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Chapter 2: Part 1

Rodrigo was uncertain how he felt about Livewire as the man explained his involvement with their mysterious benefactor. He'd worked with others of Livewire's ilk before -- you needed parts to be able to perform cyberware upgrades, after all. The equipment was necessary not only for upgrades to paying customers, but there had been many times Rodrigo had offered assistance to those in his community that simply didn't have the means to repair damaged or broken components. All of the shady back dealers who had provided these goods were unsavory types, typically men that Rodrigo would arrange to meet well far enough away from his clinic so they would be unable to connect him with his family or the Valentinos.

The more he heard about Livewire's outlook, the more he saw the way the man carried himself, distrust blossomed in the pit of his stomach. After the harrowing experience they'd all shared below ground, and with the reality they were now facing as escapees from Militech who would surely seek their missing assets, it was highly unclear who they could fully trust. For all intents and purposes, Rodrigo had classified Livewire in the same category of the other solicitors he'd worked with.

At least, this was the case until the man's mother appeared unexpectedly. Rodrigo watched the interaction between the two and couldn't help but picture himself with his own mother, his cousins with his aunts, and a number of other women that he'd met in his life that would fit a similar description. The gentle care Livewire showed the woman suddenly changed his initial opinion of the man and Rodrigo found himself suddenly relating to his struggles. They were both trying to find their way in this hellhole of a city, keeping their family safe and scraping enough by to survive.

At the mention of a stew, Rodrigo's stomach rumbled, and he suddenly realized how hungry he was. How long had it even been since he'd last eaten? The state, smell, and condition of the building mattered little to him, it was nothing he hadn't seen before, and the inhabitants were nothing other than people like him. Skin of the Earth, as his mamá would say. As Livewire's mother turned to return to her preparation of the stew, Kade let out a loud outburst, which he quickly tried to play off.

Rodrigo glanced at the man with confusion, but decided not to comment on the strangeness of his offer to assist the woman in whatever makeshift kitchen she had in the back.

"Why don't we focus our efforts here, instead," he said, motioning to Livewire and the table he was setting up with various wares. "I'm sure Livewire's..." he paused, realizing he'd neither introduced himself to the woman nor asked her name. Appalled at himself for his lack of manners yet again, Rodrigo made a note to rectify this when the woman returned with stew. "Uh, 'Mumma'," he continued, "is more than capable of handling a stew."

He stepped forward as Livewire continued to lay out the many pieces he had available. Each one was placed on the table with care, it was obvious he took his job and wares seriously. Frowning in consideration, Rodrigo's eyes wandered over the various options until his eyes fell on one in particular. "This padding here looks to be a good fit for me." He turned his head to the others, "Anything in particular catch your fancy?"


JV eyes lingered, watching as Mumma Livewire walked back to the shack. Maman Nadège would've done the same. Prepared a feast for the guests, fussed over them, urged them to take care of their stomachs before anything else. She'd give JV an ear full too. Forced the man to hug her, to help her prepare, to get Jean-Baptiste to set the table.

As Livewire's mum disappeared behind the curtain, JV exhaled. A warm feeling washed over him, tingling all the way down his spine. Things were better this way. They were better off. While the Gods had been cruel to him, they had at least spared his family. Now more so than ever.

Wandering over to the table, JV perused over the options. He had never picked out his own anything before nor did he have much of an idea about cyberware. It's not exactly as if they were labelled either.

Livewire smiled, recognising the lost look in the man's eyes. Scorch marks and dried blood climbed up both JVs arms, from knuckle to elbow giving the South African all he needed to know. "Ay big man, check this one out." Picking up a large bit of plating, he tossed it to JV. "Countershell, it's an older version so not as reliable as the latest models but it's still got a good chance at reflecting damage. Good for anyone who gets up close and personal to take care of business, right my friend?"

JV nodded, slightly. Shoving the cyberware into Rodrigo's chest he spoke. "Doctor, I will take this one. Fuse it to me once I have finished my meal." Leaving before the man could answer, JV headed off towards the kitchen.


Resisting the urge to complain about the force with which Gorilla Arms pushed it into him, Rodrigo held the cyberware with a grimace. It was likely the man was entirely oblivious to his own strength. "Sin problemas," he replied, before giving Kade and Ember a sidelong glance and continuing in a lower tone, "I just can't say how much longer after you've finished your meal it'll be, hermano."

He looked down at the ware in his hands with a critical eye, noticing where the piece had been worn and how it truly wouldn't hold up to a more modern version, just as Livewire had expressed. He was honest, he thought, further convinced his initial judgement of the man had been made too hastily.

Rodrigo picked up the padding that had caught his eye previously and placed both items to the side. "I suppose I'll get all of you situated, but I need to get some food in me first, and perhaps some rest."


Rico was the only one who paid any attention to Kade after his little outburst, but he seemed to be content to take the corpo’s attempt to twist it at face value rather than try and pry. Perhaps Kade had played it off cool enough? Or they were just trying to keep things more civil. Whatever the reason, Kade wouldn’t push his luck and continued with the conversation.

“Yes, I suppose we should browse our options.” Kade replied to Rico and approached the wares Livewire had set out. Though glancing over them he spoke under his breath “Afterall it would be rude to refuse free implants offered by a complete stranger.”

Kade’s eyes meticulously combed over each and every piece that had been offered. He wasn’t an expert on chrome by any means, but he at least knew their function well enough to make an informed decision. He could also tell the quality was, as Livewire had even admitted, less than what modern or what was currently market standard. It wasn’t ideal, but if he was going to get back to the top of the spy game he’d need any boost he could. Like a cyberware that did exactly that!

“Well, hello there!” Kade excitedly exclaimed as he picked up a circulatory enhancer commonly known as the Heal-on-Kill. He wasn’t familiar with the specifics, just that it artificially boosted all senses in high adrenalin moments such as the rush you’d get from flatlining someone. A perfect edition to his already existing implants, assuming they were still functioning properly with that virus. Speaking of…

“I agree, Rico. We could all certainly benefit from a meal and a good night's sleep. But in case you forgot, we are still racing against a clock here.” Kade stated rather casually as he strolled over and placed the Heal-on-Kill in front of the ripper doc. “Livewire, I don’t suppose our Anonymous Benefactor mentioned anything about a virus before imploring your services?” They were already operating on the timeline of ‘Less than 24 hours’. Kade would need assurance that sleeping through the night wouldn’t be a death sentence.


Livewire took an immediate step back. The man's face crumpled in disgust as he began to wipe his hands on his tank top. "A virus? What the fuck man, what are you talking about? Is it contagious?"

Whether the slender corpo was talking biological or cyber did not matter, with his mother in the room, Livewire was not fucking around. Loading up his 'detonate grenade' quickhack and looking towards Ember, he replied. "This better be nothing like the Wasting Plague, ay my friend. I do hate when I have to kill paying clientele."


Kade chuckled and shook his head. A simple ‘No’ would have sufficed. Instead Livewire flipped from gracious host to potential hostile immediately. Oh well. This wasn’t the first time Kade had to diffuse an escalating situation like this. Keeping his smile, he took a step to the side and placed himself between Livewire and Ember hoping to maintain his full attention.

“First off; I never said anything about being infected. I simply asked if it had been mentioned. Second; If we were infected and it was contagious, you’d already have it. You have been in a car in close proximity with us for some time, but I think you’ll find you are completely clean. Finally; I believe you mentioned the deal was ‘if all goes well they’ll keep you around’. Killing all of us doesn’t sound like all going well, does it?” Kade explained as calmly and rationally as he could. “Now, if you would please refrain from threatening us for the time being, may I at least ask if there were any further instructions? Maybe a second location we’ll be going to or are we just waiting around until we get a call?”


Ember eagerly inspected the cyberware options, searching for the one that suited her best. Each of them had something to offer, but which one? She hated making decisions like this. Normally Billy would do this for her. Where was he anyway? Her excitement was starting to turn to stress as she tried to make a choice, when Billy finally arrived. This version of her imaginary companion, however, was a stark departure from the usually cheerful and quirky entity she knew. The cartoon bomb’s features now wore an unsettling combination of aggression and malice, manifesting in red eyes and a menacing smile. He ambled around on the table observing the cyberware himself.

“Well, well, Emelia.” His tone was cruel. He flung her old name at her as if it were an insult. “Still struggling to make such a simple decision?” Ember felt a wave of unease, unsure how to handle this more aggressive incarnation of her choom. “Yet you had no hesitation to follow these strangers. You trust too easily, Emelia.” He added once more putting a spiteful emphasis to her rarely used first name. “Only a gonk like you would get into a mess like this.”

“They are my chooms, Billy,” Ember retorted in her mind trying to assert herself, ”Everything is fine. Now stop being a bad Billy and help me pick something. I need to be stronger.”

Billy simply laughed loudly, sending a shiver down Ember’s spine. “Why? Afraid you’ll be too weak and get these ones killed too?”

Billy’s words cut deep. Ember became speechless and the voices of her squad echoed through her mind. Each one slowly got loud and louder until her head was filled with the shouting of ghosts. She froze, unable to move much less make a decision about the cyberware choices before her.

Billy sneered, relishing in his perceived victory. She was determined not to let this evil Billy dictate her choices, but hesitated nonetheless. “I thought so,” he stood next to an optic and kicked at it. “This one, you gonk.” Ember tried to shake her head, close her eyes, anything to get rid of this Billy.

Finally, his aggressive features began to disappear, replaced with her familiar Billy. He smiled playfully with his usual sweet demeanor. She felt a rush of relief as he spoke, “Ember, you okay choom?” He stood where the other had on the table. “You should pick these Kiroshi optics, they’ll be helpful.” Billy’s encouragement seemed genuine, and Ember, shaking off the residual unease, nodded, her mind settling on the cyberware.

“Y-yeah. Thanks, Billy,” she replied aloud but quietly. Looking towards Livewire, she held up the optics and excitedly proclaimed “I’d like those Kiroshi “Stalker” optics, please!” The switch from spiraling after such an ordeal to her normal peppy self shocked even her.


"Now you listen here my friend," Livewire's hands slammed down on the table. He wasn't about to be talked down to by some wannabe Corpo. "I have told you everything I know. I get paid to not ask questions but at the same time, do not take me for some fucking dickhead, ay? It's obvious that you and your crew are in some sort of fucked up shit, so you talking about some virus rings true."

Pointing towards the shack, Livewire spoke in a tone that bordered on fury. "And when it comes to protecting my Mumma, I couldn't give a single fuck about any amount of ennies. I will kill whoever needs to die. Now you-"

At that moment, seemingly oblivious to the tense conversation going on, Ember strode up to the table, quietly muttering to herself before choosing her cyberware. "Great choice my dear," Livewires demeanour flipped quicker than someone tossing a pancake in a pan. "these will ensure your SMART weapon is even more accurate, finding those hard to reach gonks no matter where they hide. Again, this early version means you'll need to be close by for it to work. Enjoy ay?"

Handing over the optics, the man turned his attention back to the Corpo. "Listen to me, my friend, you confirm to me that my Mumma is safe from your virus and nobody needs to get flatlined, ay?"


Kade's eyes narrowed yet his smile remained even as Livewire grew more agitated. Politely he waited as Ember and Livewire chatted about her choice in cyberware all the while trying to decide how he wanted to handle this. Livewire was on edge ready to start lashing out. Another remark beating around the bush or returning the threat could set him off. Kade considered attempting to ‘shoot first’, but he and his group were tired and unprepared. A fight wouldn't end well for either party. His only option was the truth, but even that did not guarantee their safety. If this was going to work, he had to make sure Livewire had more of a reason not to attack than to kick things off.

“Fine. You want the truth, ‘friend’?” Kade said. He leaned it a few inches closer to Livewire before blurting out, “The truth is, I have no fucking clue!” Pulling away, Kade corrected his posture as he continued. “All we know is that we have a virus in our systems and less than 24 hours from when we woke up to cure it. Something the same person who hired you promised us they could do, but failed to specify when and where.”

It wasn't a great answer, but it was exactly what Livewire had asked for. The honest truth. But Kade wasn't about to let their fate be decided based on if this random gonk liked that answer or not. The corpo proceeded to hold up a finger to indicate he hadn't finished speaking.

“Now before you decide if you'd like to make good on those threats, maybe you should consider the consequences of such actions beyond the eddies? Assuming you did manage to kill us all, you’d be screwing over our employer who, may I remind you, is a mystery figure you have no information on but who clearly knows a lot about you. One who has the ability to hack a secure militech facility from a completely remote location and the resources to pay people up front for any job. So ask yourself, would killing us and gaining such an enemy really keep your mumma safe?"


Militech? Livewire's eyes widened. Such a juicy piece of information meant a lot to a guy like him. Though, only time would tell if it could be used to his advantage. Almost just as interesting was the fact that the mysterious benefactor was just as real as they claimed. All too often people in Night City failed to both talk and walk.

Livewire chuckled, clasping his hands together and nodding slightly. "Ok my friend. I appreciate the honesty. Maybe I stick an ear out for you, ay? If I come across any information that might help, I'll pass it on. For now, take your piece of cyberware and a hot meal, this is all I can offer."


With a sigh of relief, Rodrigo shook his head at the entire interaction, wondering for what seemed to be the hundredth time about what kind of people he’d gotten himself involved with. Dios, Gorilla Arms was impenetrable and impossible to read, Ember was in her own little world, but the most enigmatic was likely Kade. He couldn’t believe the Suit would simply divulge the details of their predicament to Livewire when it was still so unclear whether they could fully trust the man. The daggers Rodrigo shot from his eyes as Kade started to ramble went entirely unnoticed, but it ended up mattering little anyway since Livewire seemed satisfied with his newfound insight. His initial outburst and sudden antagonism couldn’t even be blamed, given Rodrigo would likely have felt similarly were their roles reversed.

Now that the boys seemed to be done swinging their dicks around, Rodrigo placed a hand on Kade’s shoulder and directed him toward the back where a tempting scent had begun wafting from the kitchens. Likely, Gorilla arms had already been served and Rodrigo wanted to at least be sitting before the man had another chance to shove anymore hardware into his chest.

“And we thank you for both,” he directed to Livewire before nodding to Ember to follow him and Kade. Never mind that the Cyberware had been paid for by whoever this mysterious Voice was.

Livewire’s mother had done the best she could with the little she’d been provided with. A makeshift table hobbled together out of items with flat surfaces that sat atop a number of other items so they all reached a similar height sat near a roasting fire that warmed a metal pot, the contents of which bubbled enticingly. Around the table were a number of smaller objects that served as stools. Gorilla Arms seemed a bit out of place, large man that he was, his arms and legs tucked in as close as they would go to fit into the small space. When the trio came around the corner, Livewire’s mother smiled at them and began pouring each a bowl.

The taste of the dish was unexpectedly complex, layered with savory morsels of synthmeat, a combination of spices, and a few hearty artificial vegetables that Rodrigo simply hadn’t anticipated. It was something he could have been served at home. The sudden memory jolted his heart and he wondered how distraught his mother must be with his absence. Tomorrow he would discover some way to contact her safely. Perhaps the Voice would be able to assist in delivering a secure message. For now, he would have to hope his aunt and cousin would comfort her …and ideally, feed the cats.

Dinner was a quiet affair apart from the comfortable conversation between Livewire and his mother, who aside from discussing personal affairs that might have been better left for private, also directed everyone to find a space they felt comfortable with to claim as their own. A few cots had been identified along with some sleeping pads, and they’d been given free range to utilize any of the discarded items both within the building as well as its surroundings.

Rodrigo found an old reclining chair in a back corner, ripped in places where some of the cushion poked through. The mechanism to recline still worked however, and the old furniture was comfortable enough. Not too far from where it sat was an old metal desk. Perfect. Aside from offering a relatively comfortable place to sleep for the night, it could serve as an installation table for Cyberware. Deciding he would procure further necessary items in the daylight, he sank into the chair, falling asleep immediately.


As Ember followed behind Rico, the enticing aroma of food wafted towards her, overpowering her senses. It dawned on her just how hungry she was, realizing she couldn't recall the last time she had a proper meal. They settled at the makeshift table. Despite her attempts to savor the moment, Ember found herself unable to resist the temptation of the meal in front of her and devoured the food in an instance. While she was particularly fond of silence while eating, she enjoyed the casual conversation flowing between Livewire and his mother, a small, appreciative smile gracing her lips. As the meal concluded, Ember expressed her gratitude to Livewire's mother for the delicious feast.

After they all had their fill, the group dispersed in search of their own places to spend the night. Ember, feeling the weight of the day's events, gravitated toward one of the nearest cots. She collapsed onto it, her boundless energy depleted by the whirlwind of experiences. As she lay there, the fatigue from the day took hold, and Ember quickly succumbed to a deep and restful sleep.


It seemed Livewire was finally backing down thanks to the extra ‘clarification’ Kade slipped him. Only time would tell if Livewire came to regret such a transaction, but that wasn’t Kade’s problem. He just needed to keep Livewire from going full psycho on them, and it appeared he had succeeded. Rico made it clear he didn’t want to take any chances of things becoming heated again and quickly pulled Kade away and ushered him to the table. It was time for family dinner.

Aside from Livewire and his mother, no one was really in the mood for talking. Maybe it was the unpleasant tension between him and Livewire moments ago, or more likely it was the fighting for their lives to escape that god awful facility, but everyone chose to sit in silence as they scarfed down their meal. Though Kade had to admit, while he was a bit more accustomed to meals of a more refined quality, this was some good stew. Once dinner had concluded, Kade made good on his promise and assisted mamawire with clearing the table and washing dishes. Even if he had offered in an attempt to cover his outburst, Kade was a man of his word. Not to mention it wouldn’t hurt to at least be on her good side.

With the cleaning done and night fully blanketing the sky, Kade began his search of the encampment. Unlike the others, he wasn’t searching for a place to sleep. He was once again on the hunt for a cigarette to satisfy that accursed craving of his. He had already asked Miss Wire if she or her son had any he could borrow, but much to his disappointment neither of them smoked. A pity, but no matter, surely somewhere among the trash was a pack abandoned too early by its previous owner.

After a short search, Kade found himself lounging at the edge of the building. His back against a steel beam, one leg placed on the concrete floor with his arm rested on his knee, while the other leg dangled off the side. Nestled between two fingers in his free hand was a lit cigarette. There was no telling how long it had been laying out in the open, but just like the moment similar in the facility; beggars can’t be choosers. As he looked over the Night City skyline, he took a long drag from his cigarette, then slowly released a cloud of smoke as he mused to himself.

“Just you wait, Night City. I’ve climbed to the top before. And mark my words; I’ll do it again.”


Bea, having paid close attention to the instructions given, had eventually found her way to the base. She looked upon it from far down the road. In disbelief she slowly removed her sunglasses, narrowing her eyes at the huge shape and run down form of it, discomfort crept in and she sighed, placing the arm of the glasses against her glossed bottom lip she took another breath. There wasn't much that she was thinking, other than about how much she really didn't want to be here. How much she couldn't remember of the night before, except for the terrifying parts.

How embarrassed she was about to feel, walking back in.

The orange glow of midmorning warmed up the sky - an almost cloudless one save for some that were clearly holding onto their rain for dear life. She felt that change in the air too, that it may rain later. She was holding back her own storm too, pain still clung to her face and wrist. An ache throughout her body. Still, she had dressed it all away. A patterned skirt that clung to her figure, a crisp and clean shirt that was barely buttoned was tucked into the waistband. Her hair long today, poker straight and bright blonde - hot and baby pinks at the tips in an ombre to the middle of its length. "Come on..." she muttered, as if trying to muster her own energy to take more steps.

The woman reached for her suitcase again. She began wheeling it behind her as she trundled forwards - head held high, shoulders back.

At her side, and closely too, was Cookie. In the daylight, he was a remarkable beast - like somehow while huge in the apartment, he appeared bigger outside in the real world - void of any colour of pattern to his coat, from a distance, he could have appeared to look like a panther in the way that he moved with purpose and grace that betrayed his size. His eyes held the only colour, the reflection of orange from the atmosphere that gave his eyes the look of headlights. An intense gaze, watching for any threat.

The two of them had managed to cab most of the way, until Cookie had grumbled too loud, pushed his head too far forward in the cab to make the driver uncomfortable.

As they arrived at the base, Bea took a look at the stairs and the climb ahead. Heels were not ideal for this, certainly not these heels. Patent leather pumps in hot pink that had such a shine it was almost as if they had been striped with white.

Those heels tipped and tapped against the scaffolding and stairways, and Bea huffed out an annoyed breath, dragging her suitcase up too. Even Cookie seemed to be unsure of it. At some point, she wobbled too with the movements and let out a panicked "oooh!" until she found her balance again and continued. Eventually, she had arrived at the first floor. She had made sure to tuck her hair behind her ears and put her sunglassed back on. She cleared her throat in the dusty space. "Now, I don't want to hear any ‘I told you so’,” she announced in her confident, melodic voice - a noticeable rasp in her throat. "Wow, the Ritz never looked so good," she added with a shrug. Cookie, meanwhile, was still scoping the stairwell out and wasn't quite ready to join her just yet, so, alone she stood - a hand resting on the handle of her suitcase, and the other on her hip.

"Alright, I made it. Fix me already."


Ember sat on her cot, tinkering with some scraps she had found. Making what appeared to be a grenade shaped device. Deep in her building process, she was momentarily pulled away when she heard a woman's voice as Bea reached the top of the stairs. He head snapped up to see that beautiful blonde woman again.

“It’s you!” Ember practically yelled, as she tossed the contraption to the side and bolted towards the woman. She wrapped her arms around the taller woman in excitement. “You're back!” Ember gushed, giving Bea another squeeze before she stepped back. As she did her eyes caught sight of him on the stairs following Bea. Ember's tone shifted to a whisper as her eyes grew wide. “Puppy!”


