A/N: UPDATE 10/20/14: Removed massively unnecessary globs of A/N.
So here's my attempt at an AU, as well as several self-imposed writing challenges rolled into one. I was inspired to try my own hand at an effective, fleshed out and distinct AU by LogicalPremise's "Of Sheep and Battle Chicken", though any and all similarities between the two, of which there are very, very few, are completely coincidental.
That dude's the man, though. Check out his work if you haven't already.
As always, this was beta'd by the stupidly talented and insightful BSG-Legacy. Without him, I wouldn't be half the writer I am today. Every kind word you've given me so far has also been to him.
Bioware owns All, etc
The pirate queen of Omega's master bedroom was a hot mess of tangled sheets, burnt out candles, discarded clothing that could be anyone's, and quite a bit of rope hanging over the furniture. It was dark, spacious, and lavish, all of the light coming from the wall sized windows overlooking the murky brown cityscape of the station.
Shepard sighed as their shallow bond melted away, leaving her light and boneless. She ran her fingers through her short black hair, now thick with sweat, and slowly sat up on the bed. Shepard stole a few cheeky glances at Aria's bare form, only to have them returned with a flicker of disdain in the asari's eyes.
"If you keep getting caught up in the 'afterglow', Shepard, I'm not going to invite you over anymore." Aria turned away, now very disinterested with the human. "You did your job, admirably, so go get dressed and be on your way."
"Charming." Shepard crooked her lips to the side, frustrated that she had indeed let the rush of endorphins wash over her a bit more powerfully than usual. "The least you could do is not treat me like some common whore, Aria."
"Adorable." Aria chuckled into a loud laugh at that. The asari grabbed Shepard's head violently, and twisted her around to face her. "Tell me, why do you think I should do that, hm? What possible reason could be floating around in that big head of yours?"
Shepard felt her heartbeat skyrocket and she froze in place, not wanting to give the other woman any reason to easily snap her neck. "...because I don't take payment. I'm not a prostitute. You call me, I come. No questions asked."
"Wrong." Aria narrowed her eyes and gripped the humans cheeks more firmly. "I pay you take care of things for me, and to take care of me.", she said with a smug smile. "Why else do you think your little payments have doubled, hm?" She crushed her lips against Shepard's, violently assaulting her mouth with her tongue.
Shepard shuddered and jerked her head away from Aria, pushing herself off of the bed. She covered the mark on her sternum and fought every urge to just stab the pirate queen in the throat. "I told you I didn't want to be paid for sex, Aria. I can be a weapon for you, but I don't want to be a toy." Shepard buried her rage and spoke evenly, not wanting to incite the asari's wrath. "Do you own me?", she asked, knowing she had no say in the matter.
Aria stared at Shepard with a flat expression. She'd seen the mark on her sternum many times, and more importantly knew exactly what it was. The pirate queen of Omega wasn't easily impressed, much less humbled, but anyone capable of surviving that mark, and remaining their own person, deserved to be cut a little slack now and then.
"If I owned you, you'd know. Get over yourself, Shepard. You don't pay a slave." She scoffed, turning away again, now very much bored with this conversation. "And as queen, I take my purchases very seriously. Any whore under me would be groveling when she wasn't...otherwise under me."
Shepard felt a wave of relief wash over her, softening the fire that was gathering in her belly for the moment. She scoffed and walked toward the table with her neatly arranged belongings. "Really? I was under the impression that you didn't take the queen thing seriously.", she said, trying very hard to keep things less hostile from now on. The thought of getting on Aria's shit list terrified her. "Then again, the lack of a proper crown is a bit odd."
Aria laughed once and grew a smug smirk.. "Since you're so convinced, get your ass back in bed and service me." She narrowed her eyes. "Whore."
Shepard threw on her 'off-duty' clothes, composed of a worn leather jacket, pants, boots and a collared shirt. The outfit, very much on purpose, had several dozen hiding places for weapons of all sorts. Despite her overwhelming desire to gut Aria in two, she'd lose that fight every time. "Oof, rookie mistake, Aria. Whores didn't fuck the queen." She glanced at the asari sidelong as she slipped her hidden gear into place. "That would be the job of a noble, or a king."
Aria scoffed. "Patriarch doesn't have the quad to try it….even if he still had them.", she said in a vaguely threatening tone.
Shepard shrugged. "Then I guess you'll have to make me a duke, or something. After you hire me to commit regicide by poisoning his cup with a very large bomb, of course." Shepard patted herself down, double checking that her everything was well hidden where it was supposed to be, and would pass most spot checks outside of C-SEC Omega, wondering where your gun was would get you killed, but wondering which one to use was quite the different story.
Aria waved her off. "He's not worth the effort. I have another job for you, though. If you're interested."
Shepard rested her palm on the table, closed her eyes, and sent out a faint biotic pulse. The tiny, round mass-effect field expanded like sonar, allowing her to sense the shifts in mass of her surroundings. After her first week on the station, where no less than four slaver gangs had tried to ambush her in her own apartment, she'd made it a habit to check every so often if she was ever stationary for so long. Most of the time, it was just a precautionary measure. Sadly, this was not one of those times.
There was someone else in the room with them.
Shepard's blue-grey eyes snapped open, thriving in the low light, old training kicking in as her attention snaps from wall to wall. She saw movement, a faint shimmering haze a few dozen feet away, but looked straight through it. "Always, but I've got a good idea of what it might be." Shepard looked back at Aria, who rolled her eyes at the obvious cloaked assassin. She walked briskly toward the armory, a set of neatly arranged weapon racks and workbenches, making sure her path intersected with the mysterious figure.
