Hi, everyone! I know that it took a while to get started on this, but I had stuff to do, like school, other stories, and writing my own, original book; nothing important, I know. However, I have one important thing to say. While I will describe my characters, you won't have any idea who the hell they really are unless you read my story 'Outcast Blades'. Just go onto my profile and click on it. It's not too long, only 16 chapters, but it's kind of important that you read it first, since you're going to see several characters in this and ask 'what the hell? Why is *insert name here* here?'

Aside from that, look forward to action, romance and Council-bashing, though the latter two will be later on.

Outcast Effect

Chapter 1

Assault on the Unknown

The project had all the hallmarks of the Galactic Empire. It was big, incredibly dangerous, and the credits spent on it probably could have paid for an entire fleet of Star Destroyers. To the casual observer, it looked like a massive ring of metal in space, fifty kilometers in diameter, interspersed with antennae and crackling energy.

The Imperial records had code-named the project 'The Highway'. It was a massive undertaking, requiring the very best in engineering, astrophysics and hyperspace-theory. The ring, once activated, could create an artificial wormhole to any point in the galaxy. It would make relying on established hyperspace routes obsolete, and allow whole Imperial fleets to attack anywhere almost instantly.

Unfortunately for the now-fractured Empire, it was never going to work—not because of a technical error or bad planning, but because one of the most dangerous forces in the recently-established New Republic was about to destroy it.

Had they not been in the vacuum of space, the ships of Battlegroup Maverick would have had a vengeful roar coming from their engines as they emerged from hyperspace.

Leading the charge was the flagship of the battlegroup, a captured and heavily modified Imperial II-Class Star Destroyer, the Ren's Vengeance; it was painted red, save for the black symbol of the Rebellion painted over the front third, and its hull bristled with weapons that weren't on the standard Star Destroyers.

At the Vengeance's flanks were the two graceful Mon Cal cruisers, the Tides of Change and the Ocean's Majesty, and right behind them were two Corellian Corvettes, the Bright Light and Lucky Hand, and two Missile Gunships, the Brave and the Bold.

Aboard the Vengeance, the commanding officer of both the ship and of the rest of Maverick tapped the arm of her command-chair with one slender finger. Admiral Rila M'zan was a Twi'lek, a near-human species; her skin was red, which was uncommon for her species, and her twin lekku that ran from the back of her head and down to her waist had jagged black stripes across them. Like most Twi'lek females, M'zan was incredibly attractive, with curves that she didn't even try to hide. She wore tight-fitting white pants, black boots and jacket, and a white shirt that was slightly too small on her, and seemed to strain to fit over her chest. On top of her hairless head was a peaked Imperial Navy cap, which she had taken from the Vengeance's previous Captain.

"What's the status of The Highway?" she asked her First Officer, a grizzled Rodian named Gorch.

The Rodian in question looked up at the Admiral. "Scans show that it's still powering up. We have perhaps thirty minutes before the artificial wormhole is created; once it's formed, we won't have any way to close it."

"And you're sure we can't just blast it now?" M'zan asked, her bottom lip stuck out in a pout.

Gorch sighed; after years of serving under the Admiral, he had become used to her childish nature… unless they were in combat. Then, M'zan became a fierce leader of a pack of hunters, willing to destroy anything that got between her and her chosen prey.

"No, Ma'am," Gorch said, "The ring is designed to repel just such an attack; the weapons attached to it would shred anything that got close, save for…"

"I know," M'zan interrupted, her pout still present, "Why do they always get to go in first?"

There was one weakness to The Highway: the level of energy running through it meant that not even droids could operate on the ring directly. All functions, including defense systems, were controlled by a small station about one-hundred meters in diameter. It was hanging close to the ring, and thus made simply blasting it away with the Vengeance impossible.

That had never been the plan, however. When discussing strategies, it had been decided that a small team would have to fly through the flak that the ring would throw at them. Said team would then board the control station, neutralize any opposition and then shut down the ring's defenses. Only then could Maverick destroy the ring.

