As we rolled to the end of the skyway, through some sort of overpass, we picked up a radio signal.

"I've got movement! Some sort of vehicle, but it isn't the Geth."

I mentally face palmed for not noticing the earlier transmissions, but I had known they'd be there anyway, so I had reason not to be paying attention for them. Plus, with a pyscopath in my head, I have bigger worries.

"Sounds like they spotted us. They must be close." Ashley said.

Tali shook her head. "The Geth are our main concern. I say we keep moving."

"They might need help against those things. I say we check it out." I replied.

Shepard made her vote clear by parking the Mako neat the entrance.

I chuckled. "Sorry Tali, looks like you're out voted." She just turned to look at me, but she was understandably hard to read. I'd have guessed that she was glaring if I didn't know her better.

We got out of the Mako, heading down the ramp. I concealed a few knives in each hand, just in case things went south. I doubted they would, but I didn't want to take the chance.

The few rent-a-cops bunkered behind cover raised their rifles at us, though most lowered them when they saw we weren't Geth. A quick Biotic glowing glare made the others back down as well. It didn't take a genius to see that pissing me off was dangerous-not with the way I looked.

Of course, it apparently took a pencil pusher to not realize that. As we moved past the line of Guards, one idiot was dumb enough to point his gun at us. "That's close enough."

I didn't activate my knives' blades yet, but I shifted them in my hands so I could throw them if I needed to. If this guy so much as twitches the wrong way…No! Get out of my head you Psychotic Bastard! I won't let you influence me!

The women standing next to the pencil-pushing idiot had a little more sense. "Relax Jeong. They obviously aren't Geth."

"The fact that we have faces instead of flashlights is kind of a giveaway." Ashley deadpanned, and I grinned despite my mood.

"Get back Juliana." Jeong said, waving her back. "Who are you? What do you want?" Considering he was pointing his gun at me now, the most dangerous looking one, he was either brilliant or an idiot depending on how you thought about it.

I decided to clue him in. "I suggest you put that down unless you think you actually take me down. And I guarantee you can't."

Shepard stepped between us. "Bourne…" She warned. I met her gaze evenly, but I kept most of my attention on the guy with his gun aimed at me. She turned to him as well. "I'm Commander Shepard, and this is… Bourne, my second in command." I silently thanked her for not pointing out my rank. "We're here to take care of your Geth Problem."

"You see?" The woman said, "Nothing to worry about. You were overreacting."

"You trust too easily Juliana." He shot back. "What if they hadn't had such good intentions?"

Then you'd have all been dead before you could fire a single shot. I thought, though I decided saying it aloud wouldn't help matters.

"I'm just glad to see a friendly face." She said, turning back to us. "I thought we were the only ones left on the planet that weren't synthetic."

Shepard shook her head. "Zhu's hope is still holding out, if only just."

Juliana turned to Jeong angrily. "I thought you said they were wiped out."

"I said they were "probably" all dead. We lost contact with them, what else was I supposed to think?"

Ashley sighed. "They aren't dead. The Geth have really pounded them though. Hard." I forced myself not to chuckle at her word choice. I actually took it as a good sign though; if I was thinking more like me, Iron might have lost his grip.

"I know what you mean. Those damn things just don't give up."

I cut across. "We getting closer to their base?"

Juliana turned back to us. "You're almost there. They're holed up in the ExoGeni headquarters, just a bit down the skyway."

Jeong turned to us hurriedly. "Those headquarters are private property Soldier." He was trying to sound brave, and failing miserably. I was impressed Iron was managing to restrain himself from commenting. "Remove only the Geth and nothing else."

I rolled my eyes and turned to glare at him. "Hey *Jeong*? The grownups are talking here. So shut your mouth before I do it for you." I held a knife up pointedly, activating the blade. "Permentantly."

He gulped and shut up, so I put away the knives. I crossed my arms, forcing myself to stay cool, though not without effort. I couldn't tell if it was Iron influencing me, or if it was completely me that wanted to carry out the threat.

