Mass Effect: Vindication
MASS EFFECT: VINDICATION
The year is 2186 CE, mere months before the Reapers invade Earth. One year has passed since the assault on the Collector Base, the destruction of the Alpha Relay, and the "replacement" of the Shadow Broker - all of which were the actions of Commander Shepard. Shepard has since then been arrested by the Alliance and unofficially discharged.
The Illusive Man, leader of the pro-human black ops survivalist group Cerberus, has gained control of the purged Collector Base due to the actions of Commander Shepard. Utilizing his other research facilities as well, he has been conducting immoral experiments on numerous test subjects in order to combat the Reapers. One of which was Paul Grayson, who was eventually indoctrinated by the Reapers due to his implants, and he was hunted down and killed by Cerberus assassin Kai Leng.
The Illusive Man is slowly losing his sanity - due to his encounter of a Reaper artifact during the First Contact War, decades earlier. He has used cloning techniques to breed an army, and has nearly rebuilt his organization since the events of Mass Effect: Retribution. He has even delusioned himself into believing that everything he is doing will stop the Reapers.
What could be done to combat the Reapers? And what of Cerberus? Only time will tell.
Unnamed Space Station, Styx Theta Cluster, Acheron System
The Illusive Man sat in his chair, looking through the viewing window at the star Acheron. The viewing window formed the entire outer wall of his inner sanctum. Acheron shone brightly - merely in the middle stages of its life. In its final stages, its gravity would collapse upon itself - creating a black hole to swallow up the entire system. It reminded him of the galaxy: it was beautiful, but it could be easily snuffed out in a blink of the cosmic eye.
That would never happen to humanity - especially not at the hands of the Reapers. Spinning his chair so that he looked in the opposite direction, he moved his fingers on the holographic interface on his chair.
"Bourbon.", he said. "On the rocks."
Almost instantly, the door opened for one of his assistants to walk inside - holding an empty glass with ice in one hand, and a bottle in the other. She held out the bottle to him for his approval. He gave her a curt nod, and she filled the glass nearly to the brim. He grasped it in his outstretched hand, and she turned around to walk away.
As he took a sip, he savored the sweet flavor of the Kentucky distilled alcohol - reminding him of the old days back on Earth. A beep from his holographic console brought him back to his senses, and he answered the call with a motion of his hand.
A Cerberus Operative materialized himself on the other end.
"Sir.", he said. "Archer ran the tests too hard."
The Illusive Man had no doubts about who he was talking about.
"The subject is dead, then?", he asked - waiting for confirmation.
"The 'Subject' has a name.", the Operative said - unmistakable hostility in his voice.
"David, then.", the Illusive Man conceded - coldly. "What happened?"
He didn't understand why he wanted him to refer to the subject with his name. After Dr. Gavin Archer fused David's intelligence with an AI - David couldn't have been considered human anymore.
"After Shepard re-activated Project Overlord, Archer decided to run the tests again. He pushed David's intelligence beyond its limits - and it killed him.", he said, confirming what the Illusive Man already knew.
"Very well. I am saddened that the project ended like this. This will set our research back for years, decades even.", the Illusive Man replied.
"Then, looks like you'll have to clean up the mess, sir. Garik Chelku out.", said the Operative - cutting off transmission.
Chelku's arrogance will get the better of him someday. The Illusive Man spun his chair around to gaze at the star, sipping on his drink.
Inside a warehouse, an exchange was about to take place. The krogan leaned on one of the walls inside of the dimly lit warehouse, surrounded by his vorch guards. His human contact finally walked inside - a former Alliance Marine.
"So, fill me in. Why are the Blood Pack on the Citadel?", the human asked, starting the conversation.
"We're here because we want to. That's all you need to know.", the krogan replied, the common krogan hostility in his voice.
"So how's the exchange going to work? Should I hand you th-", the human began to ask, but the krogan cut him off.
"This exchange isn't going to happen at all. You tipped off C-Sec, you double-crossed me. You don't get to walk away.", the krogan replied.
Before the human could react, the krogan battlemaster used a motion of his hand - creating a biotic push that slammed the human into the back wall - killing him. As the krogan began to walk away, the door opened. He turned to look to see Kiraje Sazhe, closing the door behind him. The red hue of his visor created an eerie glow within the warehouse.
Kiraje Sazhe walked inside of the warehouse, using his omni-tool to close the door behind him. Looking at the krogan - he was relieved that Je'el actually came through. He was saddened - however, to see his corpse crumpled up in a heap near the door.
"Ceruk.", Kiraje said smugly.
"Back off, turian. If you leave now, I won't have to kill you.", Ceruk replied, gripping his Graal Spike Thrower.