Aria waited patiently for the figure to attempt something, cleaning the dirt from her fingernails."I figured as much. There's a rumor going around. One I don't particularly like, since it involves my head on a pike and shipped back to the Citadel", she yelled mockingly. "Or maybe it's to the Broker, or Thessia, or Palaven!" She hummed noncommittally. "Fix it. Dou-Triple, your standard rate. I'm in a generous mood, go figure."
Shepard smirked just as she passed the figure. "Deal." She whirled around, ejected the cut down Predator she had concealed in her sleeve, brought the pistol to bear on the cloaked figure's head and stabbed one of her concealed knives straight into it's shoulder. "You move, you die. Are we clear?"
The figure decloaked, revealing a very enraged asari in jet-black armor, riddled with muddy gang markings, armed to the teeth. "Fuck you-" The asari shrieked as Shepard twisted her blade, forcing the asari's knees to buckle. "CLEAR! You crazy bitch! We're clear!" The trespasser struggled to breathe, each breath becoming more labored and stunted than the last.
"Good choice." Shepard reached into her belt and snapped a pulse-suppression collar onto the asari, giving her a rather painful shock as it shunted and stopped her biotics entirely.
"You know that might have worked if either of us were brain dead." Aria glared at the other asari and gave her a slow, obnoxious clap. "You got so far, little girl. Farther than most, but not far enough." She lazily hopped off of the bed and strode toward her spacious walk-in closet. "Break her down for me, will you? I have a lot more to do today, and the last thing I need is some uppity bitch distracting me from it."
"You got it." Shepard pulled her knife out and stuck her thumb in the wound while she stripped the asari of her weaponry, scattering them just out of arm's reach. "...wait." She furrowed her brow, screwed up her face and stared at the asari. "...were you watching us?"
"No!" The asari blushed despite her anger. "Of course not! Why would you ask that?!"
Shepard snarled, tore off the asari's helmet, and ripped the recording hardware out of it's frame. "Probably because of the helmet cam." She squeezed the components between her fingers and focused a small warp field onto it, melting away it's structure to allow her to physically crush it into dust. "I'd cut that memory out of your head myself if Aria didn't want you for something worse."
"Oh, this one is just as stupid as they come." Aria laughed loudly as she reemerged from the closet, donning her typical outfit of a white vest and repurposed huntress leathers. "Shattering her mind and purging those memories is going to be all the more sweet." She snapped her fingers. "Quickly now, Shepard, we're all busy people and I don't need your hesitance toward torture getting in my way." She tapped herself into her comm network, keeping both eyes trained on the asari. "Grizz, what's the security detail's status?"
Shepard rolled her eyes and methodically disassembled the asari's armor power plant. "Got a name?", she asked the trespasser.
"They're not responding to comms, but our positional data says they're still at their post. Actually...they haven't moved at all in two hours. Huh."
The asari scoffed. "Yeah. It's fuck off-" The pistol round shredding through her calf's armor plating and straight into the bone cut her off. She roared in agony, dropping on her side as purple blood pooled at her feet. "...fuck, fuck, it's..." The trespasser jerked her head toward Shepard, now towering above her, smoking gun in her hand. "..L-l...Lyrali! Lyrali T'Koma!"
Aria scowled. "Don't worry about the gunshot. That's just Shepard prepping a little would-be assassin. Who apparently walked straight through a dozen of our best men without so much as an alarm!" She narrowed her eyes at Lyrali. "Send Bray and his men down here to investigate, and to replace them, if needed."
"They're on their way. Anything else?"
Aria growled "...inform all of our forces that I'm going to be reinstating the Hunt, and to put themselves on standby. If they ask when, tell them..." She eyed Shepard thoughtfully. "...soon." The pirate queen killed her comms bent down next to Lyrali, her eyes flickering with menace. "Lyrali T'Koma. Well, now we have a new face of idiocy, don't we? I believe that I've already established my zero-tolerance policy for both bullshit and noncompliance, so let's not waste words while you continue to waste blood.", she said speaking with absolute malice.
Lyrali scowled even more, if that were possible. "Fine. Who the hell is the bitch with the knives, then? Only half a greeting-" A swift kick to the jaw by Shepard's boot stopped her short, spurting blood and saliva onto the floor. This time, Lyrali remained silent.
"Karen Shepard, not that it matters." Shepard nodded at the asari's compliance and picked up one of her fallen weapons, a cut down M-6 Carnifex. "...you know, I've always wanted one of these. They're a pain in the ass to find, though." She sighted the pistol straight between Lyrali's eyes and swiftly mounted it where her Predator had been. "For now, I'm borrowing this."
Aria shook her head and grabbed Lyrali's throat powerfully, not enough to choke her, but it was very, very close. "Oh, just say it's yours. She'll be dead in a few minutes, and I don't plan on contacting her next of kin or shipping her crap back home.", she growled, almost annoyed at Shepard's slight sense of manners.
"Fine. Mine.", said Shepard, knowing that it was often better for everyone to just agree with Aria. "I'd have gotten more out of her, but you've expressed that you prefer to do this kind of work personally." Shepard casually gripped the asari's other arm, the one not connected to the knife wound, and violently twisted, snapping the bone in half. She rose to her feet above the asari's shriek, and took a step back, crossing her arms. "She's prepped. Can't run, shoot, or use her biotics."
Aria rolled her eyes. "Then how am I supposed to interrogate her, Shepard? Biotics and melding use the same neural pathways." She shook her head in frustration as she fiddled with the collar. "Don't humans take classes on galactic culture and biology in school? Or are you just that old?"
"Uhh, yeah. Sort of." Shepard shrugged laxly, looking away from the two asari. "I don't remember most of the anatomy stuff.", she said, as old memories of her school, home and farm engulfed in flames flashed through her mind's eye. "Turian cock structure didn't seem all that important or enticing at the time."
