MASS EFFECT II: REAPING
Chapter II: Hostage Crisis!
From the Alliance Military Training Manual: A hostage situation is one in which seconds count--indeed, fractions of seconds. If a perpetrator is holding his or her hostage at gunpoint, what should you do? Do you attempt to negotiate with the hostage-taker, or do you shoot to kill and hope for the best? The answer depends upon you, and it could mean the difference between the life or death of all parties involved--including yourself. Do not react to such a situation without thinking, for doing so will be disastrous. Rather, answer the following questions as you assess the situation:
1. Is the perpetrator looking to kill the hostage, or to get demands met?
2. For the hostage, is there any possible exit, opening, or way of escape?
3. Can you shoot the perpetrator without shooting the hostage?
Such questions were the furthest from Commander Surgan Muress' mind as he and his new squad members followed Captain Shepard out of the Citadel Station commissary. He was silently meditating upon the answers that the human male Peter McGann and asari female Yeru V'torym gave to Shepard as they headed for the main part of the Presidium. They were being debriefed:
"Have either of you had any prior military experience?" Shepard asked.
"None," replied Peter McGann, the gaunt and pale-complexioned engineer. "As Commander Muress has reported, I'm an engineer who works for Synthetic Insights. I work with gears, not guns." Muress couldn't tell for sure, but there seemed to be an embarrassed air about Peter, as if by not having any military training, he felt somehow less than what he was. "Hacking is my greatest specialty, although I do it because I have to for work and not for any other reason." Shepard stared, and Peter bit his lower lip. "I hate doing anything illegal, and if it wasn't for the fact that my decryption skills keep SI one step ahead of their competitors, I wouldn't be doing it at all. I'm actually glad for this opportunity. It'll give me a chance to do something worthwhile--and worth living for. Sir." Peter hoped the Captain was satisfied, but from the unreadable expression on Shepard's battle-hardened face, he couldn't tell.
"What about you, V'torym?" Shepard was hoping to hear a better answer from one who was a maven with a pistol--and
who could warp time.
"None either," she replied, knowing that she had most likely disappointed the Captain. "I was trained at the Biotic Augmentation and Utilization Academy--also known as BAUTA--on my homeworld of Thessia. It took me a full century in order to master my talents, and that is another reason why I was not a favorite student of the trainers at the Academy. Most asari learn to channel their biotic abilities in fifty years or less. As for me, it was not because I was somehow stupid that I failed to learn quickly. I was only--far more eezo'ed."
"What?" Muress knew what the term meant, but not what V'torym meant.
V'torym sighed sadly. "If you'll watch me, Commander--I walk with a noticeable limp. This is a birth defect, caused by being exposed in the womb to a concentration of element zero that was too high, even for future biotics. However, it is this weakness of mine that also gives me my strength. I have two-and-a-half times the amount of element zero, or 'eezo' nodules that biotic users need, and it is these nodules that overloaded and damaged my gross motor skills and muscular capacity. However, Commander, they do let me manipulate time. I would never trade my abnormal mind for a normal body."
Shepard scoffed. "Great. We have a barely-law-abiding engineer that looks like death warmed over and a disabled asari on our crew. Who else do we want, Muress?" He was about ready to send a comm to his wife, Ashley, and let her decide who would be better fit to find and destroy the Reapers. These losers wouldn't do, and two of them, Muress included, weren't even human!
To his credit, Muress kept his cool. "We'll require a field medic, Captain."
Finally, a sensible piece of news!
"You're absolutely right. I guess that means our next stop is Dr. Michel's office in the Med Clinic on the Wards. I've heard she has a new intern that we could possibly hire." The new Commander of the NORMANDY nodded, and the four squad members headed that way.
Unfortunately, they didn't have to venture quite that far in order to locate Doctor Chloe Michel and her intern of only two months, Medic Nina Ospidel. Both were being held at gunpoint in the main part of the Presidium by two stubble-bearded men, their eyes bloodshot and full of pent-up rage. Several passersby were screaming, murmuring curses, and running for nearby cover.
"One slip and you can't remember your own name," growled the first. "Isn't that right, Doctor?" He pressed a loaded pistol to Dr. Michel's right temple.
to upgrade you," wailed the hostage, "but I couldn't--I didn't--"
"Retrofits are supposed to be done in children and teenagers anyway, you bastard," snapped Medic Ospidel, her shiny and close-cropped black hair being tousled by the other thug's assault rifle. "They're not really for adult biotics, especially for those as old as you." She had a Latina look about her, as the human term went, and her brown eyes flashed with lethal fire.
