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Old 08-09-2008, 11:16 PM   #1
Tysyacha
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Mass Effect II: Reckoning

MASS EFFECT II: RECKONING
by Corinthian and Tysyacha

PROLOGUE: Citadel Station Holding Cells, 1400 Hours

Captain John Shepard, newly promoted from Commander after the events of the past two months, did not like prisons. He had barely avoided one in his teenage years, being a member of the Tenth Street Reds back on Earth. However, here he was, strolling down the immaculately-polished tile hallway of the Citadel Station Holding Cells. He struggled to maintain his Alliance Marine composure, knowing that locked within these metal cages were some of the most ruthless criminals ever to roam Citadel space. Some of them, the official story went, wanted to redeem themselves after the debacle with Saren, and so they had offered to "don the Onyx" and join the military.

However, Shepard remembered the wisecrack of Joker, the ace pilot of the NORMANDY VI: "Yeah, that is the official story, but only an idiot believes it."

The Captain glanced warily to his left and right. He was supposed to leave his subordinate officer, and the ship he had formerly commanded, in the hands of scum like these people? They couldn't even trust themselves to stay within the law, let alone submit themselves to the discipline that the Alliance military required. He shook his head. This was hopeless. The Reapers might as well invade if this was the best that humanity and other species had to offer! Making sure that the stomp-stomp-stomp of his polished boots rang throughout the corridor, Shepard stopped at the holding cells' receptionist's desk. A human female, name-tagged "Jane," smiled.

"How can I help you?" she asked, a bit intimidated at Shepard's slight scowl.

"You've got to be kidding me," said the Captain. "Are you saying that these hardened criminals want to serve in our ranks? They're filthy thieves and murderers, and I suspect that some of them would like nothing better than to try and stab a 'shiv' into my chest as soon as they get out of their cells. You want me to believe that they'll join up?"

"Indeed, Captain," replied Jane, bowing her head and staring down at the floor. "These are the common rabble, and most of them would sooner have a date with a lethal injection needle than suit up in uniform. However, there is one prisoner I'd like you to meet, and she's only being kept up here so we can keep a closer eye on her. Her name is Yeru L'vov, and she's an asari."

"Asari, hmm?" Shepard scratched his chin, which was beginning to develop whiskers already. "What's she in for? Her kind don't usually get into trouble."

Jane lowered her voice, almost to a whisper. "Captain, she's a commando. There aren't many like her kind in the galaxy. That said, I must warn you that she served under Matriarch Benezia when Saren Arterius was alive. She's probably one of her minions whom you didn't kill." Shepard clenched his teeth in cold fury, and Jane quickly decided to switch tactics. "Ehm, she could prove a very useful ally in your fight against the Reapers. Sir." She saluted, but Shepard didn't pay much attention. She'd performed it too late.

"What's her inmate number? I won't address her by name unless she shows me the proper respect." Shepard took a step back from the trembling Jane.

"854," said the receptionist, trying to be helpful, and then she dared to risk a question: "Captain? If I may ask, where did your subordinate officer go?"

"Had to use the head," answered Shepard, and when Jane raised an eyebrow, the Captain rolled his eyes. "Latrine," he grumbled, hoping that she would understand the military term. Blushing a little, Jane nodded and gestured toward one of the holding cells with a white metal lattice. "Yeru--I mean prisoner 854--is in there," she said and hurriedly returned to typing upon her computer keyboard. Shepard had never seen anyone work so fast.

The Captain, walking a little bit more quietly now, approached the cell. "854?"

A smooth, young-looking asari head peeked between the bars. "Yes, sir?"

"Are you Yeru L'vov, asari commando, former servant of Matriarch Benezia?"

When the asari nodded, Shepard pointed a muscular finger at her. "Look here, 854. My subordinate officer's coming out to take a look at you soon. If you're deemed a potential asset to the Alliance military, and if you remember your proper place in the grand scheme of things, you'll be allowed to join. Understand?" Another meek nod from the Matriarch's former minion. "If, however, you show any disrespect to me or to the officer evaluating you, I'll make sure you get put on the hard labor roster for the next two years!"

Biting her lower lip, the prisoner stepped backward slightly. Shepard turned at a slight noise that reverberated throughout the holding cells. Did one of the doors that was supposed to cage these animals malfunction and open?

No--it was only the sound of another inmate dropping his metal lunch plate. The Captain shook his head again, hoping his subordinate would arrive quickly.

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Old 08-15-2008, 07:30 PM   #2
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After a few moments of awkward silence, Shepard checked his digital chrono. Unless the lower-ranking officer had found some sort of encrypted computer console in the latrine that needed hacking or something like that, it was taking an awfully long time for the "urgent mission" to be completed. Having a natural dislike of both utter quiet and waiting around in it, the NORMANDY's former Commander turned to Yeru once again. He wanted to size her up.

"What's your story, 854? How did you first come to serve under Matriarch Benezia?" He started to lean on the latticework, sticking his large fingers into its tiny holes, but then decided such an action was too casual for an encounter like this.

"When I first heard of her desire to try and dissuade Saren Arterius from his plan to bring back the Reapers," came the asari's lilting voice, "I found it not only bold, but compassionate and self-sacrificial as well. Benezia was willing to give her life for an enemy's sake, and I'd always wanted to follow in the footsteps of one such as she. I hoped that, through her, I would not only help redeem Saren, but also myself.

"You see, though I am an asari, I have absolutely no talent for biotics. For my people, this is akin to living without arms and legs. Without a heart, even. I was a social outcast among my peers, and could not find work anywhere except perhaps as a dancer in some local club. I wanted better for myself, and so I thought I'd take commando training. At first, no one would volunteer to be my teacher even though I offered to pay tuition at our local military complex. Once I filled out my enrollment application, revealing my lack of biotic capability, I was as good as denied. Until Matriarch Benezia saw me."

"Where?" asked Shepard. "Did she come to visit the training facility?"

"Indeed. She was looking for recruits, an army of personal bodyguards. When I stepped forward, she took a look at me and said, 'Are you a skilled biotic?' When I answered in the negative, she said, 'Good. I need someone on my team who can use a pistol far more accurately than nodules of element zero in her brain. Biotic powers do great damage, but bullets do just as well.' I humbly asked whom she needed protection from, and she replied, 'It is not I who need protection, but a turian who needs protection from himself. His name is Saren Arterius, and he has become a danger to the entire galaxy."

Managing a rueful smile, Yeru blinked back a tear. "The rest is history."

Shepard leaned forward. "How old are you?"

"Two hundred. I'm still in the Maiden stage of my life, sir."

"Have you any family of which to speak?"

"Back on Thessia, yes, but I have not had any contact with them since the death of Matriarch Benezia. They do not know of my fate here in prison."

The Captain nodded. Good. The less to tie you down when the fate of all organic life is in the balance, the better. "Any weapon specializations?"

"Pistols, sir. I'm a master marksman," she added, lowering her eyes modestly.

"Even though you are not a biotic, do you have any other physical talents?"

Yeru swallowed hard and nodded. "During my service in Benezia's retinue, I learned a technique called blitzing. It's sort of an 'overclock state' for organics such as myself, a berserker frenzy. As such, it's similar to Overkill, with the added benefit of increased health regeneration, but I must pay close attention to my breathing and body temperature while I am in this state. If I do not, I can fall into anaphylactic shock and...die." She fell gravely silent.