Bea's entire body stiffened as the excitable woman hugged her. Immediately hugged her. Without warning. Bea thought back to the moment when they had first freed her, and decided that actually the greeting wasn't so unexpected at all. Her eyebrows raised and she exhaled a long breath she was sure the woman wouldn't notice - her attention had already moved on. Awkwardly, Bea patted her on the shoulders. "Yes... Uh huh. Me again."

Once she was freed from the enthusiastic greeting, she placed a hand on her hip and nodded. "Yeah. I brought him too. That's Cookie."

Cookie's head tilted as he eyed Ember up, as if trying to decide if the woman was safe or not. He gave an indifferent grumble, and hadn't immediately leapt to action when the woman had grabbed Bea. Anyone that Cookie didn't trust, wouldn't have gotten away with it with all of their limbs intact.


Upon releasing Bea from her tight grasp, Ember excitedly bounced while eyeing Cookie. Pointing towards the large dog she asks a bit louder than her whisper, “Can I pet him? Please, please, please!?” She asked already slowly walking towards him.


Kade stared into the remains of a discarded mirror, studying what he could view of his figure in the cracked reflection. He had just finished carefully smoothing his hair back and was in the middle of adjusting his suit coat when a familiar voice sounded from the stairs. Kade turned to see Bea as glamorous as ever standing at the top of the stairs. Ember was overjoyed and immediately wrapped her arms around the returning diva. Kade on, the other hand, merely looked Bea up and down before returning to his reflection.

“All of you?” Kade called out in response to Bea's request to ‘fix her’. “I don't think there's enough time in the world for that. But if you're referring to the little bug in our systems, I'm afraid we're still waiting for that as well.”


"Well obviously you speak from experience, Cupcake," Bea retorted - eyeing up her nails as she outstretched her hand. At Ember's request she merely shrugged. "Sure."

Cookie approached Ember carefully, his eyes cautious, and his steps slow. He opened his mouth, and took her hand in it gently - applying no pressure to the bite. He bopped her around at the wrist with a wet nose. He let go of her, leaving a trail of slobber behind him and huffed out a breath as if to say "you're a good people."


Livewire had just finished setting up his table when the woman arrived. He'd been called in once again this morning by the mysterious sponsor and this must've been why.

"S'cuse me, miss?" he yelled, interrupting the reunion. "Your secretive friend has charged me with giving you a piece of cyberware." Livewire's eye lit up as he checked his schedule for his next appointment. "So please, come choose as my clock is ticking, ay?"


"Oh no no no," Bea began, wagging a finger towards Livewire as he hurried her. "I didn't realise that was part of the plan - is this part of the plan? The one to get well that is? Cyberware?" She narrowed her eyes, suddenly becoming more acutely aware of the surroundings - of the disarray around her, of the mess. Was this really where she was to sit this one out? The back of her neck prickled, and agitated, she huffed out a sigh. "Where's the good Doc? You know what, maybe I'll leave that decision in his hands - "Cyberware" is not exactly.... Familiar to me..."


After having discovered a motherboard that was still functioning and successfully connecting it to a display that was only moderately cracked, Rodrigo had cleared off and finished the setup on the desk beside the armchair he'd slept in. All things considered, it had been much more comfortable than the concrete block from the previous evening, and though he'd prefer not to wake with the sun in his eyes, he found himself to be in much better spirits than the last time he awoke. Can't imagine why, he thought sarcastically to himself.

With his tools in hand and everyone's cyberware secured, he'd spent the better part of the morning outfitting his new companions with their chrome, and was taking a moment to finalize his own installation when he overheard a honey sweet voice from beyond the corner that he'd half expected never to hear again.

His pace picked up as he rounded the corner to see Bea tackled in delight by Ember. The movement jostled the blonde and added noticeable strain to the few buttons on her shirt, but they remained securely in place. Malditos botóns, he cursed silently, unable to keep himself from smiling in relief at the sight of the woman. Looks like JV had been right after all, and she'd obviously used her time away wisely, her hair shimmered in the sunlight, her skin glistening with ...was that glitter? His eyes trailed down her short skirt to her bare, sleek legs and Rodrigo was suddenly overcome with the disturbing thought that he wasn't certain how long it'd been since he'd last showered. Even the dog she'd brought along seemed cleaner than he was, if that beast of an animal could even be considered a dog, large as he was.

Throwing a rag he'd discovered over his shoulder after wiping his hands, he approached with a half smile, figuring there was nothing he could do about appearances so he shouldn't bother worrying about it. "It's good to see you again, Bea. Looks like you had a better night than the rest of us." The ripperdoc eyed the dog a little warily but extended his hand for a sniff regardless. "Even brought a guard dog, huh? Not a bad idea to have extra security around this lot," he chuckled, referencing the others around them. A newfound excitement bubbled within him that was difficult to disguise. His eyes raced over the cyberware on Livewire's table and he instinctively paused on one piece. "How would you feel about an adrenaline boost?" He asked, his eyes meeting Bea's. "Once you've found somewhere to place your things, I'd be happy to hook you up."


Bea watched as Rodrigo approached, eyeing him with almost as much attention as he had to her. The one person she trusted. He seems fine... They all seem fine... Didn't they also see anything last night...? she wondered. The sound of bullets intruded her thoughts again but she didn't flinch, instead, she took a slight step back, pushing up her sunglasses further as an awful dreadful feeling sank into her chest. "Yes. Busy evening of course," she began. "This and that. Champagne and canapes on the rooftop..." she added with a wave of her hand as if that was almost boring to her.

"This here is Cookie," Bea said with a smile as he moved back to her side, eyeing up Rodrigo cautiously, sniffing at the air to catch his scent that was quite familiar. It had been on Bea's dress. Unlike with Ember, he didn't mouth at the doctor's hand, and just let out a single grumble, but nothing more.

"You all.... Seem in good spirits," she added, a probing comment to see if any of them would mention anything out of sorts. Any Militech presence, even. Without waiting for an answer, she met Rodrigo's eyes, "Adrenaline boost? Is that.... an easy procedure, Sugar? It's not going to be visible? On my face is it? Is this... really a sterile environment?" She asked, stepping forward and looking the place over with an uncertain tone. "I... does it take long? Is this what's going to help us? More cyberware?" There was a nervousness in her voice that she couldn't disguise, but after a moment, she forced a smile.


As Bea stepped back, Rodrigo worried it had been due to his odor and frowned slightly, deciding his next priority would be to find running water. And soap.

"You a good boy, Cook?" He stepped aside as Ember knelt beside the massive pup, who relented to her pets with begrudging friendliness as if in answer to Rodrigo's question. Seemed well mannered enough, but his reluctance didn't inspire complete confidence.

Moving his attention back to Bea, he nodded to her comment about their general well being and opened his mouth to respond further when he was met with a flurry of questions. It was clear she was more than a little anxious about cyberwear, and it softened Rodrigo's heart to the dog to see Cookie steal protective glances up at her as she rambled. He began taking a step forward to comfort her when he remembered her earlier reaction and instead pivoted to the table to grab the chrome before meeting her gaze once more. Softening his tone, his voice calm and even, he said, "I promise I'll take good care of you, Bea. You'll be safe, it'll be done before you know it, and it will be completely invisible to the naked eye." Rodrigo sighed and ran his fingers through his hair as memories of their imprisonment and Bea's reaction to the horror of it all replayed in his mind. "I don't know that we'll be able to avoid conflict, and... this might be a better option for you than a gun."


"More conflict? You think we'll have more...?" Bea asked, knowing that she'd had some of her own already - unless it hadn't been real. She wasn't confident enough to say whether the events of the night had been in her head or real. It seemed however, that they had not gone through the same thing. Perhaps she should have gotten in the van in the first place afterall... Although, who could say when she would have seen Cookie again had that been the case. "Alright, I'll do it," she said. Part of her wanted to confide in Rico - to tell him she didn't want to end up like Lauren. A liability. But, the others were around -- and, still she trusted him, but not that much yet.

She didn't want any of them to perceive any kind of weak thought. Was that all it would take for someone like Kade to pull a trigger? She doubted Ember would... the Gorilla Arms... He'd given her the gun, but - if she was unwilling to use it then maybe he'd take hold of her with those arms and tear her apart too... The only option was to comply.

"Well alright then Sugardoc." Bea sighed. "Cyberise me already," she uttered quietly, her gaze turning to his chair, and she understood from the equipment around it that was where it was to be done. She didn't let her steps towards it falter even if her legs felt heavy as she approached. What he saw as a safe workstation, she saw as a trap. It was like a form of stage fright that was taking over her as she got close, and that dreadful sensation swirled around. She felt lightheaded again, just like in the prison. Don't be weak, this isn't like... she told herself and took a long breath.

"This the spot?" she asked, her comfortable expression a complete betrayal of how she was feeling inside. "Dressed or undressed?"


Rodrigo followed behind Bea with a concerned expression, unsure exactly why he was unnerved by her reaction. Perhaps it was the way her jugular pulsed when she walked by.

Cookie pushed past him in a rush to stand beside his owner. Small whines escaped the dog, and he gave the woman's hand a gentle lick. Did he feel something amiss too, or was this Cookie's typical behavior? There was no way of knowing.

Once again, Rodrigo nodded to her initial statement, only to balk at her second question. "Dressed," he answered a little too quickly. After a slight pause he added, "I'll only need to reach the base of your neck." As thrilling as the latter option sounded, it wouldn't do to perform surgery while his heart pounded in his ears. Feeling the eyes of the others on his back, the ripperdoc realized he should've sought out a privacy screen to enclose the makeshift clinic he'd thrown together.

Bea appeared entirely unbothered either way as she sat on the tattered armchair, where more cushion protruded further from the larger tears. Taking a breath to steady himself, Rodrigo approached and focused his gaze on the woman once more, only this time, using his cyberoptics to assess her vitals. Cortisol, blood pressure, and heart rate elevated. He frowned. There definitely was something bothering her, no denying it now.

Taking a step closer and kneeling on the ground before her, Rodrigo lowered his voice so only she could hear his gentle tone. "We don't have to rush into this. Have you eaten yet? We can get you settled first."


He had a point. The equipment had just been plucked off a table in a dirty warehouse. Did Bea really want to hurry and put that in her body to do goodness knows what? An adrenaline boost, Rico had said, whatever that really meant. Her smiling expression faded to neutral, and she brought a hand to the side of her eye where she'd fallen. "Settled? Here? I just want to know what this Voice wants? How we're going to be cured."

She leaned forward in the chair as he knelt down, running a hand through her hair so as to bring it across her shoulder so the back of her neck would be revealed to him. "I saw the alternative - the not listening to it..." her voice was quieter, and momentarily vulnerable. Rico had created an air of trust between them, and Bea pulled down her sunglasses and looked down to him, to show him the marks on her face until she realised that she was doing it.

"Do it already," her sharp chirp returned and she leaned back. Her finger pushed the sunglasses back up quickly and she crossed one leg over the other moving her foot in small, slow circles. Breaking the close proximity they had shared. "Oh, and I want to watch -" she added cooly, looking up into the corners of the room now. "When you put it in that is. I want to watch."


At first, all Rodrigo noticed was the fear in her eyes as Bea pulled down the sunglasses he now realized she'd worn as a form of armor. The unguarded look so contrasted the heavy walls Bea typically had raised all around her, it awakened a surprisingly strong protective desire in him which only grew in force when he registered the rest of her face. The bruising, the pain etched into the curve of her cheeks. Instinctively, his hand twitched with the desire to cup them, to run the pad of his thumb over each scrape and have them vanish at his touch, but just as quickly as she'd opened up to him, she was a vault once more. Rodrigo's hand moved instead to the base of her neck, gently brushing a few remaining strands to the side as he scanned the area for the best incision.

Just what had she experienced last night? An unexpected anger blossomed within him at their situation, at the Voice, and at Militech who had created this hopelessness that crushed the woman's spirit. His Mamá's words came to mind, "Use anger as a tool, mijo, channel it, instead of letting it use you." With that thought in mind, his anger molded itself into the resolve that he would do everything in his power to keep them all safe.

A disembodied laughter Rodrigo knew belonged to no one in the room echoed in his mind then, and he braced himself for the horrible, gravely voice that accompanied it. Only this time, it was some mutilated version of his own mother's voice. "And just what does a weakling, failed healer like you think you'll be able to do, hm?" More disjointed laughter reverberated in his mind, broken and garbled, striking him as if like shards. He shut his eyes tightly until it dissipated, and what felt like long excruciating minutes lasted only a few seconds.

When he opened his eyes, he saw Cookie resting his head on the footrest of the armchair, ever the guardian, and Bea lazily rotating her foot with a bored expression as she eyed the room. At her request to watch the procedure, Rodrigo reassuringly squeezed her shoulder. "I'll do it nice and gentle. We'll get you a mirror so you can see every detail."


Following closely behind Cookie, Ember sat next to the pup. Scratching behind his ears as he comforted Bea. Once she heard Rico mention the mirror her eyes snapped to Kade who was still admiring himself in a mirror.

“He's got one!” Ember pointed at the corpo with her other hand still petting the dog.


Kade’s head popped around the corner with a sharp glare at Ember.

“Is that what we're doing now? Offering other people's things?” Kade asked sarcastically.


Ember looked up at him and thoughtfuly put her finger under her chin. Then looked back with a smile.



Holding out his hand, Rodrigo smiled to the Suit. “You don’t mind, do you, hermano?” He then turned his attention to Ember. “Think you can find us another one? We’ll need two so she can see what’s going on. Maybe Cookie can help.”


Kade rolled his eyes, but knowing it wouldn't do him any good to protest, he begrudgingly brought his mirror over to the surgical chair.

"Fine. But try not to chip it any further. Our luck has already been questionable. Last thing we need is seven years of the bad stuff."


At Rico's request she stood, “Aye Aye doc!” Ember chimed with a silly finger salute. Bending down to look at Cookie she asked the pup, “You want to go on an adventure, choom?”


"Ahh," Bea began, a quiet sigh as she glanced down to Cookie who appeared to be tolerating the extra attention just well enough. "He's not that kind of dog, sweet petit pois," she said to Ember, making sure to scratch the top of his head as she leaned forward to pick up the mirror from Kade.

She didn't want to quite break the girl's heart with the blunt delivery of explaining how the dog would not be leaving her alone with Rico. "But there's a mirror in my suitcase," she added. "Just.... Be careful. Cosmetic case. Should be in the side."


After another quick scratch for Cookie, Ember skipped over to Bea's suitcase. Fumbling around the bag until she spotted the glint of the mirror. [color=872187]Nova![/color

“Found it!” Ember informed the others while hurrying back and handing the mirror to Bea.


"Thanks doll," Bea said, taking hold of the small compact. She brushed her thumb across the patterned surface of it. A pristine relic of the 1950's. She sprung it open with a click of the button and looked into it, unable to resist checking her lipstick. "Maybe you'd like one of these too, Cupcake," she added absent mindedly, snapping it shut and looking over to the corpo.

"Alright sugar," the woman said, turning to face Rico again, straightening up in the chair, a hand twirling the lengths of her hair between her fingers. She paused as she looked at him, trying to sense what was going on behind those eyes of his. The thought of a scalpel was more than unpleasant - especially to the back of her neck of all places. She could tell him how she was scared he'd catch a nerve and paralyse her, or even kill her. She could tell him she was scared that it would hurt. That she was scared he was about to add in a different piece of equipment to that which he'd told her about... Against everything she was telling herself, every question she had about the safety of this, the reasons why - and still the sound of the Voice and their commands in her head. Lauren crawling across the ground - that thickened trail of blood behind her...


"I'm all yours," she smiled - blocking it out.


“Well, can’t say I wouldn’t be against the idea.” Kade chuckled when he saw the mirror Bea was using.

He stood at the side of the chair for a moment longer, watching as they prepped the area for the surgery when it finally occurred to him. Perhaps this was one instance where Bea did not want an audience. Not to mention it could make Rico nervous which could be disastrous during surgery. And third. Something about the way Bea was talking to Rico, almost seemed like she preferred being alone with him and not just for the surgery. In any case, Kade decided it was best for everyone if they were left to work alone.

“Alright, Ember. I think it’s time we let these two have a little privacy.” Kade stated with a wink aimed at Rico. He then gently grabbed the back of the collar on Ember’s jacket and pulled her away from Cookie and Bea. “I’m sure we can find something explosive to distract you in the meantime.”


Rodrigo’s cheeks flushed with heat at Bea’s declaration. Feeling a little too flustered to offer an immediate response, he was grateful for Kade’s interjection and subsequent retreat, pulling Ember along with him.

After they stepped away, leaving just Rodrigo and Bea, as well as a grumbling Cookie who’d curled up on the floor beside the armchair, he offered his patient a smile he hoped would convey his confidence. She was nervous, that much was clear, and Rodrigo planned to do whatever necessary to help put her mind at ease. It wasn’t necessarily a simple procedure, cyberware installation never was, but he felt secure in his abilities and knowledge. It wasn’t the first time he’d implanted someone with an adrenaline booster, and if he had anything to say about it, it wouldn’t be the last either.

Rodrigo secured Kade’s mirror behind the chair with the help of some clamps the surgery wouldn’t require, and angled it so Bea would just need to hold her compact to have a clear view of the back of her neck.

“Take a deep breath, Bea, and try to relax,” he soothed, knowing her vitals were still elevated. “I’m going to connect to your system now so you don’t feel any pain.”

Taking care to explain every aspect of what he was doing before he did it, Rodrigo hoped to remove any doubts she may have, going as far as offering elaborate detail on the individual components and functions of the chrome he installed, his voice calm and clear all the while. By the end of the surgery, his mouth was dry from the lecture, and it was only then he realized he should have asked whether Bea even wanted to hear the additional anecdotes and factoids as he worked.


While she wouldn't really outright express her gratitude, Bea was thankful that the man had been both informative and gentle in his approach. With her mirror open, she inspected his work one last time. "I can barely see anything," she said, turning her head from left to right. She stole a glance at him through the compact as he tidied away his things before leaning back towards him in the chair, moving into his space. "You're very good at your job," she whispered reassuringly, in case he had been thinking about it at all. "Wonderful bedside manner and all."

Then, she stood up, placing a hand on her hip as she took a step forward - having been sat for so long in such a tense manner, she felt slightly out of it - but managed to hold herself up still enough. "I'm sure you have more thrilling things to be doing than taking care of me, so, I'm going to make sure that our darling Sweetpea hasn't managed to blow Cupcake up, and perhaps I'll.... Settle myself somewhere," there was a hint of annoyance still in her tone. She wasn't happy about being here, but there was very little she could do about it. Very little any of them could do about it. As was to be expected, Cookie followed behind her. "I owe you one, Sugar," Bea said, "again."


Grabbing the entrance flap to the tent, JV lifted up, tearing through the fabric with ease. Who cared for delicacy, rubbish left behind deserved no respect. He had gone through most of the tents so far with the only thing of use for him being a few egg shells. Though they would be useful later, the Primordial Father Damballah, was not the intended Iwa of todays prayer. No, for this, he needed..


Dark spiced rum. JV opened the bottle seeing that half of it remained. Breathing deeply through his nose, he took in the smell, fighting back the memories it ignited. Grabbing a few bits of paper, the man shuffled off to his room. Aside from a discarded and thoroughly used mattress in the corner, JV had set up a shrine on the opposite side, made of several cinderblocks. Atop the pyramid he placed the pieces of paper, while on the second rung sat a spare serving of broth from Mumma Livewire. Finally on the bottom he placed the bottle.

Rummaging through his pockets, he brought out the final two pieces of the puzzle. A lighter, borrowed from Kade, and a bright red lipstick, donated by Ember. Where she got it from, JV didn't know or care but he did note that her breath smelt awfully strange. Lighting the paper, he began to draw and chant.

Legba, Guardian of the Crossroads, hear me, connect me with Baron Samedi. I must speak with him, my curse, it has manifested, spread to others. I need guidance, I ne-

The darkness was sudden but quick. Enveloping the room around him, JV sunk into an abyss.

She prayed to me you know. Disembodied, the voice came from all around him, her accent foreign, yet familiar. Oh, how she prayed. The child's birth was difficult enough but the disease? That was something else.

JV stood, his fists tightening as he spun around. Salvation is what she sought. Not for herself though, no, it was for the boy.

The ground in front of the man began to bubble and boil. Slowly a hand rose, peeling its way out of the ooze followed by the other. Crawling out of the darkness, Oshun emerged, screaming. You promised me!

You promised her! The voice echoed.

Maman Bridgette, JV replied, his voice croaking. I-I can't, the curse it-

Oshun rose, standing for a moment before rushing towards the man. The curse?! THE FUCKING CURSE!! That's all I ever heard! Black tar-like ooze dripped from her as she closed the gap between them. You promised! Leaping into the air, the woman yelled as JV shut his eyes.

Coming to, the man found himself sat on the ground with his back against the wall. The paper had burnt to a crisp with its smoke having dissipated. He also had a call coming in, as did everyone, number unknown.

"You have all followed my instructions. Congratulations on avoiding death. The cyberware you have inserted into your bodies will help keep you alive. This virus requires a gradual accumulation of augmentation in order to stave off cyberpsychosis. Though it is delicate, too much and you will succumb to it, too little or too long without augmentation and you will also succumb to it. Prolonging your lives is the current priority. Stay on this path and you will be cured.

For now, a Fixer will be in contact soon. Upgrades cost money and we have an ultimate goal to save for. More on that later. Lives and trust first. Good luck."


Rodrigo wiped his hands on the rag he'd found from earlier, a smile on his lips as he watched Bea leave his quarters. "My pleasure," he called to her, "and thanks," he added as an afterthought, gladdened by her comment about his job well done.

It was doubtful whether she'd heard the final word however, as all the response he received in return was what could only be described as a sneering huff from Cookie before the pair rounded the corner. He shook his head, that silly smile still playing on his lips as he looked down to see the rag he'd been using was causing more mess than anything else. His face fell and he sighed, discarding the fabric. Shower. He needed a shower.

