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6 yrs ago
Current First post after nearly a month of inactivity. Here's hoping I can get back into a good post routine before long.
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6 yrs ago
“Just put on anything by Enya. No, not anything. 'Orinoco Flow.' On repeat.”
2 likes
7 yrs ago
Managed to burn both my thumbs and index fingers pulling a tray of cookies out of the oven. I trusted you, oven mitts, and you betrayed me.
7 likes
7 yrs ago
Thanks to having to move earlier this year, I finally get to experience snow for the first time since my early childhood. It's absolutely wonderful :)
6 likes
7 yrs ago
RP’s that amass a good player base and have a good start only to suddenly die are why I have trust issues.
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Most Recent Posts

Ascending the stairs up the Megabuilding he would now be calling home, Kade listened intently to Livewire's story. Learning about people was his job after all. You never knew when you'd need to know something about someone. Even the most mundane facts could contain important information about more than just the subject. Of course, the higher they got, the harder it was to concentrate on anything but that rotting garbage smell. Once they had completed their climb, Kade quickly turned to the group.

“I'm going to go ahead and call dibs on a room facing the city. Anything to limit that… ‘delightful’ Santo Domingo odor.” Kade said and playfully waved his hand in front of his nose before pivoting back to face Livewire and his… was that his mother?

It was off-putting to say the least. Not only had their contact brought his mother along, but now they had to watch the two squabble and fight about stew that probably came from a can being served on a foldout table that could have been scrounged from garbage mountain for all he knew. Yet despite how trivial it all was, they seemed genuinely happy just to be doing it together. To have each other's company. It was already making Kade feel uneasy to see, but it was one phrase that really got to him.

“Love you, mumma.”

The words pieced Kade’s ears and echoed in his mind. All sound around him began to distort and blend into a high pitch ring. His vision blurred in and out of focus. His left foot stepped back as his balance fled. It was as if reality itself was collapsing, then all at once, his sense snapped back into place. Everything returned normal, save for the extra guest now sitting at the table. A pale blonde woman in a steel blue designer silk dress had placed herself near the head of the table. Her eyes of a matching color looked every person there up and down as she slowly sipped at a martini until they landed on Kade and rolled in their sockets.

“Really? You went through an entire militech prison facility without a care, but seeing someone actually love their mother sets you off?” Rachel scoffed and turned away from her son. “How pathetic.”

“Mother, please.” Kade replied with a thought, taking great care to keep the conversation inside his head. “Let's not start anything in front of the help.”

“What are they going to do? Leave like the other two? Believe me you're better off without this rabble. You'd find more reliable help from the junkies in pacifica.” Rachel sneered.

“Well I have to start somewhere. Beggars can't be choosers and all that.” Kade explained hoping she would realize their situation and relent.

“Beggar is right. I mean look at this place!” Rachel fired back as she gestured to the unfinished building they stood in before shaking her head. “And here I thought we couldn't sink lower than that broom closet in Watson.”

“Look if all you're going to do is complain, I'm going to have to ask you to leave.” Kade firmly stated while still trying to keep his mask of a smile from cracking. “We don't want any more deserters, so it's imperative that I don't give them further reason to delta.”

“Haven't seen me in weeks and you're shooing me away to have dinner with coworkers.” As the words left Rachel's mouth, her face began to warp, slowly twisting and changing until it was no longer Kade's mother, but his father staring back. “Like father, like son, it seems.”

“How dare you!” Kade shouted out loud. Immediately he froze in terror realizing his outburst had escaped the confines of his psyche. Trying to think quickly, he plastered on his deceptive smile and continued. “Not let me help you with dinner. At least allow me to take care of the dishes after.”

His eyes darted to each person to see if they had bought it before settling back to where his ‘mother’ had been sitting only to find the chair vacant. “Guess she's still good at vanishing, thankfully.”
Xander Clarke

"Glitch"




Accessing the company network would be no small order. While hacking it remotely wasn’t an option, that didn’t mean accessing it onsite would be much easier. The security was locked tighter than any vault, and one slip up would set the entire place on high alert. The Raven team had come as prepared as they could, even more so thanks to Sam’s inventions, but they still had to work as carefully as possible. Which is why it was surprising that Skye and Freya of all people got into an altercation with the head of security literally moments after walking in. Well, okay maybe not a shock for Freya, but Skye? She wouldn’t let something like that happen so early in the op without reason, and if Xander was thinking correctly, he knew what that was.

Dressed in a pristine white dress shirt, crisp black slacks, a black vest and bow tie, and a name tag that read ‘Henry Ferguson’, Xander was probably wearing the fanciest outfit he had ever been in. While he hadn’t done much to hide his face, a clean shave and a haircut seemed to be enough to not rouse any suspicion. And the cameras wouldn’t be able to get a good look at his face either, as a pair of very sophisticated glasses he wore would blur his image on any sort of CCTV.

Unlike everyone else, Xander didn’t come to the party disguised as a guest. He was part of the catering staff. It allowed him to access places the others couldn’t get to as easily, and in this situation, an excuse to go somewhere none of them should be. At the moment, Xander found himself strolling towards the exit of the security complex pushing a cart draped in a table cloth with various fancy foods piled on. Not the most inconspicuous way to be walking in a restricted area, but walk anywhere with enough confidence while holding something and most people won’t question it. At least, it usually works.

“Hey!” A guard hollered towards Xan. He quickly approached and stopped the cart. “What the hell are you doing back here?”

“My apologies, sir.” Xander said with a slight head bow, attempting to suppress his accent as he spoke. “I was asked by Mr. Andros to bring some delicacies by to make sure all of you were well fed.”

The guard glared at Xander, clearly debating if he trusted the story or not. Finally he shook his head. “Whatever. Just next time make sure you have someone escorting you. We can’t have anyone running around here unattended, you got that? Now get back to the party.” The man stepped aside, but grabbed a few snacks off the cart before Xander quickly wheeled it away.

–--

“Excuse me. May I freshen your drinks?” Xander appeared next to Skye and Freya. He was still wheeling around his cart, but now he had a tray of various beverages on it. He waited politely for them to take a new glass and leave their old one, preferably with a certain keycard as well. He did his best to maintain character, but upon seeing Jamie, he couldn’t help but toss the man a cheeky wink. “Hope you’re having a pleasant evening as well, Scion.”

LOYALTY: Shadow
Daring Rescue: Part 3


The teams moved into their respective positions. Zenn crawled through the tunnels under the ship, while the quarians along with Kysar and Sol crept through the door on the overlook but kept a low profile to not disturb the countless husks that stumbled in the depths. It looked exactly as Leena had described, but there was still one key feature that hadn’t been discussed; the radiating light from the reaper device made this the only room illuminated without any flashlights. It would make things much easier for both teams, but it did mean Zenn would have to be more aware of where he was when his cloak wore off.

Well, no time like the present. ”This is Shadow. I’m heading in." Zenn announced on comms. He proceeded to slice the lock on the hatch to the room, then activated his cloak and crawled out. He paused for a moment, analyzing the best route he could run without bumping into any husks. His best bet would be to stick to the walls. He pressed up against the wall and carefully slid along. His cloak wouldn’t last long enough to go this way, so he would have to make a run for it the second he found an opening.

His cloak was nearly half gone when he finally spotted a section where the husks had parted. Without hesitation he made a break for it and bolted towards the device. He was fast, maybe too fast. He got through the crowd of husks, but didn’t see one of the long bundles of cables on the ground. The cables caught his foot and tripped him to the ground. It was a good thing he was invisible, so nobody saw. At least he really really hoped they hadn’t.

Pulling himself up, he finished his run to the device, just in time for his cloak to wear off. The moment it dropped, a number of husks turned their heads looking directly at him.

“I’m spotted! Open fire!" Zenn alerted over comms.

The Quarian's weren't kidding, the number of husks crammed into the engineering room was almost unbelievable. It was almost as if half the ships population was in one room. A swarm of rotting, twisted corpses stood with their attention focused on the device. Whatever it was, it shone bright like a star, mesmerizing in its own way.

Strange. Kysar thought, I think.. I think I can feel its energy. It was a feeling reminiscent of earlier, when he had tapped into the dark energy of the pilot, only scaled up.

Zenn's frantic call over the comm link shook the Turian from his trance. "Now! Fire!" Focusing on those closest to the bottom of the staircase, he let loose, mowing down all in the path of his rifle with others nearby starting to turn their attention.

Solveig stood up on the balcony with some of the other Quarians, assault rifle in hand and her cryo ammo loaded. On Kysar's word she began shooting, the husks she shot became hardened with the bright blue bullets, before shattering like crystal, and bursting into billowing clouds of dust.

As she glanced to the side, she saw the Quarians wavering, even those with Kysar below.

Solveig reloaded and took aim again, her stare focused and menacing. She hoped the Quarians would get their confidence. Zenn needed them.

“Keelah… There’s so many of them…" One of the quarians said, and even began to slowly back up towards the door. The sight of so many husks piled in made him second guess this plan, even if it was their best if not only chance to stop them.

Leena did not hesitate to grab the quarian by the collar and pull him back. ”You’re not going anywhere! We need everyone firing if we want to get out of this. These people gave us another shot at taking this thing down, we are not about to abandon them now!" She practically tossed him to the edge of the railing where he was supposed to be positioned. ”That goes for all of you! Anyone else tries to leave, and I’ll make you wish the husks caught you!"

Their bravery renewed, or their fear of their commander outweighing that of the husks, the quarians snapped out of it and resumed their positions.

Meanwhile, Zenn kneeled by the device and began pulling out the charges. One by one, he carefully attached them to the device while occasionally looking over his shoulder to be sure none of the husks were coming his way.

It wasn’t enough. Even with their commander kicking the Quarians into gear, the whole team combined still weren’t turning enough of the husks heads. Worse still, it looked as if some were noticing Zenn.

“Wraith," Kysar cried out over the comms. "How’s our boy doing out there?"

Amongst the crowd of husks, Solveig could see Zenn, ”his best," she answered, before evaluating the situation - the big picture. ”But it's not enough. Coming down to you!"

She launched over the railings quickly, and found herself back to back with her Turian team-mate.

"Thinking this might do something," she said - holding out the arc projector, pressing her finger against the trigger - bringing the strange new weapon to life. ”Need help though. Make them look at me."

Kysar nodded, holstering his rifle and stepping out from the line. An aura of blue biotics began to emanate from his core as the Turian arms spread wide. His slam technique had been honed to take one heavy object and drive it down into the earth rather than a group of lighter objects. Husks, however, were relatively light so he had to make this one a spectacle.

Snapping his hands together, Kysar caught a husk in his biotic blue web, hoisting the creature into the sky above. Holding in the air for just a moment longer, the Turian hoped he could outshine the device and gather the attention of as many of the husks as possible.

Swiftly, Kysar roared as he brought the creature down, rocketing it into the floor as quickly as he could. Guts and chunks of flesh rained down upon everyone in the surrounding area as the husk exploded on impact. The Turian looked back over his shoulder at Sol, hoping he not only gave her the display needed but the time to charge the weapon to fire.

Kysar got the attention she had wanted him to and Solveig watched his biotic manoeuvre, impressed by his display. Just like that, a row of them began surround both Solveig and Kysar in a circle, lunging forwards. “Nice!" She called out, pointing the gun forwards.

A second light burst forth to illuminate the room from the barrel of the arc projector. The lightning hit the husk closest to Sol first, and the bolt continued its trajectory in a spectacular fashion from husk to husk in a line.

Solveig had made a web of her own, crackling and snapping through bodies quickly. But what to do now? The weapon felt hot in her hand, and it kept going until it curled and sparked near Kysar. The best she could do was drop the damn thing. It had overheated in her hand, and the husks were still moving in. They were off Zenn, but moving in a second wave.

“Gah, fuck!"

As the bolts from the arc projector rippled through the crowd, one had snapped back at Kysar, zapping his wrist. The Turian hadn’t had the time to grab a gun from his back and now he was flicking his hand to try and shoo the pain away.

Unfortunately this gave time for the enemy to close the gap. One husk had somehow dodged the round of lightning and had set its sights on the Turian. Kysar, as cocky as ever smiled as the creature leapt towards him, flicking his wrist to ignite his Omni-blade.

“What the fuck?" Was all he managed to get out before the husk was on him. His Omni tool had failed, sparking and fluttering, the orange hue of the device refused to properly start up. No doubt it was due to the arc projector but that was the least of the Turians troubles. Gnashing and clawing, the creature attacked Kysar with mindless ferocity. All he could was try and hold it back from biting anything vital.

Skita! she cursed, watching as Kysar was suddenly swarmed, the fucking projector. Damn guns, she thought before pushing forward to his left, pulling back her arm to slam a solid punch on the husk - it ended up going right through its centre, and whatever was inside of it became a grotesque bracelet of sorts as she pulled her arm back.

Solveig wondered why she had been using guns at all in these close quarters. Knowing that Kysar would be fine, she swung forwards, launching more melee attacks in front of her - fast and graceful, her tactical cloak shimmered and flickered as she danced around until she became as her callsign suggested.

The quarians too, were invigorated, and a final push began.

All the charges were in place. Now all that was left was setting the detonators. Each one had to be properly connected to the explosive and then wired to the timer. It was a delicate process. One wrong move and the whole thing could go up in flames. On top of that, the husks were starting to get wise to the real threat.

Even with Kysar, Sol, and the quarians giving them hell, a handful of husks were still pushing their way to Zenn. He kept a close eye on the ones who weren’t getting distracted, and when they got past his comfort zone, he pulled out his pistol and began dropping them. He could feel himself sweating in his suit as he fired with one hand, and punched in the code to prime the timer with the other. They were cutting this close. He just needed a few more-

Beeeep

“Timer is set and the charges are active! Everyone out now!" Zenn called over comms as he jumped away from the device and activated his cloak. Once more he ran through the crowd of husks, only this time he wasn’t trying to be discreet as he simply shoved any of them out of his way and practically dove into the maintenance tunnel. He slammed the hatch behind him and took off, hoping he would meet his team on the other side.

Kysar wiped the muck from his armour. It was the second time in the last minute he'd been showered in the guts of husks and the smell was starting to get to him. Rising to his feet, the Turian's muscles cried out in pain, an acidic burn of pure exhaustion. It was clear that his adrenaline levels were wasting away.

Around him, the situation was no better. Both Kysar and Sol had been encircled while the Quarian's position was close to being overrun. Enough husks had died beneath the railings that others were using their bodies as boosts to climb up and over. The creatures had also swarmed the stairs en-masse, cutting off everyone's exit.

Sol might make it. The Turian's grim thought echoed throughout his mind. She's cloaked, I could tell her to find Zenn's vent and get out of here. Kysar looked up and towards the Quarians, the survivors of a disgusting plot that they had fought so hard to find. No, she wouldn't leave them and maybe not me either.

Ammo was low and with his arm injured, he'd resorted to his sidearm. The Turian dropped one husk after the other but they just kept coming, getting closer and closer with each shot. This can't be it, we can't have come all this way for nothing. This fucking device won't... wait...

That was it! Of course, he'd felt it earlier. The husks weren't fully machines, they were synthetic, a hybrid of both organic and machine. Which meant... So is the device.

"Wraith cover me, I've got an idea."

At this last minute? Sol thought to herself, furrowing her brow. Still, they'd made it this far on each other's ideas, hadn't they?

"Then make it fast!" She answered, pulling out her assault rifle and bringing herself as close to the Turian as she could. Zenn was already back in the tunnel - this was about buying time.

Closing his eyes, Kysar walled off the noise around him, focusing on the pulse of the device. This time around breaking off from reality happened frighteningly quick. His mind plunged into what felt like a fathomless pool of freezing water, being dragged deeper and deeper into a dark abyss by an unknown force.

Flashes of Quarian's crying out in pain and terror flooded in and all around. Emotion so raw he could feel everything that made them an individual, sentient being be ripped to shreds. They wailed, crying out in inaudible words as their souls were torn from their bodies and replaced with cold hard logic. One by one their life was snuffed out, the device leaving nothing but lobotomised husks in its wake.

This is what the reapers had done to so many, gutted everything that made them what they were, leaving nothing but empty shells. The device itself appeared as if it was a great eye, commanding it's troops to march forward and spread. It demanded more victims and more power.