Shepard mulled this over for a while. If Yeru spoke the truth, then she would indeed be an asset to this mission to browbeat the Reapers into dark space once again. If not, well, she would be scrubbing floors and latrines for the next two years. Not to mention polishing sheet metal and breaking rocks.

Hearing footsteps and a slight cough behind him, the Captain whirled around. "There you are!" he cried. "It's about time you showed up." His subordinate officer had at last arrived on the scene after a constitutional!
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Old 08-16-2008, 05:51 PM   #3
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CHAPTER ONE

Citadel Holding Cells, 1415 Hours (This Installment by Corinthian)

The Turian Commander's boots made a satisfying click against the hard floor of the prison facilities. He glanced around, amazed at the dregs of society. The prospect of using them as soldiers was, in his mind, foolish. These would more quickly gun down their fellows and run for the hills rather than stand and do battle with the Geth. The prison receptionist's eyes widened as she saw him, but gestured for him to follow into an open cell, where Captain Shepard and an Asari were talking.

"Apologies, Captain." Kadeus rubbed the sleeve of his onyx uniform. "I had some problems in the head." The less said about that the better.

An Asari. Well, that's good. Now we won't have to deal with the Asari clamoring to have a representative onboard, but I doubt this would be what they had in mind.

He had caught the tail end of her conversation with Captain Shepard. In his estimation, the prospect of a berserk Asari with a gun charging Geth was rather foolish, but the Turian way was, he admitted, not the only way.

The receptionist who had guided him here pressed a note into his hand. He glanced at it, quickly absorbing the short-form briefing on the Asari.

"Commander Kadeus Amar, and you are Yeru L'vov, formerly in the service of Matriarch Benezia." He didn't extend a hand to the Asari, staring at the woman with suspicion clearly visible in his eyes. What do you really want? He wasn't about to let his guard down. The Matriarch might have had good intentions, but he wasn't going to trust this Asari based on her having good intentions before being warped by Sovereign. Just because Sovereign was dead doesn't mean its influence was gone.

"Yes, that's correct," the Asari said.

He nodded curtly, glancing down at her dossier. Asari Commando...she could have been a Spectre, if she hadn't fouled her life. Still, this is impressive. Her physical capabilities alone made her a good choice for a Special Operations team, but he needed to be sure he could rely on the Asari to watch his back instead of shooting it.

Shepard nodded at him and stepped outside the cell, leaving the Turian alone with Yeru.

"I'm going to ask you a few questions. Why did you continue to assist Benezia even after her judgment was compromised?" He knew the true answer. The real test here wasn't in what she told him, but in what she said.

(This Installment by Tysyacha)

Again, just as she had before she told Captain Shepard about her "blitzing" combat technique, Yeru swallowed hard. She knew this would be difficult to admit, for it was an admission of her own weakness and lack of control over her mental faculties. Still, she wanted no more to lie to this Turian than she wanted to jump off the nearest bridge--or to spend the rest of her life in prison. Thus, Yeru replied:

"Neither Benezia nor I had any real understanding of what was happening to us until too late. You see, it was not only Saren Arterius who exercised his power and influence over us. He commanded an incredibly powerful dreadnought, called Sovereign, which we both believed was an artifact of the Reapers. However, it turned out that Sovereign was an actual Reaper, not just an artifact that they owned or had discovered, and it was manipulating all of our organic minds--Saren's, Benezia's, my own.

"I knew Benezia's judgment had been compromised at about the halfway point of our mission, but I did not reveal this to her because Sovereign was also compromising mine. I was coming to believe Saren was right, that organics needed to obey the Reapers instead of fight them. I knew something was going on inside my mind, but no matter how hard I fought--in fact, the harder I fought--the more I became indoctrinated with Sovereign's frame of mind. It was taking hold, and I was finding myself powerless."

Yeru looked at the Turian, who called himself Kadeus Amar, Commander. Her gaze encompassed him.

"You don't trust me. Good. At this point, I don't fully trust myself, because even though Sovereign was destroyed, its doctrines still replay themselves in the quiet of my thoughts from time to time. Watch me, as you should, because you may be one of the only ones who can pull me back from the brink of death or betrayal, revealing our plans to the Reapers."

Yeru stepped back, waiting for the Commander's response. Whether he accepted her or not, she had said her piece and made peace with her fate.
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Old 08-16-2008, 06:03 PM   #4
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(This Installment by Corinthian)

Kadeus stared into the Asari's eyes, searching for something. Then, the Turian nodded curtly. If she's lying to me, she's one of the most capable ones I've seen, even from her kind.

He looked down at her dossier. All her documented capabilities seemed perfect for the assignment. Her lack of Biotic abilities made her a useless Huntress, but he wasn't recruiting for the Spectres, he was assembling a team. This would placate the Asari as well as giving him someone else who knew how to handle herself in a firefight. If I can trust Humans, then I can trust this Asari. Her lack of Biotic abilties made her a uniquely attractive prospect. Biotic capabilties were a wild card that he didn't need in a loose cannon.

She's honest, but she's not giving me good reasons to trust her. Ironically, that made up his mind. He needed someone he could count on to tell him what he needed to hear, not what they thought he wanted to hear, and there wasn't much of a bigger reason to go for what he wanted to hear than when your life and liberty is on the line.

"I think I can trust you, Commando." The Turian turned around, the receptionist staring at him. "Miss...Jane, kindly get me the forms to transfer Miss L'vov to the Normandy."

(This Installment by Tysyacha)

"Right away, Commander." Jane nodded and returned to her computer, opening classified files with a muted beep. As for the Turian, he motioned for Yeru to follow him. She obeyed, placing her hands in front of her in a meditative position, at least for standing.

Captain Shepard brought up the rear, grumbling, "It's time we got out of this sterile, perma-lit hellhole," intimidating the prisoners with the scowls he threw their way as he strode out the door. His business here was finished, and though he wanted to see Yeru's combat skills for himself, he knew a prison wasn't the proper place to display them. Or was it? The herd needed thinning. Keeping his thoughts to himself, Shepard was irritated by a sudden racket from the holoviewer in the holding cells' foyer.

"Listen, my brethren! The galaxy is in peril! We are paying a price for our selfishness and our greed, but there is still hope for redemption. Listen! Listen!"

Yeru looked up, intrigued by the wildly-gesturing human male on the holoviewer screen. "Who's that?"

Shepard gently nudged the Asari in the back with his Avenger VII assault rifle. "Don't know, don't care. Keep moving." The three exited the holding cell area of Citadel Station, not sure where to go next. The place was practically crawling with recruits for Commander Amar's team, but where to find the right ones for the job? He himself didn't exactly know.

Something quickly caught his eye, however. In the lobby of the Presidium, near the Avina VI console, a young human female in a patriotic leotard was signing autographs from adoring fans. The outfit she wore bore the silver emblem of the Systems Alliance. She appeared to be some sort of gymnast or other athlete. One thing was very odd about her, however. Around her waist was--a pistol belt?

Yeru looked at Kadeus quizzically, though she wasn't sure if he saw her expression. Nevertheless, she followed him up to where the comely athlete stood. "Excuse me, Miss," said Kadeus. "Would you mind telling me why you're wearing a pistol if you're just signing autographs?" He gestured to her belt.

"I'm also a soldier," snapped the gymnast, putting one hand on her hip. "Private Amanda Jones, first class, Alliance Marines. Now, if you'll excuse me, I'll return to signing autographs. If you're a fan, get in line." Amanda gestured toward the back of it, which was quite a ways away from the front.