"I'm only forty, girlie," replied the man who shoved the Banshee II
up closer to Nina's right temple. "You messed up on me, and the real Doc messed up on Trann. Now, what's it going to be?" he asked the medic. "Are you going to pay us a cool million credits in cash apiece for our damages, or are we going to have to kill you both?" He looked like he preferred the latter.
"We don't have a million credits," begged the Doctor. "We only have--"
million!" shouted Trann, the perpetrator holding her.
Commander Muress sprang into action, pointing his own assault rifle, the Lancer V,
at the two men. "Let them go!" When neither perpetrator made a move to release the medical personnel, he snarled and asked, "What are your side effects from the biotic retrofitting? Why do you need two million?"
"What do you know, turian?" spat Trann. "You can get up in the morning without praying you'll die so the migraines will finally stop. You can go about your daily business and even get a nice job without having your train of thought wander to childlike things because they're the only things you can remember. L3's are supposed to be pain-free, but not for us! Not for us!"
"Is there any way you'll let the doctors go?" Muress asked. "Without the money?" He stepped closer to the motley crowd of four unfortunate souls.
"Not a chance!" Trann was livid. "Two million, or they both die! No deals!"
"Excuse me," said a soft asari voice, "but perhaps I can help."
V'torym!" shouted Muress, but it was too late. She had already stepped forward as the two thugs, Trann and his younger counterpart, had begun firing directly at her, momentarily forgetting the hostages. Against all possible odds, the bullets sailed sluggishly by like paper airplanes made out of lead, and it wasn't long before the asari had maneuvered Trann away from Doctor Michel. The Doctor dashed away from the scene, and Trann gaped.
"Embrace eternity!" V'torym's eyes turned black beneath their blue lids, and the perpetrator trembled within her gentle grasp. The other one stared blankly, not sure that he was seeing what he was seeing at all.
He wasn't intent on releasing Nina Ospidel, however. "You're
even worse than Michel!" he shouted. "You
retrofitted me with something else, one of those dirt-cheap knockoffs of yours and not a real L3 implant!"
"I did no such thing, you son of a krogan," Nina snarled, fighting as hard as she could against the chokehold in which the other thug had her locked. She threw an angry gaze toward V'torym. "Asari! Get over here and wipe this guy's mind out or something! He's even crazier than that other psycho!"
"I'll be a moment," she said quickly, finishing with Trann and helping him to sit down on the ground. As she went over to Ospidel's captor, Captain Shepard could see that something still wasn't right with him--even more so than with Trann--and he drew a red bead on him with his assault rifle. Peter blanched.
"You're not going to do that," he said humbly. "Are you, Captain Shepard?"
"He's still got the hostage," Shepard retorted. "That means I shoot to kill."
"Embrace--" Yeru V'torym shrieked as the man she had been trying to hold suddenly fell back, and his blood and innards splattered all over her armor. As for Medic Nina Ospidel, as soon as that happened, she fled and ran to hide near Captain Shepard. It was he, she had seen, who'd killed her captor.
"Thanks, sir," she said, brushing a bit of splatter off her medical-clinic bodysuit. "The name is Nina Ospidel, Medic Nina Ospidel. I owe you one."
"You can pay me back," Shepard said, "by joining our crew on a mission."
Doctor Chloe Michel's newest intern agreed, and it wasn't long before C-Sec officers came to arrest Trann and take him into custody. As for his partner, the one Shepard had shot--in, he believed, just the nick of time--custodians and cleaning AI's who were specially-trained to deal with biohazards came to clean up his scattered remains. The Citadel Presidium would not return to its normal business until well into the evening hours, or so Muress' crew believed.
As for Muress himself, Peter and V'torym? They were all a bit shaken.
"You really can slow down time..." mumbled Peter, scratching his head in wonder. "That was amazing, what you did with Trann...what did you do?"
"I searched inside his mind for the source of his pain," replied the asari, her voice barely audible. "He was hemorraging inside the cerebral cortex. The botched retrofit of the L3 implant would have killed him soon enough."
Shepard stared, his heart a wall of ice. V'torym. He didn't deserve to live.