Kysar could feel it, the eye cast itself towards him, threatening to gut him too. Dark blue blood began to stream from the Turian nose as his spirit fought on. I... must... do... this... Thoughts of this twisted fate befalling his comrades came into view. He could not fail. He would not fail.

Approaching the great eye the Turian shouted with all his might, commanding, ”SLEEP!"

All husks dropped to the floor as did Kysar. The device dimmed leaving the room in a dull moonlight.

What kind of dark puppetry...? Sol asked herself as she witnessed the dimming of the lights in the room, and everything else. Something was seeping from Kysar, that same aura that had glimmered forth earlier - the energy all consuming and suffocating.

Something switched in her mind, a fear took over. Not one of being hurt by the husks, not one of dying on the ship - but a fear for Kysar, for his very spirit. That kind of dark magic was dangerous, like a drug that would draw you in and she had already seen him skirt on the fringes of his anger at the meat plant. No. She thought, as she moved into action - in her mind, a monologue rattled off the reasons why this was dangerous and she realised how eloquent she was in thought, her mother tongue. She wished it wouldn't betray her so much each time she opened her mouth.

She ducked to run her arm under his, gripping him at the waist. Why are you so wide? she thought as she took a good grip and rose to her full height with as much of his weight on her as she could manage. Deadlifting a Turian hadn't been on her list of things to do today, but nor had giving a piggyback to a Quarian.

If the situation wasn't so dire, she'd have laughed.

"Walk it off, Venator," she muttered, "we have to get to the barrier yet."

What were you thinking? She thought too, as she moved as fast as she could toward it, dragging him if she had to until he found his own strength again.

"Sh-Shadow, keep going - we're right behind you," she said over their comms. Solveig wasn't about to turn back and view the scene again, and she wasn't going to leave him behind. Onward only.

Stumbling along haphazardly with Sol, Kysar left the engineering room behind. Unslinging himself from his team mate, the Turian found the closest wall and leant back first into it. Slumping to the floor, he waved away the concerned Quarians.

“Just… need… a sec." Kysar said as he wiped some of the blood from his nose to stop it from leaking into his mouth. Looking up at Sol he croaked. "I’ll.. I’ll be ok. Hit the barrier."

"You better be," Solveig said softly as she let Kysar sit so she could get to work releasing the crates. I'm not carrying you all the way back."

She punched and crushed a few of them in together, compacting them for a tighter barrier that wouldn't just slide away or be moved, and it began to dawn on her just how much they'd come up against since leaving SRN earlier. It was time for their last run.

As Sol collapsed the makeshift barricade around the door and smashed it firmly into place, the faint sound of husks resumed as they returned to life and started smashing against the barricade. It did not budge. They were sealed inside. One of the quarians walked over to Kysar ready with an application of medi-gel, but he was waved away. The turian’s injury wasn’t one that could be ‘healed’, he just needed a stiff drink and soft bed.

“We did it… I can’t believe we actually-” One of the quarians started to say between heavy breaths, but was quickly interrupted by Leena.

“Not yet we haven’t." Leena corrected him.

“Once we’re on their shuttle flying as far away from this hell as we can, then we’ll have done it. Now where the hell is your other teammate?" She asked, glancing at Sol and Kysar.

“Present!" Zenn’s voice echoed out of the hatch before he slowly pulled himself out. ”We should have plenty of time but we should still start- Keelah, Kysar!" Zenn immediately ran over to his bleeding teammate. ”What happened to you? Are you alright?"

“I’m fine." Kysar coughed, holding up a hand so no one got closer. ”I’m fine, we should get moving." The Turian stood slowly, spitting a large gob of phlegm and dried blood as he did so.

Turning to Sol, he smiled weakly. ”Don’t worry, I’ll carry myself."

Solveig nodded at Kysar, with the slightest of smiles appearing too. She was glad he was back on his feet, but mostly she wanted to get back to the shuttle. She felt sore all over, and her shoulders especially were tingling from all of the effort of the mission. ”R-ready to go," she said.

“Alright. If you're sure you’re fine. Let’s get out of here!" Zenn stated and motioned for everyone to follow.

The group retraced their steps through the ship, only this time they rushed past each room instead of proceeding with caution. They had time, but they still didn’t want to risk getting delayed. It was due to their haste, however, that they didn’t notice the lights coming from the observation deck until they stepped inside. Outside the window, a salarian patrol craft had its lights shining in to illuminate the room and connected to it was the CAT6 shuttle. Inside standing in front of the exit was a face most hadn’t seen before, but was very familiar to Zenn: Captain Pirdoc Nemin.

“Captain Nemin…" Zenn said glaring at the salarian.

Nemin stepped forward toward the group and spoke in a rather pleasant voice. ”Ah Mr. Valin! We were just preparing to come in to assist you, but I see you and your team were successful without us. I am impressed."

“Save it!" Zenn blurted out. "We know the STG played a part in the fate of this ship! Then they tried to cover it up by tricking the survivors into reactivating the device! Now I know why you wouldn’t send any help. You probably thought we’d die out here too."

Nemin froze in place, stunned by Zenn’s words. At least that’s what he appeared to be, before he suddenly broke into laughter. ”Bravo, Mr. Valin! You and your group really are more capable than I thought. We probably could have done a lot of business with you and the SRN. A pity you had to go sticking your nose where it didn’t belong."

Nemin snapped his fingers, and a squad of salarian commandos surrounding the group uncloaked. They easily outnumbered the group and slowly moved in with weapons drawn. ”I’m afraid none of you will be leaving this ship. But since you came all this way, I will humor any questions you may have. And yes, I am aware of your plan to blow up the device, but I assure you we have plenty of time to deal with that."

Kysar spat on the floor, had he not just flayed his own mind on the husks he would have come up with some creative ways to go down swinging. The offer of information had sparked a question though, the final piece of the puzzle that the Turian just couldn’t work out.

“Why leak the story? You couldn’t have known the SRN would respond but you knew someone would. The STG would’ve covered a mess like this up a lot easier if you hadn’t done that. What is it you’re after?"

As Kysar asked his questions, Solveig moved slowly and carefully backwards, and to the side until she was standing in front of the other quarians. She stretched out her arm at her side like a shield, keeping them behind her as the commandos moved in toward them all.

"Why indeed?" Nemin said, shooting a nasty glare at his men. Each one seemed to shift uncomfortably, as if they were hiding something. ”In truth, turian, even I don't know. Even with the quarian miners discovering the signal we could have easily handled things quietly, but once the media got involved it became... Complicated. Our plan was to wait it out. Simply lock off the sector until the public attention turned elsewhere. But then your annoying quarian friend got involved. He just would not let it go."

"Let me guess," Zenn jumped in. "You realized the only way to shut me up would be to let me in. Then when the husks or CAT6 killed us you could double down on the area being 'hazardous'. Thus silencing me and ensuring no one tried to disturb your work after that?"

"...I take it I'm not the first person to try this on you?" Nemin asked with a raised eyebrow.

"I have a habit of volunteering for things that should kill me." Zenn shrugged.

Kysar began to laugh. A hand dropped to his stomach as the other slapped Zenn on the shoulder. The Turian's whole body shuddered into a howling roar. ”Aha Spirits! I get it now."

Kysar threw his hands up, inching forward slowly towards Nemin, careful to not make any sudden movements but still giggling away. ”You know, I knew a guy like you once. So deeply entrenched in the power play of the espionage world that he would do anything to be top dog." The Turian looked around at the STG soldiers. ”]Shit, not even the members of his own team were sacred to him. He'd have thrown each and every single one of them to the varrens just to get a shot at power. Isn't that right Nemin?"

Stopping a few steps away from the Salarian, Kysar continued before he could even answer. ”But what he didn't realise was that moves like this isolated him. Made him weak when he thought he was in a position of strength. That if the group worked together, they could, oh I don't know, pin a move he made that went way too far on him and him alone. What do you think guys?" The Turian gestured to both friend and foe, hoping that either he was able to convince the STG or that he was serving as a good enough distraction for his allies to try something.

"Think of this situation," Solveig added, glancing to Kysar. She knew what he was doing.

"Imagine the Alliance coming into this area," she paused, still in a protective stance ahead of the quarians. "To find a missing N7."

“And the missing daughter of a Vice Admiral."

She scowled over towards Nemin through her nerves. It was the truth, to an extent. ”That would make you all look very not great now... Don't think he'll admit to it."

Kysar eyes widened for a split second as he wondered how true Sol’s story was. Shaking the thought loose, the Turian smiled, partly proud of his team mate for stepping out of her comfort zone and partly proud of the fact she had just created some more icing for the cake.

“Just how much can you cover up? A prominent missing alliance figure, three of the top SRN agents," A small bead of sweat dripped down the back of the Turians head as his words spilled out. "Spirits, even the Hierarchy will ask questions about me."

The room fell silent. All the salarians looked at one another, but remained at the ready. After a moment, the silence was finally broken by a chuckle from Nemin. ”Really? That's the best you had? You think my men would turn on me just because of a few 'heroic' speeches and idle threats? I guess after all this I was expecting more from you all. No matter. If you're finished we have things to attend to. Soldiers. Open fire."

As Nemin gave the command, the silence of the room returned. None of them pulled the trigger. After a second or two, one of them lowered their weapon. Another followed, and another, until soon not one gun was pointing at the SRN team or the quarians.

"What? What do you think you're doing? I said fire!" Nemin practically screamed at his men.

"They're right, Captain." One of them spoke up. ”This has gone too far. Hell, we passed too far on the way to get where we are now. Your obsession with this reaper device has cost too many lives, and we all went along with it. But no more. We're taking these people home. After that we'll be contacting Colonel Vaykom and telling him all about what you've been up to. I'm sure he'll find a nice cell for you to spend the rest of your days in. And if we end up there with you, then so be it."

Nemin's face twisted. Everything was falling apart around him. Just when he thought he had control, the situation completely turned on him. ”Fine! Turn me in! But you're mistaken if you think I'll go down for this! I have connections all over the citadel! I won't spend a day in jail while the rest of you will spend the remainder of your lives locked away for insubordination and treason! Mark my words, you will regret-" Nemin was unable to finish his monologue due to the bottom of Zenn's pistol connecting with the side of his head. Nemin fell to the ground, his helmet absorbed most of the impact, but the shock was still enough to leave him stunned.

Up until now, the quarian had remained quiet to let his friends speak and watch the salarians at last stand up against this madman. However, what Nemin was saying made sense. If he was STG, he'd have all kinds of strings he could pull. He might even be able to disappear and live the rest of his days in some secluded part of the system while everyone else takes the fall. The very idea that Nemin even had a chance of getting away with this. The slaughter. The betrayal. He couldn't take that risk.

Zenn placed his foot on Nemin's chest and leaned close. ”You think after everything you've done you get to walk away?" Zenn's voice was different from normal. It was cold. Emotionless. As he spoke, he reached down and grabbed Nemin by his collar, pulling him closer. The salarian's face turned pale as his eyes met the quarian's callus gaze. ”All the lies you told? All the people you killed? No. No you won't be going to jail. You're not even going to the citadel." Zenn pressed his arc pistol against Nemin's head. It began to hum softly as the gun started to charge. ”You're going to die here, with all the others you condemned on this ship."



Everything had escalated so quickly, and yet it all played out so slowly - every movement, every word that built up the moment to its crescendo. Solveig felt the air turn cold, Zenn, gun in hand held against Nemin - was about to pull the trigger.

She couldn't let it happen. Not him, not like this. The Salarian was deserving of it, wasn't he? A monster that was about to kill them all for the gift of getting away with everything monstrous on this ship.

Hell, she didn't know Zenn well but she knew enough to find it hard to recognise him right now. She knew too well the price of pulling that trigger.

He can't do this.

Was anyone going to stop him? Was it going to have to be her? She twitched, clenched and flexed her hand, opening and closing her palm. She felt numb from her elbow to her fingertips, a migraine starting behind her eyes. What could she even say?

"Zenn!" Solveig yelled out before her mind had even put the words together. Fuck.

She croaked as everyone's heads turned to her - at least, it felt like they did. Snapping in unison to her direction to watch her fumble, stutter, or say the wrong thing. Make it worse.

Then it came to her - her father, the feeling of him holding her hand - his touch had always been so warm and grounding.

She recalled words he'd told her once too, a message she had once needed, and she repeated it to Zenn. Slowly. Enunciating everything.

"You can not... Honour anyone," she paused, softening her words - she felt the heat of the moments spotlight burning at her face, drying out her throat but she didn't want the words to die in there, no matter how heavy they felt.

"If you dishonour your values…"

The shot had startled Kysar. So much so, that he had instinctually drawn his own side arm, thinking one of the Salarians had had a change of heart.

Instead Zenn rushed into view, rage spewing from the Quarian like hot lava as he closed in for the kill. On the outside, Kysar froze. His mind had severed communication with his body to focus every bit of power it had on its synapses. The Turian's life flashed before his eyes.

The betrayal of his Cabal commander Scipio, the betrayal of his team in letting him take the fall, the sentencing to Purgatory prison, the change he had to make from a creature of unbridled rage to a cold calculating monster. The thing he had to become just to survive that place, something as soulless as the husks they fought. A moment like this was the catalyst.

The world around Kysar had been shut out, as if a spotlight had fallen on Zenn and Nemin alone. Though their adventure between the three of them had been brief, the Turian had felt something blossom over this journey. Friendship, something that had been so alien to him for so long. What was happening right now was a mistake, one that would affect the soul of his new found friend forever.

He couldn't let Zenn do this. He couldn't let the Quarian become a monster but Kysar, ah yes, he was already there. A soul already hopelessly lost, what was one more murder? One more act of evil from someone who deserved no redemption. He could do it, the Turian could be what maybe he always was.

Lowering his pistol, Kysar took aim at Nemin's head and fired.

Zenn kept eye contact with Nemin as Sol called out to him. His finger didn't move, keeping the gun charged, but not pulling the trigger just yet. There wasn't much Sol could say to stop him, but he would still listen, he owed her that much. What she said, however, did give him pause.

His values? She was trying to argue this was against his values? Nemin was a threat to the system. Maybe Sol had forgotten, but Zenn was a soldier. And if there was one thing he specialized in; it was eliminating threats.

"Sol…" Zenn said softly, trying to find the words to explain what he was about to do. ”I-"

BANG

Zenn was cut off by the sound of a gunshot. His helmet was covered in a splatter of green blood as Nemin's head burst in front of him. Zenn blinked a few times, taking a moment to process what had just happened. His head slowly turned to look in the direction the shot came from to see Kysar holding a gun pointed at Nemin.

Oh. So that's what this was. A distraction. Sol didn't really care, she just wanted to stall him so Kysar could claim the kill and take the fall for this instead. What? Did they not think he could handle this? That he wasn't prepared for what he was about to do? Zenn kept a firm gaze with the turian as he released his grip and let Nemin's body fall to the ground.

"Really?" Zenn asked. His voice had returned to the cold tone he had used before. ”I'm more than capable of following through with my own threats, Kysar. Next time you get an itchy trigger finger, find your own target."

The Turian's mouth opened. There was so much he wanted to say, so many things he wanted to explain. That this wasn't about capability at all. That for the first time in a long time, he didn't act out of anger or hate, he did what he did to save someone he cared about. That he himself had been down this path and he had seen everything that came with it.

Kysar's stomach sank deeper then it had ever done before. He felt as if his heart was stuck in his throat. Croaking, there were no words to be found. Let him be angry at you. He needs this and I can take being hated.

Holstering his pistol the Turian looked away from both of his team members and headed for the shuttle.

Solveig's jaw clenched and her eyes closed tight when the shot was fired. She flinched at the impact. Thankfully, the gasp was drowned out by the sound of blood, and of Zenn's voice.

She took a breath or two. Her legs felt like they were going to collapse under her, but since Kysar had left the scene, there were things to be done.

She avoided Zenn's gaze too, and made way with her head lowered to the commando she assumed was next best in line. To talk about this, to try and come to a resolution.

She felt so much damned disappointment in them both. But why? They're just teammates, this is just another mission, it'll be over soon.

Her fingers danced nervously over a small compartment of the armour on her leg. She thought back to earlier, when they both had guns pointed at each other - it's just a fucking mission Sol, stop it. You're done with this when Katya wakes up.