(This Installment by Corinthian)

Kadeus stopped in his tracks, flabbergasted for a moment. I am wearing insignia, right? He glanced down, saw the Commander's pips on his uniform, then looked at Shepard. Also wearing uniform. He rubbed his crests, feeling a headache building. If there was one thing he never failed to learn, it was that for every human who was a credit not just to his race, but to the Council itself, there were a thousand more that were, well...

Shepard had a sarcastic smirk on his face as he looked at the girl. A glance passed between them, an unspoken challenge. Do you dress her down, or me?

Kadeus won. Or maybe lost, given the circumstances.

The Turian got a stern, angry look on his face before bellowing out at the top of his lungs, "PRIVATE, WHY ARE YOU OUT OF UNIFORM!?"

More than a few of the people in the line jumped, and nearly all of them stared at the rather odd combination of a Turian in full Systems Alliance regalia, but considering the apparent fury on his face, none of them dared make a comment. Kadeus stared the human woman full in the eye, feeling the plates of his exoskeleton flexing, one eye pulsing like he had completely lost his mind.

(This Installment by Tysyacha)

Amanda Jones nearly toppled over backward at the strength and force of Commander Amar's fury. Her face beginning to burn bright red, she mumbled, "Sir, I completely apologize, but these people know me more as a gymnast than as a soldier. Plus, I'm on a promotional tour for the Systems Alliance World Gymnastics Team, so..." She trailed off, hoping that the big, angry Turian would understand, but at the same time knowing that her answer was anything but placating. "I'm the best in the world, sir. Here. Let me show you." She turned to her fans and then sprinted off to an empty area of the Presidium plaza. Praying not to wet her leotard because she was still rattled, Amanda ran and threw herself into a tumbling pass.

The fans erupted into wild cheers and applause, born as much out of their fear of Commander Amar as their idolization of Amanda and her phenomenal abilities. They didn't want this Turian murdering their favorite gymnast right there on the spot, which is what some of them thought he would do if he got the chance. When Amanda returned to the general vicinity of Shepard, Yeru, and Kadeus, she bowed and blushed some more. "I can't do that in full military garb, sir."

Yeru, who had been watching the proceedings with both apprehension and amazement, approached Amanda, her weapon holstered at her side. "You're a biotic, aren't you?" When Amanda nodded, not quite understanding how Yeru had known that from just looking at her, the Asari replied, "No one, human or other organic, could do stunts like that without the use of biotic augmentation. You're phenomenal."

"Thanks!" Amanda cried, glad that at least someone at the big, angry Turian's side liked her routine. "I have been doing that since I was two, or at least preparing myself." She was starting to calm down.

Kadeus turned to the sweating and shaking girl. "If you're half as good with a pistol as you are at twists and somersaults in midair, I could use you on my team. That is, if you show the proper respect for your other designation, Private," he growled.

Amanda saluted. "Yes, sir!" she barked, making a few of her fans at the front of the line back up. Then she noticed the other insignia on her leotard: a red and white button that read, "HUMANITY ALL THE WAY!" Yeru, feeling betrayed at this sign of the gymnast's possible xenophobia, slunk back and drew her pistol.

"What game are you trying to play?" she drawled coldly, her anger rising, but then she felt the force of her entire body being lifted, turned, and shoved to the wall, although more in discipline than in hostility. She felt Kadeus' hand around her neck, squeezing ever so gently. Yeru's heart began to beat fast.
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Old 08-16-2008, 07:35 PM   #5
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(This Installment by Corinthian)

Kadeus' free hand gripped the Asari's pistol and almost casually disarmed her, passing the pistol off to the still-casually watching Shepard.

"Stand down, Commando!" He released his grip on her throat. Less than an hour after getting released from lockup and she's pulling weapons on SA personnel.

He glanced at Amanda, frowning at the little button, but patriotic fervor was hardly an issue to him. "Private, what unit are you currently attached to?"

"107th Ravens, Commander, on the SSV Kilimanjaro, Sir!"

"I will contact your commanding officer and arrange for your transfer to the Normandy. In the meantime, I believe you should return to your ship. And as for you..."

He turned the Asari around and dug around in his uniform for restraints.

He lowered his voice. They had created more than enough of a scene already. "...What the hell is wrong with you, Commando?"

(This Installment by Tysyacha)

Yeru knelt down before Kadeus, tears streaming down her pale blue face. "Buttons and slogans like that get used and discarded with impunity, but in this case I don't think the girl knows what her motto means. It's not just a hackneyed phrase to promote the success of humanity, but also a rallying cry for a terrorist group called the Pure Race. The Pure Race, naturally, is a group of humans that is dedicated to the subjugation of all other species, especially Asari, whom they view as their immediate rivals."

She slowly dared to look up at the Commander. "I had to defend Matriarch Benezia from a group of them on Noveria. Peak 15. As you know, many other extremist sects congregate up there for rallies and retreats, and it just so happened that the Pure Race was hosting one at the same time Matriarch Benezia wanted to investigate the Rachni Queen that Noveria was hiding. Naturally, we encountered them at a revival tent in the Aleutsk Valley in the bitter cold, and they would not let us pass. They wanted to kill us. We had to either die or fight to the death, and so we did the latter. Those were the last words the members of the Pure Race group said before they either charged or died. I didn't think there would be any remnants, and I don't believe the gymnast is one. Nevertheless, I reacted, and I will not make such a grave mistake again." Yeru bowed her head, extending her wrists for restraint.

Kadeus paused. Yeru didn't seem to be lying at all--in fact, the transparency of her words could be seen even by a salarian--but then again, he couldn't let this incident go without punishment. If members of his team started attacking one another, that was one more factor in the Reapers' favor! He mulled over what to do with the trembling Asari when Shepard leaned over her kneeling body to whisper to him.

"Berserk, ain't she? I like that in a woman, but not this one." He looked at Kadeus as if to say, Keep a much closer eye on her than you do Amanda. The gymnast may be a xenophobe, but Yeru, my friend, is a loose cannon. Heed my warning at your peril.

Amanda came storming back toward the group and turned to Kadeus. "What the hell, sir? Why did she just draw her weapon on me? Doesn't she know that this is Citadel Station, and on the biggest spaceport in the galaxy, you don't go around shooting people who are supposed to be your allies?" Her stare would have melted metal, not only butter.

The Turian didn't think he should waste his breath trying to explain the Pure Race and its assault on Matriarch Benezia to the girl. Instead, he gestured toward Yeru, who wiped off Amanda's sweaty feet by way of apology with a handkerchief she carried.

"Death shall not come for you by my hand," Yeru said humbly, her tears beginning to dry on her face. "This I swear by the Goddess, by the Asari, and by All That Is." Touched, a trembling Amanda helped her to rise.

(This Installment by Corinthian)

Kaedus sighed. He had suspected that Yeru was a loose cannon, but he'd hoped the proverbial moorings were stronger than this. He nodded at the Asari's apology, but when the human girl hoisted her to her feet, he grabbed her wrists and handcuffed her, gritting his teeth with anger.

He whispered to her, "I understand, and I'm sorry, but unfortunately, I can't just let this go." He gestured to a number of C-Sec officers who had approached during the near-firefight.

"I've got control of this, officer."

The other Turian glanced at the handcuffed Asari, then back at Kadeus. "No, sir. Citadel law applies here, not what..." The Turian's voice trailed off as he looked at Kadeus' insignia.

