This story starts at a ramen shop on the Citadel. The lower recesses of the residential ward hide the smaller, more personable shops. The ones that the locals attend instead of all the meddlesome tourists. The ambiance isn't all that attractive, but the booze is cheap and no one asks you any pesky questions.
Jack knows better than to hit the bars. She has to lie low, on the Citadel. She has one of those personalities that stand out in a crowd. Really, she's just trying to escape Shepard's attempt at unifying the crew; when Jack heard the words "gift exchange," she took it as a signal to get as far away from Cerberus glee as possible. Plus, hey: noodles are good.
The register monkey approaches her seat at the bar with a fresh drink; it makes an explosive pop when he pries off the cap. He sets the frosted beverage down and retreats before she can reject the gift. She scowls and reluctantly accepts, then scans the bar for her secret admirer.
Kasumi Goto waves nonchalantly from her own end of the bar. Jack makes no attempt to hide her surprise and the thief interprets the lack of an electric blue aura as an invitation to accompany her. Jack curses as Kasumi steals the seat next to her.
"You can tell Shepard to fuck off," Jack states bluntly, sipping her drink.
"I already did," Kasumi laughs politely. "With far less colorful phrasing."
"What do you want, Goto?" Jack asks, avoiding eye contact. She twirls some noodles across her chopsticks and gulps them down in unladylike chunks.
Kasumi watches the inhalation, completely amused. She leans into the bar, propping her chin upon her wrist. "I need … an accomplice."
"You're not my type." Jack shoots her an eyebrow, rejection punctuated with bits of chive.
"Can't blame a girl for trying." Kasumi sighs, studying her gloved fingers in mock resignation. Her disappointment fades into childlike excitement too quickly to maintain the lie. "I just figured you'd enjoy an opportunity to kick Cerberus in the financial junk."
"Shit." Jack stops her meal, mid-slurp. She sits up and shoves the bowl aside. "I'm listening."
"There's a charity event, this evening, benefiting research for biotic children. Stuffy event: tight suits, frilly dresses, inedible delicacies. The charity is, unfortunately, a front for a Cerberus research cell. I intend on appropriating all the well-intended donations for much more worthy causes." Kasumi laces her fingers together on the bar, attempting to look innocent and coy. "I need a plus one."
Jack bristles. "Why don't you ask Shepard?"
"Shepard's a bit of a fuddy duddy." Kasumi frowns. "And I already ordered your suit."
If it weren't for the promise of feeding Cerberus their own deceitful smiles, Jack would have never agreed to the party. It's populated by celebrities and politicians, mostly; all shiny outfits and shitty attitudes. It makes her skin crawl.
Or maybe that's the suit.
Accustomed to much more liberating attire, the silky texture of the form-fitted suit is stifling. It breathes well, for all intents and purposes, but it hinders her mobility more than she'd like. It also looks like money, filthy old-lady money, and smells a bit like an asari stripper. Ew.
Jack fiddles with her cufflinks as her partner slides up beside her, looking a bit like a film noir dame in her black dress, wide brimmed hat, and glittering veil. Jack frowns and scratches her collar. "What's the fucking plan?"
Kasumi smiles, red lipstick shining under the Citadel's most expensive nightlights. "Mosey around, pick a few pockets, score a few drinks, and make this shit look credible."
"Is that the actual plan?" Jack twists her frown toward Kasumi and crosses glares, feeling misled. "Dress up and get drunk? What the fuck, Goto?"
Kasumi loops a long-gloved arm through Jack's and pats her bicep reassuringly, smile never slipping. "No one here wants to hurt anyone. They want to assuage the guilt in their megalomaniac hearts by helping children. It's our job to make sure they assuage a lot of guilt - yacht loads of guilt - to actual children."
Jack seethes, no less angry at her situation. The hair on the back of her neck begins to rise, and Kasumi picks up on it. "These are good people, at heart," Kasumi explains, steering the timebomb toward a quiet table. "The project manager is the shady one. Toward the end of the evening, I'll need a distraction so that I can hack his omnitool. You can even flip the switch, if you'd like."
As a waiter passes by, Jack swipes a drink and slams it down in one angry swing. She considers Kasumi's plan, for a moment, then relents. The harsh lines around her face soften into something almost agreeable, so Kasumi releases her grip.
Kasumi leans in with a conspiring whisper. "Want to make it interesting?"
Jack's mood lightens just fractionally. "Depends on your fucking definition of 'interesting.'"
"Whomever inspires more donations by the end of the evening gets to record the fuck-you message for Cerberus."
People recognize Jack. Less so, with her illustrations hidden behind layers of black silk, but there's little they can do to disguise the inky halo and fiery eyes. It really doesn't matter: they recognize her all night, but this crowd will never know her. No one really knows her.
She's never been a salesman, preferring strong actions over slippery promises. When her table gets into chatting, she always manages to say the exact thing everyone finds a little too uncouth. They hesitate, mental gears spinning wheelies behind their eyes, trying to recall where they know her from. Everyone is in high enough spirits that another round of drinks will generally satiate the curiosity. And, when they start asking about the availability of her gorgeous partner, it's time to move to a new table.