Zenn continued to watch as Kysar turned away from him as he headed to the shuttle without saying a word. He then shifted to look at Sol, who was also avoiding his gaze and not saying anything. Were they really just going to avoid him now? Not even address what happened? His hands clenched into fists. Things were going so well. Why did they have to mess them up? And now they didn't even have the guts to look at him. Fine. Be that way. Zenn thought as he turned away from Sol.

The salarian Sol walked up to was the one who stood up to Nemin. Seemed he was now the spokesman for the commandos as he was the first to speak up again. ”What do we do now? The salarian union will not look kindly on SRN operatives killing a member of the STG, even if he was a monster. Not to mention we all stood by while it happened. When they find out, all sorts of hell will rain down on all of us."

"Then they won't find out." Zenn replied, almost eerily calm. He casually holstered his weapon and began wiping the blood from his suit. ”When you report to Vaykom, tell him that Nemin decided to investigate the signal afterall and brought you all along. You found the ship, the reaper device, and the survivors. You helped destroy it, but Nemin was killed in action. You'll look like heroes for stopping a possible reaper resurgence and rescuing the quarians, while the STG will believe their tracks are covered and won't look further into this."

"But what about you?" The salarian asked. "What will you tell your employer?"

"We ran into some technical troubles and never made it to the coordinates. You found us on the way back and towed our shuttle to the citadel. A quick check of our flight logs will confirm those events." Zenn stated.

The salarian looked at him in complete disbelief. ”So you're really just going to give us all the credit? Let the system think we saved the quarians and paint Nemin's death as some noble sacrifice?"

"So long as everyone makes it out of this, I'll tell whatever story the higher-ups want to hear." Zenn shrugged. ”I... We don't do this for the glory." He finished before heading to the shuttle himself.

As alone as she was with the Salarians, Solveig took the time to see them back into their ship. Not saying much at all as she went.

In the quiet, she felt familiar pains in her body. Migraine, trembling, patches of her skin that felt like they were on fire.

She also felt... embarrassed. Those last few moments gnawing at her. The voice in her head that sounded just like her mother began to chastise and mock her. She knew the ride was about to be especially uncomfortable.

Solveig took another deep breath, tensing her arm, and headed over to the shuttle too.

LOYALTY: Shadow
Daring Rescue: Part 2


"Helvete!" she called out as she wrestled away from the husk as it dropped - her skin crawling.

Solveig wasn't about to be caught off guard again. There was a mixed feeling of embarrassment and fear, and as she glanced over at Zenn, his rifle still in hand she felt a gratitude and respect. Grateful for the two of them.

"How is that possible?" She asked, breathing heavily, crossing the room to get back to her team-mates - even if she felt smaller, and her posture reflected the scare she'd just had. She still had hold of the data pad.

"It's gotta be some sort of black op. Some kind of experimentation gone array." Kysar said, voicing an earlier thought. Putting a hand on Sol's shoulder he tried giving a reassuring nod ok.

"One thing's for certain, we're going to have to scuttle the ship." Looking between the two, the Turian shook his head. ”Hell, I don't even know about turning in any evidence we find."

Kysar's brow furrowed in frustration. Truth of the matter was that this wasn't his mission, nor were they his people. ”]At least that's my thoughts Shadow but none of this is my call and I'll back you with whatever way you decide to move forward."

Zenn did not say anything. His mind was filled with questions. How did a husk get on board? Were there more of them? What Kysar was saying sort of made sense, but who in their right mind would ever screw around with reaper tech after everything that had happened? And the distress signal. Was that part of some twisted plan as well?

"No." Zenn stated plainly. "There could still be survivors. If not, then at least there should be some answers. Whatever the case, I'm not leaving until I know what happened here."

His head snapped to Solveig, then down to the datapad she held. There must be something in there. He needed to see it.

"Wraith." Zenn started, ready to ask her to read it or hand it over before he glanced back at her face. The fear in eyes from what just transpired reminded him that while he was on the warpath, this wasn't just about him. His team was his first priority. "...You okay?" He asked instead.

A trembling hand passed the data pad to Zenn. "Yes. Thank you. Of course. I'm... all good here," she lied, which was something she was terrible at. "We should keep moving, if anything else is here... They know that we are too now."

Zenn nodded to Solveig and took the datapad. She didn't look or sound okay, but he didn't want to add any more stress and push the subject. She was right, they needed to move, but which way?

On a whim, he pointed to the door to the left. “Through here." He said, heading to the exit away from the husk.

As they walked, he satiated his curiosity and read the datapad
["I knew it! I knew that maniac Caeh would be the death of us! I warned the captain over and over not to listen to him, that the device was dangerous. We should have left it on Kaddi, but no. "It would be our secret weapon. This would be our moment of glory!" My only solace is knowing those bosh’tets went first. We might be paying for their arrogance, but they already have."]


It was an immediate relief to leave that room, and Solveig listened carefully to the words from the datapad. ”Ah," she sighed.

"Secret weapons... Device... Glory." Solveig shook her head disapprovingly.

So why was CAT6 here? Kysar thought. Has some other organisation caught wind of this? Or was this Caeh in cahoots?

The Turian had heard of Kaddi, a former colony of the Quarian's turned Geth world. Though he'd never heard of anything significant being discovered or have happened there before. Maybe the Reapers had churned up something ancient on the planets surface.

Kysar shook his head, regardless, at least they had some info about what went down. "Shadow, do you know this 'Caeh' character?"

"A fine line between bravery and stupidity." Zenn grumbled as he tossed the datapad aside. ”and it sounds like this captain fit the latter. But that doesn't explain why there are still husks here. The crucible destroyed them. At the very least none should be functional."

Kysar then asked if Zenn knew the quarian named in the log. Caeh. Unfortunately, Zenn shook his head. "Name doesn't sound familiar. But judging from that they were someone of importance. If I had to guess, I’d say someone who worked closely with this device and either got arrogant or fell victim to indoctrination. I’m sure there’s something here that will tell us for sure."

The Turian frowned and his stomach churned. It all felt too blind and unknown, stumbling through the ship with only god knows what around the corner. The three of them alone couldn’t hope to clear a full ship of hostiles.

“So what’s the plan here Shadow? Are you familiar with the layout of this type of ship?" Kysar’s hands dropped behind his back as he begun to pace around. Thinking back to earlier on when Zenn had mentioned the goal was to save anyone who was left, the Turian queried. ”As for survivors, anyway we can get the power turned back on? We need some way to be able to pinpoint anyone who’s left. Could we get comms up or do you guys track bio-signatures of crew? I’m a pretty confident guy but even I’m not sure about taking on a whole ships worth of enemies."

"I do not posses any hacking skills beyond sabotaging," Sol clarified.

"I might suggest finding an alternate path through the ship," she said as she ran her hand across the wall, as if searching for a weak point in the material.

"I wonder if there is a way to access anything else on board with the datapad... We know it is working."

Zenn let out a sigh and leaned back against one of the counters. Kysar was making excellent points. With every step they were walking further into danger, and any answers had just created more questions. Not to mention the three of them searching an entire frigate would certainly take longer than they had.

“If anyone is trying to use comms, it’s not coming through. Otherwise our omni-tools would be going crazy. Bio-signatures are kinda out of the question since. Well. This is where we’d normally find them." He stated and gestured to the trashed med bay they stood in. "Datapad wouldn't do us much good. It runs on its own power source independent of the ship, and without the ship's power there isn't a network for it to connect to. Speaking of power, our best bet would be engineering, and as luck would have it we are headed that way…" Zenn placed his hand under his chin as he gave the situation some serious thought. He was going about this all wrong. Instead of jumping in head first as the rescuer, he had to think if he was a survivor. What would he do?

“Okay." He spoke up after a few seconds. “Our first destination will be the armory. It’s actually not far from here, and if my ship was being boarded or overtaken, it's where I would hold up. If no one is there, we finish our route to engineering and see what the damage is. If we can get the power restored it should be enough to help us pinpoint the survivors, or at the very least call for backup."

Zenn pushed himself away from the counter and took his rifle in his hands once more. ”Again, I won't hold it against any of you if you wish to return to the shuttle. I'm the one who can't let this go. I won't make you follow me into madness."

"Just so we're clear," stepping away from the wall, Solveig brought herself to Zenn's side. ”]Not going back to the shuttle, Shadow.

“I volunteered to be here."
She looked back to Kysar too. "Besides, starting to think we work well together."

She steadied herself, already feeling calmer from moments before. "And by the looks of this place, you might need me to open another door."

From behind his helmet, Kysar smiled at Sol, it was nice to see her coming out of her shell. Turning the Zenn he reiterated. ”And I’ve already told both of you that I can’t fly that silly human contraption. So y’know, gotta protect the only guy who can." Glancing at Solveig, he shrugged. ”No offence Awks."

The woman was right of course, despite some mishaps, the three gelled well as a team. Together they had taken down three enemy shuttles and navigated through a minefield of debris. Whatever was ahead, Kysar had confidence in each of them to see it through.

And yet, his stomach still churned. A fear had been planted all the way back in Africa, one that had only grown with each encounter. Galactic victory over the Reapers had been costly, with a large power vacuum forming as a result. Evil men such as Banes had used advanced Reaper tech to launch their own bid for power and now it was happening all over again.

Turning back to Zenn, the Turian’s tone switched, dropping into a serious pitch. ”Shadow, I’m with you on finding out what happened and trying to save anyone who’s alive in this mess but after that, please think about destroying what we found here."

Kysar turned away from both of them. ”In the wrong hands, or hell, maybe even in the right ones, something like this could have dire consequences for your people and what’s left of the galaxy."

“Yes please." Zenn whispered in response to Sol’s door comment. His face immediately turned red upon realizing the thought that was supposed to remain in his head had escaped into words. ”I mean yes! I too think we work well together and am pleased you are sticking with me! Thank you both." He said genuinely meaning it, but avoiding eye contact with his teammates.

When Kysar brought up the subject of destroying whatever they found, Zenn was able to recompose himself and faced him as he answered. "Agreed. I don't know what this crew found, but if it's reaper tech, it has to be destroyed. No matter the cost."

The Turian, feeling a small sense of relief wash over him, shouldered his rifle, giving Zenn a polite nod. "Lead on Shadow. I’m right behind you."

This was difficult for Solveig. The talk of destroying everything, she couldn't say she disagreed with them, but there was a cloying feeling, the Alliance Soldier in her knew it had to be reported, that something had to be shared. The Alliance had to be informed of this.

Don't they? I should... But...

She'd deal with it later, and, confused, she pushed onwards. ”Let's get to the armourory." That didn't sound right "Uh. The army." Neither did that "The place!"

Moving further along, the team would find the next room less horrific than the med bay, but still not a comforting sight. In the corners it would appear to be a cargo hold, with storage crates stacked to the ceiling, though a few had been knocked over. Yet along the walls several rows of bunk beds, some knocked over as well, but the ones still standing were placed almost side by side with barely enough room for a quarian to fit between them. And unfortunately, this room, too, had blood and bodies scattered about, but not to the same extent as the med bay. Unlike all the rooms before, this one only had one other doorway to their right. In front of it were three husks shambling around in the darkness. Somehow they had not heard the shot from the previous encounter, but as soon as the team’s lights spotted them, they cranked their heads to look at the team, and let out a filtered shriek from their cracked yet intact masks.

Image4

Ready for the husks this time, the trio lined up. Kysar in the middle, Zenn to the left and Sol on the right. Zenn fired first, placing a bullet right between the center husk’s eyes. It dropped to the ground with its arms outstretched and its claws caught the legs of the other two husks tripping them up. Unfortunately, they fell to the ground just as Kysar and Sol fired, causing them to miss their targets.

Pulling themselves back up, the husks started to run at the trio again, but both were quickly dispatched. One gunned down from Kysar’s rifle, the other meeting the same fate as its companion by another round from Zenn’s sniper. Sol, too, landed her shot, though she was a second too late and hit the husk Kysar had just killed.

“Alright. I think we’re getting the hang of this." Zenn said, impressed with how effectively they cleared the room.

Kysar nodded in agreement, popping his thermal clip and chambering in a fresh one. ”Reckon there's anything of use in these crates Shadow?"

"They have no business moving that fast," Solveig said, rolling her shoulder and catching her breath.

“Well, given this is a civilian overflow, probably just spare parts, tools, and other standard equipment. Though some of these should be stuffed with nutrient paste if you’re hungry?" Zenn said with a shrug.

Something had caught Solveig's attention, she recalled the last rooms and hallways, almost everytime, there had been a trail of blood through the exit. As if something had continued through. The husks, at least, remained in one spot. ”Uhm, Shadow... Venator," she said as she shone her flashlight against the next doorway.

"Don't you think that looks... Like something has travelled?"

Kysar's stomach rumbled at the mention of food. He made a mental note to grab any pocket sized dextro bits he found along the way.

Turning his attention to Sol, the Turian shone his flashlight along the ground and up towards the door. She was right, while there were random markings, there was also a direction flow to a large amount of the stains. ”Yeah Wraith, you're right."

Zenn hadn’t been paying much attention to the trail, focusing more on the enemies and immediate threats. But now that Sol mentioned it, there absolutely was a trail led from room to room. "I think you’re onto something, Wraith. We need to stay on high alert. Whatever made those… Well I don’t want it getting the drop on us."

"We should hurry," Solveig said, ”we can't allow it to get the drop on any survivors either."

The next room looked similar to the med bay, both in layout and desolation. The key differences were the lack of any beds, and the large device near the back wall. It was clearly not the one they were looking for, as it was quarian in design. It was also completely destroyed, covered in scorch marks and even melted in some places. Whatever this device was used for, it clearly failed. The exits were both sealed off, but the one head of them was not blocked with the blast doors. Instead a makeshift barricade of crates and other various furniture covered the doorway.

The final feature that really drew their attention was the massive pool of blood in front of the device. It may not have seemed odd after what they had witnessed before, but it definitely stood out once they noted the lack of any bodies in the room.

Image5

"I thought the bad juju couldn't get any worse," Solveig muttered as she observed the room.

"Device," she repeated, thinking back to the datapad as she looked at the console in the centre.

Zenn walked up to the broken device, carefully looking it over. "This is a containment projector. It generates a field of energy meant to hold something almost in perfect stasis. These are highly experimental. I’ve never seen one on a military vessel before, they’re usually almost exclusively used on science vessels. They wouldn’t move one here unless they were transporting something very unstable. And clearly it wasn’t enough…"

"Here I was thinking they found some sort of device. Looks like instead they've found some sort of creature." Kysar had shaken his head so much that his neck was getting tired. ”A creature that can turn Quarian's into husks? Or is there more to this?"

Looking over at the make shift barrier, some of the items looked on the heavy side of things. ”Wraith, you wanna put that arm to some more use and dismantle that thing? Shadow and I will stand back and provide overwatch."

Solveig nodded - time was still of the essence. The barricade was made up of all kinds of items that were wedged tightly into the door frame. Worryingly, more of the trail of blood was underneath it all.

As with the entrance to the ship, the woman handled it with ease, pushing the items into the side - the strength behind her arm caused the boxes to ripple and flatten. Much like someone might do to a soft drink can.

She left enough space for them all to pass through. ”Ready when you are."

Zenn nodded to Kysar and stood in position with him, watching carefully as Solvieg pulled apart the makeshift barricade. The first instance she crushed a box one handed, Zenn had to force himself to stay focused and push away the feelings that had previously left him flustered. Given the atmosphere and everything they had gone through, he was able to remain alert and in the moment. Everyone, in fact, was taking extra caution and minding their surroundings thanks to Sol’s observation of the bloodstains. Which is why when she finished, all of them could feel the rumbling in the floor.

“Wraith! Get away from there!" Zenn practically screamed. Sol was able to quickly reposition back with the others just before the barricade blew apart. All the items of the barricade flew across the room as they were smashed aside, revealing what it was meant to keep in.

Towering in the remains of the barricade was a monstrous amalgamation of steel and several quarians fused together. Its hands mutated into large grotesque claws dripping with blood. The massacred crew, the completely smashed in doors, even how parts of the ship secured into the floor were ripped from their mounts, it all made sense now. It may not have been made from turians or krogans, but the trio knew all too well the destructive capabilities of a brute. And they had just set it free.