The other officer, a human woman, took over. "Commander, Citadel law supersedes the authority of the Systems Alliance."

Kadeus pointed at Shepard. "I'm with him. This is Spectre business."

The woman blanched, and the Turian stepped back uncomfortably. "Alright, sir."

He turned halfway and glanced back at Amanda. "I reccomend you return to the Kilimanjaro and pack your effects. The Normandy won't wait for you, we ship out at 1800 hours." He then took Yeru gently but firmly by the wrists and led her towards the Normandy.

(This Installment by Tysyacha)

Yeru did not resist, or even attempt to resist, when Kadeus led her away towards the Normandy VI. She knew what she had done, and she was willing to pay the price for it. Thus, when the Commander and she boarded the ship, the Asari was prepared to face whatever punishment the Turian had in mind for her.

Commander Amar led Yeru toward the rear of the vessel and downward a ways, where the communal latrines and laundry sinks were built. He turned toward a passing crewmember and mumbled a few words in her ear, and she soon returned with a large metal drum of cleaning supplies and detergents.

"The latrines haven't been exactly pristine lately," he explained, gesturing toward the tile-walled bathroom with a slight roll of his eyes. "Lazy people are truly annoying. Also, that laundry sink over there is filled with some of the crew's personal effects, including my own. If everything's scrubbed clean and spotless by the time I return, I'll be duly impressed." He smiled (as much as a Turian could smile) and turned to leave, not thinking it necessary to warn Yeru of what would happen if she shirked her duties-as-penance. Part of him hated to see such a powerful Asari lowered to such menial work, but another part wanted to see what she would do, and how well.

Yeru saluted crisply and wandered into the bathroom with the drum of cleaning supplies. Kadeus left the Normandy and returned to the Presidium level of Citadel Station, where he saw a glowing Avina console waiting to assist him. He stepped toward it.

"Turians are a waste of organic flesh," she said.

Kadeus raised an eyebrow. Had Avina really said that, or were his ears playing tricks on him?

"Excuse me?" he asked her. Avina stared blankly.

"Turians should be hired as latrine attendants, scrubbing the remants of waste from the underside of the bowl," Avina announced unceremoniously, not aware of what "she" was saying (but, then again, how could she, being only a VI and not an AI?)

"Turians are both jokers and jokes," Avina said, and this time Kadeus looked past her to see a snickering male Quarian peeking out from behind the wall. He quickly ducked back behind the wall, hoping that the actual Turian had not seen him. Fat chance.

"I hate Turians." This time, Kadeus was truly angry. He went behind the wall.

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Old 08-18-2008, 10:00 PM   #6
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(This Installment by Corinthian)

Kadeus smiled. It wasn't friendly or humored; it was a predator's smile, filled with threat. The urge to beat the Quarian to a pulp and then have him removed from the Citadel via spacing was almost overpowering, but he had a better use in mind for the Quarian.

"Yes, you will correct Avina, Quarian. And after that, you will go into C-Sec custody. Tampering with Citadel VI is a serious offense, punishable under the Cyberterrorism Act." An edge was in his voice. The Commander was dead serious. Still...the kind of protection around a VI Matrix of any kind, particularly Avina...this Quarian is capable. I doubt they'd get him for Cyberterrorism. More likely to get Vandalism.

"Cyberterrorism!? It was just a prank!"

"You'll find that C-Sec isn't particularly interested in your reasoning, but you're perfectly free to plead 'Practical Joke' to a court."

"You can't be serious!" Panic was tinting the Quarian's voice now, noticeable even through the environmental suit.

Kadeus stared through the visor, wishing he could properly look the Quarian in the eye. This was getting irritating, and he could see C-Sec Enforcement Officers moving through the crowd, staring at the Turian threatening the Quarian. He holstered his weapon. The Salarian officer stared at him.

"Is there a problem here, sir?"

He looked at the Salarian, wondering. I could save him from a harsh prison sentence. The Quarians know more about the Geth than anyone, the foremost experts on AI in known space, and this one hacked into one of the most well-protected mainframes that I've ever seen.

"No, I don't think so. The problem has been solved."

The Salarian looked Kadeus in the eye, then nodded and stepped back. The crowd slowly dispersed as the weapon went away.

"What was that about?"

"I've got an offer for you, Quarian, and a choice. You can either go with C-Sec and probably see the inside of a jail cell for a very long time..."

"...Or?"

"You can come with me."

(This Installment by Tysyacha)

The Quarian nodded. "My name is Niko, and I'd pick you over prison any day, wherever you're going to go." He raised his hands in surrender and followed the Commander to where Avina "stood", insulting one of the human ladies.

"Just a minute," Niko said. "I can fix her." He knelt down and brought out his omni-tool. After a few minutes, he heard a blipping sound from the VI console and then the words, "Insult Protocol Overridden. My name is Avina. How may I assist you?" The finely-dressed woman looked confused, but then she soon asked Avina a rudimentary question. When the VI responded politely, Kadeus nodded and motioned for the Quarian to follow him out of the Citadel Presidium. Niko obeyed, keeping a wary eye on everyone.

"I'm taking you to my ship, called the Normandy VI," announced the Turian. "My full name is Commander Kadeus Amar, but you may call me 'sir'. We're going on a mission to locate the synthetic vessels called the Reapers and destroy them." Niko stopped cold. Perhaps he would have preferred prison after all, but he soon began following in the stalwart Commander's footsteps again. "Do you understand?"

"Yes, sir." The two boarded the Normandy, where Yeru L'vov was just then emerging from the bathroom, having washed the latrines, sinks, and floor. She saluted Kadeus, carrying her drum of cleaning supplies in her left hand, and glanced curiously at the Quarian male.

Niko turned his head toward Kadeus. "I must say I am impressed, sir. Only the richest military personnel can afford to have maids and servants aboard their own ships." Through his visor, he lustfully appraised Yeru.

"I must have a word with my 'maid' before she starts on the laundry," Kadeus announced. He beckoned for Yeru to come to his side, and the Asari obeyed. He took her drum of detergents and cleaning agents, laying it on the floor, and gave her his 'other' pistol, which was (luckily for his intended victim) full of blanks. "Upon my order, Yeru," he said sternly, gesturing toward Niko. "One. Two. Three. Kill!"

Yeru aimed the pistol and proceeded to fill Niko's environmental suit full of dents. The Quarian staggered back, obviously unprepared for the onslaught.

"Aaaaah! I surrender! I surrender! Geez! Back off!"

"Stand down, Commando," ordered Kadeus, and the confused Asari did so. "Niko, I'd like you to meet Yeru L'vov, an Asari soldier who served under the late Matriarch Benezia. I set her to a little hard labor task as a test, and you'll probably get the same one if you continue to make derogatory assumptions about my crew." Niko nodded his visored head, knee-jerk style. "Now, if you'll excuse me, I need to use the 'head.'" He entered the bathroom, and Yeru and Niko both beat a hasty retreat. Yeru mouthed the word 'Sorry', but Niko just stared. He didn't trust her--not at all.

(This Installment by Corinthian)

A long, awkward silence followed the Turian's entry into the head, with no one on the crew really knowing what to say for several minutes.

Navigator/XO Pressly glanced towards the "head" and shook his own as the Turian stepped out with a groan. "Ugh..." As he exited, a Salarian male approached from the forward deck. The Turian stared at him.

"I tried to inform you, sir," XO Pressly said. "Lieutenant Moreau was unable to raise you, however."

"Inform me of what?"