Shepard glanced at me, then turned to leave, probably sensing how close I was to kicking this guy in the crotch. And it'd be a toss-up to whether or not the Biotics would come into play.

Juliana stopped her. "Commander? Before you go," Shepard turned back to face her. "My daughter Lizbeth…She's missing."

Jeong found the balls to speak up again. "They shouldn't waste time poking around. We can do a proper accounting of the casualties after the Geth are gone." He hurriedly stepped back as I glared at him with my glowing eyes. The Biotic cornea around me helped too.

"Jeong, I really don't like repeating myself." I flicked a knife back into my hand, and pointed the blade at him. "So let me say something different. Shut up before I slit your goddamn throat."

Juliana was too outraged to even notice my threat. "That's my daughter you're talking about!" she turned back to us. "She's still alive, I know she is."

Ashley opened her mouth to speak, but Shepard motioned for her to let her handle this.

"Where is your daughter Juliana?" Shepard asked.

"She was working in the Exo-Geni building when the attacks came."

Jeong opened his mouth and hurriedly closed it again as I turned my head his way. Satisfied, I turned back to Juliana. "Stay here. You'll be a lot safer than if you're out in the open. We're going to head for Exo-Geni and see if we can find what the Geth are looking for."

She nodded. "Of course. But if you see my daughter…"

"We'll find her." Shepard promised.

We got back in the Mako and kept moving toward the Exo-Geni building. I barely noticed the travel there, more concerned with the landscape of my mind. How did Iron get influence in the first place? Before I could block him out if I needed to, but now he seems to be blocking me out. How?

The question held my attention until we arrived. I noticed immediately that my mind had become clearer the farther we went. He must be losing his grip after this much time, especially since I'm fighting it now.

There was no reply, so I shook my head and exited the Mako.

"The Geth don't waste time moving in, do they?" Ashley commented.

"They wouldn't be here without good reason. I wonder what it is that's so valuable." Tali added.

Shepard shrugged and motioned me to take the lead through the door way. She hung back with her sniper rifle. I drew my pistol, also favoring the one hit one kill strategy for the hopping Geth that were bound to be in there. Ashley had cleared most of them out with the Mako's guns, but I figured it would be stupid to take chances.

We moved through the deserted "lobby", which was in ruins. Whether that was due to the age of the Prothean Building or the Geth attacks I couldn't tell. Shepard rushed up to meet us, her Sniper Rifle still held at the ready.

Tali approached the shining blue energy field blocking the door in front of us. "We will have to find another way around. We don't have the equipment to disable this field."

I turned to talk to Shepard, only to see her drop out of sight behind a low railing. I looked over and saw her at the bottom of a drop. I berated myself for forgetting about it. I walked over to it, looking down. Shepard waited for us.

"One way drop Jason. You sure about this?"

"I don't see another way around." I responded, dropping down beside Shepard. Tali and Ashley hesitated, then did the same.

I glanced back up. "Yeah, that doesn't look so high if we lifted each other up there."

"Good thing we didn't bring Wrex then." Ashley replied.

I rolled my eyes and moved forward down the tunnel we had dropped into. We moved to the other side of the large room slowly, especially when we spotted a recently killed Varren.

Shepard kneelt down to examine it, while I scanned the area for more, and for-

A bullet suddenly slammed into my chest, though my shields made sure it didn't do anything, and my gun flew up towards the source.

The young woman holding the gun hastily lowered it, and approached hesitantly. "I'm sorry. I thought you were Geth, or one of those Varren."

I lowered my gun. "If you'd have killed me, I might actually be upset. What are you doing in here?"

"It's my own fault. I stayed to back up data instead of running when the Geth showed up. As soon as the ship latched on, the power went out and I was trapped."

"It's probably a good thing you didn't run. The Geth would have mowed you down in seconds." Ashley said.

Shepard cut in. "Don't worry, we can handle a few Geth."

She shook her head. "It isn't the Geth, it's that energy field they set up. They don't want anybody else getting access to the…" She trailed off, trying to not to give up the game.