Going against a brute in such close quarters was basically suicide. Even krogan were at a disadvantage against these things. But in that moment Zenn didn’t feel terror or fear. He did not see a hulk of death, but instead the beast that had taken countless lives aboard this ship. Without hesitation he opened his omni-tool and performed a scan on the brute. It transferred the data in real time to all three party members, giving them a holographic overlay that highlighted weak points in the brutes armor. Now they knew where to hit it.

This was a problem, Sol thought as she assessed the surroundings. She had only a moment to do it. To act on the intrusive thought that occurred as soon as her omni-tool blipped with information. How would they be able to hit that thing if it moved even half as fast as what she expected it would. How would they avoid its dangerous attacks?

"Got an idea," she said before she burst off. ”Venator, get ready with those biotics."

Then, she moved to the wall, running as fast as she could with such a short distance. She leapt, the attention of the brute was on her.

She'd been feeling stronger lately, invigorated, and it came to the surface now. She got height for her next jump from the wall - pushing off with her foot to launch into the air. Towards the brute.

She hadn't thought about this enough, this was something Zenobia would do. Hell, maybe the Turian's energy had rubbed off on her, because it was not befitting of an Alliance soldier that was to be sure. The fall felt like it was in slow motion, and her heart raced as she landed on the things neck, it's entire back was adorned with all manner of shrapnels so it wasn't exactly comfortable, but she firmly wrapped her legs over the shoulders, a foot wedged under each of its arms and she curled her bionic arm around its neck, pulling it upwards until the thing was still, locked, and open. She could feel it fighting against her - they would have only seconds before she'd need to move.

"Now Venator! Shadow! Take the shot!"

As stunning as what Sol had done was, Kysar needed to focus. He had faced brutes before, during the war. Tough and hardy fuckers that never came down easy.

A blue hue ignited, emanating from all over the Turian’s body. Roaring, he fired a warp from hand right at the beast, hitting it square in the chest.

The brute flailed its arms in the air, trying with all its might to reach Solveig, but its mass betrayed it. Its shoulders were too thick for it to reach its head and pull Solveig off. It continued to focus on Solveig, unphased by Kysar’s warp attack, but the results spoke for themselves. The armor plating began to burn and disintegrate and expose more weak points. While its arms waved wildly back and forth, its legs hardly moved from their position. The armor that once protected its knees had turned to dust. The tactical scan identified this and immediately notified Zenn and Kysar of the opening.

“Venator! Its knees! I’ve got left!" Zenn called out. He lined up the shot, exhaled, then fired. The bullet ripped through the brute’s left knee. It fell to the side, as its left leg buckled.

"Hurry Venator," Sol called out through gritted teeth as the brute flailed at her, she couldn't hold it for much longer, but if they could get both legs, she knew she could try to floor it.

They didn’t have to tell Kysar twice, without a thought the Turian brandished his rifle and fired at the right leg. The rounds sheared straight through and the beast began to collapse.

Even as it lay on the ground, the brute continued to desperately swing its arms up to snatch Solveig or at least a chuck of her. It was no use. She had an even better hold and position on it now, and with its legs out of the equation, it couldn’t exactly try anything else. The once unstoppable force was now completely helpless; And Zenn had the perfect shot. His reticle was lined up with the brute’s unarmored head. One last shot would put an end to its rampage. Zenn pulled the trigger.

Beepbeepbeepbeep

Zenn took his eye from the scope and looked to the side of the gun. The indicator showed that it had overheated. Somehow during this whole mission, he never once thought to load in a new thermal clip…Oops.

With Sol on top and the beast on the ground, the margin for error had increased. Too much for Kysars liking. Returning the rifle to its place on his back, he approached the thing as it thrashed hopelessly against Wraith’s iron grip.

Forming a tightly wound fist, Kysar blade lit up around his forearm. Electricity crackled as the Turian moved into position over the brute, watching as the warp chewed through the armour like butter, stripping away the protection from the chest. ”Time to die fucker!"

Bringing down the blade, Kysar stuck it right in the middle of his chest.

Blade through its chest, Solveig could feel the brute giving out, she practically felt it take in its last breath - there was surely nowhere for a breath to go now that Kysar had stabbed it straight through. A death groan rattled out of its maw.

Still, she couldn't resist -- as she released her arm from the neck of the brute, she brought it back swinging against its jaw, clapping it clean off with a spray of blood and bone.

She too, had no breath, and as it dropped properly she stumbled forward, her eyes wide as an unfamiliar sound rattled in her own chest. A quiet and short, yet unmistakable, laugh.

"Keelah… We actually killed it!" Zenn blurted out, unable to contain his excitement. "Wraith, that was amazing! That was like one of those martial arts holovids! And Venator! You've got biotics that would make an asari jealous! I mean wow!"

He may have been going overboard, but who could blame him? They had just taken down one of the strongest husk variants with little planning or preparation beforehand. Yet they still managed to work together flawlessly, as if their minds had become one. Zenn had not worked this well with a team since his days with the ghosts.

"Couldn't have…" Sol breathed.

"Without your…" She breathed in and out again, placing a hand on her chest.

"Tactical blippy scans…" She swallowed down more air and stood back upright.

"I have to say too. You are a remarkable sniper…"

“Ha! Spirits, that was wild. I’ve never seen one of these bastards go down so quick. First rounds on me when we get back." Extending a hand to Sol to help her properly stand up, Kysar remarked. ”Hell, maybe we could clear this whole ship together."

Sol took his hand and nodded in appreciation, placing her other hand at the small of her back and stretching. ”Happy to fight with you Venator but... Respectfully... No more please."

The urge for Zenn to call for a group hug was strong; especially with his two teammates standing next to each other. However, it was still too soon to really celebrate. They still had a few rooms to clear, though he seriously doubted whatever they held would pose a threat after this.

"Yeah, I think I'll pass on taking on any more of those. After this, I hope to never see a husk of any kind again. Though I will be taking you up on that drink! Probably going to need more than one."

Kysar popped the thermal clip of his rifle once more, shooting Zenn an obvious look as he did so. The Turian also cleared his throat, hoping his message was clear.

“Ready to move when you two are."

"That is…" probably the first time colleagues have invited me for drinks… ”a great idea." Solveig said quietly, and appreciatively.

"But um, yes... Uhh, let's finish this. Come on," Solveig readied her rifle, and began back in the direction of the barricade.

“Oh. Right. Duh." Zenn said with embarrassment. He ejected the thermal clip of his sniper and loaded a new one in. "Ready."

Across the threshold of the ruined barricade was the armory. While there was the unfortunately now familiar sight of death in the room, there were also signs of a fierce battle. Bullet holes could be seen on every inch of the wall, every body was clutching a weapon and wearing armor over their suits. It made sense now why the brute was damaged before they faced it, it first had to go through this group. The weapons lockers have been knocked over, even tossed across the room and lodged into the walls. All of them have been smashed open save for one directly to their left. There are two workbenches in the room, one in the center, and one against the right wall. On the bench against the wall, a datapad has managed to remain intact. And there isn’t a body laying next to it! Only one other exit is in this room, and it has been sealed tight with the blast doors. There is severe damage to it, no doubt from the brute attempting to escape, but it still holds strong with no way to budge it.

Image6

Whatever brief reprieve she felt from defeating the brute, was all but washed away when they walked into the next room. The scene of the struggle was horrible to look at.

Her eyes tracked the room and her gaze landed on the datapad in the center. Solveig shook her head. “Uhhhh... yeah, not this time boys," she said before directing her attention elsewhere to what appeared to be the only locked weapons locker in the room.

After a quick sleight of hand, it was off its hinges.

Inside there was a heavy weapon laid out. Some kind of projector that Sol was unfamiliar with, still she picked it up and held it out. "Might be useful."

Zenn surveyed the armory when his eyes locked onto the datapad. The one before had given them insight, maybe this one also had something useful? He walked over to the bench and read it aloud for the others.
["We took the final vote today. It was unanimous. We’re going to destroy the device. We cannot wait for help that isn’t coming. We refuse to go mad as our food and oxygen slowly diminishes. We have accepted our deaths. At least this way they will mean something.

We can’t make a push for the device with that “thing” still roaming the halls, so we’ve devised a plan. My team will set a trap, rig the controls to the blast door in the armory to overload. All we have to do is give it a bit of power from our omni-tools and it will trigger them to close. If it triggers prematurely, we can still try to escape via the maintenance hatch. Meanwhile, Leena will take the main force and clear a path to engineering. If all goes according to plan, we will rendezvous with her and begin the main assault.

I pray this message will never be read. But if someone has found it, it means my team has failed. I beg of you. Destroy the device. Destroy the Roma if you have to. It cannot survive."]


"There may still be survivors! If we can just find that maintenance hatch we might be able to reach them!"

Kysar had wandered off around the room as the other two made their beelines. After listening to Zenn read the tablet out loud he began a thorough search. Quickly ducking a look under each workbench, he found nothing. I suppose if the hatch was that obvious, these Quarians might have made it out.

The Turians brow furrowed as his lips pursed to the side. Where could it be? What’s out of place? Incessantly tapping his foot, he shone his flashlight all around the room.

“Aha!"

Off in the far corner of the room, lay a pair of lockers in a heap. They had fallen in an odd matter, for if they had been simply knocked over, they’d be lying in a slanted position.

Getting in for a closer look, Kysar leaned over the lockers and managed to squeeze his claw between them and the wall. As he stretched his talon down, he could feel a grate.

“Hey Awks, over here, I’m gonna need that arm of yours again." He said, waving over Sol.

"I'm going to drill you both at the gym after this, you know," Solveig said as she approached the spot and got to work in clearing the space.

Sure enough, there was a hatch.

Kysar chuckled. "Why work hard when you can work smart?"

The Turian turned to Zenn. "Speaking of, Shadow, you’re up."

"I might not always be here to open doors for you, then your smarts will be tested," Solveig smirked.

“You’re going to what?" Zenn asked Sol before he turned and saw her lift the first locker out of the way. "Oh…" Zenn could feel his face start to burn again. He quickly hid his face behind the datapad in his hands and gently started hitting his forehead.

Get your act together, Zenn! She might have caught you off guard the first time, but the rest is on you. This is not the time to be distracted by tall beautiful strong women.

He took a long deep breath, then lowered the datapad revealing he was completely fine. Kysar then asked for his help, which he was more than happy to provide.

“So the thing with hatches like these." Zenn started before igniting his omni-blade and stabbing into the latch. He then simply grabbed the handle and pulled it open. "They don’t have any sort of reinforcements." With the hatch open, he took hold of the ladder and slowly climbed down. "Oh and watch your head down here. These were built for quarians and we usually don’t reach six feet."

Solveig blinked over at Zenn, about to ask him if he was feeling okay. She did worry if he was really healed from his injury on the last mission, she knew that Quarian's were prone to infection, but she didn't think a fever would be this sporadic. Maybe it was the concussion? Soon enough as it started, he was fine.

"After you Venator - gents first."

Kysar groaned. At 6 '5, he was the tallest member of the team, not to mention the fact that he was also quite wide for a Turian and packed on some serious kilos. ”Fine, but if I get stuck, you’re pushing me."

Climbing down into the cramped vent, the Turian squeezed his way through, grumbling as he once again cursed another species' ship design.

"If you get stuck, I could always open fire," Solveig said with a deadpan delivery and a shrug as she peered over the vent and looked down, watching as Kysar headed disappeared. ”Like a fish in a hole."

Soon enough she began her own descent not too long after him. Small spaces were not a bother to her. She glanced over her shoulder. "That would get you moving, no?"

Kysar gave Sol a very sarcastic laugh as the trio squeezed into the maintenance tunnel. They quickly found that Zenn was not exaggerating about how cramped it would be. It was a tight fit for the group. Sol and Kysar had to hunch down the whole way, and Kysar nearly did get stuck at one point. After heading through the tunnel for a few minutes, they came across another hatch. Zenn was able to ‘unlock’ it just as before and push it open. As he climbed up the ladder, however, several lights all shined directly on him; with an equal amount of guns attached to them.

“Whoa hey friendly! We’re friendly!" He spoke up.

“We?" An unknown filtered voice asked. ”Alright, all of you out of the shaft. Slowly."

Zenn pulled himself up, then motioned for the others to do the same.

At the top of the ladder, they would find themselves in a small hallway. They were currently surrounded by four quarians, all with weapons trained on them. One of them had stepped forward; a female quarian wearing armor with the Migrant Fleet insignia on it. She looked very similar to Zenn, only red.

“Identify yourselves and tell me what you’re doing on my ship! Now!" She ordered.

“I'm Zenn’Valin vas Konesh. We're not looters or anything. My friends and I came here to rescue you."

“Vas Konesh? Wow. Didn’t think the fleet would send you crazy bosh’tets after us." She stated with a chuckle, then signaled for the rest of the quarians to lower their weapons. ”]I’m Chief Security Officer Leena’Razna vas Roma, but these days I’m acting captain. Not my cup of tea, but I’d say it’s an improvement after what the last one put us through… Tell me. Did you happen to come across another group of us? They were supposed to meet us here."

Lowering his arms to his side, Kysar looked between his two team mates. Awks wasn't one for speeches and Zenn had had that weird moment back there just before the vents.

"They err... I'm sorry, they didn't make it."

She'd only just found herself somewhat accustomed to speaking to Kysar and Zenn without hiccup, and then that new found confidence went right back in the box in the presence of other strangers. She was glad to have found people alive but...

Solveig decided to leave this one to them.

"Damn it!" Leena cursed. ”Well did they at least cage that brute? Not that it matters, I guess. We don't have the numbers to take back engineering now, even without having to worry about that thing blindsiding us."

"They did manage to cage it but we stumbled across it." Kysar scratched the back of his head awkwardly. ”We managed to take it out though, so it won't be a problem going forward. What's the situation in engineering?"

"Wait. You killed that thing? No fucking way!" Leena was genuinely thrilled by this news. The other quarians looked taken aback as well. ”I assume you've seen the status of the Roma? The husks, the fact we're stranded in fucking space! Yeah, the thing that caused it is in engineering, guarded by who knows how many husks. We were going to use high explosive charges to blow the damn thing, but we'd need to get close to it first. Hence why we needed the brute gone, and more men. If you all are badass enough to take that brute down, we might still be able to pull this off! Assuming you'll help us?"

Solveig glanced sidelong at Zenn with a raised brow. Surely there couldn't be any more? she thought. She gave him a nod anyway, they'd come this far, might as well go the whole way.

Kysar sighed, slightly annoyed at the lack of information from the officer. He had meant the specifics of what's inside the engineering but it was obvious no-one had reconned the room.

"Do we have any info that could help us? How does the device work? Is it connected to the husks? Anyway we can recon the room or do we just have to kick down the doors and hope for the best?" The Turian had a million other questions loaded and ready to go but he did his best to bite his tongue and wait for an answer.

"Don't know the specifics, but from what we've gathered the Device itself functions similar to one of those Dragon's Teeth, except this one seems to have greater control on the husks. They seem drawn to it. First time it activated it wiped half the crew, turned them into husks, then sabotaged the ship."

"As for engineering, I can give you a layout of the room, but we don't know how many are in there. We evacuated shortly after the device went off the second time."

Zenn raised and eyebrow at Leena's second statement. ”Second time? How did a reaper device trigger after the crucible?"

Leena became visibly uncomfortable. The question Zenn asked bothered her, but she still obliged him. “We... Reactivated it."

While she had no words, she couldn't stay quiet. Sol let out a small laugh of disbelief, her fist clenched into a ball and she closed her eyes. Doing the best she could to bite her tongue.

She'd fought on the front lines as an N7 to bring the reapers down. I still have the fucking scars, she thought. And here they were, playing with reaper tech as if the lessons hadn't just been learned.

"Fuck," she ended up muttering through a clenched jaw. Why?" She added, breaking the tension. Her stare had darkened.

"We didn't have any other choice! Hell it wasn't even our idea! None of this was!" Leena turned and punched the wall, the anger in her voice felt like it was directed at herself more than anyone else.

"Every bit of equipment in this place was fried. Even all our eezo was drained. The only thing we got working was a short range comm beacon. I couldn't even tell you how long we waited until someone finally answered. We tried to explain our situation, but they just told us it was too dangerous. They couldn't send help. Then they suggested if the device had taken so much power, then maybe it had stored it and we could use it to power the ship. So we moved it from the lab to here. Hooked it up. And wouldn't you know it, the thing turned right back on but instead of powering the ship, it just destroyed our comms and brought the fucking husks back."