The same goes for Kasumi, although her recognition comes with remarkably less fear and cigar smoke. Her patrons discuss politics and fresh gossip, with enough name dropping to make the discussion sound like tomorrow's headline. When Kasumi slips up and mentions something a normal lady of society would ignore, heads around the table tilt just so and she has to be quick enough to conjure a more interesting morsel of information to distract them.
Kasumi escapes the gaggle and meets up with Jack, slightly out of breath from the exercise of eluding the crowd. She winks at her companion and holds up a set of fingers, symbolizing pride in her current six-digit score. Jack's the first to speak, though, and just a tad too eager.
"Every fucker here wants to dance with you," she baits.
Kasumi lets her astonishment show. "I'm flattered, but that would take all night, and I still need you to distract-"
"-And you've been very eager to accept." Jack produces a memory card between two fingers and casually holds it up for Kasumi to observe. "The morons have been bidding for your ass all night."
"Oh my," Kasumi comments, swallowing hard. "It is only a dance, correct?"
"Relax, bitch." Jack grins, wide and predatory, genuinely enjoying the position she's in. "I've got your back."
Jack spins Kasumi around to face an approaching donor. The asari is well dressed, red-faced, and incredibly happy to see Jack welcoming her into the discussion with Kasumi. Kasumi hesitates, concerned that their heist has just been derailed. She takes Jack's hand and wraps it around her wrist. "My bracelet," Kasumi instructs, "Get it on the manager."
As the asari takes Kasumi's hand and starts to drag her off to the dance floor, Jack smiles: this is not her first heist. She knows how a wireless bug works. And, really, Kasumi makes a far less disruptive distraction.
After rubbing elbows and spewing compliments all evening, someone finally introduces Jack to the project manager; the actual Cerberus scumbag in the room. It takes every ounce of willpower she can muster to refrain from smiting the man from existence, then and there. She greets him, politely, her smile loosely propped up by a mental-mantra of 'for the children.'
When she shakes his hand, she tilts her head in mock amazement, slapping her other hand over his wrist in an apparent effort to certify his existence. She shakes her head and musters a smile, complimenting him to his face for everything he's doing for the children. For the children.
The true test of willpower is the small biotic charge she releases to short out his omni-tool. Too little energy and the surge protection will prevent the heist from occurring. Too much energy and the shockwave will draw attention. Too much energy and he'll be nothing but a smoking crater. For the children.
The pulse is just enough that he can feel it, and she curses herself for the lack of self control. She's expert enough to match his shocked expression and misdirect the attention toward Kasumi's antics on the dance floor. She releases the manager before his suspicion sets in and his handler is quick to trade her out for another charity celebrity. Clear of certain disaster, Jack makes her way to the edge of the crowd and exhales the breath she had been holding.
A turian security guard picks her out of the crowd and makes his way toward her, so she ducks into a nearby hallway. The hallways is lined with large, ornate doors, and she can't help but try them all. She's at a utility closet when the security guard rounds the archway.
"Ma'am," he starts, edging toward her with a purpose.
"Oh, shit!" Jack squawks, flings the door open, and musters an air of frustration, "I can't find the can."
"Ma'am, we have some questions," he states, reaching for her upper-arm. "I need you to come with-" And it's the last thing he says before she unleashes a biotic fist into his midsection. He folds neatly in half and she grabs his earpiece as he falls into the closet. She closes the closet and pulls off the handle, then drops the earpiece and kicks it under a plush sofa.
It's just not a party until she gets to punch someone. 'For the children,' she adds.
They're laughing when they board the Normandy and manage to hit the crew deck before shedding layers of clothes. Kasumi slips as she's removing a heel and Jack catches her, instinctively, which elicits another round of conspiratory giggles. The crew is enraptured, but makes sure to backpedal away before they qualify for accessories to murder.
Jack pours them drinks and collapses into the couch as Kasumi crunches numbers into her omnitool. Numbers dance across her visor too quick for Jack to catch, but the rate at which Kasumi's smile twists into a grimace tells her what she wants to know.
As promised, Kasumi sets up the software for Jack to record her message to Cerberus. They're both too disheveled and excited to bother with the camera, so they settle on a voice message. Kasumi ticks down the seconds and points at Jack, signalling it's time to start her speech.
"Listen up, assholes." Jack shouts, clear and deliberate. "Right now you're realizing you just got screwed out of shitloads of money. Money that was donated to children out of kindness and generosity and shit. Children you were going to rob to perpetuate your sick pathetic mind games. Fuck."
Jack hesitates, caught off guard by a swell of emotions. Kasumi tilts her head, asking if they should stop the recording. Jack shakes her head, fiercely, in response.
"Every cent of that money is going to children that it was promised to. Every one of those suits is going to realize their good intentions were defiled by Cerberus. And if I ever see your filthy little hands fucking with children again, I will END YOU."
"We," Kasumi mouths.
"WE WILL END YOU," Jack corrects.
Jack throws her hands in the air and Kasumi cuts the feed. When she initiates the transfer, she sets her omnitool on a nearby table and pivots it so that Jack can see the transaction as it occurs. They both sit forward, anxiously, as funds transmit and disperse to appropriate accounts. When the progress bar reaches completion, they both slip back into the comfort of the cushions.
"That was fucking amazing," Jack sighs, happily. "Let's do it again."
Kasumi laughs and pulls an aching foot into her lap to massage the dance out of it. With her free hand, she fist-bumps the biotic. "Any time."