"You cannot kill what you cannot see.", Kiraje replied, activating his Tactical Cloak.
Thankfully, the poor lighting amplified his 'invisibility' inside of the warehouse. He grabbed his M-77 Paladin, and he took four quick shots at the four vorcha guards - each shot killing them. This caused the cloak to uncloak, and he saw the krogan charge at him with the bayonet on his Graal. Kiraje rolled out of the way, grabbing and taking aim with his Phaeston - shredding the krogan's barriers.
Ceruk fired his shotgun, this shot impossible to dodge. It passed through his shields like butter - but thankfully the armor absorbed the rest of the blast. Kiraje took cover behind a stack of crates, and he saw the krogan about to unleash a biotic attack. Idiot, Kiraje thought to himself. He popped out of cover to shoot at the exposed krogan. The rounds penetrated the krogan's thick armor, but the barrage of rounds brought him to his knees - losing his biotic concentration. Grabbing his Paladin, Kiraje walked up to Ceruk and pointed the pistol right between the eyes.
Even a krogan couldn't survive a point-blank shot to the head. But Kiraje had experience with dealing with krogan, and negotiating with them is nigh difficult. Rather than sparing the trouble. He pulled the trigger in a quick triple succession - all three rounds lodging into the krogan's skull.
As the Ceruk slumped to the ground, Kiraje placed the pistol onto his belt and walked to the Dark Star Club - filing his report to Executor Chellick.
A voice from behind a very elegant Asari Matriarch requested her attention. She turned around to face the source of the voice. An Asari commando stood before Matriarch Ir'sai, one of the advisors of the Asari Military.
"Matriarch, the citadel council has requested a small group of commandos to reinforce security in the citadel. Apparently, the Blue Suns, The Eclipse and the Bloodpack are increasing their attempts to infiltrate and C-Sec is having a hard time shutting them out", the asari commando spoke almost as if she was reading from a report.
Matriarch Ir'sai simply paced a little around the room.
"Send Luna", Matriarch Ir'sai responded simply.
"Are you sure Matriarch? Luna is just a child..."
"And one of the most capable Asari Commandos the Academy has seen in the last couple of hundred years. We'll see if the new intensive treatment pays off", the Matriarch interrupted. "The whole point of the project was creating Commandos who could stand on their own against heavy numbers. Thei biotics and combat training strained to the point of almost perfection."
The Asari commando before her softened her expression.
"But is it alright to send your own daughter?", the Asari asked.
"Luna is very special, not only because her "father" was a Quarian. This is the time to prove how special she is", Matriarch Ir'sai replied.
"In anticipation of your words, I brought Luna along. Would you like to speak to her?", the asari asked.
Matriarch Ir'sai's eyes widened.
"I-It's probably best that I do not, fill her in yourself. I have not been a part of my daughter's life since I surrendered her to the Academy", The matriarch said and turned to face the window of her office.
"Very well Matriarch", the commando said and left.
As she went outside she walked over to Luna, who as usual had left her seat in the waiting room and was talking with a bunch of Asari personnel and was actually laughing quite loudly.
"Luna!", the commando spoke.
"O-Oh! Um sorry, nice to meet all of you! Hope to see you again!", she said and ran over to the commando.
"Chief Karra! Sorry, I just haven't visited this place much so I kinda got bored just sitting there", Luna said.
"Sergeant, the Matriarch will see you at another time. She is busy", Chief Karra said with a tint of pity on her voice.
Luna simply smiled like usual and just shook her head.
"It can't be helped right? It's ok, I'll see her later", Luna said.
"We got to go to the Citadel, you remember what we talked about? You'll be reporting to Commander Bailey of C-Sec. Let's go", she replied.
"Understood, will you be travelling with me?", Luna asked.
"Yes, then I'll tend to some business with the Councilor and come back to the Academy", Chief Karra said.
"Shall we?", Luna said and both of the left for the shuttle bay.
"Sorry to bother you, Justicar."
Roused only partially from her meditation, the Asari Justicar smiled faintly beneath her helmet. "That would assume I am easy to bother," she said. "I assure you I am not."
The ship's captain shifted uncomfortably from one foot to the other. "Uh, yes, of course, ma'am."
Slowly, the Justicar turned her head to face the captain and her eyes opened. The captain's heart skipped a beat, his gaze locked on the narrow slit in the Justicar's helmet that revealed her eyes. He'd been around plenty of Asari in his time, but this Justicar's eyes looked impossibly old, even for the Asari. Bright blue, their depth seemed immeasurable and the captain was lost in them.