They'd lost enough, she thought, and held back any more words she had to berate their choices. What would it do, really? Save for waste time? She also thought about the datapad they had found. About using it as a weapon, the tone there. She reserved her thoughts, she didn't know if Kysar would.

"Let's finish the job then," was all she could manage.

"This is the type of shit I was telling you about Zenn." Kysar's frustration was too much to contain, though his threshold for keeping opinions to himself was never quite so high to begin with. ”Don't matter whose hands this falls into, it's always 'we had no choice' or 'someone else made us do it'. Bullshit you had no choice. Some of your comrades got nabbed trying to get to you and now we're here."

The Turian raised his hand to his face, massaging his temples in an attempt to calm down. ”I mean it's Reaper tech for fucks sake. Spirits, and now your crew is dead and for what? I mean -"

"Venator," Solveig expressed from behind him, reaching out to touch his arm. She was as angry on the inside as he was outside.

She couldn't even tell him it was okay, or ask him if he was okay. Fucking obviously not. She looked to Zenn for guidance, for the next move, for him to step in.

"Hey!" Leena stomped toward Kysar getting right up in his face, or as much as she could, being almost a foot shorter than him. ”You think I wanted any of this? If it had been up to me, that thing would have never been on board in the first place! If you want to blame anyone, blame that ax'kah Caeh’Fegar!"

While Solveig tried to calm down Kysar, Zenn pushed himself between him and Leena to try and separate the two. "Caeh. We read about him in one of the datapads. Whoever wrote it seemed to share your grievance about him and the previous captain."

Leena took a step back and focused on her breathing, trying not to let her anger get the better of her.

"Yeah. Head of our science team. He's the one who found the thing on Kaddi. Had it contained and transported here for 'study'. Day and night he spent tinkering with it, all the while on the holo with that salarian buddy of his. The two were convinced it could be used to override reaper control of husks. That somehow we could use it against the reapers. None of us bought it; except for the captain…" As Leena continued, her voice began to tremble. Fighting tears behind her mask. When we got the call to come to Earth, I begged him to toss it out the airlock... He dismissed me and told everyone to man their stations and prepare for battle... We barely even got out here when... Well you know the rest... After that we just did what we could to survive, but…"

"But it just got more people killed." Zenn finished for her, shaking his head. ”And so you decided you'd make sure no one made the same mistakes and destroy the device even at the cost of your own lives."

Still holding Kysar's arm, something that was said didn't sit right, ”wait…" Solveig stepped forward from the back. ”A Salarian?" she asked intensely.

"Who is the Salarian?"

"I don't know. Caeh and I weren't on good terms, so I never got the guy's name. Never asked, honestly. Why?" Leena asked at the line of inquiry. Of all the info she gave, she felt that was the least relevant. But Zenn seemed to be on the same page as Sol.

"Because the only reason we're here is because the Salarian Union let us." Zenn stated. ”They have the whole area locked off due to potential hazards... That call you got, the one that told you to hook up the device. They wouldn't have happened to be salarian as well?"

Leena's eyes grew wide and slowly filled with rage. ”That Bosh'tet…"

And suddenly, it all clicked into place. CAT6, expendable mercs hired to kill anything that entered or exited, payment to such an organisation during such times would’ve been easy to wipe from record. Quarians, an alien race with a history of messing with tech they shouldn’t. All of it, so easy to deny, so easy to sweep under the rug. So easy, as long no one looked hard enough.

Kysar was right, it was a black op. A fucking STG black op. Those slippery fuckers are looking for the advantage. Something in him snapped, something far beyond the realm of anger. The Turian felt his eyes glaze over as he breathed in deep through his nose and out his mouth. A feeling of cold nothingness swept through his body like a blizzard. It was a similar feeling to the one he had felt upon witnessing the horrors of death his old comrades had faced.

Vengeance.

“We need to gather every bit of evidence we can find tying the Salarians to this." He said calmly. "I’m going to take it and make sure they all burn for this."

Leena shook her head. "I've been up and down these halls for who knows how long and I've found nothing connecting STG to this. Not to mention once we blow this device the whole ship could be taken out."

"There is one option…" Zenn said. He couldn't believe the words coming out of his mouth, but someone had to say it. ”We leave the device."

"Are you insane? Have you not been paying attention to anything we've said!" Leena practically screamed at Zenn.

"I'm just saying, if we destroy that thing then we have nothing but witness statements. STG will deny and cover up everything and then it's our word against theirs. Who do you think the council will side with then?" Zenn started pacing the halls. ”But if we leave it. We could use it and the whole ship as evidence. It might not be airtight, but we would have a much stronger case…" He was going back and forth. These people deserved justice. His people. The STG or whoever helped orchestrate this needed to pay. But then the device would still be around, and could just as easily fall into the wrong hands. Any hands. Zenn hated this. He knew this choice would haunt him, but there was only one option.

"It's just like I told you, Kysar. It has to be destroyed at all costs. Even justice…"

The severe shift in Kysar's energy was felt by Solveig and she quickly took her hand off him, and back to her own side as a prolonged chill crawled up her spine. It was off-putting, it wasn't Kysar - or maybe it exactly was. The woman couldn't bring herself to meet his eyes, and his words worried her. That darkness rearing its head again just like at the meat plant, just like on the shuttle. Still, she held between him and the quarians.

"My mission here was to rescue survivors...-" she said to Zenn - the decision was his.

There was more she wanted to say to him, and the way she paused suggested so too, but she didnt. Not now.

Kysar stood silent, reacting to neither of the words said by his colleagues. He was focused, honed in on a goal. Caeh was the answer, he'd have evidence not even the STG could get to. Pulling the rifle from his back, he began checking the sights.

"Leena, we'll be needing that layout."

Leena nodded, also ready to put an end to this and move on. She pulled up her omni-tool, which flickered and blurred as it was clearly almost out of power itself. It projected a holographic display of engineering.

All terminals, equipment and anything else one would expect from this room had been gutted, making room for the giant reaper artifact. It looked similar in design to dragon’s teeth, but with several more spikes protruding from one master antenna. The ground floor was not marred with blood and bodies this time, well, not dead bodies. Husk bodies, on the other hand, filled the room. The creatures stumbled around in the dark as they swarmed the low level.

The plan was this: The team would enter at the top of an overlook, with a set of stairs on either side. With the high ground advantage, it would be like shooting fish in a hole, but they still had to reach the device and set the charges. Even with the extra firepower of the SRN team, clearing the whole room would be nearly impossible. Their best bet would be to clear a path for a single runner. They would reach the base of the device, set the charges, then run back. Should the runner fall, another would have to go retrieve the charges and take their place. When everything was in place, they would collapse a set of storage containers they set up to block the door and prevent the husks from chasing them. Then it was a matter of getting to the shuttle and watching the fireworks from a safe distance.

“The runner's job is by far the most dangerous." Leena explained. ”They’ll be right in the middle of all those husks. I wouldn’t ask it of anyone. Which is why I’ll-”

“I’ll do it." Zenn interrupted. "I’m no stranger to running through enemy lines. I should be able to find a clear path, set the charges, and get back in no time. They might not even know I’m there."

Leena rolled her eyes. ”Really? You think you can slip through a swarm of husks undetected?"

“They don’t call me ‘Shadow’ for nothing." Zenn boasted and pointed at himself with his thumb.

“Who does?" Leena asked.

“Uhh. They do." Zenn gestured to his team.

“Uh-huh. And did one of them give you that name or did you request it?"

“I think we’re getting off topic." Zenn said, avoiding the question. ”Point is, I have the skills to do this and I’m not about to let you or any one else we came to rescue put your lives at risk."
Image

Kysar didn't like their plan. It was too risky and Zenn was a little too keen to throw himself into a dangerous situation. A bleeding heart was not enough of a reason to run such a risk.

"Any access tunnels like the one we just crawled through?"

"All of this is risky," Solveig said. “Venator is right," she added - eyeing Zenn up and down with an almost curious expression - deep in thought.

She believed he probably could make the run, but, ”have to minimise risk."

"Well, there is an access hatch in there, but it's locked." Leena explained.

"Don't worry. I have a key." Zenn ignited his omni-blade, then quickly retracted it. Leena did not look impressed.

"Fantastic. Alright then. Zenn you take the vents and signal us when you're in. We'll draw their attention the same way we planned, then you slip out once you have the charges planted and we'll retreat as planned. Heh, we might actually pull this off."

"Then let's not waste any more time! Hand me those charges and let’s have a blast!" Zenn said and held out his hand towards the quarian carrying the charges.

Leena and the other quarian’s just stared at him silently before she turned to Kysar and asked “Is he always like this?"

“Willing to risk his life for others?" Kysar almost smiled as he looked towards Zenn. ”Yeah, he is."

Turning to face the group, the Turian addressed everyone. "I’ll need two of you to help me focus heavy fire down the staircase, we don’t want to get overwhelmed. The rest of you can shoot over the railings. Covering us while we reload” Pausing, he rolled his head around and flexed his back muscles, limbering up before the fight. ”And if anyone spots Caeh, call out. I’ll be needing his body."

"Where do you want me?" Solveig asked. ”I can take the stairs, or the railing."

She held her arm out, rolling it at the wrist, and then back through the shoulder. It made a gentle mechanical thrum as she did.

Kysar, still calm and collected, spoke with nothing but certainty. ”Take the railings to start, from there you can watch out for Zenn just in case. We’ll see how we go after that. Might have to put that arm to use if the fight gets too close to home on the staircase."

"You got it," she replied with a nod. ”I'll set up with cryo ammo, that should keep things clear."

For the third or fourth time on this mission Zenn’s face began to turn red, though this time it was due to Kysar’s statement. He was not prepared for such kind words even if he did really appreciate them. Behind his mask, Zenn had a rather large smile.

The quarian’s all nodded in agreement. Kysar’s plan was a solid improvement to their original idea. All they needed now was a little luck and they could pull this off! Leena grabbed the charges from the quarian holding them and tossed the bag over to Zenn as she gave them a final speech. ”Alright. You know your jobs. Stick to them and do not leave your position until we give the signal. This is it. We either stop that thing or die trying! Keelah Se'lai!"

LOYALTY: Shadow
Daring Rescue: Part 1


The shuttle ride to the Citadel was as long as it was awkward. The three sat in almost complete silence as Zenn flew them to their first destination. They were still getting over the altercation that nearly turned into a shootout earlier that morning. Despite everything that had happened, Kysar still agreed to accompany Zenn and Solveig on both the trip to the citadel as well as the mission afterwards. The quarian suspected Kysar agreeing to go had more to do with honoring his fallen comrade and his anger at Nadara more than wanting to assist Zenn. Regardless of Kysar's reasons, Zenn was just happy to have any help he could get.

Their business at the Citadel went much smoother than anticipated. Tamas’ friends were understandably angry, but it was ultimately more about their loss than mismanaged transport of the body. They just needed someone to vent their frustrations to more than anything, and nobody was better suited for that than two squadmates who served with the fallen SRN operative. As for Zenn, he stayed back and let the others talk. Afterall, not only did he not know the human, but if he had been a few seconds faster, Tamas might actually still be alive… In any case, Tamas’ friends were more than satisfied with their conversation with the SRN team.

Once the matter was concluded, the trio found themselves departing just as quickly as they had arrived. As Zenn shifted uncomfortably in his seat as he guided the shuttle towards the debris filled no man’s land. There was something on his mind. Something he wanted to say, but he couldn’t really come up with the words. Finally he decided to just say it.

“Hey, Kysar. What happened early… I hope you don’t think it was personal. I would have done the same thing for you if someone else came in pointing a gun at you."

Kysar was lost in the deep void of space. Though he couldn't see it from the back of the shuttle, he still gazed at the wall, imagining himself out there in the peace and quiet of it all. Between Nadara, Janiri and now Tamas, the Turian had almost forgotten about Zenn waving a gun in his face.

Shifting his stance, he turned to the back of the Quarians head as he piloted the shuttle into position. Truth be told, Kysar didn't actually care too much about what he had done, in fact it was probably the only thing that really worked in calming him down. No doubt his team-mate was overthinking it, he seemed the type.

"Don't sweat it," Sparky? No, Zippy? Ugh, no. ”Zenn." Turning back to the shuttle wall, the Turian continued. ”I get why you did what you did. I mean shit," he chuckled. ”Between the gun and Awks's trademark speech, not sure there was anything else that would've stopped me."

Kysar looked Sol's way to shoot a quick smile before returning sombrely to position. “They keep telling me the war's over, yet here I am still losing people." He shuddered, realizing he'd let an actual real life feeling out.

"Quick Awks, give us another speech. Steal that spotlight."

"Sorry, I'm not a thief," Sol answered absent mindedly as she sat in her seat, her foot resting on the adjacent knee, and her elbow propped up to hold her chin. ”Besides, not got any spotlights in this shuttle."

After a moment, ”oh... right. You. Meant joke…"

Snot shot from Kysar's nose as he doubled over, holding onto his sides for dear life as he laughed. ”Spirits, love ya Awks."

And just like that, all the tension in the air was gone as both Zenn and Kysar were caught up in laughter from Sol’s response. Zenn had to try his best to compose himself and keep the shuttle flying on course. ”Never change, Solveig. Never change."

As they drew closer to the border of the debris fields, a patrol ship pulled up alongside them and a notification of a hailing appeared on the controls. Zenn tapped a button and the holographic image of a Salarian appeared on the center of the dash.

“Attention unidentified shuttle. You are entering a restricted area. Turn back now!" The Salarian warned.

Zenn cleared his throat, still trying to hold back his laughter. “This is Zenn’Valin vas Konesh. My crew and I have authorization to be here."

The Salarian looked at their omni-tool for a few seconds, then nodded. "Authorization confirmed. You are clear to enter." The projection dispersed and the ship disengaged from the shuttle.

Looking out ahead, Zenn could see why this area had been closed off. Clustered in this one section of space lay thousands of ships from every species in the galaxy. Once part of the monumental Sword Team, these were the unlucky ships that met their end at the hands of the reapers. Now all that remained were their metal corpses, a haunting reminder of just how daunting the reaper threat was. Debris from the carnage littered the void between the ships. The scattered remains ensuring travel through there would be perilous.

“Alright everyone, buckle up back there." Zenn called back to his teammates. "This ride is about to get bumpy."

Kysar pulled a helmet out from under the seat, clicking it into place. His HUD indicated his oxygen tanks were full and vital signs were nominal. Activating his tech armour, he strapped himself into his seat. Ready for action, he gave a thumbs up to his nervous compatriot.

"Punch it!"

Behind her own helmet, Sol smiled. Nobody had ever really given her a nickname before. Not one that was meant to be endearing anyway, and even inadvertently she made them both laugh in a good way? Maybe. They weren't laughing at her like others had. Weren't name calling her like others had... It was a nice feeling, she decided.

"You can do it Shadow, take your time and go the long way if you have to."

As they flew closer and closer, the amount of scrap floating around slowly began to increase until they were basically surrounded by various bits and parts. The series of metallic raps as they bounced off the hull announced to the crew that they had entered the debris field. Zenn didn't need to worry about the small items, even with the shuttle in less than ideal conditions. It was the large stuff he had to be wary of. He kept his eyes peeled as they flew deeper in and did his best to monitor all the scanners that were illuminated across the dashboard. As well as recall what all of them meant. It had been a long time since he was behind the controls, but he was sure he remembered enough to get through.

After a few minutes he checked back in with his team. "You both doing alright back there?"

Sol chuckled slightly. ”This is a breeze," she gripped the seat as it bumped again. ”You didn't get to fly Katya Airways to Cuba…"

Kysar smiled at the memory before turning his attention back to Zenn. ”I thought you all grew up on ships? Shouldn't Quarian's be master pilots?'

Zenn smiled at Sol's comment. It was comforting how much faith she had in him, and it was good to know he wasn't completely rusty at this. But that smile just as quickly faded when Kysar spoke up. Zenn made an audible grumble before responding.

"Look, just because we live on ships doesn't mean we're experts at everything with them. I mean, yes we all learn how to fly for our pilgrimage, but after that it's very rare any of us pursue that career. It's not like we need a lot of backup pilots."