Before he could make any headway on that front, his attention was occupied by a call from their mysterious benefactor, which answered very few questions. It was unclear why or how cybernetics would stave off the virus Militech had infected them with, much less what was delicate about it. Out of curiosity, Rodrigo had done some digging into his own system and the other's while he was implementing them with their new wares, but found no visible trace of the virus. At least, nothing immediately detectable. Whatever this was it was beyond military grade, and not for the first time, he wondered who was behind their jailbreak. Had to be someone in the upper echelons of society, well connected and powerful, but if that was the case, why would they need eurodollars for augmentation? None of it made sense, but there was really nothing to do but play along.

A short while later, a booming bark erupted from Cookie, concealing the sounds of footsteps that pounded up to their floor.

"What's crackin', data-slingers?" Voltage, an obvious street kid with tenacity in his eyes that dared for someone to challenge him so he could prove himself, made his way up the stairs as if he were in his own home. "Welcome to the urban jungle, amirite?" He chuckled to himself as if he'd made a witty joke. Walking to the makeshift community area, the youngster sat back on a chair and lifted his feet onto the nearby surface that was being used as a table. He waited until the others began to approach before delving into more detail. "I'm your new Fixer, name's Voltage. Got two gigs right now, gonna have to choose one cos I've got mercs who want the other." As he introduced himself, Voltage used a pinky to pick something out of one of his back teeth.


Prying Ember away from the dog was the easy part. The hard part was finding something to keep her distracted long enough for Rico to perform the operation. Surprisingly, there wasn't much to do in an abandoned megastructure. After searching around for a while, they found themselves in Ember’s room where she was showing off her latest constructions when the call came in. Kade listened intently, hoping to hear some good news, but much to his dismay they were going to be infected longer.

“Stay on the path and we'll be cured?” Kade repeated with a scoff and rolled his eyes. "Sounds to me like he's just treating the symptoms to keep us on a leash. Well, not much else we can do at the moment but wait for the fixer.” Unsure how much longer he needed to stall, Kade figured he could just get Ember talking and hopefully that would occupy enough time. Looking around, he pointed to one of Ember's bombs and asked, “So… Do you know a lot about grenades?”


Taking hold of the custom made grenade in her hand, Ember answered Kade. “Grenade is actually French! It means pomegranate.” Without waiting for a response she continues, “mostly because of the way it looks. Though, at another point in time it was compared to a pineapple.” She flipped the grenade from one hand to the other, “and now they dont look like either. So silly.” Ember giggled, another fact coming to mind and she pointed to a part of her grenade. “This is the pin, you've got to pull that before it's ready to be thrown. Then once you release it,” She mimed tossing the grenade as she explained, “the arming safety gets released, which allows the striker to trigger a primer and ignite a fuse.” Ember grabbed another partially built grenade to show Kade the inner workings. “Right here, it burns down to the detonator and then…. BOOM.” With the final word she got right in Kade’s face. “Now if we were making some C4, the first thing we would need is–” Cookie’s bark near the stairwell grabbed her attention and the excitement of a new choom approaching stopped her explanation. “Oooo company!” She sang as she quickly ran out of her room.

“Hellooooo!” She exclaimed, greeting Voltage while she pet Cookie.


The amount of information Ember had just off the top of her head left Kade stunned. How was it that the same woman who moments ago was captivated by shiny objects in the trash also has such a clear understanding of explosive devices? She really did fit into this motley crew of mercs. Shaking off the surprise, Kade once again straightened his suit and made his way to the staircase to greet the new fixer.

“Do tell. What jobs have you lined up for us?” Kade asked, rubbing his hands together in anticipation.


"Funny to talk about trust..." Bea had spoken in the room she had chosen for herself as she eyed up the dirty walls of the place. She wasn't trying to be loud - but she was making no effort to be quiet at that moment either. "We haven't even seen your face, know your name, or anything. And yet!" she pointed a finger at the air. "You seem to know every fucking thing about us." She huffed out a long sigh, blowing away a section of her hair that had moved in front of her face. "Trust? Yeah right." She was agitated, more now than earlier. There was no cure. No cure.

"This time last year I was in London on the West End," she muttered to herself quieter now as she lowered down to her knees, now look at me. Camping up in some eyesore warehouse. Bea rifled through her belongings. "I was Anastasia in Anastasia, for Christs sake!" she continued, whispering out her exasperated disbelief. Her things seemed to have already been tampered and toyed with. Bombelina... she thought, shaking her head. Nobody here wants to ask the questions that are going to fix this. Why are they so damn quick to accept this?

In the time between their call and the arrival of the fixer, Bea managed to fix her hair into a ponytail, and took off her sunglasses to apply some more concealer to her face. She tugged at her sleeve to pull it over the marks on her wrist too and wondered what Crash was doing, if he was thinking about what she was doing... A glance here and there at her phone - nothing. No messages. Nothing. She sighed.

The young man's appearance got a raised brow from Bea, and she eyed him up and down, catching every detail on him in that cursory glance like she'd done so many times before. Reading the chap like a book before he'd even sat down. Upstart. Thinks himself an entrepreneur. Too intense. Potentially a big family? Maybe siblings? Trying to prove himself in a big world. Compensating for something. Find out what that is and crack him. Find the Voice.

Bea wanted to yell at him already, to fire a set of sharp jibes his way to find out more about the Voice, why he was here. But apparently they had work to do. A held tongue would yield better results for now. Unless this gig involves the wagon wheel watoosie they're on their own.


Voltage eyed the group with a raised brow, nodding in response to Ember's greeting, concerned that they might not be up for either of the two jobs he had lined up, at least until Kade appeared. Now that was a man who looked like he could handle himself.

Directing his attention to him, Voltage smiled. "Might be less than what you're used to, choomba... First gig's for the Snake Nation. Simple stuff, smuggling some iron out of Watson and delivering it to the Badlands. Second's for the Moxes. Seems one of their Joytoys has gone missin' in Scav territory. They're hopin' someone can locate and bring her home... if there's anything left to find, anyway.

Payout's the same for both gigs, 3.5K eddies, so it's just about how you feel like gettin' your hands dirty."

After his explanation, the fixer's gaze trailed to Bea's bare legs and he licked his lips, not bothering to hide his attraction. Winking at her, his smile turned wolfish, "Like what you see, sweetness?"


Having taken a moment to wipe the sweat from his face, JV stepped out from his room. Joining the others, he too eyed up their new "Fixer".

A child? They are trusting the word of a child?

Were the man anything but a bottomless pit of no emotion, he might've rolled his eyes.


Before the blonde bombshell had a chance to respond, Voltage's attention was stolen by the massive stature of JV, who loomed over all the others in his approach, which was like some feral animal, as if he were ready to pounce at any moment. So, this is how these mercs could survive with such lack of evident power, they had a literal tank to rely on... The fixer's eyes didn't reach the man's face. There were some challenges you just didn't make.


Just as I thought. Compensating for something, fancies himself as a big boy until he actually sees one. Bea raised a brow at Voltage's reaction to JV. He wouldn't know what to do with a woman like me if I landed in his lap, in a box, and with clear instructions.

She wanted to take a painful jab at him, in fact her burning instinct was to slap him for such a comment but.... You catch more flies with honey... And she wanted to catch this fly, or at least the fly he'd been hired by. Redirect the agitation, she told herself, softening her posture. Using her body always felt like such low hanging fruit when it came to getting her way. Boring. But, at least effective. "Not as sweet as I look," she said playfully, looking straight across the room back to him, a smirk played across her lips. She could tell he was exactly the type to play along before balking at it all when it got too much.


As for the gigs... "I should stay behind -- you can all do whatever but, I'm not going."


Voltage’s attention snapped back to Bea as if anything else in his mind but the thought of her vanished. He leaned back in the chair, legs spread and arm resting on the back of the chair beside him. The wolfish smile returned as his eyes worked their way over her body. Shame was not an emotion he was familiar with.

“I’m sure we can find some way to occupy our time while they’re away,” he mused, raising his eyebrows suggestively.

Rodrigo couldn’t help the annoyed exhale that escaped him then, his eyes rolling as he crossed his arms. It was one thing to take orders from the kid, but to be forced to watch him undress Bea with his eyes was a bit beyond what he was prepared to tolerate.


Step into my parlour.... Bea thought, her own internal voice had even softened. Disgusting, she resumed. The sharp edge returning, but still - this one was all too easy. Like Rico, she too was barely tolerating his lack of shame, and to an extent, her own. She gazed over at his flagrant manspread, forcing a smile, albeit followed with a raised brow.

Then, as she expected, Cookie lunged forward from his sitting position - his short fur spiked down in his spine in an angry hackle. He held a staunch, powerful position right in front of Voltage, his mouth tense with a growl that threatened to become a bark, his lips quivered as he fought his own instinct to bare teeth.


Frightened by the unexpected attack, Voltage released a high pitched yelp and jumped, chair flailing behind him as he stumbled to gain his footing over a mess of legs and chair backs.

“What the fuck?” He yelled, forcing his voice an octave deeper and lifting his hands in what would be a feeble defense if put to the test. He looked to JV between furtive glances at the growling hound, assuming the large man was the owner in question. “Call him off! How’re we s’posed to do biz like this?”

Rodrigo chuckled as he watched the antics, feeling only slightly guilty at how much he was enjoying this.


JV, unfazed by the entire interaction, found a seat of his own nearby. Dragging a metal chair across, he sat to the side of the group and their Fixer. "The dog is not mine." He said, finally acknowledging the boys question. "I make my own threats."

Looking through those in front of him, he stared at the skinny man, wondering how long it would take for him to make another decision for the group.


Once the boy finished telling them about the available gigs, Ember quickly tried to respond, “My vote is-” Though just before she could finish, Bea appeared and Voltage’s attention was drawn to her. Giving them time to chat, Ember waited patiently for them to finish, watching as Voltage eyed Bea up and down with a lustful look; something that clearly disturbed Bea. She played along, however, then cast her vote to stay behind.

There was a small pause in the conversation as JV entered the room and temporarily silenced Voltage who seemed quite intimidated by the large man. Ember saw her chance and tried to take it. “I think we should-” But just as before, Voltage went right back to ogling Bea. That was until Cookie stepped in. The dog lunged forward causing the fixer to jump back. Once JV confirmed Cookie wasn’t his, Ember found her opening and spoke quickly. “I say we do the Mox gig!” Practically yelling it at the boy. She let out a breath in slight frustration.


As Kade mulled over the options, he simply stood back and watched as Voltage tried and failed horribly to be smooth with Bea. He had worked with younger and sometimes sleazier, but all those contacts had earned their place as it were. This fixer, on the other hand, was showing just how green he was despite acting like he was top dog. Fitting as it was an actual dog who put him in his place.

Ember was the first to vote. Well, second if he counted Bea voting to bow out. Fine by him. Her share would make a nice bonus for those actually going. But as for the job Ember picked, Kade had to disagree.

“I'd prefer the smuggling job, personally,” Kade chimed in. “Weapons are much easier to conceal and move through the city. Best of all they can't disobey and throw wrenches in things. People, on the other hand, have a habit of doing what they want instead of listening like they should. Wouldn't you agree, Bea?” He tacked on with a smug grin aimed at the starlet.


"What can I say Cupcake?" Bea chimed with a smile, "I've always been a handful." Despite his attempts to be smug and take a shot at her, Bea actually appreciated his repartee. She felt a sense of odd kinship with him, perhaps it was that he was clearly old money, like her. Feeling of kinship aside, she still knew that he wouldn't think twice about putting his monowire around her neck if asked. He was a listener after all.

Speaking of... She thought, amused. "Cookie." The woman spoke out confidently, walking forward from the wall where she had been, towards the centre of the room. "Sit." Immediately, the dog listened to her and sat back down. Bea picked up the chair that Voltage had been sat on, and dragged it slowly towards her as she closed the distance. She propped it back up. "Down." She commanded again, and Cookie did as was told and laid down. His eyes remained fixed on Voltage.

The woman then sat down on the seat previously occupied by Voltage, with a nonchalant grace, before placing her feet up too and crossing them one over the other.

"That's a good boy now."


His arms unfolded and a satisfied smile curved Rodrigo's lips as he watched Bea take her seat beside the attentive Cookie. Regardless of where the canine's focus was directed, there was no doubt he was acutely aware of his owner at all times, ever the guard dog. Voltage was lucky she'd decided to give him only a warning instead of a lesson...

There was something about the way she handled herself that drew Rodrigo's admiration. Whether it was her confidence, grace, or merely the way she expertly put that arrogant jerk in his place as if it was the most natural thing in the world, it confirmed what he'd suspected from the beginning. Bea was far from the helpless damsel Kade painted her as. He wondered whether she was aware of this herself. The way she weaponized her beauty, sharp as a razor's edge, while also wearing it like armor against the harsh world made Rodrigo wonder, not for the first time, what this woman's story was.

Trying to regain his composure, Voltage sneered, peeling his eyes away from the monster and his succubus, attempting to mask his surprise at the reveal by running a hand through his hair. After clearing his throat, the fixer strategically added more space between himself and the vicious mutt by standing to the other side of the table top, resting both hands on it and leaning forward with a cunning smile as if nothing had just occurred.

"Gonna need you to make a decision here," he said. "Time's runnin' and I have another group waitin' on the sideline."

The vote was currently tied since Bea refused to cast her own. I'll come back to that, Rodrigo thought, hoping the blonde could be persuaded to change her mind about joining them. Even after what she'd disclosed to him before the surgery, Bea was stubborn enough to resist the Voice. While he appreciated her grit, dogged obstinance was likely not the best way out of this. It wasn't as if he could offer much in terms of protection, but she had to be safer with them than alone, even with Cookie beside her. Not to mention, without her share of the earnings, it wasn't clear whether she would have the funds to cover their continued need for Cyberware.

Rodrigo glanced at JV, but his vacant expression and hard set jaw told him all he needed to know, the man couldn't care less which gig they took. The decision would fall on him. His eyes traveled to Kade and then Ember before hardening with resolve. There wasn't much to consider, in the end. "We should help the Mox," he said. "She'll need us more than the Nomad needs his weapons."


Kade let out a soft annoyed huff as Rico cast his vote and secured the decision to take the Mox job. Of course the doc would go for the rescue mission. They could just do a simple gun run for the same pay and half the hassle but no, Mr. Hero had to save the damsel in distress. Oh well. They didn’t have time to argue or discuss it further. They still had to get more info on this job and thanks to Cookie, Voltage wasn’t wanting to stay here any longer than he had to. Pushing his frustration aside, Kade began pondering their new mission and what details they were missing.

“Well, if we’re going to be staging a rescue, there’s a lot we need to know first.” Kade said and pinched his chin between his finger and thumb. “It would be useful to know who we are rescuing. Any photos? A name, perhaps? And what sort of resistance are we looking at? Scav security is rather… Inconsistent. It would be useful to know what they are using for this hostage.”


"You could always go find out about her at Lizzie's," added Bea from her seat, glancing up at the ceiling and swaying her foot from left to right. "Not a lot of people will know her better than her own people."


"Hmm. Not a bad idea," Kade said.


Voltage stood straight. "No photos. Name's Nova Frost. Moxes will have more details," he explained, not bothering to offer the details as to why the gang hadn't trusted him with further intel on the situation. "So, hittin' up Lizzie's is a good next stop. One last thing before I leave." Voltage rotated his shoulder as if already bored of the interaction, though Rico could tell from a quick scan that the man's vitals were still spiking. "What're your callsigns?"


JV stood, not bothering to move the chair, moving off towards Kade instead. Now that they had their mission, preparation was in order. The Haitian had caught the look the Corpo gave earlier, when Rico chose the gig. He knew that the skinny man was going to need one thing before they left.

Arriving at Kade, JV reached inside his trench coat, fishing out a lighter from his breast pocket. Giving it to the skinny man, he decided that no words were needed to accompany the return of his own item. Instead, he turned to Voltage.

"Baron Samedi is the only of the Iwa who can guide us through this storm. As an offering of respect, I will follow in his name's sake. Samedi will be my sign."


Callsign? Kade had been given many of those over the years, but he'd never been allowed to pick one before. As he contemplated for a moment what would suit him best, JV approached, wordlessly returning the lighter. Taking it back in his hands, Kade flipped the small box between his fingers as an old favorite of his came to mind.

“Call me Sly.” he confirmed before gracefully sliding the lighter into his jacket pocket.


Ember jumped from her spot excited for their new outing together. “My callsign is Ember!” She smiled big as she announced it. “Reporting for duty!” A giggle escapes her lips following the last word with her usual silly salute.


"No, Ember.” Kade sighed and pinched the bridge of his nose. “You're not supposed to use your real name.”


"That's not my real name you silly goose!" Ember informs him while skipping over to him.


“Oh?” Kade replied, his hand dropped from his face as he looked at Ember with intrigue. So not only did she display a high level of training with explosives, but she had been going under a pseudonym this whole time? Kade had to admit, he was more impressed than anything. “You certainly are full of surprises, Ember.”


Rodrigo frowned in confused amusement at the interaction between Kade and Ember. What was her name then? Though, he supposed it didn’t make much difference, if Ember was what she wanted to be called.

Finding their callsign selection, as well as JV’s, interesting, Rodrigo gave some thought to the question. He’d been called by many nicknames throughout his life, but never by an official callsign.

“Ripper,” he decided finally, realizing his role meant a great deal to him. Aside from the personal significance, they all now relied on his skill to keep this mysterious virus at bay.


"I could go to Lizzie's," Bea added, drawing circles her foot again. "I've performed there many times, I know the place well... And well... They make the best Sea Breeze in Night City." They're going to need me if they want to navigate that kind of club...

The woman stood from the chair, Cookie glanced toward her - awaiting his next instruction perhaps, but he would wait it out until Voltage had left. He grumbled low as low as Bea began walking away.

"Callsign?" She spoke out, looking over her shoulder. "Never had one," her eyes found Rico as she drew nearer to the ripperdoc and her gaze softened for him. "How about you give me one, Sugar," she suggested quietly, before pushing forward to her room - humming away as she went.


Rico's eyes trailed after her as she went, her melodic humming reverberating through the bare walls, sparking inspiration.

"Echo," he said, turning back to face the fixer, all the tenderness that had momentarily colored his features gone. "Her callsign is Echo."

Voltage raised a brow in response, but offered no words. His attention was taken once again by the growling menace before him. "Keep me updated on your progress," he directed at Kade while taking the long route around the room toward the stairwell exit. "Once the job is done, I'll transfer the eddies." Before vanishing down the stairs, he offered a salute and wink to Ember, and smirked. "Ejecting for now, but remember, Voltage is always in the circuit."
Nadara V’lanis
Kysar Proctus

"Sunset & Venator"

As Nadara worked her way through the narrow passages of the bunker, she made sure to stay far enough from Kysar to duck into an open door, behind another SRN operative, or simply play it off that she hadn’t been tailing him.

All the while, her eyes were shooting daggers at the back of the man’s head. Just what are you planning? He was heading toward his quarters, so it wasn’t entirely out of the question that she’d misread the situation, but Nadara trusted her gut. Something about the Turian was off, and she needed today’s mission to run seamlessly if she was to prove her capacity as a leader to the SRN. The bonus that came with serving in a leadership position that her mother would inevitably hear about was just the icing on the cake.

Hmm, pastries would be an excellent addition to the mess hall. Particularly now that D’Veo had signed on as the SRN’s head chef. Perhaps a word with the other Asari about this detail would be in order— ahead, Kysar took a sharp turn and Nadara signed. She’d have to worry about adding her refined touch to the bunker after she’d dealt with Kysar.

Spirits help him, there was never enough time. Kysar knew he’d have to be quick, he’d felt too many eyes on him at the meeting and so he had to rush to get out before anyone got the chance to question him. Unfortunately, he wasn’t fast enough. The Turian had noticed Nadara on his way back to his bunk and then again as he stepped back out of the door. Sure, she could’ve been heading to her own bunk but the problem was with her walk. Normally the Asari walked with confidence, strutting about the place, clomping those heels so loud you could hear her a mile off. Today, however, there was no noise.

Hiking a bag over his shoulder, Kysar had dressed warm putting on a thick coat length jacket, black with fur lining the hood. Inside the bag was everything he could cram at a minutes notice, including the letter from Sarah. Looking over his shoulder, he thought about confronting Nad, making a scene in the hallway so she’d back off but something stayed his hand. Maybe she could tell the others goodbye.

He continued down the halls, picking up pace until he was outside. The sky was clear, the air brisk and bitter but Kysar’s thick jacket kept the cold at bay. Slim’s buggy was parked in the lot just outside the base among others, striding over to it without delay, the Turian whipped out his omni-tool and began a hack.

When Kysar stepped out of his room with a packed bag, Nadara almost gave up the game entirely. Her irritation with his insistence that she wasn’t worth his respect must have skewed the internal compass guiding her perspective, which usually never led her wrong. All the same, she followed behind him as he left the bunk, winding his way toward the side bay rather than the general shuttle bay where they were to rendezvous for the mission. It must have been something in his posture, head held low, shoulders slouched inwards as if he were… ashamed? Nadara scoffed. Him? Impossible. If not shame, certainly he was hiding something. His grip on the bag he held was so tight Nadara almost wanted to ask about the brand to ascertain the tough yet sleek material before she realized that would mean complimenting the Turian’s style. Over my alluring dead body.

By the time he stepped outside into the freezing air toward a buggy, Nadara felt validated that her intuition had been right after all. There was no denying he was up to something now. But, Goddess, she hadn’t expected him to lead her outdoors. In those temperatures and her outfit, she wouldn’t last long. Nadara looked left and right but there were no spare coats lying around, of course. At the sight of Kysar pulling out his omni-tool, she acquiesced to the futility of her situation and gritted her teeth.

Her hand fell on his arm and gripped a bit harder than she’d initially intended. Not out of anger or irritation, which would have made complete sense, no, Nadara was freezing and his was the nearest warmth.

“What are you doing?” She barked, doing her best to sound as authoritative as possible, which was difficult through chattering teeth. “Come back inside before I freeze to death.”

There was a click from the doors as the buggy came to life. Both driver and passenger side opened as Kysar climbed inside. “Get in.”