M'zan, Gorch and the rest of the Vengeance's bridge crew smiled when they saw a diamond-shaped vessel, thirty meters long and its shape offset by the trio of large engines on the stern, as well as the oversized cannon on all sides, shot towards the station, nimbly dodging the turbolasers that fired at it.

It hadn't been hard to find the perfect team for the job; in M'zan's mind, there was only one team that had the skills to pull the mission off.

The Outcast Blades.

"Remind me again why we agreed to this mission!?" Commander Ryan Nimbus, founder and leader of the mercenary group called the Outcast Blades, demanded as his ship shook from another near-miss.

"Hey, you agreed to it," the Blades' engineer and pilot, Tanith Tsor, snapped, "The rest of us said it was crazy!"

"Well, why didn't I listen?" Ryan asked.

"Your exact words were 'hey, how many people can claim they blew up an artificial wormhole?'. Your exact words!"

"Remind me of this conversation later, and then call me an idiot."

"Let me get an early start on that," Tanith said, rolling her eyes, even as she deftly piloted the ship, the Desperate Measures, out of the way of an ion cannon's blast, "You are an idiot."

"Just because you turned in the assignment early does not get you extra credit."

"Do you want to sleep alone tonight?"

"I'm an idiot."

"That's what I thought."

Ryan sighed from his position in the copilot's seat and ran his hand through his short, black hair. He was a twenty-four-year-old human, with skin that was slightly pale. He was of average height, though for some reason, most of the people he knew were taller than him. His face, while handsome, had never been too memorable until a mission to the planet Naboo four years earlier, when he had lost his right eye in a battle against the Empire. That eye had been replaced with a cybernetic that glowed a soft white, while a thin, jagged scar crossed his face; it started just past his hairline, making its way down, bisecting his eyebrow, going across his eye, down his cheek and cutting across the corner of his mouth before curving slightly, so that it ended at the right corner of his chin.

Tanith was a Mirialan, a species that was practically identical to Humans, save for her green skin. On her beautiful face, under her eyes and across the bridge of her nose, was a line of black, geometric tattoos that described her life's path. Her chestnut-colored hair was tied in a braid and ended at the base of her neck. She was taller than Ryan by several inches, and seemed to radiate a beauty that she never needed to work to achieve.

She and Ryan had also been engaged for almost eight months, just before the Outcast Blades had helped destroy the shield-generator on Endor.

"We're close to the station," she said, glancing at her instruments, "Taking us in now."

"Right," Ryan said, standing up and making his way to the docking-tube, "The others should be ready by now; meet us at the tube as soon as we're docked."

"Got it," Tanith said, then pointed to her right, "Don't forget your helmet."

"Like I ever would," Ryan said, grabbing said piece of armor and putting it on his head.

Like the rest of his armor, his helmet was made of Mandalorian iron, or beskar, and was nearly indestructible, save for the spaces between the arms and torso, and the back of the knees, which were made of a durable mesh, which had been strengthened with lines of durasteel. Ryan's armor had been painted matte-black, with dulled silver on the knees, elbows and shoulder-plates. A white, stylized human skull had been painted on the front of the helmet, the triangular visor replacing the eyes and nose. Over his armor, Ryan wore a brown, sleeveless coat that ended at his knees.

It wasn't just his armor that was impressive; Ryan also had a small armory attached to him. Mag-locked to his right thigh was a stockless, square-barreled blaster carbine; holstered on his left hip was a heavy blaster pistol. Strapped to his chest was a beskar dagger, while a barbed beskad, a saber made of Mandalorian iron, was sheathed over his back. On top of that, he had mini-rockets, a hidden blade, a flamethrower and several other pieces of gear built into his armor.

Ryan made his way to the middle of the ship, where he found the other three members of the Outcast Blades waiting for him.