"Considering your recent change of heart about asari, I have a feeling you're going to regret not paying more attention to that…"
Shepard rolled her eyes. "It wasn't sex-ed, Aria. Teaching kids how to fuck other species is just…" She shuddered at the thought of her thirteen year old self learning how to physically please a turian. "...fucked up."
Aria stopped removing the collar to look up at Shepard, genuinely confused. "...humans don't do that?"
Shepard widened her eyes. "Don't do what? Interspecies sexual education? No, of course not! Why would anyone teach something like that in a formal setting?!"
"You mean what the asari have been doing for millennia, Shepard? Or have you forgotten even more from those classes than you thought?" Aria stared at Shepard for a long moment. "It's astounding how naive you can be."
"You're shitting me. Asari actually do that."
"How else would we learn without proper instruction, Shepard?" Aria sighed, tired of Shepard's inability to see the obvious truth. "It's not as if our entire race is based upon the ideal of diversifying our genetics-" She waved Shepard off, bored. "Nevermind, just be quiet and watch out for stray vorcha, or something."
As the pirate queen unlocked the restraint, she glowered at the other asari as violently as she could muster. The collar fell to the floor with a loud clang. "There we are." She grabbed Lyrali's head forcefully, crushing it between her palms as her eyes swirled into a black void. "Now let's find out what she knows.", she growled, initiating the meld.
Shepard stared at the joined pair for a moment and yawned. She'd forgotten that watching two asari meld wasn't exactly the same as watching a regular couple have sex, in the way that it wasn't even the least bit interesting from the outside. At least, not this particular kind of joining. No movement, no sound. She felt a little jealous of Lyrali, who at least got a good show before getting caught.
Shepard winced, and was for once very glad that Aria was aggressive enough to do these things personally. Since Aria was, for the moment, indisposed, she thought it best to make sure that they were secure. It wasn't that she distrusted the professionalism of Aria's people, far from it, but clarification never hurt anyone. She walked over to the nearby intercom panel and clicked it on. "This is Shepard. Is the exterior secure?"
Shepard raised a brow. "Uhh, hello?"
"Shepard! It's Bray. My team and I just arrived. Is Aria with you?"
Shepard looked over at the still frozen pair, noting Aria's face was locked in the most rage fueled expression she'd ever seen. "Technically. She's inside of some wannabe assassin at the moment." It almost looked like she was caught in intense biotic combat, her mouth wide open in a silent roar. Her fingernails were digging into Lyrali's cheeks, drawing purple blood that coupled well with the younger asari's muted fear plain on her face. "...it's freaking me out a little, how frozen they are. Aren't they supposed to be moving for dominance, or something?"
"Hey, I'm just as lost as you are. As long as she's not dead or dying, you're fine. Anyway, That assassin is going to be the least of her problems, most likely. The security detail is...well, let's just say we can't tell where their blood begins and the vorcha bodies end. They got torn apart by…" He paused for a few seconds. "I'm going to be honest with you, Shepard. I have never seen Vorcha that could claw through heavy armor like this. Some of these guys are just...meat."
"What? How the hell did vorcha even get up here?" Shepard took another glance at the melded duo, and widened her eyes as it became clear that they were both starting to move, albeit slowly. Aria was adding more pressure to Lyrali's head while the assassin was reaching for her shotgun. "Shit, they're moving. Okay, good luck."
"You too, Shepard."
Shepard cut the line and sprinted over to the pair, snatching up all the weaponry near them and quickly disassembling them on one of the armory's workbenches. When she got back inside the main area, Aria had pinned Lyrali to the floor, though oddly still seemed to be struggling with making the final kill.
Shepard felt her gut scream something. Loud and fast. It was that feeling, the one she always had when something just wasn't right, amplified. Her short time on Omega had given her countless opportunities to improve her understanding of this part of her that was so accurate it may as well have been extrasensory. She reached out with her biotics, performing another sonar-pulse, and found nothing. Still, she took a closer look around the room, checking the reinforced windows for breaches or micro-filament explosives with an omni-tool scan.
Shepard frowned, reading that the scan had only picked up the interlaced polymer-composite in every mil-spec pane of glass. Aria had even gotten it redone in the last week, apparently, as the data plainly stated that the material was relatively fresh. She turned around, watching as Aria's body became covered in surging dark energy.
Shepard shielded her eyes from the blinding light and stepped closer. "...what the hell?"
Paintings, tables, pillows and other light décor began to rattle and shake. Shepard looked down to see the entire floor start quake. "What...the hell have I gotten myself into?" The furniture slowly floated into mid-air, attempting to carry Shepard with them. She grounded herself with a nullifying high-mass field and drew her new Carnifex, stepping carefully to the joined pair. Just as she started to move, a bolt of blue fire arced out of Aria and tore through the walls and ceiling, leaving a long line of melted metal in it's wake.
Shepard cursed loudly and sprinted away from the pirate queen. Another bolt surged out of Aria, causing even more destruction. Shepard threw herself to the floor, shielding herself from the blaring biotic storm that was rapidly engulfing all the bedroom. The entire room shuddered and creaked as if it were being torn from it's foundation.
Finally, Aria broke her silence with a raging, blood thirsty roar that seemed to have no end or limit to volume. She heard a loud, shattering crack, and could only hope that was Lyrali's skull and not one of the suite's support columns.
At that, Shepard considered why she was even staying, since loyalty to Aria really wasn't one of her priorities if it was going to get her killed rather than being granted the right to live. At any rate, it didn't matter. She couldn't leave without being torn in half by the blinding typhoon flowing above her. Still, she did her best to crawl toward the exit, increasing her mass as high as she safely could.