Nadara glanced back at the bunker behind them as if considering something but quickly turned back to Kysar. “F-f-fine. But I sit in the driver’s seat,” she argued, not waiting for a response before pushing him aside and pulling the door closed.

The Turian sighed, rubbing his forehead as he went around the other side of the car. Getting in, he threw his bag in the back and closed the door, going back to his omni-tool. The buggy started and warm air began to flow from the vents. Taking off his jacket, he threw that in the back of the seat before addressing Nad. “I’m leaving, that’s what I’m doing.”

Nadara looked pointedly at him before reaching back and grabbing the coat, placing it over herself and rubbing the feeling back into her arms. This was a new level of low, even for Kysar. But the jacket was quite nice, authentic fur on the inner lining, immaculate stitching. Before returning it she’d have to check the brand label.

“What do you mean, leaving?”

The Turian sank into the seat, looking out through the front window of the car as his eyes glazed over. Truth of it all was he didn’t know how to feel. Angry, sad, ashamed, furious, all of the above and more. It’s as if all his emotions were trying to squeeze through the door at the same time, leaving none of them able to get through. “I’m heading out past the asteroid belt. I need to see things through on Europa. This started with me and I’m going to make sure it ends with me.”

A few moments of silence passed between them as his words sank in. Why did this seem so familiar? “Let me get this straight.” Nadara squinted at him, then turned her face to look out of the window and shook her head with a sigh. “You’re torn about doing something you believe to be your duty, and you decide to take a course of action that will inevitably and disastrously affect your team, without consulting anyone or even having the decency to notify them beforehand?” She turned back to him, her voice sharp and cold as ice. “Sound about right?”

“No.” Kysar rolled his eyes, of course she was trying to compare this to kidnapping Janiri. It was probably the whole reason she followed him out here to begin with. “Were I to stick to my duty, I’d be doing just that. This is different, two birds with one stone as the humans say.”

“How is this possibly ‘two birds with one stone’?” Nadara threw her hands in the air with an incredulous scoff. “You abandoning your team right before a critical mission to flitter off and handle something, alone, that’s likely going to have been completed by the time you even get there. Sounds like missing two birds with one stone to me.” Nadara suddenly remembered she needed to notify her father of the situation on Europa. “No,” she said, pulling out her own omni-tool, “you don’t want to accept the similarities between us because that would be hitting much too close to the truth wouldn’t it?” After closing a message that immediately popped up, shemade a note to herself so she wouldn’t forget to contact Kargg.

“What was it you said to me?” The omni-tool’s function finished, Nadara closed it and tapped a finger on her arm. “Oh that’s right,” she said, scowl returning to her features as she stared at the side of the Turian’s head. He won’t even face me. “If you had bothered for one second to think of someone else, you would see both how similar these situations are, and how wrong you are for having made the same decision I made.” She paused, as if waiting for a response, but suddenly realized she had more to say and bulldozed forward once more. “That’s all not even to mention the theft of a vehicle. Who do you think will be saddled with the cost for this, huh?” She asked, gesturing at the compartment around them. “The same team you’ve crippled with your absence.” In a lower voice she added, “Goddess, I don’t think Zenn will financially recover.”

Kysar… smirked, grinning to the point of almost laughing. Almost. “You feel better now?” The Turian straightened in his chair, pulling himself from his slouched position into one more comfortable, confident even. “The difference between you and me, Nadara, is that when the Hierarchy asked me to jump, I told them to get fucked. Or, at least that’s what I will be doing. Those cunts won’t control me, they won’t make me b-” He paused, even with venom dripping from his words he still couldn’t bring himself to reveal all. She wouldn’t understand.

Clearing his throat, the Turian continued. “Even the car will be returned by them, no costs to you, so don’t worry that pretty little head of yours.” Casting his gaze out the side door window, Kysar digested more of what the woman had said. “And the team… well, you guys can survive without me, you have before, why not again?” The knot in his stomach persisted, tightening again and again with each mention of the team. “Besides, what do you care anyway, you’ve never wanted me round, isn’t this some sort of blessing for you?”

Nadara softened. She recognized that anger. The indignation he seemed to feel toward the hierarchy, the disdain he had for their audacity to reach out to him. Because that’s what had happened, she realized now, and she admired his response. Respected him for it even. Wished she could have done the same in her situation, but telling your superior to fuck off was just a tad different to saying the same to your parent.

Their positions were more similar than Nadara initially thought. It wasn’t just Kysar’s drive to settle things that had happened before she’d joined the SRN, though surely his guilt and responsibility for the team members he’d lost were weighing on him, but he had been ordered to do… something by authorities he clearly held no affection for. The more she unearthed about this whole escapade the more questions she had. His goal, the purpose, as well as his methods were still unclear to her. But that knowledge mattered little in comparison to salvaging the mission they were both assigned.

Her voice held none of its earlier ice. “I guess it’s no secret you’re not my favorite member of the team,” she admitted with a small glance to the man’s head before looking out of the windshield at the snow surrounding them. It wasn’t like he was making eye contact anyway. “But you can’t tell me you don’t feel similarly about me.” For someone who had demonstrated such loyalty and commitment to his teammates, Nadara was surprised and strangely bothered at his ready dismissal of her. “That aside, I have two points to make.” She cleared her throat and adjusted herself in the seat, letting the coat fall to her bare legs now that the cabin had warmed significantly. “I understand the need to send a message to your superiors, to the Hierarchy,” she corrected. “If I knew more about what they asked of you and what your plan was with this great escape, I could present a better argument as to why, but there has to be a better way. One that doesn’t involve becoming the person you and Zenn criticized me so heavily for being not too long ago.

You may think our team can survive without you. I can think that. And it might be true,”
Nadara paused and sighed. She hadn’t been prepared for such a delicate conversation. “You did get me shot at the meat plant after all,” she said with a sideways glance. Then more seriously, “But Solveig and Zenn wouldn’t have made it on that mission if it hadn’t been for you.” She noticed Kysar flinch at the mention of the two. He had seemed to form a strengthened bond with them, and perhaps they were her ticket out of this. “Wouldn’t it be better to stick around and make sure you’re there to do the same on this mission?” Her eyes drifted away from the snowfield before them back to the angst ridden Turian.

Kysar felt a tinge of anger at the comparison between their situation, he was not giving up a member of the team, he was not betraying their team. He was sacrificing himself, going to where he was needed the most and at least going down with a fight. “I am not acting selfishly. All I want is to stay with the SRN but my stay here has always been conditional. I’ve lived with this leash around my neck for… for…” Spirits, how long had it been? The Reaper War? Military Prison? Purgatory? The Cabals? Palaven? The Turian felt his hand drift up towards his neck as if to loosen his collar. “A long time.”

Clearing his throat, Kysar quelled the anger. To be fair to the woman, she was putting in effort, more effort than he’d ever seen before. “Besides, how quickly did Charles sign over Janiri? The SRN is no help.There is nothing anyone can do against the Hierarchy, even if everyone knew all the details. Better to break these chains, go out there and do something worth dying for,” twisting and turning, his insides heaved. His words had a distinct quiver to them. The Turian was no longer sure if he really believed them, “even if no one understands or appreciates it.”

What if something goes wrong, what if they do need me and I’m off on some suicidal crusade?

The man sighed, giving in to the feeling of Nadara piercing the back of his head with her gaze. Kysar turned to face her, thinking over what she had said about their relationship. He didn’t hate her, not anymore anyway. “Look, what happened in the meeting. Had Slim appointed anyone leader I would’ve said the same. None of us are ready, even if we are all good soldiers. It wasn’t personal.”

Nadara nodded, she could understand the sentiment since she’d been similarly underwhelmed with what she’d witnessed after their first mission together. “I accept your heartfelt apology,” she teased. “As for the other things… you may not have selfish reasons for making this decision but it is nonetheless—” she noticed Kysar fume in anticipation of her calling him selfish once more and quickly adjusted. “Inconsiderate. Incredibly so.” By the Goddess, I have never met a man so sensitive.

“Your teammates deserve more than a hand on the shoulder as a farewell. An explanation at least, a chance to change your mind. I have no doubt any one of them would be here trying to convince you against this decision just as I am.” After a moment of consideration she added, “Perhaps not Zenobia. She might even join you depending on the antics you have planned.” The smallest indication of a smile was visible, and Nadara capitalized on it. “You said yourself you don’t wish to leave the SRN.” Her voice was gentler now, and her eyes fell from his gaze to her lap. It was a technique she’d picked up many years ago. “Stay, Kysar. Let’s put right this situation on Mars, and then we can go to Europa,” she paused and raised her eyes to meet his once more, “as a team. SRN and the Hierarchy be damned.” Nadara was surprised to find that her anticipation for his response was authentic, despite using her tactics.

She was both right and wrong. A convergence was happening on Europa and with the team headed to Mars, it was all but guaranteed that they would miss the climax. Kysar stroked his mandibles; he wouldn’t press the matter, with Nadara’s father on mission and her new “leadership” position, the Turian wouldn’t plant a seed of doubt in her mind. What the Asari was right about, however, was the team. Kysar owed them. They’d saved his life in more ways than one. The man shifted uncomfortably on the thought. His mind said one thing while his heart said another. He could live with being the bad guy, he’d done that a million times before but what if… what if something happened and he wasn’t there? What if he survived and they didn’t? How could he live with himself?

But the Hierarchy, there was nothing that anyone could do. Choosing to go to Mars would mean-

Gah! Fuck this! A heavy breath outwards caught the back of the Turian’s throat, causing him to growl in frustration. There were too many thoughts, too many variables. Time to choose. Heart or brain.

“Fine, I’ll come back.” Heart it was. “But on one condition. I tell the team about what’s going on at a time of my choosing.” The Turian shrugged, looking at Nadara out of the corner of his eyes. “Besides, we wouldn’t want anything distracting the team from the upcoming mission right?”

Nadara felt immediate relief, this could have had a horrible effect on SRN’s judgement of her leadership capabilities and the team would have certainly suffered in their performance as a result of Kysar’s departure. “No, we wouldn’t.” She eyed him then, as if questioning his own potential for distraction, but comforted herself with the knowledge that his devotion to Solveig and Zenn seemed a secure enough investment.

“Condition accepted,” she said finally, sitting up suddenly as if preparing to leave the vehicle. “Good thing too, I’m not sure what we would’ve done to replace you in the photoshoot,” she said aloud to herself. When she’d sent the message to her father earlier, Nadara had also given a cursory glance at an incoming message from Solveig regarding her conversation with the shuttle company.

From: Wraith
To: Sunset
Re: Ship; Costing update


ExSolar accepted offer of endorsement. Will require your assistance in future for required photoshoot. Cost is 450 credits per colleague.


Nadara sighed after checking the time. “Will I need to keep an eye on you until our rendezvous for the shuttle? I still haven’t gathered my things and time is running out.” She’d asked the question, but wasn’t sure she could trust his response. What if Kysar was merely telling her what he felt would most easily get her off his case? This is why I can’t be bothered with leading missions. Too many variables out of my control. Much easier to wave a sword around at targets.

A mischievous grin washed over the Turian’s face. “What? You can’t trust a convict's honour?” Chuckling to himself, Kysar reached into his pack pulling out a picture of two Turians. A woman, tall and slender, sat in the lap of a rather gaunt looking man. Neither had any markings on their face but both wore a smile wide as they were happy. “Take this, I’m not going anywhere without it.”

Nadara blinked as she processed the picture in her hands, noting the similarities in features between the two in the image and their son before her. She could sense the weight of his words, the warmth in his gaze when he beheld them. The tenderness with which he handled the treasure, for it was clear that was exactly what it was to Kysar. This was a side of him Nadara had never witnessed, nor even considered possible. His piercing blue eyes seemed softer then, and she quickly looked away upon realizing how long she’d been staring into them.

“I’ll be taking this as well,” she said, motioning to the jacket on her lap after placing the picture carefully away in her breast pocket. Without another word, she threw the jacket over herself and stepped back out into the icy exterior toward the safety and warmth of the base.

Kysar smiled, turning the vehicle off. “Ok Heels, no worries.” Flicking a quick message off to Outcast, warning him of the dangers ahead, the Turian got out to brave the cold, running back inside.
Nadara V’lanis


Nadara awoke with an arm draped over her and blinked a few times in confusion until the memories of her steamy romp with the doctor beside her from the previous evening (and a few more times during the early morning) returned. The escala renowned Chef D’Veo served at the party must have been stronger than she remembered, for her head, while not pounding, definitely held the distinctive buzzing associated with a fun evening.

She supposed it’d been too long since she’d been able to have an appropriate amount of fun if a few drinks were enough to cause this reaction, mild as it was. Normally, Nadara could handle her liquor among the best of them, even outlasting those much larger than herself, to her immense satisfaction. I did learn from the best after all, she thought, as a memorable night of drinking with her Krogan father came to mind. But now was not the moment to recall family, she rebuked herself as she shifted in the sheets and found herself re-enraptured by the sight of the delectable body beside her. Alas, Jonah seemed deeply asleep, her movements not causing any stir from him. Can’t say I blame him after all I put him through, she thought with a shrug before peeling herself from beneath his arm. Perhaps we can revisit this some other time. Nadara wasn’t against reliving an experience with one of her many partners, as long as everyone involved understood where they stood. Jonah seemed to understand well enough, this wasn’t a matter of the heart, but merely one of enjoyment and capturing the moment. She wouldn’t mind a snapshot from a different angle…

A nagging memory of her conversation with Kysar, of all people, crept into her mind from the night before. “A thousand years seems like a long time to spend alone. One night can only go so far.” She waved the thought away and rolled her eyes with a shake of the head. What could he possibly know of the subject. Such a short-lived species.

Putting the thought out of her mind, Nadara stretched elegantly before checking her omni-tool for any important messages. She’d sent a few feelers out after having been told of the possible position as SRN’s new Director of Hospitality and was hoping for responses, but it seemed none had yet arrived. A few snippets of current news flashed before her as well as an angry follow up from her mother—nothing of value.

Intending to take a shower before returning to the Compound where a meeting had been scheduled for later that morning, Nadara left her clothes from the previous evening where they were, but when she approached the bathroom she found a crudely scribbled note on the door.
It was locked when Nadara tried opening it. This made no sense, she remembered it being perfectly functioning when she and Jonah had arrived last night. Whatever could have happened from then until now? And how dare a facility employee enter their accommodations unannounced? I suppose I’m expected to say ‘as the Goddess wills’ but this is simply unacceptable. In a huff of annoyance, she made a mental note to file a complaint with the appropriate person. Charles would be none too pleased if honored guests were met with this disgrace.

After securing passage back to the seed vault that served as SRN headquarters and shuffling through the freezing temperatures until she reached an appropriate shower, Nadara’s list of suggestions had grown exponentially. Perhaps it’s time to track these on a document? …No, no, I can’t fathom I’d forget these atrocities.

At the very least, Nadara was pleased to find that D’Veo had prepared breakfast when she entered the mess hall, showered and clothed in fresh attire. Some things were slowly improving, it seemed.

There was enough time to finish her meal by the time the others began approaching. Most seemed to be suffering from the consequences of the previous evening, but Jonah flashed her a charming smile to which she winked in return. What followed was a slew of monotonous prattle as thrilling as a dormant star until Slim began discussing information relevant to their next mission and Nadara forced herself away from her reveries at the unexpected mention of her father on Europa.

While she’d love the opportunity to take out some Blood Pack members alongside him, there seemed to be too many cooks in the kitchen as it were, what with the Salarians and this new mercenary group also involved. Surely there was enough of them to handle whatever this ‘enthrallment device’ was. Though, if she had to bet, it would most likely be the Krogans. Besides, with the option to work beside Outcast or not, Nadara much preferred the latter.

“Of the three options listed, the only one it seems we would be little less than an afterthought in is the Europa mission. Outcast should have no problem aligning himself with one of the three groups there and securing the device. I believe our teams would be better served attending to the remaining two missions.” If Outcast failed, Nadara figured she could simply contact her father and have this device delivered to Earth.

A Daughter’s Mire: Part 2

Nadara easily secured another transport vehicle from SRN, but this time she was required to pay a fee.

“What do you mean you didn’t pay it last time? This is regulation!” Apparently, there were some perks to doing things early in the morning.

After avoiding questions on who she’d worked with that morning, and finally obtaining the keys to another unit, Nadara made her way to the entrance where Amina and Zenobia were waiting, geared up. Nadara wasn’t sure how much resistance they would encounter, she would try the diplomatic route first, but her mother had traveled with security and they might pose a problem. Better to be prepared.

The side doors lifted open, and Nadara leaned over the back of her chair in the driver’s seat, making eye contact with the two women outside. “Get in, ladies. We’re going to Barentsberg.”

"See this...THIS is the kind of insanity I can get behind." Zenobia, fully loaded and ready to go, hops into the seat to ride shotgun alongside her. "So what's the deal here? I assume you're not bringing me along because this is a delicate diplomatic situation."

Nadara settled back into the seat. “Uh, well.” The truth was, Zenobia and Amina were the only ones who didn’t currently hate her. Plus, the others had all departed to help Zenn with his rescue as far as she was aware. “Let’s say you’re part of the safety net should the diplomatic attempt fail.”

"Aha, checks out," Zenobia grins, drumming her hands on the dashboard. "Just in case though, who exactly are we planning to 'negotiate' with to get our friend back?” Privately, Zenobia wondered what had gotten her to change course on this issue. Perhaps like her friend back in Eclipse, Nadara just couldn't cope with letting the Asari go too far with how they dealt with their little problem. Or more likely, someone lied to her about the super secret mission they put her on. That seemed in character for the Republic given all the nasty rumors she heard.

“We’re not killing a bunch of ranking Asari are we?” Amina asked cautiously as she slid into the backseat behind Zenobia. Amina had left her Geth Spitfire behind but suddenly felt very… naked without it. Amina had brought her rifle, pistol, and other equipment though and was fully suited up in her armor all the way to the helmet. Just what are you thinking, Amina thought, eyes burning through her visor at the back of Nadara’s head, I guess you have finally made the decision that some orders are not worth seeing through all the way. Amina ignored the wistful deja vu tugging at her subconscious and awaited Nadara’s answer.

With both women safely inside, the door slid closed again and the trio took off. Since Nadara had been forced to pay a fee, she requested a sleek air shuttle so the trip would be faster. Might as well get the best, if I’m paying, she’d thought. This way there was also no risk of missing the window before Lidanya returned to the Citadel.

Nadara kept her eyes head, but quickly glanced back at Amina before answering her question. “There’s only one high ranking Asari we’ll have to worry about. And killing her is entirely off the table.” Her eyes slid over to Zenobia. “Under no circumstances is she to be threatened with physical violence,” she stressed. “But to answer your question,” she directed back to Amina, “Lidanya is the head of Asari forces in Sol, Captain of the Destiny Ascension, and is currently leading efforts to restore the Citadel. She came to Earth personally to collect Janiri, which I found strange after what I discovered.” Nadara continued to elaborate on the details she’d been able to find about Janiri, but conveniently left out the details of just how she was able to get this information. “Anyway, Lidanya had security detail with her. They were an all Asari team, but I didn’t recognize any as being important. They’re the ones we’re hoping to avoid confrontation with.”

“Matriarch… Lidanya.” Amina repeated. Well, this is certainly going to be interesting. Amina did not like this. At all. She highly doubted that this was going to go smoothly. If the head of Asari forces in the system wanted Janiri, or at least took enough interest in a personal pickup, then odds were she was not at all interested in handing Janiri back over. And so abruptly at that. Well, I have my flashbangs. Amina thought as she sat back, crossing one leg over the other. “I really hope you know just what you are doing, Bubbles. Especially with us involved.”

Nadara raised an eyebrow at the nickname but otherwise didn’t comment. Goddess knew she needed these women’s help, and if being named after hollow, floating spheres was how she accomplished it, so be it. Nadara couldn’t for the life of her understand why Amina chose that name though. “You’re both just insurance. I’ve been told you have it because it’s good to, but that you don’t usually use it.”

And when you do actually try to use it it wants to renegotiate on you. Amina thought looking out the nearby port window. “Well, let us just hope that this goes well and we needn’t fire a shot.”

Zenobia leaned back with a look of surprise. "Someone that important, coming to collect her personally? That's very interesting... Still, if you think you have a chance of talking this lady out of taking Janiri, more power to ya. Can't say I'd make the same choice, but...." She shrugs.

Nadara grimaced. “I don’t think I’ll be able to talk her out of it.” She sighed, thinking of the headache from the conversation she was about to walk in to. “Probably should have discussed my reservations with Charles before leaving, actually. He might have been able to offer some help, politically speaking. But I didn’t think of that until just now.” She shrugged. “Well, no going back now.”

"Hey if it all goes to shit, least you can reassure yourself with how you're doin the right thing." She winks at Nadara. "You've NO idea how nice that is when you can tell that to yourself."

Nadara smiled in response. She normally felt like she was doing the right thing, and rarely had to question her own actions or even backpedal as she was now. The most recent memory of such an occurrence having been when she’d chosen the wrong outfit for a prominent centennial bash.

The shuttle she’d rented flew smoothly and she could see the outline of the city ahead. Holding the steering with one hand, Nadara reached into a specialized pocket in her armored suit and produced a stick of Bubbalicious. “Gum?” She asked, hoping they would politely decline. Between her irritation with Kysar and disappointment with the conditions on the SRN base in Svalbard, her stores were running thin. “We’ll be touching down shortly.”

"Uh, sure..." Zenobia takes a stick, not entirely certain of what to do with it.

“No thanks, Bubbles.” Amina slightly shook her head, eyes still trained out the viewport.

After returning the pack to its special pocket, Nadara glanced over to Zenobia, who was still inspecting the gum. “Chew it,” she explained, half exasperated and half amused. If Nadara was going to lose out on a precious piece, it better be thoroughly enjoyed!

"Oh...I uh...knew that..." Zenobia does so, a bit awkwardly at first, but she gets the rhythm going.

