, only served to aggravate his foul temper.
He also would have preferred not to use force, but he was running short on time. If he ever truly hoped to expose Saren Arterius for the traitor he was and save the triumvirate of fools seated in the Council Chambers, John needed to work faster. He originally promised himself that he would wait for Katelyn to arrive with Alenko and their new companion – A Krogan named Urdnot Wrex. Ultimately, that course was untenable after the three caught a glimpse of a Quarian matching Doctor Michel's description. It forced him to accelerate his timetable a little bit.
It was frustrating when he couldn't follow his plans all the way through. He did console himself with the notion that the sooner he had concluded Fist's interrogation, the sooner he could escape that pathetic excuse for a nightclub. He had no problem with a recreational drinking or pubs. Visiting old vintage places was a favourite pastime of his on shore leave. Where he took issue was with strip joints, stemming from his instincts as a brother.
Part of him wondered why he should even bother going through the Council in the first place, and just go after Saren himself. It was plain that getting those old geezers to see reason was about as easy as taking on a dreadnaught with an Avenger Assault Rifle. He didn't even want the Spectre status to begin with. It was more suited to Katelyn then him, though she had already rejected the idea, believing it was John's position. He was sure that if there wasn't company in the elevator, they would have spent hours just arguing about it, he would have chuckled at the thought too if the situation hadn't been so damn serious.
John ploughed through the bodyguards, not even bothering to stop when the Krogan tried to stop him in the end, the reptilian alien really didn't do anything beyond delivering a stern warning to John and his team. In the end, all the bouncer did was apathetically bark orders and didn't even budge from his slump against the wall. John met his pale eyes briefly before giving a quick nod and continuing. Two more people stopped him, two humans that appeared to be regular dock workers, though both were armed with simple side arms. In the small hallway were a variety of weapons and supply crates carrying god only knows how much firepower – enough to raid a small fort, from his guess. But those weren't relevant to his current objective at the moment. Confronted by the two workers, he could only groan.
Had he done something in particular to piss the universe off today or was it just dead set on hating him?
Neither mad wanted to make a move when they saw the light shimmer of biotic on his bare skin and the faint glowing in his eyes. They quickly let him past, one making the offhanded comment about Fist being an asshole. Hauled up in a place like this? He probably is. John agreed.
Williams and Vakarian were closing behind him, wearily eyeing the two workers and Krogan bouncer while John worked on the console. An aggressive beeping sounded and the console shifted red when the magnetic lock around the door engaged.
Yep – the Universe definitely had it out for him today.
John moved to the left frame and dropped to a knee, using the butt of his pistol to knock off a small door panel. Inside the housing were groups of computer chips partnered in rows of five or six, joined together by circuit connections.
"I didn't know you could pick locks Commander." Vakarian noted with a surprised tone while he pulled out a few chips and rearranged others, periodically checking the holographic lock. It phased slightly every time he made an adjustment, but the bright red colouring remained.
"In another life, I made a good thief." John deadpanned. It was no joke, when you used to be a gang member; you learned all kinds of skills to survive. Williams let out a terse chuckle before gesturing the bouncer and dockworkers to leave. She went about her own inspection of the crates.
"Commander, these crates are filled with grenades."
"Yeah? What kind?"
"Flash bangs, Incendiary, Plasma, Frag. Take your pick." Ashley carefully shifted through the explosives, listing off the types she could identify and a few she couldn't. "Looks like enough to start a small war."
"Sweet." John replied, raising an intrigued eyebrow. "Take out a Flash bang. Leave the rest."
"A Flashbang?" Garrus questioned, mandibles flaring slightly. "Fist may be a scumbag, but he's not that much of a fighter."
"Always pays to have... a backup plan." John's hand recoiled when the housing sparked violently at him, the glowing red panel blinked twice before shifted green. He could heave the heavy thud of the magnetic lock disengaging and smirked.
"Gonna teach me how to do that one day, Commander?" Williams teased while John bounced to his feet and took the offered Flash bang.
"Maybe." John brushed off absently, hitting the butt of his hand against the panel. The explosive tucked safely away in his pocket, his pistol was drawn and ready. He could hear the clicks and whirs of his teammate's weapons being drawn. Wiping his hand over the panel, the sensor activated and it shot open.
"What the hell is this?!" A single human male lay back on a long leather lounge; he shot up and foolishly raised his pistol against his three intruders. John thrust his open hand out, the force of his biotic shockwave sent Fist flyingmover his desk and slamming into the wall behind it.