Shepard, knowing that shooting an asari during a meld would most likely utterly destroy the other's mind in the process, did the only thing she could do. Get angry. "ARIA! I SWEAR TO GOD IF YOU DON'T CUT THIS BULLSHIT OUT RIGHT NOW I'LL-"
A supernova detonated in the center of the pair, sending Shepard flying into the back wall with enough force to shatter her spine. She frantically wrapped herself in a low-mass field to soften the impact. Shepard hit the wall hard, definitely enough to leave a nasty bruise all over her right side, but she'd live. For now.
Shepard tumbled to the ground, sharp pain radiating through her shoulder, and craned her neck toward the smoking crater in the center of the room. Virtually all of Aria's apartment was either on fire, had been on fire, or was turned to ash. Half of Aria's clothes were smoldering, and Lyrali's armor had literally melted. The pirate queen looked entirely drained, her purple skin pale and her body shaking from over exertion. Lyrali was faring much worse, as it became clear that Aria's mind had, eventually, managed to overpower her own by sheer brute force. Her entire head was caved in.
Shepard managed to scramble to her feet and remount her cut-down Carnifex. "What the fuck was that, Aria?! Are you ok?" She choked, waving away the smoke filled air. "You were in there for six minutes!"
Aria panted heavily, her body drenched in sweat. "...six...Goddess..." She attempted to stand, only manage to stumble forward into Shepard's arms like dead weight. The Pirate Queen of Omega was as weak as a drunken maiden, and Shepard knew it. "Shepard. She took something...out of my head. I need you to-"
Bray, a barrel chested batarian that was a head and shoulders taller than Shepard, burst through the front door down the hall with two dozen of Omega's best. He surged toward the bedroom, the rattle of heavy boots nothing compared to the recently weathered storm. "Shit." He looked at Shepard, surprisingly unhostile. "What the hell happened in here?"
Aria's head lolled, putting all of her weight on Shepard for support. "...little bitch was one of those…" She took, quick, shallow breaths, fighting to stay awake. "...mutants. Rekshi. Daywind." The pirate queen gritted her teeth and her eyes widened. "...glass. Move. G...glass…"
"She might be delirious." Shepard looked between Aria and Bray. "...I think my translator crapped out. No idea what a...Rekshi is."
"No, I didn't get it either." Bray grunted and shook his head. "Might be something old. Or gibberish." He cracked his neck and beckoned to his men. "Alright! Sassisk, your team secures Aria. Contingency 4." He gestured curtly toward a rather tall, blue skinned salarian who saluted and moved to do as he was told. Shepard nodded and tried to transfer Aria's deadweight to the Salarian without dropping her."The rest of you, we're running interference! Everyone is paying their dues early, because the queen is just-"
The massive, panoramic windows exploded inward in a lattice, sending long shards of industrial glass straight at them. Transparent lances shredded through armor and bone, ripping apart nearly all of Aria's men. Shepard barely had enough time to yank Bray and Aria, and by extension Sassik, to the ground and shield them with the strongest bubble she could muster. The shrapnel deflected harmlessly off of the barrier, which quickly dissipated.
Thick, black smog flowed into the apartment as Bray and the rest of his men quickly hauled Aria's barely conscious body to safety. Shepard, having deflected the brunt of the explosion and shrapnel, could only hear ringing as she tried to catch her breath. After mentally kicking herself for not realizing that Aria would need entirely new windows to reinforce them, she rolled her shoulders and thrust out her hands, sending a light biotic wave over the room to clear the black smog.
The apartment cleared, allowing for Omega's poor excuse for a sun to shine through the empty windows, and revealed a very focused helmeted Asari in elegant, masterfully crafted armor, removing a small grey box from Lyrali's open skull. Shepard ejected her cut-down Carnifex and emptied her clip, rapid fire, as she moved closer, wrapping her body in dark energy.
The asari turned to look at her, almost annoyed rather than surprised, as the rounds deflected harmlessly off of her high-tech armor and kinetic barriers. "Hm. That's a new one." She clipped the grey box to her belt and casually drew her sidearm, a weapon Shepard had never seen before, and sighted it straight at her. "Whatever poor excuse for biotics you have in store for me can't-"
Shepard didn't need another hint. She hurled herself into a near-zero mass-effect channel, in an effort to slam her body into the asari at subsonic speeds. Much to her surprise, however, the asari had managed to divert her charge trajectory, using a level of biotic mastery Shepard had only dreamed about, two feet off target. "...how did you-"
The asari quickly grabbed Shepard by the neck, and hoisted her up. "Skill. Centuries of experience." She holstered her sidearm, and strengthened her grip on the human. "Most of all, I'm not stupid enough to think that speed equates invincibility."
"Yeah? Well…" Shepard choked and struggled to get out a snarky retort. "...same goes for…" She flicked her wrists, revealing two small, warming up heat knives. "...standing still!" Shepard stabbed her searing monomolecular blades into the asari's flanks, just above her waist. They dug in deep, and the asari dropped Shepard with a surprised yelp, falling on all fours.
Shepard hit the ground hard, coughing and forcing herself to regain her composure long enough to get the hell out of there. Thinking fast, she planted a small, rudimentary single-receiver tracker on the asari's sidearm and snatched the greybox off of her belt while the other woman was still paralyzed from the deep, cauterizing wound.
Escape routes were minimal, at best. Normally, taking either the stairs or the elevators would be the safest way out. This asari complicated things. There was no way to guarantee she'd even be able to make it to the front door before the asari recovered, and even if she did, Shepard's odds of survival only got lower. She couldn't outrun the asari down the stairs, and the elevators could be easily biotically crushed around her or melted from warp fire.
The only option left to her was the stupid one. Jumping out of the window that the asari just blew open and using her biotics to slow her fall. Biotic base jumping was something she hadn't done in years, but it was the only path that didn't end in certain death.