Lidanya was lodged in an abandoned coal mine on the outskirts of Barentsberg. It was a large facility, but the reason Nadara assumed she’d selected the location was to be as discreet as possible. Nadara had questioned why of course, particularly when there must have been a few upscale hotels in the city proper that would have been much more accommodating, but hadn’t bothered to ask any questions lest she extended the interaction more than necessary. An Asari transporting another Asari didn’t seem suspicious in the least to Nadara and she couldn’t understand at first why her mother had used such discretion.

Even now, with the knowledge that Janiri was a high value target, Nadara couldn’t quite understand the secrecy. Sure, Asari didn’t necessarily want much information about Ardat Yakshi known by the general public, but it wasn’t as though Ardat Yakshi could be identified on sight.

The borrowed SRN shuttle touched down in the vast and empty parking lot in front of the brick building that had to have been the main administration for the coal mines below.

Nadara frowned, stepping out of the vehicle and looking around. “Strange, they came out to meet me as soon as I arrived earlier. I suppose now that they have what they want, polite conventions have gone out of the window.” Nadara motioned to the front doors with a nod. “Shall we?”

"Everyone remember where we parked..." Zenobia vaults from the car door, punching a fist into her hand with a biotic spark.

Amina followed behind, firmly gripping her Vindicator at a half-raised position. She looked around, mind crawling with suspicion and worried concern. I have a feeling this is going to go straight south.

Ensuring the doors closed behind them Amina stepped in close behind Nadara. “So your plan is… what again?”

Nadara placed a hand on Amina’s weapon, firmly pressing down. “Let’s not go in guns blazing, shall we? As for my plan…” She considered for a moment. “I’ll be honest, I don’t have much of one. Attempting to reason with Lidanya comes first, of course. But in all likelihood, we’ll just find Janiri and take her.” She shrugged nonchalantly. Nadara was thankful the two weren’t asking too many questions. She didn’t want to have to explain why she wasn’t too worried about getting court martialed for essentially kidnapping and abetting a criminal. “M— Lidanya’s security detail might object of course, which is why we have to be ready for a fight.”

Zenobia tilted her head slightly at Nadara's stutter, but didn't dwell on it. Hell, she'd be nervous too. She'd tangled with asari plenty of times back in her mercenary days, and they weren't really found in places like...this. What was it the humans tried to dig up here, coal? "I think if they're holed up here then their position may not be very secure," she pointed out. "Might be something we can use to our advantage."

If it was anyone else, Nadara might not have bothered with the niceties of diplomacy, but while she and her mother didn’t get along, she wouldn’t outright attack. “Perhaps so. Keep an eye out as we get inside.” Nadara made eye contact with both women upon reaching the doors, but when she pulled on the handles, they were locked. “What the?” Now, this was unexpected. It was still the early afternoon, Lidanya should not have left yet.

"I don't suppose you have a key?" Zenobia rolls her shoulders plants her feet. "I happen to have one, if you don't care about property damage."

Nadara tilted her head. “Why.. no, how.. do you have a key to an abandoned coal mine?”

"KNOCK KNOCK!" With a metallic crunch, Zenobia launches forward and violently kicks the door open, splintering the offending chair in the process.

“Oh, I see.” Inside, the lobby was empty and dark. Nadara hadn’t gone inside when she’d delivered Janiri, so she wasn’t sure which way to go. Where was her mother, and why was no one here? “Hello?” She called out, but only a small echo responded.

"You sure you got the right place?" She muttered, looking around the suspiciously abandoned room.


"Hmmm...either way, someone didn't want us getting in so easily..." Zenobia looks at the broken chair again. "Let's snoop..."

“Seemed easy enough from where I was standing…”

Amina sighed and stepped inside, albeit it slowly. She kept her weapon low, even with her hips - granted her hands were in place to bring it up and fire at a moments’ notice. “If anyone is here they just are too far back to have heard you or they are trying to keep low.” Amina said to Nadara. “Or they’re moving to ambush us as we speak.” Amina felt that she probably should not have said that out loud. With the unhinged Turian present she might start slinging biotic energy at every shadow.

Zenobia was feeling a bit uneasy at this. If this was her mission, she'd have started slinging biotic energy at every shadow by now. "Or they took a leave of absence..." She looks around for another door...

There are two doors on either end of the back wall, behind the remains of a reception desk. Both are closed, though there are indications around the door to the left that it has been recently opened. Namely, the impression of the door’s swing on the thick blanket of dust on the ground, along with a scattering of footprints all around the interior of the room they were in.

She tries that left door! Unfortunately, it too, is locked.

"Well luckily I have a master key..."
“I’m not sure that’s the best—”


"OW! Shit....okay, master key's broken." She rubs her shoulder irritably.

Nadara placed a hand on Zenobia’s unwounded shoulder for comfort. “Would’ve been too simple.” She then made eye contact with Amina. “Rogue, do you have any ‘keys’?”

“Keys, no. But I do have these.” Amina let’s her rifle slip to her side as she pulls a frag grenade from her belt and holds it out in her left hand. “I snagged them back at ‘base’.”

"I....okay that works." She moves behind cover, pulling Nadara with her.

In different circumstances, Nadara would have had no issues with tearing the place down, but as it was, there was no way to tell who was inside the locked room.

“No, it’s too excessive,” she said, pulling back from Zenobia. Instead, Nadara knocked loudly on the door. “Lidanya?”

There was no response after a moment, and just as Nadara was about to suggest they try to bust it down again (preferably sans explosives), her mother’s voice could be heard through the other side of the door. “Nadara?” She sounded shocked, no, more than that, affronted. “You’re part of this?”

“Part of what?”

Suddenly, two Asari in full gear burst into the room from the other set of doors which lead into a corridor. Weapons drawn and trained on the unsuspecting trio, they held their position.

“What’s going on here?” Nadara yelled, surprised. She immediately recognized one of the Asari as having been part of her mother’s security detail. “Call them off!”

"....ah, found the welcoming party." Zenobia clenched her fists, a biotic field stirring up around her...

One of the agents before them held a hand up to her ear as if she was receiving a message, before nodding to her companion in confirmation. Both raised their weapons to take aim at the trio.

Nadara’s mouth gaped open. Why was her mother attacking!? Ok, well, it wasn’t Lidanya directly, but these Asari worked for her, Nadara was sure of it. She distinctly remembered having the thought that one of the Asari’s features would be much better accentuated with the addition of white markings.

“I said, call them off!” Nadara prepared a biotic shield to cover herself as well as Amina and Zenobia from the oncoming fire.

Amina raised her weapon but did not fire. Eyes training down through the scope on one of the Asari. She may not get the first shots in but she intended for them to hit true - the dot of her scope right on the left Asari’s face.

The assailants let loose a volley of firepower but they were no match for Nadara’s biotic sphere that provided full coverage for herself and her two teammates.

"Well so much for the diplomatic efforts," Zenobia declares, charging ahead and calling forth a singularity on the three of them. The charge, for whatever reason, proves unstable, mostly just pulling Zenobia towards its center, and not doing much to throw off the guards.

Dammit! Amina managed to hold her aim steady thanks to years of training and no shortage of combat experience, the rising nerves from the sudden escalation not enough to throw her. The shield will cover us!

Amina pulled the trigger, a triple burst cutting through the air and striking the target Asari directly in the head. Amina felt a surge of grim satisfaction as the target fell backward behind a spray of purple and crumpled to the floor. Amina swiveled her rifle to the right to take aim at the other Asari.

Zenobia’s singularity failed, landing much too close to to be effective against the enemy, instead pulling Zenobia outside of Nadara’s sphere. Why is everything backwards today!? If they didn’t act quickly her body would be riddled with bullets. Thankfully, both Nadara and Amina were able to keep their balance, with Amina even swiftly taking out one of the agents.

“Good shot,” Nadara yelled as she gathered the biotic energy from the sphere into a single point and taking aim at the second agent. With a crackle of static, the biotic charge shot forward and struck true, the force slamming the unknown Asari against the opposite wall, where she slumped over. “You alright, Lunatic?”

"Gluh....yup...." Zenobia gets back to her feet, punching the desk as she got her balance back. "Only thing hurt's my pride." Probably to vent some frustration, Lunatic lives up to her name and violently kicks in the other locked door. "Afternoon ma'am, we're here to negotiate."

The room behind the locked door was fairly small. Toward the back lay Janiri’s unconscious form, beside which sat an obviously injured Asari, who gripped her side that was wet with blood. Next to the door were the remains of an old couch and shelving unit that appeared to have been hastily pushed out of the way.

Lidanya’s sidearm was raised, pointed directly at Zenobia’s face.

“Put it down!” Nadara yelled, stepping forward.

Lidanya seemed surprised to see her daughter. A disappointment Nadara was accustomed to seeing was clear on her face, the unmasked hurt however was new. “So you really are part of this.”

“Part of what!?”

“The attack on my life, Nadara, don’t play dumb!” Lidanya’s weapon was still raised, and she switched from aiming at Zenobia to Amina, and finally, to Nadara herself.

Amina stood to the side of Nadara, weapon raised though she was not actively training her aim down her scope. She merely remained at the ready, finger on the trigger as she surveyed the Asari before herself and her companions. Whatever clarity was to come would hopefully come forth before more bullets started to fly.

"Nadara actually made things very clear that we WEREN'T going to attack you," Zenobia coolly said. "Whoever's after you, it's not us." She glances over at Janiri. "Something to do with her, perhaps?"

Nadara couldn’t believe her mother would point a gun at her. She felt a righteous indignation flaring up inside her, and opened her mouth to speak, but found Zenobia answering for her, defending her. And to her other side, Nadara found Amina, poised and ready should action be needed. This.. this was a new feeling.

Lidanya faltered momentarily, her weapon lowering slightly, though her finger remained on the trigger. “So, you’re not here for Janiri?”

Clearing her throat, Nadara found her composure. Things were a little too hot to get into that right away. “Let’s put the weapons down and you can explain what happened here.”

Lidanya’s eyes met Nadara’s for a brief moment, and the Matriarch gave a short nod. She holstered her sidearm and moved aside, allowing the three to enter the room as she glanced into the lobby, surveying the results of the firefight she’d overheard.

“There should be three more,” Lidanya said, just as a bullet grazed the doorframe, almost striking her.

Nadara pulled her mother into the room and shut the door in one quick movement.

“Verified.” Amina said almost mechanically. Amina darted to the side and plastered herself to the wall to the right of the door, tightly gripping her Vindicator. We have the numbers. We just need to be smart about this and we can roll them. Amina’s tactical sense flaring up in her mind. “Just three more?” Amina blurted out questioningly.

Lidanya pinched the bridge of her nose. “As far as I know.”

Opposite to Amina, Nadara made eye contact as she reached for the handle. “Shall we put that grenade to use, now?” She asked with a smirk.

"Please do, I can only contain my excitement for SO long."

Amina slipped away the frag and switched it for a flashbang. Even if the attackers went for cover the flash and ear-splitting sound could still debilitate them. Amina readied the grenade and with a nod to and from Nadara the Asari flung the door open and Amina pitched the grenade around the doorframe as bullets streaked inside.

“Heads down!” Amina shouted as the flashbang bounced across the floor into the lobby. Amina and Nadara pulled away from the door, the flashbang going off less than three seconds later. The flash lit up the lobby and the sharp crack made Amina’s ears ache even under the confines of her helmet. There was no sound to be heard, no scurrying of boots or loud screams of agony. Dammit! Did they dive for cover that quickly? Amina cursed to herself. Tempted as she was she did not peek around the corner or even blind-fire, instead keeping totally in cover.

Nadara, who hadn't been expecting a flashbang after suggesting the grenade, didn't know to protect her eyes, and kept them fully opened as Amina tossed the item out of the door, intending to spot the enemies in their rush to cover. Instead, all she witnessed was a blinding white light which burned her eyes. Ducking for cover with her hands over her watery eyes, she groaned.

"Did you not learn this lesson from the meat plant, Rogue!? You have to warn us about flashbangs." Her tone was slightly louder than normal, indicating Nadara's hearing had also been affected.

The blinding white and piercing sound of the flashbang only barely covered up the distinct crash of a desk being hurled across the room beyond and the accompanying surge of biotic energy. When everything comes back, Zenobia is suspiciously absent. "HEY IF YOU'RE ALL COOL IN THERE, TWO OF THEM JUST TOOK COVER BEHIND THE DESK I LAUNCHED."

Lidanya pulled her lieutenant and Janiri toward a back corner of the room. “I’m not sure I approve of the company you keep, Nadara.” She yelled, over the noise. “Such unconventional means of battle!”

Nadara saw the blurry image of her mother, who seemed to be saying something, but Nadara couldn’t make it out. “What?”

After Zenobia launched the desk into the lobby, it landed on one of the Asari agents, taking her out immediately due to the powerful force behind her biotics. The two remaining Asari assailants however quickly utilized the desk for cover and retaliated with a biotic attack of their own. One lifted the Turian into the air, while the other readied an attack.

After ensuring Janiri and the lieutenant were sufficiently blocked from the sight of any enemies outside, Lidanya stood to join in the counterattack. As a matriarch she could not sit idly by.

Just as the second Asari agent was taking aim at the vulnerable Turian held in the air, Lidanya sent her own biotic shockwave, striking the enemy in the side and causing her to miss her target. Zenobia was still safe for now but remained entirely vulnerable to attack in her suspended state.

Amina whirled around the doorframe and took aim with her rifle. She could see Zenobia floating in the air, like fish in a barrel an easy target for the attackers. Amina looked down her scope at the assailant whom she could see was keeping Zenobia suspended upward, the Asari rippling with the telltale blue energy of biotics.

Amina hadn’t the time to line up another perfect headshot, Zenobia needed free now or else be plinked to death by a volley of gunfire. The time Lidanya had bought with her staggering attack was mere seconds. Amina placed the red dot of her scope on the attackers’ midsection and fired, the stability dampener making up for the drift. The shots connected, the Asari staggering backward as her effort was disrupted causing Zenobia to plummet downward.

Nadara gripped her head and blinked furiously through the tears as the fuzzy surroundings of the abandoned building began to sharpen into focus. While her vision hadn’t fully returned yet, she was able to see the last few moments play out as her mother prevented Zenobia from being wounded or worse, and then as Amina prepared a shot beside her.

Nadara had spent enough time keeping her balance under the influence of alcohol, to be able to stand and offer assistance. Head piercing and a loud whooshing still audible, a blue current of energy nonetheless began coursing through her. As Amina’s shot struck the Asari agent, Nadara reached out with her own biotics to Zenobia. From the height she’d been held, she could have easily broken a bone from the fall, but Nadara was able to righten the Turian and slow the rate of her descent slightly so she landed on her feet.

Despite landing on her feet, the aforementioned tossing around like a ragdoll took a bit out of Zenobia and she stumbled before finding her footing again, doing the rare thing of drawing her sidearm with an angry flourish. "That was...unpleasant."

The Asari struck by Amina’s shot ducked behind the desk, likely to attend to her wound. The second remaining enemy had been staggered by Lidanya’s attack, but quickly recovered. Perhaps fed up with the lack of success from the firearm she’d been using, the Asari relied instead on her biotics. Noticing a plank of wood near Amina, she used her power to slam the item into the human, sending her to the floor under the piece of wood.

Damn! Amina’s vision spun and her head panged, as did her entire torso. Even with the armor to protect her the sudden physical hit paired with a biotic charge and a hard landing shook up Amina. Her rifle had slipped from her hand and lay about three feet away just out of reach. Amina’s hair bristled and her stomach summersaulted inside her as she heard the continuing of gunfire. Where she lay she was a sitting target. Get up! Amina urged herself, managing to wiggle her forearms and hands under the large plank and frantically pushing upward. Her head pounded but she ignored it, needing to get up off the floor immediately.

Nadara’s vision and hearing had now mostly returned to normal. She and her mother made eye contact, and Nadara nodded toward Amina as Lidanya confirmed her nod towards the Asari agents still using the desk Zenobia launched into the lobby for cover. As she rushed to Amina’s aide, she pulled up a second biotic shield to prevent any stray bullets from finding their mark. The plank over Amina was heavier than it seemed, and as Nadara pushed it up and off the human, she wished she’d used her biotics instead.

Once the door was finally shoved aside, Nadara reached for Amina’s arm with a secure grip. “I got you,” she said, pulling her up to her feet and guiding her back behind the door for cover.

While this took place, Lidanya’s body glowed blue with the static of her biotic powers. She was about to show these younger Asari what it meant to be a Matriarch. The strength of Lidanya’s resulting shockwave aimed at the Asari who’d slammed Amina with the plank was palpable even to those who weren’t along its path of destruction.

The threads of blue energy rose high in the air, crackling like lightning as they tore easily through the desk, leaving it in splinters, before fully eliminating her target.

Now, only the Asari who Amina had wounded remained. With the desk no more than a pile of sawdust and splinters, she had nowhere to hide.

The remaining agent stood, releasing her hold of the side where Amina’s bullet had punctured, blood flowing freely as she tossed aside her gun and raised her hands in an effort to pull forth all her remaining strength into a final biotic attack.

Zenobia pounded on an overturned shelf with her fist as she regained her bearings, an unpleasant looking snarl on her face as she warmed up a biotic attack. Charging into the path of whoever the last asari's next victim would be, she ripped her from the earth and hoisted her high into the air, making her easy pickings for her crew.

Amina looked back and saw Zenobia lifting the last of the attackers up into the air. Despite her battered state Amina felt an instinctive rush - that “take control combat drive” she would have - just wanting to finish off the opposition and secure the situation. Amina pulled loose from Nadara’s grip and reached to her hip for her pistol, slipping her other hand under her helmet and lifting it off. Amina’s vision was a bit fuzzy but nothing terribly offsetting. Despite the lingering pain Amina brought up her pistol and took aim, lining her sights up on the elevated Asari as best she could.

Amina unloaded her pistol as they say, index finger snapping against the trigger again and again as the immobilized Asari was pelted with rounds, blood splattering down across the floor from above. Amina kept squeezing at the trigger until she felt a sudden expulsion of heat from her pistol and the rounds stopped coming. The Asari, still elevated by Zenobia’s biotics, floated limp in the air.

“Look at that.” Amina said with abrasive randomness as she popped out the expended thermal clip from her pistol.

Zenobia tossed the dead asari across the room with a lazy flick of her wrist and turned back to Lidanya with an amused look. "So....care to explain why we just painted the walls with your lackeys?"

Nadara was surprised at the consecutive bullets Amina continued firing when the enemy had clearly died after the first two. She shrugged, eyebrows raised at the questioning glance from her mother.

Lidanya frowned, walking up to the body of one of the Asari to remove her Omni-tool. “They were not my ‘lackeys’,” she responded in a dry tone.

“Then who were they?” Nadara asked, glancing around the lobby once more to ensure there weren’t any more of them lying in wait.

After a quick search through the tool the Matriarch stood tall and motioned for them to head back into the small room. The lieutenant they had left was unconscious by this time, and Lidanya added another medi-gel packet to her wound and checked on Janiri before turning her attention back to the trio. During this, Nadara raised her hands in defense at the annoyed glances from her teammates. She was just as keen on getting the information as they were, but she knew Lidanya was always on her own time.

“Turns out they were Eclipse agents according to the omni-tool,” she finally responded, tossing the tool to Zenobia. “I knew someone was after her, but wasn’t sure who, which is why I tried to keep everything as quiet as possible. Turns out, the merchants I hired for security ended up working for the enemy all along.”

"....Eclipse?" Zenobia turns back to look at where the asari the team took down were strewn about. "Explains a lot....definitely the kind of underhanded shit we'd pull off."

“We?” Lidanya stressed, an eyebrow raised. Her hand inched closer to the gun holstered at her hip. “So you are with them.”

Amina looked around at Zenobia, a fresh thermal clip in her pistol. That is a… dumb admission. Unless?… “You mean formerly?”

“Even if she doesn’t mean that, we had nothing to do with this attack.” Nadara’s eyes shifted to Zenobia, a worry set in her brow. “Right?”

Zenobia blinks, realizing that an admission like that sounds a bit iffy. "Ex-Eclipse," she hastily points out. "Least I am. I more or less walked after the Reaper War after the rest of the team I knew were too dead or damaged for mercenary work. Hell, I didn't know we still had any active units in the Sol sector."

Lidanya narrowed her eyes, her hand now resting on the holster. “Why are you here?” She turned to Nadara. “You asked me when I would be leaving and then went dark. Next thing I know you arrive right after Ta’nee and I were ambushed by the Eclipse. Had you all not assisted in taking them out, I would have thought surely you were part of this plot to take Janiri. As it is, I still need convincing.”

"Well that's the funny thing, we WERE here to try and get Janiri back...just not by hitting anyone." Zenobia folds her arms. "Why Eclipse would be after her, I don't know. Something to do with the Night Demon stuff?"

Lidanya stood and walked over to where Janiri lay, standing before her. She unclipped the holstered weapon, and held it, barrel aimed at the floor. “Enough with the toying. You are after her as I suspected.” She shot an accusatory stare at Nadara, unsurprised. “I just don’t understand the purpose of delivering her first. Did you send the Eclipse as a diversion? Is this all some twisted game to you?”

“Mother, I would never jeopardize your life. I promise you we had nothing to do with the Eclipse attack. We were just as surprised to find this situation as you were when we arrived.”

“Then why are you after Janiri?”

‘Mother?’ Amina thought. Well this was a surprise, to Amina anyway. She is the daughter of a an Asari Matriarch. This… explains a good bit in itself. Well if anything hopefully this would offer an advantage to trying to get Janiri back to SRN. Then again, and maybe Amina was reading things wrong, but it could just bolster the opposite effect.

Zenobia thought, exchanging a look with Amina. That definitely does explain a lot, and makes things interesting on top of that.[/i]

“Look,” Nadara started, trying to find the right words. This was not what her teammates were accustomed to seeing from her. Poise, confidence, self assurance, these were common traits, but before her mother, the commonly outspoken Asari seemed unsure of herself. “Bringing her here—”

Suddenly multiple things happened at once.