"You had something you wanted to tell me?" the Justicar asked, though the faint sparkle in her eyes suggested she already knew it. Either way, her words were enough to bring the captain back to himself. He looked away awkwardly.
"Ah, uh, yes ma'am," he stammered. "We're coming in to dock at the Citadel. Thought you'd like to know, y'know, to get your things ready for departure."
The faint blue aura of biotic-centered meditation faded from the Justicar's skin and she stood. Her right hand stretched out toward that side of the room and her hand glowed blue brightly. A small shoulder bag lifted up from the floor and sailed into her waiting hand. She slung it casually over her shoulder, tapped the pistol on her belt, and nodded.
"I am ready," she said. "Thank you."
The captain excused himself in a hurry, and the Justicar left her room, opting to spend her final minutes aboard this ship somewhere else. Though her meditation had been exceedingly useful, she wanted a change of scenery. It wasn't quite what she expected though. After staring out the window for hours on end, even the vastness of the ship's cargo hold felt claustrophobic. She'd been aboard too long. It would be well to leave.
The Justicar felt the faint tremor as the ship docked and she turned to head for the airlock. It was a smaller cargo vessel, so it didn't take her long to reach it. She stopped when she reached the captain and flicked on her omni-tool to process payment.
"As promised," she said. "Half upon boarding, half upon arrival. Thank you for your services, Captain Wade."
The Human bobbed his head. "Uh, sure, no problem."
The Justicar laughed softly as she turned to leave. "You're a terrible liar, Captain."
She left the ship, preparing herself for the challenge ahead: Customs. She had been to the Citadel twice before, first as Amaya T'shaan, and then as Reya. Now, she had no interest in using either name, and she would fight whatever Customs agent she had to in order to deflect any attention from either of the women she used to be. If she had to appeal to Asari Councilor Tevos to do it, then so be it.
The first Customs agent she approached tried to scan her. "I'm a special case," she said, batting the scanner away. The Turian hesitated.
"Orders are orders, ma'am," he said, trying again to bring the scanner to bear on her. Again, she pushed it aside.
"I will speak to your commanding officer," she said, "but I will not submit to a scan. It will tell you two different names. Both women are as good as dead now."
The Turian frowned. "I can't let you in without this," he said.
A low growl forming in the back of her throat, the Justicar sent a biotic pulse into the scanner, effectively ruining it.
She cocked her head. "I believe the proper course of action now would be to direct me to your superior."
The Turian was caught so off guard that the Justicar faced no further opposition from him. Just beyond the door at which he stood, there was a Human male who had the air of being in charge. The Justicar approached him.
"Just got a report about you," he growled.
"I will provide credits for the replacement scanner," the Justicar told him.
He chuckled. "C-Sec thanks you. I'm Commander Bailey. And you are?"
"I'm known as the Justicar."
Bailey stared at her for a moment. "Huh... Councilor Tevos notificed C-Sec you'd be coming. Seemed freaked out of her skin. Terrified you'll start some cross-species scuffle."
The Justicar nodded. "Her fears are not unfounded. My Code demands I punish injustice wherever I find it. I am here for an Asari, but if anyone stands in my way, or does something illegal or unjust in my sight, I am bound to bring them to justice. Asari, Turian, Human, Salarian, Hanar, Vlous, Elcor, Batarian-"
"I get the picture," Bailey said. "Does your Code allow you to turn offenders over to local law enforcement?"
The Justicar paused thoughtfully. "Depending on the crime, that would not be justice."
Bailey frowned. "Maybe I'd better get Councilor Tevos on the line, let her know you've arrived."
The Justicar laughed. "She'll want to send an escort, I'm sure."
"Hope you don't blame me for feeling that's the best option," Bailey said.
"Call her," the Justicar ordered. "I can wait."
One thousand and two hundred programs formed the mind of this particular Geth. Over a thousand programs shouted a single word; "shoot". This Geth had a particular destination for a particular reason. Currently three organic individuals stood in its way. One was a human and the most hated of the three. This man had killed more people than he bothered to remember but that didn't mean he was a galaxy-class killer. He just knew a thing or two about killing a man not looking. The other two were Asari and former dancers. They had no business being street thugs. Once upon a time they had a small but dedicated fan base. But after they both developed a drug problem business turned sour for them. This human man took advantage of the pair. The human wasn't particular clever and only really wanted the two on his side because he thought they were hot. They may look good to some but neither really knew their way around a gun.