First was the twenty-year-old Wek Vaas; a few inches shorter than Ryan, he was a blue-skinned Nautolan, a humanoid race with large, black eyes and a mass of tentacles that came down to his lower back. He had the same style of armor as Ryan, though only the Commander wore a coat, and Wek had removed his shoulder-plates, in order to give himself more maneuverability. Due to his head, he was unable to wear a helmet, but had fashioned a mask that covered his mouth and nose, while a green, holographic visor was mounted over his right eye.

His armor was painted in a camouflage-pattern of grays, browns, greens and black. He, like the other Blades, had most of the same weapon in his armor as Ryan did, save for a few features that were unique to the Commander. He also had a beskar dagger and a blaster pistol, but his unique weapon was the sniper rifle in his hands; it was collapsible, and could switch between a real sniper rifle and a carbine. In addition, it had two fire modes: one was a semi-automatic, medium-powered mode that could easily defeat most infantry, while the second could fire a single beam of intense power, strong enough to kill light vehicles.

He was more than just a sniper, however; Wek was a technological savant and expert slicer, able to understand most forms of technology and had yet to find information he couldn't get out of a computer. In fact, it was Wek who had discovered the data on The Highway; during the Battle of Endor, he had sliced into several top-secret Imperial files, one of which had contained information on their current target.

The next member of the Blades was Dirk Bitterman, who preferred to be called Bitters. Bitters was a giant of a Human, his armor only barely fitting his muscular form. Though almost forty years old, the medic's dark skin showed no sign of age, seemingly stuck looking like a thirty-year-old. His shaved head had a few lines of circuitry, while his armor, painted copper with a single silver stripe going vertically down each arm and leg, the center of his chest-plate and helmet. Like all the Blades, he had a beskar dagger; unlike the others, however, he had two blaster pistols, instead of one, and he tended to use both at the same time. On his back was a monstrous vibrosword that had a single, jagged edge; Bitters called it 'Ol' Chopper', and the weapon certainly lived up to the name.

Despite his warrior-like appearance, Bitters was actually the team's medic, and had earned a degree in medicine on his homeworld of Corellia. The only problem was that he was a borderline sociopath, and he used his expert knowledge of anatomy to turn most enemies into so many pieces of meat.

Checking her weapons one more time was S3-R4, otherwise known as Sera, the heavy-weapons specialist. Though the smallest of the Blades, she had the largest weapon, a cannon that was over a meter long and connected to a backpack that contained explosives and doubled as a power-pack for her weapon, all via a thick cord that was attached to the weapon's back. She also had a beskar dagger and a blaster pistol, though she rarely used them. Her armor was dark-red, with broad, black stripes that went down the arms.

While Sera appeared to be a very cold Human to outsiders, those who knew her knew the truth: Sera was a droid that had been built to act as Human as possible, down to having pale, artificial skin and muscles for facial expressions. Over the last few years, she had developed more of a personality, though she still refused to use contracted words, giving her a more refined voice.

"Commander," she said, "we are prepared to assault the station."

Ryan nodded. "Good, because we should be there in a few minutes. Wek, what kind of opposition are we looking at once we're inside?"

Wek pulled a datapad from his belt and examined its contents before answering. "Well, judging from the size and the way the Empire wanted to keep The Highway a secret, the number of personnel should be small. I'd say no more than fifty, and most of them should be technicians and officers. We probably won't see more than two squads of Stormtroopers."

"So you're saying that sending us in is overkill?" Ryan joked, getting a laugh out of Wek and Bitters.

The moment of levity ended when Tanith's voice boomed out of the ship's intercom. "Heads up, people, we'll be docking in thirty seconds; final approach is locked in, and I'll be joining you now."

A few seconds later, Tanith showed up in her gray-blue armor, which had black-and-yellow hazmat stripes going down the sides of her arms and legs. Like the others, she had a beskar knife and a blaster pistol, but cradled a wide-muzzle scattergun in her hands. On her belt were several tools, such as cutting-torches and spanners.