The Asari Nadara had launched into the wall when they were first ambushed after entering the abandoned building had only been knocked unconscious. She awoke during the ensuing battle, but maintained her position to avoid detection. Once everyone walked back inside the room, she picked herself up and secured a weapon from one of her fallen comrades.

The Eclipse agent now stood at the door, weapon raised and aimed directly at Lidanya. “Should have made sure we were dead,” she spat, making her presence known.

There was little time to act, but as the Eclipse agent began to pull the trigger, Janiri stood unexpectedly, placing herself in front of Lidanya.

The orders from the Ecplise had been clear. The missing agent, Janiri, was to be apprehended and brought back into their ranks, but no harm was to come to her. The agent had no choice but to lift her arm, the shot missing its target by a wide margin, instead striking the cement wall to the left of Lidanya.

Without turning around, Janiri reached behind her and lifted Lidanya’s hand which still held her SMG, with unfocused eyes, she was still able to take aim at the Eclipse agent and press Lidanya’s finger, pulling the trigger. The resulting shot hit the enemy Asari in the neck, and she fell to the floor, sputtering as she attempted to take her final breaths.

With the threat attended to, Janiri promptly buckled under her own weight and would have fallen to the floor had Lidanya not supported her.

Nadara, closest to the two, rushed forward, and helped ease Janiri to the floor. “You’re awake!?”

“She was,” interjected Lidanya, who stepped between Janiri and Nadara as soon as the former had been safely placed on the ground. “She’s gone back under.”

Zenobia blinked as blood splattered across her face, the Eclipse soldier crumpling shortly after. Snickering, she strode over to the dead body. "Not that it matters at this point," she snarked. "But you're fired."

Amina shook her head. The Asari mercenary was right, they should have made sure every enemy was dead first thing. Deciding there was no point in dwelling on the error Amina turned and walked up beside Nadara and Lidanya, looking at Janiri with uncertainty.

The attackers are dealt with. Now what about getting her back to SRN? Amina had sized up the Matriarch somewhat so far, and frankly she expected that less than half their job had been finished. If Asari Matriarchs were anything like Amina imagined then odds were they would not be getting Janiri out of here or they would have to knock Lidanya in the head and run. The latter feeling even more unlikely now knowing that Lidanya was Nadara’s mother. Not to mention assaulting a ranking Asari and swiping away someone SRN already agreed to hand over would not doubt have severe ramification.

“We should get her back to the SRN hospital. This should get looked at immediately, and travel to the Citadel will take too long— we’re not sure what kind of reaper technology she was subjected to.” Nadara crossed her arms.

“She’ll be looked at by the top Asari doctors available on the Citadel. With Eclipse and Goddess knows who else after her, I won’t delay our departure any longer.”

"And how well is your speedy departure going so far?" Zenobia makes her point by shoving over the body of the Eclipse soldier with her foot.

Lidanya narrowed her eyes, but quickly brushed the quip off, feigning indifference. “We will be taking our departure as soon as you all move out of our way.” The Matriarch’s right arm displayed the signature blue glow of biotic power and both her Lieutenant’s and Janiri’s body were raised off the floor, floating at hip height. “If you’ll excuse us.”

Nadara refused to move aside, her arms stayed crossed over her chest. A display of defiance, but also so no one noticed her hands shake.

“I’m afraid I can’t step aside.”

“Oh? So you’ve finally come to your senses and will be joining me on the Citadel. It’s about time you’ve started to take things seriously, Nadara.”

“We’re not having this argument again!” Nadara huffed.

Zenobia moves with Nadara to stand in her mother's way, her own arms displaying the same blue spark of biotic power, albeit more chaotic and unfettered then the matron's controlled glow. "I think you've demonstrated that you can't exactly be responsible for keeping her safe, lady."

“Are you threatening me?”

“No,” Nadara answered for Zenobia, pushing the Turian’s arms down. She looked Zenobia in the eye as she continued, “We’re not.”

Zenobia grunts irritably, but acquiesces.

Nadara knew what they had witnessed had been just a fraction of her mother’s true power. If the others had been upset by her handing over Janiri, she didn’t even want to think about their reactions if she got one of their teammates outright killed.

Amina stepped in close beside Nadara, weapon low, but eyes full of defiance through the slit of her visor. “We’re taking Janiri back to SRN with us. We did mot come here to fight you, we came to recover Janiri. She is part of our organization, part of the team.”

Nadara cringed slightly. This was not going well. Perhaps she should have thought better than to bring along a “Lunatic” and a “Rogue.” What they needed now was diplomacy, logic, reasoning, not threats and demands. Especially when such demands were emotionally based, which her mother had never entertained.

Lidanya let out a condescending scoff at Amina. “She is no longer part of your organization, or your team. I have the documents to prove it, while all you three seem to have are some misdirected desires. I have been granted custody of Janiri. Not only does she no longer have any ties with the SRN, she is a wanted criminal, and a dangerous Ardat Yakshi. There is absolutely no reason for me to hand her over to a trio of incompetent children.”

“Enough!” Lidanya seemed surprised at Nadara’s outburst, in a way that someone would be surprised to find a child throwing a tantrum in a public place. It happened, but you never expected it, and it was always distasteful.

Nadara held her arms out, making some space between herself and her teammates. She needed to breathe.

“Mother,” she began after a moment, her tone calmer. “Janiri is not some object to be won or locked away and mined for treasure. When I brought her to you, I wasn’t given all the information, and it doesn’t seem as though the SRN was made privy to all the relevant details either, or I honestly doubt Charles would have agreed to handing her over.

She’s never taken a life. I’m unable to speak for her,”
Nadara paused and glanced at the Asari who hung limply in the air. How had she suddenly woken up? Why had she gone right back to ‘sleep’, as it were? Nadara didn’t want to think about those details. “And she’s currently unable to speak for herself, but from what I have learned, she was a good teammate and wanted to help others. I don’t understand the science, but Janiri barely qualifies as an Ardat Yakshi, and perhaps that has everything to do with your wanting to experiment on her—”

“That’s classified information, Nadara,” Lidanya interrupted, but Nadara pushed through.

“She doesn’t deserve to be treated as a danger when she hasn’t posed any to anyone, or to be treated as an object to be discarded. As a Matriarch, you should be helping your people, as an Asari, you should want to do what’s best for your sisters.”

“I will not be taking life advice from the likes of you, Nadara, who has scarcely been able to make a contribution through yours.”

Nadara gritted her teeth and ignored the barb. It wasn’t as if she hadn’t become accustomed to the constant criticism from her mother. “She should be returned to the SRN. It’s the right thing to do.”

Amina felt a spike in her chest. This Matriarch wants Janiri strapped down in a lab for the rest of her life. To be poked and prodded at all for the sake of ‘science’. She does not care about Janiri being a criminal’, not really. It is just a scapegoat. The spike turned to a low boiling in the pit of Amina’s gut as images flashed through her mind, images from her time with Cerberus.

Needles, serums, element zero exposure, scaldings, shocks, screams-

Anima felt a bead of sweat sliding down her temple as the boiling in her torso just seemed to rise up past her chest and shoulders and into her head. She imagined if she took her helmet off her face would be a deep red tone. Amina had seen and done a lot of things during her time with Cerberus that she was not proud of, and what Lidanya seemed to want out of Janiri was dragging up all those terrible memories and the feelings with them - the drive that pushed her to leave Cerberus was now pushing her to lash out at this stuffy Asari Matriarch.

“It is the right thing to do,” Amina said, throat tight, “and you could use some life lessons indeed if your daughter, whom you have centuries on, can settle for what is right over what is wrong easier than you can.” Amina’s throat constricted more but she maintained a steady tone as she spoke, “I think there are bigger problems in this galaxy, in this system right now, than nabbing some mutant because of old laws. Everyone is saying Janiri is not even dangerous. Besides, this is not even about safety or law, you just want to gouge and prickle at her on a cold table. Stop hiding behind a veil and just say that is all that it is about. Try owning it.”

Lidanya rolled her eyes. “I have no need to explain myself to you. The fact Nadara chose to share classified information only goes to show me she is not to be trusted. It does not in the least imply that I should do the same.”

Tortured and abused because of an accident of one's birth. How dreadfully familiar that was. And for this girl, it was probably worse then Zenobia ever had it. What was a cracked skull and a near-death experience compared to whatever those butchers had in mind for her? "I always thought we were bad about biotics," Zenobia scoffed. "And yet here you are. Least I can say I wasn't treated like a varrin to be dissected and used."

They were getting off track. Nadara raised her hands. “Look,” she said. “Your top priority is medical research. There’s no reason why the SRN can’t be the facility where that takes place.”

I guess being stubborn is part of living for a thousand some-odd years. Amina thought pettily, fighting the odd urge to start tapping her foot in annoyance. How in the hell is this going to end? Amina felt her temper rising further, both at knowing what Lidanya’s motives were and at this whole obnoxious family spat between two Asari. Lidanya was not going to agree with having what was apparently a highly classified project be done on turf that was not her own, so to speak, and Nadara could not let this opportunity for righting her wrong slip away. Amina also now felt a strange obligation of her own to help out a stop to whatever was meant for Janiri, even if the affairs of aliens meant nothing to her. Usually.

Nadara looked to either side of her where Amina and Zenobia still stood. She appreciated their presence, how they were willing to stand by her, and follow her requests, but was it too much to ask for them to offer reasons of their own? Her mind on overdrive, Nadara handled this as she would have a delicate disagreement among a galactic diplomat and a wealthy land owner.

“Lidanya, the fact of the matter is that Janiri is being tracked. Her safety is paramount to you due to the potential medical benefits research would allow. I understand how valuable that is. I can’t imagine how many Asari lives would benefit from a treatment for the Ardat Yakshi condition.” Her mother nodded in agreement. Good.. Now she just needed to rope her in.

“Well, the Eclipse are clearly after her for Goddess knows what reason, and you yourself mentioned there might be others seeking her out as well. The Eclipse know she’s with you now.” Nadara motioned to the agent Janiri had killed. “Surely a message was sent about their failure to capture her and more agents will be sent.

What if you were able to send her somewhere her location couldn’t be tracked? Somewhere she wouldn’t be expected to be? All the while being able to maintain full oversight of medical research and discovery. This is what I’m offering you by taking her back to the SRN.

She saved your life just now, mother. Save hers in return.”

“It is a solid offer.” Amina added, “She will be easier to look after given the SRN facility is a smaller, isolated, and possibly a more secure area than a larger base or a vessel. Not to mention cooperation from her will be more apt letting her act on her own free will with friendly and familiar faces around. I am sure President Saracino would even compromise so far as to allow Asari Command to have appointed personnel on site, as an olive branch so to speak.”

"Not to mention I think we just proved we could handle defending her just fine," Zenobia smirked.

Nadara nodded vigorously, agreeing with both points. “We should move now. Before they get a chance to send reinforcements.”

Lidanya opened her mouth as if to argue some more but stopped herself short. Even she had to admit the motley crew was making some good points. She relied on the Eclipse mercenaries she’d unknowingly employed for transportation, and surely more would be back here before she could make other arrangements. Her lieutenant was also growing quite pale, having already lost a significant amount of blood.

“I will need to confirm the details with President Saracino myself,” she said finally, and Nadara felt the weight she’d been carrying drop from her shoulders as she signed in relief. “Until we have agreed on terms, Janiri is to stay under my supervision at all times.”

“I can agree to that. Let’s go.”

Well, this was better than nothing - definitely a better deal to work with rather than Lidanya just leaving with Janiri without so much as a “kiss my ass” for all the trouble. Why do you even really care this much? Amina felt herself riveted by the sudden emergent thought. Why did she care all of a sudden? No, just all of a sudden, and not just this business with Janiri and Nadara. As far back to her considerations during their time back in Cuba.

These are my teammates. Amina seemed to assure herself, Helping each other and camaraderie in battle is just part of it all. And just since when were aliens Amina’s comrades? There was a time where just sharing a space with non-humans would have her on edge and fully agitated, and now here she was caught up in their familial drama. Realizing that the others were ready to depart Amina decided to just silently go along and sort through her mental dissension later after a hot meal and a shower.

A Daughter’s Mire: Part 1

Solveig had spent her morning first taking a run around the compound -- something about the familiar Nordic air was refreshing - the silence and blue sky offered her respite from the inner noise. It was nice to be alone for the sunrise.

The next thing, was to visit Katya again. She'd been in and out since the rescue. Feeling guilt, worry, and fear all at once. And of course, the familiar confusion of simply not knowing what to do, how to even begin to help.

This morning was different though, thing wing less busy. An empty bed. Janiri... Solveig immediately thought the worst, that the Asari had succumbed to the illness -- and that Katya would follow. But that wasn't the case.

Instinct led her quickly to the mess hall. She moved with more intensity and heat than she had on her run, her stare as piercing as ever, an awakening of anger simmering somewhere.

She approached her target and stood directly in front of her, casting an imposing shadow across Nadara.

"Why?" She asked.

Nadara blinked and removed the headset she’d been using to coordinate an attack on an enemy base with some young Batarians Goddess knew where.


Sol's head tilted just so, and she folded her arms across her chest, taking a breath.

"Why," she repeated, "did you move Janiri?" She would not be repeating the question again.

“Oh.” How strange, was Solveig upset? It was true Nadara didn’t know the woman well, but she’d never seen this from her before.

“I received an order from Asari High Command to bring her in. Turns out she’s Ardat Yakshi, and we tend to act quickly when we’re dealing with them,” she said, feeling no reason to keep the information hidden. After a brief pause she asked, “Is something wrong?”

Solveig thought for a moment. She couldn't really continue to argue about it. Janiri was an Asari, the orders to move her had come from Asari High Command. But still, surely there was benefit in the two patients being treated together - for both of their survival. Unless the Asari could provide a breakthrough too. Her face softened momentarily. "Fine," she relented. "I don't like it... But I understand you have your orders."

She didn't want to stick around and discuss it more, truthfully, she felt confused still. She turned and began walking away, she knew that the rest of the team may not feel the same way.

“Wait,” Nadara called out, standing. “Don’t like what?”

"We don't know what this is, how to fix. How to make it better." Solveig kept walking. "They might not be better separated."

She stopped in the doorway, and looked back over her shoulder. "Should have told us."

As Solveig walked away, Nadara considered her words, and realized that the others should indeed have been notified of her actions, since they were working together and particularly because Janiri was tied with the most recent case. When she’d received the directive from her mother, she’d acted out of instinct, and truth be told, hadn’t even considered that she even had a team, much less needed one to complete the mission. But not needing help was not an excuse for not keeping them notified. In fact, she also needed to communicate with SRN directly to notify them that everything had gone smoothly.

Something else Solveig said made Nadara pause. “How to fix it.” It was true, they weren’t sure what was wrong with either Janiri or Katya, but from the sound of Lidanya’s message and the brief interaction they shared in Barentsburg, they weren’t interested in treating Janiri, exactly. Ardat Yakshi that escaped were not viewed kindly, to say the least. …perhaps Nadara didn’t need to mention that last bit to the others.

She pulled out her omni-tool and realized there were two unread messages from earlier that she’d missed. One from Sevipia notifying them that she would no longer be part of the team. Unfortunate, having a medic at hand is always helpful. The other message was from Zenn, requesting help for some wild rescue. She’d deal with that one later.

For now, she sent an email to Charles notifying him of what happened, ensuring to attach all the relevant documents and information. Then, she opened a message prompt to the five remaining members of the group.

Everyone, this message is to notify you that Janiri was identified as an Ardat Yakshi. She has been apprehended and delivered to Asari High Command. I completed this order this morning and as such, she will no longer be treated at the local hospital.

That should clear things up right?

Solveig received, and read the message immediately between glances at her omni tool and Nadara.

She could see it in her eyes - the good intent, the meaning -- where it came from.

Just like the useless sniper rifle she picked up, she felt the message backfire and some kind of future vision appeared to her of a chain reaction of events - not that it was going to take a genius.

"Ah fuck..." Solveig said finally.

After sending his initial message to the team, as well as one to Lizbeth confirming he would take care of the job on the citadel in exchange for being able to use the shuttle for his own mission, Zenn spent the rest of his morning at the shooting range. Never too early to get in some practice! And he could check his messages between sets.

The first one to come in was from Solveig; she was joining him on his mission. A smile grew across his face as he hastily replied to thank her. He was about to load in a thermal clip and fire another set when a second message came in. It was from Nadara, but it wasn't regarding the mission…

"That crazy kiyet!" Zenn cursed and holstered his weapon as he hastily exited the shooting range. This was bad. Whether he agreed with her actions or not was irrelevant. What mattered now was making sure Nadara or anyone else on the team didn't do anything stupid.

Several minutes later, Zenn burst into the mess hall and scanned the room. The moment his eyes found the Asari, he made a beeline for her. The moment he reached her table, he pulled up a chair and took a seat. His gaze locked on her the whole time as he sat there. No words. Just slowly shaking his head.

Nadara blinked, confused. What was with these folks today? She quickly looked down to ensure she had remembered to properly adorn herself. Yes, Vara Sang’s outfit was impeccable, and Nadara had added a few personal touches to boot! It had to be something else.

“Um… hello? Everything alright?”

Sol watched as Zenn barreled in, and remained quiet as he took a seat. She stopped walking away, and chose to stand by the wall instead. One thing stuck with her -- that Janiri was Ardat-Yakshi. She didn't know enough about them to pass any comment, she knew that they were strong of mind. If that was the case, how could her mind be so easily shut down and overpowered?

Perhaps it wasn't the right way to think about it, but she did, and she thought of Katya again, frowning. Now wasn't the time to ask Nadara either. But really, and Ardat-Yakshi among them. Maybe she was better off in the care of the Asari - but it didn't seem much like caring as it did arrest and punishment.

"Oh. I'm sorry. That message I got must have been from another Nadara." Zenn stated in a very offhanded and sarcastic tone. He then leaned in closer, placing both hands on the table as he slowly stood from his seat. He continued to maintain eye contact as his tone shifted to a more serious one. "And I'm sure that Nadara double checked with her bosses that her actions were sanctioned with the actual ruling authority in the area. Otherwise something as extreme as say, extraditing a comatose kidnapping victim from a medical facility in a place the Asari have no jurisdiction, could look be really bad for relations between humans and Asari. I know a good solider follows orders, but it would just be careless to go along with something like that, right?"

Nadara did not know where all this hostility was coming from. She hadn’t done anything wrong. Ok, sure, she in fact hadn’t double checked with Charles before moving forward, but her mother had gotten all the appropriate confirmations and approvals. The sign off from SRN had been included in the documents she’d shown the hospital before being granted custody over Janiri, after all.

“Whoa there. Things were approved by the SRN. Asari High Command doesn’t just go around doing as they please. Everyone that needed to have been made aware were. You have to understand, this was a grave matter that required haste.”

"What the fuck?" Kysar said aloud as he read the first line of Nadara's message from his cosy little cot. Unlike most of his colleagues, the Turian capitalised on every opportunity he could to sleep in. Spirits knew he had had a lifetime without a goods night rest, so he felt he deserved it. Constantly.

"WHAT THE ACTUAL FUCK?!" His yell could be heard all the way down the end of the corridor as Kysar came to the end of the message. Rage, pure and blind, enveloped him. Vaulting from the bed, he hit the floor running.

Charging through the corridors, the Turian barreled through anyone who wasn't fast enough to get out of the way. There was no thought of what he was going to do when he got there but there he was going.

Bursting through the doors of the hospital he saw the empty bed next to Katya. Roaring, he grabbed the first nurse in reach by the scruff of her scrubs, hoisting her off her feet. "Where is she?!"

Fear gripped the poor orderly as she scrounged around for answers. "The... they took her in the early hours of..."

"NO!" He yelled, unable to stop himself. "The Asari, the one who took her, where is she?!"


Kysar dropped the nurse without a second thought, marching back towards the hall.


Venator kicked the swinging door of the mess open with such force the hinges loosened from the wall. The Turian didn't even feel himself reach for his sidearm but there he was, pointing it towards Nadara.

"What the fuck have you done Asari?!"

Zenn was stunned. Was she telling the truth? The SRN had approved this? When did they plan on sharing that news with them? And the Alliance. We're they okay just handing over someone that could be a potential witness or at least evidence in convicting Weisman? His head was swarming with questions, but he wouldn't have time to formulate any follow up. His fixed gaze was immediately pulled from Nadara as Kysar practically broke the doors down as he entered, and pulled a gun on Nadara. This is what he was afraid of.

Instinctively, Zenn drew his own pistol and pointed at the turian while simultaneously positioning himself between Kysar and Nadara.

"Put it away, Kysar!" Zenn commanded. "We all want answers but nobody needs to get hurt for them."

"Hurt?" Kysar scoffed as the gun in his hand held steady. "Oh it's already too late for that. She took our severely injured comrade out of the only place that could help her." The Turian looked beyond Zenn towards Nadara. "Isn't that right Asari? Your people are going to stuff her in some hole and just wait for her to waste away. I've seen enough of what you do to your enemies." Spitting on the floor he refused to back down.

Nadara barely finished her statement in response to Zenn when her least favorite member of their group charged in, pistol pointed. Yet another confirmation I should’ve left him in Cerro, she thought to herself, disgusted by the man’s actions. Before she could react, Zenn pulled out his own gun and the two stood there, glaring at each other. Now him, I knew I liked.

Others in the mess hall had raised an eyebrow at the exchange between Nadara and Solveig, even started listening in with curiosity when Zenn approached, but immediately feigned disinterest as Kysar hurled toward the group. When weapons were drawn, the room cleared out quickly. No one wanted to be involved. Perhaps a few might have even called for security.

Nadara was shocked. Was there something in the water in this place? The air? Everyone seemed to be going nuts.