Neither had any business being criminals and none of the three had any business scouring the shipping containers of the docks for stuff to steal. This Geth used the connections to the Shadow Broker thanks to favours called in by the geth unit Legion in order to get himself transported to the Citadel. In its mission to avenge the "deaths" of its fellow line units this Geth had travelled to the centre of the universe in order to find a particular human male with ties to Cerberus This Geth knew of three particular targets he could interrogate for information into Cerberus with the most prominent one being a man called Henry Lawson who was residing in the Citadel whilst on vacation. This Geth used Geth and Shadow Broker resources to smuggle itself aboard the Old Machine space station in secrecy and with plans of the Keeper Tunnels.
After being smuggled inside a shipping container, this Geth broke out of his container and was confronted by the group of would-be-thieves who had been by chance turning the corner. The human male raised his pistol towards the Geth, "Wooo-hooo! Ladies we've hit it big time! Imagine what people'll pay for a dead gef!"
"Johnny, this is serious! I mean it's a geth! We should report this to C-Sec!" Replied one of the asari ladies. This Geth's vision zoomed towards the woman’s hands and the pistol they grasped. Her hands were shaking and if shot she'd mostly likely miss. Certain programs began to wonder if she'd have to die.
The man told her to shut up and called her a word the Geth recognised as one of those human "swear word" that they used to insult one another. "P'ease. C-Sec would bust our backsides are our snooping. Nah, but I knew people who'd play good money for..." The greesey haired human was interrupted by the piercing sound of a single gunshot. As the human male shouted at his women the Geth decided enough was enough. The quick draw of the rifle meant the Geth didn't have time to aim for a clean head-shot but the plasma bullet did tore through the men's knee. The man dropped to the floor and hugged his knee as he cried out more of what the Geth believed to be "swear words".
"Goddess," One of the asari whispered before turning around and running for her life.
The other was a braver for a few seconds. She pulled the trigger but only managed to hit a nearby container. The handgun was foreign to her and it particulary jumped out of her hands. She followed her asari partner-in-crime and sprint as fast as her terror would allow her.
The Geth now stood over the human male and wondered if this human deserved execution. The man wasn't helping his case that he should live. "Who do you think you are you blasted robot? You don't mess with me! I have contacts!! You are dead! You hear me? Dead!!" The Geth was amused to hear the humans voice had begun more high pitched with each threat he threw at his judge, jury and executioner. He practically squeaked his last threat. A census was drawn and the rifle was put away. The Geth hoped this human would learn from the lesson the Geth provided. While no one would miss this scum bag, he no longer posed no threat to the Geth. As pain had consumed his mind he'd forgotten about his handgun had landed right beside him.
As the man screamed threats he could never follow through on the Geth turned and walked away. It had a Cerberus agent he needed to meet. This little pointless diversion with would-be-thieves had cost it time.
After a long journey Chief Karra and Luna finally made it to the citadel. It was quite different from what Luna recalled. It was only natural after what happened with Sovereing.
The asari councilor was waiting in the shuttle bay. Followed by three Asari commandos. Luna had not met the councilor formally so she saluted the councilor. Chief Karra stood beside both Luna and Councilor Tevos. Luna could tell the councilor was pressing to get things over and done with, she was shifting her weight from leg to leg.
"Councilor Tevos, this is Luna Ir'sai, one of our most promising, yet really young children commandos.
Luna once again saluted the councilor, but she just eyed her and turned to Karra.
"Seems like she'll do... at least for now", The councilor said and turned to Luna. "Child, there is a justicar in the citadel. She has just arrived, and I need someone to cater to her needs and make sure she doesn't get into trouble with local law enforcement. Justicars are an important part of Asari culture, but their code does not necesarily go hand in hand with galactic law. So for this, I need someone who won't be afraid to face the Justicar".
One would expect Luna to be appalled by the fact that she seemed to be getting a babysitting job, but her demeanor suddenly changed and she had a smile on her face almost going from ear to ear.
"Oh by the goddess! A Justicar, finally a chance to get close to one! Of course Councilor, you can count on me!", Luna said so over excitedly, so much so that Karra had to wave to her so she would keep her excitement in check.
"Then it is settled, report to Commander Bailey in C-Sec. Karra, please come with me, I need to discuss things with you. Luna, go to the travel module and ask for a taxi to the C-Sec office", the Councilor said and left with Karra who simply waved to Luna as she left.
After some time of simply going around the citadel, Luna finally arrived at the office of Commander Bailey. She went in and saw the commander sitting at his desk.
"Commander Bailey, I am Luna Ir'sai, Asari commando, I'm on orders of the Asari Councilor to accompany the Justicar that has arrived in the city", Luna said.
Bailey laughed humorlessly. "Good. Too much longer and I think she'd have ventured out on her own. She keeps saying she knows the Citadel as good or better than she knows Thessia or Illium."