"You ready?" Ryan asked.

Tanith smiled, then slid on her helmet. "You better believe it; after all this, I'm still expecting a vacation."

She wasn't the only one; after the Battle of Endor, a part of every Rebel's mind had hoped that the Empire would simply disappear. Unfortunately, that wasn't the case, and the New Republic had been constantly fighting against the Empire. It was only thanks to the Empire's infighting that the New Republic hadn't been overwhelmed in the first days. All the fighting meant that the Outcast Blades were in higher demand than ever, and that meant no time to rest.

"I'll see what I can do, but you know that Mon Mothma—sorry, Chief of State Mon Mothma—likes running us ragged," Ryan said, and then the Desperate Measures shuddered as she docked with the station. "All right, people, let's do this quick and clean. Just 'cause we aren't facing an army doesn't mean we can relax."

The Blades formed up at the door, which opened; Ryan led the way to another door at the end of a hallway, but that one was locked tight.

"Blade Two," Ryan said over the team's comm-channel, "You're up; get this door open."

"Copy that, Blade Lead," Tanith said, and began cutting open the door; less than a minute later, she had carved a half-circle, though the door remained standing.

Ryan drew his carbine and gestured for Bitters to stand next to him. The Blades had attacked stations in space before, and had established a tried-and-true method for entering. Ryan and Bitters would simultaneously kick down the door, and then they, with Tanith right behind them, would rush forward, keeping as low as possible, while Wek and Sera shot anyone who was directly in their way. Once Ryan, Tanith and Bitters then secured the immediate area, Wek and Sera would catch up.

The plan worked; as soon as the door went down, so did the four Stormtroopers who were waiting for them, three taken down by Sera's cannon, and the last via Wek's sniper rifle. The rest of the Imperials inside, a handful of engineers and an officer, were killed by the other three Blades.

"Area secure!" Ryan announced, as he stepped over a smoking corpse, "All hostiles neutralized!"

Once Wek and Sera caught up, they searched the room. It was fairly Spartan, actually; while the Empire had several large, top-secret projects in the works, most of the best supplies had gone to the Death Star. This facility only had the bare necessities, though since both it and the ring outside were actually disposable, it made sense.

"Come on," Ryan said, "Let's head to the control-room. I'll take point; Blade Four, you're on our six." Bitters nodded and moved to the rear. "Blade Five, stay here and hold this position." Sera wordless followed the order. "Blade Three, stay near Blade Four." Wek saluted, then moved to Bitters' shadow. "Blade Two, you're with me; let's move."

With Tanith right behind him, the four mercenaries made their way down the only hallway available, only pausing when a handful of Stormtroopers engaged them. Ryan killed half of them before the Imperials could get a second shot off, and the rest were mowed down by Bitters' pistols and Tanith's scattergun.

"It's a wonder that the Empire could get so many scientists together to make something like this," Tanith mused as they moved on, "I mean, creating an artificial wormhole… that kind of science makes blowing up a planet seem tame in comparison."

"And yet the Emperor wanted to focus on the Death Star," Wek commented, "Wonder why that was?"

"Maybe he was compensating for something?" Bitters offered, and they all shared a short laugh, even the normally professional Ryan, though he quickly got them focused again.

"Cut the chatter, guys," he said, "Let's keep it professional."

"Sorry, sir," Tanith quickly apologized; the Blades knew better than to joke like that on a job like this.

Ryan then heard something and stopped walking, raising his left fist and falling to one knee; the Blades readied their weapons, just as a single Imperial engineer walked around the corner. Acting fast, Ryan rolled and came up standing, grabbed the engineer and slammed him into the wall.

"What kind of security is up ahead?" Ryan growled, sticking his carbine under the man's chin.

"Uh, um," the man stuttered, then yelped when Tanith walked up and aimed her scattergun in the direction of his groin.

"I'd speak up right about now," she said dangerously.