“First of all, Turian,” she spat, mimicking his vocabulary. “I’m the only reason you’re even standing here now. Show some respect and get that gun out of my face. You’re putting all of us in danger and making a spectacle.” She gestured around the empty room for emphasis. “Secondly, what I’ve done is protect the lives of everyone in Janiri’s radius should she regain consciousness, as well as ensure that her own safety is accounted for.” In all honesty, Nadara wasn’t sure what would become of Janiri. Would they imprison her, and continue treatment under Asari care? They were the best minds in the galaxy after all, where better to find a cure for whatever was ailing her? Or might they just… well, better not dwell on that. One thing Nadara knew for certain, Ardat Yakshi were safer under the watchful eye of Asari High Command, where they could ensure no melding took place.

There was a sharp clattering from behind Kysar, at the door. Amina stood just outside the dilapidated entrance, frozen in place, as she stared at the scene before her. At her feet was a pile of shattered glass, a deep brown liquid spattered across the tiles. Amina’s eyes darted around at the scene before her, her arm half raised as she about to check the second message of the day she had received only walk into see half the team drawing their weapons on each other.

"You better put those guns down and cool off, both of you," Sol said, moving from the wall to come as close to both as she could without standing directly in the middle. "Civilian facility, we don't want casualities of any kind. And goddamnit," she sighed, exasperated - in disbelief that she was the one providing reason, "we have goddamn fucking names."

She let her words hang in the air for a few seconds before her voice commanded out again; "Did I stucking futter?"


Zenn's eyes darted from Kysar's only for a couple brief moments. First towards Amina when she walked in and dropped her glass, then towards Sol when she moved forward and practically ordered them to put their guns down. Each time he quickly switched his gaze back to the turian. Sol was right, though. They needed to disengage if there was any hope of diffusing the tension.

Zenn gave Kysar a quick nod, and slowly took his finger off the trigger while lowered his weapon.

"I seem to be a bit late to the Invictus standoff..."

Zenobia appears almost out of nowhere on the scene, moving to stand where Nadara and Kysar could both see her, completely unarmed but the biotic energy flickering behind her eyes.

"But you're not going to accomplish anything now. She did what she had to do. Now let's all cool down and stop with the chest thumping."

This seems...very uncharacteristic for Zenobia, who you'd think would be the one brandishing guns at Nadara alongside Kysar.

“Protect lives?! Spirits you are just so full of yourself. Do you have any idea what this girl did the first day of us landing in that bullshit desert? She got off the ship and immediately got to work helping the locals. I mean shit,” Kysar thought back, almost smiling at the thought. “She could barely hold a gun let alone fire one. Janiri couldn’t hurt a fly if she tried.”

She wanted to be a farmer.

The Turian looked around, the scene was a mess, anyone who wasn’t a part of the team had split save a few civilians hiding in the corner. Sol was right, in her own awkward way of course, there had been too much innocent blood shed already.

“If you had bothered for one moment to think of someone else, maybe you would’ve found that out.” The gun lowered. “Where does shit like this end Nadara? What if your precious high command asks for Sol next or Zenn? I’ll tell you where it ends for me, right here. You do anything to anyone else and you’ll find out why they call me Venator.”

Holstering his pistol, Kysar turned to the group. “Do any of you know what it’s like to be branded as an outcast from birth? What it’s like being locked away in a prison? Think about that before you’re so quick to defends someone’s bullshit ‘duty’.” The Turian turned and headed towards the door.

“There better be some people to kill in space Zenn!” He said as he left.

Zenobia took a deep breath, muttering it more to herself then to anyone there, least of all Kysar.

"Yeah. Yeah I do." She pinched the bridge of her nose, visibly frustrated.

“What is going on?” Amina blurted, stepping over the mess she had made. Resisting the urge to reach and place a hand on the handle of her pistol as she walked towards the others.

Zenn holstered his gun when Zenobia stepped in. Between her and Solveig, it was pretty clear he had to fear a pummeling more than getting shot. He remained silent as Kysar spoke, not wanting to even risk starting up another showdown. Once the turian had said his piece and left, Zenn let out a deep sigh. That could have ended horribly. At least now no one was leaving with any physical wounds, but there was plenty of emotion damage to go around.

Amina finally entered the room and asked what was going on. Zenn simply shook his head and said, "Just ask Nadara. Apparently she's the only one informed here..."

Zenn stood there for another moment. Completely still and quiet. Kysar’s words still echoing in his mind.

"He's not wrong, Nadara." Zenn said somberly as he too made his exit. Though he did not turn back to even look at the asari. "Everyone has their allegiances, and you've shown us where yours lie..."

Zenobia can't quite believe the side she's found herself on this time, and a part of her isn't exactly happy about it. Since when was nuance HER thing?

Amina raised an eyebrow as the Quarian walked past her. She glanced back in the direction of Nadara and the others. Hmm…

Amina brought up her omni-tool and took a look at the most recent message which sent to her by Nadara. So that is what is going on. Amina had personally handed over or allowed Janiri, the Asari rescued back in Cuba, to be taken by the Asari High Command.

An Ardat Yakshi… Amina had heard of the Ardat Yakshi though she on the whole knew little of them. In crude, common terms they were like some kind of Asari succubus, when they “melded” with others it caused severe neurological shock or something to that effect - killing the victim.

And Janiri was part of Kysar and Solveig’s original team. Well, this is certainly problematic.

Amina did not know what to say really. She closed her omni-tool and stepped in a little closer as her mind raced. She still did hand a member of SRN over without even notifying the rest of us beforehand. Did Saracino know at the least? Amina knew enough that the Asari took these Ardat Yakshi very serious and they were seen as a capital threat among their people. Perhaps Saracino did not wish to have an incident with the Asari. Then again to just hand over a member of his organization like that… If he did know. Did Nadara sneak her out of here or did she have SRN resources help? …Did she really think that sending that abrupt, sudden message like that would ease this through?

On one hand Nadara should have reached out to everyone else, or at least Solveig and Kysar. But at the same time Nadara was just following orders, and maybe she or Asari command wanted to keep this quiet? Obviously not the latter since Nadara did send that short little message just earlier.

Nadara sat back down at the table, her gamepad lay forgotten on the table before her, where an image of her character lay dead flashing on the screen, likely sniped after she put the headset down when Solveig first arrived. That would be the last time those Batarians would allow her to join their team. It seemed like they weren’t the only ones who would be satisfied with removing Nadara as a member…

She was in a state of shock as she massaged her temple, mentally reviewing the interactions that had just taken place. She hadn’t expected anyone to have such a reactionary response to her actions, much less question her loyalty, but now that it had been laid out for her, she couldn’t deny the way it appeared. This was no good. SRN had proven to be a good decision for her, and she needed it to work out, terrible relations with her teammates would simply not do. Unpopular team members were rarely promoted, and Nadara definitely didn’t want the offer from Charles pulled out from under her. Not to mention, she would rather avoid awkwardness from hurt feelings in future assigned missions.

Her eyes slid upwards to Amina, Zenobia, and Solveig, who surprisingly had not left with the other two. She knew Solveig didn’t approve of her actions, that Zenobia at least seemed to understand she had done what she needed to do, but Nadara had no clue what was going on in Amina’s mind. The woman already seemed to be distrustful of ‘aliens’, Goddess knows what she thinks now.

“I think this is all a horrible misunderstanding,” she said, not sure where to start. “I don’t know how much you all know of Ardat Yakshi, but they are extremely dangerous and I needed to act quickly.” Nadara made eye contact with Solveig. “I would never simply deliver you or any others on our team to Asari High Command without question, even if they would never demand such a thing. I hope you know that.” Aside from the fact that Asari had no reason to apprehend other species aside from criminal activity or involvement, and that apprehending Ardat Yakshi was an immense obligation, Nadara hadn’t considered Janiri to be part of their team. In fact, she hadn’t considered that she was part of a team at all until just now. She needed to fix this.

As Nadara stood once more to further explain herself, two armed mechs with weapons drawn approached along with a human in SRN uniform, whose own hand was resting on his holstered pistol. “I received reports of guns being drawn in the mess hall.” He looked around at the empty room and approached the four women.

Solveig gave something of a reassuring shrug in Nadara's direction. The whole situation was a mess and it was likely the team needed to break off to cool down. She was at least glad Kysar would be accompanying her to Zenn's mission. It would give him enough space. The tension between the Turian and Quarian would hopefully be relieved too.

Turning to the mechs and the human, Solveig shrugged again. "Issue is resolved, no guns now."

The woman began on her way to the door, but didn't leave before grabbing a handful of napkins to wipe up the liquid on the floor and collect some of the sharp bits and pieces.

The man who must have been an SRN security narrowed his eyes but motioned for his mechs to lower their weapons.

“Hm. Well, I’ll have to report this anyway. Please try to refrain from unholstering your hand weapons in the future.” With a final glance around the room, the man and the two mechs headed out, awkwardly pausing as he reached Solveig. “Ah, thank you…” then he continued in a louder tone so the others could overhear, “You will of course, be charged for the repair costs for the door.” After clearing his throat, the man exited with his mechs a few steps behind him.

“Not me.” Amina blurted very loudly. I will be damned if I am paying someone else’s repair bill.

Amina looked at Nadara and then to Zenobia, then back to Nadara. Amina felt something tugging at her, she was not sure why or even what it was but something was nagging at her to speak to Nadara. To say something.

“You…” Amina started, shuffling forward, eyes downcast for a second.

“…you faced a tough decision,” Amina forced out, “I know what that’s like.”

“But… you should have consulted everyone beforehand. Or at least Solveig and the Turian. I mean… that was their teammate you had carried away. Asari succubus or not.”

“I appreciate the sentiment.” Nadara knew Amina was trying to offer consolation, even if her version of it was a bit.. skewed. “Perhaps I should have discussed it with Solveig and Kysar,” she said, stressing the Turian’s name out of principle. Solveig had been right, they all had names, and if Nadara wanted to make any headway towards fixing what she’d done, she needed to learn to use them. They were all very different, with even more varying levels of fashion. Accepting these disparities might be difficult, but she would try.

“And it’s pronounced Ardat Yakshi,” she added, unable to prevent the annoyance from being corrected. “Regardless, I appreciate your support in this.” She looked from Amina to Zenobia. “Both of you. If I can even call it that.” Nadara sighed. “I wonder if there might not be something I can do to remedy the situation.” She paused, considering for a moment before continuing, “If… if I need it, would I be able to count on your assistance?” This was a first for her. Of course, she’d worked as part of a unit before, particularly when she was in the Asari Military, but never had she felt any need to request assistance outside of assigned missions.

“Could you maybe get her… back?” Amina asked. She let her query hang in the air for a minute. Amina found herself pondering in the silence. These Ardat Yakshi were supposed to be highly dangerous, but only if they melded with you as Amina remembered. Even if that were wrong SRN obviously trusted Janiri enough to bring her on, even if they did not know of her identity, and Kysar and Solveig seemed to really hold her to close importance. Convincing the Asari to release Janiri would be no easy feat but it was not impossible, was it?

"Next to impossible, if half of what I've heard about these Night Demons are true."

“Could you talk to your superiors? Make an appeal to Saracino? Did he know about this, by the way?”

Nadara blinked. This was nothing like what she was considering. She’d thought an “I’m sorry” cake or some fresh outfits from Sartorial Nexus for the three who’d departed might make her sentiments clear. Kysar for one, really needed it. An updated appearance might just make up for his sour attitude. But honestly, Amina could do with a new outfit as well, and if Nadara was going to buy all four new outfits, she couldn’t very well leave Zenobia out of it.

Get her back? That couldn’t be possible. And even if it was, Nadara would have to assume full responsibility should Janiri ever … slip up. Was she willing to take that kind of weight on? His tone and demeanor were atrocious, but the way Kysar spoke of Janiri made it seem like she hadn’t caused any trouble, that she had an honest yearning to help others. Nadara wondered how many lives this ‘demure’ Ardat Yakshi had taken.

“I didn’t speak with Charles directly,” she responded. “But I assume my— ah, Asari High Command did, since I was forwarded all the appropriate documents. I sent him an email notifying him of the completion of the mission. I haven’t checked for a response since, but it hasn’t been that long.

As for my superiors… I don’t know. That is quite a large request. Never, at least as far as I am aware, has an Ardat Yakshi ever been released to the public. They pose far too much danger, and may cause interspecies disputes which Asari would rather avoid.”

I would not be surprised if Saracino was never the wiser. That email she sent him may very well be as big a shock for Saracino as her message was to the whole team. She may very well have just cost herself her place in SRN…

But why did Amina really care? Nadara was a valuable team member of course and it was only natural not to want to lose someone so useful, so skilled. But Amina also felt a sort of angst, like she worried about Saracino or the others booting Nadara right out of the front door. And why?

Because you sympathize that much with her, Amina realized, she may be an alien, and a thick-headed one oft enough, but she also was given an assignment and she did as was expected of her by her longtime superiors. You’ve always respected those that could do the hard things, even if oblivious to it in some cases. Amina wondered if she had not left the Alliance and Cerberus behind what she might do in a time like this, who would she turn on or mislead? Amina had followed a lot of orders in the past decade, some a lot harder than others, most of the tougher ones during her time with Cerberus. But when orders were given by your superiors you were to carry them out. That is just how it went.

You stopped following orders for both the Alliance and Cerberus in time. Because they were stupid orders. Senseless. Bad ones. And maybe Nadara should not have followed on this one.

Amina’s mouth opened but she struggled to even make a sound. She just stood there, eyes glazed and no words crossing her lips.

"In a vacuum I wouldn't be happy about this, and I get where Kysar's coming from, but...well, I know how hardcore the Ardat-Yakshi can get. And I know how hardcore the Asari can get about keeping them secret. If I were them, I'd be even more desperate to keep this from getting out now." She sighs. "Back in Eclipse, I knew a gal who was in the Asari Navy, or whatever you guys called it. Had an incident where a couple of Ardat-Yakshi got into a shuttle and escaped from wherever they were being kept. She quit the day after because her superiors ordered a fucking bombing run on the city to stop them from escaping the planet."

“Asari Military,” Nadara corrected, after nodding solemnly at Zenobia’s recollection. It wasn’t uncommon for drastic measures to be taken when it came to Ardat Yakshi. “Best I can do is look into this and see what I can find,” she said finally. “But I wouldn’t hold my breath for any Hail Marys.” She grabbed the gamepad from the table along with her headset. So much for time off…

With a nod to Amina and Zenobia, Nadara headed out of the mess hall, which had started to slowly repopulate. Some were still commenting on the dispute, while others pointed openly between the doors and the women who still remained. Now that no weapons were drawn, they found their courage, it seemed.

From the mess hall, Nadara reached her cramped assigned quarters. Her first thought had been that she needed a place to think away from the ever present and curious eyes of SRN operatives that swarmed the facility like cockroaches. It was only after closing the door behind her that she remembered the tight space and lack of typical room adornments that she had normally been accustomed to. Before she could decide on another place to seclude herself, a priority message from the SRN president came through.

Must be his response to my message earlier, she thought, opening the message on her omni-tool.

As Nadara read the message, she’d drifted over to her cot absentmindedly and sat, mouth agape as she realized the level of sentiment her team had expected from her, as opposed to the detached message she’d sent earlier. Well, how was she to know the others considered Janiri part of their team? Upon finishing the message, Nadara found herself on the cot and decided to simply stay put. Something was itching at the back of her mind that made this whole story with Janiri seem strange, and she didn’t want to have to look for a more comfortable space before looking into it.

From how Kysar had spoken of her, and from her involvement in the SRN, it didn’t seem as though she had quite gotten to the point of ‘addiction’ that her mother had made seem as certainty among Ardat Yakshi. Of course, there were a large quantity who became prolific in the number of victims whose lives they stole, but there were also many more who resided together in abstinence and had never taken a life. They remained isolated and under observation, of course, to prevent any inclinations that might stem from interactions with others, but they were otherwise harmless.

Nadara used her mother’s credentials to enter into Asari Military encrypted extranet. She’d been quite young when she’d stolen the password and a brief tryst with a Salarian, who was quite the wiz at computer systems, allowed her to easily bypass the biometric verification requirements. The relationship had ended, but the benefits she had earned from them were still useful. In no time, she was able to pull Janiri’s file.

The first thing Nadara noticed was that there were no recorded deaths, which typically were listed at the very top of an Ardat Yakshi’s file, denoting how dangerous they were. Further digging into her medical files—Nadara couldn’t make heads or tails of the raw data, but thankfully there were copious memos included at each pertinent section—revealed that Janiri barely even qualified as an Ardat Yakshi in the first place. Nadara was unfamiliar with the intricate details of the genetic condition, but based on the notes she found, Janiri was not nearly as dangerous as she had been made out to be.

Nadara frowned. Why did Lidanya make it seem like she was such an important target if she’d never even taken a life? And then go so far as to come to Earth from her precious Citadel to personally collect her? Things just weren’t lining up.

The mystery was deepening. There was no use in continuing with these burning questions when she could simply reach out to Lidanya directly. Nadara sighed heavily, dreading direct contact with her mother (and for the third time today!), but her desire to get to the truth was now larger than her disdain.

Why was Janiri such an important asset?

This is hardly of any concern to you, Nadara. You’re no longer even associated with the military.

Considering I’m the reason you even have her right now, I deserve some answers.
Why is she so valuable to you, and what are your intentions with her?

Alright. Perhaps your interest in Asari affairs is a good indication.
Janiri is valuable due to the vast wealth of information we can gain from her unique genetic make-up.
As a sedated and easily managed subject, the wealth of information we can gain from research and testing might mean invaluable breakthroughs for the Ardat Yakshi condition.

“Sedated… subject”
You never intend to get her back to consciousness, do you?
Was your agreement with the SRN all a lie?

Don’t be so crass, Nadara.
Of course we will uphold our end of the bargain to President Saracino.
While we conduct our own research, which will take priority over whatever this current condition is she’s found herself in, we will also share whatever we discover that’s pertinent.

Sure. I can read through the lines here perfectly well.
Answer me this. What if she’s an ‘unviable subject’ for your experiments?

As with any failed attempt, the experiment will be terminated.

Nadara closed out of the messaging system on her omni-tool in disgust. She was familiar enough with her mother’s way of speaking to understand that Janiri’s life was in danger. That she was going to be used as nothing more than a pumping heart so Asari researchers could extract whatever valuable information they could from her, and then toss her aside when they were finished. All because she was an Ardat Yakshi—barely even one at that. Part of Nadara understood the necessity to undergo research. If there was a way to offer novel treatment for this uncurable condition, everything would change. Asari that had been kept isolated for hundreds upon hundreds of years, would be able to walk free. But was the life of one innocent Asari worth all that?

This was much too dense for Nadara, especially so early in the day. A quick look at the time and she realized she’d be missing lunch today. Not that the slop they served in the mess hall was anything near what a meal should actually be, anyway.

Nadara didn’t need to answer the difficult questions. In truth, she didn’t want to—leave the thinking to the academics. All she knew, all she had to know, was that this changed everything about her outlook from this morning. She thought she was capturing a murderer, someone who had taken lives and would continue to take lives indiscriminately as every escaped Ardat Yakshi did, she thought she was ensuring that her people’s reputation would be saved, that further unnecessary murder would be prevented. Instead, all she did was deliver her sim’re, an innocent Asari, a team member (out of commission, but still), to a life of unending experiments and medical tests. Essentially no life at all.

If the others knew this…

Nadara stood, pulling on her gear before she’d fully considered the implications of her actions. First, she sent one final message to Lidanya.

When will you be returning to the Citadel?

This evening, why?

Good. There’s still time.

Next, Nadara sent a message to Amina and Zenobia, to which she didn’t bother waiting for a response before darting out of her room to secure transportation.

Gear up and meet me at the entrance.
We’re going to get Janiri back.
Nadara V’lanis


April 10

By the time the team returned to the hotel after debriefing with Captain Riley, it was past midday, with numerous hotel guests already lounging by the poolside and younger guests gleefully splashing in the cool water, all of which Nadara eyed longingly.

While enjoying the resort amenities was certainty still high on her list, the current top priority was a much-needed shower, followed by undisturbed sleep. Ever since the investigation in Cerro the previous evening, (Goddess, was that only last night? It seems to have been days ago.) everything happened one thing after the other in dizzying rapid fire. Focused on the mission at hand, Nadara had no chance to feel the aftereffects, but now that the adrenaline was wearing off, exhaustion was setting in quickly. Not to mention, her shoulder stung. She was told it would heal in a few days’ time and given a sling, which she wore dutifully until the moment the attending medic walked out of the room—it was simply not flattering. The hospital doctors claimed she suffered nothing over and above a flesh wound, which was surprising given the strength behind the warp ammo Arminstan Banes had used. The man must be an extremely powerful biotic. Nadara made a mental note to request a few medi-gel packets from the hotel staff. She had some in her room, of course, but preferred to leave her stock for emergencies.

As she made a beeline for the elevators after greeting Liz at the courtyard, who welcomed everyone back with a smile, Nadara noticed some of her teammates heading toward the cigar lounge where they had first met each other. Curious, she followed suit and was surprised to encounter Outcast, unmasked at last, though mostly still covered by a hood. She finally understood his earlier reluctance to remove his helmet. His features were a distorted series of scars which, along with his eyes, had an eerie glow typical of implants. His visage was an unsightly mess, and Nadara half wished he would wear the helmet once more. Even the sound of his voice, now unfiltered by the headgear, was rough and grating to the senses.

He introduced himself as Randall Enzo and provided background information on himself and Banes. The details he offered answering Nadara’s questions about the strength behind the latter’s biotic abilities. When he finished his initial remarks and asked if they had any questions, Nadara had many. Namely, how could they be sure he was truly on their side, and not just playing double agent? How much interaction had he had with Banes? And why did he insist on wearing such a terrible ensemble? Surely, anyone with eyes knew how horribly unbecoming the long, hooded coat he wore was. She could understand the hood, there was a definite need for it, but there were more appealing options than the one he chose. Her eyes drifted over to Amina, and she wondered if they’d purchased their coats from the same vendor.

Before she had a chance to raise any of these questions, Zenn spoke up. “Well I still don't understand the solo act. If you and the SRN were already sharing intel what was the point of keeping us out of the loop? Could have saved us a trip if we had known you were already taking care of things in Cerro. Nadara could have gone to Thul's party." Nadara’s affinity for the Quarian increased drastically at this comment.