The Salarian cleared his voice and began to speak, his voice a quiet sibilance, precise and deliberate but flat. "I do not believe that the helmsman was successful in contacting the Commander. I am Calen, foward observer for the Salarian Union. I have been attached to this ship.

"By whose order? I didn't authorize this." Irritation was beginning to creep into the Turian's voice again. Loose cannons, xenophobes, irritating Quarians, and now the Salarian Union butting into what was none of their affair was beginning to grate.

Calen pulled out a sheet of paper and handed it to the Turian. "The Council." The Salarian's tone changed not a whit, as though he was totally apathetic.

"Damn their bones...how dare they..." If he had been angry while dealing with Amanda and Yeru, he was absolutely furious now. He stuffed the paper into a pocket, then composed himself.

"The three of you need to be examined by Doctor Chakwas." Not to mention, get out of my sight. Kadeus glanced at his chronometer: 1435 hours. "In the meantime, I have a call to make. Lt. Moreau, patch me through to the SSV Kilimanjaro."
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Old 08-19-2008, 07:00 PM   #7
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(This Installment by Tysyacha)

"Aye, aye, Commander." Lieutenant Jeff Moreau, more commonly known by his nickname, Joker, was intimidated by Kadeus Amar--far more so than he had been with Captain Shepard or even Captain Anderson before him. Turians made shivers crawl up his spine, but then again, he would rather deal with them in all of their armored glory than the Reapers in all of theirs.

I hate that guy, the pilot of the Normandy VI thought to himself, but then remembered it was Nihlus, the Turian Spectre, who had first elicited those feelings within his soul. Sighing, Joker patched Commander Amar through to the officer aboard the SSV Kilamanjaro, one Marie Dryden, a middle-aged human female.

"Commander Dryden of the SSV Kilamanjaro here," Joker heard a smooth and cultured voice respond through the comm buoy. "Are you the one who requested the transfer of Private First Class Amanda Jones from our ship to yours?" The pilot smiled. He'd seen Ms. Jones, although briefly, and she was one of the most beautiful girls of which he'd ever had a glimpse. However, he thought, why would a girl like her go for a guy like me? She's a gymnast, for crying out loud, and I've got Vrolik's syndrome--brittle bone disease. I'd better keep my eyes and my hands off her, or I'm likely to have them broken, too. He laughed ruefully to himself and switched the comm buoy over to a private channel.

As for Yeru, Niko, and the mysterious Salarian, they were all escorted to Dr. Chakwas' medical bay by one of the Normandy VI's lower-ranking personnel. The doctor was not exactly pleased to see them, knowing what she did of Yeru's criminal record and the as-yet-unplumbed histories of the other two, but she was not about to treat them impolitely. She asked them all to strip and enter one of the three decontamination shower stalls for bodily cleansing.

"Um, excuse me," said the Quarian darkly, "but I wear an environmental suit. I have to, because if I take it off, the atmosphere aboard this ship will kill me. We Quarians have no natural immune system to speak of, and I won't be dying before our mission starts."

Dr. Chakwas put her hands on her hips. "We've had a Quarian on this ship before," she told Niko, "and Tali survived throughout the whole mission. She too was cleansed for decontamination purposes. All of Tali, including her environmental suit. In the stall, sir."

Niko stared at the doctor for a few awkward moments, but Chakwas showed no sign of relenting on this particular front. Thus, the three sweaty aliens entered the decontamination stalls and threw their uniforms over the tops of the glass screen doors. As for Niko, he stayed in his suit, though as full of dents as it was, he was sure the thick antimicrobial, anti-radiation soap would seep through it.

"Now, when I flip the switch, you'll first be showered with hot water," said the doctor, "and then ten fully lathered cloths are going to scrub every crevice on your body. I'm glad the glass doors are quite thick." She rolled her eyes, flipped the switch, and then the 'decontamination' began. Satisfied, she went to the lab to prepare her instruments for three exams.

(This Installment by Corinthian)

"Commander Amar...I can't say I think that taking Private Jones off the Kilimanjaro is a good idea."

He stood in the personal comm room, face-to-face with the holographic projection of the middle-aged woman. The Turian Commander gave the woman an inquisitive look, but she didn't seem to notice.

"Please explain."

"Commander, Private Jones is an exemplary soldier. No pushover as a biotic, certainly, and her physical talents make her an ideal for Special Operations, but...she has discipline issues when it comes to non-humans."

Kadeus hesitated for a moment. If that's the case, she's good at hiding it.

"I wouldn't have any reservations transferring her over to the Normandy if Captain Shepard were still in command, but..."

He cut the woman off. "Private Jones' personal feelings regarding myself and the rest of the Hierarchy are immaterial. Make no mistake, Commander, we are fighting a war, and her expertise may be needed aboard the Normandy. Furthermore, Private Jones expressed no misgivings about being under my command when we spoke. If a discipline problem emerges, she will be dealt with. Until that happens, however, I have need of her expertise."

"I understand, Commander. And I hope you aren't making a mistake...Private Jones will be transferred as soon as I have authorization from Command."

"That won't be necessary, Commander." He punched a switch, transmitting his authorizations. The older woman's eyes widened as she read the list. "Normandy's mission profile gives me clearance to requisition any personnel or equipment that I need. I simply wanted your approval before I took her off your hands."

The woman was obviously angered, but quickly concealed it behind a mask of military blankness. "...Thank you, Commander." The transmission clicked off.

Feeling like he'd just gone ten rounds wrestling with an Elcor, the Turian left the communications room and headed for his quarters.

(This Installment by Tysyacha)

As Commander Amar headed for his quarters, he just so happened to pass by Doctor Chakwas and the three occupied decontamination shower stalls. From one of them, he heard mechanized Quarian swearing, as Niko appeared not to be too fond of the cleansing rags trying to get into and beneath his environmental suit. From the second he heard not a sound, and he noticed a tall figure--the Salarian, perhaps--standing stock-still. This must be quite embarrassing for the both of them, Kadeus thought, but it has to be done. From the third came the most beautiful sounds and sights the Turian had ever encountered: happy singing, plus a lithe silhouette stretching out to accommodate the soapy cloths in order to get fully lathered. Kadeus bowed his head, coughed slightly, and moved on.

In his quarters, he found a note in elegant script that was placed on his utilitarian metal dressing table:

Commander:

I apologize for coming into your quarters without your expressed permission or authorization, but I simply could not give you this request in front of anyone else. My actions today were not only inexcusable, but also reflected upon how much Sovereign and other influences, including my own weakness, have eroded my will and self-control. Thus, I ask this:

Will you train me in combat and discipline, putting me under the full regimen of the Turian race, so that I may learn from your ways as you are, no doubt, learning from mine? If you wish to refuse, then I understand, but I must not fail in this mission to destroy the Reapers. I absolutely will not be undone by my own lack of restraint or wavering mind!

Your subordinate (more accurately your servant),
Yeru L'vov"


Kadeus held the note in his clawed hands, pondering.

(This Installment by Corinthian)

He lay down on his bunk, slowly reading over it. It would be a long journey out towards where they were going; the Mass Relays could only get them so far before they'd have to use FTL Drive. Training with the Asari would, at the very least, occupy his time.

That brought to mind an old Turian saying: "The Asari are the finest warriors in the galaxy. Fortunately, there are not many of them." Her training, her knowledge, was invaluable on this kind of assignment. The Turians were not known for their ability at this kind of assignment, and while Kadeus was more adaptable than most of his kind after years of fighting against the pirate fleets of the Terminus Systems alongside humans...well, the Asari could still probably teach him a lot.