As Zenn continued his rant about quarian stereotypes, a blip appeared on one of the sensors.

"Even if we were to have four pilots per ship, that's only two hundred thousand quarians out of seventeen million! That's barely even one percent!"

The blip grew larger and the consol started beeping.

"By that logic people should also assume we're master gardeners since we have a comparable number of people in agriculture! But when I tell people my dad is a botanist they act surprised we even know what plants are! Like do they just think the food on the flotilla magically appears?"

The blip started to separate into multiple, and the sensor began wildly beeping.

"Sh-Shadow," Solveig said quietly at first as Zenn carried on with his explanation. ”Shadow-" she said again, pointing to the sensor.

"Shadow!" She spoke one last time, louder, stepping up from her seat, grabbing a handrail on the ceiling of the shuttle. ”Eyes forward!"

As entertaining as Zenn's monologuing was for Kysar, wild blips on radar were almost never a good thing. Solveig had said all that was needed to say, hopefully getting the Quarian's attention.

The Turian, on the other hand, removed the rifle from his back. Might be time to give this bad boy a test run. He thought, stroking his new Ghost.

Zenn jumped in his seat, startled by Solveig suddenly standing right next to him and loudly interrupting to tell him to pay attention.

“Huh? Oh! Right!" He said, scrambling to pull up the sensor details. His eyes grew wide as he looked at the readings on the screen. "Solveig, get in your seat. We’ve got three ships coming in and they are headed directly for us. They look to be small strike craft, probably how they slipped past the patrols. I’ll see if I can lose them. You two see if there’s something you can do to slow them down or stop them."

The shuttle launched forward as Zenn hit the accelerator. Thanks to Solveig they had seen them soon enough to avoid being caught unaware, but the ships were still gaining on the shuttle. In a few seconds they were in view. They appeared to be shuttles similar to the one the team was flying, only these ones were painted black and blue with very distinct logos on the side.

As Solveig saw the logo on the shuttles she scowled. ”CAT6," she began.

She took her seat as instructed and immediately picked up her rifle. ”They're not here to say hello. Be careful Shadow."

Solveig then looked at Kysar, "you're going to get your wish for a fight."

The Turian smiled, giddy like a schoolgirl. ”Finally!" He said, clasping his hands together.

Undoing his seatbelt Kysar stood, carefully making his way to the door as the shuttle weaved back and forth. ”Hold on to your hats people, I'm opening the side hatch." Luckily the mass effect fields stopped everything not nailed to the hold from flying out, including the passengers.

Still, there was a whoosh as the air inside escaped out into space. Debris was all around them as the CAT6 ships moved into position behind the trio. The Turian had checked and rechecked his omni-tool this time round, there'd be no more misfires from it he was sure.

Holding onto the rail, Kysar leaned out of the door, bringing up his arm and loosing an overload towards one of the shuttles.

Bam!

The shot found its target. Sparks and electrical discharges zapped out from the ship on the far left as the whole thing lost power. It sagged pathetically to the side, careening towards a particularly thick bit of debris. Connecting, there was a small explosion as the air inside ignited and the rest of the ship tore apart.

"Aw, it's just not the same without atmosphere and the noise." Kysar lamented to himself.

"I disagree, Venator," Solveig said as she moved to the door too, keeping her footing steady as she started lining up a shot of her own. "There's something beautiful about silent chaos."

She took aim at the pilot of the second shuttle and pulled the trigger, but the shot was not successful - something about aiming out of an open shuttle in motion through a field of debris... Still, the shot hit the shuttle, but not enough to slow anything down or stop them.

"Damnit, I missed," she muttered. Lining up for another turn when they were in a better position. ”I guess they get a few more minutes of life. Maybe they can use it for some self-reflection…"

“But can you really call it an explosion if there’s no sound?" Zenn piped in as he tried to keep the ship flying steady. "Without the ‘ka-boom’ it loses the pizzazz!"

With one of their shuttles down, the other two CAT6 vehicles picked up speed. Seemed they were holding back a bit, while the SRN shuttle was unfortunately at its limit. And now that the SRN had engaged them they were going all in. Even the shots from Solveig did little to deter the pilot of one shuttle, though he did move his head down behind the dash for cover; temporarily obstructing his vision. Zenn glanced back to see the action happening, then turned forward and spotted the derelict half of a turian cruiser up ahead. A crazy thought popped into his mind.

“Hey Solveig. er Wraith. Keep shooting at the pilots." Zenn ordered while he changed course to the cruiser. "I think I have an idea."

Kysar, meanwhile, had one of his own.

Something had been gnawing away at the back of his mind since the meat packing plant. The destruction of the second orb had him returning to that strange sunken place, seemingly feeling outside of the bounds of time and space. The presence of that place still lingered and more than that, it had started to grow. It was as if he could sense those around him, as if everyone possessed a sort of energy he could tap in to.

Heading back in the shuttle, Kysar slowly moved to the back wall. With his eyes firmly shut, he cast his mind adrift, projecting the oddly placed feeling towards the shuttles behind him. Suddenly he was overwhelmed, a feeling of hatred and fury engulfed him, fuelled by a sadness over the loss of comrades. Though he recognised them, these emotions were not of his own, they were alien, artificially inserted and flowing through the Turian. Odd, he thought, I think I can feel the pilot of the other shuttle?

How Venator did what he did next was almost unknown to him but latching onto those feelings, he dragged them into the bizarre sunken place. This time, he was the presence, lurking in the shadows, while the pilot of the shuttle stood in the centre.

A feeling of absolute authority consumed the Turian, causing formation of an idea. "Ram them, ram the other shuttle." Kysar commanded.

The pilot of the shuttle closest to them suddenly had the idea in his head to ram a shuttle, as if the thought had been planted in his brain. But he didn't look at his allied shuttle; his mind was focused on the SRN shuttle. Considering he had been shot at and just watched his squadmates crash, it was really sounding like a good idea. Not to mention they had more speed, and the SRN shuttle wasn't in the best shape. One solid hit could destabilize their mass effect generator and leave them sitting ducks. At the very least knock Kysar and or Solveig out the door.

It wasn't the plan, but screw it. The pilot floored it! The shuttle accelerated to higher speeds aimed straight for the SRN shuttle.

Solveig watched as Kysar shifted himself, and she felt the aura around him change too. Like a dark spell that while she could not see it, she knew it was there - burning around the Turian. "Uhhhh…" She sounded out, quietly as she watched, slightly awestruck by it, her own heart racing as it felt like her nerves were being pressed on by the oppressive energy.

Whatever it was, it didn't last too long.

Solveig's eyes widened as the shuttle started to accelerate towards them, taking aim she gave another attempt to take the pilot out - but the bullet went astray. Something about trying to hold your footing on a moving ship, perhaps. Still, she admonished herself internally for missing again. There was never a good reason to miss her shot. She'd landed harder ones. Her mothers voice sounded in her head. All that training, all those enhancements, all that money and still you fail, Soldier cruel words of disappointment. ”Sorry," she said instinctively before moving from the door - reaching again for the handle. No time to dwell. Shadow and Venator need you. That was the good voice, the one that seemed to growing louder and breaking free...

"Shadow, I hope this idea is good, we need to get out of the line of impact -- and fast."

"Line of Impact? What do you- OH VOT!" Zenn exclaimed as he looked back just in time to see the enemy closing the distance. "Hold tight!" He warned before he pulled the shuttle to the right.

The CAT6 shuttle narrowly missed them, scraping against the side. But in the pilot's haste to act on his impulse, he forgot to tell his passengers what he was doing. As they saw their target getting close, they opened the door and leaned out to return fire, only to realize impact was imminent and jumped back in. Unfortunately for them, they lost their footing in the sideswipe. The shuttles were now side by side, with the CAT6 mercs on the ground and the door wide open.

The return to reality was like plunging deep into ice cold water. Kysar convulsed heavily, gasping for air only to hear Zenn shout to hold on. The split second in between shout and movement was enough for the Turian to instinctively grab the rifle from his back. It was not, however, enough time to properly steel himself.

Tumbling forward, Kysar rolled towards the open door, only just managing to stop mere inches away from complete disaster. The good news was that he had managed to land somewhat upright, in a crouched position. The bad news was... well there was no bad news, only better news.

Opposite to their shuttle flew the enemy, door wide open and several soldiers all in a heap in the back. I swear the human's have a saying for this. The Turian mandibles quivered in excitement as he took aim with his brand new rifle. Some sort of animal in... a hole?

The Ghost had a clip size of 75 rounds and boy howdy did those bad boys fly out. Birds? No. Rats? No, no. Kysar thought as he riddled the squad in the opposing shuttle without mercy. Fish? Oh yeah! Fish!

"Like shooting fish in a hole ay Awks!"

"What fish?" She asked aloud, hanging on to the handle as the ship jostled and moved. While Kysar was flung around, Solveig just hung rather gracefully (considering the circumstances) and then dropped down when they seemed to have been stabilised. ”What hole?!"

While she could speak English, many of their phrases and metaphors did allude her. There were three languages in her mind, it was hard to keep track of them.

"It seems an ineffective way to hunt," she said, once more lining up for the shot. This time it felt clean and steady. Heck, she almost felt bad for the pilot as she pulled the trigger and landed it right in the side of his head, above his ear. ”The flesh will be riddled with bullet holes!"

Again with the nickname though, she could tell that Kysar meant no insult - but what a strange creature to be comparing her to.

Popping the thermal clip, Kysar gave an exaggerated shrug. "Why you asking me for? You're the human."

Watching the enemies shuttle start to drift towards the surrounding debris field, the Turian gave a succinct nod to his team mate. "Nice shot Wraith. You ready for round 3?" He said, gesturing towards the third and final shuttle.

"Thank you!" Solveig answered sincerely, smiling behind her mask. ”You too Venator, good... blasting! Of course I'm ready. How about you Shadow? How's it looking in front?"

“Almost there!" Zenn replied, maintaining course for the cruiser. Since it appeared shooting at the shuttles wasn’t really effective unless they were right next to each other, keeping the pilot busy wasn’t an option. But maybe they wouldn’t have to.

“Wraith, when I give the signal, hit them with sabotage. Venator, I need you on standby if that doesn’t work. But most importantly, I need you both to hang on tight!" Zenn gave the instructions to his team while closely monitoring their distance from the cruiser. They were getting very close to it. Perhaps too close. No, definitely too close! At this rate they were going to crash!

“NOW!" Zenn called to Wraith. Just as she would hit the last shuttle, Zenn would pull the ship up to fly alongside the cruiser. Timing would be everything. At the last minute, he mashed the button on the controls.

It was the wrong button.

The shuttle came to a complete and immediate stop. Everyone was thrown to the front of the shuttle; including Zenn. Apparently a certain group of quarians had inadvertently loosened the bolts for the seatbelt in the pilot's chair, causing it to fail. Zenn slammed into the dash, the force of the impact left him dazed and stunned, along with damaging the console and his pride

And Sabotage she did.

She watched as the enemy shuttle seized, halted, shuddered and then veered off below - sinking down into the blackness before making impact against the remains of the cruiser. "Round 3 was short."

But then.

So did their shuttle. Everything stopped, and everyone moved. Solveig was able to once again use the handle to her advantage, quick reflexes sprung to action and instead of hurtling forward, she carefully spun and landed rather acrobatically on her feet in a crouch - one hand to the side, the other flat on the ground. Balanced and unharmed.

The same could not be said for Zenn. While Kysar too had crashed through the ship, Zenn had really been slammed forward. "Shadow!" Solveig yelled out, rushing to his side - when she got there she wasn't quite sure what to do with her hands. She had no real knowledge of Quarian biology - she didn't know if lifting him up would hurt him more. She settled for placing a hand on his shoulder. Goddamnit, she cursed herself. Had she Sabotaged their own shuttle too?

"Do you hear me Shadow?"

She gave a sidelong glance to Kysar too, to check that he was also able to get to his feet.

The Turian had been bounced around the shuttle like a pinball, finally coming to a stop with his back hitting against the wall of the entrance to the cockpit.

"See," he muttered throughout panted breath, gesturing to himself, ”Tech Armour." Other than a bit of wind being knocked loose out of him, Kysar was ok. Looking up and over, he could see Zenn had got the worst of it. Sol was hunched over the Quarian, awkwardly fawning over him, seemingly unsure what to do.

"Hmm." The Turian stroked the bottom of his helmet as he mulled over their next move. Sure, the battle was over but he knew that the war had just begun. Moving towards the open side door Kysar peered out into space. ”No movement... yet."

Putting his head back inside he turned to Sol. “We've got to move, more will come and with this shuttle out of commission, we're sitting ducks." Looking down towards Zenn, Kysar could tell he was in a bad way but had no way of knowing if it was serious or not.

"I'll need you to carry him Wraith if he doesn't come round in the next few moments. I'll take point and keep a look out for an entrance to the cruiser. If Shadow does have any spinal injuries, the zero G of space will help alleviate any pain."

"Got it," Solveig answered with a nod.

"Those CAT6... They're no joke. I'll be watching your back."

Zenn laid there completely still. His body slumped over the sparking dashboard. As Solveig placed her hand on his shoulder, he slowly slid backwards and flopped into his chair.

"Wrong… button… meant to… go up." Zenn was barely able to form any words at the moment. His head was spinning, physically and mentally, and it wasn't just the stars in space he was seeing around him.

"Did… plan… work?"

"No, no it didn't. We got the enemies though." Solveig answered truthfully, looking closely at the faint outlines she could make of his face and eyes from behind his mask. ”But plans don't always work, so it's time for plan B."

She glanced across at Kysar again and shook her head, ”Shadow can't walk like this."

She gave a slight pause before turning back to Zenn. "Do you ever, uhhh, piggyback? On the flotilla?"

Pigs back? Kysar shook his head and sighed. He'd spent too long around human's with their weird analogies.

"Put your arm under his if he can't walk, or better yet, use your fancy arm to throw him over your shoulder if you have to. I don't want to hang around much longer."

"Oh… Sorry…" Zenn apologized. Of course it was a stupid plan. Why did he think it would work? At least Sol and Kysar were able to take care of the last shuttle. Now they just had to figure out how they were going to get out of this.

"Pig Back..? On flotilla..?" Zenn replied completely misunderstanding the question. "No… Vegetarian…"

"Don't apologise," Solveig said as she started shuffling around - now that she had Kysar getting antsy about it all. With a quick motion, she had Zenn on her back and they were ready to go. It wasn't the best, but she'd at least be able to move quickly this way and there was no worry about further concussing him. ”It's alright, we're okay, we just improvise now. Let's move Venator."

But to where? Kysar looked around frantically. Towering over them was the nose of a Turian cruiser that had been sheared in half. A hiding spot maybe, to relax and recover but a dead end as well. The lifeboats were at the back of the craft and that whole end was missing. All it would be is their eventual grave.

Looking around he could see anything except for chunks of debris drifting in space.

Think Kysar, think. The lives of your teammates and the fate of this mission depend upon you. Shutting his eyes tight he prayed to the Spirits. I know I don’t call on you as often as I should and mother would scold me for that. But if you can help this one time I promise I’ll never again…

Right in that moment, the Turian felt a slight shunt. Opening his eyes, Kysar’s jaw dropped. It was the second shuttle! The one that he and Sol had wasted the occupants of, gently drifting into the side of their shuttle.

The Turian looked around, turning his head from side to side. Surely this was some kind of joke right? Shrugging, he thought once more of the Spirits, Haha suckers, I give up nothing!

“Awks, cmon, taxi’s here."

As the shuttle descended down before them, Solveig felt relieved. ”Fortune favours the bold," she said.

"Who's flying this thing now? Not him," she said, gesturing to Zenn. He was in no position for it. ”Let him rest a bit... I can try it. If some disgraced Alliance punk can do it, how hard can it even be?"

Kysar chuckled looking at poor Shadow, unsure if that was the first ever joke from Sol.

“I learnt how to pilot in the Cabals but that was about a decade ago. Got anything we could use to flip for it?"

"We could rock, paper, scissors?" Solveig suggested with a pause before she smirked to herself.

"Or, how about an arm wrestle?"