"...this is a really bad idea...", she muttered under her breath.
Shepard sprinted toward the massive, empty window panes, slipping the greybox to her belt and ejecting the spent heat knives with a flick of her wrists. "I may be impulsive, but I'm not arrogant! Couldn't kill you a minute ago, can't kill you now!" She took a deep breath, and, despite her best judgement, base-jumped out of the fiftieth story penthouse suite.
Tela Vasir was not amused. She'd just gotten stabbed with knives designed to cut through heavy mechs and krogan, but for some reason they'd found themselves in her flesh, catching her off guard in a way that only a stupid, reckless human could have thought of. The Spectre grunted to her feet, taking quick stock of the rampant destruction her finely tuned plan had wrought.
Everything was either on fire, had been on fire, or was turned to ash, and it wasn't clear who had done what, or what had happened in the confusion. Ideally, multiple groups would claim responsibility, and Aria's people would wipe them out, which would most likely save someone quite a bit of work.
Vasir winced and applied medigel to her wounds, the mimetic biofoam easing the pain of the third degree burns on her sides. With the exception of that human, whose rather bold breach of Omega's one rule over and over and over again had actually managed to make Lyrali come off as more of an idiot than she was supposed to be, because now she really was an idiot, everything had gone perfectly.
The Pirate Queen of Omega's arrogance had reared it's ugly head, letting her fall prey to a very, very meticulously planned trap. Meld-Interrogation was a favorite of Aria's, as she'd very publicly advertised that she could not be bested as a finely tuned fear tactic and source of propaganda. For all intents and purposes, outside of the best matriarchs and justicars in the Republics, it was true. Aria had no match in a battle of mental will.
Unless of course, that combatant happened to be have an incredibly rare mutation of the latent, and horrifying, genetic disorder that caused Ardat-Yakshi. Rekshi, or Daywind, as they'd become known millennia ago, were far harder to detect than their more dangerous sisters. In fact, most never manifested their more dominating latent traits at all. Rekshi were perfectly capable of performing like any normal asari, though the act of joining would often be far more taxing than it normally would be for both partners. It rarely, if ever, resulted in death, and since the asari who experienced it internalized it as "amazing sex", no one would be the wiser.
Yet, there were some who'd been caught earlier, and trained for missions just like these. For asari, intelligence extraction, and in some rarer cases inception, amounted to literally invading the target's mind. Since Aria was legally untouchable, and would see a matriarch or a justicar coming twenty relays away, this was the only option Vasir had considered viable.
The vorcha, however, were a far more personal touch. Over her centuries of duty, she'd acquired access to certain less-than-legal vorcha 'farms', where their only goal was to breed them as super soldiers on a mass, disposable scale. It was rare when she got to use them at all, but when she did, they always performed to specifications. Bloodthirsty and thorough. Eventually she'd have to torch that facility, in case the Blood Pack got wind of it, but that was neither here nor there.
Vasir clicked open her omni-tool, confirming that all camera feeds in a six block radius were still on a loop. She nodded and opened the secured comm line to her ship. "Orisini, this is Vasir. Operation is complete, be ready to take off in thirty."
"Roger that, Spectre. Beginning pre-flight procedures. Should we inform the council?"
Vasir shook her head, looking out over the station through the massive windows. "No, that won't be necessary Fhara. I'll handle that when I arrive."
"Very well, Spectre. Goddess go with you."
"And with you." The spectre cut off the comm and smirked to herself. There was never anything quite like the prideful feeling of a methodical, high-risk plan going off flawlessly. It worried her that both the Broker and the Council had given her the same mission, or that rather the Broker encouraged her very, very enthusiastically, to acquire information from Aria's head, the nature of which they both had refused to divulge. Vasir didn't like being kept in the dark, as a spectre she shouldn't have to be, but if it was for the greater good of the galaxy, the greybox on her belt was-
Not there. Gone.
Vasir stared, dumbfounded at the murky cityscape below her as white, hot rage boiled into understanding. Her hands balled into fists, and dark energy flared and surged around her wildly.
"...oh, you crazy, stupid, sloppy little BITCH!"
Shepard screeched through the air, keeping herself straight as an arrow as she plummeted toward the ground, and opened her internal comm line. She grunted, actively dampening her speed with a low-mass field around her body. "Zaeed!" She managed to land on one of the smaller buildings below her. Her boots hit the ground with a sharp deflection of energy, making small cracks in the rooftop around her feet. "I need a pick-up! I have no goddamn clue what's going on, but somebody just out mindfucked Aria and then bombed her penthouse!" Shepard took a deep breath and channeled as much dark energy as she could, hurling herself forward into a long range biotic charge to the next rooftop. "I also may have pissed off a very, very powerful asari that wasn't Aria! Top of the line equipment, very dangerous!"
"You're guddamn insane, you know that?" Zaeed's grizzled voice cut through the chaos around her. "I'm on my way. I don't know what the fuck kind of mess you just got us into, but I'm here for it."
"Alright, so I-". Shepard stumbled to the ground, falling onto her stomach, as a massive shock wave swept over her from behind. She turned around to see a searingly bright flare explode out of the penthouse. "...oh my God she realized I took the greybox." Shepard forced herself to her feet and surged forward into another extended biotic charge, now very much motivated by fear. "Goddamnit, get your ass here now, Massani! I'm in my fucking civvies! I've got a tracker on her, not that it really helps at this point!"
"What-what greybox?! What the hell did you do!?'
"She took it out of the mindfucker's head, and Aria said she took something from-" Shepard looked over her shoulder to see the asari land four buildings back in a pillar of white, enraged light, shattering three floors of windows below the crater she left in her wake. "IT'S NOT IMPORTANT RIGHT NOW JUST GET HERE!"