Furthermore, shoring up the loose cannon was a top priority - if the Asari lost her grip, she could inflict a lot of damage on the crew before she was subdued.

More than that, though, Kadeus wanted to train with her, a desire beyond simple necessity and boredom.

He thrust the thoughts out of his mind, his decision made. He grabbed a nearby pen and wrote a short reply on the back of the paper.

Miss L'vov,

I believe you are correct in that we could learn a great deal from each other. The training room on this ship is typically empty for most of the day. Should you still wish to pursue this, I will be there at 0900 tomorrow.

Commander Amar


He looked at his reply. A little more curt than he had intended, but there wasn't much else to say. He stood up and headed out of his quarters, folding the letter and tucking it into a pocket as he did so.
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Old 08-20-2008, 09:39 PM   #8
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(This Installment by Tysyacha)

As soon as Commander Amar left his pristinely clean quarters, a message beeped through on his comm: "Commander? There's something seriously wrong with the ship's navigating computer and AI system. I don't think even the Quarian can fix it, although it might be worth a try to ask him. You better come up here and see this." Kadeus swore to himself. One more thing going wrong aboard this blasted vessel, and I'll...! He stormed up to the Command Deck of the Normandy, hoping that no one else would get in his way and receive the brunt of his fiery wrath.

"What's wrong, Joker?" Kadeus asked as civilly as he could. The pilot pressed a few buttons, and then the entire dashboard of the Normandy flashed red. Navigational systems compromised, said the AI with a cool and yet disappointed-sounding voice. Possible acute internal damage. Please take offline. Artificial intelligence systems compromised. Possible acute internal damage. Please take offline. As for the Turian, he slowly shook his head and rubbed his temples. This was all he needed right before launch.

"Lt. Moreau," he said, "I wouldn't trust that Quarian with something as important as this ship. Not yet. He hasn't proven his loyalty to me or any of the rest of the crew, and I think he'd be more likely to sabotage the systems further than to repair the damage. I'm going to call upon someone else, someone far more reliable, whom I believe could be a real asset on this mission. Besides you," he said, smiling and trying to crack a joke, but he could tell Joker didn't think it was very funny. "His name's Dr. Jacob Roland, Ph.D."

(This Installment by Corinthian)

"The Synthetic Insights guy? One of the big names in AI research in the Alliance?"

The Turian gave Joker a quizzical look. "What? You think I don't read? It's not like I have anything better to do when Shepard isn't onboard."

"You'd be correct. Intelligence hired him about a month ago and attached him to the Normandy. In fact, he was supposed to have been here for our departure two days ago..."

He turned around and pulled out his personal communicator, switching it to Roland's channel.

"Roland? Doctor Roland, do you copy?"

A long, irritating moment passed, then the sound of chaos on the other end.

"No, no, no! Not that cable! Let me handle that, and bring me that blasted comm!" The comm clicked and the voice became much more distinct. "What is it?"

"Doctor Roland." Kadeus' voice was cold and precise, like a surgeon's scalpel chilled to absolute zero. "You were supposed to be onboard the Normandy over twenty-four hours ago."

"Yes, yes, I won't miss the takeoff, but C-Sec recovered a number of Geth that were nearly intact, including a complete Geth Armature! This is fascinating. Real, truly sentient AI!"

The scientist was almost childishly enthusiastic about his work. Well, at least he'd have one happy crewman under fire. "Doctor, the Geth will keep. We're on a schedule here. We've got something screwing up the Navigation and VI systems. Just get up here."

"Don't get so impatient with me. Damn kids these days...alright, I'll be down there as soon as I can get this...OUCH! GET THAT JACK BACK UP, YOU DOLT!" Kadeus clicked the comm off, exasperated.

He turned around and headed back up to the console. "This can't be damage from the battle, we didn't get hit much and what little there was has been fixed. Some kind of virus, you think, Boss?" asked Joker.

Kadeus nodded. A cascading failure in Navigation and VI was no coincidence. He drummed his fingers, waiting for Roland to show up.

Ten minutes passed. Twenty. Thirty. At the click of 1600 hours, the ship's outer airlock opened, and Kadeus watched on the security cam as the Doc was hit with his preliminary Decontamination, a grumpy expression on the old man's face.

A minute later, he was already standing alongside Joker, fiddling with his omnitool while staring intently at the screen. "Mmm...this isn't too bad, actually. I think I know what the problem is, but I'm going to need an extra set of hands that knows what he's doing."

"We've got a Quarian on board that could probably give you a hand."

"A Quarian? Really? Fascinating. I'll have to have a discussion with him sometime. Could you fetch him? Your VI control circuits crossed with the primary navigation control systems. Somebody's going to need to crawl up there and replace the circuit."

"Really? It's that simple?"

"Sure, as far as you know." The Engineer turned back towards the console and started fiddling with his omn-itool, a broad grin on his face.

(This Installment by Tysyacha)

Commander Amar activated his comm and paged Dr. Chakwas. "Doctor? Have you finished examining the Quarian yet? I need him for an urgent assignment." When he received an answer in the affirmative, he began tapping his left foot impatiently. How long would it take the reluctant and standoffish Niko to report to the Command Deck? One, one thousand, two, one thousand, three, one thousand, four... At the count of ten, no doubt, Niko appeared and saluted stiffly. Kadeus was pleased, but only partially.

"Quarian? It just so happens that the VI control circuits have become crossed with the primary navigation control systems. If you would, Niko, please crawl up there and replace the circuit."

Niko's head swiveled toward the towering Turian. "Are you kidding me?" he asked, a twinge of annoyance in his mechanized voice. "Don't you have any robotic arms or something like that to complete the task? I'm not a ventilation-duct-cleaning robot, you know."

"Perhaps you'd prefer it if I delivered you to C-Sec."

Niko's shoulders stiffened. "All right, sir, I'm going." He nimbly slid up into the Normandy's massive dashboard after taking a replacement circuit from the hand of Dr. Jacob Roland, Ph.D. Within a few moments, the dashboard responded with an electrically charged whirr, which dulled to a soft humming. Niko clambered out, satisfied at last. "Well? Problem fixed and crisis nixed," he said in what was probably a sign of pleasure. Knowing Quarians, however, Niko's tone was hard to decipher.

Kadeus nodded. "Good work, Quarian. Dismissed!"

After the Commander turned to Joker and received a diagnostic thumbs-up sign, he swiveled his head and body back towards Dr. Roland. "I'd better introduce you to the rest of the crew," he said, "if Dr. Chakwas has finished their physical and mental examinations."

It turned out that she had, and it wasn't long before Dr. "Doc" Roland had shaken the hands of Yeru L'vov and one Salarian, Calen. Who else was to come aboard the Normandy for this possible suicide mission? As for "Doc", he couldn't wait to find out.

"1700 hours," Commander Amar said after a while. "I wonder where Private Jones is? We must conduct our pre-launch diagnostics and vessel viability tests."

(This Installment by Corinthian)

"Way ahead of you, Commander. Been running diagnostics since before you went to pick up the convict. Remind me that the next time we get a complementary repair from the Citadel for being so helpful, we don't let Salarians replace the damaged circuits."