"There're ten soldiers and the Admiral in the control-room," the engineer said quickly, "But there's also a pair of Dark Troopers outside of it."

Ryan nodded, satisfied, then slammed the man's head into the wall twice, knocking him out.

"Why not just kill him?" Bitters asked.

Ryan shrugged. "This station's going to get blown up anyway; why waste the blaster bolt?"

The other Blades didn't really have an answer to that, so they moved on. When they finally found the entrance to the control-room, they found that the engineer had been telling the truth; there were indeed a pair of Phase-I Dark Troopers, which guarded the door with raised shields and readied vibroblades.

"Blades, disappear," Ryan commanded, and the four tapped the disks on the sides of their belts; in an instant, they vanished as the stealth-generators did their work.

"Standard DT-takedowns, Lead?" Wek asked quietly, even though no one could hear the private message.

"Yeah," Ryan said, slowly moving forward, "Blade Two, you're with me; we'll take the one on the right. Blade Three, Blade Four, you take the one on the left. Thermal lances on my mark."

"Copy that," three voices said at once, and then they quietly got into position.

Once they got close, each Blade aimed their left arm at their target.

"Mark!" Ryan barked, activating his thermal lance at the same time as the others.

Several years ago, Ryan had used a different, more volatile mix of chemicals for the Blades' flamethrowers, allowing for a second method of firing. The 'thermal lances', as Ryan called them, fired a small tube of superheated chemicals at a target, which could burn through anything up to medium-grade starship hull. The tradeoff, however, was that unless something was standing inches away from the target, the lance could only hit one thing at a time, and the amount of fuel required meant that it could only be used five times, or use the flamethrower for twenty minutes.

Still, they worked wonderfully against tough foes like the Dark Troopers; Ryan's attack sliced off the droid's arms, while Tanith's punctured its power core, killing it. Wek's lance bisected the other Dark Trooper at the waist, allowing Bitters to walk up and fire his lance through the droid's head; the medic then kicked it for good measure.

"All right, hostiles are down," Ryan said, then gestured to Wek, "Blade Three, see if you can open the door."

"On it," Wek replied, moving to the door's control-panel and typed away for a few seconds. "Okay, be ready in three, two, one… go!"

The door slid open, and all four Blades hit the ground, allowing a flurry of blaster bolts fly overhead, then returned fire from their prone positions. A handful of Stormtroopers were knocked off their feet, and it gave the Blades time to stand and engage properly. Tanith knocked one trooper to the ground with a hole in his chest, while Wek killed another with his pistol. Ryan drew his beskad and dagger and charged, Bitters right behind him. The two blade-wielders soon turned the remaining Stormtroopers into a bloody mess, leaving only an Imperial in an Admiral's uniform and a few terrified technicians standing.

"You'll never stop the Empire," the Admiral snarled, only for Ryan to shoot him in the head.

"Says you," Ryan snapped, as the other Blades killed the techs, who had tried to draw weapons with trembling hands.

"I'll get to work on disabling the defenses," Wek said, moving to the computers.

"See if you can shut down the whole thing while you're at it," Ryan ordered, even as he took up a defensive position at the door.

"Well, I've got good news and bad news," Wek said a few minutes later, "The good news is that I've shut down the defenses, and Maverick is now attacking the ring."

"What's the bad news?" Tanith asked.

"The activation is a runaway," Wek said grimly, "We've got maybe ten minutes before that thing activates."

"Can we contact Maverick and tell them to hurry up?" Ryan asked.

Wek shook his head. "The energy from the ring is disrupting comms. We'll have to get closer to the battlegroup before we can communicate with them."

"Got it; let's move, Blades." Ryan started to leave, but a cough from Bitters stopped him.

"Lead, what if a surviving Imperial gets here?" he asked, "They could turn on the defenses again."

Ryan paused for a moment, then drew his carbine and his blaster pistol, then he fired both weapons for several seconds; when he was done, the computers were all piles of sparking scrap.