Shepard felt adrenalin pump harder and faster than it had in nearly a decade, pure terror keeping her already tired and burned body moving. She cursed loudly, realizing that in about thirty seconds that asari was going to be right on top of her. But, by some stroke of divine intervention, a Blue Suns transport just happened to be passing overhead. If she could charge up there, she could probably raid their supply of rockets launchers and maybe stand a chance-
A powerful biotic flare set off a series of explosions, detonating the transport in several hundred places, blowing it out of the sky and into the city below. She cursed loudly, and readied herself into another charge when the asari crashed into the rooftop not ten feet in front of her, sending an earthquake of force barreling into her.
Shepard managed to ground herself against the blast, but the asari snapped forward ahead of the wave, slamming her underhanded fist into the Shepard's gut. She coughed up blood, saw black spots, and yelped in delayed agony.
"Found you.", growled the asari, malice dripping from her lips.
Shepard struggled to regain her composure as she hacked up more blood, her knees shaking from the sheer force of that hit. The barrier from the impact blast had softened some of the blow, but not much. "...yeah…", she said, struggling to breath, let alone think. "...you did…"
"I'll admit, that was pretty fucking clever. Get me to lower my guard...", whispered the asari, keeping her fist held against Shepard's stomach. "...assert my dominance…"
Shepard grunted painfully and ejected both hidden pistols into her palms in a desperate attempt to gain some sort of standing. She shoved them both into the asari's chest, only to watch the other woman yank them away and crush them both in bright warp fire.
"And then hit me with something that you know no one would be insane enough to defend against, or rather ever possibly could." She flicked her wrists, lazily scattering the scrambled pieces of of metal across the rooftop. "Unlike that." The asari snapped forward, ripping out one of Shepard's knifes from her clothes, and shattering it against her own gauntlets. "...and that." She did it again, so quickly and elegantly that Shepard couldn't adequately defend herself.
Shepard growled, drew a large heat knife from behind her belt, pounded her boot against the floor with a small biotic pulse to get the asari off-balance, and lunged forward to stab at her neck. Much to her dismay, the asari caught her arm mid-swing and slammed her helmet into Shepard's skull, nearly blacking her out. She felt her eyes lose all focus and blood trickle down from the gash on her forehead.
"...and this…" The asari violently twisted her wrist, snapping it in half, pulled her forward, smashed her fist into Shepard's throat, and then her sternum, breaking it, with a brutal one-two finisher.
Shepard silently screamed in mortal agony, fell onto her back, unable to breath, and struggled to remain conscious. She opened her mouth, searched for air, and found none. The asari towered over her, glowing bright as the sun. "I'm disappointed. I really thought that you might have been worth the effort. But I guess you're all out of tricks. "
Shepard coughed violently and caught a glimpse of something small, fast, and blue out of the corner of her eye. "...got one...more…"
The asari rolled her eyes. "Really. Of course you do. What, are you going to shoot molten lead out of your eyes?"
"Nope.", she wheezed, staying awake taking nearly everything she had. "Gonna hit you with a car."
The asari raised her brow. "...wha-" She instantly turned as she heard the screech of Zaeed's skycar and wrapped herself in the strongest barrier she could just before the maniac's car slammed directly into her, sending the asari flying off of the roof and creashing straight through the outer wall of an apartment building across the street.
Zaeed instantly turned the car around, landed just beside Shepard and got out. He looked her over, confirming she wasn't dead, and gestured to the rather extensive damage to the front bumper. "You're paying for that."
Shepard was dazed and tried to nod. Her vision was blurry and filled with black and white, but she felt being lifted off of the ground and then put back down in a more comfortable place. She blinked, seeing that she was now in the passenger seat of the car. Shepard gasped loudly into a cough as Zaeed stabbed a hypodermic needle into her leg. "Mother of...shit!"
"Yeah, that's why I always keep those on me.", said Zaeed, giving her a closer look. "Give you one helluva kick in the balls. Or in your case, quad." He chuckled, igniting the drive core.
Shepard's blue-grey eye's flicked around the skycar's interior as the morphine, adrenalin and combat stims quickly surged through her body. "Thanks." She looked at her wrist and winced. "...let's just go. I'm gonna need to set this, and get into one of those bone regenerators for my chest. Most of it is broken." Shepard looked down at her rather torn clothing and frowned. "...I really liked this shirt…", she lamented under her breath.
Zaeed nodded as he lifted the skycar into the air, flying away from the battlefield. "Alright. After you get yourself patched up, you mind explaining to me what the hell just happened?"
"Yeah, sure." Shepard looked out the window at the asari's final resting place-
Not there. Gone.
"Shit." Shepard felt her heart rate skyrocket and her eyes bug out of her head. "Drive. She's gone!" She motioned forward, panicking. "Drive, drive, drive, drive!"
Tela Vasir was very, very, angry. She'd fallen for the same trick twice, and by the same human's hand, in less than an hour. The last time she was this angry got her nominated as a spectre. It took more than a little luck, and centuries of biotics training, to withstand a skycar crashing into her at full speed, but somehow she'd done it.
She pulled herself out of the remains of some poor fool's grand piano, only to see a rather miffed salarian still sitting at his bench, glaring at her as if he was waiting for her to fix it. "...you have insurance, right?"
The salarian blinked. "Against...what exactly? How would I file a claim that says an asari commando crashed through my wall and tore apart half of my home?!" He gestured wildly around his apartment, displaying the rather catastrophic collateral damage Vasir had caused. Half of the outer wall was missing, most of his plumbing was shot and the front door was crushed under several different kinds of broken tables, bookcases and chairs. "It looks like someone crashed a shuttle in here!"