Joker glared at the dashboard like it had done something personally to him. "We're fully fueled, all of our ammunition stocks have been replaced, replacement Eezo for the drive core is at full stock, armory's at capacity, the latrines have been cleaned..." Joker laughed quietly. "All the hull damage inflicted during the fight with Sovereign's been patched up, and we even got a fresh paintjob. Preflights were showing everything in the green before the Nav and VI systems went nuts. Best to be safe, though."

"Correct. The last replacement for the crew should be here any minute now." He glanced around, getting a little annoyed, and tapped his chronometer.
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Old 08-21-2008, 08:37 PM   #9
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(This Installment by Tysyacha)

Just then the entrance hatch to the Normandy slid open, and a young gymnast slid in. To her credit, she was in her Onyx III Alliance Military uniform and not her leotard, but Amanda Jones still carried a bag of personal effects that was almost twice her size. Striding down the ship's Command Deck with a self-assurance of one who owned the vessel, Amanda did not see one of the thresholds and tripped over it.

Fortunately, she did not fall. Unfortunately, her bag was partially unzipped, and many of its contents came spilling out haphazardly. From what Yeru, Niko, Calen the Salarian, and "Doc" could see as they came out to discover the cause of all the clattering, Private Amanda Jones considered the following to be absolute necessities aboard the Normandy: hair gel, hairspray, mascara, eye shadow, lipstick, eyeliner, foundation, blush, blemish-removing cream, deodorant spray, athlete's foot powder, feminine hygiene spray, and last but not least, her leotard.

"Oops!" Amanda cried, and while the crew gawked on, she scurried to pick up the items and stuff them back into her bag just as haphazardly as they had fallen out. "Hey. A girl's got to do what a girl's got to do, and as for the time," she said, turning to Yeru with a grin, "being fashionably late is all the rage!"

Yeru suppressed a slight giggle, but Niko warned:

"You'd better avoid 'all the rage' of the Commander, because I hear him coming right now." Amanda Jones blanched, and she straightened her hair just in case.

(This Installment by Corinthian)

Glad to see you could join us, Private." Kadeus was standing at the CIC, a rotating map of the galaxy underneath him. He gave her his best stern stare, his 'offended officer' look, then turned his attention towards the assembled crew, who were looking at him like he had something inspiring to say. Not my forte, really.

"Ladies and gentlemen...the Reapers are coming. The Council cannot stop them, nor can any other force in this region of Space. While our families prepare for the coming onslaught, we are their best and only hope for survival. You have all been briefed on what our objective is...but not where we are going."

He pressed a switch and the focus closed in on a handful of stars just outside Council Space, concealed behind a nebula.

"This is the Perseus Veil, behind which lies the Geth Homeworlds." He glanced at the Quarian, wondering what was going on behind that mask. "The Geth have fallen under the control of the Reapers. We are going to infiltrate their territory and attempt to access their communication network in hopes of analyzing the incoming Reaper invasion."

He could see the anxiety, the fear, the outright terror on the assembled faces.

"This is the only hope of survival. If we fail, not only will countless trillions die, but this cycle of extinction will continue, and the sacrifice of the Protheans will have been for nothing. We must not fail. The future of the Galaxy hangs in the balance."

He paused for a moment to let his words sink in. "Lieutenant Moreau, disengage docking clamps and set a course for the Perseus Veil."

"Aye, aye, sir."

(This Installment by Tysyacha)

CHAPTER TWO

Aboard the Normandy VI, 2000 Hours


Amanda Jones couldn't believe it. She was sharing quarters with Yeru L'vov, an actual Asari Commando, and here they both were, set on a course for the treacherous Perseus Veil! Only a few hours ago, she had been signing autographs for the fans who knew and adored her, and now she was sitting upon a bunk, stiff and rock-like, waiting for orders from someone else. A Turian, no doubt, who had expressed extreme displeasure through the countenance of his face when she'd appeared.

"Why is the Commander mad at me?" she asked Yeru.

"You weren't exactly on time," replied the Asari gently, "even though you didn't miss the takeoff. Turians are known for their incredible discipline, sense of duty, and punctuality. I doubt Commander Amar understands the more laid-back nature of humans, at least not one hundred percent. You'd do well to remember to report for duty at the exact times he commands, and so would all of us." She blushed. "I'm not trying to preach, but then again, I don't want the Commander angry with you, Private Jones." Yeru watched Amanda nod, but she was rather unprepared for her next question, though it was inevitable.

"Why are you here on this mission, Commando L'vov?"

"It was better than being in prison." Shamefaced, Yeru told Amanda the 'short version' of her term in Matriarch Benezia's service and subsequent capture. Amanda's eyes got bigger and bigger, but it was clear from the tone of her voice that she held no judgment against the Asari herself. After Yeru had finished narrating her story up to the present point, Amanda gave her a slight hug, one for professional soldiers. "I am trying to redeem myself," Yeru said, "but my late Matriarch as well. She only wanted what was right."

Amanda shrugged. She cared little for the flimsy and subjective concepts of "right" and "wrong", just so long as she got the job done. "As for me," she told the Asari, "I'm in it for the action. And the prestige. No gymnast who was a world and Olympic champion on Earth deserves a crap posting on some old frigate. I deserve the Normandy, and it deserves me. We're going to get along together, and the Reapers won't see us coming when we hit them." Amanda slapped a closed fist into her opposite palm.

Yeru smiled, but only slightly. Amanda scared her a bit. "That's the way I'm hoping it'll go," she replied. "I believe we all must prepare for the worst, however."

"The worst happens to those who aren't ready. We'll be ready, Yeru, and the Reapers won't. We'll win."

Yeru sat back, both amazed and appalled at the girl's sense of self-confidence. Not even she was that brash! What would the Commander think if he heard? Unfortunately, he wasn't the one who was listening.

Calen, the Salarian, slunk past the women's quarters, staring at Yeru and Amanda with cold, opaque eyes. His expression remained unreadable, and yet the two girls could see the words You. Dead. etched into the hard lines of his mouth. They both gasped.

"This is our quarters!" Amanda cried, and Yeru silently trembled. "You're sharing a bunk with the Quarian, I believe, or maybe Doc." The gymnast glared at the Salarian, staring straight into the black pools of liquid hostility that were his eyes. "This is a private chat, so go back to your hacking or spying or whatever you do." Amanda plotted to warn the Commander about him as soon as possible, if Yeru didn't sooner.
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Old 08-21-2008, 08:42 PM   #10
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(This Installment by Corinthian)

The Salarian stared at them for a moment, as if judging them.

"My mistake." The tones of his voice suggested it was anything but. He turned around, contempt clearly written on his features, then walked away, heading for the bridge of the ship.

Kadeus was still on the bridge, staring at the hovering holographic image of the Perseus Veil as though expecting fresh reconnaissance data to appear from thin air. All their maps of that region were Pre-Geth. Useless information for anything other than knowing where the Mass Relays were.

"Perhaps the Quarian could provide information on this region."

The Turian turned and found him face-to-face with Calen. "I don't trust the Quarian."

"I have noticed, Commander Amar. Nor do you really trust any other member of your team."

Kadeus didn't want to admit it, but the Salarian had a point. The only member of the ground team who seemed at all really reliable was Doctor Roland, and he was a civilian scientist with no experience in a firefight.

"Perceptive. I see why the Union wanted you onboard. Incidentally, I believe it's time for you to rest."

Calen gave a cold smile, devoid of any pleasant emotion. "That will not be necessary. If you truly wish for me to depart, say so. However, you would be wise to value my expertise, Commander. I was not chosen for this mission simply to represent the Union."