"Access to what? We need to find out what they're after."

She hesitated, "I don't know for sure, but if I had to guess… I'm guessing they're here for the Thorian."

"Thorian?" Tali asked.

"It's an indigenous life form Exogeni was studying."

"I haven't seen much else that might interest them. A unique organism makes as much sense as anything" I said. It was an effort not to push her for the rest of the information. Even if I did, we'd still be trapped in here. Since we can get the info anyway, it doesn't make sense to put myself at risk. Well, risk other than the Geth. And the Krogan. And whatever else is in here. Okay, maybe I should stop thinking about it.

"Do you know where it is?" Shepard asked her.

"I could show you where it is, but not with these Geth everywhere. We need to get past that field."

I nodded. "Stay here. We'll go look for a way to shut it off."

"I think the Geth ship is what's powering it. They were laying cables everywhere. Here, take my ID. It should get you past any locked doors." Shepard grabbed it and stored it on her belt.

I chuckled. "Personally, I like my way of opening them better."

Tali looked at me in confusion. "What way is that?"

"Blasting them open." Ashley and I said in unison. We looked at each other, and laughed. Though our mirth was cut short by the arrival of several Varren. Lizbeth went running as I sent a few airborne with a singularity, and then warped it detonate it. Ashley and Shepard took down the farther members of the pack. None got close enough for Tali to use her shotgun.

I led the way through a nearby door, and held a hand up as I heard a deep voice that clearly belonged to a Krogan. He seemed to be having a one sided argument, until we got to the top of the stairs and saw him talking to VI.

"Stupid Machine!

"If there is nothing else, please move aside. There is a queue forming for the use of this console."

He turned around, gun in hand, only to collapse as Shepard sent several sniper rounds into his head. I stepped over his body, shooting him in the head myself just to be sure. Element of surprise helps a lot in cases like this. Of course, having Shepard isn't too bad either.

As we got closer to the VI it admonished us. "Exogeni reminds all staff that the discharging of weapons while on company property is strictly prohibited."

It turned to Shepard as she approached. "Welcome back Research Assistant Elizebeth Baynham. What can I do for you?"

She looked at me in question and I pointed at the ID card on her belt. She turned back to the hologram. "What information was he trying to access?"

"One moment… the last user was attempting to access data on the species called the Thorian. I was unable to provide him with any relevant data."

"Why not?"

"Besides lacking proper clearance, there has been no new data on the Thorian in several cycles. All sensors at the Zhu's hope outpost have been inactive for some time."

Of course! That's why he was able to affect me! Because of the Thorian spores that were already changing my brain patterns

(I suppose there's no point in trying to continue then.)

)Ahhhhhh, is somebody upset I figured out his widdle plan? Would baby wike a boddle?(

(You realize I'm not going to just give up? And that baby talk is the second lowest form of humor?)

)But are you going to actually help with Shiala? Discovery would be just as bad for you as for-(

(You assume a lot. But in this case, you're correct.)

)That why you didn't want me killed by that Krogan back when I charged? So you could try killing me yourself?(

(Took you long enough to figure out. If I have to step in to keep someone else from killing you I will. Otherwise, you're on your own. And make no mistake, you will fall.) He withdrew again, but this time I could sense him. Before he must've spread himself thin, trying to influence me. Now he had regrouped to scheme some more.

"Tell me everything you know about the Thorian" Shepard's voice brought me back to the conversation.

"The thorian is a simple plant life form that exhibits sentient behavior uncommon in other species. Through distribution of airborne spores, the Thorian is able to affect and control other life forms, including humans. "

"A sentient plant? How much you want to bet that's what Saren's after?" Ashley commented.

The VI went on. "Before the sensors were disabled, the majority of the Zhu's hope control group had been infected."

"Are you saying ExoGeni knew it's people were being infected?" Shepard asked disbelievingly.

"I thought there was something strange about them." Tali muttered.

"It was deemed necessary."

"We should warn Joker." Ashley said.