"Looks like you just answered your own question." Vasir shrugged and biotically hopped over to the gaping hole in the wall. She looked up, and quickly snapped up to the roof of the building.
Her body erupted in blinding blue light, having only suffered some minor bruising thanks to her inertial dampeners, excellent barrier work, and kinetically resistant armor.
The spectre spotted the skycar taking off and launched herself into the air, landing on what she recognized as a salvaged C-SEC patrol car flying a few lanes over from them. Her heavy boots partially caved the hood as she grounded herself. Vasir opened the driver's side door, hurled the turian driver out to certain death and took control of the vehicle.
This was what she hated about Omega the most. No official jurisdiction, so anyone recognizing her could incite a war by calling their cousin, which also meant no support. She could only bring what she could smuggle or carry, and nobody local would be willing to help her. So when some uppity human and her friend decide to fuck her over, she has to personally chase them down or it's somehow even more illegal.
She sped toward them, delighted that her skycar was inherently more maneuverable and faster than theirs, and followed them over and between buildings. Whoever this driver was, he was utterly insane. She snapped around corners far too small, ducked under overpasses far too low and soared through vertical shafts far too narrow for any typical pilot.
Vasir's eyes widened as Omega's main skyway came into view from behind a massive tower. Thousands and thousands of skycars zipped just feet from one another in all directions. "You have got to be kidding me." Navigating it, by heading straight through the middle, was something that not even Vasir was crazy enough to consider. Apparently, who ever this driver was, had and was intending to do just that. His approach vector meant it was either a bluff, or he really thought he could lose her in that steel jungle and not come out a mangled mess.
"I just got hit by a car and shrugged it off like it was nothing." Vasir shook off her worry with a scoff. "I can dodge some traffic."
Shepard loosely gestured at the traffic around the skycar. "Zaeed. You've missed four merging lanes. Take us through the Ikina district. Faster than the Nexus.". She stared straight ahead, a little delirious from the meds, until she realized that he was actually going to try and fly straight through the center of the main skyway. "Zaeed...don't do this right now. Don't do this right now! In case you forgot, I have a lot of broken bones right now and really need to go to a hospital!" Zaeed had wanted to do this for many, many years. It was like his White Whale, and yet somehow it had nothing to do with Vido.
"You said it yourself, Shepard!", laughed Zaeed as he maneuvered their skycar for an approach run. "Shit's hit the fan, so there's no telling if I'm gonna be able to try this tomorrow. " He jabbed his thumb behind him. "And she's gonna catch up to us in a few seconds anyway, so we'll be dead either way."
"Fine!" Shepard gripped the upholstery as they sped toward the nexus, fighting every urge to bail out of the car. "Goddamnit, Ahab, don't screw this up!"
"Not a chance."
With that, the skycar barreled nose first into the most congested part of traffic, a field of metal two kilometers in either direction. It bobbed, weaved, and rolled through trucks and luxury sedan alike. Shepard was pretty sure she could hear several six-hundred car pileups, and then downs, behind them as Zaeed's primal need to outwit an artificial construct raced forward. Needless to say, the lack of a safety harness was something that Shepard really wished she had invested in when she had the chance. Miraculously, just as quickly as they head gone into the breach, they emerged back into the light unscathed.
"Told you it'd work.", said Zaeed, as he tapped the tracker on the skycar's hud. "She's down. Altitude dropping like a cinderblock."
"Goddamnit, fine. You win." Shepard looked at him begrudgingly. "I'll pay you later. After I'm not running on stims." She sighed and rubbed her eyes with her good hand. "Take us down to her. I want to make sure she's dead, and then take her armor if it's salvageable. Looked like it'd fit."
Zaeed nodded and sent the skycar into a lazy dive.
"...spectre, please respond. Spectre? Spectre!"
Vasir awoke with a powerful grasp at breath, only to choke on the smoke filled air surrounding her rather spectacular wreck. She cursed as tried to crawl out of the fallen skycar, but couldn't find a hole large enough. With a little effort, she made one of her own by slamming a warp field into the hull. The metal melted away, giving her enough room to shamble out of the burning debris and into the relatively clearer air of the station.
"...fuck today. Fuck all of today."
"Thank the Goddess! Spectre, we need to leave. Now. Some kind of violent rally is starting outside the private docks, and one of the ops techs detected some of the GTS batteries on the other side of the station coming online."
The spectre struggled to her feet, and immediately felt incredibly dizzy and sick. She looked down in shock. Purple blood was seeping from open wounds everywhere on her body. Her chest plate had been cracked in half by the crash, and she felt a rather large gash in her right side coupled with what felt like her stomach being loose. She dropped to her knees, took off her helmet, and, eyes glazing over, vomited onto the street.
"Go. Fly to Imorkan and keep comms open. Pick a layover station and siege it. If anyone asks, tell them not to fuck with the Broker." Vasir coughed violently. "You're still in system. I can get to you."
"...acknowledged, Spectre. Goddess go with you."
"And with you." Vasir fumbled for the stims on her belt and quickly injected them straight into her neck. The spectre clenched her teeth to hold in a yelp and very quickly became more alert. She reached behind her back for a rifle that was no longer there, then a shotgun that was broken in half, and then finally her sidearm.
"Thank the Goddess one of you still…" She glared at the tiny tracker on her submachine gun and crushed it between two fingers. "...tracking me even though she ran away. I can't decide if you're either brilliant or just incredibly lucky, human."
There was a click behind her, a pistol safety being disabled. "Can't it be both?" The human smirked. "Zaeed! She's over here! Stop looting the other wrecks!"
"Not worth the guddamn time, anyway! Nothing good on 'em besides a few spare parts, Shepard!" Off in the distance, the older human, apparently Zaeed, looked up and jogged over to them. "Oh, look at that. Still alive. Damned impressive, I'd say."