"Your dossier suggests otherwise." Kadeus punched another button, bringing up a holographic display of Calen's dossier, for what it was worth. Nearly all of it was buried under Classified markings, there wasn't even an image of the Salarian, no real name, just a designation. "If the Salarian Union feels the need to mock me, they could at least send someone with a real name."

"The Union has their reasons for concealing my past. Do not pry, Commander. It is not safe."

And with that thinly veiled threat, Calen exited the bridge, walking the rest of the ship.

(This Installment by Tysyacha)

If there was anything Niko hated more than giggling gymnasts, towering Turians, and ammo-ridden Asari, it was sneaky Salarians. Niko had seen Calen lurking around the corners of the Command Deck, watching everyone's every move, and he didn't like it. Yes, he was an AI and VI hacker, and yes, he was a powerful biotic, but he was not a spy. Never had been, never would be. He was sure that Calen had a plan in mind to "dispose" of them all should they prove hostile or even inconvenient, and as much as he disliked everyone else aboard the Normandy, he considered Calen the same as a Reaper.

Thus, Niko decided his first step would be to turn Commander Amar in his favor, and cause the Salarian to fall even further from grace than he had so far. With a quick flick of the wrist in the bunk that he shared with Dr. Jacob "Doc" Roland, he activated his computer console to display a view of the entire ship. Within moments, Niko had zeroed in on the Turian surveying the Galaxy Map, shaking his plated head. Not to worry, thought the Quarian. You're probably looking at a map of the Perseus Veil, which hasn't been updated since before the geth attacked. Remembering the stars, nebulae, planets and black holes of the region from the depths of his extensive memory, Niko plotted in the coordinates of the routes to the Veil that he genuinely recalled.

He watched as Kadeus growled and swore when the Galaxy Map flickered out, but when it resurfaced with correct and updated coordinates, he was amazed. Beneath his mask, Niko smiled. However, would Kadeus think it was the Salarian who had performed such a task? Wanting to make sure Commander Amar thought no such thing, Niko went over to him and bowed. "Those are the coordinates I truly remember, sir," Niko announced, rather humbly for his character.
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Old 08-31-2008, 01:34 PM   #11
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(This Installment by Corinthian)

Kadeus was rather taken aback. The Quarians weren't forthcoming with information, probably sour grapes over having their embassy on the Citadel removed. Quarian surveys of the Perseus Veil...

"I would have appreciated it if you'd told me before updating the Starmap, but in this case, I'm not going to complain. Well done."

The Turian grinned broadly, like a predator who'd finally caught the prey within his jaws. Maybe he's more reliable than I thought. He clapped the Quarian on the shoulder, then turned back to the Starmap. Every Mass Relay, every pocket of ionized gases they could hide in, black holes they could use as traps using Normandy's superior speed...

"Nicely done, Niko. You may have just saved us a lot of trouble. Get some sleep."

(This Installment by Tysyacha)

CHAPTER TWO

On the Normandy, Training Room, 0900 Hours

Yeru L'vov, after the long day she had yesterday, enjoyed a night's sleep that was far better than any she'd had since she entered Matriarch Benezia's service. Perhaps it was the simple fact of exhaustion, from stress and hard work performed. Perhaps it was the "ship-lag" often encountered by spacers, even the adaptable Asari. However, this particular Asari chalked her full and dreamless sleep up to a clean conscience. She had joined up with Commander Amar on a truly noble mission, one to fight the Reapers instead of surrender themselves to them. Benezia may have been dead, but Yeru's resolve fully lived.

At 0900 hours in the training room, this present moment, she was waiting for Kadeus to come and present the most basic points of Turian combat to her. "Where could he be?", she mumbled softly.

"Commando?" came a voice. Yeru whirled around and there stood the Turian himself, smiling like a spider that had just laid eyes on a nice, juicy fly. "I'm so glad that you were punctual. See those targets over there?" He gestured toward twenty fleshglass combat dummies. "I want you to shoot all of them, as fast as you can. Upon my count, Yeru. One--two--three!"

RAT-A-TAT-BLAAAAATTTTT went Yeru's pistol, ripping the combat dummies to utter shreds. Messy shards of fleshglass flew all around the training room, and Kadeus had to shoo quite a few of them out of his eyes with a wave of his clawed hand. True, all twenty of the targets had been duly eliminated, but the Commander knew there were certain situations in battle where RAT-A-TAT-BLAAAATTT wouldn't work.

Like with Geth. You needed precision, not brute force.

"Was that your 'blitzing' technique, Commando L'vov?" asked Kadeus, trying to sound neutral.

"Oh, no!" cried the Asari, shaking her head. "That's just what I normally do when a firefight starts. Shoot to kill. I'm sorry about the mess," she said, wiping shards of fleshglass off of her uniform, "but you must admit all targets are down." The Commander nodded.

(This Installment by Corinthian)

"True. I can hardly deny that."

Kadeus was impressed. He had seen Asari warriors in combat a few times, and they were always impressive combatants, but most of them seemed to rely more on speed and precision than direct application of massive force. He didn't doubt that Yeru was capable of subtlety, but that she understood the value of total annihilation was a good sign.

Those few months spent in prison didn't seem to have tarnished her sharpshooting capabilities any.

"I've seen your record. There's not much you need to prove to me, and shooting up fleshglass dummies is hardly going to sharpen your skills any. Ultimately, what I need to do is shape this collection of men and women into a proper team. And to do that, I need to be able to trust them, and you, and vice versa."

He gestured towards a mat on the opposite side of the room. "I find it simpler to understand someone's way of thinking after I see it put into use in combat. Care for a sparring match?"

(This Installment by Tysyacha)

Yeru nodded and strode onto the training mat with the nonchalance of one who had fought in far harder skirmishes than the one that was about to begin. She was not going to let the Commander intimidate her as he had yesterday, but rather ignore every one of his attempts to make her lose focus or concentration. Kadeus needed warriors on his team, not weaklings.

"All right," said the Commander. "I'm going to come at you with my weapon drawn and ready to fire. Once again, upon my order: One--two--three."

The Asari drew her pistol and proceeded to do the same as she had done to Niko, the irascible Quarian, but instead of filling the Commander's suit full of dents, Yeru's pistol (stocked with blanks, as Kadeus had indeed disarmed her fully and completely), did no damage except possibly to one's hearing. As for the non-lethal ammunition, it did not even scratch the surface of Kadeus' battle-hardened armor. This did not deter Yeru, however, as she kept firing and firing, her face a twisted mask of desire and near-fury.

She felt Kadeus put a hand on her shoulder. "Stand down, Commando," he said, and Yeru hotly obeyed.

"You didn't even fire!" she snarled. "What is this?!"

(This Installment by Corinthian)

If Turians had eyebrows, Kadeus' would have been firmly cocked. The Asari was displaying an incredible degree of instability.

"Calm down, or I'll have Doctor Chakwas put you into medical confinement until she figures out which screw is loose. As for 'what this is', I think you're demonstrating quite clearly. So, let's make this quite clear - we're still inside Council Space, and I'm sure that we could drop by some world along the route and leave you there in solitary confinement until the Council decides what to do with you. Is that what you want, Commando?"

His voice was tinged with disappointment. She could be a valuable member of his team if she learned to maintain a hairsbreadth of discipline and sanity when combat started. But Kadeus needed soldiers, not psychopaths on leashes, and right now, she wasn't shaping up well.

Right now, she wasn't looking like she was really worth the risk.
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