The Turian laughed, that one had to be a joke. “If that’s the route we’re going, let’s just declare you the winner. We’re already one down and I need my arm for… the enemy." Kysar cleared his throat, giving a cheeky smile behind his mask.

“Pass me ole sleepy there and head for the cockpit. I’ll strap Shadow in and, er, jettison the old ‘cargo’."

"Such a waste of life... Of potential…" Solveig said as she stepped in, glancing over the 'cargo' as Kysar had said. She let Zenn down so that Kysar could take him. She gave something of an awkward thumbs up to both.

"Okay so.... Uhhh, where are we going? Can we hook up the distress signal?"

Zenn activated his omni-tool and waved his hand. "Here…" he had the coordinates saved, he just had to transfer them to the shuttle’s navigation. It took a few seconds longer than usual for obvious reasons, but he was able to mash the buttons needed to get the coordinates into the system. "Ready."

Kysar had made the jump across first, watching carefully as Sol and Zenn crossed. Letting the Quarian finish doing his thing, the Turian slid his arm under his shoulder, helping him across to some seats in the back of the shuttle.

“I knew you were out to prove that not all Quarian’s were pilots with that monologue." Kysar said, setting Zenn down in the chair. "I just didn’t realise you’d try to show me too." He snickered.

“Call me if you need anything Shadow."

Moving off towards the door, he began rolling the former occupants out. ”Ready to move out whenever you are Awks."

Zenn lay on the seats in the back. Kysar had a point, he really did kind of botch it as the pilot. As he watched Sol take the helm he thought maybe they would be in better hands if-

The shuttle lunged forward as Sol accidentally hit accelerator to max, and just as quickly pulled it back to stop the shuttle. Zenn was tossed out of his seat and slammed against the shuttle floor.

“OW! Keelah! Solveig, careful! Ease into the thrust you can’t just full send it!" He said. The sudden hit must have provided enough shock to finally snap him out of his dazed state.

The stress of the chase before must have gotten to her as she chose instead to exit the pilot seat and give the controls to Kysar. Zenn was worried he might have offended her. He was definitely frustrated, but not at any of them. In all honesty he was just trying to give her advice. He carefully started to try and stand while he explained himself.

“Sorry, Solveig. I didn’t mean to-”

The shuttle immediately swung left as Kysar mistakenly hit the command to yaw left at full force, then swiftly overcorrected to stop the shuttle. Still not fully balanced, Zenn was thrown to the side and crashed right into the shuttle wall.

“OW! Dammit! Kysar, easy! You gotta use gentle motions! Don’t just swing your hands!" Zenn said. Kysar grumbled something under his breath, then he too abandoned the cockpit in frustration.

“Wait, Kysar, come on. Everyone makes that mistake…" Zenn attempted to explain, but at that point it was clear who would be flying. "Alright. Fine, I’ll do it. I only have about two concussions and a fractured everything. This’ll be great!" Zenn murmured as he pushed himself off the wall and stumbled into the pilots chair.

Despite his current state, the flight from there was just as smooth as it had been when they first entered the debris field. As their destination started to come into view he thought aloud “Huh. Maybe we are natural pilots."

The coordinates of the distress signal lay dead ahead, and they led directly to a quarian frigate.

Making up the bulk of the Migrant Fleet Navy, it wasn't a surprise to find a ship like this out in the debris. Even Zenn's ship, the Konesh, was of a similar design. What was out of place was the condition of the ship. Though it lay dead in space like every other craft around it, there was no visible damage to be seen. It wasn’t exactly "pristine", but from the outside it looked ready to fly and even fit for combat. Something wasn't right.

Zenn ran a quick scan using whatever systems their new shuttle had on board. Nothing. None of the systems were online, but there were no oddities of any kind either. The scan also revealed that there were no obvious or traditional openings. The docking bays were sealed shut and no escape pods had left. The only thing that looked promising was one of the tail segments. It had come unattached from the adjoining segment, leaving the door to it exposed to space, and there was plenty of room for them to dock the shuttle.

Not seeing any other options, Zenn brought the shuttle in, and parked it right up against the exposed door. Trying to force open one of the massive bay doors would have been impossible, but a standard automatic door for personnel? Sol could probably open it with one hand. Zenn stood up from the pilot's seat and opened up the shuttle door. Before he even attempted to breach, he looked back at his companions.

"Everyone stay alert. I've got a bad feeling about this place…"

Strange was an understatement. It was like something out of a horror vid. A completely intact, yet abandoned, ship.

Kysar did a full check of his weaponry and armour, including quickly igniting his electrified Omni-blade on and off again. He was ready to go.

“Shadow, can you hack the enemies comms channel from this ship? Might give us a heads up if they’re inside the ship or in the vicinity."

Solveig also got everything ready. Unlike Zenn, and to a lesser degree, Kysar, she had gotten through the trip here unscathed. She scanned her surroundings before stepping to the doorway in front of them, heeding Zenn's words.

She knew if anything burst through the door, they'd be ready, yet she still gave them a nod. "Opening," she said before punching one side of the door, the strength of her biotic arm pushed through the material but didn't create a complete hole. The crunch of it still echoed through the space. From there, Solveig gripped at the warped metal having made a makeshift handle. The way that the metal of the door bent, surrendered, and moved to her will seemed effortless.

The path forward was clear.

Zenn shook his head at Kysar. “I don't know if this is CAT6's doing. While they were able to hide out here without the patrols noticing, the shuttle didn't have these coordinates; meaning they've never been out here before. And the way they came right at us before we even got close, it felt like they knew we were coming rather than spotted us. I think someone sent them after us. For what reason I have no idea, but maybe we'll find answers… when… we…"

Zenn trailed off as he watched Solveig use her arm to smash the door in. The way she grabbed the warped shape and ripped it open like it was made of paper. He hadn't really seen the strength of her bionics before, but now that he had witnessed it up close… The quarian's face changed to a light tint of red, which appeared purple through his blue visor. He stood there staring for a moment before he came back to reality and violently shook his head to try and refocus.

"Uhh where was I? Oh, yeah. We might get answers checking this shuttle afterwards." He finished his thought awkwardly.

The room in front of them was pitch black. Not a single light or any type of illumination remained beyond those doors. Once inside, they would have to heavily rely on their flashlights.

The first person to ignite their flashlight and shine it into the void would find a mostly vacant room. To the right was a large viewing window pointed out towards space, though the window itself was cracked and chipped as if someone had taken a steel blade to it. Parallel to the window was several rows of seats. They, too, were cut and broken most likely by the same thing that attacked the window. This room was no doubt an observation deck. Not too uncommon to see on any ship, even a quarian vessel. But someone or something did not get the same calming or relaxing experience one would normally get in this room and had torn it apart.

The pathway on the floor directed them to two different doors. The one to their left was shut tight, sealed by a thick armored blast door. Not even the combined strength and biotic ability of the team would be able to open it, and with no power, they wouldn’t be able to hack it open either. Their only other route was the door across from their entrance. It was open, but not in a way that gave them any hope. Something had ripped this door down just as Sol had to get them in, but the floor leading to the door was smeared with a trail of blood.

Image1

This whole thing smelt of a black op gone wrong. Between the expendable troops of CAT6, a perfectly intact ship in the middle of a war zone, a lockdown and now blood smears and shattered metal doors, this had government cover up all written all over it. This was the sort of stuff the Cabals lived and breathed.

Taking point, Kysar shone his torch around the room. Aside from the blood, there wasn’t much else to see and the door that was open led to the tail end of the ship. No chance to get the power on heading down that way I suppose. He thought, going on to wonder if there might be any sort of ventilation system they could use to bypass the locked door.

“Shadow, what are we looking for here exactly?" The Turian was careful to whisper, inching forward as quietly as he could.

As Solveig walked in, the atmosphere hit her. If it had already felt ominous outside, then the moment she pulled back the door it was much worse. For once, she found the dead silence eery.

The woman eyed over the bloodstains, feeling an unknown energy, it didn't feel too disimilar to how she felt when she first encountered the Orb - just the overwhelming sensation of horrible, dark mystery.

"I don't like this," she stated clearly, a slight vulnerability in her voice that wasn't usually there.

“I… I don’t actually know." Zenn admitted. His voice was audibly shaky from a mix of fear and confusion. He was just as lost as everyone else. "All we know is a distress signal came from this ship. But even that fact is disputed…" Zenn walked towards the destroyed chairs, looking them over thoroughly as he tried to make sense of everything. "I have no idea what’s going on here. It could be a trap for all I know. What’s the saying? The blind leading the blind?" The light from his flashlight moved as his eyes followed the cracks of the window. It lingered there for a pause, Zenn trying to decide if it was smart to continue. Or more importantly, if he could even make himself turn back.

After a few seconds he spoke up again. "If either of you want to go back to the shuttle, I understand. This isn’t what you signed up for. But… If there’s even a chance that someone here is in trouble." His gaze switched from the window to the bloodied doorway that lay ahead, "then I can’t turn away."

"Not going back. Knew what I was accepting, Shadow. We see this through no matter what." Fear or no fear, her words rang true, and she nodded in the direction of the Quarian.

“Pfft I can’t even fly that damn thing anyway." Kysar said with a small chuckle. Nudging Shadow gently with his elbow he continued. “C’mon, there’s only one way to go anyway so it’s not like we need much of a plan. I’ll take point and you two can watch the sides."

Bring the stock of his Ghost to position against his shoulder, the Turian began forward. “Call out anything weird and we’ll try our best to clear rooms as we go. Anything else you two want to add?"

"If I call out anything weird here, I'll be talking more than I have my whole life…" Solveig said with a shrug, her own rifle held out steadily.

“Thanks. Both of you." Zenn said with a faint smile. While he was used to facing the unknown alone, having these two at his side gave him a strong sense of comfort even in this grim setting. But at the same time he was still worried about their safety. He couldn’t scout ahead and inform them of any dangers they were up against. They would just have to roll with whatever they came up against and keep each other safe.

“Alright, Kysar. Lead the way."

As the trio entered the next room, their lights would reveal the sickening conclusion of the bloodstain; the mutilated corpse of a quarian. Something had torn them up just as it had the observation deck. The rest of the room only contained more horrors. What was supposed to be a med bay looked more like the meat plant back in Havana. Blood covered the room with multiple bodies strewn about. Medical equipment littered the ground, with even some of the beds being ripped from their mounts.

Both exits in the room were open this time, both with the same signs of destruction from the way they entered. On the counter to the left was a stash of medi-gel, miraculously still intact and fully usable. On the other side of the room was a datapad laying in a pool of blood next to a quarian slumped motionless against the counter.

Image2

Whatever it was was big and powerful. Kysar wracked his brain, wondering what kind of creature could do this. Sure, Krogan's had the strength for something like this but there was something undeniably animalistic about this carnage.

Surveying the room he noted the medical supplies and the notepad. Glancing from side to side at his companions, the Turian frowned as his chest tightened. Sol seemed unnerved and not in her usual awkward way, maybe it was something about the dark or emptiness of this place. Zenn on the other hand, well, Kysar knew what it was like to lose people in a horrific manner.

They needed action, something to keep them moving forward so as not to dwell on such savagery.

"Shadow," Kysar whispered. “You should grab the medi-gel and check the surroundings for anything medical-Quarian related for any survivors we find."

Turning back towards Sol, the Turian continued. “Wraith, there's a datapad across the room, do you see it?" Flashing his light on the pool of blood, he nodded. ”I'll cover you."

Stepping into the med bay was like once again passing through and into another wave of energy. As each of the flashlights moved around, they danced across each reflective surface. Every scalpel, every blade, every bedframe and mirror became a series of flashing images to Sol. A swirling mosaic of silver and red, blood pooled and splattered - corpses strewn around in various stages of mutilation.

Solveig had never seen a Quarian's real face before - the one behind the mask. This wasn't how she had expected to ever see one. It felt wrong, an intimate violation. She closed her eyes and turned from that one, giving them their privacy back.

Medical bays were difficult enough in the daylight. This was something else entirely. Her gaze landed on a scalpel on the floor and she felt a knot form in her stomach. It took her less than a moment to walk past it. The data pad, right.

Whatever she felt, whatever feelings were triggered by the surroundings - this was worse for Zenn. She knew that.

She knelt down and picked it up.

Years of training, countless missions, none of that prepared Zenn for the scene in front of him. He slowly stepped ahead of Kysar, and panned his light across the room. So many of his people lay dead. Slaughtered in such grotesque and horrific ways. What monster was capable of this? He didn't have any words. Every inch he saw only mortified him further. Spiraling him into a void of dread trying to make sense of it all. It was only Kysar’s voice that brought him out of it.

"Y-yeah. I'll… I'll get on it…" Zenn replied, but made no effort to move. He was still in shock, and barely even able to force the words out.

Meanwhile, as Solveig reached down to pick up the datapad, the quarian corpse laying next to it sprung to life and grabbed her arm. It let out a blood curdling snarl from behind its mask as it pulled her closer. She drew her weapon and tried to shoot the corpse, but it was able to grab the gun and prevent her from pointing the barrel at it.

Kysar reacted quickly and aimed his rifle at the corpse, but with Solveig still locked in its grip, he couldn't get a clear shot. He kept his rifle at the ready, desperate to find an opening, when the sound of a sniper went off.

Seeing his teammate in danger was more than enough to pull Zenn out of his shock. He instinctively placed his scope over his eye and found and found a clean shot. He placed a bullet right through the corpse's head without even touching Solveig's shields. The corpse went limp, releasing its grip on Solveig as it flopped to the ground. Lifeless once more.

Silence hung in the air. They knew what just happened. What that was. How could any of them forget? The snarl they still heard in their nightmares. The image of glowing indigo eyes illuminated against a pale white face that was burned into their minds. There was no mistake.

"Venator… Wraith…" Zenn softly called to them, the fear in his voice now accompanied by a fierce rage. "Please tell me that wasn't a fucking husk."
Xander Clarke

"Glitch"




Kaitiaki


Xander was just getting ready to sit down and eat when Michele walked through the door.

“Oh hey, Michele! Glad you could join us for… Oh shit!” Xan exclaimed, realizing he was now short one burger. “Here, take mine. I’ll just whip up another right quick!” He offered her his plate, then walked back into the kitchen and prepped to make another one.

During that time, Freya was on her phone call. Xander ended up just shaking his head near the end of it. Whoever that Pilar fella was, he had better watch himself. Making demands like that after being rejected previously, and to Freya of all people? Either this guy didn’t know how to keep it in his pants, or he was suicidal. In any case, Xander refrained from commenting on the situation. Freya herself didn’t seem to mind, and she was more than capable of taking care of herself if Pilar stepped out of line.

Speaking of taking care of themselves, Mateo was the first to break the ice after Freya’s call and let them know that he too had a person on the inside. Hell yeah! Seemed like everyone had an in of some kind. Well, except for Xander. But he had something cooking other than burgers. This was going to be a huge party, which means it would need a catering service for the whole event, one that wouldn’t have even close to the same levels of cyber security as Pavel’s company. It would be cake to add him as a new employee scheduled to be part of the staff for the night. Not only would that get him inside, but also allow him access to some of the areas restricted to guests and a way to monitor security without being suspicious. All he had to do was find the company Pavel would be hiring and get to work.

An Envious Quantity of Alcohol Later


“She’s not lying.” Xan hollered from the kitchen as he was rinsing off everyone’s dishes. “She really hates Uzbekistan. When I first joined, I edited her requisition form to switch her regular whiskey for Uzbekistan whiskey. The missions she sent me on after that, I swear she was legitimately trying to kill me.”

To the shock of everyone, including himself, Xander had decided to abstain from drinking to his heart’s content that night. He had to at least have some restraint in his current condition, so instead he traded places with Skye. Let her cut loose and have some fun while he played party mom. Throughout the night he made sure everyone had plenty of water to mitigate any hangovers, made sure no one got too crazy or did anything dangerous, as well as just kept the place somewhat tidy. Just because they had cleaning staff didn’t mean they had to be responsible for the team’s mess. It also meant he was sober enough to realize Skye had hit her limit after she started rambling about what she would “let the team do to her.”