He pointed to an armored and helmeted woman standing by a nearby window. "There's your Justicar. Oh, and one more word of advice, Ms. Ir'sai. Don't ask her name. Dunno why, but she's determined not to give one. Broke our DNA scanner on her way in so we wouldn't get any name but "Justicar" for her."
Luna saluted Commander Bailey and walked over to the Justicar.
"It is an honor to meet you Justicar, I hope I can be of service", Luna said, almost unable to hide the excitement in her voice. Not that she had any intention of actually concealing them. She was still an Asari child because of her age, but her skills were beyond her years. And having this opportunity to see a part of her culture that no one anymore really gets a chance to see nowadays, she had to jump on the chance. Besides, being out of the academy was a nice change of pace, even if her own pace was mostly in hypermode.
At Luna's approach, the Justicar turned to face her, examining her from head to foot as she spoke. The excited tone was indeed unmistakable and beneath her helmet, the Justicar smiled warmly. Through the narrow slit in her helmet, her blue eyes sparkled, conveying a mixture of amusement and understanding.
"I'm sure you will, young one," she said. She gestured for Luna to follow as she headed for the nearest door into Zakera Ward.
"Councilor Tevos and Commander Bailey are right to fear my presence," she went on. She led Luna through the crowd with a purposeful stride, her destination clearly known to her. "It is neither willingly nor lightly that I have returned to the Citadel. I don't imagine Tevos has told you anything. She knows very little herself."
As she walked, the Justicar spared another brief glance at Luna. "You're a Commando. Tevos wouldn't send anyone else, and your build and stride give you away. Your eyes..." She hesitated, and when she spoke again, her voice was quieter, and tainted with regret. "Heavens, child. You're so young."
Kiraje reached the Dark Star, and to his disappointment, it was closed. "Closed for maintenance", the sign read. Shaking his head, he walked down the busy street and into an elevator. Here we go again., he thought to himself as he heard the elevator music. He wanted nothing more than to burn those damn speakers in the elevator. The music was so annoying, especially if one has been on the Citadel as long as he has. Finally, he reached his destination: C-Sec HQ.
He saw the elderly Commander standing near the wall. Smiling he walked towards him, shaking his hand.
"A pleasure to see you again, Commander.", he said.
"Likewise, sir. We're getting a replacement scanner. Our old one...well...broke", Bailey replied, chuckling.
"Bailey, you have to get out of the office more often. Once the Dark Star reopens tomorrow, drinks are on me.", Kiraje said, lightening up the conversation.
"Sure, sure. Provided the flood of paperwork of a Justicar being here doesn't kill me first. And not just any Justicar, THE Justicar.", Bailey replied.
Kiraje looked to his left to see two asari in the distance, one wearing the armor of a commando - the other wearing full body armor, with a helmet blocking her facial features.
"I see. Well then, have fun with all the red tape.", Kiraje said, sitting in one of the chairs across the room.
"There is one other thing. The Executor would like to talk to you. Don't keep him waiting too long.", Bailey said, sitting back down behind his desk. And now time for all the bureaucratic paperwork., Bailey thought to himself.
The Keeper tunnels stretched further than the eye of could see and the Geth continued on knowing the long walk it had before it. Providing nothing stopped it, the Geth predicted it had at least two days of solid walking to do before it reached it destination. If it were an organic then the Geth could have taken transportation and reached his target within minutes. But he was a geth. It's appearance would cause horror and alarm, and his target would be aware of its presence. The Geth required secrecy. The shadow broker provided the targets itinerary and the Geth knew that Henry Lawson would be in the Citadel for a month. Time was not of the essence.
Either organics didn't know about or cared about the tunnels because the Geth never saw a living soul as it began the first leg of its journey. The Geth came to a full stop when he saw a Keeper crawl past. It took a moments thought but the Geth decided his previous statement was still accurate. The Geth had yet to see a living soul, it didn't consider the Keepers to have souls. To the Geth souls were important and the basis of the most important question to the Geth; do these units have a soul? It was the question that sparked the war between the Geth and their creators. The Keepers were nothing but puppets of the Old Machines.
"The old machines," The Geth, spitting the name out loud without realizing why. This Geth, before it had been upgraded and elevated to the platform it was now, worshipped the Old Machines as a god. In a former life this unit believed that by only having the Old Machines favour that the geth could be elevated to their desired state. But then the Shepard-Commander came and freed it and it's fellow units from the Old Machines religion. Then it was upgraded to the point where it could look back and realize its mistakes. The salvation of the geth didn't lie with the Old Machines. This Geths mission was to find out where it did lie, but not that didn't matter any more. All that mattered was revenge so the Geth continued walking. It had a long way to go.
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