"Cerro?" Enzo shrugged. "Didn't even know you were in the city until our...impromptu meeting.

If you're asking for an apology, then fine. Sorry Sunset missed her party, and sorry I tossed you."
Enzo looked back to Ranger. "On the bright side, you found a new friend."

“Acceptance of your apology is pending,” she said, finally finding her voice. More pressing than any of her initial questions, was the one she ended up asking. “Why were you AWOL during the raid? You did practically nothing—and let Banes escape.” Her arms were folded, her eyes narrowed, and her tone accusatory. Nadara would normally not have been so confrontational during an interaction as benign as this, particularly when being (fully) acquainted with someone, but the circumstances were far from normal. She was tired, wounded, dirty, and simply didn’t yet trust the man. Even so, she realized she could have left that last jab out of it.

"If you recall, it was your plan to have me positioned near dragon's teeth. And it was also your call to have me on standby the entire raid." Enzo replied nonchalantly. "Don't accept my apology; accept your own absentmindedness.

Make no mistake, there's no one else in the galaxy wanting to catch Banes more."
Enzo's voice suddenly tensed up. "I chased him around for thirty minutes, nearly crashed a dozen times before losing sight of him.

See for yourself."
Enzo handed the datapad to Nadara. On it were dash cam recordings from the jeep. Bane's motorcycle was clearly visible, zipping between traffic and through narrow streets, going twice the speed limit.

“Excuse me - absent mindedness? You were asked to set up the explosives and then join the main assault team. We didn’t know you could set them up remotely, but if you could do that from the beginning, the fact you didn’t immediately join us upon setting up the grenades is suspicious. Nothing absentminded about my questioning.” Nadara glanced at the datapad briefly, but didn’t care to watch too closely. “I have no doubt you chased Banes. This doesn’t dismiss my claim that you let him get away.

As for nearly crashing—”
Nadara paused for effect, motioning to the others around them. “We all put our lives on the line today. It’s only right you did too after leaving us high and dry in the firefight.”

"Glad you got that out of your system." Enzo leaned back in the sofa. "Now, anyone else having anything meaningful to say?"

The audacity of this man! He was more infuriating than Kysar. Nadara strained to remain composed, her voice maintaining steady, though she couldn’t keep the ice from her tone. “You’re avoiding my question about your actions during the raid. It’s pointless to ask if we have any questions if you won’t answer them.” She turned away from him. “I’m out. This is going nowhere.” Hopefully, the others would have better luck getting answers out of him, and they could fill her in on the rest of the conversation later.

For now, she needed to shower. Nadara wanted nothing more than to wash away the scum from Cerro, the disturbing smells from the meat plant, and the vexing memory of Outcast from her mind.

When she arrived in her room, she was pleased to find that housekeeping had indeed cleaned the room, changed the sheets, and left behind a few pieces of chocolate to apologize for the inconvenience to one of their valued customers. They had however, left the items from Kaya untouched. Images of the Salarian’s body who had previously resided in this room sprang in Nadara’s mind, unbidden, and she shivered at the recollection of what she and other victims of Banes’ horrendous objectives had suffered. On the desk were a pile of drawings that Nadara had initially ruffled through without care. Now, she reviewed them again, more delicately. Among various animals, Nadara found one with a striking resemblance to Ranger. She separated that one from the pile and arranged the others neatly once more, deciding to present them to Liz for distribution as she saw fit. As for Ranger’s drawing, perhaps Zenn might appreciate such a thing.

After peeling off her suit and the grimy underclothes she had worn to the meat plant, Nadara took a long and luxurious shower, taking pleasure in all of the lotions, soaps, perfumes, shampoos, and any additional toiletries the Mélia Resort had to offer, before drawing a bath and soaking in the hot water until her skin pruned.

Wrapped in a thick, plush towel, she sank into the soft bed. Now, this was what she deserved. Not crawling through unknown liquids, saving ungrateful Turians, and then being forced to lead a bunch of unruly excuses for teammates in a high stakes raid.

The thrill of battle had been gratifying, though. Nadara supposed she’d quite missed the action, despite the drawbacks of participating in such an organization as the SRN entailed.

When she opened her eyes to set the controls to dim the lights and lower blackout curtains, she realized something was missing from her room. Her purchases from the day before had yet to be delivered! Surely, they would be waiting downstairs and the resort staff had simply demonstrated a complete lack of client relations by failing to deliver them. Yawning, Nadara decided she would speak with management once she woke up. As far as she was aware, the next few days were unassigned, and she would have all the time in the world to reprimand those responsible, as well as finally enjoy her time as she’d intended all along. Perhaps Liz would be up for another party in the evening? Their celebrations had been cut short after all, and the woman seemed to know how to enjoy a drink. With pleasant thoughts of night clubs with thumping beats and swaying hips, Nadara fell asleep.

April 13

The flight into Svalbard was less than desirable. The shuttle was only able to perform slightly better than stalling throughout the entirety of the journey due to Sevipia’s steady piloting skills. As it was, it did stall a few times, particularly during the worst of the turbulence, which itself seemed never ending. Nadara couldn’t believe the SRN hadn’t provided better maintenance on their aircraft during the leisure days in Havana. However were they to be expected to perform at any level of competence if their equipment was horribly subpar? The crowning glory was when Ranger’s canine sensibilities were unable to handle the constant rocking of the ship, and the animal proceeded to vomit profusely. It hadn’t been until then that Nadara realized she could have lived with all of the other inflight issues just fine without also dealing with the disturbing sights and smells that came from the contents of the dog’s stomach. Thankfully, the event didn’t inspire any of her other teammates to react similarly, and by the time they were tucked together in Charles’ land vehicle, Nadara didn’t even notice the space was even more cramped than before. She was simply grateful to breathe air that wasn’t laced with regurgitated dog food.

In truth, Nadara had been quite excited to experience what Svalbard had to offer. Yes, the cold temperatures meant she would need to take extra precautions with her wardrobe, but that was easily corrected with some astute shopping on the extranet before departing from Cuba. Despite the unforeseen consequences of defeating the Reapers leading to devastating repercussions relating to VIs and the Geth, which ultimately splintered even to communications and the extranet, the prioritization of communication ensured that message boards, commerce, and banking were back online in no time. The correct dosage of shopping therapy would ensure she was able to thoroughly enjoy the snow-covered European Archipelago.

Nadara had established a copious amount of credit with Sartorial Nexus, known throughout the galaxy for their high fashion, and was able to secure a delivery to the SRN base prior to her arrival. Sartorial Nexus was the premier destination for fashion-forward individuals seeking unique and high-quality clothing options. Aside from personalized styling services, they offered exquisite tailoring, interstellar fashion trends, and exclusive designer collaborations. Nadara was particularly excited for one collection she purchased by Vara Sang, a Turian fashion designer known for her avant-garde creations and innovative use of bioluminescent fabrics. I only hope I don’t run into any further delivery issues… she thought, recalling the difficulty she had with the Mélia Resort.

Shaking her head free of the memory, Nadara left that to the past. They were in a winter wonderland now. Amazingly, the SRN was able to locate yet another idyllic setting untouched by the war. More and more, it was confirmed that joining this organization had been the right move for her. Before leaving Cuba, Nadara had secured an initial contract agreement for exclusive rights to partnership with the resort once her company was established. With an island getaway confirmed, she could turn her sights toward a winter package. Snow sports, hot springs, fine dining, and large windows to enjoy the views from beside the warmth of a fireplace. Surely, Nadara would be able to locate all of these things in the untouched snow country.

Her dreams were momentarily dashed when they arrived at the SRN base in Longyearbyen, where the seed vault Charles was going on about was located. Either the refugees would need to be cleared out, or she would need to pursue her venture in another city. Nadara considered all these options as their host droned on about details of a recent murder. When he deemed their next few days would be free, some of the initial spark returned to Nadara’s eyes as she considered next steps and potential day trips, that is, until Charles described what their living conditions were to be. Her face must have betrayed her thoughts because the SRN President was quick to speak up.

“I understand this leaves much to be desired, Ms. V'Lanis. Rest assured we're working on improving comfort through the creation of an SRN hospitality division. In fact, I could think of no one better to head this division than you."

“I would be honored,” she said with a wide smile after the shock wore off. “And to be quite honest, sir, I already have a number of ideas I can see the SRN implementing.” Things were just getting better and better.

Or so they seemed, until she reached the staff housing complex. At least she was met with a delivery from Sartorial Nexus sitting on her cot, along with the rest of her items.

April 14

Nadara awoke to a demanding pinging noise coming from her omni-tool that refused to be dismissed. Eyes bleary, she pulled open the message.

Nadara groaned loudly and turned on her stomach, face buried in the thin pillow the SRN staff housing was outfitted with. (I should start taking note of these things...) It’d been decades since she had left the Asari military, but of course, it should be no surprise they still tracked her location. The worst of it wasn’t even that she had been assigned the detail—Ardat Yakshi were to be taken seriously, after all, and she knew it was her duty to comply with the request—or even that the message dripped with the sarcasm and distrust that only her mother could code into her military babble. The worst of it was that the Asari contact that had been designated for pick-up was Lidanya herself. Did she not even believe Nadara capable of a simple ‘apprehend and deliver’ directive?

I’ve received confirmation that you have received and read our secure message.

Message received. You couldn’t have trusted me to deliver Janiri to anyone else, could you? Always micromanaging.

You misunderstand. This retrieval is important enough for me to personally oversee it.


I have secured transportation to Barentsburg, which should be a short trip from your current location. I will arrive in a few hours. Update me when you have secured Janiri.

Rolling her eyes, Nadara closed the message and lay on her back for a few more minutes, staring at the gray ceiling. Was everyone’s relationship with their mother as complicated as hers was with Lidanya?

She tried to soothe her own frayed nerves from the interaction with the knowledge that this would be the easiest money she ever made. Janiri was still unconscious in the hospital, and she was certain the SRN would loan her a vehicle for the delivery. Asari High Command didn't need to know those details of course and regardless, extra fees would be charged. Early wake-up call, request given during leisure day, and having to interact directly with Lidanya – this wouldn’t come cheap.

After getting dressed (Vara Sang, you’ve done it again!), Nadara made her way to the hospital where both Katya and Janiri were being observed. She showed the necessary documents to the nurses, who called the doctors to confirm before releasing Janiri into Nadara’s custody. They even allowed her to use one of their mobile gurneys. The SRN operative she spoke to about loaning a vehicle was still getting coffee and rubbing the sleep from their eyes when she approached but they gave her no difficulties. The keys were in Nadara’s hand before the mug of coffee was even a third of the way finished. Even the drive to Barentsburg was smooth, and before she knew it, the handover was completed and she was back in Longyearbyen, sitting in the mess hall where a good number of folks were still enjoying a late breakfast.

Eager to place more distance between herself and Lidanya, Nadara hadn’t even bothered to scout Barentsburg for any amenities it offered. That could be done another day. What she needed now was to shoot something. Sitting at the back of the room, she put on her virtual reality glasses and switched on the gamepad she always kept with her.
Nadara V’lanis


As the three walked down a nondescript gravel road interspersed by groups of what might be called “party goers” by some—Nadara doubted heavily whether they were truly celebrating or simply loitering about—all she could focus on was how much happier she would have been had she been able to accompany Liz to the capitol, and subsequently, the party. The heels of her ankle strap platform stilettos left small indents in the uneven ground, kicking up small pebbles that infuriatingly too often found their way inside her shoes. How was she to have known Cerro would be so… unassuming.

In an exemplary display of her stubbornness, Nadara had refused to wear a more sensible pair of shoes.

After seeing the advertisements for Bragus’ party when she arrived in Havana, she immediately sought after and purchased a lovely dress that would complement her heels perfectly. Along with her chandelier earrings and matching necklace and bangles, it would have made quite the ensemble, fitting of a socialite of her status. She was convinced it would have drawn the appropriate amount of attention from the other guests so as to establish a favorable networking milieu, but her purchases from earlier had yet to be delivered by the time they departed from the resort. She regretted giving the courier a tip in advance of the delivery. It’s so difficult to find good help these days, she thought, disappointedly.

In any case, someone recognized the potential implications of searching for a distress signal buried amidst throngs of local gangs and alluded that Nadara’s skill at mediation might be of better use among the ruffians than at an upscale party. Others agreed, and just like that, her chance at a night of revelry was squandered. Liz had seemed to be a positively congenial partner, too… at least after the few glasses of whisky they shared during the meeting.

Unable to enjoy the evening as she would have preferred, Nadara insisted on salvaging at least a modicum of the festivities and wore the stilettos. She was more than capable of engaging in combat effectively regardless of her footwear.

Grimacing, the Asari lifted her left foot for what seemed like the hundredth time to dislodge another stone. Thank the Goddess she had stood firm on hailing a taxi instead of following the Quarian’s advice and taking a bus, or worse, walking like some common street urchin. She scoffed to herself at the thought.

“Can you imagine me on a bus?” She had asked at Zenn’s initial suggestion. “The correct answer is a very definitive no,” she quickly continued. “Honestly, I’d rather die.”

Nadara offered to rent a road car to which Zenn seemed pleased—poor thing, he must not have much means—but Amina reminded them of their need to remain as nondescript as possible. There was some back and forth on whether a bus would be more inconspicuous, but Nadara refused point blank, and Cerro was too far to go on foot. They settled on taking a taxi.

“Keep your eyes peeled and stay ready.” Amina didn’t seem to be very talkative.

Restraining herself from rolling her eyes, Nadara decided the statement didn’t require a response. It was as obvious as pairing a vintage Sassicaia with truffle-infused mushroom crostini topped with shaved parmesan and a balsamic glaze. She longingly wondered what kind of hors d’oeuvres they would serve at Bragus’ soiree.

"Heads up. Just spotted someone around here using camo, but I lost visual. Could be nothing, but I have trouble believing somebody using advanced tech in the same spot we're investigating is a coincidence. If we want to avoid a potential tail or ambush I could try and track them down? But if we don't want to risk separating we can just stick together. Safety in numbers and all that. What do you two think?"

“We can handle ourselves while you go.” Nadara absently fingered the handle of her retractable blade. It was the only weapon she’d brought along, but it would be more than enough.

Nadara V’lanis


There were such precious few places that offered any semblance of life the way it was before the Reapers. In this system any way. Who knew how many other resort style spas still remained standing in the galaxy? Until the transportation issue was fixed there was no way to know. As Nadara sauntered toward the familiar hotel entrance, she realized her talents may have been better suited elsewhere. Surely, now that the war was over many would be just as curious as she was about where they could escape the reality of post-war life.

I should’ve started a review business, she thought suddenly. One of her parents would undoubtably have a ship she could use, with the promise of regular rental credit reimbursement. As it was, she’d had to hire a chartered shuttle for her journey to Cuba. Their stores had dwindled quite a bit due to the war efforts... In any case, Nadara had the connections to make this venture work, and the number of subscribers to her digital blog had started steadily increasing again recently. She would need to charge a small fee for access to this invaluable information, perhaps perform a side job or two, and the appropriate funding would be secured. People were eager to regain normalcy, and she would gladly provide what they wanted. In return, they would happily provide the credits. Complementary stays at whatever resorts were still functioning in this corner of the galaxy was a given, including unlimited access to all of their facilities and amenities. Once word got out, they would reap the benefits of sold out rooms, and in their gratitude, would offer her a free lifetime membership. The rest of her days would be spent lounging by sparkling pools with a cool beverage, laying atop a comfortable mattress as dexterous fingers and hands massaged the worries from her body, relishing the delectable offerings of five star restaurants, or offering her assessment on resort nightclubs.

All Nadara needed now was to find someone willing to locate these places so she could travel to them and begin her work. There had to be others she hadn’t heard about yet. She’d been pleasantly surprised when the SRN indicated this as their meeting point. Hmm, if they knew about this resort, perhaps they also knew of others? A contact within the SRN would be easy to acquire… As she considered who might best be suited for the role, an attendant interrupted her thoughts.

“Welcome back to the Meliá Resort, señora Nadara,” a short woman with dark hair pulled back into a tight bun greeted with a pleasant smile. She loved the way the locals pronounced her name. It had been years since she’d last been here, but she was registered in their system and had clearly been recognized by the computers when she entered the premises. “I hope you enjoyed your arrival in Havana.”

The woman held out a tray on which sat one of Nadara’s favored drinks, a smooth cocktail that included mango juice, rum, and just a hint of lime juice among other ingredients that she couldn’t be bothered to remember. She took the offered glass and gave a tentative sip before returning the smile. “Thank you, this is delicious! Havana was a welcome respite from my recent haunts, I assure you. I found a number of delightful trinkets among the various stalls that were on display today. A kind gentleman offered to have them delivered to the resort on my behalf, so please deliver them to my room once they arrive.”

The smile faltered from the woman’s lips momentarily. “That is not something commonly offered. Did you get the señor’s name?”

Nadara brought a finger to her chin as she recalled the earlier interaction. Many bags hung on either arm as she struggled to make her way through the crowded narrow streets when a handsome face approached her with the kind offer to help lighten her load. “You know, now that you mention it, I don’t think I did. I was so grateful for the assistance, I handed off my bags to him and immediately made my way here. I was hoping for a little soak before my meeting.”

Distress colored the woman’s features, and Nadara wondered if perhaps the pool had been closed for some sort of maintenance. “We will do our best to locate your purchased items, señora,” she said finally after a moment, seemingly lost for words. The poor woman, was she new? At least she didn’t contradict Nadara’s plans to delve into the cool waters.

“No need to search, I’m certain he said he would bring it directly to the front desk. Now, about that soak… I’ll have a change in my room first. Which suite have I been checked in to?”

“The SRN assigned you to a room previously occupied by your predecessor,” the woman explained with a tentative look behind the Asari. “Señora, did you also hand over your luggage to be… delivered?”

“No, no, I couldn’t take advantage of that poor man... After I gave him all of my purchases, I asked if he provided luggage delivery as well, but he said I’d given him more than enough. Besides, I’m traveling light these days.” Nadara held up the medium sized suitcase she held in her hand. “This is all I’ve brought with me for the time being.” Seemingly satisfied, the woman indicated with her arm towards the hotel and began guiding Nadara inside. “Did you say, ‘previously occupied’?” Her lip curled up at the thought. Of course, staying at a resort meant all the rooms had been occupied by others at some point, but she’d never knowingly stayed in a room of a recently deceased person. Surely, she wouldn’t be able to tell the difference.

“Yes, it’ll be right this way. Please take these elevators to the sixteenth floor.” As if on cue, the elevator doors opened. “Yours will be room 1609,” she said as Nadara stepped inside. Just before the doors closed, the woman uttered a final sentence that stunned Nadara into silence, the doors closing to her gaping mouth. “We were asked not to perform our regular cleaning services, the SRN believes there might be helpful evidence from your predecessors left behind.”

Disillusioned, Nadara drug her feet through the carpeted hallway until she stood before room 1609. She’d received information on the Salarian she would be replacing on the team. What had been his name? Unable to recall, she pulled out her datapad to check only to find an unread message notifying her that she should have been at the cigar lounge 5 minutes ago. “By the goddess, I have to stay in an unclean room previously housed by a deceased person, whose items are likely still strewn about, and now I don’t even have the option of de-stressing at the pool before this meeting!”

With one final pout to herself, she held out her hand to the door scanner, which opened with a low click. The antiseptic smell of omnigel greeted her immediately, along with the sight of what she only hoped were omnigel stains. A quick once over told her all she needed to know, the Salarian had left behind a few trinkets on the unused bed, and papers containing animal sketches, which made no sense to her. None of this would be useful for the mission. At least I’ve confirmed as much and can now ask for the cleaning to be done with a clear conscious. She gently placed her suitcase on the floor, careful for it not to come into contact with anything else, and turned away from the room, glancing into the bathroom before making her way out into the hallway again. Thankfully, aside from more omnigel packets and what appeared to be a used towel, everything seemed to be in order. Her opinion of the SRN as an organization was decreasing steadily.

What a horrible reception, she thought, pulling out a stick of bubble gum to calm herself as she made her way back downstairs to find the cigar lounge.

When she arrived, most others had already situated themselves around the woman she recognized as the SRN representative, Lizbeth, and were chatting quietly among themselves. When offered a cigar, Nadara motioned to the gum in her mouth, preventing her from partaking, though she didn’t pass up the rum. Something had to help calm her after all, the gum on its own wasn’t quite up to the challenge, and the drink from when she had arrived had been downed before she and the attendant had reached the elevators.

When the meeting officially began, it was all Nadara could do to pay attention. Her thoughts swirled with the idea of using the credits she earned from this job to begin her resort review company. Nadara’s Reviews. Nadara’s Relaxing Reviews? Nadara’s Notice of Nurturing Resorts… She would finalize the name later. Did she even need the credits from this job? From the state of things when she arrived, everything seemed mostly untouched by the war here. Perhaps this could be the base of her operations…

Her interest was finally piqued when Lizbeth mentioned Mayor Thul’s party. She’d seen advertisements for the event while exploring Havana, and had been excited to reacquaint herself with high society once more. It had been a number of years since she’d seen Bragus, it seemed like he’d done quite well for himself in his mayoral duties.

After the others gave their opinions, Nadara placed her glass of rum down and spoke up. “I’d be happy to do whatever the group decides, but I think it would be best if I accompany Liz,” her eyes swung to Lizbeth with a small smile, “I can call you, Liz, right?” Without waiting for a response, Nadara addressed the others once more in the same breath. “Well, Liz and I could attend Bragus’ party and get as much information and assistance from him as possible, oh excuse me, I mean Mayor Thul. He and I go a ways back. And I have no doubt I can help persuade doctor… the doctor, to wait a while longer while we investigate.”

A mean looking woman, Nadara had forgotten her name, snapped, “I’ll get the shuttle,” before standing as if to leave, prompting the Asari to blink in surprise. How rude…

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