“Alright and with that I think it’s time mum got her beauty sleep.” Xan said, walking from the kitchen to the lounge area to help Skye to her feet. “Come on, I’ll get you to your room. I think we should all call it as well. Got a lot of work ahead of us and after what we’ve been through, we’ll need all the rest we can get.”
Xander Clarke

"Glitch"




Kaitiaki


A loud sizzle announced to the room that the patties had finally been placed upon the hot grill. The aroma of the meat wafted through the air only intensifying the feelings of hunger for the squad. Xander continued to multitask, keeping up with the conversations while making sure the patties didn’t, as Sam put it, “pass for charcoal.”

Sam commented on her excitement for the projects she would be starting tomorrow, as well as expressed her interest in working with Xander to make some new gadgets. The feel was mutual, both for the excitement, and the lament of losing all their equipment last mission.

"I need to rebuild my gear again, too. Need a new tablet, and with the Dingo nothing but scrap I'll have to start from the blueprints. Course that means now is the best time to really redesign it. And with you Sam, well, I think we can add more than just a little bite to the old girl."

The conversation then turned to business as Skye introduced them to their next target and assignment. Pavel Andros. On the surface, a genius. The face of the future in tech. In reality, just another rich kid with unlimited money and the world’s greatest PR team. Though it seemed everyone in the room had a bone to pick with Pavel, and Xander was no exception. They all gave their reasons for hating him before Xander spoke up with his.

"Yeah. Right wankhead, that one." Xan commented while he pulled the fully cooked and seasoned patties off the grill. "Never met him meself, but an old pal from my academy days went to work for him. Spearheaded a huge project developing automated drone tech, think Dingo but for much simpler tasks like one of them robot vacuums. Made them a hefty profit, and in return for his work he got a pink slip and a shitty severance attached to an NDA. Meanwhile Pavel took all the credit and erased every trace of me mate ever having even looked at the project. Bet you anything he's using that same tech for his satellites."

After he aired his complaints about Pavel, Skye continued the pseudo briefing and gave Xan the task of finding a way in and out. However, his face grimaced when she mentioned the timeline. He remained silent for the time being, hoping he could come up with a way to make it work, but two weeks just wasn’t enough time to pull off what she was asking. Luckily Freya was there to save the day with a much better and more legitimate way in.

"Honestly, Freya's plan may be the way to go.” He said carefully assembling the burgers to everyone’s specifications. “If we wanted to get our names on their list my way, we'd need access to their database, which means we'd have to get connected to their network on top of cracking any security they have in place. Ideally we could plant a trojan on some suits computer and slip in using their creds completely under the radar, but that would take two weeks just to plan. We could technically remote hack in, but that’s too much of a risk for a tech company like this. Their security would be top notch, and the moment they get a whiff of an attempted break in, they'd shut the whole event down. However, there’s still the question of getting our gear in there as well as getting a layout of the place… I think I have an idea on that. Gimme a few days to look into some things and I’ll get back to you.”

With the burgers finally assembled and ready, Xan started handing them out to each person.

"Oh, Sam.” He said walking over with her long awaited meal. “To answer your question from earlier; it's because she's our mum! She looks after us, keeps us in line, and of course.” He handed her the plate and winked "Keeps us fed."
Zenn'Valin vas Konesh

"Shadow"



April 11th


Zenn paced back and forth next to the foot of his bed, occasionally limping from his still healing wound. While the others were out enjoying their day off, Zenn had spent most of the day in his room. Technically he was supposed to stay in bed to rest and recover from his injury, but at the moment he wasn’t able to sit still. He had been on the phone all day, using the down time to call contact after contact working his way up the chain of command with the Salarian Union. A certain incident between some quarians and salarians that had been on the news about a week back showed no signs of progress, and Zenn was getting to the bottom of it. Ranger was currently laying on the bed perfectly still, while on the screen across from the bed was a Salarian named Captain Pirdoc Nemin; head of the patrol that detained the quarian miners. The two were currently locked in a rather heated argument that could be heard just outside of the quarian’s door.

“I’m sorry Mr. Valin, but our hands are tied. We cannot release the miner’s or their ship.” The Salarian said in a very matter of fact tone.

“Can’t or won’t?” Zenn snapped. He stopped in front of the screen and pointed a finger at the salarian. “The Council has patrols going in and out everyday! You can spare the ships! So just send a squad to confirm their story! At the very least send them to make sure no one is actually in danger!”

“You know it’s not that simple.” Nemin replied. He placed a hand over his eyes and shook his head before he continued. “Look, even if we did believe the miner’s story, the debris fields in that area are off limits for a reason. We have specialists working around the clock to clear any potential hazard safely but until they can make a path to the coordinates we cannot justify sending any of our ships.”

“Then I’ll do it!” Zenn blurted out without hesitation.

Nemin’s head shot back up in shock at the comment. “Come again?”

Zenn readjusted as he spoke, attempting to stand at attention to make his words feel more official. He placed his hands behind his back and his legs shoulder width apart as the words came out. “On behalf of the Migrant Fleet Marines, I volunteer myself to investigate the distress signal. The fleet is fully aware of the dangers and will take full responsibility for any incident or injury that may occur during the mission. All we request from the Union are the coordinates and whatever access to Citadel space we’ll need. In return we will provide a full and detailed report of anything found so the Salarian Union can make an informed decision about the suspects.”

They both sat in silence, Zenn did his best to stay standing up straight despite the pain in his leg, while Nemin took a few seconds to contemplate the offer. “Do you even have the authority to make that kind of deal?”

“If you know any higher ranking officers in the fleet, by all means get them on the phone. But if not, guess you’ll just have to take my word for it.” Zenn replied with a smug smirk hidden behind his helmet.

“...Fair enough. I won’t be the one court-martialed if this goes wrong.” Nemin shrugged. “I’ll need to check with my superiors, but I think we can agree to that. However, I have to stress that this operation will be entirely in your hands. Neither the Union or any other council government will be providing any assistance; which means if you get stranded, we will not be organizing a rescue.”

“Understood. Send me any sort of paperwork you need from me to make this official and I’ll have it back to you by the end of day. And don’t keep me waiting.” Zenn’s eyes narrowed as he made his position clear. “I’m trying to avoid escalating this situation as much as I can, but I will be investigating that signal; sanctioned or not.”

Nemin nodded, and the call disconnected. Zenn let out a long exhale and dropped his arms to the side. He slowly leaned back until he fell backwards onto the bed. Not a single word of that was planned. He just started talking in hopes of getting results, and now he had taken on a mission he was woefully unprepared for. He looked over at Ranger who was now sitting up and staring down at him.

“I think that went well.” He said only partially being sarcastic.

“Woof!”

“Now I just need to secure a shuttle and go navigate the massive debris field that was once the galactic fleet. A place filled with unexploded ordinance and potentially unstable reactors among other things. Just to check out a distress signal for something that may or may not be there. All by myself…”

Ranger lowered his head slightly and gave a soft whine.

“Of course I’d like to have the team join me, but how am I supposed to compensate them? There isn’t exactly a reward for this and they know I can’t pay much. If I keep asking for favors like this it'll look like I’m just taking advantage of them.”

“ARF!”

“Alright alright I’ll ask them.” Zenn surrendered. “But not just yet. Once everything is finalized and I’ve worked out the details, then I’ll check with everyone. Just hope they take gratitude as payment…”




April 13th


For other species, being crammed into a tight space with little to no elbow room on a ship that felt like it was held together with duct tape and prayers might be the most uncomfortable and stressful ride of their lives. But for the quarian; it was Tuesday. Zenn wasn’t enjoying himself, per se, but he was in no way unfamiliar with these conditions. He had very little trouble staying in his seat even with all the turbulence, though he made it a point to apologize to anyone he bumped into; or that bumped into him. What he was unfamiliar with, was dealing with an air sick animal. The second Ranger threw up, Zenn could not stop saying sorry as he tried to figure out a way to clean the mess with what was available.

After that the ride became much more unbearable, as Zenn felt like he had caused an unnecessary inconvenience to everyone aboard. Once the shuttle finally came to stop, he was ready to jump out as quickly as possible. But as the doors opened and the arctic winds swept into the shuttle, Zenn immediately wished they would close back up.

“KEELAH! How is it this cold? It’s not even this bad in space!” Zenn remarked. He grabbed both his arms and began rubbing his hands up and down them in a vain attempt to warm himself.

Just as well, as the security team that approached the shuttle had ordered them to “prepare for inspection.” Zenn would have to release his arms in favor of using his hands to remove his weapons. Though he would hold on to them a little longer as the security team quickly stood aside and allowed their new boss, Charles Saracino, to greet the team. He invited them to depart the shuttle and join him in his Nomad. Not a huge step up, but a step up nonetheless. To everyone’s surprise, especially Charles, it was Ranger who accepted the offer first.

"Don’t worry. He doesn’t bite. At least he hasn’t yet…” Zenn quickly mentioned hoping it would put Charles, and in turn his mechs, at ease. The mechs did stand back, but Charles also remained at a distance.

With that situation defused, Zenn happily handed his weapons over to the security officers and commanded Ranger to follow them for now. He then climbed into the Nomad ready to sit shoulder to shoulder with the team again, only this time he wouldn’t have to worry about any vomit… Well, unless Amina’s stomach was acting up again.




The ride to the admin building was informative. It was almost impossible to believe there was yet another area on Earth unaffected by the reapers. Though considering the natural climate here, it made a bit more sense. The reapers probably assumed life was unsustainable out here and made it a low priority target. And considering this meant they completely missed the seed vault of all things, it was a huge stroke of luck. For a fleeting moment, Zenn wondered if the presence of dextro crops meant he could finally get a decent meal. Or at least resupply his nutrient paste if needed.

At the end of the ride, they were led into the large admin office and directed towards a holo-conference room. Once they were settled, the first question asked was who the leader was.

The answer was a deafening silence.

Zenn hadn’t actually thought about that, and clearly none of them had either. Thankfully Charles did not press them on that, and put a pin in the idea for the time being. For now, Charles would let them know the status of the original SRN team, as well as where Ranger and their stuff was. Once all that was out of the way, he explained why he brought them to Svalbard.

An assassination attempt. A close range attack, multiple dead, and the assailant brought down before he could finish the job. The details were unsettlingly familiar to the quarian. Zenn’s mind couldn’t help but flash back to that horrible moment. He could hear the screams of the onlookers drowned out by the sound of gun fire. His heart sinking into his stomach as he held the body of a turian soldier. His suit covered in his friend’s blood as he desperately tried to resuscitate him. Zenn’s hands began to tremble as Charles told the story. Slowly he folded his arms to pin them and started to control his breathing, all while trying to make his actions seem nonchalant.

The rest of the briefing was a bit of a blur as Zenn had to focus on calming himself down. By the time he had recentered himself, Charles was offering one of them a rifle. Zenn decided to take a page from Solveig’s book and excused himself before anyone claimed the weapon. If anything else was discussed he would have to have them fill him in later.

It took some wandering, but Zenn was able to find his way to the team’s quarters. He intended to find the closest bed and just try to sleep off whatever this feeling was. However, the minute he stepped through the doors and laid eyes on his animal companion, he walked up and wrapped his arms around the dog. Immediately he felt all the tension and anxiety melt away as he embraced his pet. It was strange. He had only known the dog for a few days, but he had already found himself growing attached to it. He wondered how the dog would fair on Rannoch, because he was coming with him once this was all over.

Once Zenn felt completely at ease, he released the dog and actually took a moment to survey the room.

“Well, this still beats the living quarters aboard the Chayym.” He thought aloud. “Though I’ve never had to figure out sleeping arrangements for a dog before.”

Ranger let out a soft “Ar?” and tilted his head to the side.

“These beds aren’t big enough for both of us.” Zenn shrugged. “Can’t just share one like in Havana. We’ll just have to find a spot on the floor for you or something.”

Ranger trotted forwards toward a bunk bed, then turned to sit facing Zenn and kept his back to the bed.

“Really?” Zenn raised an eyebrow and folded his arms. “With our limited space you’re suggesting we take up a whole bunk? And I suppose you get top bunk?”

Ranger gave an affirmative bark then quickly stood up, turned around, and lowered himself before jumping up into the top bunk.

“Hey! No!” Zenn angrily stated as he marched over to the bunk. He continued to try and coax Ranger off the bed, while the dog simply stared down, wagging its tail and occasionally barking.




April 14th


After a defeated night on the bottom bunk, Zenn awoke to several new messages. The first was Sevipia transferring from the crisis team to the medical division. Zenn honestly wasn’t too surprised by this. After everything that went down at the meat plant, it was a wonder any of them left with their sanity intact. There was also an update on Katya and Janiri’s conditions. Similarities to reaper indoctrinations? Seriously? Did Banes even see what happened to those indoctrinated? Why would anyone try to recreate that in any sense! He had to be stopped. Before more fell victim to his heinous experiments.

Next was a message from Captain Nemin. Zenn’s request had been reviewed and was now officially granted. Enclosed in the message were the coordinates for the signal and a clearance code that gave him access to the restricted zones. Excellent! All that was left was securing a way there. And it just so happened the next message was from Lizbeth asking them to meet someone on the Citadel. It was on the way and would give them access to the SRN shuttle. This was perfect! Everything was falling into place. All he needed now was a crew.

“Well. Here goes nothing.” Zenn whispered to himself as he typed out a message for the team.

Shadow:
Hey Everyone, I need your help with something. If you haven’t heard, there was an incident recently involving a quarian mining ship and the salarian union. The quarian’s crossed into whatever you’d call “citadel space” these days, which is completely off limits to everyone; especially civilians. They didn’t get far before salarian patrols apprehended them. The quarian’s claimed that they detected a distress signal from another quarian ship and were on course to assist, but the salarians in charge of patrolling the sector say they never detected anything like that. As of now the miners are detained and facing some serious charges, and the salarians aren’t about to use their own resources to investigate a “ghost” signal. Which means if someone is out there, help isn’t coming.

I cannot allow that. So in my down time I reached out to the salarians. As a migrant fleet marine I have more authority when it comes to these matters (and it helps that I actually asked them before trespassing in forbidden space.) The salarians agreed to give me the coordinates the miners claim the signal originated and full clearance to investigate on the condition I report everything I find to them first, even if it incriminates the miners. They also will not be assisting in any way. Which means transport, backup, supplies, that’s all on me.

I don’t think I need to tell any of you what it looks like near the citadel. Calling it a "ship graveyard" doesn’t even do it justice. Navigating the debris alone is a challenge not to mention we have no idea what other kinds of dangers and hazards could be waiting. I know we haven’t known each other long and this is a big ask, but I don’t know that I can do this alone. Any help will be more than appreciated and I promise to pay the favor back in any way I can.
Zenn'Valin vas Konesh

"Shadow"




Tired, injured, fighting a fever, and more than a little buzzed, Zenn dragged himself through the resort halls towards his room with Ranger happily trotting alongside him. He was still hesitant to take the dog, mostly because he was in no way prepared to be a pet owner. But Ranger didn't have anywhere else to go. Besides, Zenn got his start when random strangers took him in from off the street. How could he reject anyone in the same position, even if they were a dog?

Sluggishly he walked into his room and placed the brandy on a nightstand. He then carefully set his equipment against the adjacent wall while finishing the last sips of his drink. Meanwhile Ranger jumped on the bed and waited as Zenn placed the empty glass next to the bottle and slowly crawled onto the mattress. The dog started walking in circles for a few seconds before plopping down with his back against Zenn’s arm. Zenn let out a soft chuckle and gave the dog a few scratches.

As he lay there staring at the ceiling, his mind drifted back to the mission. Things hadn't exactly gone the way he thought they would. Banes got away, most of the original team was dead or comatose, and he and Nadara were injured. On the other hand, it was still a rousing success. The Red's whole operation had been shut down, they rescued most of the hostages, and with the info Outca- er, Randall gave them they had a better idea of what they were going up against. All in all they had gone above and beyond and proved themselves to be a formidable team! It really was a combined effort. They couldn't have pulled it off without each person playing their part. They may not all have been the SRN's first choice, but this team was ready for anything thrown at them. Zenn hoped the others shared his sentiment, but at the end of the day it was enough for him to know that they had made a difference; even if it was just for Havana. Of course, he wouldn't say no to a monetary reward, even if he did owe some of it to Nadara. Not to mention the much needed antibiotics from Kenn and the other quarians.

Overall, he felt satisfied with how everything turned out. A smile was printed on his face as his eyes slowly closed and he slipped into a much needed sleep.
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