"Williams, do me a favour and find out what the hell is taking Katelyn so long?" John quickly stalked into the room while Fist tried to stumble to his feet, seized the dazed man by the back of the throat and forced his head face-first into the desk.
"Get the hell off me!" He struggled against John's vice grip, but the cold muzzle of his predator pistol made him shut up.
"You met with a Quarian not too long ago. She wanted a meet with the Shadow Broker. Where did you send her?" John demanded, his cool tone betrayed nothing of the honest irritation below the surface.
"Who the hell are you?! C-Sec?!" Fist tried to take a good look at him, but John simply forced his pistol deeper into his temple.
"A very impatient man. Answer me, and you might walk away with your brains intact."
"Kill me and you'll never find out where the Quarian is!" Fist counter proposed, trying work an arrogant grin on his face.
John's grip loosened just a moment before Fist used the opening to attack. A knife appeared out of nowhere in his left hand and he tried to slash John. The marine leaned back, just missing the edge of the blade. When Fist came in for his second strike, John raised both arms to block it, used Fist's own momentum to swing Fist's arm down, twisting it painfully behind his back. Disarming the common thug, John snatched the knife, raised it high and plunged it through Fist's open palm and embedding it deep into the table.
Fist's screams of agony echoed through the room and possibly down the hallway but John remained impassive while the man gripped his pained limb for dear life, howling.
"I say again. I'm a very impatient man." John held his predator to Fist's temple. His next words came out in a slow deliberate calm; his eye occasionally flickered up, noting the growing pool of red on the table then back to Fist. "Where is the Quarian?"
"I'll be killed." Fist begged feebly through the pain, pleadingly.
"Yes you will if you don't tell me."
"She's in the back alley. Behind the Markets! Please – God, take the knife out!" Fist practically begged, clutching his shoulder.
John stared at him for a moment, judging whether the information was good or not. He decided it was worth it before wrenching the knife out of the table twisting it along the way, earning another yelp of pain. He tossed it aside and left. "Better start running."
"Shepard – that seemed a little excessive." Garrus pointed out when they were out of the room and earshot. "He's a scumbag, but did he really deserve that?"
"Probably." He dismissed without a second thought. He turned to Williams. "Did you get onto Kat?"
"Sorry Commander, I couldn't get on." Williams replied, taking a hand down from her ear. "Some kind of jamming in the way."
"That or she's ignoring you." John muttered, before stalking out. He pressed a hand to his com, but it was fruitless. He only received empty static in return. Joy.
The workers and bouncer were gone, and that aroused quite a bit of suspicion. Of course, the workers could have fled when he begun interrogating Fist – those screams were pretty loud - but it wouldn't explain the Krogan. The door leading back to the main bar was closed tightly and he didn't like it. John signalled both of his teammates to take cover, Williams on the left, Vakarian on the right. It was far too quiet and he didn't like it. Despite those thoughts, he pressed a palm against the holographic panel and the door whooshed open.
"Oh sh-" John barely had time to finish the curse before diving to the left side wall, out of the sudden hail of gunfire. Having his biotic barrier active was a fortunate move; otherwise there'd be a bloody stump where his head should be.
"Shepard! The Quarian could be dead any minute; we don't have time for this!" Garrus shouted over the storm of bullets.
"These assholes don't want us to get to the Quarian any more than Fist did." Williams growled, strafing around the corner for just a brief second when there was a momentary pause in the gunfire, immediately she retreated back into cover.
"We can't fight them all." John agreed, pulling out the Flash Bang and tossing it absently in one hand. "How's your throwing arm, Chief?"
For a moment, Williams stared at him confused before catching onto his plan and smiling proudly. "Perfect, sir." She said, taking the grenade.
"Garrus?" John turned his gaze to Garrus who nodded once leaning away with his talon hovering over a secondary control panel.
"Impress me, Williams." John ordered, holding up three fingers on his right hand in plain view of both of them. He began the silent countdown.
Williams lobbed the grenade hard as she could, actually landing in the centre of rabble and Garrus slammed his fist against the manual controls, slamming the door shut just in time for the loud explosion.
"Don't bother firing, just run through." John ordered, holstering his firearm and preparing for a mad dash.
"Copy that." Both replied in unison.