"I'm very hard to kill, if you hadn't noticed." Vasir snarled, feeling the cold metal of a hand cannon pressed against the back of her skull. "...how long was I out?"
The woman, apparently Shepard, shrugged. "An hour. Maybe more. That helmet must have been sealed tight." She gestured around them. "The tracker I planted on you really didn't help after the crash. There are quite a few wrecks down here already. Many of them rather recent…", she said, stamping her final words with a glare toward Zaeed.
"Are you really going to start judging the ethics of the man who just saved your life twice inside of half an hour? The plan worked! Nothing else should matter!" Zaeed scoffed. "Guddamn ungrateful is what you are."
Shepard rolled her eyes, exasperated. "Okay. Fine. Thank you."
Vasir growled, enraged that her captivity was being ignored. "This is all very entertaining, but how about you just give me back that greybox, and we forget this ever happened."
Shepard hummed tauntingly and strafed around to the front. "What was that? You want this back?" She tapped the greybox on her belt.
"Yes. It's very important that I have that. ", she said through gritted teeth. "I'll bleed out soon anyway, so why do you even care?" The asari roared, glaring at Shepard. "You just got yourself into the most trouble anyone could ever be in, you stupid bitch!"
"You made a play for Aria, who's done a very good job at making sure that Zaeed and I don't get eaten by vorcha or krogan. " Shepard scowled. "Letting you run away with that greybox would be far more trouble than what you have in mind, I assure you."
Zaeed sighted his rifle at her head. "Point is, you kicked the piss out of my friend here, along with our generous benefactor, and I don't take too kindly to that."
"I didn't make a play for Aria! Nobody with the power to make that happen is stupid enough to do it! The political fallout-" Vasir stopped herself short, realizing that she was slightly delirious from the crash and didn't want to reveal too much about the inner workings of the galaxy. "Ok. Fine. Maybe if I'd explained who I was earlier, none of this would have happened." She sneered, hoping this bombshell still carried some sort of weight. "Tela Vasir. Special Tactics and Reconnaissance."
Zaeed and Shepard slowly looked at one another, but it was Shepard who broke the silence, in the most surprising way possible. "Shit." Shepard froze, the last few hours of her life completely shattering. "Oh. Oh, no." Shepard holstered her pistol and turned white as a ghost. "We...this is...this so bad."
Shepard's cool, blue-grey eyes locked into something old. Vasir couldn't quite make it out, but she was slowly realizing that neither of these two were anywhere near stupid. The human woman cursed softly and quickly applied a hefty dose of medigel to the asari's most obvious wounds. "Zaeed, get her in the car. We're getting her and I patched up at the clinic. Then, we'll move from there, see if we can't figure this out." She stumbled to the skycar, her physicality betraying her commanding tone.
Zaeed snorted. "...guddamn hero types..." The grizzled mercenary slung his rifle, effortlessly swung Vasir over is shoulder, and jogged toward their skycar. "...gonna get us all killed..."
Vasir roared and, weakened as she was, tried to offer up some sort of resistance by slamming both her fists into his back. "Put me down, you dumb ape! What the hell are you doing?!"
Zaeed dropped Vasir into the back seat and settled himself into the front. He fired up the drive core and ignited the thrusters. "...this is going to get much worse before it gets better."
Shepard slipped into her seat and slammed the door shut. "Just focus on getting us to the clinic." The skycar took off, quickly rejoining traffic.
Vasir stared incredulously at the human pair as the seedy brown of Omega blurred beneath them. She winced several times as the burning pain for the medigel taking effect broke through the painkillers. "Who the hell are you people and why are you helping me?" The spectre fidgeted in the back, not quite strong enough to sit up.
Shepard turned around and resisted the urge to salute and stand at attention, despite being seated. "Karen Shepard, and this is my associa-friend, Zaeed Massani."
Zaeed rolled his eyes. "Almost had her thinking we didn't like one another. Good job." The mercenary frowned and surged the skycar forward. "I'm not one to stick my neck out for people I don't even guddamn know, so yeah, why are we helping, Shepard?"
"Why?" Shepard snarled in her seat. "Because I am not going to be responsible for killing a Spectre. That's not going on my conscience." She stared at Zaeed, making her stance perfectly clear. "We help her. End of discussion."
Zaeed grumbled, clearly not happy with that decision as he made a rather hard turn. "I guess it'd be stupidly cruel to not take her with us when we're going to the same guddamn place." He shrugged. "Not like I have to make two stops."
"Yeah, big fucking hassle that would be!" Vasir flashed her teeth and did her best to glare at the back of their heads. "And where might we be going, exactly? Afterlife? Suns? Eclipse? Blood Pack? Hegemony? Cerberus? Daughters of Athame?"
Shepard looked over her shoulder, her expression oddly calm. "Gozu Medical Clinic. Best care on the station."
Vasir spat blood onto the floor of the skycar. "So an organ farm." The spectre scowled. "Land the car and leave me to die. I don't want any of your goddess-damned help."
Zaeed laughed. "Trust me, lady. This one sure as hell isn't an organ farm."
Shepard forced a reassuring smile. "The doctor we're taking you to see is the least hack of a doctor I've ever met. We're pretty sure he still has his medical license. Legally."
Vasir raised a brow, curious. "Name?"
A/N: BSG-Legacy described it best when he said I should consider this as a "Pilot" for a good cable TV series. The goal of those is to tell us the setting, the dynamics, the relationships and the very basic idea of the conflict.
(Yes, I realize that I accidentally re-purposed much of the Shadow Broker DLC chase, but I think it different enough to stand on it's own.)
As always: Thanks for reading, and feedback is always appreciated! No matter how scathing or tiny the critique, I'd love to hear it!