"I don't think that'll be an issue," he said calmly, "They've got some technical difficulties."

The four Blades hurried back to their entry-point, where Sera was waiting calmly.

"Was the mission successful?" she asked, then followed her teammates to the Desperate Measures.

"It was," Tanith told her, "but we've gotta tell Maverick to hurry it up. If they don't, that wormhole is going to open, and we won't have the manpower to keep it out of the Empire's hands."

As soon as they were aboard, Tanith piloted the ship directly towards the battlegroup, while Ryan tried to get in touch with M'zan. Finally, the Admiral answered the call.

"Ryan, thanks for shutting down those guns," she said over the comms, "But seriously, you don't have to be so impatient; you could have waited until you were back on board."

"It's not that, Rila," Ryan said; he was one of the few people who dared address M'zan by her first name, "Wek wasn't able to shut down The Highway itself; it's going to activate in…" he quickly checked his chronometer, "Five minutes; you've got to destroy that thing before then!"

"… Understood," M'zan said grimly, "We'll get it done. Just get back here ASAP!"

"Will do," Ryan assured her, "Keep a bottle ready for us."

Despite M'zan's promise, Battlegroup Maverick was only partially successful; they were able to destroy The Highway, but only just as the device activated. The explosion that occurred within the forming wormhole engulfed the nearby station, destroying it, but a pulse of cosmic energy shot outwards, encompassing the New Republic vessels, as well as the Desperate Measures, which was just beyond the Ren's Vengeance.

All records of what would be known as 'The Maverick Incident' would say that the battlegroup was destroyed, vaporized at the microscopic level by the raging forces of an almost-formed wormhole.

The truth, however, would not be discovered until much, much later…

Unknown Location

In a flash of light, the ships of Battlegroup Maverick were flung into the void; after a few seconds of havoc, systems aboard all vessels returned to normal, but for the people inside, it was still a disturbing experience.

"What… what happened?" M'zan asked, using her chair as a support to help her stand.

The operations-officer looked at his terminal. "Um… not sure, Ma'am; all ships are reporting that their systems failed for a few seconds, but all damage is superficial, and only minor injuries are being reported."

"Good," M'zan said, relieved, "What about the Blades?"

The comms-officer checked her earpiece. "They've just boarded us, Ma'am, though Commander Nimbus is asking 'what the kriffing hell is going on'. His words, Ma'am, not mine."

"It's all right," M'zan assured the officer, "I have the same question: what happened?"

The sensor-officer checked his instruments. "Well… we're not where we were."

"Come again?" M'zan asked, looking more calm than she felt.

"The star-charts…" the officer said, shaking his head in disbelief, "We don't seem to be in any known systems; none of the stars match up."

"Ma'am…" Gorch said, pointing at the viewport, "You need to see this."

M'zan turned, and her eyes widened; outside the ship was a massive space-station! While it was no Death Star, it was certainly bigger than anything else she'd seen; it looked like a city, floating in space! It was silver in color, with five massive arms that connected at a circular section at one end. All around the station, dozens, maybe hundreds of vessels traveled to and from it; some were small, barely bigger than a fighter, while others were almost as big as a Mon Cal Cruiser.

Two of those larger vessels, as well as nearly twenty smaller ones, each around 500 meters, were headed right for Maverick.

"Tell Commander Nimbus to stay ready for combat," M'zan said, "We'll get answers later. Right now, I don't think the locals are coming to say hello."

Nothing's ever easy, is it? She asked herself, as her ships got ready for yet another battle.

And there you have it, folks! This chapter was fairly short, but it was mostly meant to establish the main characters (from the Star Wars 'verse, anyway) and explain how they got in the Mass Effect 'verse. Next chapter, we see what happens when you pick a fight with Maverick! In a word: don't.

I hope that you're looking forward to this story, because I sure am!

This could all turn out to be a wild Muffin-chase.