Garrus opened the door, and all three bolted through, jumping weaving and vaulting their way through the makeshift barricades and groaning incapacitated individuals. One or two of them still had their weapons primed and fired around wildly, but they were simply hitting the wall or their compatriots. Still, after a few tense seconds of running, John, Garrus and Williams made it outside with no injuries but quite a few close calls.
"How did you know we'd need that Flashbang, Commander?" She asked quickly, catching her breath.
"I didn't want to use it. I wanted to keep it." John replied a little sulky perhaps, but he was no longer as obviously irritated as he was entering the place. He felt relieved. Mercifully the Quarian would have the information they need and he wouldn't have to come to this disgusting hellhole again.
"You are a strange man, Shepard." Garrus said shaking his head.
"Stick around, my sister's even worse." He brushed off, returning to his business tone. "Garrus – where's the back alley?"
John instructed him quickly to lead the way and the Turian did without hesitation. It was only a short distance away, some two hundred metres and for a minute John thought they'd almost be too late, but for the first time today, things were starting to work in his favour. They passed a small car lot, and a rapid transit terminal while they ran to their newest and hopefully living objective.
"Here it is!" Garrus called in a harsh whisper, gesturing John and Williams to follow him. The small doorway opened up to a flight of stairs that lead to a landing below. Two Salarians stood by cargo crates, heavily armed and armoured. A Turian with white facial tattoos stood near them and a Quarian approached them cautiously.
"Where's the Shadowbroker? And Fist?" She demanded, but her quivering tone betrayed her nervousness about the arrangement.
"Don't worry about that now." The Turian said, sounding far more suggestive than just a simple liaison doing his job. His talon stroked the side of her hood. "They'll be here as soon as I verify you have the information."
"Get off me." The Quarian spat, suddenly angry. "The Deal is off. I'm leaving."
"Kill her." The Turian ordered harshly, drawing his weapon. His Salarian subordinates did the same, but the Quarian was quick. She already deployed an overload, burning out the heatsinks in their weapon for a few seconds, giving her ample time to dive out of the way. She was more attentive than John thought; she had noticed his team and gave them a clear line of sight.
"Open fire." John ordered, pistol drawn and ready. A volley of rounds fired from the three teammates as they raced for cover. He saw one of Williams' rounds impact a Salarian in the leg, exploding his knee. He heard the high pitched voice shriek in agony. Garrus placed a kill shot in the second Salarian's skull.
He's a marksmen, John noted happily, one that could give even Katelyn a run for her money. Still, the Turian remained and the one-legged Salarian somehow managed to craw to cover and out of their field of fire.
"Garrus, sweep aro-" John was about to issue the ordered for a flanking manoeuvre but he was halted by Williams' sudden shout.
"Commander! Reinforcements!" She called, gesturing to the door of the far side of the alley way. John would have cursed if he didn't recognise those silhouettes flanked by a third larger bulkier frame. Their weapons drawn and they charged into the battle.
Katelyn fired off a half dozen shots, completely draining the Turian's kinetic barriers. The Krogan levelled his shotgun and scattered the Salarian's brains over the wall with a loud bang. The defenceless Turian dove out of cover, surrounding on both sides he didn't stand a chance of winning this gun fight. Unfortunately, he didn't get the chance to before the Quarian pulled the knife from her thigh and stabbed him in the back, wrenching the blade before ripping it out again.
"Where the hell were you?!" John shouted at his twin, who held her hands up uncaringly.
"Our comms were out. Some sort of static interference. Don't ask me what caused it, I still don't know." She dismissed out of hand, turning her attention to the Quarian.
"Fist set me up!" She shouted indignantly. "I shouldn't have trusted him but –"
"Are you alright?" Kaidan's voice chimed in, moving to assist the Quarian.
"Fine. A little fall never hurt anyone." The Quarian scanned the crowd of six, still cautious about whether or not these people were ready to attack her no doubt. "Who are you anyway? Those uniforms aren't Citadel Security."
"My name is Shepard. A Commander in the Alliance." John spoke first, introducing himself curtly.
"I'm Commander Katelyn, same organisation." Katelyn continued, folding her arms. "We're looking for information to prove Saren Arterius has gone rogue. Our contacts led us to you."
"Then I have the opportunity to repay all of you for saving my life, but we need to get somewhere save first. Then I'll share everything I know."
After rescuing the young woman, whom identified herself as Tali'Zorah Nar Rayaa – or just 'Tali' – John felt a load lifted off his shoulders and utter relief. They finally managed to obtain the information that proved Saren's guilt and connection to another malevolent force called the 'Reapers'.