Shepard raised a hand to her earpiece. "Shepard to Normandy. You read me Joker?" she lowered her hand. "Damnit. That field must be blocking us."

"All the more reason to get it shut down." I said, turning to leave.

It didn't take long to find more Geth. They were kneeling in front of some kind of glowing Orb. Shepard sniped three before her rifle overheated and they reacted to our presence. My Assassin quickly dropped the rest.

Shepard looked up to study the claws secured in the walls. "This must be how the Geth anchored their ship to the side of the Building."

"Not very subtle, are they?" Ashley commented. "How can we cut the power if it's coming from the ship?"

Tali looked at the machinery with an engineer's eye. "We don't have the means to destroy this one, even with Bourne." I chuckled at that.

"Then we keep looking. No way are they all this perfect." Shepard said, dropping down to the lower level.

After fighting through a dozen more Geth, we found another claw. Tali looked at it and shook her head. "We can't do anything to this one either."

I moved past her. "I wouldn't say that just yet." I raised my hand, warping a Geth before it had a chance to turn around. I pulled out a few knives and moved in close as the others turned around. One of them raised its rifle to fire, only for it to eject its heatsink. I smiled at Tali's tech attack, and took it down.

The rest took cover as we moved up. The cover wasn't much good once I was at point blank range though. With my Barrier over my shield, they didn't even touch me. My knives on other hand, all found targets.

I moved to the end of the lab, so I could use the shuttle bay doors to destroy the claw and we could get out of here. I suddenly heard Tali and Shepard gasp behind me.

"What's wrong?" I asked, turning back towards them.

Shepard turned to me. "This log from one of the scientists…ExoGeni gave samples to someone."

"Samples of what?" Ashley asked.

"It's not the what that's important. It's who. They gave them to Cerberus."

"The guys that Toombs warned us about?"

"It must be. We need to find where they took those samples."

I cleared my throat, getting their attention. "No offense, but maybe we should get done with this first?"

Shepard nodded. "You're right, this is more important." She sounded like she was trying to convince herself as much as anyone.

I looked at the bay door controls again, and hit a few buttons at random. Not that I was surprised, but nothing happened whatsoever.

"Good idea Bourne." Tali said, moving up next to me. "This system is faulty. If used correctly- or incorrectly- it should slice right through the cable."

"Then I think you better handle it. I'm good at breaking tech, but not breaking tech with tech."

She hit a few buttons, and the door slid closed, slicing through the cable like it was butter. I couldn't keep back a satisfied smile. It was sort of satisfying to see the other cable be dragged out by the weight of the falling ship.

"Damn, I'd have loved to see the look on the pilot's face when that thing toppled." Ashley said with a smirk.

"I hope that ship was full of those Geth bastards." Tali said angrily.

Joker's voice cut off my reply. "I repeat, Normandy to shore party? Commander, Lt. Bourne? Anybody home?"

I raised a hand to my earpiece. "Joker, I don't know if you've picked up on this, but calling me Lt. Bourne is one of my new pet peeves."

"Uh…Please don't break every bone in my body?"

"Don't worry, I'll leave you a hand to feed yourself." I joked.

Shepard cut us off. "We read you Joker. What's your status?"

"We're in lock down. The colonists are freaking out, banging at the hull, trying to claw their way inside the… Shit!" I heard a faint ding. "One of them just tried to throw a rock through the cockpit. Good thing the Shields are still up."

Shepard nodded. "Sit tight. They won't be able to do much."

I activated my radio again. "If it gets bad, fire off a few warning shots. Don't do it unless you have to though. We're headed back now." I cut the signal. "Come on ladies. We have some Geth to kill, and a giant weed to pull."

"I'm guessing that sounded better in your head?" Shepard commented.

"…yeah, a little."

"Might want to work on that."

I shrugged. "Actions speak louder than words anyway."

"That they do." Shepard agreed, shouldering her sniper rifle.


And, that'll do it for this chapter.

I've been having less and less time to write lately, so I may have to cut back to every other week. It isn't super likely, but sometimes sh*t happens.

so