A phrase that John often heard in conjunction with death, those old folks tales about Death taking a physical form of a robed skeleton with a sickle, but these creatures were real. The images burned in his brain flashed to the forefront of his mind when the word was mentioned, and he made the connection. These... 'Reapers' were responsible for all the death and destruction in his vision, but every time he tried to piece that information together, it left him more confused than when he started. It was frustrating to no end.
Udina, in his usual fashion, was enraged by the rather violent tactics both groups had to employ to reach their objectives. In the end, Udina couldn't deny they got the results he wanted. Saren had been exposed as a traitor and now, the seething diplomat was organising another council session.
"You did good Shepard." Anderson told them on the way to the Council Chambers. Alenko, Williams and the rest remained behind. They were given some leave time while this business was straightened out. "Both of you."
"Thank you sir." John replied evenly, Katelyn was about to say the same when a loud beeping chimed from her tool.
"Problem, Commander?" Anderson inquired, but John watched her sister shake her head.
"Sorry sir. But that was my transport departing. I set my Omni to warn me, but I guess it's a moot point now." She sighed, tapped a few keys and the tool's automatic alarm switched off.
An uncomfortable silence passed over the three as they entered the elevator, both subordinates stood at attention while their Captain read over something on his Omnitool. Both Shepard twins respected the man far too much to read over his shoulder and remained that way for the first thirty seconds.
"You know, I thought I told Alenko to keep you out of trouble." John noted her roughly set noise and slightly bloody chin.
"He did. But I got into a bit of an argument with four gentlemen."
"Your nose is broken."
"It was a very violent argument."
John chuckled once, tersely. Katelyn rolled her neck and shoulders. This was quickly becoming a very awkward elevator ride. It dragged on forever before they finally reached their destination where Udina was already presenting Tali's evidence to the council. The three officers made quick work of the gap between the Elevator and podium.
"Game on." Katelyn whispered in his ear.
"Saren must not be permitted to attack any more of our colonies!" Udina argued passionately, "He has already attacked Eden Prime as this council is aware, and we have presented the proof you demanded!"
John watched the Ambassador work, arguing viciously against the Council's stubborn refusal to action. "The Citadel Fleet is powerful enough to secure the entire region! You could use it to keep the Geth from attacking any more human colonies!"
"Or it could trigger a full-scale war which we are ill-equipped to handle." The Turian Councillor brushed off stubbornly. "We shall not condone a war with the Terminus over a few dozen human colonies."
"Then let me take Saren down." John pipped out confidently, taking the attention off Udina and earning the murmurs of onlookers. "You won't need to send ships or armies, just me."
"The Commander is correct." The Asari Councillor said to her cohort. "Stopping Saren requires finesse and tact; it is not a task for fleets or armies."
Well, I'm screwed then. John noted grimly, before scolding himself for even caring what some politician thought of him.
"It is far too soon!" The Turian Councillor snarled harshly, "The Spectres are a responsibility that humanity is simply not ready for!"
"Through the efforts of Commander Shepard and his team – myself included - we exposed Saren Arterius as a traitor. They faced him on Eden Prime." Katelyn urged the Council, surprising her twin with the level of respect in her tone. "He has more than proven himself a worthy candidate for the Spectres."
That seemed to cause a reaction as the Turian Councilor went silence immediately, contemplating the display in front of him. The Asari turned to her Salarian counterpart and in that brief moment, a thousand different things were said through their eye contact alone. She then turned to her Turian fellow, who met her gaze and reluctantly nodded.
"Lieutenant Commander Jonathan R. Shepard - Please step forward." She instructed.
John's back straightened a little more; he shared a look with Anderson waiting for a nod of approval before moving, which John replied with his own shallow nod. He then looked at his twin, who returned a proud smile. He faced the Councillors and stepped forward. This next part, however, he never would have guessed would happen.
"Lieutenant Commander Jania K. Shepard – Also, please step forward." John turned back towards his sister, as utterly baffled as she was. They both looked at Anderson then Udina before Katelyn join John's side.
"I did not see this coming." Katelyn whispered. Neither did I...John agreed mentally, observing the crowd slowly gathering around the central area.
"It is this Council's decision that you are both granted the resources and power of the Special Tactics and Reconnaissance branch of the Citadel..."
To be continued...
Thank you for reading and please review. I welcome criticism.